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No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age
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No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age

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4.41  ·  Rating details ·  317 ratings  ·  37 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2016)
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Matt Gladue
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 Workers are losing and working class communities are losing because the organizing that built the CIO has been replaced by mobilizing, the media, and metrics.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 ...more
Conor Ahern
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 ...more
Sean Estelle
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was no-nonsense, piercing reflection & analysis of the strategic thinking, tactics, and possibilities for key segments of the movement. Some may bristle at the insight provided on Alinskyism/mobilizing organizations - I find it pretty convincing, though, and think there’s a lot of value to be drawn from the theses that McAlevey is putting forward for what we need to do in order to build the power necessary to win the world we want to see.
Deb Ramage
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dana Sweeney
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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Jeffrey
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Darran Mclaughlin
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american, politics, woman
Superb. Really thought provoking. Made me reflect a lot on my recent intense experience of organising (or as it turns out, mobilising). Excellent book. Essential reading for anyone engaged in political, community or workplace organising.
Jack
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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John
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Full of actionable insights, inspiring stories that are meticulously researched, and bursts of good wit, too.
Lucas Miller
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Purchased after listening to the author be interviewed by Pete Davis on the Current Affairs podcast. It felt right to balance all of the MBA program leadership jargon books I'm reading with books about organizing.

The world of the labor movement feel foreign to me. But this book is accessible, if academic at times. You can feel the authors more conversational writing style bursting through the literature review. I think the introduction and first two chapters will prove invaluable in building a
...more
Fran
Feb 03, 2018 is currently reading it
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.
Mary
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Strong argument and compelling examples

This 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.
Karl Stomberg
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best theory tends to come from struggle, not the other way around. That is why No Shortcuts by Jane McAlevey, frequently heavy in analysis of union politics, coalitions, and elections, ends up with one of the most convincing guides to building power on the left.

The main point of this book is to explain and argue for the "organizing" model as opposed to the advocacy or mobilizing model. The advocacy model is something like the ACLU, where there is little mass movement but a lot is done
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Xavier Shay
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Overall a bit too much inside baseball for me to engage fully, but still worthwhile and had a few take aways:

* "Organising" as distinct from "Mobilizing". In general too much movement towards the latter recently.
* 2 vs 3 orgs. Need union to be same thing as workers rather than distinct.
* The strike as a critical source of power and union creation.
* Smithfield foods chapter/story was great.
* Alternative take on Chicago Teacher Union vs what I read in "The Prize" last year. Still not comfortable
...more
Peter Pinelli
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Brenden Gallagher
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Brian
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Brown
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
this was a great read from many angles - labor history, tactics, political commentary. I found the analysis on alinsky to be especially interesting, as well as the history of the chicago teacher’s union strikes. I would definitely recommend this book to all labor organizers with one caveat - sometimes she doesn’t provide all level of detail necessary to understand some wonky topics, and it requires a bit of outside research. would be a great book club read!
Jane Lyons
I don't think the book is as applicable to organizing outside of labor as McAlevey says in the intro. Still, this book helped me to start thinking in a different way and convinced me that organizing is more sustainable than mobilizing.
Kawan
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More than just an excellent diagnosis of a labor movement that too lazily blames external forces for its toothlessness, this book provides a roadmap and toolkit for properly organizing, the single most effective—and potentially only—way to make genuine, positive social or economic change.
Teresa
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone organizing or working within a union framework. My takeaway: unions exist not only to stand up to employers but to represent workers and MUST take that aspect to heart, above all else.
Adam Schlesinger
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was good as hell. The smithfield plant chapter was by far the best. Amazing stuff and super inspiring.
Moti Rieber
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Mobilizing is not a substitute for organizing."
mark mendoza
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
ESSENTIAL reading for all organizers, activists, and workers.
Nathalia Rojas.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
It's kind of slow and I lost interest about halfway through. Clearly very well researched.
Laura De Palma
Organizers - read this book!
Samantha Hines
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Matt Haynes
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is pretty good. The major argument is that workers need to be at the forefront of job action. I couldn’t agree more!
Kimberly
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
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Jane F. McAlevey is a union and community organizer, educator, author, and scholar. She’s fourth generation union, raised in an activist-union household. She spent the first half of her organizing life working in the community organizing and environmental justice movements and the second half in the union movement.

She has led power structure analyses and strategic planning trainings for a wide
...more
“to reverse today’s inequality requires a robust embrace of unions—but of unions that are democratic, focused on bottom-up rather than top-down strategies, and place the primary agency for change in workers acting collectively at work and in the communities in which they reside.” 0 likes
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