Then and Now- Thoughts on the "Worker-Student Alliance"

Thirty years ago this winter, I was welcomed into the labor movement while watching retired miners, stoop-shouldered and short of breath, trudge through a gauntlet of union goons to get into the American Legion hall in Tamaqua, Pa. It wasn't a pretty sight--or a warm welcome.

In 1972, Boyle was being challenged again--this time by a rank-and-file slate fielded by the Miners for Democracy (MFD). The MFD was a grassroots reform group created by Yablonski supporters after his death to continue the fight against corruption, violence, and dictatorship in the UMW. Like many other student radicals who have embraced the cause of labor, before and since, I was drawn to the scene of this workers struggle--or at least a small corner of it--by a mixture of idealism and ideology.

The MFD needed poll watchers to help insure that, even with government-oversight, there wouldn't be a repeat of the ballot fraud that marred the 1969 vote. So I joined several other law students from Washington, D.C. on a trip to Pennsylvania's anthracite coal fields so we could serve as MFD campaign volunteers. But, in addition to believing--obviously--in fair elections, I was also committed to the political idea embodied by the MFD--namely, that unions should be controlled by their own members.

As I tried to distribute MFD slate cards to UMW members at the Legion hall, it became clear that my Sixties notions about participatory democracy were not shared by the beefy entourage stumping for Boyle. They were surrounding any voters who neared the door and escorting them in before they could be approached by the meddlesome "outsider." During a moment of downtime from their last-minute arm-twisting, the Boyle men turned their full attention to me. "Doesn't look to us like you've ever picked slate-- have you, sonny?" one fellow snarled. "What the hell are you doing here?" Egged on by a well-dressed UMW rep--rumored to be part-owner of a coal mine himself--others in the crowd closed in around me, pushing and shoving, grabbing for my MFD literature, and muttering darkly about "communists" who wanted to destroy the union. Just as I seemed destined for the fate of the Molly McGuires (who were hung nearby a century earlier), a far more aggressive and muscular MFD volunteer arrived on the scene to rescue me from the lynch mob. (His name was Ray Rogers, later to become of one of modern labor's best known "outside agitators.")

I recall this incident for several reasons. First, because it typified the hostile reception that lots of New Leftists received, three decades ago, when they first tried to make the transition from campus activism to a school of harder knocks--union politics.1 And, second, to contrast it with the red carpet treatment that hundreds of college and university graduates are getting now from unions not only happy to have them around but eager to hire them. Recruitment of students as union staffers has, in fact, become a hallmark of the "new" AFL-CIO. It has been promoted, since the mid-1990's, through its Organizing Institute (OI) and pursued most aggressively by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Hotel and Restaurant Employees (HERE), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE).2

Many labor-oriented intellectuals applaud this trend as an encouraging sign of "glasnost" in the "house of labor." They believe it signals a major change in the culture and organizational behavior of key unions--and the AFL-CIO since the palace coup seven years ago that put John Sweeney in charge. Student recruitment certainly reflects a generational transition in the leadership of SEIU, HERE, and UNITE--which are now headed by veterans of campus activism at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and Cornell, respectively. The relationships with student groups that these unions (and others) have forged gives undergraduates a helpful focus on workers rights, generating both favorable publicity and increased leverage for labor struggles, at home and abroad.3 It also taps youthful energy, creativity, and militancy that seems to be in shorter supply within unions, even when some join street protests.4

As I've argued elsewhere, however, today's "worker-student alliance" is quite different from the one New Leftists promoted in the late 1960s--in opposition to the labor establishment of that era.5 Over-reliance on former students often goes hand-in-hand with under utilization of workers themselves-- both organized and unorganized--in union campaigns. It avoids the hard, politically challenging work of creating a new organizing culture rooted in local unions and their communities. It also perpetuates the technocratic myth that deploying more professional staff is the key to success in organizing, bargaining, and politics.6 Any strategy for rebuilding union strength that relies so heavily on an infusion of paid help is deeply flawed. And it can easily lead to membership dis-empowerment, when organizers are hired--from the outside-- and then put on a fast-track to life-time careers as "union leaders." Academics and activists alike should be far more critical of this approach to union growth and leadership development--regardless of its "progressive" gloss or contributions (often exaggerated) to greater "density."

Big gains in unionization are not going to occur in this country until union members are mobilized to support organizing on a much wider scale. Simply "staffing up" isn't going to restore the workplace power that so many workers lack today. Whether young or old, full-time staffers are no substitute for strong on-the-job organization and rank-and-file leadership. In every established bargaining unit, shop stewards and "mobilization coordinators" must be recruited, trained, and encouraged to play an active role in bargaining, strikes, contract enforcement, internal and external organizing, plus Jobs with Justice-type solidarity work.7 In non-union shops, the vehicle for activism is in-plant committees--nurtured and assisted by union rank-and-filers who share the same job experiences or ethnic, regional, and community background as the workers involved.


Unions like the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which favor a "membership-based approach," utilize their existing members--even older ones with families--as volunteer organizers, on a paid part-time basis, or as full-time local recruiters. Operating worker-to-worker within the same firm or industry, through churches, fraternal associations, and other community groups, members can help develop organizing leads, make initial contacts, and form viable in-plant committees. CWA's organizer training--which has included putting 800 rank-and-filers through OI weekend programs-- emphasizes the importance of "worker"ownership" of campaigns and establishing lasting personal relationships during them. CWA does not employ "waves" of imported "mobile organizers"--self-sacrificing souls working far from home, staying at the local Holiday Inn, and adhering, uncomfortably, to a national staff dress code. (Yes, ties are required for any males doing house visits for one well-known "organizing union"--making many of its door-knockers look like young Mormon missionaries!).

CWA's goal is to foster in-plant leadership and activity that brings the union to life on the shop-floor--regardless of whether legal recognition can be achieved. At IBM, Microsoft, and even some non-union General Electric plants where CWA activists are trying to build "non-majority unions," certification may not be possible now but worker "self-activity"--around a range of issues--certainly is.8 In large-scale campaigns, where representation votes or card-check procedures can be used to demonstrate majority support and win bargaining rights, CWA relies on an "Organizing Network" of more than 140 locals for coordinated outreach to non-union workers and support for their worksite committees. In 1997, for example, thirty of these locals aided 10,000 US Airways passenger service employees in their hotly-contested bid to join the union. More than 110 different airport locations and customer reservation centers were included in this nationwide unit. Under Railway Labor Act rules, a majority of everyone in it--rather than just the workers voting--had to support CWA for the drive to succeed.

Nevertheless, there were no home-visiting "blitzes" by paid staff from out of town or by OI-trained college grads (like the ones used by the Steelworkers in a prior failed effort in the same unit.) No Washington, D.C. labor consultants made a lot of money producing slick TV and radio ads or doing endless polling. Instead, members who do similar customer service work at local phone companies, along with other CWA activists, developed close ties with US Airways employees at the airport or res center nearest to them.

In addition, more than fifty union activists within the company used their own spare time--with travel expenses paid by CWA--to sign up co-workers and recruit new organizing committee members at work locations other than their own. Key supporters were trained in the use of lists, record-keeping, and systematic assessment of their contacts. In the final stage of the drive, 60 to 100 committee members came together, every week, in national conference calls. Participants evaluated their overall progress, freely discussed issues and strategy, and shared information about management's aggressive anti-union campaign.9

This same formula for grassroots networking is being employed in CWA's current drive at Cingular Wireless. After winning an extension of an earlier card check agreement with Cingular's parent company, SBC, the union trained 40 new organizers from Bell South and other "wireline" companies in the other southern states so they could help build CWA majorities in Cingular call centers and retail stores throughout the region. Since this effort began in late 2001, 15,000 wireless workers have joined up--almost all in right-to-work states. At Verizon, where telephone workers in CWA and IBEW went on strike for cellular organizing rights two years ago, similar work is underway among thousands of their non-union counterparts in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. It is proceeding at a much slower pace, however, due to massive company violations of the card check and "neutrality" deal won by the strikers.

