Connexions Resource Centre
Focus on Labour and Unions
Recent & Selected Articles
- This is a small sampling of articles related to education and children in the Connexions Online Library. For more articles, books, films, and other resources, check the Connexions Library Subject Index, especially under topics such as
The Red-Green Alliance advocates a strong international labour organization with muscles to raise global demands for workers. It means a labour organization where it is possible to remain organized, even when traveling across borders, and where people working in the same company, or in the same sector across borders, can be organized together, and raise common demands.
A union of metal workers in South Africa staged a strike underground in harsh conditions to support a coworker whose sexual harassment complaint had been dismissed by management.
A Chinese government campaign to expel migrant workers from Beijing is designed to reap greater profits from urban land and reserve the city for elites.
Chad Pearson's book "Reform or Repression: Organizing America's Anti-Union Movement" and Lane Windham's new book "Knocking on Labor's Door: Union Organizing in the 1970's and the Roots of a New Economic Divide", take a historical look at anti-union tactics through the 20th century, and demonstrate how Unions can regroup, reform and fight back.
Organized labour is desperately in need of a major facelift. The AFL-CIO needs to hire the best public relations firm in the land, pay them what they ask, do exactly as they say, and get busy educating the American public.
One big issue in the three-day strike by 38,000 AT&T workers was the company's offshoring of jobs. To shine a spotlight on the issue and strengthen international solidarity, a group of union members visited the Dominican Republic a couple of weeks before the strike to meet the call center workers on the other end of that offshoring.
The experience from the examples of organising the unorganised both in the US and UK demonstrate that it is possible to develop union organisation; significant examples are discussed in this article, particularly in a British context.
An interview with Vivek Chibber.
Co-operation between labour and climate groups may be possible in the Trump era.
A review of Hao Ren, Eli Friedman and Zhongjin Li (editors), China on Strike: Narratives of Workers' Resistance, which gives a history of labour struggles of Chinese migrant workers.
Under China's labour management system, independent unionism is strictly banned, and the state's official trade union body monopolizes worker representation. That means that all of Chinas 806,498,521 workers are barred from forming independent organizations to agitate for their interests -- in an economy where the poorest 25 percent of households own just 1 percent of the countrys total wealth, and where long hours, safety hazards, and authoritarian management define life in the factories. This official antagonism has not stopped the emergence of workers' resistance. The number of strikes has been increasing over the past two decades, and as Eli Friedman wrote last year, "on a typical day anywhere from half a dozen to several dozen strikes are likely taking place."
Why has the use of the strike in the US become so scarce? While subjective factors are more difficult to quantify, certain basic reasons seem more readily evident. Union membership, particularly in the private sector, is at an all-time low. Most of the unions are heavily bureaucratized, and central labor councils ossified. "Sympathy strikes," long ago outlawed by Taft-Hartley, militate against the sort of broad-based solidarity so essential to an industrial victory. Moreover, many unions have accepted no-strike clauses for the duration of their contracts, effectively tying one hand behind their backs.
If the climate movement is going to get serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground, the movement needs to get serious about cultivating a real vision for a just transition. If were going to see coal-fired power plants and oil refineries and chemical plants shut down we need to have a real vision about what the future looks like for those workers, their families and their communities.
As nearly 200 nations gathered in Paris approved the UN Climate Change Agreement, the AFL-CIO issued a statement that broke new ground on climate. While the AFL-CIO opposed the Kyoto climate agreement and never supported the failed Copenhagen agreement, it applauded the Paris climate change agreement as "a landmark achievement in international cooperation" and called on America "to make the promises real."
An interview with labour organizer Jane McAlevey on labour's crisis of strategy and the difference between organizing and mobilizing. McAlevey discusses what ails the labour movement, problem with the terms "public" and "private" sector, and why we need to stop ignoring the rank-and-file.
Stephen Harper has been Prime Minister of Canada for almost a decade. In that time, the system of protections that were put in place by decades of advocacy by labour organizations and unions has been partly dismantled. The attacks have been extremely strategic. Ground Zero for these attacks has been the House of Commons, where piece after piece of legislation has taken aim at unions and collective bargaining.
