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No Shortcuts:

Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age

Toronto — 1 December 2016.


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Income inequality has reached levels not seen since the 1920s. Labor unions’ membership is in decline, and popular opinion has turned against them. Promising movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter lack an organized base, and therefore are unable to build the power to effect meaningful change. Why do progressives in the United States keep losing on so many issues, and what is to be done?

In No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, Dr. Jane F. McAlevey investigates the reasons behind the recent failures of unions and lays out a way forward for the progressive movement. McAlevey, an experienced community, electoral, and labor organizer, presents a dozen case studies of unions and social movements seeking to effect change in the twenty-first century. As she analyzes each case, she identifies the reasons for the movement’s success or failure. Progressives can win, McAlevey argues, but lack the organized power to enact significant change, to outlast their bosses in labor fights, and to hold elected leaders accountable. No Shortcuts shows that what victorious movements have in common is the use of grassroots mass organizing rather than the top-down strategies such as advocacy that have recently gained favor. Beyond the concrete examples in this book, McAlevey's arguments have direct implications for anyone involved in organizing for social change. Much more than just a cogent analysis, No Shortcuts explains exactly how progressives can go about rebuilding powerful movements at work, in communities, and at the ballot box.

Jane McAlevey is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. A longtime organizer in the environmental and labor movements, she is the author of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, and Raising Expectations and Raising Hell: My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement.

Moderated by Mark Thomas. Discussants:

Sponsored by: Centre for Social Justice, Global Labour Research Centre at York University, Socialist Project, York University Departments of Geography, Social Science, Political Science.

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