From California to Michigan, from the statehouse to the warehouse, we’ve seen unprecedented attacks on workers’ rights from corporate-backed politicians and wealthy executives alike. But we’ve also seen remarkable courage and determination from working people everywhere. We’re proud to have been a part of many of these fights and remain committed to empowering and protecting the 99 percent and making the economy work for everyone again.
Let’s take a look back at where we collectively stood up and fought back in 2012!
Victory at Verizon
After more than a year of intense negotiations and mediation and a two-week strike, workers represented by the CWA and IBEW reached an agreement with Verizon Communications. The ensuing contract protected middle-class jobs and retirement security of 45,000 workers from Virginia to Massachusetts.
Walmart on Notice as Workers Reclaim Black Friday
On the biggest shopping day of the year, workers and community members participated in over 1,000 actions across the country as part of a rolling series of walkouts by Walmart store associates. The Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) called for the historic strike after numerous unfair labor practices (ULPs) the company committed against workers, and in protest of Walmart’s ongoing attempts to silence employees for speaking out for better jobs. This strike followed successful direct actions by warehouse workers and seafood workers along the company’s vast supply chain.
Walmart Expansions Blocked in Big Cities
Members of anti-Walmart coalitions successfully held off Walmart’s plans to roll out new stores and low wages in their communities. By keeping boots on the ground, talking to community members every day, and amplifying citizens’ concerns and reservations about Walmart opening stores without first signing a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement to raise job and community standards, local Jobs with Justice coalitions were instrumental in blocking Walmart expansion plans in Boston, New York, and Denver. As community pressure against the company mounted, Walmart also announced in April that it would delay the opening of five of six planned stores in the District of Columbia.
Guest Workers Rise Up Along the Supply Chain
Together with the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), workers stood up against supply chain labor abuses. In November, workers scored a major victory when warehouse operator Exel Logistics agreed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to new worker protections for Exel’s more than 300 U.S. warehouses. Exel, which has $4.1 billion in annual revenue, operates warehouses for major retailers including Walmart and Hershey’s. The DOL agreement came in response to a strike and legal complaints by the NGA over serious labor abuses in a Hershey’s plant in 2011. This came on the heels of a victory for guest workers at CJ’s Seafood, who, after being retaliated against for reporting forced labor at their workplace, were awarded U-Visas, a protection offered to victims of crime in the United States. This was an unprecedented victory for worker organizing and U.S. labor law enforcement.
Fighting Back Against Cooper Tire’s Lockout
When highly profitable Cooper Tire locked out its veteran workforce in Findlay, Ohio, after slashing benefits and pushing for pay cuts, our activists bombarded the company with thousands of emails – which Cooper tried to block. Eventually Cooper gave in to activist pressure, community support, and media attention, and negotiated a fair contract. In February, workers at the Ohio plant approved a contract offer from the company and went back to work.
Wisconsin’s Anti-Collective Bargaining Law Overturned
Dane County Judge Juan Colas struck down Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s law repealing most collective bargaining rights for local and school employees. While the law remains largely in place for state workers, the decision returns city, county, and school workers to the organized status they enjoyed before Walker signed the legislation in March 2011. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Colas ruled that the law violated workers’ constitutional rights to free speech, free association, and equal representation under the law by capping union workers’ raises but not those of their nonunion counterparts.”
Minimum Wage Measures Passed Around the Country
In 2012 major cities passed important ballot initiatives that would raise workers’ minimum wage. Each of these ballot measures passed with decisive support – all garnering about 60 percent of the vote.
And in Missouri, the minimum wage was raised 10 cents an hour, pushing the wage floor up to $7.35 from $7.25, putting the state rate 10 cents higher than the federal mandate. The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said the state’s increase will add about $200 a year in wages for a full-time minimum-wage worker, and about 1.4 million workers are expected to benefit.
In San Jose, California, Measure D was placed on the ballot to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour and automatically adjust it for inflation in subsequent years. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, voters had the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure that would raise the minimum wage in the city one dollar to $8.50 per hour from $7.50. Finally, in Long Beach, California, voters were deciding whether to provide non-unionized hotel workers with a living wage in a ballot measure that would increase their hourly pay to $13 per hour.
Los Angeles MTA Board Approves Project Labor Agreement
Los Angeles workers got some long-awaited good news: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board of Directors unanimously approved a project labor agreement for upcoming projects that will create an estimated 270,000 good, family-supporting jobs over the next 30 years. Forty percent of work hours will go to disadvantaged communities, and at least half of those hours will go to apprentices – meaning a career path for workers who might otherwise be stuck in dead-end, low-wage jobs.
Unprecedented Worker Actions Around the Country
2012 will likely be remembered as the year that workers took action. Some strikes and protests resulted in good contracts, others resulted in building community support for their fight, and many raised consciousness and made headlines. Here are just a few examples of workers making their voices heard:
In September, a seven-day walkout by Chicago teachers helped secure a new contract to protect and advance quality, public education for 350,000 students. The Chicago labor dispute, involving the nation’s third-largest district, was significant, and a majority of community members were on the side of teachers.
In late November, fast food workers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC bravely protested around New York City to demand $15 an hour in pay – a step up from the minimum wage many employees currently earn – and the right to form a union.
About 20,000 AT&T workers in California, Nevada, and Connecticut went on strike for two days in August, accusing the company of unfair labor practices and increased health care premiums.
“No Papers, No Fear” Undocubus Ride for Justice
Over the summer, the No Papers, No Fear: Ride for Justice made stops in more than a dozen communities across the South. At each stop, the bus riders came together with community members to demonstrate that they would not be complicit to the hate and fear that tries to divide communities and families, separate students from their education, and deny workers dignity.
We hope you’re as excited and inspired as we are upon reflecting on these key worker victories and events. We look forward to continuing the fight to advance workers’ rights and social and economic justice in 2013, making the world a better place for working families.