Category Archives: Organizing

‘Not Really a Worker’: Home-Based Unions Challenged in Court

Source: Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, Labor Notes, October 19, 2010

As unions rapidly declined in the last decade, the big organizing victories of home health care and then home childcare workers gave hope for revitalizing a section of the labor movement, based on the mobilization of poor women of color. Seventy-four thousand California home attendants voted to join the Service Employees (SEIU) in 1999.

Since then, home care workers have become a quarter of SEIU’s 1.8 million members. While their unionization of home-based childcare workers is less dramatic, AFSCME, UAW, AFT, and others have succeeded in Illinois, Oregon, Wisconsin, New York, and elsewhere.

Organising for what? Where is the debate on the politics of organising?

Source: Melanie Simms, Jane Holgate,Work Employment & Society, Vol. 24 no. 1, March 2010
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Many unions that have adopted ‘new’ organising approaches have tended to see organising as a ‘toolbox’ of practices rather than as having an underpinning political philosophy or objective. Adopting such an approach has left out the fundamental question of what are we organising ‘for’? Academics studying these developments have tended to evaluate organising outcomes against whatever objectives unions have set themselves and have not dealt with the question of what organising is and what it is for. It is important to examine the politics and processes underpinning organising activity and to keep in mind these fundamental questions. We (re)examine the political dynamics of organising and argue that there is a need for a more robust notion of power and the centrality of worker self-organisation in organising objectives.

Solidarity in Community and Labor Organizing

Source: National Organizers Alliance, ARK Magazine, no. 27, Spring 2010

This issue focuses on solidarity in community and labor organizing.
Articles include:

– DataCenter and NOA Team Up – Sustaining Organizing Study (SOS): A Strategic Social Justice Movement Assessment
by Saba Waheed

– Labor and Community Organizing in the Time of Obama
by Cathy Howell

– Immigrant Rights and Obama
by Monica Hernandez

– Community Organizers Move Health Care Reform
by Julie Chinitz

– TSA Campaign: Fly Safe, Fly Union
by Terry Meadows

– Creating Support for Organizing New Union Members
by Kathy Casavant

– Organizing a Clean Energy and Climate Change Revolution in the Age of Obama
by Michael J. Fedor

– “An Injury to One is An Injury to All” Takes on New Meaning
by NOA Board

Organizing Together: The Library as Community Organizer

Source: Melissa Canham-Clyne, Urban Library Journal, Vol. 15, no. 2, 2009

From the abstract:
This article examines how the opening of a new public library branch in an underserved neighborhood helped members of that community organize to improve the quality of their lives. Building the branch required the library system to connect diverse groups and interests.

Rethinking collective representation

Source: Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research, Vol. 16 no. 3, August 2010
(subscription required)

This special issue of Transfer concerns the analytical frameworks we use to understand trade unions and their actions. Focusing on the conditions for union renewal, it explores key ideas that might stimulate our thinking about union revitalization and future forms of collective representation. The challenge to each set of authors is to put forward a conceptual framework that will help readers to rethink their own understanding and narratives about collective representation. These concepts include politics, power, legitimacy, democracy, individualism and collectivism, the framing of gender and womanhood, and climate change.

Main articles in August 2010 special issue:
Rethinking collective representation: introduction by Christian Dufour, Gregor Murray, David Peetz and Charlotte Yates
Trade unions, politics and parties: is a new configuration possible? by Richard Hyman and Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick
Understanding union power: resources and capabilities for renewing union capacity by Christian Lévesque and Gregor Murray
The legitimacy of collective actors and trade union renewal by Christian Dufour and Adelheid Hege
Democratic dilemmas: union democracy and union renewal by Kim Voss
Are individualistic attitudes killing collectivism? by David Peetz
Understanding caring, organizing women: how framing a problem shapes union strategy by Charlotte AB Yates
Unions as environmental actors by Darryn Snell and Peter Fairbrother

Activism and Willingness to Help in Union Organizing: Who Are the Activists?

