Amazon Union Success May Point to a New Labor Playbook – The New York Times

“After the stunning victory at Amazon by a little-known independent union that didn’t exist 18 months ago, organized labor has begun to ask itself an increasingly pressing question: Does the labor movement need to get more disorganized?

Unlike traditional unions, the Amazon Labor Union relied almost entirely on current and former workers rather than professional organizers in its campaign at a Staten Island warehouse. For financing, it turned to GoFundMe appeals rather than union coffers built from the dues of existing members. It spread the word in a break room and at low-key barbecues outside the warehouse.

In the end, the approach succeeded where far bigger, wealthier and more established unions have repeatedly fallen short.

“It’s sending a wake-up call to the rest of the labor movement,” said Mark Dimondstein, the president of the American Postal Workers Union. “We have to be homegrown — we have to be driven by workers — to give ourselves the best chance.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Excellent article, thank you. I’m left with more questions than answers. How evil or wonderful are the big labor union bosses. They get a lot of bad press. I would like explanations of how they work, what percent of a workers pay do they charge, how much do the bosses take for themselves, and is their model useful or anachronistic for the future of organized labor? Is there a existing book that lays this all out? Should all public service unions be made illegal, for conflict of interest issues, or just the police unions, which have gone over the top into corruption and anti-public safety positions? David also writes at InconvenientNews.net

How Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer Beat Amazon – Jodi Kantor and Karen Weise – The New York Times

“In the first dark days of the pandemic, as an Amazon worker named Christian Smalls planned a small, panicked walkout over safety conditions at the retailer’s only fulfillment center in New York City, the company quietly mobilized.

Amazon formed a reaction team involving 10 departments, including its Global Intelligence Program, a security group staffed by many military veterans. The company named an “incident commander” and relied on a “Protest Response Playbook” and “Labor Activity Playbook” to ward off “business disruptions,” according to newly released court documents.

In the end, there were more executives — including 11 vice presidents — who were alerted about the protest than workers who attended it. Amazon’s chief counsel, describing Mr. Smalls as “not smart, or articulate,” in an email mistakenly sent to more than 1,000 people, recommended making him “the face” of efforts to organize workers. The company fired Mr. Smalls, saying he had violated quarantine rules by attending the walkout.

In dismissing and smearing him, the company relied on the hardball tactics that had driven its dominance of the market. But on Friday, he won the first successful unionization effort at any Amazon warehouse in the United States, one of the most significant labor victories in a generation. The company’s response to his tiny initial protest may haunt it for years to come.”

Vanessa Veselka | These Memory Care Workers Went on Strike to Save Lives – The New York Times

Ms. Veselka is a writer and former union organizer.

“Last winter, workers at a memory care facility in western Oregon decided they were done watching the residents suffer. Conditions at the Rawlin at Riverbend, a 72-bed home in Springfield, were horrific because of critically low staffing and a lack of training. Elderly residents screamed from their rooms for assistance, and workers had to make the kinds of decisions that people are forced to make in war: Do you take precious time to do emergency wound care, even though you aren’t quite sure how, knowing that it means other residents might sit in their own feces for hours or trip and fall in the hallways? Do you stop to feed a resident who has trouble swallowing, knowing that others may not be fed if you do?

According to workers, Onelife, the company that operated the Rawlin, did not provide enough staff to properly care for the dozens of residents with dementia and other serious health problems. Around 20 residents died in about two months, from mid-November 2020 to mid-January 2021, only six of them from Covid. Many of the other deaths, caregivers believe, could have been prevented with better treatment.”

Dan Kaufman | Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Paved the Way for Donald Trump’s America – The New York Times

Mr. Kaufman is a writer and musician who grew up in Wisconsin and writes frequently about labor, politics and the environment in his home state.

“Ten years ago, after overcoming a monthslong protest movement and legal battle, a law called Act 10 took effect in Wisconsin. The nondescript name cloaked the most significant attack on labor rights since President Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers union in 1981.

Ostensibly meant to address a shortfall in the state’s budget, Act 10 steeply cut the state’s contribution to workers’ pensions and health care premiums, but its defining feature was to effectively eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees. Most important, it sparked a nationwide attack on labor that fueled the rise of right-wing populism and helped elect Donald Trump.”

Paul Krugman | America Needs to Empower Workers Again – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…William C. Shrout/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

“Labor activists hoped that the unionization vote at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse would be a turning point, a reversal in the decades-long trend of union decline. What the vote showed, instead, was the continuing effectiveness of the tactics employers have repeatedly used to defeat organizing efforts.

But union advocates shouldn’t give up. The political environment that gave anti-union employers a free hand may be changing — the decline of unionization was, above all, political, not a necessary consequence of a changing economy. And America needs a union revival if we’re to have any hope of reversing spiraling inequality.

Let’s start by talking about why union membership declined in the first place, and why it’s still possible to hope for a revival.

America used to have a powerful labor movement. Union membership soared between 1934 and the end of World War II. During the 1950s roughly a third of nonagricultural workers were union members. As late as 1980 unions still represented around a quarter of the work force. And strong unions had a big impact even on nonunion workers, setting pay norms and putting nonunion employers on notice that they had to treat their workers relatively well lest they face an organizing drive.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
My teacher Paul Krugman leaves me unimpressed today. Some unions are desparately needed, but others, especially police unions, and some fire unions, are too strong, and almost criminal in their overreach and protection of bad cops, etc. I remember when Reagan broke up the air traffic controllers strike, and I agreed with Reagan on that call. They had the power to blackmail the public for as much as they could image, and it didn’t seem right. What was to stop them from asking for more every year? The bad unions have given the movement a bad reputation. Ignoring that history, and the ongoing crisis with over powerful police unions, doesn’t help fix the public’s distast for unions. I am with FDR, who apparently said the police and civil service should not be allowed to join unions, because they would grow to strong, and were already on the public’s tab.

