American Labor Movement at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies

Thursday, Jan 15, 2015 

Co Sponsored by The Albert Shanker Institute, The Sidney Hillman Foundation and The American Prospect.

The American labor movement is at a critical juncture. After three decades of declining union density in the private sector and years of all-out political assaults on public sector unions, America’s unions now face what can only be described as existential threats. Strategies and tactics that may have worked in a different era are no onger adequate to today’s challenges. The need for different approaches to the fundamentals of union work in areas such as organizing, collective bargaining and political action is clear. The purpose of this conference is to examine new thinking and new initiatives, viewing them critically in the light of ongoing union imperatives of cultivating member activism and involvement, fostering democratic self-governance and building the collective power of working people.


WATCH: Welcome: Leo Casey, executive director, Albert Shanker Institute

WATCH: Welcome: Alexandra Lescaze, executive director, Sidney Hillman Foundation

WATCH: Remarks: The Honorable Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor

WATCH : Keynote: American Labor Movement At A Crossroads: Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers & Albert Shanker Institute

New Forms of Labor Organizing/Organization I FULL SESSION

WATCH: Tefere Gebre, executive vice president, AFL-CIO 

WATCH: Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large, American Prospect; columnist, The Washington Post; board member, The Albert Shanker Institute

WATCH: David Rolf, president, Workers Lab, Service Employees International Union (SEUI) 775

WATCH: Karen Nussbaum, executive director, Working America


Moderator: Alexandra Lescaze, executive director, Sidney Hillman Foundation

New Forms of Labor Organizing/Organization II FULL SESSION

WATCH: Elizabeth Bunn, organizing director, AFL-CIO

WATCH: Jessica Smith, chief of staff, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

WATCH: Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director, Freelancers Union

WATCH: Cristina Tzintzun, executive director, Texas Workers Defense Project

WATCH: Paul Booth, assistant to the president, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)


Moderator: Phil Kugler, special assistant to the president for organization and field services, American Federation of Teachers


WATCH: Reflections on the State of American Labor: Steven Greenhouse, labor journalist

Building Community-Labor Alliances FULL SESSION

WATCH: Joseph McCartin, director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University

WATCH: Sarita Gupta, executive director, Jobs With Justice 

WATCH: Gerry Hudson, executive vice president, Service Employess International Union (SEIU)

WATCH: Sejal Parikh, fast food workers campaign director, Working Washington

WATCH: Marcelle Grair, United Students Against Sweatshops


Moderator: Leo Casey, executive director, Albert Shanker Institute

Rethinking Collective Bargaining and Union Representation FULL SESSION

WATCH: Catherine Fisk, chancellor’s professor of law; co-director, Center in Law, Society and Culture, University of California at Irvine Law School

WATCH: Prasi Gupta, deputy executive director, National Guestworker Alliance

WATCH: Mary Cathryn Ricker, executive vice president, American Federation of Teachers; board member, Albert Shanker Institute

WATCH: Dan Schlademan, director, Our Walmart, UFCW


Moderator: Cheryl Teare, director; Union Leadership Institute, American Federation of Teachers

Workers Rights and Collective Power FULL SESSION

WATCH: Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow, The Century Foundation; board member, Albert Shanker Institute

WATCH: Rich Yeselson, labor strategist

WATCH: Mark Brenner, director,Labor Notes


Moderator: Rachel Cohen, The American Prospect

American Prospect Articles Related to the Conference

American Labor at a Crossroads: How Unions Can Thrive in the 21st Century 
Lance Compa, Jan. 27, 2015
First, stop the self-flagellation: The labor movement lives, and is getting stronger.

American Labor at a Crossroads: The Case For Union Organizing
Paul Booth, Jan. 23, 2015
The labor movement has been growing while shrinking—growing through organizing.

American Labor at a Crossroads: Minimum Wage Fights More Easily Won Than Representation
Harold Meyerson, Jan. 15, 2015
Unions are investing major resources in organizing drives more likely to yield new laws than new members.

American Labor at a Crosroads: In Defense of Members-Only Unionism
Catherine Fisk, Jan. 15, 2015
Allowing members-only unions would protect the rights of those who wish to bargain collectively even if they fail to surmount all the legal hurdles necessary to establish the union as the representative of all employees in the workplace.

American Labor at a Crossroads: Time to Experiment
Karen Nussbaum, Jan. 14, 2015
New organizing will be propelled by committed activists, but will have to be sustained by huge numbers of members and supporters.

American Labor at a Crossroads: How We Know We Haven't Yet Found the Right Model for Worker Organizations
Sejal Parikh, Jan. 13, 2015
If we had already found the right model for a powerful, scalable, sustainable organization uniting low-wage workers, then organizers would learn about problems at particular worksites from the workers themselves, not Reddit.

American Labor at a Crossroads: Can Broadned Civil Rights Law Offer Workers A True Right To Organize?
Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit, Jan. 12, 2015
It's one way to allow victims of anti-union discrimination to sue in federal court for compensatory and punitive damages.