As a new movement of workers emerges, so does a new generation of militant leaders. This is reflected in shops large and small, organizing in every corner of the country.
It’s also reflected in America’s largest and most powerful legacy unions. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, for one example, appears newly invigorated; the election of IBT President Sean O’Brien, leader of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union reform caucus, has been followed by new investments in internal and external organizing. The impact of new leadership has been evident as the 350,000 UPS Teamsters prepare for contract negotiations, promising to strike this August if their demands are not met. And: if you want to see the class war erupt explicitly into the halls of congress— not a place such a thing is usually permitted— watch this video of O’Brien sparring with Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin last week.
The changes within the IBT are mirrored by ongoing developments in the United Auto Workers, which has just held its first direct election of senior officers, a priority won by the UAW reform caucus Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) in the aftermath of a massive corruption scandal. The UAWD reform slate achieved exceptional results in regional races, and as the process of reviewing challenged ballots winds down, it appears poised to win the presidency and take control of the UAW International Executive Board. Whatever the full and final results, the composition of UAW leadership will look very different ahead of negotiations with the Big Three automakers this fall.
Here’s to hoping that the new leadership of the UAW fully understands the value of the labor of its members. We as workers know our worth; to win what we deserve, our leaders must, as well.
We will organize until our voices carry clearly and our power is returned to us, as that is what this movement is about. Whether we’re organizing in the workplace against an employer, or within our union against leadership which isn’t winning for us, we’re joining in solidarity to get what’s ours.