"This is the Value of Our Labor"

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Title: "This is the Value of Our Labor" The Nonmajority Union Approach in U.S. Manufacturing
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Ablavsky, Essie
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: Unions
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theses   ( marcgt )
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Abstract: This study explores the present-day practice of nonmajority unionism in the United States. Nonmajority labor unions seek to build a union among workers regardless of whether or not they have the 50-percent-plus-one majority necessary to file for a National Labor Relations Board election. This thesis adds to the existing historical and legal literature on nonmajority unions by providing a sociological examination of the nonmajority union approach. I conducted 4 group interviews and 11 individual interviews with workers and union staff from two different nonmajority unions in the manufacturing sector. From these interviews, it became clear that these unions share a number of common characteristics. Nonmajority unions use a similar range of tactics, such as petition campaigns, political action, leadership development and information sharing. More generally, they tend to run issue-based campaigns, reject a members-only approach, claim victories and act like a union. The fates of the two unions in this study demonstrate that context�in terms of local history, culture, and social organization�matters when applying a nonmajority union approach. With this understanding of nonmajority unions, labor leaders are better able to make informed decisions about appropriate strategies of action in union campaigns.
Statement of Responsibility: by Essie Ablavsky
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Hernandez, Sarah

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
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Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: "This is the Value of Our Labor" The Nonmajority Union Approach in U.S. Manufacturing
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Ablavsky, Essie
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: Unions
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: This study explores the present-day practice of nonmajority unionism in the United States. Nonmajority labor unions seek to build a union among workers regardless of whether or not they have the 50-percent-plus-one majority necessary to file for a National Labor Relations Board election. This thesis adds to the existing historical and legal literature on nonmajority unions by providing a sociological examination of the nonmajority union approach. I conducted 4 group interviews and 11 individual interviews with workers and union staff from two different nonmajority unions in the manufacturing sector. From these interviews, it became clear that these unions share a number of common characteristics. Nonmajority unions use a similar range of tactics, such as petition campaigns, political action, leadership development and information sharing. More generally, they tend to run issue-based campaigns, reject a members-only approach, claim victories and act like a union. The fates of the two unions in this study demonstrate that context�in terms of local history, culture, and social organization�matters when applying a nonmajority union approach. With this understanding of nonmajority unions, labor leaders are better able to make informed decisions about appropriate strategies of action in union campaigns.
Statement of Responsibility: by Essie Ablavsky
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Hernandez, Sarah

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2012 A1
System ID: NCFE004523:00001

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"THIS IS THE VALUE OF OUR LABOR": THE NONMAJORITY UNION APPROACH IN U.S. MANUFACTURING BY ESSIE ABLAVSKY A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Ba chelor of Arts in Sociology Under the sponsorship of Sarah Hernandez Sarasota, Florida Sarasota, FL May, 2012


ii Dedication This thesis is dedicated to the workers of Carolina Auto, Aerospace and Machine Workers Union and their continued stru ggle for justice on the shop floor.


iii Acknowledgements The numerous individuals who supported my work made this thesis possible. Thanks to their time, knowledge and encouragement I was able to make this project a reality. First, I must thank the member s of the Carolina, Auto, Aerospace and Machine Workers Union for responding to my research request and inviting me to North Carolina to conduct my research. Furthermore, they generously allowed me to use the Bloomer Hill Community Center to conduct my inte rviews. I would particularly like to thank CAAMWU President Jim Wrenn for his help in setting up interviews and gathering archival materials. The countless emails exchanged between myself and Wrenn concerning the details of CAAMWU's development are a testa ment to his invaluable support throughout this process. I would also like to thank IUE CWA Local 20 1 President Jeff Crosby for granting me access to the union's archival materials and offering his extensive knowledge on the WAGE project. A number of peers and professors devoted a great deal of time to providing feedback through all the stages of my research process. Dr. Sarah Hernandez worked with me throughout my time here at New College, overseeing earlier research projects that helped lay the groundwork for this thesis. Her invaluable guidance over the years has been central to my development as both an activist and student. Above all, Dr. Hernandez has taught me that the human questions are often as important as the sociological ones. I would also like to mention Claire Comiskey, Allison Whitcomb, Mackenzie Pawliger and Dr. Laura Hirshfield who reviewed some of my initial drafts. I had a great many friends who helped during the process of writing this thesis and have been there for me over the years. Yo u all made my time at New College unforgettable. I would like to thank Allegra Buyer, Chris Mangels, Gracelena Ignacio, Isobel Aitken, Matt Anderson, Sarah Thompson and James Birmingham for their continuous friendship. I would like to extend a special than ks to Jonathan Smith. Without your companionship, late night pep talks, and copy editing skills I do not think I would have made it through these last couple of months. Lastly I would like to thank my family for their constant encouragement and support.


iv TABLE OF CONTENTS DEDICATION ................................ ................................ ........................... II ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................ ................................ .... III LIST OF ACRONYMS ................................ ................................ ............ VI ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ............................ VII CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCT ION ................................ .............................. 1 C ONTEXT OF N ONMAJORITY U NIONISM ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 3 C URRENT S CHOLARSHIP ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 5 Law ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 5 Definitions ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 G ENERAL E LECTRIC AND C UM MINS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 8 CHAPTER 2 : LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................ 11 S OCIOLOGY OF L ABOR R EVITALIZATION ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 11 L ABOR U NDER S IEGE ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 24 National Labor Law ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 25 Demographic Changes ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 26 Neoliberal Globalization ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 26 Employer Hostility ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 27 Union Strategy ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 29 L ABOR S R ENEWAL ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 31 W HICH W AY F ORWARD ? ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 34 CHAPTER 3: METHODS ................................ ................................ ....... 40 CHAPTER 4 : RESULTS AND ANALYSI S CAAMWU .................... 44 B ACKGROUND ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 44 Labor in North Ca rolina ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 45 The Black Belt South ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 46 Industry ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 47 A Fire in Hamlet ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 49 F ORMATIVE P ROCESS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 50 Bloomer Hill: Commu nity Resistance ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 50 Black Workers for Justice and Civil Rights Unionism ................................ ................................ ............. 54 S TRATEGIES AND T ACTICS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 58 CAAMWU's "Petition Tradition" and Workplace Democracy ................................ .............................. 5 9 Leveraging Community Power ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 64 Information ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 67 Legal Action ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 70 Long Term External Support ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 73 Employee Handbook As Con tract ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 75 Leadership ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 76 C URRENT I SSUES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 79 CHAPTER 5 : RESULTS AND ANALYSI S -WAGE .......................... 80 B ACKGROUND ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 80 Industry ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 80


v Labor ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 81 GE and the Jet Engine Industry ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 81 F ORMATIVE P ROCESS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 83 Taking on General Electric ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 83 WAGE: Wo rking at GE ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 84 S TRATEGIES AND T ACTICS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 86 Petitions ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 86 Political Action ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 88 Information ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 89 External Support ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 91 Contract Negotiations ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 93 R EASONS FOR F AILURE ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 95 National Union Leadership ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 97 Organizing for What? ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 98 Co mmittee Leadership ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 99 L OOKING B ACK ON WAGE ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 101 CHAPTER 6: COMPARING CAAMWU AND WAGE ..................... 103 C OMMON F EATURES OF N ONMAJORITY U NIONS ................................ ................................ ......................... 103 Challe nging the "Members Only" Approach ................................ ................................ ........................ 103 Issue Oriented Campaigns ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 106 Claiming Victories ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 108 Acting Like a Union ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 109 CAAMWU AND WAGE: A C OM PARISON ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 111 Shared Experiences ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 111 Strategies and Tactics ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 111 Common Challenges ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 113 Points of Difference ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 116 CAAMWU ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 116 Community Organizing ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 116 Salience of Race ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 117 Tactics ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 119 WAGE ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 121 Union As Outsiders ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 121 Community Relations ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 122 Wages and Benefits ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 123 S TRENGTHS OF N ONMAJORITY U NIONS ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 124 L IMITS OF N ONMAJORITY U NIONS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 126 CAAMWU, WAGE, AND N ONMAJORITY U NIONISM ................................ ................................ ................. 127 CHAPTER 7: CONCLUSIO N ................................ .............................. 129 APPENDIX ................................ ................................ ............................. 135 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ....................... 137


vi List of Acronyms A CILS American Center for International Labor Solidarity ACTWU Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union AFL American Federation of Labor AFL CIO American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organizations AFSCME American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees BWFJ Black Workers for Justice CAAMWU Carolina Auto, Aerospace and Machine Workers Union CDC Consolidated Diesel Company CIO Congress of Industrial Organizations CLC Central Labor Council CWA Communication Workers of America GE General Electric GM General Motors IUE International Union of Electronic Workers IUE CWA International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers Communications Workers of America NANE National Association of NCR Employees NIRA National Industrial Recovery Act NLB National Labor Board NLRA National Labor Relations Act NLRB National Labor Relations Board PATCO Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization PTO Paid Time Off RMEP Cummins Rocky Mount En gine Plant SEIU Service Employees International Union SERO Special Early Retirement Option SMU Social Movement Unionism TWUA Textile Workers Union of America UAW United Auto Workers UE United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America UMWA Uni ted Mine Workers of America UNC University of North Carolina Chapel Hill UNITE Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees WAGE Working at GE WUC Workers Unity Committee


vii "THIS IS THE VALUE OF OUR LABOR": THE NONMAJORITY UNION APPRO ACH IN U.S. MANUFACTURING Essie Ablavsky New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT This study explores the present day practice of nonmajority unionism in the United States. Nonmajority labor unions seek to build a union among workers regardless of whether or not they have the 50 percent plus one majority necessary to file for a National Labor Relations Board election. This thesis adds to the existing historical and legal literature on nonmajority unions by providing a sociological examination of the nonmaj ority union approach. I conducted 4 group interviews and 11 individual interviews with workers and union staff from two different nonmajority unions in the manufacturing sector. From these interviews, it became clear that these unions share a number of com mon characteristics. Nonmajority unions use a similar range of tactics, such as petition campaigns, political action, leadership development and information sharing. More generally, they tend to run issue based campaigns, reject a members only approach, cl aim victories and act like a union. The fates of the two unions in this study demonstrate that context in terms of local history, culture, and social organization matters when applying a nonmajority union approach. With this understanding of nonmajority un ions, labor leaders are better able to make informed decisions about appropriate strategies of action in union campaigns. Sarah Hernandez Sociology


1 CHAPTER 1: Introduction "I think one thing that's important is the very right to ask for something, th e very right to say this is the value of our labor.' What the union has done is help workers to feel that they have that right." ( Saladin Muhammad, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 150 ) I n a US economy increasingly defined by job insecurity, stagnant wages and part time employment f ewer and fewer workers are able to stand up and say "this is the value of our labor ." However, at Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant in Whitakers, North Carolina and several General Electric plants across New England, workers have done this through nonmajority (or minority) unionism Nonmajority unions build their membership and operate as a union without following the National Labor Relations Board 's (NLRB) pathway to official recognition They are able to build a union among workers whether or not that union has the 50 percent plus one vote necessary to be certified as the collective bargaining representative (Fletcher and Gapasin 2008) The revitalization of this approach in the 20 th century deser ves closer scrutiny. The legal status of nonmajority unions is provided for by section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA also known as the Wagner Act ). The NLRA is federal legislation, enacted in 1935, protecting collective bargaining rights a nd defining the rights of employees and employers. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was created shortly after the passage of the NLRA as an independent federal agency. It conducts elections at workplaces to determine union representation and remed ies unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions. Nonmajority unionism was a frequent practice before the passage of the NLRA and has existed in various forms throughout labor history (Morris 2005). However, because of the specia l status accorded to "majority unions" through the NLRA, nonmajority unionism became an infrequent


2 practice. As a result of increasingly restrictive labor law, nonmajority unionism has been revived as a practice in the last twenty years ( ibid ). The steps i nvolved in forming a "majority union" are clearly laid out by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Any group of workers wishing to form a union must gather enough signatures ( at least 30% of the workforce in a particular workplace ) on union cards to hold an election. A secret ballot election is then conducted by the NLRB so that members of the potential bargaining unit can vote for a particular union or vote against the union altogether However, this later step can be avoided if an employer agrees to a card check recognition meaning that if more than 50% of the workforce sign s a card supporting the union as the unique representative in the workplace, the union is certified without a vote If the union is voted in or voluntarily recognized by the empl oyer, the employer must enter negotiations in good faith, with a negotiating team selected by the workers and agree upon a contract. This contract governs the relationship between the employer and the workers and is periodically renegotiated. More importa ntly, when unions lose an election conducted by the NLRB or when workers do no t have enough cards signed to require such an election, they are effectively unable to bargain with their employer This is the situation for a large proportion of organizing at tempts. For this reason, nonmajority unionism has been a critical organizing tool for workers who are unable to follow the usual steps involved in achieving official majority status. Through my research I investigate the shape nonmajority unionism takes i n practice. Specifically, I ask, how do nonmajority unions leverage power in the workplace? Although previous literature makes a number of broad theoretical claims


3 about the types of situations in which nonmajority unionism might be employed, there is litt le information about how it is being employed. There is a clear consensus that at least some unions have put nonmajority unionism into practice, but there is insufficient research on how this took place. Furthermore, there is little research exploring the prospects for organizing through nonmajority unionism My research sheds light on these unknowns which may offer guidance to a shifting labor movement. Context of Nonmajority Unionism US labor is at a significant historical moment. Just six years ag o, the AFL CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, suffered a split which formed the Change to Win Federation (Masters et al. 2006; Hurd 2007; Estreicher 2006 ). This organizational fissure acted as a symbol of the deeper crisis within the American labo r movement. The split was a manifestation of the growing sense of frustration with the direction of, and strategies in, the labor movement. However, labor seems no better off after this split than it was before (Fletcher and Gapasin 2008; Chaison 2007). Lo w union density remains a central issue of concern, as are the ever more rigid legal barriers to unionization ( McCartin 2006) Given these challenges there is a feeling of despair within organized labor and the sense that little can be done to halt these t rends. Some believe organized labor is losing sight of the fact that, although these changes present challenges, they also present opportunities (Webster 2008). Global interdependence of the economy has provided an even stronger basis for creating global solidarities and has led to serious thought about the need for international labor rights ( ibid ). It has also strengthened ties between consumers, workers and the community,


4 opening up possibilities to build labor as a social movement ( ibid ). Many have po inted to the Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Justice for Janitors campaign as a successful model for social movement unionism (Robinson 2000), and as an illustration of the ways that organized labor has begun to think more creatively about h ow to organize labor in a changing economy. This is not only a unique time for labor organizers but also a unique time for labor scholars as well (see Kate Bronfenbrenner; Richard Hurd; Tom Juravich ) who have been on the forefront of documenting the chang es in organized labor and developing theories that have guided new organizing strategies. After the failure of the Employee Free Choice Act, 1 some turned their backs on the possibility of reviving organized labor through legal means ( McAlevey 2010) The e xception to this is nonmajority unionism, the organization of unions which do not have, or seek, a 50 percent plus one majority. The legal basis of this practice has been hotly debated since it was first introduced by legal scholar Clyde Summers in 1990. N evertheless, a number of unions have experimented with this practice, including the Service Employees International Union, the Communication Workers of America and the United Steel Workers (Nissen 2001). For unions such as the Industrial Workers of the Wor ld who have always practiced nonmajority unionism as their primary means of organizing, this is an old, rather than a new, tactic (Buss 2005). These efforts, however, must be understood in the context of a union culture and practice which emphasizes majo rity unionism and a legal structure that paradoxically 1 The Employee Free Choice Act was a piece of legislation introduced to both chambers of Congress in 2009 which would have allowed labor unions to gain recognition through majority sign up rather than a secret ballot election and would have expe dited the arbitration process (Lichtenstein 2010).


5 provides greater power to majority unions while simultaneously tying their hands and limiting their maneuvering room. For this reason there is still much to be learned about how nonmajority unions sust ain themselves in such a climate. Current Scholarship Much of the literature takes the position that widespread collective bargaining is impossible under existing labor law, hence the need for new organizational forms (Summers 1990; Morris 2005 ; Chun 2 009 ). This has led some scholars and activists to explore nonmajority unionism as one such alternative approach. Th is literature is predominantly addressed by legal scholars (Nissen 2001), but also comes from history and industrial relations (Morris 2005). I will address this body of literature in the next chapter, but here I will provide a brief overview of the legal debate on nonmajority unionism and the definition of the term. Law The legal argument for nonmajority unionism is based on section 7 of the NLRA. Section 7 states: Employees shall have the right to self organization, to form, join and assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities, for the purp ose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection." (Summers 1990). Many legal scholars believe that section 7 protects the rights of nonmajority unions, but there is a difference


6 of opinion on the exact rights that section 7 guarantees them (Summers 1990; Morris 2005; O'Brien 2008). Legal scholar Clyde Summers (1990) argues section 7 in combination with section 8(1) guarantees the rights of nonmajority unions. He contends that this implies that nonmajority unions have all the same rights as majority unions except for the right to represent all workers in a workplace and the right to exclusive representation. This argument asserts that employers have a duty to bargain with nonmajority unions, a much disputed claim which did not hold up in a 20 06 NLRB decision regarding a nonmajority union in Pennsylvania. He notes that originally, unions organized without section 9(a), the section laying out the NLRB certification process and rights for majority unions. However over the years, as the practice o f minority unionism was abandoned, workers' section 7 rights were "lost in a black hole." Challenging this practice would lead to significant gains in the legal standing of collective bargaining. Morris (2005) supports this interpretation, but Christine O'Brien (2008) and Bruce Nissen (2001) have challenged Summers' argument. O'Brien claims that only a section 9(a) exclusive majority representative has the right to demand and receive recognition and bargaining; therefore, employers are not obligated to ba rgain with nonmajority unions. O'Brien also presents as evidence a recent Board 2 decision that employees who are not represented by a union do not have a Weingarten 3 right to have assistance from a co worker during an investigatory interview. This would se em to weaken the strength of Summers and Morris' argument. Nissen disagrees with Summers' argument that a union contract for its members only in a nonmajority union situation is 2 The National Labor Relations Board. 3 Right to union representation at pre disciplinary interviews (Hodges et al. 2002).


7 legal. Nissen states that it appears to be a clear violation of section 8(a)(3 ) of the NLRA which prohibits differential treatment of workers on the basis of union status. As a whole the legal literature supports the status of nonmajority unions but is unclear on the rights they are guaranteed. Definitions Although nonmajority un ionism is narrowly defined for the purposes of this thesis as centered in the workplace, it can be applied to a wide variety of organizational forms dealing with workplace issues. The term nonmajority unionism can thus be applied to organizations such as w orker centers and community based organizations. These organizations are also nonmajority unions in the sense that they lack exclusive bargaining representative status (Nissen 2005). According to this definition of nonmajority unionism, it may also be cons idered a form of social movement unionism (SMU) (Nissen 2005). SMU reinterprets the role of unionism as not only protecting the few workers with a labor contract, but generally working to improve the condition of the working class as a whole by raising the standard of living, obtaining social services such as health care and education and acquiring decent and affordable housing (Webster 2008). Because nonmajority unionism can include organizations that are not centered in a particular workplace, many such o rganizations have assumed these types of goals. Compared to the relatively scarce literature on the practical application of workplace centered nonmajority unionism, a growing body of literature details the progress of social movement unionism (Scipes 1992 ; Robinson 2000; Devinatz 2008).


8 Collectively, the literature on nonmajority unionism tells a rather muddled story. Nonmajority unionism may or may not have a strong legal basis. The strength of the legal argument may not even matter if the political orie ntation of the NLRB decides to push labor law in one direction or the other. It is also very unclear what nonmajority unionism would even look like on the ground. Gaining an idea of the characteristics and prospects of the present day practice of nonmajori ty unionism is key to understanding the current position of organized labor. Finally, this topic has rarely been addressed from a sociological perspective. A sociological analysis will provide a more nuanced look at nonmajority unionism than a purely legal istic analysis. General Electric and Cummins In order to address these gaps in the research I conducted a comparative study look ing at two different instances of nonmajority unionism. For each case I made use of semistructured interviews with labor union staff and workers as well as available archival materials. In selecting my cases I decided to focus on the private rather than the public sector. Although many of the nonmajority unions which currently exist are within the public sector, I chose to f ocus on the private sector where unionization rates are lowest. I generated a list of potential cases from the literature on nonmajority unions as well as labor news sources such as Labor Notes. I selected the first two that responded to my research reques t, yet these were remarkably well paired to present as a comparative study. The first case is a national nonmajority union program called Working at GE (WAGE) and was led by the IUE CWA (International Union of Electronic, Electrical,


9 Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers Communications Workers of America ). This program no longer exists, but was a sustained effort for four years. I focused my attention on the New England region organizing effort purely out of convenience. This was led by IUE CWA Local 2 01 based in Lynn, Massachusetts and focused on several plants throughout New England in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The second case is a nonmajority union that has existed for over twenty years at Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant in Whitakers, North Carolina. The union, the Carolina Auto Aerospace & Machine Workers Union (CAAMWU), is chartered under the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 150. Unlike WAGE, CAAMWU is very much locality based. It emerged organically withi n the community before involving a national union (UE). CAAMWU only affiliated with UE after four years of existence. The two cases are similarly situated within manufacturing which offers a useful point of comparison. However, while WAGE was relatively s hort lived and unsuccessful, CAAMWU continues to be a strong force at the Rocky Mount Engine Plant. By comparing the two cases, we can view the factors that led to WAGE's demise and CAAMWU's longevity. This allows me to identify what characteristics in CAA MWU's effort may have been absent from WAGE's, providing valuable insights into how a nonmajority union can successfully sustain itself. The second chapter of this thesis addresses what has been written about the topic of nonmajority unionism in various f ields. This provides a historical context for current union organizing and explains the legal discourse on nonmajority unionism. Chapter three provides an overview of the methodology employed in my research. Chapters four


10 and five present the context of my case studies and the findings from my field research, focusing on the formation of CAAMWU and WAGE as well as the strategies and tactics utilized by the unions. Chapter six presents a comparison of CAAMWU and WAGE and the reasons for their different resul ts. Finally, chapter seven concludes the thesis by linking findings with current research and their significance for the labor movement.


11 C HAPTER 2 : Literature Review In this chapter I explore the general path of organized labor through its periods of growth, decline and potential renewal to illustrate the role that nonmajority unionism has in this trajectory. I argue that organized labor is at a crossroads and must redefine its goals and strategies if it hopes to survive the cor porate and political assault of the past thirty years. In the first section of this review I address the subfield of sociology of labor revitalization and delineate its goals. I then turn to the formation of modern American labor law with particular emphas is on Section 7 and 9 of the NLRA, and their impact on organized labor's development. This information provide s a context to analyze the reasons for labor's decline in the latter half of the 20 th century. Finally, I address the possibility of a renewed lab or movement that combines the tenants of social movement unionism and a nonmajority union approach. Sociology of Labor Revitalization The topics of work, workers and labor have long been subjects of sociological inquiry, with industrial sociology serv ing as a core specialty during the first half of the 20 th century. However, by 1948, the partnership between labor and the intellectual community had largely dissipated. The result has been a surprising lack of sociological inquiry on the subject of work a nd labor during the 1960s and 70s as society shifted away from an industrial economy to a service/information based economy (Juravich 1998; Clawson & Clawson 1999). Recently, the partnership between labor and sociology has been revived, allowing for new av enues of research and of labor policy benefit ing both sociology and the labor movement (Juravich 1998). This process began after John


12 Sweeney was elected president of the AFL CIO in 1995 and initiated a series of campus based labor teach ins to bring toge ther academics and labor leaders. The labor movement's intensive self reflection and openness since 1995 has led to a wealth of information on how to overcome the challenges posed to labor in a changing economy ( ibid ). Much of this literature falls within the subfield of "sociology of labor revitalization," a phrase first coined by Dan Cornfield and Bill Fletcher in 2001 in their essay on labor market segmentation and its impact on organized labor (Sullivan 2010a). Fletcher and Cornfield define a need for sociology of labor revitalization to amend the work of earlier scholars such as Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim who they believe took an overly deterministic view of unionization as the outcome of large scale social forces. Fletcher and Cornfield argue that s uch a deterministic view does not account for institutional agency or strategic action and does not explain the recent decline and revitalization of labor unions. Other scholars, such as Michels and Mills dealt with the increasing bureaucratization of labo r. Michels "iron law of oligarchy" as applied to labor unions predicted that as unions increased in size and organizational complexity they would lose their militancy and develop an apathetic rank and file membership dependent on professional union staff. Similarly, Mills in The New Men of Power (1947: 3) describes labor leaders as a new strategic elite "capable of stopping the main drift towards war and slump" but more likely to become a nonmilitant interest group acting in cooperation with corporations a nd the state (Lichtenstein 2001; Fletcher & Cornfield 2001). However, such predictions were made under the assumption of union growth, not decline and renewal.


