Amidst all the craziness, some people keep their heads, stand on principle and make a habit of doing the right thing. Around this time of year, we honor these good guys (and women) by recognizing them as Labor 411 Eagles. Unlike the far more pernicious Labor 411 Turkeys, the 411 Eagles deserve our thanks and salutations for jobs well done.
Our Eagles of the Year!
1. United Auto Workers: It takes a certain level of bravery and trust in solidarity to have 50,000 employees go on strike against one of the biggest companies in the world, and win. But that is exactly what UAW did. The UAW stood up to General Motors, had their health benefits cancelled, saw one of their own run over by a car and killed, yet they persevered. Our hats off to you, UAW, our Eagle of the Year.
2. Bernie Sanders: Another fighter for the working class. Among other things in 2019, Sanders unveiled a plan to double labor union membership and called for a $60,000 minimum teacher salary. Those are a couple of plans we can get behind.
3. Elizabeth Warren: Her politics are progressive and she keeps the needs of working men and women at the forefront of her presidential campaign. But her inclusion on this list is for what happened in June when Warren’s presidential campaign staff moved to unionize, and management officially recognized the efforts to form a union without dispute. Now that’s solidarity.
4. UNITE HERE, Local 11: We recognized their awesomeness at our 2019 Labor 411 Blue Tie Gala. The more than 30,000 members of Local 11 are bulldogs and watchdogs who can get behind a Housekeepers Bill of Rights, organize hotels and help be a consistent voice for change. In our book, this 11 is #1!
5. Gretchen Whitmer: The Motown State needs a labor-friendly leader and it appears to have one in Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer’s creation of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity – which went into effect in August – was lauded by groups across the state. Whitmer followed that up by directing the state’s Labor Department to develop a new rule raising the overtime threshold for salaried employees, a move that could potentially benefit up to 200,000 Michiganders. Business groups weren’t thrilled with that latest announcement, but liberal groups and advocates for the poor applauded the decision.
6. Tom Morello: Still raging after all these years, Audioslave and RATM frontman Tom Morello is rarely silent, and that’s why we love him. Whether he’s clapping back at the president over tweets about Middle East oil, co-writing op-eds about the dangers of facial recognition technology or graciously accepting the Labor 411 Ethical Cultural Warrior Award, Morello never ceases to rock. “Ever since I was a little kid and the only black kid in an all-white town in Illinois, I’ve been conscious of an unfairness in the world,” Morello told us. Talk about a life spent making lemonade out of lemons!
7. Teachers: The men and women who educate the next generation are always superstars, but in 2019, they flexed their labor and political muscles big time. The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) strike against Los Angeles Unified School District got 2019 started with a bang followed by actions in Oakland and across the country in Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and Colorado. And the 11-day walkout in by members of the Chicago Teachers Union members who staff the nation’s third largest school district shined a light on issues beyond salary including social justice, income inequality, safety for immigrants and affordable housing. Through their action, the striking teachers of 2019 gave some much needed lessons not just to their students, but to all of us.
8. Dolores Huerta: Agitating never gets old and, frankly, neither does labor icon Dolores Huerta. Over the summer, the 89-year-old Huerta and five fellow protesters were arrested during an action in Fresno in support of workers who care for the elderly and disabled. Now in her sixth decade of fighting for workers, women and immigrants, Huerta’s work continues via her foundation and through the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute in the Los Angeles Community College District. For good measure, commissioners in New Mexico’s Bernalillo County recently voted to rename part of Bridge Boulevard Avenida Dolores Huerta.
9. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: We like AOC for a lot of reasons, but this time we’re celebrating her turkey-hunting abilities. Back in August, after Barstool Sports Founder, CEO and Labor 411 turkey Dave Portnoy tweeted that he would “fire on the spot” any employee who DMs a labor agitator to talk about unionizing, Ocasio-Cortez clapped back with a tweet of her own. “ALL workers in the US have the protected freedom to organize for better conditions,” AOC tweeted, inspiring over 17,500 retweets and 90,000 likes.
10. Sean Doolittle: Actually he does a lot. The bearded closer for the World Series champion Washington Nationals isn’t just a solid pitcher, he’s also got a social conscience. Active among the Major League Baseball Players Association, Doolittle has advocated for veterans, for the homeless and for racial justice. He was the only ‘Nat to skip the celebratory White House visit based on his feelings about President Trump’s divisive rhetoric and conspiracy theaters. He spoke up on behalf of 200 unionized New Era workers who lost their jobs when the manufacturer of caps for Major League Baseball closed its Derby facility. And for good measure, Doolittle was awarded an honorary membership in UNITE HERE “for being an outspoken advocate for our UNITE HERE food service workers as well as the thousands of other workers in other industries whose often-unrecognized labor make MLB games fantastic experiences.”