[The U.S. labor movement is under siege by powerful anti-union
forces, including the Trump administration. But with approval of
unions at a 15-year high, and a wave of labor militancy on the rise,
working people have plenty to celebrate.] [https://portside.org/] 

 5 REASONS FOR WORKERS TO CELEBRATE THIS LABOR DAY  
[https://portside.org/2019-08-30/5-reasons-workers-celebrate-labor-day]


 

 Rebecca Burns 
 August 29, 2019
Working In These Times
[http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/22030/labor-day-2019-strikes-union-victories]


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 _ The U.S. labor movement is under siege by powerful anti-union
forces, including the Trump administration. But with approval of
unions at a 15-year high, and a wave of labor militancy on the rise,
working people have plenty to celebrate. _ 

 Workers have plenty to cheer this labor day, photo by Scott
Heins/Getty Images 

 

Labor Day often gets short shrift as a worker’s holiday. Marked
primarily by sales on patio furniture and mattresses, the day also has
a more muddled history than May Day, which stands for internationalism
and solidarity among the working class. Labor Day, by contrast, was
declared a federal holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland,
fresh off his administration’s violent suppression of the Pullman
railroad strike.

But Labor Day was first celebrated
[https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/09/labor-day-may-day-cleveland-debs-strikes-pullman/] twelve
years earlier, when a coalition of socialists and labor activists
organized a mass march in New York City calling for shorter hours,
safer working conditions, increased pay and a labor holiday. On
September 5, 1882, 10,000 people took to the streets of New York
instead.

That history, plus the simple fact that workers deserve more than one
holiday, makes Labor Day worth celebrating. And this year, there are
more reasons than usual for working people to rejoice.

THE TEACHER STRIKE WAVE ROLLS ON

The wave of teacher strikes that began in red states last year has
continued apace in some of the biggest U.S. cities. Earlier this year,
Los Angeles teachers wrung a hard-won deal
[https://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/21711/los_angeles_teachers_strike_education_privatization] from
their school district through a week-long strike.

A first-ever charter strike in Chicago last year kicked off a domino
effect—more than 700 Chicago charter teachers at 22 different
campuses have walked off the job in the past year, and
they’re winning things
[https://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/21876/chicago-charter-school-strike-wave-ctu-walk-out] previously
unthinkable in the traditionally union-free charter industry.

An impending teacher strike in Las Vegas is drawing some creative
solidarity
[https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/juliareinstein/tik-tok-students-strike-teachers-nevada-clark-county?fbclid=IwAR0q1TQldcDTUbJ6hi27NztGyz_OpGQ4oSq4i27NAImQSzq6DBXx1_C8Buc] from
students, and the Chicago Teachers Union—whose 2012 walkout arguably
laid the groundwork for renewed teacher militancy—could be on
the verge
[https://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/22009/chicago-teachers-union-strike-lori-lightfoot] of
another massive strike.

WORKERS ARE WINNING STRIKES IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR, TOO

There’s an important caveat to statistics showing that the number of
striking workers is at a two-decade high: Most of this strike activity
is still limited to the public sector.

In the private sector, there is not yet an equivalent strike wave
[https://jacobinmag.com/2019/06/private-sector-strike-wave-union-strategy].
There are, however, some encouraging signs. A rare, coordinated strike
by workers at nearly 30 hotels in Chicago ended largely in victory
(workers at one hotel are still holding out). This spring, locomotive
plant workers in Erie, Pennsylvania staged a nine-day strike against
the company that purchased their facility and attempted to impose
significantly lower wages for new hires. Negotiations continued into
the summer, and the deal the union eventually accepted included some
concessions
[https://www.labornotes.org/2019/06/erie-locomotive-workers-avert-strike-new-contract-wabtec].
But the strike against a two-tier wage system—long-ago conceded by
most manufacturing unions—was an important sign of life in the
once-militant sector.

