Editors’ note: This article is from Nonprofit Quarterly Magazine’s summer 2023 issue, “Movement Economies: Making Our Vision a Collective Reality.”
…I advise everybody, be a little careful…best stay woke, keep their eyes open.
—Huddie William “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, 1938, describing the Scottsboro Boys and the climate for Black people in Alabama 1
It’s time to admit it. We were asleep. Many of us who are privileged enough to be paid to work for justice had all but given up on winning unions at multinational brands in the near term. Then, somewhere in the last two years, there was a “great awakening,” and the entire landscape for what is possible changed overnight as workers showed us how to effectively hold global corporations accountable. They modeled that investing in relational people-to-people activities that organize workers’ power based on their relationship to new and changing dynamics of employment in the global economy and centering workers as whole people (recognize their motivations for taking risks and prevent employers from sowing seeds of division) was in fact the key to winning. They didn’t say it would be easy, nor did they promise it would be linear or neat. But they’ve asked us—institutional leaders with resources and capacity—to stay with them; to stay woke. And workers asked us to do it not just for them but for all of us and our desire to live in a healthy democracy.
Two terms are critical to fully understanding the significance of this assertion: democracy and power.
As Sarita Gupta and I note in our book The Future We Need, a healthy democracy is a system in which all people have various pathways to consult, confer with, and collectively govern themselves. 2 Democracy is not just a system of political practices; it must be applied to participation and decision-making in all aspects of our economic lives as well. While voting, lobbying, and all types of policy work are important forms of democratic participation, collective bargaining across multiple channels inserts much-needed democratic practice into our economic system.
Power doesn’t go away as the economy changes. It simply shifts, and it must be clarified in relationship to changes in the global economy to leverage it effectively.
Power is my more substantive focus here, as it is an oft-used but widely misunderstood word. At Jobs With Justice, we assert that power is organized people and organized money with the ability to control, create, and/ or prevent some change. Simple enough. But without more explanation on how and where it is leveraged, power is often generalized to a “power in numbers” framework that limits our imagination for what may be possible. Here, Beverly Silver’s framework is informative. In addition to associational power, or the ability to change things by turning out a certain number of people to do something—say, vote or boycott—workers also have structural power. Silver separates these into two categories: marketplace power and workplace power. 3 “‘Marketplace’ power comes from tight labour markets”—where workers control a set of skills that are in high demand and low supply. Workplace power is leveraged when a group of workers are strategically positioned to disrupt a company, industry, or sector’s ability to produce goods or otherwise function, and thus profit. 4 This structural power exists in addition to associational power, the power in numbers noted above. Accessing the right power for the right situation is key.
Power doesn’t go away as the economy changes. It simply shifts, and it must be clarified in relationship to changes in the global economy to leverage it effectively. For example, postal work was once a highly skilled job in which employees were responsible for all levels of directly sorting, tracking, and getting mail delivered in timely ways. These workers had marketplace power. But as postal work became more automated, the power shifted. The work no longer requires workers to develop a detailed skill set to move the mail, as machines and computer algorithms now do it for them. Yet, postal workers still have power. They are strategically positioned to disrupt the now-automated systems of mail delivery if they are so inclined. 5 Instead of structural marketplace power, they have structural workplace power. As the postal unions began to organize their strategies around this, in addition to which they still had a set of unique skills and relationships with the broader community, they were able to survive this technological shift and still negotiate strong agreements for postal workers. Similar shifts evolve, from domestic workers’ control of a local labor market and unspecialized laborers’ ability to disrupt an assembly line to skilled electricians building out systems for heating/cooling and unspecialized laborers’ workplace power installing modular solar panels.
Mercifully, workers showed us a better way. And it’d do us good to mine the lessons that they’ve so generously laid out for us.
Today’s global economy also contains new areas of confusion over who a person’s actual employer is—either through misclassification (a business model that treats employees as if they are their own boss, despite the fact that they do not set their pay rates and/or ideal hours) or a process of fissuring (a business model, best articulated by David Weil, that creates layer upon layer of responsibility between an employee and their ultimate “boss”). Both aim to socialize the risks of operating a business while limiting the profitable rewards among a select few. 6 Confusion about the employment relationship is often dressed up by new technology: platform apps that trick workers into thinking they have more control than they do—until it’s too late. But as workers have shown us, they still have power. It’s just changed. And how we organize must change to adapt to these new conditions.
