Category Archives: Organizing & Protests

Feminist Collective Bargaining Meets the Civil Service

Source: Fred Glass, CPER Journal, No. 205, March 2012
(subscription required)

AFSCME may have fallen behind at the outset of public worker organizing in California, but by the mid-1960s it was toiling hard to make up for lost time, organizing in schools, city and county employment, and in the University of California system.

In San Jose, the city’s civil service workers association, the Municipal Employees Federation, affiliated with AFSCME in 1972, forming AFSCME Local 101. It was here, in the city that Mayor Janet Gray Hayes never tired of describing as “the feminist capital of the world,” that the old civil service personnel administration methods of adjusting salaries and job descriptions ran into a three-way pileup with collective bargaining and the impact of feminism on workplace organizing.

Steering the women workers through the collision and out to the other side was a determined and visionary organizer, Maxine Jenkins. Her vehicle, or weapon: comparable worth, which was based on the revolutionary idea that male and female workers should be paid equally for work requiring comparable skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions.

Transit Rider Organizing: A How-To Manual

Source: Greg LeRoy with Aurita Apodaca, Andrew Austin, Katie Jansen Larson, Brian Lombardozzi, Esperanza Martinez, Wim Mauldin, Bill Reno, Gene Russianoff, and Dave Van Hattum, Good Jobs First, December, 2011

From the press release:
Based on two community-labor “boot camps,” this first-ever manual features inspirational stories of creative grassroots campaign victories. Plus links to strategic resources and a national directory of rider groups….The manual ‘s case studies feature exciting campaigns in the Twin Cities and Denver metro areas, Spokane and King County in Washington state, St. Louis County, and Toronto, Canada. The case studies are written by the community organizers who orchestrated the campaigns. The manual also includes an annotated set of links to other campaign resources, a series of
constituency- recruitment checklists, a summary of common elements of successful campaigns, and a directory of every known grassroots group organizing transit riders in the U.S.

Labor And Occupy Wall Street: Common Causes And Uneasy Alliances

Source: Benjamin Heim Shepard, WorkingUSA, Volume 15, Issue 1, March 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Forty-two years after the Hard Riot of May 1970, organized labor seems to have embraced the goals of a new social movement, Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Both movements have benefited from mutual association, with labor finding new vitality in its connection with a mobilized social movement. And OWS has been able to dismiss the charge that this is a counterculture movement, by connecting itself with labor. Labor helped mobilize a successful action in Wall Street on May 12, 2011, which anticipated OWS. Still, challenges remain if labor is to maintain its uneasy alliance with this anarchist-inspired movement. Labor must learn to show solidity and respect not only to the message of OWS but to the movement’s nonhierarchical organizing process if the alliance to endure.

Mobilizing the Unorganized: Is “Working America” the Way Forward?

Source: Amy Dean, New Labor Forum, Vol. 21 no. 1, Winter 2012
(subscription required)

Given the dramatic decline of union membership, the U.S. labor movement needs to reach out to a broader base of working- and middle-class Americans. Now more than ever, nonunion workers need an advocate, within both the economic and political realms.

This idea is at the heart of Working America, a national initiative established in 2003 as the “community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.” Working America now claims more than three million members. Eight years after its creation, the organization has demonstrated some impressive capabilities; but, at the same time, it raises questions about the limitations of labor’s vision in using community outreach and organizing to build an inclusive base of power….

