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Communication Workers of America (CWA)

Unions Must Go Beyond Calling for a Cease-Fire in Gaza

By Jeff Schuhrke - Jacobin, February 13, 2024

Four months into Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza that has killed over twenty-eight thousand Palestinians, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) — the US labor federation whose member unions represent 12.5 million workers — issued a statement on February 8 urging a negotiated cease-fire to end the violence.

The move came after over two hundred US unions and labor bodies — including national unions like the United Electrical Workers (UE), American Postal Workers Union (APWU), United Auto Workers (UAW), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), National Nurses United (NNU), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), National Education Association (NEA), Communications Workers of America (CWA), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — had already made cease-fire calls of their own. Many unions, especially at the local level, have also expressed solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement.

With the backing of the AFL-CIO and the nation’s two largest unions (NEA and SEIU), support for a cease-fire is now the mainstream position of the American labor movement. Given US labor officialdom’s history of providing substantial political and material aid to the state of Israel — along with its frequent partnering with US empire (which I examine in my forthcoming book, Blue Collar Empire) — this is a remarkable development highlighting the power of rank-and-file organizing to push union leaders on critical issues, and signaling the possibility of building a more internationalist labor movement.

Now, the task for rank-and-file members who successfully organized to get their unions to issue cease-fire statements increasingly is to translate that commitment into concrete action to stop what the International Court of Justice considers Israel’s plausible acts of genocide. Across the US labor movement, networks of pro-Palestine workers are continuing to organize to get their unions to cut economic ties with Israel, put pressure on political candidates and elected officials, and interrupt the flow of union-made weapons and research to the Israeli military.

How Minnesota Unions are Building Power in Their Communities

The UAW Just Challenged the Entire Labor Movement to Get More Ambitious

By Hamilton Nolan - In These Times, November 30, 2023

Regular people who are not directly involved in the labor movement often find it hard to get interested in stuff that is happening at unions. Here is the short chain of reasoning I use to explain why they should care: What is the biggest underlying problem in America? Inequality. What is the single most potent and plausible weapon against inequality? Labor unions. What do labor unions need to do to actually roll back inequality in a way that would improve your life? They need to organize millions of new working people. 

So while it is understandable that the average person who is not in a union sees the topic of ​“union organizing” as some esoteric niche unrelated to them, that is not the case. This is the path to fix the whole fucking country. When people feel like this doesn’t affect them, well — that’s just an indicator of the problem.

The next question in this chain is: What will it take for unions to organize at the scale that we need? There are some practical answers to this question — it will take money, it will take organizers, it will take a structure conducive to keeping the money flowing towards organizing. But there is a more basic answer, that captures what has been lacking during the post-Reagan decades of declining union power: It will take ambition. Ambition!

Large parts of the union establishment still carry the sheepish look of a dog that has been beaten down for years. Living in a state of permanent decline, a life spent playing defense, has sapped them of the belief that things can be different. Their goals have gotten modest. Modest goals won’t get us where we need to go. We need to think big. The labor movement needs, before anything, genuine ambition for a new America. Rather than gazing at the scale of the problem and concluding that it is impossible, we need labor leaders who see their jobs as climbing mountains no matter how high they are. Ambition is the most precious quality of all.

That is why yesterday’s announcement from the United Auto Workers that they are launching a campaign to unionize more than a dozen non-union automakers at once is so important. The UAW knows that the biggest threats to its long term industrial power are the rise of big non-union auto companies like Tesla, and the fact that the auto industry has long been able to move plants to anti-union southern states in order to operate union-free. If left unchecked, those two trends will drain the UAW like a vampire, leaving it a hollow shell of a once-mighty institution. 

Hamilton Nolan is Labor’s BIG IDEAS Guy

Auto Workers Call on Unions to Align Contract Expirations

By Dan DiMaggio - Labor Notes, November 22, 2023

Is it time for a big, united strike by millions of union members against the billionaire class?

We get pitched this idea sometimes at Labor Notes. Usually we dismiss it as coming from starry-eyed dreamers eager to pass over the hard work of organizing and skip ahead to the “general strike.”

But now the call is coming from a major international union: the United Auto Workers, whose new contracts covering 146,000 workers at the Big 3 are strategically set to expire on May 1, 2028. The union wants others in the labor movement to align their own expirations for that date, setting up a battle with some of the country’s biggest corporations in four-and-a-half years.

“If I could have a dream scenario,” UAW President Shawn Fain told In These Times, “it would be that all of organized labor maps their expiration dates to May 1.”

“What Could We Win Together?” Labor in Minnesota Gears up for a Major Escalation

By Isabella Escalona and Amy Stager - Workday Magazine, October 31, 2023

Minnesota unions have been planning for this moment for a decade.

Over the years they’ve meticulously coordinated their contracts to expire at the same time in order to maximize unity and bargaining power. Now, as these expiration dates are within sight, union organizers and rank-and-file members are beginning to prepare.

SEIU Local 26 has a contract expiring for 4,000 commercial janitorial workers on December 31. Their contracts for another 1,000 airport workers and 500 retail janitorial workers close on January 31, 2024. And the contract is up for 2,500 security workers on February 29, 2024.

