• print
  • decrease text sizeincrease text size
    text

A Win for New Jersey Temp Workers

Share this post

Tens of thousands of New Jersey temporary help and staffing agency workers were essential but unprotected during the pandemic but will soon enjoy robust new rights and protections.

They triumphed over significant challenges, building power with support from Make the Road NJ and New Labor, to pass the “Temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights” on February 2, 2023.

After a version of the bill passed both chambers in June 2022, a clerical error caused a series of delays, spurring intensified lobbying by the industry. The workers persevered, returning to Trenton repeatedly to make their voices heard, highlighting poverty wages and how taxpayers subsidize temp agencies by more than $20 million per year, and calling out agencies opposing the bill that were not even registered to operate in New Jersey.

As Reynalda Cruz, a New Labor leader and former temp worker, explained: the new law “has been a long time coming for us, after having passed the Assembly and Senate twice previously.”

“Temp workers need more protections and temp agencies need to be regulated! We’ve seen it through multiple votes, and when we fight we win!”

Nidia Rodrigues, a temp worker and member of Make the Road NJ echoed the excitement: “Finally, essential temp workers have the opportunity for just and dignified jobs, and a better future. This is a victory led by and for the hundreds of thousands of essential temp workers who have organized for years.”

Reflecting key worker priorities, the New Jersey law contains several provisions for transforming low-wage, precarious jobs into good jobs.

Workers assigned to designated occupations by temporary help and staffing agencies will enjoy equal pay for equal work, opportunities for permanent employment, transparency, and more.

Most of the provisions of this terrific victory will take effect on August 5, 2023, but the critical protections against retaliation and the Right-to-Know provisions take effect on May 7, 2023.

For the scores of temp workers routinely assigned to the covered occupations, passage of the law is only the beginning. Workers look forward to the improved conditions that implementation will bring and, ultimately, to ensuring all temp workers, regardless of assignment or state of residence, enjoy the same basic protections.

This is an abbreviated version of a blog that originally appeared at NELP on May 1, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: This blog was published by NELP (National Employment Law Project) staff.

Learn more about temporary workers here.


Share this post

Labor Movement Growth: Its Seeds are Spreading

Share this post

Hamilton Nolan


In 2015, a group of my colleagues and I decided to try to unionize our company, Gawker Media. This mostly involved an intense, weeks-long process of speaking to everyone we worked with to convince them why this would be a good idea.

As we did that, one thing became clear: Even in a newsroom populated overwhelmingly by outspoken left-wingers, most people didn’t know that much about unions.

How did they work? What were the rules? We encountered not hostility so much as people chewing over, for the first time, something they had never really considered.

There were two obvious reasons for this. First, there were not many unions in our particular industry at the time, so few people had ever been union members before. And second, only one in ten workers in the whole damn country were union members, meaning that, unlike in past generations, few people had grown up with a parent or friend or relative who was a union member.

A consequence of the long term dwindling of union density was that casual contact with unions had also dwindled. Fewer people had a mom who was a shop steward, an uncle who went on strike or a friend who could tell them about a great new contract at their job. Lower union membership meant more widespread ignorance about what unions were all about — which, in turn, meant that every new organizing drive was more of an uphill battle. The decline of unions in the past drove further decline in the present. 

But this dynamic also runs in reverse.

As more and more companies in our industry unionized, unions rapidly evolved from a novelty to a necessity. The people who won a union at one workplace told their friends at the next workplace. It spread. It became less mysterious. For non-union workers, every new union somewhere else was a reminder that they might be missing out on something. After four or five years, it started to be more noticeable when a newsroom wasn’t unionized. The idea, made real, sold itself. 

Here is some good news: This snowball effect that propels the labor movement forward is getting big now.

Big enough to pay attention to. Think about the implications of the fact that tens of thousands of people in higher ed — most of them grad and undergrad workers — have unionized in just the past two years. Tens of thousands more of them, already unionized, have gone on strike.

A characteristic of this particular group of workers is that the vast majority of them are not going to spend their entire careers on college campuses. They will go through these big union drives, contract fights, and strikes, and then they will go out into the world. All over the place. Credentialed in every field, they will go to white collar offices and blue collar jobs and, no doubt, into service and retail jobs.

Each one of them is a seed that can grow another union wherever they end up. Tens of thousands of young people, all former union members, experienced in labor battles, percolating into every crevice of the working world. Tens of thousands of young people who know what unions can do, who know how organizing is done, who are harder to trick with anti-union lies, filtering into countless non-union workplaces. Everywhere. 

This is how it spreads. This is what we need.

Every union is important for its own members, but what is even more important about the current wave of campus union activity is that it has big numbers of people involved, and those people are about to scatter like dandelion seeds blown in the wind. The most vital legacy of these higher ed unions will not be what they do on campus, but what they lead to everywhere else. 

There is another ingredient adding fuel to this fire: attention.

The past decade’s widespread unionization of media outlets did not produce a huge number of new union members, but it did produce a drastic increase in reporters who were interested in organized labor, which led to more coverage. That interest found a home, most notably, in the union drives at Starbucks and Amazon, lending both of those campaigns a national importance that exceeds their raw numbers. 

I spent the past year reporting and writing a book about the labor movement, and everywhere I went, people told me that they were inspired by Starbucks and Amazon.

The increased media focus on labor combined with these name brand campaigns has elevated the idea of unions into the national consciousness.

Every big strike that makes the news helps. If screenwriters go on strike on May 1, as looks possible, Hollywood will shut down, and labor power will grab center stage every time anyone turns on their TV. Even normies have heard of this stuff.

This may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. It provides people with a reference point — a mental foundation to build on. 

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor writer for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

This is a portion of a blog that originally appeared in full at In These Times on April 20, 2023.


Share this post

Navigating Self-Advocacy With ADHD in the Workplace

Share this post

Katie Brenneman

Living with neurodiversity can be a daily challenge. If you are one of the millions of Americans who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), for example, you know all too well the impact your condition can have on your relationships and your home life. 

However, it’s not only your personal life that is likely to be impacted by ADHD. The odds are that you have felt its effects in your professional life as well. Indeed, nearly half of working adults with ADHD report that they feel as if their condition has negatively impacted their work life, with a significant majority reporting that they must work harder and longer than their neurotypical colleagues. 

What findings such as these illuminate above all is the critical importance of self-advocacy in the workplace. To be sure, fighting for the opportunities and rights to which you are entitled is not easy but, in the end, it is a necessary and worthwhile endeavor. 

What Is Self-Advocacy and Why Does It Matter?

Self-advocacy, simply put, is the process of defending your rights, of understanding your own needs, and taking proactive steps to ensure those needs are both respected and accommodated. The ultimate goal is to ensure that you are treated equitably and fairly, and that you do not experience discrimination or bias, whether conscious or unconscious, from those around you.

Self-advocacy is particularly critical for neurodivergent persons in the workplace because there is still so much misinformation and stigmatization surrounding these conditions. Unless your peers and managers become educated on what neurodiversity is and how it manifests in conditions such as ADHD, workers who are neurodiverse will continue to be misunderstood and marginalized in the workplace. 

Such marginalization can have devastating consequences not only for one’s career but also for one’s social, psychological, and financial well-being.

Know Your Rights–and Your Value

One of the first and most important steps you can take when you begin to advocate for yourself in the workplace is to understand both your rights and your value. You cannot hope to fight for your rights if you don’t first appreciate what it is, exactly, that you bring to the organization. 

When you clearly define the value you contribute, the more confidence you will have when asserting your needs and expectations. Plus, you will have the evidence you need to better make your case. You will be able to clearly articulate why it is in the company’s best interest to do what is needed to retain and support you in your work.

In addition to understanding the unique value you bring to the company, you also need to understand the rights you enjoy as an employee with a legitimate medical need. Under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), for example, employers are legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities if those accommodations are needed to help the employee do their work successfully. If your employer refuses to provide those reasonable accommodations or subjects you to harassment or discrimination due to your diagnosis, you have the right to take legal action.

Navigating Difficult Conversations in the Workplace

Talking with your employer or colleagues about your condition may not be easy, but confronting the challenge can yield immense rewards. After all, how can you expect to experience a supportive and productive work environment if your supervisors and colleagues don’t understand your needs? 