LABOR SUPPORT FOR GREEN NEW DEAL IS ON THE RISE

To hear the mainstream media tell it, blue-collar workers are united
in their opposition to climate action. In June, Politico published
[https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2019/06/01/labor-anger-over-green-new-deal-greets-2020-contenders-in-california-1027570] an
article citing local labor leaders who leveled a dire warning at
Democrats: the Green New Deal is pushing members into the Republican
camp.

In fact, a survey released this year from the think tank Data for
Progress found that 62 percent of current union members back the GND.
That figure suggests that while climate activists certainly can’t
take labor’s backing as a given, there’s substantial support from
workers—and the biggest factor in growing 
[http://inthesetimes.com/article/21861/green-new-deal-labor-union-support-Sara-Nelson-Flight-Attendants]this
support is organizing with labor to ensure that the Green New Deal
benefits workers, and that they’re at the core of the fight to pass
it.

This year, the Green New Deal picked up major endorsements from the
Service Employees International Union and the Association of Flight
Attendants led by president Sara Nelson. In May, Nelson spoke
[http://inthesetimes.com/article/21861/green-new-deal-labor-union-support-Sara-Nelson-Flight-Attendants] to _In
These Times _about how Green New Deal advocates can engage labor:

Make labor central to the discussion, including labor rights, labor
protections and labor expertise. We must recognize that labor unions
were among the first to fight for the environment because it was our
workspaces that had pollutants, our communities that industry
polluted. Let’s not dismiss the labor movement. Let’s recognize
and engage the infrastructure and experience of the labor movement to
make this work.

RANK-AND-FILE REFORMERS ARE GAINING TRACTION

Speaking of Sara Nelson, her star has been rising since she called for
a general strike to end the government shutdown in January, and she
could potentially end up succeeding Richard Trumka as the next
president
[https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jul/08/afl-cio-liz-shuler-sara-nelson-unions-leadership] of
the AFL-CIO.

While they’re still few in number, it’s a breath of fresh air to
see national labor leaders who come out of the rank-and-file use their
positions to encourage, rather than stifle, independent action by
workers, happily break bread with socialists
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlEU2-5qOus] and readily draw
connections between labor issues and those of climate change and
immigration.

LABOR COULD ACTUALLY MAKE GAINS THROUGH THE 2020 ELECTIONS

Let’s be honest: Presidential elections have long been a dead-end
for unions. Awarding early endorsements without member input and
spending millions of dollars on behalf of candidates who won’t even
talk about workers’ rights is not a winning strategy.

This year could be different.

With Democratic candidates scrambling to tack to the left, the
primaries are also putting important labor policy ideas back on the
table. As Jeremy Gantz reported in July, 2020 candidates are rushing
[http://inthesetimes.com/features/democrats-2020-candidates-labor-stances-union-endorsements.html] to
embrace worker-friendly policies in order to win labor’s support.

Bernie Sanders' Workplace Democracy Plan
[https://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/22024/bernie_sanders_labor_plan_wage_boards_just_cause],
in particular, includes ideas that should get a full hearing—ending
"at-will" employment, expanding workers' rights to strike and
permitting collective bargaining at the sectoral level.

Sanders is also using his campaign infrastructure to turn supporters
out for strikes and labor actions, another welcome development for
labor when it comes to presidential campaign season.

The U.S. labor movement may still be under siege, thanks to powerful
anti-union forces, including the Trump administration. But
with approval
[https://news.gallup.com/poll/241679/labor-union-approval-steady-year-high.aspx] of
unions at a 15-year high, and a wave of labor militancy on the rise,
working people have plenty to celebrate this Labor Day.  

_Rebecca Burns is an award-winning investigative reporter whose work
has appeared in The Baffler, the Chicago Reader, The Intercept and
other outlets. She is a contributing editor at In These Times. Follow
her on Twitter @rejburns [https://twitter.com/rejburns]. More by
Rebecca Burns. [http://inthesetimes.com/community/profile/241013/]_

_Working In These Times is dedicated to providing independent and
incisive coverage of the labor movement and the struggles of workers
to obtain safe, healthy and just workplaces. Sign up for Working In
These Times weekly newsletter.
[http://inthesetimes.com/working/about/]_

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