Organizing for Democracy and Strength

Welcome to the new UA newsletter’s organizing column! This will be a space to share news about our organizing progress, tips on how to organize among each other and strengthen our union, and news that bears on how we go about organizing our union. For this first entry, I would like to talk about how we organize as a union, and how it is the bedrock of our strength.

Organizing is the lifeblood of a union. Our ability to advocate for better working conditions for ourselves and learning conditions for our students is built on our ability to band together and to use our collective power. At the heart of organizing is the one-on-one conversation among fellow workers. This is deeper than just signing up new members to the union. Stewards, who are the day-to-day face of the union in their departments, and the members of the Representative Assembly are the keys to the union as a democratic organization. Regular contact between stewards, Representatives, and members allows us to understand our needs and concerns so that we can address them in our negotiations with university administration. The Organizing Committee helps to identify and recruit new stewards and Representatives.

In United Academics, member recruitment is member-driven, with our members speaking to each other and doing the work of signing up new faculty to the union. This model will be crucial in the years to come. Facing the most labor-hostile federal government since the 1930s, we cannot expect many of the legal protections unions have enjoyed to survive. Though we dodged a bullet with the Friedrichs case before the Supreme Court last year, which would have greatly harmed public-sector unions’ ability to collect dues, similar lawsuits await in the wings, and we need to expect a raft of anti-union legislation from the federal government, every branch of which is in anti-labor hands. The only way our union will survive is by working with each other. A strong organization gives us firm ground to stand on as we face the difficult years to come.

Interested in learning more about union organizing? Part of the purpose of this column will be to share information from union activists about how we build our organizations. To start, I will recommend the work of Labor Notes. Most known for their monthly newsletter, Labor Notes have branched out into book publishing and web publishing, and remain one of the best sources for news on the labor movement in the U.S. and an invaluable source of practical advice for union activists. It is worth your time to follow their work. You will be seeing more of their work popping up in this column over the coming weeks, if you have anything you would like to see highlighted in this column let me know!