Highlights for April
In 2003, an article in New Labor Forum by Peter Olney titled “The Arithmetic of Decline: A Modest Proposal for Renewal” led to a series of meetings and exchanges culminating in Labor Power and Strategy, a recent book that has sparked lively debate within labor about organizing strategies. In the newest release of our Reinventing Solidarity podcast, SLU Professor Stephanie Luce sits down with Peter Olney and two contributors to the book, Jane McAlevey and Bill Fletcher Jr.

Among the big questions they grapple with is this: should labor commit major resources to organizing at chokepoints in the economy, like the docks, which are so key to the supply chain? Or should organizing focus on places where worker solidarity is growing? In other words, what is the relative importance of “structural power” – the power that you get from where you're located in the economy – versus the “associational power” that comes from solidarity with coworkers and external alliances?

It is a question that is particularly germane today: consider Starbucks. When one thinks of structural power, one hardly thinks of Starbucks! And yet, that is the campaign that has been making headlines day after day, with its young, motivated, Tik Tok wielding workforce winning victories in one store after another. In the current issue of New Labor Forum, John Logan suggests that this worker-run campaign with outside union support offers a model for labor’s renewal. One may ask what real significance there is in organizing a couple hundred Starbucks stores out of over 10,000. Logan points out that, among other gains, the campaign has developed a replicable model that won 240 elections at an anti-union corporate giant; and unions have, for the first time in a very long time, entered the media mainstream. Further, the campaign has given the NLRB a springboard to take bold actions on its part, and has spurred the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to take Howard Schultz to task on the company’s union avoidance practices. 

While it’s too early to know what the future holds, it’s clear that this is a ‘happening’ moment for labor, with increased interest in unions, especially among young workers. And in the words of Jane McAlevey, any day when labor leaders and activists engage in strategic debate is a good day. In this vein, the School of Labor and Urban Studies will be hosting a day-long conference on May 5th called “How Workers Win.”
Table of Contents
  1. A Model for Labor’s Renewal? The Starbucks Campaign - John Logan, New Labor Forum
  2. Reinventing Solidarity Episode 41 - "Labor Power and Strategy"
  3. "How Workers Win: Rebuilding Labor's Power for the 21st Century" - Friday, May 5, 2023 * 9:30am - 5:00pm E.T.
A Model for Labor’s Renewal? The Starbucks Campaign
by John Logan, New Labor Forum

By now, the remarkable success of the Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) and Amazon Labor Union (ALU) organizing campaigns has been well documented. They have shown that unions can take advantage of the opportunity created by the pandemic labor market; that even the wealthiest, most anti-union corporations are not invincible; that many young workers want bold leadership from unions and the opportunity to lead; that media stories about organizing can make headline news and explain labor law; that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) can use these campaigns to rewrite the rules on union organizing; and that at least some unions are adaptable and organizationally flexible enough to accommodate themselves to the young workers leading this insurgent labor movement.

Read the full article here
 This episode tackles the big labor organizing questions of the day: What is the relative strategic importance of organizing workers at the commanding heights of the 21st century economy, like the docks for example, versus organizing workers whose solidarity is strong, yet whose structural power within the economy is weaker, like those at Starbucks? And in a society teetering on the precipice of authoritarianism, what should be the scope and mission of labor organizing today? 

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