Mobilizing is Not Organizing - Jane McAlevey pt 5/8

Advocacy and mobilizing are directed at people who support your cause.  Organizing is a strategic plan to win over workers who don’t agree. Jane McAlevey joins Paul Jay on


Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to This is a segment that we call Reality Asserts itself. Please don’t forget the donate button, sign up for our email list, and I’ll be back in just a few seconds with Jane McAlevey, the union organizers’ organizer. 

So, this is a continuation of my series of interviews with Jane McAlevey, which focuses on the lessons and experiences that helped shape her worldview and build her approach to organizing workers. Jane’s, the author of several books, including No Shortcuts and Raising Expectations and Raising Hell, which was named the most valuable book in 2012 by the Nation magazine. Jane organizes and teaches organizing to organizers, sometimes more than 10,000 at a time. That’s right. Tens of thousands of organizers around the world have trained in Jane’s methodology. If you haven’t watched part one of this series, it’s probably a good thing to go back and start at the beginning because this will all make more sense. Now, we’re going to just jump right in. All right, thanks for joining me again, Jane.

Jane McAlevey 

Always a pleasure to be here, Paul.

Paul Jay

Thank you. So, you distinguish between advocacy, mobilizing, and organizing. What’s the difference?

Jane McAlevey 

Yeah. There’s a really fundamental difference, and if I was going to start a slightly longer discussion about the differences in what I call the tools available for change. I would just say there’s one step that comes beforehand, which is charity. I just didn’t analyze that much because I think people understand what charity is. You write a check. You’re not pretending to change something. You’re doing so in an effort, usually to help people in a flood, hurricane, fire, in something like that, or immigrants coming in who need clothing, etcetera. 

So, that’s charity, and I’d just like to note it as one of the fourth distinctions, but we’re not going to dwell on it because I think people understand what charity is. It’s not a social change strategy, but it is an important way that people can make a contribution to something that makes them feel good, that sort of matters as the starting point. In No Shortcuts, which was my Ph.D. dissertation. So, it gave me a little more time than either my first or third book to really dive into the subject matter. I felt like I’d realized that for about 15 years inside the U.S. Trade Union Movement, there was a very heated debate in the U.S. It spilled out into Canada and around the world, about a set of unions declaring themselves as the organizing unions. That they were going to begin to organize again, and this starts in the mid-1990s, really 1996. It took me till 15 years into— this is the decade to reorganize workers because we’re going to build organizing unions.

Paul Jay

Let me just jump in for a second for people who aren’t into this at all. Assuming I’m correct when unions talk about organizing, they mean workers who are not in unions organizing unorganized workers.

Jane McAlevey 

That’s right. They’ll even distinguish it in a way that I’ve said in my books and I find offensive. That’s a detail, which is a lot of unions will have what they call an external organizing program, which is, by the way, different than what they call an internal organizing program. Most have scrapped both, but if they have them, they’re still sort of like this Berlin Wall or whatever. There’s a wall that separates the two departments in a lot of unions, which is problem number one, just for starters. That you see the workers, not even the unionists, somehow fundamentally different and deserving of different methods, a different strategy, and different everything than the workers once they’ve formed a union, which I’m going to get to.

It really was 15 years into the work, I think, before I get very clear, that the set of unions calling themselves the organizing unions, all of whom I was working with, actually were doing something different. They were doing something called mobilizing. There might have been some actual bringing in workers who were not yet unionized through what they call the external organizing program, but they were using methods that were methods that were closer to mobilizing for a sort of get-out-to-vote election in political circles or something. That actually, what people who do what I— for lack of a better term, I’ve been labelled by calling it deep organizing. In some ways, that’s also crazy, all these words because I just mean organizing. But to distinguish it, I basically wrote a book saying, look, let’s just get it clear. There’s something called advocacy, there’s something called mobilizing, and there’s something called organizing.

Everyone who says that they’re doing organizing is mostly doing mobilizing. That’s why after the promise of sort of the late 1990s, in the first decade of this century, there was a lot of promise that trade unions were going to expand and find their power again. In fact, a continuation of the problematic language was, unions would grow again. Grow is a keyword as opposed to expand. As opposed to raising the participation rates, as opposed to a lot of things, so, advocacy— I go deeply into this in the book, advocacy, I say, is essentially you write a check. I write a check to Greenpeace USA or Canada or Green Peace Europe or to the American Civil Liberties Union or something like that. Even Doctors Without Borders, a little bit different. Maybe. They’re a hybrid charity, but you write a check to a group to do something on your behalf for you. Who you’re paying are professional staff who advocate for certain positions, all of the public interest research groups, sort of, the Ministry of the Ralph Nader work. As you can tell, I’m listing organizations that, by the way, I support a lot of them. So, I’m not dissing them. I want to be really clear that if we don’t understand the difference between the function of these organizations and their limited capacity or expanded capacity to change the politics of the world right now, we’re going to be screwed. That’s why this matters. So, advocacy, you write a check, you send them money, and they are actually advocating for change. Different than a straight-up charity who’s just plugging a problem.

You’re hiring communications lawyers, lobbyists in your state capitals, provincial capitals, Washington, D.C., wherever you are, European Union Federation meetings, whatever. So, that’s what advocacy is, and I’m going to argue actually way too much; even the trade union movement treats their entire approach to change right now in sort of an advocacy bubble. So, then there comes a really confusing one, which is mobilizing from organizing, from going from charity to advocacy to mobilizing to organizing, as I lay it out in the book, and under mobilizing, I say it’s a much bigger step forward. It’s great. Why? Because it involves ordinary people.

Mobilizing is typical of a lot of single-issue campaigns, things like climate justice and Occupy Wall Street. There’s a whole lot of sorts of eventism, I would call it. Eventism, rallies, protests, and so when people see people in the streets, they say, I’m organizing because they’re putting people on the streets. I’m going to say, you’re mobilizing, and it’s really different because mobilizing is moving the already convinced, people who already agree with you, kind of, off their couch and getting the mechanics better to get them off their couch and out at a protest or off their couch to a city council meeting or off their couch to some event or action you’re doing.

The limitation of it, which is severe and problematic, is it’s not focused on the people who don’t agree with you or don’t agree with us. That’s what separates— one of the key differentiating marks that I say separate mobilizing from organizing is that organizers wake up every morning. They’re focused on who are the people not coming to our meetings? Who are the people who have never come to an action? Who are the— in our case, workers, who are the workers who aren’t following us on social media? Who are the workers who run away from the rest of the union when they see them walking down the hall, duck into the bathroom, or turn their heads the other way? Who are those workers? Because real organizers spend all of our days on that set of players in order to build strong trade unions.

Our method is a method about base expansion. It’s about; how do you enable people who maybe think Donald Trump was going to stand up to big corporations because he gave a big rap about it. That’s a bit of an extreme one, but it’s also real, or who may think that Joe Manchin, as I saw yesterday for the 90th time, is being called a hero by some folks— [Cecil] Roberts, which is very unfortunate as head of the Mine Workers Union.

There are so many levels of problematic; it’s hard to describe. Still, organizers wake up and see a bunch of workers— could be coal miners in West Virginia, as an opportunity for a deep series of conversations that help those workers connect the dots between actually why their boss in the pit they’re in is a jerk. That jerk who’s oppressing them is linked directly to Joe Manchin, who is not doing them any favours. His bazillionaire daughter who’s stealing all sorts of money from the Feds. Steal, I say loosely, and then, more importantly, to like Donald Trump. There’s a thorough-line right there. Organizers enable people throughout the way we do our work and the way we have our conversations. Our focus is on those people and helping them make the connections to understand how they know their boss in the third shift is a jerk. Still, they can’t make the connection between the jerk of a boss on the third shift to the fact that Donald Trump is full of crap every day of the week when he pretends to say he’s going to be there for their families.

Organizing is a radical departure from what mobilizing is. There’s too little of it. Everyone confuses the two, and I’m going to argue that those of us who have continued to win really hard union campaigns, both unionization campaigns and big important strikes. Anyone who’s been actually winning at that level, which is blessedly most of my life work, it’s because we’re doing real organizing because we say to the workers who are already with us, hang tight. There’s some important work for you to do, but who has to be moved to this facility in order for you to win what you want? To build to 95% unity or 90% unity, you have no choice in a trade union campaign if you mean to win, and if you’ve really raised workers’ expectations that they can change their lives, you’ve got no choice but to go focus on the hardest to move workers. That’s what separates organizing from mobilizing, and then who sort of has control of decision making. They go together.

