Category Archives: Organizing

Union education is a key to member engagement

Source: CUPE, September 6, 2017

Tips for mobilizing members with union education
• Get union orientation or training language in your collective agreement. Negotiate provisions that allow members, whether full-time, part-time or temporary, to attend union education during working hours.
• Develop local-specific training that answers the most common questions members ask about the local, CUPE policy and collective agreements. Adapt local training to meet members’ needs, which may change over time or be different for different job groups in your local.
• Encourage participation in union education in the wider labour movement. Provincial federations of labour, the Canadian Labour Congress and your CUPE Division, among others, offer training to union members.
• Do specific outreach to under-represented members. To ensure the local meets the needs of the diversity of its membership, encourage members from equality-seeking groups to attend training specific to them.
• Update members regularly about the business of the local and education opportunities. ….

Building Strong Locals: sharing our stories
Building local strength by empowering the most vulnerable members
Building strength one local at a time in Halifax

Enhancing transnational labour solidarity: the unfulfilled promise of the Internet and social media

Source: Torsten Geelan and Andy Hodder, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 14, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the activities of Union Solidarity International (USI), a new UK-based organisation in the international union arena. USI seeks to encourage and support international solidarity between trade unions and other worker movements around the world by harnessing the dynamism of the Internet and social media. Drawing on a combination of in-depth semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, Google Analytics and social media data, the findings of this case study suggest that USI is successfully developing an international audience in the United States, the UK and Ireland. However, USI’s ability to reach beyond English-speaking countries and mobilise people to engage in collective action appears limited. The article makes an important contribution to the growing literature on social media in industrial relations through analysing the extent to which digital technologies can contribute to effective transnational labour solidarity.

Partners in protest: parents, unions and anti-academy campaigns

Source: Suzanne Muna, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 25, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
An analytical framework has been developed in order to enhance our ability to interrogate and understand the critical factors for successful union–community coalitions. The framework is then tested on a single case study, a campaign run by trade unions, parents and community groups engaged in opposing academisation of their community school. The framework helps structure analysis and aids evaluation of the impact of activists’ choices on campaign outcomes.

The United Auto Workers’ Attempts to Unionize Volkswagen Chattanooga

Source: Stephen J. Silvia, ILR Review, Online First, August 3, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The author examines attempts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These efforts were a pivotal test of labor’s ability to organize in the South. The UAW failed to organize the entire plant, despite an amenable employer, because of heavy intervention by external actors, the union’s failure to develop community support, and a paragraph in the pre-election agreement that promised wage restraint. VW management’s fear of losing state subsidies and their desire to not alienate the local business and political establishment took the card-check procedure for recognition off the table. VW management’s adoption of an accommodating position toward unionization for the entire plant, but resistance to it for the small skilled-mechanics unit, suggests that the company was willing to accept unionization only as a means to the end of creating a works council rather than out of a commitment to collective bargaining as a practice.

How 1,000 Nurses in Northern Michigan Went Union

Source: James Walker, Labor Notes, September 20, 2017

Nurses in rural northern Michigan made history August 9-10 when we won labor’s biggest organizing victory since “right to work” took effect in the state in 2013. By a vote of 489–439, more than 1,000 RNs at Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center, the area’s largest employer, will be represented by the Michigan Nurses Association.

Munson nurses tried to organize years earlier, unsuccessfully. “I was involved in the effort to organize 15 years ago,” said critical care pool RN Dagmar Cunningham. “Since then benefits have decreased and the workload due to sicker patients has increased. Something had to change.”

This time around, we succeeded. How did we do it?. ….

Harvard Hopes Trump Will Help It Undermine Unions

Source: John Trumpbour and Chris Tilly, Labor Notes, September 14, 2017

….Like other private universities, Harvard appears to be banking on Trump appointees to the Labor Board to help fight off graduate student unionization. But Harvard’s going the extra mile in seeking to undermine all unions’ right to an accurate list of employees during a union election campaign…..