Many labor strategists, used to operating under a previous framework or understanding of employment relationships, had to be awakened to this shift. We were still caught up in our feelings about past setbacks. We’d tried to apply old estimations of power to an economy that had changed dramatically in the last
100 years. We’d tiptoed around race, assuming the most unifying approach focused almost exclusively on wages and corporate greed. We’d tried to apply old models of organizing workers toward that power, leaning heavily on national staff to drive base-building conversations. And after failing so many times, we all but gave up on our ability to organize workers at multinational brands until we had more money to do the same thing repeatedly at larger scale, somehow anticipating different results.
Movement Mistakes and Lessons Learned
Mercifully, workers showed us a better way. And it’d do us good to mine the lessons that they’ve so generously laid out for us.
First, we often miscalculated our power. Organizing strategies at multinational brands in the last few decades were often reduced to a series of site fights, assuming we could win union recognition at each individual facility or franchise one at a time—as if power was not concentrated in a transnational C-suite. After years of unsuccessful organizing at McDonald’s and other facilities around the country, fast-food workers evolved their strategy in 2022. They leveraged their status as essential workers, a term popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic, to successfully pass the FAST Recovery Act through the California State Legislature—reimagining pathways for franchise workers to negotiate with large multinational brands as a sector. 7
But it’s not just California where workers are making gains. Jamila Allen works at a Freddy’s fast-food restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, where she has participated in successful workplace actions that led to higher wages and better working conditions, not just at her restaurant but also at 33 other restaurants across the Freddy’s chain. She is now a leader of the new Union of Southern Service Workers. “The union was cofounded by over 150 retail, fast food, restaurant, and care workers who live and work throughout the South. USSW went public in November and is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, but it has been built on a decade of prior organizing work.” Allen recently spoke of the significance of workers organizing in less-union-friendly Southern states, why it’s important to think outside the box when trying to position workers at multinational brands in ongoing decision-making, and why “building strategies around the intersection of economic and racial justice is critical to our success.” 8
Similar experiments have been conducted outside the United States. As a child growing up in North Carolina, I remember watching individual unionized textile mills slowly disappear from the landscape. Unbeknownst to me, textile manufacturing was dramatically increasing in Asia, particularly in countries like India and Bangladesh. In the 1990s and early 2000s, I watched workers in some of those factories organize their facilities into local unions. But doing so did not fully improve standards. Instead of giving up, however, they evolved their strategy and targeted the multinational brands controlling the wages available to the suppliers they worked for—launching the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, 9 initially coanchored by Jobs With Justice India and the New Trade Union Initiative of India. 10 They correctly realized that their direct employers, the suppliers, did not have the power to give them what they needed, and that their energy was better spent organizing power to get the ultimate profiteers to the table—which required a cross-border strategy. 11
Second, many of our efforts also failed to center workers’ full identities, underestimating the motivations that lead them to risk their livelihoods to organize. Few people will name “worker” first when identifying who they are. They may say, “I am a woman,” or “I am Black,” or “I am Muslim.” And they may be more motivated by threats to these other aspects of self than their identity as a worker. Said best by Kimberly Mitchell, a veteran Macy’s retail associate in Washington, DC, “If all you see when you meet me is that I’m a worker, you’re missing the entire point.” 12 Employers also carry similar complexity in what moves them, often being more antagonistic in their identity as an employer than, say, as a person of faith or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Within this complexity lies opportunity.
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Michael Foster, a worker-leader in Alabama known as Big Mike, noted back in 2021, “Bessemer is majority African American. Amazon is majority African American….Somebody’s got to stand up. This, right here, is our Black Lives Matter movement.”
