labor unions
March 1, 2021

In Alabama, thousands of Amazon workers are voting on whether to unionize — and President Biden wants to make sure they know this "vitally important choice" must be made without any employer "intimidation," "coercion," or "threats."

On Sunday night, Biden released a video about the unionization efforts taking place at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. More than 5,800 workers are voting on whether they should join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. They have until March 29 to vote, and if they decide to unionize, Bessemer will be the first Amazon facility in the United States to do so.

Biden didn't explicitly name Amazon during his remarks, but said that workers in Alabama and across the U.S. "should have a free and fair choice to join a union." America "wasn't built by Wall Street," he continued, it was "built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class. I made it clear when I was running that my administration's policy would be to support union organizing and the right to collectively bargain. I'm keeping that promise."

This is a bold statement, labor historian Erik Loomis told The Washington Post, and one that is "almost unprecedented in American history. We have the sense that previous presidents in the mid-20th Century were overtly pro-union, but that wasn't really the case. Even FDR never really came and told workers directly to support a union."

The Post reports that Amazon is working overtime to try to discourage Bessemer employees from supporting the union — the company is holding mandatory meetings to criticize the union, sending out text messages asking workers to vote no, and putting up anti-union fliers in bathroom stalls.

Biden speaking out during such a tense campaign is a big deal, The New Republic columnist Timothy Noah writes, and should be seen as "a signal that the federal government is shifting away from its decades-old tradition of treating unions with neutrality shading into hostility." Noah believes conservatives will "surely condemn this change," while liberals will likely "praise it and demand more," like the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.Catherine Garcia

June 9, 2020

Amid the nationwide protests against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd, a debate has sprung up — not necessarily about whether policing in the U.S. needs reform, but rather what that reform should look like.

Some people are calling for incremental changes, others for abolishing police departments completely, and many more land somewhere in between with a focus on reducing police funding, fundamentally restructuring law enforcement, and diverting resources to other community needs like housing and education. Regardless, all sides would likely face some resistance from police unions.

For those with progressive leanings who support the larger labor movement, like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), singling out police unions may seem antithetical to their normal ideology. But Omar told MinnPost in an interview published Tuesday that she believes there's a "disconnect" between police unions and the rest of the movement. "The kind of protection that police unions have fought for is one I don't believe is in lockstep with what the rest of the unions fight for," she said.

Other unions, she explained, aim to protect workers in a vulnerable position and "advance more humane and dignified" workplace policies. As the congresswoman sees it, police unions differ in that have fought for "the ability to function with impunity and cause harm to the community." Read more at MinnPost. Tim O'Donnell

September 15, 2019

The United Auto Workers said its roughly 49,000 members who work at General Motors plants across the country will strike beginning at 11:59 p.m. Sunday evening.

A four-year contract between GM and the union expired Saturday and the two sides failed to reach a new agreement as talks broke down. GM said Sunday the auto company's offer to the union includes more than $7 billion in investments, more than 5,400 jobs, higher pay, and improved benefits.

"We have negotiated in good faith and with a sense of urgency," the automaker said in a statement. "Our goal remains to build a strong future for our employees and our business."

But union leaders said the sides are far apart on economic issues, despite some progress being made in the negotiation. "We are standing up for job security for our members and their families," Terry Dittes, director of the UAW GM department, said. He added that the the strike "represents great sacrifice and great courage on the part of our members."

The last time a national strike was called was in 2007, which lasted 17 hours. Read more at The Associated Press and The Detroit News. Tim O'Donnell

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