In order to move the kind of conversation that’s going to enable a Trump voter to come around to realize that, actually, that was probably not something that was good for that worker’s family, there’s going to be a lot of steps in between and conversations that we’re going to be committed to having.

Paul Jay

I’m sure some of the people listening to this who primarily are involved in mobilizing say, hang on, I do a lot of organizing to mobilize. I’m on the phones; we have phone trees, we get people out on the streets, we’re trying to affect public opinion. In the course of doing it, of course, I wind up talking to my friends and neighbours who don’t agree with what I’m mobilizing for, so I am talking to people who aren’t already in agreement. So, how do you distinguish this? I almost think you should use the term deep organizing because— but anyway, what do you say to them, so they get the difference?

Jane McAlevey 

I mean, again, I don’t want to emphasize that it’s bad, but there are two things. One is, what you’re describing is more eventism. You’re just turning out a bunch of random bodies to a march or protest, and it’s not essential to you generally to actually have them change their mind about something. If they don’t agree with you, generally, in the mobilizing model, you’re just moving on because you’ve just got to get X number of bodies to do something. This has infected the unions. 

So, it’s like there’ll be a press conference, and they don’t care who comes. They just need 40 warm bodies. I call it workers as props. You just ring through until you get the one who’s going to show up at the press conference and, like, stand behind some designated person, or if they let a worker speak, they’re going to have written a twelve-page script for them and ask them not to veer off. It’s control central, which I would never do in a million years. If I get a bunch of workers at a press conference, I’m just going to let them have at it because they’re going to say really smart stuff.

The distinction is, again, not that it’s bad to spend time calling up your friends or calling someone up to get to a protest. I think it was great that the women’s protests were the largest— until the George Floyd protest, the largest ever protests. Both are great issues. The women’s march, after Trump was elected, and the explosion of protest around George Floyd. Meanwhile, what’s passing one by one in the United States are voting restrictions State-by-State.

Putting eventism in the context of what is the power required to actually change the conditions for women or for black people in the United States or the world they’re going to happen by calling up a few friends, pissing a couple off, getting them to not agree with you to go to a march. That is not organizing. That is not building power. Organizing is centred on building mass power, not narrative change. So, narrative change is this language that just makes my head explode every time I’m in a discussion with someone about it.

It’s the mobilizing types who are like; we do narrative change. You can read it in all the organizational literature, too. It’s like, I’m like, oh, what do you do? They’re like, well, we do organizing. Great. How do you do that? They’re like narrative change, and I’m like, no. Narrative change is not building power. There’s this whole debate— there are so many debates that want to make my head explode, and it’s a lot of young people. Honestly, I love them, and these are like, open struggles I have with a lot of young organizers right now in their 20s. It’s because they’ve— unlike me, I came up with mentors who taught me everything they knew. My mentors were two people removed only, at most, from the 1930’s Trade Union Movement who built— it goes Leon Davis, Jerry Brown, me. I’m the third generation. Good organizers can literally tell you who trained them, who developed them, and what the tree was back to the 1930s and ’40s. I can do it, and every serious organizer I know, I can be like, who is your mentor? Who mentored them? You’ll go straight to the 1930s and ’40s.

For all of us who hear this dialogue about narrative change, turning protests, and getting one more body. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. To us, it’s not the same thing as having a strategic approach to key industries to build mass power based on the power structure analysis of which workers have the capacity to build the kind of power that if and when they choose to create a crisis for capital, for corporations, they can do it. That’s organizing. Those are the workers that require a great deal of energy to move, like fossil fuel workers. Workers involved in the fossil fuel economy, for whom it’s a very different discussion, and I’ve done it. It’s a great discussion to have.

