The United Electrical Workers was once one of America’s mightiest unions. But because many leaders were leftists who challenged corporate power, UE was decimated by McCarthyism. The union managed to survive, though, and UE's model of militant, democratic unionism is exactly what we need to revive labor in the 21st century.
Jeff Schuhrke is a labor historian who teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a member of UIC United Faculty, AFT Local 6456, and a former member of the UIC Graduate Employees Organization, AFT Local 6297.
In 1973, Arab-American workers in Detroit auto plants walked off the job in protest of the UAW’s investment in bonds from the state of Israel. The incident is little-remembered today, but it shows how workers can organize against racism and colonialism — including against the labor movement’s investment in the Israeli occupation of Palestine today.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak, the University of Illinois has jacked up health care premiums for graduate workers and refuses to grant additional sick days to those who test positive for COVID-19. This is what workers have to deal with in the corporatized university.
The Canadian union Unifor is currently blockading an oil refinery in Regina, Saskatchewan. It’s an important example of what democratic, militant, and solidarity-based unionism can look like.
The US labor movement has a long history of aiding US imperialism. By adopting a strong internationalist strategy, making solidarity with the global working class a top priority — including on fighting climate change — the AFL-CIO can reverse that history.
Over the past century, the US government repeatedly disrupted leftist movements and supported or carried out coups around the world — aided by American labor leaders. A full reckoning with the AFL-CIO’s collaboration with US imperialism can help us forge a truly internationalist, left-wing unionism in the twenty-first century.
University of Illinois-Chicago graduate workers recently went on strike over high student fees, poverty wages, and the corporate higher education model. After nearly three weeks, they won.
What will the landscape for public-sector workers look like after Janus? The University of Illinois-Chicago is seeing what it can get away with — but campus unions are meeting the attacks with more militancy.
"The workers and the boss have nothing in common. It is a class question."
Like their counterparts in K-12, academic workers in public higher ed have organized to challenge austerity.