Astroturf Organizing

The following is an excerpt from a document written by a veteran of several paid organizing campaigns. He’s worked for SIEU (he did not work on the Fight for 15 campaign, but several of his friends did) as well as a living wage campaign.

“I got into it because it was what I was good at. I wanted to work doing something I loved, but it turns out organizations with paid staff don’t do much real organizing. All they do is sell member cards and then try to pressure people to go in the direction the staff wants instead of the direction decided collectively by the members.”

NGOs and business unions sell themselves as groups that help organize people for the good fight, and many good intention, radicalizing people believe them and work for them, only to be run ragged, overworked, underpaid, heavily guilted when they fail to perform at expectations, like some kind of door to door salesperson.

Fight for 15 campaign.

In his essay “Fast Food Unionism,” Erik Forman (2013) discusses the Fight for 15 campaign and what he calls “the McDonaldization of unions.” This basically means that unions have taken on the structure, culture, and values of their corporate counterparts. Given the information already presented and yet to be presented in this piece, I would say the so-called “grassroots community organizations” have also become McDonaldized. The rhetoric coming from the big unions today is ironic considering that the mainstream of the labor movement refused to even acknowledge the existence of fast food workers until recent years. Forman even mentions being turned down by a local UNITE-HERE leader when asking for support organizing a Starbucks he worked at. The decision to wage a unionization campaign is made not based on solidarity but on typical business calculation (Forman, 2013).

Starting in the 1970s, employers increased their efforts to resist unionization. They really began to lay down the gauntlet for unions in post-New Deal America, but the union bureaucrats refused the challenge and instead attempted to take a business approach, which contributed to not only a decline in unionized workers over the past several decades but also a decline in the average person’s faith in the unions. The unions will cut backroom deals with management and even support corporate legislative agendas in order to get a good deal with upper management. All of this comes at the expense of the rank-and-file, whose input is often excluded from the campaign and even bargaining. The potential of the average member to shut down production and force real concessions from the company is squandered at best if not ignored completely (Forman, 2013).

The current Service Employees International Union-lead “Fight for 15” campaign is nothing more than a spectacle. SEIU leaders will tell you that workers organized themselves and demanded the union’s leadership, but in reality it was all a business plan hatched out in the SEIU boardroom. The $15 an hour living wage demand was not thought up by workers, but by Berlin Rosen PR Firm. The cities targeted for the one-day –strikes were selected not based on need, but based on where SEIU bureaucrats thought they could get the most media attention and gain a push for legislation mandating higher wages. The task of union “organizers” in this campaign isn’t to organize, but to get media attention for a cause and to sell the idea to workers and community members. No permanent infrastructure or organization is left in these workplaces or communities when the campaign moves on to the next city. Often they can’t even get enough workers to support the faux strike, leaving them to substitute naïve activists from the general public in place of the workers. Of course, the purple press releases won’t ever say that (Forman, 2013)….

The full essay can be accessed here.

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May Day in Haiti!

Below are some May Day photos from Cap Haitien, Port-au-Prince and Ouanaminthe.

This is what class struggle looks like! The combative workers of Haiti should be an inspiration to us all, to step up our game and join up with this international struggle in the way we need to, everywhere. Share it, spread it. Solidarity with the international working class! The best expression of solidarity is for us to organize wherever we are.

Slogans on the banners include:

“Long Live Our Combative Union!”

“Long Live Our Combative May Day! Continue our Resistance, Our Struggle
foor the Demands of the Whole Working Class!” (From PLASIT, a platform of
three Batay Ouvriye textile unions).

“500 Gourds at Least, with Accompaniments!” (i.e.: food and other
workplace demands).

“Down with the Plan of Death!” (Imperialist plan).

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May Day plans in Port-au-Prince: Textile Unions


Workers of all factories, laborers, Labor Organizations, popular organizations, students, street vendors, progressives and all those who are struggling to make a living: come and join the March on May Day 2015 to demand:

  • A minimum wage of at least 500 gourdes and all arrears retroactive to October 2014;
  • A negotiated agreement between the union and the state on social benefits of food, transportation and housing, etc;
  • A change to the 2009 law on wages allowing the unions to negotiate the piece rate, quotas and price;
  • Build modern cafeterias so workers don’t have to eat lunch alongside garbage and mud;
  • Comprehensive reforms at ONA and OFATMA for better services;
  • Agrarian reforms so small peasants could work in security and with technical support;
  • A New Labor Code and Rural Code that protect workers’ rights and the environment;
  • The re-instatement of all Executive Board members of the SYNOTHAG Union at GMC.

