No Shortcuts
The crisis of the progressive movement is so evident that nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of its basic assumptions is required. Today's progressives now work for professional organizations more comfortable with the inside game in Washington DC (and capitols throughout the West), where they are outmatched and outspent by corporate interests. Labor unions now focus on the narrowest possible understanding of the interests of their members, and membership continues to decline in lockstep with the narrowing of their goals. Meanwhile, promising movements like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter lack sufficient power to accomplish meaningful change. Why do progressives in the United States keep losing on so many issues?In No Shortcuts, Jane McAlevey argues that progressives can win, but lack the organized power to enact significant change, to outlast their bosses in labor fights, and to hold elected leaders accountable. Drawing upon her experience as a scholar and longtime organizer in the student, environmental, and labor movements, McAlevey examines cases from labor unions and social movements to pinpoint the factors that helped them succeed - or fail - to accomplish their intended goals. McAlevey makes a compelling case that the great social movements of previous eras gained their power from mass organizing, a strategy today's progressives have mostly abandoned in favor of shallow mobilization or advocacy. She ultimately concludes that, in order to win, progressive movements need strong unions built from bottom-up organizing strategies that place the power for change in the hands of workers and ordinary people at the community level.Beyond the concrete examples in this book, McAlevey's arguments have direct implications for anyone involved in organizing for social change. Much more than cogent analysis, No Shortcuts explains exactly how progressives can go about rebuilding powerful movements at work, in our communities, and at the ballot box.

No Shortcuts Details

TitleNo Shortcuts
Author
ReleaseOct 11th, 2016
PublisherOxford University Press, USA
ISBN-139780190624712
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Politics, Labor, Social Issues, Activism, Social Justice, Social Change, Economics, Political Science

No Shortcuts Review

  • Matt Gladue
    January 1, 1970
    There is a solid argument at the heart of this book. Workers are losing and working class communities are losing because the organizing that built the CIO has been replaced by mobilizing, the media, and metrics. The three victories laid out here, among nursing home workers in Connecticut, teachers and parents in Chicago, and meat packing workers in North Carolina, all allow the author to make the case for organizing at a deep level. And a fair critique of top down new labor tactics and Saul Alin There is a solid argument at the heart of this book. Workers are losing and working class communities are losing because the organizing that built the CIO has been replaced by mobilizing, the media, and metrics. The three victories laid out here, among nursing home workers in Connecticut, teachers and parents in Chicago, and meat packing workers in North Carolina, all allow the author to make the case for organizing at a deep level. And a fair critique of top down new labor tactics and Saul Alinsky's organizing practices are well taken. The problem with this book is its utter inability to deal with nuance. There is no acknowledgment of practitioners who have innovated Alinsky's work in ways that acknowledge our author's critique. And there is no acknowledging any organizing that isn't workplace organizing. The axes the author feels she has to grind take away from what is otherwise a read that should challenge organizers of all stripes to their core.
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  • Conor
    January 1, 1970
    I big-bodied my way onto a C train one morning and the guy that I nudged forward kept looking back at me. The train I take to work in the morning--a local--is often so crowded that even breaking out a book can be regarded as a solecism, and this morning was no exception. As the guy got off of the train, I stepped to the side to let off the departing passengers/avoid the stampede; he pointed to me and said "That's a great book!" and in my antisocial subway mode, channeling my most awkward teenage I big-bodied my way onto a C train one morning and the guy that I nudged forward kept looking back at me. The train I take to work in the morning--a local--is often so crowded that even breaking out a book can be regarded as a solecism, and this morning was no exception. As the guy got off of the train, I stepped to the side to let off the departing passengers/avoid the stampede; he pointed to me and said "That's a great book!" and in my antisocial subway mode, channeling my most awkward teenaged version of me, I mustered an awkward "Thanks!" as if he had congratulated me for having written the book myself.That story isn't really too important or relevant (but #Brooklyn!), and I think the reason I tell it is because I have nothing more to say about the content of the book--it was pretty dry. The thesis seems to be that there is a qualitative difference that we often lose sight of between organizing (good!) and mobilizing (eh, fine). This seems right. The penultimate chapter, based on Make the Road--which is an awesome organization where many friends work--seems to emphasize that community is a much stronger driver of participation and turnout than political principle. But it's also so much harder to cultivate. Tough tradeoffs. I think what I'm most heartened by is the spate of mostly successful teacher's strikes that took place while I was leafing through this book. From West Virginia and Arizona to Kentucky and now North Carolina, these people are mo-bi-li-zing. And the skinflint taxpayers and Republican governors are mostly cowering, which is wonderful and gratifying at the same time. Let's hope the organization pays dividends come November!