13 In addition to Michels' and Mill's pessimism regarding the long term prospects for democracy, Harry Braverman, in the 1970s, reminded us that a Marxist analysis of class structure had not kept up with the processes of technological change and innovation Since then, however, much more research has developed to explore the role of new expressions o f the division of labor and its continued effect in the alienating work experience on the shop floor. Cornfield & Fletcher also address some of the changes shaping the labor market and their impact on workers and prospects for labor organization. They arg ue that the greatest challenge for organized labor is labor market segmentation or "the institutionalization and status differentiation of both jobs and workers by occupational, industrial, organizational, geographical and political legal characteristics o f employers, and by such sociodemographic worker characteristics as gender, race, ethnicity, age and education" (2001:62). This segmentation poses significant barriers to the prospect of collective action since it separates workers and encourages intra cla ss competition. While an understanding of these macro scale constraints helps us understand the slow growth of unionization, a look at the strategies and tactics of institutional actors helps us better understand how they can overcome the intra class compe tition that is encouraged by segmentation ( Cornfield & Fletcher 2001). This new level of analysis calls for a reformulation of how sociology studies labor movement activity. Cornfield & Fletcher (2001) define the agenda of sociology of labor revitalizatio n as analyzing the structure of worker demand for organized self determination through unions and understanding the conditions that impact the revitalizing efforts of the labor movement and labor unions. In approaching these goals, Cornfield & Fletcher bor row the


14 concept of frame alignment from the social movement literature to help understand the relationship between worker demands and trade union activities. Framing is the process through which social movement actors construct meaning (McAdamn & Snow 2010 ). As organized labor seeks to define itself, the frames it constructs must resonate with those they seek to mobilize. Jennifer Chun (2009) however, presents another angle from which to understand this revitalization process. She defines the key elements of revitalization as the rejection of a servicing model of unionism, in which unions provide a range of services for union members, in favor of a rank and file approach which depends upon union member mobilization and engagement in a process of organizat ional transformation. Similarly, Lynd & Gross ( 2007 ) note that m ost of the solutions offered to revitalize organized labor depend on putting the "movement" back in the "labor movement" in the form of collective mobilization Evidently a growing number of s cholars have come to see the linkages between labor studies and social movement theory as the most important development in understanding the revitalization process (Clawson & Clawson 1999; Robinson 2000 ; Webster 2008; Sullivan 2010a). The meeting of labo r and social movement activism is most often characterized as social movement unionism. In contrast with traditional trade unionism social movement unionism is not limited to negotiations in the workplace. I t is a source of social and political power addr essing quality of life for the workers and their communities S ocial movement unionism challenges the notion that unions are the only organizational form of the labor movement. Alternative organizational forms such as living wage campaigns, workers centers and community groups play an increasingly important role in the labor


15 movement (Sullivan 2010a). Therefore social movement unionism calls on trade unions to make a common cause with other social movements and develop linkages with neighborhood and commu nity based organizations (Devinatz 2008; Sullivan 2010a ). Scholars of social movement unionism find that trade unions in the United States missed a critical opportunity to join ranks with the new social movements of the 1960s and 1970s such as the civil r ights movement and women's movement. Not only did trade unions not join these movements, they were openly hostile to many of their aims, with some unions even defending Jim Crow segregation in the south (Devinatz 2008; Chun 2009). Furthermore, some scholar s have pointed out that even during labor's heyday between 1945 1975 labor law did not protect all workers and unions refused to dedicate resources to mobilize them (Sullivan 2010a). The NLRA has always excluded domestic workers and farmworkers, some of t he lowest paid and most marginalized workers. Moreover, the current collective bargaining framework tends to exclude workers who are part time, contingent, and not employed by a single employer, an increasingly common position for U.S. workers. Unions have rarely invest ed their scarce resources in organizing this element of the workforce, an indication that their primary role is that of an agent at the bargaining table rather than a social movement organization. Chun (2009) argues that the weaknesses presen ted in labor law make the traditional trade union approach ineffective, and points to the need of new organizational forms and strategies. For organized labor to truly become an agent of social change it need s to expand beyond the narrow definition of wha t constitutes a union and embrace other forms of organization. Sullivan (2010a; 2010b) reminds us that social movements such as the civil rights and women's movement s, are made up of a diverse group of organizations with


16 different structures and goals. Si milarly, labor's power lies in more than just the share of the labor market which is unionized Furthermore, t he labor movement has frequently drawn on symbolic power, or what Jennifer Chun (2009:2) calls the "transformational power of marginality." Poli tical and economic marginality can become a source of leverage when engaging with injustice in the realm of culture, public debate and discourse, as opposed to official sources of authority such as law and collective bargaining agreements. According to Chu n ( 2009) i n the symbolic realm, the cultural repertoires of past social movement s provide marginalized workers with a set of vocabularies and tactics that can be used to challenge official sources of power. If the social contract between labor and capital is broken, marginalized workers increasingly rely on what Emile Durkheim referred to as the "noncontractual elements of contracts" rooted in the "principles of reciprocity and cooperation originating in the wills of the consenting parties that underpin th e foundational authority of all contracts" (Chun 2009:13). As workers are more often "irregularly employed" than not (ie. contingent, precariously employed) they are less likely to fall into the labor law framework that governs the relationship between lab or and capital. The struggle over classification and the noncontractual elements of contracts thus become paramount in defining the rights of irregularly employed workers. Furthermore, as workers lose "structural power" in the form of economic leverage, th ey must rely instead upon "associational power" which derives from self organization and collective activity. Contentious collective activity is often the main resource for those who lack economic and political resources ( ibid ).


17 This associational activit y gives rise to what Richard Fantasia (1988) terms "cultures of solidarity" or a cultural expression which arises from oppositional practices. This is a notion similar to class consciousness however, it encompasses a wider range of cultural practices whic h are based on actions rather than attitudes. Fantasia challenges the commonplace notion that American workers lack class consciousness instead argu ing that class consciousness, or rather cultures of solidarity, are shaped in the process of collective act ion. Fantasia's reformulation of class consciousness helps explain why organized labor showed little resistance when Reagan broke the air traffic controller's strike in 1981, but hundreds of thousands of unionists gathered at the Wisconsin statehouse to op pose Governor Walker's attack on public sector collective bargaining in 2011 Like other scholars in the field of labor revitalization, Fantasia turns away from deterministic understandings of collective action and embraces a more flexible and agentic def inition. As a whole, the literature on labor revitalization tells the story of a movement in flux, shaped by the larger forces of neoliberal restructuring and globalization but also empowered by past movement legacies, a renewed transparency among labor l eadership and a retooled set of strategies and tactics. The result is a unique opportunity for organized labor to partner with sociologists and labor scholars to chart a new way for the labor movement. This process is only just beginning. Very little of wh at has happened in the labor movement in the last two decades has been systematically documented or analyzed by academics (Juravich 1998). There is a particular lack of research on local unions and worker organizations which provide a useful lens through w hich to examine how changes in the academic and activist discourse have impacted on the ground


18 movements (Gapasin 1998). These changes must be understood within the historical context of the American labor movement and the industrial relations system. Th e NLRA and Section 7 Rights Given the focus on achieving a majority vote for union representation it is often forgotten that there was a labor movement before the passage of the National Labor Relations Act. In fact, some of the greatest worker uprisings occurred before 1935. Perhaps one of the best examples is the struggle for the eight hour workday (Ware 1964). Through wildcat strikes and other forms of collective action in the late 19 th century, some workers were able to achieve the eight hour day in c ertain cities and industries before the passage of any national labor legislation. Although it was difficult and the risks were high, workers were able to improve their working conditions despite a government openly hostile to worker organization. This ki nd of action served as the inspirational basis for the idea of non majority unionism. What follows is a historical/legal narrative that elucidates the process by which the concept of "majority" representation became thoroughly entrenched in the labor relati ons system. With this understanding we will be better able to open our minds to other approaches. The trade union movement looked quite different in the 1920s and 1930s than it does today. Throughout the 1920s, tensions rose within the labor movement over the best form of worker organization: organization by craft or organization by industry ( Devinatz 2009). The American Federation of Labor, the sole labor organization at the time, was committed to organizing primarily skilled workers by craft. However, as industrialization transformed production, many workers came to see the need to organize skilled and


19 unskilled workers alike by industry rather than craft. Eventually this difference in organizational philosophy led to a split in the AFL forming the Congre ss of Industrial Organizations (CIO) Unlike the current situation where most unions negotiate on behalf of all workers in a bargaining unit, unions of the past frequently negotiated members only agreements, which applied to only those workers who were me mbers of the union. Many of the CIO unions negotiated contracts on behalf of their members only (Atkins & Cohen 2003). In fact, 85% of the original Steelworkers agreements a CIO organization, were for members only and represented a minority of workers (Mo rris 2005). In the early days of trade unionism, most unions worked in this manner and demanded recognition through a show of strength such as a strike or threat of a strike ( ibid ). Moreover, when unions failed to achieve a closed shop 4 or full recognition members only agreements were seen as an important step on the path to total employer recognition. The national labor legislation which followed maintained the rights of unions to negotiate on a members only basis. Among the first pieces of national labo r legislation was the Norris LaGuardia Act in 1932 which affirmed the right of an employee to designate "representatives of his own choosing to negotiate the terms and conditions of his employment" without reference to a union's majority status (Morris 200 5:22). Most importantly, the legislation recognized collective bargaining as a necessary pathway to securing democracy in industry and eradicated many of the practices which had prevented trade unions from organizing. The vision of collective bargaining as a safeguard of democracy remained a central element of the labor legislation which followed ( ibid). Additionally, this law not only recognized 4 This refers to a workplace where union membership is required as a term of emp loyment.


20 the right for labor organization and representation, but it did so with a degree of flexibility regarding the f orm this could take. Over the years this aspect of the law has been forgotten, replaced with a majoritarian understanding of national labor law. The notion of majority designation did not become relevant until late in 1933, after the enactment of sectio n 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). NIRA was enacted as part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal program to overcome the Depression. It suspended the antitrust laws and granted a number of new freedoms to businesses but it also included pro visions to support the rights of collective bargaining as a means of maintaining industrial peace. Section 7(a) of NIRA, drafted by Senator Wagner, contains the same language that would eventually become part of Section 7 of the NLRA: employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing" (Morris 2005:24). This section is now cited by many scholars as the legal basis for nonmajority unions (Summers 1990; Morris 1995; Nissen 200 1 ). However, Section 7(a) of NIRA had no means of enforcement and was vague concerning the form of representation it supported. Section 7(a) could be read to support minority bargaining, majority bargaining, or even proportional bargaining which would allow representative ele ction based on proportional votes (Morris 2005; Harcourt & Lam 2007). NIRA was intended to be self policing, but after a wave of strikes in 1933 President Roosevelt created the National Labor Board (NLB) to address labor management disputes and implement Section 7(a) rights. However, Roosevelt did not issue an executive order defining its authority leaving the jurisdiction of the NLB in "a state of uncertainty" (Morris 2005:25). According to Section 7(a) employers were


21 required to bargain with workers as long as a group of workers demanded recognition through a union. However, employer recognition rarely happened and the majority of strikes at this time were for recognition. At the outset, the NLB left it up to employees to determine how their collective b argaining representatives would be selected but employer opposition prompted the NLB to become involved in representation elections in cases where there was a conflict over who the genuine representatives were. During its existence, the NLB conducted 546 e lections, of which 449 were between an independent union and a company union (Morris 2005:34). In such cases, the Board preferred that the victor in such elections have exclusive representation rights. Employers vigorously opposed this practice, preferring a collective bargaining pluralism, which would allow them to maintain company unions in cases where they operated as a minority union. It was the NLB's landmark Denver Tramway Corporation decision which determined that when a union obtained a majority of votes in an NLB election, any contract it negotiated would apply to all employees in the bargaining unit. This decision "inaugurated the rule of exclusivity for majority union representation" (Morris 2005:36). Nevertheless, President Roosevelt undermined t he authority of the Board as he negotiated a collective bargaining pluralism agreement for the United Auto Workers in 1934. This agreement established the Automobile Labor Board, divesting the NLB of authority over the industry. It soon became apparent tha t the NLB was unable to enforce Section 7(a) rights effectively due to employer lack of cooperation, lack of judicial enforcement, and understaffing. Senator Wagner thus introduced S. 2926, the Labor Disputes Bill, to better protect the rights articulated in Section 7(a); this bill, however, did not pass ( ibid ).


22 Throughout this period it was still common for nonmajority unions to negotiate members only agreements. In fact, 21% of workers in mining and manufacturing were represented by nonmajority unions, and 45% of companies bargained with nonmajority unions. Employers routinely negotiated with company unions, independent unions in a closed shop arrangement, independent unions on a members only basis and individual employees. The NLB also consistently uphe ld the rights of nonmajority unions where no majority union had yet been designated. The Denver Tramway decision was not intended to excuse employers from the responsibility of bargaining with nonmajority unions. The NLB's National Lock, Bee Bus Line and E agle Rubber decisions all upheld the duty of employers to bargain with nonmajority unions where no majority union had been designated. As can be seen throughout the various drafts of the NLRA, it was the intention of Senator Wagner to maintain the rights o f nonmajority unions ( ibid ). When the NLRA (Wagner Act) was introduced into congress in 1935, the most controversial aspects of the Act were related to the legality of company unions and the majority exclusivity rule. The issue of minority union bargainin g was not the focus of legislative debate, mainly because it was not seen as controversial. Key features of the Act relevant to the topic of nonmajority unions are Sections 7, 8(a)(I), and 9(a). Section 7 contains the same basic fourteen word phrase that w as contained in Section 7(a) of NIRA: employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing" (Morris 2005:24). This section is the primary legal justification for nonmajority unions. Section 8(a )(I) is the "enforcer" of Section 7 as it makes it an unfair labor practice "to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in


23 section 7" (Morris 2005: 101). Finally, Section 9(a) provides for the majoritarian ex clusivity, which has become the defining collective bargaining arrangement: Representatives designated or selected for the purpose of collective bargaining by the majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for such purposes, shall be the exclusive re presentatives of all the employees in such unit for the purposes of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment, or other conditions of employment....(Morris 2005: 102). Today this section is often interpreted to mean that collective bargaining rights are limited to unions that have achieved a majority status. However, this is nowhere implied in the language of the Act. Many labor scholars thus see Section 9(a) as simply a union with a special legal status that in no way re stricts the rights granted in Section 7 (Morris 2005; Summers 1990). Indeed, the historical record tells a similar story. The legislative history shows that the purpose of Section 9(a) was not to limit the rights of nonmajority unions but to protect the co llective bargaining rights of majority unions (Summers 1990). In the years following the passage of the NLRA, members only contracts declined as many of these unions reached a majority. Nonmajority unions became a preliminary step in the process of achievi ng majority representation. In the first ten fiscal years following the passage of the Act, unions won Board elections 85.5% of the time. In addition to this high win rate, union membership increased five fold between 1935 and 1945, a phenomenon which the AFL attributed to the success of the NLRA (Morris 2005:86). The relative utility and convenience of the Labor Board's role during this time is what contributed to the "loss of institutional memory" that led to the abandonment of nonmajority unionism (Morr is 2005:86). By the time the Taft Hartley 5 amendments severely weakened the NLRA in 1947, members only bargaining was all but forgotten. 5 Federal law enacted in 1947 which severely restricted the activities of labor unions.


24 Nevertheless as Morris notes, "although organized labor may have forgotten this key feature in the Act, that bargainin g mandate remains fully intact a sleeping giant waiting to be reawakened" (2005:88). Labor Under Siege The state of labor relations today is very different than it was immediately after the passage of the NLRA. Most labor scholars and activists agree tha t the NLRA no longer effectively facilitates collective bargaining and generally favors employers (Morris 2006). As compared with the 85.5% election win rate for unions in the years following 1935, the union election win rate is closer to 6 0% today with a declining number of elections held each year ( NLRB ). Union density, or the percent of the nonagricultural workforce belonging to labor unions, has also experienced a sharp decline. At its height in 1945, overall union density stood at about 35.5%. In 20 11 that percentage was just 11.8 % (Cornfield & Fletcher 200 1 ; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 20 12). It is also important to note that in 2011, 37% of public sector workers were union members whereas only 6.9% of private sector workers were union members ( U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012). Furthermore, s outhern states tend to have a unionization rate below the national average. In 2011, North Carolina had the lowest unionization rate at just 2.9% ( ibid ). How did organized labor reach such a state? It is d ifficult to pin labor's decline on any one factor. The structure of national labor law, demographic changes, changes in the global economy, increased employer hostility, and the failure of traditional union strategy are some of the most cited reasons for l abor's decline, which began in the


25 late 1970s and continues to today (Clawson & Clawson 1999). In this next section I will explore each of these factors in greater depth. National Labor Law The Wagner Act had two main objectives which some have labeled contradictory (Lynd & Gross 2007). First, the Wagner Act was designed to protect the rights of workers as previously outlined under Section 7(a) of NIRA, namely their right to engage in collective bargaining. The other objective of the Wagner Act was to a chieve a lasting labor peace and ensure the uninterrupted flow of capital ( ibid ). The implication of this was the complete institutionalization of worker and employer relations, creating a legal system which shapes and controls worker organization (Clawson & Clawson 1 999). C. Wright Mills observ ed that labor's focus on Section 7(a) of NIRA, what became Section 7 of the NLRA, overlooks the true meaning of the act: an attempt to govermentalize labor relations. According to Mills, the intent of the act was not to protect the rights of organized labor, but to control its power ( 1948). As a result, many of the most potent weapons of organized labor were severely weakened by the Act. The majority of contracts negotiated with employers expressly forbid strike act ivity during the life of a contract, and although striking workers could not be fired, they could be replaced, a mere legal distinction. After the Taft Hartley amendments, unions were also restricted from having closed shop agreements and engaging in secon dary boycotts and sympathy strikes (Levi 2003). The United States is also the only industrial democracy that allows employers to actively oppose the decision of employees to unionize (Clawson & Clawson 1999). As time has progressed, an


26 increasingly hostile political environment has made it even more difficult to utilize aspects of labor law that are favorable to workers. The result has been a general frustration among workers and labor organizers with the NLRB election process. Demographic Changes Importa nt demographic changes have also impacted the power of organized labor. Much of labor's strength lies in sectors of the economy and population groups that are shrinking in size. Changes in the gender distribution of the workforce and the shift from a blue collar workforce to a white collar workforce are contributing factors. Furthermore, the sheer growth of the U.S. labor force has also weakened the power of organized labor since unions have been unable to organize quickly enough to keep up with this growth rate. Analysts estimate that between 20 60% of the decline in union density may be accounted for by structural changes in the workforce (Clawson & Clawson 1 999). Neoliberal Globalization Of course, one of the most obvious reasons for labor's decline i s the advent of neoliberal globalization in the 1980s and the concomitant changes in the U.S. economy. Neoliberal economic policies are associated with "deregulation, privatization, and withdrawal of the state from many areas of social provision" (Harvey 2 007:3). Such policies stem from an economic ideology propos ing that human well being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and


27 free trade" (Harvey 2007:2). The result of neoliberal globalization was fairly devastating for U.S. manufacturing. Global price and wage competition and an influx of cheap imports led to a capital flight that increased the competition for jobs in the service industry ( Moberg 1998 ). Workers in core countries found themselves in competition with the low cost labor in the periphery. Whereas the forces of capital have had no problem adapting to this globalized context, organized labor has had grea t difficulty in building the sort of transnational solidarity that is necessary to combat the greater mobility of capital ( ibid ). Among the hardest hit sectors of the U.S economy was manufacturing, organized labor's traditional stronghold. Employer Hosti lity At the same time that labor lost much of its structural power in the economy, the "social accord" that some labor scholars thought existed between labor and capital in the post WWII period came to an abrupt end (Burns 2011; Clawson & Clawson 1999). H owever, this "social accord" was more of a temporary truce than anything else (Burns 2011). The 1980s marked the beginning of a steady decline for organized labor as governmental deregulation and aggressive employer tactics served to undercut labor union power. In 1979 the United Auto Workers accepted union concessions as a condition of a billion dollar corporate loan bailout by the Carter administration of Chrysler when it faced bankruptcy. This gave way to massive union concessions in the auto industry i n the years that followed, with many plants closing down and relocating to lower wage domestic regions in the South and West (Chun 2009). Once it became clear that labor was in a weakened state, even healthy companies began demanding


28 concessions. The Carte r administration also began the era of economic deregulation when it passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 which supported the efforts of nonunion carriers to cut the wages and benefits of truckers, one of the most heavily unionized industries at the time. In the years that followed, union truckers experienced a 30% drop in wages ( ibid). The Reagan administration continued the pattern of government intervention on behalf of capital. In 1981, Reagan broke up the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organizati on's (PATCO) strike and replaced the striking air traffic controllers with strikebreakers. This set a precedent for government intervention in labor disputes during peacetime. Regan also made NLRB appointments who weakened union rights and generally ruled in favor of employers and their First Amendment right to interfere with union elections ( ibid ). Employers took full advantage of these political opportunities. Utilizing Taft Hartley's protection of employer "free speech," employers invested heavily in an ti union campaigns, hiring public relations firms and management lawyers to help in this process. They also engaged in an aggressive campaign to decertify unions already in place (Chun 2009; Bronfenbrenner 1998). Many companies have sought to undermine uni ons by refusing to expand unionized plants and instead channeling all new investment into nonunion production sites (Clawson & Clawson 1999). Union membership in most manufacturing industries fell sharply during this period, from 46.6% in 1964 to 20.5% in 1990 (Chun 2009). Real weekly wages dropped from an average of $3 15.44 in 1972 to $274.49 in 2006 with 1982 dollars as the baseline (Burns 2011). Along with reduced or stagnated wages, most workers have seen an erosion of their living and working condition s. For those workers with employer provided health insurance, high deductibles