I think a big problem is mobilizers don’t actually have faith in the intelligence of ordinary people, honestly. I think organizers have like, we wake up every day and I say if you don’t have deep, unabiding, genuine respect for the brilliance of what it takes to survive everyday life in American, Canadian society, or fill in the blank society. If you don’t deeply respect that a worker who is going to work to try and hold up a household family with four people in it scrapping around for health care, who hears, hey, you should just support something called the Green New Deal because it’s going to be better for your kids. It’s like, it’s actually not going to be better for their kids if they’re starving the next day or homeless because the fossil fuel job they have that pays them a really high wage with really good benefits goes away the next day. It’s like we don’t know how to close the gap and have a conversation as a mature movement that says no one in any of those industries is going to lose a penny or a benefit in the transition to a new economy. We’re not at that place precisely because everyone’s mobilizing, and they think you can literally do top-down change.

There’s a theory out there— I’m going to name it the one that I am thinking of the most because it influences a lot of young people called momentum. There’s one of many theories that are highly debated or highly debated among a small crowd of people. This theory says, by the way, very specific in the U.S., but spread into Europe. If you get 3% of the population taking action, it’s called eventism. That’s why it makes me ask about the literature. They literally look back at all events through time, and they come up with this formula that if that big change happens, 3% of the country is activated. I don’t know what that means—activated to clean their oven or activated to change the world? But activated, and it’s the biggest bunch of bullshit I’ve ever heard. It’s like, are you kidding? Seriously? No. The big changes that happened, happened because the black Church was the backbone of the civil rights movement had a strategic analysis. A plan to disrupt capital and capitalism by messing with the Southern producers through economic targets. That was the real power of the civil rights struggle and the trade union movement.

Another period of a lot of events, apparently, if you study eventism, wasn’t just holding mass rallies of 3% of the population. They were digging into the strategic industries of the 1930s and ’40s. Those of us still winning today have been digging into the strategic industries of the current present moment, which is, what are the jobs that can easily be shipped abroad, for starters, and where the workers are hard to replace? It’s apparently very complicated because hardly anyone is doing it, but it shouldn’t be that complicated if we understand how to think about power.

At the end of the day, all of my books are a lesson about power, and I think my endless life lesson is trying to explain to people we don’t have anywhere near the power required to change the fossil fuel subsidies right now into green jobs subsidies. If we did, we could do it overnight because once we can say to workers, you’re not going to lose a penny, then they’ll happily move to a green economy. The environmental movement is so invested in talking to itself and insulting most workers for way too long that they’re digging out of a hole right now on these questions. It’s like, here’s when I say to them, you don’t have the power. You have to change the subsidies. Until you build the power to change those subsidies, you can’t move that work.

Organizing, I think, I was so desperate to write the middle book No Shortcuts because there’s just such a lack of understanding of what power is. In that book, I go deep into a series of charts that are called power required and then power available. I try to draw out lots of lessons about power and even just saying as a negotiator— I think when I became a Chief Negotiator of a lot of big contracts, the question of how much power will demand [inaudible 00:25:41]. Okay, here’s the power required to win them. Are you prepared for 100% all-out strike and actually being able to recruit 95% or north of 90% of your co-workers to go on strike with you? If so, you can win. If you can only unify 35% of the people behind your demands, you’re going to win their [inaudible 00:26:07].

Paul Jay

Most of what’s going on now in terms of Left activism is mobilizing people in the streets, to a large extent. Sometimes it’s about voting, but largely it’s about trying to influence, pressure the elites to stop doing what they’re doing. As you say, it’s good. It draws public attention to an issue. It makes people talk about it to the extent you can get people to know what’s happening because mainstream media mostly just ignores it. Our kind of media is rather marginalized, but still, it’s great on campuses because it gets students involved, they talk about something, and then they say, jeez, I’m actually going to commit to this. I’m going to go out and march, and it moves people, but that isn’t contending for power. 

What you’re talking about goes beyond just a question of contending for power. You’re talking about contending for power in society. It’s not just about how do you win in a specific sector or get a better contract. You’re actually talking about strategic industries that if you can enliven these unions, not just to make it a better union for the workers in that union, but that unions can start to play a role they have to play if we’re ever going to have politics, a government that actually deals with climate in a serious way, nuclear weapons in a serious way, and a host of other issues. That without unions playing this role, when you’re talking about power, it’s not a narrow definition. It’s both a narrow definition of power and a broader definition of power.

