Beyond $15: Immigrant Workers, Faith Activists, & the Revival of the Labor Movement

by Jonathan Rosenblum, 2017

A Review: The story of the Sea-Tac living-wage battle

Jonathan Rosenblum, a lifelong union organizer, weaves a story about trying to get fair wages for the Sea-Tac airport workers. They attempted to organize a union, but there were obstacles: the first being that airports are regulated by the Railroad Labor Act, which prevented them from organizing. The SeaTac Port Authority is a corporate tool, although officials are elected by citizen votes.

It used to be that when corporations went bankrupt, leadership was fired. Now leadership is retained, union contracts are void, and labor is at the mercy of any challenge in the airline business. Corporate leaders use bankruptcy to keep labor union-free and in line.

book cover; multiethnic labor rally with many US.American flags, a few others, and a few labor signs

The underlying problem is that labor has lost all of their traditional power and corporations have amassed power. What the organizers figured out is that there’s more than one way to get power—so the airport workers took their fight to the voters. Out of over 6000 votes cast, $15 won by just 77 votes. The power people gave them many battles—including several lawsuits. Working-class people didn’t fall in line—with largely brown people asking for more. This book reads like a whodunit, except you know that $15 won.

They won because they included everyone—Muslims, Jews, Christians, and no-believers. They won because they included Black, white, Brown and all shades. They won because they included Mexicans, Arabs, Indians, and Europeans. And without all those people, they would have lost—which is what polling experts told them would happen with such thin support—less than 50% to start.

This is a Beacon Press book, our UU publisher. In 1854, Beacon Press started out as our Unitarian missionary effort—educating people for Unitarian values. Find the book here.


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