Opinion: Are elite universities ‘safe spaces’? Not if you’re starting a union
Source: Thomas Frank, The Guardian, September 9, 2017

For all their trigger warnings and safe spaces, places like Yale and Columbia are not very democratic when it comes to unions. ….

….Once Trump’s members are seated on the Labor Board, there is every likelihood they will revisit the matter of graduate student teachers and reverse themselves on the question, which would in turn permit university administrations to refuse to negotiate and even to blow off the results of these elections.

A radicalized university that lives to coddle young people would sit down immediately at the bargaining table and give those graduate students what they want.

A corporation that is determined to keep its employees from organizing, on the other hand, would stall and delay and refuse to recognize the union until Trump’s new, right-wing NLRB can saddle up and ride to the rescue. And guess what: that is exactly what these universities are doing – refusing to begin contract negotiations, filing challenges to the elections, appealing this and that…..

Unions Aren’t Obsolete, They’re Being Crushed by Right-Wing Politics

Source: Livia Gershon, Vice, September 11, 2017

….Few economic or political elites preach much about the virtues of a union. …. This year in Davos, Switzerland, at an annual gathering of CEOs, billionaires, and world leaders, the assembled glitterati fretted about inequality but blanched at talk of workers being able to bargain for benefits.

Even Democrats have largely remained silent about unions, which remain an important part of their base. The party’s “Better Deal” plan to help ordinary workers that Democrats released earlier this year talked about raising the minimum wage, growing the economy, and fighting outsourcing, but didn’t mention making sure workers had the ability to organize.

But a report released last month by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that focuses on the needs of low- and middle-income workers, points out just how relevant the labor movement remains. The decline of unions—which now represent just over one in ten US workers, down from one in five from 1983—has been less about their value for workers than the result of a concerted effort to destroy the labor movement…..

….The EPI report details the tactics companies use to stop unions. In many cases, they use temp agencies, franchise arrangements, or other techniques to avoid taking legal responsibility for their workers. Labor laws that date back more than a half century aren’t equipped to help workers negotiate with companies that do their employing through third parties while retaining all real, practical power over workers. Similarly, companies ranging from Uber to local construction firms and beauty parlors try to classify workers as independent contractors, avoiding the traditional responsibilities employers have for employees under labor law. Most blatantly, when faced with unionization efforts, three-quarters of private employers hire consultants to help them quash them. …. But von Wilpert said the most effective anti-union tactic may be simply firing pro-union workers. That’s illegal, but the EPI report finds that between one in five and one in seven union organizers gets the boot for their organizing activity. Even when companies get punished for breaking the law, penalties are minimal and the damage to the union is already done…..

August 28, 1963: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

A selection of articles and documents about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)
Source: National Archives

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Source: King Encyclopedia, Stanford University, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute
Audio – I Have a Dream, Address at March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – August 28, 1963

 King delivers his

On 28 August 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the nation’s capital. The march was successful in pressuring the administration of John F. Kennedy to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress. During this event, Martin Luther King delivered his memorable ‘‘I Have a Dream’’ speech. The 1963 March on Washington had several precedents. In the summer of 1941 A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, called for a march on Washington, D. C., to draw attention to the exclusion of African Americans from positions in the national defense industry. This job market had proven to be closed to blacks, despite the fact that it was growing to supply materials to the Allies in World War II. The threat of 100,000 marchers in Washington, D.C., pushed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which mandated the formation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission to investigate racial discrimination charges against defense firms. In response, Randolph cancelled plans for the march. ….

August 28, 1963: The March on Washington
Source: Richard Kreitner, The Nation, August 28, 2015

“After the civil-rights issue has been won, as it will be—that is, after all legally sanctioned forms of Jim Crow discrimination have been removed—what then?” Conservatives love to invoke a single line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial fifty-two years ago today as evidence of the civil rights leader’s commitment to all things red, white and blue—“the Great American Barbecue,” as The Nation’s editors put it in their editorial about the March on Washington—but even back in 1963 it was obviously to some (to the editors of The Nation, say) that the implications of the movement were a lot more radical. This was the great theme of the magazine’s coverage of King in the 1960s and of King’s writings for the magazine: that securing civil rights might be possible, but achieving economic justice for all would be much, much harder.

