Category Archives: Organizing

The Future of Unions Is White-Collar

Source: Bret Schulte, Atlantic, April 12, 2019

Blue-collar jobs are disappearing. But a powerful new wave of organized labor is taking its place. ….

…. At the University of Arkansas, where I work and serve as president of AFSCME Local 965, union membership has about doubled in recent years. Although the local was started by the university’s maintenance crew in the 1960s, nearly every new member has been a professor or professional employee. Their concerns: campus safety, a living wage for all employees, collective bargaining rights, and gaining more influence over campus policies. ….

…. One reason for the shift is the evolution of the American economy. Manufacturing jobs have disappeared as service jobs have increased. That means fewer opportunities for blue-collar workers to join unions if they wanted to. (And employers don’t want them to.)

The professional class is by no means offsetting the country’s net loss of union members, but how the newbies are behaving shows they understand exactly how collective action is supposed to work: They’re leaving their manners at home and making demands. It was kindly teachers in rural West Virginia who flexed their muscle in a strike that put the country on notice—kind of like the textile workers in 1912, but without smashing any windows. ….

Forget Your Middle-Class Dreams

Source: Alex N. Press, Jacobin, March 29, 2019

When it comes to workplace organizing, there’s no such thing as a “privileged” worker. You’re either with your coworkers or you’re against them. …..

….. Although the argument — unions are good, but they’re not for us, and, somehow, us unionizing undermines unions — is unusually explicit, it’s not an unheard-of objection in white-collar organizing drives. During such campaigns, this concern is sometimes voiced by well-meaning people — those earnestly raising it do so because they believe the conditions of life at the bottom of society are unacceptable. But unions, so the thinking goes in this country where caricatures of the working class run rampant, are for those at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder — they’re for factory workers; for manual laborers; maybe they’re for low-wage service workers. But teachers, engineers, graduate students, journalists? Those are middle-class jobs. Surely, such workers should be grateful not to be down there, in the muck of poverty. In fact, it’d be greedy to want more than they have. Who are they to claim the mantle of working class? Unfortunately, this perspective has one, and only one, practical effect: keeping people from throwing their cards in with the working class, from demanding better lives and a seat at the table. …..

The Strike As the Ultimate Structure Test

Source: Jane McAlevey, Catalyst, Vol. 2 no. 3, Fall 2018

As the labor movement has begun to show signs of a revitalization, we excavate a volume, long consigned to obscurity, from an earlier era. As Jane McAlevey observes, even though almost a century has passed since its initial publication, Steuben’s book remains astonishingly relevant today — which speaks both to the enduring facts of employment relations in capitalism, as well as to the efficacy of Steuben’s strategic perspective.

Organizing to Win a Green New Deal

Source: Jane McAlevey, Jacobin, March 26, 2019

The labor movement has to be central to winning a Green New Deal and reversing climate change. Recent labor victories show how we can do just that, from the ground up, and quickly.

Related:
What the New Deal Can Teach Us About a Green New Deal
Source: Richard Walker, Jacobin, March 26, 2019

The original New Deal was a bold, visionary effort that transformed the economic and political life of the country. The Green New Deal could do even more.

How to Use Grievances to Organize

Source: Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle, Labor Notes, March 8, 2019

The difference between a truly democratic union and one that follows a servicing model is stark when it comes to grievance handling. In a strong democratic union there may not even be many grievances; members organize to convince supervisors to stop violating the contract without having to use the formal procedure…..

Finding Workers Where They Are: A New Business Model to Rebuild the Labor Movement

Source: Mark Zuckerman, The Century Foundation, February 7, 2019

From the summary:
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
– While corporations and political campaigns have been able to leverage direct marketing and other digital tools to advance their interests, the labor movement seems to be struggling to do the same.
– Labor’s traditional “retail” model of organizing, in which professional organizers physically go into one workplace at a time, is not cost-effective for reaching many workers who do want to unionize—in particular those in smaller and/or geographically isolated workplaces
– Collective bargaining units of twenty-four or fewer employees, for example, are 11.6 percent more likely to win a union election than larger groups, and these employees consistently demonstrated more cohesion in their vote in support of the union.
– A digital organizing strategy that includes an online organizing platform that directly empowers workers to self-initiate organizing drives and file National Labor Relations Board paperwork can help organized labor significantly increase its membership.

