New Organizing Strategies
A review of different alternatives for organizing
The summary discusses new successful organizing strategies. Grassroots organizing, internal organizers, the role of the Central Labor Council, the Church, union democracy, and social movement unionism will be addressed in this section. The discussion will explain the importance of multi faceted strategies and their relationship to increased success rates in organizing campaign.
The most critical challenge facing unions today is organizing new members. If unions are going to be successful in their challenge, they must follow a comprehensive union building strategy. The organizing campaigns must be run aggressively and creatively. The unions must learn to utilize grassroots organizing tactics and include rank and file participation in every organizing strategy. “It has been shown through research that the addition of every tactic in a campaign increases the success rate by 9 percent.”
If unions are going to keep pace with the ever-growing non-union workforce, they must expand at a rate of over three hundred thousand members a year. In order to counterbalance these numbers unions must learn to develop organizational change. The changes that are made at the local level are going to be costly. Currently the average local only devotes 5 percent of its budget to organizing. If the locals follow the suggestions of the “New Voice Team,” 30 percent of the yearly budget will be diverted into organizing campaigns. There are alternatives for unions that cannot financially afford to jump into these new budgets. Through the utilization and training of the current membership, unions can develop external organizers. These new organizers will create strong union ties that eventually could develop into future union leaders. Developing volunteer organizers from the rank and file can help alleviate the financial burden of increased organizing.
Central Labor Council
The responsibility of the Central Labor Council (CLC) should be changed from its current conventional role, to a more transformative role in the community. The council should help to develop grassroots organizing campaigns. They should also learn to promote the interests of non-union workers, as well as the union workers. They must aggressively demand jobs, economic justice and equality for all members of the community. Community based organizing can be accomplished by creating successful partnerships with the various concerned citizen groups and community organizations. The CLC must learn to publicize the problems, explain the causes, propose solutions and expose the successful campaigns and partnerships.
The power of the CLC can best be utilized when they create an alliance with the affiliates. The practice of solidarity can be expressed through the use of mobilization and militancy, if it becomes necessary. The new council should make the most of electoral actions, solidarity, mobilization, militancy, and building coalitions. They should develop political strategies that can produce influence and commit to the actions of the union, as well as non-union community.
The church should become inclusive in the strategies for organizing campaigns. Catholic and Protestant teachings uphold workers rights to earn decent wages, organize unions, bargain collectively, and participate in management decisions. The primary teaching of the Catholic Church has affirmed the importance of workers solidarity and the role that unions play in securing economic and social justice. These teachings are evident in the proclamation that was created by Pope Leo XIII, in 1891, called the “Rerum Novarum”. In the new organizing campaigns the union must plan and communicate strategies that include the religious community.
Church members, as well as union members have been taken over by the materialistic consumer driven culture that exists today. The privatization of life, faith and work has been challenged in both the labor movement and the religious institutions. Labor and religious groups have a moral and vested interest in working together. They are both adversaries for addressing issues concerning poverty and discrimination. Church and labor alliances should be developed around issues of job creation, job retention, and community development.
The new union should become models of democratic practices in their activities. Members should have the right to participate in the decision process of the union. The current lack of democracy has led to a negative public and membership perception. Increasing membership participation will eventually lead to increasing membership control. In the democratic union, the members are more likely to support the unions’ actions, develop class-conscious politics and organize new members. The work ethics and union pride will return, when the member feels a part of the union process. The battle for union democracy is an integral part of the effort to rebuild labor’s ranks. Activism and empowerment must be wed, if unions are to be transformed and labor rejuvenated
Union democracy can only be accomplished when the membership has input into the daily activities of the union. This can be accomplished by allowing the membership to discuss the goals of the organization, disagree or agree on an issue, have a voice on new issues, and allow the membership to discuss their concerns. The message must be clear to the newly organized employee that the worker is the union.
Organizing requires the strategic expertise of a committed leader. The leader should understand that the new member would be observing the interaction between the leadership and the membership. If this new member observes a comfortable relationship between the leadership and membership, they will be more likely to promote the union. This is where the leader must learn to navigate the membership during the campaign, and at the same time allow them to have input into the strategies
Fantasia and Voss both suggest that the labor movement will not survive without implementing social movement unionism. The authors also emphasize the significance of having a leader devoted to the new movement. Social movement unionists have focused on building unions as vehicles of social solidarity. They have a strong orientation towards social justice and connect the revival to a broader movement for expanded democracy and social citizenship in the United States. The style of social movement unionism is usually creative, innovative, and experimental. The movement will deal with social justice that extends beyond the unionized workforce.
The Justice for Janitors campaign is an example of social movement unionism. The union’s initial assumption was that illegal and undocumented workers lacked any potential as union recruits. The campaign involved the poorest of workers who were pitted against the affluent world of the real estate developers. Through the use of demonstrations, sit-downs, and community involvement, the unions were able to organize over 90 percent of the janitors in the Los Angles area. The organizing and political success of this campaign demonstrated that social movement unionism is capable of revealing new and creative ideas in organizing strategies.
Turner and Hurd stress that the labor movement will continue to revitalize, as long as the transformation process into “social unionism” continues to expand. They support this premise by indicating that union membership in 1999 had its greatest growth in twenty years, when they organized 265,000 new members. The strategic plan of all union growth should include organizing the unorganized, grassroots political action, coalition building, labor management partnerships, union mergers, internal restructuring and international solidarity.
