A report by Jane McAlevey and Abby Lawlor, illustrates best practices for building the power to win in today’s challenging union climate and features a series of case studies in collective bargaining during the four years under Trump. They cover four key employment sectors: teachers, nurses, hotel workers, and journalists. In each case, workers used high transparency and high participation approaches in contract campaigns to build worker power. Each victory points a path to raising workers’ expectations of what is possible to win at the negotiations table today.
Unions & Worker Organizations
Workshops & Leadership Schools
Area of Expertise
Research on union avoidance firms
Power structure analysis and strategy
Mission-driven sectors of the economy (health care and education)
Jane McAlevey has spent most of her life as an organizer and negotiator. She’s fourth generation union, raised in an activist-union household. She spent the first half of her organizing life working in the community organizing and environmental justice movements and the second half in the union movement. She has led power structure analyses and strategic planning trainings for a wide range of union and community organizations, and has had extensive involvement in globalization and global environmental issues. She worked at the Highlander Research and Education Center as an educator and as deputy director in her early 20’s.
More recently, Jane has added “author and scholar” to her bio. She earned a Ph.D. in 2015 from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, studying with Frances Fox Piven, after which she was a postdoc at Harvard Law School with the Labor & Worklife Program.
Her third book, A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing and the Fight for Democracy, was published by Ecco/HarperCollins in 2020.
For those following along at home, strike support is a key piece of worker power.
Jane McAlevey of the UC Berkeley Labor Center talks about recent labor strikes at Kellogg’s, John Deere and the IATSE film and TV union, where workers are fighting for a weekend. The former organizer and expert on the history of labor movements says these strikes are “making up for lost time.”
We begin with the uptick in strikes across the country taking place with 176 launched this year so far and get an analysis of what is behind this post-Covid release of pressure in workplaces as billionaires make record profits and the cost of living rises. Joining us is an organizer, author and scholar Jane McAlevey.
As recently as February, union organizer Jane McAlevey warned that we not only needed to massively scale up our activist base, but stop wasting our energies on social media. We spent most of our time mobilizing the vote rather than organizing tenants in the concerned buildings for the long term.
For unionists, her work is well known – and this episode is a joyous journey into how she came to this approach, and how that approach works. For others in the climate movement or racial justice movements – this is a useful introduction to what Jane means by organising, how it is different to mobilising and some of its crucial features.
Like most unions throughout the United States, New York’s labor unions operated under a blend of what Jane McAlevey calls an advocacy model and a mobilizing model.
She owes much to Jane McAlevey, a US labour strategist who has indicated that she supports Unite’s new boss. Ms McAlevey says unions won’t expand their ranks with labour law reform. She told the New Yorker last year that “power for ordinary people can be built only by ordinary people standing up for themselves, with their own resources, in campaigns where they turn the prevailing dogma of individualism on their head”.
After years of salary scales that don’t keep up with the cost of living, an SEIU 1021 bargaining team for city of Berkeley workers decided to do something different at the bargaining table this year. They decided to go big—by opening up bargaining to all members.
These are rather simple structure tests described by Jane McAlevey’s brilliant organizing guide No Shortcuts.