SLAM Hosts Panel with Union Organizers, Labor Historians
On Wednesday, November 17, SLAM hosted a panel informing students and community members about various issues in the labor movement today. Anja Witek, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), spoke about that union's recent efforts to unionize Starbucks Coffee and the Jimmy John's sandwich chain. "Wobblies" - as they're known - from all over the world have been pushing Starbucks, which preaches social responsibility and consciousness, to allow its workers to unionize, only to be met with a steady stream of union-busting on the part of the coffee chain.
We also had two very knowledgeable labor historians, UMass Boston professor Arthur McEwan and writer Steve Early. McEwan challenged the idea that rising income inequality stimulates the economy. The period in which the US experienced the most economic growth in the last century, just after World War Two, also had the least income inequality.
Early, who has organized for many years in the telecommunications industry, told a story similar to Witek's - that of a company preaching social responsibility and yet refusing to treat its workforce fairly. Credo, which has marketed itself as the social justice service provider in response to anti-union companies like Verizon and Sprint, has proved to be just as adept at union-busting as its competitors. AT&T, Early said, has the best policy for unions.
All three emphasized the importance of solidarity between consumers and service providers in the fight for justice in the workplace. "As students, you have the ability to contribute some of your time to organizing efforts," Witek said. "We need those contributions."
Thanks so much to our panelists and to everyone who attended this event!