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Looking Back and Forward After a Year of Labor Strikes and Wins, with Carlos Jimenez

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Black Work Talk
Black Work Talk
Looking Back and Forward After a Year of Labor Strikes and Wins, with Carlos Jimenez

Throughout this season of Black Work Talk, we’ve explored how Black workers have shown up in many of the big labor wins that happened in 2023. This season finale brings the full picture into perspective as Carlos Jimenez, head of the special projects division of the AFL-CIO, joins host Jamala Rogers to analyze the history of labor fights that got us to this moment, and how organized Black workers have shown up throughout that history. The conversation delves into the encouraging and growing trend of action we have seen in the labor movement over the past few years. Jamala and Carlos also discuss the complexities of influencing institutions while preserving personal self-interest to bring about positive changes within large organizations like the AFL-CIO.

If you enjoyed any portion of this season of Black Work Talk, we’d ask that you take a few moments to rate and review the show wherever you listen. Or you can help the show continue to grow by becoming a Patreon member at

[00:00:00] Carlos Jimenez: How do we help people understand the economy, not just what it is today, but how it’s going, and how do we connect institutional and personal self interest to bridge those things and have those conversations and bring in race and gender and class into all of that in a non threatening way? And often it just, it also means that we have to do the work of helping people reassess or rethink their assumption of the problem and their analysis of the problem, right?

[00:00:25] Which is like, actually, it’s not those workers. If you look at the money in our [00:00:30] economy here, this is where it’s at. And this is who is deciding.

[00:00:42] Jamala Rogers: Welcome to Black Work Talk, the podcast voice of Black workers, leaders, activists, and intellectuals exploring the many connections between race. Capitalism, labor, and culture in our struggle for democratic, progressive governing power. I’m your host Jamala Rogers on [00:01:00] this episode, and we’ll be joined shortly by Carlos Jiménez, who heads the Special Projects Division with the AFL CIO.

[00:01:12] Our guest today is Carlos Jiménez, who heads the Special The special projects division of the AFL CIO, and he is joining us today to discuss the labor movement surge, which has been building for the last few years and very encouraging, [00:01:30] inspiring to folks like us who’ve been like, where are we? What are we doing?

[00:01:33] What do we need to do? What are we doing correctly? But I thought it would be helpful to invite him because I saw a presentation that he had done on this moment. And I’m like, wow, this is really special. And for a visual person like myself, there were slides that actually captured some of the information, which is always helpful for me to put it all together in a visual, but yeah.

[00:01:56] So welcome Carlos to the show today. Black work [00:02:00] talk. 

[00:02:00] Carlos Jimenez: I am so happy to be here. You don’t even know Jamala. Yeah, let me leave it there. Thank you for having me. I can say more. 

[00:02:09] Jamala Rogers: Yeah, yeah. And hopefully you can incorporate that more as we continue to talk about some of the particular issues and topics of today.

[00:02:19] But first I’d like for you to talk about what the A. F. L. C. I. O. Is because I think people hear the acronym and don’t really understand the history or [00:02:30] who makes up those Two sort of federations. So just give a quick and dirty history of the AFL CIO 

[00:02:38] Carlos Jimenez: I am happy to do that and I will totally take you up on the quick and dirty Because that is I am NOT a historian by trade 

[00:02:45] Jamala Rogers: Well, 

[00:02:46] Carlos Jimenez: there you go, you’re already helping me not get in trouble the American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations is actually emerged organization out of those two [00:03:00] organizations, uh, that happened, uh, in the last century, right?

[00:03:03] But today, uh, we are now 60 affiliated unions, which is incredible, and I’ll share more about that in a second. Um, you know, when I started here, uh, a number of years ago, we were at 56, um, and so it just is, uh, is a sign of a growing and more unified labor movement, which is very exciting. We are a confederation, though, right?

[00:03:21] So we are a coalition of labor organizations. Um, and we, we have those 60 affiliated unions and through them, uh, represent and try to [00:03:30] speak as the unified voice of those workers. Uh, and that, uh, crosses everything from sports, transportation, education, whether it’s K through 12 or higher education, healthcare, manufacturing, the service, industrial, even maritime, uh, you know, what happens in those ports and offshore.

[00:03:47] construction, hospitality, entertainment. I mean, we could go on and on, right? People are working in all sectors, uh, of the economy. Increasingly, agriculture, um, and, and care work. But what we do is, I, I think at [00:04:00] core, we, we serve three functions, right? And we have three divisions. We, we do advocacy, we do growth or organizing, and we think about field and political mobilization.

[00:04:10] Um, and in addition to that work at the national level, we also have, um, this is incredible to me, this is where I spend a lot of my time, a network of over 300 state and local central federations. So there is a state federation in every state and, um, Puerto Rico and other places. And then there are central labor councils, uh, that, [00:04:30] uh, you know, kind of take on more of a local or regional focus of bringing the labor movement together.

[00:04:34] So, um, I’ll leave it at that. 

[00:04:37] Jamala Rogers: Okay, well that’s, that’s pretty incredible. You stuck to the, the quick and more, more of the quick and not the dirty. Uh, but you know, one of the, uh, cool slides that you had was around the number of worker strikes that were happening over this year. And they totaled to almost a quarter of a million folks that were just out there saying enough is enough.

