Labor Organizing and the Current State of NDLON by Kyle Lee and Shahar Amitay
Abstract: Despite the trend over the last few decades towards stronger, deeper labor organizing in the US, there are still major hurdles that grassroots organizations must overcome. Be it inadequate organizing strategies and models, hierarchical unionism, or conservative and neoliberalist external forces, the push towards progressive labor policies and practices has been floundering. Yet even with the difficulties that lay ahead, the historical arc tells us that homegrown leadership, community engagement, and democratic distributions of power are the most effective catalysts of positive change. With that in mind, we use a standard quasi-qualitative approach in this paper to answer the core debate in contemporary labor: should we be organizing? As opposed to advocacy and mobilization, what are the strategic and tactical benefits that arise from organizing? Based on our interviews with constituent members of NDLON’s Pasadena Job Center, we conclude that deep-rooted organizing in 21st-century labor, although old-fashioned, is both relevant to, and invaluable for, accomplishing equity goals, civil rights, and authentic movement-building. Because the Los Angeles area is the epicenter of the workers’ rights crusade with NDLON at the helm, tracking the trajectory of this particular organization will be important in gauging the larger national movement in the near and long-term future.