As seen in the Unity: Summer 2023 – President’s Report. See past copies of the Unity here.
Labor’s summer of worker power
The summer of 2023 is being called “Strike Summer” for good reason.
As I write this, thousands of workers in the retail and hospitality industries and tens of thousands of writers and actors in television and movies are walking picket lines demanding fairness and respect on the job. They were close to being joined by thousands more workers at UPS until they settled a historic new contact at the 11th hour.
So far, America’s unions are on track to surpass last year’s total of nearly 320 labor actions, which was one of the highest numbers in decades.
At Hollywood studios, hotel laundry rooms, government offices, fast-food restaurants, and countless other workplaces, working people are recognizing that their collective power is their best option for improving their jobs and economic welfare. Unions provide the means of organizing and bringing focus to that power.
Legislative actions like raising the minimum wage and setting basic safety standards are helpful, but they are not enough. For real progress to be made, workers at every job site need unions to negotiate enforceable contracts that include livable wages, health and retirement benefits, and protections against arbitrary and discriminatory treatment.
Strong unions are also necessary for giving a voice to working people concerning the future of work in America. For example, one of the key issues motivating the striking writers and actors is the role of artificial intelligence in future film and television productions.
Our union’s members in the retail food and drug industries are concerned about the ongoing consolidation of corporate power in a small handful of entities. This is why the UFCW has taken a strong stance against the proposed merger of America’s two largest supermarket employers: Kroger and Albertsons.
If it’s allowed to proceed, this deal would reduce competition, raise costs for consumers, and erode union bargaining power. It’s a good deal for executives who will qualify for enormous payouts, but it won’t help workers or the public at all. We urge federal regulators to stop the merger in its current form and help restore healthy competition to the marketplace.
Today’s reenergized spirit of activism shows us that the nation’s mood is shifting toward empowering people to fight for a fair balance between corporate profits and workers’ welfare.
As we approach Labor Day and this Summer of Strikes draws to a close, let’s commit ourselves to a reenergized Labor Movement that carries the momentum forward for many seasons to come, for everyone’s sake.
— President Brian String