Category Archives: Organizing

Collective Bargaining 3.0

Source: Erica Smiley, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
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The first lesson network leaders learn in the Jobs With Justice training is never give your power away. While easier said in a workshop than in the North Carolina General Assembly, it does compel us to remember how change happens. While we need labor law reform, we should not wait for it to build a movement to expand the scale and scope of collective bargaining. Early industrial unions were bargaining long before the Wagner Act codified the practice, leveraging their ability to halt production when necessary. Only through exercising their power, and even breaking some rules, were they able to win the legal protections to back up workers’ ability to bargain equally with employers. ….

… In a recent article for the American Prospect, Lane Windham of Penn State University adds, “in depending on unions to do the negotiating for a social wage, the U.S. had inadvertently given employers in the U.S. a higher incentive than employers in other nations to fight union organizing.”

And fight they have! The corporate class attacked the very power that makes workers equal at the bargaining table—regardless of whether they are attacking a union or a worker center. The Taft-Hartley Act was the first well-known blow, prohibiting jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, and more. States could pass right-to-work laws, gutting union membership first in the South, and later throughout the country. Riding this legacy, Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers would have us believe collective bargaining is in its final death throes.

In its current form, it may be…..

What Should Unions Do Now?

Source: Craig Becker, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
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….The labor movement should seize the opportunity of the present moment to persuade people of good faith that raising the minimum wage is not enough, vibrant organizations of working people, that is, unions, are critical to the economy and to a democratic polity. Making the case that unions are a vital part of fixing what is troubling working people requires both unity and focus. The solution is not strengthening any single union but revitalizing the movement as a whole. Yet, the organized labor movement has been fractured at the national level since 2005 when six unions representing over a third of the AFL-CIO left the federation…. When effective local labor movements build out from key cities and meet a unified national movement, it may be possible not only to convince people that vibrant unions are part of the solution to what troubles working America, but to actually make good on that promise. …

Worker Voice In A Time Of Rising Inequality

Source: Council of Economic Advisers, Issue Brief, October 2015

From the summary:
Over the past six and a half years, the President has put forward his vision for middle-class economics where everyone plays by the same set of rules and if you work hard, you can get ahead. A key piece of his agenda to build a stronger economy for working Americans is to ensure that they have a voice in the workplace through unions and other organizing groups. Today’s Summit on Worker Voice highlights the economic case for strengthening worker representation, and a new CEA issue brief reviews the evolution of unions over time, their impact on a broad range of workplace outcomes, and new forms of organizing that have begun to take shape.

How California Birthed the Modern Right Wing

Source: Chris Lehman, In These Times, October 6, 2015

Many of 20th-century conservatism’s tricks were honed in 1930s agribusiness’s fight against farmworkers. ….. Conservative rule in America is by now so deep-seated that a veritable cottage industry has sprung up to explain its origins. By varying accounts, the modern Right’s resurgence has its roots in populist religious revivals, Cold War paranoia, racial scapegoating and the ongoing cultural backlash against the New Left. Taken together, they raise the question: What served as the mainspring force? …..

The Historical Roots of American Domestic Worker Organizing Run Deep

Source: Jake Blumgart, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, September 21, 2015

Domestic workers and their advocates have been making an increasing number of headlines since 2010, when New York became the first state to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Guaranteeing overtime and time off, such legislation has spread to four other states and is being fought for in many more. But organizing around domestic work has been ongoing since at least the 1930s, an often forgotten corner of the labor movement. …

Latino Workers and Unions: A Strategic Partnership for America’s Progress

Source: Hector E. Sanchez, Victor Baten, Marcela Barrientos, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), 2015

This report will examine the unique partnership the labor movement and the Latino community can achieve together. Unions are in desperate need of new membership while Latinos need the protection and wages a union job can provide them. This mutually beneficial partnership can curb the negative conditions Latino workers face while saving a movement that has changed the American workforce. …..

The Right to Strike

Source: Ari Paul, Jacobin, September 18, 2015

“Right-to-work” is coming to the public sector. The key to survival is social movement unionism. ….. If anything, the fear Friedrichs inspires could force unions to do the type of everyday, internal organizing that dissidents and reform activists often complain doesn’t happen. While this could distract from other efforts, it could also drive unions to reconnect with their membership — actually improving their chances of surviving in the long term. In addition, some argue it’s too fatalistic to equate right-to-work with union decline, because a well-organized union could still thrive. Union membership in Indiana has remained steady despite right-to-work legislation passed in 2012 (although a failure to reach good contracts in the years to come could spark a mass exodus). Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which primarily represents Las Vegas casino workers, maintains a 90 percent density rate in a right-to-work state because of its on-the-ground organizing. The obvious counterexample to this is Wisconsin, where union membership has plummeted since going right-to-work. But there’s an obvious explanation: public unions there can’t collectively bargain. For unions who can demonstrate dues money makes it possible to fight and win, it’s a much easier sell. …..

The Challenge of Protest in Our Time: Micah White on Social Change Movements, Theories of Revolution, and Moving on from Occupy Wall Street

Source: Justin Campbell, Los Angeles Review of Books, September 17, 2015

….Micah White, along with the cofounder of Adbusters Kalle Lasn, began one of the most powerful social movements of the 21st century with an email — calling all who were concerned about our current political state to combine the tactics of the Tahrir Square uprisings with the Spanish anti-austerity general assemblies and bring their voices in order that they might occupy Wall Street. The name stuck, and soon, the entire world was watching as encampments popped up all over, demonstrating that citizens of all governments were tired of their voices going unheard.  Since then, activists have been asking what effective social movements look like and how social change comes about in a post-Occupy world. This is something Micah has been hard at work thinking about, ever since police in riot gear drove protesters out of public parks all over the world at the end of the Occupy Wall Street protests. As we see new movements come on the scene, like Black Lives Matter, we must continue to ask: What can we learn from the past to avoid the same mistakes that ultimately prevented previous movements from achieving their revolutionary potential…..

“We Need to Have a Meeting”: Public Housing Demolition and Collective Agency in Atlanta, Georgia

Source: Danya E. Keene, Housing Policy Debate, Published online: August 7, 2015
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From the abstract:
The last two decades have witnessed widespread demolition of public housing and a large-scale relocation of public housing residents. Much of the current literature has examined the impact of demolition on relocated residents, focusing primarily on individual outcomes such as employment, housing quality, and health. This article examines the potential collective consequences of relocation by using data from 40 in-depth interviews conducted with relocated public housing residents in Atlanta, Georgia, to examine experiences of civic engagement and tenant activism before and after relocation. Participants describe frequent experiences of civic engagement and tenant activism in their public housing communities prior to demolition and also discuss how these collective actions often translated into meaningful gains for their communities. Participants also describe challenges associated with reestablishing these sources of collective agency in their new, post demolition, private-market rental communities where opportunities for civic engagement and tenant activism were perceived to be limited, where stigma was a barrier to social interaction, and where they experienced significant residential instability.

The labour of learning: overcoming the obstacles facing union-worker centre collaborations

Source: Gabriel Hetland, Work Employment & Society, Published online before print September 3, 2015
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From the abstract:
In the USA, the UK and elsewhere, community unionism appears a potentially fruitful strategy for organizing the growing numbers of workers holding precarious employment. In the USA there is increasing interest in a form of community unionism that may gain traction in the UK: union-worker centre collaborations. Unions and worker centres have struggled to collaborate, however, because of their structural, cultural and ideological differences. This article examines a rare case of successful union-worker centre collaboration, asking why this collaboration emerged, what challenges it has faced, and why it has succeeded. Data show this collaboration emerged due to organizational crises, linked to broader economic changes, and individual learning following semi-successful organizing campaigns. The collaboration overcame challenges stemming from the differences between unions and worker centres through intra- and inter-organizational learning. Two conditions facilitated this outcome: bridge builders and state support for unionization. This case is used to explore broader questions about union revitalization.