Category Archives: Organizing

Bring the Union Meeting to the Members

Source: Joe Fahey, Labor Notes, September 28, 2017

How many members attend your union meetings? And how do you feel about that?

Whether it’s just a handful or a hundred, no activist is ever satisfied.

But you can drop a whole load of frustration if you stop expecting a majority of members to travel to the union hall for a two-hour monthly meeting. Thinking about members and meetings in a different way can allow you to bring shorter union meetings to more and more members—at the workplace…..

Online ‘slacktivism’ can drive real-world political action

Source: Jared Wadley, Futurity, September 29, 2017

Young people sharing videos about political or social causes online via social media may be more likely to engage in real-world activity to further that cause, new research suggests. The new research challenges the notion of “slacktivism,” which is a frequent way to describe young people’s political activity on social media.

Related:
Sharing beyond Slacktivism: the effect of socially observable prosocial media sharing on subsequent offline helping behavior
Source: Daniel S. Lane & Sonya Dal Cin, Information, Communication & Society, Latest Articles, July 3, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
New forms of youth social and political participation have been termed ‘Slacktivism’ – low-cost online forms of social engagement that decrease subsequent offline participation. Previous experimental work has provided support for a ‘Slacktivism effect,’ but it is unclear if this theoretical model applies to youth media sharing on social networking sites. This study uses a novel sharing simulation paradigm to test the effect of publicly vs. anonymously sharing a social cause video on subsequent willingness to engage in offline helping behavior. Results show that publicly (as compared to anonymously) sharing a selected video on one’s own Facebook wall led to a greater willingness to volunteer for an issue-related cause. Participants’ existing use of social media for engagement in social issues/causes moderated the effect, such that only participants low in use of social media for social engagement were susceptible to the sharing manipulation. Implications for reconceptualizing media sharing as a unique form of online participation beyond ‘Slacktivism’ are discussed.

Protesting the police: anti-police brutality claims as a predictor of police repression of protest

Source: Heidi Reynolds-Stenson, Social Movement Studies, Published online: September 22, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Police face a unique dilemma when policing protests that explicitly target them, such as the anti-police brutality protests that have swept the United States recently. Because extant research finds that police response to protests is largely a function of the threat – and especially the threat to police – posed by a protest, police may repress these protests more than other protests, as they may constitute a challenge to their legitimacy as a profession. Other research suggests police agencies are strongly motivated by reputational concerns, suggesting they may treat these protests with special caution to avoid further public scrutiny. Using data on over 7,000 protests events in New York over a 35-year period from 1960 to 1995, I test these competing hypotheses and find that police respond to protests making anti-police brutality claims much more aggressively than other protests, after controlling for indicators of threat and weakness used in previous studies. Police are about twice as likely to show up to anti-police brutality protests compared with otherwise similar protests making other claims and, once there, they intervene (either make arrests, use force or violence against protesters, or both) at nearly half of these protests, compared to about one in three protests making other claims.

Union education is a key to member engagement

Source: CUPE, September 6, 2017

Tips for mobilizing members with union education
• Get union orientation or training language in your collective agreement. Negotiate provisions that allow members, whether full-time, part-time or temporary, to attend union education during working hours.
• Develop local-specific training that answers the most common questions members ask about the local, CUPE policy and collective agreements. Adapt local training to meet members’ needs, which may change over time or be different for different job groups in your local.
• Encourage participation in union education in the wider labour movement. Provincial federations of labour, the Canadian Labour Congress and your CUPE Division, among others, offer training to union members.
• Do specific outreach to under-represented members. To ensure the local meets the needs of the diversity of its membership, encourage members from equality-seeking groups to attend training specific to them.
• Update members regularly about the business of the local and education opportunities. ….

Related:
Building Strong Locals: sharing our stories
Building local strength by empowering the most vulnerable members
Building strength one local at a time in Halifax

Enhancing transnational labour solidarity: the unfulfilled promise of the Internet and social media

Source: Torsten Geelan and Andy Hodder, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 14, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the activities of Union Solidarity International (USI), a new UK-based organisation in the international union arena. USI seeks to encourage and support international solidarity between trade unions and other worker movements around the world by harnessing the dynamism of the Internet and social media. Drawing on a combination of in-depth semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, Google Analytics and social media data, the findings of this case study suggest that USI is successfully developing an international audience in the United States, the UK and Ireland. However, USI’s ability to reach beyond English-speaking countries and mobilise people to engage in collective action appears limited. The article makes an important contribution to the growing literature on social media in industrial relations through analysing the extent to which digital technologies can contribute to effective transnational labour solidarity.

