When Frank Carrico talks about why he and his co-workers at the Heaven Hill distillery went on strike, he talks about family. “I missed out on my kids’ activities” because of forced weekend shifts, he says. “I missed out on a lot, and I don’t want the young people coming behind me to have that happen to them.”
When we spoke, the distillery workers had just come off a six-week strike demanding to maintain a 40-hour week, Monday-Friday, with overtime pay beyond that.
The safety of the community as a whole requires vaccines and vaccine mandates. But conversations about mandates have stumbled over questions about the power of employers and the rights of workers.
When unions avoid taking a stand for vaccine requirements (or even support resistance to mandates) they fall into three traps.
Trap one says our priority is to represent the rights of individual workers. Trap two says we cannot abide conflict or strong disagreement among members. Trap three says only the boss can exercise the power to require safety on the job.
Democracy is on everyone’s mind, after the presidential election and transition we’ve just weathered.
There’s the democracy we had to defend. Union members participated in all kinds of ways—from postal workers making sure the ballots were delivered, to UNITE HERE members canvassing Arizona and Georgia, to central labor councils calling for the results to be respected.
Then there’s the democracy we don’t have yet. The struggle to vote and have your vote counted has a long legacy in this country.
The pandemic kicked workers back on their heels—even tumbled some over. Fearing for their lives and well-being, some responded with fire and organizing, others with stunned passivity.