Waging Nonviolence reports on the efforts of NYC workers who traditionally have fallen outside “organized labor,” to unionize, including workers in that notoriously difficult-to-unionize sector, fast food:
The fast food fight-back is part of a growing upsurge in struggle initiated by the working poor in the United States. Last month, a nationwide day of action involving laborers at hundreds of Walmarts on Black Friday left a ray of hope on the consumerist holiday for workers and their supporters. Aside from last week’s fast food fight there have been a number of successful unionization drives among car wash and grocery workers in New York City recently…
In addition, New York Communities for Change has been tackling other hard-to-unionize groups such as carwash workers and grocery store employees:
As part of its ongoing low-wage worker campaigns, NYCC has been approaching laborers at supermarkets, fast food joints and car washes across the city, finding out what conditions on the job are like and building relationships. They were referred to Golden Farm [an NYC supermarket] by workers at another nearby grocer who had won a contract and settlement…
“We’re asking costumers in the community to boycott the store until the owner decides to sign a contract that will guarantee the workers basic benefits,” said Lucas Sanchez with NYCC. The National Labor Relations Board certified the election results this September, and the law now compels the store’s owner, Sonny Kim, to negotiate in good faith. But, says Sanchez, Kim has been stalling in hopes of discouraging workers and pressuring them into quitting. NYCC has helped organize a daily picket of the store and has been leafleting out front, not only to cut a hole in Kim’s wallet, but also as a way of garnering support for the workers in the store so they know they are not alone.
I’m reminded of Kerala State in India, where the local Communist Party of India (Marxist) has had incredible success with organizing workers who in most of India (even large parts of the developed world) haven’t been unionized – and where human development indicators (health, education, literacy, etc.) far outstrip the rest of impoverished India. And I can’t help thinking this kind of organizing, from the “margins of the former labor movement,” is the new battlefield for struggles between capital and labor. It’s both higher-stakes – there’s a reason these industries weren’t/aren’t organized – but I think the challenges necessitate newer, less institutional, more creative forms of labor action, as we also saw with the ongoing OUR Walmart campaign.
It’s worth asking though: why doesn’t this sort of thing happen in South Dakota? (I might have guesses at some answers, but your thoughts are welcome too…)