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  • Deb Ramage
    January 1, 1970
    She tells a great story and it's got a lot of good lessons for organizers of all types. It doesn't quite deliver on the claim that union organizing strategies have application to social movement organizing. That may be true, but there are no direct examples in the book, really. Even if it weren't a great how-to manual, though, it also works as recent and relevant history. My socialist local chapter (DSA) had a book discussion group around this book today and a lot of good ideas came up.
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  • Dana Sweeney
    January 1, 1970
    I have been reading book after book after book trying to get a sense of how the American left can [re]build power in the face of the brilliant, devastating, decades-long strategies employed by the corporate right to dominate our social & political lives. This book is one of the best guides that I have found so far. A protege / student of Frances Fox Piven, McAlevey’s work includes the kind of detailed historical grounding and analysis that Piven is known for, and she shares Piven’s deep skep I have been reading book after book after book trying to get a sense of how the American left can [re]build power in the face of the brilliant, devastating, decades-long strategies employed by the corporate right to dominate our social & political lives. This book is one of the best guides that I have found so far. A protege / student of Frances Fox Piven, McAlevey’s work includes the kind of detailed historical grounding and analysis that Piven is known for, and she shares Piven’s deep skepticism / criticism of Saul Alinsky’s “community organizing” model, but she departs from Piven by arguing that the left CAN build power with the right theories of power and change (rather than Piven’s contention in “Poor People’s Movements” that the left can more effectively harness moments of mass refusal / unrest, but can not do much to generate moments of mass refusal / unrest). McAlevey argues that the labor movement has shifted from an organizing model to a mobilizing model — and that this shift is at the heart of the wider decline of the entire left. McAlevey’s writing is crisp, her analysis is smart, and her argument is persuasive. This book is mostly rooted in detailed case studies from this millennium, and having this contemporary frame of reference is very instructive. Most interesting to me were her explorations of the Chicago Teacher’s Strike of 2012 and the 2008 unionization of the Smithfield meat plant in the extremely anti-union Tar Heel, NC. This read is a bit more demanding than some others that I have read; I wouldn’t consider it a pleasure read. It is, however, a remarkable read and an instructive guide. I’d highly recommend it to any friends interested in left / progressive capacity building.
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  • Jack
    January 1, 1970
    McAlevey continues and expands upon her work in her first book, Raising Expectations, analysing other positive examples of her theory of the 'whole worker organising' model in contrast to the failures of New Labor's Alinskyist mobilising model and business unionism.Each chapter has the underlying thrust of McAlevey's argument: that bottom-up, rank-and-file organising and unionism is crucial to big wins against tough employers and politicians. Furthermore, McAlevey points to the vital links made McAlevey continues and expands upon her work in her first book, Raising Expectations, analysing other positive examples of her theory of the 'whole worker organising' model in contrast to the failures of New Labor's Alinskyist mobilising model and business unionism.Each chapter has the underlying thrust of McAlevey's argument: that bottom-up, rank-and-file organising and unionism is crucial to big wins against tough employers and politicians. Furthermore, McAlevey points to the vital links made between union campaigns and the community, which position the organised working class as part of, rather than separate to, the community.This is a book to learn a lot from when it comes to organising in the workplace. A return to the CIO-style of organising promoted by McAlevey would not be easy, but big wins in the workplace and in society never come easy. But, when our alternative is the continued decline of wage growth, endless and normalised wage theft, the increasing wealth inequality gap, mounting bills and costs of living, environmental destruction, the resurgence of racism and sexism and all other social ills, we need a labour movement that knows how to fight. And to fight, it needs to be organised. To be organised, the labour movement must become a movement of itself and for itself, of the whole worker.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Full of actionable insights, inspiring stories that are meticulously researched, and bursts of good wit, too.