29 and premiums are commonplace. There has been a similar decline in the number of workers covered by a defined benefit pension plan (Burns 20 11). At the same time, many companies have downsized while trying to maintain the same levels of production. The impact of this assault on unions and the working class is apparent: between 1977 1989 70% of the increase in national income went to the most affluent 1% ( ibid ). Union Strategy Unions have faced significant challenges in the last several decades. However, it is important to consider the role that unions have played in their own decline. Many unions have relied on a strategy of exclusion to protect their current membership base ra ther organizing new members. However as labor's traditional strongholds decline, this strategy of exclusion is no longer working. Women and people of color, groups typically excluded by organized labor in the past, are many of those employed in the expandi ng service industry. The growth in female employment in the 60s and 70s directly correlated with union member decline during that time (Milkman 1 985). As union density in manufacturing declined, it increased in the public sector particularly in education a nd health care, female dominated industries. The sectors where unions have actually experience d member growth leisure, hospitality, education, health services and public administration are the same industries where there is a concentration of women, partic ularly women of color. Between 1998 and 2004, Latino women and men and white women were the only groups that had a growth in union members (Dickerson 2006). In fact, women make up 60% of new workers organizing each year ( Bronfenbrenner 2005). The implicat ion for organized labor is clear: welcome this new expanding base or


30 become obsolete. It is only in relatively recent years that organized labor has shifted its strategy from one of exclusion to inclusion. Furthermore, research on union strategies and ta ctics has shed light on the importance of tactical decisions in winning campaigns. Kate Bronfenbrenner's 1986 87 study of 26 1 NLRB campaigns and James Rubdle's data from 165 NLRB certification election campaigns in 1994 demonstrate the importance of union tactics in election campaigns. One of the key findings from the 1986 87 study was that union tactics as a group play a greater role in explaining election outcomes more than any other group of variables, including employer tactics and workplace demographic s. Unions that focus on issues of dignity and justice also tend to be more successful than those that focus on bread and butter issues such as wages and benefits. Juravich and Bronfenbrenner hypothesized that unions which ran comprehensive campaigns using a rank and file approach to organizing would have the most successful elections results. This was operationalized as using five or more of the following tactics: house calling 50% or more of the members of the unit; holding ten or more small group meeting s; enlisting the help of ten or more rank and file volunteers from among already organized units; holding solidarity days, rallies, and job actions; conducting a one on one survey with at least 70% of the unit regarding the contract ; launching media campa igns; utilizing community labor coalitions ( Bronfenbrenner & Juravich 1998: 27). In 1994, only 15% of unions used five or more of these tactics, an increase from the 1986 87 data but still a relatively small percentage. For unions that used five or more ra nk and file intensive tactics, 67% won the NLRB election as opposed to 38% of unions who used five or fewer tactics. The importance of this data is two fold: unions that run comprehensive campaigns using rank


31 and file tactics are significantly more likely to succeed; however, very few unions are doing so. Of course, this is no small effort, "to win takes nothing short of truly exceptional effort, including an exceptional organization committed to building a union from the bottom up" ( Bronfenbrenner & Juravi ch 1998: 35). However, if unions do commit themselves to a more grassroots approach they will not just win more elections; they will help restore the strength of organized labor with a newly mobilized rank and file. In sum, labor has faced a number of si gnificant challenges in recent history. However, instead of accepting its decline in power and influence, labor has rallied and is attempting to redefine both its mission and method. The recent history of the AFL CIO highlights this shift. Labor's Renewa l In order to trace the changes taking place in organized labor it is useful to look at the history of labor's largest trade union federation, the AFL CIO. Much of the AFL CIO legacy has been distinctly conservative, not straying too far from the vision o f Samuel Gompers, the first AFL CIO president and a narrow craft unionist. Only since the Sweeney administration took office in 1995 has the AFL CIO shifted much of its policy both domestically and internationally. The current AFL CIO policy on immigration the renewed focus on organizing, the changing relations abroad and programs such as Union Summer and Working America all represent significant progress for the American labor movement, at least in terms of its ideological approach to unionism. The Gompe rs approach to trade unionism, frequently cited as "bread and butter"


32 trade unionism, explicitly turned away from taking an ideological approach to unionism. Gompers was concerned not with the mass of working people but with representing those workers who were already organized. The AFL under Gompers unconditionally supported U.S. imperialist foreign policy and advocated an exclusionist immigration policy that sought to protect skilled white workers from the mass of immigrant labor (Fletcher & Gapasin 2008) The policies of George Meany and Lane Kirkland, two subsequent leaders of the AFL CIO, fell firmly within the Gompersonian framework. George Meany, like Gompers, was a craft unionist. He was not concerned with swelling the ranks of organized labor and w as a vehement anticommunist. Under Meany, the AFL CIO established the American Institute for Free Labor Development which essentially became associated with supporting anticommunist activities in the Western Hemisphere ( ibid ). Lane Kirkland, Meany's handpi cked successor, continued Meany's anticommunist and imperialist stance. Kirkland backed Ronald Reagan's foreign policy despite Reagan's anti worker domestic policies. However, Kirkland lost considerable support after the fall of the Soviet Union and the pa ssage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, ushering John Sweeney and the New Voice Partnership into power in 1995 ( ibid ). John Sweeney ran for AFL CIO president in the first contested election in AFL CIO history. Sweeney and the New Voice slate (Ri chard Trumka of the UMWA and Linda Chavez Thompson of AFSCME) ran a reform campaign that was committed to change, particularly a renewed focus on organizing. Sweeney, who presided as president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) prior to hi s election as president of the AFL CIO had committed a significant amount of SEIU funds to organizing and


33 overseeing the successful "Justice for Janitors" campaign during his time as president of SEIU (Devinatz 2010). Given Sweeney's past commitment to org anizing and his willingness to form ties with leftist allies, many progressives were hopeful that Sweeney would breath new life into U.S. trade unionism ( ibid ). Sweeney did implement a number of changes during his first few years in office to facilitate a n environment conducive to new organizing. Sweeney initiated a Corporate Affairs Department which was responsible for encouraging shareholder activism. Sweeney also launched the "Union Summer" program, intended to give college students and young workers ex perience with union organizing and teach them about the labor movement ( ibid ). The "Union Cities" program, designed to promote organizing at the regional level by reviving the Central Labor Councils (CLCs) of the AFL CIO, was another key program of the Swe eney administration. The program offered money and staff to CLCs to revive the CLCs as important worker centers that would collaborate with other pro union community groups and social movements ( ibid ). Sweeney also gained the support of the Executive Counc il in establishing a member focused education program on economics as a means of communicating with members about class issues and the importance of new organizing (Fletcher & Gapasin 2008). In addition to these domestic changes, Sweeney made a number of important changes to the AFL CIO's international program. Sweeney severed AFL CIO ties with right wing governments and the Central Intelligence Agency and instead established the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) to support interna tional labor solidarity efforts (Devinatz 2010). This is not to say that the AFL CIO has ended all of its more questionable ties with the U.S. government, but it has made an effort to


34 reestablish relationships with trade federations previously considered t oo leftist. The AFL CIO, along with many of its affiliates, also participated in the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999 (Fletcher & Gapasin 2008). While the AFL CIO is still far from leading a clear challenge to U.S. foreign policy, it h as made considerable progress since the Meany and Kirkland administrations ( ibid ). Furthermore, changes in organized labor at the national level have been indicative of even greater changes at the local level. This has led many in the labor movement to exp eriment with forms of organization outside of the traditional collective bargaining framework. Which Way Forward? If the labor history of the last thirty years makes anything clear, it is that widespread collective bargaining is not possible under the e xisting labor laws (Morris 2006). The NLRA protects a category of workers which is quickly becoming obsolete while employers mount anti union campaigns that effectively end 50% of union organization attempts before they reach an election (Atkins & Cohen 20 03). Even in the upper echelons of organized labor leadership there is a general acknowledgement that the old way of doing things is no longer working. For this reason, many are searching for a new direction for organized labor a direction which is iron ically leading back to labor's roots: nonmajority, members only bargaining. As has been illustrated, nonmajority unions were fairly common before the passage of the NLRA and often were the first step in creating a majority union. With the "rediscovery" of Section 7 rights some unions have returned to using Section 7 to organize nonmajority unions. However, there has been very limited documentation of


35 these efforts, leaving many questions unanswered as to how nonmajority unions differ from majority unions an d what they are able to accomplish. Despite the gap in the literature on nonmajority unions, there are some studies which address the topic. Both Morris (2005) and Nissen (200 1) offer some insight into what a present day nonmajority union looks like. Oth er scholars, such as Sciacchitano (1999) and Waldinger et al. (1999) do not address the topic of nonmajority unionism directly, but do look at alternatives for labor unions outside of the current collective bargaining framework such as building community t ies and mobilizing as a social movement. What follows is a presentation of the research of these scholars in order to demonstrate some of the possibilities for labor outside of the NLRA. Each scholar offers a unique vision for the future of organized labor Charles Morris (2005) offers some insight into how a nonmajority union organizing drive differs from a traditional one. Primarily, nonmajority unions focus on the process of building an organization rather than pushing for an election. They act like a union in the workplace, with or without employer recognition, and mobilize around issues as they arise. These efforts also serve as a recruitment tool. Instead of having workers sign union authorization cards, they sign membership cards and begin to pay du es. Union visibility, through buttons or leaflets, is particularly important for nonmajority unions to attract new members and provide a sense of solidarity. Once a shop steward system is developed, union stewards can serve as advocates in the workplace fo r both members and nonmembers by providing information and assistance on health and safety codes, unemployment compensation and other state and federal


36 regulations. Nonmajority unions can also be an important link between the workplace and the wider commun ity, connecting workers with community services and local politics. Other labor theorists have also provided insight into unions and community. Katherine Sciacchitano (1999) examines the relationship between unions and community in her analysis of a UE organizing campaign at Steeltech Manufacturing in Milwaukee. Although this was not a nonmajority union effort, Steeltech's refusal to bargain in the face of a union election victory led to a community effort to bring the company to the table. Sciacchitano highlights the importance of community involvement stating that "legal decisions under the National Labor Relations Act reinforce employers' descriptions of unions as outsiders" (1999: 1 50). The campaign was ultimately successful because UE was open to comm unity involvement and the black community mobilized around the Steeltech workers. As one organizer on the campaign noted, "the union must find itself in the community andthe community must find itself in the union" (1999:151). What is interesting about th is campaign is its similarity to the UE nonmajority effort in North Carolina. UE began the campaign at Steeltech by establishing an in plant committee, holding lunchtime rallies, distributing union newsletters and conducting plant wide surveys. They also e stablished a shop steward system. UE developed ties with a number of organizations in the community that helped with the campaign such as the Ad Hoc Coalition of Black Union Leaders and the Milwaukee Fair Lending Coalition. They sent resolutions to the cit y, county and state political bodies and organized surprise safety inspections by religious and political leaders. Many key leaders in the community lent their time and energy to the campaign. In end, the campaign was successful and the union negotiated a contract with Steeltech. Sciacchitano attributes this


37 success to the multipronged approach that combined shop floor organizing with community support efforts. One of the best known organizing campaigns, SEIU's "Justice For Janitors" campaign in Los Angel es was also not a traditional union campaign. During this campaign, SEIU combined "guerilla legal tactics" (using sections of the NLRA to file unfair labor practices but avoiding the election route), targeting the building owners rather than the cleaning c ontractor, aggressive publicity stunts, support from political figures and other unions and corporate research. The critical mass of class conscious immigrant workers involved in the campaign was also an important organizing advantage (Waldinger et al: 199 9). Not only was the diversified approach successful where an election campaign would not have been, the campaign also did not have to focus on winning 50 percent plus one of the votes in an election. Instead, the success of the campaign was "based on a hi gh level of commitment by a militant minority of workers, many of them mobilized in their ethnic communities as well as their workplaces" (Clawson & Clawson 1999: 18). The Justice For Janitors campaign was successful in convincing many in the labor movemen t of the potential of a social movement oriented campaign outside of the NLRB pathway. Finally, Bruce Nissen' s (2001) study on nonmajority unionism offers an important analysis of an on the ground nonmajority union effort. Nissen examines an attempt by the Communication Workers of America to create a national nonmajority union at the NCR Corporation after AT&T acquired it in 1991. The CWA established an employee organization called the National Association of NCR Employees (NANE), and used its nearby ex isting locals to conduct organizing drives at the various NCR sites. By


38 organizing nationally, the CWA hoped to avoid targeted anti union campaigns at particular worksites. By July of 1993 NANE had 300 members in 40 locations across the country. NANE sent out monthly newsletters, held nationwide conference calls, and focused on the issue of pension and benefit parity for NCR employees with other AT&T employees. At this time, NANE flourished due to strong leaders, organizable issues and support from CWA loca ls. They were able to win some improvements in the pension plan, a victory which led to the retirement of some of NANE's key leaders. Other setbacks soon followed: NCR separated from AT&T, causing CWA locals to lose enthusiasm for the project; job security became a major issue at NCR; Few of the organizing issues selected by NANE seemed to resonate with workers. By 1998 the CWA officially ended the program. Nissen draws a number of observations about the prospects for nonmajority unions based on NANE's expe rience. He concludes that four elements are necessary for a nonmajority union to successfully sustain itself: A source of outside leverage, strong inside leadership, long term commitment from an established union and good organizing issues. At its stronges t, NANE had all four of these advantages, but fell apart when they lost some of their leverage, leadership, outside union support and organizable issues. Nissen thus offers the hypothesis that shifts in the four factors "are bound to make private sector mi nority unions unstable and prone to decay over time" (52). However, Nissen is careful to point out that NANE's case does not offer insight into some of the claims advanced by other theorists, namely that nonmajority unionism may have greatest success in a low wage and contingent workforce or that nonmajority unions require a social movement dimension.


39 The above examples highlight some of the possibilities for nontraditional union campaigns, many of which embrace the utility of nonmajority union organizing. Nonmajority unions operate under the principle that collective bargaining, while desirable, is just one of the possible outcomes of organized activity by workers (Rathke 2005). Because nonmajority unions operate outside the rigid NLRB process they have t he potential to take on the characteristics of social movement organizations. To many in the field of labor revitalization, the social movement potential of organized labor is its best hope for survival. While there are many factors contributing to labor's decline, it is important not to lose sight of the ability of movement actors to create new strategies of action. In the process of trying to revive organized labor, many are returning to organized labor's historic roots. On the ground, this has meant work ers and labor leaders testing the boundaries of institutionalized collective bargaining and reimagining a renewed working class movement. The two unions that are the subject of this thesis are part of this creative process. They have bucked the legalisti c notions of what constitutes a union and have endeavored to chart new ways of building worker leverage. However, this is a difficult process and there is still much to be learned about how workers are gaining power outside of the collective bargaining fra mework. The theoretical perspectives and historical overview provided in this chapter contextualize the efforts of these two unions.


40 C HAPTER 3: Methods In order to investigate the present day practice of nonmajority unionism I conducted a compar a tive study of two non majority unions. CAAMWU is in North Carolina and continues to exist with certain successes. WAGE was based primarily in New England and has ceased to function as a labor union. Q ualitative research allows us to gain a detailed under standing of the characteristics of nonmajority unions; how they form, motivations on the part of workers and union leaders, strategies and tactics employed, and employer response among many other factors. The comparative case study illustrates the variety of present day nonmajority unionism while retaining the level of detail characteristic of case studies. Since one nonmajority union continues to exist while the other effort fell apart, the comparative case study also offer s an opportunity to hypothesize the factors that lead to the success and failures of this approach to labor mobilization A rchival materials from both unions as well as semi structured interviews served as the basis of my data. I conducted 4 group interviews and 11 individual interviews with workers and union staff involved in the nonmajority union efforts. In addition, I interviewed a member of a community organization that had collaborated with one of the nonmajority unions. In order to select my case studies, I identified which union s were publicly known as nonmajority unions, as noted by previous scholars in the field through academic articles and labor movement news sources. I contacted a handful of unions using available contact information such as a phone number or email address. The first two unions to respond positively to my research request are the case studies I chose for my


41 research As noted earlier, they were remarkably well suited for comparison as both unions represented workers in the manufacturing sector but with diver gent experiences S nowball sampling was the best approach for my research given that I did not have access to a full list of union members to do random sampling. Additionally, my research required that I interview the most active participants with the gre atest knowledge about the union's history and current actions My initial contact in each union organization suggested other potential interviewees ; these people in turn suggested other contacts. I traveled to North Carolina twice where I met with 10 worke rs, one community member and one UE union staff member. Interviews were conducted at the Bloomer Hill Community Center as well as a local cafŽ. I conducted interviews with WAGE organizers and workers over the course of a summer in the New England area. I spoke with 5 organizers and 2 workers involved in WAGE. Two of the interviews were conducted by telephone and the remainder were conducted in union halls or local cafes. I did not change the names of the unions or locations in this study. Both of the unio ns are public organizations and were known to their employers, so identifying the unions did not carry any risk. However, many of the names of workers in this study are pseudonyms (marked with an asterisk). All participants whose real names appear in the s tudy were asked for their consent. The only workers whose real names appear are those who hold an official position in the union and are therefore known to their employer. As approved by the Institutional Review Board, I asked all union staff for permissio n to use their real names and most consented. This makes it easier for other researchers or interested parties to contact union staff to gather further information about their experiences. It also carries minimum risk for union staff who are unlikely to fe ar their job


42 security for taking part in a study related to unionization efforts. Overall, I tried to minimize risk for participants while maintaining a useful level of detail. I asked interviewees a wide range of questions related to all aspects of the n onmajority union experience. Questions touched on topics such as the impetus for organizing, leadership development, growth of the union, challenges faced and the overall impact of organization (see appendix for sample interview instrument). This broad ran ge of questions was designed to provide an overall picture of the practice of nonmajority unionism. I also asked respondents to reflect on the practice of nonmajority unionism more generally in order to get a sense of their outlook on the approach outside of the specific context of the case. Interviews lasted a minimum of 25 minutes, with the longest interview (a group interview) lasting 220 minutes. Most interviews were between 45 60 minutes long. I transcribed the majority of the interviews and used the qualitative data coding software NVIVO to code all of the data. In the first round of coding, I identified a number of macrocodes, coding paragraph by paragraph throughout my transcript. Once I had coded all of the data, I did a second round of coding by hand, for practical reasons, with an eye for microcodes. I broke many of the macrocodes into microcodes for the purposes of a more detailed examination of parts of the data. For example, I coded some sections broadly as "anti union tactics." Upon a second round of coding I utilized more microcodes to differentiate different types of anti union tactics. I then grouped together both macrocodes and microcodes according to larger themes. These themes became the basis of my analysis.


43 It is also worth noting some of the limitations of this study. While one of the strengths of the study is the comparison of an active nonmajority union campaign with an inactive one, the inactive case proved much more difficult to study. Since the campaign ended several years ago the participants had scattered to different locations or withdrawn from the labor movement. It was particularly difficult to get in touch with workers who had been involved with WAGE. For this reason there was an imbalance in the number of workers and th e number of organizers who I interviewed about WAGE. Yet, the participants had a very deep knowledge of the effort, providing sufficient information to inform my research question. The information gathered from WAGE, in conjunction with CAAMWU, was suffici ent to offer a tentative picture of the factors that facilitate a successful use of nonmajority unionism and those that limit its usefulness as a mobilizing approach.


44 CHAPTER 4 : Results and Analysis CAAMWU In this chapter I pro vide a context for the labor movement in North Carolina and address the formation of CAAMWU as a nonmajority union, the strategies and tactics that it has employed over the years, and the current issues it faces. Within this rough chronology, I divide the history of CAAMWU into thematic elements that form the basis of my analysis. Background Whitakers is a small town in Nash County, North Carolina with a population of 755 and a median household income of $20,417 (U.S. Ce nsus 2010). Whitakers is home to Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant (RMEP), a plant that constructs mid range diesel engines and employs over 1200 people The Rocky Mount Engine Plant was originally known as the Consolidated Diesel Company (CDC) when it opened in 1983, and was a joint v enture between Cummins Inc. and J.I. Case Company. However, in 2008 Cummins Inc. bought out Case's share of the plant and the plant's name was changed from Consolidated Diesel Company to Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant (RMEP). I will use the new name in r eferring to the plant. Similarly, the union that is the subject of this chapter was not always known as CAAMWU. Between 1990 2001 CAAMWU was known as the Workers Unity Committee (WUC). In 2001 WUC joined with another UE plant committ ee, Vermont American, in Greenville, N C to form CAAMWU Each union retained its own officers, but CAAMWU also had its own officers. The RMEP WUC continued as a branch of CAAMWU until Vermont American closed down in 2007 At this point the RMEP


45 Workers Uni ty Committee was the only branch of CAAMWU so the two organizations were one and the same with only one set of officers. During this time, UE also had an organizing effort at Metaldyne in Greenville which would have been another branch of CAAMWU had the p lant not closed down However, the union at RMEP still hope s to expand and bring other unions under the CAAMWU umbrella. The maintenance workers at RMEP who work for U nicco have formed their own union organization, U nicco Workers United which will become another branch of CAAMWU Due to this history, w orkers sometimes refer to the "Unity Committee" when talking about their early day s, but the union is now known as CAAMWU /UE a section of statewide UE Local 150 Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant began construction in 1980 and the first engines came off the line in 1983. It occupied a building which used to be American Enka, a union textile plant which closed its doors sometime in the 1970s. RMEP is just one of several industrial plants that periodically dot the rural landscape in the Rocky Mount area. However, many of these plants have now closed down du e to global outsourcing. This is a constant fear for most manufacturing workers in America and has severely crippled union organizing in this sector. Nevertheless, CAAMWU has managed to persist despite living in a state hostile to unionization and working in a similarly hostile industry. Labor in North Carolina "Understanding CAAMWU, you have to understand the larger historical and community framework in the Black Belt South our union has grown from" union


46 president Jim Wrenn wrote to me in an email as I prepared for my trip to Whitakers. 6 Included in the email was an article from the Phoenix Society for African American Research detailing North Carolina's history of organizing among tobacco workers in the 1940s. As I began my interviews in Whitakers, I quickly realized the extent to which Jim's remark was true. As the story of CAAMWU's history unfolded, so did the broader history of labor organizing in North Carolina, a history I knew very little about. As a result, much of the first group interview I c onducted was spent gaining a contextual understanding of CAAMWU's organizing. What follows are some of the key elements of North Carolina's labor history that inform my analysis of CAAMWU's development. The Black Belt South The Black Belt as Jim referre d to it, originally indicated a fertile plain in central Alabama and northern Mississippi known for its rich soil. However, the Black Belt often refers to the larger agricultural area of the south where plantations maintained by African American slaves wer e prevalent ( Encyclopedia Britannica 2011 ) North Carolina is part of this region and the history of slavery and agriculture that it entails. Like much of the south, one of North Carolina's biggest cash crops was cotton. However, at the turn of the 20th ce ntury, eastern North Carolina began to transition from an agricultural economy based on cotton to one based on tobacco. This profitable industry was led by companies such as R J Reynolds, American Tobacco Co, Liggett & Myers, P Lorrillard and others. 6 Jim Wrenn, email message to author, August 5 20 11


47 North Carolina was home to many tobacco auction warehouses and tobacco leaf houses, or stemmeries, where tobacco leaves were manually stemmed as they were prepared to be shipped to cigarette factories. The workers at the leaf houses were all African American, a nd 75% were women. These workers endured long hours, poor working conditions, and the abuse of white male foremen (Wrenn 2007). The town of Rocky Mount, near Whitakers, was at the center of this industry with 10 leaf houses and 12 auction warehouses. Ini tial efforts to organize these factories began in 1943 when black women workers held a sit down strike at the R J Reynolds factories. In 1946 there was a more widespread campaign to organize leaf house workers led by the CIO as part of their "Operation Dix ie." On September 5, 1946, an NLRB election at the China American Tobacco Company, the largest leaf house in Rocky Mount, became the crucial first vote of the campaign. When the union won recognition at this plant it sparked victories at 30 other leaf hou ses and resulted in over 10,000 African American workers becoming organized. This was a significant blow to Jim Crow segregation, and during the campaign the union conducted voter registration of black workers. Historians have referred to what happened in North Carolina as "civil rights unionism," a term which aptly describes CAAMWU's own brand of unionism ( ibid ). However, in North Carolina the trade union movement has always fought an uphill battle. This is demonstrated by the labor movement's struggle wit h industry in North Carolina. Industry The actions of the National Labor Relations Board were a subject of controversy in April of 2011, when it tried to block the airplane manufacturer giant, Boeing, from


48 building a new plant in South Carolina. Boeing decided to move the factory after a prolonged labor dispute with its unionized factory in Washington State. The NLRB claimed this was an act of retaliation against unionized employees ( Gaus 2011). This case is illustrative of an important trend in manuf acturing. Although many labor organizers talk about manufacturing jobs moving overseas there is less said about them simply moving south or to more rural areas. However, the south is filled with relocated northern industry (Brahmst 2003; Gaus 2011) The re asons for this are fairly obvious: less restrictive labor law, right to work 7 regulations, lower minimum wage requirements and lower rates of unionization. The implication of this environment is the great difficulty for organizing, particularly under curre nt organizing strategies. As one labor organizer told me, "You haven't really organized until you've tried to organize in the south." Southern states are historically the most aggressively anti union, with some barring negotiations with public sector union s altogether. North Carolina is one such state where public sector unions are unable to collectively bargain (Edwards 20 10 ). One of the most iconic labor struggles in North Carolina's history was between J.P. Stevens & Co. and the Textile Workers Union o f America (TWUA). J.P. Stevens & Co. was a textile giant which operated seve n plants in Roanoke Rapids, NC, not far from Whitakers. The company gained labor history infamy after a 14 year long struggle with TWUA. The ferociously anti union company was foun d guilty of 121 NLRA violations (Wolf 1980). When the union finally won an election in 1974, the company refused to negotiate with them. Workers were not able to negotiate a contract with J.P. Stevens until 7 Right to work laws "outlaw the union shop, a contract provision that requires employees to financi ally support the union" (Moore 1998). Such laws are currently in effect in 21 states, including North Carolina.