[00:04:58] I mean, you had the, the, uh, [00:05:00] Hollywood folks, you, you had the, the UAW folks. So talk about that moment that we’re seeing now. And why you think that people have breached their wits in with their employers? And are willing to do the strike thing, because that’s not an easy decision when you are faced with inflation.

[00:05:19] I think 

[00:05:20] Carlos Jimenez: there’s so much to talk about strikes, I guess. And, uh, I’ll start by saying I myself and still learning about strikes, but I think, and we’ll come back to this, but I want to come back to. [00:05:30] How we got here. And, um, you should have them back on, which I’m sure you will at some point to talk about this.

[00:05:35] But Bill Fletcher, um, you know, talked, uh, gave a talk about 15 years ago, where he kind of made a real clear thread line for me that I’ve never stopped thinking about since he introduced Thank you. the idea, right? We were talking about like the new economy that started emerging in the eighties, you know, more going to the top trickle down economics.

[00:05:57] But he said that that didn’t happen in a [00:06:00] vacuum, right? He said that actually a lot of that was a response to actually the 1950s and what workers, uh, and, and, you know, kind of Luther’s treaty of Detroit, right? And the kind of big gains that workers did through those strikes in the 50 and that there was a class of folks who saw that as a.

[00:06:19] threat and tried to figure out how to prevent that from ever happening again. And so they, they started enacting a whole bunch of policies and laws that made it hard to strike because I think it’s [00:06:30] important to know, and for folks that whether you’ve been or not been on a strike, how hard. And how courageous you have to be as a worker today to go on strike, right?

[00:06:41] And so, um, but what a time to be alive. And for folks that can’t see me, which I think is most of your audience, right? If this is audio, you know, I’m 37, you know? And so in my lifetime. I’ve never experienced or seen anything like this. And just to give a context for folks, there are [00:07:00] all kinds of strikes and we could fill a whole show just to talk about the different kinds of strikes, just to throw them out there.

[00:07:07] You know, people may have heard of. sit down strikes. There was one of those in the 2000s in Chicago with Republic Windows. Uh, people may have heard about secondary strikes, which are illegal, um, by and large. People may or may not have heard about unfair labor strikes, recognition strikes, and then you hear things, uh, like chaos strikes, uh, stand up strikes, rolling strikes.[00:07:30] 

[00:07:30] There’s all kinds of strikes, right? Um, and I’ll come to some of this later, but really, I think there’s, there’s a couple of kinds of strikes, right? There’s economic strikes. When workers are going on strike to secure an economic improvement, be that higher wages, better hours, better, safer working conditions.

[00:07:48] And actually in those contexts, they can largely be replaced by their employers. There are unfair labor strikes. Unfair labor practice strikes when, uh, you know, strikes when employers [00:08:00] violate the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRA, or labor law. And in those situations, strikers can neither be discharged permanently nor permanently replaced.

[00:08:08] There’s a, there’s a little bit more protection. And then there’s, like, unauthorized wildcat strikes, um, you know, strikes that are really happening without either union sanction or independent of a union. And, you know, you could think of the Kansas pharmacists that just started walking off their jobs just last month, uh, or in October, I should say, which was incredible, right?

[00:08:26] And, and the one thing I’d, I’d I’ll stop here that I’d say [00:08:30] before we take question is it’s actually funny or sad, depending on your point of view. If you go to the NLRB’s website on strikes and definitions, you might notice that there’s a lot more language around how it’s illegal to strike than the, you know, how you are allowed to strike, which starts telling you something about our broken labor laws.

[00:08:48] But to your question, and we can come back to talk about strikes. We are in a moment. And there’s a big question, I think, amongst actual historians, political scientists, what does it mean, right? [00:09:00] Because, um, you know, and it’s always the question of relative to what? Are we comparing it to the 1930s, the turn of the century?

[00:09:06] Are we comparing it to the 50s? And in all of those comparisons, certainly there’s less strikes, you know, um, you know, apples to apples than there were then, but there’s more strikes today than there was in 2000 and and since the 1980s and it almost, you know, in the context here is that like working class people and certainly the labor movement have been on the the receiving a [00:09:30] ton of blows and attacks and onslaught, if you will, um, by corporate forces, by employers, by elected officials, by all of these institutions.

[00:09:40] And so it’s, uh, it’s kind of incredible. To see all of this right to your question. I mean this year we saw 34, 000 workers and there could have been more they chose a rolling strike strategy in auto there were about 65, 000 actors 11, 000 writers there about 75, 000 workers throughout the country in Kaiser [00:10:00] Permanente that did a kind of a short kind of time limited Strike they didn’t go on strike like a Chilean to your I heard your episode of UPS that would have been 340, 000 workers that could have gone on strike.

[00:10:12] They did not, but they used the threat of a strike to win an incredible contract. And something very similar happened with the Vegas big three. Um, as they know, the big kind of hotels and casinos there on the strip where 50, 000 workers with unite here or culinary in that case, you know, uh, authorized to go on strike [00:10:30] and didn’t have to, but similar to UPS, we’re able to win incredible life changing contracts.

