Yesterday—April 24th—was a red-letter day in the annals of worker mobilization in post-collective-bargaining America. In Chicago, hundreds of fast-food and retail employees who work in the Loop and along the Magnificent Mile called a one-day strike and demonstrated for a raise to $15-an-hour and the right to form a union. At more than 150 Wal-Mart stores across the nation, workers and community activists called on the chain to regularize employees’ work schedules. And under pressure from an AFL-CIO-backed campaign of working-class voters who primarily aren’t union members, the county supervisors of New Mexico’s Bernalillo County voted to raise the local minimum wage.
The Chicago demonstration, which began in the dawn’s early light of 5:30 a.m., included workers at McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Subway, as well as Macy’s, Sears, and Victoria’s Secret, all of whom make the state minimum wage ($8.25) or just slightly more. Roughly one-third of the jobs in Chicago are low-wage, and more than half of the city’s low-wage workers are older than 30. The demonstration was organized by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago, which formed to demand a living wage for the city’s retail and fast-food workers.
The “Workers Organizing Committee” is a name with a pedigree. Shortly after the National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935 and a number of unions broke away from the AFL to organize the factory workers whom the AFL had refused to organize, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) formed to build union support among employees of U.S. Steel, Bethlehem Steel, and the other major companies in the industry. Following the wave of sit-down strikes in auto factories that led to the recognition of the United Auto Workers, the major steel companies signed a contract with the SWOC. The committee later changed its name to the more familiar United Steelworkers.
Just as the steel workers piggy-backed on the auto workers, so Chicago’s low-wage workers are following a course laid out by their counterparts in New York, where hundreds of fast-food workers also staged a one-day strike earlier this month.
Though the Service Employees International Union aided in the New York and Chicago efforts, this is anything but a conventional union-organizing campaign. With collective bargaining in the private sector all but a dead letter—just 6.6 percent of private-sector employees are union members, and the legal obstacles to organizing new members grow steadily steeper—SEIU is one of several major unions shifting their focus to actions that publicize the economic and social costs of ever-growing low-wage employment.
With the backing of the United Food and Commercial Workers, thousands of Wal-Mart employees have formed an association—not a union seeking a contract—that works alongside community activists to pressure the company to make changes such as regularizing workers’ hours. The AFL-CIO is expanding its Working America program, which has successfully mobilized non-union working-class voters to back progressive candidates at election time, to all 50 states. The union is expanding the program’s reach beyond the ballot box too, experimenting with projects that would activate Working America members in workplace-related causes and wage-related legislation. Working America has 112,000 members in New Mexico, recruited, as is Working America’s custom, through a door-to-door canvass. It has lobbied successfully for minimum-wage hikes in both Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.
None of these undertakings, at least for now, would result in collective bargaining agreements—the deficient state of workers’ rights under current law make that a bridge too far. But, there are ways these efforts could yield improvements in pay and working conditions nonetheless.
Liberal criticisms of the Bolsheviks: stupid and wrong
If you’re going to masturbate over Stalin’s bodycount, here’s some facts that need to be rubbed in your face until they get into your thick skull.
When the Bolsheviks did what liberalism couldn’t and overthrew the vestiges of feudalism, scrapped homophobic & anti-Semitic laws, emancipated women and ended World War I, the UK’s Liberal-led government under Lloyd George decided that not enough working class men had died in trenches - and too few people had died of Influenza - and waged an unprovoked war of regime change.
Despite having over a dozen industrialised countries joining in the attempt to install a proto-fascist government, they were beaten back by a starving economy with two industrialised cities.
Sadly, the Bolshevik victory was a Pyrrhic one, and with the international siege that followed the conditions were ripe for Stalin’s bureaucracy to take over.
It’s my perspective, based on the fraction of the world’s books I’ve read, that every one of Stalin’s crimes happened because of Liberals. You interfered, you indirectly helped him become the new Czar, and now you hold him as a stick with which to beat the very people whose ideological comrades’ revolution you drowned in blood?
I don’t expect you to acknowledge the logic of this argument, simply put though it is. You’re a liberal, few of you are susceptible to reason. But at least acknowledge that ‘RUSSIA LAWL’ is a pathetic non-argument that won’t convince anyone that your ‘capitulate to capitalism but imagine we can sustainably persuade it to be less unethical’ approach is less than horseshit. It will get nodding heads from your fellow liberals, and whichever Tories and Tories who pretend to be Social Democrats you’re chumming up with in a groupthinking circle-jerk, and that’s all.