By Jonathan Rosenblum | Surrounded by the vistas of western Montana, the generals of the war against Starbucks baristas will gather on August 3 at a swanky Rocky Mountain resort for three days of discussing labor-management relations. Big Sky Resort is hosting the confab, and when attendees aren’t meeting, they can avail themselves of golf, guided trout fishing, luxurious dining, and spa treatments before retiring to their $600-a-night hotel suites.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum | That’s a really good question, Matt. To the examples you gave, I would also add the fight to eliminate student debt. The Joe Biden administration is resuming mandatory debt payments for millions of workers in this country, which is going to be economically devastating. The Biden administration has also ended the eviction moratorium protecting people from eviction, millions and millions of working class people are now in jeopardy of losing their homes.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum | I’m really excited to be in this discussion with Canadian comrades about what’s going on here in the States and the prospects for organizing in the period ahead. I actually started out many decades ago as a rank-and-file union member in the newspaper industry, as a member of the International Typographical Union, which now I think is part of the Teamsters.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | It’s time for an all-labor national day of action to defend Starbucks workers. The Starbucks baristas, REI retail workers, Amazon warehouse workers, striking Warrior Met mineworkers and concrete truck drivers, along with other workers bravely organizing and fighting back, are at the forefront of resisting unbridled corporate greed in this new Gilded Age. But they won’t succeed if the fights are limited by region or industry.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Once again, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and her Socialist Alternative organization have beaten the political odds. Last month, she defeated a million-dollar recall campaign by real estate developers and landlords, Democratic Party leaders, big Trump donors, and newspaper editorialists, who all teamed up to evict the eight-year councilor from City Hall.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Last year’s dreadful miasma of Covid, recession, police violence, and coup attempt obscured some remarkable advances by local and national left-wing movements. Florida voters, while rejecting the Biden/Harris ticket, overwhelmingly approved a $15 minimum wage. Arizona and Oregon approved tax increases on the wealthy to fund public education. Colorado passed paid family leave. Portland, Me., voters approved rent control. All six representatives in historically swing districts who supported Medicare for All won reelection. Ninety-two of the 93 House Democrats—including all four in swing districts—who ran in November as Green New Deal sponsors won reelection. At least 20 candidates endorsed by Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) won office.
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.