Happy New Year to you and yours.

As we are awaiting 2022 to arrive and the drunken parties to begin, I am sitting at my desk wondering what to write about.

This is the fourth version of my end-of-the-year commentary. I really did not want to linger on the bad news of 2021 or become the soothsayer of doom and gloom for 2022, but it is hard not to.

From the Jan. 6 insurrection, to COVID-19 and its two major variants, to the quad-state tornado, to the “Save Britney Spears” movement, it has been a year to forget. With the exception of poor little Britney, things do not look much better for 2022.

What seems to be taking a back seat in the news is the increase in union activities around the nation. Kellogg and John Deere employees are now off strike after months, with solid contract negotiations that may be the boilerplates for labor unions to negotiate in the near future.

There is now a union at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York. According to Vox, “this means (the employees will) begin to negotiate a contract for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

For everyone else, this could spur more unionization across the U.S. — whether at more Starbucks locations or anywhere else — thanks to the company’s high profile.”

No matter how unions have improved the working-person’s life, corporations are still trying to stifle organized labor.

Walmart continues to work hard to stop the labor movement from taking hold in its stores and warehouses. Yet with more than 1.3 million employees, Walmart is ripe for unionization.

The Atlantic wrote that “when the meat department of a Walmart store in Texas became the retailer’s only operation in the United States to unionize, back in 2000, Walmart announced plans two weeks later to use prepackaged meat and eliminate butchers at that store and 179 others.”

Walmart has effectively sown fear into the hearts of its employees where it concerns organized labor.

As one associate told The Atlantic, “People are scared to vote for a union because they’re scared their store will be closed.”

Closing one or a dozen stores because of an impending union movement will not hurt the Walton and Kroenke families in the least.

It would be devastating to the local communities, especially smaller communities where Walmart is the primary employer.

Walmart is not the only big organization to suppress organized labor in its stores and operations. It is standard operating procedure of many larger operations to quell any discussion of organizing employees into bargaining power units.

Our current trend seems to be mirroring the labor movement in the 1920s and ‘30s. Robber barons were as prevalent in the 1920s as they are today.

We see the new industrial barons as those who exert the same “control over natural resources, influencing high levels of government, paying subsistence wages, squashing competition by acquiring their competitors to create monopolies and raise prices, and schemes to sell stock at inflated prices to unsuspecting investors.” Just look at Facebook and Microsoft.

Amazon, which has had miserable labor relations, including threatening to call the police when workers, on their own time and off the work campus, would have union organizing activities.

As of Dec. 24, The Associated Press repo

rted that “Amazon has reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board to allow its employees to freely organize — and without retaliation.”

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo is quoted as saying, “Whether a company has 10 employees or a million employees, it must abide by the National Labor Relations Act.”

As we enter 2022, employees will want to see guarantees of jobs, wages and benefits with the representation of organized labor.

The labor movement will again find itself in the important spot of protecting those workers and grow as they did in the 1930s.

In order to achieve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” there must be equity for the labor force including workers not usually included in the labor movement, retail workers, food service employees and others.

We need to see fair wages and benefits afforded to employees as other industrial countries have done.

Corporations are facing the challenges of having labor shortages amid the pandemic, which has given workers more room to organize and establish bargaining units where they have been fought tooth-and-nail before.

I challenge our state legislature to support the workers of Missouri, to promote unionization and to actively go after those companies that use intimidation and threats to suppress the union movement in the Show-Me State.

It is time to fight for workers’ rights, improved working conditions and equity within the work place.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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