"Community Unionism"

TNR has a new blog: The Study, aggregating academic papers and thinkers.  For all my efforts to avoid TNR, I'm a sucker for this stuff, and so far, it hasn't disappointed.  Clicking around, I stumbled on this post by Georgetown's Michael Kazin on the revival of "community unionism" in the fallout of Walker's attack on public workers in Wisconsin:

[...] the massive support the unions drew from students, faculty, small farmers, and immigrant rights groups, among others, imparted an old lesson that progressives often forget: to advance its interests, labor needs to look less like an interest group and more like a moral cause that appeals to allies from outside the wage-earning class.

...

A century ago, the horrific Triangle fire helped garment workers make a case for unions as well as safe workplaces. In the 1930s, auto and steel workers gained public sympathy when they struck for “industrial democracy” against autocratic employers. In the 1960s, the plight of low-wage, mostly Mexican-American farmworkers became a favorite cause of liberals.

This year at Georgetown University, another such labor moment occurred—in a modest but still instructive fashion. After a campaign that began in the muck of July, the roughly 200 men and women who work either at the student cafeteria or at one of a handful of campus fast-food outlets (including a Starbucks) are close to winning recognition from Aramark, their employer, whose $12 billion annual revenue makes it one the largest service providers in the nation. The workers, most of whom are black or Latino, have become members of Unite Here, the leading union in the culinary trades.

But they have not done it alone.

Kazin describes a "community union" coalition grown out of frustration, aligning '90s era organizations, College Democrats, the student chapter of the NAACP, and minority workers in a strategic move to tell the personal stories of university service employees to the community (culminating in a MLK day "testimonial" at a local church). 

After a more than a decade fighting for better conditions, just a few weeks ago, according to Kazin, nearly 80% of employees signed in support of representation by the international service union Unite Here.

The fight in Wisconsin has breathed new life into the ideas behind unionization and workers rights.  But to turn the energy into a movement, it's going to require reinforcing the connection between unions and the dinner table.  Conservatives have succeeded to some extent at numbing the country to workers rights, and the dominance billionaires enjoy in the dialog.  Progressives need to take back the frame, and remind the country that, just like the 1930's, unions provide a voice not as easily shouted down by Supreme Court sanctioned corporate "persons." 

What's happening at Georgetown is a microcosmic example that better coalition building between workers and the broad "organizational left," tying the framework to simple dignity and personal experience, is an opportunity to drive the message home.

 

"Community Unionism"

TNR has a new blog: The Study, aggregating academic papers and thinkers.  For all my efforts to avoid TNR, I'm a sucker for this stuff, and so far, it hasn't disappointed.  Clicking around, I stumbled on this post by Georgetown's Michael Kazin on the revival of "community unionism" in the fallout of Walker's attack on public workers in Wisconsin:

[...] the massive support the unions drew from students, faculty, small farmers, and immigrant rights groups, among others, imparted an old lesson that progressives often forget: to advance its interests, labor needs to look less like an interest group and more like a moral cause that appeals to allies from outside the wage-earning class.

...

A century ago, the horrific Triangle fire helped garment workers make a case for unions as well as safe workplaces. In the 1930s, auto and steel workers gained public sympathy when they struck for “industrial democracy” against autocratic employers. In the 1960s, the plight of low-wage, mostly Mexican-American farmworkers became a favorite cause of liberals.

This year at Georgetown University, another such labor moment occurred—in a modest but still instructive fashion. After a campaign that began in the muck of July, the roughly 200 men and women who work either at the student cafeteria or at one of a handful of campus fast-food outlets (including a Starbucks) are close to winning recognition from Aramark, their employer, whose $12 billion annual revenue makes it one the largest service providers in the nation. The workers, most of whom are black or Latino, have become members of Unite Here, the leading union in the culinary trades.

But they have not done it alone.

Kazin describes a "community union" coalition grown out of frustration, aligning '90s era organizations, College Democrats, the student chapter of the NAACP, and minority workers in a strategic move to tell the personal stories of university service employees to the community (culminating in a MLK day "testimonial" at a local church). 

After a more than a decade fighting for better conditions, just a few weeks ago, according to Kazin, nearly 80% of employees signed in support of representation by the international service union Unite Here.

The fight in Wisconsin has breathed new life into the ideas behind unionization and workers rights.  But to turn the energy into a movement, it's going to require reinforcing the connection between unions and the dinner table.  Conservatives have succeeded to some extent at numbing the country to workers rights, and the dominance billionaires enjoy in the dialog.  Progressives need to take back the frame, and remind the country that, just like the 1930's, unions provide a voice not as easily shouted down by Supreme Court sanctioned corporate "persons." 

What's happening at Georgetown is a microcosmic example that better coalition building between workers and the broad "organizational left," tying the framework to simple dignity and personal experience, is an opportunity to drive the message home.

 

In Search of the Soul of the Party

A good friend of mine named John - an ardent Reagan supporter and fiscal conservative - and I manage to speak about once every two or three weeks despite living in different parts of the country.  Inevitably, the conversation drifts toward politics, and despite out apparent differences in opinion, we respect each other's beliefs.  About a month ago, I mentioned to him that for the first time since I registered as a Democrat, someone had accused me of not being a Democrat.  The context is complex, but long story short, I am pro-state's rights in a few areas.  The other person in this conversation looked at me in horror and replied, "You're not a Democrat."

I mentioned this to John who sighed, did one of his signature "hmms" and said, "Well, there's always plenty of room for you in the GOP."

We both laughed and the conversation drifted elsewhere, but the thought stuck with me.  "You're not a Democrat." What does that mean?  If I'm not a Democrat, who is?  That question only further begs another: what is a Democrat?  I posed the question in a later conversation with John, and he subversively replied, "A Democrat is anyone who is not a Republican and not entirely crazy." You have to understand his humor, I guess.

There's more...

DFA Night School: Building Progressive Coalitions

DFA Night School, our free online campaign training program, is back for the 2007 Spring Semester. Last week over 900 people participated in the initial Night School of 2007. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organizer Ben Monterroso will join us this evening as we turn our attention to Building Progressive Coalitions.

Building Progressive Coalitions
Tuesday March 13th - 8:30pm Eastern Standard Time
RSVP today: http://www.dfalink.com/event.php?id=1835 4

Coalition building is central to expanding the progressive movement and the impact of effective action. Every day organizations across the country combine their resources to fight to end the Iraq War, eliminate poverty, provide universal health care and more.

Tonight, DFA is partnering with SEIU to present a first rate training on the benefits (and potential pitfalls) of Building Progressive Coalitions. The web presentation and nationwide conference call are so easy that 4,715 DFA members have participated from their own home.

There's more...

Diaries

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