  • Jeffrey
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting little book describing how unions can be successful when they focus on ground-up organizing instead of playing power politics (poorly) and trying to mobilize only. Interesting that the failure of unions over the last several decades for a lack of such organizing also applies to why the Republican party has been crushing the Democratic party at all levels of government in recent history.Only problem with the book is that it takes a very Marxian view in setting a complete dialectic bet Interesting little book describing how unions can be successful when they focus on ground-up organizing instead of playing power politics (poorly) and trying to mobilize only. Interesting that the failure of unions over the last several decades for a lack of such organizing also applies to why the Republican party has been crushing the Democratic party at all levels of government in recent history.Only problem with the book is that it takes a very Marxian view in setting a complete dialectic between workers and their employers, describing it continuously as one side "beating" the other. This is a false dichotomy, especially with the sea-change in our economy coming with the extensive replacement of workers with machines where those jobs are not coming back. This, now more than ever, places an emphasis on the need to understand workers and employers in a symbiotic relationship where each needs the other to survive in one way or another. Employers need workers to have enough money to drive purchasing power and the economy as a whole, workers need their wages supplied by organizations (or possibly, the government in times to come) in order to survive and buy the goods produced by their organizations. The system cannot survive and thrive without both parties.
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes dry reading, but immensely practical. A must-read for activists on the left.I do wish, though, that McAlevey had described in more depth what her organizing strategies might look like outside the workplace.
  • Joel D
    January 1, 1970
    Strong argument and compelling examplesThis is a great addition to discussions around organising and community power. McAlevey makes a bold argument, backed up with case studies and analysis. Very well researched and lots to chew on.
  • Peter Pinelli
    January 1, 1970
    I love this book. McAlevey argues that progressive causes would be more successful if they focused on helping workers control their workplaces. A worker's main power is still their ability to strike. Strikes do more than help improve workers' lives. They also inspire confidence and trust between workers. They're a training ground for greater coordination.With that in mind, she examines four different organizing campaigns-A nurse union in Connecticut. It has been tremendously successful in achiev I love this book. McAlevey argues that progressive causes would be more successful if they focused on helping workers control their workplaces. A worker's main power is still their ability to strike. Strikes do more than help improve workers' lives. They also inspire confidence and trust between workers. They're a training ground for greater coordination.With that in mind, she examines four different organizing campaigns-A nurse union in Connecticut. It has been tremendously successful in achieving its goals (and in providing better conditions for patients). Their strength is their willingness to strike, and their ability to explain themselves to the people they care for. This chapter was useful for showing how some organizations have allowed their mission to drift, in a self-defeating way. -The Chicago teachers' union campaign in 2012 was helpful for showing a union rapidly win support from the community. We see some of the pitfalls of community organizing. -A hog-processing plant in NC. This chapter had some interesting notes on how some employers manipulate workers through race. A huge plant is unionized in a area extremely hostile to that. (The bosses intimidate workers heavily, going as far as beating a worker in front of his friends). The workers are willing to make heavy sacrifices to preserve their dignity. The union's efforts ultimately help launch the successful community group, Moral Mondays. -An immigrant rights group in NYC, Make The Road New York. They're an example of what it looks like to be successful under labor-friendly conditions. They're extremely successful at representing immigrants in NYC. For instance, they were responsible for getting Mayor Bloomberg to stop the city's collaboration with ICE to deport undocumented folks.There are too many important lessons from the book for me to list them all here, but this is a start:-Very few progressives have a theory of collective power-Every campaign needs to know what it will cost their target to accept their demands at the start of their action. The campaign won't succeed unless it can credibly show that it's demands are cheaper than a fight. So important! So basic too. It's amazing that more causes don't account for this.-Strikes are still the best strategy for organizing workers. Beyond whatever the workers gain, the-Many unions are too professionalized. They emphasize messaging on behalf of workers, instead of helping the workers develop their talents and communities.-Many pro-union workers are not capable of organizing their workplaces. They're a self-selecting group. Instead of appealing to them, progressives need to identify the natural leaders within a community. The goal then is to support the leaders in organizing the others. -It's more pragmatic to strike for greater control of the workplace, rather than for more money or benefits. Though naturally both are important.-She is sympathetic to leftists, often crediting them as the most dogged and effective organizers
