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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

1 big union with a strategy to change the South and the nation

Welcome to Team Thursday!


We stay in the South for a third day of exciting developments that could one day tip the balance of power there.  Today it’s USSW,  the Union of Southern Service Workers, formed in 2022.  How is it different from other labor unions?  Why is it uniquely positioned to successfully challenge the status quo?


According to a story in Labor Notes, “the new organization grows out of Raise Up, the Southern branch of the Fight for $15 and a Union, a movement backed by Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In addition to fast food, members work in hotels, gas stations, retail, home care, sit-down restaurants, and more.”   


The union plans to win “by any means necessary, using four strategies: uniting across employers and sectors, direct action, community unionism, and anti-racism.”  All these strategies put them outside the typical plans of unions formed with NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) approval.  They strike me as exactly the right strategies to build power for this group of workers, who are excluded from traditional union organizing in many ways. 


Many other people, like gig workers for companies like Uber and Instacart, are also outside the NLRB pen.  We must have new ways of organizing to build workers’ rights in today’s world.


What will no doubt enrage employers the most is their commitment to being multi-racial as well as anti-racist.  Labor Notes quotes worker and union leader Terrence Wise: “In the beginning, I blamed white people, Latino workers—they’re probably making my wages low---and that’s these corporations winning…But then I realized Trish is my sister, Dawn is my sister…we family here. We all we got.”


The union has already won a Covid policy and a raise at one restaurant employer.  They are fighting for security measures in workplaces that are often open late night or 24/7, which is really dangerous for workers, among other things.  USSW’s future is bright and I salute them!



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