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Landscape of the Labor Struggle

In recent years, we have seen increased worker militancy in the U.S. in the form of wildcat strikes, the formation of workplace organizing committees, and union certification elections across several different industries. However, the laws that govern the formation of unions in the workplace, the National Labor Relations Act, have been shaped over nearly a century to favor the bosses. Employers have very little to lose by violating workers’ rights, not to mention the various types of employer actions that are sanctioned by the law. For example, when an employer hires a union-busting attorney to conduct “captive audience” meetings, there is no reciprocal right for the union. Even when bosses pursue extra-legal methods of defeating a union drive, like refusing to negotiate at the bargaining table or creating the conditions that lead workers to believe that their efforts are futile, the law does little to disincentivize this behavior. The workers who launched an organizing drive at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama earlier this year faced off against the world’s largest corporation. There are several documented instances of the company engaging in actions that most outside observers clearly see as moves to poison the well. While there are signs that the NLRB will rule in favor of the union, it’s difficult to imagine the possibility of holding a fair election in which the workers are able to vote freely.

Overview of the Workshop and Panel

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act has the potential to completely transform the landscape of labor organizing in favor of workers. In April 2021, DSA prioritized a campaign to get the PRO Act passed. There is currently one Democratic hold out in the U.S Senate: Kyrsten Sinema. While DSA and labor unions continue to pressure Sinema to become a cosponsor, workers continue looking for ways of organizing in their workplaces and grabbing back some of the power stolen by employers even in the absence of reform. This event will feature a labor lawyer and activist with the National Lawyers Guild who will go over the types of actions that workers can take in the absence of a union, even with the most anti-union bosses. We will also hear from several workers who engaged in their own workplace struggles in their attempts to build power.

All workers have the right to engage in collective action and workers can begin building power before voting to join a union. Organizing and banding together is how we as workers are going to protect our rights.

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