What advice did the people you interviewed have for others?
Each of the people I interviewed offered their advice to students and others on how (and how not) to be successful activists or organizers for labor rights. Their advice has been collected below.
For more concrete advice, there are manuals, guides, and case studies available on the internet. A collection of those guides isavailable at Guides to a Living Wage.
Peter Asen, Student activist at Brown University
"I think an important thing is to make sure that workers are involved—that you find out what the concerns of employees really are.
One thing we did do that was positive in that regard was interviews with a bunch of workers. We didn’t end up doing do that many but we probably did 50 or so. We talked to a bunch of workers about what their concerns were, and I think that’s really important. Living Wage campaigns and policies are somewhat of a broad, cookie-cutter model, and you can’t just stick it into whatever’s going on in your campus and assume this is the problem. In some campus contracting out is going be a major issue, or temporary vs. permanent is going to be a major issue, and in others maybe everybody is permanent and unionized but still only makes eight bucks an hour-- working with the union if there’s a union, or working with workers in other ways. But a union is sort of an easy way to try to make that communication happen and that cooperation. I think that is a really essential thing."
Jared Bernstein, Senior Economist at Economic Policy Institute
"Educate yourself on the arguments, so that you’re an articulate advocate for the policy, not simply on the basis of social justice (which is key), but also on the basis of economic evidence. It’s very important to educate yourself on those arguments.
But secondly, realize that ultimately it is a social justice argument, and you should feel confident in pushing that side of the coin. You can’t forget the other side because if it actually did hurt people, you wouldn’t want to support it. But the economists and the economic arguments ultimately not going to win the day here. They can help dispose of irrelevant and incoherent arguments proffered by the other side, but ultimately this is about equity and not wholly about efficiency. Learn about the economic side of the argument but don’t for a minute think that’s the whole story because it is only part of it."