Lane Windham

Lane Windham is a fellow with Georgetown University's Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. She served as AFL-CIO media outreach director until 2009. Her book, Knocking on Labor's Door, is due out from UNC Press in 2017. 

Recent Articles

From Pink Collars to Pink Hats: Working-Class Feminism and the Resistance

Today's feminism has the power to change not just politics, but the nation's economic landscape, too.

(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Erik McGregor)
Tightly gripping a “Firefighters for Women’s Rights and Equality” banner at the Women’s March on Washington, a group of women who had once made history as New York City's first female firefighters roared up Independence Avenue. There, they joined a new generation of labor activists: teachers, nurses, government workers, restaurant servers, home health-care aides, communications workers, and thousands of other working-class women and men who turned out to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration in what was perhaps the largest global political mobilization in history. Women have continued to march, huddle, strike, and organize against Trump since January, among them legions of young women workers. Is it possible that women—including working-class women—can generate a powerful-enough grassroots movement to overcome Trump? It’s not immediately obvious that a new women’s movement will spell the Donald’s downfall. The corporatized...

The Workers’ Menace Becomes the Commuters’ Threat

Elaine Chao, Bush’s labor secretary, is Trump’s pick for transportation.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Donald Trump's big swamp drain has dredged up Elaine Chao, a right-wing ideologue who was George W. Bush's secretary of labor. Tapped by Trump for transportation secretary, Chao is a consummate Washington insider who was the only member of Bush's cabinet to serve throughout his entire eight-year presidency. Chao is also married to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I was at the AFL-CIO during Chao's entire tenure, and witnessed first-hand the havoc her policies wrought on workers and unions. Political at every turn, she saw her role as labor secretary as cooperating with corporations, rolling back overtime protections, weakening enforcement of wage and hour laws, and pursuing labor organizations—especially those that had supported Democrats. John Sweeney, then AFL-CIO President, called her the most anti-labor labor secretary he had ever seen. If you ask many labor leaders what they most remember about Chao, they'll tell you about the time she brought a thick...

Why Labor Law Should Stop Leaning So Hard on the Wagner Act

As the National Labor Relations Act turns 80, we should remember what the law was designed to do—and what it wasn't. 

AP Photo/Mike Groll
The Wagner Act turns 80 this week and it’s about time that we lessen the old man’s load. For too long, this legislation that was meant to encourage workplace democracy has actually shouldered much of the burden of our nation’s employer-centered social welfare state. It’s high time to get citizens’ health care, pensions and even guaranteed basic wages off its back, and to allow the Wagner Act to do its job: giving workers in the U.S. a real voice on the job. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 5, 1935, the Wagner Act (or National Labor Relations Act) marked the first time private-sector workers in the U.S gained permanent federal backing for organizing unions. Under the Wagner Act, if the government certified that the workers had a union—usually through a union election—then their company was obligated to enter into collective bargaining. Not only that, but the Wagner Act made it the “policy of the United States...

Why Alt-Labor Groups Are Making Employers Mighty Nervous

AP Images/John Minchillo
Union membership remained steady last year—steady at its near-hundred-year low. A mere 6.7 percent of private-sector workers are union members, as are 11.3 percent of U.S. workers overall, according to figures released last Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.) Those government union membership statistics, however, don’t capture an entire swath of new, exciting and emerging labor activists—“alt-labor” activists—whom alarmed employers would like to see regulated by the same laws that apply to unions. Yet before we regulate them as unions, shouldn’t we first count them as unions? Consider those striking fast food workers you’ve been reading about, the ones calling for a $15 an hour wage. Their numbers are not counted in the union membership figures. How about those Wal-Mart workers who struck for Black Friday and just won a key court case? Uncounted. What about the day laborers who joined any one of hundreds of workers’...