New and first of its kind negotiations book written by and for workers, not management–there’s no other book like this!

“At a time when union demand is higher than it’s been in almost a century, Rules to Win By is required reading. This book is armor for the generation of workers poised to gain power world-wide for the working class.”

–Sara Nelson, Int’l President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO

About the Book

Rules to Win By: Power and Participation in Union Negotiations is a book for workers, unionists, tenant organizers, racial justice and climate campaigners, academics, policymakers and everyone who wants a more fair and democratic society. 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. In the face of a small committee of middle management and their lawyers, most unions put forward a similarly small committee of worker representatives who negotiate behind closed doors. This book focuses on the nuts and bolts of a different approach: high-participation negotiations. It features six case studies from the last five years: Boston hotel workers, educators in New Jersey, nurses in rural Massachusetts and Philadelphia, reporters from the L.A. Times and Law360, and hospital workers in Germany fighting for their patients and their own lives in the pandemic. In each of these cases, workers used the collective bargaining process to achieve transformative contracts through deep organizing and member-driven strategy.

Rules to Win By offers not only a theory of high-participation negotiations, but also practical tools and resources for any campaign. Unlike so many books on negotiations, it encourages us to think beyond the shortcuts of verbal tricks and short-term tactics and to harness the power of ordinary people to win the public good.

Some of the case studies included in Rules to Win By were first researched by Jane McAlevey as a Labor Center Senior Policy Researcher with the assistance of Graduate Student Researcher (GSR) Abigail Lawlor, with resources provided by the UC Berkeley Labor Center. That research became an online report called, Turning the Tables, available as a free PDF download.

Buy the book from Oxford University Press

About the Authors

Jane McAlevey is an organizer, negotiator, author, and scholar. She is currently a Senior Policy Fellow at the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

Abby Lawlor is an organizer and labor lawyer based in Seattle, Washington. She is currently a legal fellow at Public Rights Project.


Praise For Rules To Win By

“Negotiation should be a process of creative aggression, not technocratic dealmaking that fractures class consciousness. McAlevey and Lawlor persuasively show how democratized and disciplined mass participation creates the power in confrontation required to win—for unionists and for all movements for justice. Here we can see abolition as life in rehearsal.”

- Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author, Abolition Geography

“McAlevey and Lawlor eloquently detail the approach to negotiations rooted in the practice of the pace-setting national union known as District 1199 over eighty years ago. We adhere to the same approach today as we did in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Read this book to understand why and how building fighting worker organizations will serve as the foundation for 21st century movements for racial, economic, and gender justice.”

- Rob Baril, President, 1199NE (SEIU)

“As McAlevey and Lawlor convincingly and movingly show, the way for unions to win big is by engaging in open and democratic negotiations. But the wisdom in these pages is universal, and applies well beyond organized labor. Whatever cause you are fighting for, let this brilliant book be your guide.”

- Astra Taylor, co-founder of the Debt Collective and author of Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone

“Rules to Win By offers labor partisans a potent set of battle-tested guidelines for fighting management and winning at the bargaining table and well beyond. In organizing campaigns and contract negotiations, McAlevey and Lawlor explain how working-class power is built and consciousness transformed. It’s hard work but also utterly inspiring. Their book is essential reading.”

- Nelson Lichtenstein, author of State of the Union: A Century of American Labor

Rules is a well-written and worthy follow-up to No Shortcuts and a necessary and overdue addition to the collective bargaining and negotiations literatures. This book could not come at a better time. Read it to win.”

- Janice Fine, Professor, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations

“McAlevey and Lawlor explain how and why successful contract negotiations also require the greatest possible participation by workers. The more workers participate in negotiations, the more they understand how capitalism works, the more willing they are to do what’s necessary to win–and keep winning. I hope McAlevey and Lawlor’s ideas find the widest possible audience among trade unionists, social movement activists, and working people generally.”

- Jeff Goodwin, Professor, New York University