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 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.
As scholar and organizer Jane McAlevey writes in ‘No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power’, “Make the Road goes beyond a pure advocacy approach. They are not simply trying to win specific legislation or material benefits, but also trying to make long-term, structural changes in the power structure of the wider society, shifting the balance of power toward the organization’s base constituency and away from the forces that oppress them.”
As Allegations of Harassment and Abuse Send Shock Waves Through the Craft Beer Industry, Will Workers Take Action?
“Women in the United States are stuck with bosses who abuse them, because to walk out could mean living in their cars or on the streets — or taking two fulltime jobs and never spending a minute with their kids,” wrote the veteran labor organizer and author Jane McAlevey in a 2017 essay on the broader #MeToo movement for In These Times.