[00:10:35] Uh, and the BLS data would tell you. And August of 23. And so this does not count the UAW strike. It does not count the Kaiser Permanente strike, that there were over 4 million labor hours lost to labor strikes, which is the most that we had seen since 2000. And that doesn’t count those big strikes and what’s still to happen this year.

[00:10:55] So we are in a moment. 

[00:10:58] Jamala Rogers: So [00:11:00] Carlos, uh, I am twice your age and I’ve never seen anything like it.

[00:11:11] Carlos Jimenez: Hi. This is Caden, the publisher of Convergence Magazine. There are a lot of places that you can put your hard-earned money in support of our movements. But if you’re enjoying this show, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to Convergence on Patreon. We are a small, independent operation and rely heavily on our readers and listeners like you to support our work.

[00:11:28] You can join us at [00:11:30] patreon. com slash convergence mag Subscriptions are pay what you can but at 10 bucks a month You’ll get goodies as well as knowing you’re helping to build a better media system One that supports people’s movements and fights fascism and if you can’t afford it right now, don’t worry All our shows will be free for you to enjoy You can also help by leaving us a positive review or sharing this episode with a comrade.

[00:11:51] Thank you so much for listening

[00:11:59] Jamala Rogers: That’s why [00:12:00] I’m so excited about it. I’m like, well, okay, how did we get here? Maybe we could replicate it sometime in the future. But one of the things that, um, and I’m no longer an active union member, but I’m certainly a friend and a ally of organized labor, but there have been. Literally years that I have watched to your point about workers being jacked up, being assaulted, being abused, misused, disrespected.

[00:12:28] And I would be like, [00:12:30] come on y’all, like somebody outside of a ring, protect yourself, do that block, don’t let him hit you like that. I would just be like. Just for my sidelines champion, and I don’t I didn’t see people like standing up. They had been like so Crushed. I’m like, come on punch back. Don’t let them do this.

[00:12:49] Don’t no more concessions Don’t go for that ghost and I kept seeing it over and over again. And I said, okay, when is this going in? That’s why I’m just like just beside myself [00:13:00] when I start hearing about this These, the strikes. And I also know to your point about bringing Bill Fletcher’s historical voice in is that it’s not in isolation of what’s going on.

[00:13:12] It never is. Um, and I’ve been thinking about even in terms of internally what’s been happening with some of the individual unions, and it’s not been easy for them. There’s been a lot of chaos internally. UAW is one of those examples where you see your leadership get indicted and go to jail and how demoralizing [00:13:30] can that be?

[00:13:30] So, so I know that This is a time that we need to, to not just relish, but actually build from and see where do we move from here when we got all of these workers in motion? And at this point, Carlos, I don’t even necessarily mind if they don’t win anything. The fact that they’re standing up, organizing and fighting back is just a huge, huge piece of all of this.

[00:13:56] Oh, you’re 

[00:13:56] Carlos Jimenez: firing me up, Jamala. I’m like, where are we going now? You know, what are we going to [00:14:00] do? Look, I want to dig into what you just Cause it’s worth teasing out the numbers and it gets back to this point. I was just starting to make around like how courageous and incredible. And then. The implications for those of us that are interested in building, you know, more power for our communities to kind of evening the scoreboard in terms of income and equity, economic equity for our folks.

[00:14:24] And, uh, let me give you a little bit of, cause I liked how you brought your age into it and, and, you know, I, [00:14:30] I want to go deeper, right? So if we just quickly go through a little bit of the last hundred years of strike history, and those visuals are so helpful. Why I got to figure out a way to tell the story right of those visuals.

[00:14:40] But if you look at the data of strikes over the last hundred plus years, I mean, and it’s graphed, you kind of can’t help but notice that it goes and comes in waves, right? There’s high points, there’s low points. And certainly at some point in the eighties, there’s just a. Massive decline. And I want to say something about it, though.

[00:14:59] I [00:15:00] was on a webinar yesterday where I heard a historian and all these actually academic folks still say they don’t know. And so if they don’t really know, then I feel very comfortable talking because who knows, you know? Um, but what I kind of learned was that like, look, if you look at 1900 to this wave example, there were over 1800 strikes influencing, uh, that touched over 500, 000 workers.

[00:15:23] Um, You know, and that was incredible. There were some fights going there. You kind of move to the next kind of wave point, right? The 1930s. [00:15:30] We were now up to 47, and with 4, 500 plus strikes, lots of sit down strikes, 1. 8 million workers. Across the country, you move over to the 60s, another period of kind of growth in different parts of the labor movement.

[00:15:44] We’re now upwards of 5, 000 strikes across this country, impacting almost, you know, 2. 6 million workers. Um, and then beginning in the 80s, you start seeing this collapse. Right. And I will say this thing. I, you know, the, the, it’s hard to talk about why, [00:16:00] and the data also stops, you know, the DOL lost a lot of funding in the eighties.

[00:16:05] We can come back to that and talk about why the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I should say. Um, so it’s much harder to actually track what’s happening right now, but that, That just, you know, less than 0. 05 percent of workers were going on strike at that point. Right. It was just a decline. And there’s been some research and I want to be careful with how I talk about this.

[00:16:25] Cause there’s many reasons why some of this was happening. Um, but, [00:16:30] uh, you know, what people were able to secure and winning after, you know, winning when you went on strike, got harder, right. Replacement of workers became all too much more commonplaces, manufacturing, steel mills, a lot of things shut down.