Source: Jack Fiorito, Gregor Gall and Arthur D. Martinez, Journal of Labor Research, Volume 31, Number 3, Summer 2010
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Research on union renewal often cites a critical role for lay activism. This study examines determinants of activism and activism intentions among a broadly representative sample of U.S. union members. Hypotheses are developed from theory and previous research on union commitment and participation. Results for current activism are generally consistent with prior work. Extending the model to future intentions to help with organizing, an interesting contrast is that pro-union attitude influences appear much more important than do union instrumentality perceptions. This suggests that “covenant” rather than “exchange” concerns are more salient for this form of activism. Findings for ideological orientation support this interpretation.

New Approaches to Organizing Women and Young Workers – Social Media and Work Family Issues

Source: Netsy Firestein, Deborah King,Katie Quan, Labor Project for Working Families, Cornell ILR Labor Programs and UC Berkeley Labor Center, July 2010

From a Berger-Marks summary:
How useful are online media and work-family issues in organizing? To find out, a Berger-Marks grant helped researchers interview 23 organizers about how they use new media and whether they highlight family and work issues in their campaigns.

The study confirmed that “some of the most exciting and innovative strategies and tools are being developed by young organizers using new technology and social media.”

They are using Internet websites to provide information; Facebook and MySpace to help workers connect and express opinions; and Twitter and texts to remind workers to take action. Nonetheless, those same organizers caution that new technology and social media are no substitute for personal contact, and that unions need to make sure they protect workers’ security and privacy.

The study concludes that “Organizers are using new technology and social media successfully. The immediate challenge for unions will be how to provide organizers with these tools, the skills to use them and the budget to maintain them.” It recommends giving frontline organizers technical support and the authority to respond rapidly.

It also calls for “a new union culture that is attractive to young workers” and helps them take on leadership.

Sustaining Organizing: A Survey of Organizations During the Economic Downturn

Source: DataCenter and the National Organizers Alliance, June 2010

From the summary:
At the 2010 US Social Forum NOA and the DataCenter released Sustaining Organizing: A Survey of Organizations During the Economic Downturn, an analysis of a survey conducted with 203 organizations engaged in community organizing and movement building work. The study looks at the impact of the recession on our work and resources.

The DataCenter and the National Organizers Alliance are conducting the Sustaining Organizing Study to document the impact of the economic downturn on organizing and movement building organizations. There already have been many studies and reports that have documented the impact on the non-profit sector as a whole. One study found that 9 in 10 organizations will not break even this year and that only 16% expect to cover their operating expenses in 2009 and 2010. Almost half of organizations are planning to manage the downturn through program reduction or elimination and staff or salary cuts. Our study aims to uncover how the downturn is affecting organizing and what strategies and best practices are being used to sustain the work through this period.

Rational Choice and Voter Turnout: Evidence from Union Representation Elections

Source: Henry S. Farber, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w16160, July 2010
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The standard theoretical solution to the observation of substantial turnout in large elections is that individuals receive utility from the act of voting. However, this leaves open the question of whether or not there is a significant margin on which individuals consider the effect of their vote on the outcome in deciding whether or not to vote. In order to address this issue, I study turnout in union representation elections in the U.S. (government supervised secret ballot elections, generally held at the workplace, on the question of whether the workers would like to be represented by a union). These elections provide a particularly good laboratory to study voter behavior because many of the elections have sufficiently few eligible voters that individuals can have a substantial probability of being pivotal. I develop a rational choice model of turnout in these elections, and I implement this model empirically using data on over 75,000 of these elections held from 1972-2009. The results suggest that most individuals (over 80 percent) vote in these elections independent of consideration of the likelihood that they will be pivotal. Among the remainder, the probability of voting is related to variables that influence the probability of a vote being pivotal (election size and expected closeness of the election). These findings are consistent with the standard rational choice model.

Fear of Reprisal for Disclosing Union Interest: Assessing the Effectiveness of Perceived Anti-Unionism

Source: Steven Mellor and Lisa M. Kath, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, published online: 16 July 2010
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We modeled a macro-level relationship at a micro-level level to examine the effectiveness of anti-unionism in psychological terms. We reasoned that fear of reprisal for disclosing union interest in the work environment was an affective response to perceived anti-unionism and hypothesized that fear of reprisal would disrupt the prediction of expression of this interest among nonunion employees (N = 1,010). With financial strain as a predictor of interest and fear of reprisal as a moderator, disruption was found. The results of the model are discussed in terms of the unintended consequences of anti-unionism, which, we argue, can include stress effects among employees and healthcare cost effects among employers.