Unions ride the wave of low-wage worker organizing

ATLANTA – Don’t look now, but for the last two years or more, organized labor has been “riding the wave” of low-wage workers, previously unorganized, organizing themselves. And union leaders couldn’t be happier.

That’s because the nation’s taxi drivers, fast food workers, port drivers, warehouse workers, Walmart workers, and more have caught the nation’s attention by saying “Enough is enough!” to low wages, lousy working conditions and lack of rights.

The latest to crusade: Home health care workers, who kicked off a 2-week 20-city campaign on February 23 in Carson City, Nev. Their demands: A $15 hourly wage and the right to organize.

The workers “are saying ‘We can’t take it any more,'” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told a press conference during the federation’s Executive Council meeting in Atlanta. “So they’re demanding they get their fair share.”

The movement of the previously unorganized – in such groups as the Fight for 15 and OUR Walmart  – began with the Occupy Movement. That movement brought the issue of income inequality to the forefront of the national conversation. The others have picked up the flag.

But they’re doing so in loose associations, not unions, yet. They’re getting union backing, from Trumka’s AFL-CIO unions, the Teamsters and the Service Employees.

 “Do we want OUR Walmart to become a union?” reporters asked Trumka in Atlanta. “It’s whatever works for workers and whatever raises their wages,” he replied. “If it works another way for them, we’ll help.”

And SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said the mostly female home care providers  “don’t have a stable standard of living so they can provide quality care” for their clients.

The upshot of all this ride-the-wave organizing is that ‘the country is on the rise,” Trumka says. “People are saying ‘How do we get together to give ourselves a raise?’ Because individually, they’re too scared to act.”

Photo: SEIU Facebook.




Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).