After gaining the best contract in decades for auto workers from the US Big Three a few months ago, UAW President Sean Fain announced that the union would be begin an organizing drive among the non-union auto plants in the country.

A second early result this month came in the form of an announcement by the union that more than 30% of the workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant outside Tuscaloosa, Alabama, have signed UAW authorization cards to be represented by the union in collective bargaining. The Tuscaloosa workers join workers at the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in reaching the 30% goal, the first step in their union organizing efforts. If 50% sign up, the union will publicly rally and at 70% the UAW will demand recognition or call on the National Labor Relations Board to organize a vote.




Most national unions elect their presidents at their conventions held every few years. They are chosen by the delegates the locals send to the conventions. This indirect election of its top leaders has produced an undemocratic structure in most unions in which the leadership has only a remote connection to he rank-and-file members.

But developments in two unions may serve to be a harbinger of things to come. In both the Teamsters  and Auto Workers unions, the government intervened after a lengthy legal process and compelled an election by direct mail ballot of the entire membership. In the case of the UAW, the old guard leadership was sent to jail for corruption.

The result was leadership closer to workers directly on the production line. UAW President Sean Fain went around the country, holding meetings and sounding out workers on what they wanted in their new contracts. The process produced the best contracts for workers in decades.  The Teamsters contract with UPS, signed this past summer, made great gains for UPS drivers without a strike. UAW workers in factories of the Big Three US automakers are enjoying a contract not seen since the early organizing days of the union.

A valuable lesson that greater union democracy often brings greater gains for workers.

Labor Notes, 1/5



Almost 5,500 workers in the U.S. died from on-the-job injuries in 2022, the highest number in the past 10 years, according to a report released Dec. 19 by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More than 70% of the victims worked in blue-collar jobs such as construction, driving trucks, and maintenance, and more than 90% were men.”These deaths could be prevented,” said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health “if employers listen to workers and adopt preventive and comprehensive safety measures.”

“Transportation incidents” accounted for more than 2,000 fatalities, about two-thirds of them in vehicle crashes. Falls, most commonly to a lower level of a structure, accounted for 865 deaths, and 839 came from exposure to poisons, electricity, or extreme heat. Older workers were most vulnerable, with 35% of those killed 55 or older.

Work Bites, 12/20

Some big wins for labor over the past couple of months have signaled the rising power of the union movement. It may well be the opening shot across the bow against corporate attacks on unions over the last four decades that has resulted in a steady decline in the standard of living of working people.

UAW President Shawn Fain, shown with striking workers, has pledged an agressive organizing campaign at non-union auto facilities., Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press

The biggest wins for workers were in the highly successful strike by the United Auto Workers against the Big Three car manufacturers – GM, Ford, and Stellantis.  Instead of the usual strike against the entire company at once, it adopted the rolling strike tactic, hitting a limited number of auto factories at each carmaker at a time. The companies never knew which would be next and the strikes at plants that played a vital part in car production affected production as a whole in other places.

And by framing the strike, not only as one conducted by a union against management, but as a fight for working people against the greed that has resulted in huge growth in corporate profits at the expense of declining standards for America’s working people, UAW President Sean Fain ignited the fighting working class spirit that built the union movement in decades past.

When the Big Three finally caved after about six weeks, the resulting contract the union won was the best in the union’s history, unmatched since the contracts won in 1937 after the Flint, Michigan, sitdown strike that built the union. The principal terms of the contract have been reported widely. Outstanding among them are a  25 percent wage increase over the four-and-a-half year contract and an end to the two-tier wage system that saw younger workers never able to earn what workers hired earlier could earn. An end to their second class status and their elevation to the pay scale enjoyed by older workers will give them extraordinary pay raises, in some cases up to 150 percent. The union also won a restoration of the cost-of-living (COLA) adjustment that had been a feature of UAW contracts from 1948 to 2008 when the union gave in to industry’s demand to end it.

And in an important union first, the contract guarantees that workers at battery production plants for its new electric cars will be included in the new master agreement, setting the stage for the union’ s announced goal of organizing non-union electric car manufacturers.

As of this writing, the contract was in the process of being voted on by the UAW membership.

Two other big wins this summer and fall were the contract won by Teamsters Union drivers at UPS without a strike but just the threat of one. In a contract agreed to just 24 hours before a strike was scheduled, 340,000 Teamster members at UPS won raises of $7.50 an hour over five years, with drivers’ pay climbing to $49 an hour and part-time workers receiving a pay increase of 48% on average. The agreement also ends a two-tiered classification for drivers, provides part-timers with longevity raises, adds Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday off, and ends forced overtime on off days.

