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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 (Healthcare 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.
In this segment, Brooke and Jane discuss how the coverage raised expectations, how Amazon dashed those hopes, and what mistakes the union may have made along the way.
Jane McAlevey argues that the danger signs were there for all to see. She does an excellent job cataloguing the company’s many attacks on the organizing effort, some putting up anti-union signs everywhere, intimidating organizers and mounting an effective counter-campaign. The company, one of the richest in the world, practiced the art of union busting with aplomb.
The reason Amazon workers lost in Alabama is simple: Employers in the US are allowed to engage in brazen anti-union tactics throughout union elections. The PRO Act would change all of that, finally freeing workers from employer intimidation.
Jane McAlevey is a veteran organizer, now a senior policy fellow at UC Berkeley’s Labor Center. Her most recent book is A Collective Bargain.
McAlevey says organizers made a number of missteps in their campaign and didn’t do enough to engage workers in the warehouse. “There’s a strategy and a method for every part of a hard campaign.
It’s bad news, but it doesn’t mean workers in future Amazon campaigns won’t or can’t win. They can. The results were not surprising, however, for reasons that have more to do with the approach used in the campaign itself than any other factor.
Jane McAlevey concurs, stressing that this is an important moment for the labor movement: “We’re at a strategic pivot right now: Are we, the working class, going to take a nosedive down or are we going to take this moment, coming out of the pandemic, to punch back as hard as we can and say that we never want to go back to the conditions we had before?”