Unions need to adapt how they collectively bargain if they want to stop being on the defensive and start taking the offensive. That was the main lesson from “Bargaining for the Common Good: Lessons from Los Angeles and Beyond,” presented by Rutgers Center of Innovation In Worker Organization and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor last Wednesday. The forum focused on lessons learned by organizers in the “Fix Los Angeles Campaign,” a diverse coalition of labor and community groups that broke the mold on collective bargaining in Los Angeles and won back jobs and public services for the city. Panelists discussed how labor unions are building coalitions with community groups as full partners, sitting down together at the bargaining table, and using their collective negotiating power to demand changes that improve the whole community, not just union members....
- Christian Berk; photos courtesy Kalmanovitz Institute
Because building power doesn’t stop at the bargaining table, these coalitions use direct action to make sure their demands are implemented. While this innovative strategy is gaining traction and making powerful changes in communities across the nation, there are challenges. “We had to go through an internal struggle at our local,” explained Gilda Valdez from SEIU 721 in Los Angeles, a member of the FIX LA campaign. More than 150 turned out from local unions, colleges, community groups, as well as interns from IBEW, OneDC, Jobs with Justice and the Metro Washington Council. The event was followed by a reception where attendees and panelists discussed how to turn this local strategy into one that can be used nationally. The forum also marked the release of the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s case study detailing the many innovations, challenges, and achievements of the Fix LA campaign.