And the months long strike by the two unions representing TV and motion picture screen writers and actors has produced contracts with substantial gains. The Writers Guild of America, which represents 11,500 screenwriters, reached a tentative agreement with studios on Sept. 24 and ended its 148-day strike on Sept. 27. In the coming days, SAG-AFTRA members will vote on whether to accept their union’s deal, which includes hefty gains, like increases in compensation for streaming shows and films, better health care funding, concessions from studios on self-taped auditions, and guarantees that studios will not use artificial intelligence to create digital replicas of their likenesses without payment or approval.

And in just a few other recent labor actions:

In August, 15,000 American Airlines pilots won pay increases of 46% over four years. After a three-day strike earlier this month, 85,000 Kaiser Permanente workers won raises of 21%, as well as a $25 minimum wage for Kaiser’s workers in California. In March, 30,000 Los Angeles school district workers – bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teachers’ aides – won a 30% wage hike over four years. In Oregon, 1,400 nurses at Providence Portland hospitalsecured raises between 17% and 27% over two years.

And all indications are that it’s just the beginning.

NY Times, 10/31, 11/8; The Guardian, 10/24; Jacobin, 11/1

This current US Supreme Court has people worrying about some of its recent horrible decisions. Now the country is awaiting a decision that could virtually cripple a union’s right to strike (see item Pending Supreme Court case … on then Labor News page of this website). But a reactionary Supreme Court is nothing new. Privileged men in their black robes have long stood in the way of progress in the United States. And their record on decisions favoring workers is a case in point . We cite below one of is more egregious examples:

In 2023, it is worth recalling a decision handed down a hundred years ago. The case was Adkins v. Children’s Hospital. The District of Columbia had enacted a law setting a minimum wage for women and children which was challenged in court. In a 1923 decision that set a standard for twisted reasoning, the Court held that the law was unconstitutional since it interfered with “liberty of contract” which they said was guaranteed by the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment. According to the Court, employers and employees “have an equal right to obtain from each other the best terms they can as the result of private bargaining.”

In his dissent, Chief Justice William Howard Taft noted the reality that ‘employees in the class receiving least pay are not upon a full level of equality of choice with their employer… (and) are prone to accept pretty much anything that is offered. They are peculiarly subject to the overreaching of the harsh and greedy employer.”

This decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in its 1937 decision upholding the National Labor Relations Act, that protected the right of workers and their unions to bargain collectively.

The notion that an individual worker, particularly one in a class that is most exploited, has equal bargaining power with a large corporation, conjures up the image of “equality before the law” satirized by Anatole France, the French writer, in his oft-quoted line, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread,”

Work History News, newsletter published by the New York Labor History Association, Winter/Spring 2023

Cartoon by Fed Wright Courtesy of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)


An Apple store in Oklahoma City became the second one in the nation in which workers have voted to be represented by a union. The Oct. 14 vote conducted by the NLRB saw 56 workers at the company’s Penn Square Mall voting to be represented by the Communication Workers of America with 32 voting against it.

At Apple’s first unionized store in Towson, Maryland, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, chosen by the workers, is currently preparing to begin negotiations with the company.

Associated Press, 10/15


The narrowly averted strike of rail carriers last month has been put back on the table as members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, affiliated with the Teamsters union, voted against the proposed deal. The union announced October 11 that the deal had been rejected wit 56% voting no. The union represents 23,000 freight rail workers with 12,000 casting ballots in the vote.

Any potential strike won’t happen until Nov. 19 at the earliest with union leaders hoping to return to the bargaining table. At issue is the demand of workers for some sick days. Currently, they get no paid sick days. They have been demanding 13 sick days annually but the rail carriers have refused to budge on the issue. Earlier, the deal was also rejected by members of another union, which has since announced a new tentative agreement. Two other unions, re resenting conductors and engineers are set to begin voting during the week of Oct. 17. The two represent about half of the 115,000 union members at the nation’s freight carriers.

Labor Notes, 10/11


For more than a month, lumber workers in the Northwest have been on strike against Weyerhaeuser mills and log yards. The issue is simple fairness. The company is demanding concessions from workers, insisting that they start paying for part of health insurance premiums and proposing wages that lose ground to the rate of inflation. This comes as Weyerhaeuser reported a record profit last year of $2.6 billion.  Under the present contract, workers made concessions, like agreeing to a two-tier system that ended pensions for new employees and a health care plan with fewer benefits. They saying now that they are done with concessions, particularly when Weyerhaeuser is raking in record profits. “We want our fair share of what we produce,” declared one of the picketers.

Portside, 10/7


Drivers for Uber, Lyft, and FedEx, previously classified as “independent contractors” have been reclassified as employees by the Department of Labor, giving them the rights guaranteed to employees under labor laws. One of them is the minimum wage law, which now guarantees them $15.50 an hour in California and other states where the minimum is higher than the federal one of only $7.25. When expenses they lay out for buying or leasing and maintaining their cars are subtracted from the money they earn, the drivers’ real hourly income is only about $6.20.