Continuing with the case of the textile workers in South Asia, despite expanding their approach to negotiate with the global brands directly, the (mostly male) union leadership was unable to make much progress after a decade of talks and campaigning. While union leaders continued to push the brands for a stronger wage, women in the base began organizing committees around a more urgent matter—gender-based violence. Around the same time, the #MeToo movement launched in the United States, organizing the associational power of women workers—from A-List film stars to hotel housekeepers—against sexual harassment and assault. And the Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union, a women-led independent and majority Dalit trade union of textile workers in South India, launched the Justice for Jeyasre Campaign in honor of Jeyasre Kathiravel, a worker killed by her supervisor in an act of gender-based violence. 13 In April 2022, these women joined others across the continent to negotiate the Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment, 14 which includes a set of enforceable agreements with major fast-fashion brands: H&M, the Gap, and Eastman Exports—the largest garment producer in India. Covering multiple factories and two spinning mills, this agreement enshrines protections for 5,000 garment workers, including an innovative program known as “safe circles,” designed to monitor shop floors, detecting and reporting gender-based violence and harassment. And the Agreement provides a model for industry-wide change in garment and textiles. 15 Said Anannya Bhattacharjee, former president of another garment workers’ union and current International Coordinator of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, “The leadership and commitment of the Dalit women-led trade union TTCU has led to this historic agreement, which puts forth a model of how fashion brands, suppliers, and trade unions can work together to prevent and remediate GBVH in Asian garment supply chains.” 16 In short, this achievement would not have occurred without centering gender.
Similar parallels can be drawn around racial identity. During the same period women in India were negotiating the Dindigul Agreement, workers at two US Amazon facilities were engaged in a tense struggle for improved conditions. Amazon workers, radicalized after the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota by former police officer Derek Chauvin, spoke out during the 2020 racial justice uprisings about the company’s mistreatment of Black employees. 17 In 2021, Amazon workers in Bessemer, AL—mostly Black—called for help in their bid to form a union with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. 18 A recent report by Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations and Michigan State University highlighted the company’s disproportionate use of off-duty police to surveil the overwhelmingly Black facility. 19 Michael Foster, a worker-leader in Alabama known as Big Mike, noted back in 2021, “Bessemer is majority African American. Amazon is majority African American….Somebody’s got to stand up. This, right here, is our Black Lives Matter movement.” 20 Their 2022 union election is still “too close to call”—a big loss for a company that puts millions into preventing unionization. 21 During the same week of the Bessemer election in April of 2022, workers in Staten Island—also radicalized by racial injustice after Chris Smalls and other Black workers were arrested and fired in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic for demanding better COVID protections/practices—won the first National Labor Relations Board union election at Amazon. 22
Contrast these victories with the setbacks experienced by two unions in 2017, after attempting to win union elections without centering race. Both the United Auto Workers’ attempts to organize at the predominantly Black Nissan facility in Canton, MS, and the International Association of Machinists union’s attempts to organize workers at Boeing’s North Charleston, SC, facility did little to emphasize how both companies recognized the unions their workers formed in facilities in other locations that did not employ a majority Black workforce—focusing instead on traditional issues of wages and corporate greed. And in both cases, the unions lost…by a lot. 23
After this, those imagining success began making multi-billion-dollar investments in staff-heavy, nationwide strategy. This leads to our third sleepy mistake—essentially, budgeting ourselves out of a chance at winning. I’ve seen too many campaign plans and proposals that lay out these billion-dollar magic bullet strategies. While more resources are needed to support worker efforts against global brands, investment in worker-to-worker organizing strategies generates a far higher rate of return than traditional centralized, highly staffed approaches. It’s not that these workers don’t need paid functionaries to support them; the question is one of emphasis, and what comes first. Sometimes, you just need a small group of workers strategically located to act. Workers at Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Trader Joe’s, and many other larger multinational brands modeled this, organizing on their own at first without the help of any international union or organization. Many unions saw the efforts as noble but ineffective, supporting them publicly but hesitant to invest significant resources. I even questioned the smallness of a strategy one of our affiliates was supporting in Ithaca, NY, at a small coffee shop as early as 2017, while we were supporting Southern workers organizing at Nissan. Alas, I had prediction regrets, as the workers’ victory at Gimme Coffee catalyzed workers at nearby Starbucks to step out and start a global movement—a winning, women-led movement of unpaid worker-leaders, in fact, that achieved what few, if any, of the big-money/big-staff campaigns had achieved: union election victories in nearly 40 states. 24
To be fair, not everyone was asleep to the growing clarity workers had about their whole person-ness and structural power. Several preexisting institutions did win important partial victories at multinational companies.