Domestic work is representative of a paradigmatic shift in labour, as the conditions of labour for other workers seem to converge with and more closely resemble those of private household workers.
Unions vastly improve the wages and working conditions of their members. No wonder they're still under attack.
The victorious Keystone campaign also exposed the perennial Achilles' heel of those who are fighting against climate change: We are often painted by our opponents and perceived by the public as caring more about the environment than about jobs. The neglected half of the job for environmental advocates is to ourselves become the voice for job creation. We need to develop robust programs to put unemployed pipefitters, teamsters, and others back to work. Indeed, the prerequisite for every environmental campaign should be a plausible and detailed jobs program. The sustainability movement must be a voice for workers, students, and others who want to both save the earth and promote appropriate economic development.
A review of the book "Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress" written by Steve Early.
A discussion of the labour movement's ineffectiveness against combatting capitalism.
For many years, American unions have been trying to organize of the unorganized to offset, and, where possible, reverse their steady loss of dues-paying membership. In union circles, a distinction was often made between that "external organizing" to recruit workers who currently lack collective bargaining rights and "internal organizing," which involves engaging more members in contract fights and other forms of collective action aimed at strengthening existing bargaining units.
Hundreds of agricultural workers, including many child labourers, die in farming accidents across the US each year. With an official workplace fatality rate of more than 21 per 100,000, farming is the most dangerous occupation in America. It is also among the lowest paid and least regulated.
While labour migration has been a recurring phenomenon in human history, what is new in the post-1970 period of restructuring in the world capitalist economy is the increased use of temporary migrant labour by employers around the world. The widespread rise of employer use of temporary migrant workers in various economic sectors internationally can be dated from circa 1990.
Migrant domestic workers generally get very little protection from the Lebanese government and remain under-reported in the media, while the deaths of these workers are rarely discussed in the news. Despite the high incidence, domestic workers deaths are not investigated or documented by the Lebanese authorities.
Teacher Tara Ehrcke talks about why she voted to strike in Greater Victoria, British Columbia: The "public" in public school shouldn't mean just providing a building, with some tired teachers to deliver a curriculum, the success of which is measured by standardized tests. A good public school system should provide high quality opportunities to every single child. While our public schools have many wonderful programs and many dedicated teachers, the sad truth is that there are also overcrowded classrooms, children falling behind, and a workforce exhausted from trying to fill in the gaps.
This is an active online archive of commentaries and stories, first published in Our Times, about the experience of union organizing: what works and what doesn't. It's also the place where you'll find Our Times' columnist Derek Blackadder's WebWork series archived -- articles about online resources for union activists.
Theres an intriguing idea based loosely on the turn-of-the-century union practice of "salting" a workplace. Salting consists of union activists secretly hiring into an anti-union shop in order to promote unionism from within.
Jeremy Brecher examines where and how mass strikes have progressed into the working class attempting to run society in its own interests and the lessons we can learn from them.
Early reviews Lettuce Wars: Ten Years of Work and Struggle in The Fields of California by Bruce Neuburger, who spent much of the 1970s as a lettuce- and agricultural product picker during the heyday of the United Farm Workers (UFW).
A few unions are recruiting salts these days, usually young people who apply for low-wage jobs in retail, hospitality, or logistics. But unions are reluctant to talk about salting, not wanting to alert management to look out for suspicious characters.
An invaluable book for any union activist. It details the successful 2010 strike by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), starting with the formation of CORE (Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators) back in 2008 when they had only 22 members; their election to union leadership positions in 2010 when their membership had swelled to 400; and their determination to maintain the struggle in the aftermath of the strike.
This is to specifically address class struggle as it relates to the ecological crisis. It will not address all the other (many!) reasons that working class struggle must be waged and supported.
