It is very possible that in the next few years millions of American workers could win significant wage increases through minimum wage legislation, and do so without militant strikes or building their capacity for shop-floor direct action. For those of us fighting for significant wage increases this is great news, but for those of us fighting for an overthrow of capitalism, this should be very worrisome. Central to this tension is a strategic question, namely, Shall unionists prioritize direct or indirect action? If we aim for revolution, we must choose the former?
Direct action here refers to action on the shop floor using the power of workers in their position as the life-blood of social production. This includes strikes, slow-downs, and various other tactics that directly contest the bosses’ power at the site of production. Direct action not only disrupts production, it also questions the legitimacy, and even viability, of the bosses’ power. In contrast, indirect action refers to those tactics that exert pressure through the various channels of contestation in broader society, whether that be through legislation, elections, or corporate smear campaigns that fight an institutional tug of war between the companies and the unions. Indirect action stages workers as one interest group among many, vying for influence. Today, within the American union movement, there is a prioritization of indirect action over direct action. When direct action is taken it is only within an overall strategy of indirect action. In this scenario, whether that be strikes included in a corporate campaign or mass worker demonstrations in support of minimum wage legislation, the overall logic of indirect action takes over and explicitly aims to foreclose the more radical possibilities immanent to direct action. The current dominance of indirect action is so entrenched for good reason. That is, because it is the result of decades of careful work developing successful union strategy. However, revolutionaries in the union movement must be committed to a reverse prioritization, not because direct action makes for better union strategy, but because from a revolutionary perspective, direct action is an end in-itself.
Uncompromised, uncompromising news
Get reliable, independent news and commentary delivered to your inbox every day.
To begin, we must establish another distinction, between a purely union framework and a revolutionary one. A purely union framework is aimed exclusively at increasing the bargaining power of workers in their workplace and thus is content in advancing influence with those in power without ever challenging their rule. However, insofar as the union movement is a manifestation of an overall workers movement, it contains more revolutionary possibilities such as those implicit in direct action. The task of revolutionaries working in the union movement is to promote and expand these possibilities. Within this framework a workers movement must not just influence those currently in power to do better by us, but prepare to seize that power and succeed in doing so. Thus, revolutionaries in the union movement must look beyond whether or not something is an effective union tactic, but interrogate how it supports the development of workers’ capacity to move from demanding more to taking power. For this, direct action is indispensable. We revolutionaries must be committed to direct action not because it gets the goods, but because it gets beyond them.
What follows has two sections, the first exploring the current dominance of indirect action and establishing why it is so reasonable as a union strategy. The second section argues that direct action is necessary for building a revolutionary workers’ movement and that there is an opening in this historical moment for re-establishing direct action within American workers’ common experience.
The essential function of unions is to bargain for better terms in the sale of workers’ labor-power. Taken broadly, the terms of the sale of workers’ labor-power, the ability for workers to work – whether in the formal or informal sectors and whether directly for a wage or through unwaged reproductive labor necessary to reproduce labor-power – are foundational for working class life, and, consequently bargaining for better terms means bargaining for better lives within the current arrangement of social forces. Within this definition, the various forms of indirect action that are dominating the union movement are neither ineffective, nor inappropriate. Quite the contrary, they’re reasonable.
Currently, two forms of indirect action prevail in the union movement: bargaining through the ballot box, and the corporate campaign. When unions bargain through the ballot box, they put resources behind legislative and electoral struggles rather than through direct negotiation with the employer in order to win wage increases, better benefits, and improvement of other terms of work. The most obvious recent example is the heavy union backing for various campaigns to increase the minimum wage, but also includes the various political lobbying and wrangling unions become involved with around laws and policies that make legitimate improvements to workers’ lives. Unions decide that attempting to influence the decisions of elected officials, either by lobbying or presenting themselves as valuable pools of election time resources, is a more efficient means to improve the conditions of their members than direct combat with employers. Indeed, it can be easier to win victories through changing legislation and state policy than through bargaining. This is evidenced by recent victories in paid sick day legislation that exceed numerous provisions in union contracts, or in the heralded $15 an hour minimum wage initiatives in SeaTac WA and for hotel workers in Los Angeles, both of which included union exemption clauses meant to incentivize employers to sign union contracts that would presumably include hourly wages below $15. Ultimately, these strategies are predicated on the belief that the official channels of political contestation can be used by workers just like any other interest group, bolstering confidence in the system in its current configuration.