If, for example, you find that your ADHD significantly affects your memory, you might discuss your challenges with your coworkers, requesting that they write important information down and provide timely reminders. Writing notes to yourself can also be an ideal way to help you keep track of important details. Best of all, if your coworkers understand that this is something you need to perform at your best, they can encourage and support you in the process.

Honoring Your Own Boundaries

No matter how well-educated you may be in regard to your legal rights and no matter how much data you collect to quantify the contributions you’ve made to your company, sometimes it’s just not going to be enough. There is, unfortunately, such a thing as a villainous work environment due to bad corporate culture and if you find yourself in one of those, there’s not much you can do. When the corporate culture is bad, sometimes the best solution is simply to move on.

The Wide-Ranging Benefits of Self-Advocacy

Despite what the name implies, self-advocacy isn’t really only about helping yourself. The benefits of self-advocacy extend far beyond the person doing it by creating a culture that is more inclusive, diverse, and supportive overall. The end result is a team environment in which everyone benefits by supporting, encouraging, and being supported and encouraged by one another. 

The Takeaway

When you have ADHD, self-advocacy in the workplace isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity if you want to enjoy the long, successful, and fulfilling career you deserve. Though it’s not easy, when you have a plan, when you understand your rights and your value, and when you recognize the benefits that your advocacy will bring to the corporate culture as a whole, you can muster the strength and courage you need to be your own best advocate.


Share this post

Watch for Employers Using Benefits as Bargaining Chips

Share this post

It’s never a bad idea to be suspicious of your boss, especially when they act like they’re doing you a favor. For workers at FrontLine Service, a Cleveland non-profit that serves the unsheltered, distrust of our employer is one of the critical sentiments that binds us.

FrontLine workers, members of Service Employees Local 1199, provide crucial services to some of the most marginalized and neglected people in Northeast Ohio. Every day, we assist folks struggling with mental health crises, substance abuse, lack of housing, and other hardships.

The work is arduous and the pay is low, but we do what we can to serve the communities in which we live and work.

Last June, our contract with FrontLine was ratified by a narrow margin. Throughout negotiations, there was a persistent sense shared by the bargaining committee that management wasn’t telling us the truth. We were continually given vague, cliché-ridden responses to our inquiries.

As the window for negotiations closed, it appeared that a strike was imminent. However, the minor contract gains we managed to achieve were enough to win the approval of a slim majority.

SUDDENLY THEY LIKE IT

Nearly all of our most ambitious demands were rejected. One such demand was for the implementation of a four-day workweek: 32 hours a week, an additional full day off, with benefits and wages reflecting whatever increases were won through bargaining.

As appealing as the idea of a shortened workweek was to us, none of us thought it had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting added to the contract. If anything, we thought that it could be a bargaining chip we’d give up in order to obtain something else.

So, we were surprised when a few months later management requested to meet with us to discuss how a four-day workweek pilot project could be implemented.

The first draft of management’s proposal included stipulations that would lengthen the workday, cut worker benefits by 15 percent, reduce sick, personal, and vacation leave, and increase the daily productivity standard by an hour.

The proposed pilot would involve 25 out of a workforce of 300 people. This small sample for the pilot is, we believe, inadequate for measuring the four-day workweek’s effectiveness and, more importantly, could undermine solidarity and divide workers.

DID OUR HOMEWORK

In our counterproposal submitted to management March 23, we made it clear that we will not accept any modifications or reductions to hard-won gains in our contract.

Members of our bargaining committee conducted extensive research and we had several illuminating meetings with employers who successfully implemented a four-day workweek, both non-profits and for-profits.

All this suggested that FrontLine’s proposed pilot would be a failure. Cutting benefits, lengthening the workday to 9 hours (a 36-hour workweek), and increasing productivity requirements would diminish any advantages a four-day workweek could offer workers.

When we pushed back in our meetings, management offered some version of the same answer we received during negotiations last summer: “We would if we could, but we can’t.” FrontLine’s revenue, which exceeded $28 million in 2022, is mostly acquired through government grants and Medicaid billing.

When we asked if they had made any good faith efforts to obtain increased funding to raise wages, retain staff, and attract new workers, management declined to respond.

