The white working class has every reason to be alienated and enraged by rising inequality and the disappearance of good jobs, but their anger has been profoundly misdirected.
Blue-collar jobs are disappearing. But a powerful new wave of organized labor is taking its place. ….
…. At the University of Arkansas, where I work and serve as president of AFSCME Local 965, union membership has about doubled in recent years. Although the local was started by the university’s maintenance crew in the 1960s, nearly every new member has been a professor or professional employee. Their concerns: campus safety, a living wage for all employees, collective bargaining rights, and gaining more influence over campus policies. ….
…. One reason for the shift is the evolution of the American economy. Manufacturing jobs have disappeared as service jobs have increased. That means fewer opportunities for blue-collar workers to join unions if they wanted to. (And employers don’t want them to.)
The professional class is by no means offsetting the country’s net loss of union members, but how the newbies are behaving shows they understand exactly how collective action is supposed to work: They’re leaving their manners at home and making demands. It was kindly teachers in rural West Virginia who flexed their muscle in a strike that put the country on notice—kind of like the textile workers in 1912, but without smashing any windows. ….
When it comes to workplace organizing, there’s no such thing as a “privileged” worker. You’re either with your coworkers or you’re against them. …..
….. Although the argument — unions are good, but they’re not for us, and, somehow, us unionizing undermines unions — is unusually explicit, it’s not an unheard-of objection in white-collar organizing drives. During such campaigns, this concern is sometimes voiced by well-meaning people — those earnestly raising it do so because they believe the conditions of life at the bottom of society are unacceptable. But unions, so the thinking goes in this country where caricatures of the working class run rampant, are for those at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder — they’re for factory workers; for manual laborers; maybe they’re for low-wage service workers. But teachers, engineers, graduate students, journalists? Those are middle-class jobs. Surely, such workers should be grateful not to be down there, in the muck of poverty. In fact, it’d be greedy to want more than they have. Who are they to claim the mantle of working class? Unfortunately, this perspective has one, and only one, practical effect: keeping people from throwing their cards in with the working class, from demanding better lives and a seat at the table. …..
A Wisconsin law stripped their union of its rights. So the teachers got to work.
As the labor movement has begun to show signs of a revitalization, we excavate a volume, long consigned to obscurity, from an earlier era. As Jane McAlevey observes, even though almost a century has passed since its initial publication, Steuben’s book remains astonishingly relevant today — which speaks both to the enduring facts of employment relations in capitalism, as well as to the efficacy of Steuben’s strategic perspective.
The labor movement has to be central to winning a Green New Deal and reversing climate change. Recent labor victories show how we can do just that, from the ground up, and quickly.
What the New Deal Can Teach Us About a Green New Deal
Source: Richard Walker, Jacobin, March 26, 2019
The original New Deal was a bold, visionary effort that transformed the economic and political life of the country. The Green New Deal could do even more.
The difference between a truly democratic union and one that follows a servicing model is stark when it comes to grievance handling. In a strong democratic union there may not even be many grievances; members organize to convince supervisors to stop violating the contract without having to use the formal procedure…..
From the summary:
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
– While corporations and political campaigns have been able to leverage direct marketing and other digital tools to advance their interests, the labor movement seems to be struggling to do the same.
– Labor’s traditional “retail” model of organizing, in which professional organizers physically go into one workplace at a time, is not cost-effective for reaching many workers who do want to unionize—in particular those in smaller and/or geographically isolated workplaces
– Collective bargaining units of twenty-four or fewer employees, for example, are 11.6 percent more likely to win a union election than larger groups, and these employees consistently demonstrated more cohesion in their vote in support of the union.
– A digital organizing strategy that includes an online organizing platform that directly empowers workers to self-initiate organizing drives and file National Labor Relations Board paperwork can help organized labor significantly increase its membership.
…. The media covers blue-collar America less closely than it did several decades ago. Christopher R. Martin, author of No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class, which will be published in May, tells me that as more outlets became publicly owned and traded on the stock exchange, they began pursuing a different audience to help boost profits. “Many moved from a mass audience to more of an upscale audience,” Martin says. “Many newspapers have cut back on, or entirely eliminated, the labor beat—the one beat that talked about the life of the working class.”
At many news organizations, editors are assigning more “upscale minded” stories about skiing vacations in Aspen and whether to invest in Apple and fewer pieces about factory closings in Akron and layoffs in Cincinnati. A result of this approach: the one-hour walkout by 20,000 Google workers received tremendous coverage in the national media, while a steelmaker’s lockout of 2,200 blue-collar workers, for seven painful months, garnered hardly any attention at all. ….
The 1979 Sally Field–starring drama showed how solidarity between black and white workers was often targeted to undermine the power of labor unions.