You are here

strategy and tactics

What’s Next for the Teamsters?

Barry Eidlin & Paul Prescod on Labor’s Moment Today

How Minnesota Unions are Building Power in Their Communities

What Energy Companies Don't Want You To Know

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

Working for Climate Justice: Trade unions in the front line against climate change

By Ben Crawford and David Whyte - Institute of Employment Rights: Centre for Climate Crime and Climate Justice, November 23, 2023

For further background, visit this site.

Co-authors of the report, David Whyte, Queen Mary University of London and Ben Crawford, The London School of Economics, argue that the transition away from a carbon-based economy relies on the collective action of workers and their organisations, challenging an economic system focused on extracting value at any cost. While the primary analysis addresses the British context, the authors acknowledge the global nature of ecological sustainability and its transformation of social existence both within and outside the workplace.

Focusing on the economic sphere of production as the engine of climate change, the authors contend that the future of the planet relies heavily on workers' power and collective action. Contrary to decisions made in boardrooms and cabinets, they stress that a sustainable transition depends on workers and their communities organising a new social and economic system.

Co-author of report Professor David Whyte, and Director of the Centre for Climate Crime and Climate Justice, Queen Mary University of London explains: “Time is running out for us. We don’t have time to wait politely until employers decide to do the right thing. This is why a transition to a low carbon economy has to be led by workers taking action in their workplaces. A sustainable planet has to be based on sustainable jobs and sustainable ways of working and living.”

Trade unions, historically not prioritising climate change in bargaining, have a rich history of environmentalism and struggles against the commodification of labour. The pamphlet argues for a "secret solidarity" between workers and nature, emphasising the shared interest in slowing down production processes causing social and environmental harm.

To achieve a transition at the necessary scale and pace, the pamphlet proposes priorities for the trade-union movement:

  1. Empowering Members: Workers must put climate change on an industrial footing, building a grassroots power base through coordinated workplace representatives and political education.
  2. Integrating Climate Bargaining: Climate bargaining should be integrated into campaigns for employment rights, demanding a statutory basis for the right to bargain on climate and ecology.
  3. Allocating Resources: Trade unions must allocate greater resources to climate campaigning, countering the false dichotomy between jobs and a green economy and advocating for public ownership of key sectors.
  4. Engaging Globally: Unions should organise and recruit along global supply chains, recognising the need for international coordination and bargaining.

The report concludes by urging a transformative approach to just transition, where workers and trade unionists rethink the production and purpose of value, ensuring products and services align with socially useful and sustainable goals. The call is clear: workers must harness their collective power to lead the way towards a low-carbon economy.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Unjust Transitions: Climate Migration, Heat Stress, and Labour Exploitation in the United Arab Emirates

By staff - Equidem, November 20, 2023

Workers at the heart of the United Arab Emirates's renewable and gig sectors, and at the site that will host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) have left homes in Africa and Asia because of climate change only to be subjected to physical abuse, heat stress, exploitation and discrimination, a new report from Equidem reveals. Serious labour violations have taken place at the site of COP28, Expo City, as well as at five renewable energy firms, including Siemens Energy. 

Based on correspondence with 248 workers, and interviews with 102, the expansive report offers unprecedented insight into the renewables, construction, security, and delivery sectors in the UAE, shedding light on both industrial and service sector working conditions for 9 million migrant workers. 

The shining facilities at Expo City Dubai boast internationally lauded solar and wind parks and a booming local gig economy. Underneath that cheerful exterior, however, women and men from some of the poorest countries on earth are falling victim to an unjust transition: Migrant workers from Africa and Asia are being subjected to serious human rights abuses in a nation whose oil and gas-powered economy is at the heart of the planet’s climate crisis. 

“Hosting this peak global conference in a climate and rights abusing state was bad enough. Equidem’s research starkly reveals that the UAE is failing on almost every metric of the UN’s own human rights benchmarks for addressing climate change through the COP process,” said Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem. 

Abuses include workplace violence, wage theft, working in extreme heat and other occupational health and safety risks, nationality-based discrimination, exploitative hiring practices, understaffing and overwork, lack of opportunities for promotion, overcrowded accommodations, inadequate food allowances, and inadequate channels for workers to seek relief from these violations. 

