Labor Organizing Chapter Reports
This is the third installment of The Activist’s series of Chapter Reports from across the country. The main focus of this one is labor organizing at Purdue, Oregon and UC Berkeley. They have been lightly edited for clarity.
Clare Adams, Purdue
YDSA Purdue is currently fundraising, electing next year’s steering committee members and working on developing its labor organizing campaign. The current organizing conditions are complicated by the university’s recent Aramark contract, which brought in outsourced labor and placed a barrier on accountability from Purdue. Currently, the chapter is planning a “Know Your Rights” event for campus workers. Admittedly, progress is slow because it is difficult to decide where to start on a campus with seldom organized labor. We have many questions about what to do, but we know that the most important thing is to stop dragging our feet and start organizing. We can assess along the way. This campaign creates an opportunity for us to work with local unions, receive guidance from them and give members context for future union membership.
Katie O’Mara, University of Oregon
We at Oregon YDSA have been heavily involved and active with the labor movement in Eugene. We have had significant success at growing our chapter, with about 20 members regularly attending meetings. Holding a special election at the beginning of winter term as well as ratifying our constitution fostered a community of engaging democracy for the foundation of our organizing. UOSWOC was born out of an examination of KSWOC at Kenyon College. We started by working with GTFF, our local graduate union; learning about the ins and outs of labor organizing. Further, we produced a labor survey born from weekly meetings outside of YDSA to specifically hone in on student working conditions. Mapping, workplace OC, and a general knowledge of UO working conditions followed. Our organizing efforts have engaged with a critical working-class analysis of material conditions on campus, bringing workers into YDSA meetings, and thus growing our chapter. We’ve practiced solidarity with Starbucks United, holding a rally and giving them a platform to share their experiences in conjunction with union organizers in Eugene.
Eva Shultz, UC Berkeley
Although we have been around for awhile, Cal YDSA has recently been in a confusing state, especially in regards to campaign organizing and coalition building. However, hope nonetheless remains with the recent rise of the labor committee which was formed at the end of the Fall 2021 semester. In order to stray from unsuccessful attempts at organizing the wider UC Berkeley community around housing justice and tuition hikes, Cal YDSA has begun to work more closely with already established labor struggles; namely the lecturers union (UC-AFT), Kaiser Permanente Stationary Engineers, and ATO transit workers. In mobilizing students to work in solidarity with labor action in and around the Berkeley community, Cal YDSA has allowed students to gain first hand, tangible experience with the labor movement. Student socialists are able to gain valuable skills from not only participating in discussions surrounding labor and why we focus on the working class, but also from joining the picket lines and having organizing conversations with workers themselves. With this, YDSA members are able to go beyond reading theory and student activism to go outside and touch grass, meeting with people most affected by the labor struggle and becoming lifelong socialists dedicated to winning socialism and uplifting the working class.