|Anita Wilcox, Solidarity Forever|
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.
Harold Meyerson is editor-at-large of The American Propect and a Washington Post columnist. He is a vice-chair of DSA.
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