Category Archives: Organizing

Globalization and Protest Expansion

Source: Kyle Dodson, Social Problems, Volume 62 Issue 1, First published online: 18 March 2015
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From the abstract:
Evidence of protest expansion both in the United States and abroad has stimulated theoretical discussion of a “movement society,” with some arguing that protest activities are becoming a standard feature of democratic politics. In advancing this claim, many have highlighted the role of domestic factors—for example, generational change or economic affluence—without fully accounting for the possibility that international dynamics may play an important role as well. The lack of work is surprising not only because the trend in protest is international in scope, but also because work in comparative sociology suggests globalization may make an important contribution. This study addresses the empirical gap by examining how political globalization (as measured by memberships in international organizations) and economic globalization (as measured by trade activity and foreign investment) influence trends in protest participation. Using data from World Values Surveys of 37,716 respondents in 17 advanced democracies merged with data on several national and international indicators, this study examines how the probability of participating in protest has changed over time as a result of these two forms of globalization. The results of multivariate, multilevel analysis combined with simulations indicate that trends in political globalization have expanded protest activity, while trends in economic globalization have limited that expansion. These results suggest that social movement scholarship should continue to examine the implications of globalization for protest behavior and other social movement dynamics.

At 100 Colleges Around the Country, Adjuncts Take Action to Demand an End to Precarity and Low Pay

Source: Andrew Mortazavi, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, February 26, 2015

Yesterday, adjunct faculty members at over 100 college campuses carried out coordinated demonstrations as part of National Adjunct Walkout Day. Adjuncts aimed to draw attention to low pay, exploitative working conditions, and a lack of job security. They organized walkouts, “teach-ins,” and rallies to push for part-time academic workers’ rights and greater visibility. While specific goals varied among activists, most adjuncts organizing around the event are demanded better pay, more job security, and access to benefits. ….

Starting from Scratch: Building Community Support for Labor Organizing in Indianapolis

Source: Thomas F. Marvin, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 39 no. 4, December 2014
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From the abstract:
This study compares how two union organizing campaigns have attempted to mobilize community support by examining the opportunity structure for organizing in Indianapolis, comparing the community outreach efforts of the two campaigns, and assessing their effectiveness in matching their strategies to local conditions. Although some suggest that the “L.A. model” of creating powerful labor-community coalitions is replicable in other cities, important differences in the local opportunity structure force organizers to “start from scratch” and improvise innovative strategies in cities like Indianapolis that lack a strong social justice infrastructure.

Pride at Work: Organizing at the Intersection of the Labor and LGBT Movements

Source: Maura Kelly and Amy Lubitow, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 39 no. 4, December 2014
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From the abstract:
Collaborations between labor and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations represent opportunities for both movements to increase their membership base, expand their circle of influence, and more fully embrace an intersectional framework for understanding social and economic justice. Drawing from interviews and participation with Pride at Work, an LGBT labor organization, we explore how coalitions that include LGBT and labor organizations can potentially benefit and strengthen both the labor movement and the movement for LGBT rights.

9 Notes on the Future of Revolution

Source: Tom Junod, Esquire, December 18, 2014

From Micah White, cofounder of the Occupy movement, as the millennium turns fifteen: “If there’s gonna be a revolution, it’ll happen non-violently.” ….

I’m not satisfied anymore with just the standard repertoire of activism. We have to really rethink the foundation of activism. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

The protest tactics that we’ve developed—the repertoire of tactics that we’ve developed—like, marching and these kinds of things, are designed to influence liberal democracy. They were designed to influence people—like, elected representatives—who had to listen to their constituents. But the breakdown of that paradigm happened on February 15, 2003, when the whole world had an anti-war march and President George Bush said, “I don’t listen to focus groups.” He said that, basically, by saying that, he basically said, “It doesn’t matter if you mass a million, billion, six billion people or whatever. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.”

My thinking is moving away from protest. Instead, I’m more interested now with the power of social mobilization. The power of, basically, getting large numbers of people to change their behaviors, to depattern themselves, to actually get the facts collectively in order to tackle global challenges…..

Paraprofessional Educators and Labor-Community Coalitions, Past and Present

Source: Nick Juravich, LaborOnline blog, February 24, 2015

…With all of this in mind, however, it is still important to observe that the mere presence of paraprofessionals in teacher unions has not generated robust alliances between communities and educators, nor has it ensured the full and equal incorporation of paras into schools and union locals. These issues are deeply intertwined: to mobilize paraprofessionals as coalition builders, the labor movement must also empower paras in the workplace and the union hall. With organizers around the country trying to do just that, it is an excellent time to look back to the era when paraprofessionals first joined teacher unions, both to understand how an earlier generation of organizers built alliances and to understand the challenges that they faced….