[00:16:44] We’re getting moved offshore. It gets back to this point of some people not liking what happened in the fifties and the sixties, right? And saying never again, can we allow this kind of risk to happen right where we don’t have the power. And so it makes what started happening in [00:17:00] 2018. You started seeing a tiny blip and uptick, and that’s when red for red.

[00:17:05] And all these teachers in West Virginia, in Arizona that didn’t have the legal right to strike oftentimes just started doing it because what was happening in our classrooms was insane. They just couldn’t make it work. And that kind of starts showing the blip and the slow uptick. Uh, in worker organizing and then so much more happened the pandemic.

[00:17:25] I mean, I hope we’ll get into all of that, but it’s, you are seeing this kind of [00:17:30] courageous, um, successful strike activity happening and it’s, it’s incredible. I’ll, I’ll leave that there. Yeah. 

[00:17:38] Jamala Rogers: Yeah. You know what, uh, when you start saying the, the, uh, what was happening in the 1980s and, and things started going down, every time somebody says 1980 labor, I can’t help but think about Pat Coe.

[00:17:49] That’s it. So, so when you, so when you have a damn sitting president that says, fire them all. They’re out of here. You talking about a [00:18:00] chill on the labor movement. Now, don’t you think that was a 

[00:18:02] Carlos Jimenez: factor as well? Oh, I mean, I didn’t want to say it because I hope we got to it. That was the green light for corporate America that it was time to go, right?

[00:18:11] And we saw a whole, you know, just the whole mindset, worldview. I mean, there was, um, you know, I think about this a lot because we started celebrating efficiencies, right? We can come back to this later, but that meant cutting costs, right? Kind of fissuring work, right? By that, I mean, Everybody that used to work in a [00:18:30] hotel or a hospital worked for the hotel or the hospital.

[00:18:32] Now you have this company here doing this. You have this kind of contractor over here doing that. And, and really, I think in some ways what I think is you, you really saw, you know, the movement by some quarters of corporate America walking away from the social contract, uh, at its core and trying to.

[00:18:51] abdicate some of their responsibilities in our society. Um, all because profits became, you know, and shareholders interest and what was going on in [00:19:00] boardrooms and with CEOs became the dominant and primary thing that they were focused on, right? This became secondary and there was a whole legal and national federal kind of, um, you know, just all of these things going on in government.

[00:19:13] To support those kinds of plays by folks with that type of agenda, right? And so, you know, and I would say it’s not just stopped there, right? You have seen an increase in right to work legislation. You’ve seen, uh, you’ve just seen constant and constant attacks. I mean, we still talk about, you know, attacks by the Supreme court [00:19:30] and then at the court level on the ability to organize.

[00:19:33] And so there has been. Um, I will say we, uh, I am not a lawyer, but I think it’s hard actually to talk about strikes off actually without talking about the courts and laws because they are so they are robust, right? Like people have to do so much work to legally do it right. And even then there’s limitation.

[00:19:52] Um, and, and strikes are not accessible to all workers in the same way. What you can do in the federal sector, if you’re a public employer in most states, it’s [00:20:00] illegal to strike if you’re in healthcare or, uh, you know, public safety, public, I mean, there’s so many, uh, limitations on the ability of workers to use this tool, but to your point, certainly there was a green light and something big that started happening in the eighties, which I think is relevant to what’s happening today, right?

[00:20:18] Because I, and we can go deeper, but I also think. It just translates to 40 years of broken promises, whether you’re older, younger, this idea that it would trickle down to all of us. I don’t know [00:20:30] many people that still believe it. I even think the people that sold it, I haven’t 

[00:20:33] Jamala Rogers: come 

[00:20:34] Carlos Jimenez: across this. You know, and that kind of creates a moment and an opening for us to push a counter.

[00:20:41] Uh, anyway. Uh, so yeah, I think you’re totally right. 

[00:20:45] Jamala Rogers: And I know, I know that you were going back to the early thirties in terms of organizing, but you know, there was a strike in 1877. I wasn’t there, but it was a powerful strike. This was the railroad [00:21:00] strike, and this was done without the benefit of organized labor.

[00:21:04] They weren’t labor unions then. So you had a hundred thousand folks across this country engaged in a, a general strike, and right here in St. Louis. Because people want to talk about how backwards and stupid we are and unorganized. But close to 25, 000, uh, workers were in the streets of downtown. This, this was a momentous kind of [00:21:30] strike, and it was a general strike.

[00:21:31] So they were able to get 50 percent of the railroads shut down, which was But the other thing that we learned coming out of that strike was it probably could have been more impactful and successful, but they allowed the whole racial dynamics to get in there and divide and conquer. So what I’m thinking about, Carlos, is two things.

[00:21:51] One is what lessons have we learned about how we build a multi, uh, racial unity and solidarity and [00:22:00] Are we close to looking at a general strike because of the very conditions that you just talked about where corporations have become such an adversary to organized labor and to workers period. You are giving me.

[00:22:15] Yeah. Will we need that in the 

[00:22:17] Carlos Jimenez: future? I’m going to pull a bill here and say, I want to talk about all of these in, in, in sections. Uh, because I, I heard him do that and I was like, I need to do that instead of just talking too much. But I think, let me just say this. anyone that [00:22:30] has any shade or ill things to say about St.

