Category Archives: Organizing

The May 1 Marchers in Los Angeles: Overcoming Conflicting Frames, Bilingual Women Connectors, English-Language Radio, and Newly Politicized Spanish Speakers

Source: Kim Yi Dionne, Darin DeWitt, Michael Stone, Michael Suk-Young Chwe, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 51 no. 4, July 2015
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From the abstract:
In this article, we study protest participants in the May 2006 immigration rights marches in Los Angeles. Analysis of original survey data of 876 march participants yields five main results. First, despite substantial dispute among organizers on how to frame the marches, we find protest participants were similar across march locations organized by different coalitions. Second, we find Spanish-English bilingual participants seemed to benefit from being in two media environments, as they reported more information sources about the protest events than monolingual participants. Third, women reported hearing about the protest events from more information sources, and Spanish-English bilingual women reported hearing from more information sources than any other group, suggesting they acted as social connectors behind the massive participation. Fourth, we confirm the importance of Spanish-language radio as an information source, but our data also point to the significance of television and English-language radio. Finally, analyzing data of first-time protesters, we estimate the immigrant rights marches newly politicized 125,000 people in Los Angeles who spoke Spanish and not English.

A Theory of Civil Disobedience

Source: Edward L. Glaeser, Cass R. Sunstein, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21338, July 2015
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From the abstract:
From the streets of Hong Kong to Ferguson, Missouri, civil disobedience has again become newsworthy. What explains the prevalence and extremity of acts of civil disobedience?This paper presents a model in which protest planners choose the nature of the disturbance hoping to influence voters (or other decision-makers in less democratic regimes) both through the size of the unrest and by generating a response. The model suggests that protesters will either choose a mild “epsilon” protest, such as a peaceful march, which serves mainly to signal the size of the disgruntled population, or a “sweet spot” protest, which is painful enough to generate a response but not painful enough so that an aggressive response is universally applauded. Since non-epsilon protests serve primarily to signal the leaders’ type, they will occur either when protesters have private information about the leader’s type or when the distribution of voters’ preferences are convex in a way that leads the revelation of uncertainty to increase the probability of regime change. The requirements needed for rational civil disobedience seem not to hold in many world settings, and so we explore ways in which bounded rationality by protesters, voters, and incumbent leaders can also explain civil disobedience.

Organized Labor and the Unionization of Hispanic, Chinese, and Filipino Americans

Source: Daniel Schneider, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 2, June 2015
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From the abstract:
This work adds a systematic understanding of the diverse relationships of immigrants and minorities to organized labor in the United States. Using Current Population Survey data from 1994 to 2013, I interrogate the unionization of Hispanic, Chinese, and Filipino Americans. In comparison to whites, native-born and established immigrant Hispanics have higher rates of unionization, Filipinos (both immigrant and native born) are much likelier to join unions, and Chinese immigrants are less likely to be unionized and more likely to leave unions. Labor market position continues to have a profound effect on unionization; however, solidaristic characteristics also shape patterns of unionization.

Who’s Next: Engaging Young Workers

Source: Julia Kann, Labor Notes, #436, Steward’s Corner, July 2015
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… We spoke to three young organizers who are working where the rubber hits the road – the local level.

“rising Stars” is the young worker committee of OPEIU Local 2 in Washington, D.C. The “Futures Committee” is part of the Greater Boston Central Labor Council (CLC). And the “Young Women’s Committee” is part of Philadelphia’s chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).

They shared their best practices for building and maintaining powerful young worker groups. ….

American Movements

Source: Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 3, Summer 2015

Articles include:
Introducing Our Summer Issue: American Movements
Michael Kazin

….The articles in this special section examine the visions and complaints, the accomplishments and the limits of several of the largest and most important of the current movements on the left. Two of them—the drive for black freedom and that for decent pay and conditions on the job—have been around since the early days of the republic. But their advocates are taking fresh approaches to battle both new and old injustices. As our authors show, union teachers are negotiating both with and for the parents of their students, and African-American women are leading the new civil rights movement while making clear that men are not the sole victims of police brutality. The movement against fracking—like the grander effort to stop climate change—began only in this century. Yet it is already a major presence in the United States and at least half a dozen other countries. Our nation could also use a large and vigorous antiwar movement. But, for the time being, most Americans on the left are more concerned with protesting and attempting to change how they are governed at home than about the ends and means of the military forces deployed in their name and outside their borders….