49 the company became the target of the first ever s trategic corporate campaign by a union (Rogers 1999). According to Jim, J.P. Stevens had an explicit strategy of appealing NLRB decisions to the 4 th circuit court in Richmond, Virginia, supposedly the most anti union court in the country. CAAMWU would even tually face this court themselves when pursuing an unfair labor practice charge against Cummins. The prolonged battle between TWUA and J.P. Stevens was reflective of the hostile treatment of organized labor in North Carolina. Not only were companies persi stent violators of national labor law, they rarely faced repercussions. This was a disastrous combination particularly when it came to enforcing worker safety laws. A Fire in Hamlet One of the most crucial moments for organized labor in North Carolina was born out of a horrific tragedy. On September 5th, 1991 a fire broke out at the Imperial Foods Processing Plant in Hamlet, North Carolina. There were 25 fatalities and 54 injuries as a result of the fire. Workers were unable to escape from the building because of locked fire doors. The doors had been locked on the orders of the plant owner, Emmett Roe, to prevent workers from stealing chicken (USFA). In its 11 year history the plant had never had a safety inspection (Kilborn 1992). After the fire, North Carolina passed a number of new worker safety laws and increased the number of safety inspectors. This was one of the worst industrial accidents of the 20th century and the worst industrial disaster in North Carolina's history. It has been compared to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which killed 146 workers in 1911 L ike the Hamlet fire, workers were prevented from escaping because of locked fire doors at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory


50 There was also another important similarity between th e two fires: just as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire helped the nation see the need for organized labor, so did the Hamlet fire (Solis 2011). Indeed, the Hamlet fire spurred a renewed movement to organize throughout North Carolina under the motto "Don 't get burned; get organized!" (Strickland 1994). Organizers were sent to stay and organize in Hamlet. CAAMWU became part of a Hamlet coalition, joining marches in Hamlet. Most importantly, the fire led the workplace committees that had formed in plants t hroughout the Rocky Mount area to begin union campaigns. I provide a context for the emergence of CAAMWU in order to illustrate that no union campaign is ahistorical, and no campaign is bounded by the walls of the workplace. CAAMWU developed in an area pl agued by persistent racial segregation and relatively weak labor standards this has undoubtedly shaped their struggle. Formative Process Bloomer Hill: Community Resistance I met with representatives of the Carolina Auto, Aerospace & Machine Workers Union/UE Local 150 at the Bloomer Hill Community Center to conduct my interviews. Bloomer Hill is an unincorporated community outside of the town limits of Whitakers. The community center is located just up the street from the plant, a small white buildin g that looks like it could belong to one of the many nearby churches but is actually a converted schoolhouse. The community center also functions as a monthly, free health clinic an initiative that preceded the formation of CAAMWU and was spearheaded by on e of CAAMWU's key leaders. The community of Bloomer Hill has its own rich


51 history of community organizing that in some ways set the stage for CAAMWU's emergence. Troy Fiesinger documented this history in his 1991 doctoral thesis on the community of Bloomer Hill. His thesis forms the basis of the narrative to follow. In the late 1940s the community of Bloomer Hill became a haven for landless African American sharecroppers trying to escape debt peonage. In 1947, when 47 acres of land became available in Nash County, several families combined their funds to purchase small plots of land. For many of the early residents of Bloomer Hill, this was the first time they had ever held a title to their homes (Fiesinger 1991). The residents also bought the old schoolhou se on the land and used it as a community center. In 1968, residents formed a community association and bought a well. By having their own well, the community was able to provide residents with water at a lower cost than surrounding communities. At the tim e, 24 percent of homes in the general population of Nash County had no standard plumbing, whereas 64 percent of black homes were without it. By having its own water system, Bloomer Hill was able to help remedy this disparity. It also granted the community a greater degree of autonomy. Later in the 1970s, Bloomer Hill decided to apply for a federal development grant to create a cleaner water system, renovate homes and build better streets. However, Bloomer Hill's unincorporated status was a consistent pr oblem throughout this process and generally "symbolized blacks' lack of political power in rural eastern North Carolina" (Fiesinger 1991:5). Bloomer Hill had to apply for the grant through Nash County, and the government initially turned down their applic ation because Bloomer Hill did not have enough people. The reason for this became apparent: the majority of the Bloomer Hill residents had been counted by Whitakers and included on the town's own


52 grant application for a new industrial development project. If Bloomer Hill wanted their own grant to go through, they first had to stop Whitakers from counting them for the industrial project grant. One of the prime targets for building up industry in Nash County w as Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant. However, in order to bring RMEP to Nash County, the county promised to provide them with water and sewer lines, highway improvements and land for future expansion. To find funds for these promises, Nash County decided to apply for a federal urban development action gr ant. The town of Whitakers was approached to apply through the county for the grant. However, Whitakers was only made eligible for the grant because of Bloomer Hill's poverty but this community was never once consulted about the industrial project. Whitak ers by itself, without the inclusion of Bloomer Hill, would not have been eligible. In essence, the town "had stolen most of Bloomer Hill" (Fiesinger 1991:44). Bloomer Hill had already proven in years past that it was capable of fighting for the needs of residents. In fact, the residents of Bloomer Hill were able to rely on their extensive knowledge of their own community in drafting their original grant application. Residents who did contracting work for a living were able to fill the role of an engineeri ng firm that many towns would hire to survey the area. However, when Bloomer Hill realized that Whitakers was determined to stand in the way of Bloomer Hill's quest for its own development, this posed a new difficulty for residents. Bloomer Hill now had to challenge the power structure that had long ignored its most basic needs. Thankfully, Bloomer Hill was not alone in this endeavor. Several community members went to a meeting of the Nash/Edgcombe Assembly, an important organization


53 in the black community There they were introduced to Phil White, a community organizer who began to work with Bloomer Hill as a consultant for the East Carolina Legal Services. The East Carolina Legal Services provided legal help to low income people and had been following the RMEP project for several months. With the help of Phil White and the East Carolina Legal Services, Bloomer Hill was able to get the legal support they needed to investigate the grant proposal and navigate the grant laws. White offered several workshops fo r Bloomer Hill residents which broke down the 200 page grant request process and explained the grant rules. Another key leader working closely with Phil White was Alexander Evans, a well regarded community member who was particularly experienced in dealing with the local power structure. Evans had played a key role in some of the labor disputes between primarily African American sanitation workers and the Rocky Mount Sanitation Department. When Evans was targeted by the city and falsely accused of stealing, his coworkers rallied around him and struck in solidarity for seventeen days in the heat of summer, leaving the town stinking of uncollected garbage. It was through this struggle and personal trial that Evans earned respect in the community and experience with community organizing. Although the community of Bloomer Hill confronted Whitakers several times about zoning violations and other breaches of state and federal regulation in the process of applying for the grant, Whitakers refused to listen. Finally several community leaders went to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in D.C. to complain about the conduct of their development grants and were able to convince federal officials that Bloomer Hill had enough residents to apply for a developm ent grant of their own. Interestingly, Cummins also sided with the residents of Bloomer Hill. Learning about the


54 dispute between Bloomer Hill and Whitakers, Cummins refused to sign a letter for the Whitakers' grant application stating that it would not be able to locate in Whitakers without the grant. Cummins' refusal to sign the letter stemmed from a desire to protect their corporate image and begin production. This action by Cummins finally brought Whitakers' grant effort to an end. By the summer of 1981, Bloomer Hill and Nash County came to an agreement that the county would help Bloomer Hill put through their own grant request ( ibid) This of course was not the end of Bloomer's Hill struggle to improve its community nor is it the first example. In 1977 community members came together to form the People's Coalition for Justice, which sought to bring the killer of an innocent black worker to justice. However, the history of Bloomer Hill's formation and its struggle with the county and Whitakers is enough to begin to understand the roots of their unionization efforts a decade later. The residents of Bloomer Hill were already well practiced in community organizing. They knew how to pool resources, build coalitions with other community groups and had already overcome the first shock of going up against powerful business interests. What is more, they showed a clear desire for autonomy and self education throughout the process. Considering this history, it is unsurprising that when some Bloomer Hill residents w ent to work for Cummins they took their community organizing experiences with them. Black Workers for Justice and Civil Rights Unionism Civil rights unionism as mentioned earlier, is a useful term to describe the close relationship between the civil r ights and labor rights movements in North Carolina. The


55 organization that is CAAMWU has been shaped by this particular brand of unionism. In 1981 an organization known as Black Workers For Justice (BWFJ) emerged in North Carolina, well before RMEP came to Whitakers. This organization was formed as a result of a struggle led by black women at a K Mart store in Rocky Mount. The stated mission of BWFJ is to build the African American workers' movement as a central force in the struggle for Black Liberation an d Worker's Power" (BWFJ). BWFJ played a formative role in the development of worker committees within the many industrial plants in the Rocky Mount area. In a sense, they were building nonmajority unions without using that terminology and aided workers org anizing in plants even after unions had lost NLRB elections. When CAAMU (at the time Workers Unity Committee) formed their in plant committee in 1990, organizing such a committee was consistent with the organizing work that BWFJ had already been doing in the region. BWFJ provided workers with the types of support that would help them begin to organize in their workplaces. They helped workers develop newsletters, establish meetings and begin the process of creating a committee. The goal behind these measur es was to get workers to be proactive in dealing with problems in the plant. Until recently, BWFJ had a worker controlled worker's center in Rocky Mount that functioned as a legal clinic for workers who needed help addressing problems in the workplace. The center also hosted speakers to address certain issues and housed a library where workers could obtain information on subjects related to workplace rights and organization. BWFJ essentially provided the organizing support that allowed for much of the labo r activity in the region. This activity was primarily spurred by the fire in Hamlet a disaster which affected mainly poor members of the African American community. A


56 number of NLRB elections were held in the Rocky Mount and Wilson area primarily in the a uto related industry. The UAW, ACTWU and UNITE (all national labor unions) lost close elections at Genbearco in 1984, Standard Products in 1984, 1988, and 1993, and Safelite Auto Glass in 1995 (Wrenn 2002) Since this traditional approach to organizing pro ved unsuccessful, BWFJ instead facilitated the formation of several in plant committees at companies such as Standard Products, Rocky Mount Undergarment and Bendix (now Honeywell). These committees were united under an umbrella organization, the Rocky Moun t Workers Unity Council. BWFJ believed that the plant by plant strategy favored by traditional labor unions did not allow workers to see themselves as part of larger regional labor movement. They hoped that by building a number of in plant committees at t he same time, these committees would be able to support each other. It was around this time that some workers at RMEP formed a workers fairness committee that began to meet with workers at other companies in the Rocky Mount Workers Unity Council. Of parti cular significance for the emergence of CAAMWU was BWFJ 's involvement in a struggle at the Schlage Lock plant in Rocky Mount. When the Schlage Lock plant closed down, BWFJ helped workers fight for severance pay. Some of the former Schlage workers went to o ther plants after this including RMEP, and were part of the initial committee that decided to fight for a King holiday at RMEP (to be detailed later). The significance of BWFJ's work in the region is reflected not only in the development of CAAMWU as an organization, but also in the agenda it adopted. CAAMWU's dual commitment to civil rights and worker power is present in its activities both on the shop floor and in the community. Their very first demand on the company


57 was for a paid Martin Luther King ho liday a day of central importance for the commemoration of the civil rights movement In 1993, CAAMWU sponsored a workshop in Whitakers on voter registration and helped put forth a slate of three black candidates for the town council. Jim recalled, that election day, people who had never even voted in their lives, took to the polls and they elected a black majority to the town council of Whitakers for the first time. Ever." This event is similar to the CIO's efforts to register black voters during their o rganizing campaign in the 1940s. The union has also played an important role in changing the way black workers relate to their work experience. Saladin Muhammad, a former organizer for BWFJ and CAAMWU's current UE representative spoke to this particular i ssue: I think one thing that's important is the very right to ask for something, the very right to say this is the value of our labor.' What the union has done is help workers to feel that they have that right. Before it was: we'll get what the boss give s us. If the boss thinks we're working good than he'll give it to us'. But when the workers are standing up saying we deserve this,' this has been extremely important because of the history of employee/employer relations in the south. Y'know, you don't t alk to your boss. Coming out of the agriculture base you understand, you don't talk to your boss. You're coming out of an area where you didn't have the right to vote. You didn't have a right to drink out of a certain water fountain you understand, so this mindset about what you feel you have a right to demand has been broken by the union effort. Here, Saladin points out the particular challenges that black workers face in a community still adapting to the end of Jim Crow segregation. Saladin indicates th e close relationship that exists between overcoming racism in society at large and in the workplace in particular. His comments suggest that the union has fundamentally shifted the way employer/employee relations are experienced.


58 Darryl Thompson*, an empl oyee of Unicco, echoes some of Saladin's views about the impact of race on working conditions. He is particularly concerned about racial prejudice in promotion decis ions and provides this account: When the other guys down there that are black apply for a j ob they [management] look through the job and they say we don't have anyone qualified. So then when they do that once or twice, it causes them [workers] to think, well maybe I'm not qualified for that job, maybe I'm not good enough for that job, I can't do that job. In this statement Darryl shares his observation of racial prejudice on the job and particularly the psychological impact that it may have on black workers. "Within the south there still is a line drawn between black and white, and blacks are ve ry intimidated by white management," Darryl explained, "There's a lot of things that go on that people don't think goes on, a lot of nepotism, the good 'ol boy system still at work, and we hope that a union would give people a better opportunity at job sit es, and make it so it's fair for everybody." Darryl sees a union as especially necessary for black workers as they fight for equality on the job. Considering the labor movement's own history of racial prejudice, the bringing together of civil rights and wo rker's rights marks a significant development in the struggle to build working class power (Fletcher and Gapasin 2008). Strategies and Tactics After CAAMWU's initial formation, they relied upon a diverse range of strategies and tactics to sustain their union effort. This included using petitions to exercise workplace democracy, leveraging community power, distributing union news, utilizing legal action, relying upon outside union support and sustaining strong union leadership.


59 CAAMWU's "Petition Tradit ion" and Workplace Democracy One of CAAMWU's earliest tactics was the petition campaign. The initial workers fairness committee (at the time made up of three workers) at RMEP made the decision to fight for a paid Martin Luther King Day holiday as their first action in the plant. Some initial efforts to fight for the King holiday failed, but i n 1990, Jim Wrenn now the president of CAAMWU, and two other workers started a petition for the King holiday and by the end of the week had obtained more than 200 signatures. On the Martin Luther King holiday of Jan uary 15 th Jim and the two workers who helped start the petition went to present the petition to the HR director only to find that he was not in his office -he was down at the Martin Luther King breakfast sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Jim described how much this action shocked and scared the company: "The HR director called a meeting of all managers and wanted to know how did they let this happen, how did all of these workers sign this petition, hi s point was that any worker that would sign a petition for a Martin Luther King holiday would sign a union card." Months passed and the company failed to respond to the petition. Finally the union committee got together and decided to take further action. They sponsored a rally at a park in Rocky Mount and invited ministers to come and speak in favor of the MLK holiday. They started wearing buttons, distributing flyers and gathering community support. The company responded to these efforts and offered to gi ve the MLK day off with no pay or to give MLK day in exchange for a different paid holiday, but the committee declined these offers. Finally on Aug. 1, 1990 at the all employee meeting the plant manager at the time announced that they had agreed to give a new paid holiday on Martin Luther King


60 day, a holiday which they still have today. Jim recalled everyone in the room standing up and cheering. This victory provided the energy that the committee needed to keep going Out of the initial committee that sta rted the petition was born the Workers Unity Committee, the organization from which CAAMWU developed. Ever since this first victory, CAAMWU has prided itself on what it calls its "petition tradition." In one of the first issues of Unity News, the union's newsletter, they wrote "Our right as workers to petition management is legally protected by the National Labor Relations Board (Sec. 7)" (Unity News 1992). Petitions have been one of CAAMWU's most frequently used and most successful tactics. As a result t hey have created many petition campaigns over the years, of which I will highlight a few. In January of 1992 block line workers in the plant were placed on a new schedule in which they worked ten hours a day, eight days in a row and then had six days off. This schedule was implemented just before one of the first paid Martin Luther King holidays for RMEP workers. As they approached the holiday management informed the block line workers that they would have to work a twelve hour day following the MLK holida y in order to make up the two hours that would be lost during the holiday. The MLK holiday was only an eight hour holiday and so the difference between the eight hour and ten hour day would need to be made up. CAAMWU resisted this policy and started to dis tribute butto ns and get workers on the block line to sign petitions against this measure. In response, the company formed a focus group to look at the issue (a common strategy on the part of RMEP management). In April of 1992, this focus group decided to e xcuse workers from having to make up the two hours of holiday time and effectively granted them a paid ten hour holiday.


61 In 1996 CAAMWU had its biggest victory since winning the Martin Luther King holi day. On a snowy Friday in February, two workers, a ma rried couple, asked to leave work early so they could pick up their kids from the babysitter before the weather conditions made it too dangerous to drive. The manager would not give them permission to leave, despite the fact that they were already working overtime, and so they remained for two more hours and then left anyway. By Monday morning both workers lost their jobs. CAAMWU immediately protested this measure and wrote an appeal to the plant manager, which was rejected. CAAMWU got the help of a lawyer and argued that this was an instance of racial discrimination, pointing to past cases where white workers had simply walked off the job and retained their positions. They also had workers sign letters, both from RMEP, other area plants and Cummins plants i n other locations, that they sent to the company headquarters in Indiana. They distributed fliers and held a prayer vigil for the fired workers at a local church. Finally, after ten weeks of unemployment, both workers were hired back and received full back pay for the ten weeks they were out of work. This was an unprecedented victory for workers in the plant. When the two workers returned to work they became dues paying members of CAAMWU and remained so until they left the plant many years later. CAAMWU wo n another worker reinstatement in 1999 through a petition campaign. A worker who was a recent hire was still completing her mon th long probationary period when she was the victim of domestic violence. During her recovery in the hospital, she was fired for failing to complete her probationary period. This caused a great deal of outrage as workers saw it as the company failing to support victims of domestic violence. Her team in the plant brought a petition to management, but it was


6 2 denied. CAAMWU then had a wider campaign in the plant and sent letters to the company headquarters in Indiana. After two months, the worker was reinstated and allowed to finish her probationary period. In addition to petitions, surveys are another way that CAAMWU has expressed wo rker demands to management. The use of surveys resembles a methodology that was used by UE when they tr ied to organize plastic factories in the late 80s. Rather than immediately filing for a board election they would first conduct a community election run by a neutral community member such as a police chief or clergy member. Usually the union would win that community election by a landslide and make the actual NLRB election more about defendi ng the union than winning one. Surveys are a similar way of anony mously gauging opinion to express the demands of workers. CAAMWU conducted two surveys, the results of which were used to pressure management on particular issues. One survey conducted by CAAMWU was part of its "Equal Share is Only Fair" campaign which fo cused on variable pay incentives (yearly bonuses). CAAMWU sought to equalize the distribution of the variable pay pot regardless of job classification. As part of this campaign, CAAMWU conducted a plant wide survey with 356 respondents and presented the re sults to management. As a result of this survey, CAAMWU was able to get the RMEP General Manager to commit to address the issue and put it to a plant wide vote. Although this vote never happened, the company did agree to nearly double the potential incenti ve pay for RMEP workers. This was a direct result of CAAMWU's initial company wide survey. Another survey in 1996 focused on the issue of pay scale changes. This was in response to company changes in the pay scale that adjusted it in accordance with


63 perfor mance (merit pay) rather than with the cost of living. This was a long campaign, and CAAMWU created 2 or 3 petitions on the issue During the first petition drive, they held a company wide vote. Workers voted the new pay plan down and they sent these resul ts to management. Somewhat ironically, the company had held their own company wide survey earlier with fewer respondents and claimed that most people had been for the changed pay plan. Petitions and surveys have played an important role in promoting a se nse of workplace democracy in the plant. Whereas workers in a traditional union are able to bring their demands directly to management during contract negotiations, workers in a nonmajority union cannot. In a workplace where management refuses to recognize a union, petitions and surveys have proven themselves to be a powerful tool in shifting the locus of control. If management refuses to respond to such initiatives, they risk pushing the number of union members into a majority. Therefore management has fou nd it necessary to respond to these union initiated tactics. Often throughout my interviews respondents noted that although many workers were afraid of signing union cards, many of those same people were still willing to sign petitions. It is an easy way for workers to safely voice their o pinions about company policies and an effective way to improve workplace conditions. Through petitions, CAAMWU has won time off, influenced pay roll, changed policies and even reinstated coworkers. These types of changes do not simply happen, they are the clear result of organizing activity.


64 Leveraging Community Power In plant activities have made significant changes at RMEP, but only with community support has CAAMWU managed to survive as long as it has. CAAMWU's fo rmation was made possible by the strength of community organizing before the plant even opened its doors. In the same way, CAAMWU has been sustained by community power and support. Evelyn Brooks*, a retired RMEP worker made this observation about the relat ionship between CAAMWU and the community: "In order to have a committee like ours you've got to get very good support from the community that you are in and if you get the unity committee together you've got to concentrate on the community that surrounds i t." This comment reflects the reciprocal relationship between CAAMWU and the wider community. A good example of this relationship was CAAMWU's struggle for a paid MLK holiday. As detailed earlier, CAAMWU received substantial support from the community dur ing their petition campaign. Community members joined their rally in a local park and faith leaders spoke out in favor of the holiday. When they finally won the holiday, CAAMWU chose to include the community in their victory: When we got the holiday, the f irst thing we did, we said, we've won the holiday, we want it for a purpose, not just to have a day off, and the very first thing we did was reach out to the Bloomer Hill Community and say we want to do something for Bloomer Hill on this day to celebrate D r. King and also highlight the struggles of today, not just talk about the past, but what are we doing today to carry forth? We did that, our first event was in January 1991, our first Martin Luther King holiday celebration was here in this building [Bloo mer Hill Community Center] and we've continued that for 21 years (Jim Wrenn). The physical building of the Bloomer Hill Community Center has itself been central in uniting CAAMWU and the Bloomer Hill Community. In fact, Ruth Williams*, one of the


65 key lea ders in CAAMWU, helped establish a free community health clinic in 1989. This c linic, which is held monthly at the Bloomer Hill Community Center (as are CAAMWU meetings), offers free medical exams provi ded by medical students from the University of North C arolina Chapel Hill. They are able to provide referrals to see doctors at UNC as well as write prescriptions. When the health clinic first opened, they had a problem with people not being able to get to the clinic. Initially, Black Workers for Justice help ed arrange rides to the clinic. Once CAAMWU was formed, they took over this role and worked out a rides system to help get people to the clinic. This was an important service for many workers at the plant who did not have access to or could not afford heal th insurance through RMEP. CAAMWU's involvement with the clinic is reflective of their commitment to the betterment of community life as a whole. It also recognizes that the problems faced by workers do not vanish once they step outside the bounds of the w orkplace. RMEP was conscious of the role that the community played in helping rally support for the paid Martin Luther King holiday. In response to this, RMEP planned an event at the plant and invited many of the community's (primarily African American) m inisters to tour the facilities and tell them about the work. In anticipation of this event, CAAMWU met with one of the ministers, Reverend Ernest Battle, and briefed him about some of the ongoing issues in the plant. One of the major issues at the time wa s a complete lack of break times for assembly line workers, other than a midday lunch break. Workers found that this lack of break times made the workday overly long and tedious. Reverend Battle used the plant tour as an opportunity to raise questions abou t break times. This caught the company off guard and they invited him to come back at a later


66 time and interview workers about conditions in the plant. Revered Battle confirmed what workers in CAAMWU had told him about a lack of break times. As a result of his investigation of this issue, the company instituted two ten minute breaks in addition to the lunch break. CAAMWU claimed this as their second victory after the paid Martin Luther King holiday. CAAMWU has also taken steps to empower the community thro ugh the local political structures. After holding their first Martin Luther King Day celebration, CAAMWU learned that the town of Whitakers was a black majority town with an all white city council and an all white police force. As mentioned earlier Evelyn Brooks*, another CAAMWU leader, led a workshop in 1993 sponsored by CAAMWU to get Whitakers residents trained to do voter registration and help them put forth a slate of three black candidates for their at large election. These candidates were elected, br inging a black majority to the town council for the first time This was an important aspect of their strategy of civil rights unionism, but it also paid off in a very practical way when CAAMWU had its 1996 petition campaign to reinstate the two workers wh o had been fired for leaving work early. Among those who signed a letter calling for the company to reinstate the workers were the Whitakers town council members who CAAMWU had helped elect in 1993. In this way, CAAMWU's involvement in local politics both advanced a civil rights agenda and placed CAAMWU allies in a position of power. Finally, CAAMWU's Community Empowerment Alliance initiative has also been an important source of community support. This was a group that brought together a number of area or ganizations to support each other in their various campaigns. The Community Empowerment Alliance, which still exists today, is composed of unions and


67 civic associations from Bloomer Hill, Whitakers, Battleboro and Edgecombe. They developed a newspaper sepa rate from the Unity News newsletters which detailed events and issues in these communities. The Community Empowerment Alliance defines its mission as "building a movement for the political and economic empowerment of working people and people of color in Northern Nash, Northern Edgecombe and Southern Halifax counties" (Community News 1997). CAAMWU relies on the Community Empowerment Alliance to support them during campaigns by helping get the word out, leafl eting, or even fundraising These examples illust rate CAAMWU's place as a local institution in Bloomer Hill. As articulated by Saladin, this committee, this union, evolved really out of an organic relationship with the community. CAAMWU was dependent upon the support of the community both during its fo rmation and during its various in plant struggles. Many of the people involved in CAAMWU's initial formation were previously active in community organizing and the community was already engaged in various social justices issues. The Bloomer Hill community has in turn benefited from CAAMWU's organizing activities in the area. CAAMWU hosts community events and even provides necessary services not being offered by local businesses or government. This dynamic has provided CAAMWU with key resources as it fights for better workplace conditions at RMEP. Information Most unions have some way of disseminating information to their members, and CAAMWU is no exception. However, for CAAMWU getting out their news is not just a


68 means of sharing information, it is a way of challenging the power of managerial discourse and claiming discursive space. CAAMWU's Unity News newsletter serves the dual purpose of sharing information and forcing negotiation without recognition. After CAAMWU won a ten hour holiday for block lin e workers it issued its first Unity News newsletter. Unity News, a short monthly newsletter, is produced by a committee whose members draft, edit and print the articles. Shop stewards distribute it throughout the plant. As of August 2011, CAAMWU was on it s 126th issue of Unity News. CAAMWU saw the implementation of Unity News as a significant development because their Unity News updates have become an important mouthpiece for the workforce and a central weapon against company misinformation. In their firs t issue of Unity News, CAAMWU announced "Block Line Workers Make Progress" and detailed their gains concerning the holiday make up time. However, this edition of the newsletter was also used as a platform to raise other unresolved issues related to schedul ing. Over the years, Unity News has served to celebrate victories, organize around particular issues and offer information on prevailing wages in the industry. According to Jim: I t's been effective over the years to be able to talk about what's happening and bring forth the workers perspective and it has a lot of credibility and the company clearly pays a lot of attention to what's in the Unity News." This last claim was made evident by one occurrence in particular. At one point RMEP tried to attach a wee k of plant shutdown to the Christmas holidays and claim it was part of the holiday rather than for business reasons. When workers tried to file for unemployment for that week, they were initially refused. One worker, a CAAMWU member, refused to leave the u nemployment office until his claim was filled. This claim


69 was rejected and after a series of appeals workers won the right to have their cases re opened and receive their unemployment benefits. Representatives from the unemployment commission tried to cont act the company about coming to file the claims. When the company refused to speak with them, the unemployment commission contacted CAAMWU instead, a significant event for an unrecognized, nonmajority union. When CAAMWU announced that the unemployment comm ission would be taking claims in an issue of Unity News, the company immediately agreed to host the representatives. As a result, 400 workers were able to file their claims and receive a week of pay. The power of Unity News to force the company to be respo nsive was made clear by this incident. Unlike many union workplaces, CAAMWU has been able to place union literature bins in different parts of the plant, including worker "team rooms" where both breaks and work occur. This was the result of a lengthy leg al battle over the right to distribute Unity News in the plant. The literature bins have been a particularly helpful resource in distributing their newsletters, as Jim explained: "So now that we have the bins in the team room, if we come out of lunch and h ave a t eam meeting, my manager, that stuff will be right in his face, he has to have a look at it. They'll put it in the union literature bin, but so many times now it's just out there. I can't tell you what that does in terms of our power to get our news out." Not only does management read and respond to what is written in Unity News, it has also become a very important source of information for workers in the plant. Even workers who are not union members eagerly read issues of Unity News. For nonmajorit y and majority unions alike, having a means of sharing information is an important way to mobilize around particular issues. It allows workers to control the


70 discourse and exchange information that they will not get from the company. Unity News also forces a dialogue between workers and management where there would otherwise be none. If management refuses to respond to the issues highlighted by Unity News, they risk pushing more workers into the union. Therefore management is forced to engage with some of t he issues raised by Unity News. Unity News serves as both an educational tool and a means of forcing management to respond to worker issues. It has therefore remained an important tactical tool throughout CAAMWU's history. Legal Action Unity News was a lso at the center of one of CAAMWU's most prolonged legal actions against RMEP. Legal measures are an important resource for nonmajority unions and CAAMWU uses available federal and state laws and agencies such as the NLRB, Equal Employment Opportunity Com mission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Wage & Hour Division, Employment Security Commission, Workers Compensation, Family Medical Leave Act, American with Disabilities Act, and other legal avenues to fight for workers rights. They also hol d the company to consistent application of its Employee Handbook policies (Wrenn 2002). Over the years CAAMWU has won several significant legal victories, the majority of which benefited union members and non union members alike. In one of its earliest l egal actions against RMEP, CAAMWU successfully challenged an illegal policy in the company handbo ok prohibiting solicitation, including union solicitation. Nevertheless, Jim and another worker were brought up on harassment charges by management while distr ibuting union literature during a lunch break, when


71 two anti union workers claimed they were being harassed. The company launched an investigation and found weak evidence to support harassment in at least one worker's case. They met several times concernin g Jim's case and were unable to establish that harassment had occurred. Nevertheless, the accusation remained in Jim's record. At the same time, the company was confiscating Unity News newsletters from the team rooms. CAAMWU filed charges and both incident s became part of one case. In 1996 these went before an administrative law judge, and CAAMWU won. After a series of appeals, the union definitively won the case at the 4th circuit court in 2000. Jim described the significance of this legal victory: And so we went to the 4 th circuit court, supposedly the most anti union court in the country and the chief judge of the 4 th circuit is J. Harvie Wilkinson, who was supposedly on Reagan's list for the supreme court, a known conservative chief justice, somehow we g o there to Richmond Virginia, and the court was housed that time in the building that used to be the government offices of the confederate government, and we won the case. Unanimously. Jim clearly emphasizes CAAMWU's perception that the odds were against them, but they nevertheless persisted in pursuing the unfair labor practice charge. It took Jim seven years to have the allegation of harassment removed from hi s file. Furthermore, the company began confiscating union literature again in 2003 and CAAMWU fi led charges in response. This time RMEP was found guilty of contempt of court and was required to place union literature bins in all of the team rooms. This is representative of the patience and persistence exercised by CAAMWU during their many different c ampaigns. In 2001, Vermont American, the plant in Greensboro that joined CAAMWU, won an NLRB case concerning Weingarten rights to co worker representation during disciplinary meetings. A worker at Vermont American had been denied this right during a


72 disci plinary meeting and so the union filed an unfair labor practice charge which they won. In the wake of this victory CAAMWU began to distribute laminated Weingarten rights cards that stated "If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I request that a co worker be present at the meeting. Without a co worker, I choose not to answer any questions." A 2005 decision by the NLRB revoked this right for nonmajority union members. Neverthel ess, CAAMWU's response to the original decision concerning Weingarten rights for nonmajority union members was typical of their tactic of enforcing legal decisions in the workplace. CAAMWU also closely monitored company observance of Wage & Hour laws. In 2003 they filed a Wage & Hour lawsuit to recover 30% of their 2002 variable compensation payout after a re audit of Cummins' reported 2002 earnings 8 Initially CAAMWU had 80 workers sign on to the lawsuit and by the time they won the lawsuit in 2008 there were 202 plaintiffs. The court ordered that the company pay the 202 plaintiffs, but Cummins paid all RMEP workers the remainder of their 2002 bonus. In 2 010, CAAMWU won another victory after filing a Wage & Hour lawsuit over the failure of Cummins to pay overtimes rates on 2009 lump sum merit increases for top pay technicians. As a result, 499 workers received back pay checks. This is a small sample of t he many legal actions taken by CAAMWU, but it provides a sense of the utility of this tactic despite its often slow results. While a majority 8 A re audit of Cummins' 2002 earnings report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers showed Cummins earned $2.13/share rather than $1.87/share originally r eported. Cummins workers were told in 2002 that due to the company missing the fourth quarter target by $.01/share they would only receive 70% of the variable compensation payout they earned (Unity News 2003).


73 union might focus on enforcing the terms of a contract negotiated with the company, CAAMWU asserts its power by en forcing state and federal labor laws. As CAAMWU's legal victories accumulate, it becomes more difficult for both Cummins and RMEP workers to ignore their presence in the plant. At the same time, these legal actions highlight the company's lack of credibili ty in abiding by its own policies. This has helped swell CAAMWU's ranks over the years and file yet more lawsuits against RMEP, many of which have led to significant gains. Long Term External Support It is necessary to mention the role that UE had in a dvising CAAMWU during their various campaigns. Although CAAMWU formed without the help of a national union, they did seek external support from the very beginning. CAAMWU's long term affiliation with UE has provided an important source of support. CAAMWU' s relationship with UE began after an NLRB election at Stand ard Products Co. in Rocky Mount. Workers at Standard Products tried to affiliate with the United Auto Workers (UAW) but were unable to garner a majority vote. Nevertheless, a significant number of workers voted for the union and so these workers decided to form a nonmajority union. They then asked to be affiliated with UAW, but UAW refused to represent a nonmajority union. CAAMWU, which had been planning to affiliate with UAW had they won the elect ion, reached out to UE instead. CAAMWU affiliated with UE in 1994 and has worked to build a chartered statewide local under UE ever since. This is a point of pride for CAAMWU as Jim explained to me: "E ven though we weren't a charte red member at that time, UE in North C arolina started with us. It started with us ."


74 UE helped provide the organizational structure that connected different unions in North Carolina. CAAMWU's affiliation with UE proved particularly helpful when they first began distributing inform ation to workers in the plant. UE representative Saladin Muhammad helped CAAMWU draft the first flyer that they handed out. He has generally advised them on legal issues related to the content of Unity News. When CAAMWU first began passing out newsletters outside of the plant by the driveway, company security told them they could not do that. CAAMWU would have left had Saladin not been there to advise them on their legal rights. As CAAMWU became progressively more active inside the plant, information from U E and other organized workers became increasingly important. CAAMWU's affiliation with UE has served another important function: connecting them with the larger labor movement. In 1996 CAAMWU sent a delegation to the founding convention of the Labor Party At the convention they were able to vote as a UE local even though they weren't technically a local. CAAMWU was also able to attend UE conventions and held a vote at those conventions after receiving their charter. For CAAMWU leaders, these events connec ted them with other labor leaders, helped lend important moral support and imparted information. Additionally, UE was not CAAMWU's only source of external support. When CAAMWU attended the Cummins stockholder meeting in May of 2005 they were able to meet w ith the two other Cummins unions as well as Jobs With Justice. CAAMWU also built ties with the Working at GE nonmajority union effort. In 2003, CAAMWU was invited by WAGE to attend a conference in Myrtle Beach, SC, and in 2004 CAAMWU invited WAGE to a UE


75 n onmajority union conference in Whitakers. CAAMWU and WAGE then presented together at a Jobs With Justice convention in St. Louis in 2005. By affiliating with a larger national union, as well as building ties with workers in other locales, CAAMWU was able to ensure a lasting form of external support. Most importantly, UE has stuck with them over the years. In many instances national unions find that they are unable to support the lengthy organizing efforts of nonmajority unions (Nissen 2001). Nevertheless, UE has maintained a strong presence in North Carolina and for CAAMWU this has made all the difference: being part of a national union, part of a statewide local, all that is part of what has sustained us" (Jim Wrenn). Employee Handbook As Contract O ne of the primary differences between a majority union and nonmajority union is the latter's lack of a contract with their employer. However, CAAMWU found an innovative means of holding Cummins accountable for their actions without a contract: enforcing th e company's own employee handbook as if it were a union contract. At the heart of this tactic was CAAMWU's thorough knowledge of the Cummins employee handbook. The handbook, although created by the company, laid out a number of policies and procedures th at CAAMWU could hold the company accountable to. This was especially important when CAAMWU witnessed instances of disparate treatment of employees. While some employees were able to get away with breeches of company policy such as safety violations, others were subjected to disciplinary measures. By referring to the company's own policies, CAAMWU was able to address these instances of unequal treatment.


76 In addition to knowledge of the employee handbook, CAAMWU also took careful records on every incident as well as the company's response. These records served as evidence in holding the company accountable for its past practice. One CAAMWU member was able to retain his job after being suspended for a safety violation, largely thanks to the union's ability to prove that other employees cited for similar violations had been treated more leniently. In parts of the handbook where company policy was vague, CAAMWU pressured management to offer a more precise definition. CAAMWU advocated for, and won, a more clearly defined attendance policy that could be applied more fairly to all employees. CAAMWU's enforcement of the company's own policies and procedures served a number of purposes. Most importantly, it forced the company to be more consistent with equal treatment of employees. However, it also served the secondary role of enhancing the position of CAAMWU's shop stewards. Shop stewards became well versed in the employee handbook and were able to offer support to coworkers facing disciplinary action. This helped sol idify their role in the plant and bolster their leadership capacity. The development of leaders in CAAMWU has consistently been an important element of their struggle. Leadership Considering all that CAAMWU has accomplished at RMEP, one would think the y had a sizable number of union members at the plant. However, this is not the case; at its strongest, less than 150 workers were dues paying members. Nevertheless, many workers who are not CAAMWU members still participate in their various campaigns.


77 This is in part thanks to the strong and committed leadership that has been part of CAAMWU since the very beginning. According to Saladin this is not an unusual phenomenon: "Unfortunately, participation in union activities is still small You always have this advanced element moving forward." The workers who I met with on my first visit to Bloomer Hill are undoubtedly part of this "advanced element." Evelyn described the pivotal role that she had when the union was first beginning to form in 1990: When I first came to a meeting here, a lady was talking and I said, oh y'all are trying to get a union, that's the first thing I said. I think it was in the back of Jim's [Jim Wrenn] head but he had never really thought about the word union. And he said well I guess and I made him think ." Now Evelyn has retired, but she is still very involved in the union. Ruth also no longer works at the plant. She was one of the many workers who was laid off during what the union calls the "St. Patrick's Day Massacre" in 2009. Nev ertheless she remains a central leader in CAAMWU. Even though I'm not working there anymore I still work ju st as hard as when I was there," she told me. It is still her dream that CAAMWU will one day become a majority union. Of course, CAAMWU is not si mply a group of individual leaders who have come together and formed a union. It was the process of forming the union that helped create the leaders in CAAMWU. Saladin recalled one CAAMWU leader in particular who held fairly conservative political views a nd did not seem like a natural ally. Nevertheless, he became one of CAAMWU's most active members. Saladin described CAAMWU's group formation as follows: Y'know it's [unity] been forged through struggle. Forged. And so people, there's some people you know t hrough struggle you understand they're not just gunna


78 abandon. We know that about each other. There may be disagreements sometimes, but in terms of abandoning, management looks at these things and they know that forces will rally, and that's demonstrated i tself in some ways. Here Saladin is speaking specifically about the company's strategy of trying to divide workers along racial lines by bribing white workers to break ranks with the union. He believes this strategy has for the most part failed, because black and white workers have forged a deep sense of unity over the years. While the company will always bribe white workers breaking the unity that CAAMWU has built is not easily done. CAAMWU encourages members to take on leadership roles by becoming s hop stewards in the plant 9 In a majority union, shop stewards are workers who serve as union representatives who are responsible for generally helping coworkers and handling disputes with management. In CAAMWU shop stewards serve a similar but less formal ized function. Although they are not able to file grievances, coworkers come to them for help and consult them on workplace issues. Shop stewards are also responsible for distributing Unity News to their teams within the plant. Workers also take on leader ship roles in CAAMWU by regularly attending meetings, speaking out on various issues, passing out petitions and attending UE conventions. The fact that many of the individuals who formed CAAMWU are still leaders in the union is an indication of its stron g and committed leadership. CAAMWU's consistent leadership has been a source of stability for the organization. It has also ensured a certain amount of institutional memory in remembering what strategies and tactics have been the most successful and how th e company has responded to them. Furthermore, CAAMWU 9 The organization of CAAMWU's sh op steward system was based on information from their 2002 Wage & Hour lawsuit that had 202 plaintiffs. CAAMWU organized the plant into 10 areas based on the number of lawsuit signers, and these became their shop steward districts.


79 has been fairly successful in assimilating new leaders by having them take on responsibilities in the plant and attend meetings and conferences. The results of this leadership development are clear given the longevity of the union. Current Issues As previously mentioned, in March of 2009 RMEP had a reduction in force in which 179 workers were laid off. Of these workers, about 34 were CAAMWU members. This was a tough blow to CAAMWU's membership and t hey lost a number of leaders that day (although some, like Ruth, are still involved in union activities). Furthermore, many workers believed that the union members who were laid off lost their jobs because they were in the union. Despite the fact that the vast majority of people laid off were non union members, this belief has made workers even more fearful about joining the union. Since 2009, CAAMWU has fought for the recall rights of the workers who were laid off. They have tried to get town commission ers in the various local communities to support them on this issue, but have had little success which they suspect is because of the monetary support which RMEP provides for these communities. Nevertheless, CAAMWU is continuing to build the union and demon strate, as Jim put it, that "March 2009 did not kill this union." This has meant developing new CAAMWU leaders and fighting for across the board raises. Despite March's setback, CAAMWU remains hopeful about its future and its prospects for one day reachin g a majority.


80 C HAPTER 5 : Results and Analysis -WAGE In this chapter I describe the context of labor in New England as well as address the formation of Working at GE (WAGE) as a nonmajority union, the strategies and tactics that it employed during i ts active years and the reasons why it is no longer an active organizing campaign. Additionally, I divide the history of WAGE into thematic elements within this timeline. Background Industry The region of New England (made up of the states of Connecti cut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) is typically thought of as the cradle of industrialization in the United States. New England was home to the burgeoning textile industry, the industry which led the industrial revolution i n the United States. Towns such as Lowell, Massachusetts along the Merrimack River became well known for bringing all the stages of textile production under one roof. The textile industry in New England has since vanished, with textile giants such as J.P. Stevens relocating to the southern United States in search of cheaper labor ( Minchin 2005). However, New England was also an important site of the second industrial revolution, which gave rise to electrical corporations such as General Electric that soon d ominated the industry (Schatz 1 983). General Electric was incorporated in 1 892 as a result of a merger between Thomson Houston of Lynn, Massachusetts and Edison General Electric of Schenectady, New York. This second industrial revolution further altered th e economy of the New England region.