The corporate campaign aims to create an overall strategy pressuring a company, one that includes workplace direct action as one component alongside numerous others. Indeed, the most effective pieces of a campaign often have nothing to do with the shop floor and often do nothing to build shop-floor militancy. These include calling in favors from politicians, counter-branding, low-level boycotts (even some that don’t explicitly call for a boycott but aim to amorphously trouble the company’s business relationships), or even carefully planned legislative interventions that have nothing to do with workers’ lives but pose a threat to the company’s business model. A corporate campaign requires a team of campaigners who plan and execute a constellation of attacks on a company that follow subtle legal loopholes, and include skill heavy projects such as building websites and social media campaigns. All this necessitates that the campaign be driven by professional union staff under strict bureaucratic discipline with only occasional engagement of the rank-and-file. As a union organizer once described to me, “the commitment of workers on the shop floor is not so important in the end, because the decisive tactics are always on the corporate level.” Corporate campaign strategies are among the most powerful in the contemporary union tool box, and the unions like UNITE HERE and SEIU that have mastered them have been able to make significant gains in contexts where more traditional union strategies have failed. Thus, the corporate campaign epitomizes the contemporary conundrum around direct and indirect action: objectively developing workplace militancy is often only incidental to winning major union victories. Thus, those unionists who aim to advance narrow union victories and are not invested in developing revolutionary directions implicitly see the highly technical and bureaucratically driven corporate campaign as a replacement for a militant and mobilized rank-and-file.
That indirect action is a more reasonable union strategy is rooted in a number of political and economic realities. One reason for this that is often referred to by union militants, such as Joe Burns in his influential 2011 book Reviving the Strike, are the changes to legal environment and the fact that many of the most effective strike tactics, especially those involving solidarity from other workers, have been outlawed or become unprotected. While the effect of this should not be understated, they are not the whole story. For one, the collapse of striking as a common-sense activity for both union leaders and rank-and-file alike appeared most strongly following the 1970s, while the most significant legislative changes came in 1947 through the Taft-Hartley amendment. Beyond this, the unwillingness to violate or bend labor law by union leadership reflects a failure for rank-and-file self-activity to adequately resist the commitment to self-preservation by the union bureaucracy. This quiet, this reticence among workers themselves to take direct action, therefore must itself be accounted for.
One way to account for this reticence is as a reflection of shifts in the political and economic terrain on which American unions struggle since the 1970s. Capital has dramatically shifted its global strategy, most notably by moving industrial manufacturing from the imperial core into the global South, and other areas of low labor standards, thus drastically limited the bargaining power of American workers. Two additional shifts in the American economy have also occurred. First, the role of the service industry has greatly increased, an industry that structurally has less capacity to respond to workers wage demands (see sidebar one for an elaboration of this point). And, second, there has been a corresponding turn toward financialization which simultaneously makes capital more flexible so as to out maneuver workers, and more rigid at the local points where workers have power and thus workers’ demands cannot be accommodated. Think, for example, of the franchise arrangement in food service, which simultaneously allows a brand like McDonald’s to go global much more easily than a traditional business, but also relies on franchise owners who have little flexibility in their own balance sheet. Responding to these shifts over the past few decades, workers have learned through failed struggles and disappointing victories that direct action is not worth the risk (for more on this, see sidebar two). Today, workers enter quieter workplaces with very little memory or practice of direct action. As opposed to the majority of the 20th century when unions often had to hold workers back, unionist today agonize about how to convince workers to take action and among union organizers it’s common sense that talking about strikes will only scare workers away.
One of the most significant economic shifts impacting workers willingness to participate in direct action has been the decrease since the 1970s in the ability for American businesses to grant concessions at the points where workers have the most power. Two historical trends have been contributors to this shift, the turn away from manufacturing in American employment and the overall financialization of capital. First, the decrease in manufacturing’s role in the American working class can be see by the fact that in 2012 approximately 80% of the American workforce was employed in the service industry with 7% in manufacturing, as opposed to the 68% in services and 25% employed in manufacturing in 1970, even while the overall output of American manufacturing has continued to increase. Manufacturing is founded on adding high amounts of value to a product at the point of production, usually with expensive machinery. This means that an increase in the cost of labor has a relatively small impact on the overall profitability. In contrast, service sector companies are often less capable of conceding to higher wages because service work necessarily relies less on labor saving devises and mass produced materials than manufacturing, and as a result the cost of labor is a larger portion of the operating costs, and hence wage increases have a larger impact of profitability. Quite simply, granting dramatic wage increases would jeopardize their viability as capitalist enterprises. While some sections of the industry are attempting to get around this by beginning to incorporate labor saving devices, such as the “self check-out” technologies seen in many grocery stores or computer automation of white collar tasks, there is still a structural difficulty for union movement attempting to lead an economy wide shift in wages by increasing workers’ bargaining power in the service sector. In large part, the American economy built since the economic crisis of the 1970s wasn’t low wage out of avarice on the part of those in power, but out of structural necessity.
