We already know that professionals are the fastest growing segment of workers. There has been much discussion throughout the history of the DPE on the need for more organizing of professionals. There is no question that the affiliates have engaged, and continue to engage, in innovative strategies to represent professionals. But the DPE can create an opportunity to share ideas among affiliates that enables the affiliates to become more innovative and successful in the organizing of professionals. The Changing Work series will be that forum. The series will help to develop surveys and research that supports the aims of our affiliates. The DPE series can help affiliates exchange cutting-edge strategies in a fruitful way so that all can benefit. To paraphrase DPE Chair J. David Cox, the way to change the very difficult environment workers and unions face today is to organize. Sharing ideas, and maybe even resources, will make all affiliates more successful in organizing and being better at representing professionals.
But we won’t just be examining organizing strategies and ideas. We will take an account of what affiliates do inside and outside of collective bargaining to represent professionals that can and should be shared. This includes identifying bargained language that supports professionals – such as training or re-training; higher pay for work on new equipment; protections against outsourcing or offshoring; etc. It may include actions taken during strikes to organize, protect work and/or jurisdiction. While organizing our way out of these tough times is the way for unions to get stronger, there is no good organizing program without great success at the bargaining table. And DPE affiliates get great results, sometimes with a strike, sometimes without and sometimes with little leverage.
Outside of bargaining, affiliates can share ideas on training, certification and other professional development ideas, just to name a few. For all of us, figuring out how to bring the precarious workers into the union family is a task worth taking on. There are lots of pockets of success but no one tried and true method. For professional workers, work is changing because of the forces of outsourcing, visas, offshoring, the rise of the precarious work environment, etc. We just don’t know how it is changing or when the changes will greatly affect the work affiliates represent so we need to keep experimenting. The AFL-CIO and lots of academics and non-profits are focused on low-wage workers. We need to focus on the high-skilled jobs that are well paid but are being attacked by those very issues of precarious work, outsourcing, visa issues, etc.
The AFL-CIO Raising Wages campaign is great. But it’s really a campaign to raise pay at the bottom of the wage scale. It’s not going to affect the members you represent that are higher skilled and better paid. This series gives our affiliates an opportunity to raise the wages for middle class jobs. And the best way to do that is to tackle the challenges together.