Category Archives: Organizing

Steward’s Corner: Challenge Unilateral Changes

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, February 7, 2018

When management changes an established working condition or adopts a new policy that adversely affects employees, stewards should alert union leaders quickly. By submitting a demand to bargain or filing a grievance, the union may be able to stop, modify, or at least delay harmful developments. Pressure tactics such as petitions, rallies, and picket lines add leverage…..

The Digital Activism Gap: How Class and Costs Shape Online Collective Action

Source: Jen Schradie Social Problems, Volume 65, Issue 1, February 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
What is the relationship between social class and online participation in social movements? Scholars suggest that low costs to digital activism broaden participation and challenge conventional collective action theories, but given the digital divide, little is known about cost variation across social movement organizations from different social classes. A focus on high levels of digital engagement and extraordinary events leaves scant information about the effect of social class on digital mobilization patterns and everyday practices within and across organizations. This study takes a field-level approach to incorporate all groups involved in one statewide political issue, thereby including organizations with different social class compositions, from Tea Parties to labor unions. Data collection spans online and off-line digital activism practices. With an index to measure digital engagement from an original data set of over 90,000 online posts, findings show deep digital activism inequalities between working-class and middle/upper-class groups. In-depth interviews and ethnographic observations reveal that the mechanisms of this digital activism gap are organizational resources, along with individual disparities in access, skills, empowerment and time. These factors create high costs of online participation for working-class groups. Rather than reduced costs equalizing online participation, substantial costs contribute to digital activism inequality.

Steward’s Corner: Union Newsletters: Two-Way or No Way

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, February 2, 2018

For union members trying to breathe a little life into their local, a newsletter is often the “go-to” solution. But what should go in it?

Say you and a group of buddies at work want to push your union in the right direction, toward greater member involvement. It’s not that things with the union are all terrible; in fact you’ve got a decent contract and stewards do a reasonable job handling grievances. But day to day a lot of problems come up that the union doesn’t seem to touch. Morale is low. There aren’t many union meetings, and attendance is often poor. You’ve got a sense that things could be different.

Perhaps there already is a newsletter—either print or electronic—but no one pays much attention to it. You may be thinking that a new and improved newsletter would be an easy way to stimulate interest in the union, educate co-workers, increase transparency, and motivate engagement. And you’d be right… but only if you keep certain basic organizing principles in mind.

Consider these scenarios, and ask yourself how best to report on them in a newsletter in a way that helps encourage more members to get involved in the union:….

….

Newsletter Distribution: Worst to Best
• Posted on the union website
• Left on a table in the mail room or break room
• Put in mailboxes or cubbies
• Sent via postal mail
• Email blast
• Hand distributed by stewards/reps
• Individually distributed with conversations
• All of the above
• All of the above, plus the newsletter includes “discussion topics” for members
• All of the above, plus discussions are organized around members’ responses….

White-Collar Unionization is Good for Everybody

Source: Alex Press, The Nation, January 29, 2018

Some have argued that it creates a class divide in labor—they’ve got it backward. ….

In a recent Atlantic article, Alana Semuels asks: “Why have high-profile organizing campaigns succeeded for white-collar workers and failed for blue-collar workers?” Semuels presents new BLS data that demonstrates the growth of white-collar unions: union membership in professional and technical jobs grew by nearly 90,000 last year, and several white-collar occupations saw an uptick in union density, which grew from 4 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in 2017. Contrasting this with recent defeats of blue-collar unionization drives, Semuels argues that there is a growing “class divide” within organized labor. …..

…..But this is where Semuels’s argument reveals its flaw: white-collar workers aren’t organizing because they feel secure, but because they have more in common with precarious blue collar workers than ever…..

How protests can affect elections

Source: C.K., The Economist, Democracy in America blog, January 26, 2018

America is seeing a new era of female political activism.

….. Research suggests that protest movements can have a significant impact on elections. Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute and colleagues made a striking discovery when they studied the effect of rallies held by the Tea Party movement on April 15th 2009 against high taxes and government spending. …. Overall they estimated that a 0.1% increase in the share of the population protesting at a rally corresponded to a 1.9 percentage point increase in the share of Republican votes. From these results, they reckoned that the protests as a whole mobilised between 2.7m and 5.5m additional votes for the Republican Party in the 2010 House elections –or between 3% and 6% of all House votes cast that year.

