Labor's Real Innovators Will Come from the Ranks, Not the Corporate World

The underlying problem here is the classic problem of business unionism—it confuses growing a movement with selling a product.

Outgoing SEIU Local 775 President David Rolf is the most prominent exponent of this dead-end approach. His new book proposes that unions stay relevant by pursuing nine “value propositions.”

What’s that? Rolf defines a value proposition as “a specific strategy that delivers quantifiable benefits to a recipient through a uniquely differentiated product, service, or intervention that solves a problem or improves a situation.”

His propositions range from unions taking over the administration of government services such as unemployment insurance to amending federal laws to allow more worker “input” on company boards, as is common in Europe.

He also calls on “labor innovators” to recognize that “there is no more readily available block of venture capital than today’s union treasuries.” Rolf hopes that more unions will marshal funds for “innovation hubs” like the Workers Lab, which applies lessons from business startups to labor questions.

Peppered throughout the book is praise for partnering up with management. But Rolf has little to say about what I would consider a union’s main job—fighting the boss.

In a book ostensibly about worker power, the word “strike” appears eight times, while “partnership” appears 62.

Read the rest at Labor Notes


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