The Seeds of a New Labor Movement

Anita_willcox_solidarity-forever-poster.jpg
Anita Wilcox, Solidarity Forever

By Harold Meyerson

Consideration of the status and the changing structures and organizing strategies of the U.S. labor movement is an important element in developing a new strategy for rebuilding the democratic left.

DSA Honorary Chair Harold Meyerson has written an important long-form piece on current developments in the U.S. Labor movement for The American Prospect. Below are excerpts and a link to the full article. -- Editors

A growing share of the organizing in labor today is already taking place outside the structures of collective bargaining. Unions are organizing domestic workers, who have no common employer. They are organizing taxi drivers, who are self-employed. The AFL-CIO’s major organizing effort, Working America, is a community-based campaign that until recently hadn’t dealt with its members’ workplace concerns or had a presence in those workplaces. And in the fight to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15, even though few if any of the beneficiaries were or would become union members, Rolf ended up bargaining with employers on behalf of the city’s entire working class. 

But the triumph in SeaTac was only the second most important victory that Rolf’s union won last Election Day. In Seattle proper, State Senator Ed Murray was elected mayor, chiefly on the strength of his pledge to raise Seattle’s minimum to $15 as well. While SEIU’s “Fight for 15” campaign to unionize fast-food workers has highlighted the plight of low-wage workers in dozens of cities, only in Seattle did the issue come to dominate the municipal elections. That was Rolf’s and his fast-food organizers’ doing. They timed the workers’ demonstrations to coincide with key events during the campaign. Their coup de théâtre was to arrange a televised debate among the major mayoral candidates at which the questioners were all low-wage workers (including a Burger King employee active in the fast-food campaign)—who, of course, asked the aspirants if they supported a $15 minimum for Seattle. It was there that Murray, more than any of the other candidates, first spoke favorably of the idea.

As the campaign progressed, as the demonstrations continued to draw widespread coverage, and as the $15 question came up at every candidates forum, the fight for 15 became Murray’s signature issue. On Election Day, his victory, the victory at SeaTac, and the upset Seattle city council victory of Kshama Sawant, a Trotskyist champion of the $15 standard, combined to create a perfect storm for a pay raise. 

Read the entire article here. Reprinted with permission from The American Prospect.

HaroldMeyersonAID.png

Harold Meyerson is editor-at-large of The American Propect and a Washington Post columnist. He is a vice-chair of DSA.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

 

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

May 25, 2017
· 33 rsvps

Join DSA's Queer Socialists Working Group to discuss possible activities for the group and its proposed structure. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 40 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 92 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 26 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 5 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.