We are in a potentially unique moment in American labor history. The pandemic working conditions of the last few years have led to a surge of worker militancy. We saw it in the strike waves last year, and we’re seeing it in new organizing this year. Last week brought good news, as workers at REI and NYT voted to unionize. Meanwhile the stunning wave of Starbucks Workers United continues to spread, with well over 100 stores now seeking union recognition. These victories have been won through creative organizing, and strong worker solidarity, in the face of intense union busting efforts from management.
Union busting is a serious thing. Facing it is a frightening and confusing experience, designed to weaken and break the bonds between coworkers. But to workers with strong solidarity, even the most vicious union busting campaigns can be beaten. At Starbucks, for example, workers across active shops have sustained an exchange of experiences with and approaches to the union-busting campaign. Armed with the insights of their coworkers, they have been able to prepare for the union-busters at their locations, inoculating themselves to the experience and building solidarity. With thoughtful preparation, captive audience meetings can backfire completely, and actually end up strengthening workers’ resolve.
Organizing for power in the workplace is always a struggle. But the bosses want us to believe that they are more formidable than they really are. Even the richest and most powerful companies in the world are not invincible, and even the hardest fights can be won with the kind of strong, militant organizing that Starbucks workers and so many others have been demonstrating for us.
Image: Starbucks workers in Mesa, AZ, the third store in the country to win union recognition