The labor movement forward

In the past year, workers and their allies in the larger communities have been coalescing around the cause for a living wage and workplace fairness generally. The organizing and related job actions by these employees across the nation have included unprecedented strikes in work settings that have historically been the most difficult to democratize: the fast food and retail industries.

That these worker actions have escalated throughout 2013 should not be surprising. Increasing numbers of employees and their families around the country feel as if their backs are against the proverbial wall, and there is growing conviction in these quarters that fundamental change is necessary. The employers response also has not been surprising. To put it mildly, employers have been unhappy with the mobilization of workers and their community allies. Indeed, charges of retaliation have been filed against the likes of Wal-Mart.

The good news for advocates of labor, employment, and civil rights is that the National Labor Relations Board, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Supreme Court have applied the anti-retaliation laws in extremely broad ways to provide robust protection for employees seeking fair treatment at work. This expansive pro-worker approach to enforcing anti-retaliation provisions by the Supreme Court, in particular, is remarkable because the conventional wisdom holds that the Supreme Court typically rules in favor of corporate dictates rather than employee rights. With the “American Dream” seemingly slipping from the grasp of ever more people in the modern economy, one can expect the labor movement to move forward with more determination and support.