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Alt-Labor: A New Union Movement or the Same Old Song?

The Guardian

On a crisp and sunny morning on the day after Thanksgiving, a group of protesters gathered in front of a large Walmart in Michigan’s Sterling Heights, calling for wage increases and better working conditions for the superstore's employees. Mary Johnson, a retiree and member of international activist group the Raging Grannies, stood next to Dan Lombardo, a plumber wearing old-fashioned overalls, who was carrying a sign stating “Walmart equals poverty.” Mothering Justice founder Danielle Atkinson, in a vibrant purple coat, turned up with her entire family. Even Mary Kay Henry, the International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who was back in the Detroit area for the holiday, was there.  [...]


Striking hardly threatens the daily functioning of businesses in highly volatile, low-skill industries where employees can be fired or have their hours cut from one day to the next with little protection. It does however serve to draw attention to broader economic issues, including stark income inequality, and the reality of living on the minimum wage.

“Often, fast-food workers are out of sight, out of mind,” says Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at Demos. [...]

Traub argues the fast food and Walmart strikes and the personal stories that accompany them have brought increased visibility to theoretical arguments, propping up major campaigns to raise the minimum wage in more official settings, such as the recent Democrat-sponsored congressional bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2016.