[00:22:32] Louis or Missouri is not clear on what they’re talking about. Because even I think about the fight for 15 and the walk back program that you all really innovated there, walking ministers, uh, community organizations and walking alongside those fast food workers back on the job. I mean, I witnessed that firsthand and I just, it became a national model.

[00:22:53] So, and, and, you know, I 

[00:22:55] Jamala Rogers: did quite, yeah, I did quite a few walk backs. In fact, had to, you know, confront some of the [00:23:00] employers, but I just yesterday passed by at McDonald’s that said we’re hiring at 14 and 50 cents. So that shy, the 15, even though some of them still have the 15, but I’m like, yes, we. We did that.

[00:23:14] But now it’s time to up that, up that rate. I mean, now that’s not even living wage. So 

[00:23:20] Carlos Jimenez: here we are again. Well, that’s another episode. I just wanted to say that because I was like, I, I can’t allow anybody to hate on St. Louis and Missouri, right? You all are the real deal. Uh, but the point I wanted to make actually is this is an [00:23:30] interesting question.

[00:23:30] I was hearing, um, uh, uh, a labor I think her name is Professor Teresi. She’s coming out with a book, for those that are interested in reading. She calls it Unions, Booms, and Bust. And she’s looking at the relationship between density and strikes, right? And by density, I mean Numbers and the growth of the labor movement and why some industries ended up more unionized than others.

[00:23:56] And she has this data. And to your point on graphs, I’ll send them to you, [00:24:00] Jamala, since you like them, that tracks almost a, you know, uh, almost a 100 percent match in density and strike activity. Meaning that you, you know, that you’re growing when you’re striking, right? Particularly when you’re striking and being successful.

[00:24:15] And I think that’s really powerful. Um, I was down in Florida. Was it this week? Yeah, it was this week talking to, uh, an entertainment union and their newly elected leaders actually about racial justice and the economy. Um, and, and [00:24:30] how to have these conversations and really helping them think through, you know, where are my members at?

[00:24:34] Where is my local at? What is the context of organizing? Our sector and how are we thinking about growth? How are we thinking about like, you know, raising our standards? How are we thinking about governance and power? And how are we really talking about race kind of where we are today and where we need to get to knowing that we also live in a super polarized world where like language and, and just, you know, the fabric [00:25:00] across society is so, you know, ruptured.

[00:25:03] And so I think these are big. I, I continue to think and see, and I’ve experienced this myself in organized, you know, I’ve seen it in, in, in several industries, how race continues to be used as a weapon to divide workers by, uh, by employers, right? And certainly there’s a lot more to it, but, but it’s, you know, just as it was then.

[00:25:25] In the 1870s, right, employers and kind of folks on that side knew that [00:25:30] they, if they could create enough division and get folks to fight themselves, they could really kind of keep the attention away from themselves and get as much as they could. And that’s been the eternal challenge, I think, of the labor movement, how to get people across different identities, right, whether it’s race.

[00:25:46] Class because all of these divisions show up so much in the workplace I’ve seen it myself in in hotels, right? I worked in a hotel in the front desk and you know That tended to be a lot of folks that didn’t look like me who was cleaning [00:26:00] the rooms Look very different than who was at the front of the desk and I also organized in hospitals and you would see see the stratification even by degree, right?

[00:26:07] And, uh, depending on how much more degrees and you know, just, it was, it was very interesting. Um, and in both of those industries, I think one of the powerful things I often think about is how, you know, we intentionally tried to break that down as organizers, right? How do you build a committee that’s having them talk to other departments that they’ve never talked to?

[00:26:26] How do you even get folks to break bread together, which [00:26:30] often didn’t happen, right? People would click up and sit in this table and I’ll sit in that table. Um, and we had to ask our leaders, you know, you should go sit with that department. You should go talk to them. I don’t have a big answer, but I do think that creating these opportunities to bring people together, actually look around themselves, but also, and I think I’ve heard Bianca say this look up, but together is, I think some of how you do that.

[00:26:53] And, and, you know, I, I wouldn’t say we’re there. I think there’s a lot more work to do, but, but I also think there’s a lot more opportunity and we [00:27:00] need to rise to it. I will say, if you think about. The billions flowing in federal investments, the new sectors that are coming online, you know, all of this stuff, I mean, it’s gonna flow through the South, through the Rust Belt, through the Midwest, through all of these places where if you look at Latino population growth, Black population growth, this is it.

[00:27:20] That’s where our people are at. Um, and so I think we have actually another opening to try to contest and shape some of that. Um, which is really [00:27:30] exciting, but I, I think we still have work to do. I, I don’t place myself in the like, let’s pat ourselves on the back camp, because I think there’s so much more that, that we need to do.

[00:27:38] But I do think, um, anyway, I do think we’re getting there. And, uh, I’ll say this last thing, because you like data. And since I’ve already talked too much, you know, I was looking at the 2021 reasons from striking from the BLS. And it was so fascinating Jamala to see that racial justice was a reason people were striking.