Our last mistake as a movement was, to put it simply, giving up. When the recent upsurge began two years ago, many alt-labor institutions viewed the budding efforts as “old school,” leaning too heavily on what they viewed as an outdated NLRB process, when they should have been focused more on corporate campaigning and policy interventions. Again, we were overemphasizing associational power, without attempting to uncover the structural power workers have available to them—ignoring the necessary both/and. It’s a subtle shift in focus that allowed many of us to maintain our sense of woke-ness, shifting energy and resources to seemingly more accessible political struggles and corporate campaigns, giving up direct employment and economic relationships as a site of struggle. This is one of the fundamental criticisms Sarita Gupta and I outline in The Future We Need: progressives’ overemphasis on political democracy and civic life to the detriment of democratizing decision-making power in our economic lives. 25 And it’s the reason many of us were left speechless in the June 2022 union victory of Apple workers in Towson, MD (Black-led) 26 —all followed by an upsurge in organizing throughout the United States, with significant mobilization in the anti-union South. 27 They were organizing NLRB elections at multinational brands. And they were winning.
To be fair, not everyone was asleep to the growing clarity workers had about their whole person-ness and structural power. Several preexisting institutions did win important partial victories at multinational companies. 28 The famed Justice for Janitors campaign of the 1990s took on the ultimate profiteers of city office buildings to improve standards at house-cleaning contractors. 29 The Coalition of Immokalee Workers leveraged consumer influence to launch the historic Fair Food Program in 2011, 30 ultimately getting multinational brands like Subway and Whole Foods to allow the organization in the fields to build health committees and monitor conditions. 31 In December of 2008, workers at Smithfield poultry organized with the United Food and Commercial Workers and won union recognition only after convincing workers in the slaughterhouse (mostly Black) to vote yes. 32 The Fight For Fifteen movement sparked a wave of wage increases around the country and across different sectors. 33 The former organization United for Respect at Walmart or OUR Walmart, which was housed out of UFCW, partnered with local groups like Jobs With Justice to win predictable scheduling at companies and across municipalities in the early 2010s. 34 The Chicago Teachers Union reintroduced social movement unionism to a new generation, when they bargained for the common good in 2012. 35 This was the same year that eight migrant guestworkers working (and living) at CJs Seafood in Louisiana successfully won remedy by leveraging their structural power with their ultimate employer, Walmart/ Sam’s Club. 36 In 2018, teachers in West Virginia turned their legislative session into a public “contract” negotiation over healthcare and control over their personal data, launching a national Red for Ed movement around the country. 37 We’ve seen Toys “R” Us workers push back against financiers to force their way into corporate governance in 2019. 38 And domestic workers—the majority of whom are women of color, and who are outright excluded from the National Labor Relations Act—modeled the first labor standard setting agreement with a gig/platform company in 2021, leveraging their online market-based power to negotiate a private agreement that includes many of the things workers would seek out in union contract negotiations. 39 Much of this arguably led to increased interest in supporting “employee activism” among a set of business schools. 40
All these campaigns won in large measure because they took the time to assess the conditions, correctly calculated their power, and leveraged it into a campaign that organized whole people around their shared interests. They also show that workers active in today’s struggle are winning because they center race, gender, and the experiences of exploitation they’ve experienced because of it. Still, the institutions leading the efforts noted here can be counted on two hands. And despite these incredible success stories, the overall investment of labor institutions was tacit at best before the great awakening.