In the world of public schools, the contracts for the St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) Local 28, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) Local 59, and SEIU Local 284 (which represents support staff), already expired on June 30, but those contracts remain in effect until an agreement is put in place due to the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA).

The contract for the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005 also expired over the summer, on July 31, but has been extended until a new contract is ratified. (The ATU is currently negotiating with the Metropolitan Council.)

Meanwhile, the Metro Transit bus and rail operators with the ATU and maintenance workers voted to authorize a strike in September. One of the ATU’s main demands is a cost of living adjustment plus 1%. 

While the unions are organizing and bargaining separately, the shared expiration timeline was no accident. After decades of communication and coalition, many Minnesota unions have been eyeing opportunities like this in order to pool resources, strategize around bigger demands, and build a synergy they hope will lead to major gains.

Unions Launch California Worker Climate Bill of Rights

By Web Admin - Sunflower Alliance, October 25, 2023

California Labor for Climate Jobs (CLCJ), a coalition of California unions, has released its state policy platform, the California Worker Climate Bill of Rights, calling on the state to support a “worker-led transition to a just and climate-safe economy.”

The bill of rights calls for:

  • Protections from climate hazards
  • Safety nets for impacted workers and communities
  • Good jobs in the low-carbon economy
  • A strong public sector — adaptive services for all.

Their vision also includes:

  • Universal health care/the caring economy
  • Reliable and accessible public transportation
  • Expanded public education and job training.

Labor Joining September 17 NYC Climate March

By Maria Brescia-Weiler - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 30, 2023

On September 17 thousands of people will march in New York City calling on President Biden to make good on his promises to deliver a just transition for workers and our communities, to provide solutions to the economic and climate injustices we face, and to end fossil fuels. Five hundred organizations have endorsed the march. For more information on the March including list of endorsers visit https://www.endfossilfuels.us

The Labor Network for Sustainability is coordinating a labor hub for the march, because it is essential that working class environmentalism is at the forefront of any true transition to a more sustainable economy. We welcome workers and union members who will be in New York on September 17th to come march with us! Sign up here.

Laid-off Sierra Club Staffers: ‘We Can’t Give Up on United Fronts’

By Brooke Anderson, Hop Hopkins, and, Michelle Mascarenhas - Convergence, August 8, 2023

For the last decade, climate justice organizers have seen the Sierra Club as a critical lever for moving a climate agenda that centers equity and just transition. It has the largest grassroots base outside of labor, the most substantial infrastructure of any national green group in the US, and roots in a movement that at times was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with large corporations or development-oriented pro-business government entities.

But beginning in May, the organization accelerated a restructuring process that included layoffs of the entire equity and environmental justice teams and of senior staffers, several Black women and other women of color among them. At the same time, numerous new executive-level staff with high salaries were brought on to usher in a new organizational direction. This move, led by new BIPOC executive leadership, pulls back years of steady progress towards aligning the organization with the more progressive climate agenda. It is a harbinger of a shift away from equity and towards green capital just as the 2024 election nears—and reflects an anti-woke backlash occurring in liberal organizations across many sectors of the movement.

To better understand these shifts, movement journalist Brooke Anderson interviewed two longtime climate justice organizers and veteran social movement strategists, Michelle Mascarenhas and Hop Hopkins. Prior to being laid off from the Sierra Club this spring, Mascarenhas was its national director of campaigns, and Hopkins resigned as its director of organizational transformation.

Hopkins and Mascarenhas had been working to align the Sierra Club with the frontline-led climate justice movement, as part of an intentional effort to shift the organization from its racist roots and practice. Founded in 1892, the organization led the creation of the National Park Service, expanding on a legacy of dispossession and genocide of Indigenous peoples by insisting that protecting land meant removing it from Indigenous stewardship. “The Population Bomb,” which the Sierra Club published in 1968, was weaponized against poor people and people of color. It placed blame for the global ecological crisis on those least responsible: poor women of color and immigrants. This contributed to the anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-single mother attacks that continue to this day. 

The sophisticated analysis Mascarenhas and Hopkins offer of “what time it is on the clock of the world” (to borrow from the late, great Grace Lee Boggs) doesn’t just speak to happenings inside the Sierra Club. Rather, it holds deep-rooted and durable wisdom for left organizers attempting to make critical interventions in larger, liberal or centrist spaces in the non-profit industrial complex—and clarifies the sides and the stakes in today’s debates over climate policy. 

Storytelling on the Road to Socialism: Episode 12: A Switchman Speaks

By Candace Wolf - Storytelling on the Road to Socialism, June 6, 2023

On this episode, a switchman from Harlem tells the story of militant anti-racist and class wars in the U.S. communications industry

Music:

  • The Internationale - Workers Party of Jamaica In-House Reggae Group
  • Get Back, Black, Brown & White - Big Bill Broonzy
  • There is Power in the Union - Utah Phillips
  • The People United Will Never Be Defeated - Ilti Illimani (English version sung by the Cambridge People's Assembly)
  • Solidarity Forever - Pete Seeger
  • Socialism is Better - words & music by Bruce Wolf; performed by Bruce Wolf, Noah Wolf, Gaby Gignoux-Wolfsohn

Pages

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