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Organizing in an Era of Global Capitalism: Series Introduction

American Football, when it was first “officially” played in 1869 (Rutgers v. Princeton), was a completely different sport.  For one, players were not well-padded, not-at-all-helmeted, and rules to protect their health and safety were lax at best.  Games were glorified slugfests, but generally each team had a shot at winning, bruises and scars par for the course.

Now imagine the 1869 Rutgers team playing against the present-day Scarlet Knights football program, or perhaps even the championship New York Giants.  It would be more than an uneven match-up—the outcome would be brutal, if not deadly.

The lesson?

If only one team has re-organized to exploit the other team’s weaknesses while maximizing its own strength while the other team stays relatively the same, the first team will undoubtedly win.  In the match-up between workers and multinational corporations, the former have allowed the latter to become Giants on the playing field.  Meanwhile, worker organizations and trade unions have not adequately adjusted to recent trends in global capitalism, and the effect has been catastrophic on workers and their communities worldwide.

Organizing Upgrade's new series of articles, "Organizing in an Era of Global Capitalism," is an exploration of new and existing worker organizing strategies that attempt to develop workers movements in a way that builds working class power, positions workers to fight back and win victories against multinational corporations, and ultimately strengthens the movement to change the system of global capitalism.  The series will address existing barriers to the right to organize in the United States and abroad (such as the US movement’s Achilles heel right-to-work-for-less South), expose new methods used to block workers from organizing (such as the use of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as a union-buster), and it will showcase worker attempts to expand their rights to organize across borders in spite of these obstacles (such as with the Asia Floor Wage campaign).

Our intent with this series is not simply to critique traditional union organizing strategies.  They certainly have a time and a place, and in some instances are still successful in winning gains for workers from their employers.  But these strategies are no longer sufficient on their own.   As capital continues to squeeze its way around the globe in search of the cheapest labor markets and raw goods, workers find themselves embattled not just with a local or national boss, but with a multinational supply chain controlled by a handful of the most powerful corporations in the world.

It is with this in mind that we open dialogue on specific strategies that re-organize workers in ways that combat the current organization of global capital—forging stronger bonds across sector, supply chain and country to leverage the full power of the working class.




Labor Editors

Stephanie Luce is Associate Professor of Labor Studies and has gained national and international recognition for her research on living-wage campaigns and on the impact of globalization on jobs and workers.  She serves on the editorial board of New Labor Forum and is a moderator for Portside Labor.

Erica Smileyis a Senior Field Organizer for Jobs with Justice, with a focus on the southern region.  As a part of this position, she relates to southern JwJ coalitions and engages in strategic campaigns.  She is originally from Greensboro, North Carolina.

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Leftist at Work Column

The Leftist at Work column is a space for leftists to talk about the ways in which they organize in their workplace – whether it is how they talk with coworkers about political issues, how they are trying to build or revitalize a union, or how they orient their political perspectives to sync with their daily jobs. Some leftists find themselves confronting issues they didn’t expect would come up in their work. Other people find that they work for a non-profit or union that constrains their range of political activities. We’ll hear from organizers that struggle to balance their radical politics with the realities of working for an organization with more of a reform orientation. We’ll also hear from people who may work in an unionized workplace but try to bring their broader politics into the workplace – such as anti-racism, anti-war, or pro-immigrant rights.

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