Category Archives: Organizing

And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voice, Power, Promise

Source: Institute for Policy Studies, 2015

From the introduction:
….The idea for this report emerged in October 2013 when the Black Labor Scholars Network (now the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative) and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor hosted a two-day conference titled The State of the Black Worker in America. This event delved deeply into the history of black workers and their organizing efforts; the current state and vision of black leadership within unions; innovative and cutting edge black-led organizing across the country; and a gender-based analysis of black organizing.

Little-known, groundbreaking research about the effectiveness of black women’s leadership in union organizing created a lot of buzz at the conference and begged an important question: Why has the organizing success of black women not resulted in more black women serving in leadership positions that help shape the direction of the labor movement? We hit the road in search of an answer. In our travels from the West Coast to the Deep South, we heard amazing stories from incomparable women.

And Still I Rise: Black Women Labor Leaders’ Voices, Power and Promise gives the 27 amazing women we interviewed and the 467 who responded to the Institute for Policy Studies’ National Survey of Black Women in Labor an opportunity to not only explore this question for themselves but, more important, to show the labor movement a way forward. The report is organized around three emerging themes—leadership, organizing and policy issues of concern to black labor women—and reflects the women’s unique position at the nexus of race, gender and class. More than giving a critique of what is wrong, the women offer insights into winning organizing strategies, ways to build power by linking arms with others, the value of opening opportunity to black women in nontraditional fields; and what happens when white allies use their position and power to make room for the leadership of black women to emerge.

These topics are explored through first-person narratives of the women we interviewed and a summary of the national online survey results. The report concludes with a series of recommendations to move the ideas within these pages to action…..
Related:
Recommendations
Survey Findings: National Survey of Black Women in Labor
The Black Worker Initiative
The Women
Video

Organized Labor Should Spend the Rest of 2015 Training Workers How to Fight

Source: David Goodner, In These Times, Working In These Times blog, May 1, 2015

…..In the long run, labor would be better off scaling back its electoral work and instead double down on new and internal organizing, with a special emphasis on bringing back the widespread and prolific use of the strike—a weapon that, unlike the campaign contribution, actually has the power to change the political calculus on the job and in Washington.

Popularizing the use of the strike as a tactic again (which in some ways is already happening, just not widely enough or quickly enough) could not only lead to more victories on the job; it could also help grow the confidence of the working class as a whole to take on bigger political challenges and see the value in joining mass movements for transformational social change.

Unions should start making this transition now and use the rest of the year to accomplish an ambitious goal to train its members, in every bargaining unit across the country, in how to organize and implement a successful strike campaign.

Organized workers going on strike to win better wages, hours and working conditions may sound like common sense—“bread and butter” unionism. But decades of sustained defeats at the hands of corporate power—combined with the dominant business unionism model that eschews worker militancy, shop floor struggle and open confrontation in favor of backroom deal-making and so-called “labor-management partnerships”—has created an environment where all too many labor unions have forgotten their true source of power and how to effectively use it.

Luckily, a group of innovative democratic union reformers at SEIU Local 1021 in California have developed a new training curriculum called the Strike School that could serve as a nationwide model for action and be easily adapted to fit local needs by action committees made up of union stewards, shop floor leaders, rank and file workers and organizing staff.

Local 1021’s model Strike School, which In These Times has obtained and posted online (links below) as an open source document, is designed to educate workers about the true nature of class politics and class conflict, the power of the strike, how to organize and win a strike and how to use the strike as part of a larger social movement. It is divided into three modules: “Economic Power,” “Striking for Our Communities,” and “Strategic Planning,” and uses the 1937 sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan, as well as the 2012 Port of Oakland and Chicago Teachers strikes as case studies. PowerPoints, video documentaries, guided discussions, mock scenarios and worker role-plays are all part of the curriculum……

The “Strike School” materials can be found below:
Module 1: Economic Power
Module 2: Strategic Planning
Module 3: Striking for Our Communities
Additional handouts

#BlackWorkersMatter

Source: Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, Linda Burnham, Steven Pitts, Marc Bayard, Algernon Austin, Discount Foundation and the Neighborhood Funders Group, May 2015

From the summary:
…. #BlackWorkersMatter comprises six sections. The first and longest report focuses on black worker organizing, its history, and the challenges it faces, relying heavily on interviews from activists and leaders prominent in the worker organizing field. It is followed by four reports that address various aspects of the black jobs crisis, its causes, its effects, and the potential for black worker organizing to provide a path to its resolution. These reports, while they stand as powerful individual pieces, together offer a comprehensive picture of the status of both black workers and the struggle for economic opportunity for African Americans. The final section of #BlackWorkersMatter is a recommendations section. …..