DISTRACTION FROM WAGES

As the concept of a four-day workweek becomes more mainstream, we would be wise to consider how employers and their consultants are responding to the idea’s increased popularity.

In the case of FrontLine, it appears that management’s proposal for a four-day workweek pilot is a Trojan Horse.

Once implemented, management could, through a clause in their proposal giving them “unilateral authority” during the duration of the pilot, refuse to negotiate terms and conditions with our union.

FrontLine Service is severely understaffed, so much so that in February they formally asked Cuyahoga County to search for other non-profits that could replace workers in at least one FrontLine building.

According to management, understaffing is why they want to pilot a four-day workweek. If they can retain staff and attract new workers, they figure they might be able to keep their lights on a little longer. It also would allow FrontLine to appear ‘progressive,’ while they continue to neglect our real concerns.

Management’s proposal delivers a two-fold blow to workers: It allows them to manipulate our contract without negotiating with us, and it distracts from the question of higher wages.

Compared to other agencies offering similar services, FrontLine’s wages are deplorable, with some workers making as little as $15 an hour. Prior to the ratification of our most recent contract, the lowest-paid workers made $13 an hour.

During negotiations last summer, our committee repeatedly told management that if they want to retain and attract workers, they need to offer higher wages. “We would if we could,” management told us, “But we can’t.”

We are waiting for management’s response to our counterproposal. Whether the pilot will favor workers or management, or whether there will be a pilot at all, is yet to be determined.

This blog originally appeared at Labor Notes on March 30, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Adam Barrington is a supportive housing case worker. He is a member of SEIU 1999 and the Industrial Workers of the World.


Share this post

We Shouldn’t Have to Work Forever

Share this post

We shouldn’t have to work ourselves to death.

In France for the past three months, a million or more people have filled the streets of cities across the country in daily rolling protests and strikes opposing the national pension reform proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron.

The plan would raise the age of eligibility for a government pension — in effect, the minimum retirement age — from 62 to 64. Although nearly two-thirds of the French people oppose this change and the French parliament did not have the votes to approve it, Macron unilaterally pushed it throughHe claimed it was needed to respond to people living longer and the French government’s debt. Macron later narrowly avoided a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly, but protests continued by angry citizens.

French Workers Are Speaking Out

In a story about a protest in the city of Metz, in northeastern France, not far from the German border, the French daily newspaper Le Monde quoted two workers from a nearby power plant run by the giant French electrical utility EDF.

One explained why he was protesting: “I’ve been on shift work there for 31 years, so I’m pretty fed up.” Another said that, “We work all year round in noise, heat, with risks from chemicals and radiation. We won’t let our best years of retirement be stolen.”

Debates over how much a person works for wages are not new. In the United States, the National Labor Union called for an eight-hour workday starting in 1866. It wasn’t until 1940 that an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act gave us the 40-hour work week standard. Of course, there remains consistent pressure from employers to work longer days and longer weeks, although some employers and workers are floating the idea of a four-day work week.

How much work goes into a day or week is one question about work. But perhaps an even greater — and more existential — question is how much work goes into a lifetime? For the French (who seem to love existential questions), the answer found on many protest signs has been “64 years. It’s a No.

Living Longer Shouldn’t Equal Working Longer

For many Americans, 64 seems like a perfectly fine answer. After all, when the U.S. raised its age for full Social Security benefits from 65 to 67 in 1983, there were no protests to mark the occasion. The rationale for the change was similar to France’s: the Social Security fund was projected to run low on money in the coming decades.

Perhaps people didn’t protest because the 1983 law phased in the two-year increase over 22 years. The people affected most were in their 20s and likely weren’t paying attention.

Forty years later, those born in 1960 or after — the oldest of whom today are in their early 60s — are stuck with 67 as the age at which they can collect full social security benefits. If they retire earlier, say at 62, they’d receive only 70% of the full benefit. At 65, retirees get just 86.7% of the benefits they’d be eligible for if they kept working for two more years.

This all may sound very logical — as people live longer, they can work longer and hold off on receiving Social Security benefits they’ve paid into their whole working lives. But as the French protestors understand, working-class people often can’t stay on the job that long. And even if they could, they would have fewer years after their working lives to enjoy retirement.