Jane McAlevey 

Or I would say— I would amend that to say it’s broad and specific rather than broad. It’s always broad, but there has to be what connects the dots to an organizer strategist is; all good organizers are strategists. All good organizers are educators. Those two things are inseparable from the work of organizing, but what’s the big picture and then how do workers understand what I call, sort of, a plan to win? So, when I’m teaching workers how to be worker organizers, ranking filers, full-timers, any category, like organic leaders. 

Something I call an organic leader, which we talked about in an earlier segment, but organic leaders are the most trusted workers among their peers, and part of why organic leaders are natural organizers is because they’re already the kind of people who delegate. They’re already the kind of people who make teamwork happen in their shift or their unit. They’re naturals at it. No one explained this skill to them. So, whenever I’m talking to organizers, whether they’re in the ranks or not, I say, you can’t move a hard-to-move worker leader in a conversation where they believe they disagree with you if you don’t have a credible plan to win. Essential to a credible plan to win, like, why am I going to risk something? You’re going to risk something when you believe the possibility for success is going to make it worth it for you to risk your relationship with your sector.

Paul Jay

Can I add something to this? Because I worked on the railroad for five years. I worked in the post office driving a truck for three years, but I’ve also worked in the film industry and whatever. People that haven’t really been in the working class don’t get that it’s a different culture. One of the things, I think, that connects with what you’re saying is that to be respected on the shop floor, you actually have to be good at your job.

Jane McAlevey 


Paul Jay

You have to work hard, you have to be intelligent, you have to be unselfish, and you’re respected for these kinds of normal human qualities. If you’re lazy or you just like to mouth off about stuff, nobody respects you.

Jane McAlevey 


Paul Jay

Sometimes, it’s even in many jobs; people’s safety depends on how responsible you are as a worker. So, these organic leaders you’re talking about, it’s actually very important that they actually lead in the actual work process, and then people will listen to them.

Jane McAlevey 

Yes, it’s completely true. When I do training for people who are new to the work, and particularly when I’m doing the mass training program that you’ve mentioned. We’ve got 10,000 people involved in a training program from all over the world. I lead with the session on organic leading— what I call organic, and that’s just what I call it. I just wanted to say because I think you said in the beginning like printing cards was my idea. I mean, really, my idea is the 1930s ideas. There’s nothing particularly new I’m trying to recreate and adapt for today.

The whole worker discussion that I hope we get to have is another extension of the power analysis, another extension of the bottom-up building, and the organizing work to help people come to understand a system called capitalism, without ever talking about the system called capitalism, because they’re going to say the word on their own at some point. I have watched this happen so many times in my life where I say it’s not useful for me to use that word. Not in the U.S., but my goal is that actually, a worker who initially is a Republican voter or a non-voter is going to, in the course of one campaign, come to shift their politics because they’re going to come to their own conclusion that they didn’t really understand that capitalism was just this big, complicated political-economic system that’s not working for their families at all. At all.

That happens best in the session where we call the Chief Financial Officer in, and it’s why I love to do big open bargaining where you have hundreds of workers listening to some bozos lie about the numbers when we’ve got better numbers to actually tell the truth. So, yes, there is so much about the work that begins and ends with what we were discussing earlier, which begins and ends with respect and teaching the concept. When I’m teaching the organic leaders I.D. [Identification], a lot of people who are full-time— I don’t even like these words but let’s say full-time position holders in unions or full-time organizers versus in the ranks. Whenever I talk about that, they say, but that’s all just— that’s a secret. That’s like, you don’t actually talk about who the organic leaders are with the workers. I was like, actually, the whole point is the conversation with the workers, and they themselves tell us who the informal, organic leader is in their shift. I always say, for starters, it’s going to be one of the best workers.

The reason that they’re not wrong, you know, they’re not jumping at the union, traditionally is because they want really good work done in their unit, on their shift, or in the work that they’re doing. They tend not to be shop stewards. They tend not to be the people who want to enforce grievance rules in a contract. They’re really focused on bigger questions of production, which last I looked at, is actually what [Karl] Marx and a bunch of other people were trying to get at, like, the questions of production. It’s interesting to me when you really get deep in the weeds about some of these questions. How many contradictions the more- how would I call them, the sort of more overt Left. A lot of contradictions get wrapped up in these discussions because I think a lot of what I would maybe label the Sectarian Left, rejects this idea outright. They pick fights with me about the organic leader concept. Straight up. They say every worker is a leader, and I’m like, you’ve never won a big hard campaign. That’s just my answer right now. I just say you’ve never won a big hard campaign.

