No more arguing over territory or industries—we need multi-union coalitions capable of organizing on a national scale.

By Hamilton Nolan, In These Times

When news spread April 1 that the independent Amazon Labor Union (ALU) had won its union election at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York, the initial response from anyone who supports the labor movement was exultation at this unprecedented — and unexpected — victory for the working class.

chris smalls and amazon union leaders at amazon protest

The secondary response was a collective ​In your face!” to mega-billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who was shown that all the money in the world can’t crush the will for a union.

Now, we can all move on to what should be the next response: Forcing the union establishment to take a long, hard look at what it needs to change.

The ALU — a project of current and former Amazon workers as well as committed volunteer organizers — succeeded in organizing Amazon before any big, well-funded union could. That fact has produced a million insta-analyses: ​They were in New York City, not Alabama — so they had the easiest target!” ​The ALU was led by cool younger people — old union bureaucrats must be purged!” Etc.

Rather than indulge in that particular argument, I propose an adjacent conclusion that I think will hold true no matter where anyone lands on the specific tactical questions about the ALU victory. This is the lesson the union world should take from the ALU’s accomplishment: Jurisdiction is dead. By this I mean that all of the time unions spend arguing with one another over who has the right to organize which workers, in which industry, at which company is one gargantuan waste of time. Stop it. It’s useless. It is, in essence, a bunch of drivers arguing over a single parking space in one corner of a vast, empty parking lot. While an asteroid is approaching. It is not something that should be on the list of top 100 priorities for labor, given the current situation.

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