People may live longer now, compared to decades ago, but it shouldn’t necessarily invite years of more work.

A French study from 2021 found that postponing the retirement age results in more frequent and longer sick leave for older workers, “due to the gradual deterioration in the health status of workers at the end of their careers,” Le Monde reported.

Class Disparities

It isn’t just the physical demands of many working-class jobs. It’s a class issue we can see if we look at the senior citizen country club set. As an extensive study by the Brookings Institution shows, “income is a strong predictor of life expectancy.”

The study explains the income effect in more detail, noting that, “For example, 40-year-old men with incomes in the bottom 1% have an expected age at death of 72 years, while those with incomes in the top 1% have an expected age at death of 87 years — 15 years longer.” The pattern plays out for women, as well.

Working-class people are likelier to live shorter lives, and many have started working full-time earlier than their middle-class counterparts, so they work more years before reaching age 67 and receiving full benefits. Worse, they may need to continue working even after that to survive, since Social Security alone often isn’t sufficient.

Meanwhile, wealthier people may start their work lives later and have more years to draw upon Social Security.

About the Author: Christopher R. Martin is a professor of Digital Journalism in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

This is a portion of a blog originally that originally appeared in full at In These Times on April 11, 2023. Republished with permission.


Share this post

10 FAQs on the Legality of Monitoring Employees

Share this post

Employee monitoring is used by many businesses to track the performance and computer usage of their employees. While this is an essential process, employers have a responsibility to ensure that their monitoring methods are non-invasive.

In this article, we will explain how and why employee rights should be protected, by answering the top 10 FAQs on the legalities of the monitoring process.

#1 What is Employee Monitoring?

Employee monitoring is the process of workplace surveillance conducted by employers to gather data on the activities of their employees in the workplace.

There are several reasons why employers may conduct this process, including to improve performance, safeguard staff, and protect their data or resources.

#2 Is Employee Monitoring Legal?

Employee monitoring is legal under most state and federal laws. 

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986 (ECPA) states that employers can monitor the written and verbal communications of their employees, as long as they have a valid reason for doing so.

#3 When is Employee Monitoring Considered to be Invasive?

Employee monitoring can be considered invasive if employees are not made aware that they are being monitored. This process also becomes invasive when employers do not have a valid business reason for the surveillance, especially when working from home has become so commonplace.

Invasive employee monitoring may therefore include:

  • Monitoring employees outside of work hours without consent
  • Listening to or recording private phone calls and messages without consent
  • Installing monitoring software on an employee’s device without consent

#4 Which Laws Protect Employee Privacy in the Workplace?

According to an ExpressVPN survey, 59% of employees are anxious about the prospect of being monitored at work. 

However, there are laws in place ensuring that employees get the privacy that they are entitled to, whilst also allowing the employer to monitor the activities of the business.

The main employee privacy law is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986 (ECPA), which is the only federal act governing workplace electronic communication monitoring.

This law sets the minimum limitations for employee monitoring and has been adapted by several states to impose greater restrictions on employers.

#5 Can Employers Watch Employees Using Video Monitoring Systems?

According to the ECPA, employers are legally allowed to monitor their employees using video surveillance systems if they have a legitimate reason for doing so.

However, some states across the US have chosen to increase restrictions and prohibit the use of video monitoring to maintain employee privacy.

For example, West Virginia, New York, and California have banned video monitoring in areas such as restrooms.

#6 Is It Legal for Employers to Monitor Company Computers?

Yes, employers can access any activity performed on a work computer, which is considered lawful if they make employees aware of this before monitoring their devices.

This includes monitoring screen contents, keystrokes typed per hour, and emails sent or received on the company’s system.

#7 Are Employers Legally Able to Monitor the Personal Devices of Employees?

For productivity and performance levels to be as high as possible, employees need to have a good work-life balance.

This involves employers allowing their employees to live their personal life outside of the workplace privately, without fear that they will be monitored.

Legally, employers cannot ask employees to download monitoring software on their personal devices without written consent. However, many companies do gain the consent of employees if they have a bring your own device (BYOD) to work policy in place.

#8 Can an Employer Monitor The Social Media of Their Employees?

Employers have the legal right to monitor the social media accounts of both current and prospective employees.