81 Labor The process of industrialization had a tremendous impact on the working conditions in New England, which resulted in a strong working class movement. New England was home to some of labor's most iconic strugg les, such as the strike led by Lowell Mill Girls in 1834, the Lynn Shoemaker's Strike in 1860, and the Lawrence Bread and Roses Strike of 1912. Thanks in part to the strength of organized labor in the region, Massachusetts was the first state to pass a fac tory inspection law (MacLaury 1981). The region also experienced a relatively high rate of union density. In 2011, while the national union membership rate was 11.8 percent, the region of New England had a union membership rate of 13.9 percent (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 ) While this percentage represents a significant decline from the period of labor's strength, it does demonstrate the level of union membership in New England relative to the rest of the nation. However, union membership has been severely weakened in New England by the process of deindustrialization which occurred throughout the 1970s and continues to today. The process of decline in New England manufacturing is clearly visible in the jet engine industry, the focus of WAGE's organi zing in New England. GE and the Jet Engine Industry New England is also the birthplace of the jet engine industry in the United States. Massachusetts alone accounts for 9 percent of jet engine and jet engine parts manufacturing employment. Two companie s, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, have a combined market share of 80 percent of the industry (Almeida 2001). Both companies originated, and maintain roots, in the New England region. Pratt & Whitney is based in


82 Hartford, Connecticut and entered the industry in the 1920s. General Electric began building jet engines for the U.S. Air Force in the late 1 940s in Lynn, Massachusetts. When Thomson Houston joined with Edison General Electric in 1892, the Lynn "River Works" came under the ownership of General Electric and was utilized as an industrial research laboratory. It subsequently became part of GE's aircraft gas turbine division and produced engines for the new U.S. designed military jets during the 1940s. GE's collaboration with the U.S. military cont inued during the Cold War era and resulted in a number of innovations that made commercial air travel faster and cheaper. Furthermore, GE's and Pratt & Whitney's activities in the region supported employment in communities throughout New England that perfo rmed a range of precision metalworking activities involved in the production of jet engine components ( ibid) However, the economic prosperity of the industry began to decline in the early 1970s. In the 1990s the industry experienced a massive downsizing The Lynn River Works Plant went from employing 9,000 hourly workers in the mid 1980s to employing a projected 4,800 by the year 2000. Two major factors account for the decline of the industry: the end of the Cold War and the onset of a global recession w hich impacted commercial air travel. However, while the industry experienced a 39 percent drop in sales between 1990 and 1994, the decline in employment (47 percent since 1988) has been much greater. In fact, the industry recovered after the mid 1990s, but this did not improve the situation for aircraft engine workers. Instead, outsourcing, downsizing and the channeling of profits into acquisitions and distributions to stockholders have weakened the employment prospects of workers in the industry (ibid)


83 It is in this context that WAGE attempted to organize the nonunion portion of GE plants. Many GE workers already felt their jobs were at risk having watched the steady decline of the industry since the 1970s. Smaller communities in particular were highly d ependent on GE as the largest and best paying employer in the area. Although New Englanders had a more extensive historical experience with unions than their southern counterparts, they had also experienced the pains of deindustrialization, time and time a gain, and were sharply aware of the potential costs of unionization (generally, plant closure). These contextual differences played an important role in shaping the unionization efforts of WAGE. Formative Process Taking on General Electric When it come s to anti union tactics there are few companies as adept as GE at thwarting organizing efforts. In fact, no GE plant has been organized since 1 987 despite many organizing drives at GE facilities (Bouchard 2005). While in 1980 about 35 percent of GE workers were unionized today that number is less than 15 percent. "In 2003, only 1 4 percent of the workers at GE factories were union represented. During bargaining, company officials boasted that in four years that number would be down to 9 percent" (Bouchard 20 05 :237). Some of the reasons for this will be elucidated in the analysis to follow, but GE has a general union avoidance plan that it has utilized across the country. At the center of this plan is GE's policy of extending union won gains to its nonunion p lants. Although nonunion plants will not have the grievance procedures, work rules and union support for dealing with workplace issues, nonunion plants do enjoy the same wages and benefits negotiated by the union. This allows GE to claim that nonunion


84 work ers receive all the benefits of being in a union without having to pay dues. When plants do attempt to organize, GE brings in a team of union avoidance experts to coach managers on how best to respond to unionization attempts. Generally management tries to address some of the issues in the plant and appear more attentive to the needs of employees until the organizing effort dies down. In short, this strategy has been very effective at thwarting most union organizing drives (Bouchard 2005). WAGE: Working a t GE The International Union of Electronic Workers (IUE) has struggled for many years to effectively organize GE workers. In 2001 IUE merged with the Communication Workers of America (CWA), a union with some experience in using nonmajority unions as a str ategy. With many contacts in nonunion GE plants already established, the CWA proposed that the IUE adopt a nonmajority union approach in building a union presence at nonunion GE plants. Rand Wilson, an organizer on the WAGE campaign, articulated some of th e advantages of using a nonmajority approach at GE: GE and just about every other company really knows how to deal with a card signing campaign and a certification electionSo I think they're very content to let workers sign cards and have an election bec ause not that they welcome that, but they know how to beat it. Whereas the WAGE strategy is more subtle and is not something they can deal with because there's no finite beginning, middle or end. It's a group that's going to work without a contract but pu rsue their Section 7 rights. The goal of WAGE was to establish a more long term strategy of building union awareness at GE's nonunion plants. In practice, this meant supporting workers at GE plants as they formed committees and organized around issues in the plant. The IUE CWA envisioned WAGE as a preparatory organization that could eventually prepare for


85 an election if that became a viable possibility. However, the purpose of WAGE was not primarily to win elections a strategy that had already been frustra ted by GE anti union tactics but to build an organization capable of performing many of the same function as a fully recognized union. Even without a collective bargaining agreement, these committees could address workplace issues as they arose through con certed shop floor activity, sharing information, community in v olvement and other approaches. This was the initial vision of WAGE which achieved varying levels of success at nonunion GE plants between 2002 2007. The first WAGE committee was established in 2002 at a GE plant in Muskegon, Michigan that had recently lost an NLRB supervised election. Soon after, WAGE committees were established in Wilmington, NC and Somersworth, NH (Bouchard 2005). The IUE CWA Local 201 in Lynn, Massachusetts became the key lo cal involved in establishing WAGE committees at nonunion GE plants throughout New England. Lynn is home to GE's River Works Plant which manufactures jet engines and is one of GE's larger plants in the region. The Lynn River Works Plant is represented by Lo cal 201. Active campaigns were established in Somersworth, NH, Hooksett, NH and Auburn, ME. Some organizing activity was also attempted in Bangor, ME and Rutland, VT. Organizers from Local 20 1 would first approach plants by handing out leaflets outside of the plant gates. Local 201 also would receive calls from workers at nonunion plants interested in WAGE. Through these two methods Local 201 was able to identify shops at which to establish a WAGE committee. With funds provided by the CWA, Local 201 was abl e to hire an organizer to work on WAGE among other tasks. Additionally Local


86 201 members took time off work at the River Works Plant to travel to some of these plants and talk to nonunion workers. WAGE won several victories at plants across New England. However, by 2007, the WAGE program had effectively ended. Union staff and workers on WAGE committees attributed WAGE's demise to a number of different factors. These factors will be explored after first considering WAGE's many accomplishments during its sh ort lifespan. Strategies and Tactics Although WAGE committees existed in a number of plants throughout New England, the primary focus of this analysis is on the WAGE committees in Hooksett, NH and Auburn, ME. This i s because I was able to speak with tw o workers formerly involved in WAGE, one who worked at the Hooksett plant and one who worked at the Auburn plant. However, I will also address some examples from the other committees as detailed by former WAGE organizers and described in archival document s. The various committees exhibited differing levels of development and utilized a range of tactics. These tactics included using workplace petitions, distributing information, contacting local politicians, relying upon external union support and engagemen t in contract negotiations. Petitions One of the major victories achieved by the WAGE committee in Auburn, ME was initiated through a petition campaign. The campaign was in response to what was viewed


87 as unfair treatment towards a military reservist who had worked at the plant as a toolmaker for over 20 years. He was called to active duty after 9/ 11, and when he returned to work a year later his job was eliminated and he was downgraded to another position at a lower wage. When he tried to rectify the situation by speaking with the human relations department and plant manager, they told him they could do nothing. In response, the WAGE committee at Auburn decided to protest GE's actions. They drafted a letter to Maine's U.S. senators to call attention to the situation. They then circulated the letter throughout the plant and had people sign it. Of the 180 workers in the plant, 130 signed the letter. However, the WAGE committee never mailed the letter instead they printed the letter in the monthly WAGE new sletter and threatened to send it if GE did not return the worker to his former position. Within a week, his job grade was restored and he received a check for back pay for the months that he was demoted. This event was significant in demonstrating WAGE's power in the plant. Despite having no official recognition from management, WAGE was able to force management to respond to a committee initiated demand. Although the sheer number of signatures was enough to force the company to react, there were several o ther elements to the strategy WAGE employed. WAGE was able to communicate with management through their monthly newsletter, demonstrating its effectiveness as a means of disseminating information. Additionally, WAGE was able to leverage the threat of brin ging workplace issues into the public sphere, essentially forcing GE to acknowledge the damaging nature of their behavior towards their employees. At another WAGE committee in Somersworth, NH, workers successfully petitioned management to retain Special E arly Retirement Options (SEROs) after they


88 had already been told "corporate says no more SEROs. At the WAGE committee in Hooksett, NH, workers circulated a petition in support of the "Build America" amendment to the 2004 Defense Authorization Bill to pre sent to their local congressman which would "dual source" the contract for the advanced Joint Strike Fighter aircraft engine creating more jobs within GE. Although this petition did not make direct demands upon GE, it was a way of initiating workers to the concept of collective action and making WAGE visible within the plant. Overall workplace petitions have been a very effective means for WAGE to articulate demands to GE. Whereas GE would react very negatively to a union organizing drive, as has been show n through their past practice, their response to WAGE activities has been quite different. As the petition activities have demonstrated, GE has tended to respond positively to petition demands. This serves as a tool to placate workers and keep the union ou t but also supports WAGE's goal of illustrating the power of collective action. Political Action Some WAGE committees have also reached out to local political figures as a means of building support behind their initiatives. As stated earlier, the Aubur n WAGE committee effectively used the threat of involving local politicians in their struggle to get GE to restore the military reservist's job grade. In Hooksett, NH, WAGE committee members and representatives from Local 20 1 met with Representative Jeb Br adley to seek his support for a number of initiatives that would help create jobs within GE and protect U.S. manufacturing.


89 In 2003, workers at the Hooksett plant held a rally in support of a woman who was sexually harassed and unfairly removed from her job. This rally was attended by Howard Dean help ing give publicity to the event. Workers at the Auburn plant also reached out to a pro union local politician as a means of making themselves known to the larger community. In general, Local 201 had few conn ections with community groups in the area and most of the plants were located in areas with low union density. As a result, the WAGE committees developed few connections with community groups and other unions. Aside from meeting with politicians and occas ionally meeting in local union halls, WAGE committees were rarely active in the larger community. However, the contact they did have with local politicians seemed to be an effective means of portraying the WAGE committees positively in the community and re sulted in some press coverage. For those workers who participated in these actions, it was also a way of further coalescing the committee. Information One of the most central functions of WAGE committees was to bring information to disparate plants th at would otherwise be disconnected from GE plants in the region. At the national level, the IUE CWA produced a WAGE newsletter to distribute to all plants with WAGE committees. Committee members would distribute the newsletters inside the plant. Some WAGE committees, such as the one at the Auburn plant, even began to produce and distribute their own newsletters specific to their committees. Workers at the Auburn plant wrote articles updating the plant on the activities of the committee, plant happenings an d contract negotiations when the IUE CWA was


90 negotiating a contract with GE for the unionized section of the company. The newsletter served a number of purposes, as articulated by one former WAGE committee member, Linda Campbell The newsletters "would in corporate questions to make the employees think that it [the situation in the plant] could be better than what it was" but were also used as a "sounding board" to gauge management's reaction to WAGE activities. As the Auburn committee later found out, all of the newsletters were sent to GE Corporate. Even though the newsletter often felt like a form of "one way communication" in reality GE read, and responded to, much of what was printed in the newsletters. In fact, Linda recalled one situation when she was accused of libel by the plant manager for printing an article describing his condescending behavior at an all employee meeting about safety. However, this charge was dropped when it became clear that Linda was prepared to go to arbitration. This incident was a clear symbol of the importance attributed to the content of the WAGE newsletters. As one WAGE organizer stated, "Information is a very powerful tool, no matter who has it." By creating their own newsletter, the WAGE committee at Auburn, and other p lants, were able to share information with their coworkers while simultaneously putting pressure upon management to respond to the issues raised in the newsletter. As described earlier, the WAGE committee at Auburn successfully used their newsletter to pri nt a letter and petition that helped get a coworker reinstated to his previous job. Whether or not GE chooses to recognize the union, it still must respond to WAGE newsletters or risk appearing disinterested in the concerns of its employees.


91 External Support As noted earlier, the national IUE CWA as well as Local 201 played an essential role in the formation and maintenance of WAGE committees at plants throughout New England. The WAGE structure was largely the design of the IUE CWA, which explained th e nonmajority union model to interested employees at nonunion plants. Organizers from Local 201 then worked consistently with workers to help plan meetings, edit newsletters and build the committees within plants. At the Hooksett plant, Local 201 conducted a door knocking blitz to convince workers to join the WAGE committee with organizers working on WAGE and workers from the Lynn River Works Plants. Local 201 put a particularly large amount of time and resources into the Auburn WAGE committee, which was o ne of the more developed committees. Instead of taking on GE directly, an intimidating prospect for many workers, Local 201 offered a variety of services and trainings to help improve conditions in the plant. The Auburn plant in particular had a number of health and safety issues due to the type of work it performed; workers utilized dangerous materials, such as acid, on a regular basis. When workplace injuries occurred, management would often blame the worker rather than the method or procedure. As a resu lt, Local 201 offered a training for workers at the Auburn plant on how to address some of the procedural issues which led to workplace injuries. In addition, Local 201's Vice President held a seminar on the changes to the GE benefits package, a service th at GE used to offer but had eliminated over the years. Linda described the impact of this seminar: So many changes happened with benefits and everything and it used to be, years before, that our HR would call meetings and update us on the newest whatever, right W ell as the years went by HR ended up being less employee advocate they got away from everything that had to do with making our lives easier or nicer. So


92 when she [Local 20 1's VP] came up to give us that seminar about it, I mean it blew management away By providing a service which GE had once offered, Local 20 1 was able to successfully highlight some of the negative changes in the plant while at the same time serving an important function that, as Linda put it "would benefit everybody." Local 201 also offered a shop steward training conducted by labor educators from the University of Maine at Orono. The trainings covered topics such as state and federal labor law, worker's comp law, the Family and Medical Leave Act and federal anti discriminati on laws (Bouchard 2005). Part of the goal of this training was to make it possible for workers to exercise their Weingarten right to union representation a right which was taken away from nonmajority unions in a 2005 NLRB ruling. The loss of Weingarten rig hts for nonmajority unions was a serious blow to Local 201's effort to implement a shop steward system, but the training was still helpful for those who participated. The training gave workers a number of valuable resources that enabled them to assist thei r coworkers with various issues and answer questions ( ibid). Finally, Local 201 offered a less tangible but equally important form of support to WAGE committee members: mentorship, advice and friendship. Both workers and organizers reported amicable rela tionships that encouraged the development of WAGE committee members as informed union workers. Linda of the Auburn WAGE committee described how Local 201's support was an important part of her learning process and generally developed the committee: The wh ole approach that the union reps were trying to teach us was not to be vengeful, or vindictive, but to try to make changes in a positive way. And that to me, spoke volumes, it was hard for me to learn that personally because of all the,

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93 you know, you go th rough a lot of crap and its hard to see clearly when you're emotionally involved. It seemed like the first organizer really knew how to sum up people. Or size them up, or, he knew peoples' strengths and weakness es he seemed to get the best out of each on e of us. I don't know how he did it, he was totally gifted I guess. And um, so he got each of us to work on things that I guess he saw the strength there and we hadn't ever. And he was such an encourager, if we were on a roll, if there was something good, he never ever told us what to do, or how to do it, but he was so good at bringing the best out of each one of us. Additionally, the relationships between workers and organizers tended to be fairly meaningful. Many of the organizers involved in WAGE were GE workers themselves and understood the difficulty of going up against a company like GE. According to Local 201 President Jeff Crosby, one of the strengths of the program was the ability of member organizers to relate to WAGE committee members. At times, these relationships even resulted in long term friendships. In sum, Local 201 played a crucial role in supporting the various WAGE committees. They provided key resources for workers at disparate plants including trainings, staff support and organizing knowledge. Furthermore, by putting nonunion workers into contact with unionized GE workers, Local 201 was able to strengthen the overall position of all GE workers, as will be detailed in the following section. Contract Negotiations Throughout Local 20 1 's involvement with WAGE, organizers tried to impress upon nonunion GE workers the important role that nonunion workers held in determining the benefits negotiated by the unionized portion of GE. Although GE extended the same benefits to union and nonunio n workers, the extent of these benefits is determined by the

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94 strength of the unionized portion of the company. Therefore the only means of maintaining the same level of benefits is to sustain a strong union base. As a result, when the IUE CWA renegotiated their contract with GE, Local 201 made sure to include nonunion workers. They did so by providing information about the ongoing negotiations and by bringing WAGE representatives to the national negotiations. WAGE committee members traveled to the nationa l negotiations in New York and testified at the negotiating table about the issues they encountered as nonunion workers working for GE: problems with seniority, favoritism, discriminatory practices and anti union intimidation. Bringing nonunion workers to the negotiations served a dual purpose for Local 201. It both affirmed the nonunion workers' involvement with WAGE and forced GE to recognize the possibility of organization in the nonunion portion of the company. For WAGE committee members, participating in the negotiations was an exciting experience that emphasized the importance of their union involvement. It also granted them an extra degree of protection; as highly visible workers in the union effort, it would be very suspect for GE to target them. In terms of their impact on the negotiations, several WAGE organizers were of the opinion that simply the presence of nonunion workers played an important role in the negotiations. This statement by one Local 201 staff member describes GE's reaction to the no nunion workers: We brought a whole host of nonunion people to the bargaining table, and that had a lot of effect on GE, they treated those nonunion people like movie stars. They treated them, like with real kid gloves, listened to them intently, were real polite them. Just the threat of organizing at the national table helps even if we don't win the campaign, just the fact that they know there is a possibility they could be unionized makes GE want to give more at negotiations. According to Local 20 1 organ izers, i n later contract negotiations where nonunion workers have not been present, the negotiated contracts were not as strong as past

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95 contracts. In addition to bringing WAGE committee members to the national negotiations, Local 201 also offered informati on sessions at some of the nonunion plants about the contract negotiations. These meetings were fairly well attended because nonunion workers are impacted by the results of the negotiations. One Local 201 organizer described the content of these sessions: The reaction was actually very inquisitive, they wanted to know how I viewed things, how the union worked, what I saw as the major issues in the contract, why I felt they needed to become part of the union and how that would help the whole situation, that we couldn't do this by ourselves with the union density being so little. I said look its not only for your own good for local reasons, meaning if you're in a union you're gunna have more fairness in the upgrade system and layoffs and recall by seniority, you're gunna be able to fight unjust discipline, but more than that, I said, we cannot keep protecting your medical and your pension and your benefits with so little people unionized in the country. Eventually GE's gunna win. And so we need you, because we 're not able to keep defending your benefits anymore. As this statement demonstrates, these information sessions were also an opportunity for Local 20 1 to emphasize the importance of nonunion employees organizing. This was a means of countering GE's mant ra that joining the union is pointless when nonunion workers receive the same benefits as union workers without paying union dues. Additionally, involving nonunion workers in the contract negotiations was yet another way of connecting nonunion workers with the unionized portion of the company. This was not only a gratifying experience for those workers involved, it also had a tangible impact on the results of the negotiations. Reasons for Failure As has been detailed, the WAGE nonmajority effort was able to win a number of changes in nonunion GE plants such as reinstatement of a worker to his former job grade,

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96 the extension of SEROs to more employees, improvements in health and safety procedures, access to information and generally better responsiveness of management to employee concerns. However, by 2007, the WAGE program had largely fallen apart. This was due to circumstances both at the local and national level. Locally, many of the committees were losing their momentum. The committee at Auburn lost a n umber of key leaders who retired. At Hooksett, efforts to convince more workers to join the WAGE committee were proving fruitless. At the national level, the IUE CWA did not wish to continue putting resources into WAGE. Therefore the money that Local 20 1 r eceived to pay WAGE organizers ran out. With barely functional WAGE committees and little funding with which to continue, Local 201 ended its WAGE initiative. Over the years, WAGE faced a number of different challenges to its organizing effort. Many worke rs feared the possibility of the plant closing if it were successfully organized and therefore resisted unionization efforts. Other problems included the targeting of WAGE leaders by management, perceptions of the union organizers as outsiders, GE anti uni on tactics and difficulty in identifying relevant issues around which to organize. However, several issues stood out in the minds of WAGE organizers and workers as most relevant in explaining WAGE's demise. These issues included lack of support from the na tional union, no clearly defined purpose for WAGE, and a lack of stable committee leadership. It is to these issues that I now turn.

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97 National Union Leadership One of the key reasons noted by WAGE organizers for the program's termination was a lack of support from the IUE CWA leadership (and more specifically, the IUE section of the union). The main frustration expressed by WAGE organizers was that the IUE CWA never provided much of a support structure for WAGE. On the national level, there was littl e consistent leadership, as Local 201 President Jeff Crosby explained: We had different people in charge every year it seemed like. No one had it as a full time job, there was never a single staff person responsible for it. It would be added to someone's list of tasks so that you could get them on a conference call." The only way that Local 20 1 really connected with other organizers involved in WAGE around the country was through sporadic conference calls. Additionally, there was never any kind of national training for WAGE organizers. Although Local 201 had some very talented organizers who worked on the program, none were familiar with the specifics of organizing a nonmajority union campaign and so had to learn some of these differences on the job. Part of the problem also lay in a dispute between the IUE and CWA over the WAGE program. While the CWA was providing most of the funding for WAGE, they felt that the IUE should be taking leadership of WAGE because GE workers were represented by the IUE. Howeve r, the IUE was never particularly enthusiastic about the program, preferring more traditional union campaigns. The result was a leadership gap that left most of the work up to local unions to determine. This meant that there was no summation of the work na tionally, making it difficult to determine what was working and what wasn't. It also put those locals involved in WAGE at risk, as described by one WAGE organizer: "Without a national effort, all GE does is they put a lot of pressure on

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98 locals. If you're t he only one doing it, they'll threaten our location with jobs if we keep doing it." Therefore a national effort was really necessary to prevent GE from targeting those locals most active in organizing nonunion plants. Since Local 20 1 was just one of a few locals actively involved in WAGE, they had to consider how GE might respond to their organizing efforts. When Local 201 lost their funding for WAGE, it became impractical for them to continue organizing GE plants. The IUE CWA's failure to sustain its com mitment to the WAGE program was also symptomatic of another flaw in the program: a fundamental misunderstanding of what the nonmajority union approach would entail. In 2005, former WAGE organizer Paul Bouchard published on article entitled "In for the Lon g Haul: The Nonmajority Union Strategy." The article offers a number of reflections about the WAGE program, but as the title implies, one of his key points was that the nonmajority union approach is not a short term strategy. It requires a long term commit ment which not all unions are prepared to make. Furthermore, there is nothing to be gained from rushing the process; this was a lesson that was learned the hard way at the Auburn plant, as will be detailed. Organizing for What? Throughout WAGE's exis tence, the program suffered from the lack of a clearly defined purpose. Was the goal to eventually go for an election and build a more traditional union, or was WAGE a different kind of organization all together? Jeff Crosby commented on this issue: "the problem is that you sort of end up in a never never land where you're not really a union, you're not necessarily trying to go for a union, but you want to go for a union sometime. So I don't think we were ever very clear on that." This

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99 lack of clarity cul minated in a premature election drive at the Auburn plant. WAGE organizers began the usual pre election activities, beginning to "map 10 the workplace and approaching potentially supportive workers. GE's response to this activity was to bring in their union avoidance experts, creating a much more tense and divisive atmosphere. It soon became clear that the plant was not ready to sign cards and go to an election. The result of this premature election drive was fairly damaging for WAGE. WAGE leaders were har assed by coworkers, meeting attendance fell, and fewer workers accepted WAGE literature. Furthermore, the Auburn committee became more interested in holding an election and negotiating a contract than in fighting to improve working conditions in the plant. In essence, the WAGE effort at Auburn became like any of the other failed union drives that the IUE had initiated at nonunion GE plants over the years. Whereas workers were fairly accepting of WAGE, they were not ready for an election drive; bu t the elect ion drive ultimately killed the WAGE effort (Bouchard 2005). Part of the reason for this premature election drive was undoubtedly the unclear purpose behind WAGE. The WAGE organizers were never quite sure where WAGE stood in relation to a more typical unio n campaign. Committee Leadership Although WAGE had a number of committed leaders within the various plants, the program consistently struggled with maintaining enough strong leaders to make the committees self sustaining. Without a level of autonomy, it became fairly impossible for 10 Determine the informa l relationship networks in a workplace.

