5 The Worker Voice and Advocacy

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Additional Resources

Below, we’ve included videos on various efforts related to the realm of worker advocacy and organizing. A number of these efforts were mentioned specifically in our readings and video lectures.

Some questions to consider: What other related issues are raised in this set of videos?  How do these intersect with new forms of organizing work?  What do you find compelling, and how would you relate some of the main lessons from these efforts to your own career and work experiences? We look forward to reading more about your thoughts on these questions in the discussion forum.

First, let’s start by taking a contemporary look at the role of labor unions today.

Video: Center for American Progress: Unions Make the Middle Class

The video above, “Unions Make the Middle Class: Beresford’s Story,” was published by the Center for American Progress and is excluded from our Creative Commons license.

Now, let’s take a look at new forms of worker advocacy, including organizing efforts mediated by technology and organizations that provide an alternative to the traditional union model.

Recent research from the University of Minnesota illustrates how online platforms and information-sharing can shape the experience of work. Scholars here document the effectiveness of a platform for assessing the reputation of employers active with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk – an example of the “gig” economy – in shaping wage norms. Here is a summary of the paper, as well as a link to the full text.

Coworker.org is another information-sharing and mobilization online platform that aims to create a new space for collective voice in work.  Listen to the founders of coworker.org describe the platform in a short video produced by the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

Below, we move on to looking at new organizational forms and exploration of new means of advocacy. First, let’s take a look at the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a national worker center in the restaurant industry.

Video: Restaurant Opportunities Center: Do You Eat Ethically?

This video was published by the Restaurant Opportunities Center and is excluded from our Creative Commons license.

Also check out an animated history and description of the Freelancers Union, one of the new forms of union strategies discussed in our reading.

Finally, in the video: “What is the Worker’s Lab” you can find out more about The Workers Lab, an accelerator that invests in new, entrepreneurial initiatives to improve work for the low-wage labor force.

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