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Why Union Drives Are Succeeding

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After decades of declining membership, organized labor may be at stake in the United States. Applications for this year’s union elections are progressing at a pace approaching the highest level in 10 years. We asked Times workers and Nome Scheber, who deals with labor issues, what is behind the recent surge in union activity.

Ian: You recently Profiled jazz yellowtail rucksack, A Rhodes Scholarship student and barista, helped organize a union at Starbucks in Buffalo. This was the first company-owned store in decades. Why did she want to work there?

Noam: Jazz was born from tradition. We saw it during depression. People with radical politics who work with the clear intention of organizing workers. The term is “salted,” like a seasoning. This practice has had some success in the last few decades, but we are seeing a wider resurgence of it, and jazz is part of it. Some salt got a job at Amazon and helped organize the Staten Island facility.Scholars like Barry Adrin When Inoue Mie I have written extensively about this.

Jazz is very public about her beliefs. She wore a Karl Marx sweatshirt at Oxford University and pressured the University of Mississippi Prime Minister to remove the Navy monument from the campus during the reception in honor of jazz.

Although she is idealistic and ambitious, being a social creature does not always come naturally to her. She told me, “She was very socially awkward,” she said, partly because she was homeschooling when she first entered college. Still, she wanted to do what she needed to interact with strangers to advance the cause, such as handing out leaflets to promote a union campaign at a nearby Nissan factory.

Organized by nearly 200 other Starbucks employees since the jazz store Unioned in December.. Did they follow her lead?

After the union won, Jazz and other organizers were inquired by Starbucks workers across the country. They answered Zoom’s phone and told me how to get started. During the campaign, I was with the organizer of Buffalo on the day the union won the Starbucks in Mesa, Arizona. Michelle Eisen, one of the workers in the Jaz store, was in close contact with the Mesa workers. That night I went to dinner with her and some of the other Buffalo organizers, and they were dazzled. They were proud of what they moved.

Therefore, these things work. Whenever I’m talking about a union campaign these days, “Are you paying attention to what’s happening at Starbucks? At Amazon?” The answer isn’t always “yes”. “We were inspired and motivated by it and showed that it was possible.” That was the case when I interviewed Trader Joe’s and Apple workers. And historically, unionization has tended to surge.

University graduates seem to be driving this surge.

An important part of the story is the radicalization of college-educated workers. You have experienced a terrible recovery from the Great Recession followed by a pandemic. Having a college education does not necessarily mean that you are on a boat. But whether it’s Starbucks, Amazon, or REI, college-educated workers have been deeply involved.

As a group, college-educated Americans are becoming more liberal than working-class Americans. Was it a barrier to organizing ungraduated workers?

College-educated workers often roll balls, but they are quite skilled in putting together diverse groups. I spoke with Liberia immigrant Brima Sila, who helped organize a colleague at the Amazon facility on Staten Island. He has his PhD. He speaks several languages ​​in public policy. He helped register hundreds of people, many of whom are his fellow African or Asian immigrants. Another organizer was Pasquale Cioffi. He is a former stevedore and has a more traditional working class background. He was good at talking to non-university people and Trump supporters. Having a coalition of Brima and Pat helped the union win.

You compared today’s organization with the 1930s. What are the similarities?

The Great Depression was clearly a traumatic moment. The financial system was collapsing. The economy was collapsing. The unemployment rate was 25%. But by 1936, the situation had improved significantly, but still not so much. That was true even during the pandemic. Many lost their jobs in 2020, but by 2021 the labor market was tight and workers felt empowered. That one-two punch-traumatic events, and improving things-is a recipe for successful organization.

Jaz’s profile reads differently than many Times stories. You talk about yourself — like her, you are a Rhodes Scholar and interviewed her former classmates to contrast their business-friendly outlook with her skepticism in the late 1990s. .. Why did you write it that way?

After understanding jazz’s background and role in the Starbucks campaign, my first thought was, “Wow, this probably didn’t happen in my cohort of Rhodes Scholarship students.” My reflexes were to compare it to my group and marvel at the difference. Owning it seemed more honest, genuine and compelling.

Noam details: After spending nearly 15 years in The New Republic, he joined the Times in 2015 and lives near Chicago. After a bad experience, including a cup of coffee at midnight, his college humor magazine, and a math class at 8am, he avoids caffeine.

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