Assessing Future Labor Strategy

In the wake of the defeat of the drive to unionize Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, many theories are being advanced on why the union lost and what labor’s strategy should be in the future.  One such theory appeared recently in The American Prospect by its editor at large, Harold Meyerson.

Meyerson contends that there has been a shift in the composition of the American working class. The ability of unionize workers, he says, depends upon their applicability.

“Blue-collar and low-paid service sector workers fear being discharged, harassed, or downgraded by management, or even having their workplace closed, for supporting unionization,” writes Meyerson, “even though many such management threats violate federal labor law. (The penalties for such violations, however, are altogether negligible.) Professionals, by contrast, usually know that management would have trouble finding and training their replacements, and that they have a decent chance of finding comparable jobs elsewhere.

He points to recent events at The New York Times where a majority of the 650 tech workers had formed a union under the aegis of the News Guild of New York, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America.  Times reporters, editors, photographers are already unionized.  These tech workers include engineers, project managers, designers, quality assurance staffers, and data scientists and analysts.

On the other hand, “successful unionization campaigns among blue-collar workers have been few and far between” although they have suffered the most exploitation and the ones who need the protection of unions the most.

Meyerson points to one remedy – passage of the PRO Act which would deter management from retaliating against blue collar workers who try to form unions.

Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect (4/13/21)