In ‘No Shortcuts,’ Jane McAlevey provides contemporary success stories of American workers forming new unions and securing significant gains in working conditions, policy and pay. All the examples are from the past 20 years and place those campaigns and their effective tactics within the larger trends of America’s labor movements over the past century.
The common theme to which she attributes their success is a commitment to building strong bonds among themselves and with their neighbors — which often required bridging very deep social and cultural divides. Worker-led campaigns that truly embrace organic leadership models, she contends, are what builds the agency necessary to form a resilient team and secure enough power to meaningfully advance their interests.
A key distinction McAlevey makes in the introduction, and carries throughout the book, are the differences between advocacy, mobilizing and organizing. While each form has its utility, she believes organizing — placing the agency for success with an ever-expanding base of people who engage in mass negotiations — is the only reliable way to advance popular interests in the modern, pro-business landscape.
Although not specifically about political campaigns, this book provides and excellent view of what successful high-stakes organizing of workers looks like at large scale in contemporary America. It’s a perfect follow-up read after ‘Politics is for Power,’ by Eitan Hersh, which covers the finer details of local political organizing and thoughtful community engagement.
Organizing for power in the new gilded age
Oxford University Press, 2016