Working In These Times

Thursday, Mar 5, 2015, 10:49 am  ·  By Amisha Patel

How Chicago’s Grassroots Movements Defeated Rahm Emanuel at the Polls

(Sarah-Ji /  

On Tuesday, February 24, Jesús “Chuy” García shook up Chicago, and the nation, by forcing a key pro-corporate Democratic Party figurehead and the mayor of the 1%, Rahm Emanuel, into a run-off election for mayor of Chicago. The win has unleashed incredible excitement in Chicago—and more than a few questions about how this runoff was achieved. Many observers’ first instinct might be to ask, "What changed in Chicago?” But for those looking for lessons in the grassroots-powered victory, a more instructive question would be, "What was built—and how"?

Tuesday’s success is bigger than any one organization. What Chicago’s various social movements have built did not materialize over the course of one election cycle and cannot be understood as just a set of electoral strategies, clever tactics or shrewd messaging. For years, Chicago has been an epicenter of militant, grassroots organizing that has come to deeply resonate with working class families.  A long-term transformative vision lies at the heart of this organizing, taking aim at oppressive systems and corporate interests that exploit and divide people along lines of class and race.  


Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015, 3:07 pm  ·  By Micah Uetricht

SEIU Local 73 Staffer On Mayoral Neutrality: We Have a “Good Working Relationship” with Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel addresses SEIU Local 73's 2014 member convention. (SEIU Local 73 / Facebook)  

Much of Chicago was surprised to see Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into a runoff election with Jesús "Chuy" García last week, and the city's labor movement was no exception.

The vast majority of Chicago labor—including parts of the movement's progressive wing like UNITE HERE Local 1decided to continue backing the mayor, despite what many critics consider to be a strong anti-union and pro-corporate governing record. Of the city's major unions, only the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Health Care Illinois & Indiana (HCII) took a strong line against Emanuel, committing significant financial resources and members to García's campaign. 


Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015, 11:26 am  ·  By Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

When These GOP Governors Run for President, Remember Their Contempt for Workers

Republicans are so blinded by hatred of empowered workers that they’re irrational. (Michael Vadon / Flickr)  

To Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, America's labor union members are the same as murderous, beheading, caged-prisoner-immolating ISIS terrorists. Exactly the same. 

That's what he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week.  The governor said that because he destroyed public sector labor rights in Wisconsin after 100,000 union supporters protested in Madison he could defeat ISIS as President of the United States.


Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015, 3:03 pm  ·  By Yana Kunichoff

With 82% of Chicago Votes for Paid Sick Leave, Labor Groups Call for Action

Workers and advocates gather to demand a paid sick leave policy in Chicago. (Shelly Ruzicka)  

On February 25, nearly 82 percent of voters in Chicago’s mayoral election cast their vote in favor of a non-binding referendum asking whether workers in Chicago should have the right to paid sick days. Now a coalition of labor groups are using the coming run-off election between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesús “Chuy” García to try to drag long-stalled legislation on sick days out of the city council committee and make it into law.


Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015, 1:17 pm  ·  By Gerard Di Trolio

After Rejecting Proposed Contract, University of Toronto Teaching Assistants Go On Strike

At a recent mass membership meeting, University of Toronto teaching assistants voted to reject a proposed contract and go on strike.  

A version of this post first appeared at

On Friday evening, University of Toronto graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) overwhelmingly voted at a mass meeting of over 1,000 people to reject a tentative agreement reached between their union, CUPE Local 3902, and the university’s administration earlier that day. Approximately 6,000 Unit 1 TAs are now on strike and pickets began on Monday.

Contract faculty at U of T who are part of Local 3902 Unit 3 reached a tentative agreement on February 18. The agreement was presented for a recommendation of ratification on March 2, and will take place over the course of the week. The key issue for Unit 3 was job security, and Local 3902 Chair Dr. Erin Black says the tentative agreement addresses this.


Monday, Mar 2, 2015, 3:00 pm  ·  By Geoff Gilbert

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Takes Aim at Wendy’s

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has forced some of the nation's largest corporations to protect farmworkers.   (jankypic / Flickr)

This post first appeared at Waging Nonviolence.

