Category Archives: Organizing & Protests

Introduction: Youth Organizing in the U.S.

Source: Hahrie Han and Ester Fang, Forge Organizing, August 19, 2021

In all of these stories, young people’s creativity, moral courage, and commitment enabled them to turn the resources they have into the power for change.

….In this issue, we have brought together a diverse group of youth organizers from across the United States to tackle the critical questions facing the field. What innovations are young organizers bringing to the movement, and what strategies are they pursuing to build political power? What kinds of organizational structures have youth organizers built, how are they forging a relationship between movement and organization-building work, and how are they navigating the tension between revolution and reform? Where are they collaborating across generations, and where are tensions emerging? Youth and adult organizers alike must examine these questions if we want to build organizations with enough power to address the cascading crises facing our world today. …

Articles include:

The Long Arc
Scott Warren and Greisa Martinez

Greisa Martinez Rosas on the importance of personal transformation, the long arc of the movement for justice, and how United We Dream’s strategies are shifting with the new administration.

Oakland Students Turn the Tables
Sonja Kaleva and Lukas Brekke-Miesner

How Oakland Kids First built youth governing power during a pandemic

Youth power requires more than electoral organizing
Michael Carter

Our electoral organizing model increased turnout, but young people of color deserve more.

Young People Will Carry Us On
Tynetta Hill-Muhammad and Makia Green

Tynetta Hill-Muhammad on why she sees young people as the foundation of the abolitionist movement, the work BYP100 does to transform the personal into the political, and the challenges and opportunities of working cross-generationally.

Transforming youth-led organizing in the digital age
Fred Pinguel

While technology is transforming grassroots organizing in incredible ways, the core of our work is still relationship building.

Progressive Organizers Must Redefine Success in…
Kiersten Iwai

I want the rest of America to see the rural America that I see: the queer and trans youth and youth of color refusing to be ignored and the young people demanding progressive change in order to save our planet and humanity.

From Demanding to Commanding Power
Geordee Mae Corpuz and Saa’un Bell

We must find ways to transform the whole system, not just change policies. That will never happen unless we change the people, the culture, and the power young people of color have over their lives.

“Make the status quo unlivable”
Emma Jewett and Scott Warren

Providence Student Union’s Emma Jewett on empowering young people to take action, navigating relationships with adult allies, and why youth organizing is such a powerful mechanism for change.

Advocacy Within the School House
Khin Mai Aung and Greg Fredricks

How Generation Citizen is pushing civics beyond the classroom to the community

How YDSA Will Grow Post-Bernie
David Duhalde and Sarandon Elliott

YDSA National Coordinating Committee Co-Chair Sarandon Elliott talks about the opportunities and challenges facing YDSA in this moment, her plans to help grow the organization over the next year, and the difference between socialist organizing and other forms of campus activism.

From Climate Strikes to the Union Hall
Teresa-Marie Oller , Travis Epes, and Maria Brescia-Weiler

Young workers are key to building the labor climate movement.

Commentary: Youth Organizing in the U.S.
James Lopez

We must build young leaders to make mass organization possible.

Steward’s Corner: What Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Know, and Where to Find It

Source: Tom Juravich, Labor Notes, May 24, 2021

Given the wealth of information available online, conducting research on your employer is more possible than ever—and more important than ever, as firms become more complex and globalized.

There’s no reason we should ever begin bargaining or start an organizing campaign without a strong sense of who the employer is, how it generates its profit, where it is growing, who its decision-makers are, and where it is most vulnerable. This information is much easier to find than most people think.

More information is available on companies that trade on one of the stock exchanges, but there is still plenty of information on privately held firms and nonprofits. And this approach is relevant for firms both large and small, across a wide variety of sectors….

…Former employment attorney Edgar Ndjatou, executive director of Workplace Fairness, a nonprofit that promotes workers’ rights, said disagreements over politics, vaccinations, mask wearing and other hot-button topics also could fuel violent workplace conflicts….

Order from Chaos: How Networked Activists Self-Organize by Creating a Participation Architecture

Source: Felipe G. Massa, Siobhan O’Mahony, Administrative Science Quarterly, OnlineFirst Published May 3, 2021
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Collectives attempting to self-organize without relying on managerial control can leverage open, digital networks to foster information exchange and agility. But, as collectives grow, the open boundaries that enable the mobilization of participants and rapid exchange of ideas can give rise to new organizing challenges that make collective action untenable. We examine this tension by exploring how networked activists self-organize through open, digital networks to achieve shared aims without belonging to a common organization that supports their cause. With a seven-year, inductive field and archival study, we capture how activists from the Anonymous collective organized 70 protest actions while struggling to integrate newcomers and coordinate increasingly complex activities. Rather than succumb to chaos or managerial control, Anonymous learned to self-organize, gradually abandoning normative forms of control in favor of forms of architectural control. By creating a participation architecture—a sociotechnical framework that empowered technical experts and unobtrusively channeled newcomers to designated forums—networked activists enhanced their collective ability to coordinate complex, interdependent actions at scale. Our grounded theoretical model reveals how the challenges of self-organizing emerge with rapid growth and how these can be overcome by configuring architectural control.

