51 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2019
Date Written: September 6, 2019
Union organizing strategies often become collective bargaining strategies. The latest organizing trend is “alt,” short for “alternative-labor” and invoked where unions or non-profits mobilize workers for better working conditions but not necessarily membership. The efforts are difficult to define with specificity, but through-lines exist: alt-labor’s constituent groups are marked by three non-standard relationships to law that generate exceptional conceptions of group membership, challenge organizing’s presumptive outer-bounds, and prove how even bad doctrine can be harnessed for good. True to form, these alt-labor innovations in organizing can be spotted in recent campaigns where the activists are already assembled and scrutiny instead surrounds how the group is negotiating. The era of alt-bargaining, I argue, is upon us. I make this case through a series of narratives surveying a number of recent bargaining campaigns in Chicago, Denver, St. Paul, and across five southern states. While alt-bargaining has obvious overlap with the so-called “bargaining for the common good” approach to negotiations, which prioritizes community-centric demands, its true promise arises from the insight that the sustainability of its three legal orientations rest on how members and non-members come to understand the nature of that “community.” Alt-bargaining has revealed that when bargaining interests are viewed more as relational opportunities than coalitional glue, the interests — and the number of seats on the union side of the table — expand.
Keywords: labor, unions, teacher strikes, bargaining, bargaining for the common good, alt-labor
JEL Classification: J51, J52, J53
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation