Labor Notes # 500
The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited the most widespread series of protests in U.S. history. Working people—not only Black, but people of all races—were the driving force. Even labor leaders who are usually reluctant to weigh in on hot social issues spoke out.
The challenge now is to bring the militancy and energy of this year’s revived Black struggle into the workplace—amid the coronavirus-driven economic crisis.
Over the past 40 years, corporate America and the billionaire class have been waging a war against the trade union movement in America, causing devastating harm to the middle class and working class.
When oligarchs like Donald Trump tell us that the economy is “booming,” they are right—the economy is booming for the extremely rich and extremely profitable corporations in America—who, by the way, pay nothing or next to nothing in federal income taxes.
What’s the greatest gift the labor movement offers? It’s not the ability to bargain a contract, protect yourself on the job, or win higher wages, though those are important.
The greatest gift is a path out of fear. Once we can see that path under our feet, the real fightback can begin. But the question is, how do we find it—especially at this dire moment?
How was Labor Notes #1, from February 1979, different from Labor Notes #500, the issue we just sent to the printer? There’s the obvious:
I started in the labor movement in the mid-90s, when the fall in union density from 23 percent of the workforce in 1980 to 15 percent in 1994 had created a crisis at the top. In response, the “New Voices” slate led by the Service Employees’ John Sweeney defeated heir apparent Thomas Donahue in the first contested election in AFL-CIO history.