CWA's approach reflects a reading of history similar to Kim Moody's. As the Labor Notes activist and author observes:

[N]o period of massive trade union growth or labor upheaval in U.S. history has resulted from professional organizers passing out recognition cards. To be sure, organizers and union officials can make a difference but....even the rise in worker activity and militancy that produced the CIO preceded John L. Lewis's intervention, including his dispatching of organizers to the coal fields and steel mills. In most industries, organization came first from within the workforce, and such staffers as there were had usually risen from the ranks and acted more as tactical advisors than organizers in the contemporary sense."10

When other AFL-CIO affiliates hire "the best and brightest" from United Students Against Sweatshops, Student Labor Action Project, Union Summer, Jobs with Justice, or the OI's training program, they proclaim, in effect, that hundreds of their own rank-and-file members--including stewards with years of shop floor experience--don't have the same potential to be effective union-builders. Meanwhile, SEIU and UNITE are telling such campus activists that all it takes to advance into the leadership in both organizations is "commitment, zeal, dedication, and intelligence."11 It doesn't matter "where you came from," their top officials say, what counts is how clever and talented you are as an organizer or researcher.12 As HERE's campus recruitment brochure puts it: " No experience is necessary. You provide the commitment to justice for working people and good communication skills...We provide salary and excellent benefits plus constant training and endless opportunity for growth and leadership."13

New Model of "Reform"

In the 1970s and earlier periods, when the main radical presence in labor was at the grassroots, workplace "experience" was more highly valued. "Good communication" with workers often required getting a job like theirs (particularly if you were trying to recruit them to left-wing politics, as well as to rank-and-file caucuses!) Ex- students rose to leadership positions, along with like-minded fellow workers, by building a base in an established union shop or in a new bargaining unit which they had helped to organize. (Some innovators in workplace organizing went even further, creating their own independent unions in the 1970s--9 to 5, the Rhode Island Workers Association, and the United Labor Unions--that provided secure full-time staff jobs only after affiliating with SEIU.)

To succeed on the shop-floor, however, "colonizers" had to immerse themselves in what one longtime UAW dissident (a graduate of Wellesley) calls "the trade union crap"--individual grievances, benefit questions, day-to-day workplace problems and complaints. If radicals gained credibility among their co-workers through effective grievance-handling or other fights against the boss, they might then be elected shop steward, to the negotiating committee, or as a local officer or e-board member. Over time, this might lead to an elected central labor council job or a higher-level position in their own union. But, rarely was a full-time job--except as a union headquarters specialist--just handed out based on an application, unless nepotism was involved (in which case, having "good communication skills" or a "commitment to justice for working people" has never been necessary!).

Even when some activists (including this author) went directly on staff, this usually occurred after a successful internal reform struggle, in which a grassroots movement (like the MFD) gained power at the local, regional, or national union level. Today's model of "union reform" often works differently; like the "new" AFL-CIO itself, it's decidedly more top-down than bottom-up. In SEIU, for example, talented organizers are inserted into troubled locals as trustees, after old leaders have been ousted by the International Union. (Eliseo Medina began his fast climb to the union's Executive Vice-Presidency when he was handed such a local in San Diego after being a CWA and UFW organizer, but never an SEIU member.) Unfortunately, most trustees don't view their mission as developing the leadership capacity of indigenous militants, who've sometimes spent years struggling for change in a local before the International stepped in. Instead, these staffers operate on the understanding that they've been given a chance to build a political base for themselves. If successful, they-not any longtime member-will become local president by running, with all the advantages of incumbency, in the first post-trusteeship election of new officers.

One '60s movement veteran who has seen this scenario unfold first-hand and sharply criticized it is Juan Gonzalez, columnist for The New York Daily News. A past strike leader and union reformer himself within The Newspaper Guild, Gonzalez wrote about the grab for top offices in SEIU Local 32B-32J in New York, after the ouster of Gus Bevona, a disgraceful thug who paid himself more than $400,000 a year representing immigrant janitors and building doormen. Gonzalez described how rank-and-file activists long opposed to Bevona were pushed aside by SEIU appointees so newly-hired from elsewhere that they had a to get a waiver of the local by-laws requirement that candidates for office be members in good standing for at least three years. As Gonzalez noted, many of the "well-educated organizers" recruited by SEIU "from universities and the community, as well as from other unions" have"grand visions of a powerful new labor movement, but they have suffered little in the trenches."

