Even though the labor movement did not win the person of the year from TIME Magazine, their impact on 2012 is well documented. As 2012 came to a close, labor once again was a top story line as a potential strike threatened the nation’s largest ports. Federal mediators were able to stave off a disaster, but as is often the case when anything “federal” is involved, the can was only kicked down the road setting the stage for another round of negotiations in early 2013. With the nation primed for a major labor dispute to start the year the question is there, what should we expect from labor in 2013?
Strengthening Protections and Wages
Some call it class warfare while others call it fighting to protect and grow the middle class, no matter what it is called the labor movement will continue its work to strengthen worker protections and wages. The class warfare argument comes into play when unions call for the 1% to stop hoarding profits and reinvest in their workers and as a result their communities. In Minneapolis, janitors and security guards have been marching in hopes of securing a fair deal in their contract renewal. The heart of their message is “We are the 99%,” aligning themselves with Occupy Wall Street.
Understanding that a highly trained employee makes a better employee, unions are also involving themselves in job training. In California, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) has an apprenticeship program at the Northern California Laborers Training Center which prepares men and women for a career in the construction industry. The program combines classroom training with job site training to help participants achieve a certification as a journeyman laborer. All 46 counties of Northern California are eligible for the training and journeyman level positions can pay as much as $25/hr.
The labor movement isn’t just about unions either. Community groups are also working to organize workers and helping to protect their rights. After the recent fast food worker strikes in New York City, a worker was fired from a Wendy’s after missing work to participate. Members and organizers with New York Communities for Change (NYCC) which was the group behind the workers strike, rallied with members and a city councilman inside the restaurant until the worker was hired back. These fast food workers who are working to organize a union are operating without the protections of a union, but still have protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects employees not covered by a union in their efforts to improve worker conditions.
Though some think the labor movement is dying, but based on what we saw in 2012 and the groundwork that has been laid for 2013 the movement is not going anywhere. Both unions and community organizations continue the work in 2013 to protect workers’ rights, strengthen worker protections and wages, and train the next generation of laborers all in an effort to strengthen and grow the middle class. This has what the movement has always been about and what we can continue to expect in 2013.