After Janus, Electrical Workers Show the Power is in Our Hands

By John Weber

The Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision was despicable, spitting in the face of decades of common-sense precedent. There’s no question about that.

But Janus is not the end of our fight.

Through every punch thrown at working people in our history—every wage-slashing boss, every union-busting law, every strike-breaking massacre—we have rallied together, stronger for our shared struggle.

Our future is and always has been in our own hands. We have never looked to Washington to strengthen or validate our movement.

So while pundits rush to blather in front of a camera, we’re doing the painstaking business of organizing—building the labor movement, person by person.

A few locals in particular are offering up powerful models for success.

Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245, faced with a likely union-busting decision from the Supreme Court, knew that inaction wasn’t an option. Management and other anti-worker interests would be eager to launch an aggressive, well-funded anti-union campaign, undermining the local’s collective voice wherever they could.

The local’s members haven’t surrendered to a future decided by those forces. Instead, they’ve been rallying together and strengthening their union one conversation at a time.

At the direction of Business Manager Tom Dalzell, the local established and trained volunteer organizing committees (VOCs) at each of their 34 public sector worksites.

“Our fundamental principle was that our members, if offered the opportunity, would jump at the chance to lead their co-workers and set ambitious goals,” said IBEW Local 1245 veteran organizer Fred Ross.

Aimed at overhauling the local’s internal organizing program, the project in fact started rather simply. Local leaders sat down with new committee members and listened to their stories—the distinct but universally motivating experiences that were driving each of them to give their time and energy to organizing.

They talked about the difference that unionism had made in their lives. Some had come up in union households, witnessing firsthand the economic opportunities gained through a union card. Others were the first in their families to join a union, gaining rights and dignities on the job that their parents could have only dreamed of.

Such powerful stories made powerful organizers. Members have indeed jumped at the chance to play a leadership role. What’s more, they are meeting and outpacing their lofty organizing goals.

A year since IBEW Local 1245’s VOCs formed, 25 of their public sector worksites have secured voluntary dues commitments from at least 80% of members—including 15 that have rallied together 100% of their membership. Meanwhile, the VOCs have grown to 214 members strong.

“Our public sector VOC leaders took ownership of this fight-back campaign to defend and strengthen our union,” Ross said.

“VOCs are the heartbeat of our campaigns,” added Eileen Purcell, the local’s lead organizer for the campaign. “Our goal has been to build leadership and capacity—before, during and after the Supreme Court decision. These leaders have been and continue to be our most powerful organizing tool.”

***

Reposted from the AFL-CIO

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From AFL-CIO

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

More ...

A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder