Category Archives: Organizing

Repressing Radicalism

Source: Chip Gibbons, Jacobin, June 15, 2017

The Espionage Act turns 100 today. It helped destroy the Socialist Party of America and quashes free speech to this day. …. A century later, as socialist politics gain favor again in the United States, it’s important to remember the role that brute repression played in the SP’s downfall — and the continued threat the Espionage Act poses to democratic freedoms today. ….

Osmotic Mobilization and Union Support during the Long Protest Wave, 1960–1995

Source: John-Paul Ferguson, Thomas Dudley, Sarah A. Soule, Administrative Science Quarterly, OnlineFirst, Published June 8, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
To examine whether and how social movements that target private firms are influenced by larger protest cycles, we theorize about osmotic mobilization—social movement spillover that crosses the boundary of the firm—and how it should vary with the ideological overlap of the relevant actors and the opportunity structure that potential activists face inside the firm. We test our hypotheses by examining the relationship between levels of protest in U.S. cities around issues like Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and the women’s movement and subsequent support for labor-union organizing in those cities. Combining nationally representative data on more than 20,000 protest events from 1960 to 1995 with data on more than 150,000 union organizing drives held from 1965 to 1999, we find that greater levels of protest activity are associated with greater union support, that spillover accrued disproportionately to unions with more progressive track records on issues like Civil Rights, and that these effects were disproportionately large in the wake of mobilization around employment-related causes and shrank in the wake of conservative political reaction that limited room for maneuver among the external protesters, the labor movement, or both. Our research helps to specify the channels through which external pressures affect firm outcomes.

How to Orient New Members to the Union

Source: Heather Roe, Labor Notes, June 9, 2017

….At the hospital where I work as a nurse, union orientations for new hires are done on-site, something we have negotiated in our contract. I have found it works best in two simple steps: a group orientation, followed by a personal, one-on-one conversation.

An early orientation helps in a few ways:
– It makes sure everyone hears about the union right away.
– It gives us the chance to frame our own message to nurses, rather than letting the employer describe the union.
– It helps us keep track of who has signed up to become a member.

At our local, we are typically seeing these potential members within the first two weeks of their employment. In right-to-work setting, which we’ll face after our contract expires in 2018, these orientations are vital to our future.

I find that the single most important task is to meet people where they are. Everyone comes to the table with a different idea of what a union is and isn’t. Don’t just throw a member application at them. Take some time to listen to them and then build their understanding from a positive place…..

Vigorous Campaign Revives Transit Union in Right-to-Work Virginia

Source: John Ertl, Labor Notes, May 31, 2017

Going into its latest contract, the transit union in Fairfax County, Virginia, was in tough shape. People weren’t active because they didn’t believe the union could do much—and the union couldn’t do much because people weren’t active.

Management never budged on the issues that stewards brought up. Grievances piled up, unresolved. And since Virginia is a “right-to-work” state, half the workers in the bargaining unit weren’t even members of Transit (ATU) Local 1764.

But after a robust union campaign, in a matter of months the Fairfax Connector went from a unit at risk of decertifying to a strong union shop…..

These Protesters Are Hitting Trump Where It Actually Hurts

Source: Mattea Kramer, The Nation, May 23, 2017

Could the president be influenced by threats to his profit margin? ….

…. Since Donald Trump’s election in November, and especially since his January inauguration, hundreds of small and not-so-small organizations have sprung up to oppose the president. They joined the ranks of established left-leaning and liberal groups already revving up their engines to fight the administration. Among all the ways you can now voice your dissent, though, there’s one tactic that this president will surely understand: economic resistance aimed at his own businesses and those of his children. He may not be swayed by protesters filling the streets, but he does speak the language of money. Through a host of tactics—including boycotting stores that carry Trump products, punishing corporations and advertisers that underwrite the administration’s agenda, and disrupting business-as-usual at Trump companies—protesters are using the power of the purse to demonstrate their opposition and have planned a day of resistance against his brand on June 14th.

