By James Smith
The United Auto Workers have been trying for years to crack the notoriously anti-union South by organizing at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2014, after a ridiculously strong and blatantly illegal anti-union campaign which saw the participation of federal and local politicians, the UAW narrowly lost a union election. Afterward, the plant’s 150 or so maintenance workers voted overwhelmingly to organize with UAW Local 42. VW claimed the smaller election was illegitimate, and refused to recognize the smaller union. They claimed, however, they would bargain in good faith with a union that represented the entire workforce, so the UAW filed for another plant-wide election, which they are now sure they can win. VW then promptly changed their position on the smaller union, and asked the National Labor Relations Board to cancel the plant-wide election because, there is already a union representing the maintenance workers which needs to be decertified before a plant-wide election can be held. The NLRB consented to VW’s request.
In 2017 the largest corporate tax cut in history was voted into law, which gave corporations a $150 billion windfall. Of that money, the bosses decided to pass about 6% on to workers, which increased the average weekly paycheck by about $6.21. Nearly all the rest of the $141 billion they kept for themselves, netting the top 10% of the population more than $3,500 each on average.
In 2018, the Portland IWW made history when they helped organize the country’s first fast food union at Burgerville. This year, the same group of Wobblies decided to put on an encore. They added two more Burgerville locations to the union, and helped the workers at Little Big Burger in Portland to organize the country’s second fast food union.
The Protecting Right to Organize Act has been recently introduced into Congress by Democratic representative Bobby Scott of Virginia. The bill, if passed into law, would, among other things, allow workers to sue their employers if they are illegally fired for organizing efforts and overturn all the state’s right-to-work laws that have been passed over the last several years. While it is great to see a federal politician trying to pass pro-union laws, I would suggest not waiting for the politicians to save you. There is no way this bill can pass into law while the Republicans are in power, and ten years ago when the Democrats were in power, they refused to pass pro-union legislation. The only people who are going to dig us out of the crappy wage system are us.
Ridingsharing (aka unlicensed cab) juggernaut Uber sold itself to Wall Street for a breathtaking amount of money. The company now has a market value of around 70 billion dollars and paid its executives 145 million in total compensation last year. Meanwhile, the drivers that work for Uber organized a strike against poor pay and working conditions. Let’s hope the drivers eventually manage to organize, because despite all the money they have to throw around, Uber’s management stated in their recent federal filings, “…as we aim to reduce Driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect Driver dissatisfaction will generally increase.” At least they’re honest, unlike every other corporation in the country who, let’s face it, obviously believe the same thing.
Ever wonder why the corporate media doesn’t cover labor strikes? The things are contagious! Nearly a year and a half after the teachers in West Virginia went on strike and won, the teachers’ strikes are still going, and they’re still winning. Recently teachers in Denver struck and won an 11.7% pay raise. Teachers in Oakland struck and won an 11% pay increase and 3% bonuses. 20,000 teachers in Oregon participated in a walk-out to push their representative to support a pro-education bill, which they did. In Kentucky, teachers staged a sickout, and are threatening more actions if the politicians don’t abandon their anti-education bills. In New Haven, California teachers are currently on strike. And in New Zealand (yes, it has gone international), nearly 50,000 teachers are preparing to strike, which will shut down nearly every school in the country. The Netherlands, Poland, India, Iran, Mexico, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe have also experienced teachers strikes in recent months. Nearly all of these actions have resulted in wins for teachers.
The educators of the world clearly have something to teach us us all: Direct action gets the goods. Now get out there, and practice the lesson!
Recent Washington State Union Election Results:
- Midmountain Contractors, Kirkland, Washington and Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers: WON
- VR Holdings NW, Inc., Skykomish, Communication Workers of America: WON
- Durham D&M, LLC, Everett, Teamsters Local 38: WON
- Northwest Hospital and Medical Center, Seattle, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW: WON
- Lister Chain and Forge, Inc., Blaine, United Steelworkers: LOST
- A. Harold & Associates, LLC, Oak Harbor, Pacific Northwest Staff Union: WON
- MM Comfort Systems, LLC, Redmond, SMART Local 66: LOST
- Zenetex, LLC, Oak Harbor, IAM District 751: WON
- Wapato Point Management Company, Manson, Laborers International Union of North America Local 292: WON
Download the full issue of the July-August issue of the Seattle Worker.