With few opportunities at home, millions of poor, desperate men and women from South East Asia and the horn of Africa migrate annually to Saudi Arabia. Vulnerable at home and vulnerable abroad where many are enslaved and badly abused, some killed.
The neoliberal assault on labour has now entered its fourth decade. Equally concerning for the labour movement has been the long assault on the post-war labour freedoms to organize, bargain, and strike.
The strike is workers' only viable weapon. Why? Because it, and it alone, immediately affects the companys profits. Without labour, they're crippled.
When the management of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group announced, in early July 2012, that it was eliminating 8,000 jobs and closing the Aulnay plant near Paris (3,000 employees) in 2014, it caused a shock wave, well beyond the workers in the automotive sector.
Many, perhaps most, worker centerbased organizing projects focused on workers in low-wage jobs, are conducted with the active support and, often enough, leadership provided by a variety of community-based organizationswith support from one or more unions.
A look at Unites community union organizing.
Question: So what happens these days in developing countries when a prominent, charismatic union activist - with the courage to stand up to sinister, government-supported business groups who have, on more than one occasion, already threatened his life - attempts to get the countrys underpaid, under-benefited workers to join a labor union? Answer: They kill him.
This article is an exploration of one of the fundamental processes that brought the revolution back to Tahrir: the rise of an organised working class movement.
Workers in Brazilin heavy industry, services, the public sector, and agricultureare involved in a series of strikes and mass protests such as the country hasnt seen in decades.
- Connexions Archive Case Statement (September 24, 2011)
Working together to secure a future for the past
Great organizing campaigns are like great love affairs. You begin to see life through a different lens. You change in unexpected ways. You lose sleep, but you also feel boundless energy. You develop new relationships and new interests. Your skin becomes more open to the world around you. Life feels different, and its almost like youve been reborn. And, most importantly, you begin to feel things that you previously couldnt have even imagined are possible.
Exploring some of the consequences of the long-term decline in union membership and the significant shift in membership towards public sector workers.
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) has released "Working for Scrooge: Worst Companies of 2009 for the Right to Associate," a list of the four worst multinational corporations for union organizing.
The Connexions Archive, a Toronto-based library dedicated to preserving the history of grassroots movements for social change, needs a new home.
Crystal Lee Sutton was a genuine hero. She will forever be remembered as one of the champions of organized labor, right up there with the Joe Hills, Bill Haywoods and Emma Goldmans.
Capitalism is built on various forms of oppression and structural inequality. But the subordination and exploitation of the working class remains at the heart of the system. A liberatory program and strategy for a remake of society needs to explain how workers can escape the class cage.
An account of the occupation Visteon factory in Enfield, London.
Unions and workers are making much use of the latest web fad: social networking sites. But are sites like Facebook really adding anything to our ability to organize? If yes, how, exactly? And where are the pitfalls in using online commercial sites for organizing?
An analysis of how the vertical integration of unions disempowers workers and forces them to use captilist systems such as courts instead of relying on friendship and solidarity.
Over the last several years, a revolving network of militants in Paris, France, have developed a strategy and tactics for winning strikes by marginal, low-paid, outsourced and immigrant workers against international chains, in situations where the strikers are often ignored by unions to which they nominally belong, or are actually obstructed by them.
- Revolutionary Optimist (January 15, 2000)
Principles of social justice are clearly not served by applauding a system that prides itself in an increased GNP at the same time that it farms out its women to be servants of the world.
- Workers have to deal with their own reality and that transforms them (1997)
I think self-activity is the response of working people to the nature of their lives and work. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's quiet. Part of the reality is that we're going through a considerable technological revolution, which means that experiences, even jobs, that people depended on and know about, begin to disappear. To expect workers to say, "Yesterday, they automated my factory; today, I know exactly what to do about it," is Utopian. It takes a while. It takes a generation. Workers will learn.
It is evident today that the vast majority of the population (perhaps 80% of the workforce) live and reproduce themselves only through wage-labor that produces surplus value, regardless of the nature of the commodity (good or service) they produce. Whatever the changing weight of the industrial sector of this enormous, working majority, it is clear that the working class as a whole is proportionately far larger today than at the time of classical Marxist writers.
