Organized Labor Should Spend the Rest of 2015 Training Workers How to Fight

Source: David Goodner, In These Times, Working In These Times blog, May 1, 2015

…..In the long run, labor would be better off scaling back its electoral work and instead double down on new and internal organizing, with a special emphasis on bringing back the widespread and prolific use of the strike—a weapon that, unlike the campaign contribution, actually has the power to change the political calculus on the job and in Washington.

Popularizing the use of the strike as a tactic again (which in some ways is already happening, just not widely enough or quickly enough) could not only lead to more victories on the job; it could also help grow the confidence of the working class as a whole to take on bigger political challenges and see the value in joining mass movements for transformational social change.

Unions should start making this transition now and use the rest of the year to accomplish an ambitious goal to train its members, in every bargaining unit across the country, in how to organize and implement a successful strike campaign.

Organized workers going on strike to win better wages, hours and working conditions may sound like common sense—“bread and butter” unionism. But decades of sustained defeats at the hands of corporate power—combined with the dominant business unionism model that eschews worker militancy, shop floor struggle and open confrontation in favor of backroom deal-making and so-called “labor-management partnerships”—has created an environment where all too many labor unions have forgotten their true source of power and how to effectively use it.

Luckily, a group of innovative democratic union reformers at SEIU Local 1021 in California have developed a new training curriculum called the Strike School that could serve as a nationwide model for action and be easily adapted to fit local needs by action committees made up of union stewards, shop floor leaders, rank and file workers and organizing staff.

Local 1021’s model Strike School, which In These Times has obtained and posted online (links below) as an open source document, is designed to educate workers about the true nature of class politics and class conflict, the power of the strike, how to organize and win a strike and how to use the strike as part of a larger social movement. It is divided into three modules: “Economic Power,” “Striking for Our Communities,” and “Strategic Planning,” and uses the 1937 sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, as well as the 2012 Port of Oakland and Chicago Teachers strikes as case studies. PowerPoints, video documentaries, guided discussions, mock scenarios and worker role-plays are all part of the curriculum……

The “Strike School” materials can be found below:
Module 1: Economic Power
Module 2: Strategic Planning
Module 3: Striking for Our Communities
Additional handouts