Why Labor Moved Left
Nelson Lichtenstein

Hard times sometimes have a silver lining. As American unions have come under unrelenting assault, the left is “enjoying” a historic victory, but one most labor partisans would rather do without. If one considers the political landscape in the United States over the last half century, then American unions have moved—or been moved—to the left margin of mainstream thinking and action. They have gotten there primarily because of the shifting political and economic landscape on which they stand; for the most part, their leftism represents no conscious insurgency. Organized labor has become, instead, the domain of reluctant radicals…..

The Next Civil Rights Movement?
Fredrick C. Harris

….Though the 1960s movement addressed the civil and political rights that were denied to black people—access and use of public accommodations, the right to vote, and ensuring fair employment and housing opportunities—it did not directly confront the racialized degradation black people endured, and many continue to endure, at the hands of the police. What the Black Lives Matter protests have done, however, is not only put police reform on the policy agenda but demanded that American society reconsider how it values black lives…..

Women and Black Lives Matter: An Interview with Marcia Chatelain
Marcia Chatelain and Kaavya Asoka

…..A growing number of Black Lives Matter activists—including the women behind the original hashtag—have been refocusing attention on how police brutality impacts black women and others on the margins of today’s national conversation about race, such as poor, elderly, gay, and trans people. They are not only highlighting the impact of police violence on these communities, but articulating why a movement for racial justice must necessarily be inclusive. Say Her Name, for example, an initiative launched in May, documents and analyzes black women’s experiences of police violence and explains what we lose when we ignore them. We not only miss half the facts, we fundamentally fail to grasp how the laws, policies, and the culture that underpin gender inequalities are reinforced by America’s racial divide.How are black women affected by police brutality? And how are they shaping the concerns, strategies, and future of Black Lives Matter? Marcia Chatelain, professor of history at Georgetown University, creator of the #FergusonSyllabus, and author of South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration, shares her insights on the role of black women in today’s vibrant and necessary movement for racial justice….

Black Lives Matter in South Carolina
Robert Greene

Editors’ note: This article is part of a special section on American Movements from our forthcoming summer issue, which went to press before last week’s murder of nine black congregants at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

When intellectuals and pundits talk about race in America, the South takes on a dual role. At times, the South functions as an exceptional part of the nation, a region where white supremacy is the default mindset. It escapes redemption, and it cannot be reformed. This, at least, is the depressing view often espoused on liberal and left blogs, or coursing through the pages of otherwise “forward-thinking” magazines. However, at other moments, the South becomes a beacon of hope—Moral Mondays in North Carolina and the Fight for $15 campaign have inspired activists both within and beyond the South. If we can win here, liberals believe, we can win anywhere in the United States…..

Teacher-Community Unionism: A Lesson from St. Paul
Mary Cathryn Ricker

….In St. Paul, we knew we were doing wonderful things both inside and outside the schools. We applied for grants to teach middle school science to students alongside environmental and historical community activists while rebuilding the historic watershed on St. Paul’s East Side, a largely working-class neighborhood. We held public sessions where students read their essays and stories. We designed geography and history lessons about the immigration patterns of our city and our students. We lobbied our school board to maintain funding for peer mediation programs. We were thrilled to wake up every morning and share our love of these subjects with our students.

We also knew the value—and the potential—of our union. We were committed to achieving a high-quality, universal public school experience for every child. The members of the SPFT could be on the frontlines advocating that goal, and our contract could be the document that helped make it happen.

But first, we had to parry negative images about us. Administrators and politicians treated students and their families as the “consumers” of an educational system, whereas we saw them as partners in building better schools. That consumerist mentality framed us as nameless and faceless workers, instead of people who were forging relationships with children and their families. It’s no wonder that the notion of teachers as greedy and lazy had taken hold…..

Labor Unions and Worker Co-ops: The Power of Collaboration

Source: Mary Hoyer, Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO), 2015

Many people, including those in the labor and worker co-op movements, think that unions and co-ops are singularly mismatched. Logic has it that worker co-ops don’t need to be unionized since workers own and manage their businesses, and that workers in labor unions just naturally aren’t entrepreneurial but rather are used to resisting “the boss.” In addition, people may be familiar with large agricultural co-ops in the Midwest that fight with unionized workers, or with food co-ops that resist worker unionization.

