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In Brief: From Starbucks to Amazon to Schools, Union Organizing and Militancy is Rolling Across the Country

Apr 21, 2022

Promising Wave of Union Victories

“The recent, much-publicized wave of union victories in the US at companies as varied as the giant coffee chain Starbucks, trendy outdoor outfitters REI and media group the New York Times is spurring hopes that this will somehow turn into a much larger unionization wave that lifts millions of Americans.

This is an unusually promising moment for unions, labor strategists say, as they strain to figure out how best to build a larger wave, although they acknowledge it won’t be easy because US corporations fight so fiercely against unionization.

Union strategists are debating whether there are ways to transform the wins at Starbucks – workers at six Starbucks have voted to unionize so far – into a wave of unionization at McDonald’s and other fast-food companies, and whether the REI victory could be a springboard to victories elsewhere in retail, perhaps at Walmart or Whole Foods.

“We have a moment right now,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, the union that the REI workers voted to join. “I think that success breeds more success. When people see what’s happened at some Starbucks in Buffalo, they ask, ‘Why can’t we do that, too?’””

Guardian, 3/16/22

Union Organizing at Starbucks in Tennessee Provides Lessons

“Carter said she had been in contact with not only the Kingston Pike and Montvue stores but also four other locations in Knoxville that are interested in getting help with unionizing. She said that unions have possibly become more popular because workers are fighting for others to recognize their value as human beings and assets to companies.

‘You’re seeing a shift in people realizing that the working class has … to rise up together in order to beat corporate greed,’ Carter said. ‘We realize that now. We see that there is now an avenue and there always has been an avenue that they didn’t want us to know about, that they didn’t teach us about in the school books because they don’t want us to have a voice.’

‘Unions change the entire power dynamic of your job.’”

Daily Beacon, 4/12/22

Historic Win for Workers at Amazon Spurs more Organizing

“Amazon workers’ historic win last week in New York may wind up spurring union growth around the country after decades of decline, at a time when a tight labor market is empowering workers in ways that once seemed impossible.

The big picture: A remarkable confluence of factors — including a pro-labor White House, once-in-a-century pandemic and a super tight labor market — helped Amazon workers in Staten Island achieve a David and Goliath union victory, with almost no backing from traditional institutional labor.

  • ‘It has electrified all of our members and organizing leaders,’ said Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
  • The new Staten Island Amazon union has been contacted by employees at 50 other buildings in the U.S., according to the organization’s president and founder, Christian Smalls.
  • Another Amazon warehouse across the street from Smalls’ building has a union vote scheduled for April, said Seth Goldstein, the group’s lawyer. And a separate group of AmazonFresh employees — inspired by the Staten Island efforts — voted to unionize and are moving forward, he noted.”

Axios, 4/6/22

New Wave of Teachers Strikes Across America

“Thousands of teachers around the United States are resuming a strike wave in education that swept the country in 2018 and 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

School districts across America are facing severe staffing shortages of teachers, substitute teachers and support staff amid Covid-19 disruptions and historically low pay, contributing to burnout and worsening working conditions.

Over the past few weeks, teachers have gone on strike in Sacramento, California, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Sonoma county, CaliforniaRiverdale, Illinois, and Proviso, Illinois, as teachers in other districts have authorized strikes. Earlier this year, teachers in Chicago, Illinois, were locked out by Chicago Public Schools over their demands for pausing in-person learning during a Covid surge.”

Guardian, 3/25/22


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