Notes from McAlevey, Jane. Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2012.

Some of my selected notes to share:

McAlevey, Jane. Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books, 2012.

11: “there are ‘movement moments’.”

11: “Everything depends on optimism: the optimism organizers call ‘raised expectations.’ And one key to keeping expectations raised is to respect the passions and desires of people who are not full-time organizers and political junkies, who have complicated and overwhelming lives they are trying to hold together, full of obligations they are putting aside for a moment for the sake of a collective goal.”

13: “I call it whole-worker organizing. The good news is that whole-worker organizing is all about methods that must be applied systematically, and that effective ways to do this can be taught.”

13: “[T]he second theme of the book: incessant turf wars in which labor leaders engage on the upper floors of the house of labor that consistently undermine the organizing done on the ground floor. These internecine struggles have everything to do with the power and ambition of particular leaders, and nothing to do with strategies that actually work.”

14: “Whole-worker organizing begins with the recognition that real people do not live two separate lives, one beginning when they arrive at work and punch the clock and another when they punch out at the end of their shift. […] “Whole-worker organizing seeks to engage ‘whole workers’ in the betterment of their lives. […] Whole-worker organizing is always a face-to-face endeavor, with no intermediary shortcuts: no email, no social networking, no tweeting. […] Whole-worker organizing is a continuous process.” Example of organized religion where “the reason that people show up at a  place of worship week after week to donate their hard-earned money […] the reason that regular participation in organized religion strengthens their faith is that it offers a structure in which they can deal with all their tangled and complicated concerns, continuously, year in and year out. Because of this, organized religion raises their expectation of what kind of life they can aspire to.”

15: “Whole-worker organizing contrasts sharply with the more common approach known as labor-community alliance building.[…]  It is not an overstatement to assert that when unions buy into this labor/community dichotomy it is the end of organized labor as a progressive force.”

15: “These ideas are similar to what is sometimes referred to as social movement unionism.”

17: “The practice of ‘air dropping’ organizers in for intense, time-limited campaigns is the very opposite of deep organizing.”

15: “To the workers, the union becomes nothing more than the contract [16] and the contract is only engaged when a worker files a grievance. The union becomes an insurance plan, like car insurance, to which workers pay dues ‘in case you need it.’ Staff talk to workers like Geico claims adjustors after an accident.”

19: sexism in labor

28-29: AFL-CIO history; craft workers versus solidarity organizing for all

29: post-1955: “In the anticommunist hysteria of the day, unions turned away from any sort of working-class radicalism to a narrow focus on ‘bread-and-butter’ issues like wages.”

33: “hot shop organizing”

35: “sectoral approach”

37: “geographic power structure analysis, or PSA” – discusses process, phases; follows appreciative inquiry, for action

38: workplace charting and process leader ID

57: references manual on comprehensive charting

92: “Unions in the public sector often try to get what are called lost-time clauses into their contracts, mandating that the employer pay employees for time spent on union work. Most unionists regard this as a good thing, but I am entirely unconvinced.”

93: “the grievance process is about as effective as shoveling sand with a pitchfork.”

93: “A union that spends all its time on grievances has very little real power. But if you have the workplace effectively organized, the kinds of problems that would eventually become grievances are resolved on the shop floor, where the managers actually have to listen to their employees or face a more immediate form of dispute resolution: direct worker action. And frankly, sometimes union officers file grievances on behalf of slackers who actually are screwing up on the job, and then the union has to waste [94] precious resources defending them. An organized shop can smell that bullshit as soon as it starts.”

121: “All of us learned that speaking at the bargaining table is a powerful experience for workers, if they are prepared, organized, and rehearsed.” Covers 90/10 of negotiations

132: “big bargaining”

166: “In fact, 1199 teaches its negotiators that ground rules are just a way for the boss to control the table”

175: “Two-tiering is the beginning of the end for them, too, since selling out the newest and often youngest members to keep the old members secure is no way to build a strong union.”

176: shifting the concept of what a strike was

181: dynamics of national unions and smaller locals

186-187: pattern bargaining
201: tension-cutting strategies

212-213: “in a shop with a well-organized union that is on top of things day to day and not just when it is time to renegotiate the contract, everyone knows which workers have legitimate complaints and which ones are bullshitting. If worker organization is ongoing, the worst of the grievance quagmire, unions endlessly defending the indefensible, can be pretty much avoided. A shop like that very rarely needs to file a grievance because management gets it that people are working conscientiously and that the union is ready to step forward when the boss is truly unfair. Yet most unions teach their members and staff that the way to defend the [213] contract is to pursue every worker complaint from grievance all the way to arbitration.”

214: value of boring work, in evaluating existing work systems “reexamine the structure of work in the hospital from the ground up, and to involve the workers, outside experts, and the supportive members of management in the process.”

299: “’Fast and Fair’ alternative in the process to grievances “where they could be quickly resolved based on the collective input and power of the workers on the unit.”

312: “in many ways that naïveté worked in my favor.”

312: “good organizing […] cannot be controlled. […] It puts real power in the hands of the workers. And that is exactly why it gets shut down, because empowered workers cannot be ‘delivered’ by labor leaders seeking to use them as poker chips at the table of corporate power.”