Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Campaigning for Union Office

Our new book, How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers, shows how activists transformed their union and gave members hope. This excerpt tells how the Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE) campaigned for top offices, and won.It’s one of the universals of organizing—first you make a list.Elementary teacher Alix Gonzalez Guevara remembers staying up late transferring data about each school from a district-published book into an Excel spreadsheet: region, address, how many teachers, how many students.

This became a Google document, an online spreadsheet available to everyone working on the campaign. The schools were grouped by regions. Within each, a couple of lead activists took responsibility to find people to do outreach at each school.

Whenever someone went to leaflet or hold a meeting at a school, they’d document it in the central spreadsheet. They also entered their current percentage estimate of support at the school: an educated guess based on conversations with members there, what the delegate (steward) said, and how many had signed the petition to get CORE’s candidates on the ballot.

A TYPICAL VISIT

On a typical visit, the CORE activist might spend a half-hour in the parking lot talking with teachers about the issues.

Then she would go inside, chat with the clerk, stuff the mailboxes with the latest CORE flyer, and leave a personal letter for the delegate, with a phone number if he wanted to set up a meeting for candidates to meet teachers and answer questions.

“We had a group of 20 who were available to go debate with the other caucus candidates at the schools,” said HowToJumpStartYourUnionAd2history teacher Jackson Potter. “The decentralized approach allowed us to run circles around the opposition, who only deployed the four officers.”

Over the course of the campaign, the caucus hit most schools three times and some five times. The tracking made it easier to prioritize larger schools, ones that hadn’t been visited much, those where CORE’s forces were weaker, or schools where the caucus wanted to build up a base of potential activists.

At caucus meetings, activists would report on the schools they had visited and pick up five or more new ones. Sometimes they would role-play, reporting what new questions they were hearing and brainstorming how to respond.

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY

But while they were campaigning, CORE activists also continued their push to attend every school board meeting and school closure hearing. They picketed the mayor, organized marches, and held candlelight vigils.

After all, CORE’s activist identity was its campaign platform. All the events gave the candidates opportunities to make their case publicly, tell their personal stories, and prove their words were backed up by action.

“We always made sure we wore a CORE button, a CORE shirt,” elementary teacher Sarah Chambers said. People would “look around when a school’s closing, and they wouldn’t see any UPC [the incumbent caucus].”

The school closure fights were the reason math teacher Carol Caref was able to get so many teachers at her school to vote for CORE. “We were always afraid we’d be next on the list,” she said.

“CORE was camping out all night in front of schools threatened to be closed, joining parents and kids,” said social studies teacher Bill Lamme, “while the union was sitting on its hands and being a little too generous in their compensation packages for themselves.”

To learn much more, order the book.
A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #419, February 2014. Don’t miss an issue, subscribe today.
More articles by:
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail