Joe DeManuelle-Hall

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.

Workers at Amazon’s DSM1 warehouse in Sacramento celebrated Christmas in their own fashion—by walking out. It was the latest move in their campaign for paid time off.

Night-shift workers delivered a petition with 4,015 signatures to management during their 2:30 a.m. break on December 23. After reading out loud their demands for a meeting with management and paid time off, 36 of the 100 night-shift workers clocked out at 2:45 a.m. and walked off the job mid-shift.

2018 could have been a tough act to follow. It’s not every year that a grassroots movement of teachers captures the nation’s attention.

But workers across the country rose to the occasion, making 2019 one of the most exciting years for the labor movement in recent memory.

TEACHERS KEPT AT IT

In terms of the number of workers who went on strike, 2019 is on pace to match 2018.

The Hard Fight at Amazon

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Amazon is today’s most high-profile corporate villain. It’s the devil incarnate to activists concerned with labor standards, climate change, public subsidies, and the deportation machine.

But for all the condemnation of CEO Jeff Bezos, why have no U.S. Amazon workers managed to unionize?

Much like Uber, Amazon grew under labor's inattentive eye. By the time unions and worker centers saw the threat it posed, it was already a formidable opponent. It now threatens union bastions like supermarkets, UPS, and the Postal Service.

UPDATE, August 6—The ferry strike is over. The IBU reached a tentative agreement on the ninth day of the strike, and members voted 248-19 to ratify it on the 10th day. All told, the ferry system was shut down for 11 days. An IBU official told Alaska Public Media that the new contract included the cost-of-living increases that the union had demanded, but also included health care concessions, though not as severe as the state's "final" offer.

Amazon’s biggest shopping days of 2019 so far—”Prime Days,” July 15-16—saw walkouts and protests by workers in the U.S. and Germany. The protests were semi-coordinated, targeting Amazon when its warehouses are running at full clip and the company is in the media spotlight.

In Germany, Amazon workers organizing with the Ver.di union struck over the course of two days in an ongoing struggle over pay. The union claimed that 2,000 workers participated across seven facilities.

Rideshare drivers around the world rallied and struck May 8, the day Uber went public. Joined by unions in London and in Melbourne, Australia, drivers from at least 12 U.S. cities participated in the first globally coordinated protest against rideshare companies Uber and Lyft.

During the strike, Lyft’s stock dropped to its lowest value since going public. Uber’s stock market launch (known as an initial public offering, or IPO) lost more value in its first day than any other in U.S. history.

One union’s member-centered model prepared it for a fierce anti-union campaign that would have broken many others.

UNITE HERE Local 217, which represents 3,000 workers in hotels and university cafeterias, has been on an organizing sweep through southern Connecticut, winning union elections at the Hyatt in Greenwich in 2015 and the Hilton in Stamford in 2017. Building off that momentum, workers at the nearby Stamford Sheraton began to organize.

After yet another speed-up in a workplace notorious for its lightning pace of work, workers at a Minnesota Amazon warehouse walked off the night shift for three hours.

The March 7 walkout at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota, was these workers’ second job action in three months.

The strikers work in the stow department, shelving items after they have been unloaded from inbound trucks and processed. Once shelved, the merchandise is then compiled into customer orders by pickers.

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