On nearly all fronts, labor and its adversaries are employing creative tactics in organizing or attempts to defeat organizing. Here are a few examples:
AFL-CIO's Working America: Reaching out to non-union workers. The AFL-CIO recently announced that it was expanding its Working America project, which is intended to "build strength in numbers by connecting millions of nonunion working people with the millions of union men and women of the AFL-CIO who share common challenges and goals." The program is currently available in 12 states, but the Union plans through its "50 in 5" initiative to expand it to all 50 states by 2018. The initiative includes a "Fix My Job" web portal, which has a photo of an ethnically diverse group of disaffected young, hip-looking white-collar workers, with a caption that reads in part, "Tough day at work? Are you feeling overworked, underpaid, unsafe or disrespected by your boss? You aren't alone – and you don't just have to put up with it." When the viewer clicks on "Fix My Job Now," he or she is taken to a page that asks for information about the viewer and provides information and guidance for organizing. According to a spokesperson for the Union, the project is to be a "WebMD for workers." The site will offer special organizing tools for employees who become members of Working America and will also connect workers to AFL-CIO organizers.
Good Jobs Nation: "Living wage" for contract workers in federal buildings. Good Jobs Nation is a joint initiative of several liberal agenda public interest groups that is pushing for President Obama to sign an executive order guaranteeing a "living wage" to all employees of contractors working in federal buildings. The group has organized a series of walkouts in six cities across the country, including one on May 21 in Washington, D.C. The walkout in Washington involved mostly food service employees and janitorial staff at several Smithsonian museums and food courts in federal buildings. Although the group is asking for a "living wage," it has not specified what that is. The group has received substantial media coverage and public relations support from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which conducted an ad hoc hearing for the group to present its views and for sympathetic members of Congress to speak in support of the group.
"Fast Food Forward" and "Fight for Fifteen": Higher wages for fast food and retail workers. - Loose coalitions of labor and community activist groups have been organizing one-day walkouts since the fall of 2012 to pressure fast food restaurants and some retail establishments to pay higher wages and allow union organizing. One of the groups, Fast Food Forward, is based in New York City, and has organized walkouts there. The other group, Fight for Fifteen, seeks a minimum wage of $15 an hour. On April 24 in Chicago, Fight for Fifteen led a walkout of fast food and retail workers employed by McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway, Sears, Macy's, T.J. Maxx, and Victoria's Secret. This was followed by a walkout on May 8 and 9 in St. Louis, involving employees at 30 fast food restaurants. Media reports indicate that the workers in St. Louis were protesting Missouri's $7.35 per hour minimum wage and seeking $15 per hour. They also claimed to be seeking the right to unionize without retaliation, although they already have that right under existing law. Seattle, Detroit, and Milwaukee saw similar job actions.
The Fight for Fifteen movement "is a new model of worker representation emerging outside of traditional unionism," according to Robert Bruno, labor and employment relations professor at the University of Illinois. "The workers are employed by several organizations, operate without a single union representative, and do not seek an overarching collective bargaining agreement . . .. They are operating under the rights they have under the [National Labor Relations Act] without some of the restrictions that unions have to deal with . . . So this is precisely the new model and the type of agitation we've been expecting to see . . . It's unclear how employers are going to handle this."
Restaurant associations and corporate spokespersons have indicated generally that the restaurants provide good jobs and competitive wages and are often a stepping stone to better things for the employees. They also say that raising minimum wage levels just as the industry is coming out of a recession would be unhelpful to job creation.
UFCW's "OUR Walmart": Better scheduling and . . . flash mobs? The UFCW continues to hound Walmart even though it has not succeeded in organizing any bargaining unit of the retail giant's workers. On April 24, the union's Organization United for Respect at Walmart ("OUR Walmart") organized a "Day of Action" protest at 150 stores, asking managers to address worker concerns about scheduling. OUR Walmart asserts that workers are upset about insufficient hours and inconsistent scheduling. Walmart has responded with public announcements that a new scheduling policy pilot program already in the works will be expanded in July and put to use company-wide at more than 4,000 stores by October. The program is intended to "bring more transparency to our scheduling system so part-time workers can choose more hours for themselves," according to Bill Simon, U.S. President and CEO, ". . . and to make sure part-time associates have full visibility into full time job openings in their stores and nearby stores and that they always have first shot at those jobs."
On May 28, OUR Walmart coordinated a strike of approximately 100 Walmart workers (the company employs approximately 1.3 million workers), followed by a "Ride for Respect" caravan "from across the country" to the company's annual shareholder meeting in Arkansas, which took place on June 7. OUR Walmart complaints included the scheduling of employee hours, and alleged retaliation for engaging in protected concerted activity. Walmart responded generally that OUR Walmart does not represent the views of the majority of its employees. With respect to the retaliation allegations, Walmart noted that it has a complaint policy in place, and that it takes retaliation complaints seriously and will investigate any such complaints.
OUR Walmart also protested the company's filing of trespass actions against OUR Walmart and the UFCW in state courts of Arkansas, California, Washington, and Florida. On June 6, the employee groups and Walmart stipulated to a preliminary injunction that prohibits anyone with either organization who is not a Walmart employee from entering Walmart premises in Arkansas. Walmart's Arkansas lawsuit is set for trial in April 2014. In all of the lawsuits, Walmart contends that the employee groups have trespassed, disrupted operations, damaged property, engaged in disorderly conduct, annoyed and harassed customers, and blocked access to some stores, sometimes using "flash mob" tactics inside stores. The union groups may defend in California based on an assertion that their tactics are permitted under California's special pro-labor laws.
And from the employers' side: National Employee Freedom Week -- just say no to unions. – A number of pro-employer organizations, including the National Right-to-Work Foundation, the Center for Union Facts, and The Heritage Foundation, are sponsoring a National Employee Freedom Week in 30 states from June 23 to 29, to publicize to employees in union-represented workplaces the fact that they can opt out of union membership and do not have to support union-sponsored political activity. The idea originated from a similar effort targeting teachers in Clark County, Nevada. The long-term impact of the campaign remains to be seen.