Skip to main content


What We Learned at Labor Notes 2022

June 28, 2022

CSU-AAUP members listen to Teamsters President Sean O’Brien at Labor Notes.

CSU-AAUP members and staff attended the Labor Notes conference in Chicago last week. It was invigorating and inspiring, with speakers from the Amazon Labor Union, Starbucks unions and the Teamsters, among others. Here are a few things we learned from the sessions:

  1. Developing relationships is the best way to organize. This might seem like a “duh” item, but it’s something we forget about a lot. Most people aren’t fanatical about labor and organizing. Instead of trying to force them to care as much as we do, we need to find out what does interest them. Find that topic, be it sports, arts or something else, and bond over that instead.
  2. It’s not an accident. The way the system is built is not by accident, but rather by design. Debt Collective, a debtors’ union seeking to end debt, made this claim at their session on austerity in education. Over time, we’ve seen our country shift from a tax economy to a debt economy. Now, we can clearly see students and public institutions paying the price.
  3. There’s a lot of (free) information. Research is an integral part of organizing campaigns, and a lot of what we want to know is available at the click of a button. From earnings calls to bond issuance documents, we feel more empowered than ever to dig up info.
  4. Organizing activities go beyond rallies and picketing. Speaking of research, did you know that can be a form of organizing? Workers working together on anything is an organizing activity that can make us stronger as a union. Whether that’s crafting a flyer for an event or looking up OSHA records, it all counts.
  5. Organized labor needs to push beyond the walls of its contracts. This was perhaps the most inspiring and poignant point of the conference. The Chicago Teachers Union pushed for items well outside the traditional scope of bargaining, like affordable housing for their students. All unions should follow their lead and push for more and better, not just for the workers themselves, but also for the communities they serve and live in.