The Surprising Power of Simply Asking Coworkers How They’re Doing

Source: Karyn Twaronite, Harvard Business Review, February 28, 2019

….Our study substantiated existing evidence that exclusion is a growing issue. We found that more than 40% of those we surveyed are feeling physically and emotionally isolated in the workplace. This group spanned generations, genders, and ethnicities.

In fact, the majority of individuals look to their homes first (62%), before their workplaces (34%) when it comes to where they feel the greatest sense of belonging. While the workplace exceeds neighborhood communities (19%) and places of worship (17%), many individuals spend most of their time at work, and creating workplace communities where people feel like they belong is imperative.

This tells us that many people want more connection with those they work with. So how can companies connect more effectively with employees and help them feel like they belong within their workplace community? The results of our survey pointed to one simple solution: establish more opportunities for colleagues to check in with one another.

We found that 39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally. This was true across genders and age groups, with checking in being the most popular tactic for establishing a sense of belonging across all generations. By reaching out and acknowledging their employees on a personal level, companies and leaders can significantly enhance the employee experience by making their people feel valued and connected.

What didn’t seem to matter that much for belonging? Face time with senior leadership that wasn’t personal. Being invited to big or external events or presentations by senior leaders, as well as being copied on their emails, was simply less meaningful to employees when it came to feeling a sense of belonging….

Related:
New Cigna Study Reveals Loneliness at Epidemic Levels in America
Research Puts Spotlight on the Impact of Loneliness in the U.S. and Potential Root Causes
Source: Cigna, Press Release, May 1, 2018

Today, global health service company Cigna (NYSE: CI) released results from a national survey exploring the impact of loneliness in the United States. The survey, conducted in partnership with market research firm, Ipsos, revealed that most American adults are considered lonely.

The evaluation of loneliness was measured by a score of 43 or higher on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a 20-item questionnaire developed to assess subjective feelings of loneliness, as well as social isolation. The UCLA Loneliness Scale is a frequently referenced and acknowledged academic measure used to gauge loneliness.

Rare Recordings of Civil Rights Activists Available Now

Source: Elizabeth Riordan, University of Iowa Libraries, News, February 12, 2019

Exciting news from University Archivist, David McCartney, about the incredible recordings found in the Eric Morton Civil Rights Papers.

In 1963 and 1964, attorney Bob Zellner recorded a series of interviews with civil rights activists in Mississippi and Alabama. Zellner conducted the interviews on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in an effort to document the activists’ experiences, which were often under challenging and violent circumstances.

The interviewees participated in the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, later to be known as Freedom Summer, a drive to register African Americans in the Magnolia State to vote. For decades, attempts by blacks to register at county court houses across the state were met with intimidation, harassment, and even violence. Freedom Summer was an organized response to this situation, with activists from across the U.S. participating, including over 800 college and university students. Among them were about a dozen students from the University of Iowa.

How Black Activists Shaped the Labor Movement

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, February 7, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his final full day on earth advocating for the rights of workers in what’s now known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. It was April 3, 1968, and King stood up at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, and spoke in support of the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers, who were then on strike fighting for better safety standards, union recognition, and a decent wage — a work stoppage that was inspired partly by the deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who had been crushed to death by a garbage truck.

“We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end,” he told the assemblage. “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”,,,

Steward’s Corner: Where Do Good Organizers Come From?

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, February 4, 2019

We know good organizers when we meet them.

They’re accessible. They listen and show respect.

They react calmly to all kinds of people, take their time to size up a situation, and engage people on their own terms.

They brim with suggestions for action, but they’re open to new ideas. They’re not bossy. They always take workers’ side against employers—but among workers, they treat divisions with care and diligence.

They don’t act from fear, and they know how to help others lose their fear.

But few people are born organizers. Instead, we have to find and nurture people who show some interest and willingness to become organizers.

An experiment in Ithaca, New York, over the last two years has shown surprising results in helping workers become organizers, with a method easy to adapt and reproduce anywhere….