It’s a moment of increased bargaining power for the US working class. Workers on the order of millions are quitting their jobs and finding new ones that will pay them better. Those with unions are more willing to fight to begin undoing prior concessions, their confidence bolstered by the realization that employers will have more trouble than usual replacing them should they strike; that these fights do not approach the level of struggle of the 1970s, much less the 1930s, do not make them insignificant. And the momentum is with reformers within unions: see recent efforts to transform the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters, two still mighty organizations even after sustained and systematic decline.Continue reading
In a victory for employees at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, a federal labor official on Monday formally directed a new union election following allegations that the company engaged in illegal misconduct leading up to an unsuccessful vote in April.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), celebrated the order from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 10 Director Lisa Henderson, which a spokesperson for the agency confirmed to multiple media outlets.
“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along—that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace—and as the regional director has indicated, that is both unacceptable and illegal,” Appelbaum said.Continue reading
A Tuscaloosa County circuit judge has issued a restraining order against picket line activity by the United Mine Workers of America at Warrior Met Coal.
Circuit Judge James H. Roberts Jr. issued the order Wednesday afternoon.
It prohibits picketing “or other activity” within 300 yards of 12 different locations owned by Warrior Met Coal in Tuscaloosa County, including mines and offices.
The three-page order also prohibits “in any manner interfering with, hindering or obstructing, by threats, intimidation or acts of violence, the conduct and operation of Warrior’s business and supporting activities.”
That includes delivery of supplies, workers entering property, lying in front of entrances, or using obstructions.Continue reading
Bessemer, AL — Here is what a 1920s city looks like in a 2020s world. Along Bessemer’s broad downtown streets sit an array of small shops that have somehow managed to survive into the age of big box retailers: the rug store, the dusty furniture store, the store that sells sewing machines. They sit alongside empty, peeling husks of all the stores that didn’t make it. On one prime downtown corner a block from the courthouse, you can peer through the window of an abandoned pharmacy to see a four-foot plant growing up through the floor.
The old railroad still runs through Bessemer, but most everything else has been sucked out by modern commerce. The town is emblematic of many that have seen their small business districts destroyed, first by Walmart and its imitators, more recently by Amazon.Continue reading
Larry Spencer, UMWA District 20 Vice President, represents the 1,100 coal miners in three UMWA locals which on strike against Warrior Met in Alabama since April 1, 2021. He will give an update on the strike in a September 28 webinar. The strikers are fighting to reverse concessions that were foisted on them in 2016 when BlackRock and other billionaire creditors set up Warrior Met Coal and took over mine operations with the aid of a bankruptcy court.
To keep their jobs, Warrior Met made the miners work up to seven days a week and take a $6-an-hour pay cut, accept reduced health insurance, and give up most of their overtime pay and paid holidays.
BlackRock is one of the three majority shareholders in the new company.Continue reading
The S-curved roads were dark, surrounded by nothing but trees and the bright stars. After a turn, we arrived at a clearing, where the 4 and 7 mines send their coal. Two bulldozers were doing their last rounds over a large pile of coal, while a few yards ahead, four workers were holding the picket line. On that night of April 1, 1,100 miners at Warrior Met Coal Inc started a historic strike in Brookwood, Alabama.
The miners directed us to the entrances of the main mines. When we arrived, workers were setting up tents, unloading firewood, and preparing the fire pits. By the light of a few cellphones, we interviewed Miles, a third-generation miner. When we asked him why he and his union were going on strike, he explained that he was barely able to see his four-year-old daughter grow up.Continue reading
Over 1,100 union coal miners in Brookwood, Alabama, have been on an unfair labor practices strike against Warrior Met Coal for over five months. For five months, workers and their families have been holding the line, demanding to get back what was stolen from them with their last contract, demanding to actually have time to spend with their families, demanding to be treated with the respect they deserve for making this mine more productive than ever. The UMWA’s strike motto is “One day longer, one day stronger,” and workers are showing no signs that they plan to back down. In Part I of this special two-part update on the miners’ strike, our brother-in-arms Jacob Morrison from The Valley Labor Report interviews striking workers and supporters who attended a solidarity rally that the union held in Brookwood last week.Continue reading
History repeated itself as hundreds of miners spilled out of buses in June and July to leaflet the Manhattan offices of asset manager BlackRock, the largest shareholder in the mining company Warrior Met Coal.
Some had traveled from the pine woods of Brookwood, Alabama, where 1,100 coal miners have been on strike against Warrior Met since April 1. Others came in solidarity from the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania and the hollows of West Virginia and Ohio.
Among them was 90-year-old retired Ohio miner Jay Kolenc, in a wheelchair at the picket line—retracing his own steps from five decades ago. It was 1974 when Kentucky miners and their supporters came to fight Wall Street in the strike behind the film Harlan County USA.Continue reading
To get to the big ballpark in Brookwood, Alabama, you drive down the Miners Memorial Parkway. The road goes by the local headquarters of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and close to the Miners Memorial monument, which remembers 13 miners killed in a 2001 explosion. A lot of coal miners work in Brookwood, and a lot have died here. Right now, more than a thousand are on strike there, at the Warrior Met Coal. It sits just off the same road.
On Wednesday morning, a line of buses lumbered down the winding road through the woods, and a line of pickup trucks piled up behind them. All passed the “We Are One” UMWA signs lining the road for miles before turning into the ballpark, where the sprawling open grass was dotted with tents and a stage.Continue reading
Miners at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama have been on strike for almost five months, struggling to reverse concessions in pay, health care, and safety. Strikers brought their picket lines from the piney woods of the South to the tony Manhattan offices of three hedge fund shareholders on June 22, and more than 1,000 mine workers and union allies return today to demonstrate outside the offices of the company’s largest shareholder, asset manager BlackRock.
Miners have chanted, “No Contract, No Coal!” and “Warrior Met Has No Soul” on picket lines from the worksite in Brookwood, Alabama, to New York City. “We’re here to let the whole world know that we will take it from the bottom of the United States to the top. Where we have to take this fight, we’re going to take it,” Dedrick Gardner, a first-generation miner from a union household of teachers and postmasters, said on the New York picket line in June.Continue reading
The Bessemer Amazon unionization effort was full of potential. It held the promise of a union bringing together the Black Lives Matter movement and a struggle for labor rights in order to take on one of the biggest, most odious corporations in the country. Maybe a Southern state would set off a movement again, like West Virginia and Oklahoma kicked off the teachers’ spring.
Alongside Left Voice comrades, I decided to go to Bessemer, Alabama the week before voting ended. As I prepared to go, I had a weird feeling. I kept looking at interviews and I saw just two Amazon workers, over and over and over. They were great spokespeople, no doubt. But where were the other 5,698 workers?Continue reading
Oxford, MI – The woman’s face still haunts me. Lined from many years of work on the farm and then in the cotton mills, she is nameless in my memory, just another “linthead” in the eyes of the mill owners, “white trash” others might say, someone off the cow patch and now in a factory in some Southern backwater working 12-hour days.
In her eyes, however, was a spark of something, a flicker of hope, and it came from the union she and countless other cotton mill workers were desperate to join back in the 1930s. “We began to feel we could be a part of a great movement,” she said in filmmakers George Stoney, Judith Helfland, and Susanne Rostock’s landmark 1995 documentary The Uprising of ’34.Continue reading
On April 9, the National Labor Relations Board announced the results of a mail ballot certification election that concluded on March 29 for workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama. With 3,215 votes cast, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) was defeated with at least 1,608 votes against the union, enough to crush the drive. The result was not shocking given the millions of dollars that Amazon spent and its power inside the facility to pressure workers to vote against forming a union.
No matter how you spin it, the defeat is a significant blow to the multitude of organizing efforts occurring at Amazon. The election showed the clear limitations of pursuing union certification through a broken NLRB election process.Continue reading
Hopes were high. The drive had garnered enormous favorable press coverage and even support from the White House. Nevertheless, the loss was no surprise to many in labor. Amazon is one of the world’s most powerful corporations, and organizing is notoriously difficult under U.S. labor law.
Some aspects of the campaign gave observers pause, like the shortage of workplace leaders who were willing to speak up publicly. From years of won and lost union drives, there is some accumulated wisdom about what it takes to overcome employer tactics.
At the same time, we should be wary of anyone who claims that a win is guaranteed if you just follow all the right steps. This was always going to be a tough fight.Continue reading
Striking mine workers at Warrior Met Coal overwhelmingly voted down the tentative agreement reached earlier this week between UMWA and the company. Workers will continue the strike until the contract addresses the central demands for better wages and conditions that workers have been demanding.
The results of the vote were overwhelming. A miner’s facebook group highlights that at one mine, the “no” votes were unanimous. In another, the vote was 256 No to 7 Yes. This is what a landslide looks like. The workers want to continue the strike until they get a better contract.
These workers have been on the picket lines for over a week and show no signs of stopping. Their struggle is strong, their conviction is stronger and the strike has the strength to be victorious.Continue reading