Saurav Sarkar

Unions Take Up the Black Lives Banner

Four Black workers in red Verizon shirts kneel in a parking lot, fists raised.

The Black Lives Matter uprising has prompted strong statements about racism and police accountability from top union officials, but the participation of the labor movement has been limited. Several internationals have, to their credit, encouraged their members.

More of the initiative to take action has come from below, with local unions and rank and filers organizing or participating in local demonstrations, pushing local governments and schools to shift resources from policing to community needs, and confronting racism in their own workplaces and industries.

Twin Cities Labor Mobilizes Against George Floyd Murder

Crowd of protesters protesting George Floyd murder

The organized labor movement has begun swinging into action to support protests against the racist police murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

Floyd was filmed being suffocated to death under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin on Monday in a video that reverberated around the country and has sent the Twin Cities into turmoil.

Protesters lit shops and even a police precinct on fire on Thursday as public rage boiled over in Minneapolis’s third precinct over the ever-continuing string of police murders of Black people in the United States.

Farmworker in hat bent over in field, picking.

Restaurant worker and painter José Garcia says “positive thinking makes everything easier.”

He has a lot to make easier.

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the Mexican-born Massachusetts resident was working nearly 60 hours a week. He earned $29,000 last year.

Together, he and his partner earned $49,000. On that money, they supported themselves, their young daughter, and his partner’s children from a previous relationship.

As the coronavirus spreads, more and more workers who are still on the job are taking action to defend their health and safety and demand hazard pay. Here's a round-up. (For an earlier round-up, see “Organizing for Pandemic Time-Off,” Labor Notes, March 16, 2020.)

Labor Notes Goes to Asia

Workshop participants at the Labor Notes Asia Regional Conference discussing and writing about strikes.

At times it can seem like international solidarity is just a rallying cry, devoid of the oomph that would make it a force to build power among workers across borders. But this past August, we had the chance to witness international solidarity in action.

Chanting in English, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Tagalog, a multinational crowd of union activists rallied in the swampy heat of Taiwan’s capital in front of the headquarters of Foxconn, the notorious manufacturer of iPhones.

EPA workers protest the government's anti-union directive at a union rally in Manhattan in August.

At an awards ceremony for Environmental Protection Agency workers July 10, scientist Loreen Targos took over the stage with a sign: “I care about EPA workers having a fair contract to address public health and climate change. Do you?”

Targos is a Government Employees (AFGE) Local 704 steward who was being honored, along with her co-workers, for superior service in the clean-up of contaminated wetlands in the Great Lakes region.

This summer marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, where police raids on a New York bar led to six days of protests and clashes, sparking the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement. We decided to take a look around the country at some of the organizing by LGBTQ workers and allies in the labor movement today. Here’s a flavor of what’s happening in the post-marriage equality era. —Editors

LGBTQ workers continue to face discrimination and unemployment at higher rates than the population as a whole.

Bangladeshi workers rally behind a banner

On April 23, 2013, a local television crew shot footage of cracks in the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The building was evacuated, but the owner of the building declared it safe and told workers to come back the next day. One Walmart supplier housed in the building, Ether Tex, threatened to withhold a month’s wages from any workers who didn’t return.

The building collapsed on April 24, and when the rubble was finally cleared, 1,134 people were found dead, with another 2,500 injured. It was the worst industrial disaster in the history of the garment industry.

UE protesters stand with a sign and a flag.

Three months after the largest manufacturing strike of the Trump presidency so far, locomotive plant workers in Erie, Pennsylvania, have a deal. Electrical Workers (UE) Locals 506 and 618 ratified a four-year contract on June 12.

In a qualified victory, the 1,700 members conceded a two-tier wage structure with a 10-year progression for new hires to reach parity with current workers, but beat back the company’s demands for a harsher version of two-tier and numerous other concessions.

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