Quantitative Data Tools for Service Sector Organizing

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Suresh Naidu, Adam Reich, and Patrick Youngblood, New Labor Forum, February 2021
(subscription required)

…The fundamental problem for a labor organization is persuading individual workers to commit to personally costly (and often risky) actions that yield collective benefits for workers within a workplace and for the labor movement as a whole. Such collective action is critical for workers since the labor movement will always have a hard time matching business in terms of money, technology, and influence with elites and politicians. Instead, labor’s power lies in its ability to mobilize large numbers of everyday people, whether to strike, sign petitions, canvass voters, or even target their pension investments (see “Capital Strategies for the Common Good: A Tool for Labor’s Revival” by Patrick Dixon in this issue). Despite being the source of organized labor’s power, bursts of worker collective action are rare and difficult to sustain. What can be done to make such action easier in the current U.S. political climate, in which organized labor appears to have limited durable influence?

Modern quantitative social science provides some new tools to address this challenge. These tools have been used to allocate scarce resources, for example, matching medical residents with hospitals, allocating food donations across food banks, assessing tactics in political campaigns, and evaluating anti-poverty initiatives in developing countries….

Digital tools are helping employees mobilize the workforce

Source: Nicolás Rivero, Quartz at Work, December 13, 2020

Technology has already fundamentally changed the way that millions of people work. Now, it’s changing the way they unify to make demands of their employers.

Waning union power across industries and around the world has left workers with fewer formal structures for venting grievances. In some sectors, the rise of the gig economy and remote work means people aren’t meeting and forming relationships with co-workers like they used to. All of this has made it harder for rank-and-file employees to organize and collectively lobby their bosses for change.

But a spate of new digital tools offers a workaround, helping people to find far-flung peers, share grievances, and coordinate action.

Panic in the Streets—Pandemic and Protests: A Manifestation of a Failure to Achieve Democratic Ideals

Source: Adrienne Katner, Kari Brisolara, Philip Katner, Andrew Jacoby, Peggy Honore, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 30 Issue 3, November 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
America is at a critical crossroads in history as the COVID-19 pandemic expands. We argue that the failure to respond effectively to the pandemic stems from the nation’s protracted divergence from the democratic ideals, we purport to value. Structural racism and class-based political and economic inequity are sustained through the failings of the nation’s democratic institutions and processes. The situation has, in turn, fostered further inequity and undermined science, facts, and evidence in the name of economic and political interests, which in turn has encouraged the spread of the pandemic, exacerbated health disparities, and escalated citizen tensions. We present a broad vision of reforms needed to achieve democratic ideals which we believe is the most important first step to achieving true political representation, achieving a resilient and sustainable economy, and fostering the health of vulnerable communities, workers, and the planet.

Street protests in times of COVID-19: adjusting tactics and marching ‘as usual’

Source: Maciej Kowalewski, Social Movement Studies, Advance Access, November 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Protests offline, under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and regulations such as a stay-at-home, require the adaptation of existing tactics and/or the use of innovative tools in the contention repertoire. This adaptation concerns restrictions related to pandemic measures, the lockdown of businesses/institutions, and social distancing along with access to resources, protesters’ security, and the no-harm principle. This paper provides examples of protests which have occurred since March 2020, under four categories: (1) tactics adjusted to pandemic-related limitations, (2) tactics that are an essence of such limitations, (3) tactics related to opposition to the lockdown, and (4) protest tactics use framed as ‘pandemic’. In the first section, I show how street protest (if permitted at all) is strengthened by symbolic action and how inability to refer to the ‘logic of numbers’ subjects the tactics to the ‘logic of bearing witness.’ However, the challenges and tactical limitations do not apply to the opponents of lockdown, breaking the rules of the sanitary regime. The demonstrations against the lockdown preserve the positive effects of street protests and even strengthen them. Discussion concerning high-risk protest actions under threat of infection results, however, in medicalization of political contention.

How to Win a Contract in a Pandemic

Source: Audrey Massmann, Sam Klug, and Dennis M. Hogan, The Forge, October 5, 2020

…This past summer, The Forge’s Lindsay Zafir sat down with Sam Klug, an organizer with the Harvard Graduate Students Union (HGSU), and Dennis Hogan and Audrey Massmann, organizers with the Brown Graduate Labor Organization, to talk about the road to winning a union for graduate workers, how they waged a contract campaign during the pandemic, and their vision for building power across the ranks of the academic labor movement. This interview has been edited and condensed. …

Collective Action Is How We Shake Ourselves Free of Pandemic Isolation

Source: Barbara Madeloni, Labor Notes, September 30, 2020

The pandemic has made me see more clearly why it works when workers get together to solve problems collectively.

With no public health system to access and a disorganized, inept, and neglectful response from the government, individuals have been cast out alone to deal with the pandemic. Decisions about working—and risking one’s health and safety—have become individual.

School districts have surveyed parents and educators, asking what individuals wanted for themselves. Unions that simply let members fill out their surveys alone reinforced the message: you are on your own, do what is best for you.

Which is why the contrast when workers come together to talk is so pronounced and powerful right now.

Racism Is Not Enough: Minority Coalition Building in San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver

Source: Jae Yeon Kim, Studies in American Political Development, Volume 34, Issue 2, October 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Scholars have long argued that the marginalized racial status shared by ethnic minority groups is a strong incentive for mobilization and coalition building in the United States. However, despite their members’ shared racial status as “Orientals,” different types of housing coalitions were formed in the Chinatowns of San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver during the 1960s and 1970s. Asian race-based coalitions appeared in San Francisco and Seattle, but not in Vancouver, where a cross-racial coalition was built between the Chinese and southern and eastern Europeans. Drawing on exogenous shocks and process tracing, this article explains how historical legacies—specifically, the political geography of settlement—shaped this divergence. These findings demonstrate how long-term historical analysis offers new insights into the study of minority coalition formation in the United States.