Over the past 50 years workers have been under attack, but in the past 20 years the fight has radically escalated.
When workers today try to organize into a union - and according to most surveys a clear majority of unorganized workers want union representation - they are faced with violent anti-worker campaigns run by union busters.
The law that gives workers the right to organize was passed in 1935, and almost every amendment to it since then has weakened the rights of workers. Recent attempts to amend the law such as the Employee Free Choice Act were blocked by anti-worker politicians.
So it is up to us as a movement to find new ways to give workers the right to have a union.
Teamsters Local 117 has been on the forefront of that innovation. Our work in developing a new model for taxi operators has attracted national attention. Our work in the City of SeaTac is also creating a buzz.
You may have heard about the Good Jobs Initiative that is on the November ballot in the City of SeaTac. The initiative is designed to address a number of issues that have been plaguing workers at the airport and in airport-related jobs in SeaTac.
Workers at the airport perform important work. They load the bags on the planes, fuel the planes, clean the planes, push passengers in wheelchairs, and shuttle rental cars. Most airport workers are sub-contractors of Alaska Airlines and are currently paid minimum wage, or very close to minimum wage with no benefits.
Many are not given enough hours in a week to make a living, and many more must work two or three jobs just to pay the rent and put food on the table. Meanwhile, the corporations they work for, many of which are foreign owned, make large profits and shell out lavish compensation to their CEOs.
The SeaTac Good Jobs Initiative seeks to address those inequities. It calls for paid sick leave, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, job security when your employer loses a contract, and tip security so that servers in hotels and restaurants get the full amount of the tip instead of it going to management.
The support in the community has been very strong, and workers throughout the City of SeaTac are coming to the union asking how they can help get this passed.
The opposition has also been rallying. Corporate interests in the City of SeaTac and outside the City have already contributed more than $250,000 to prevent workers from winning these basic rights. We believe that this is just the beginning.
How did it come to this? Good jobs at SeaTac Airport were once strong union jobs with good middle class wages. Today they are non-union poverty-wage jobs.
The simple answer is greed, driven by a war on workers, and an attack on the middle class. Teamsters Local 117 is on the front lines in that fight, and members are stepping up to help win it. Will you volunteer? Contact Leonard Smith at 206-441-4860 ext 1237.