Experts, advocates, creators – and a cat – that are building worker power
By SARAH TUCKER
(April 5, 2023) — High-profile organizing campaigns at Starbucks, Amazon and Trader Joe’s are getting attention in the mainstream media, but workers are joining together in unions across the country — from college campuses to fields to hospitals. In the US, pro-union sentiment is the highest it’s been in generations and 60 million people say they would join a union right now if they could – that’s roughly half of all non-union workers.
With this growing wave of enthusiasm comes a thirst for information about the labor movement. Workers, whether represented by a union or not, want to know more about workers’ rights, organized labor, and the fights workers are taking on and winning.
At the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, our Communications Department seeks to get as much information as possible into the hands of Washington’s workers. Subscribers to The Stand, the WSLC’s award-winning news service, get regular installments of labor news right in their inbox (subscribe now!) and even more labor news if they read the website’s Daily News. The WSLC’s followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram get updates in their feeds.
But where do we find all the news that we share?
Look no further – this week, we present the abridged-and-by-no-means-complete list of labor voices to learn from.
Traditional media doesn’t always cover labor stories, particularly as more and more local newsrooms are decimated by buy-outs and layoffs. But local and national journalists are carving out space for these stories anyway. Here’s some of our go-tos:
The Northwest Labor Press keeps us up to date on labor news in Oregon and southwest Washington. Likewise, Conor Kelley’s coverage in The Stranger, including his column This Week in Labor Conquests, highlights Puget Sound-area labor news.
Looking for notable labor news from across the national federation? Check out the AFL-CIO blog which shares highlights from organized labor nationwide, like this recent PBS interview with WSLC President April Sims.
More Perfect Union produces videos lifting up labor fights and connecting daily news to the struggle for collective liberation, like their coverage of union-busting Howard Schultz’ testimony in front of the Senate HELP Committee. Their videos break down important info into clips you can watch on your break, or easily send to your friends, and you can find them on most platforms.
On Twitter, you can find labor news from some non-traditional sources. Jorts the Cat, a mythic feline comrade for these modern times shares important info on workers’ rights, posts about labor actions, and shames union-busting bosses and anti-worker politicians. Read more about the Internet’s favorite cat from In These Times: Jorts The Cat Wants You to Fight Back.
For the style appreciators among us, we can’t forget @UnionDrip. Run by a rank-and-file Teamster, this Twitter account features equal parts sick fits and labor history and news, plus guidance on where to cop some union drip of your own.
And believe it or not, Reddit reigns supreme as a source for updates on organized labor. You can find – and share – a huge array of news, discussion, and actions at r/labor.
Trainings, Education & Readings
If you’re looking for research on working in Washington, or trainings to build your skill-set as an advocate for yourself and your fellow workers, then you want to look into the Washington State Labor and Education Research Center. For more research as well as events with authors, researchers, and organizers, check out the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington.
There are some foundational readings we return to often. Chief among them is Bill Fletcher, Jr.’s Race to Labor, a deep dive into the history of race and workers in the United States. This is an essential text for understanding the ways that racism has been weaponized to divide workers. His coverage of the racist origins of “right to work” laws is especially timely in light of Michigan’s successful repeal of this anti-worker policy.
And history buffs, you need to start reading Teen Vogue. Kim Kelly’s No Class columns connect the issues workers face today to past struggles, pulling out lessons learned. For more from Kelly, check out Fight Like Hell; The Untold History of American Labor.
This list covers only a fraction of the folks and organizations whose work carries our movement forward. Did we miss a voice you value? Let us know!
Sarah Tucker is Digital Organizer for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. WSLC Wednesdays is a regular feature of The Stand where different departments of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO describe their recent activities and the services they are providing to WSLC-affiliated unions.