But now, we’re officially woke. The best of preexisting unions, worker organizations, and newly formed great awakening era groups must continue our awkward dance between union and nonunion formations, traditional and independent labor unions, 20th century contract negotiations versus expanded approaches to bargaining, and a slow recovery from playing in different sandboxes toward organizing around our shared values. The best of both are stepping up to the challenge to support this new distributed labor movement leadership and better understand what they’ve taught us about how to organize and collectively bargain in the current global economy—including how to read the shifts in power to better leverage them for our shared prosperity. Workers are imploring us not to be distracted by the messiness of building new democratic institutions nor traumatized by the aggressive counterattacks waged by global brands. For those more apt to point to the dysfunctions of some of the newer organizations and/or the corruption among the older ones, let us remember that democracy is messy. From the scandals surrounding Jimmy Hoffa in the 1960s and 1970s to the disaffiliations of various unions from the AFL-CIO in the mid-1990s, it’s always been messy. 41 These are regular people trying to figure out how to engage everyone in decision-making based on a vision of economic democracy. And that’s not an easy task, even for the most trained diplomats among us. And yet, they persist.
* * *
Many workers have long been ready to get behind a democracy worth fighting for. But they’re more complex than that strong-man-holding-a-pickaxe trope of labor history books. They’re whole people, with identities and concerns that go far beyond wages. Today’s workers are proving that multinational corporations can be held to account when the labor movement as a whole—union and not-yet-union—invests in relational people-to-people activities that organize workers’ power based on their relationship to new and changing dynamics of employment in the global economy. Having the appropriate calculation of power clarifies whether workers will be successful within the current framework for collective bargaining, or if a new approach is more strategic. And when they model campaigns that operate at the intersections of workers’ identities—particularly race and gender—they have a greater success rate, and thus raise the floor for all workers.
The phrase “stay woke” is a call for raising someone’s conscious awareness of a situation, often a dangerous one, and to proceed strategically. It was never evoked to encourage people to turn around. It has always implied the necessity of moving forward—but strategically, and prepared for whatever danger awaits. “Take it easy but take it,’” as Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers sang in their 1941 song “Talking Union,” advising workers not to let “race hatred” get in the way of joining together for better workplace standards. “Stay woke” is a call to action for people to awaken to their conditions, take agency over their future, and organize shared power to achieve a better life. And that’s exactly what has happened recently. Workers are calling on us to stay with them in their great awakening—to stay woke—not because it’s easy, but because it’s necessary if we truly want democracy.
While there is still a ton to learn, workers throughout the country remain in active struggle. And despite their many successes, they still sometimes get crushed by multinational employers who seem to have unlimited time and money to keep unions at bay. But the potential for increasing workplace democracy in companies that New Deal unionists could have never predicted in 1935 is too great to allow these efforts to become a brief moment in history, as many executives are hoping. Workers did their part in lighting the flame, showing us the way by calculating their power based on current conditions, organizing each other as whole people—person by person—and having the audacity to do it in the spirit of building a healthy democracy. For labor officials and nonprofit sector labor supporters, our job now is to keep standing with them, accompanying them in battle by providing resources, capacity, expertise, and validation for what they are attempting to do—not just for themselves but for all of us. Workers have experienced a great awakening. In the process, they forced us to wake up, too. Now, let’s keep it that way—and stay woke.
- Lyric from Lead Belly (Huddie Ledbetter), “Scottsboro Boys,” 1938. See Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2015), book and compact disc set, folkways.si.edu/leadbelly. See also John Ganz, “Philip Guston, Lead Belly, and ‘Woke’ Art,” Unpopular Front (Substack newsletter), April 6, 2021, johnganz.substack.com/p/philip-guston-lead-belly-and-woke.
- Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta, The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press/ILR, 2022).
- Beverly J. Silver, Forces of Labor: Workers’ Movements and Globalization Since 1870 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
- USPS Office of Inspector General, “The Postal Strike of 1970,” March 15, 2010, www.uspsoig.gov/blog/postal-strike-1970; and “The Great Postal Strike of 1970,” AFL-CIO, accessed May 17, 2023, aflcio.org/about/history/labor-history-events/great-postal-strike.
- For more on the theory of a fissured economy, see David Weil, The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).
- On the FAST Act, see Karis Stephen, “New California Law Forces Fast Food Restaurants to Think Fast,”Regulatory Review, October 25, 2022.