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  • Brenden Gallagher
    January 1, 1970
    I am a labor novice, so I don't know if this is the perfect book for a seasoned organizer who has seen and done it all. But, as someone who has taken a post-Bernie, post-Trump interest in activism, and recently joined both DSA and a union, "No Shortcuts" is a perfect book. Clocking in at a breezy 210 pages, "No Shortcuts" lays out a few foundational principles for labor organizing in 2019, and then proceeds to articulate a clear vision with the help of a few illustrative case studies. McAlevey's I am a labor novice, so I don't know if this is the perfect book for a seasoned organizer who has seen and done it all. But, as someone who has taken a post-Bernie, post-Trump interest in activism, and recently joined both DSA and a union, "No Shortcuts" is a perfect book. Clocking in at a breezy 210 pages, "No Shortcuts" lays out a few foundational principles for labor organizing in 2019, and then proceeds to articulate a clear vision with the help of a few illustrative case studies. McAlevey's argument is both compelling and succinct. As a result, this feels like a helpful and potentially essential "hit the ground running" text for would-be labor organizers.McAlevey first draws the distinction between "mobilizing" and "organizing." The idea here is that while you can mobilize people to, say, show up for one rally or participate in one boycott, an organized worker is ready to fight consistently and doggedly for dignity and respect.McAlevey also lays out the concept of organizing the "whole worker," meaning that a worker's life does not begin and end at work. They have lives in their community: kids in school, pews in church, and opinions on civic issues. Organizing, McAlevey believes, must speak to the whole worker.With these bedrock principles established, "No Shortcuts" walks the reader through successful recent organizing efforts and less successful ones in a variety of industries. A common theme emerges: worker leadership, union militancy, and a reliance on strikes instead of data gathering and polling lead to wins. Compromise and inaction leads to devastating defeats. As McAlevey explores case studies involving teachers, nursing home workers, meatpackers, grocery clerks, and retail workers we see common themes emerge. Very quickly, the reader starts to see an obvious and essential a way forward.Looking around at successful labor organizing across the country, it appears that McAlevey's prescription is right. Strike more and exclude workers at your own peril. Just maybe "No Shortcuts" is the book that can help reverse that the crushing losses that labor has experienced after decades of mobilizing and compromising instead of challenging the boss on the picket line.
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  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    Important, insightful book on organizing unions, community groups and such. Jane McAlevey argues that only massive member-led organizing, not precision staff-led advocacy or mobilizing, can repair and rebuild our communities, nation and world. The book starts with an introduction worth reading; unlike many introductions, this one is integral to the book's message. The first chapter relays the history of the turn from 'organizing'(building member-led bodies) to 'mobilizing'(professionally-led bod Important, insightful book on organizing unions, community groups and such. Jane McAlevey argues that only massive member-led organizing, not precision staff-led advocacy or mobilizing, can repair and rebuild our communities, nation and world. The book starts with an introduction worth reading; unlike many introductions, this one is integral to the book's message. The first chapter relays the history of the turn from 'organizing'(building member-led bodies) to 'mobilizing'(professionally-led bodies acting on worker's behalf) with particular attention to Saul Alinsky's role.The last chapters of the book chronicle several different labor successes in a wide range of subcultures.
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  • Nick Fisher
    January 1, 1970
    An extremely accessible (with the exception of the litany of acronyms common in union discourse) analysis of a collection of US labor/social movements and their historical contexts. I highly recommend this book to anyone involved/interested in organizing.
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  • Samantha Hines
    January 1, 1970
    I read Alinsky a few weeks ago and couldn't put my finger on how to update it--this book does so. A must read.
  • Nathalia Rojas.
    January 1, 1970
    It's kind of slow and I lost interest about halfway through. Clearly very well researched.
  • Kimberly
    January 1, 1970
    Read some relevant chapters. It was good for reading and discussing with fellow teachers/unionists but the writing did not make this a fun read.
  • Moti Rieber
    January 1, 1970
    "Mobilizing is not a substitute for organizing."
  • Adam Schlesinger
    January 1, 1970
    This was good as hell. The smithfield plant chapter was by far the best. Amazing stuff and super inspiring.
  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    The half I read so far was excellent. Too often, activists have a hard time explaining the differences between mobilizing/organizing or advocacy/movement approaches, and therefore rank-and-file union activists can't get that what they are doing is actually not what they're being told. This book helps show what we mean, and gives examples of how it can work.
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  • Mills College Library
    January 1, 1970
    303.4 M1142 2016
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