Having the Hard Conversations


While in Montreal for the aforementioned national organizing conference, I agreed to do a radio interview with a Canadian researcher and blogger, Michael Rozworski. He blogs at Political Eh-conomy. Michael published the podcast of our interview, and, was then asked to transcribe it into an article for the magazine Jacobin, who then ran it as an interview in early October. Alternet also reblogged the interview in mid-October. Jacobin took the title from my closing comment in the interview,

“Organizing is about having hard conversations. It is fundamentally about having hard conversations with people and not running away from hard issues. You can’t win a union campaign in the US environment if you don’t do that.”

Despite the popularity and appeal of social media, hard conversations actually happen face-toface. And, it is much easier than one thinks to have thousands of face-to-face conversations in a short period of time. The interview is the first time I mention that I have a next book coming, which I do (stay tuned). The next book expands my argument about deep organizing versus shallow mobilizing, the same topic Michael took up with me in the interview after hearing my speech at the national organizing conference of Canada’s biggest private sector union, Unifor (see above and the tab Consulting for a few related pictures from the Unifor conference).

To read it the full story, click here.

To hear the original podcast, click here.


Go, Canada, Go!

In August, I was in Canada twice to work with two different unions, each of whom was laser focused on how to end the regime of Canada’s seriously rightwing Prime Minister, Steven Harper. Though few imagine life will be easy for climate campaigners, working people and more under the new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, sending Harper and his party packing was a really good start to restoring Canada to, well, Canada.

In this picture, I am giving a keynote address to the national organizing conference of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union. I am holding a copy of the New York Times in my hand, with the page turned to a terrific story called “The Closing of the Canadian Mind,” by Stephen Marche, about how devious and secretive nature of the Harper era. Glad it is over, now there’s much to be done!



Analyzing 20 Years of New Labor’s Leadership in the US Labor Movement

politics-and-society-coverMy first academic article is hitting the press, published by the journal Politics & Society. If you have access to a university account, please download it from their website. Politics & Society is an expensive academic journal and my article, along with several commentaries written by other academics, are all locked behind a firewall. But you can read my article by clicking here. In addition, though the journal apparently solicited only critical commentaries, the editors are refusing to let me respond. As such, you can read my response to the commentaries by clicking here.

This article was just awarded the “Best Graduate Student Paper of the Year,” by the Labor Section of the American Sociological Association.

What follows is the ‘abstract’ for the article. Abstract is an academic term that basically equates to a summary of the key arguments I make.


Scholars attribute contemporary union failure to structural factors, such as the legal decision allowing striking workers to be permanently replaced, and to globalization. This paper examines the strategic choices made by New Labor’s leadership after their victory at the AFL-CIO in 1996, and the choices made by the breakaway unions that formed Change-to-Win (CTW). I identify the influence of Saul Alinsky in the background of many of the current New Labor leaders and attribute the strengths and weaknesses of New Labor’s organizing approach to Alinsky’s strengths and weaknesses. I argue that despite two decades of rhetoric about organizing and the difficulties presented by a hostile climate, a critical factor in labor’s decline rests with decisions within their control; their decisions to embrace corporate campaigns and narrowly defined interest-based politics, strategies that led unions away from workers and the workplace and put them at odds with unorganized workers and the community.

To listen to a podcast of a discussion of the article between myself and Doug Henwood on his radio show, see below.


Behind the News with Doug Henwood

Doug Henwood and I sat down and spent an hour discussing my new Politics & Society article (September 2015 issue). The interview is an overview of the past twenty years of what’s called ‘New Labor’s’ ascent to the leadership of the US labor movement. As Henwood points out, the article is locked behind an expensive firewall. If you have access to a university library account, please download the article. Otherwise, click here for the article as I submitted it to the journal.


Keynote Speech, The Parkland Institute

I gave one of several keynote speeches at Alberta, Canada’s premier progressive policy and research operation, called the Parkland Institute. I zero in on the different between mobilizing and organizing in this talk and discuss how we will only be able to build sufficient power to challenge the elites when we return to deep organizing. I argue we have to put the agency for change back on ordinary people, not professional staff.

Click here to watch the full video.


We Need Syriza in Illinois

The new governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, is a hedge fund manager whose salary last year was $60 million. He spent $65.9 million—including $27.6 million of his own money—buying his last election, and he’s about to introduce an austerity program that will make most folks in Illinois think they are living in austerity-wracked Greece, with less idyllic weather. While he’s generating national headlines by trash talking unions, he is quietly taking a scalpel to every important social program in the state, starting with an Illinois’ program which subsidizes high-quality childcare for 160,000 low income kids. Instead of extending a small tax increase that passed the Illinois legislature in 2011, staving off a crisis, he’s letting the increases expire. Rauner is methodically manufacturing an economic crisis for his state, one that will let him do what he has long been set on doing: shrink the government and squeeze the 99 percent.

To read the full story, click here.


Harris v. Quinn: Separate, and not equal

It’d be more than alarming and resoundingly condemned if any institution in the United States tried to take our country back to the days before Dred Scott, or to when people of color in this country fell under the racist and dehumanizing “three-fifths rule.” But the Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn smacks of a new three-fifths rule by declaring the fastest growing occupation in the nation — an occupation dominated by people of color and women as made up of “partial” or “quasi” public employees. The Harris decision, which concludes that workers who provide essential government services to the frail and elderly aren’t “full” public employees, is best understood in the context of two other seminal moments when U.S. lawmakers stacked the deck for employers and against people of color and women trying to improve their lot in life by forming strong unions.

This article was published by Waging NonViolence and also by Alternet. To read the full piece, click here.