Protest Campaigns and Movement Success – Desegregating the U.S. South in the Early 1960s

Source: Michael Biggs, Kenneth T. Andrews, American Sociological Review, Published online before print March 9, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Can protest bring about social change? Although scholarship on the consequences of social movements has grown dramatically, our understanding of protest influence is limited; several recent studies have failed to detect any positive effect. We investigate sit-in protest by black college students in the U.S. South in 1960, which targeted segregated lunch counters. An original dataset of 334 cities enables us to assess the effect of protest while considering the factors that generate protest itself—including local movement infrastructure, supportive political environments, and favorable economic conditions. We find that sit-in protest greatly increased the probability of desegregation, as did protest in nearby cities. Over time, desegregation in one city raised the probability of desegregation nearby. In addition, desegregation tended to occur where opposition was weak, political conditions were favorable, and the movement’s constituency had economic leverage.

Campaign Research Toolkit

Source: Reem Assil, Jay Donahue, DataCenter, 2015

From the summary:
The Campaign Research Toolkit is a how-to guide for grassroots organizations conducting community-driven campaign research. It’s the product of over ten years of experience working with grassroots organizations to develop strategic and effective campaigns for change. The toolkit contains user-friendly activities, worksheets, and case-study discussions that demystify the process of campaign research for organizations and their membership. Why do we need strategic campaigns? Campaigns are essential tools for organizing communities to develop their power to create social change. We build campaigns as a coordinated and methodical way to confront decision-makers and inform policies that shape the lives of our communities. The tools in the Campaign Research Toolkit are the same tools we currently use in our Research for Community Power Program. With these tools, we’ve worked with marginalizes communities to strengthen organizing efforts, empower the dis-empowered, and, in some cases, win important policy changes.

Roll Back Low Wages – Nine Stories of New Labor Organizing in the United States

Source: Sarah Jaffe, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, March 2015

From the summary:
In this study, labor journalist Sarah Jaffe, whose writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Nation, and In These Times and who works as co-host of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast, examines this series of low-wage workers’ movements that has gained strength in recent years. Including fast food strikes and the fight for a $15 minimum wage; retail, grocery store, restaurant, and taxi workers; Carwasheros, domestic and home care workers, and those living in the U.S. under guestworker visas; Jaffe explores how these movements overlap and connect. She also analyzes their flaws and setbacks in order to better appreciate and learn how to reproduce their often-unreported victories. While, because of Washington gridlock, it might be a while before these campaigns impact federal legislation, they are already having a notable impact on policy in municipalities across the country: winning minimum wage increases; helping to pass employment-specific regulations and ordinances in cities and states that require businesses to give workers paid sick days; and forming legally recognized collective bargaining units and winning concessions from employers through direct action.

Perhaps more importantly, low-wage workers’ movements are playing a crucial role in revitalizing labor, and indeed much of the left, creating alliances and waging offensive battles at a time when too much of the progressive community has been stuck playing defense. They are doing everything they can to ensure that the defeat of precarity, and not its continuance, will be the most important trend in the U.S economy in the years to come.
Related:
German version

Revitalizing Unions, Rebuilding Labor Studies – book review

Source: Stephanie Luce, Work and Occupations, Published online before print April 2, 2015
(subscription required)

Adler, L. H., Tapia, M., & Turner, L. (Eds.). (2014). Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 210 pp. $21.95 (paper).

From the abstract:
Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism is an edited volume that provides case studies of unions organizing immigrant workers in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. The book, edited by Lee H. Adler, Maite Tapia, and Lowell Turner, contains details of cases where unions have allied with community organizations and other social movement partners to expand union access or political rights to immigrant workers. The authors draw lessons from the best case scenarios. This book also serves as an example of the kind of work labor studies scholars and institutes are pursuing.

Verification Handbook for Investigative Journalism

Source: Editor: Craig Silverman, European Journalism Centre (EJC), 2015

Authored by leading journalists from the BBC, Storyful, ABC, Digital First Media and other verification experts, the Verification Handbook is a groundbreaking new resource for journalists and aid providers. It provides the tools, techniques and step-by-step guidelines for how to deal with user-generated content (UGC) during emergencies….While it primarily targets journalists and aid providers, the Handbook can be used by anyone. It’s advice and guidance are valuable whether you are a news journalist, citizen reporter, relief responder, volunteer, journalism school student, emergency communication specialist, or an academic researching social media….

Related:
VISUALIZE JUSTICE: A Field Guide to Enhancing the Evidentiary Value of Video for Human Rights
With slight enhancements, the footage citizens and activists often risk their lives to capture can do more than expose injustice — it can also serve as evidence in the criminal and civil justice processes. The forthcoming free field guide, “Visualize Justice: A Field Guide to Enhancing the Evidentiary Value of Video for Human Rights,” is intended to serve as a reference manual for citizen witnesses and human rights activists seeking to use video not only to document abuses, but also for the ambitious end goal of bringing perpetrators to justice.