Partners in protest: parents, unions and anti-academy campaigns

Source: Suzanne Muna, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 25, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
An analytical framework has been developed in order to enhance our ability to interrogate and understand the critical factors for successful union–community coalitions. The framework is then tested on a single case study, a campaign run by trade unions, parents and community groups engaged in opposing academisation of their community school. The framework helps structure analysis and aids evaluation of the impact of activists’ choices on campaign outcomes.

The United Auto Workers’ Attempts to Unionize Volkswagen Chattanooga

Source: Stephen J. Silvia, ILR Review, Online First, August 3, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The author examines attempts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These efforts were a pivotal test of labor’s ability to organize in the South. The UAW failed to organize the entire plant, despite an amenable employer, because of heavy intervention by external actors, the union’s failure to develop community support, and a paragraph in the pre-election agreement that promised wage restraint. VW management’s fear of losing state subsidies and their desire to not alienate the local business and political establishment took the card-check procedure for recognition off the table. VW management’s adoption of an accommodating position toward unionization for the entire plant, but resistance to it for the small skilled-mechanics unit, suggests that the company was willing to accept unionization only as a means to the end of creating a works council rather than out of a commitment to collective bargaining as a practice.

How 1,000 Nurses in Northern Michigan Went Union

Source: James Walker, Labor Notes, September 20, 2017

Nurses in rural northern Michigan made history August 9-10 when we won labor’s biggest organizing victory since “right to work” took effect in the state in 2013. By a vote of 489–439, more than 1,000 RNs at Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center, the area’s largest employer, will be represented by the Michigan Nurses Association.

Munson nurses tried to organize years earlier, unsuccessfully. “I was involved in the effort to organize 15 years ago,” said critical care pool RN Dagmar Cunningham. “Since then benefits have decreased and the workload due to sicker patients has increased. Something had to change.”

This time around, we succeeded. How did we do it?. ….

Harvard Hopes Trump Will Help It Undermine Unions

Source: John Trumpbour and Chris Tilly, Labor Notes, September 14, 2017

….Like other private universities, Harvard appears to be banking on Trump appointees to the Labor Board to help fight off graduate student unionization. But Harvard’s going the extra mile in seeking to undermine all unions’ right to an accurate list of employees during a union election campaign…..

Related:
Opinion: Are elite universities ‘safe spaces’? Not if you’re starting a union
Source: Thomas Frank, The Guardian, September 9, 2017

For all their trigger warnings and safe spaces, places like Yale and Columbia are not very democratic when it comes to unions. ….

….Once Trump’s members are seated on the Labor Board, there is every likelihood they will revisit the matter of graduate student teachers and reverse themselves on the question, which would in turn permit university administrations to refuse to negotiate and even to blow off the results of these elections.

A radicalized university that lives to coddle young people would sit down immediately at the bargaining table and give those graduate students what they want.

A corporation that is determined to keep its employees from organizing, on the other hand, would stall and delay and refuse to recognize the union until Trump’s new, right-wing NLRB can saddle up and ride to the rescue. And guess what: that is exactly what these universities are doing – refusing to begin contract negotiations, filing challenges to the elections, appealing this and that…..

Unions Aren’t Obsolete, They’re Being Crushed by Right-Wing Politics

Source: Livia Gershon, Vice, September 11, 2017

….Few economic or political elites preach much about the virtues of a union. …. This year in Davos, Switzerland, at an annual gathering of CEOs, billionaires, and world leaders, the assembled glitterati fretted about inequality but blanched at talk of workers being able to bargain for benefits.

Even Democrats have largely remained silent about unions, which remain an important part of their base. The party’s “Better Deal” plan to help ordinary workers that Democrats released earlier this year talked about raising the minimum wage, growing the economy, and fighting outsourcing, but didn’t mention making sure workers had the ability to organize.

But a report released last month by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that focuses on the needs of low- and middle-income workers, points out just how relevant the labor movement remains. The decline of unions—which now represent just over one in ten US workers, down from one in five from 1983—has been less about their value for workers than the result of a concerted effort to destroy the labor movement…..

….The EPI report details the tactics companies use to stop unions. In many cases, they use temp agencies, franchise arrangements, or other techniques to avoid taking legal responsibility for their workers. Labor laws that date back more than a half century aren’t equipped to help workers negotiate with companies that do their employing through third parties while retaining all real, practical power over workers. Similarly, companies ranging from Uber to local construction firms and beauty parlors try to classify workers as independent contractors, avoiding the traditional responsibilities employers have for employees under labor law. Most blatantly, when faced with unionization efforts, three-quarters of private employers hire consultants to help them quash them. …. But von Wilpert said the most effective anti-union tactic may be simply firing pro-union workers. That’s illegal, but the EPI report finds that between one in five and one in seven union organizers gets the boot for their organizing activity. Even when companies get punished for breaking the law, penalties are minimal and the damage to the union is already done…..