Traditionally, it’s easiest to organize economic units working under the same employer in more or less the same vicinity. It’s even better, as the auto workers showed us, if they work on assembly lines, so that just a few missing workers can stop production.
People who are scattered out, working under multiple employers, aren’t so easy. Until recently, they were considered pretty well impossible to organize. But some groups, such as For Respect at Walmart, are organizing the impossible. In the photo, right to left, there’s a retiree activist, a preacher, a Teamster, then a housewife. The rest are low-paid part-time Walmart workers. They’re all in handcuffs waiting to be taken to a police station.
Once I rode a bus to a Farm Workers action in California. The other occupants were home health care workers. If there were 50 of them, then they had 50 employers, most of whom were old people with limited money. And yet, they were organized! The Service Employees organized them by targeting the state agency controlling their working conditions rather than the 50 employers!
All over America today, low-paid part-time food service employees are being signed up for the “Fight for $15” minimum wage movement. They’re also signing up members of more substantial unions, students, and a whole lot of well-intentioned, high-intelligence people who don’t otherwise have anything to do with food service.
The new progressive leadership of the AFL-CIO is emphasizing its constituency groups. In most cases, people don’t have to be union members to join. The connection to organized labor makes them much more powerful.
Our traditional methods of organizing are way out of date. Revolutions are being organized today with social media, and American organizers are learning how it’s done. The internet changes the very nature of organizing.
If we are going to save the planet and ourselves, every worker needs to be organized. Every worker can be organized.