We will begin rallying at 8:00 A.M. in front of the SONAPI Industrial Park, then will proceed along the road to the airport, Delmas 3, Delmas 1, Sanfil St, Montalè St and end at Champs-de-Mars. Pass the word around, pick up one another to show them what we are worth, us workers.


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Workers in Haiti force employers to negotiate!

Workers in Haiti struggle militantly, using strike actions to force employers to negotiate!

UPDATE on the Struggle in Subcontractor Factories
A report from Batay Ouvriye
April 2015

This is an assessment of the general situation in the subcontracting sector, particularly in the Apaid group and the Korean factories such as DKDR.

Workers in the subcontracting sector, particularly in the Apaid group and the Korean factories such as DKDR, are going through a terrible situation whereby unionized workers are forbidden to speak to other workers in the plants. The right to unionize does not exist in those plants. Unionized workers are forbidden from answering phone calls on the floor even in the case of home emergencies. They are forbidden to use the air tube on the floor to dust themselves off after work. When unionized workers are caught doing any of the above, they are summoned to human resources for disciplinary action such as a letter of reprimand and suspension for eight (8) days. If the workers contest the disciplinary measures, they are summoned to appear at the regional office of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Before leaving the premises, the bosses take photos of them and display these on a wall as if they were thieves. Supervisors are tasked to spy on unionized workers. As soon as other workers are seen talking to them, the supervisors tell them to keep moving. Otherwise, they are ready to send those workers to human resources for disciplinary action.
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May Day – International Workers’ Day!

May Day!

Join us for May Day, May 1st, at 5:30pm at the government center in downtown Miami.

May 1st is International Workers’ Day!

Let’s mark this day and commit to continuing the struggles that brought the 8-hour workday and fought for a different arrangement of society.

Let’s organize for immediate gains, like higher wages.
But let’s also fight for a new world – one where the working class owns the means or production, where we produce in a way that does not destroy the earth, and everyone benefits from the fruits of labor, not just the capitalist class!

Let’s build a movement to fight our common enemy – the capitalist class!

Workers, laborers, students, artists, environmentalists – Let’s Unite!

See the Facebook event page for more.

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Photos of the cane cutters’ march in the Dominican Republic

Here are photos from a march and demonstration last week (March 18) of sugar cane cutters in Santo Domingo. The Union of Sugarcane Workers have been waging a national mobilization campaign since February 25.Their demands are:
• 3rd Pension Act for sugarcane workers.
• Medical Insurance.
• Increased pension RD $ 5,000 to RD $ 10,000 pesos.
• Wage Increase.
• Construction and repair of housing.

Of these claims they are very close to getting the first two.

For more information (in French and Spanish) please visit:




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Support Haitian Sugar Cane Cutters in the Dominican Republic!

RRNogoPlease consider sending a note of encouragement and solidarity to Haitian sugar cane cutters in the Dominican Republic who are taking a stand today and Wednesday, as described below in a message from Batay Ouvriye.

Their email address:

To find out more about the lives of the workers in sugar production, here’s a documentary, “The Price of Sugar”:

From Batay Ouvriye:


Moved by the crimes that, in their extreme horror, have surfaced in reality, and pushed by the echoes of their catastrophic lives, the Haitian sugar-cane cutters in the Dominican Republic, together with Dominicans in the Bateys as well those in solidarity, coalesce into one voice: that of permanent resistance.

In contrast to that, how ephemeral is Haitian “civil society.” It is for their survival –- facing their extermination –- that they are in confrontation with which, at the level of their political consciousness, is clearly expressed as the main target: the presidency.

Thus, according to the information they have communicated to us:

“For our part, the sugar-cane workers, from February 25th of this year have set up a permanent vigil in front of the Presidential Palace, demanding a 3rd Pension Act for the sugar-cane workers.”


“For Monday March 16th, we will have a strong concentration of sugar cane workers at the Presidential Palace. And on Wednesday March 18th, a march to the Presidential Palace.”

As we have already stated, their last protest movement was brutally interrupted, repressed and buried in hatred.

Wednesday March 18, again they are going to risk everything: the Haitian sugar-cane cutters in the Dominican Republic!

To those who understand, know, and internalize fully the magnitude of this historical moment, we ask them to send their support to those Haitian warriors, paradoxically the true guarantors of our independence:


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