Gearing up for 2018!

It’s a light week, this week, because I’m making a lot of cookies, and you’re probably not reading your email much anyway.Before I get into the weeds of this week’s post, a couple of things:

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of solidarity, in the Trump Era. Have you? If you have thoughts about it, I’d love to hear them–hit me up via email.
  2. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re a fan of Hack the Union. Can you do me a favor and ask five friends to subscribe?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Not worried about losing Net Neutrality yet? 100 million Americans live with ISPs that have already admitted throttling their service. But I’m sure it will just be fine in the free market.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Google is about to let marketers start targeting you by physical address, not just email address.

Geeking Out

Christmas caroling for pay equity, that benefits domestic violence shelters? Yes, please!

What’s Going on in the Workforce

The brains behind the Center for Union Facts is raising money to run campaigns against minimum wage hikes, anticipating Republican state legislative losses in 2018.

Portrait of a bike courier, in the gig economy.

Now, with 100% more infographic!

The final installment in the expanding the map series—this handy infographic!  Also, new on the directory this week—state labor federations.
Thanks to all our supporters who keep this site going. If you like the original content on this site, please kick in a small contribution ($2/mo?) to help us keep it up and running.


Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Is a social wealth fund the way to finance universal basic income, and cushion humans from job loss due to automation?  And on the topic of UBI, did you know Dolly Parton gave a cash infusion  to recent disaster victims?

Here’s a take I haven’t seen before, about Amazon’s HQ2—will they look for a city that has worked to close the gender wage gap?

From Partners

The Workers’ Lab has just opened their applications process for 2018.

Theorizing the Web has opened registration and is seeking presenters for their 2018 conference.

The Economic Opportunity Institute in Washington has put out a case study of how they won paid family and medical leave.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

I did not know, before reading this report, that “worker” and “employee” were different legal classes in British employment law. Check out this new report by Parliament, recommending changes that respond to the gig economy & the changing nature of work.

Robots are coming to fast food, says a writer at the Atlantic who admits she’d rather not have to talk to a person when picking up her coffee.

the organizing ecosystem

Original Content

As promised, here’s the second post about why expanding the map matters.

Thanks to all our supporters who keep this site going. If you like the original content on this site, please kick in a small contribution ($1/mo?) to help us keep it up and running.

From Partners

Get on out to protest in favor of net neutrality this Thursday. Find your local protest here.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

AI seems to power a lot of services marketed to consumers, these days. But AI companies often use human labor (sometimes in the form of Amazon Mechanical Turkers) to work on projects—and that means your data may be exposed.

Worried that your name was used to make a fake comment to the FCC about Net Neutrality, but don’t want to pore through their website to find them? The NY Attorney General’s office has your back.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Getcher robot-farmed lettuce right here!

McKinsey Global takes an in-depth look at which jobs are likely to see a large percentage of their tasks automated in the next 12 years—and what that might mean for workers in those jobs now.

Disrupting the modeling industry to make it safer for models actually seems like a reasonable proposition.

The Perils of Trumpism

If you think employers should be able to steal tips from tipped workers, congrats! (You’re reading the wrong blog, though.) Everyone else, get your comments in to oppose this, from the Wage & Hour Division.

Geeking Out

Here’s an interesting piece of tech that’s currently being used to fight sexual assaults on college campuses—they’re seeking funding to expand to work inside industries, too.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

The retirement of Baby Boomers is presenting a great opportunity for conversion to worker ownership of small businesses.

A powerful reminder, by Alicia Garza, that sexual harassment affects women in non-traditional workplaces too.  And another take on that topic by Bernice Yeung.  Finally, with a look at sexual harassment inside the labor movement, here’s Emily Paulin “Women trade unionists endure the same conditions as women workers and leaders across all forms of employment.”

why expanding the map matters (Pt. 2)

There’s a popular trope in electoral organizing that involves a young field organizer, dropped into a turf which hasn’t seen a contested election in a while, who tries to bring the newest tactics in their ground game and is told by the county chair, “That’s not the way we do things around here*.” Spoiler: the young organizer does it her way despite the resistance of the entrenched party, and wins the election.

While we don’t have a federalized election process in this country, our elections, for organizing purposes, are still pretty much on a plug-and-play model. There are variations from one state to another–is there early voting? how hard or easy is it to vote by mail? is there same-day voter registration? But at the end of the day, there are  similar rules to follow from one place to the next. Both sides are competing for a fixed endpoint. Pro-worker electoral organizers may not get to set the rules of the election in one place or another, but we do know what they are–as government practices go, the rules for elections are transparent. As a result (while not advised), it is possible to win elections by dropping organizers into a place they don’t know well.

We get into problems, though, when we think we can win policy or worker organizing victories with this kind of plug-and-play thinking–especially when the reliance on plug-and-play means we don’t invest in places where sustaining work is harder. Organizing for policy victories–or organizing to build community support for workers who are taking actions to build power at work that could risk their jobs–both require the kinds of relationship building that plug-and-play organizing doesn’t prioritize.

Particularly when it comes to organizing in support of policy, it is imperative that local organizers understand the mechanics of how their government works–and the rules for how to affect legislation at the city or state level are rarely as clear as those that govern how elections are run. We have made a collective decision that, as a democracy, the state has to at least give the appearance that outsiders can win elections. We have not come to a similar collective conclusion about making the legislative process transparent.

In the last post, I talked about the need to invest in organizing ecosystems, not just individual organizations. As we think about what comes next, in the evolution of the labor movement and worker organizing, it is unlikely that we will see the exact replication on a wide scale of the functions that local unions and their internationals play in the movement. Let’s think about what a 501c5-style labor union can do, in addition to both representing current members and organizing new ones. Unions can make endorsements and spend money on electoral organizing within their membership base; can have a legal department that focuses on electoral law and legislative expertise, as well as labor and/or immigration law; can invest in a legislative director or team that is embedded in policy & legislative work focused at the state or city level; can have organizers that are responsible for building relationships with faith leaders and other community organizations with similar goals; and can have a communications department that is focused both on producing internal content for members and on producing issue-based content that targets the general public. Some unions also have affiliated PACs that can raise hard money from their members, which can be used to influence the general public in elections or can be contributed to candidates running for office. There are, to  my knowledge, no other kinds of organizations in our movement that have this kind of flexibility in combining organizing work with electoral & legislative advocacy–this is the kind of ecosystem, however, that we need to be thinking about, if we want to build deep support for organizations that want to win for workers.

What if every national funder, network or organization, when making their plans for expanding investment into worker organizing in a particular city or state asked themselves the following questions:

  • Does the ecosystem in this place provide legal support, that will both support individual workers in fights on the job and also support a broader strategy for changing the landscape through policy change or litigation?
  • Does the worker organization have a civic engagement strategy to build the habit of voting among its members, or a partnership with a local group that will help with that?
  • What partners in the region will be helping to drum up community support for this effort? If the organization plans to do this itself, is it adequately resourced to build relationships, or is this an add-on for an already-stressed worker organizer?
  • How will the word get out? Does the area have a local group that is focused on building relationships with the media and developing messages that resonate with the public?
  • Who is tasked with building relationships with not just elected officials, but their staff? Is this a part of the work that will be internal to the organization, or is there an outside consultant that can be hired, who knows how the target legislative body functions?

I’m not, of course, suggesting that any one organization is going to play all of these functions–but all of them are required, if we want to win. We need to do a better job of figuring out the support that worker organizations need, and providing it holistically, rather than opportunistically.



*if you’re in the mood for lots of cynical takes on the inside game of campaigns and party politics, I can’t recommend CampaignSick highly enough.