Joe DeManuelle-Hall

Union stewards are expected to wear many hats: communicator, advocate, shop floor lawyer, negotiator, mediator. Co-workers rely on good stewards to stand up to management, to know the contract, and to help find solutions even when a workplace problem isn’t covered under the collective bargaining agreement.

It can be overwhelming to take on all this work by yourself. Why go it alone when you could think like an organizer? This means instead of doing all the work yourself, you find ways to spread the work around. Your goals are:

New York City Municipal Employees Protest Abrupt Return to Offices

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Eighty thousand New York City municipal workers who had been largely working remotely for the past 18 months were forced back this week to full-time, in-person work—after less than two weeks’ notice.

The majority of the city’s 300,000 municipal workers were already back at work. Many—such as sanitation workers and health care workers—never stopped working in person. These remaining 80,000 were those the city had deemed “non-essential.”

In July, Chicago’s city council passed a modified version of police accountability legislation that activists have spent years fighting for, backed by major public sector unions and Black labor leaders.

Chicago Amazon warehouse workers were put in a tough spot, and made the best of it.

In January, the company hit workers in Chicago’s DCH1 delivery station with a devastating one-two punch. First, Amazon was shutting down their workplace, so they would have to transfer to other facilities across the city. Second, workers at delivery stations nationwide were going to be forced onto a new shift called the “Megacycle,” where they would work four times a week from 1:20 to 11:50 a.m.

An effort backed by the New York State AFL-CIO would create a new bargaining scheme for app-based workers without addressing the question of whether or not these workers are legally “employees.”

Labor Notes obtained a draft version of the legislation that is being negotiated by unions and app employers.

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:

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