Yves here. It’s become common for readers to dismiss Bernie Sanders and the tiny number of Congresscritters who constitute The Squad because they haven’t been able to take over the apparatus of government or significantly change its operation. Yet Trump, who remember did become President and less of an outsider than Sanders by being a billionaire (as in most definitely not a socialist) and a national TV star for 14 years, for the most part was only able to get done what Team R wanted done, such as pass a huge tax reform bill.
By contrast, even though this post does not mention it, the upsurge in unionization is in part due to the Sanders campaigns doing what in the 1960s would have been called consciousness raising, most of all among young people. It became cool for high school students to say they were socialists.
Killer Mike’s “The time is now” demand is not dead. It is a call for collective action for justice across color and gender lines that is animating union organizing….which Sanders has been supporting via fundraising.
By Tom Conway, the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW). Produced by the Independent Media Institute
Sarah Broad was 14 years old and just several months into her job at a McDonald’s in southwestern Canada when a customer berated her about cold fries, started swearing and threw a hamburger at her.
No matter how often she encountered that kind of cruelty there, or in jobs at Walmart or Starbucks over the next 12 years, callous managers expected her to just smile through the abuse and keep working.
But when the risk of COVID-19 made the daily outrages all the harder to bear, Broad realized that she needed to take control of her future. She and her fellow baristas at the Starbucks in Victoria, British Columbia, met for dinner one night and decided to join the growing ranks of young workers who are unionizing to build better lives and stronger communities.
Today, about 18 months after becoming members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 2009, Broad and about 30 coworkers watch with pride as their peers at other Starbucks in the U.S. and Canada form their own unions.
But this generational wave of unionism transcends any one employer or industry. Increasing numbers of millennials and zoomers in the public sector, tech field, gig economy, nonprofit community, education and other sectors also view collective action as the path to a brighter future.
Amid a broken economy that’s left millions behind, these workers want decent wages and benefits, along with a voice on the job and the respect their labor earns. Too often, workers struggle to make ends meet, sometimes despite juggling two or more part-time jobs, while enduring the kinds of abuse that Broad encountered at one employer after another.
“This isn’t unskilled labor,” Broad said, referring to service workers. “They are working very hard.”
Just as Broad and her colleagues hoped, the union made a quick and crucial difference, helping the workers achieve not only wage increases but also a much safer work environment.
Early in the pandemic, a manager ordered one of Broad’s coworkers to remove a face shield—saying it wasn’t company-approved personal protective equipment (PPE)—even though the barista feared passing COVID-19 to an immunocompromised roommate.
Broad said that incident infuriated other workers and helped to catalyze the union drive. In the end, they negotiated a contract that established a health and safety committee, giving them real input into PPE and other protections.
And Broad, who’s serving as Local 2009 unit chair, noted that the contract ensures the implementation of a company policy banning customers who harass workers. “The policy was always there,” she said, “but it was never followed.”
After joining unions, young members keep fighting for justice inside and outside of the workplace.
Tim Brazzel took up videography as a hobby when he was 13 and continued learning the craft as he got older. Last year, he jumped at the chance to put those skills to work for his fellow members of USW Local 7600 during a vital contract fight with Kaiser Permanente.
The health care giant wanted to implement a two-tier wage system that would pay less to new hires, exacerbate staffing shortages and threaten patient care. Ignoring the union’s demand for wage justice, Kaiser also intended to continue paying Local 7600 members—many of them workers of color—less than counterparts doing the exact same jobs at facilities in other communities.
“I felt like it was an insult,” said Brazzel, a master scheduler at Kaiser, noting the health system had previously praised the workers for putting their lives on the line during the pandemic.
“They were calling us ‘heroes’—that was the term they threw around—but they weren’t treating us like heroes,” he added. “They were looking to downgrade our benefits and everything we worked so hard to bargain for.”
Brazzel created a series of gripping videos relating workers’ sacrifices and the drive for a fair agreement. The videos helped to sustain members during the months-long battle and got the workers’ story out to the public.
“We’re fighting,” he said he wanted fellow union members to remember each day.
“We kept voicing that. ‘We are fighting against the wage gap. We are trying to close it.’ I really needed to do my best to keep my brothers and sisters inspired and energized,” Brazzel said.
In the face of the membership’s unwavering solidarity, Kaiser dropped demands for a two-tier wage system and agreed to a fair contract that, among other improvements, makes significant progress toward addressing the wage disparities.
Brazzel considers it an important victory in a much wider battle for social justice.
Today’s young workers grew up amid the push for a $15 national minimum wage and the Black Lives Matter movement. Some, like Brazzel, experienced their own mistreatment at the hands of the police.
They share a desire for change. And they see unions as a way to achieve it.
Unions fight favoritism and discrimination. They raise pay for women and people of color. Union workers have affordable, quality medical insurance, raising the overall health of their communities.
And union members work hard to lift up the marginalized, as Brazzel and his coworkers have done by rallying for civil rights and holding monthly food distributions for struggling families.
“Everyone matters,” Brazzel explained.
Broad and Brazzel feel immense gratitude for the previous generations of union activists who struggled to build a fairer society. Now, they feel a responsibility to continue the fight and help raise up the next wave of leaders.
“This is about our future and the future of those who come after us,” Brazzel said.
Heartening news. My experience working for a union – in the Netherlands, so different in many regards – is that is it is difficult to get people out of their ‘self-imposed’ – well, due to heavy propaganda of course – view that power relations in labor (and society) are an individual thing and problems are individual problems.
Most young people over here barely know that unions exist, and if they do most view them als something for old people or people who can’t take care of themselves (‘dumb people’). (Though this is a generalized view; it depends on the sector. Police and metalworking, for example, still have high membership rates.)
I think consciousness-raising – thanks for this term, didn’t know it! – is very important, because if people are at least aware, then the impetus is often insulting behaviour from the employer that ignites the spark. And that happens a lot, nowadays.
Once people are organized and want to strike, the balance of power and company culture can rapidly shift. If management is not used to this, their realization can be quite funny too watch as they have to eat their words. And in my experience people who have joined succesful strikes once will do it again later, walk a little taller and experience somewhat of a paradigm shift.
Question: who of the commentariat organised or attended strikes/collective bargaining actions? In the past or recently? For those that did: I’d love to hear some of your experiences (good or bad).
Unions or union leaders also used to be influential in elections.
They are at CalPERS! But not in the interest of their members.
BINGO, and that’s why i used to take conway seriously, till he did what almost all union leaders do, fell in line for another nafta democrat who will sell them out to wall street in a nano second.
unions have backed the free trading scum since carter, powering millions of dollars into the coffers of those who sell them out repeatedly.
the rank and file whats left of them understands this, its why many voted for trump. speaking of trump, trump did more for unions than carter, nafta billy clinton, empty suit hollowman obama, and nafta joe biden.
the ability for independent unions in mexico right now is because of trump. completely ignored by unions here.
the tariffs did bring back some union jobs.
i am not a water carrier, i know what trump was, but the conway type does not know what the nafta democrats are.
i am all for unionization, but that will not stop the ever impending on going disaster of free trade. they might get better treatment for a while, but their wages will never ever overcome the damage that is ongoing under free trade.
studebaker has a good one on that.
studebaker makes a very POWERFUL statement, under free trade, unions cannot improve lives
About Politics Economics International Relations
The Protect the Right to Organize Act is valuable, but big, powerful unions failed to check globalization in the 70s and 80s, when global competition wasn’t as fierce as it is today. Why would unions succeed now, in an environment where even Bernie Sanders thinks there is no alternative to the “competitive” global economic order?
basically studebaker is saying we can never recover, till nafta billy clintons disastrous policies have been reversed.
“speaking of trump, trump did more for unions than carter, nafta billy clinton, empty suit hollowman obama, and nafta joe biden.”
Could you provide a link to the “more for unions” that Trump did. Trump wants their votes, and panders to them excessively, but I haven’t seen any concrete pro-union policies coming from him or his circle.
did you see that trumps new trade treaty with mexico legalized independent trade unions and gave mexicans a real minimum wage?
OBTW, that over turns nafta billy clintons anti-union nafta!
a indepenent trade union may win a up and coming election in a huge G.M. factory.
and of course all of the new or reopened steel millls in america, new g.m. factories in america.
no need for links, just read N.C. everyday.
now trump did not do much, but you wanna really look at what carter, nafta billy clinton, empty suit obama, and nafta joe biden did for unions, i should say did to unions. do you really wanna go there?
Lance, I would appreciate a link even though I read NC every day.
“I would say his legacy should be Worst President Ever, who, like “Teflon Ron” Reagan, was able to Photoshop his tarnished reputation. And the shame has nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky and everything to do with the fact that the biggest beneficiaries of his administration were Wall Street, Chinese factory owners and U.S. banks and the biggest losers were blue collar workers. Mitt Romney may have run a company that outsourced jobs but Clinton ran a country that did.”
“As the Clintons and Obama get richer the American people lose jobs and become poorer. Those are facts.”
“4. Gutted manufacturing via trade agreements. Bill Clinton helped gut America’s manufacturing base by promoting and passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, in 1993, when Democrats controlled Congress. That especially resonates today, when another Democratic president, Barack Obama, and Republicans in Congress, are allied against labor unions and liberal Democrats to pass its like-minded descendant, the Trans Pacific Partnership. “NAFTA signaled that the Democratic Party—the “progressive” side of the U.S. two-party system—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan,” wrote Jeff Faux, on the Economic Policy Institute Working Economics Blog.
In 1979, then-candidate Reagan proposed a trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. But the Democrats who controlled the Congress would not approve it until Clinton pushed it in his first year in office. NAFTA has affected U.S. workers in four major ways, EPI said. It caused the permanent loss of 700,000 manufacturing jobs in industrial states such as California, Texas and Michigan. It gave corporate managers an excuse to cut wages and benefits, threatening otherwise to move to Mexico. Selling U.S. farm products in Mexico “dislocated millions of Mexican workers and their families,” which “was a major cause in the dramatic increase in undocumented workers flowing into the U.S. labor market.” And NAFTA became a “template for rules of the emerging global economy, in which the benefits would flow to capital and the costs to labor.”
The World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund all applied NAFTA’s principles, which gave corporations the power to challenge local laws protecting health and safety if they cut into profits—like labeling tobacco packaging. The NAFTA “doctrine of socialism for capital and free markets for labor” could also be seen in the way the U.S. government “organized the rescue of the world’s banks and corporate investors and let workers fend for themselves” in the Mexican peso crisis of 1994-’95, the Asian financial crash of 1997, and the global financial meltdown of 2008.”
and if you are wondering about the mess thats been made of iran,
bill clinton scraped 2 deals with iran, outlawed all trade with iran, and set up todays iranian debacles: President Bill Clinton swiftly scrapped the deal by issuing two executive orders that outlawed all trade with Iran. Clinton announced the decision on April 30, 1995, in a speech before the World Jewish Congress in what at the time was described as “a major demonstration of support for Israel
did vladimir lenin predicted bill clinton: The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them: the list of what bill clinton sold out to the chinese communist party, well, you have to read it to believe it
“bill clinton set this up,
business is always any nation’s or alliance’s achilles heel. blind with greed, with few or no other concerns than amassing and acquiring, businesses sell out every time. china is making itself indispensable on one continent after another.”
Fulfilling Lenin’s prophecy
Published: 06/11/1998 at 1:00 AM
what bill clinton did to mexico is a crime against humanity, if trump dumps nafta, he could probably win the mexican election as well as the 2020 american election: Here are at least 5 reasons why most Mexicans would cheer the end of NAFTA
here is one of trumps advisors, clearly pointing out that bill clinton lied, and knew what he was doing will lead to the death of the american middle class,
” Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to Trump, said recently that “higher wages in Mexico are in the interests of Mexico and the United States. Without this adjustment, Mexico will never have a robust middle class, and our middle class will wither if not die.”
Monday, Feb 26, 2018, 12:27 pm
5 Reasons Mexican Workers Would Cheer the Demise of NAFTA
BY Manuel Perez Rocha
clintons own advisors warned him a economic disaster would be the direct result of his free trade policies, he ignored them, and sold us out to the chinese communist party, and we reached that disaster by 2008.
The High Cost of the China-WTO DealAdministration’s own analysis suggests spiraling deficits, job losses
Report By Robert E. Scott February 1, 2000
Issue Brief #137
The High Cost of the China-WTO Deal
Administration’s own analysis suggests spiraling deficits, job losses
by Robert E. Scott
“another democratic insider says the truth, bill clinton knew what the results of his free trade policies would do, and he did it anyways,
Democrats have long known that trade theory and trade reality are two different things, and that our trading system needs reform.
Trump’s presidency is at least in part the product of exasperated workers who’ve been left behind by globalization. If that fundamental unfairness isn’t addressed, he won’t be the last president elected on a platform of blowing up the system.”
President Trump’s Tariffs Are Not Really The Point
By Stan Sorscher, Thestand.org
August 8, 2018
there are hundreds and hundreds of examples on just what nafta billy clinton did to working people, let alone what carter empty obama and nafta joe did. the above is just a small example.
millions of high paying mostly union jobs gone. not by reagan, although he would have liked to, but by nafta democrats.
what union leader would ever endorse these people?
all you have to do is read naked capitalism.
this was the results of trump ripping up nafta billy clintons fascist nafta, and trump added some sovereignty and democratic control.
just this one thing trump did for labor and unions, is way more than anything out of these four freaks, carter, nafta billy clinton, empty suit hollowman obama, and nafta joe biden.
GM Mexico workers elect independent union by wide margin
The new union at GM Mexico, SINTTIA, beat three rivals by a wide margin
Yes, watching the CalPERS election this past year was painful. Like seeing bus passengers vote for the most reckless driver in hopes of “getting there faster”.
To LAS’s point and perhaps also to this one, public employee union influence in elections has never been in the interest of taxpayers either, unfortunately. …and their influence in California legislation and politics is HUGE.
Public employee unions are a bad idea, IMO. In California, they are also at or near the roots of almost everything that makes the state so hostile towards small business. (I say this as a lifelong small business owner and sixth-generation Californian who is actively working toward leaving the state.)
Private unions are a different matter. I wish they weren’t necessary, but extractive mindsets working for Capital often make them so. That said, I share much of Cocomaan’s and others’ skepticism about them actually, faithfully representing workers’ interests in the longer term. From my limited view into their workings (mostly via friends in construction + various labor-related reading), their self-serving tendencies too often seem to “grab the reigns” in ways not entirely dissimilar to the self-serving and extractive workings of distant Capital and its PMC henchmen. This is often to the detriment of all involved (except union leadership of course), and it sometimes includes society as a whole. (I’m thinking specifically of instances I’m aware of locally where unions have deliberately sabotaged the efficiency of public works construction projects at the ground level, strictly in the interest of simply another kind of extraction.)
It would be nice if people in general played by the Golden Rule more pervasively than they do. Alas…
Tangentially, years ago I found this documentary below (first 45 minutes or so) an interesting case study and history, which has labor union developments laced throughout the story. Others here might find it a worthwhile watch as well.
Bethlehem Steel: The People Who Built America
For me, I also see it as a kind of microcosm of the American economy as a whole.
Perhaps those unions should form themselves so that it will not be possible for union representatives to be ‘captured’ and be actually working for the employers against the workers. One of the most egregious examples I have read about was nearly two years ago when the teachers in some States found that not only were they fighting their State governments for pandemic relief, but that they also had to fight their own union leadership who were trying to sell their fellow teachers out to the States as fast as possible by making backroom deals against those teachers interests.
can you imagine any union leader backing nafta billy clinton? he cut the unions almost in half in 8 short years.
then endorsing nafta al gore, who argued and lied about free trade on t.v. with perot? then endorsing empty suit hollowman obama a second time, then nafta joe biden who voted for all of nafta billy clintons disastrous policies, even helped to write many of those disastrous policies.
unions should have endorsed perot with everything they had. they may have collapsed the nafta democrats right then and there, helping to stop the carnage from nafta billy clintons disastrous policies.
here we are almost 3 decades later, the nafta democrats have infiltrated just about all of the government, NGO’S, unions etc.
hard to take any union leadership seriously today.
FWIW they do have the means of challenging and changing their leadership–elections. By law, they elect their leaders rather than have the bosses or government appoint them. This law has been weakened, though, in any number of ways by government and the leaders themselves. A union can be manipulated into ineffectiveness until a reform movement sweeps the corruption away and tries to defend itself from the same manipulations it overcame.
I’m an older millennial and from my perspective, I’ve had to spend my younger years living through two incredible major economic calamities (housing and Covid). My earnings and the earnings of others in my age group will forever be scarred from this.
The choice to revive a labor movement for a lot of people is reaction to how badly that scarring has gotten. It’s about much more than rudeness from customers, it’s about how the career ladders that led previous generations to stability are gone.
I’m fortunate in my choices and lifestyle and investments, but many of my peers are not.
However I don’t think a lot of the existing unions are up to that task of representing workers. I remain unimpressed by them. I’ve heard too many friends whose unions didn’t represent their interests at all.
If there’s going to be a labor movement it will need to be via new organizations.
Often in the past when employees wanted to unionize their workplace, they would consult another successful union and ask for training, information, etc. That way things get done so that the employees do all the work needed to unionize and the employer shouldn’t be able to use the union against the employees as the employer will not have had anything to do with building up the union.
There also needs to be more talk about union penetration into “white collar” professions, because the way that companies abuse their salaried workers is often just as bad as many white collar professions. I need not point out how companies have largely destroyed many of the once-stable “STEM” careers across many areas. The problem is that about the only while collar fields that are unionized are those of teachers and public university professors, and these teacher’s unions are relatively toothless.
I am not sure how far this small unionization push is going to go, as companies have many more ways of keeping tabs on employees in order to bust unions than they did decades ago. There is also the fact that if unionization continues on its current pathway, I am sure that we will see more employers forcing employees to sign non-unionization clauses as part of the non-compete agreements that have become standard across many areas of employment.
Also, if this goes on, employers will probably find sympathetic judges to rule in their favor should employees ever try and challenge these anti-union measures in court as was seen with recent rulings of judges deeming truckers and hospital workers as being “essential” and therefore not having the right to strike or even leave for another employer. If the threat is serious enough, lobbyists might be able to overturn or greatly modify the right to unionization at the federal level as they would have no problem finding supporters for their anti-union stances from politicians of both parties.
Recently a close relation a engineering school grad with some professional chops got offered a position at an A&E firm in a nearby metropolis.
At an annual salary of $ 65 K.
The offer was refused after it was pointed out that 20 years ago the rate for plant engineers was $ 62 K.
White collar folks get screwed in the wage/compensation wars too.
I’m very sympathetic to unions, and at the same time I think the unionization drive is a response to our collective failure to publicly provide for public goods. For a long time now, the public’s been losing out to the profit seekers. The New Deal could have rendered unions irrelevant, but didn’t go far enough or didn’t stick. Imagine if we had a a reliable and effective OSHA, universal basic income, free public healthcare, public housing available to all and public transportation that lets people live without a car. In a world of abundant public goods, would unions be so much in demand? Instead, we’ve largely outsourced the provision of public goods to profit seeking private employers. No job or can’t work? Good luck with means testing and bearing the resentment of your working poor neighbors. This doesn’t make sense and everyone knows it, but only a crazy radical would dare suggest anything more than superficial change.
don’t forget that the new deal only worked because FDR did not back off of smoot-hawely tariffs, in fact FDR instituted even more tariffs upon entering office.
free trade is a safety valve for the rich, it allows them to circumvent sovereignty and democratic control.
anything you try under free trade will just be drained away and weakened.
here is why a U.B.I. without protectionism, will only make things worse as the economic policy inst. states,
“And the current investments are already at risk: If steps are not taken to rebalance trade so that more of the goods consumed in the United States are made domestically, much of the new spending and new jobs will leak away to foreign suppliers.”
Smith, Franklin, Lincoln, Keynes, FDR, and Truman understood this quite well.
i cannot stand it when people say globalization, we have had that for many many centuries. what we have today is different, its called free trade, and its world wide, enforced by corporations. so i fixed part of the article to reflect this,
“nafta billy clinton knew free trade would decimate minority workers, he was ready with jails to house them
the loss of manufacturing jobs from free trade has been particularly devastating for Black and Hispanic workers and other workers of color,
free trade has decimated manufacturing employment which often overlooked costs for Black, Brown, and other workers of color.”
” new manufacturing jobs is important for Black workers, who have been particularly hard hit by “free trade” and the decline in manufacturing employment.”
please click on the link for the charts at the bottom for the empirical evidence, that will be completely ignored by the feverish free traders.
“Unions fight favoritism and discrimination. They raise pay for women and people of color.”
Demographics of the younger gen make that unavoidable.
Since late 70s/early 80s I’ve only read about unions accepting deals that cut benefits/pay for workers hired after them. These unions may have a chance of changing that perception and last uf and only if yhey don’t sell out the ones that come after them.
“if and only if they don’t”….
Collective bargaining with the hammer of denial of labor to owners and managers is the only real protection an atomized work force has, which is exactly why Taft-Hartley was passed in 1947 by the first Republican controlled Congress since about 1930 with the Wagner Act and the labor “wars” of the 1930s in between. It is exactly why corporate management and owners have worked assiduously ever since to destroy unions. Corrupt and self-serving union leadership and the infiltration of criminal elements in that leadership helped to sour the public on the idea of unionism, but the principle has always been clear. Management wants labor as weak as possible the better to exploit them. The essential flat line of wages since 1970 or so coupled with rising profit margins and obscene “compensation” packages for the “C” suite are all the evidence you need. Rugged individualism is fine if you must live more or less on your own with little need for others. How many are in that situation? I grew up on a small farm and individual labor accomplished most of what need to be done, but for big time constrained jobs neighbors helped neighbors. That life is pretty much gone. An individual working for a mega-corporation, Amazon comes to mind as an example, needs a collective organization, a union, to allay the depredations of an untrammeled management focused on profit before any other consideration.
Perhaps a New Union Party or a Lower Class Majority Party or some such could run people on a platform plank of repealing Taft-Hartley. Just outright repealing it.
Unions should have moved right away to reach out to the self-employed, where half or more of the displaced workers went. While unions couldn’t include the self-employed and independent contractors in collective bargaining, there are any number of ways we could be helped immensely by unions, if only the unions tried.
Now there’s a giant chasm between us, the PRO Act’s nod to us notwithstanding. We represent half the workforce, if you include the 20% of the workforce we hire, while unions have steadily shrunk, still refusing to help us. Rather, they’re trying to forbid employers to hire us.
Perhaps walk away from organizing labor to gain rights within a gross corporate structure. Perhaps organizing people to walk away from the products and psychological conditioning of mass consumption. Relocalize, meaning not just making corporate things locally, but making things for local people. Seize water and food production, locally. Begin a new system of trade for things requiring outside sourcing. Quit believing that wealthy individuals are owed anything. Create new social structures for local and regional defense against oligarch/global powers and do not believe the constatnt fear monger over “everything” that is intended to keep you passive. F the odds – do it.
This post (nor any of the comments so far) also does not mention Occupy Wall Street, and I would add this to one of its unacknowledged successes. Even though it’s de rigueur to call it a failure after Obama’s coordinated police-state crackdown on the demonstrations themselves, its follow-on successes in terms of rhetoric/consciousness, local organizing, and legislative victories, as well as increasing the effectiveness and impact of various other campaigns (Bernie’s two candidacies and BLM would never have happened without it) even if they ultimately failed, is something that’s never talked about — b/c of course the corporate media conglomerates refuse to talk about it. It’s rapidly disappearing down the memory hole. But it’s impact is present and wide-reaching nonetheless.
Why are all good things, things that work in other countries (notably northern European countries) co-opted and ultimately ruined, in the USA?
Because we are the birthplace of neoliberalism, and the neoliberal paradigm remains strong in the US no matter how many people have pointed out its flaws and problems or suffered under its boot. Neoliberalism is like a perverse version of Midas’ touch, in that everything that it touches gets turned into fecal matter.
Perhaps unions need to be organized more along the line of industrial unions rather than craft unions.
Unions in the forefront of the push for rights and benefits available to society as a whole rather than just the members of your local always seemed desirable to me. Card check for recognition of union election drives is long over due. Perhaps as a trade off Taft-Hartley could be abolished in exchange for approving the next round of bailouts.
Could pension funds be invested to provide jobs , housing and investments that benefit union members or do ERISA rules prevent this?