Drawing insights from recent hard-won union negotiation campaigns, Jane McAlevey and Abby Lawlor look to the workers leading some of the toughest fights today to provide a masterclass in participatory social change.
Senior Policy Fellow
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 fourth and most recent book, Rules to Win By: Power and Participation in Union Negotiations, is available from Oxford University Press.
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.
The recent upsurge in organizing is worth celebrating, but workers can’t afford to rest.
The same Supreme Court that revoked Roe v. Wade is engaged in a long-term effort to outlaw strikes: according to Jane McAlevey, building up mobilizational capacity for unions now is about preparing US workers for a future of illegal strikes.
On the sidelines of PSI Congress, we caught up with Jane to discuss her perspectives on organising – and winning!
Rank-and-file members appear to have become more committed to their leaders’ negotiating strategy as unions have become more democratic and involved members more in the push for a contract, said Jane McAlevey, a longtime labor organizer and scholar.
The UAW’s use of social media to broadcast the current state of play on key bargaining issues might not conform exactly to McAlevey’s model, but it does stake out an approach that insists that bargaining will not take place solely in backrooms.
As organizer and author Jane McAlevey noted, there are plenty of what-ifs to wonder about already,
Jane McAlevey discusses the UAW strike and the union’s new president.