The Collective Bargaining Rights of Immigrant Workers: Organizing in Difficult Times

Source: Eliseo Medina, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 32 no. 2, 2011
(subscription required)

Eliseo Medina delivered the 2011 Feller Memorial Labor Law Lecture.
…I was asked to speak today about the collective rights of immigrant workers and organizing in difficult times. As you may know, our union -the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)- was founded in 1921 by a group of Eastern European immigrants who were Chicago flat janitors. They took care of the apartment buildings in Chicago…. In return they were paid a miserable wage… They were allowed rooms in the basement of the buildings next to the boilers, and because of their status as employees an immigrants, their children were forbidden to play with the children of the tenants…. They were denied not only a living wage and a decent standard of living, but also the most fundamental thing for any human being: respect and dignity. So they decided that the way to change their lives was to organize a union not just in Chicago, but throughout this country. And thus was born the modern SEIU…

..While today’s immigrants come primarily from other parts of the world than those that came here in 1921, they have the same dreams and the same hopes for the future and for themselves and for their children. And like the immigrants of 1921, they are facing some difficult challenges both as workers and as immigrants. Therefore, the question of immigrants unions is as relevant today as it was in 1921, and I am absolutely convinced that the way for today’s immigrants to claim their little piece of the American dream is to also organize a union….

NLRB Overrules Dana, Boosting Union Organizing via Card Counts

Source: Kevin C. Donovan, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 37 no. 4, Spring 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The National Labor Relations Board recently overturned its decision in Dana Corp. the effect is to make it easier for unions and employers into enter voluntarily into exclusive bargaining relationships that will not be subject to expedited challenges, and without a secret ballot election to determine the employees’ preference. The author of this article explains the NLRB’s new rule and advises any employer to carefully consider its impact when contemplating voluntary recognition of a union that claims to represent employees.

Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City

Source: Jane LaTour/Talking History, 2012

This is the story of what it was like to go first.

The women’s movement of the mid-20th century inspired many women to seek new opportunities in the workplace. Beginning in the mid-1970s, pioneering young women sought to break down gender barriers in traditionally male, blue-color jobs. They faced daunting obstacles to entering these occupations. On the job they endured unrelenting, often vicious harrassment. They also received support from men who taught them their trades and helped them navigate unfamiliar territory.

Twenty years ago journalist and labor activist Jane LaTour began an oral history project dedicated to preserving their remarkable stories. The focus of her work is a group of women who entered the blue-collar workforce in New York City during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sisters in the Brotherhoods is their story, told in their own words and voices.

This website, produced by Talking History in partnership with LaTour, features audio and transcripts of the Sisters interviews as well as material from LaTour’s book Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City (2008).

New Rules for Wisconsin Unions: No Rules

Source: Theresa Moran, Labor Notes, February 10, 2012

Wisconsin public workers face harsher work rules and shrinking paychecks as contracts expire and additional provisions of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill set in. State unions are being forced to shift from a decades-old servicing model to an organizing model in a fight for their survival.
In Wisconsin, assessing a new labor law’s impact
Source: Daniel C. Vock,, February 13, 2012

New Rules for Radicals: 10 Ways To Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World

Source: Sara Robinson, Alternet, February 1, 2012

The world is changing quickly, and we need to help steer it according to our shared values — our vision of what might be.

The first rule is this: The world is different now. The rules have changed.

Since Occupy, we all understand this. Nothing works now the way it did even just a couple of years ago. Political tactics that haven’t budged public opinion in years — like petitions and big street demonstrations — are suddenly working again. Narratives that seemed unassailable — like the primacy of free markets and low taxes — are being openly questioned….

2. No despair. Despair is a waste of time and energy.
3. Try everything.
4. Trust the vision.
5. Focus on our goals, not on our enemies.
6. Expect resistance.
7. Find and nurture innovators.
8. Expect iterations, not perfection.
9. Celebrate every win, no matter how small. Every one matters.
10. Replicate success.

As elder care grows, so do labor battles

Source: Michael Lawson, American university School of Communication, What Went Wrong blog, January 23, 2012

The pay is low, and injuries are common, but nursing care is a rare bright spot in the gloomy economic landscape, adding jobs at a steady clip. As the field has grown, so, too, have efforts to unionize.

Those unionization campaigns are being fought on a shifting battleground, from massive chains to private homes. With baby boomers moving into retirement and beyond, the tensions aren’t likely to abate any time soon.