Lessons in Alinsky: An AFL-CIO Conference Teaches Targeting & Manipulating Workers

This past weekend, the AFL-CIO played host to “more than 800 young people” at a conference in Minneapolis in an effort energize young activists to go forth and multiply the members by targeting America’s youth. As noted last week, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis attended the organizing “summit” and the labor secretary used some of her 30-minute speech to call for passage of the AFL-CIO’s American Jobs Act, as well as to take potshots at the Tea Party (beginning at 29:00 here).


Interestingly, one of the documents linked on the conference website spelled out in greater candor why the AFL-CIO is trying so hard to attract younger members.

A poignant and stinging criticism of the Labor Movement appeared on the vehemently antiunion website www.unionfacts.com in 2006. It said, simply, “Pale. Stale. Frail. Failed.” Above those words was a picture of the AFL-CIO Executive Board, from before Change To Win defections. Sadly what made the criticism poignant was its accuracy. Nearly every face, with far too rare exception, was that of an older white male. A quick glance at the Massachusetts AFLCIO Executive Council reveals the same reality. The truth hurts sometimes. [Emphasis added.]

In addition to invoking the spirit of Marx and his ideological progeny in the AFL-CIO-endorsed Arab Spring uprisings, as well as the #OccupyWallSt campout, AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka declared that unions and “people power” are the “most powerful force on the face of the earth for progressive values.”

As with all “community activist” organizations these days, according to the conference agenda, the AFL-CIO’s youthful attendees learned some basic tactics in Saul Alinsky‘s strategies.

If Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals is the heroin for hard-core community activists, the AFL-CIO’s conference youthful attendees were only given a little taste of Uncle Sauls elixir…


Sparking Trade Unionism and Labor Consciousness
Workplace democracy, solidarity, worker power, dignity and respect. These are core values of trade unionism. This workshop teaches participants how to talk to nonunion audiences about unions and build labor consciousness. Participants will learn effective ways to define what a union is, what it does and why unions are important. Participants also will learn techniques and simple exercises that can be used in large groups or during one-on-one conversations.

Elements of Issue Messaging
This workshop teaches core principles for developing a message on any topic, including message framing, imagery and values-based language. It will cover assessing your message’s strength in the face of opposition and how to deliver your message effectively in a one-on-one setting. This workshop offers a foundation for union organizing, political organizing, lobbying and press communication in a simple, easy-to-follow manner.

Moving Workers to Action Through One-on-One Conversations
The best way to move a worker to take action is face to face, and to have a productive conversation we need to have an agenda. This workshop will be a discussion of the one-on-one agenda we follow when talking with workers during an organizing campaign.


No. 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people….”

Labor 101 for Non-Union Workers
As young activists, we do not always understand the roots of union work and the work that so many have done before us. We will examine the basics about labor unions, the issues they currently are engaged in and how they promote social and economic justice. We also will explore why America wins with union labor and products.

Comedy and Activism
Humor often can demonstrate a political point effectively and memorably, which is why so many campaigns find a way to mix comedy into their work. This workshop will discuss successful examples of campaigns using comedic videos, street theater and other creative actions to entertain as well as engage.

No. 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”

Power Analysis: Know Your Targets
Why are they so powerful? Since the rich keep getting richer, it’s our responsibility to understand the powerful networks of CEOs, corporations, elected officials and the webs of relationships connecting them to one another. The foundation of any successful organizing or advocacy campaign is a clear understanding of the power relationships of the target and the ability of the campaigners to affect those relationships. This workshop will focus on providing young workers a framework to map out the power relationships of corporations, elected officials or any other type of potential target. Knowing their power gives us power and starts to even the playing field. The workshop also will provide participants with the skills to develop an internal assessment of their organizations to determine their capacity to effectively engage their targets and maximize their power.


No. 8: “Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.”

No. 13: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Creative and Effective Direct Action Tactics
Done so many traditional pickets and rallies that the bosses are getting used to it? Time to get creative. From theatrical actions at decision makers’ offices to YouTube-ready flash mobs, come get some fresh ideas about how to capture the attention of the press and the public while getting outside your target’s comfort zone.

No. 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.

The goal of this training is to give participants a taste of an anti-union campaign with a captive audience meeting and give them the opportunity to practice organizing community allies to unite with workers in the fight for on-the-job justice.

Unlike an earlier draft agenda, the final published version did not reference unionizing google. It is not known whether this was discussed or not.

You can see more of the AFL-CIO’s education camp youth conference here.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


Cross-posted on LaborUnionReport.com


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos