Category Archives: Strikes

Working without a Contract: A Strategy Whose Time Has Come?

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, February 11, 2013

When a contract expires with no prospect of a settlement, the union has three choices:
– Agree with the employer to extend the contract for a fixed or an indefinite period
– Strike
– Work without a contract.

For many years, unions mostly stuck to the first two options. Working without a contract was considered a hazardous move that could cut off dues and leave the union open to decertification.

But recently, unions have been taking a closer look at the work-without-a-contract strategy. Some have changed their mantra from “no contract, no work” to “no contract, no peace.” With a helpful December 2012 Labor Board (NLRB) ruling (see below), this trend is likely to gain momentum….

Major Work Stoppages in 2012

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, News Release, USDL-13-0193, February 8, 2013

In 2012, there were 19 major strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting at least one shift, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The 19 major work stoppages beginning in 2012 equaled the total from 2011. Major work stoppages beginning in 2012 idled 148,000 workers, higher than 2011 with 113,000 idled workers. In 2012, there were 1.13 million days idle from major work stoppages in effect, also higher than 2011 with 1.02 million days idle. (See charts 1 and 2, and table 1.) Over 40 percent (8 of 19) of major work stoppages beginning in 2012 occurred in November and December. …

Alt-Labor

Source: Josh Eidelson, American Prospect, January 29, 2013

Nonunion workers’ groups are gathering strength across the country. But will they ever make the kind of impact that traditional labor once did? … His fellow demonstrators—a few co-workers and a couple of dozen staffers and activists from the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC)—picked up the chant, Occupy-style.…. The ROC is a labor group. But it’s not a union. It represents a new face of the U.S. labor movement—an often-ignored, little-understood array of groups organizing workers without the union label. … Why are alt-labor groups like the ROC proliferating? To begin with, unions are in crisis. Over the past 20 years, private-sector unionization has plummeted to just 7 percent. … There’s another reason for the rise of alt-labor: For an increasing number of U.S. workers, unions are not even an option. Labor law denies union rights to increasingly significant sectors of the workforce, including so-called independent contractors and domestic workers, whose numbers are expected to double as baby boomers enter elder care. …The question, as alt-workers’ groups further expand their efforts outside of labor-friendly cities like New York, is how much they can accomplish for American workers. If unions continue to decline, can these groups ever hope to accomplish what old labor once did—substantially improving working conditions on a mass scale and helping to build a new middle class? …
Related:
After spontaneous strike to protest wage issues, Latino textile workers’ partnership with community organization and union leads to victory
Source: Arise Chicage, Talking Union blog, Posted on February 2, 2013

In Walmart and Fast Food, Unions Scaling Up a Strike-First Strategy

Source: Jenny Brown, Labor Notes, January 23, 2013

Small but highly publicized strikes by Walmart retail and warehouse workers last fall set the labor movement abuzz and gained new respect for organizing methods once regarded skeptically. … [R]etail workers who staff the stores, warehouse workers who move Walmart’s goods, and even guest workers who peel crawfish for a supplier are ignoring the path laid out by U.S. labor law, in which workers sign a petition asking to vote on a union. Instead, they’re exercising their rights to redress grievances together, whether a majority can be rallied to support the effort or not. One-day strikes in dozens of stores last October and November protested illegal retaliation against those who had spoken up at their workplaces and joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart. Several had been fired and many experienced threats and cuts in hours for their participation. “We have a way to respond to illegal actions,” Schlademan said: “the power of the strike.” …

Can Occupy and Labor Coalesce?

Source: Peter Rugh, CounterPunch, January 17, 2013

…Backed against the wall in recent contract negotiations with the US Maritime Alliance (USMX), the ILA has threatened to strike. Picket lines could start popping up at ports from Maine to Texas on January 28. USMX has sought concessions from the union including reductions in hiring and healthcare payments, along with a slicing of the royalties workers receive on the cargo they handle. The strike threat comes as unions across the country are being urged to swallow concessions. Meanwhile, wages for both organized and non-organized labor have stagnated since Wall Street financiers crashed the economy in 2008, intensifying a four-decade earnings decline. The possible strike also arises at a moment of increased militancy among rank-and-file workers inspired by the Occupy movement, which shifted the national debate on to economic inequality. …
…With its emphasis on direct democracy, spontaneity and flexibility of tactics – and unbounded by union hierarchies or legal impediments such as the Taft-Hartley Act – Occupy has infused the labor movement with a fresh dose of radicalism…. Occupy has also leaned on labor at times. … But organized labor and Occupy haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. … In this sense, Muldoon said, Occupy wasn’t so much something new as it was a return to the basics. While expectations about the Occupy movement working successfully with organized labor may have been too high too early, OWS had a visible impact– and will continue to be a part of the fabric of the labor movement going forward, she said….

