The Fight for Worker Rights is Universal

Article Published on June 24, 2022

The labor movement is on the rise, and nowhere was that more obvious than at the 2022 Labor Notes convention in Chicago on June 16-19, 2022, where over 4,000 union members, staffers, activists, and leaders gathered. These attendees represented the breadth of our diverse movement, from electricians in Texas to state workers in Washington; from call center employees in the Philippines to transit laborers in Boston; from Starbucks baristas in Florida to auto workers in Michigan. While the jobs and backgrounds may differ, it’s essential we recognize that our fight is the same — better working conditions, better job security and benefits, and better pay. None of us are fighting alone, but we need to work together to win.

At SEIU Local 1000, our represented state workers include almost 750 different job classifications. That means water and power technicians fighting alongside Employment Development Department (EDD) personnel and custodians fighting alongside nurses. Today, that fight is more important than ever. The Amazon Labor Union is taking on the world’s richest billionaire…and winning. Starbucks workers are fighting to continue expanding their efforts after winning elections at over 150 locations. Working people across America are standing up for their rights against impossible odds. We’re honored to stand with unions across the country and say we are a part of their fight.

At one breakout session of the convention, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) lineman from Texas spoke with his union sister, an adjunct professor from New York, about strategies for successful member engagement. Their struggles may take place in entirely different workplaces, but they have much to learn from each other. Baristas who won their union elections as recently as a month ago were able to talk with retired railroad employees about the power of solidarity in the workplace. Would these people have ever met, ever known how much they had in common, or how much they have to learn from each other’s struggles anywhere but in the labor movement? 

Unions bring people together in common cause. Our nation is riddled with divisions and the political and economic forces pushing to further this divisiveness have billions of dollars behind them. But the labor movement has something even more powerful: The collective voice of millions of working people rising up as one and refusing to be treated as disposable, refusing to be underpaid, refusing to be undervalued, and refusing to be underappreciated for the work that keeps this nation functioning. 

State workers in California are facing these same issues and being confronted by the same powerful political and economic interests that want to see our rights stripped away. As we head into bargaining, SEIU Local 1000 members stand ready to make their voice heard and make the demands we all know are necessary — improved pay, expanded telework, and increased benefits.  And the strategies and lessons we have learned from our brothers, sisters, and siblings at Labor Notes will be crucial in winning this fight.