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Happy Labor Day! Today's edition of the OptOut general newsletter focuses entirely on news about workers and organized labor. Numerous outlets in our independent media network cover labor in-depth, and with the nuance and understanding of workers' issues that many corporate outlets lack.
This newsletter is longer than usual, as there is so much important coverage of this pivotal issue I want to share with you. If you think reducing income inequality is a good thing, you'll enjoy plenty of positive news below.
I hope you have a meaningful Labor Day and enjoy our selection of news content!
The State of Labor
A lot has happened recently in labor movements in the U.S. and around the world. After the COVID-19 lockdowns, workers were empowered, and a strikewave began. Here's the state of labor from the OptOut network.
First, let's get into the history of Labor Day and the labor movement.
PENNSYLVANIA CAPITAL-STAR has a short primer on the holiday.
JACOBIN republishes, for the first time, socialist Eugene V. Debs' 1903 Labor Day message, in which he declares, “The struggle in which we are now engaged will end only when every day is Labor Day.”
In the early to mid-20th century, Black socialist and trade unionist Frank Crosswaith "never wavered in his belief that a strong interracial labor movement and democratic socialist policies were the best antidote to the fundamental problems facing black people."
Even more importantly, Crosswaith—dubbed the “Negro Debs,” after socialist trade unionist Eugene Debs—was an embodiment of the need to put these ideals into practice by building robust working-class institutions.
MICHIGAN ADVANCE writes about John F. Kennedy's 1960 visit to Detroit two months before his defeat of Richard Nixon in the presidential election. The publication notes how pivotal Black voters were to JFK's win of Michigan.
Some Detroiters point to a little known June 1960 private meeting that pushed Kennedy over the top with the growing African American demographic in Michigan and throughout the Midwest. A group of Detroit Black Democratic leaders that included UAW official Horace Sheffield Jr., business owner Forrest Green, longtime Democratic stalwart Joseph Coles and Detroit Common Council member William Patrick Jr. met with Kennedy at his home.
THE MAJORITY REPORT's Labor Day special features speeches by Bernie Sanders (reading Eugene Debs), FDR, John L. Lewis, and Mario Savio, as well as a mineworkers song.
On WORKING PEOPLE, host Max Alvarez interviews workers from UPS, whose business model has left warehouse and delivery employees sick, and even dead, from excessive heat.
But at the end of the day, the way that this job functions does not work for human beings. Working in 107 degree heat does not work for human beings. Working in a truck that does not have AC or ventilation in the back where it gets to over 130 degrees doesn’t work for human beings.
Also catch Max on LEFT ANCHOR's Labor Day podcast episode about his new book, The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and the Year the World Broke.
The book is a collection of interviews of various working-class folks, from a gravedigger, to a sheet metal worker, to a nurse, and many more. Rebecca is one of those interviewees; she speaks about her work as a teacher and organizer in the Phoenix area, and how they’ve fought to keep themselves and their students safe from both the pandemic and right-wing austerity.
PRISM reminds us of the major contributions undocumented workers have made to the U.S. labor movement.
For decades now, migrant workers have created innovative labor organizing models outside of federal labor law, successfully increasing wages, benefits, and working conditions for segments of the working class that Londoño said have historically been deemed “unorganizable.”
COUNTERPUNCH shows that for young workers, unionizing means higher wages and better benefits.
Younger workers have now endured multiple economic shocks during formative stages in their lives. Unions have the potential to both mitigate some of the damage done by recent economic crises and to provide a mechanism for building worker power to create lasting structural change.
Did you read our latest climate-focused newsletter? OptOut Climate Editor Cristian Salazar rounds up the best independent reporting about climate change, energy, and the environment every other Wednesday.
To get next week's climate newsletter in your inbox, sign into your account and click "Manage" to subscribe to OptOut Climate!
Workers Win Against Giant Corporations
Today, Starbucks workers at about 100 stores are hosting "sip-ins," when stores choose "times when supporters of a store are asked to come in, order low-priced drinks or water, and leave big tips. The events provide an opportunity for baristas and their supporters to engage in conversation about labor conditions and build community."
The ECONOMIC HARDSHIP REPORTING PROJECT, in partnership with Teen Vogue, hears from two Starbucks workers who organized stores in Pittsburgh and Memphis. The company illegally fired a number of organizers, but workers keep fighting for their rights.
STATUS COUP has covered the Amazon and Starbucks union victories since the beginning. This video compilation starts with an interview of Amazon Labor Union vice president Derrick Palmer.
STATUS COUP is also providing live coverage of a labor rally for Amazon and Starbucks workers in New York City beginning at 3:15pm ET.
MEANS MORNING NEWS ran a segment about happenings in labor organizing this month.
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In the States
The Connecticut government didn't properly fund pandemic grants it promised to essential workers, and some lawmakers are trying to prevent the checks from being cut down significantly.
New York City is leading the country in new union membership, reports THE CITY.
New York City private-sector workers are joining unions at nearly twice the rate as in the next most active city, Seattle, and at five times the rate as in San Francisco or Los Angeles, the study finds.
Around the World
LABOR NOTES reports that in Mexico, workers at an American auto parts company defeated a notorious, company-friendly union effort by voting to create a union of their own.
In LABOR NOTES, a labor educator makes the argument for thinking radically about the nature of work.
Unions and all labor organizations and political formations should engage in a massive educational campaign—aimed first at union members, who then can spread the word to the unorganized.
Such education should emphasize the history and nature of the relationship between the employing and the working class, and how control and conflict are central to this relationship.
On ECONOMIC UPDATE, "Dr. Harriet Fraad joins Richard Wolff to discuss the modern problem of loneliness our society and how workers can reconnect with each other against loneliness and injustice."
Check out THE BAFFLER's review of an anti-work novel Diary of a Void by Japanese author Emi Yagi.
Annoyed by the constant expectations that she—the only woman in her workplace—will serve and clean up coffee, answer the phone, and bring little samples from desk to desk, Shibata one day refuses.
THE NATION writes about the ills of people retiring later in life.
Inequalities loom large in the working-longer landscape. Those without college degrees often face jobs with high physical demands, low wages, unpredictable schedules, and few benefits—jobs that make it hard to keep going. It’s the paradox of working longer: Those who can least afford to retire early are those who are least likely to be able to delay retirement.
Thanks as always for following the independent OptOut news network! See you soon.
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