Wednesday Jun 19

BACKSTORY 54.1 - On Second Thought

What a pleasure it is to be able to say, just maybe, I was wrong.  The jury hasn’t finally come in, but I hope it finds me miles off base.

What am I talking about?  Well, my last “backstory” expressed some fears and skepticism, as I rubbed the tea leaves, about whether unions were really back and on an upward trajectory.  I hoped they were, but I wasn’t convinced that was really the case.

I’m still not, but over recent weeks there’s reason for more optimism than I was willing to express before.  Maybe it has to do with spring?  Maybe we can see light at the end of the tunnel?  Who knows? 

There’s good news for unions, and it’s worth celebrating forward movement.

Take Starbucks as a perfect example.  Suddenly, there’s a major thawing.  The company and the union have agreed on a path forward and are finally really negotiating.  Back raises are being paid.  Bargaining committees have been agreed.  Internal reports that have filtered back to me indicate the real story is even better than the published reports.  Union participants are hinting that this could be a total victory for the 350 stores and their workers around the country.  That’s huge!

What worked?  Was it the mass filing of more than 20 elections recently proving there was still gas in the tank?  Was it the stockholders’ initiative put forward by the unions?  Was it the preponderance of NLRB complaints on bargaining and firing?  Likely all of these and just the steady struggle by the union and key workplace leaders to never stop fighting on all fronts.  Fingers crossed for a contract that moves the needle for even more organizing.

Ok, Amazon is still a horror, but there was good news on that front as well.  The NLRB issued a complaint around their union busting at the air depot and distribution center in Kentucky where there has been significant organizing.  That’s a proof of life in the campaign once again.

Perhaps even more momentous, the UAW, coming off of their successful strike last year and their commitment to organizing the foreign car manufacturers or transplants, as they call them, is reporting real success.  They have now filed for an election for over 4000 workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.  They’ve been there before, but they have filed with over 70% card strength, so this one could be a winner.  That’s not all.  They have dedicated $40 million to organizing and have also announced serious campaigns at Mercedes and Hyundai plants in Alabama.   Am I just getting nostalgic?  The UAW has been critical in the revival of the labor movement in the past.  Could lightning be striking again? 

I’ve still got my feet on the ground about all of this.  I can’t keep from seeing the hard road ahead.  Regardless, hoping and wishing isn’t a plan, but when there’s good news, let it shine.  I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer.  I want to be in the cheering squad.

Please, please let these be the sparks that light a prairie fire!