Dynamics deriving from the financialization of capital add to the tightening of the potential for worker direct action. Since the 1970s more and more economic activity happens within the abstract money pools of banks and investment firms that allow capital to collect together meager margins to satisfy its insatiable growth imperatives. This process has the para
doxical structure that while investment becomes more flexible and dynamic, firms and outlets making up the links in the chain of production being invested in become more and more fiscally rigid. Today’s financial monopolies fracture and convolute the structures of accumulation and risk such that the financial firm is less vulnerable to disruptions in production in any given firm or industry. In order to accomplish this, capital abstracts itself from the specific enterprise so that the pools of money that make up a buffer to risk reside far removed from the individual firm that might face such a disruption. For example, consider what happens when a holding company buys a smaller firm, they squeeze the margin, push operating principles to the point of breaking, and when they do break, the financialized capital is unscathed, while the individual workers and local management are left out to dry. A private equity firm makes a point of diversifying its portfolio enough to withstand disruption of production, whether that be from an earthquake or a strike.
Thus, even while automation seems to create more choke-points in production that are exposed to worker militancy, their position within diversified portfolios means capital has already headed workers off at the pass. What’s more, these financial structures create a more elaborate ownership system such that any individual site of possible worker direct action does not have the budgetary or bureaucratic flexibility to meet the kinds of dramatic demands workers look for in a union movement. For example, the franchise arrangement, seen so often in fast food, effectively insulates the brand corporation from the day to day operational risks of a restaurant and shrinks the margin of each employer who thus remains vulnerable to workers disrupting production but unable to provide the standards workers might demand. All this adds up to the fact that where workers have the most power to disrupt production, employers have the least capacity to concede to workers’ demands, meaning that direct action unionism is the hard road, and often seemingly the impossible one.
Over the last 30 years the strike has died as a mainstream union tactic not merely because it has lost fashion within official union leadership, but more importantly because workers have themselves become less inclined to disrupt production. This shift has something to do with the development of a reactionary pole within traditional white male base of the union movement, but has more to do with a general understanding by workers of the difficulty of winning through direct action. This is in part due to a series of defeats throughout the 1970s of which the oft cited PATCO strike, broken by Ronald Reagan in 1981, serves as a cap stone. Beyond defeats were the disappointing victories like the Farah garment factory strike beginning in 1972 and ending in 1974, in which meager gains took years of arduous struggle to achieve. Through these experiences, as well as many more too mundane to be documented, workers developed a collective understanding of the objective conditions that made direct action so ineffective. Additionally, changes to the structures of social life on the shop floor made conditions less conducive to the development of cultures of direct action. Workers transitioned from factory floors with collective dining rooms and mass shift changes that brought workers together and facilitated coordination, to the smaller and more fragmented work environments of food service, retail, healthcare, and others that separate workers and hinder self-organizing. As a result of this, American workers decided en masse that fighting hard on the shop floor for the union and even against it just wasn’t really worth it. As new generations of workers passed into quieter shops, the memory and common sense of disrupting production faded and, with notable exceptions, today the idea of going on strike for most workers triggers anti-union sentiment and fear.
Over the past forty years leftists in the labor movement have accommodated themselves to this reality, and have, for the most part, rallied behind the various forms of indirect action that have scraped out some victories. This optimism is not entirely misplaced even from a more revolutionary perspective. Indeed, bargaining through the ballot box and the corporate campaign represent a broadening of the perspective of union leadership, and an opening up to creativity and youthful energy, away from protecting their membership in disregard or even opposition of the interests of the broader class. In some cases, legislation even relies on mass solidarity in an electoral coalition. In a corporate campaign, ties are built far beyond the traditional house of labor, and often the tactics of a corporate campaign involve acting, if instrumentally, in solidarity with other movements. Ultimately however, these positive tendencies will merely amount to a more friendly bureaucracy maintaining capitalism unless millions of militant workers develop their direct action skills and prepare to revolutionize production themselves.
