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Abstract

[Excerpt] I was an organizer for 14 years. I never met with an organizing committee or spoke at a mass meeting when I didn t remind workers of something we all understand intuitively: There is one way you get what you need and want in this world—power. There are only two ways to get it—lots of money or lots of people organized together. Working people have never gotten anything except when they were organized and moving.

The most important questions we in Atlanta deal with everyday are: How do we build power? How do we exercise power in a way that helps us build more power?

We believe mass action, in all its many forms, is the most effective way to exercise power. We believe mass action actually helps build more power.

American trade unionists operate in an environment that is full of constraints on our activity. Our private sector organizing is constrained by the NLRB. Our membership service is dictated by a contract. We often ask our attorneys to sign off on union activities. We double-check our "public approval ratings." We accept these constraints for a variety of reasons both good and bad.

But where we accept these constraints absolutely, we limit our ability to build and exercise power and, therefore, our effectiveness as trade unions.

The only real tool we have is the strength of our membership. Any time the labor movement or any individual union in our country has grown or won substantial gains has been when members have been moving in mass action.

Mass action is the smart thing and the right thing to do.

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