"In their zeal to build the new movement, they start to think that the workers under them are not as well-educated or politically sharp as they are. Pretty soon, they want to run the unions with the members simply rubber-stamping their grand plans. Gradually, they begin to mistake the well-being of members for their own designs. Genuine democracy, which is not always efficient, gets sacrificed for paper democracy."14

Unfortunately, this organizational ethos has deep roots in the U.S., and elsewhere. In one of their Fabian apologetics for the business unionism emerging in Britain a century ago, Sidney and Beatrice Webb noted, with approval, the passing of "crude ideas of democracy suited only to little autonomous communities." They applauded instead "the Trade Union of the future...national in its scope, centralized in its administration and served by an expert official staff of its own."15 If alive today, the Webbs would, no doubt, be hailing Doug McCarron's centralization of the Carpenters and SEIU's top-down "modernization" of its structure--both conducted in the name of "changing to organize" but with scant regard for local accountability or member control.

Alternative Models Needed

In the contemporary labor movement, organizational efforts and political currents that run counter to these anti-democratic trends need to be strengthened. As Michael Eisenscher, a former organizer for the United Electrical Workers (UE) argues, "activism and empowerment must be wed if unions are to be transformed." A "staff-run, top-down organizing strategy" may utilize the "considerable creative energy and enthusiasm of young college-educated and community activists." But it rarely results in a post-election shift of power to workers in new bargaining units, (particularly if they're part of a large amalgamated local union, "serviced" in traditional fashion.) Instead, Eisenscher observes, "the political center of power remains far from the ranks of the union's members and strategic decisions are made in the union's upper echelons." Even if there are later "staff directed mobilizations around contract issues," the "servicing model of unionism remains largely intact."16 As a result, Eisenscher warns, "without a movement at the bottom, controlled by the members, there is considerable danger, if not likelihood, that the next generation of labor leaders will only replicate the institutional practices to which they were exposed in their climb to the top."17

Alternative models do exist--some operating, albeit unevenly, under official union auspices (as indicated above in the discussion of CWA organizing). Others are sustained by rank-and-file groups like Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). TDU functions on a relative shoe-string, with a very small staff (and couldn't "staff up" if it wanted to, because it can't offer the "excellent benefits" and salaries promised by HERE et al.) After a period of headquarters and field staff influence during Ron Carey's administration, labor's most durable reform group is again struggling for change at the local level, just like it did in the 1970s and 80s. TDU was born in 1975, when a handful of college-educated leftists, who had just taken Teamster jobs, joined forces with dissident truckers, many of them union veterans. For years, this coalition--now much-changed in its political complexion--organized bottom-up contract campaigns at Teamster employers like UPS, using tactics and strategies later imitated by CWA and other unions which have embraced the concept of membership mobilization as part of their official bargaining strategy. In 1997, with TDU-backed Carey leading the Teamsters, 190,000 UPS workers won the biggest strike of the decade. This victory could not have been possible without the activist network developed by TDU during two decades of agitation and organizing around UPS contract issues.

Under conditions more reminiscent of the 1970s than the changed climate that supposedly exists in labor today, TDU has done equally impressive work in recent years with a very different constituency--immigrant meat packers. These "forgotten Teamsters" are much like the Hispanic janitors, hotel employees, or garment workers whose high-turnover, lack of education and union experience, inability to speak English, etc. is often cited, privately, as justification for staff-domination of locals, in other AFL-CIO unions, that seek to represent them. Using a rank-and-file approach--while struggling against a highly-political Hoffa administration trusteeship--TDU members managed to build a vibrant 2,500-member local, rooted in workplace militancy, at IBP near Pasco, Washington. As reported in The Nation last Fall [2002], Local 556 now has an elected leader-- 45-year old Maria Martinez, who's been a meatpacker since 1988 , organizer of a 5-week wildcat strike in her plant (one of series that has recently erupted in the industry), and a candidate on the "Rank-and-File Power" slate that challenged Jimmy Hoffa in IBT elections two years ago. The key to the local's success is its "member-to-member network" and strong departmental steward structure--both created amidst fierce opposition from management and national union bureaucrats.18

The dysfunctional nature of much labor bureaucracy remains a source of frustration elsewhere, even among young, ex-campus activists, working in more supportive environments than a Teamster meat packing plant. According to academics now studying the problem of "organizer retention," the OI "external recruits" hired by AFL-CIO affiliates frequently encounter "a reality significantly different from their expectations." On paper at least, their union employers have embraced the federation's "change to organize, organize to change" program; but, as idealistic young organizers discover, many such make-overs "do not truly empower workers." This "mismatch between expectation and reality often generates intense frustration and disillusionment among new organizers." It's already leading to burn-out, high turnover, and speedy exit from the "house of labor."19

Despite such predictable outcomes, even staunch advocates of rank-and-file activism, like Solidarity--a descendent of the left group that helped launch Labor Notes and TDU--no longer argue that:



Give $10 a month or more and get our "Fight the Boss, Build the Union" T-shirt.