Such economic dissent may prove to be an especially apt path of resistance, especially for the millions of Americans who reside in blue states and have struggled with a sense of powerlessness following the election. After all, it’s not immediately obvious how to take effective political action in the usual American way when your legislators already agree with you. But what blue-state dwellers lack in political sway they make up for in economic clout, since blue states have, on average, greater household incomes and more purchasing power than their red-state compatriots. The impact of coordinated blue-state boycotts could be enormous. That’s why Grab Your Wallet, along with Color of Change, a racial-justice group, and numerous other organizations are encouraging individuals to see their purchasing power as political muscle. ….

…. At first glance, Grab Your Wallet is a modest website: a Google spreadsheet that lists about 50 companies to boycott. Included are the department stores Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Lord & Taylor, as well as online retailers like Overstock.com, Zappos, and Amazon, all of which sell some type of Trump swag. (The precise number of companies listed continues to decline, as retailers dump the Trump brand.) The site gets an impressive two million unique visitors every month, and when I spoke with Coulter, she told me that 22 retailers had dropped Trump products since the start of the boycott. She believes that this is just the beginning…..

Resistance School

Source: Resistance School, 2017

From about us:
We are a group of progressive graduate students at Harvard who came together in response to the election of Donald Trump, with a desire to help transform our country to better reflect our shared values…..

Resistance School is a free four-week practical training program that will sharpen the tools we need to fight back at the federal, state, and local levels. Our goal is to keep the embers of resistance alive through concrete learning, community engagement, and forward-looking action.

We believe that both long-time activists and new additions to the movement need to forge effective offensive strategies to secure progressive victories. Throughout April, we invite you to join with neighbors, friends, or classmates to participate in livestreamed interactive workshops with renowned political campaigners, communicators, and organizers. Each of the skills they’ll showcase is critical to amplifying our collective impact.
Together we’ll learn how to:
– Communicate our values in political advocacy (Session One)
Summary
Readings
Worksheets
– Mobilize and organize our communities (Session Two)
Summary
Readings
Worksheets
– Structure and build capacity for action (Session Three)
Summary
Readings
Worksheets
– Sustain the resistance long-term (Session Four)
Summary
Readings
Final Assignment

How We’re Surviving Right to Work: Conversations Are the Building Blocks for Milwaukee Teachers

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, May 16, 2017

For public-employee unions in Wisconsin, an open shop isn’t even the worst of it. The anti-union Act 10, which Governor Scott Walker forced through in 2011, mandated annual recertification votes and all but eliminated collective bargaining.

Some unions gave up on staying certified at all—but not the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. So far its 4,600 members include 69 percent of the district’s teachers and a narrow majority of educational assistants.

An organizing team of two staffers and six members on release time is working hard to raise those numbers, focusing on six schools per semester. Organizers tailor a plan based on the particular history and challenges at each school, but the universal building blocks are one-on-one conversations to find out members’ concerns, identify leaders, and ask people to join the union.

You have to learn to tolerate the discomfort of directly asking people to join, says Vice President Amy Mizialko. Especially in a district where school vouchers and private charter schools have already siphoned off a major share of the public schools’ budget, she tells co-workers that their students are counting on them: “The only way we can effect change for students and educators is being collectively organized.”….

How We’re Surviving Right to Work: Oil Refinery Workers Get People in Motion

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, May 16, 2017

he key is collective action, says Steelworkers Local 675 Secretary-Treasurer Dave Campbell. His union represents 4,000 workers in California and Nevada, many of them at oil refineries where workers get a window of opportunity to drop their membership each time the contract comes up for renegotiation. In each refinery of 300-600 workers, the union maintains around 90 percent membership.

That’s because members have the habit of acting for themselves as a union on the shop floor. Union leaders encourage members to bolster a grievance with workplace action. For instance, a supervisor had forbidden people to wear baseball caps, sunglasses, or Hawaiian shirts in the control room. Workers collected signatures on a petition and presented it to the other supervisor, who crumpled it up and threw it away.

“We organized all four crews to show up for work with Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, and ball caps,” Campbell says, “and the union bought the roast pig for a Hawaiian luau lunch. When the superintendent saw all the workers united, he of course asked what the hell was going on—and the supervisor who had caused all this was reassigned.”

Besides being fun and effective, these activities give workers the chance to learn by doing. “In essence they see what the union really is,” Campbell says. “The union is them, and it’s their concerted, collective activity on the shop floor which gives the union power.”….