Traditional unions may be stymied,but workers and activists are finding new ways to organize By Janet Paskin
According to the official records, U.S. workers went on strike seven times during 2017.
That's a particular nadir in the long decline of organized labor:
the second-fewest work stoppages recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since the agency started keeping track in the 1940s.
There was little reason to believe 2018 would be different, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court, in two decisions,
making it harder for public employees unions to fund themselves and restricting workers' rights to bring class actions.
The power of employers appeared to be almost limitless. The unions were, if not busted, then certainly on the verge.
Aggrieved workers, however, took matters into their own hands, using social media and other tech tools to enhance their campaigns.
From industry walkouts to wildcat teachers' strikes, they made very public demands of their employers.
The official number of major work stoppages recorded by the BLS in 2018 nearly tripled, to 20.
Off the picket line, workers also won a wide range of concessions.
Facing employee pressure, Google and McKinsey & Co. dropped contracts for government work employees found objectionable;
thousands of dismissed Toys "R" Us workers got a severance fund; and Starbucks Corp. expanded parental and sick leave policies.
In many cases, workers and their advocates bypassed their employers entirely.
Under continued pressure, the American Hotel & Lodging Association reversed its opposition to panic buttons
to protect housekeepers from sexual harassment by guests.
Model Alliance, an advocacy group for models, persuaded the organizers of New York Fashion Week to provide private changing areas.
"Workers aren't waiting for the traditional forms of organizing, as provided under labor law," says Tom Kochan,
co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research.
"They're looking for new options, whether that's Google employees on a one-day walkout or workers filing online petitions with their management
about everything from scheduling to fringe benefits.”
Kochan has been studying what academics call "worker voice"—how much influence employees feel they have over their working conditions—since the 1970s.
At the beginning of his career, about one-quarter of workers were represented by a union and another third,
according to a national Quality of Employment Survey, said the'd join one if they had an opportunity.
The next time the question was fielded, in the mid-'90s, workers'interest in joining a union had barely budged.