They can also take disciplinary action if an employee’s social media posts violate company policies.

#9 Can Employers Track Employees Using GPS?

If employers have a valid business reason for doing so and have gained consent from the employee, then they can use a GPS vehicle tracker to monitor employees.

GPS is used especially by companies employing people to work from home, to ensure that they are in the right location to work.

#10 Do Employers Have to Inform Employees That They Are Being Monitored?

In some states, employers are not required to inform employees of their monitoring procedures.

However, being open with employees about monitoring can be beneficial to employer-employee relations and may create a better company culture. A Dtex System survey found that 77% of American employees would feel less concerned about employee monitoring as long as they were transparent about it. 

For example, implementing healthy workplace initiatives and tracking the health metrics of employees can help lower the company’s health insurance costs. The data of employees who volunteer to join the program and their feedback can be used to plan the next steps for a healthier workforce.

Conclusion

Legally, employers are therefore able to monitor their employees. However, their employee monitoring procedures must be non-invasive to maintain good relations and ensure that employees feel respected within the workplace.

About the Author: Marian Domingo is blog contributor for Workplace Fairness.

This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness and is published with permission.


Share this post

Ramadan & the Workplace: Supporting Muslim Workers and Those Who Celebrate

Share this post

Shafuq Naseem, Author

Though Ramadan is coming to a close this week, we wanted to take the time to discuss ways that employers can support Muslim workers now and in the future. Ramadan is the fourth pillar of Islam and a period of time during the calendar year for around 30 days. During this time Muslims do not eat or drink. This year, Ramadan takes place starting on March 22nd and ends April 20th. Ramadan is more than abstaining from eating or drinking – it is a time of immense spiritual practice and reflection. 

Muslim employees can still do their jobs and they should not be excluded from tasks or assignments because of the assumption that they cannot due to fasting obligations. Some employers may not be aware of Ramadan or how to be supportive of employees during this time and in the future. Because of this, we’re sharing five ways to support Muslim employees during Ramadan:

  1. Don’t make assumptions on who is or isn’t fasting or why they aren’t fasting. There are many reasons why someone who identifies as Muslim may not be fasting. 
  2. Flexibility with meeting times. Many people may have more energy in different parts of the day. Employers should be empathetic and understanding of varying energy levels 
  3. Some employers may consider creating faith-based resource groups. 
  4. Encourage respectful celebration of the holiday with co-workers (e.g. iftar with co-workers). 
  5. More inclusive and open PTO policy. Following Ramadan is the celebration of Eid and many may make requests for time off. 

Additional Resources:

Author Bio: Shafuq Naseem is a Workplace Fairness intern and soon to be graduate of George Mason University with a degree in Government and International Politics. Her personal, professional, and academic experience with labor and employment issues fuels her passion for workers’ rights.


Share this post

This is Why Organizing at Stop Signs is Genius

Share this post

Sulma Arias

I am so excited about what it means to organize right now. Not only are there unprecedented federal resources on the table to spark transformational change in communities, it’s clear that organizers, because they are trusted and engaged where they live, can turn this potential for change into reality.

Antidote to Hate

Organizing is an antidote to hate.

In a time of great disconnection, we can weave communities together with a sense of trust and hope for the future, for those who have a long legacy on these shores as well as newcomers.

That’s why People’s Action is calling for an Organizing Revival. We want to deepen and share, far and wide, the transformational skills community organizers know so we can restore our faith in one another. Together we can realize our country’s promise to build a multiracial democracy that works for all of us.

When I recently shared my excitement about this with one of our donors, he listened carefully, then asked, “But isn’t this like those ‘stop-sign’ campaigns of years ago? Didn’t we conclude that organizing in the neighborhood is a dead end, which will never reach the level of power we need to win?”

He has a point. An earlier generation learned to organize only around local goals, such as winning a stop sign for a dangerous intersection. We were taught these goals should be achievable, such as fixing a pothole or a broken streetlight, and should always come from the community. 

As one of the founders of National People’s Action, Shel Trapp, put it, “Just because you think it is an issue does not make it an issue. Just because you think it is not an issue does not mean it is not an issue.”

