Category Archives: Organizing

Virtual Labor Organizing – Could Technology Help Reduce Income Inequality?

Source: Mark Zuckerman, Richard D. Kahlenberg, and Moshe Z. Marvit, Century Foundation, 2015

….Due to a little-known, but far-reaching change made by the NLRB last year, virtual labor organizing by employees is now sanctioned by law in many situations and could possibly be transformative in the workplace.

Many employees want more clout at work—to leverage better pay and benefits, but also nonmonetary things, such as more predictable work schedules, or a stronger voice in workplace safety or procedures. And it is a good bet that many would join a union, if signing up were easier for workers to do, and harder for employers to stop.

The problem today is that joining a union at work is decidedly last century—clunky, contentious, confusing—and companies such as Walmart and McDonald’s want to keep it that way.

But virtual labor organizing could change that.

This report documents why joining a labor union is one of the best financial decisions a worker can make to boost individual and family wealth and describes how the creation of an online tool could assist employees who want to start a campaign to join a union at their workplace…..

I Don’t Want the Money, I Just Want Your Time: How Moral Identity Overcomes the Aversion to Giving Time to Pro-social Causes

Source: Americus Reed II, Adam Kay, Stephanie Finnel, Karl Aquino, Eric Levy, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Forthcoming

Four studies show that moral identity reduces people’s aversion to giving time—particularly as the psychological costs of giving time increase. In study 1, we demonstrate that even when the cost of time and money are held equivalent, a moral cue enhances the expected self-expressivity of giving time— especially when it is given to a moral cause. We found that a moral cue reduces time aversion even when giving time was perceived to be unpleasant (study 2), or when the time to be given was otherwise seen to be scarce (study 3). Study 4 builds on these studies by examining actual giving while accounting for the real costs of time. In this study we found that the chronic salience of moral identity serves as a buffer to time aversion, specifically as giving time becomes increasingly costly. These findings are discussed in terms of the time vs. money literature and the identity literature. We also discuss policy implications for prosocial cause initiatives.
Time Is Precious — Here’s How to Convince People to Donate It
Source: Wharton School – University of Pennsylvania, Knowledge@Wharton, Marketing, June 8, 2015

Most charitable organizations survive through the help of donations. But what motivates a person to write a check versus signing up for some volunteer hours? And how can an organization convince donors to give time instead of money?

Walmart and the Art of Persuasion

Source: Steven Greenhouse, The Atlantic, June 8, 2015

How America’s largest private employer convinces its employees that they shouldn’t unionize. …. With 1.3 million U.S. employees—more than the population of Vermont and Wyoming combined—Walmart is by far the nation’s largest private-sector employer. It’s also one of the nation’s most aggressive anti-union companies, with a long history of trying to squelch unionization efforts. ….

A Dynamic Process Model of Private Politics: Activist Targeting and Corporate Receptivity to Social Challenges

Source: Mary-Hunter McDonnell, Brayden G King, Sarah A. Soule, American Sociological Review, Vol. 80 no. 3, June 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This project explores whether and how corporations become more receptive to social activist challenges over time. Drawing from social movement theory, we suggest a dynamic process through which contentious interactions lead to increased receptivity. We argue that when firms are chronically targeted by social activists, they respond defensively by adopting strategic management devices that help them better manage social issues and demonstrate their normative appropriateness. These defensive devices have the incidental effect of empowering independent monitors and increasing corporate accountability, which in turn increase a firm’s receptivity to future activist challenges. We test our theory using a unique longitudinal dataset that tracks contentious attacks and the adoption of social management devices among a population of 300 large firms from 1993 to 2009.
SSRN version

New Models of Worker Representation

Source: Robert Bruno, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
(subscription required)

….Yet despite repeated predictions of labor’s ultimate demise, unions have proven to be remarkably durable institutions. Fight remains. The cause is no less right. But how does labor respond to falling rates of unionization, the passage of right to work laws, the election of antilabor political officials, and the inactivity of too many rank-and-file members this time? Additionally, maybe unionization, in its conventional and legally crafted form, needs to make room for and support other worker organizations and advocacy approaches. Are the remarkable benefits of collective bargaining only possible within the confines of labor law? And is a labor agreement the only virtuous product of worker organizing? In this special issue of LSJ, we present four case studies of alternative approaches to representing the collective interests of workers. Two of them involve unions, while the others engage other means. The articles are drawn from a series of papers on the theme “New Models of Worker Representation,” presented at the 2014 United Association for Labor Education Conference. ….