Beyond Unions, Notwithstanding Labor Law

Source: Marion G. Crain, Kenneth Matheny, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-01-03, January 13, 2015

From the abstract:
In this Article, we ask what vehicles for worker advocacy and representation at a collective level are most likely to support a healthy democracy and a more just distribution of wealth, and (notwithstanding the NLRA) what legal architecture will nurture them. Our answer to the first question is “many mechanisms.” The best hope for a revived labor movement appears to lie with new actors such as workers’ centers, community and occupational groups, and identity caucuses that can work in partnerships with established unions; class action plaintiffs’ firms dedicated to enforcing workplace rights; and government agencies and attorneys general. The experience of these groups with law thus far is instructive because it signals hostility to group rights and collective action in the workplace context beyond labor law. Accordingly, reforming labor law will not be sufficient. A bolder approach is necessary. On the second question, then, we contend that more robust constitutional protection for group action in its many forms is essential to create breathing space for worker mobilization. That protection can and should be founded upon the First Amendment freedom of assembly. Relying on a vigorous body of First Amendment scholarship that emphasizes the role that assembly rights have played in our constitutional tradition, we offer a preliminary sketch of how reframing labor rights as assembly rights might expand legal protections for labor unions and other worker advocacy efforts, and shore up democracy in the process.

Our argument proceeds in four parts. Part I treads ground familiar to labor scholars, describing the role that judicial hostility to group action has played in cabining group rights in the labor law context. Part II describes the new vehicles for collective worker activism that have developed to fill the gaps left by the decline of conventional unions, and assesses the law’s response to their strategies. We explain how law has been hostile to collective action by workers even where unions and labor law are not involved. This hostility is manifested most starkly in a recent series of decisions from the Supreme Court narrowing the availability of class claims by workers in workplace-based litigation and arbitration. Because class claims may play a critical role in the formation of group identity, these developments stifle nascent forms of worker activism. Part III contends that a new legal frame is essential to support group rights, and looks to a revitalized First Amendment right of assembly. Part III also discusses the implications of this reframing, explaining why the new frame is vital to a healthy democracy. Part IV outlines how such a frame might alter the existing labor law regime.

Reframing labor rights as assembly rights would offer modern unions and other worker advocacy groups a new rhetorical tool in the struggle to win hearts and minds. Constitutional rights are accessible to the public and to workers in a way that statutory mandates are not. Thus, they are more likely to be effective in the crusade to rebrand labor unionism. Unions, worker centers, and other advocacy groups should consider appealing to the public to support the constitutional right to assembly in the context of rallies, pickets, boycotts, demonstrations, and social media appeals designed to advance workers’ rights. They might reform their marketing strategies, including websites, publicity, handbills, and other mediums to foreground assembly rights. Further, the constitutional stature of the assembly right could ground serious challenges in court to portions of the labor law that hamstring both unions and new forms of worker advocacy groups, particularly restrictions on picketing, secondary boycotts, the strike weapon, and group litigation conducted as part of an organizing drive. It might also, however, ground challenges to parts of the statute that labor holds dear, including exclusive representation and the ban on company unions.

To Check Power of Greedy Bosses, Workers Need to Bargain in New Ways

Source: Sarita Gupta, American Prospect, February 6, 2015

When workers’ power is diminished and people’s voices are shut out of the workplace, job quality and job standards suffer. …. A century ago, we were fighting for overtime laws and workplace safety standards. Today, the battles look a little different, but they’re no less important. If we’re getting up and going to work every day and still living on the brink—still wondering when we can squeeze another shift in or whether or not we can take a day off to care for a sick child—then we have to spend some serious time thinking of better ways to make sure working in this country actually provides people with a pathway to a better life. ….

Malpractice by the Labor Movement: Relinquishing the Fight for Occupational Health and Safety in California

Source: Garrett Brown, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 1, January 2015
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An underlying theme of California’s most prominent union organizing campaigns in recent years—among warehouse workers east of Los Angeles, carwasheros in Los Angeles proper, and recycling workers in Oakland and Southern California—has been worker concerns about unsafe and unhealthy conditions at work. As labor visionaries like Tony Mazzocchi predicted, workers are deeply concerned about and can be successfully organized around workplace health and safety issues. Rank-and-file concerns about health and safety, however, have not been taken up by union officials or lobbyists who view health and safety as a lower priority than labor legislation or gubernatorial appointees. ….

….What Cal/OSHA (along with the Fed OSHA and other state plans) needs is the political will on the part of politicians and their appointees to make worker health and safety a priority, ensure worker safety agencies have the staffing and resources they need to enforce the law, and withstand inevitable employer campaigns against effective worker protection regulations and their implementation. Creating this political will depends on the labor movement making workplace safety a “non-negotiable demand,” along with its other priorities in both contract talks and political campaigns. The labor movement needs to return to the campaigning of the 1960s and 1970s that made worker health and safety a cause célèbre—and established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration under Republican President Nixon—not only for unions but also for OHS professional organizations, for the environmental movement concerned that toxic exposures inside the plant will generate toxic exposures outside the plant, and for the working public as a whole.

Among the campaigns labor could lead, and win support from other working-class and community organizations, are efforts to ensure OSHA agencies have the staffing and resources needed to effectively protect workers on the job; to undertake special efforts to protect particularly vulnerable workers such as immigrants and Latino workers in general who suffer higher rates of injury, illness, and death; and to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals that poison workers, surrounding communities, and even consumers. ….