Paul Jay

Well, I’m not sure they’ve ever worked in a real— that kind of workplace. What do you say to young, politicized workers, and there are tons of them. People think of the workers, and they have this weird stereotype in their heads. In fact, a large number of the people that are mobilizing, that are in the streets, that are active, that are online reading and educating themselves, and so on, a lot of them are workers. 

In fact, a lot of university students come from working-class families. What do you say to a young worker who’s in a union and says, well, the reason I go out and mobilize around issues and get into the streets is that the union just seems so damn hopeless. I don’t even know where to start in dealing with me organizing in my union. The leadership is so in control. I don’t even know where to begin. In fact, most of the, and I know this is true for a lot of unions, most of the workers are so disengaged, never mind from politics but from the union itself. You want me to organize, but how do I begin? 

Jane McAlevey 

Yeah. Well, let me go backwards for a minute and just say that I want to link the comment you just made to what I was describing earlier. If they use the word organizing, having the external organizing program and then the internal organizing program, that’s the root of the problem you were just raising, which is a lot of what unions do stereotypically— if they tumble into a hot shop, for example. A hot shop means the boss did something really egregious, and every worker is really pissed off. They just marched right down and voted in some kind of unionization election because they’re on fire. The boss has fired a bunch of people or made them quit and retire, but once they’re in, the union just collects the dues money, sends them a newsletter four times a year, gives them a tire discount or a life insurance discount, and thinks that’s engaging with them. 

So, it’s like, I call it putting workers to sleep, and then they think in election time they can just flip a switch and wake the workers back up. It’s like this little, we’re going to put you to sleep, and we’re going to wake you up. It’s so offensive to me. That’s the language that’s used, by the way, sometimes. I used to be the National Deputy Director of the Union, so the language still burns in my soul.

Paul Jay

When you say wake them. Go wake them up to go vote for the Democratic Party, and then you can go back to sleep again?

Jane McAlevey 

Yeah, or the NDP [New Democratic Party] or whoever it is. Yeah, go vote for— it happens all over the place. This happened in Germany. It didn’t work out so well for a bunch of those parties. Anyway, the only way that people will be connected is when you continue to use the methods that we think up that a lot of people think of as external organizing. If you’re in a really hard campaign, and I outline this a lot in No Shortcuts when I used to be a leader in the SEIU [Service Employees International Union] nationally, which was brief in my life period because I objected to too many of these practices.

I got down to our national headquarters after winning a ton of campaigns, and they were like, oh, let’s go get her. I got there, and the instructions were when you won a quote, unquote external organizing campaign, the instructions out of D.C. were, essentially, burn the wall charts. The wall charts are the tool that we’ve taught workers for a hard campaign. It teaches them how to track who their organic leader is. It’s a conversation they’re having to identify the most respected worker leaders that it takes energy to persuade because they’re linked to their management team, and the manager knows they’re their best worker. These are all very complicated, contradictory issues you have to work with as an organizer.

The instructions were literally to burn the charts. To essentially remove from the workers the knowledge base of how they built the power among 2,000 of them to win an election because the union then wants to immediately do the opposite of what I believe in, which is lower expectations as quickly as they can for a very minimalist contract. It gives people a little raise and some decent rights on the job. When I go into a fight with thousands of workers, it is not to have a minimal life change. It’s too up-end the god damn system that they’re in and to have them win fully employer-paid health care, which in the United States is a huge deal. Sorry, I wish we were in Canada, but the biggest cost item in most workers’ lives and in most contract campaigns, pension, the right to a real weekend, the time off. Just the most basic. I mean, I want really radical change. If 20,00 workers just went all out to form a union, the last thing on planet Earth I’m going to do is burn the charts and put them to sleep. That’s the mentality that we’re up against. 

So, for the young worker who’s frustrated with their union, I just want to go back to the segment when we were talking about the radical transformation of Chicago teachers and of L.A. [Los Angeles] teachers.

