Secrets of a Successful Organizer

 

by Jen Johnson

successful organizer

As a public high school history teacher for 10 years, I organized lesson plans and materials and the arrangement of my classroom. I facilitated thousands of discussions about history with classes of teenagers. I designed projects and guided the students to achieve our goals and get excited about learning and putting in the work.

Yet, somehow, if you asked me if I was an “organizer,” I probably would have said that I wasn’t. “Organizers are the professionals. I’m not a professional organizer!”

Thankfully, my union, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), has tried to change that wrong-headed perception. The CTU works hard to train our members to understand that organizing is grassroots rank-and-file work. There are leaders everywhere if you’re looking for them. Improving our workplaces and the lives of our communities are collective tasks. We can all be organizers, but there is an art and science to learning to practice good labor organizing skills.

Secrets of a Successful Organizer—a new book from Labor Notes, by Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter—is a perfect primer on the basics of good organizing. Distilled into digestible bites, the book lays out eight main lessons—from how an organizer thinks, to how an organizer maps a work site and designs, carries out and assesses a campaign. (It even includes a brief summary of labor law and related resources.)

Unlike many wordy and inaccessible how-to manuals, Secrets of a Successful Organizer reads more like a conversation with an experienced and patient organizer, guiding you and reassuring you along the way.

You’re encouraged to see that even reading the book can be a collective activity.

“You could read this book alone, but you’ll learn more if you talk each lesson over with a buddy—or better yet, a group of co-workers,” it reads.

The book is designed to make this possible through its organization and content.

Each chapter builds on the previous one to paint a coherent picture of how to build better organizers and organizations, and have successful campaigns. The book’s eight lessons are divided into 47 shorter tips, and nearly each one includes downloadable handouts, specific organizing stories and exercises you can do with co-workers or in trainings.

The perfectionist in me loves the chart handouts. One explains “How the Boss Keeps Us Disorganized.” Another shows how to track tasks during an organizing campaign, along with who is responsible and the deadline for each task. While you’re reading, you might think things like, “Easier said than done!” but no sooner than you have, the book anticipates your concerns and, like a good organizer, inoculates you—giving you reason to hope and telling you a real story to prove the point.

For example, the book profiles Joe Uehlein, an organizer in a Georgia meatpacking plant. He and his colleagues used the escalating tactics of singing, whistling and humming at work to call out a union-busting official every time he walked on the plant floor. Each escalation was a response to the boss trying to shut down an organizing drive with ridiculous new rules. The actions scared the bosses and gave workers confidence in a short period of time, which ultimately allowed them to win a union. Tip #34, “Don’t Let the Boss Trip You Up,” then lays out the main tactics that bosses use (fear, hopelessness, confusion and division) to stop organizing.

Some of the stories are complementary and help organizers not only see the tips come alive, but point out that the workplace context will often dictate what kind of tactics are best.

The section around Tip #25, “Choose an Issue That Builds the Union,” includes the story of Los Angeles hospital workers who organized a campaign after management changed policy to mandate that workers provide a doctor’s note even for a one-day absence. A subset of workers demanded a meeting with management and, when it was held, workers took their 15-minute breaks in rotating fashion to attend the meeting. One set of workers started the meeting, then as workers had to leave when their breaks were over, new sets of workers joined. They were able to keep the meeting going as long as possible and testify as to why the change was bad.

That story contrasts well with that of the Pennsylvania social workers who organized a powerful 15-minute strike by using the flexibility in their work rules to have all social workers take their regular 15-minute breaks at the same time.

This story, contained within Tip #31, “Keep the Boss Off Balance,” is simple and inspiring, but the similarities and differences between it and the story about Los Angeles hospital workers help organizers draw on universal advice and apply it to their unique setting.

Additionally, each of the stories includes reflections, quotes and honest assessments of mistakes and accomplishments from organizers and workers on the ground.

For me, maybe the biggest lesson the book helped to hammer home is that we are often reactive in organizing, but it’s important not only to respond to crises. To be our best possible organizers, we have to proactively and strategically select organizing issues that are the most urgent and important to the broadest set of members.

Whether you’re a labor leader wanting to increase worker or member engagement, a veteran organizer in need of a refresher or a new steward wanting an orientation to best practices,Secrets of a Successful Organizer is a must read.

Buy the book for $15 + shipping here.

Jen Johnson was a high school history teacher for 10 years in Chicago, where she was also a union delegate. She is currently a Chicago Teachers Union facilitator for teacher evaluation.

 

 

Several Large NY Unions Stop Funding Working Families Party

Big N.Y. Unions Stop Funding Working Families Party — a Backer of Bernie Sanders

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lovett-big-n-y-unions-stop-funding-working-families-party-article-1.2604723
Kenneth Lovett, Daily News

The Working Families Party, which is supporting Bernie Sanders for president, has lost the financial backing of several of the state’s biggest unions.