"it's a political mistake to participate in OI training programs or to work as a staff organizer, even under less than ideal union leadership. Many of us who have done so improved our organizing skills and sharpened our understanding of the labor movement's dynamics through first-hand experience."20

Without support and encouragement of the sort that socialist organizations used to provide, relatively few students are likely to pursue union work by taking blue-collar jobs--as many did in the 1970s. (Similar "colonizing" today--in non-union white-collar, technical, and professional workplaces--would actually be quite helpful to unions. And in such workplace settings, the class and educational background of recent graduates would enable them to fit in better and function more effectively as on-the-job organizers.) Instead, campus-based converts to labor's cause will continue to gravitate toward full-time union employment--regardless of how many other former students have already been mis-used as "mobile organizers," been discarded, or quit in disgust. For those who respond to the siren call of union recruiters, the real question should be: how can they, as new staffers, use what they've learned as campus activists to promote union revitalization rooted in the transformative potential of the rank-and-file?

This is not a simple project in any union in any era. That's why Robert Bussel's moving biography of Powers Hapgood, From Harvard To The Ranks Of Labor, should be required reading for students now being wooed by the AFL-CIO--and for Sixties radicals who've used their impressive new perches in its hierarchy to promote Ivy League recruitment. Hapgood's fascinating career as a college-educated miner, radical activist, union reformer, and CIO organizer spanned three decades prior to his death in 1949. His life reflected many of the same hopes and frustrations experienced by other labor leftists, before and since. During his stints as a "free-lance agitator," Hapgood invariably felt marginalized and ineffective--cut off from the resources, legitimacy, and popular base that only mass organizations can provide. Yet, whenever he served on a union payroll, he chafed at the institutional constraints imposed on him by a labor movement whose economic and political vision--even in the 1930s--was far narrower than his own. In a manner that was exemplary, he never stopped trying to reconcile the demands of his own conscience and "commitment to working-class mobilization" with the often conflicting dictates of organizational policy and day-to-day pressures of union work.21

Powers Hapgood--along with others from his generation--was struggling with these dilemmas, on a similar career path, long before the "worker-student" alliances of the late Sixties or the present day. His story has much to teach us about how U.S. unions got where they are today--and what it might take for workers (and their student allies) to change them in a more fundamental way.


1. The radicals who weathered the hardest knocks in the 1970s, were not election observers, but "colonizers"--particularly those who took blue-collar jobs to do union and political work. For some of their stories, see The New Rank-and-File, edited by Staughton and Alice Lynd (Ithaca, NY: Cornell/ILR Press, 2001).

2. The AFL's Organizing Institute has a budget of about $3 million per year, 85% of which appears to be devoted to the cost of attracting and training "external recruits"--primarily from college and university campuses. Half of all participants in OI weekend training session were once from such backgrounds; now, it's usually about a third.

3. Liza Featherstone, Students Against Sweatshops (London and New York: Verso, 2002).

4. See Jeff Crosby, The Kids Are All Right, New Labor Forum, Spring/Summer, 2000, pp. 35-39,for an incisive look at the interaction between students and workers in the streets of Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests.

5. Steve Early, Membership-Based Organizing, in A New Labor Movement For The New Century, edited by Gregory Mantsios (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998.

6. See August 6, 2002 AFL-CIO Research Department document entitled Building Strategic Research Capacity which urges unions to hire many more "campaign researchers" like the 145 already employed by SEIU, HERE, and the AFL-CIO.

7. See Mobilizing To Build Power, a manual on internal organizing and contract campaigning published by the Communications Workers of America for use by stewards and local officers. (Available from CWA Education Department, 501 3rd St, N.W., Washington, DC, 20001.)

