Category Archives: Organizing

Here’s the Secret to Getting Young Workers Involved

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, December 6, 2018

“How can we get young workers involved?”

That’s the question on everyone’s lips, with union density at near-record lows. Many unions have begun holding summits for young members or forming local committees, which is great.

But too often they’re missing a step that’s more essential: don’t sell young workers out.

When you settle a two-tier contract that puts new hires on a lower wage scale or trades away their pension, it sends a message: “This union is for us, not for you.”

Everyone who gets hired these days at UPS or on a postal delivery route can see they’re on a slow track to nowhere. No matter how many years they put in, they’ll never get where their co-workers are. That’s a mark against the union from Day One.

Unless these concessions are reversed they will eat away at unions, alienating incoming workers until they’re the only ones left. That’s obvious, right? Yet so many national union leaders seem to have missed the memo.

So it’s heartening to see union members who get it—and who put themselves on the line for future co-workers they haven’t even met yet…..

The Persuasive Power of Protest. How Protest wins Public Support

Source: Ruud Wouters, Social Forces, Advance Access, Published: November 3, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
How do protest actions succeed in winning public support? In this paper, I theorize how features of protest can persuade citizens to support demonstrators. In particular, I argue that broadcasting an attractive collective identity by means of diverse, worthy, united, numerous and committed participants (dWUNC) triggers supportive reactions of observers through increasing identification with protesters. I test this argument by exposing respondents to manipulated television news items of a protest event in two video vignette experiments. Study 1 scrutinizes the effect of dWUNC displays in an asylum seeker demonstration on a sample of Belgian citizens. Study 2 replicates this design in the US for the Black Lives Matter issue of police brutality. Both studies show predispositions of citizens to strongly affect favorability towards protesters. On top of these potent receiver effects, however, also the dWUNC features prove persuasive. In both experiments, a consistent pattern of feature effects is found: demonstrations that mobilized more diverse participants, who behaved worthy and acted in unison, elicited more supportive reactions. Study 2 adds that these protest feature effects are in part mediated by increasing identification with the demonstrators. The heterogeneity of protest feature effects is explored.

Election Flyers That Win Votes

Source: Alfred T. DeMaria, Management Report for Nonunion Organizations, Volume 41 Issue 10, October 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While unions use digital communications, including email, social media, websites, and apps, the humble printed‐paper flyer remains a staple of many organizing campaigns. There are several reasons. Organizers typically do not have the email addresses of all employees they need to reach digitally. Even when the union can send email, it may be read quickly or not read at all and deleted. In contrast, a flyer can be read several times over, passed along to others, and referred to during the course of the campaign.

Reformism Yesterday and Social Democracy Today

Source: Maecel Liebman, Jacobin, August 22, 2018

We shouldn’t try to resurrect the social-democratic politics of the past. What we need is a socialist movement that pairs radical demands with mass, militant action. ….

…. Marcel Liebman didn’t live to see Tony Blair lead the British Labour Party. But in the mid-1980s, the Belgian Marxist had already witnessed enough: social democracy, he proclaimed, was dead. “The new-style reformism means reformism without reforms,” he wrote…..

….In “Reformism Yesterday and Social Democracy Today” — first published in the 1985–86 edition of Socialist Register and reprinted below in a slightly abridged form — Liebman traces this history, from the heady days before World War I, when socialism seemed inevitable, to the descent into a more straightforwardly technocratic, uninspired reform politics.

While Liebman arguably understates the obstacles that any socialist project faces in a capitalist democracy — focusing on party machinations instead of the structural power of business  — his essay is an important read as the socialist left regains its footing today. It is only by revisiting the pitfalls of the past that we can chart a more viable path in the present…..

What’s Behind the Teachers’ Strikes: The Labor-Movement Dynamic of Teacher Insurgencies

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Dollars and Sense, no. 336, May/June 2018

As we watch—rapt—the unexpected teacher insurgencies in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, and Colorado, we’re also grasping for understanding: Why is this stunning revolt occurring where unions are weak, where labor rights are thin, and where popular politics are considered to be on the right? To understand the insurgency, we need to look at economics, and at political economy specifically. But we especially need a labor-movement analysis.

