Alexandra Bradbury

Why We Throw Stones

Covers of four issues of Labor Notes from 2019

Everyone loves a good story about an Amazon walkout. But when Labor Notes wades into more controversial waters—the pros and cons of a contract, for instance, or a race for union office—we can expect some angry letters.

“Let’s not criticize each other,” is a common refrain. “We get enough attacks from the boss! Airing disagreements gives ammo to union-busters.”

Five people stand on railroad tracks, with a cornhole game at their feet. Some wear "pay us what we are owed" shirts.

Harlan County, Kentucky, is probably best known for the hard-fought strikes in its coal mines in the 1930s and 1970s. Today the remaining mines are nonunion. But evidently the local spirit of militancy and solidarity is still kicking.

For three days now, miners and their families have occupied a railroad track, blocking a train that’s loaded up with coal that these workers dug out of the earth and never got paid for.

L.A. Times employees gather as NewsGuild members wearing bright yellow shirts around a plaque that says LA Times.

A flagging union has found new hope in a flurry of organizing victories. Now in the union’s presidential election, members are mulling what’s the best way to keep growing—stick with the incumbent, or replace him with a young leader from last year’s biggest organizing drive?

Jon Schleuss, 31-year-old challenger to head the 20,000-member NewsGuild, led the 2018 drive at the Los Angeles Times. The landslide there was a breakthrough for the union, kicking off a banner year of growth.

VIDEO: 40 Years of Troublemaking in the Labor Movement

Since 1979, Labor Notes has been home to the troublemaking wing of the labor movement. The pages of our magazine are filled with the stories of workers who are working to transform their unions, to take on the boss, to fight for racial justice.

We believe that working people's best bet is on ourselves. That's why our trainings, and national conference, focus on connecting workers to one another across unions and industries and provide rank-and-file organizers with the tools they need to get the job done themselves.

The Better Burn Barrel from the Boeing Strike Lives On

Two photos: 1.Tom with early prototype burn barrel. 2. Wabtech striker warming hands over new barrel.

It’s just what you would expect from airplane engineers on strike—they reengineered the picket line burn barrel to be more efficient.

The strikers were Boeing engineers, members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), who walked the lines for 40 days in 2000 during a rainy Seattle winter.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back for me,” said Chicago Teamsters leader Juan Campos, “was seeing the international shoving the UPS contract down the members’ throats.”

That’s why he has joined an opposition slate to challenge the union’s top officers in 2021.

Campos announced January 31 that he will run for an at-large vice president seat, on the ticket with Sean O’Brien of Boston for president and Fred Zuckerman of Louisville for secretary-treasurer.

Here's the Secret to Getting Young Workers Involved

“How can we get young workers involved?”

That’s the question on everyone’s lips, with union density at near-record lows. Many unions have begun holding summits for young members or forming local committees, which is great.

But too often they’re missing a step that’s more essential: don’t sell young workers out.

When you settle a two-tier contract that puts new hires on a lower wage scale or trades away their pension, it sends a message: “This union is for us, not for you.”

Reformers in the Teamsters have the wind at their backs. A rank-and-file slate swept to victory November 10 at Local 767 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, the largest UPS local in the South.

The 767 Teamsters United for Change won an outright majority in a four-way race. President-elect Brian “Smokewagon” Perrier, a 29-year UPS driver, got nearly twice as many votes as the incumbent president.

This article, originally published October 5, was updated October 8 and October 18 to reflect the results of the vote count and subsequent developments. –Editors.

Exploiting a constitutional loophole, Teamsters brass have declared that the controversial tentative agreement covering 243,000 workers at the package giant UPS is ratified, despite members voting it down by 54 percent.

Package Division Director Denis Taylor weirdly claimed that he planned to keep negotiating to improve the deal—but also that members wouldn't get a chance to vote on any further changes.

Pages