MY ROOTS WERE in Texas but war and the New Deal took the family from Dallas to Washington, D.C. where I grew up as a liberal Democrat. My first political experience was getting punched in the nose for wearing a Truman button.
Our family was middle of the white middle class. High school sports were segregated until my last two years of high school, 1955-57. In 1960, Berkeley attracted me as an inexpensive place to get a doctorate in philosophy and pursue a teaching career.
I joined the Independent Socialist Club (ISC, founded 1964) in Berkeley in February, 1966. The Free Speech Movement (FSM) in 1964 radicalized me and got me into unionism as a founder of the first teaching assistants union, Local 1570 of the AFT.
The new year brings new opportunities for workers to build power across the South. In Georgia specifically, one such significant opportunity lies in fighting for collective bargaining rights for public sector workers throughout the state. But what exactly does that mean and why is it so important?
Before we dive into that, we must first answer the question of what constitutes public sector work in Georgia. Public sector jobs are tax-payer-funded and service-driven. The most common examples are public school teachers and staff, firefighters, and healthcare workers, but public sector work is also in child care, social services, transportation, public utilities, sanitation, parks and recreation, environmental protection, libraries, museums, historical sites, and much more. Looking at that list, it’s clear that public sector work plays a crucial role in making local communities function and thrive, and it’s imperative that we empower these workers to have a democratic say in how their own workplaces operate.
The Georgia runoff election is an important window into the political trends of both Georgia and the country at large. Although the individual characters of Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock are important, it is equally important to understand the larger movements at play, in order to inform a political strategy that advances the interests of the working class.
Where were you when you found out that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade? Chances are you remember that moment this past June vividly because for many of us the action was previously thought unimaginable. Even for those who had been paying close attention and saw it coming, the news that the loss of federal protection over reproductive freedom had been confirmed was hard to digest. And in Georgia, the overturning of Roe opened the door for a 6-week abortion ban — which passed in 2019 but was previously blocked by a district court for being unconstitutional — to officially take effect across the state.
Elections are underway in Georgia. While Senator Warnock fights to represent Georgia in Congress and hundreds of state legislators wait for polls to close on November 8th, voters are also choosing between candidates for statewide executive offices like Governor, Attorney General, and Labor Commissioner. One race, however, demands special attention.
Alisha Thomas Searcy is the Democratic nominee for State Schools Superintendent. But you might not know it, because she’s been left off of the Democrats’ “One Georgia” slate and campaign literature. She’s even made public posts on social media complaining about the other Democratic nominees. Beyond intra-party politics, teachers’ organizations like the Georgia Association of Educators have even endorsed her Republican opponent over her. So what’s going on with Ms. Searcy?
Last week, Wednesday Oct 19th, Amazon workers at the ATL6 warehouse in East Point held a press conference in response to retaliatory firings from management and poor working conditions at the facility. The firings occurred following a months-long organizing campaign, in which associates presented a petition to management signed by 300 workers demanding a $5 raise to $18/hr.
Outside the facility, workers assembled with community groups and union allies, including Atlanta DSA, Teamsters, IUPAT, 9to5, and United For Respect – which organized the event. Speakers gathered at a podium, flocked by photographers and local press, before a drawn poster reading “Your intimidation tactics won’t stop us! We’re fired up!”
Since their election victory on June 22, unionized workers at the Ansley Mall Starbucks in Atlanta are still waiting on Starbucks corporate to meet them at the bargaining table. Despite over 200 Starbucks locations voting to unionize across the country, including two stores here in Atlanta, Starbucks has refused to engage in good faith to reach a bargaining agreement with Starbucks partners. As of last week, only 3 of the 240 unionized stores have begun bargaining sessions with corporate.
Wed. August 31, 2022 – With Labor Day just around the corner, nearly 30 culinary workers at the Google office cafeteria in midtown Atlanta walked in on management, petitioning for higher wages and the right to form a union without retaliation.
August 17th, 2022 – On Wednesday morning, members of the International Painters Union (IUPAT) DC 77 gathered at the construction site of a new development project at Emory University. IUPAT was joined by Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council, Atlanta DSA, and other community members and organizations to protest the misclassification of workers by the project’s contractor, Speciality Finishes, Inc – one of the largest painting contractors in the Metro-Atlanta area.
The 2022 Labor Notes Conference, a gathering of “troublemakers” and labor activists from across the United States and beyond, took place in Chicago during a mild mid-June weekend. Attendance was a jam-packed whirlwind of panels, workshops, training sessions, and socials. Over 4,000 organizers and activists commingled – including educators, baristas, newsroom workers, Amazon warehouse organizers, and Teamsters.
Labor Notes marked an unforgettable four days of learning, connecting, and building solidarity between wildly diverse groups, and the lessons I learned from comrades across the country will stick with me for years to come.