Photos: 18 historic images from the 1963 March on Washington
Ann Arbor Miller, Minnesota Public Radio, August 27, 2015

Witnesses to History, 50 Years Later
Source: New York Times, August 23, 2013

Buses as far as the eye could see. Fears of violence melting away into a powerful feeling of togetherness. A transcendent speech. Strangers hugging and tears of hope. Fifty years after the March on Washington, the mass protest that helped energize some of the most critical social legislation in the nation’s history, The New York Times asked readers who attended to recall their experiences and reflect on the legacy of that day. Out of hundreds of submissions, we present a selection of stories and anecdotes, edited and condensed from online submissions and follow-up interviews….

Commemorating 52nd Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Source: Clarence B. Jones Huffington Post, August 22, 2015

During the past two weeks two great persons in the struggle against injustice, both of whom I knew, passed away. First was Julian Bond at the age of 75, the other was Louis Stokes, a 15-term former congressman from OH. He died at the age of 90. The death of these two social justice and political warriors were on my mind as I realized that next week our will be the 52nd anniversary of the August 28th, 1963 March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom. (Most persons associate their memory of The March with the soaring oratory of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.) The Black Lives Matter Movement, in response to the repetitive shootings of black men by police, and the failure in most instances, of any prosecutorial accountability, ISIS, illegal immigration, income inequality, mass incarceration, States’ legislative efforts to limit voting rights, continued deaths from Black gangs’ gun violence, and the media’s fixation on the Dem and Repub. primaries, can temporarily overwhelm ANY thoughtful reflection about that great assemblage of Black and white persons at the Lincoln Memorial, Wednesday afternoon,52 years ago….

Sounds of the Civil Rights Movement
Source: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with this playlist of 1960s civil rights material. Composed of seminal recordings, this playlist highlights the important role that music played in uniting, energizing, expressing, and sustaining momentum among participants in the African American civil rights movement.

The Forgotten Radical History of the March on Washington
Source: William P. Jones, Dissent Magazine, Spring 2013

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which occurred fifty years ago this August 28, remains one of the most successful mobilizations ever created by the American Left. Organized by a coalition of trade unionists, civil rights activists, and feminists—most of them African American and nearly all of them socialists—the protest drew nearly a quarter-million people to the nation’s capital. Composed primarily of factory workers, domestic servants, public employees, and farm workers, it was the largest demonstration—and, some argued, the largest gathering of union members—in the history of the United States. That massive turnout set the stage not only for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President John F. Kennedy had proposed two months before, but also for the addition to that law of a Fair Employment Practices clause, which prohibited employers, unions, and government officials from discriminating against workers on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. And, by linking those egalitarian objectives to a broader agenda of ending poverty and reforming the economy, the protest also forged a political agenda that would inspire liberals and leftists ranging from President Lyndon Johnson to the Black Power movement. ….

UAW’s loss at Nissan auto plant masks genuine progress for organized labor

Source: Harley Shaiken, The Conversation, August 22, 2017

….Behind this loss there’s a glimmer of hope for labor. Decades of research on labor and globalization, particularly in manufacturing and the auto industry, lead me to believe that while the pro-union workers may have suffered a setback, the campaign is far from over. In fact, there are signs that the UAW’s organizing effort has made some lasting inroads that could lead to success down the road. …

Not Just Signing Cards

Source: Joe Richard, Jacobin, August 18, 2017

In the wake of the UAW’s loss at Nissan, it’s clear that the dominant strategies for winning a union aren’t working. ….

…. The labor movement should see this moment as a wake up call, and launch a frank discussion about what works and what doesn’t, and what kind of strategies unions should adopt if they ever hope to regrow their strength, let alone expand into regions beyond the traditional bastions of union strength. Given the crushing defeat of the Machinists at Boeing and the UAW at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN in the past few years, there’s urgency to the discussion — particularly to organizing the solidly anti-union South. ….