…. Ms Chenoweth’s most conservative estimate of participants in the 2017 Women’s Marches (the biggest such rally that year) is five times Mr Veuger’s midpoint estimate of participants in the Tea Party rallies of 2009. If a similar relationship applied nationwide to Democratic Party vote share in the mid-terms after the women’s marches as to the Republican mid-term vote share after the Tea Party rally it would imply a Democratic landslide.  The impact is unlikely to be so dramatic, however. …..

Flippable

Source: Flippable, 2018

We’re aiming to flip 100 seats across the country.

We can’t flip Congress without the states.
State governments often draw the district maps for national elections—and controlling that process has given the GOP an unfair advantage. States control voting methods and set voting requirements. When the GOP suppresses votes, Dems lose.

From healthcare to racial justice, the laws that impact our lives the most are often passed by states—not by the federal government.
States chip away at access to reproductive health care and LGBTQIA rights.
– From 2010 to 2016, states passed 338 laws restricting the right to choose.
– In 2016 alone, GOP state politicians introduced 200+ anti-LGBTQIA bills.

States are leading—or standing in the way—of efforts to fight climate change.
– Scientists have found that air pollution is a whole lot worse in states with GOP governors.
– In 2008, nine northeastern states pledged to cut their emissions by 40%—and they followed through. Now they’re working to cut another 30%.

Serving at the state level gets inspiring progressive Dems ready to run for national office.
– Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer, and Maxine Waters all made their way to the national stage via state governments. 
– State offices are a great way for young people, women and people of color, and non-wealthy people to get involved.

Compared to national races, state races are cheap.
Investing in these races is an extremely effective use of our dollars—that’s one big reason the GOP has been doing it for years.

What we’ll do:

Tip the Balance:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where winning just a few seats can flip a whole chamber of the state legislature.

Why We’ll Do It
By investing where we can flip a state house, we can enact progressive policies across the country.

Potential 2018 States
Colorado
Maine
Minnesota

Change the Game:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states with histories of gerrymandering or voter suppression.

Why We’ll Do It
States write the rules of our national elections and control voting requirements. By flipping seats in these states, we can start to restore democracy at both the state and national levels.

Potential 2018 States
Pennsylvania
Michigan
Iowa
Wisconsin
Florida
North Carolina

Turn The Tide:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where we can reverse Republican gains and lay the groundwork for future progressive victories.

Why We’ll Do It
We see opportunities in traditionally deep-red states where we can flip seats, make Democratic inroads, and break veto-proof majorities.

Potential 2018 States
Texas
Utah
Arizona

Defend Our Progress:
What We’ll Do
We’ll target states where the state legislatures or governors’ seats are blue, but are at risk of flipping red in 2018.

Why We’ll Do It
Democrats will face threats from GOP challengers in 2018, and we are prepared to help hold on to blue seats.

Potential 2018 States
Washington
Delaware
Oregon

Labor Debates: Assessing the Fight for Fifteen Movement from Chicago

Source: Robert Bruno, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 42 no. 4, December 2017
(subscription required)

In this issue of Labor Studies Journal (LSJ), we introduce a new occasional section to readers, Labor Debates. …. In our times, no union action has been more provocative than the Fight for $15 (FFF) movement. And as expected, followers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)–supported national campaign have insightful and diverse thoughts about the endeavor. Many of those thoughts are commonly held, but there are meaningful differences. Is FFF the model of rank-and-file social activism and union renewal or a largely well-intentioned, but flawed strategy? The energy embedded in the divergent ideas expressed in the oppositional judgments is worthy of open debate. We are therefore proud to inaugurate our Debate series with a collection of essays written about FFF by leading voices within the labor studies community. ….

Articles include:
Assessing the Fight for Fifteen Movement from Chicago
Steven Ashby

My goal in this paper is to dissect what makes the Fight for Fifteen movement special and praiseworthy; give some examples from the Fight for Fifteen movement in Chicago based on interviews and four years of conversations at Fight for Fifteen actions; add some perspective as a labor historian; and reply to left critics of the campaign. I will discuss the scope and duration of the campaign; its viability; the tactics of one-day strikes and civil disobedience; the degree of worker involvement and the idea of a militant minority in historical context; the role of community participation in Fight for Fifteen actions; and messaging and a media campaign…..