Investigations by Equidem were carried out between February and October 2023 at Expo City Dubai and in the renewables and delivery sectors, including at Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, Al Dhafra Solar Power Project, Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Plant, Sir Bani Yas Wind Farm Project; and in the delivery sector in the UAE. 

  • Together, 57% of the migrant workers interviewed come from climate impacted areas of Asia and Africa.
  • 41 % of the workers reported nationality-based discrimination.
  • 77.% of the workers in renewable sector reported living in overcrowded accommodations, with up to 20 people in a room fit for six or fewer workers.
  • 83% of the African and Asian workers interviewed reported being unable to afford nutritious and healthy food.
  • 40% of the workers said they were skipping meals.

Equidem’s research found that African and Asian workers have migrated for employment based upon climate impacts in their own country, and then find employment in the industrial and service sectors in the UAE. These migrant workers are doubly impacted by the global climate crisis—they migrate in response to climate impacts and find employment in exploitative industrial and service contexts where they work long hours in extreme heat. These rights violations take place against a backdrop of racially delineated exclusion from labour rights protections, denial of freedom of association, and authoritarian suppression of dissent in the UAE. 

Download a copy of this publication here (Link).

Social Change Movements Are Winning Big, Thanks to Rigorous Strategy

By Deepak Bhargava and Stephanie Luce - Newsweek, November 16, 2023

Amid growing threats to our climate, economy, and democracy, one thing has become increasingly clear: those who care about confronting these challenges need to get smarter about strategy.

We've seen right-wing extremists make enormous gains on everything from abortion restrictions to anti-trans legislation, and we'd be foolish to believe their war on our rights will slow down anytime soon. They've done so by being laser focused on strategy: specifically dividing and weakening their opposition. The assault on voting rights or on unions through state legislation are both highly strategic efforts to weaken pillars of the progressive coalition. The same goes for the moral panics about trans rights or critical race theory the right is relentlessly pushing.

To help point today's activists in the right direction, we wrote a book around seven strategies that, when used properly, can help progressives win some of our biggest battles ahead. These timeless strategies were deployed by some of our nation's most successful grassroots movements—from the abolition of slavery to the New Deal to the civil rights movement—in the face of enormous opposition, and we've seen a number of them resurrected to great effect in the past year by workers, voters, and progressive coalitions who've enacted sweeping and significant change, even with the odds heavily stacked against them.

Take, for example, the use of disruption to stop business as usual and build economic power. This time-tested strategy used by workers throughout history led to a major victory when auto workers at Ford Motor, Stellantis, and General Motors reached tentative agreements with their employers for record 25 percent raises nearly six weeks after the United Auto Workers (UAW) began a growing wave of strikes against the Big Three. These workers' win is an exemplary testament to the power of prolonged, creative, and unpredictable disruption to bring about a desired result. As we write in our book, disruption is the ability to stop those in power from doing what they want to do and to break up the status quo. After their union contracts expired last month, that's exactly what thousands of workers from the Big Three automakers did when they began ratcheting up a series of walkouts strategically at factories producing some of the automakers' most profitable models.

This was the first time ever that the UAW had struck all three companies simultaneously, and the choice to do so dealt a significant blow to the Big Three's profits. Altogether, 45,000 workers went on strike. Estimates show that after five weeks of strikes, the economic losses for the auto industry surpassed $9.3 billion. To stop the financial bleeding, the Big Three had no other choice but to meet workers' demands at the bargaining table.

Socialize the Railways!

By Tom Wetzel - East Bay Syndicalists, November 13, 2023

The downward slide of the major (Class 1) American freight railroads in recent years shows how capitalist ownership of the railway system is dangerous and inefficient — and fails to make use of the potential of the railways as a solution to the global warming crisis.

Downward slide has been accelerated over the past decade due to the adoption of “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR). This has no precise definition but the aim is to reduce costs. As in “lean production” management theory, any expense not directly needed for profit is regarded as “waste.” PSR is a cost-cutting strategy that puts short-term profits for stockholders as the controlling priority. To maximize the rate of return, the railroads cut corners on maintenance, constantly work to reduce the number of railroad employees, and actively discourage shipments that are less profitable for them to haul. To keep Wall Street investors happy, they work to maximize short term profit. To enrich stockholders, the rail companies have poured billions of dollars into stock buybacks rather than invest in system improvements.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.