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.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | In this season of commemorating the Exodus, the first general strike in recorded history, let us praise the return of the strike weapon to the American political landscape. Workers in 2019 are showing greater readiness to flex the strike muscle. Just look at the 31,000 Stop and Shop supermarket workers in southern New England, who struck for 11 days and beat back company demands for healthcare and retirement concessions. The pickets came down Sunday night after the union announced that the company had met their demands to boost pay and preserve healthcare and pension coverage.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass declared 161 years ago. Last week saw that truth on broad display as Amazon, facing growing political and organizing pressure, announced it was setting a minimum wage of $15/hour for its US workforce and also raising wages in England.
By Jonathan Rosenblum: The revolutionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been slain twice: First, by an assassin’s bullet fifty years ago, and a second time, by the political, economic, and cultural elites of our time. They have reduced his radical teachings to gauzy notions of justice and equality, seeking to soothe their guilty consciences and hope the rest of us don’t look too closely.
Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, we honor his legacy. We reached out to some of our authors and staff members to reflect on the impact of his global vision for social justice and his tireless work in the civil rights movement. We share their commemorative responses with you below.
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.
Donald Trump gets sworn in today as commander in chief. His approval rating speaks to the myriad doubts, concerns, and fears many have about what he and his administration will do during his term in the White House. We reached out to a few of our authors to ask if they wanted to share what they want Trump to know, understand or beware of. On Inauguration Day, we share their responses with you.
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.
By Jonathan RosenblumMillions of workers across the country have won wage hikes under the banner of $15, and this week many more in California stand poised to join the parade. But three and a half years after the first picket sign was hoisted demanding $15/hour and union recognition, very few minimum wage workers are actually getting paid that much. That’s because among those crafting wage legislation, it’s become an axiom that increases must be phased in over time for the sake of business and economic stability. California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez reflects a prevailing establishment view that what’s needed is “a reasonable, measured approach that would prevent sticker shock for businesses.”
By Jonathan Rosenblum | What are US workers to do about the problems presented by the gig economy? The past year saw a number of prominent liberals offer policy ideas to mitigate the worst elements of precarious employment. Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposed that companies pay into a common benefit fund for the gig workers they employ. Left-leaning think-tank executives, academics and even a few union leaders signed on to a manifesto declaring that portable benefits were the solution to easing the lives of precarious workers.