Sign Of The Times: Labor Strikes May Make Comeback

Source: Scott Neuman, NPR, December 8, 2012

…Once a mainstay of the labor arsenal, strikes have largely fallen off since the early 1980s. So a recent spate of high-profile work stoppages, including by Chicago teachers, nonunionized Wal-Mart workers and New York City fast-food employees, has some experts wondering if we’re seeing a resurgence of the tactic.

Thomas Kochan, co-director of the Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thinks years of pent-up frustration over stagnant wages and diminishing benefits has finally hit the boiling point….

Making Sure a Strike Centers On Unfair Labor Practices

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, August 8, 2012

Positioning a walkout as an unfair labor practice strike is one of the key tasks for any union on the verge of a labor battle. Under the rules of the National Labor Relations Act, and the laws of many states that permit public employee strikes, ULP strikers cannot be permanently replaced.

When the employer hires replacements during a ULP strike, and the union later submits an unconditional offer to return, the employer must reinstate all strikers. The rule holds even if replacements must be dismissed.

Strikes! Labor History Encyclopedia for the Pacific Northwest

Source: Pacfic Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Projects, 2012

Few regions have experienced a labor history as dramatic or as consequential as the Pacific Northwest. Unions and labor radicals have helped shape Washington, Oregon, and Idaho since the late 19th century.

This project assembles the most extensive online collection of materials about labor history for this, or any other, region. Here you will find detailed information and primary sources about key historical events, including the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the unemployed movements and labor crusades of the 1930s, farmworker campaigns from the 1930s to 1980s, timber worker unions, waterfront strikes, Filipino cannery worker unions, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the history-making WTO confrontation of 1999.

Labor Yearbooks
We have also compiled year-by-year chronicles of labor activism for certain decades. These Labor Yearbooks are a unique resource. In detail never before attempted we have sifted the key labor newspapers of Washington State creating a database of hundreds of strikes, boycotts, organizing campaigns, and other labor initiatives for each year. Digital copies of original news items are part of the Yearbook.

Labor Press
Labor journalism has always been an important subset of American media and one of the keys to effective organizing and labor’s political influence. Here are profiles of more than 50 union and radical newspapers that have published in the region since the 1890s.

Photos, Newsreels, Films
Here are hundreds of digitized historical photographs and several important films and newsreels.

Can Labor Strike Back? / America's unions must find a way to circumvent restrictive federal laws

Source: Bhaskar Sunkara, In These Times, May 10, 2012

On May Day, tens of thousands of Americans took to the streets. Invoking labor’s militant past, Occupiers in many cities called it a “general strike.” But few have asked why even the traditional strike has become almost an anachronism for America’s labor movement. In 1974, there were 424 major work stoppages, each involving at least 1,000 workers. By 2009, only five such stoppages occurred.

It’s easy to see this trend as damning evidence of labor’s irrelevance and the need to find a fresh wellspring of social and economic change. It’s even easier to place the blame squarely at the feet of conservative union leaders. Both these views lack nuance. Labor unions face a legal framework stacked against them. Laws can’t be casually broken: Unions have an important responsibility to their members and the financial assets they safeguard. Yet it’s worth remembering that past labor leaders believed in industrial action on a scale that would seem revolutionary even to radicals in the movement today. Figures like Samuel Gompers, Dave Beck, George Meany and Walter Reuther thought the strike was the most effective weapon of the working class. The decline of this venerable tactic has been devastating to our unions.

May Day's Radical History: What Occupy Is Fighting for

Source: Jacob Remes, AlterNet, April 27, 2012

This May 1st Occupy actions planned on May Day are tied to the generations-long movement for the eight-hour day, to immigrant workers, to police brutality and repression of the labor movement.
See also:
Rosa Luxemburg, What Are the Origins of May Day? 1894
Rosa Luxemburg, The Idea of May Day on the March, 1913
Guido Baracchi, May Day, 1921
Nestor Makhno, The First of May: Symbol of a New Era, 1928
Alexander Trachtenberg, The History of May Day, 1932
Joseph North, May Day: Made in America, 1943
Mother Jones, from her Autobiography: The Haymarket Tragedy, 1925.