A labor-movement analysis starts by understanding the political and economic conditions that shape the objective conditions of a particular group of workers (or labor market) at a given moment—prevailing wages, benefits, work processes, structures of employment, stability of work, market forces in the sector, etc. Then we look at how workers respond to those material factors and conditions: how they understand their interests, how they see their own power (or lack of it), how they understand the interests of the employers and what influences them, and how they develop tactics, strategies, and institutions to bring their power to bear against the power of employers. Finally, the self-directed activity of workers (including their ideas, ideologies, methods of organization, decision-making, and what actions they take) can be embedded in the larger context of other sectors of workers, other social movements, and historical labor movements. Such an analysis can help us interpret the teacher strike wave and, perhaps, gain insights that can help us rebuild capable, fighting unions….

Viewpoint: How to Talk with Nonunion Workers about ‘Right to Work’

Source: Shannon Duffy, Labor Notes, August 7, 2018

Two questions, three doors: thoughts in the closing days of the campaign to defeat “right to work.”

There’s been a lot of talk about the value of unions online and on doors this election season, and I’d like to address two questions that continue to be voiced.

The first question is why nonunion workers should vote to defeat right to work. Whenever it is raised, I often hear what is called the fair share argument. That’s the explanation where union defenders say, “What if you joined a country club or a homeowners association and you refused to pay their dues? How successful do you think you’d be trying to pull something like that? And can you honestly state that someone should have the right to do that?”

Let’s forget for a moment that it’s not a good idea to equate being in a union to being in a country club (it doesn’t exactly push back against that elitist tag that they always try to pin on us) or that substituting “homeowners association” for “country club” when talking to people on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder isn’t really any better. No matter how you slice it, it’s still those of us who have lecturing those who don’t have about why the system shouldn’t be changed, and that’s not exactly a winning strategy.

Now, I sure don’t want to knock anyone’s hard work—and if that argument is working for you on the doors, then God bless you, and keep doing what’s working. But it seems to me that we often miss opportunities to discuss how we can challenge existing power structures and create meaningful change. So indulge me for a moment….

Related:

Missouri Voters Overwhelmingly Reject ‘Right to Work’
Source: Chris Brooks, Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, August 8, 2018

Unions in Missouri are declaring victory after voters shot down a Republican-backed “right-to-work” law by a hefty 2 to 1.

The final vote count was 937,241 against the legislation to 452,075 in favor. Missouri became the 28th state with a right-to-work law on the books in February 2017, when Republican Governor Eric Greitens signed the law at a ceremony in an abandoned factory.

In response, thousands of union members hit the streets to gather enough signatures to trigger a referendum vote that could repeal the law. Over the course of six months, activists gathered 310,567 signatures—more than three times the number needed. Right to work was put on hold until voters could decide….

Vermont’s Striking Nurses Want A Raise for Nonunion Workers Too

Source: Jonah Furman, Labor Notes, August 2, 2018

Especially for professional workers, when your main strike issue is pay, attracting public support can be a challenge.

Savvy employers paint union members as spoiled. They like to point out that you’re already making more than many of your nonunion neighbors.

Yet when 1,800 nurses and technical staff struck for better wages July 12-13 at the state’s second-largest employer, the University of Vermont Medical Center, the people of Burlington came out in force to back them up.

“We had policemen and firefighters and UPS drivers pulling over and shaking our hands” on the picket line, said neurology nurse Maggie Belensz. “We had pizza places dropping off dozens of pizzas, giving out free ice cream.”

And when a thousand people marched from the hospital through Burlington’s downtown, “we had standing ovations from people eating their dinners,” she said. “It was a moving experience.”

One reason for such wide support: these hospital workers aren’t just demanding a raise themselves. They’re also calling for a $15 minimum wage for their nonunion co-workers, such as those who answer the phones, mop the floors, cook the food, and help patients to the bathroom…..