What many people – even people in the broad co-op movement – don’t realize is that there are basically three types of co-ops: producer (like big ag co-ops), consumer (like food co-ops), and worker. In the first two types of co-ops, workers are not empowered with ownership and management control. Only in worker co-ops are workers in full authority. (Caveat: there are some producer and consumer co-ops in which workers are unionized, as well as “hybrid” co-ops in which workers are integrated into ownership and management along with consumers and producers.)

Many people are also unaware that the labor movement has a long and committed history of involvement in co-op development. ….

The Union Co-op Model

New Labor Movement for a New Working Class: Unions, Worker Centers, and Immigrants

Source: Kent Wong, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 36 no. 1, 2015
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….In many ways, June 15, 1990 was a turning point in the campaign that successfully reorganized the janitorial industry in Los Angeles. Not only did union density grow by leaps and bounds but more importantly, it demonstrated the power of immigrant worker organizing. The campaign proved that when unions develop creative organizing strategies backed by resources, immigrant workers could be organized.

Another breakthrough campaign was won in 1999 by the Los Angeles homecare workers. Again, many in our own union thought this campaign was a waste of time. There were tens of thousands of low-wage women workers, women of color and immigrants, each working in separate homes scattered throughout Los Angeles County. How could the union possibly organize them?

The organizing method utilized was a grassroots, community-based approach. Organizers went door to door to identify the homecare workers in their neighborhoods and organized small house meetings of three to five homecare workers. Long before formal union recognition, the campaign operated as if they were a union, including political mobilization actions. In 1999 after over a decade-long fight led by low-wage women of color, 74,000 homecare workers were successfully organized – the single largest union victory in the country in decades. Today, there are 250,000 homecare workers who are covered by union contracts in the state of California.

These campaigns reflect the potential of future organizing, and especially immigrant worker organizing, within the country. For more than twenty years, I’ve been the director of the UCLA Labor Center. Much of our work has been focused on reaching out to low-wage workers, to workers of color, and to immigrant workers, and finding creative ways to forge new alliances, new coalitions, and new opportunities to envision a new labor movement for the new working class…..

Workplace Democracy and Democratic Worker Organizations: Notes on Worker Centers and Members-Only Unions

Source: Catherine Fisk, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2015-64, June 8, 2015

From the abstract:
Worker organizing outside the traditional union framework in the United States has lately focused on worker centers and, to a lesser extent, members-only unions. These organizations provide the benefits of collective action and participatory workplace democracy without the legal obstacles faced by unions. This Essay offers thoughts on legal regulation of how worker organizations govern themselves to facilitate collective power with appropriate protection for the rights of individuals within the collective. Federal law extensively regulates the internal governance of unions so as to protect minorities in an organization that is an exclusive representative. It does not apply to members-only unions (which seek to bargain on behalf of only those workers who choose to become members) or worker centers (which disclaim the desire to represent workers for bargaining). Worker centers and members-only unions are regulated only lightly, under state law of nonprofit organizations. But if they become powerful, they will be large and will need to be managed by a leadership that may or may not remain accountable to the membership and respectful of minority rights. This Essay offers a reading of the literature on union democracy from the 1950s, including a classic text, Union Democracy, as notes toward thinking about governance of worker organizations that are not labor unions.

Worker Centers as Labor Organizations? Labor Law’s Quid Without the Quo

Source: Cynthia Estlund, OnLabor blog, June 11, 2015

At last week’s NYU Annual Conference on Labor (an excellent conference, by the way), the most heated exchange during a panel on alternative worker organizations revisited the debate over whether “worker centers” are “labor organizations” subject to the NLRA. What is largely missing from that debate is a recognition of the serious constitutional questions lurking just behind the scenes. …. So let us pull back and ask: What is the justification – the constitutional justification – for imposing the manifold restrictions of labor law on voluntary associations of workers engaged in peaceful advocacy and organizing? Indeed, one might ask: What justifies imposing these restrictions on ordinary unions? I think there is a partial and qualified answer to the second question, but that answer should doom efforts to subject worker centers to the constraints of federal labor law. ….. Here’s the rub: Worker centers do not exercise or seek any of the unusual powers of unions under the labor laws. They do not purport or attempt to exclusively represent a group of employees, including non-members, on the basis of majority rule; they do not claim the legal right to compel employers to bargain with them, or to bargain for the right to collect dues from non-members (as unions in non-right-to-work states can do). Without any of the distinctive legal powers of unions, worker centers are simply voluntary associations of workers pursuing shared interests through peaceful advocacy. ….