Fight for $15: Good Wins, but Where did the Focus on Organizing Go?
Jonathan Rosenblum

….The FFE had two main thrusts: First, through major worker mobilizations and actions, change the national public debate about what was wrong with the economy, expose corporate greed, and fight for better working conditions. And second, launch large-scale private-sector organizing campaigns to “move the union density dial” and rebuild durable union power. ….The question for Fight for $15—yet unanswered—is how to harness the energy of the walkouts to stoke a sustained movement of hundreds of thousands if not millions of workers who collectively can inflict real economic pain on the corporate masters…..

Fight for $15: The Limits of Symbolic Power—Juravich Comments on Ashby
Tom Juravich

Steven Ashby is right to mark the achievements of the Fight for $15. As he reminds us, this national campaign brought wage increases to nearly twenty million American workers during a time when union density fell to below 7 percent. Equally important is the way in which the Fight for $15 forever redefined low-wage work in the United States. Much like the occupy movement altered the discourse on inequality, I would argue that Fight for $15 forever changed how Americans think about low-wage work…..

Ashby Response to Rosenblum and Juravich: Fight for Fifteen
Steven Ashby

How to Jump-Start a Weak Union to Fight Open-Shop Attacks

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, January 2, 2018

Hostile forces are poised to encourage public sector workers to ditch their unions as soon as the Supreme Court rules on the Janus v. AFSCME case in 2018. To stave off a big exodus, many unions are asking workers to commit to keep paying dues. If you’re active in your union, leaders may even be asking you to “sell” membership to your co-workers.

But what if you’re caught in a union that hasn’t been doing a good enough job? What if your union doesn’t communicate much with members, or is mostly invisible, or only reaches out to you when there’s a crisis, or doesn’t fight hard for good contracts, or is too cozy with the boss?

Tragically, there are many union locals like this. If the leadership of your union isn’t open, inclusive, and fighting on behalf of your co-workers, this could present a kind of crisis for you. Perhaps when some representative comes around asking you to recommit to the union, you and your co-workers are saying, “Really? Why should we?” You might even be tempted to stop paying dues yourself, as a form of protest.

This is a tough moment, but one also filled with great possibility. If you know that workers are better off with a union, then of course you have to fight to keep the union no matter what. If you’re asked to sign a “Recommitment Card” it makes sense to do that; your frustrations are with the way the union is run, not with being a member, and the only way to change things is to keep organizing.

So let’s consider what you can do to improve the union you’re in, while helping to keep it alive during the “post-Janus” era. …..

Escalating Moral Obligation in the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011

Source: Matthew Kearney, Social Forces, Advance Access, December 28, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study uses insider ethnographic and interview data to examine one of the largest sustained collective actions in the history of the United States—the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011. It finds that this event took a highly unusual form due to a social relation that I term escalating moral obligation, a sense of solidaristic duty that grows increasingly fervent as others struggle on behalf of a shared cause. Each of three active groups within the movement engaged in arduous and unconventional resistance to controversial legislation, and did so in a manner that induced moral debt among the other groups. Fervency of commitment to the cause increased as a result of allies taking risky or self-sacrificial actions. Each group felt obligated to continue difficult mobilization as long as others continued theirs. Escalating moral obligation develops a simultaneously emergent, endogenous, and cognitive dimension of social movements. It is a relational mechanism linking political opportunity with actual mobilization. The political opportunity in this case was a combination of several conditions: an elite cleavage over the desirability of public unions, a more local balance of power allowing dissident legislators to obstruct but not defeat legislation, and an immediate severe popular reaction. This mechanism is potentially generalizable to other risky or arduous protests. When activists are motivated by the sacrifice or risk-taking of allied activists, escalating moral obligation is present. The concept links group-level imperatives with individual-level motivations. Escalating moral obligation shows one way that individual subjectivities can change through group interrelations and emotionally intense interactions.

How Organizers in Rural North Carolina Plan To Build Working-Class Power in 2018

Source: Sarah Jaffe, In These Times, January 3, 2018

Welcome to Interviews for Resistance. We’re now nearly one year into the Trump administration, and activists have scored some important victories. Yet there is always more to be done, and for many people, the question of where to focus and how to help remains. In this series, we talk with organizers, agitators, and educators, not only about how to resist, but how to build a better world…..