Organizing New Groups of Workers
Tiffany Kraft an ambitious, well-educated woman leads the attempts to organize adjunct professors across America. Kraft and SEIU have joined forces to get the adjunct movement heading in the right direction. Kraft’s attempts have helped bring a spotlight to the hardships an adjunct professor must deal with.
- Miller, Justin. 2015. “When Adjuncts Go Union.” The American Prospect. Summer.
College Football Players
In January 2014, Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA football player and Tim Waters, the director of the United Steelworkers Political Action Committee went to the National Labor Relations Board with hopes of organizing the Northwestern Football team. Northwestern was led by their superstar quarterback Kain Colter not only on the football field but in the organization attempts as well. These organizing attempts help bring much needed national exposure to concerning issues within collegiate football.
- Nocera, Joe, and Ben Strauss. 2016. “Fate of the Union: How Northwestern Football Union Nearly Came to Be.” Sports Illustrated, February 29.
The National Writer’s Union is a growing labor union that represents freelance writers. The National Writers Union, in partnership and with the support of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), defends writers for fair compensation, copyright protections, and the overall well-being of writers.
In Mobilizing Against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism, authors Adler, Tapia and Turner argue that the contemporary labor movement must adopt new strategies in the face of rising global neoliberalism and declining union density. Through a careful analysis of case studies from four countries – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United States — the text explores the potential power of recent immigrant organizing and mobilization for unifying an increasingly divided workforce and revitalizing the labor movement.
- Adler, Lee H., Maite Tapia, and Lowell Turner, eds. 2014. Mobilizing against Inequality: Unions, Immigrant Workers, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press.
L.A. Story explores the southern California city’s experience with a growing low-wage Latino workforce over the course of the twentieth century and how various organizing successes, such as Justice for Janitors, undermined many previously held assumptions about the utility and possibility of organizing immigrants. In fact, author Ruth Milkman argues, far from being a threat to organized labor, immigrant workers offer new voices, new leadership, and new potential for growth to the labor movement.
- Milkman, Ruth. 2006. L.A. Story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
This piece of the impressive collection Justice on the Job confronts the failure of federal labor law to adequately account for and protect the rights of today’s large and growing temporary workforce. Authors Freeman and Gonos advocate for stricter regulations of temporary staffing firms, trace the vicissitudes of government regulation of the commercial staffing industry, and propose a way that the legal status of temp workers might be reconceptualized to prevent further exploitation of this category of labor.
- Freeman, Harris and George Gonos. 2006. “The Commercial Temp Agency, The Union Hiring Hall, and the Contingent Workforce: Toward a Legal Reclassification of For-Profit Labor Market Intermediaries.” Pp. 275-304 in Justice on the Job - Perspectives on the Erosion of Collective Bargaining in the United States, edited by Richard N. Block, N., Sheldon Friedman, and Michelle Kaminski. Kalamazoo, MI: W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. doi: 10.17848/9781429454827.ch13.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) filed for a federal election to represent over 600 Uber Drivers. If successful, this drive would be the first time workers for this popular ride hauling company would have union recognition.
- Stangler, Cole. 2016. “A Union Turf War Is Snuffing Out The Campaign To Organize Uber Drivers At LaGuardia Airport.” International Business Times, February 11.
Labor-Community Alliances: National and International
Education—Teachers, Students and Community
The 2012 teacher’s strike in Chicago was about more than wages and benefits. In a battle for the soul of public education, teachers in Chicago turned to a massive community organizing campaign to battle the privatization of public education and the commodification of students in the community. These teachers stood up to a massive effort funded by billionaires to undermine free education by collaborating with grassroots community organizers, communities of color, and the then-active Occupy Chicago movement to push back on fundamental restructuring of public education. Much like the gay community in Pride, students, teachers, and concerned community members all realized simultaneously that the fight to maintain public control of education is everyone’s issue. In education, a long-running critique of the system has been that greedy teachers are responsible for the long decline in public education. Through a broad-based community effort, the Chicago teachers were able to flip the script and portray educators as representatives of the best interests of students and privatization proponents as pushing an agenda that benefits their economic interests, not those of students or the community.
- Uetricht, Micah. 2014. Strike for America: Chicago Teachers against Austerity. Brooklyn, NY: Verso.
Environment and Worker Safety and Health
In keeping with the theme of collaboration, this is a study of community-based unionism in support of the carwasheros in South Los Angeles. The Community, Labor, Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) is a collaboration of low wage labor, community, and environmental activists to bargain for better wages and health and safety improvements for the carwasheros, community action against austerity measures that hurt these workers and their communities, and support for environmental standards within the carwash industry. While this is published in an academic publication, this article is refreshingly accessible and written by participants in the struggle.
