Joe DeManuelle-Hall

What can union activists across the country take away from the high-profile defeat in the union vote at Amazon in Alabama?

The National Labor Relations Board announced April 9 that workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, near Birmingham, had voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union.

The tally was 71 percent no to 29 percent yes—though it’s possible the actual split was closer to 60-40, if you consider the large number of ballots that were cast but never counted because they were challenged by the company.

Don't Guess What's on Your Co-Workers' Minds: Allow Yourself to Be Surprised

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Listening is one of the most important skills for a workplace organizer. And you’ve got to allow yourself to be surprised about what you might hear—and what you do with it.

I was reminded of this recently while reading about the early days of organizing the Transport Workers Union in New York City’s subway and bus system. When TWU was getting its start, unions in the transit system had been severely repressed for decades, and had trouble holding ground.

When Virginia changed its law last year to allow local government workers to bargain collectively, it was a leap forward in a time when the trend is generally in the opposite direction.

As always, the devil is in the details—and there’s a lot of devilry here. But the change presents a substantial opening for unions. Now teachers, firefighters, and sewer workers are getting organized and pushing local governments to bargain over such issues as pay and staffing.

VIDEO: Health Care Strikes During a Pandemic

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Fights for union demands such as safe staffing and struggles against privatization have taken on even more significance during a dire public health crisis.

In this webinar on January 29th, we heard from worker leaders who organized with their co-workers to use their ultimate weapon—the strike—to fight for what they need not just during the pandemic, but beyond.

Panelists:

Update, February 1: The workers ended their strike January 30, without having won union recognition. They plan to petition for a union authorization election with the National Labor Relations Board. —Editors

Workers at an auto parts factory in Norwalk, Ohio, are reviving a classic tactic—they’re eight days into a walkout to demand that their employer recognize their union.

Ballot Measures: Mixed Results for Workers

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Note: This article was posted at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, November 4, as results from around the country were still coming in.

Like everyone else, we’re anxiously watching for updates on the presidential vote-count and consequential down-ballot races. Those results could have significant implications for the battlegrounds for labor in the years ahead.

But there were also several ballot initiatives worth keeping an eye on. Here’s how they fared, or are faring so far.

Soak the Rich, Now More Than Ever

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As the recession deepens, unions will have to battle concession demands and budget cuts. But beyond these defensive fights there’s a demand whose time has come: let’s soak the rich.

Put another way: tax the hell out of them. Claw back the profits they’ve made off the backs of workers. Take that money, and put it to work expanding public services and giving people jobs.

Amazon's name appears regularly on picket signs and in headlines decrying worker abuse and corporate callousness. It can be difficult, though, to find a comprehensive perspective on the company's crimes and transgressions, not to mention discussion of what we can do about it. In The Cost of Free Shipping: Amazon in the Global Economy, organizers and academics provide just that.

VIDEO: Organizing in the Face of the Coronavirus

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In the light of this pandemic, it is imperative that we protect workers immediately, prevent the exploitation of this crisis by management, and consider how to use this moment to advance demands that last far beyond the coronavirus.

How do we do this? What is happening and what can we learn from each other?

Almost 900 people joined a Labor Notes webinar to hear from educators, an Amazon worker, and a worker center organizer about their successes organizing in the face of the coronavirus.

Strike First, Then Bargain

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Direct action gets the goods. If your employer is still not acting like workers’ lives matter, take a page from union members who are putting muscle behind their bargaining—they're shutting the place down first.

Detroit bus drivers collectively declared Tuesday morning that they weren't going to work without safety precautions. At both the city's two big terminals, they talked among themselves, told management “no way—we need protection,” and called their union.

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