8. Paul Bouchard, Union Takes The Long, Bottom-Up Route To Organizing at GE, Labor Notes, #281, pp. 4-5, July, 2002.

9. Steve Early and Wally Soper, CWA Builds Worker-to-Worker Network, Labor Notes, #215, pp. 1,14, February, 1997, and Ten Thousand Go Union at US Air, Labor Notes, #224, pp.1,14, November, 1997.

10. Kim Moody, Up Against the Polyester Ceiling: The "New" AFL-CIO Organizes--Itself!, New Politics, Vol.VIII, No. 2, pp. 5-18, Winter, 1998.

11. See interview with Cornell graduate Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE by Hofstra University Professor Gregory DeFreitas, New Organizing and Social Unionism in Manufacturing, pp. 20-28, Regional Labor Review, vol 4, Spring/summer 2002. Says Raynor: "We desperately need idealistic young people...I'm proud to say UNITE has never had a problem attracting [them]...The Ivy League and colleges all over the country are well represented among our organizers, our researchers, and our officers. In our union, it makes no difference where you came from; it makes a difference what you bring-how much commitment, zeal, dedication, and intelligence."

12. See Raynor interview cited in note #10 above. President Andy Stern of SEIU-the largest single labor employer of "idealistic young people" with student backgrounds-echoed this message in a 1999 headquarters pep talk to a group of newly-hired SEIU organizers. "If you're talented, you can rise to the top," he assured them.

13. See Be a HERE Union Organizer!, a recruitment flyer distributed by the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees International Union. SEIU's Organizing Department has an even bigger and glossier brochure directed at non-members who've been involved in political campaigns, campus and community organizing, and "other direct action organizing [peace, environment, civil rights, health care,etc)."

14. Juan Gonzalez, Bevona Battler vs. National's Cleanup Crew, NY Daily News, page 8, June 20, 2000. SEIU's 15,000-member Boston janitors Local 254 apparently has the same shortage of indigenous leadership talent. After it was put under trusteeship in 2001 and old guard ledership ousted, the national union parachuted in a Justice for Janitors activist from Los Angeles, made her the deputy trustee, and began grooming her to become president. As an Hispanic female and recent immigrant to the US, her rank-and-file credentials at least looked better than those of Mike Fishman, also a non-janitor and short-term SEIU staffer, who has led 32-B/32-J in New York since serving as its trustee.

15. As quoted by Staughton Lynd in The Webbs, Lenin, and Rosa Luxemburg, page 207, Living Inside Our Hope (Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1997)

16. Michael Eisenscher, Critical Juncture: Unionism at the Crossroads, pp. 217-245 (Chapter 11) in Bruce Nissen, ed, Which Direction for Labor? Essays on Organizing, Outreach, and Internal Transformations, (Detroit: Wayne State Press, 1999).

17. See Eisenscher's Looking Back At Labor To See It's Future, 1995, an unpublished paper (available from the author), page 17.

18. See interview with TDU leader Maria Martinez, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 556, in The Shame of Meatpacking, by Karen Olsson, The Nation, Vol 275, #10, pp 11-15, Sept 16, 2002. See also The Battle of Iowa Beef, by Henry Phillips, Against The Current, Vol 3, #4, pp 8-11, January/February, 2000.

19. See, for example, Sticking it Out or Packing it In? Organizer Retention in the New Labor Movement, pp 25, 32, an unpublished paper by Daisy Rooks, UCLA Sociology Department, presented at the ILE Conference on Union Organizing at UCLA, May, 2002.

20. See Jose Gonzales and Henry Phillips, Radicals At Work: An Activist Strategy for Revitalizing the Labor Movement, pp 39, a pamphlet published by and available from Solidarity, 7012 Michigan Ave, Detroit, Michigan, 48210.

21. See Steve Early, From Crimson to Coal Seam, The Nation, Vol 269, #5, March 20, 2000, a review of Bussel's biography of Powers Hapgood, From Harvard To The Ranks of Labor. (University Park, Pa: Penn State Press, 1999).

Steve Early has been a Boston-based national organizer or international rep for the Communications Workers of America since 1980. He is longtime contributor to Labor Notes, The Nation, The Boston Globe, and many other publications. During the 1970s, he was involved in union reform activity in the UMW, USWA, and Teamsters and worked on the United Mine Workers Journal. Early is a graduate of Catholic University Law School and Middlebury College, where he was active in the movement against the Vietnam War.