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John Sweeney, who led an era of transformative change in America’s labor movement, passed away Feb. 1 at the age of 86.

California School Employees Association (CSEA) member Jacob Rodriguez leapt at the chance to join his school district’s information technology department when a position opened up. The only catch was that he was a substitute custodian and didn’t have a college degree yet. “I promised them I’d go back to school to get more qualified,” Rodriguez said. Thanks to the Union Plus Free College Program, Rodriguez was able to complete his associate degree free of charge, graduating in December 2020.

"We are going to insert ourselves at every table,” Shuler said. “If we don’t get workers to the table, there’s going to be more of what Trump tapped into,” she said, in reference to angry voters who feel left behind by globalization. “Training works better when you talk to workers. They can tell you what will and won’t work when automating. We’re not always hostile — we can be collaborators and make it go well,” she said.

Amazon is the great white whale, a target that labor groups have longed for years to organize, said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, which is providing personnel and strategic guidance to aid the RWDSU. “We’ll give them whatever they need to help them win,” Trumka said. “It’s an important, important drive.”

Read the full article in the Washington Post.

“This pandemic has amplified [public support] even more. It showed how helpless workers are without a union. They couldn’t even get PPE and unions were able to get it for them,” says Trumka. “For years and years and years, people that we call ‘essential workers’ were invisible. It was as if no one knew they existed. They did their jobs every day to keep the country and the economy going.

Major labor leaders like Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, are more optimistic about the prospects for organized labor than they’ve been in many years. “I know what he is. Joe Biden’s a blue-collar guy,” said Trumka, who like Biden is from a working-class area in Pennsylvania and has known the president for 40 years. “He understands working people, the importance of a paycheck, importance of health and safety on the job, importance of having a union .… He understands all of that. It’s not something he picked up in the polls. It’s what he believes.”

The 2021 Union Plus Scholarship application deadline is this Sunday, Jan. 31. The Union Plus Scholarship Program awards scholarships based on outstanding academic achievement, personal character, financial need and commitment to the values of organized labor. Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school, or recognized technical or trade school.

According to AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, its Rooney Rule proposal is “clearly workable” as evidenced by other big companies that have adopted similar policies. “Diversity and inclusion at all levels is important for companies to succeed, particularly in industries where there has been a historic underrepresentation of women and minorities in senior level positions,” Shuler told Kotaku in an email. “We are pleased that many banks have adopted diverse candidate search policies, and we are now turning our attention to tech companies.

In the last Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the US House of Representatives passed the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the Great Depression by creating a much fairer process for forming a union. It is called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. After an anti-worker majority blocked it in the Senate, reintroducing the PRO Act, passing it in both chambers of Congress and getting Biden's signature is vital to our economic recovery. The PRO Act would protect and empower workers to exercise their freedom to organize and bargain.