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100 the committees to continue to exist without the ongoing support of Local 20 1. One of the reasons WAGE came to an end when it did, as one WAGE organizer explained, was that Local 201 had taken on a number of the responsibilit ies that workers inside the plant really needed to be doing. The WAGE organizer recalled telling them "look, we will come up at the drop of a hat but you have to want to take on the company and make a better workplace here, we're not gunna do it for you." Part of the difficulty in sustaining committee leadership was due to key leaders retiring. This was a problem at Auburn, where the committee size was seriously affected, as explained by former WAGE committee member Linda: The core group that went to all the meetings dwindled down to like five of us, and it was a lot of work, it was a lot of emotional work, emotionally charged I guess. Stressful. It got to the point where it was like hey wait a minute, do I need to do this? And so, then I think we got, it wasn't burnt out, I don't think it was that, it was just discouragement. At the Hooksett plant, it was a constant struggle to attract enough workers to form a viable committee. This made it even more difficult for the most visible leaders of the group. On e former WAGE committee member, Elaine O'Neal had a particularly difficult time maintaining her involvement in WAGE. She felt as though she were always being "watched" by management. Furthermore, she found that management was beginning to take away some of her work responsibilities and became concerned for her job. As a result she chose not to continue with the WAGE effort. One WAGE organizer also commented on the importance of having long term leadership in particular. Part of the difficulty in sustai ning the WAGE effort was that as soon as management had improved some of the conditions in the plant, workers lost sight

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101 of the need to organize. Therefore, leaders who understand the history of the workplace are essential: You have to have a committee out there, that basically says look, this is the history and pattern of this stuff, they give in because we're organizing and then once we go away, it's gunna go back to the old way, that's the history, you need to constantly follow up. And that has not been the history of us. The history is we get these committees going and then the committee starts falling apart and there's not enough resources being devoted to an ongoing campaign with a leadership body right up that leads it. As another organizer put it: you need people who understand that as long as they work there, it's going to be bad. It may not be terribly bad, but it's bad and only through organizing and staying together will it get better." In general, workers who have been in the plant for many yea rs tend to understand this pattern better than others. For this reason, long term leadership is an important characteristic of a successful workplace committee. On the whole, WAGE struggled to attract enough long term, committed leadership to make the comm ittees self sustaining. Looking Back on WAGE Although WAGE is no longer an active nonmajority union effort, all of the WAGE organizers and workers I interviewed felt that it had been a worthwhile project that accomplished a lot in its short lifespan. Th e list of WAGE accomplishments speaks to this, as do the reflections of WAGE organizers and workers: Even if it doesn't go to organization [formal union recognition], in the end it was a positive experience for the shop regardless. It showed everyone, the ones that were involved and the ones that were just looking on from the outside, it showed people that teamwork can get things done. And if someone is being targeted lets say by a boss and harassed, we had that a lot, once they saw that there was some sol idarity, management started taking different approaches, and that was a good thing, it was a positive thing.

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102 Whenever we've had people get together and voice issues through the newsletter, through committee meetings, or through shop floor articulation of their concerns, the company was really listening and quickly responded. People could win small and big changes. In the years after the WAGE effort fell apart, there were still noticeable differences in the plants. Elaine commented on the fact that managem ent now updated the plant on ongoing contract negotiations something they never did before WAGE. Additionally, improvements were made to health and safety procedures. This demonstrates that even the threat of organization is enough to create change; but on ly ongoing organization is effective in maintaining it. As Linda commented, although the plant is different thanks to WAGE, it's been too long without it." Another lasting element of the WAGE effort has been the relationships that were built along the wa y, as one organizer explained: The effort resulted in a relationship and contacts in facilities where you wouldn't have had any. And the idea is to try and sustain something so that when the time is ripe, or conditions are different, that you're prepared t o respond. And I think that's a good thing even todayyou're connected somehow, you're giving those people information, you're getting feedback from them, even when the chapter's dormant; there's the basis of a relationship there. I think that's important In the final analysis, it is clear that WAGE did create positive change for a number of workers at nonunion GE plants. However, due to a number of challenges the effort was cut short. While some involved in WAGE believe the program ended for internal r easons namely the lack of viability of the committees others felt it was the result of decisions by the national union leadership. Most likely, the combination of these internal and external pressures brought WAGE to an end. Nevertheless, both workers an d organizers are hopeful that WAGE may still hold a future for nonunion GE workers.

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103 C HAPTER 6 : Comparing CAAMWU and WAGE In this chapter I provide an explanatory comparison of the two nonmajority union cases that I outlined in chapters 4 and 5 I begin b y addressing some of the common elements that may define a nonmajority union as compared to a traditional union. These are characteristics which potentially apply to other nonmajority unions. Next, I explore some of the more specific similarities between t he two cases focusing on their shared tactics and challenges. I then address some of the differences that may explain their differing levels of success. Finally, I will explore some of the strengths and limitations of nonmajority unions based on my analysi s of the two cases. Overall this chapter should provide a sense of what nonmajority unions look like and how they operate. Common Features of Nonmajority Unions I began this thesis by proposing that there has been an absence of research on what nonmaj ority unions look like today. In the following section I outline some of the common features of the two cases that exemplify some of the qualities of 2 1 st century nonmajority unionism. These qualities include an approach of inclusion, issue oriented campai gns, claiming credit for union victories, and generally building a union that operates as any other union would. Challenging the "Members Only" Approach One of the defining features of nonmajority unions before the passage of the Wagner Act was a memb ers only approach. Nonmajority unions operated in workplaces

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104 where there may have been several different unions and therefore represented only their members. Today, nonmajority unions exist only in places where there is no union of any kind. As a result, i nstead of following a members only approach, the nonmajority unions described in this thesis seek to mobilize around issues that they believe will benefit everyone in the plant. Additionally, these unions are willing to help all workers who seek their supp ort regardless of union membership status. By rejecting a members only policy, these unions have tried to create a positive image in the plant that may help to attract new members. In the case of CAAMWU, union members came to the aid of any workers who a sked for help, whether or not they were union. "We didn't turn them away," Ruth said, in answer to a question about how they responded to nonunion workers who asked for help. Ruth was unsure about whether this helped recruit people down the line, but it di d in at last one case. When CAAMWU defended the rights of the couple who had left work early to pick up their children, those workers became union members and remained so until they left the plant. CAAMWU's policy of inclusion was similar to that of Black Worker's For Justice, the organization that helped plant the seeds of unionization at RMEP Evelyn explained how this ethic was implied in the name of the group: That's why BWFJ is called BWFJ; it's for justice for everybody, not only trying to be just for us. But if we could get those people to see that if these few that really belong can get all this done, if it was everybody, if all of y'all was all of us, what would we do ? Some of the things [workplace issues] would never even come up! They wouldn't go there. They'd know better than to even go there. Here Evelyn is expressing the importance of seeking justice for all. However she is also addressing one of the frustrations of this method: If more people were to join the union

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105 effort, it would be much str onger However, by help ing everyone who needs it the union allows people to reap benefits without contributing to the union In addition to helping anyone who asked, CAAMWU always chose issues that tended to benefit everyone in the plant. One particularl y poignant example was the lawsuit that they filed over the bonus pay that RMEP had withheld. Despite having less than a hundred members, nearly 400 workers signed on to the lawsuit that CAAMWU filed. CAAMWU was also instrumental in helping over 400 worker s file for unemployment benefits after the plant's week of shutdown. Darryl also commented on this feature of CAAMWU's effort: a lot of things they [Jim and Saladin] were saying benefit people, they don't just benefit one class of people but benefit every one in the plant as a whole." By choosing widely popular issues and extending help to everyone, CAAMWU has been able to turn non members into active participants in the union effort. WAGE also took an approach that included all workers, regardless of unio n membership. Like CAAMWU, they sought to improve the quality of the workplace overall by finding issues that affected the majority of workers. Linda, of the Auburn WAGE committee, explained the reasoning behind this strategy: "We tried to think of doing good things in the shop, doing things that would benefit everybody, so that it would educate people, to get people out of that tunnel vision of what unions are, what they are and what they are not." Linda hoped that by demonstrating what the union could ac complish, this would help bring more people into the union. With this in mind, WAGE committees tackled issues such as health and safety procedures, provided information about GE benefits to all workers, organized to extend early retirement to more workers.

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106 These were all ways to improve conditions in the plant as a whole, not just improve conditions for union members. Of course, part of the reason that nonmajority unions advocate for benefits for everyone may be because of their lack of recognition by empl oyers at the present time. They could hardly demand benefits for members only when the union remains unrecognized. That being said, the extension of union won gains to all workers not only carries a moral component, it also serves as a strategy to show non union workers what the union can accomplish. Issue Oriented Campaigns All unions seek to address workplace issues. However, the priority of most traditional union campaigns is to ensure that there are enough pro union workers to win an NLRB election. T hen, if things go well, a contract is negotiated with the employer. This contract will address issues that are compiled by workers and union staff, and the contract enforces the results of the negotiation. Union activity is focused around periods during wh ich a new contract is being negotiated, with few major actions in between contracts other than contract enforcement. Since nonmajority unions do not generally focus on election drives or contract negotiations, their activities focus less on the NLRB path way of building a union and more on workplace issues. Without a steady stream of issues around which to organize, nonmajority unions would not be able to build a presence in the workplace. Only through constant organization are they able to maintain the mo mentum they need to build a union presence.

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107 For this reason, both CAAMWU and WAGE depended on workplace issues to drive their union effort. This was particularly true of CAAMWU which began its nonmajority union effort by working to win a paid MLK holiday Only after winning the new holiday did they form an official union committee. In this way, the committee was really formed around the issue of an MLK holiday. CAAMWU then continued the union effort by finding a number of issues around which to mobilize w orkers. In the 22 years they have operated as a nonmajority union, they have taken on dozens of issues in the plant. While traditional unions also deal with workplace issues as they arise, they are often not the plant wide events that CAAMWU's issue based activities are. CAAMWU draws attention to workplace issues by writing about them in their Unity News newsletters and communicating the position of the union through mass actions such as petitions and rallies in the community. Without a contract to rely upo n CAAMWU must constantly articulate the position of the union on a variety of issues. WAGE similarly used workplace issues to build its committees in various workplaces. One of the most significant victories that the Auburn WAGE committee accomplished was the reinstatement of the service member to his previous job grade. Although this was an issue that only affected one worker, it was an issue which many people were willing to mobilize around. Other issues tackled by WAGE included worker health and safety and the reestablishment of benefit seminars. By choosing particular issues on which to focus, WAGE was able to create momentum which helped build the committee. Linda explained the effect that organizing around workplace issues had: "we had a lot of intere st and a lot of people were involved and we made some hits, some positive hits in the plant, and it was, it opened a lot of eyes, including management's."

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108 This comment underscores the twofold value of organizing around issues: it both brings workers into t he union effort, and compels management to acknowledge the presence of the union. Claiming Victories Another key feature of nonmajority unions is taking credit for any positive changes in the workplace. This is particularly important, because oftent imes employers try to frame positive changes as the result of their own benevolence. By announcing victories, no matter how small they may seem, nonmajority unions are able to demonstrate to the rest of the workforce the positive impact unions can make. One of the main ways that CAAMWU communicates its victories to the workforce is through Unity News. Through their Unity News newsletters, CAAMWU articulates problems in the workplace, informs workers of union activities on the issue and then proclaims vict ory when the issue is addressed. With headlines like "After Four Years of Workers' Struggle RMEP Revises Policy: No PTO for Snow" and "499 RMEP Workers Receive Back Pay Checks on 2009 Lump Sum Merit Increase: Another Victory for RMEP Workers and the Union" CAAMWU tries to connect the many improvements in the plant with the union's organizing activity. As Jim explained, this is stuff that doesn't just happen it was because of our union." The difficulty is in making that apparent to workers outside of the u nion effort. In reference to the lawsuit that CAAMWU filed that helped win back pay for many workers, Ruth noted a lot of the people that work there still don't give our committee the credit that is due for that money." Receiving credit for their accompli shments continues to be an upward battle for

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109 CAAMWU, but by connecting changes in the workplace with the union effort they are able to demonstrate to some workers the difference a union can make. WAGE also followed a similar strategy of announcing union v ictories in their newsletters. Headlines such as "WAGE Unity Works !" and "WAGE victory at GE plant shows need for labor law overhaul attempt to underscore the impact of WAGE organizing. Of course, this is not always easy, and oftentimes the union is not a cknowledged for the work they have done. Nevertheless, by announcing these victories, the union is able to lay claim to positive changes in the workplace. Acting Like a Union Different unions have different organizational philosophies when it comes to how to build a union in a workplace. Often these different approaches can be classified as a servicing model vs. an organizing model (Fletcher and Hurd 1 999 ). A servicing model tends to focus on unions as a business which provide services to union members such as grievance handling, training and contract negotiations, in exchange for dues payment. In contrast, unions which utilize an organizing model take a more grassroots approach to union organizing. They focus on recruitment and mobilization. Most impor tantly with respect to nonmajority unionism, they focus on the internal development of unions, building leadership and encouraging member participation ( ibid) Nonmajority unions tend to use an organizing model because they do not have access to many of t he legal and financial resources that unions which use a servicing model of unionism have. Nonmajority unions are particularly committed to internal development, because forming a strong union organization is the best way to make

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110 changes in the workplace when formal negotiations are not an option. Instead of focusing on recruiting enough members to hold an election, nonmajority unions focus on developing a level of organization which looks and acts exactly as a majority union would. However, the focus of t he union is on collective action as opposed to collective negotiation. This is the approach which CAAMWU took when organizing their union committee. Rather than focusing on an election campaign, they worked on building an effective organization that coul d take on workplace issues. Over the years, CAAMWU developed most of the essential features associated with traditional unions: they collected dues on a monthly basis held meetings, recruited members and elected leadership. However, the most important asp ects of their organizational development are more closely associated with the organizing model of unionism. CAAMWU built ties with other organizations in the community and developed a number of strategies to utilize those networks in dealing with workplace issues. Rather than concerning themselves with the legal pathways to official recognition, CAAMWU has worked to create a strong union capable of making change in the workplace. Like the organizing model of unionism, nonmajority unionism is really a back t o the basics approach which revisits the question of what constitutes a union. WAGE began with a similar approach to what a nonmajority union should be. Like CAAMWU, they developed most of the basic features of a union. Nationally, WAGE members paid dues to support the organization. Additionally, members at the Auburn WAGE committee paid dues to support their local costs. WAGE committees also held meetings and recruited members. However, rather than going in with a team of

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111 organizers and beginning a card signing campaign, the IUE CWA sent just one or two organizers to strategize with workers on how best to build a strong union committee. The focus was on building a union, not voting in a union and entering contract negotiations (a strategy which had typic ally failed for the IUE at GE plants). By focusing on building the committee and organizing around workplace issues, WAGE was able to make changes without having to go through the process of official certification a process which kills many union efforts. When the IUE CWA lost sight of this feature of nonmajority unionism and tried to prepare for an election at the Auburn plant, it seriously damaged WAGE's prospects at that location. Although nonmajority unions do not engage in election campaigns, they do often aspire to a majority status. Nonmajority unions can often serve as a preliminary step towards a majority union (as they often did at the beginning of the 20 th century). However, the histories of CAAMWU and WAGE indicate that nonmajority unions shoul d operate as unions in and of themselves. Even with a small membership, they are able to fight for and win changes in the workplace. The characteristics detailed above provide a sense of some of the basic features of nonmajority unions, as demonstrated by CAAMWU and WAGE. In this next section I explore some of the specific shared experiences of the unions. CAAMWU and WAGE: A Comparison Shared Experiences Strategies and Tactics Chapters 4 and 5 dealt extensively with the strategies employed by CAAMWU an d WAGE in their nonmajority union efforts. I will now turn to some of the

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112 commonalities in the two unions' approaches. By carrying out a comparative analysis of the similarities of these two unions we can gain a keen understanding of what constitutes certa in common characteristics of non majority unionism. Of central importance for both j unions was a means of disseminating information in the plant, accomplished through the production and distribution of union newsletters. These newsletters allowed the unio ns to have a voice in the plant with or without employer recognition. Through the newsletters they were able to articulate problems in the workplace, share the activities of the committee and announce union victories. Additionally both unions utilized pe titions as a means of expressing workers' demands to management. This proved an effective tactic for both CAAMWU and WAGE as they were able to involve union members and nonunion members alike in petition actions. Political action was another means used by the two unions to exert pressure on management. By involving political figures CAAMWU and WAGE were able to publicize workplace conditions and use local political structures as another means of external union support. In terms of leadership development, th e two nonmajority union efforts implemented a shop steward system, giving training to committee members and serving as a resource for workers in the plant. Finally, both unions sought the help of national union organizations, in WAGE's case the IUE CWA in CAAMWU's case UE. These national unions were able to provide crucial resources to both nonmajority union efforts. The array of strategies and tactics described demonstrates the types of actions nonmajority unions are able to take without employer recognit ion. Moreover, these actions have proven themselves to be effective in creating change.

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113 Common Challenges Another point of commonality between CAAMWU and WAGE is the types of challenges faced by both union efforts. As Linda of the Auburn WAGE committe e commented, "there's a lot more to organizing than anybody even guessed there could be. It's a lot of work." A large part of the reason for the difficulty of the work is the degree of anti union activity which remains legal in the United States. The Unite d States is the only industrial democracy which allows employers to actively oppose their employees decision to unionize (Clawson & Clawson 1999). Both Cummins and General Electric made their position on unionization very clear to workers, employing a ra nge of tactics to discourage workers from joining the union effort. Within the manufacturing industry, one of the easiest and most effective ways of discouraging unionization is to threaten to close the plant and outsource the work. This threat was used a t both Cummins and General Electric to squash the union effort. Nor was this an entirely empty threat. The surrounding area of Rocky Mount, NC is littered with the remnants of industry. RMEP itself is located in a building that once housed union textile wo rkers before that plant too was shut down. For workers in the northeast, the threat of outsourcing is particularly imminent. According to WAGE organizer Rand Wilson, some of th e work at the Auburn plant had already been outsourced to Mexico where workers p erformed the same work for $4 a day WAGE organizers noted that part of GE's anti union strategy was to build small satellite plants in rural areas where GE would be able to offer the best jobs in town. Jeff Crosby of the IUE CWA explained the logic behin d this:

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114 They would tell people the only reason Hooksett is here is because they need a nonunion alternative to Local 201. Because Hooksett work, they're like a vendor for us. They said if you become union, they'll close the shop. And people believed them, and it's the best job around, and everything around you is sinking like a stone. So if you leave GE you're gunna take a fifteen dollar an hour pay cut, or ten, it's not like you just go and find another job. It changes your life completely. Workers in Wh itakers were placed in a similar situation. Workers came as far as 60 miles away to work at RMEP which offered some of the highest paid work in the area. When workers initially began organizing for a paid MLK holiday, management claimed that if they provi ded this the plant could no longer afford to operate. In addition to threatening to close the plant, management at Cummins and General Electric also targeted individual union leaders. Jim and another worker experienced this when they were brought up on h arassment charges for distributing union literature. Only after taking legal action was Jim able to have this charge removed from his file. Workers at WAGE experience similar types of intimidation. Elaine of the Hooksett committee felt particularly threate ned: "I just feel that undercurrent that if you start working towards being a unionized plant, they'll make life really difficult for you." She suspected that because of her union activity she was being given less workplace responsibility. She also felt li ke she was being "watched" by management. According to Linda, WAGE committee members were more frequently "written up" for disciplinary reasons than other workers. Although this type of intimidation is illegal, it is generally very hard to prove. Both Cum mins and GE employed a number of other anti union tactics. Cummins repeatedly told workers that they did not need a union and that the company did not support a union. They also periodically showed anti union videos. When CAAMWU

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115 won the lawsuit that recov ered their bonuses, the company tried to make it appear that CAAMWU disagreed with the company's policy of returning everyone's bonuses rather than just those that had signed onto the lawsuit: They wanted us, in the deposition, they wanted us to say that o nly the people who filed the lawsuit would get paid. The company wanted, this is what they wanted us to do, so it would make our union look bad, but we wouldn't do that. We said that they should pay everybody, and it wouldn't make us look like we was just for ourselves, that we believed in justice for everybody. Members of CAAMWU felt that this was a deliberate tactic by Cummins to make their union committee appear selfish. A strategy used by managers at GE was to tell workers that they received all the a dvantages of being in a union without paying dues, since nonunion GE workers receive the same benefits package as union GE workers. They also emphasized their open door policy, inviting workers to come directly to management with workplace issues. However workers who used this open door policy often found "themselves in even more hot water, for going over their boss's head" (Bouchard 2005). As a result of these various anti union measures, many workers who would otherwise be open to the idea of unionizati on were intimidated by the prospect of employer retaliation. Many feared the possibility of plant closure and others were concerned about being targeted for union activity. These are very real concerns in an age of weak labor law enforcement. However, on e of the most central challenges faced by nonmajority unions is their lack of recognition from management. Without any kind of recognition, nonmajority unions are unable to sit down and negotiate with their employers. Instead, they are forced to engage in constant shop floor action in order to compel employers to respond to workers demands. Of course, not all of the challenges faced by CAAMWU and WAGE

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116 come from management. Many of the challenges they experienced are the same types of challenges that face al l social movement organizations, such as recruiting new members and encouraging active participation by existing members. Maintaining an active membership was a constant problem for WAGE and continues to be a struggle for CAAMWU. Points of Difference De spite the many similarities between CAAMWU and WAGE, the two nonmajority union efforts had very different results. While CAAMWU remains an active union, WAGE has ceased to exist as an active nonmajority union effort. Some of the reasons for this have alre ady been explored. In this next section I address the aspects of CAAMWU's campaign that may explain their relative success and how this contrasts with WAGE's effort. CAAMWU Community Organizing One of the most important aspects of CAAMWU's history is that it did not emerge out of a void. It was the result of over 50 years of community organizing in the community of Bloomer Hill and the surrounding area. Many of the original members of CAAMWU were residents of Bloomer Hill and understand well the power of collective mobilization. Some had been involved in the community's struggle with the county that helped them acquire much needed resources and improvements. One worker, Ruth, had

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117 even helped establish a free health clinic for the people of Bloomer Hill and the surrounding community. Others were involved with the organization Black Workers for Justice, which led the struggle for economic justice in the African American community (and beyond). Workplace organization was not a new concept for community memb ers who had seen the results of the Rocky Mount sanitation workers' strike and been involved in BWFJ's actions at many of the area's industrial plants. Of crucial importance behind all of this organizing was that network of community organizations that wa s laid along the way. Community groups, faith based organizations, and labor organizations had already forged deep relationships by the time RMEP came to town. When several workers decided to fight for a paid MLK day at RMEP they already had many of the t ools they needed to ensure a victory. Salience of Race Cummins Rocky Mount Engine Plant workforce is estimated to be approximately 70 percent African American (Brooke 2000). Nevertheless, the majority of RMEP 's management is white. In a small southern town still mired in the history of Jim Crow segregation, there is little doubt that race matters. This was a clear reality during Bloomer Hill's battle with the county. The residents of Bloomer Hill challenged a white power structure that had been in pl ace for over a hundred years, and this challenge was very contested. Not only did the county exploit Bloomer Hill's poverty to push forward their own grant application, they reprimanded the community of Bloomer Hill for not being more grateful. When Bloome r Hill residents met with the county board of commissioners in May of 1 98 1 to discuss the

