Three big wins for workers in the last nine months arrived where you might least expect them: in the old, blue-collar economy. That’s the economy where unions are down to 6.7 percent, where wins are rare and workers are supposed to be on their way out.
Yet at Chrysler, Verizon, and a huge Teamster pension fund, thousands of union members mobilized to put a stick in management’s eye. Hundreds of thousands will see the benefit.
Victory #1: Last September 40,000 Chrysler workers turned down a two-tier contract by a vote of nearly 2 to 1. Despite earlier promises to bring a big chunk of Tier 2 workers up to Tier 1 wages, United Auto Workers bargainers had agreed to let the hated two-tier system continue indefinitely.
By that time Tier 2 represented 45 percent of the workforce, and UAW President Dennis Williams told local union officials, “Ending two-tier is bullshit.” But the vote forced union bargainers to return to the table and negotiate a path to standard wages for all Tier 2 members.
Victory #2: In May, retired Teamsters in 25 states saw the fruits of two years of organizing when the federal government rejected the Central States Pension Fund’s plan to slash benefits for current retirees by 50 to 60 percent. More than 400,000 Teamsters, retirees, and their families were granted a reprieve.
And Victory #3: On June 1, 39,000 Verizon workers ended a 45-day strike that forced the predatory company to back down from outsourcing call center jobs, forcing transfers to other states, and harassing and micromanaging technicians. The company raised wages and pensions and its execs were left scratching their heads, wondering what went wrong with their overreach.
What did go wrong with corporate plans to extract even more concessions? What enabled our side to kick some ass this year?