Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 08 (1986)

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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 8 (1986)

Labor's Crucible in the 1980's...Organize!

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    Noon at 9 to 5: Reflections on a Decade of Organizing
    Cameron, Cindia (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] As manufacturing jobs have been automated, shipped abroad and shut down for good, traditional sources of employment as well as union members have dried up, with severe effects for the labor movement. For the past decade, job growth has been highest in the new "service economy," with office jobs becoming both the largest and fastest growing job category for the newest growth sector of the labor force — women. Fully one of every three employed women is an office worker. What effect has this shift had on organizing and on the union movement?
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    In-Plant Strategies & "The Social Contract"
    Rosswurm, Steve (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Your recent discussion of "In-Plant Strategies" (LRR 7, Fall 1985) is of vital importance for the labor movement. I would like to raise several issues for discussion. Both Tom Balanoff (B), in "The Cement Workers' Experience" and Jack Metzgar (M), in "Running the Plant Backwards," assume that a return to the status quo—or the pre-Reagan period—of collective bargaining is desirable. That might be true, but neither B nor M discusses the content of the status quo nor takes it into account when assessing in-plant strategies.
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    AFSCME's Success with Public Sector Clericals
    Lynch, Roberta; Bayer, Henry (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] In December 1985 the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was certified as the bargaining agent for more than 11,000 State of Ohio clerical employees. This victory followed a string of similar successes: 1981, Florida, 23,000, and Connecticut, 7,500; 1983, California university clericals, 19,500; 1984, Iowa, 6,000.
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    Organizing Clericals: Problems & Prospects
    Lynch, Roberta (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] One of the central goals of contemporary feminism has been the full integration of women into the workforce. While broader economic and social forces were decisive in propelling women into full-time employment, the women's movement took as its particular task shaping the nature of that participation. The movement sought to achieve economic equality for women workers through two primary strategies: 1) gaining entry to traditionally male-dominated jobs and training, and 2) upgrading the pay and status of traditionally female-dominated jobs. The clerical sector—with its overwhelming concentration of women workers, its rock-bottom pay scales, and its gender-based work culture—was a logical focus of that second strategic course. Historically, the rate of unionization among clericals has been low. Some feminists blamed this on the indifference of maledominated unions to the particular problems of women in the workforce. Others believed that there were unique circumstances which made clerical workers resistant to traditional trade union approaches. Out of such analyses, a small but determined network of activists shaped an alternative conception of organization for office workers, beginning in the early 1970s.
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    The Cedartown Story: The Ku Klux Klan & Labor in "The New South"
    Wells, Lyn (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt]This article is about one small Georgia town. It is also about me and my people and who will speak for us. This is the story of a Ku Klux Klan reign of terror, resulting in the murders of two Mexican workers and a citizenry gripped with fear. What happened in Cedartown, Georgia, is set in the context of a rapid gallop to the right in the American political landscape. Both the KKK and the town's establishment, each for its own motives, appeal to whites' frustrations and fears of economic insecurity. Cedartown contains many sad tales of public apathy as well as stories of decent folks who genuinely oppose terrorism and bigotry but who are baffled about what to do. With some work, however, the Cedartown story may yet have a happy ending as people begin to realize common human interests, the need for inclusiveness, the essential meaning of democracy and the power which can reside in a fight for common solutions.
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    ACTWU at Cannon Mills: It's Not Over
    Filson, Paul (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] October 10, 1985, was a day of reckoning for a remarkable organizing campaign. On that day nearly 10,000 North Carolina textile workers cast their ballots on whether they wanted to be represented by the Amalgamated Clothing Textile & Workers Union (ACTWU). 10:30 that night, inside the gates of Plant 1, the heart of the Cannon Mills Company, the 150 union supporters who had been permitted to witness the vote count heard the results. For five solid minutes there was a deafening cheer and chants of "union, union, union." The huge press contingent outside the gates was convinced the union had won. The numbers, however, gave the union 37% and the company 63% of the vote. Looking at the Cannon organizing drive analytically, it is easier to see why there was reason to cheer when the vote tally was announced. Over 3,500 workers in one of the most viciously antiunion states in the country voted union. In spite of what has to be one of the most expensive and intense anti-union campaigns ever, in the midst of hundreds of plant closings and a textile import crisis, 3,500 workers were not scared away from voting for the union and voting their convictions. There is no doubt in my mind that these workers represent a solid core for future organizing in the South. Looking to the future, the campaign brought to light techniques and strategies which can be used again and may help unions win organizing campaigns in the 1980s. Though times may look bleak for industrial union organizing, there is reason for optimism. The Cannon campaign touched the lives of many more thousands of people than actually voted. Now, when workers in the Charlotte, N.C., area have problems on the job, they will look to organizing unions as an alternative and ACTWU as a union that can help.