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118 grant application, Bill Rose, the county appointed industrial developer, who worked to bring RMEP to the area told them: "First of all, y'all colored people, y'all ne ed to be thankin' me because before I became industrial commissioner y'all was doin' those low down jobs ridin' on the backs if the garbage trucks." This was of course extremely insulting to those workers who had been part of the Rocky Mount sanitation wor kers' strike and revealed a deep level of condescension towards the African American community. These types of racial attitudes did not disappear when RMEP opened its doors. As noted earlier, disparate punishment for African American workers was a major p roblem. According to CAAMWU, white workers were able to just "walk off the job" without facing repercussions. However, when an African American couple left work early to pick up their children during a snowstorm, they were immediately discharged. Some work ers also noticed that African American workers had a much more difficult time advancing in the workplace. One U nicco worker observed that a white worker easily received a job after 6 months that it had taken him 5 years to get. Of course, the most obvious form of disparate treatment was the fact that Cummins' two other majority white plants were union plants with better pay and benefits than RMEP Nevertheless, RMEP management fiercely resisted CAAMWU's unionization efforts. In addition to disparate treat ment, CAAMWU workers also felt there was a clear attitude of disrespect from management, much of which was racial or class based. One example was how the company would play music if there was a team of workers late with the cycle time on the assembly line, and the song that they played was "Camptown Races" an old minstrel song. There was also an incident during the "No PTO for Snow"

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119 where the GM told a CAAMWU member that people who live in the "boonies" should move to town in order to avoid problems with the snow. These types of occurrences underscore the atmosphere of discrimination which permeates the plant. Although instances of discrimination lower the quality of the workplace environment, they can also serve to catalyze workplace organization. U nions that focus on issues such as dignity, justice and discrimination tend to be more successful than those that focus on bread and butter issues ( Bronfenbrenner 2001). The salience of race at RMEP has undoubtedly played a role in moving workers to action, a fa ctor which was clearly missing from WAGE's effort. Tactics Although CAAMWU and WAGE utilized a number of similar tactics, CAAMWU employed a much wider range of tactics than WAGE. They frequently made use of legal action to challenge the company on unfa ir labor practices. They also conducted plant wide surveys to exercise a form of workplace democracy. Most importantly, they worked to build ties with other workers throughout the state, bringing many public workers in neighboring communities into UE to fo rm UE statewide Local 150. They also sponsored community events such as the annual Martin Luther King Day celebration and offered community services such as rides to the monthly free health clinic. The fact that CAAMWU used a wider range of tactics may als o provide an indication of why they were successful. According to Kate Brofennbrenner and Tom Juravich's 200 1 study on union tactics, unions that use five or more rank and file intensive union building

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120 strategies tend to be more successful ( Bronfenbrenner 2001). Since CAAMWU used a variety of such tactics, this may account for some of their success. CAAMWU also solicited the help of a union that had a significant amount of experience in nonmajority union organizing, UE. UE had launched a campaign in the la te 19 80s to try and rebuild union density in the manufacturing sector after the onslaught of outsourcing. David Cohen, a retired UE organizer, explained how they reached this decision: In the UE we sort of came to the conclusion, in the late 1980s, where we used to have a winning record of 70% cuz we really followed the old system of organizing where you built a union, you didn't worry about the election. You try to build a functioning a union and then worry about the election. So we have a higher win rat e even with doing that, the percentage kept plummeting. So then in the late 1980s we lost a lot of members, and we launched an organizing campaign among plastic workers around the country, and our sort of model was looking at how they were done in the 1920 's. which was to build rank and file committees in as many factories as you could and concentrate in areas where there are a lot of plastics factories. And treat them like unions, even if we only had 10% of the workers we would teach them how to fight, and give them the tools to fight and if we could win through an NLRB election we would, if we couldn't we'd just be a union. The type of strategy which David described, a regional approach, has been a major aspect of CAAMWU's effort. Rather than trying to a ct in complete isolation, CAAMWU has worked to build ties with other labor organizations in the region. Although many of these workers work within the public sector, by building networks CAAMWU has been able to swell its support base and strengthen the pre sence of organized labor. Furthermore, because of UE's prior experience with nonmajority unionism, they had a good understanding of the long term nature of the project. Whereas the UAW had left the area after failing to win an election, UE welcomed CAAMWU into the union as full voting

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121 members in 1995. Additionally, one of the key UE organizers which worked with CAAMWU had also been a member of BWFJ and was familiar with the area. This helped facilitate the relationship between CAAMWU and UE. In sum, UE was able to build a very effective relationship with CAAMWU relying upon their past experience with nonmajority union campaigns and upon pre existing ties in the community through BWFJ. With UE's long term support, CAAMWU was able to access a number of import ant resources throughout their nonmajority union effort. WAGE Union As Outsiders Perhaps the most marked difference between CAAMWU and WAGE is the manner in which the two unions were built. While CAAMWU was entirely initiated by RMEP workers, WAGE was the combined effort of the IUE CWA and small groups of workers. The implications of this were two fold. Firstly, when the IUE CWA became involved in organizing the WAGE committees, some workers in the plant viewed them as potential threats to their job sec urity. GE management implied that the unionized Lynn workers were trying to steal the work being done in other plants to bring back to Lynn. This was despite the fact that Lynn had actually lost work to many of these satellite plants. The other result was that the WAGE effort was much less member driven than the CAAMWU effort. Although WAGE could not have happened without some initial worker support, it is unlikely that these plants would have embraced a nonmajority union effort without the resources and i mpetus of the IUE CWA. Whereas members of

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122 CAAMWU already had experience with community organizing, WAGE members relied heavily upon the guidance of the IUE CWA. The result was a much less organic union effort that did not have the same momentum as a primar ily worker led movement. It also meant that the IUE CWA had a very limited sense of some of the major issues in the plant, with only a handful of workers to provide input. Since nonmajority union campaigns rely upon a steady stream of relevant issues to ma intain momentum, this was a serious impediment to the effort. Generally speaking, WAGE was a concerted effort by a national union to build its organizing capacity, not a worker led initiative. Although this is not prescriptive of its success or failure, it does explain why the WAGE effort was more difficult to get off the ground. Community Relations It has already been noted that CAAMWU benefited from a strong history of community organizing in the region. It is also worth emphasizing that WAGE committ ees lacked any such pre existing networks of community organizations. From the outset, WAGE not only had to build momentum within the plant, they also had to construct relationships in the community that would support their organizing efforts. However, lit tle headway was made in this regard. Although WAGE committees were able to reach out to some local politicians, WAGE never built the sort of relationships that existed between CAAMWU and faith leaders and community groups. Aside from not having this exte rnal base of support which proved so fruitful in CAAMWU's case, WAGE also lacked the positive experiences associated with community organizing. Unlike CAAMWU, they had never achieved a major community

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123 organizing victory prior to the unionization effort. Th is undoubtedly impacted their vision for a better future. David Cohen of the UE described the damage that lack of hope for a better future can do to an organizing campaign: The biggest thing I saw then, and I think it plagues us to this day is that peopl e didn't have expectations of a better life, they hoped they could get hired by general electric or the big auto plants and get higher wages but they didn't feel that in their workplace they could ever get anything better. So we had factories where people had no paid holidays, no paid insurance, no pension, minimum wage and we couldn't organize those factories. People just felt their lives were gunna be crap and that was the way it was. Although conditions were not as bad in the GE plants as those describ ed above, similar forces were at play. With no history of community organizing, workers did not have the same kind of vision for a better future that members of CAAMWU had. This is part of the reason that claiming victories and sharing victory stories is s uch a crucial element of nonmajority union campaigns. Shared victories help to articulate a vision for a better future. Wages and Benefits One of the biggest challenges to WAGE's effectiveness was GE's union avoidance measure of giving nonunion workers the same benefits as union workers. This tactic helped to support their argument that unions are an unnecessary third party that simply collects dues. The union tried to impress upon workers that the only way they were able to maintain good wages and bene fit levels was through a show of strength. However, with union density declining every year, this was becoming more and more difficult to maintain. Jeff Crosby of the IUE CWA expressed some frustration with

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124 communicating that to nonunion workers: Yup the benefits and the wages are pretty close, and they do that to keep us out. And some of the guys, sometimes we meet Hooksett folks skiing or something and they say hey I don't pay dues, you guys good job, keep it up let me know when my next raise is coming." The IUE CWA found that this complacency on the part of nonunion workers concerning their wages and benefits was very difficult to overcome. This particular anti union tactic was a fairly effective means of limiting the union's support base and was not som ething experienced by CAAMWU. Strengths of Nonmajority Unions Undoubtedly, nonmajority unions have been able to accomplish a lot in the workplace, as can be seen from the many successes of WAGE and CAAMWU. In fact, nonmajority unions do possess a numbe r of advantages which traditional unions do not. One such advantage is the ability of nonmajority unions to act unrestricted by a contract with the employer. Although contracts secure rights for unions and are used to enforce workplace standards, they are also a means of limiting a union's ability to act. Former WAGE organizer Rand Wilson spoke to this issue: I think there's some opportunities that folks can pursue under section 7, that's, y'know you're stronger with your section 7 rights in some cases th an you are with a contract. You can certainly fuck around a lot more. You can walk out, strike, do all kinds of things that are prohibited under a typical collective bargaining agreement, not every agreement, but most. So there's a lot of things you can do if there's two or more of you doing it together. One of the key attractions of the nonmajority union approach is that it does entail a back to the basics ethic. Rather than allowing management to place limits upon union activities, nonmajority unions ar e able to act free of constraint. This allows nonmajority

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125 unions a degree of freedom not possessed by traditional unions. As Rand stated, one of the central rights which nonmajority unions are able to maintain is the right to strike the most powerful weap on available to labor unions throughout history (Burns 20 11). In addition to retaining more of their basic rights, nonmajority unions generally employ a much more rank and file approach than a traditional union does. For most traditional unions, the majo rity of workplace action is centered around periods of contract negotiations. In between contracts, there is commonly little worker mobilization. However, since nonmajority unions require a constant state of worker mobilization, the average nonmajority uni on member must be more active than the average traditional union member. Additionally, nonmajority unions help to combat the image of unions as a business whose only interest is swelling their own membership. Since nonmajority unions must be worker led, th ey avoid the tendency of becoming a bureaucratic structure centered around dues, grievance handing and other services. Instead, nonmajority unions return to basic concept of what constitutes a union: workers engaging in collective action. Finally, nonmaj ority unions posses another important advantage : While traditional union organizing drives are often highly divisive events that lead companies to implement a number of anti union strategies, nonmajority union campaigns tend to elicit a much more positive response from management. As can be seen from the case of CAAMWU and WAGE, when workers mobilized around issues of importance, management generally responded by complying with certain union demands. Although this is a tactic by management to quell union su pport, it also serves the union's goal of making advancements in the workplace.

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126 Limits of Nonmajority Unions The need to constantly mobilize workers serves as both a strength and weakness for non majority unionism. While constant mobilization is ideal f or achieving change, it is often very difficult to sustain. W orkers prefer normalcy and find it hard to take on the fight continuously (Fletcher & Hurd 200 1 ). It is therefore difficult for a minority of workers to maintain a constant level of organization without union leaders becoming burn ed out. Another major problem faced by nonmajority unions is commonly experienced by traditional unions in right to work states. Since nonmajority unions tend to try and find issues that benefit everyone in the plant, th ey oftentimes find themselves defending the rights of workers who are nonunion members. Although this is good for the image of the union, it creates a "free rider" problem wherein nonunion members rely on union resources despite paying no union dues or oth erwise contributing to the union effort. Free riders put an enormous strain on already limited union resources. Overall this strain may prove damaging to the union campaign. Finally, nonmajority unions face a number of legal limitations currently imposed by the NLRB. Despite the legal basis for nonmajority unions, their rights have been very narrowly interpreted in recent years. Not only did nonmajority unions lose their Weingarten right to union representation at disciplinary meetings, they also lost an i mportant case that would have forced employers to recognize nonmajority unions (see 2005 NLRB case Dick's Sporting Goods vs. United Steel Workers). If the NLRB continues to rule against the rights of nonmajority unions, prospects are grim for the future of this approach.

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127 CAAMWU, WAGE, and Nonmajority Unionism The cases of CAAMWU and WAGE provide valuable insight into the present day practice of nonmajority unions. While nonmajority unions of the past often competed with other unions for membership (prim arily company unions) today's nonmajority unions exist in workplaces that would otherwise have no union. Additionally, in the case of CAAMWU and WAGE, nonmajority unions tend to eschew the members only approach in favor of a more inclusive form of unionism Without a contract to rely upon, nonmajority unions organize around workplace issues and build momentum by claiming union victories when they win on particular issues. Nonmajority unions embody a back to the basics ideal which rejects the notion of a lab or union as a legalistic and bureaucratic organization. Nonmajority unions are first and foremost committed to building worker power through collective action. Both CAAMWU and WAGE were able to win a number of substantive changes in the workplace and bot h workers and organizers reported favorable impressions of the impact of their nonmajority union efforts. However, CAAMWU was more successful overall in building a sustained and powerful nonmajority union. There a number of reasons for this, but perhaps th e most important was the context in which CAAMWU emerged. Rather than originating in the headquarters of a national union office, CAAMWU was a continuation of decades long grassroots effort to achieve greater social and economic equality in the black belt south. By the time RMEP came to Whitakers, residents in the area were already involved in the struggle for dignity in the workplace and had a network of community organizations to support the struggle. This proved a fertile ground for a nonmajority union c ampaign.

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128 The comparison of CAAMWU and WAGE has much to offer in exploring the characteristics and possibilities of nonmajority unions. By looking at both cases, it is possible to define some of the common elements that differentiate nonmajority unions fr om traditional unions. Additionally, the comparison of the two unions provides insight into some of the factors that may aid or hinder a nonmajority union effort adding to the general body of literature on labor union revitalization.

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129 CHAPTER 7 : Conclusion At the heart of the labor revitalization process is one central goal: the search for the cure that will revive a dying movement. Both in the literature and the movement at large, scholars and activists have sought a panacea that will bring organized labor back to its former strength and prominence. While some have rejected the utility of unions altogether, turning instead to extra union organizations such as worker centers and community groups (Sullivan 2010a), others have so ught more successful union building strategies (Morris 2005; Bronfenbrenner & Juravich 1998). The revitalization has at times torn the labor movement apart as it did after the 2005 split in the AFL CIO, but it has also brought the movement together in fost ering a renewed commitment to the importance of organizing and a dialogue between activists and labor scholars. There are at least several points on which most in the labor movement agree. Of primary concern is the overall decline in the power of organiz ed labor. Union density has decreased practically every year, and winning an NLRB election and successfully negotiating a contract has become a rare occurrence. There are a number of reasons for this decline: the structure of national labor law, demographi c changes, increased employer hostility, changes in the global economy, and the failure of traditional union strategy. Additionally, at the same time that organized labor's power has weakened, many have seen a decline in the overall quality of work in the last several decades, or as Braverman ( 1 974) terms it, a "degradation of work." Some of the hallmarks of 2 1 st century employment are precarious and irregular employment, low pay and few benefits. With these changes, fewer and fewer workers fall into catego ries that are protected by

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130 national labor law. The changing economic and political conditions of the United States have led many in the ranks of organized labor to call for a reinvention of past practices. The labor movement has responded to this decline in a variety of ways. At the institutional level, the AFL CIO made a number of changes to its policies and practices when John Sweeney and the New Voice Coalition took office in 1 995. Organizations such as Jobs With Justice have filled some of the gaps le ft by traditional unions, building ties between unions, community groups and faith based organizations. Local and national unions have also turned a critical eye to current union tactics and strategies, exploring new ways of building union power such as co mprehensive corporate campaigns and an appeal to the symbolic power of marginality (Chun 2009). One of the responses, which has been the focus of this thesis, is the attempt to look back at labor's past for guidance. When Clyde Summers published his arti cle "Unions Without Majority A Black Hole?" in 1 990, he reintroduced the idea of nonmajority unions into labor's repertoire of tactics. Of course, this was already a method being used by unions such as the Industrial Workers of the World and UE. As labor l aw scholars took up the debate on the legality of nonmajority unions, union locals were already practicing it on the ground. This thesis has attempted to shift the focus from the legalistic definition of nonmajority unionism to a sociological analysis of n onmajority unionism in practice. At the outset, I posed the question "what do nonmajority unions look like in practice?" As the cases of CAAMWU and WAGE demonstrate, this can vary a great deal based on the context of the organizing effort. CAAMWU's nonma jority union emerged out of an organic effort on the part of workers and their community to change conditions

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131 both inside and outside of the plant. As a result it demonstrated many of the features of social movement unionism, building ties with community g roups and placing demands on an unjust system. WAGE was largely the imposition of an outside union which greatly altered the nonmajority union's trajectory. WAGE focused on conditions inside the plant, more closely resembling a traditional union campaign. Nevertheless, the two unions shared a number of common features which may be generalizable to other nonmajority union campaigns. Both unions built momentum around issue based campaigns, rejected a members only approach, claimed union victories and general ly sought to look and act like a union. Additionally, the two unions utilized many of the same types of strategies and tactics: petition drives, political actions, information sharing and outside union support. Both unions found that they received a more p ositive response from management than a typical organizing campaign might elicit and both generally relied upon a more rank and file approach than a typical union. This comparison offers much in the way of characterizing present day nonmajority unionism. Furthermore, by exploring the present day practice of nonmajority unionism I hoped to elucidate some of the prospects for the nonmajority union approach. For both CAAMWU and WAGE, there is little doubt that a nonmajority union impacted the lives of worke rs in a positive way. It gave workers a strategy of action to deal with workplace issues and in many instances resulted in real change in the quality of the workplace. However, the capacity of nonmajority unions to effect change is contingent and limited. Like any other union tactic, context matters. Where and how a tactic is employed is of central importance.

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132 In the case of CAAMWU, a nonmajority union approach was a particularly good fit. According to Nissen's formulation (200 1 ) a successful nonmajority u nion must have a source of leverage over the employer, strong leaders inside the plant, a long term commitment from a union and good organizing issues. CAAMWU had all four of these advantages. The Rocky Mount Engine Plant is one the most lucrative factorie s in Cummins Inc, performing more complicated work than the other two unionized plants. This gave CAAMWU an important source of leverage over the company, which could not easily afford to shift the work to another location. Additionally, CAAMWU had a numbe r of strong workplace leaders who stuck with the union effort for many years as well as the ongoing support of UE. Finally, CAAMWU had many workplace issues around which they were successfully able to mobilize. Often these involved issues of dignity and ju stice, which tend to be more powerful for organizing purposes than bread and butter issues ( Bronfenbrenner 1998 ) Moreover, CAAMWU had a close relationship with the surrounding community and actively worked to strengthen these ties, an approach which has p roved successful in other union campaigns ( Sciacchitano 1998 ). For WAGE, conditions were very different. The only real source of leverage which nonunion plants had over GE was the unionized portion of the company. By exercising organizational strength, th e union portion of the company was able to make some improvements for nonunion workers. A clear example of this was the participation of some WAGE committee members in contract negotiations which offered a degree of protection to WAGE leaders. However, WAG E did not have many of the other characteristics identified by Nissen. While WAGE also had a number of strong workplace leaders, over time there were not enough leaders to sustain the effort.

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133 Additionally, WAGE lost the financial support of the IUE CWA, on e of the key resources maintaining the effort. Unlike CAAMWU, WAGE also had difficulty finding a steady stream of relevant issues around which to organize. On top of lacking the criteria outlined by Nissen, WAGE also did not have the types of community tie s that sustained CAAMWU. Even when CAAMWU lost a number of key leaders after the 2009 reduction in force, they were able to rely on community support to maintain the union effort. WAGE did not have this resource to compensate for other characteristics lack ing in the nonmajority union effort. In short, while WAGE achieved many accomplishments during its short lifespan, it did not have many of the conditions necessary for a more sustained effort. Another important contextual difference between WAGE and CAAM WU lies in Chun's theory of the symbolic power of marginality. As labor's power shifts away from structural power in the form of economic leverage and towards associational power in the form of collective activity, the cultural repertoires available to wor kers become all the more important. For workers involved in CAAMWU, the discourse of civil rights served as a particularly powerful organizing resource. CAAMWU's struggle extended well beyond the workplace to encompass issues of political and economic marg inality in the black belt south. This led to CAAMWU's involvement in local politics, healthcare initiatives and other community projects. In these endeavors CAAMWU was able to rely on a set of vocabularies and tactics drawn from the civil rights movement a nd local community struggles. In this way they were able to use their history of economic and political marginalization as a mobilizing force. Furthermore, by extending their struggle beyond workplace issues, CAAMWU was able to build the social movement ca pacity of

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134 their effort, making a common cause with other community organizations and creating an effective support base for their campaign. Since WAGE was primarily based in the workplace, it lacked this crucial social movement quality which is advocated f or in much of the literature. In conclusion, the nonmajority union approach is not a cure all but has much to offer under the right circumstances. Both CAAMWU and WAGE were able to win improvements in the workplace and reaffirm the power of collective act ion. For this reason, more national unions should be investigating the potentials of this methodology and adding it to their toolbox of tactics. However, CAAMWU saw greater success because of the context of their organizing: their union was built by the me mbers, they had a strong history of community organizing with preexisting networks, utilized a range of tactics, received the long term support of a national union and ran a broad based campaign that encompassed themes of racial equality on the job. These elements of CAAMWU's struggle helped them to reach a level of success not experienced by WAGE. Furthermore, the cases of CAAMWU and WAGE demonstrate some general features of present day nonmajority unionism as contrasted with the nonmajority unionism pract iced before the passage of the NLRA. Nonmajority unions today have restricted legal rights and do not tend to operate on a members only basis. Instead, they rely on issue oriented campaigns, rally around victories and generally focus on organizational deve lopment rather than collective bargaining. While there are both strengths and weakness inherent in nonmajority unionism, one feature of the approach stands out above the rest: nonmajority unions offer a lifeline for workers who have been abandoned by the current collective bargaining framework.

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135 Appendix Interview Instrument Labor Staff WAGE Research Question: How does nonmajority unionism function today, and what are its prospects for the American labor movement? Background Information a. What is your p rior work history? b. In what capacity do you (or did you) work for IUE CWA? c. Could you explain to me what are the goals and priorities of your local? What types of workplaces does Local 201 represent? d. I'm curious as to what have been the most important challe nges that the local has had in the past 20 years. What do you think those challenges are? (why are those the most important). Initiation of WAGE a. How was the idea for WAGE initially proposed/ what was the impetus? b. What were the goals of the WAGE program? c. How was WAGE designed to work? d. What were the initial stages of WAGE? e. What was the level of worker involvement in WAGE initially? f. How were the workplaces selected? g. What were the steps involved in gaining support for a union in these workplaces? WAGE i n Action a. What actions were taken in these workplaces by WAGE? b. What was the organizing process like? c. How did management react to the formation of a worker organization? d. What were the main challenges posed? e. What were some of the biggest victories for WAGE ? f. What was the partnership like between Local 201 and the workers involved in WAGE? g. Was there any larger community involvement? h. Was there a dues system in place? How was WAGE funded? How was resource allocation decided? WAGE's termination a. At what point did it become clear that Local 201 would no longer continue WAGE? b. What were the main reasons for the termination of WAGE? c. What were the reactions to this by organizers? By workers?

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136 d. What contribution do you feel WAGE made to alternative organizing approach es? e. Do you think WAGE should have been continued? What changes do you think should have been made? f. Aside from the particular history of WAGE, what do you believe are the prospects for nonmajority unionism as a strategy? g. What do you know about other attempt s at nonmajority unionism in the U.S.? What are your perceptions of these organizing campaigns? h. Some argue that the old approach to unionizing is no longer effective. Do you agree? Can you explain to me what is meant by such old ways? If these are not as effective (depending on answer), then what do you think is needed to be more effective? If the old ways are as effective, what do you consider to explain the decline in union membership and labor action in the past 50 years?

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