2019 Was Better Than We Think

Below are listed some of the things that Texas labor accomplished over the past year. Even though federal and state governments sent us backward as much as they could, the battles we won are pretty impressive.

But those milestones aren’t even the most significant gains of the year. The biggest gains can only be seen by looking at the trends that are underway:

  • People are better informed than ever in history, and labor’s communications efforts are part of the reason
  • People are communicating with each other better than ever in history
  • Women are taking over leadership and winning
  • Racism is being recognized as everybody’s problem
  • Undocumented workers are finally seen as part of the working class
  • Turnout at elections may be embarrassingly small, but it’s on an upswing
  • Labor’s electoral successes have the 2020 candidates lining up for endorsements
  • Unions are helping each other more than anytime since the heyday of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), around 1947
  • Unions and other progressive organizations are receiving more and more help from the general public. Our rallies and picket lines are backed with volunteers from everywhere
  • People are openly grappling with our problems and possible solutions

On that last topic, we can thank Senator Bernie Sanders for bringing the word “socialism” back into common parlance for the first time since the red scare of the 1920s. I would not go so far as to say that it is widely understood, but it’s definitely being talked about.

My good friend Morris Fried had a letter-to-the-editor published on Christmas Day. He said that he had been studying newspaper coverage of the battles over education and had concluded with his own definition: “Capitalism molds people to fit the economy, socialism molds the economy to fit people.”

That’s real progress!

Texas Labor’s 2019 Achievements:

* We won paid sick leave for everybody living in Dallas and San Antonio

* We survived a grueling 40-day strike by United Auto Workers members against General Motors

* Members of the United Steelworkers at plants owned by Dow Chemical in Deer Park withstood a seven-week-long lockout

* UNITE HERE members in Dallas and Houston led raucous airport rallies

* The Central South Carpenters Regional Council joined the Texas AFL-CIO in leading opposition to a hastily adopted Texas Workforce Commission rule that exempts “gig economy” companies from paying for Unemployment Insurance. 

* The Texas AFL-CIO Citizenship Program held drives in cities across Texas, helping hundreds of eligible residents navigate the complex naturalization application process.

* Federal workers, many of whom are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, stood tall during the longest shutdown in government history – a 35-day fiasco

* An international delegation of labor leaders, including officers and staff of the AFL-CIO, Texas AFL-CIO and national unions, converged on El Paso to build solidarity among working families in the U.S. and Mexico. 

* Unionized Plumbers in Texas worked with their non-union counterparts to kill legislation that would have undermined state safety regulation of the plumbing industry.

* Texas teachers, prominently including the Texas American Federation of Teachers, led the way to achieving a major education reform bill that delivered pay raises for teachers and other public-school employees,

* Amid a high-profile campaign by a coalition that prominently included labor unions, the Texas Senate declined to confirm Gov. Greg Abbott’s nominee as Texas Secretary of State.

* ULLCO, the coalition of labor unions that advocates for working families at the Texas Legislature, stopped dozens of seriously bad legislative proposals, 

* The Texas AFL-CIO’s Ruth Ellinger Labor Leaders School graduated its third class

* Young Active Labor Leaders, a Texas AFL-CIO constituency group for workers under age 35, held its second statewide summit in Houston

* Across the state, Building Trades unions that include Electrical Workers, Iron Workers, Painters, Steelworkers, Laborers, Plumbers and others advocated strongly for high-road policies that offer working families a path to middle income.

* Labor’s goal of enabling solid middle-income jobs to evolve and grow included an ongoing battle against off-shoring, excesses of automation and other factors in a toxic mix aimed in large part at driving down wages.

* The campaign to save the U.S. Postal Service as we know it gained ground

* Delegates to the Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention created the Texas AFL-CIO Veterans Committee

* The Texas AFL-CIO stepped up its social media reach

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” talk show at 9AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

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