Getting Ready 23

Getting Ready 23

Settled into more or less a schedule.

Beautiful weather here in Vermont. Rain every few days, then the river water gets cold. A couple of days of sun heats up the water. Swimming is easy, whether down in the park where the water is warmer or up at Pikes Falls where it’s pretty cold but the waterfall is worth it. Raspberries are in, every day a quart’s worth. Blueberries will be here in the next few days. Already I can get enough for breakfast every day. The corn is now ripe as far up as Massachusetts, 3 for a dollar at Dutton’s.

Mornings, I read Angie Ngoc Tran or Tim Pringle and Simon Clark’s book, The Challenge of Transition: Trade Unions in Russia, China, and Vietnan, Palgrave Mcmillan, 2011. This is the book that we need to read. Joe found it at the UCB library and has sent for a copy for us to own, although it costs nearly $100. I will provide some excerpts from it later. Then I work on my class. I’ve done 4 draft powerpoint texts, using the textbook as required, going chapter by chapter. It will be possible to get ideas across using this textbook.

Then lots of email. I’ve sent off three papers – one to Adrienne Paavo in Canada, about the Polk women’s labor ed conference; one to Labor Studies Journal, about the big survey I did last winter of labor education programs; one to WorkingUSA about the Metro Strategy and Lave’s Communities of Practice, as organizing strategies. Lots of work, come to think of it. I have a book review to do, an article with Joe on City College for SF Bayview, and then we’re supposed to do two more Steward Updates for Union Communications before we go back to CA. Grandkids arriving in 12 days.

Talked on the phone with Katie Quan today, who gave us introductions to two people, one of them with the ILO.

Here’s something from the Valley Post website, that demonstrates how much explanation you have to include in every communication about unions in the US, due to how little people know and how much misinformation is out there:

This is a website run by Eesha Williams, a local journalist and also author of a really good handbook for people who want to write effectively about the real world and get it out into the public mind – that is, journalists:

We used his book in classes in Illinois.

Notice how in his article about the upcoming possible strike includes explanations, such as, right there in the second paragraph, “Strikes by union workers happen when a majority of workers vote to go on strike.” You might ask, did he really need to explain that? Unfortunately, yes, he did – because one of the anti-union myths that people get drummed into their heads is that unions “cause” violence and workers are “forced” to go on strike.

Also, further down: “Nonunion workers can be fired for no reason.” This is probably the biggest misapprehension of them all – that employers are somehow bound by what is “fair” and therefore can’t fire you without a good reason. Wrong. They can fire you for no reason – unless you have a union.

So Eesha manages to get this basic information into a short article about an upcoming strike. Note that he also does not give the actual name of the business, but he does explain where its money comes from: it’s a “government-funded agency.” Actually, it’s a non-profit healthcare provider. This gives him the opportunity to mention how many people in Massachusetts make over a million dollars a year and could afford to pay higher taxes, and also how prevalent suicide is, making such support urgent.

He does give the websites of both the business and the union. Usual normal mainstream journalists would give the name of the company but not the name of the union. Or they’d get the name of the union wrong, just for the fun of it. Here, he treats them even-handedly although he does quote the union organizer, Jerry Levinsky, whom I know from UALE conferences, a good guy. Nice to see his name out there!

Today, however, there’s another announcement: after 8 hours of bargaining, an agreement is reached and the strike is called off. So it worked!


The weather is great. If I don’t write anything for a while, it’s because every day is just another day like today, which is fine.

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

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