- Stephanie Luce, “Southern Service Workers Launch a New Union,” Labor Notes, November 22, 2022, labornotes.org/2022/11/southern-service-workers-launch-new-union; Kim Kelly, “Union of Southern Service Workers Is Organizing Low-Wage Workers Across Industries,” Teen Vogue, March 20, 2023, www.teenvogue.com/story/union-southern-service-workers; and Jamila Allen, “Fast Food Workers and Political Power: Why a Labor Law Breakthrough and Referendum Reform in CA is a High-Stakes 2024 Moment.” Conference address, Democracy Alliance, Charlotte, NC, May 2023, and author’s notes.
- Asia Floor Wage Alliance, “About AFWA,” accessed May 17, 2023, asia.floorwage.org/about-afwa.
- India Committee on Asia Floor Wage, “First Discussion Paper on an Asia Floor Wage,” Asia Floor Wage Alliance, 2005, asia.floorwage.org/statement/first-discussion-paper-on-an-asia-floor-wage/.
- Smiley and Gupta, The Future We Need.
- See the website for Justice for Jeyasre, accessed May 17, 2023, justiceforjeyasre.com.
- Annie Kelly, “H&M pledges to end shopfloor sexual violence in India after worker killed,” April 1, 2022, www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/apr/01/hm-pledges-to-end-shopfloor-sexual-violence-in-india-after-worker-killed-jeyasre-kathiravel.
- Sherine Dimadura, “Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the Garment Industries,” Changemakr Asia, April 18, 2022, changemakr.asia/dindigul-agreement-to-eliminate-gender-based-violence-and-harassment-in-the-garment-industries. For more details, see International Labor Rights Forum, “Fact Sheet: The Dindigul Agreement to End Gender-Based Violence and Harassment,” May 10, 2022, laborrights.org/publications/fact-sheet-dindigul-agreement-end-gender-based-violence-and-harassment.
- Rachel Cohen, “Landmark Dindigul Agreement to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment at Eastman Exports Natchi Apparels with the Support of Global Allies,” Global Labor Justice–International Labor Rights Forum, press release, April 1, 2022, laborrights.org/releases/landmark-dindigul-agreement-eliminate-gender-based-violence-and-harassment-eastman-exports.
- Vinny Grossman, “After the George Floyd murder: Reflections on a year of upsurge,” Workers’ Voice, May 28, 2021, workersvoiceus.org/2021/05/28/after-the-george-floyd-murder-reflections-on-a-year-of-upsurge/; and Isobel Asher Hamilton, “Amazon workers slammed the company for supporting the George Floyd protesters while still flogging surveillance tech to police,” Business Insider, June 3, 2020, www.businessinsider.com/amazon-workers-accuse-company-hypocrisy-george-floyd-statement-2020-6.
- Steve Dubb, “Could an Alabama Union Election at Amazon Start a Labor Wave?,” NPQ, February 24, 2021, nonprofitquarterly.org/could-an-alabama-union-election-at-amazon-start-a-labor-wave/.
- Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations, “Study: Amazon Uses Power of Police to Subdue Workers and Enforce Obedience,” SMLR Info, February 22, 2022, smlr.rutgers.edu/news-events/smlr-news/study-amazon-uses-power-police-subdue-workers-and-enforce-obedience. See also Tamara L. Lee et al., Amazon’s Policing Power: A Snapshot from Bessemer (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University; East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University and New York: The Roosevelt Institute, February 2022).
- Michael Foster, Pro-union rally, Bessemer, AL, April 2021, author notes.
- Spencer Soper and Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Union Organizer in Alabama Says He Was Terminated,” Bloomberg Law, January 23, 2023, news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/amazon-union-organizer- in-alabama-says-he-was-terminated. See also Haleluya Hadero, “Amazon faces off with upstart union in fight for a second warehouse,” PBS NewsHour, October 17, 2022, www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/ amazon-faces-off-with-upstart-union-in-fight-for-a-second-warehouse.
- Karen Weise and Noam Scheiber, “Amazon Workers on Staten Island Vote to Unionize in Landmark Win for Labor,” New York Times, April 1, 2022, www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/technology/amazon-union-staten-island.html. See also Steve Dubb, “Reclaiming Worker Control: New Forms of Ownership,” Nonprofit Quarterly Magazine 29, no. 2 (Summer 2022): 24–31.
