Momentum behind labor organizing and militancy is rapidly accelerating in 2023, as workers all across the USA organize new union shops, fight bolder fights on the job, demand more from their employers in contract negotiations, and engage in strikes and other forms of collective action. From auto-workers to baristas, from logistics-workers to entertainment workers, the working class is on the move and making major gains. As democratic socialists, we boldly celebrate the heroism of our comrades and fellow-workers as they risk their livelihoods and take a bet on the power of solidarity with those who labor alongside them.
Most visibly, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), have been on strike for nearly 150 days and 70 days, respectively, shutting down television shoots and movies sets from coast-to-coast, delaying blockbuster movie releases, and halting the production of new seasons of major talk-shows and scripted television programs. As more-and-more Film and TV bosses try and disregard picket-lines and move forward with scab productions, SAG-AFTRA and the WGA are not backing down, but ratcheting up pressure on television personalities and executives, like Drew Barrymore, and successfully shutting down sets for scab shows that were scheduled to begin production soon.
Auto-industry workers, represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW), began striking plants of all three major domestic car producers (the Big Three) at once on Friday, September 15 as their contracts all simultaneously expired. Recently elected UAW President Shawn Fein, who is a member of the rank-and-file reform caucus Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD), is pioneering a new strike tactic which the union is referring to as the “Stand Up Strike”. This Stand Up strategy, put simply, is that the union is not planning on, at least initially, striking all plants across the Big Three at once. Rather, on September 15, the UAW began striking at 3 plants across the Midwest, representing roughly 13,000 workers, with one facility from each of the Big Three companies going out on strike. On Friday, September 22, the UAW expanded this strike to 38 GM and Stellantis plants, adding an additional 5,600 workers to picket lines throughout the USA.
The idea behind this strategy is that the union will be able to scale the strike up or down, or shift which plants are striking, depending on the real-time trajectory of contract negotiations with the auto-makers. This will allow the union to apply more targeted pressure on a certain company if they are not budging as much as the other two are and allow the strike to go on for much longer without fully depleting union strike funds. The effectiveness of this strategy came into clearer view on Friday as the UAW announced that it would not be expanding the strike at Ford facilities as they were making better progress in negotiation with Ford than the other two firms, General Motors and Stellantis, effectively pitting these auto-giants against one another. Workers at the Big Three have ambitious demands around inflation-busting wage increases, reduced work hours without reduced pay, a just transition to electric vehicles, and more. A victorious strike at the Big Three could be a catalyst for more militant collective action across the US working-class as workers’ expectations are raised to match the new reality of what is possible.
Closer to home, as temperatures begin to cool outside, labor’s fight is only heating up! Coming off the tails of some legislative victories and defeats for unions in the North Star State, workers at Delta Airlines, auto-workers, Starbucks workers, and more are organizing for better pay, fairer treatment, job stability, a voice on the job, an end to discriminatory harassment, and more. On September 16, worker’s at Minneapolis’ Starbucks on 47th and Cedar went on unfair labor practices strike amidst rising calls for a nationwide boycott of the multi-billion dollar food and beverage chain for their vicious anti-union tactics being used against workers organizing with Starbucks Workers United.
On August 22, worker’s with AFSCME Local 5 rallied for Healthcare Fairness and this past Thursday, September 21, workers and representatives with Centro De Trabajadores Unidos En La Lucha (CTUL), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Minnesota Uber/Lyft Drivers Association, Kids Count on Us, and Unite Here Local 17 held a press conference outside of Minneapolis City Hall where they called on city counselors to create sectoral (industry-specific) labor standards boards comprised equally of workers, company representatives, and community members that would be able to draft unamendable pieces of legislation for the council to adopt. These boards, if created, would be able to set standards for wages and working conditions for all workers working in a given part of the city’s economy.
In August, 550 primary and urgent care doctors with Allina, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, made history announcing their intent to unionize. If successful, these clinicians would form the largest bargain unit representing doctors in the USA. Approximately 50,000 Delta Airlines ramp agents, flight attendants, and technicians in the Twin Cities (which is a major hub for Delta) and all-over the greater US are waging a monumental cross-union organizing campaign to win union representation for the majority of the airline’s workforce. Delta has historically been the largest remaining US-based airline to not have a majority of its workers in a union. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) are collaborating to unionize these three major segments of Delta’s workforce, a type of organizing that is essentially unheard of in the US labor movement.
On July 14, Delta workers rallied at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) as part of this campaign and more actions are expected in the future. Some of these brave Delta workers also showed up in solidarity on Friday with another group of striking workers in the greater Twin Cities area, striking auto-workers. As noted above, 38 more Big Three auto facilities went out of strike from coast-to-coast on September 22. Two of those facilities were near us: the Stellantis Mopar Parts Distribution Center in Plymouth and the GM Hudson Parts Distribution Center in Hudson, Wisconsin. Twin Cities DSAers showed up in solidarity on picket lines at both facilities and our elected representatives, such as Minneapolis City Counselor Aisha Chugtai, expressed their support for the UAW strikers.
What is most astonishing about this moment in US labor history, in the Twin Cities and around our country, is the depth and breadth of fights that are being engaged in. Workers in nearly every sector of the economy, up and down the wage scale, are coming together in solidarity to demand better for themselves and for their fellow-workers. These courageous workers in their hundreds of thousands are charting a path towards an America rooted in social, ecological, and economic justice. Our task as democratic socialists is the same as ever: to do whatever is within our reach to achieve victory for the working-class, for working people collectively in motion is the seed that the new world that we are fighting for will grow-forth.
¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
By Riley D