You’ve got to start by being able to use your first organizing skills to actually begin to build a base of people. I would say a lot of them are going to be activists. They’re not going to be leaders. A lot of the people that you’re describing to me are going to be worker activists who are reading some progressive Left literature or something somewhere, and they’re good people. What I implore of them is to understand that they’re an activist in their workplace, and their central job is to begin the process of understanding who those most respected workers are. That’s job one. Then to begin to sit down with them and begin to have a dialogue about some of the things that might be good to be different in the next contract and then essentially start organizing without help from your higher-ups because that’s fundamental.

I think a lot— I don’t mean a lot, but definitely, people who are taking the international courses that we’re teaching are learning those skills and are hearing those messages. It’s less important to hear from me. They’re getting those messages from some of our guest trainers, some of our co-trainers. I’ll bring in Stacy Davis Gates, Alex Caputo-Pearl, or any number of those who are some of the big leaders of the transformed unions here and just have them do a session where they talk about what it took to rebuild their union. They usually start with personal stories about basically building the base inside of their union to wrestle the change process inside of their union, to then win amazing contracts.

Paul Jay

Well, which also means at some point in this process, you’re creating a slate, and you’re going to try to take over the union. I mean, in the final analysis, the kind of strategy you’re talking about, you’re going to need elections to be won by really progressive workers who have won over other workers, and they take over the union.

Jane McAlevey 

That’s right. Yeah, progressive and or recently in the process of transforming. Workers who are coming to new conclusions about some of the issues but that they’re unifying first and foremost around that they really want a better contract and they want the contract that’s going to respond to not just wages, but issues of how they can care for their patients if they’re nurses, how good the car is if they’re painting cars, how good the rail system is working if they’re rail workers, how clean the buses are if they’re transit drivers. These are major issues for workers, and when you just go, blah, blah, blah wages, they’re going to turn right off. That’s not the biggest issue. It’s not most workers. I mean, it is a big issue, but when I say to people, which I say a lot, wages are not usually the biggest issue in any campaign I’ve run. They’re an issue, but it’s not the most important issue. People who just haven’t done this work, it’s the same, they’re like, really? I thought all workers really wanted wages. It’s like, really? Again, you have not run a campaign. It’s about dignity and respect. That’s why winning over the most respected workers is crucial to the plan.

Paul Jay

Yeah, because for a large number of people, all people, including workers, part of having a meaningful life is the work you do.

Jane McAlevey 

That’s right.

Paul Jay

If your work is disrespected, that’s disrespecting the core of your identity if you take your work seriously, and most workers do.

Jane McAlevey 

That’s exactly right.

Paul Jay

Jane has a hard out timewise because I’d love to keep going right now, but I can’t. We’re going to say, end the segment now. Please join us for the next one, and hopefully, there’ll be a few more because I think this is critical stuff. Thanks, Jane.

Jane McAlevey 

My pleasure. Thank you.

Paul Jay

Thank you for joining us on Again, please don’t forget the donate button. We can’t do this if you don’t do that. Subscribe if you’re on YouTube, get on our email list, and all the buttons. 



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One Comment

  1. Well, you can support Trudeau and declare that free speech poses an enemy to the state, Emergency Measures Act. Truckers–many of who are vaccinated (cough cough)–are clearly trying to bring down the state. Yup, truckers and protestors complaining about vaccine mandates are about to overthrow the government. You and I are Canadian, Paul. Am I going to vote to bring back Harper and side with the conservatives? Ugh and big Ugh. Singh is crazy with his overthrow b.s.
    Green Party is kaput.

    Remember Huawei? You do know that the great consistent winners in the stock market are the likes of Raytheon… And I have already talked about the U.S. minister of Defense, Lloyd Austin, former lobbyist for Lockheed Martin.

    And now the West is pushing insane woke ideology. Sam Brinton the newest Biden addition, clicks his heels, does a pirouette, and calls his accompanying leashed human a “pet.” What has he done regarding disposal of nuclear waste? Any policies? Any regulatory discussions? I do know he has spent his time pushing Trans ideology on schools.

    Clinton may have wagged the dog; Biden advocates screwing the pooch. And surprisingly, Biden’s dog had “nipping” problems and had to be sent away.

    The Communist in Russia want Putin to annex the Donbas, which he has refused to do. But then I see NO complete coverage of what he actually says. Your choice of the communist Buzgalin was hmmm not very insightful. Putin is not a communist. Sorry.

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