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Supra-union and intersectional organizing: An examination of two prominent cases in the low-wage US restaurant industry.

Tapia, Maite, Tamara L. Lee, and Mikhail Filipovitch.

Journal of Industrial Relations 59, no. 4 (2017): 487-509.

 

In this article, we examine strategic approaches by the Restaurant Opportunities Center and the Fight for 15 campaign to organizing low-wage workers in the US restaurant industry. Existing industrial relations literature explains that traditional trade unions have had little success in organizing these workers – a growing number of whom identify as racial minorities, women, and immigrant workers – due in part to structural challenges to unionization. However, despite existing institutional and legal obstacles, in recent years two ‘supra-union’ cases of low-wage worker organizing have spread across the nation, resulting in unanticipated economic, legal, and political gains for this diverse group of workers. To better understand the recent success of these alternative forms of worker organizing, we bring the literature on intersectionality, under-utilized in the examination of labor movement organizing, into the industrial relations context. We argue that the Restaurant Opportunities Center and Fight for 15 campaign’s success is due in part to strategic approaches to organizing that have intentionally focused on workers’ interests not solely as a class, but as workers holding multiple identities in an increasingly diverse workforce. More broadly, this article has implications for the future of worker representation and cross-movement solidarity building in the United States.

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