Moody's book is no academic study, but looks at the labor movement "from the bottom up"; the author has witnessed and to some extent participated in the many defeats and handful of victories of the past 15 years.
Though the typical union contract nowadays contains some sort of union shop provision, union membership was voluntary under almost all CIO contracts prior to 1942. The dues "check off" was virtually unknown in the late '30s and dues were collected on the shop floor by shop stewards and committeemen.
- The Working Class and Social Change (1975)
A study of "The Working Class," and the complexities of its definition as economic categories diffused from profound bases of social demarcation during the 1960's.
- Marxist Views of the Working Class (September 17, 1974)
We are not discussing the working class because we want to find out what the noble worker is all about. We are concerned with social change. The fundamental problem of how you define and how you view the working class is the problem of whether the working class is a viable instrument for social change.
- False Promises: A Review (1974)
False Promises is a strange book. Despite a certain carelessness of presentation, I recommend it to all concerned with the working class for its extensive documentation of the working-class experience, at work, in the larger society, and in the unions. It is imbued with the conception that freedom is the fundamental quality of revolutionary change and it rejects the strangling doctrines and structures of the union movement and of the vanguard parties. Yet it cannot overcome a conception of working-class consciousness which reduces workers to victims and consciousness to verbalizations.
A review of Jeremy Brecher's Strike! (See CX6590)
- Marxism and the Trade Unions (1970)
Draper argues that essentially, no Marxist group has ever carried on any systematic revolutionary work in trade unions.
Selected Websites and Organizations
- This is a small sampling of organizations and websites concerned with education and children in the Connexions Directory. For more organizations and websites, check the Connexions Directory Subject Index, especially under topics such as
Other Links & Resources
- Connexions Library: Work Focus Page
Selected articles, books, websites and other resources on work.
A subject guide to experts and spokespersons on topics related to health care workers in the Sources directory for the media.
A subject guide to experts and spokespersons on topics related to labour in the Sources directory for the media.
A subject guide to experts and spokespersons on topics related to work in the Sources directory for the media.
Books, Films and Periodicals
- This is a small sampling of books related to education and children in the
Connexions Online Library. For more books and other resources, check the Connexions Library
Subject Index, especially under topics such as
- All For One
Arguments from the labour trial of the century on the real meaning of unionism
A trial which challenged the right of unions to exist in Canada.
- Building Bridges
The Emerging Grassroots Coalition of Labor and Community
Author: Brecher, Jeremy and Costello, Tim (ed.)
- The Canadian Labour Movement
A Short History
Author: Heron, Craig
- Down To Earth People
Beyond Class Reductionism and Postmodernism
Author: Secombe, Wallace; Livingstone, David W.
Working class women and men offer their analysis of the world today and its multi-dimensional inequalities.
- False Promises
The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness
Author: Aronowitz, Stanley
- First Contract
Women and the Fight to Unionize
Author: Conde, Carol, Beveridge, Karl
Looks at the "personal side" of the struggle of working women to organize themselves into unions and win first contracts.
- HERstory: Jeritan
Author: Ho Wing Yin, Cecilia (Director)
A story of Indonesian female migrant workers who left their homes to work as domestic helpers in Macao, China, a community consisting of mainly Chinese as well as a city of casinos and entertainment parlours.
- The Hidden Injuries of Class
Author: Sennett, Richard; Cobb, Jonathon
Sennett and Cobb look at human relations between people of different classes and analyze everyday life and ordinary situations to identify class signals that make people feel inadequate.
- The Making of the English Working Class
Author: Thompson, E.P.
