Josh Eidelson

Josh Eidelson is a freelance writer and a former union organizer. Check out his blog here.

Recent Articles

Alt-Labor

Nonunion workers’ groups are gathering strength across the country. But will they ever make the kind of impact that traditional labor once did?

Flickr/Food Chain Workers Alliance
Flickr/brk in bklyn Domestic Workers United protests in Manhattan. O n a warm evening in July, the Chrysler Center Capital Grille in Midtown Manhattan had more than customers to contend with. Inside, diners feasted on a $35 prix fixe dinner as part of the city’s Restaurant Week promotion. Outside, protesters handed out mock “menus”: “First course: Wage Theft. Second course: Racial discrimination.” Some passersby rolled their eyes; others pumped their fists. Dishwasher Ignacio Villegas yelled: “No more exploitation of workers!” His fellow demonstrators—a few co-workers and a couple of dozen staffers and activists from the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC)—picked up the chant, Occupy-style. The protest was one of many the center has mounted since 2011 against the Capital Grille and its corporate parent, the restaurant giant Darden Inc. (It owns the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, among others.) Villegas helped sign up nearly half of the Capital Grille’s staff to join a class-...

Talking about Labor Law Reform with Richard Kahlenberg

A conversation with the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg

(AP Photo.Rutland Herald, Cassandra Hotaling Hahn)
For a company trying to ward off unionization, firing a union activist is a great investment. While the National Labor Relations Act bans such retaliation, its process is slow and its penalties are minimal. Every time Democrats have controlled the presidency and Congress, unions have pushed reforms to the law—and every time they’ve come up short. In their new book, Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right , the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg and labor lawyer Moshe Marvit propose a new approach to labor law reform: add protection against anti-union discrimination to the Civil Rights Act. The Prospect talked to Kahlenberg about why he expects his proposal to succeed where others failed, the relationship between law and culture, and whether Ann Coulter has a point. Why is this better than the Employee Free Choice Act? I’m in favor of EFCA and traditional labor law reform, but we’ve been at the issue now for close to 50 years, and traditional labor law reform has not passed...

The Employer Strikes Back

In the lockout era, winning union representation is not a one-time thing.

(Flickr/Darwin Bell)
Becki Jacobson, 48, has worked as a process technician at American Crystal Sugar Company in Minnesota since she was 18. Eight months ago, she showed up for work, but the company refused to let her start her shift. Like 1,300 other members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco & Grain Millers union (BCTGM) at American Crystal Sugar, Jacobson wasn’t fired. She was locked out. Crystal Sugar is wielding a powerful weapon against its workers: Its right to deny them work for refusing a worse contract after their existing one expired. Jacobson and her co-workers are left with a choice. They can hold out while non-union workers do their jobs, make huge concessions, or dissolve the union. When union negotiations began last May, the beet-processing company asked for major concessions on health-care benefits. They also proposed getting rid of outsourcing protections. Crystal took a hard line. “Every time we went to negotiate,” says Jacobson, “the company refused our proposals and kept going...

Fighting With or Without the President

(Flickr/IowaPolitics.com)
Eight years ago, following his Democratic primary defeat, Howard Dean and some of his supporters formed Democracy for America (DFA). Among them was Howard’s brother Jim Dean, who now serves as chair of the million-member activist group. The Prospect sat down with Jim Dean to discuss the left’s lack of leverage in Washington, Occupy’s lessons for activists, and why—with a presidential election looming—DFA has shifted its focus to the states. Some of the DFA’s most prominent Obama-era national campaigns—like the public-option push and the Employee Free Choice Act efforts—have been unsuccessful. Should progressives have taken a different approach? That’s tough. I don’t think Obama’s a horrible guy or anything. But there’s a great deal of frustration with him. It’s not about the “what,” because they’ve actually gotten a lot done—it’s the “how.” Everyone thought his election was a game changer, and Washington needed a cultural change. There’s a sense that it wasn’t his thing—that he was...

The Beauty of “Santorum”

Mitt Romney acquires a Google problem to rival his opponent's.

History’s most famous Google prank just received the sincerest form of flattery. A new website, “ Spreading Romney ,” is now one of the GOP frontrunner’s top online search results. The new site defines “Romney” as “to defecate in terror,” commemorating the miserable 12 hours the Romney family dog spent riding on top of the car during a family trip to Canada. “Spreading Romney's” emergence is the latest tribute to the success of sex columnist Dan Savage’s “ Spreading Santorum ” site, whose profile has risen with each Santorum victory. Savage created the website in 2003, when Santorum was a right-wing senator and culture warrior who distinguished himself by comparing homosexuality to “man on boy, man on dog” sex before suffering a humiliating election defeat in 2006. But even as Santorum has risen from obscurity to presidential contention, he still can’t shake “Santorum.” The day after (what turned out to be) Santorum’s victory in the Iowa caucuses, The New York Times ran a piece on the...

Pages