April: A Month of Troublemaking

If you’re not familiar with Labor Notes, now is a good time for it! They’re an amazing resource for union leaders, members, and those curious about how unions work and why they are important. From their website:

Labor Notes is a media and organizing project that has been the voice of union activists who want to put the movement back in the labor movement since 1979.

Through our magazine, website, books, conferences, and workshops, we promote organizing, aggressive strategies to fight concessions, alliances with worker centers, and unions that are run by their members.

During the month of April Labor Notes is offering a series of workshops held via Zoom for the incredibly low price of $20.00! Additionally, they are offering 50% off a year’s subscription to Labor Notes magazine and even further reduced registration for those in need. They aren’t turning anyone away from educating themselves for lack of funds.

Unfortunately I did not get to this early enough to catch the first workshop, but you can get it on the rest of the month by registering now. Below is a list of the workshops they’re offering with a brief description of each.

Webinars and Unlimited-Participation Workshops
(these workshops have no attendance caps):

Building a Caucus and Transforming Your Union (Thursday April 15: 7 PM EDT)
Drawing on the example of CORE in transforming the Chicago Teachers Union, teachers, health care workers, postal workers, and more are building caucuses to push for more fighting unions. How can caucus work build a more democratic, rank-and-file union and grow our power? How do caucuses start? What are some of the pitfalls to be aware of? Panelists: Shira Cohen, Working Educators Caucus, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; Andrew Solar-Greco and Rhiannon Maton, Member Action Coalition, United University Professors, State University of New York (SUNY); Patrick Weisansal II, Communications Workers Local 1168; Ryan Gray and Jamie Partridge, Portland Caucus of Rank-and-File Carriers, National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 82.

Direct Action Organizing for Health Care Workers (Sunday April 18: 8PM EDT)
COVID-19 exposed to the public what health care unions had been saying for years: the system is broken! Staffing shortages, lack of PPE, furloughs, and unclear policies meant that nurses, techs, nursing assistants, and support staff in all departments bore the brunt of the pandemic while health care corporations made record profits. This event will feature different stories of workplace organizing and direct action against the boss to build power for essential health workers.

Past Practice Grievances with Robert Schwartz (Monday April 19: 7 PM EDT)
Past practice is one of the most frequently cited concepts in labor relations. In this workshop, retired union attorney Robert M. Schwartz, author of How to Win Past Practice Grievances, will discuss the subject in a straightforward manner, identifying the five elements of a bonafide past practice and when a practice has, and does not have, contractual status.

Austerity: The Myth and How to Fight It (Date and time TBA)
The Covid-19 pandemic, while unique, has created a familiar crisis in the form of shrinking tax revenues and demands for concessions from workers. In this panel, we’ll hear about how austerity is a political choice—not a material necessity—as well as how some unions are fighting back against austerity-driven concessions. Panelists TBA.

Organizing at Amazon: Lessons Learned and the Work Ahead (Saturday April 24: 4 PM EDT)
Amazon is now the second-largest employer in the U.S., and a presence everywhere in the lives of Americans, reshaping the retail and logistics landscape. This panel will provide an overview of the company’s operations and growth and the threat it poses to members of the Teamsters, postal unions, UFCW, ILWU, and other unions, as well as working conditions generally. We’ll hear from workers on what it’s like to work at Amazon, and about organizing in the company’s warehouses, including a report on the union drive in Bessemer, Alabama. Moderator: Maximillian Alvarez, Editor-in-Chief of The Real News Network and host of Working People podcast. Panelists: Spencer Cox, Amazon researcher, PhD student, University of Minnesota, Lauren Kaori Gurley, senior staff writer at Motherboard, VICE’s tech site, and a representative from Amazonians United NYC.

Labor and Climate Change Solutions (Sunday April 25: 5 PM EDT)
In the past few years, the gravity of the climate crisis has become ever more clear even as policymakers and corporations refuse to act. At the grassroots level, labor has become increasingly active in finding a solution, but much remains to be done. What are local union activists doing to build a more sustainable workplace and world, and how can rising union activism connect with the global struggle to stop catastrophic climate change? Panelists TBA.

National Educators Call: Assessing and Building Power in the Pandemic and Beyond. (Tuesday April 27: 8 PM EDT)
What have we learned? What are our next struggles? Join preK-12 educators from across the country to identify the struggles ahead and discuss how to use lessons learned from the pandemic going forward.

How to Defend Your Co-workers in Disciplinary Meetings (Thursday April 29: 6 PM EDT)
Stewards are the backbone of every union, defending their co-workers when they are needed most. In this workshop we will review how stewards can use their special rights and protections to effectively advocate for their coworkers in investigatory interviews. We will also discuss how to handle supervisors who are trying to put you off or trip you up. Facilitators: Chris Brooks and Stefanie Frey, NewsGuild of New York

Beating Apathy
Are you beating your head against the wall trying to get other workers involved? This workshop is for you. Hear success stories from those who’ve turned their workplaces around and turned apathy into action. Learn practical organizing tools for engaging your co-workers, taking action, and getting results.

Assembling Your Dream Team
Your workplace may feel like an unorganized mess, but the truth is you’re not starting from zero. There’s organization there already—though it might have nothing to do with the union. Learn how to map out the existing networks in your workplace, identify the leaders in those networks, and then knit them together into an organizing committee.

Turning an Issue into a Campaign
Everybody has complaints and frustrations, but an organizer has the power to turn problems into opportunities. Learn how to sort through the issues you hear from co-workers, bring people together, and make a plan to solve them.

Skills and Limited-Participation Workshops
(these workshops have attendance caps):

Secrets of a Successful Organizer Parts 1, 2 and 3 – a series of nuts-and-bolts organizing trainings based on our book, Secrets of a Successful Organizer:

  1. Beating Apathy:
    • Saturday April 3 (12-2 PM EDT)
    • CLOSED – Wednesday April 7 (7-9 PM EDT)
  2. Assembling Your Dream Team:
    • Saturday April 10 (12-2PM EDT)
    • CLOSED – Wednesday April 14 (7-9 PM EDT)
  3. Turning an Issue Into a Campaign:
    • Saturday April 17 (12-2 PM EDT)
    • CLOSED – Wednesday April 21 (7-9 PM EDT)

If you have any interest in any (or all, since they’re all included in the price), you can find details and the registration form here: April Month of Troublemaking

More educational opportunity!

Related, yet a separate thing from a different organization, Labor’s Bookstore is offering 50% off all their previously read books. They are closing down the used books section of their store/website May 1st so they can “focus on even more new and exciting titles”.

From their website:

Labor’s Bookstore has its roots in the former Union Communication Services (UCS), founded by David Prosten. Here at Labor’s Bookstore we are proud to publish many of the titles formerly carried by UCS.  Additionally, we offer a wide variety of previously-read books at very affordable prices.

Labor’s Bookstore aims to provide union leaders and other activists with resources that will better enable them to serve their members and communities.

Check out the selection here to add titles to your personal collection.

One more thing. You know what it is, it’s what I do… Be safe. Be well. STAY HOME OR MASK UP even if you’ve been vaccinated. And as always… WASH YOUR HANDS!