Despite enormous challenges in organizing and bargaining in a rapidly changing global economy, this is a time of great opportunity and innovation by U.S unions and their allies. Along with a resurgence of action among working people in the past year, there has been a new level of inventiveness in campaigning.
Nowhere is this more evident than in recent union organizing and bargaining campaign victories such as:
- large successful strikes by teachers in Chicago and clerical members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in the Long Beach/Los Angeles Area proving that the strike when used strategically is still a powerful weapon for labor.
- the rising up of low wage workers in rank-and-file community based campaigns in companies and industries, such as WalMart and fast food, car wash workers, domestic workers, car wash workers, and taxi drivers, firms and workers many thought would be the last to organize.
- continued big wins among workers such as 3000 security guards organized by SEIU 32BJ in Philadelphia and the first contract win for the nearly 60,000 airport security workers, members of AFGE).
- and ongoing struggles such as the heroic struggle of BCTGM workers at American Crystal Sugar in the Red River Valley in North Dakota--locked out since August 2011 and still fighting.
These victories and came about because of a combination of grassroots rank-and-file mobilizing and leadership development, and escalating actions in the workplace and broader community; fundamental to all these campaigns was careful strategic research.
Unfortunately the U.S. labor movement today is facing a critical shortage of organizing, bargaining, and campaign staff with strategic research training who understand both corporate structure and finance, and union campaign strategies. To help meet this need ten years ago the AFL-CIO asked the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations to develop a one-week intensive credit course on strategic corporate research for graduate students and upper-level undergraduates interested in working with the labor movement upon completion of their degrees.