This Year, Let's Coordinate Our Contract Fights to Bargain for the Common Good
A wave of worker activism has shaken the labor movement and captivated the public’s attention as the pandemic stretched into its second and third year—and this wave couldn’t have come at a more important time. With Covid claiming thousands of lives every day, the social safety net stretched past its breaking point, and the ultra-rich hoarding record sums of wealth, it’s urgent that we figure out how to link up more and more of us, in bigger and bigger fights.
The labor movement faces an uphill battle in 2022—but we can use the momentum of workers and unions across the country who took action in 2021 to take on new challenges. A key tool is the Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) model: organizing that brings workers and communities together around a shared vision.
Our two unions, United Teachers of Los Angeles and SEIU Local 26, represent very different groups of workers—public school educators in the second-largest school district in the country and building service workers across a major Midwestern metropolitan area. But while our members do different work, we share common enemies in the corporate and financial elite, and a common vision for how working people can win: through campaigns that fight for the common good, linking struggles for racial, housing, and climate justice directly to the power of organized workers to withhold our labor.
CRITICAL CONTRACT CAMPAIGNS
That’s why we, along with allies in the labor movement and other movements for justice, have joined together in the Bargaining for the Common Good network.
Our unions along with many others are facing critical contract campaigns in 2022 and 2023. We believe that our success in those fights will be measured not only in wages and benefits for our members, but also in how we bring in our broader communities and their needs.
In “Common Good” campaigns in the recent past, we’ve won protections for immigrant public school students, forced nursing home employers to join us in fights against racial profiling, and brought housing advocates and educators together to make joint demands to city leaders. While these campaigns haven’t always ended in victories, they represent an important step forward in a movement that fights for the entire working class, no matter where they are.
CHECK OUT THIS MAP
In 2020 the BCG network released an interactive mapping tool to visualize union contract expirations nationwide. The tool is intended to help union activists, community organizers, and others identify when and where local, regional, and national union contracts expire, creating an opportunity to align campaign timelines and plans for collective action.
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The map helps workers and community members plan collective action beyond individual unions and organizations, including in states with no or weak collective bargaining protections, in the private sector, and during times of intense economic disruption.
Right now in the Twin Cities, more than 10,000 union members in multiple sectors including K-12 education are preparing for possible strikes, with coordination, planning, and resource-sharing developing among a half-dozen unions in both the private and public sectors.
In California, unions and community organizations are developing a collective plan that weaves together fights for racial and housing justice with coordinated bargaining and organizing campaigns over the next several years.
HELP US UPDATE IT
As a new year begins, BCG is reaching out to unions, union leaders and organizers to help update expired contracts in our database, as well as to add expiration dates upcoming in 2022 and 2023. Many union contracts collected in the first edition of the map expired or were re-negotiated in 2020 and 2021. You can submit contract information using this form for small batches of data (less than 10) or email lily.ryan[at]georgetown[dot]edu to submit larger batches of contracts.
Send in your data! Let’s work together across the labor movement to go on offense in 2022. We imagine a world where workers and our communities drive the agenda. But getting there depends on what we do in this phase of the crisis—and how we build our power and leverage regionally, across industries, and across issues. Our fights are all inherently linked together; let’s prepare to act together to win.
Cecily Myart-Cruz is the president of United Teachers Los Angeles and Greg Nammacher is the president of SEIU Local 26. They both serve on the Advisory Committee of the Bargaining for the Common Good Network.