Category Archives: Organizing

The Resurrection of American Labor

Source: Janet Paskin, Bloomberg Businessweek, February 7, 2019

Traditional unions may be stymied, but workers are finding new ways to organize….

According to the official records, U.S. workers went on strike seven times during 2017. That’s a particular nadir in the long decline of organized labor: the second-fewest work stoppages recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since the agency started keeping track in the 1940s.

There was little reason to believe 2018 would be different, especially with the U.S. Supreme Court, in two decisions, making it harder for public employees unions to fund themselves and restricting workers’ rights to bring class actions. The power of employers appeared to be almost limitless. The unions were, if not busted, then certainly on the verge.

Aggrieved workers, however, took matters into their own hands, using social media and other tech tools to enhance their campaigns. From industry walkouts to wildcat teachers’ strikes, they made very public demands of their employers. The official number of major work stoppages recorded by the BLS in 2018 nearly tripled, to 20. Off the picket line, workers also won a wide range of concessions. Facing employee pressure, Google and McKinsey & Co. dropped contracts for government work employees found objectionable; thousands of dismissed Toys “R” Us workers got a severance fund; and Starbucks Corp. expanded parental and sick leave policies.

In many cases, workers and their advocates bypassed their employers entirely…..

Everything You Need to Know About General Strikes

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, January 24, 2019

The word strike seems to be on everyone’s lips these days. Workers across the world have been striking to protest poor working conditions, to speak out against sexual harassment, and to jumpstart stalled union negotiations. And as we just saw with the Los Angeles teachers’ successful large-scale strike, which spanned six school days, strikers have been winning. Despite the shot of energy that organized strikes have injected into the labor movement, many people aren’t content with run-of-the-mill work stoppages, or even with more militant wildcat strikes…..

….. So what does it all mean? How is a general strike different from a planned, industry-specific work stoppage; why are people interested in the idea now; and what would one look like in 2019? …..

The Greensboro Sit-In Protests, Explained

Source: Eric Ginsburg, Teen Vogue OG History, February 1, 2019

The first day of Black History Month is also the anniversary of a historic civil rights protest and the birth of a student-led movement. February 1 marks the 59th anniversary of the start of the Greensboro sit-ins, a protest started in 1960 by four college students against racial segregation in Greensboro, North Carolina. Their actions quickly spurred a nationwide movement that sparked a fresh wave of the civil rights era….

Beyond the Critique of Rights: The Puerto Rico Legal Project and Civil Rights Litigation in America’s Colony

Source: Valeria M. Pelet del Toro, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 128 no. 3, January 2019

Long skeptical of the ability of rights to advance oppressed groups’ political goals, Critical Legal Studies (CLS) scholars might consider a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico and ask, “What good are rights when you live in a colony?” In this Note, I will argue that CLS’s critique of rights, though compelling in the abstract, falters in the political and historical context of Puerto Rico. Although it may appear that rights have failed Puerto Ricans, rights talk has historically provided a framework for effective organizing and community action. Building on the work of Critical Race Theory and LatCrit scholars, this Note counters the CLS intuition that rights talk lacks value by focusing on the origins and development of the Puerto Rico Legal Project, an understudied but critical force for community development and legal advocacy on the island that was founded in response to severe political repression during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This Note draws on original interviews with Puerto Rican and U.S. lawyers and community activists to reveal fissures in the critique of rights and to propose certain revisions to the theory. By concentrating on the entitlements that rights are thought to provide, CLS’s critique of rights ignores the power of rights discourse to organize marginalized communities. The critique of rights also overlooks the value of the collective efforts that go into articulating a particular community’s aspirations through rights talk, efforts which can be empowering and help spur further political action. By analyzing twentieth-century Puerto Rican legal and political history and the Puerto Rico Legal Project, I demonstrate the value (and limits) of rights in a colonized nation.

America’s Teachers Are Furious

Source: Alia Wong, The Atlantic, January 22, 2019

From West Virginia to Los Angeles, educators are ushering in a new era of labor activism.

Related:
Political payback for the statewide teacher walkout?
Source: Andrea Eger, Tulsa World, January 22, 2019

Slew of newly filed bills aim to punish, limit future protests.

After LA’s Strike, “Nothing Will Be the Same”
AN INTERVIEW WITH ARLENE INOUYE
Source: Eric Blanc, Jacobin, January 23, 2019

The Los Angeles teachers’ strike was big, it was united, and now it’s victorious. We interview UTLA chief negotiator Arlene Inouye about how the strike turned the tables on the billionaire privatizers.

Los Angeles Teachers Strike for Higher Wages and Smaller Classes
Source: Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg Businessweek, January 18, 2019

The district has lost enrollment to declining birthrates, rising housing costs, and charter schools.

Connecting the Dots: Labor and the Digital Landscape

Source: Richard Wells, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, Vol. 15 no. 3, September 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article takes stock of the recent union organizing in digital media. It offers some context, beginning with a discussion of the crisis in the traditional, printbased news business that is both cause and effect of the growth of the digital news media. The article then provides a sampling of the ways in which this crisis has been diagnosed and understood, in terms of the basic economics of the business and in terms of its dire implications for the public sphere. A review of the main themes in the history of union-based struggle in the news industry, followed by considerations of the union role on the infrastructural side of the increasingly Internet-based communications industry, helps pinpoint both the challenges and the possibilities represented by the unionization of digital media workers.

The Impact of Protest on Elections in the United States

Source: Daniel Q. Gillion, Sarah A. Soule, Social Science Quarterly, Volume 99 Issue 5, November 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives:
The objective of this study was to understand the effect of citizen mobilization on both electoral outcomes and on the likelihood that new candidates will enter races to challenge incumbent politicians.

Methods:
This study uses quantitative, longitudinal data (at the congressional‐district level) on protest, electoral outcomes, and challengers entering races, which are analyzed using an autoregressive distributed lagged regression model.

Results:
Results show that protests that express liberal issues lead to a greater percentage of the two‐party vote share for Democratic candidates, while protests that espouse conservative issues offer Republican candidates a greater share of the two‐party vote. Additionally, results indicated that protest shines a light on incumbent politicians’ failure to address constituent concerns, which leads quality candidates to enter subsequent races to challenge incumbent politicians.

Conclusions:
Citizen activism, which has been shown to impact state and firm policy decisions, also impacts electoral outcomes.

Related:
Yes, protests really can sway elections
Source: by Edmund L. Andrews, Futurity, December 13, 2018

Protests really do have an effect on election results, according to a new study based on 30 years of data.

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.