Articles include:
Worker Engagement in the Health and Safety Regulatory Arena under Changing Models of Worker Representation
Source: Linda Delp and Kevin Riley, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper examines the efforts of a labor-community-university partnership in Southern California to confront violations of workplace health and safety standards by employers of nonunion workers in low-wage jobs. A worker engagement model has opened avenues for workers and worker advocates to participate in the regulatory arena absent union representation. This approach has achieved notable successes to date, including groundbreaking Cal/OSHA citations and nascent collaboration with agency officials to target enforcement of health and safety standards. We argue this model constitutes the foundation needed to support a potentially viable form of tripartism that allows nonunion workers a voice, albeit limited, in the health and safety regulatory process.

A Novel Way to Represent and Reframe the Interests of Workers: The People’s Budget Review in St. Petersburg, Florida
Source: Bruce Nissen and Rick Smith, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article relates the three-year history of the People’s Budget Review, a highly unusual coalition of progressive forces in St. Petersburg, Florida, spearheaded by the Florida Public Services Union (FPSU). The People’s Budget Review has completely reoriented the public terms of discussion around city budgetary and social priorities and has won impressive victories. The issues faced by the FPSU as it transitioned from a more “normal” union to one focused centrally on “public goods” rather than simply collective bargaining gains for its own members are examined. The authors draw out the lessons that might be drawn for other unions out of this effort.

Democratize the Education System! Engaging the Youth in Cooperative Culture

Source: Cliff Martin, Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO), 2015

…. Through joining young people in organizing for education system democratization, we build the movement of worker cooperatives and the solidarity economy. We stand beside them in their fight for liberation; a struggle for freedom that will shape the paradigms and actions of everyone involved far beyond their time in school.

This is a call to action for the solidarity economy and cooperative movement. We must organize, mobilize, and educate around a narrative of ownership and control, who benefits and who decides, with young people in the education system. If we want the world we are fighting and building for, then there must be no institution left behind (except the ones we don’t want i.e. prisons, militaries, etc.). These ideas and frames can connect us for much needed unity, clarity, and capacity. From the workplace to the school; solidarity! In our movement, we must have both. ….

….. Young People’s Action Coalition is an democratic, youth-run organization dedicated to intersectional movement building among high school aged young people in Minnesota. YPAC has four major components:
1. Popular/political education on social and environmental justice issues, root causes, and movement building strategy.
2. Mobilizing young people to direct actions and other events in solidarity with other organizations and campaigns.
3. Publishing and distributing a zine with art, interviews, and articles from young people across MN.
4. Running a worker cooperative farm and teaching and engaging in systemic change strategies.

Joining UNISON: does the reform of a union organising strategy change how members perceive their recruitment?

Source: Jeremy Waddington and Allan Ker, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, April 23, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:

Drawing on survey evidence collected between 2001 and 2012, this article examines whether changes in the organising approach of UNISON were reflected in changes in the routes of entry of new members into the union. The article shows that shifts in UNISON policy were marginal to the pattern of entry into the union. The implications of these findings for the concept and implementation of organising are subsequently reviewed.

5 Tools the Police Are Using in Their War Against Activists

Source: Michael Gould-Wartofsky, The Nation, May 5, 2015

From Ferguson to Baltimore, the message is clear: protest at your peril. …

…. It is, in fact, no longer unusual but predictable for peacefully protesting citizens to face military-grade weaponry and paramilitary-style tactics, as the counterinsurgency school of protest policing has become the new normal in our homeland security state. Its techniques and technologies have come a long way in the years since Occupy Wall Street (and even in the months since the first protests kicked off in response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri). Here, then, is a step-by-step guide, based on the latest developments in the security sector, on how to police a protest movement in the new age of domestic counterinsurgency.
1. Equate Dissidents With Domestic Terrorists. ….
2. Arm the Police With “Less-Lethal” Weapons (Which Can Actually Create More Lethal Situations). ….
3. Wage Wave Warfare. ….
4. Replace Humans with Robots and Predictive Technology. ….
5. Make “Friends” and “Follow” People. ….

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…..
Survey Findings: National Survey of Black Women in Labor
The Black Worker Initiative
The Women

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