The Power of Labor: Building Solidarity

Part I: State of Labor Movements

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: The labor movement is growing during a time of historic inequality. The rise in labor proves there is power in working-class solidarity.

Read on for moreโ€ฆ

In the last two years, workers have soul-searched and questioned what work means to them, what is important to them, and why they live to work instead of work to live. This has manifested into the largest labor organizing effort since the 1970s.

Chris Smalls after the Staten Island Amazon warehouse successfully voted to unionize

The labor movement wave is rising and gaining momentum.

This coincides with workers having more power than theyโ€™ve had in decades. Unemployment is historically low at 3.7% despite rising in Augustโ€™s jobs report (Thanks Biden!) and job openings are near record highs. This means that workers have the advantage. Workers can be more selective in the jobs they apply to because there are more jobs available. Similarly, workers can feel empowered to leave unhealthy work environments for something better.

At a time of historic inequality, fat CEO bonuses, and record corporate profits, this is a really good thing despite what corporate media would have you believe.

This worker power, in turn, pressures employers to be better. The labor movement is yes about wages, but itโ€™s also about well-being. Itโ€™s about having a safe work environment, being treated with respect on the job, and having more flexibility on when and where they work. This pressure can have a positive benefit for all. Happy workers, mean happy and profitable companies.

Donโ€™t Underestimate Us

But the recent wave of labor momentum hasnโ€™t been easy. Major corporations continue to use blatant union-busting tactics (not cool Starbucks), the Fed is tightening interest rates putting the most pressure on low-income Americans, and corporate media continue to misrepresent the economic realities of millions of Americans.

The headwinds to reaching an economy that works for everyday people are real, but my hope comes from organizers like Chris Smalls.

If you donโ€™t know who Chris Smalls is, you definitely should! He was the lead organizer to unionize Amazonโ€™s Staten Island warehouse. He began by organizing a walkout in 2020 over poor covid-safety protocols and was immediately fired. Since his firing, he founded the ALU (Amazon Labor Union) and successfully unionized the Staten Island warehouse on April 1, 2022.

Chris Smalls was called โ€œnot smart or articulateโ€œ by Amazon executives. They thought making him โ€œthe face of the entire union/organizing movementโ€ would look good for Amazon.

They were wrong.

Apart from the obvious racism in calling a Black man โ€œnot articulate,โ€ these tactics also clearly show the views many elites have about working-class people.

The type of labor that Ted Cruz calls lazy typically includes long hours, sometimes back-breaking work, aggressive micromanagement of time (literally tracking bathroom breaks like workers are kindergarteners), and minimal to no benefits. (Donโ€™t tell me that Ted Cruz could last a day in those conditions.)

Workers recognize this divide because they are doing this work every day. They see their paychecks arenโ€™t going as far, while corporations are reporting the highest profit margins since the 1950s.

There are large swaths of people in this country who want an economy that works for everyday people. The labor movement is proving that workers want to change and are ready to do the work to reach a fairer work environment.

We have a critical mass of people to create change.

The question now is how do we harness the energy that the current labor movement has created to institute real systemic change?

Next week: weโ€™re talking The Fed, inflation, and a potential recession??

The Good Knurd:

Now's your chance to join in on the action! Thoughtful ways to influence change within yourself and your local community.

  • ๐Ÿค” Thought Starter: Read up on how to respond to racist microaggressions when you see them
  • ๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Discussion: How do you view work in the context of your life? How does work stack up against life, well-being, and health as priorities?
  • ๐Ÿซ‚ Community: Check out resources on how to support labor unions.
๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿค‘ Economics & Capitalism๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ‘ท๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ Organizing & Movements๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒ The Climate Crisis

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


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