Revolutionaries in the union movement should advocate for more direct action, but beyond this, supporting workers taking direct action must be seen as the goal for revolutionaries’ involvement in unions. Building the institutional power of unions is derivative of this goal, and should be constrained by it. Too many unionists who want revolution see things in the exact opposite way. For them, building the unions is their primary goal, and they evaluate direct action strategies based soley on that goal. When posed with direct action possibilities that will advance the working class’ fighting capacity, but risk damaging the power of a particular union, many chose the path that protects the union. This cannot be the foundation for a revolutionary strategy. This can be seen in two ways. First, by elaborating more fully how direct action plays in indispensable role in a proletarian revolutionary process, and, second, by arguing that the historical forces preventing a mass culture of direct action in the United States may be vulnerable.
The two main justifications of direct action’s independent value to a revolutionary process are its ability to “get beyond the goods” and its role in ensuring a democratic and proletarian character to movements. The relationship between union organizing and revolution contains a fundamental incongruity: a union struggle fights for better terms within capitalism, while a revolutionary struggle fights for the overthrow of capitalism. The revolutionary significance of union struggles is therefore not immediately given, but depends on their ability to articulate a path for the activity and consciousness of workers to transform from an economic struggle over terms within existing power relations, to a political struggle for social power itself. The 20 th century arc of union struggles within the United States and Europe demonstrates clearly that this transformation does not occur once sufficient institutional bargaining power is developed, even when those unions have left-wing leadership. On the contrary, once unions are large enough to exert substantial influence over the bosses’ business calculations and government policy the goal of the union does not tend to shift toward demanding control over industry, but rather to the defense of their seat at the table.
The revolutionary content of union struggles does not reside in growing the institutional power of unions, rather in direct action. This is because, structurally, direct action offers a fundamental ambiguity between fighting for more and fighting for power. Direct action cuts below the institutional games of social position, and is embedded in the ordinary lived experience of workers. Further, it re-articulates the material realities of production and demonstrates that the bosses’ view of the workplace is ultimately absurd and illegitimate. When workers walk off their stations they challenge the primacy of the machines workflow over human labor. When workers take ownership over their uniforms by wearing buttons they dismantle the claim that the boss “has” employees. And, when workers strictly follow work rules in order to slow production they undermine management’s claims to wisdom about how work should be done. Direct action is more than just a tool to pressure the bosses, it is also an incubator for a radically different vision of the world, one that is directly antagonistic to capitalism. As a historical example, the Seattle general strike in 1919 pushed many conservative labor leaders to implicitly question the authority of capital over the means of production because they were compelled to organize key social functions themselves as workers, not because of the need to win larger concessions. This shift came from necessities of the general strike tactic itself beyond ideology. When workers decided to stop work for the boss, they asked how necessary social functions would continue such as hospitals, basic transportation, food, electricity, and answered with self-organization. In this example, the unions became more than a vehicle for union struggle but rather a conduit to more revolutionary activity.
A commitment to direct action also tends to resist the bureaucratization and centralization of unions. In contrast to bureaucratic and centralized perspectives on struggle, which determine a course of action based on general trends and static categories, the factors in the workplace that inspire workers to take direct action are always specific to local context and change dynamically through struggle. Thus, workers confident in their capacity to disrupt production through direct action will tend to take action in ways that similarly run contrary to bureaucratic and centralized logics. This was the conundrum of the American union leadership during WWII. There was an official truce of industrial action between the major companies and the unions, not merely out of patriotism but also out of a strategy of building social influence. However, there was also an explosion of rank-and-file militancy that was rarely in response to wages or derived from premeditated strategies but rather was in response to the daily injustices of capitalist production. Workers were compelled, despite good union strategy, to flex their muscles and demonstrate who really controls the shop-floor. For those who sought institutional power at the bargaining table, this posed a serious threat, but for those who want to see a self-mobilized working class teaching itself how to run society, this moment was a historic high point.