[00:27:56] Sexual harassment was a reason people were structured. And I [00:28:00] thought me too. I thought the racial reckoning, you saw people striking for COVID protocols. And so it’s just been fascinating to see society’s issues come up. Into the workplace and kind of being things that people are demanding, which I just think is a really powerful thing that we need to think more about.

[00:28:19] Jamala Rogers: And I’m thinking as you were talking about those issues that came up for striking, the fact that there are more women in the workplace and more women of color, uh, [00:28:30] may be contributing to some of those issues coming to the fore that probably wouldn’t have, but I’m hoping that in the 150 so years since the 1877 strike, that it doesn’t take us another 150 years to figure out this racial question.

[00:28:46] Because as this country gets browner, we’re going to have to figure that out sooner than later, like how the power gets distributed. Inside unions, inside the labor movement, and I think the questions that you say [00:29:00] unions are now asking of themselves are the absolutely correct ones to be asking. I’m thinking about also these opportunities that you’re talking about.

[00:29:10] There are many, I see many all over the place. Some of them, you know, we leave on the table, but you know, some of them people are actually trying to, to take up. And I’m thinking about the. the evolving gig economy, where, you know, there were people that said, I don’t want to work for these people anymore. I want to be my own boss.

[00:29:27] I said, well, not so hasty here. Might be some issues that [00:29:30] you got to think about. And sure enough, these folks then turned the tables on them to say, uh, you’re, you’re, what do they say? You’re a, you’re a contractor or whatever. So you don’t even get benefits. It’s like, we’re not doing any of that. So that was, that was that, but I’m thinking still that’s a place where there could be some organizing.

[00:29:49] some other emerging, uh, industries that, uh, look promising. I, 

[00:29:54] Carlos Jimenez: you know, the economy is so complex. And at some level, one of the things I think about is [00:30:00] like, you know, people just really do need work and we’re not making it. In this economy. And, um, and I think, you know, there’s different kinds of independent contractors and there’s a big debate on like, is somebody a gig or independent gig worker, independent contractor?

[00:30:15] And cause you know, some people truly want to be that, but some people will take anything because they really need the wages and the income and the job. Um, and, and that’s better than nothing, you know? And so I just think it’s a really complicated thing. Um, I will [00:30:30] say that this is one of those. things and, and it’s not happening today or tomorrow, but that the, the, um, protecting the right to organize the pro act did look to do and some states are trying to figure out how to solve, right?

[00:30:41] This question of who’s an employee, what is work, right? And this gets back to the point I was talking about. earlier, right? The visualization or the breaking up of work. Um, because in some ways, right, a lot of those things, folks don’t have health care, like unemployment insurance is not something that they can get access to, you know, from having those types of arrangements.[00:31:00] 

[00:31:00] But it’s also true that there’s just so much of that work out there. And so it’s, you know, yeah, it’s hard to just disrupt that. But the other thing I would say is that You know, the same thing that happened in sector over sector, um, and, and almost like how people don’t believe in trickle down economics, like these folks lied about it, you know, those Uber rates did not stay cheap for us as passengers.

[00:31:23] And certainly the paydays ain’t coming for the workers anymore. Right? Like all of these things are kind of starting to fall apart and revert [00:31:30] to just like money making entities on all ends for these companies. And I, I think that’s a, that’s a concern. I think the other thing, um. You know, but it’s interesting because you bring up technology, actually, and, and, and all of these other things, uh, without getting too deep into it, I think, you know, that’s, I actually think that’s one of those things that has brought us to this moment, one of the things that really worried me before the pandemic, and I wonder what your take was on this, and if you saw it, from your perspective, but for [00:32:00] years, in the 2010s, people were just talking about the future of work, you And like technology and automation.

[00:32:07] And it was a conversation largely led by Silicon Valley and finance. And I, I was terrified by it because I felt like, Oh my goodness, are these folks finally going to do it? Are they going to kind of win big, really destroy work? They were going to complete what started in the eighties as much as they could, or keep it going.

[00:32:28] And it really felt like it was, it [00:32:30] was going to go in that direction. And I think the pandemic changed. Everything. I think both that conversation and what was happening, um, and the facade started crumbling and people started realizing this is too much. I, I really can’t do this, um, and survive. And so, you know, I do think the question on technology and some of these companies are still up, but they’re also huge.

[00:32:51] I mean, they have, somebody was telling me, I mean, it’s not one of the tech companies, but somebody was telling me that Starbucks has just in their mobile app, you [00:33:00] know, just the Starbucks card, if anybody uses it. They have enough money to finance and fund their whole operation. They don’t even have a bank account anymore, right?

[00:33:07] Because they have enough cash flow of all of us or consumers who are investing in the Starbucks mobile app, right? And so I just think there’s still so much money and power in technology. And in these sectors, but anyway, yeah, it’s, uh, you know, there are constantly folks. I mean, the other thing you’re getting to, and I’ll stop here is like, it is not a static economy.

[00:33:27] There are new sectors. They are growth [00:33:30] opportunities. There is an economy yet to come. And I do think that’s where the opportunity is. And, and, uh, I would be remiss cause I’m sometimes I’m a little hard. on myself, right? But I don’t think it’s going to take 150 years, I think, for the labor movement to get this again.

