Strikes are labor’s most powerful weapon. But last year they fell to nearly an all-time low.
Source: Paul F. Lipold and Larry W. Isaac, International Union Rights, Vol. 24 No. 2, 2017
Dead men tell no tales; that is, until the living give them voice. From 1870 to 1970, a veritable victims’ chorus of no fewer than 1160 fatalities was amassed during labour dispute confrontations within the United States of America. Each was simultaneously an expression of and catalyst within the dialectical evolution of US labour-management relations. …. Between 1877 to 1947, the US labour movement experienced the most violent and bloody era of and Western industrialized nation: strikers, organisers, and their sympathizers comprised nearly two-thirds of the classifiable victims. ….
Source: Mark Stelzner, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, First published: 27 June 2017
From the abstract:
How have changes in labour law affected income inequality in the United States over the last half century? Curiously, even though employers have increased the degree to which they break labour law, workers have decreased their utilisation of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the strike. How do we understand the unwillingness of labour to utilise the NLRB and the strike when under increasing attack? To answer these interrelated questions, I analyse three central changes in federal labour law and norms from the middle of the 20th century to present: the usage of permanent replacement workers, adjudication of the main federal labour law—the National Labor Relations Act—and change in administration of the NLRB—the body charged with overseeing the National Labor Relations Act.
After close to three years of negotiations, stickers and leaflets weren’t getting the boss any closer to a fair agreement. The master contract covering 10,000 nursing home workers in Illinois had been expired for two years and extended several times.
Management was insisting on a wage freeze until Illinois overcame its budget impasse and increased Medicaid reimbursements. Long-term workers were languishing at minimum wage, even when their employers had begun offering higher wages to entice new hires.
Meanwhile, staffing was dangerously short. Often a certified nursing assistant was forced to care for 20 or more residents in an eight-hour shift—bathing, feeding, and assisting them at a furious pace. On top of keeping the nursing home clean, a housekeeper had to collect meal trays for hundreds of residents because there weren’t enough dietary aides.
To win a new agreement, it was clear that workers would need to be prepared to strike.
But their local, Service Employees (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois-Indiana (HCII), hadn’t ever waged a strike over its master nursing home contract. In fact, the last time there was a nursing home strike at any of these facilities was in 1979. The local’s previous contract campaigns had been lackluster. Mobilization had been limited to stickers, petitions, and a practice picket.
And giving each nursing home the organizing attention it needed now was a huge challenge. The bargaining unit covers 28 different employers and 103 facilities statewide…..
Unions are being strangled by laws that block workers from organizing, striking, and acting in solidarity. Becoming a rights-based movement is the only way to save labor.
Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in cities across America and across the world on Monday in May Day demonstrations. Considered by many a celebration of spring days to some, others look at May 1 as a day to protest everything from worker’s rights to oppressive policies to immigration reform. Here’s a look at the history of May Day and why some people choose it as a day of protest….
May Day Marchers Around The World Celebrate Workers, Immigrants
Source: Camila Domonoske, NPR, May 1, 2017
May Day Strikes Hit Cities Around The Country
Source: Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, May 1, 2017
Workers all over the country are protesting Trump’s immigration crackdown.
May Labour Day: What is International Workers’ Day?
Source: Al Jazeera News, April 2017
We examine the history of May Day and ask what kind of protests and commemorations can be expected this year.
Q&A: What is May Day?
Taylor Mirfendereski, KING-TV, PDT May 1, 2017
The Bloody Story of How May Day Became a Holiday for Workers
Source: Lily Rothman, Time, May 1, 2015
Source: Max Green, WBEZ, March 8, 2017
Large inflatable-rats, with their claws out and lips curled into a snarl, have become a common sight on picket lines throughout the Chicago area. The balloons, which range in size from six- to 25-feet tall, are usually gray or yellow. And almost all look like they are ready to attack. The rat balloons prompted Curious Citizen Phillip Williams to ask: How did balloons become a part of union strikes? When do they decide to bring out the rat? The rat balloons, nicknamed “Scabby,” started in the Chicago area in 1990 and have grown into a worldwide symbol for union strikes. But the balloons aren’t without controversy. From the picket line to the courtroom, employers have tried to snuff out Scabby many times.
In 2016, there were 15 major work stoppages involving 99,000 workers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics reported today. (See table 1.) Private industry organizations accounted for over 94
percent of the 1.54 million total days idle for major work stoppages in effect during 2016.
This year marks 70 years of work stoppages data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Over the past four decades (1977-1986 to 2007-2016) major work stoppages declined approximately 90
percent. (See table A and table 1.) The period from 2007 to 2016 was the lowest decade on record, averaging
approximately 14 major work stoppages per year. The lowest annual number of major work stoppages
was 5 in 2009.
In 2016, the information industry had the largest number of workers involved in major work stoppages
with 38,200. Educational services were the next largest industry with 33,600 followed by health care
and social assistance with 12,100 workers. These three industries accounted for over
84 percent of workers idled for major work stoppages.
A general strike could transform American politics. But we’re nowhere near being able to call one.
…King’s strategic advice to the striking Memphis sanitation workers is still useful for workers seeking to improve their lives with direct action today:
– Once on strike, expand the struggle beyond the immediate company to its corporate allies and suppliers.
– Use boycotts and economic action to involve supporters.
– Transform the pain inflicted on strikers to pain inflicted on executives, board members, and investors.
– Be prepared to stay in the struggle one day longer with “dangerous unselfishness.”
– And perhaps most importantly, place the struggle in a larger context that challenges elected officials and government at every level to make America a better nation!