For Shel and his peers, organizing meant mostly staying in the neighborhood, and staying out of politics. Yet they were unafraid to break their own rules, as when they won national legislation to force banks to lend in Black and poor neighborhoods in the 1970s.

Engage Communities

And while the ‘stop-sign’ approach to organizing has limits, it is also brilliant, because it teaches you to meet people where they are.

This idea is simple but powerful.  For organizers, it teaches us how to listen to community members to identify what matters most, then motivate people towards a solution through the basic practices of civic engagement.

When done well, these types of campaigns can go deep and build the muscle memory and confidence communities need to win bigger goals.

In my experience, these campaigns brought community leaders in front of their city council members and mayor, taught local grassroots leaders how local governments make decisions about where to allocate resources, and the direct implications community engagement could have on what happens on the ground. If we want people to believe in government, we have to show people that government can and will work for them, at every level.

Long-Term Agenda

At People’s Action, we believe you have to combine deep local organizing with the courage to fight and win at scale. This is what led People’s Action to step forward as a national organization in 2016, when regional networks of grassroots groups came together to form a more powerful collective that could win structural change.

That’s why we created our Long-Term Agenda. This set of building blocks was discussed, drafted and approved by our members over a multi-year process to identify the strategy we need to achieve the goals of a multiracial democracy and a sustainable economy, with racial and gender justice for all.

 As a part of this vision, our network committed to build political infrastructure which complements our issue-based organizing. People’s Action and nearly all of our member groups now have both C3 and C4 organizations so we can elect and co-govern with public officials who share our values.

People’s Action has won major victories with this strategy. We turned out millions of voters in 2020 and 2022, mobilizing as if our very lives depended on the results, because for many of us it did. We passed the MAT Act, which saves lives from overdose, and won the trillions of dollars which are now flowing into communities to build a green economy through the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

 Winning national victories doesn’t mean we don’t need stop signs, or the deeply transformational skills organizers learn in their local communities. Now more than ever, people need to see and feel the benefits of organizing where they live. This is especially true in Black, Brown and working-class communities, which have been systematically starved of resources for decades.

Member Groups

That’s why I’m so excited by the work organizers from our member groups, like Rafael Smith of Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Carrie Santoro of Pennsylvania Stands Up, are doing right now. They are working hard to bring home the benefits of federal funding to their local communities, so they can transform neighborhoods block by block with safe streets, warm and comfortable homes, and green jobs in a sustainable economy.

Our member groups are uniquely positioned to make the most of this moment, because they have worked for decades to establish trust. Because they have long worked to create local change, organizers like Carrie and Rafael are trusted members of their communities.

At People’s Action, we believe that if we strengthen and scale the skills that win change in local communities through our Organizing Revival, we can unlock the potential of this moment for our nation.

We all know the challenges we must face together – the mistrust of government, our climate crisis and the erosion of civil society – reach far beyond our neighborhoods. Because we know how to listen and fight where we live, I am confident that we can fight for and win the transformational change our country needs.

This blog originally appeared at Our Future on March 24, 2023. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Sulma Arias is executive director of People’s Action and the People’s Action Institute, the nation’s largest network of grassroots power-building groups, with more than a million members in 30 states. 


Share this post

Make One Big Higher Ed Union

Share this post

Hamilton Nolan

Higher ed is unionizing. Like crazy!

Last year, every single one of the five largest filings for NLRB union elections in America — each representing more than 3,000 members — were for graduate workers at various universities. University of California workers pulled off the biggest strike of 2022. New units of more than 1,000 people, rare in most of the union world, have become commonplace in academia.

This wave shows no sign of slowing. Just this month, thousands more grad workers at the University of Minnesota and Duke filed for elections. Since the beginning of 2022, more than 45,000 graduate and undergrad workers have made moves to unionize, according to Daily Union Elections, a site that catalogs union filings. And those workers have been voting “yes” for unions at nearly a 90% clip.

In many cases, these newly formed grad worker unions spring up alongside existing unions covering adjunct and full time faculty, as well as various service workers, on their same campus. In aggregate, higher ed today is the largest and most aggressively organizing industry in the union world.

There’s just one problem: They don’t have their own union. Until they do, they will never be able to exercise their full power in the fragmented and territorial union world. And that is bad news for all of us.