[00:33:43] I actually think, I don’t think it’s going to be easy, but I do think there’s, there’s mandates, there’s, there’s kind of, uh, there’s interest, and, and there’s work and energy and resources going into it. Will we, will we, will we, will we, will we, will we, You know, zero to a hundred off the gate, get it right?

[00:33:58] Absolutely not. I’ve never [00:34:00] seen anything go that well by everybody, and certainly a movement as large as this, because everybody’s going to have to do this in their own ways, and I think that’s the task that some of us are trying to figure out. How do we help people understand the economy, not just what it is today, but how it’s going, and how do we connect institutional and personal self interest to bridge those things and have those conversations and bring in race?

[00:34:23] And gender and class into all of that in a non threatening way. And often it just, it also means that we have to [00:34:30] do the work of helping people reassess or rethink their assumption of the problem and their analysis of the problem. Right. Which is like, actually, it’s not those workers. If you look at the money in our economy here, this is where it’s at.

[00:34:42] And this is who is deciding and giving folks that information together. And that takes time and process and organizing and one on ones as you know. 

[00:34:52] Jamala Rogers: Yeah, you know, that’s so very true what you’re saying, and it made me think about how much [00:35:00] the AFL CIO has done around political education and political economy, uh, so to the point about really having people understand why They are making 5.

[00:35:13] 65 an hour when their employer is bringing in super benefits. And so I think that notion that was put before workers in the 80s and 90s about, well, if you ask for more money, you know, the, the company’s going to go down and, uh, you know, then you [00:35:30] won’t have a job. I mean, they ran that, that line for a decade and now workers feel like, okay, we, we, we gave you up this, we gave, you know, we’re halfway paying for all our health care, we’re doing this, we’re doing that, and we still, you, you are still making mega profits and we still are struggling, so I, I think that, that game has come and gone, nobody’s going for it anymore, but what is the next steps?

[00:35:55] If you have a woke, organized labor [00:36:00] movement, what can it do collectively? And I think that, you know, changing the narrative about, you What this country is, and what it does, and what it makes, and all of that, and how workers fit into that has got to be a core piece of that conversation. So when I think about that, I’m thinking about, okay, there are elected officials who support, allegedly support labor.

[00:36:25] But yet, particularly our federal government has been so [00:36:30] married to corporate folks that sometimes it’s hard to see where one ends and the other one begins. So I’m, you know, I’m thinking that some of the labor laws that prevent people from having more and better wages, but also the ability to move and strike has to do with those people’s votes.

[00:36:49] So I think they have to be, it has to be a legislative component to how do we fight for power. In these ways. So is there anything going on by the AFL CIO? I know we got [00:37:00] 2024 is coming up. We’re going to have a presidential election, but there’s also other elections coming up in terms of really putting people in there are true friends of labor.

[00:37:09] You 

[00:37:09] Carlos Jimenez: know, it’s interesting. I was just talking to a leader who called me unprompted before, um, Getting on, on this call who, who actually asked me about like, what if we ran labor, you know, just labor leaders or volunteers to help manage elections in their counties or in their cities for 2024? Right?

[00:37:28] Because a lot of the folks that have been doing that [00:37:30] for years don’t want to do it. It’s getting more dangerous. And we’re really gonna have to make sure that there’s no shenanigans going on in the administrations of these elections. Um, and we quickly started, you know, like, yeah, and what would it mean to do this in a few cities or places, um, where we know that there’s large voting populations and where voter suppression is likely to happen.

[00:37:48] So it’s just funny that you, uh, I don’t even know if I can say that, right? But I don’t think I described any specifics. But I, it was interesting you say that. Like, I would say the one thing that comes to mind is, I think about the common sense economics [00:38:00] program, um, that does try to do some of that and um, you know, it’s, it’s been interesting.

[00:38:04] I think there’s efforts to capacitate and train and kind of expand the, the, the, the, maybe I’ll call it an army of folks that are kind of equipped and have the tools to help others have this conversation. Um, and, and it’s just interesting to see the hunger amongst. kind of different constituency groups, affiliates, states, or regions for this.

[00:38:24] And once trained how they will go off to the races and start training others and kind of working [00:38:30] it in, in their kind of environment on their own, um, there is, uh, you know, and then I think there’s, there’s kind of year, there’s, there’s actually some interesting, um, investments right now in year round 24 seven, not just election conversations happening in workplaces, right?

[00:38:46] We have folks knocking now. Uh, on doors to talk about issues, to understand what matters to folks and not necessarily to push an elected official at this point, right? We just want to know this community and what matters so that we can build the relationship to [00:39:00] be having some of those things. And in those conversations, racial justice, kind of, you know, like all of these things are coming up and I think it’s, Um, it’s really important, but I, I actually, I think your point is, is right.

[00:39:10] That I think that look, labor law, U. S. labor law, particularly makes it very difficult to strike state labor law outliers strikes, um, as I’ve said, for many public sector workers, um, they can get replaced and, and in spite, you know, and, and we need to change that. Right. But I think in spite. Of those laws and the patchwork we have, I mean, what’s incredible to [00:39:30] me is that, you know, at this point, millions of workers are literally stepping up into that void and where the current systems and policies are failing and have failed.