Paul Johnston emphasizes that if a movement is to be successful, it must be inclusive of all citizens and not limited to union members. Johnston suggested that the movement follow the social movement that is occurring in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and South Korea. These workers are fighting for the advancement of a whole class of workers and not limiting their agenda to a select few. Johnston suggests that the American Movement should strive for citizen unionism. The six distinct concepts of citizen unionism should include civil, political, social, educational, economic and diverse cultural identities. The new movement would mobilize and fight for the rights of all citizens. Through this mass mobilization the union could create a true social movement
Contradictory to the findings of social movement experts such as Voss and Sherman, Bill Fletcher and Richard W. Hurd discuss the fact that they believe the most innovative organizing programs are formally structured and operate with declining political opportunities. The author’s opinions are that a social movement unionism is informally organized and relies on disruptive tactics. They believe that unions should be innovators heading in an organizational structure direction. The format for organizational structure includes; creating an organizing department, recruiting members to serve as volunteer organizers, shifting resources to support organizing, and reducing services for the current membership. The four characteristics that should be included in a successful movement are: the leader must have enough internal power to overturn the opposition, members must be educated on the new approach, those who implement the change must participate in the decision process, and the organization must be flexible.
The anti-union worker cannot be ignored during the organizing campaign. This worker will often use the opportunity to revitalize labor/management committees, engage in self-promotion, and condone the organizing campaign. They will develop anti-union groups that successfully mimic the strategies and tactics of the union. If organizing is to be successful, the unions must learn to dampen anti-union activism by isolating these workers. The organizer must disrupt early anti-union meetings and establish a pro-union line in the workplace. Organizers and pro-union workers should engage with the activists in an attempt to influence the antiunion worker, instead of ignoring them during the initial stages of the campaign.
There are seven general categories of influence that can effect a union certification election. Prior to the election each area must be addressed to evaluate the strengths and weakness in the workplace:
1) Human Resources, policy training, benefits, etc.
2) Organizational characteristics.
3) Attitude towards job and employer.
4) Attitude towards the union.
5) Workers ideology.
7) Employee involvement.
BCTD Organizing Methods
The following is a description of suggested organizing techniques from the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) of the AFL-CIO. In 2004 the BCTD published the Campaign Guide: Organizing the Construction Industry as a reference guide for the industries’ new organizers. The guide gives details on the comprehensive approach to organizing, mobilizing members, expanding the playing field, and organizing within the Law.
The campaign guide initially explains to the reader the fact that union density has precipitated a crisis in the building trades. Although there is a crisis, the BCTD has taken the position that it will not respond by granting concessions to the signatory contractors. Experimenting in concessions over the last ten years has failed to recapture any of the market. The simple truth is that they will never do 80 percent of the industries’ work unless and until they unionize 80 percent of the workforce. Today, the unionized worker in construction represents 1.2 million workers or 19.1 percent of a workforce of more than 6 million workers. To take back the industry the chief competitors in a given market will have to be identified, targeted, and organized in a single unified campaign.
In order to develop a winning strategy the organizer should enlist the new 4x4 approach to organizing. This approach includes four elements (members, workers, contractors, and secondary) and four stages (planning/building capacity, launch/initial engagement, escalation/ compression, and crises/ victory). Bottom up pressure is created when we educate and activate our current members to support and participate in the organizing efforts. The new worker becomes part of the campaign when they are mobilized and organized against the non-union workforce. Top down pressure can be obtained when you direct the demands at the contractor that has to be organized. Top down pressure should also be deployed as a weapon to influence secondary players who have the ability to alter the behavior of the primary target. It is unlikely that these elements could stand by themselves, but when they are used in combination, the success rate of the campaign increases significantly.
There are four basic stages of an organizing campaign. The first stage is used to develop a plan, determine the target, develop a range of tactics, and determine the calendar for the events that will occur during the campaign. The second is to launch the campaign with the initial engagement of members, workers, contractors, and secondary. The third is the escalation of bottom-up and top-down tactics deployed simultaneously. The final stage should yield surrender by the employer that is being pressured.
Types of activities
Concerted action or activity is accomplished when two or more workers become united around a common goal. The organizer can utilize concerted activity as a persuasion of power to convince the non-signatory employer to sign a union contract. In the campaign it is important to apply pressure on the unorganized employer both on and off the jobsite. Workers have a legally protected right to self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations, and to bargain collectively. This right is set forth in section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.
Salting can be a valuable tool for organizing. Salting can be accomplished by the placement of union members on non-union jobsites for the purpose of organizing. As employees of an open shop union salts are uniquely positioned to connect with the unrepresented worker, as well as being in a position to gather valuable knowledge. The practice of salting has generated a fair amount of controversy over the years. Employers and their cohorts in Congress have argued that salting is meant to harass non-union companies, increase their costs, and make it difficult for them to operate. Their argument is that salting should be considered a crime. But the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has determined that organizing through salting is still a protected activity under the law. This was reconfirmed in the NLRB vs. Town and Country Electric case in 1995.
“Covert” and “Overt” salting are two methods of organizing. Covert salts go under cover as employees’ of the non-union contractor. They serve three purposes in an organizing effort: 1) to gather information about the contractor, worker and jobsite; 2) to help organize and mobilize the non-union workforce; 3) to establish the fact that the employer is in a hiring mode. In “overt salting” the salt will be sent to apply for a non-union job. During the interview process, the salt will intentionally reveal to the employer the fact that he or she is a union member. This type of salting can accomplish two goals. The applicant will get hired and try to organize the workforce or expose the employer’s refusal to hire the salt because of the applicants affiliation with a union. If an employer or their agent refuses to hire an applicant because of union affiliation, it is a violation of federal labor law, section 8(a) (3) of the National Labor Relations Act
This background should give insight into some new successful organizing strategies. The strategies that were discussed included grassroots organizing, internal organizers, the role of the Central Labor Council, the Church, union democracy, social movement unionism, salting and concerted activity. The importance of multi faceted strategies that led to increased success rates in organizing campaigns was discussed. The most important factor is that if unions are going to be successful in their challenge, they must follow a comprehensive union building strategy.