The rifts mostly began in 2014 over disagreements regarding Gov. Cuomo’s reelection and have continued through this year’s presidential primaries. Most of the state’s big unions are supporting Hillary Clinton.

“There were breaks that happened in the relationship between the unions and the WFP that still have not been repaired,” said one Democratic activist.

Many of the unions kept their disinvestment from the Working Families Party quiet for more than a year.

The powerful Service Employees International Union Local 1199 withdrew its funding and membership in late 2014. Continue reading

How Workers Lose in Negotiations: The ABCs of Corporate Rip-Offs

by Carl Finamore

runaway inequality (3)

Unlike the ninety percent of American workers who have only their own personal voice to influence their wages, benefits and working conditions, union employees use their collective organization to establish guarantees.

And, union workers come to negotiations very well prepared with lots of economic data, with each contract proposal “costed out,” and with the whole team backed up by a professional staff of legal and industry analysts. So, then, how is it that we still get hammered

In real dollars, wages and benefits have not risen since the middle 1970s. We know this, but it still doesn’t make any sense. Why haven’t things improved for most of us and how has the seemingly impossible happened with 95% of all new income since the 2008 “recovery” going to the top 1%?

To answer these questions properly, we have to go beyond just blaming offshoring and contracting out and dig deeper, right down into the heart of how finance capital operates today.

Aside from the fact that unions seldom use their most powerful weapon, the strike, and aside from the fact that even fewer unions ever mobilize and organize their biggest asset, the members, our biggest problem in bargaining is that labor’s financial analysis of corporations only touches the surface. It misses the vast bulk of corporate hidden wealth.

As it stands now, the Top 500 corporations come to the negotiating table after already having played most of their big money cards elsewhere, in the stock market – thus, earning the well-deserved moniker of “casino capitalism.”

In essence, CEOs try to squeeze every dollar they can from offshoring, contracting out, terminating pensions, keeping wages low and reducing the workforce, just so they can push more cash into funding their ultimate prize – buying back stocks and paying dividends. This is where the real money is for investors.

Labor economist Les Leopold explains it in his new book: Continue reading

SEIU Endorses Hillary Clinton

SEIU Exec Committee Endorses Hillary Clinton

Français : Logo SEIU

Français : Logo SEIU (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hillary Clinton scored another major union endorsement, this one from SEIU, on Tuesday. The union endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, and is one of the major backers of the Fight for 15. So is it a contradiction to endorse a candidate who doesn’t support a $15 federal minimum wage? The union’s president says no: “We don’t see it as a contradiction,” Ms. Henry said about the union’s support for a candidate who is not supportive of raising the overall wage to $15, adding that Mrs. Clinton had encouraged her to keep up the pressure to push the wage to that level. “She said to me, ‘Listen, S.E.I.U. and Fight for $15 should continue to push the whole nation, we all need to get to $15.’”
You can see the SEIU’s endorsement video at the bottom of this post.

From: Labor at Daily Kos

A few big national unions remain uncommitted to a presidential candidate – the Teamsters, UNITE Here, and UFCW most notably. But the unions that have endorsed Clinton represent about 9.5 million union members, or nearly two-thirds of the U.S.’s 14.6 million union workers. It’s not too early to conclude that Sanders, endorsed only by National Nurses United and the American Postal Workers Union, has lost his institutional base–organized labor–to the Democratic establishment. He’s also lost another institution: All but a handful of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate have endorsed Clinton.

 

Workers Take Most of the Risk


Robert Reich

Robert Reich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Upsurge in Uncertain Work
Robert Reich
As Labor Day looms, more Americans than ever don’t know how much they’ll be earning next week or even tomorrow.

This varied group includes independent contractors, temporary workers, the self-employed, part-timers, freelancers, and free agents. Most file 1099s rather than W2s, for tax purposes.

On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours.

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightening speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.
Continue reading

Clocking In for Equality

by Seth Sandronsky

Clocking In is a new online tool from Race Forward, a New York-based group whose self-described goal “is to build awareness, solutions and leadership for racial justice.” Its analysis finds disturbing trends for people of color and women employed in the U.S. service industry. This virtual resource allows service employees to share their real-life job experiences with other workers, consumers, employers and policymakers 24/7.
90% of female tipped workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Continue reading

Judge blocks immigration change- temporarily

immigAs expected, a Republican judge Andrew Hanen of Texas on Monday night temporarily blocked the first of several programs President Obama announced in November to offer work permits and a three-year reprieve from deportation to more than four million immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and who have no criminal record.

The decision is temporary and was immediately appealed by the Obama Administration. It will probably be overturned. All are urged to continue to prepare for their application.

The temporary decision has no effect on DACA applications.

For up to date information go to the SEIU site

http://iamerica.org

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