[00:39:41] Over these last few decades, man, they’re standing up. And I, I just think that’s, that’s where it’s at. I think that’s what gives me so much hope. Um, the other thing that I thought about and I don’t know if I’m getting too political, I hope I’m not, you know, jeopardizing any tax status of your roles, you know, but I think about Georgia.

[00:39:57] And some of the incredible community [00:40:00] organizing what’s happening in Atlanta. And I was talking to somebody about this the other day, cause I was like, you know, what a lot of things about, you know, what William and I and Georgia are challenging, but I think what really, one of the things that’s really irked me is what Kemp is doing, the governor, right?

[00:40:13] How he has given record subsidies. To so many of these non union corporations to come into the state and you have folks dying right now in facilities. You have all of these unsafe jobs. Nobody’s talking about it, right? He is like basically the biggest taxpayer dollar, like [00:40:30] there’s a transfer of money from taxpayers to corporations in Georgia and nobody’s talking about it.

[00:40:35] And we need to talk about that, right? Because it actually is impacting everybody. It has an impact on public services, social services, it just has so many impacts. And so, um, I, I think we, we need to keep working on that. And I know that there’s folks on the ground doing that, but certainly I think, you know, we, we, we can, and I think are looking to do more.

[00:40:54] Jamala Rogers: So, in our last few minutes here on, on Black Work Talk, we talked about the, the [00:41:00] excitement now of, of this moment. We talked about the numbers of workers in motion. Where do we go from here? And I know there’s no single bullet, but what must we be looking at in the next, say, three to five, ten years? for the labor movement to become this formidable, organized movement that people don’t take for granted.

[00:41:23] And when I say people, I’m talking about the government and corporations, that we’re, we’re a unified [00:41:30] group that is saying the same thing, even though our, our conditions may be different and our, our unions may be organized differently. But what is a common that we all need to be looking at going forward in order to see a different kind of labor 

[00:41:46] Carlos Jimenez: movement.

[00:41:47] You know what’s interesting about this? And maybe I, I’m just, maybe I should start considering myself old school here, but you know, cause the answer to me is like, I don’t know that I have the answer, but it strikes me that one of the most important things. [00:42:00] We all can be doing is building organization and building organization at multiple levels, right?

[00:42:06] At the local collective level, but also, you know, organization of organizations and different things, right? Um, I think for those in the labor movement, uh, and I wonder, you know, folks will mock me for this, but, um, you know, I, you know, it gets back to this question of 60 and more and more unions coming together and, um, and all of that, right?

[00:42:25] I often go back and think about Voltron. Um, Right. Or any of these things where you had to [00:42:30] assemble different things to create a greater power. And I think that is something we really have to figure out how to do. And that’s not enough, right? So we need to think about multi union, multi stakeholder collaborations and strategies on various specific things, right?

[00:42:48] If in Missouri, there is a growth sector, how do we focus on that growth sector and kind of get the right folks on that, right? Like, and I think that’s one of those things that we’re looking to do in so many, in a lot of places [00:43:00] now, right? How are we taking kind of regional Local kind of, because that’s actually a lot of how the economy works also, right?

[00:43:06] Like one of the things that had been intriguing to me before the pandemic was the growth of metros in America, right? And metro regions being how economies were kind of coming together to survive as globalization and all of these things were happening to kind of have scale and the ability to compete and attract resources and investments.

[00:43:26] And I don’t think that’s actually changed. I don’t think it means that we don’t do [00:43:30] world organizing because in a. state, right? You have to have all of those things kind of figured out and going. But, um, I guess there’s, you know, I think we need to think about how do we You know, how do we break it up a little bit and kind of focus on regional, local, and kind of these collaborations?

[00:43:46] And we, we are thinking a lot about how to get folks aligned around sectors or around kind of areas of shared interest and then talk about, you know, in addition to organization work plan and budget and strategy and the other things, you know, that we as [00:44:00] organizers have to, um, you know, that, that we think about and have to, have to deal with.

[00:44:06] Jamala Rogers: So you passed the test with all of those answers because those would have been my answers. The only thing I did not hear you say is the role of political education in that as we’re getting more organized, as we’re understanding our enemies better, how do we, you know, craft strategies that match the moment?

[00:44:28] Uh, which sometimes [00:44:30] I I think there’s a disconnect because we really truly don’t have an analysis, a political analysis of what’s going on. But yeah, I think we gotta be organized on multiple levels in a whole different kind of way now that we, that we see an economy, a global economy where, um, these folks are moving capital all over the place.

[00:44:48] And in some cases moving workers, but, uh, we, we, we haven’t quite caught up to that yet. So I’m looking forward to that day when we’ll have, um, That work plan in place that [00:45:00] you talked about and that we’ll be talking about issues other than, you know, people can’t go to the restrooms on their, on their job or, you know, they, they, they, they don’t have health care that those will be, we’ll have some new issues to talk about, you know, more powerful issues.

[00:45:15] So Carlos, thank you for joining us. We have to do this again. 

[00:45:19] Carlos Jimenez: I. Uh, thank you. Uh, really appreciate the opportunity and any time. You all are the best. 

[00:45:27] Jamala Rogers: Our thanks today to Carlos Jimenez [00:45:30] for joining us. Black Work Talk is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights. Our executive producer is Xiomara Cupino, and Josh Elstro is our producer.

[00:45:42] I’m Jamala Rogers.

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