Labor Notes #479

On February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck—all of them. In doing so they took control of the city.

The strike was in support of 35,000 shipyard workers, then in conflict with the city’s shipyard owners and the federal government’s U.S. Shipping Board, which was still enforcing wartime wage agreements.

We know good organizers when we meet them.

They’re accessible. They listen and show respect. They react calmly to all kinds of people, take their time to size up a situation, and engage people on their own terms.

They brim with suggestions for action, but they’re open to new ideas. They’re not bossy. They always take workers’ side against employers—but among workers, they treat divisions with care and diligence.

They don’t act from fear, and they know how to help others lose their fear.

Multiracial group of activists standing next to each other and laughing.

Everyone knows organized labor is on the decline. And yet bright spots keep flaring up.

Verizon workers in 2016 walked out on the biggest strike in years, proving that corporate giants can still be beaten with old-fashioned solidarity.

Chicago teachers struck in 2012, touching off a wave of teacher militancy that’s still washing over the U.S. Now all eyes are on Los Angeles.

A huge crowd of strikers

In a joyful, rain-drenched strike, 34,000 Los Angeles teachers won things no union has ever won.

They forced Superintendent Austin Beutner, a former investment banker, to accept concessions even on topics he had previously refused even to bargain over.

L.A. will reinstate limits on class size—and for most classes, reduce those limits by four students by 2022.

Despite a pro-charter school board majority, the nation’s second-largest school district agreed to move a board resolution to support a statewide moratorium on new charter schools

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