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A timeline of values-based employee resistance movements

Workers have long fought employers for better pay and benefits, but values-based uprisings have been more rare. Here are a few notable exceptions.

A timeline of values-based employee resistance movements
Striking meat packers at the front gate of the George A. Hormel plant in Austin, Minnesota, watch the National Guard who were brought in to watch the strikers on January 21, 1986. [Photo: Bettmann/ Contributor/Getty Images]
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1972

Disturbed by sexualized uniforms and ad campaigns, flight attendants created a protest group called Stewardesses for Women’s Rights (SFWR) and argued that their employers’ practices impeded their roles as safety officers. Their high-profile activism eventually helped end this demeaning marketing.

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1985

Though Hormel meat packers in Austin, Minnesota, initially went on strike over 23% wage cuts, the effort quickly became a broader critique of the coziness between national unions and management and cities that grant employer concessions to secure new jobs. The effort failed, and Hormel hired new workers at lower wages.

1995

Jeffrey Wigand, former head of R&D for the third-largest tobacco company, broke an NDA to help expose how Big Tobacco misled the public about its products’ addictive properties and ignored research about cancer-causing ingredients. His advocacy helped lead to the $246 billion settlement against the industry.

2014

Employees of the $4.6 billion grocery chain Market Basket revolted when the company replaced CEO Arthur T. Demoulas, known for putting employees and customers first, in favor of more shareholder-friendly leadership. Workers enlisted customer support to shut down stores, which led to the return of Demoulas.

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2016

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick led an effort for players to kneel during the National Anthem to protest police violence against African Americans—and, by extension, the NFL’s celebration of law enforcement. No team has signed Kaepernick since the end of the season, prompting him to sue the league for collusion.