 

Opinion | Janus Decision Reins in Unions’ Political Power – The New York Times

“In its 5-4 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Supreme Court on Wednesday declared unconstitutional laws that require public employees to pay “agency fees” to unions that they refuse to join. The court’s ruling, will not, as critics fear, deliver a “death blow” to unions. But it will restore to thousands of public employees the right to decide which political causes to support with their money.”

The Teachers Revolt in West Virginia – by Michelle Goldberg – NYT

“Two years ago, The Washington Post ran a long piece about West Virginia called, “How the birthplace of the American labor movement just turned on its unions.” It described how, following the Republican takeover of the Legislature in 2014, the state passed a so-called right-to-work law prohibiting mandatory union dues. Such laws have badly undermined unions in other states, and for people who care about organized labor, it was a bitter irony to see one enacted in a place once famed for its militant labor movement. The state also repealed a law mandating that workers on public construction projects are paid prevailing industry rates.

Labor in West Virginia seemed beaten down.That’s one reason the statewide teachers’ strike in West Virginia, which on Monday entered its eighth day, is so thrilling. Strikes by teachers are unlawful in the state, and their unions lack collective bargaining rights. Nevertheless, in a revival of West Virginia’s long-dormant tradition of bold labor activism, teachers and some other school employees in all of the state’s 55 counties are refusing to return to work until lawmakers give them a 5 percent raise, and commit to addressing their rapidly rising health insurance premiums.”

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

This report flunks, like all the others I’ve heard on this subject. No one will say what the salaries of these teachers are, where they start, where they end. What is the average total package. Facts and numbers matter, and it grieves me that the best this lousy op-ed can do, is cite a massive paper.

In Reply to the top comment, I added:

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Lack of numbers in the piece is very disappointing. Here is what I found. “Teacher Salaries in West Virginia by Education As teachers further their educations and gain experience in the field, they receive pay increases that reflect their dedication and hard work. Salaries vary between school districts, but the following are some examples of the salaries you can expect in West Virginia: Experience Bachelor’s Master’s At 3 years $30,871 $33,399

At 6 years $ 32,670 $35,199

At 9 years $34,226 $36,754

At 12 years $35,783 $38,311 Source: West Virginia Department of Education

DL: It’s too bad this piece didn’t include such numbers. They are lower than expected.

Next important question, what are the median salary levels state-wide for West Virginina. Facts matter.

The Supreme Court’s Power Play Against Labor – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

“Here’s a possible solution to the most commented-upon mystery growing out of the Supreme Court’s argument this week in a case of crucial importance to the future of public employee unions: Why did the normally loquacious Justice Neil M. Gorsuch stay silent? Could the junior justice have caught something from Justice Clarence Thomas, who famously went a decade without asking a single question? Was Justice Gorsuch overcome by the knowledge that with his eight colleagues tied four to four — as revealed by the vote two terms ago in a nearly identical case that was argued but not yet decided by the time of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death — he holds the fate of organized labor in his hands?

No, nothing as tantalizing as that. I think the answer is probably a good deal more pedestrian. The lawyer representing the labor union, David C. Frederick, is Justice Gorsuch’s former law partner. When President Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court a year ago, Mr. Frederick published an opinion essay in The Washington Post under the headline: “There Is No Principled Reason to Vote Against Gorsuch.” Identifying himself as “a longtime supporter of Democratic candidates and progressive causes,” Mr. Frederick called Judge Gorsuch “a longtime friend” and described him as “brilliant, diligent, open-minded and thoughtful.” So why would Justice Gorsuch beat up on his old friend when Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Anthony M. Kennedy were doing an enthusiastic job of it?”

“The challengers, supported by the Trump administration, maintain that this longstanding distinction between chargeable and nonchargeable expenses is unsupportable because everything a public employee union does is inherently political. Thus, they argue, it violates the First Amendment for the objectors to have to support the union in any way, and therefore the precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, must be overruled.

In support of this argument, Justices Alito and Kennedy were obsessively focused on unions as political actors that could, in Justice Alito’s words, “push a city to the brink and perhaps over the brink into bankruptcy.” Their goal was to show that public employee unions are political to their very core.

“Do you think that this case affects the political influence of the unions?” Justice Kennedy asked Mr. Frederick. When the lawyer began his answer with a No, Justice Kennedy went on, with evident sarcasm:

“So you’ve — I can try to find a union newsletter which says don’t worry about the Supreme Court, our political influence will be exactly the same as it was before, if this case comes out against us?”

“That’s not a chargeable expense, Justice Kennedy,” Mr. Frederick began. “We’re talking about —” “

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Unions and Collective Bargaining power. This is a difficult subject. In Hamden and the State of CT, we have a too much power in the public employee unions, or, for complex reasons, they negotiated for overly generous, and unsustainable pension and work benefits, that now endanger the economies of the state and local governments. Meanwhile, we have workers at places like Walmart, Subway, and home nursing aides, who are so poorly paid, that they remain in poverty after working full time. How will this extreme haircut affect these two problems? On the one hand, we have unionized public service labor that is overpowerful, and needs a haircut, and poorly paid service workers in the private sector, who desperately need more collective bargaining power, and better wages and benefits. The benefit of this right wing hair cut it that it might bring some support to Hamden and Connecticut against the unsustainable benefits agreed to in the last 40 years or so. Will this haircut throw out many babies with the bathwater? Or will it curb the the excesses of big labor, while allowing for a new growth in unionization in the private sector where collective bargaining is so desperately needed. The answer probably lies in the practices of counties like Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, where the social net is stronger, which allows for more risk taking. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com