Organize, Teach, Fight: Jane McAlevey, 1964-2024

Photo of Jane McAlevey smiling at a microphone and looking left in an aqua blue shirt

Countless leaders of today’s labor uptick were trained by Jane McAlevey’s writings and courses. When it came to teaching the fundamentals of building working-class power, nobody was as clear or as compelling, writes Eric Blanc. Photo:

Jane McAlevey was a friend and a comrade and I can’t believe she’s gone. After she won the battle against her cancer so many times over the past few years, up until the very end part of me thought she’d find a way to beat it yet again. As a mutual friend texted me yesterday, “Jane was like a superhero, it seemed like if anybody could defeat death, it was her.”

Jane—organizer, writer, and teacher—will live on in the tens of thousands of organizers around the world committed to deep organizing methods. But like so many other people in what Jane affectionately called her “tribe,” I’m gutted that she's gone. She had so much more to give the movement. And she would have loved to see the day when workers won on the scale she knew they were capable of.

Rather than attempt the impossible task of summing up Jane’s life in a few paragraphs, I want to offer a few thoughts on what I think what Jane would have wanted said and a few points about her legacy that might get overlooked.

First, I’m sure she’d want me to ask everybody to sign up immediately for the January 2025 Organizing for Power (O4P), the free, six-week international training program she founded to teach organizing fundamentals, from identifying leaders to charting workplaces to having effective one-on-one organizing conversations. With good reason, Jane was convinced that workers had the power to radically transform society and that these time-tested tactics were the central mechanism to make that potential a reality.

The single best thing you can do to honor Jane is to sign up for an Organizing for Power course—or read her classic No Shortcuts—and then go out and organize your co-workers.


This takes me to the second point that I know Jane would want me to mention. It drove her up the wall that some leftists in the U.S. and abroad claimed that the organizing approach she espoused was “top down,” “anti-democratic,” or “bureaucratic.” In fact, in one of our last conversations I spent considerable time convincing her that it wouldn’t be worth her precious remaining time to write a reply to such critics.

Contrary to claims that Jane placed too much emphasis on the agency of paid staffers, her project over the past decade has been to spread the methods of deep organizing not only to full-time organizers, but to as many ordinary people as possible. As she insisted in an interview I did with her early in the pandemic, the approach taught in her books and in O4P was “a method of work that you can do effectively positioned inside or outside [the rank and file].” The crucial thing for her was whether you had confidence in the intelligence and fighting capacities of working people, and, accordingly, whether you were “skilling people up.” From transforming your union to promoting class politics, she believed, “really good organizing is really good organizing.”



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

Part of the reason she wanted to clarify this point—and this is a part of her legacy that might get overlooked—is that Jane was, among many other things, a committed leftist. Though she derided the sectarianism, insularity, and ineffectiveness of much of the socialist Left, Jane was, in her words, a “small c communist.” This mattered. Not only did she understand the importance of winning over today’s new generation of radicals to serious organizing, but her horizons were never limited to winning particular campaigns, or even to revitalizing the labor movement. What she wanted above all, and what she believed could realistically happen if our side “got more serious,” was for workers to seize power. This conviction—that working people could and should run the economy and the country—fueled Jane’s exceptionally intense dedication to what she quite literally treated as the class war.


Jane was, above all, a teacher. Here’s how she put it in that early-pandemic interview: “For me, the question is whether you understand your role as an organizer as fundamentally doing radical political education.”

I think it was Jane’s role as a teacher that made her unique. Of course, she was also a brilliant organizer and strategist; there’s no one else in the world you would rather have on your side in a hard battle. But she by no means invented the organizing tradition she espoused; these were skills, as she always emphasized, that she “learned from extraordinary mentors in the real tradition from the old 1199 [union].”

What made Jane’s impact extraordinary was her ability—and her desire—to provide these tools to as wide an audience as possible. Countless leaders of today’s labor uptick were trained by her writings and courses. When it came to teaching the fundamentals of building working-class power, nobody was as clear or as compelling.

Her words carried the weight of someone who had fought and won extremely tough campaigns. But I also think she was such a brilliant teacher because she believed so intensely that workers could win, and you couldn’t help but be convinced. Jane’s confidence in working people was infectious. And, like any great organizer, Jane knew how to help make that confidence a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Over the past weeks, I’ve taken some comfort imagining that when workers finally defeat the billionaires, there will be many toasts raised in Jane’s honor. But it’s a tragedy that she didn’t get to live long enough to see—and to help lead—this world to come into being.

Eric Blanc is an assistant professor of labor studies at Rutgers University, an organizer trainer in the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee, and the author of We Are the Union: How Worker-to-Worker Organizing is Revitalizing Labor and Winning Big (UC Press, 2025).