Union membership has decreased dramatically, from around one-third of all workers 50 years ago to about one in 10 American workers today. The problem, says long-time, Bay Area-based labor activist Jane McAlevey is that unions have strayed from grassroots organizing and taken a more top-down approach. McAlevey tackles the question of what to do about unions’ decline in her latest book “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age.” She’ll join us to discuss the challenges facing the labor movement, its recent missteps and how it can better empower America’s working class.

Jane McAlevey,
author, “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age”

Rebroadcast: Activist Jane McAlevey: Reinventing the Labor Movement for ‘A New Gilded Age’ 1 September,2017Mina Kim

  • geraldfnord

    The labour movement didn’t get very far until 0.) the Great War caused a shortage just as large amounts of government money was poured into heavy industry, 1.) the wealthy became even more afraid of violent revolution’s taking everything from them than human decency’s demanding something more of their substance, 2.) the State became at first neutral—so no using the militia as Capital’s army, and no blind eye to the violence of the private armies—and then pro-Labour, and then 3.) World War II caused another labour shortage and infused gigantic amounts of money into the economy, making the owners so well-off that they were willing a bend to the lukewarm left-wingèdness of the war effort, in which even women, ‘Negroes’, and Jews were considered decent golk so long as they were needed.

    I hope that neither 0.) nor 1.) nor 3.) obtains again: war is horrible, and I’m pretty sure that any ‘revolution’ in America would be the rich using the poor against the upper middle class professionals and intellectuals. Honestly, I think it will be tough sledding until the jibs system collapses from near-universal acknowledgement that it has lost almost all relevance to needful work’s getting done and things’ getting made, at which point people understand that they don’t need the job, just the things and some work.

    • Daddy Warbucks

      Did you forget about Gen. Douglas MacArthur who led his army troops to bust up the WW I “Bonus Army” including wives and children in veteran families and non-veteran supporters camped in the Washington Mall to demand their WW I bonus in the summer of 1932? Herbert Hoover ordered the military attack. In 1933, FDR offered the vets jobs in the CCC (they hadn’t worked since the start of the Great Depression in 1929!).

      And local police took the side of corporate big-shots against the democratic rights of deserving WW I veterans! Many give FDR credit for saving capitalism from revolution by unemployed, hungry, and homeless deserving veterans, who had already served their country and really needed a job to support their families.


    The labor unions was very much destroyed by Roland Reagan, started by the firing of the air trafficker controllers, shutting near all manufacturers to send them to Japan, South Korea, China, etc, outsourced all high paid American high tech jobs, and with that went with the once was the great American middle class as well my own 50 million dollars consumer electronics company.


    Read message from Eid 1 & 2 to see how the unions and middle class were destroyed from Reagan time till today.

    • Daddy Warbucks

      The speaker mentioned that power began shifting from worker’s unions to corporate lobbying and advertising campaigns in ars after1973, about two years after the Powell Manifesto was written by a conservative Supreme Court Justice. The Reagan administration used propaganda statements like “government IS the problem” and began giving tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations, increasing their money to lobby politicians to get their ideas implemented by government, including anti-union “right to work” states and ending government regulation (or allowing regulatory capture of government agencies that protected worker safety and environmental protection. The tax breaks tripled the national debt to break the $1 Trillion mark for the first time, and gave corporations more power than workers.

  • Valeria Vital

    Jane mentions that many people don’t like their union and her suggestion is “run for office”.When the trend has been that unions give into concessions to management especially during contract negotiations. What can you recommend to the demoralized worker that is has been getting attacked in between these negotiations to work with those that have not helped them or haven’t shown their faces in their department during regular work day attacks from management.

    • Daddy Warbucks

      Instead of hiding behind their hurt or demoralized feelings, they should run for union office and push the union to support worker’s pay and benefits. She even pointed out that union membership does NOT protect lazy or incompetent slackers from being terminated for cause. Each contract has a termination clause which explicitly states the steps in a process to terminate employees who are not carrying their weight in the hospital! They make the good nurses do their jobs for them, and they are more likely to report them than protect them. They work very hard during their shifts and can’t afford to do their own jobs and also cover the responsibility of someone else, too.

  • lalameda

    Many investors buy into the myth that low wages brings higher returns. And most investors are wage earners. So we want high wages for ourselves and low wages for other. We need full throated education about how higher wages for workers translates into growth in our investments.

    • Daddy Warbucks

      It’s not a myth, lalameda — low wages have made corporate profits set new records every year! Also 90% of Americans don’t own any stocks. We can hope that they would become stock investors if they earned a higher income with discretionary extra money to invest, but half the population of America would have to borrow money to pay an unexpected expense of just $400!

      I’m sure the speaker said workers must organize in today’s America, because no one else will do it for them, and labor unions are not a thing in the past — she gave examples of nurses in Pennsylvania organizing a hospital employee union to get better working conditions and better pay. As public county hospitals continue to be purchased by private, for-profit corporations, they try to get by with fewer staff, which hurts patient care and nurses’ pay and work schedules.

  • Livegreen

    I tuned into this program expecting to hear something novel about “Reinventing the Labor Movement”. Instead the author says the labor movement just needs to continue doing the same things it has for the last 30 years & everything will turn out ok. False advertising & fundamental contradiction.

    • Daddy Warbucks

      I’m sure the speaker said Income Inequality = Power Inequality, and the reason it’s getting wider (ie, more unequal) is because workers have no voice in how corporations decide to give 30% annual pay raises to CEO’s and 2.5% pay raises to workers. At least German law requires each board of directors to include an employee advocate to present their wishes to top executives.

      This is clear from a regulatory document
      (pdf) filed Aug. 26, Cook’s lawyer, Sam Whittington, indicated that his
      client converted 1.26 million restricted stock units to common
      shares—worth $135 million based on Apple’s Aug. 26 closing share price
      of $106.94. He sold 990,117 of the shares over two days to net $35.8
      million after tax withholding. Note that these stock bonuses are not subtracted from the company’s top line, as paycheck salary is (making profits look larger), and capital gains are not taxed until the shares are sold (saving the CEO from the taxman), and even then they are taxed at a rate of 15% or 20% (depending on current capital gains tax rate).

      Including the sales made for tax withholding, Cook grossed $106.7
      million. The transactions leaves Cook with 269,883 more shares than he
      had before converting his stock award, so the entire transaction could
      still be seen as a net investment in Apple by its CEO. Cook now holds
      more than 1.3 million shares of Apple and 3.5 million unvested
      restricted stock units.

      The main point is that the CEO has at least 1.35 million, and possibly 4.8 million votes, on corporate matters like employee and executive pay! Corporations are managed top-down; they are not managed bottom-up as in a democracy where decisions are made by the people who work for it.


Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

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