The Humanities and Changing Conceptions of Work is a University of California campus-wide research project exploring and assessing the critical historical and contemporary transformations in the meaning and experience of work. This three-year study is being commissioned by an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is administered by the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI).
Making Change at Walmart has put together a successful string of social media campaigns that directly target labor issues at one of America’s biggest corporations. A coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens, Making Change at Walmart is an effort that calls into question Walmart’s relationship with working families and local economies. The group launched Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OURWalmart) in June 2011 to help informally organize Walmart associates around workers’ rights. In November of 2012, OURWalmart initiated one of the most successful social media labor campaigns when it used various new media platforms to organize striking Walmart associates on Black Friday.
One of the largest, yet most marginalized, labor sectors in the country are restaurant workers. While the number of restaurant workers in the United States totals 10 million, less than 1 percent of that labor force is unionized. ROC-United is the only national organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to the needs of restaurant workers. ROC-United utilizes participatory research and policy work, employer engagement, membership and leader development, as well as an emerging social media component to accomplish its mission of improving wages and working conditions for low-wage restaurant workers. Recently ROC-United has put a concerted effort into a campaign to raise the federal minimum wage, as well as releasing the book Behind the Kitchen Door, which illuminates the unjust practices taking place in the restaurant industry, and how that impacts our relationship to the food we eat.
Focused on the rights of workers who plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell our food, the Food Chain Workers Alliance is a coalition that understands the principles of social, environmental and racial justice intersect at all levels of the food chain. The Food Chain Workers Alliance examines the structures in place – the legal framework of industrialized agriculture and the institutionalized racism of our current food system – that perpetuate the poor working conditions and low wages of the workers that are integral to the production, distribution and consumption of the nations food. In June 2012 the Food Chain Workers Alliance published an expansive research report based on 0ver 700 surveys and interviews with food workers and employers that examines the wages and working condition of the over 20 million people employed in U.S. food chain occupation.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has over 100 years of organized labor history dating back to the early 20th century when groups of longshoremen along the Pacific coast of the United States formed a loose association with the American Federation of Labor’s International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA). In 1937, has the nature of the shipping industry restructured itself to include a growing number of warehouse workers as well as dock workers, the Pacific Coast District of the ILA voted to merge with the organized workers in warehousing to form the ILWU. The ILWU communicates with its members as well as the general public through traditional and emerging forms of media such as the monthly labor periodical The Dispatcher.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union organizes around promoting living wages and benefits for the many commercial workers such as clerks and checkers, barbers and beauticians, and packers and processors. The United Latino arm of the UFCW emphasizes the particular and distinct issues important to Latino food and commercial workers. The UFCW maintains an active blog to document the struggles, victories and champions of its movement.