Don't Mourn --- Reorganize! An Introduction to the Next Wave Organizing Symposium Issue


On January 27 and 28, 2005, New York Law School’s Labor & Employment Law Program, in cooperation with the Justice Action Center and the Institute for Information Law & Policy, presented the Next Wave Organizing Symposium. The Symposium brought together worker organizers, trade union officials, technologists, students, and scholars in law, industrial relations, economics, public policy, and other fields to tell the story of how, despite all of the forces arrayed against them, workers are organizing.

This article is the introduction to the Next Wave Organizing Symposium issue of the New York Law School Law Review. The purpose of the Next Wave Organizing Symposium was to seek answers to three questions. First, are the same workers who have been the traditional targets of organizing efforts also the targets of new organizing efforts, or are worker organizers redefining who is a “worker” or an “employee”? Second, are worker organizers using the same tactics they have employed in the past, or are they using new technologies and other tools and tactics in new ways? Third, are the goals of organizing efforts the same or have they changed? Are worker organizations pursuing increased bargaining power against a particular employer or in a labor market, or have their efforts expanded to encompass other social and economic goals? This article summarizes how the seven articles and six organization profiles contained in the symposium issue answer those questions.

The Next Wave Organizing Symposium and the articles contained in this symposium issue offer some answers to the three questions posed above. First, worker organizers, ranging from immigrant worker centers to the Industrial Areas Foundationto the AFL-CIO’s Working America, are redefining “worker” and “employee.” Their efforts to aggregate workers’ individual power into collective power are not constrained by the NLRA’s cribbed definition of “employee.” Further, the workers they target differ from organization to organization. Second, worker organizers are using new tactics. Some rely on new technologies, but others represent innovative new organizing models like the benefits-model employed by Working Today. Finally, the goals of worker organizing range broadly from efforts to achieve particular outcomes in a labor market to public policy initiatives, like those of California’s immigrant worker centers, to efforts that more closely resemble racial and ethnic civil rights struggles than traditional union organizing.


Labor and Employment Law

Date of this Version

July 2006