Category Archives: Labor

4 myths about raising the minimum wage

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not been raised since 2009. That’s the longest period without an increase since the minimum wage was enacted, meaning today’s minimum wage is actually worth far less than it was in 2009. Continue reading

How young workers are unionizing Starbucks

Starbucks Workers United is racking up victorious union votes in one branch after another of the iconic American coffee chain. A young California-based worker-organizer explains why this organizing campaign is different.

At only 19 years old, Joe Thompson is one of the youngest lead organizers with Starbucks Workers United (SWU), the umbrella organization at the forefront of one of the most exciting labor successes of the last few years. Thompson, who started working at the coffee chain at age 16, told me in a recent interview, “Starbucks likes to claim it’s super-progressive, and a lot of workers there are, but we’re the ones actually holding Starbucks accountable to that standard.” Continue reading

Amazon Bessemer warehouse reflects danger on the job nationwide

BESSEMER, Ala.—Shoving merchandise around Amazon’s giant warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., isn’t easy, Isaiah Thomas says. It also isn’t safe. Continue reading

How America’s truckers got hijacked

Thanks to greedy corporate bosses, what was once a skilled, middle-class, union job is now a skilled poverty-wage job.

“Keep On Truckin’” was an iconic underground cartoon created in 1968 by comic master Robert Crumb. Continue reading

Amazon workers’ astounding win, and how corporate America is trying to take back power

On Friday, April 1, Amazon—America’s wealthiest, most powerful, and fiercest anti-union corporation, with the second-largest workforce in the nation (union-busting Walmart being the largest), lost out to a group of warehouse workers in New York who voted to form a union. Continue reading

Corporations are suppressing wages—there’s an easy fix for that

Don’t believe the optimistic hype about wages “naturally” rising. About one-third of American workers are shockingly underpaid as a result of the federal government’s continued refusal to raise the minimum wage.

Amid all the good news about successful labor organizing and job growth in the United States is the stark reality that wages continue to remain inexcusably low even as inflation rises. A new government report by numerous agencies, including the U.S. Treasury Department, came to the stark conclusion that corporate power is suppressing wages. Continue reading

Addressing racial inequality in paid leave policy

While efforts to secure paid leave benefits are stalled at the federal level, states and cities are moving forward. In the latest victory, the District of Columbia has granted hundreds of thousands of private-sector workers 12 weeks of paid time off, up from a maximum of eight weeks. Continue reading

There’s no sugarcoating Hershey’s abuse of workers and union-busting tactics

Hershey factory workers in Virginia are sick of company abuses and are voting to join a union. But their union-busting employer has other plans.

There is a bittersweet battle taking place in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. Workers at the Hershey Company’s second-largest factory, located in the small town of about 12,000, are seeking to unionize. In response, the nation’s largest candy manufacturer is throwing the full force of the standard corporate union-busting playbook at them. The Virginia Hershey manufacturing plant employs about 1,300 people, none of whom are sharing in the bounty of the company’s record profits reaped during a pandemic where Americans ate their weight in candy through numerous lockdowns. Continue reading

How a group of Starbucks workers emerged victorious in their union fight

It is hugely significant that even one café out of thousands in the iconic Starbucks coffee chain has beaten back the company’s union-busting tactics to choose collective power in the workplace.

The iconic American coffee chain, Starbucks, employs hundreds of thousands of people in nearly 9,000 cafés nationwide. And yet, the news that a handful of Starbucks employees at one café in Buffalo, New York, recently voted to join Workers United—an affiliate of SEIU—made headlines nationally. The New York Times called it a “big symbolic win for labor,” while the Washington Post hailed it as a “watershed union vote.” Social media feeds were replete with joyous posts celebrating the vote. The café, located on Elmwood Avenue, was the only one out of three union-voting Starbucks locations in Buffalo that successfully chose to unionize. Continue reading

Rare unionizing opportunity in big box and retail chains

This is the most opportune time for millions of workers in Big Box retail stores and fast-food outlets to form unions. McDonald’s, Walmart, Amazon, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, and other giant chains are having trouble finding enough workers. Some of these companies are even paying signing bonuses and upping low pay. Continue reading

Rethinking work—and life

Americans are quitting bad jobs in record numbers because they’re rethinking what matters.

As a writer, I get stuck every so often straining for the right words to tell my story. Over the years, though, I’ve learned when to quit tying myself into mental knots over sentence construction. Instead, I step back and rethink where my story is going. Continue reading

Starbucks Workers United scores first-ever union win at big coffee chain

BUFFALO, N.Y.—Starbucks Workers United broke a significant barrier on December 9 with the first-ever worker win at the big retail coffee chain. Workers at the Elmwood store in Buffalo voted 19-8 to unionize with Starbucks Workers United, the National Labor Relations Board officer announced. The union also won 15-9 at a second store, but there are seven challenged ballots, and the NLRB will have to decide whether and how many of them to count. Continue reading

First Amazon, now Starbucks: Workers demanding unions at low-paying firms

BUFFALO —First it was—and still is—Amazon in Alabama. Now it’s Starbucks in Buffalo. Continue reading

Why Amazon is terrified of its U.S. workers unionizing

With a second union vote at its Alabama warehouse coming at a time of rising worker disaffection, Amazon is clearly worried that American workers will go the way of Europe: toward collective bargaining for their labor rights.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has just ruled that a historic union vote held earlier this year among Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) was not valid. The highly publicized vote, which took place over several weeks in February and March 2021, resulted in a resounding defeat for the union, with more than 70 percent of those voting choosing against union membership. Continue reading

NYC taxi drivers took on predatory lenders—and won

This worker-driven organizing victory could pave the way for future debt relief.

After a two-week hunger strike and two months of sit-ins, dozens of taxi drivers in New York City hosted a long-awaited celebration outside City Hall on November 10. Continue reading

Rediscovering the power of unions

Better wages and health care may always face headwinds in Washington, but unions are striking to win them directly.

It was called “Striketober.” While politicians in Washington bickered over infrastructure, jobs, and the social safety net, unionized workers across the heartland went on strike to get their fair share directly. Continue reading

Don’t believe corporate America’s “labor shortage” bullshit

This is an unofficial general strike.

For the first time in years, American workers have enough bargaining leverage to demand better working conditions and higher wages—and are refusing to work until they get them. Continue reading

In final speech, Trumka said labor’s fighting for democracy under siege

LAS VEGAS (PAI)—In what turned out to be his final address to a union crowd, the late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared organized labor is fighting not just for itself, but for “democracy, which has been under siege.” Continue reading

The untimely tragic death of labor’s best friend

The first time I met Rich Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO who suddenly died this past Thursday, was in early 2008. I had only been president of the Writers Guild of America, East, an AFL-CIO union, for a short time, and he was then the labor federation’s secretary-treasurer. Continue reading

There is no labor shortage, only labor exploitation

Conservatives and corporate employers are weaving an insidious web of myths, lies and exaggerations to justify maintaining low-wage jobs.

For the past few months, Republicans have been waging a ferocious political battle to end federal unemployment benefits, based upon stated desires of saving the U.S. economy from a serious labor shortage. The logic, in the words of Republican politicians like Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, goes like this: “the government pays folks more to stay home than to go to work,” and therefore, “[p]aying people not to work is not helpful.” The conservative Wall Street Journal has been beating the drum for the same argument, saying recently that it was a “terrible blunder” to pay jobless benefits to unemployed workers. Continue reading

There’s no ‘labor shortage.’ There’s a wage shortage.

To find workers, there’s a free-enterprise solution right at employers’ fingertips: raise pay, improve conditions, and show respect.

At a recent congressional hearing on America’s so-called “labor shortage,” megabanker Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, offered this insight: “People actually have a lot of money, and they don’t particularly feel like going back to work.” Continue reading

Pay a living wage or ‘flip your own damn burgers’: Progressives blast right-wing narrative on jobs

"If one in four recipients are making more off unemployment than they did working, that's not an indictment of $300 a week in UI benefits. It's an indictment of corporations paying starvation wages."

Pushing back on the right-wing narrative about the reason for real or perceived labor shortages in some markets nationwide, progressives on Friday told corporations that if they want to hire more people, they’ll need to start paying better wages. Continue reading

Big biz answer to low April job numbers: End unemployment benefits!

The Chamber of Commerce and the Republicans are seizing on what they say is a poor April jobs report to call for ending unemployment benefits they say are too generous. Their idea is that by heaping more pain and suffering on U.S. workers they will be forced to go back to work even if only to jobs that pay sub-human wages. The logical conclusion that this would be a good time for corporations and businesses to finally increase pay to living wage levels is one they want to avoid coming to at all costs. Continue reading

Migrant women farmworkers: An invisible essential labor force

The Biden administration must address the industry’s long-standing gender discrimination and systemic inequalities, which have become even more severe during the pandemic.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an outpouring of public support for essential workers. But this national discourse has largely excluded migrant women farmworkers, despite their vital role in keeping food on American families’ tables. Continue reading

If Joe Biden is truly a ‘union guy’ he must strike dead the Taft-Hartley monster

The PRO Act alone is simply not going to get the job done for U.S. workers.

President Joe Biden likes to say, “I’m a union guy.” Unfortunately, as Vice President from 2009 to 2017, his boss, Barack Obama wouldn’t let him be a “union guy.” Even with large Democratic majorities in Congress and control of the White House, worker needs went unmet. Continue reading

Amazon union vote shows why we need the PRO Act

In the face of intimidation by one of the largest companies in the world, Alabama workers bravely spoke out about the need for greater labor protections.

Following one of the most high-profile union votes in history, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama—led by Black organizers—ultimately rejected efforts to form a union by 71 percent, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Continue reading

Don’t be fooled: The official unemployment numbers are a lie

A dive into the murky waters of unemployment to see the designed failings of a system that purposefully miscounts, disaggregates and excludes millions of people

The official unemployment rate now stands at 6.7%. But that doesn’t feel right, does it? Unless you live in a gated community, the reality on the ground feels more dire and more destitute. Behind that cheery 6.7% stand millions of uncounted people—uncounted by design. Continue reading

Workers need paid sick leave ASAP

Congress let mandatory paid leave end on Dec. 31. Lawmakers—and employers—need to restore them immediately.

Late last year, Congress allowed federal mandatory emergency paid leave benefits to expire. That left millions of American workers more vulnerable to catching—and spreading—COVID-19. Continue reading

Working class heroes get death as their reward

We are a nation that loves its heroes, even if most fade unknown to their deaths, protecting capital in a laissez faire system. When we flip a light switch, we take it for granted that the room will be illuminated, without understanding that people die for that to take place. Continue reading

A holiday comeback for Toys ‘R’ Us?

Retail workers are organizing to make sure private equity firms can’t make money by putting people out of work.

For many years, Giovanna De La Rosa enjoyed working at Toys ‘R’ Us—especially during the holiday shopping season. “I loved bringing joy to families and to children,” she shared at a recent congressional hearing. “I watched so many of the local kids grow up over the years while shopping in our store.” Continue reading

Waiting on the wealthy

Low-wage jobs catering to the wealthiest Americans are now growing twice as fast as other jobs.

Are you there yet? Continue reading

Workers stuck ‘paying the ultimate price’ as GE freezes pensions for 20,000 employees

‘GE hired a new CEO last year with a pay package worth up to $300 million.’

Workers are stuck “paying the ultimate price for executives’ poorly-timed deals,” said Our Revolution on Monday after General Electric announced it was freezing the pensions of roughly 20,000 employees with salaried benefits. Continue reading