Having received a Presidential Medal in January for its efforts to combat modern-day slavery, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, or CIW, and its Campaign For Fair Food hit the road this month as part of its “Boot the Braids” campaign against Wendy’s. The tour spanned colleges and universities throughout the Northeast and Midwest to educate students, as well as create and solidify campus campaigns aimed at pressuring Wendy’s to join the CIW’s Fair Food Program, the only industry-wide social responsibility program in U.S. agriculture.

Wendy’s is the last holdout of the big five fast food corporations—McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum Brands! and Subway—from the program, which has extended the Fair Food Code of Conduct to more than 30,000 workers, who make up over 90 percent of the Florida tomato industry. The many improbable successes of the CIW offer important lessons for countless other campaigns, especially those by low-wage workers in other industries.

The strength of the CIW, and perhaps the reason why corporations are treating it differently than the fast food workers, comes down to the organization’s sophisticated organizing strategy. 


Monday, Mar 2, 2015, 1:34 pm  ·  By David Goodner

In Wisconsin’s Battle Against Right to Work, Labor Goes Through the Motions

Two thousand union members packed the state capitol lawn in Madison on Saturday, but attendance was a far cry from the 100,000 who marched weekly during the thick of the Wisconsin uprising in 2011.   (David Goodner)

Over two thousand angry workers marched around the Wisconsin state capitol on a frigid Saturday afternoon February 28 to denounce Wisconsin governor and leading GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker’s latest round of union-busting legislation. But a bitter sense of inevitably was thick in the air.

It’s a bitterness to which the Left has become accustomed. And if organized labor continues to make the same mistakes they have made in Wisconsin over the last four years, the defeats will likely keep coming.


Friday, Feb 27, 2015, 5:12 pm  ·  By David Moberg

With State Senate’s Approval, Right to Work Looks All But Certain in Wisconsin

Pro-union protestors gathered outside of Wisconsin's state capitol earlier this week to oppose a right-to-work bill, which at this point appears to be an all but done deal. (Preston Austin / Flickr)  

MADISON, WISCONSIN—Against the wishes of thousands of angry constituents in two days of protests outside the state capitol building this week, the Wisconsin state senate late Wednesday night voted 17 to 15 in favor of a “right-to-work” law. Only one Republican, a former union member from the northern woodlands of the state, joined all Democratic senators in voting against the anti-union law that the Republican leadership has rushed through an “extraordinary session.”

If the Assembly approves the bill next week—and with a GOP margin of 63 to 36, larger than in the Senate, it is almost certainly expected to do so—Gov. Scott Walker has promised to sign it, giving a former union stronghold the dubious distinction of becoming the 25th state to pass such legislation.


Friday, Feb 27, 2015, 11:31 am  ·  By Kevin Solari

Wisconsin Union-busting Gov. Scott Walker Says Fighting Union Members Is Like Fighting ISIS

Walker addressing community college students in Wisconsin, assumedly pleading with them not to join a labor union after they graduate because union members are no different than terrorists. (Gateway Technical College / Flickr)  

Every governor that wants to be president needs to exhibit their foreign policy street cred. Sarah Palin's attempts compelled the world to learn the proximity of Wasilla, Alaska, to Russia in 2008. Scott Walker made a similarly telling gaffe this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.

Walker, not grasping that his presidential aspirations mean people will pay attention to what he says, compared the Wisconsin protests of 2011 to the Islamic State, or ISIS, surprising no one with the level of disdain he feels for public employees.


Friday, Feb 27, 2015, 11:00 am  ·  By Mekdes Ferguson

Holyoke Teachers Union President: ‘We Will Not Let Them Take Over Our Schools’

The girl speaking is Holyoke High School senior Rachel Hall who is interviewed in our article. The picture was from the January 15 community meeting.   Reclaim Our Schools/Reclamar Nuestras Escuelas

Holyoke, a small city of 40,000 in Western Massachusetts, has become a major battleground in the conflict playing out across the nation between democratic control of public schools and top-down “education reform.”

Residents of this working-class city of color have banded with the teachers union to fight back against what they see as misguided attempts by the state to wrest away local control of their schools and impose reforms. Now, the community-labor alliance faces its biggest test yet: a threatened takeover of the entire district.