Labor Coming Back?

Amazon workers attempt to organize may signal change in Labor’s standing.

Biden moves signal new era for Labor?

We all felt it when Joe Biden won the election as President. The winds of change were blowing hard. The wind was now at the back of several groups that had had a strong wind blowing in their faces for many years. Perhaps the group to be most appreciative of the wind behind their back will be a group that has been a target of Republicans always but especially since Ronald Reagan – Labor.

Few can forget that one of Ronald Reagan’s early acts as president was to fire 11,000 PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Org.) on August 5th of 1981. (note 40th anniversary this year.) Despite campaigning as a union fiend in 1980, Reagan’s action sent an unmistakeable message to unions and workers – You are no longer welcome.

Since then, especially in Republican led states and during Republican led administrations, labor has gotten the short straw. Businesses have favored candidates who busted unions with major campaign contributions since. While productivity has gone up 69% since the late 70s – just before the Reagan action against PATCO – wages have been flat.  

NPR has a great map showing declines in labor union participation at this website. While it is from 2015, it is still true today. You may note that as union membership declined since the 1970s, so have wages.

Now there is a new sheriff in town. Joe Biden sent a message early and definitively: Labor will count in his administration. From Rebecca Rainey at

“President Joe Biden is forcing out two Trump-era counsels from the National Labor Relations Board, the first time in more than 70 years a president has exercised that power over the agency.

National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb, a Trump appointee, was fired Wednesday after refusing a request from Biden to step down from his post. On Thursday, Biden asked for the resignation of Robb’s replacement, Deputy General Counsel Alice Stock, by 5 p.m. or said she would be dismissed.

Robb’s dismissal — hailed by union officials and their Democratic allies, who blame him for what they say is a pro-management turn in the labor board — marked the first time a president has removed the top lawyer at the NLRB since Harry Truman did so in 1950.

Robb said that if he followed through with Biden’s request Wednesday, it “would set an unfortunate precedent” for labor relations in the U.S., according to a copy of a letter obtained by Law360. The White House said he was subsequently fired.

In a Thursday letter, Stock also declined Biden’s request, arguing that it would be “detrimental” to the agency’s operations given the “dubious legality” of Robb’s firing.”

Before Biden, however, workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama “fulfillment center” (don’t you love that phrase) had begun organizing to unionize.     

As the US economy took a huge hit thanks to the pandemic, Amazon and a few other businesses flourished. Workers worked in harsh conditions, including possibly getting the corona virus at work daily. Their time is tracked to the microsecond. Workers were barraged with anti-union propaganda constantly. 

Workers are still trying to get enough signatures for a vote, at least Biden sent them a bit of good news by letting them kn. Ow that the NLRB was no longer a plaything of business.

While Amazon workers make @ $15/hour, CEO Jeff Bezos net worth is in the $180 BILLION range as he and Elon Musk vie for the title of richest human. Could Bezos afford to pay his workers a little more with more benefits?

Remember that during the post-WWII era in the US, when unions represented about 1/3rd of workers, wages were high enough that even working people could afford to have one job in the family and still make enough to afford a house, a yearly vacation, college for their kids and a decent retirement.

Restoring labor and laborers to their place of dignity in America will be necessary ti rebalancing the economy so it works for all.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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