By Jonathan Rosenblum | It seems eons ago, the youth-led climate strike of September 20, 2019 that brought four million people onto the streets worldwide. I was on the sidewalk outside Seattle City Hall, watching thousands of school-skippers march by. And then behind the teens came waves of exuberant people, no more than a decade or two older, their homemade signs held aloft: tech workers, including hundreds of Amazon workers who had stepped out of their comfortable cubicles and palatial glass towers to join the global walkout.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Pressed by a relentless working class movement, the Seattle City Council on July 6 adopted a first-time-ever tax on Amazon and other big businesses that will bring in at least $214 million a year to fund affordable housing, Green New Deal projects, and union jobs. The win was a stunning turn of events: just two years earlier, Amazon, the Chamber of Commerce, the corporate-backed mayor, and several business-oriented labor leaders forced the city council to rescind a newly adopted tax on big business of only $47 million a year.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Twenty years ago, in the middle of historic mass protests against the World Trade Organization, police chased hundreds of peaceful protesters out of downtown, north on First Avenue and surrounded them just half a block beyond Seattle’s iconic Labor Temple, preparing for mass arrests. It was December 1, 1999. As the police roundup unfolded, a group of us meeting inside the Labor Temple spilled out into the street. Ron Judd, the head of the King County Labor Council, whom I worked for at the time, was aghast to see the protesters essentially held at gunpoint.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | May 1 is here, which means rents and mortgages are due, and tens of millions of Americans will be unable to pay. Officially, thirty million people are newly unemployed. But the real number is higher, as government statistics fail to account for the 1.5 million-plus app-based drivers, other gig economy workers, independent contractors, and workers in the informal economy who have suddenly found themselves without work or income.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | If you want a preview of how corporate America intends to play in the 2020 elections, look no farther than what’s happening in Seattle’s municipal elections right now. Amazon just dumped $1.45 million into the local Chamber of Commerce political action committee, a record political buy aimed at radically remaking city government to suit the desires of the behemoth that now dominates the region’s economy.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | With the seemingly endless marathon of presidential electioneering approaching full stride, we now get to experience that quadrennial ritual of Democratic establishment candidates queuing up to pledge how they are going to save the labor movement by raising wages and making it easier for workers to organize into unions.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: I was tremendously heartened in the first days of the Trump administration in January to see thousands of people come out to airports around the US to protest the president’s travel ban. People mobilized because of what was at stake. It was not just the status of foreign travellers, but our core values as a society. In the echoing halls of airport terminals from coast to coast, a spirit of resistance and humanity came alive.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: In my experience bargaining union contracts and negotiating with politicians, I’ve found that it’s easy to overestimate the importance of what happens at the bargaining table. When I’ve led union negotiations, I’ve emphasized to bargaining team members that what we win in the end depends ninety percent on what we do outside of bargaining, and only ten percent on what takes place inside the room.
Happy publication day to labor organizer Jonathan Rosenblum and Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, and the Revival of the Labor Movement! As recently as 2013, the call for a $15/hour minimum wage became a resounding rally cry against growing income inequality in the US. In Beyond $15, Rosenblum captures the inside story of the first successful fight for a $15 minimum wage. Just outside Seattle, an unlikely alliance of Sea-Tac Airport workers, union and community activists, and clergy staged face-to-face confrontations with corporate leaders, uniting a diverse, largely immigrant workforce in a struggle over power between airport workers and business and political elites. The workforce was made up of employees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Mexico, the Philippines, Iran, Iraq, India and other countries who joined forces with Christian and Muslim leaders. Rosenblum was director of the Sea-Tac campaign for the Services Employees International Union.
By Jonathan RosenblumWhen I first heard the good news on February 3 that U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart had slapped a restraining order on Trump’s travel ban, I texted a labor attorney friend: “Goodness—Judge Robart! Am I obliged to like him now?” You see, while millions of people are applauding Judge Robart for upholding the Constitution and blocking xenophobia, some of us have had a very different experience in his Seattle courtroom. Back in 2012, SeaTac Airport workers were hauled before him by attorneys for Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle. By the time they left Robart’s court, they had been stripped of basic workplace rights.
By Jonathan RosenblumThe salvation of unions, and more generally, of the US working class, resides not in struggling to fix a broken national Democratic Party that repeatedly has betrayed workers, but in joining with allies to fight the coming Trump onslaught—and then to go beyond that to define a bold, unapologetic vision of society and economy, one that inspires millions of workers to engage and take action. This fight isn’t about blue states vs. red states, urban vs. rural, immigrant vs. native-born—all false frames that are intentionally deployed to divide and weaken working people—but about the 99 percent against the billionaire class and their political allies. It’s a fight about power and our societal values.