5 Signs 2013 Could Be a Great Year for Labor Organizing

2012 was an exciting year for organized labor as well as worker’s rights, generating a lot of excitement that 2013 could hold even more. Protecting the rights of all workers and creating a safer, more productive, healthier working environment is key not just to human rights, but also to economic recovery in the U.S. Could 2013 be the year in which organized labor becomes a powerful force in U.S. politics and society again, after years of being pushed to the margins?

Strikes and walkouts. From January to December, workers took to the streets in organized strikes as well as walkouts to demand better working conditions and educate the public. Hyatt housekeepers demanded safer conditions, JFK employees raised concerns about security, fast food workers walked away from the counter in New York, and telecommunications employees highlighted problems with their contracts. All of these workers weren’t just fighting for better conditions for themselves  (sometimes without even the protection of a union), but for a safer society, too; they pointed out that their poor working conditions endangered not just them, but the public.

More unionizing. Passenger service agents at American Airlines are voting right now on whether to form a union, and they’re not the only ones who are organizing to form or join unions. Across the U.S., workers are realizing the value that union membership has to offer. When it comes to negotiating with employers, having the backing of an organized group can make the difference between failure and success.

Rising awareness of social inequality. Thanks to the surge of the Occupy movement, more and more people are aware of the huge wealth gap in the United States. Along with concerns about social inequality comes a corresponding interest in addressing that inequality; in the case of workers, organizing to improve wages and benefits as well as protect job security is key to making up the wealth gap. Unions and labor organizers are committed to helping all workers achieve their dreams, and directly address the obstacles that lie in the way, such as unacceptably low minimum wage, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The value of solidarity. In a year when the country was rocked by multiple tragedies, the U.S. public was reminded of the value of coming together as a community, and of how much work could be accomplished by lending many hands to even the most difficult of tasks. From Occupy Sandy working to help Sandy victims to volunteers traveling across country to lend solace and expert skills to communities ravaged by rampage violence, Americans were reminded that it’s good to work together. The skills of experienced labor organizers and workers’ rights activists turned out to be key to developing quick and effective responses for communities in need.

More public outreach by unions. Recognizing that many members of the public didn’t fully understand the function and purpose of unions, a number reached out with public campaigns to educate people about what they do and the value they add to the lives of workers and the community. They provided information about the tasks performed by workers and how the union protects them as well as the public, in addition to illustrating the victories for all workers that have been accomplished by labor organizing. The goal was to make “union” something other than a dirty word in the minds of the public, sowing seeds for more organizing.

Especially in the wake of numerous attacks on workers, unions and organized labor in 2012 in several states, including the passage of “right to work” laws in Michigan, the need for advocates is more apparent now than ever. Could 2013 be the year in which the U.S. becomes union strong again?

Related stories:

Wisconsin Gov. Cutting Rights of Public Employee Unions

Employee Claims Target Fired Her For Union Push

Walmart Accused of Illegally Firing Union Players

Photo credit: Alex Hogan/Workers4America


Roro l.
Roro l3 years ago


Susan Allen
SusanAWAY A6 years ago

Diana S, writes, "The only bad thing I have to say about unions is that, like every other institution with a certain amount of money and power, unions can be prone over time to become less representative of its members and more corrupt. Sensible regulation and oversight is important." The very good thing about unions is that the leadership is voted in by the dues paying members. If members don't like the leadership or feel that there is some sort of corruption possibly happening, then they vote that leadership out and vote in new leaders. It's that simple. Unions are democratic; unlike companies/corporations that are run by a board of directors or managers/management who don't give a whit about employees, much less their rights.

Diana S.
Diana S6 years ago

Unions force companies to recognize the dignity, human needs, and basic rights of all of their workers. They force them to examine company practices that may have been put in place without the input of the people who actually do the work, which is good for everybody, including consumers. They make sure hard work is met with fair pay. The only bad thing I have to say about unions is that, like every other institution with a certain amount of money and power, unions can be prone over time to become less representative of its members and more corrupt. Sensible regulation and oversight is important. But overall, unions have helped America far more than they have hurt it, and I am deeply grateful for the many people who have fought and will fight for the right to unionize.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY A6 years ago

(cont) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you Jacob; and I'm guessing you enjoy being treated like a piece of crap under peoples' shoes because from your myriad of posts on this website, that's how you treat your fellow man.

Susan Allen
SusanAWAY A6 years ago

Jacob R. writes, "Why is this so hard for people like you to comprehend?" The answer is simple Jacob. I can't comprehend stupid and imo, your points are generally always stupid, like the ones you've just made. Why is it so hard for people like you to understand that without unions, workers would have no rights whatsoever? Do you honestly believe that employers just give their employees rights out of the goodness of the heart? Do you think they give a damn about their employees safety on the job? Get real. More lower wage jobs are being created than ever before and the reason for that is less unions. But you apparently think it's okay that adults are working without making a living wage and without any benefits at all. You would be all to happy to see the government do away with social security, medicare and medicaid I'm sure. You're probably only to happy to see people living in tent cities throughout the country now; to see people starving to death throughout the country right now; to see your fellow man suffering and dying because they can't afford healthcare. What you obviously don't get is that because this might not be happening to you today, it could easily be happening to you tomorrow. You probably feel that "those people" just didn't do something right; they aren't educated enough or maybe they just deserve these hardships, right Jacob? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you Jacob; and I'm guessing you enjoy being treated like a piece of crap u

Bruno Moreira
Bruno Moreira6 years ago


A N M.
anne M6 years ago

About high time Americans wake up and smell the coffee instead of agreeing to be slaves because someone dangles a carrot in front of their noses.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago


Liliana G.
Liliana G6 years ago

It seems to me some people who have posted here do not distinguish socialism, social reforms (which is not socialism) and much less know what capitalism is, conceptually. It looks like some only know propaganda and panfleteering. Sad.

Joan E.
Joan E6 years ago

Nothing like the abuses of the Republican governors and state legislatures to warn people all over the nation about the dangers of voting for Republicans, the danger of not voting in midterm elections, and the importance of protecting rights we've come to take for granted -- the rights of women, including reproductive freedom, and the rights to bargain collectively with strength in numbers.