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Organizing: New Efforts at Work and in the Community

The NLG L&EC sponsored a breakfast at the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee annual conference in June, 2013 to focus on new organizing efforts.  Worker organizing has been in a box, with four walls called the N–  L–  R and A.  But workers with limited or no collective bargaining rights, from fast food workers, warehouse workers, washeros, taxi drivers, domestic workers, and tomato pickers to children of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi have begun using new organizing methods and other laws (such as FMLA, ADA and FLSA) to address violations of workplace standards and rights. 

Over the past decade, traditional unions have begun supporting "worker center" organizing to address the civil and human rights of workers who are unrepresented but ready to fight for a voice at their job and in their community. Are we now seeing the emergence of new and different organizational forms and strategies? Can networks of "stewards" be established to build worker power and give them tools to agitate and speak out without recognized bargaining rights? Will "minority" unions have legal relevancy in the future? What are organizations such as Working America, UE, the USW Associate Members Program, and AFL-CIO thinking about new approaches for organizing workers in the informal sector and those in temporary low-wage industries? 

Click here to fill out our SURVEY and participate in the L&EC discussion.

The LCC also sponsored a listening session at the LCC with CWA International President Larry Cohen and co-General Counsels Lynn Rhinehart and Craig Becker.  And the focus of the NLG L&EC meeting was also on how the Guild might contribute a perspective to this discussion.  

You can join the lawyers' discussions.
  Contact Lynn Rhinehart or Craig Becker to join the LCC discussion. 

Click here to fill out our SURVEY and participate in the L&EC discussion.  

You can also join the  AFL-CIO discussion in preparation for the 2013 Convention in Los Angeles September 7 - 11.

The 2013 AFL-CIO Convention is the time to take bold and decisive action to answer the challenges of working people and unions today and in the future. In advance of the Convention, the AFL-CIO is conducting an unprecedented outreach program to gather the broadest possible array of creative ideas and strategies for building the labor movement that working families need now.

In-person listening sessions provide the opportunity for rank-and-file members, union leaders, community partners and allies to join the discussion in the communities where they live and work. To facilitate this process, the AFL-CIO developed a "Let's Talk" toolkit that provides tips on organizing sessions, background on key issues, suggested questions for discussion and a form for reporting back top ideas and recommendations.

The 2013 AFL-CIO Convention will feature a series of Action Sessions conducted by and for delegates, community members and other stakeholders each day of the convention, Monday to Wednesday. These sessions will offer the opportunity to learn and develop action strategies about the key issues facing working families and building a broader, stronger labor movement.

The following Questions are being discussed:

Question 1 - May 6-12 
The sustained war on workers from the right has left unions trying to prevent rights from being weakened rather than setting the agenda. Where are the opportunities to play some offense?

Question 2 - May 13-19
Union density is higher among black workers than it is for any other racial or ethnic group of workers. How can the labor movement use this to build a stronger movement for social change?

Question 3 - May 20-26
Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. workforce and their employment experiences are as varied as their individual histories. How can the labor movement use new technologies to solidify its Latino membership?

Question 4 - May 27-June 2
Unions represent only a sliver of private sector workers on their jobs, should labor open its rolls to workers outside a collective bargaining context? Should the focus shift to organizing working people at the community level?

Question 5 - June 3-9
Would unions need to change their organizational structure or methods in order to mobilize workers for large-scale initiatives that could strengthen the labor movement?

Question 6 - June 10-16
How can we create a culture shift and raise the consciousness of America's public about the need to improve wages and working conditions?

Question 7 - June 17-23
The rich keep getting a bigger share of the economic pie while everyone else’s share keeps shrinking. What should be done to reverse this trend?

Question 8 - June 24-30
What would a broad and inclusive labor movement look like and do, and what would it need to provide for you to join it?

Join Working AmericaClick here for the NLG L&EC Working America webpage.


The following articles (in order of date) touch on issues related to increasing organizing and new forms of organizing.

Perspectives:  Worker Centers and the AFL-CIO National Convention by Victor Narro.  August 21, 2013.  This article originally appeared on the Law at the Margins - New York Law School blog.  Victor Narro is the project director for the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, and a lecturer at UCLA Law School and UCLA School of Urban Planning.  Follow Narro on twitter @NarroVictor.  Click here for the article.

How to Build a New Labor Movement, One Step at a Time by Abby Rapoport. May 22, 2013. Earlier this month, labor-rights group Working America launched FixMyJob.com . Click here for a copy of this article from AlterNet. Click here for the AlterNet link. Click here for the original article published in The American Prospect.

Get a Union, Get a Ticket to the Middle Class by Mike Hall.  February 1, 2013.  The Union difference is the ticket to the middle class.  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here for the original article on the AFL-CIO Now's Blog.

Alt-Labor by Josh Eidelson.  January 29, 2013.  Nonunion workers’ groups are gathering strength across the country. But will they ever make the kind of impact that traditional labor once did?  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here for the original article in The American Prospect.

Workers of the World, Sit Tight by Adam Davidson.  January 29, 2013.  What will an America with no private sector unions look like?  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here for the original article in the New York Times Magazine.

In Walmart and Fast Food, Unions Scaling Up a Strike-First Strategy by Jenny Brown.  January 28, 2013.  Small but highly publicized strikes by Walmart retail and warehouse workers last fall set the labor movement abuzz and gained new respect for organizing methods once regarded skeptically.  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here to read the original article int The Bullet.

Do You Give As Much Thought to Restaurant Workers as You Do to Your Organic Chicken? by Amy B Dean.  January 28, 2013.  An interview with organizer Saru Jayaraman of Restaurant Opportunities Center.  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here for the original article in Truthout.

As Union Membership Declines, Organizers Must Adapt by Matthew McDermott. January 24, 2013. Dear labor folks: if your response to today's statistics is anything other than "ORGANIZE" you lose. Click here for a copy of this article. Click here for the original article on Unionosity.com.

7 Amazing Fights for the Rights of Workers by Laura Gottesdiener.  January 2013.  From Houston janitors to Chicago teachers, 2012 will be remembered as the year workers played their most powerful card: the strike.  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here for the original article on Alternet.org.

Labor chief Richard Trumka: "We won't be taken for granted" by Josh Eidelson. November 12, 2012. The AFL-CIO president talks Obama's win, the struggles ahead, and the movement's evolving political role. Click here for a copy of this article. Click here for the original article on Salon.com.

New "Unity Unions" Self-Organize to Confront Workplace Abuses by Amy Dean.  October 24, 2011.  The last five years have been grim and isolating ones for immigrants and working people, right?  Overall, this may be the case, but with you talk with organizers at Fuerza Laboral [...] you might get a different impression.  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here for the original article in Truthout.

Seven Unions Petition NLRB to Mandate Minority Bargaining by Carl Horowitz.  September 10, 2007.  Click here for a copy of this article.  Click here for the original article inNational Legal and Policy Center.