Chris Brooks

Transit Workers Take the Driver's Seat in 'Right-to-Work' Tennessee

At Labor Notes trainings I hear lots of reasons why union members think their co-workers aren’t involved: They don’t understand labor history. They don’t appreciate all the union has done for them. They watch Fox News. They’re scared or apathetic.

I always say, “Remember what inspires people to organize a union in the first place. They join and stay involved when they experience what it means to wield collective power.”

Backed by a huge banner reading “Buy American—Hire American,” President Trump declared in March that his administration would make the U.S. the “car capital of the world” again.

“For decades, I have raised the alarm over unfair foreign trade practices that have robbed communities of their wealth and robbed our people of their ability to provide for their families,” Trump said. “They’ve stolen our jobs, they’ve stolen our companies, and our politicians sat back and watched, hopeless. Not anymore.”

If you’ve ever attended a Labor Notes Conference or Troublemakers School or picked up one of our books, you know that everything we do draws on the organizing know-how and creativity of rank-and-file workers.

This style of education is known around the world as “popular education.” In the U.S., it was pioneered at a school tucked away in the hazy Appalachian mountains of East Tennessee.

For the first time in four decades as a union, 28,000 Illinois state workers could be going on strike, facing down a Republican governor who campaigned on the promise to force a showdown with the union.

In a 20-day vote that ended February 19, members from the 70 locals that comprise AFSCME Council 31 voted in favor of strike authorization.

“Eighty-one percent of members voted yes to give the bargaining committee the authority to call a strike,” said Roberta Lynch, executive director of Council 31, at a press conference announcing the results.

Viewpoint: The Boeing Vote Was Not a Referendum on Organizing the South

The Machinists’ loss in the February 15 union vote at Boeing was devastating. Out of 3,000 workers eligible to cast ballots at the Charleston, South Carolina, plant, 2,097 voted against unionization, and only 731 in favor.

But contrary to the armchair wisdom of pundits, this vote was not a referendum on whether or not it’s possible to organize in the South.

The Machinists faced a relentless anti-union campaign. Boeing and a statewide business advocacy group saturated local television, radio, newspapers, and social media with hundreds of anti-union ads.

New York Taxi Workers Strike Back Against Muslim Ban

In solidarity with a massive protest that erupted at New York’s JFK Airport January 28, the city’s Taxi Workers Alliance organized a one-hour strike at the international terminal.

New Yorkers flocked to protest after President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banned legal immigration from seven predominately Muslim countries and refugees from anywhere.

Hundreds of immigrants were detained that day by border agents upon arrival at international airports across the U.S., including dozens at JFK.

How much stronger would our unions be if they didn’t rely so heavily on staffers with little or no experience in their industries? What if more organizing was done by the members themselves?

“A lot of people feel that the union is just money coming out of their check,” said Doretta Bowman, a food service worker at a high school in New Haven. “I don’t feel that way. The union is me and my co-workers that I work with every day. We are going to fix problems as they arise.”

At its monthly meeting this weekend, United Auto Workers Local 42 will be informing Volkswagen workers about their right to strike and access to strike benefits.

The meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the result of a motion brought by a worker frustrated at Volkswagen’s continued refusal to bargain with the skilled-trades unit.

Let's Make 2017 the Year of the Slingshot

Fast food CEO Andrew Pudzer for Labor Secretary… Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Energy Secretary… Billionaire Betsy DeVos, enemy of public schools and public workers, to head Education…

President-elect Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, but it’s obvious that the reptiles still have Washington in their claws. And with even more picks yet to come—including the late Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court—it’s hard to feel optimistic about the future.

In Short Strike, Jim Beam Workers Crush Two-Tier and Beat Grueling Hours

Jim Beam distillery workers won some relief from grueling hours and defeated a two-tier wage scale by going on the first strike in company history.

The 252 workers at Jim Beam’s two Kentucky factories start from the raw corn, rye, and barley; sort, grind, roast, ferment, and distill it; pack it into charred barrels; age it in warehouses; process it for flavor and alcohol content; and bottle it for distribution.

They walked out for a week in October after overwhelmingly rejecting two contract proposals.

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