Thousands of newly organized grad workers have joined UE, a progressive union whose roots are among industrial workers. Thousands more are in UAW, making up a significant minority of the auto workers union. Other higher ed units are sprinkled among AFT (a teachers union), SEIU (a service workers union), CWA (a communication workers union), Unite Here (a hospitality workers union) and other big unions. All of those unions have one thing in common: They are not higher ed unions. They are unions that (admirably) organized higher ed workers.

Now, I ain’t criticizing anyone here. This is, in many ways, how union organizing should work.

When a gusher of interest leaps up in an unorganized sector, existing unions should see it as an opportunity, and should be happy to offer their services to draw these workers into the labor movement. Many different unions have done this in higher ed. Great! Love it! But this should be understood as one stage in an evolving process — a process that proceeds towards the creation of one big union with all of higher ed under one roof.

Today, the overflowing energy among grad workers specifically is powerful enough to be the engine that unifies all the splintered, existing units into one.

There are two main reasons to do this.

One is the same reason that all industries could benefit from having a single union representing all of its workers: It concentrates the industry’s labor power in one place and creates the strongest possible counterweight to the power of the industry’s employers.

Industrial unions, especially ones that can achieve high union density, are the most effective way to achieve a balance of power not just in one workplace, but in an entire field of employment. The industry-wide issues well known to all struggling workers in higher ed — the gig-ificiation of teaching, political assaults from right wing politicians, declining state budgets — take industrial strength to combat. Ten separate unions have a harder time concentrating their firepower than one big one does. This is a basic insight that should, ideally, drive all long-term labor organizing in America.

Unfortunately, unions have grown so weak that we tend to be grateful to find anyone willing to organize workers, and seeing these groups coalesce into a real industrial union becomes a faraway luxury. But guess which industry, above all others, now has the density and the fire to ascend to the next stage of development? That’s right — it’s higher ed.

This is not some grand insight. There is, in fact, a group called Higher Ed United that brings the many unions together for discussions and strategy. But there is not, so far, a meaningful effort to do the (tedious, time-consuming, and very worthwhile) work of starting a new union for these hundreds of thousands of workers to be a part of, as one.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on March 21, 2023.


Share this post

Intro to the “Remote Working Guide”

Share this post

James Ritter

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a massive shift in the way people work, with many companies and employees having to adapt to remote working in a short space of time.

As time has passed, remote working has evolved, making way for a new era of the modern workplace.

While some have found this a challenging adjustment, others have embraced the benefits that come with working from home, including newfound flexibility, increased productivity, and a better work-life balance. As a result, remote working has become more popular than ever before and shows no signs of slowing down.

However, finding remote working roles comes with its own unique set of challenges, so it’s important to equip yourself with the knowledge needed to impress in a remote interview.

Fortunately, to help navigate the challenges in this new era of work, S1Jobs has created a comprehensive guide to remote working which takes you through every stage of securing a remote role — from interviews to settling into your new working style.

The guide covers a wide range of topics, including how to set up your workspace, staying connected with your team, managing your time effectively, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It also includes advice on how to deal with common remote working challenges, such as loneliness, distractions, and communication issues.

This guide is packed with valuable information that can help you find the perfect remote working experience.

So if you want to learn how to find remote roles, work effectively from home and stay connected with your team once you land your new job, be sure to check out this remote working guide.

About the Author: James Ritter is a freelance writer who holds a particular interest in employee welfare, and has created content for established companies based all around the world. He has a degree in creative writing and is always eager to expand his knowledge around different subjects.


Share this post

Subscribe For Updates

Sign Up:

* indicates required

Recent Posts

Forbes Best of the Web, Summer 2004
A Forbes "Best of the Web" Blog

Archives

  • Tracking image for JustAnswer widget
  • Find an Employment Lawyer

  • Support Workplace Fairness

 
 

Find an Employment Attorney

The Workplace Fairness Attorney Directory features lawyers from across the United States who primarily represent workers in employment cases. Please note that Workplace Fairness does not operate a lawyer referral service and does not provide legal advice, and that Workplace Fairness is not responsible for any advice that you receive from anyone, attorney or non-attorney, you may contact from this site.