Discusses the development of a working class consciousness from the 1790s to the Great Reform Bill
- The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions
Author: Luxemburg, Rosa
Luxemburg writes that "the mass strike in Russia [in 1905] has been realised not as means of evading the political struggle of the working-class, and especially of parliamentarism, not as a means of jumping suddenly into the social revolution by means of a theatrical coup, but as a means, firstly, of creating for the proletariat the conditions of the daily political struggle and especially of parliamentarism. The revolutionary struggle in Russia, in which mass strikes are the most important weapon, is, by the working people, and above all by the proletariat, conducted for those political rights and conditions whose necessity and importance in the struggle for the emancipation of the working-class Marx and Engels first pointed out, and in opposition to anarchism fought for with all their might in the International."
- The No-Nonsense Guide to International Migration
Author: Stalker, Peter
- Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter - September 10, 2015
Labour Day issue
Author: Diemer, Ulli (editor); Rickwood, Darien Yawching (production)
Labour Day issue, with articles examining the relentless pressure put on workers to work ever longer hours, at the cost of their health and family life; anti-worker legislation, Zapatista popular education, and the Greek crisis.
- Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter - July 23, 2016
Workers and Climate Change
Author: Diemer, Ulli (ed.)
Working people -- and most of us are workers -- are affected by climate change in every aspect of our lives. As climate change worsens, our lives will worsen. If we are successful in bringing about the needed rapid change away from a fossil fuel based economy, working people are the ones who stand to bear most of the costs, including the cost, for millions of workers and their families, of losing their jobs.
Many elements of the environmental movement have been guilty of ignoring working people, while others actually blame ordinary working people for climate change and the injustices associated with it. Yet it is working people who are dying, in many places, even now, from excessive heat in factories, fields, construction sites, and homes. And million of working people stand to lose their jobs, homes, and communities in the transition to a low-carbon or no-carbon economy.
- Pay Cheques & Picket Lines
All About Unions in Canada
Author: MacKay, Claire; Illustrated by Peters, Eric
A children's book which explains what unions are, how they came to be, and why they exist.
- Plunderbund and Proletariat
A History of the IWW in B.C.
Author: Scott, Jack
A history of working class struggle from the workers' perspective.
- Rank and File
Personal Histories of Working Class Organizers
Author: Lynd, Alice; Lynd, Staughton (eds.)
A collection of stories and recollections from labour movement organizers.
- The Retreat from Class
A New 'True' Socialism
Author: Wood, Ellen Meiksins
Volume 50, Registering Class
Volume 51, Transforming Classes
The True History of Mass Insurgence from 1877 to the Present
Author: Brecher, Jeremy
A history-from-below that brings to light strikes as authentic revolutionary movements against the establishments of state, capital, and trade unionism.
- Workers' Councils
Author: Pannekoek, Anton
Now the goal becomes distinct; opposite to the stronger domination by state-directed planned economy of the new capitalism stands what Marx called the association of free and equal producers. So the call for unity must be supplemented by indication of the goal: take the factories and machines; assert your mastery over the productive apparatus; organize production by means of workers' councils.
- Working Class Experience
Rethinking the History of Canadian Labour, 1800-1991
Author: Palmer, Bryan D.
From nineteenth-century tavern life to late twentieth-century cinema, from rough canallers and the first stirrings of craft unionism to contemporary public-sector strikes, this books provides a sweeping interpretive study of the history of the Canadian working class since 1800.
Learning from our History
Resources for Activists
The Connexions Calendar - An event calendar for activists. Submit your events for free here.
- A comprehensive directory of Canada’s print and broadcast media. .
- A membership-based service that enables journalists to find spokespersons and story ideas, and which simultaneously enables organizations to raise their profile by reaching the media and the public with their message.
Organizing Resources Page - Change requires organizing. Power gives way only when it is challenged by a movement for change, and movements grow out of organizing. Organizing is qualitatively different from simple “activism”. Organizing means sustained long-term conscious effort to bring people together to work for common goals. This page features a selection of articles, books, and other resources related to organizing.
Publicity and Media Relations - A short introduction to media relations strategies.
Grassroots Media Relations - A media relations guide for activist groups.
Socialism gateway - A gateway to resources about socialism, socialist history, and socialist ideas.
Marxism gateway - A gateway to resources about Marxism.
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