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    High Tech Professionals Are Hard to Organize Too
    Early, Steve; Wilson, Rand (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] It is unlikely that any technical and professional employees will be organized in non-union high tech firms until more blue-collar production workers become union members. There are, however, some high technology companies which already have heavily unionized blue-collar workforces. Two industrial unions have recently tried to recruit new members among the engineering and computer personnel at such firms. The experiences of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) at AT&T Technologies and the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Technical, Salaried, & Machine Workers (IUE) at Raytheon indicate that the obstacles facing unions in this type of "high tech organizing" are formidable.
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    Organizing High Tech: Unions & Their Future
    Early, Steve; Wilson, Rand (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Statistics compiled by the American Electronics Association—a leading defender of high tech's "union-free environment'—indicate the difficulty unions have had organizing electronics workers. The AEA surveyed almost 1,200 firms about union activity in their plants between 1971 and 1982. They reported fewer than 100 NLRB representation elections during that period, with unions winning only 21. These figures understate labor's problem. Through a sophisticated mixture of paternalism and repression, the high tech industry has prevented the vast majority of employee organizing efforts from reaching the stage of a Labor Board election. As a result, the AEA's 1900 member companies have only 90 union contracts. In this article, we will examine the job problems facing high tech workers, the factors inhibiting union organizing in their industry, the experiences of some recent high tech campaigns, and strategies for overcoming the obstacles to worker self-organization in this crucial sector of the U.S. economy.
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    ACORN Organizing & Chicago Homecare Workers
    Kelleher, Keith (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] Every few months our office receives some piece of direct mail concerning a conference or seminar on union organizing put on by some professional salesperson. The piece extolls the virtues of professional sales techniques for "selling the union" to prospective union members. We throw these advertisements away. Nothing could be more foreign to ACORN's way of doing things. The idea that a union organizer's job is to "sell" his or her union is totally alien to our model for labor organizing, a model which was developed out of ACORN's years of experience with successful community organizing. When we organize a company, the organizer's job is to be a catalyst or contact person, to listen to peoples' perceptions of what they would like to see improved where they work and to help them realize these aspirations through self-organization and action. ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — formed the United Labor Unions (ULU) in 1978 with the purpose of organizing low-wage workers in industries and regions that traditional unions were not organizing.
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    One on One: The On-the-Job Canvass in Florida
    Green, Ben (1986-04-01)
    [Excerpt] If you went looking for the "new frontier" of the American labor movement, Alachua, Florida, would hardly be your first stop. To Yankee snowbirds whizzing by on Interstate 75, heading south to Walt Disney World or the Gold Coast's beaches, Alachua is an exit in the middle of nowhere. A true hole-in-the-road. It's located 8 miles northwest of Gainesville, on the southern edge of Florida's panhandle. This is the Bible Belt. Farm country. It's also "Gator Country," as the billboards along U.S. 441 scream out, referring in this case to University of Florida football, although the four-legged kind also inhabit the swamps and marshes. In 1962, when the General Electric Company was looking for a place to build an assembly plant for its new line of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, Alachua seemed to be the perfect choice. It had all the right ingredients: cheap land, low taxes, and a struggling farm economy to supply a minimum-wage workforce. Florida's Right-to-Work law and 13% unionization rate would help avoid union problems. Today, GE must be wondering what went wrong. IBEW Local 2156 has 780 members out of 959 hourly employees at the plant—a remarkable 81% in a Right-To-Work state. Wages are comparable to unionized GE plants in other parts of the country. Alachua produced one thing that GE never expected: one hell of a local union. IBEW 2156 has accomplished this feat by pioneering a new and innovative technique — the On-The-Job Canvass (OTJC) — that proponents hope will help revitalize the American labor movement. The combination of new techniques, old-fashioned dedication, and leaders who are not afraid of either one has put this local on the cutting edge of the labor movement in the 1980s.