Community and Labor Organizers Develop New Strategies to Bargain to Advance Racial Justice

Over 120 participants from national and local labor unions as well as racial and social justice community organizations gathered during March 29-31, 2017 at the Tommy Douglas Center in Silver Spring, MD. The convening was hosted by a steering committee of representatives from labor and community organizations, including Rutgers School of Management Labor Relations’ Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, the Action Center on Race and the Economy, and Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor.

The conference expanded on the Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) strategy, which is about forming long-term, community-labor alignments around a common vision for the change we need to see in our schools, cities, and states – then fighting for that change both at the bargaining table and in our communities. In recent years, labor/community alliances in Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Paul, Seattle, and Oregon have developed successful Common Good campaigns. This meeting was an effort to build on that work and highlight aspects that truly center on racial justice, in both their analysis and demands.

The overarching goals set for the convening were:

  1. Develop an understanding of Bargaining for the Common Good strategy and how it provides opportunities to expand bargaining campaigns to fight for racial justice.
  2. Bring together unions, racial justice organizations, worker centers, community groups to connect with each other through a common analysis of the moment.
  3. Plan and implement innovative strategies that broaden worker bargaining to include racial justice demands.

The conference was unique in that organizations applied to attend in ‘cohorts’ with other groups from their city or region. That way when it came time to plan campaigns that center on racial justice in their respective communities, attendees had a de facto coalition already present and eager to take on unjust systems that profit from racism and exploitation. The event hosts were also fortunate to have the support of organizers from national and local unions in the SEIU, AFT, NEA, and AFSCME as well as community and racial justice groups like Jobs with Justice, BYP100, and People's Action, among others who shared their experience leading Common Good campaigns, best practices, and many of the Common Good demands from their bargaining efforts.

Participants took home the plans and alliances they formed at the conference and implemented them to win intersectional victories for their members and communities.

You can see highlights of the conference in the photos below and a selection of tweets from those who attended.

We are deeply grateful to SEIU, NEA, AFT, Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, and the Arca Foundation. Without their support this conference could not have taken place.