From the perspective of a revolutionary process this independence is necessary to maintain the emancipatory character of explicitly political workers movements, classically manifested in the political party but also including councils, communes, and other forms that vie for social power. As much as these raise workers revolutionary aspirations to a higher level, they are just as prone to turn inward, defend meager gains and restrain the autonomous revolutionary process of workers. One need look no further than the Bolsheviks’ tragic betrayal at Kronstadt to see the dire consequences of abandoning rank-and-file autonomy. More up to date, the inability for the Occupy moment to include significant workplace disruption manifested an important horizon for the movement. Without the ability to substantively degrade or disrupt the power of society’s rulers, it was left as merely a symbolic cry for change and fell victim to authoritarian and toxic small group dynamics within the core of local organizers. Had there been strike waves in response and in solidarity with occupy, the center of the movement would have remained closer to the working masses rather than the handful of leaders who had spent the most time in meetings. That this transition did not occur was clearly inevitable. In my experience at the time working as a union staffer at the time union leadership primarily focused on maintaining institutional power actively blocked any contact between the movement and the union or the rank-and-file. The solution to this blockage will however not come from a more progressive official leadership, but a rank-and-file that is more prone to direct action regardless of its leaders temerity.
Even if one finds these arguments convincing, their relevance to the current American situation is justifiably controversial. Without a generalized foment of strikes and worker direct action like that occurring elsewhere in the world, the most reasonable position of an American unionist, leftist or not, is that we must resign ourselves to a working class that is reluctant or even resistant to direct action. But strange winds have been blowing on the American landscape. We’ve seen multiple waves of protest, some more formally orchestrated than others, and the underlying economic reality is not so predicable as it once was. Perhaps the first sign of shifts came in 2006, when the immigrant rights movement mobilized millions of workers to participate in May Day demonstrations under the banner of, “A Day Without an Immigrant.” Workers called in sick or took off from work that day across the country, causing some businesses to close for the day, effectively conducting a mass strike. Indeed, over the past 25 years Latino immigrant workers have been at the center of some of the brightest spots of the US labor movement, but the challenge has been translating the rebellious spirit these workers brought with them from Latin America to other sections of the working class in this country.
The economic crisis that reached its dramatic apogee in 2008 has shifted the material conditions in just such a way as to make that possible. That crisis was the culmination of the low demand driven in part by the depressed wages of neoliberalism and after this material situation exploded in 2011 workers were able to think that it was possible to act in a big way and take on seemingly immovable assumptions of our society, such as our low wage-economy. Workers’ increased willingness to take action was first demonstrated through the SEIU fast food organizing project that has become known as Fight for $15. Though most are familiar with the project, there is important demystification needed to demonstrate its true significance. SEIU spent millions of dollars supporting hundreds of people, some with little to no labor organizing experience, to spend their full time over the course of months or even weeks walking into stores and, under very shallow cover, asking low wage workers if they wanted to fight. Moreover, they did this without especially detailed thought as to whether a workplace was particularly vulnerable to worker collective action or if workers were particularly prone it. In essence SEIU conducted a survey in dozens of cities across the country, asking workers, “do you want to go on strike for higher wages?” What’s historically significant is that the answer was not a resounding “No.” I’m convinced that this would not have been true ten or even five years ago. Regardless of the subsequent course of SEIU’s organizing program, this gives unionists across the country a powerful indication that things might be very different than we’re used to.
Another demonstration has been the Black Lives Matter movement and the events in Ferguson, Baltimore, Minneapolis and Chicago. Even if it falls outside the workplace, this emerging movement still represents workers’ willingness to take dramatic, militant and even dangerous action to effect change. Many of the most militant sections of this movement have been structurally excluded from formal waged work, and it is an open question whether this fighting spirit will move into the traditional workplace. If the past is any example – particularly the arc from the urban rebellions of the 1960s to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, made up of black revolutionary workplace organizations beginning in Detroit auto plants – then that seems distinctly possible. Two events in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul MN, that predated the movement surrounding Jamar Clark’s death, offer exciting hints of this. First, a Black Lives Matter march in the Mall of America inspired numerous workers to abandon their work stations and participate, including food court workers, still in uniform, who stood with their hands up in the gesture popularized in Ferguson MO. Second, workers in a UPS distribution hub intentionally mishandled packages from a company that produced firing range targets meant to train police officers not to hesitate at shooting innocent looking people who held guns. The workers called their action, “Hands Up, Don’t Ship,” directly referencing the slogan from Ferguson, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” While the Twin Cities certainly have an exceptional history of both worker militancy and anti-racist struggle, these examples still do offer hope for a more general trend.
In sum, it seems very likely that workers in the United States are ready to fight for better, and do so through dramatic direct action. This claim is only a hunch, but an educated one, and one that ultimately cannot be confirmed purely through study and reflection, but only with active experimentation.