- Avendaño, Ana, and Charlie Fanning. 2014. “The CLEAN Carwash Initiative: Building Worker Power and Fighting Austerity through Community and Workplace Organizing.” Labor Studies Journal 39(2):101–117. doi: 10.1177/0160449X14531679.
Along the theme of strange bedfellows, traditional wisdom often has exposed a rift between the labor and environmental movements. In the 1970s, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers were actively working to improve worker safety and health with regard to exposure to all kinds of chemicals and nuclear hazards. This article is about a point in that struggle in which labor was able to team up with environmentalists who also recognized that any hazard that is hurting workers is bound to also be a massive environmental concern. While, unfortunately, this partnership did not endure, there is currently increasing effort once again for labor and environmental activist to find common ground and work together. The successes and challenges from this model could prove helpful.
- Gordon, Robert. 1998. “&ldquot;Shell No!”: OCAW and the Labor-Environmental Alliance.” Environmental History 3(4):460–487. doi: 10.2307/3985207.
In the spirit of cross-movement collaboration, this book is about a seminal movement in that sphere in the modern era. For those not familiar with the United Farm Workers’ (UFW) fight for justice for farmworkers under Cesar Chavez in the 60s and 70s, this book is a thorough examination of the history of one of the most creative collaborative international campaigns led primarily by workers based in the United States. While originating with the farmworkers themselves, this campaign represents one of the more effective examples of cooperation between faith, community, student, and social justice groups to advocate for the rights of a vulnerable workforce.
- Shaw, Randy. 2008. Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
The film, Pride, explores the intersection of the gay and labor movements. While that film was an examination of this kind of collaboration in its infancy, this book is a series of articles about the growing intersection of LGBTQIA and labor activism. Written in 2001, it is still not the most up to date, but examines a period of increasing collaboration and the challenges and important questions activists in both camps need to explore to build a stronger social justice movement together
- Krupat, Kitty, and Patrick McCreery, eds. 2001. Out at Work: Building a Gay-Labor Alliance. Vol. 17, Cultural Politics. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Mahmood outlines the similarities in the movement against South African Apartheid and that organizing around occupied Palestine today. The author emphasizes that collaboration between multiple strategies of nonviolent actions led to the fall of South African apartheid. Organized labor boycotts, both within South Africa and international, armed resistance, and other forms of organized resistance from oppressed folks in South Africa was key. The author envisions a similar process for the allies of the Palestinian people.
- Mamdani, Mahmood. 2015. “The South African Moment.” Journal of Palestine Studies 45(1):63–68.& doi: 10.1525/jps.2015.45.1.63.
In a debate sponsored by New Labor Forum, social activists and advocates Andrew Ross and JoAnn Mort, both staunch opponents of the Israeli occupation, disagree about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). With labor as the focus, they each set out their positions and respond to each other in a debate about BDS.
- Ross, Andrew and Joanne Mort. 2014. “Labor and the BDS Movement: Two Perspectives.” New Labor Forum 23(3):11–19.
Sociologist Gay Seidman examines three international campaigns in which advocates successfully used the consumer boycott to move change in their countries—South Africa’s anti-apartheid campaign, India’s Rugmark campaign to promote better treatment of rug workers and, in Guatemala, the push for effective monitoring of the conditions of factory workers making clothing for American brands. Examining the challenges and the successes of each campaign, Seidman emphasizes the critical impact of and need for these campaigns to ultimately mobilize formal entities, such as churches, universities and shareholder institutions, as well as state actors.
- Seidman, Gay W. 2007. Beyond the Boycott: Labor Rights, Human Rights, and Transnational Activism. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
In Global Unions, Global Power, author Jamie K. McCallum argues that global neoliberalism need not be an enemy to labor; rather, it must provide the blueprint for the continued evolution of the labor movement toward comprehensive campaigns and global unions, and thus a labor landscape for the future. Primarily through analysis of SEIU’s participation in a global campaign against Group4 Securicor, or G4S, McCallum explores how victory on the global level can actually lead to greater worker mobilization and strength on the local level.
- McCallum, Jamie K. 2013. Global Unions, Local Power: The New Spirit of Transnational Labor Organizing. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press.
At a time of dramatically reduced governmental enforcement of Wage and Hour standards for workers resulting from years of incremental funding cuts, violations against basic worker rights soared, mostly in industries specifically designed to represent the most vulnerable workforces. This article is about community collaborations to empower workers and their communities to fill this enforcement void.
- Fine, Janice, and Jennifer Gordon. 2010. “Strengthening Labor Standards Enforcement through Partnerships with Worker Organizations.” Politics & Society 38(4):552–585. doi: 10.1177/0032329210381240.