The American Prospect, 10/11


The compensation packages of corporate CEO’S has increased by 1,460% over the past 44 years, even as pay of most workers could not keep up with the rising cost of living, according to a recent study of the Economic Policy Institute. The rate of income growth has exceeded virtually all other economic factors. The study projects that, taking into consideration stock awards when vested and stock options when cashed in, CEO compensation at 350 corporations will average a staggering $27.8 million. Even considering the value of the stock options when issued but not cashed in, their compensation comes to $15.6 million. Last year, their pay package was 399 times the average worker pay, up from 300 times just a few years ago. Their pay and soaring corporate profits are key reasons for increased union activity in the past two years as workers, who have made big concessions, struggle to achieve a decent standard of living.

Economic Policy Institute, 10/4


After a three-day strike, restaurant workers at San Francisco International Airport OK’d a new contract that won them a $5 an hour raise and free health care for themselves and their families. The 1,000 workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 3. They approved the new contract overwhelmingly. They will get an immediate $3 an hour raise and the other $2 will come in September 2024 when their hourly wage will rise from the present $17.05 to $22.05.

Portside, 10/3


As we moved into October, thousands of workers around the country are either on strike or threatening one. Filings for union representation so far this year have increased 58% over last year with public support for unions at 71% approval, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Among the biggest recent strikes have been:
15,000 nurses in Minnesota,
4,500 teachers and staff in Columbus, Ohio
2,000 mental health care workers in California,
700 nursing home workers in Pennsylvania
1,100 timber workers in Washington and Oregon,
6,000 teachers and staff in Seattle, Washington,
1,200 casing plant workers in Indiana.

In addition, votes have authorized strikes at:
Kaleida Health facility in Bufalo, NY,
Kroger Groceries in Columbus, Ohio, involving 12,500 workers,
Auto workers at Ultium electric vehicle plant in Lordstown, Ohio, involving 800 workers,
Graduate school workers at Clark University and Indiana University.

And many more…

 The Guardian, 9/26


Two years ago, workers at the  New Jersey Refresco bottling plant walked out to protest the company’s failure to provide for their safety during the Covid epidemic. They are now bargaining for their firt union contract, represented by the United Electrical Workers (UE). Key to the bargaining issues is the protection of their health and safety. Also at issue are low wages, lack of decent benefits, abusive treatment by supervisors, constant schedule changes causing havoc with their family lives, sexual harassment at the plant, and an attendance system that penalizes workers for getting sick. Refresco was named this year by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health as one of the “Dirty Dozen” for their terrible health and safety record.

UE Action Alert, 10/13; You Tube video


Ohio Kroger workers, organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1059 have rejected their tentative contract for the third time and authorized a strike. The union represents `12,000 Kroger workers in the state.


The recently released NLRB report for the just-ended fiscal year shows that new filings for union elections were up by 53% over last year. A major problem at the agency is that part of the attack on labor unions since the Reagan administration has been underfunding which has resulted in the loss of half their field staff. It’s a problem that must be overcome to take care of the big increase in union activity and the need of the NLRB to enforce the nation’s labor laws.

Who Gets the Bird, 10/4. 10/8

By now, much has been written about the narrowly averted railroad workers strike. Although salary issues are nearly always paramount in collective bargaining and was an issue here, the key sticking point was the punishing work schedules that was wreaking havoc on workers lives. Workers were expected to be on call at any time for weeks on end. They couldn’t take time off for a doctor’s appointment or a family emergency without being penalized with loss of pay beyond the loss of the day’s pay or possibly even fired.

The policy comes from a business model increasingly being adopted by other companies. It seeks to enhance its profits by cutting costs, which usually involves cutting the work force, thus cutting labor costs. It means that the existing labor force is pressured to do more and more to make up for it. Rail companies are now reported to be operating with 30 percent fewer employees than 20 or 30 years ago.

Thus, as the freight railroads have racked up record profits in recent years, their workers have suffered from burnouts, marriages and family lives have been upended, and workers’ health has been severely endangered by the scheduling policies.

Although all the details of the rail settlement have not been revealed in the press, it appears that the unions have gained important concessions on this. From initial reports, aside from important salary hikes, the companies have agreed to issue set schedules that allow workers to enjoy time off without being called back at the will of the company. They will also have days off for medical appointments or family emergencies without additional penalties.

The agreement now has to be ratified by votes of the membership of the 12 unions involved.

NY Times, 9/16

Workers at Medieval Times have formed the dinner-theater chain’s first labor union, bringing collective bargaining to a castle in northern New Jersey.

The knights, squires, show cast and stablehands at the Lyndhurst location voted 26 to 11 in favor of joining the American Guild of Variety Artists following a ballot count June i5, according to the union. The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election, has not yet certified the results.

Medieval Times workers in New Jersey have been organizing to improve their pay and working conditions, with a particular focus on safety. The Middle Ages-themed shows involve jousting on horseback and other dangerous stunts, all in front of an unpredictable and sometimes rowdy crowd.

Medieval Times opposed the organizing effort. The company hired a union-avoidance consultant who held meetings at the castle with employees at a cost of $3,200 per day, plus expenses.

The union in Lyndhurst would include about 40 workers, most of them performing in the show or working in the stables, where the castle keeps about two dozen horses. The American Guild of Variety Artists represents workers in other theaters and touring shows, including the Rockettes and performers at Disneyland.

Medieval Times workers often put on two or three two-hour shows in a day and must regularly rehearse to stay safe. Knights mock-fight in heavy gear, smash lances as they ride and jump from horseback, while stablehands and squires handle horses that can get excited by the crowds. The queen and other actors run the show and often have to keep the crowd in check while staying in character.

Huffpost, 6/28

Very few people are still around who remember the year 1947 when the US labor movement  represented one out three American workers. It came after a decade in the thirties when union organizing hit its peak with the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO provided the militant push that organized the millions of workers in the mass industries – workers who had been ignored by the AFL’s concentration only on skilled craft workers.

And all workers, from skilled to unskilled in one union, provided the worker unity that sustained sit-down strikes in Flint, Michigan, that unionized General Motors and built the United Auto Workers (UAW), strikes in the giant  electrical industry that unionized General Electric and Westinghouse and built the United Electrical, Radio and  Machine Workers Union (UE), and strikes in the steel industry that unionized US Steel and built the United Steelworkers union (USW). Labor was flexing its muscles as it entered the post-World War II years and began to take action to improve wages and working conditions of millions of workers.

But the giant companies would have it no longer. Sparked by the developing cold war abroad and the beginnings of the shameful McCarthy era at home, Republicans began a counterattack. Well financed by big money and pushing the growing anti-communist scare, they gained control of Congress in 1946. A year later, they enacted what became the centerpiece of the attack on labor with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, overriding he veto by President Harry Truman. The act, passed mainly by Republicans but with the support of a substantial number of Democrats, was the opening gun in the war against unions that has continued to this day and was accelerated after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It was the beginning of the policy that revived union-busting as the norm among America’s corporations.

What was the Taft-Hartley Act and how did it provide the fertile ground for the decline of the union movement? For a detailed description of  the role this law played in the decline of the union movement over the past 75 years, we highly recommend you click on this link to an article in the June 23 issue of UE News, organ of the United Electrical Workers. It conveys some great lessons for working people today who are fighting to organize unions and rebuild a movement for a more fair and just America.

 UE News. 6/23

With a vote on union representation at the Amazon’s JFK8 facility on Staten Island, New York, set for March 25-30, the company had the leader of the union arrested on charges including trespassing on company property.

The union has responded by filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the company violated a December order not to inhibit workers’ ability to engage with colleagues in non-work areas on their own time. The union leader, Chris Smalls, said that the reason for his arrest was “we’ve got an election and they’re scared.”

Portside, 2/28


Drivers who deliver food from New York City restaurants will now be entitled to use customer restrooms from restaurants when they’re picking up food. Beginning January 31, the drivers for app-based delivery companies like UberEats, Grubhub, and others will no longer have to resort to the indignity of relieving themselves between parked cars and risking possible arrest and fines.

The new rules, approved by the New York City Council gives the drivers that simple human right to take care of nature’s necessities during their working day. Many restaurants had previously refused to allow them to use the restrooms. The rules come after a campaign waged by Los Deliveristas Unidos, a labor group representing thousands of delivery workers. The effort gained the support of prominent political figures like NY Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, City Comptroller Brad Lander and several City Council members who introduced the bill. They were present at a Times Square rally January 23 where workers celebrated their new protections.

A large portion of them are immigrant workers from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Mali and others, who historically have been among the most heavily exploited.

More Transparency Over Their Earnings

Among other gains they have received as a result of the new rules are greater transparency from the companies over their earnings, much of which is in tips, usually added onto credit cards customers use to pay for their meals. Workers have complained that companies have dishonestly withheld some of their tips from them. Companies will now be required to disclose how much the customer tips for each delivery and pay drivers at least once a week The city will also set a new minimum pay rate for basic wages. A majority of the drivers earn only $7.87 an hour before tips, far lower than the city’s $15 minimum wage. After tips, their earnings still amount to only $12 an hour. Discussions are currently under way between the Department of Consumer and Worker Protections and representatives of the drivers on the ways to enforce these rules.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez hailed  the development as “expanding the quality of life for people, particularly those who make a living through all of these apps” and expressed the hope that it would become “a launching point for growth in workers rights and greater dignity for workers across the state and across the country.”

The City, 1/23; Portside, 1/28