A Call to Action
All of this leads then to a call for action. The only site to realize the potential of our moment to re-establish militant direct action in workplace is the workplace itself. We must go to the workplaces and take direct action, support the development of histories and cultures of taking direct action, help build infrastructure to spread it, and do this in a way that puts rank-and-file workers in the driver’s seat. If workers are indeed ready for this in a historically novel way, then targeted and intentional interventions could be enough to spur more spontaneous activity and move the strike back into the common experience and tool-kit of the American worker.
Of course things are not so simple. There are innumerable questions to be answered: What workplaces to go to? What kind of strategies of direct action to take? And, How to make these actions inspire confidence in workers rather than despair after failed adventures? And, Isn’t indirect action, especially corporate campaign tactics, still a necessary and even primary tool for winning concessions? Despite the considerable merit of these questions, in a certain sense they cloud the important point, that the dominance of indirect action over union strategy means that claiming direct action in the workplace as our first priority is a qualitative leap forward in revolutionary strategy. Thus, there will not be a specific program presented here, rather a call for commitment to this core claim and for tremendous imagination in its realization.
That being said, these complications are serious matters. There are real forces that push against initiatives prioritizing direct action. Within the union movement, any serious push for the primacy of direct action will be highly controversial, and likely come into stark conflict with the institutional interests of a given trade union. Pursuing this prioritization may necessitate going wildly “off program” and there by risking one’s job as a staffer, or one’s influence with leadership as a rank-and-filer. Objectively, it is still true that action outside the workplace, and even of a very indirect variety, are essential to union campaigns. The historical shifts noted above have not made bosses more permissive of organized disobedience, and thus direct action will mean taking substantial risks. Even for those who agree with this, taking the position seriously means we will have to break from the comfort of the established union movement and expose ourselves where we are vulnerable.
To tackle these complications we must gather our forces in order to develop smart and compelling plans, and more importantly, to successfully execute these plans. This task will take organization and working within organizations, but we must be careful about what kind of organization. There are moments when one can take small steps toward direct action’s primacy within the framework of the existing trade unions, but those moments are few and we must keep in mind that our goal is not the same as the unions’. Unions can help workers develop valuable skills, spark dramatic action, and increase the capacity of workers to fight, but the revolutionary potential of these pieces will be developed outside of the union framework. Rather than see unions a building blocks from which we can build a revolutionary movement, we must see them as tools, limited in specific ways, but which can be used to advance the workers movement beyond fighting to better terms for the sale of our labor-power and to struggling for the abolition of the wage itself.
Ultimately, we must aim to build organizations committed explicitly to the primacy of direct action. These will need to be independent of the trade unions’ horizon and able to nourish workers’ more political aspirations. Accomplishing this will include developing existing networks of rank-and-file militants like the IWW solidarity networks, and Labor Notes, as well as charting out new ones. These organizations will ensure that the risks we and other workers take aren’t reckless, but build our capacity to support each other and become an infrastructure allowing direct action to become more possible, more effective, less risky, and hopefully by extension, more widespread. When we have ways to have each other and our coworkers’ backs, and the ability to put our weight and resources behind these bold actions, then we stand a chance of seeing a new day for the American workers movement. Workers are ready for it, and we must be too!
1. For the SeaTac example see Jonathan Martin, “Are Unions Self-Dealing with SeaTac Minimum Wage?” Seattle Times, November 4, 2014, accessed December 19, 2015, https://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2013/11/04/are-unions-self-dealing-with-seatac-minimum-wage/. For the L.A. example see Peter Jamison, “Why Union Leaders want L.A. to give them a minimum wage loophole,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2015, accessed December 19, 2015 https://www.latimes.com/local/cityhall/la-me-union-exemption-20150726-story.html
2. These numbers reference Bureau of Labor Statistics data. For 1970 see https://www.bls.gov/opub/ee/2012/ces/tableb1_201205.pdf for 2012 https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_201.htm.
3. On the Mall of America action see the article from the Industrial Worker posted at Libcom.org, x378436, “Anti-police brutality protest shakes things up at the Mall Of America,” January 18, 2015, accessed December 19, 2015 https://libcom.org/library/anti-police-brutality-protest-shakes-things-mall-america . On the “Hands Up, Don’t Ship” action see labor notes article, Flintheart Glomgold and Launchpad McQuack, “‘Hands Up, Don’t Ship!’ Minneapolis UPS Workers Protest Shipments to Missouri Police,” Labor Notes, August 26, 2014, accessed December 19, 2015 https://labornotes.org/blogs/2014/08/hands-dont-ship-minneapolis-ups-workers-protest-shipments-missouri-police.