Labor Notes 407, February 2013

Some unions have changed their policy from “no contract, no work” to “no contract, no peace,” and are using the advantages of working without a contract—to gain a contract.

A small, spunky union in New Zealand has become one of the most successful fast food organizing efforts in the world.

When Philadelphia announced plans to shut one-sixth of its schools and uproot 17,000 students, teachers realized it would take a citywide fight to stop the 37 closures.

The day a new union is certified, the clock starts ticking—and the crafty boss starts stalling. But it is possible to beat the employer at this game.

Now that we’re past the elections, it’s time to consider what the vote really meant, and how unions can move forward.

The most clear-cut victories along the Walmart supply chain—though small in absolute terms—have been in warehouses, which is not surprising, because warehouses are a chokepoint in Walmart’s sophisticated logistics operations.

The $2.2 trillion in goods that enters the U.S. from abroad each year must pass quickly through the hands of logistics workers—dockworkers, port truckers, railroad workers, truck drivers, and warehouse workers—before ending up in stores. A work stoppage at any point blocks the flow of not just iPhones and pajamas but also profits.

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.

“The labor movement is all about results,” says Dan Schlademan, who directs the Making Change at Walmart project of the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). “The results are creating the energy.”

Walmart is a particularly rich target because the company is so large that it sets wages and prices among suppliers and competitors.

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