- Noam Scheiber, “Nissan Workers in Mississippi Reject Union Bid by U.A.W.,” New York Times, August 5, 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/05/business/nissan-united-auto-workers-union.html; and Alwyn Scott and Harriet McLeod, “Workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant reject union,” Reuters, February 15, 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-boeing-machinists/workers-at-boeings-south-carolina-plant-reject-union-idUSKBN15V04Q.
- Rebecca Lurie, “Unions and Worker Co-ops: Why Economic Justice Requires Collaboration,” NPQ, February 9, 2022, nonprofitquarterly.org/unions-and-worker-co-ops-why-economic-justice-requires-collaboration. For a current tally of Starbucks’ union elections, see “Current Starbucks Union Election Stats,” Union Election Data, accessed May 17, 2023, unionelections.org/data/starbucks/.
- Smiley and Gupta, The Future We Need.
- Unlike the other two examples, workers at Apple in Maryland have actually started to negotiate a first contract. See Catherine Thorbecke and Chris Isidore, “Union wins right to represent workers at an Apple store for the first time,” CNN, June 19, 2022, www.cnn.com/2022/06/19/tech/apple-store-union-vote/index.html.
- “Current Starbucks Union Election Stats.”
- For a detailed summary of all these efforts, see Smiley and Gupta, The Future We Need.
- See, for example, Lydia Savage, “Justice for Janitors: Scales of Organizing and Representing Workers,” Antipode 38, no. 3 (June 2006): 645–66.
- “Consciousness + Commitment = Change,” Coalition of Immokalee Workers, “About CIW,” accessed May 30, 2023, ciw-online.org/about/.
- Alex Orlov, “This new MacArthur ‘genius’ has changed the way Taco Bell and Burger King treat farmers,” Mic, October 13, 2017, www.mic.com/articles/185214/this-new-macarthur-genius-has-changed-the-way-taco-bell-and-burger-king-treat-farmers.
- Nichele Fulmore and Mischa Gaus, “Smithfield Wins a Union after 16-Year Struggle,” Labor Notes, December 22, 2008, labornotes.org/2008/12/smithfield-wins-union-after-16-year-struggle.
- Karen Kahn, “Fight for $15 Gains Momentum as 20 States Raise Minimum Wage Levels,” NPQ, January 19, 2021, nonprofitquarterly.org/fight-for-15-gains-momentum-as-20-states-raise-minimum-wage-levels.
- “Whose Walmart? Our Walmart,” United for Respect, accessed May 17, 2023, united4respect.org/campaigns/walmart.
- Alex Han and Emma Tai, “BCG’s Big Bang: 10 Years After the 2012 Chicago Teachers Union Strike,” NPQ, September 14, 2022, nonprofitquarterly.org/bcgs-big-bang-10-years-after-the-2012-chicago-teachers-union-strike.
- Josh Eidelson, “The Great Walmart Walkout,” The Nation, December 19, 2012, www.thenation.com/article/archive/great-walmart-walkout.
- Erica Smiley, “Teachers Map Our Path to Power,” Jobs with Justice, April 11, 2018, www.jwj.org/teachers-map-our-path-to-power.
- Rick Wartzman, “How a few former Toys ‘R’ Us employees are helping lead the brand’s comeback and putting workers first,” Fast Company, November 13, 2019, www.fastcompany.com/90429425/how-a-few-former-toys-r-us-employees-are-leading-the-brands-comeback-and-putting-workers-first.
- For a detailed summary of all these efforts, see Smiley and Gupta, The Future We Need.
- “Watch: NYU B-school instructor Alison Taylor on embracing a better model of employee activism,” Quartz, September 24, 2021, qz.com/2038857/employee-activism-how-companies-can-take-responsibility-for-their-social-impact.
- David Witwer, Corruption and Reform in the Teamsters Union (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, June 2003); and Stanley Aronowitz, “On the AFL-CIO Split,” Logos 4, no. 3 (Summer 2005).