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Union History and the Power of Organizing

One-Hour Activist: The 15 Most Powerful Actions You Can Take to Fight for the Issues and Candidates You Care About

Christopher Kush

No matter what your political persuasion, The One-Hour Activist is your guide to influencing lawmakers, candidates, and reporters. The One-Hour Activist reveals fifteen powerful, proven grassroots actions that persuade lawmakers and candidates to see things your way. Each action is designed to grab the attention of your representatives and build relationships that serve your issues over the long run. And each action takes less than an hour to complete, so you can make a difference without giving up your life! The One-Hour Activist is packed with insider advice from elected officials, professional organizers, lobbyists, and journalists who share state-of-the-art tips for getting your message across. Real-life examples of effective letters, e-mail, phone calls, public testimony, and news story pitches from concerned citizens just like you illustrate the actions.


Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa

Jacques E. Levy, Jacqueline M. Levy

Mexican-American civil rights and labor activist Cesar Chavez (1927–1993), comes to life in this vivid portrait of the charismatic and influential fighter who boycotted supermarkets and took on corporations, the government, and the powerful Teamsters Union. Jacques E. Levy gained unprecedented access to Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union in writing this account of one of the most successful labor movements in history which can also serve as a guidebook for social and political change.


Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky, His Life and Legacy

Sanford D. Horwitt

In the course of his flamboyant career as an all-purpose activist, Saul Alinsky went from organizing working-class ethnics in one of Chicago’s most blighted neighborhoods to mapping out strategies for the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. He enlisted allies-from Catholic clergymen to labor unionists and black activists-in battles waged against opponents from slumlords to the Eastman Kodak corporation. The range of Alinsky’s activities, the intensity of his beliefs, and his exhilarating mixture of crudeness and calculation almost vibrate off the pages of this passionate and inspiring biography.


We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk About What They Do–and Why

Kristin Layng Szakos, Joe Szakos, Harry C. Boyte (Introduction)

Community organizers work at their jobs because they are passionate, because they believe that change is possible, and because they enjoy working with people. Although it’s not an occupation that leads to great wealth, community organizers can make a living at it. They get salaries, pensions and health insurance. They raise families. They do well by doing good. This book explores the world of community organizing through the voices of real people working in the field, in small towns and city neighborhoods–women and men of different races and economic backgrounds, ranging in age from those in their twenties to those in their sixties. Fourteen in-depth profiles tell the life stories of a cross-section of the diverse people who choose the life of an organizer. Other chapters, focused on issues of organizing, are tapestries of experience woven from the 81 interviews the authors conducted.


Let the People Decide Neighborhood Organizing In America Updated Edition, Vol. 1


Contrary to political myth, community activism did not die out in the 1980s. If anything, it intensified. According to one estimate, the United States is now home to more than 2 million citizen action groups. In this new edition of his classic study, Robert Fisher rounds out his 100-year history of neighborhood organizing in America with an appraisal of those activists and organizations whose pursuit of communal good set them apart during a decade that celebrated the unabashed pursuit of personal wealth. Fisher views the 1980s as an era of practical adaptation for neighborhood organizers. In contrast to the politically charged 1960s and early 1970s, when the predominant philosophy of activism was based on opposition to the established power bases of government and business, the philosophy of 1980s activism was rooted in consensus and moderation: work with those with money and power to get things done. This kind of thinking – which evolved while the neoconservative view of a free-market solution to every social problem dominated policymaking in Washington – encouraged community development corporations: the nuts-and-bolts enterprises now found in cities across the country that rely on government and corporate seed money to develop low-income housing and business activity in economically depressed areas. Throughout the book Fisher concerns himself with the national political and economic backdrops against which neighborhood interests play themselves out. Discussed here are the settlement houses and community centers that thrived during the flush years of the progressive era; the militant tenants’ and workers’ councils inspired by the Communist and Socialist parties during the lean years of the Great Depression; the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Councils started up during Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal era by Saul Alinsky, widely regarded as the founder of neighborhood organizing; the protectionist suburban neighborhood improvement associations of the cold war year.


Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy

Mark R. Warren

Dry Bones Rattling offers the first in-depth treatment of how to rebuild the social capital of America’s communities while promoting racially inclusive, democratic participation. The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network in Texas and the Southwest is gaining national attention as a model for reviving democratic life in the inner city—and beyond. This richly drawn study shows how the IAF network works with religious congregations and other community-based institutions to cultivate the participation and leadership of Americans most left out of our elite-centered politics. Interfaith leaders from poor communities of color collaborate with those from more affluent communities to build organizations with the power to construct affordable housing, create job-training programs, improve schools, expand public services, and increase neighborhood safety.

In clear and accessible prose, Mark Warren argues that the key to revitalizing democracy lies in connecting politics to community institutions and the values that sustain them. By doing so, the IAF network builds an organized, multiracial constituency with the power to advance desperately needed social policies. While Americans are most aware of the religious right, Warren documents the growth of progressive faith-based politics in America. He offers a realistic yet hopeful account of how this rising trend can transform the lives of people in our most troubled neighborhoods. Drawing upon six years of original fieldwork, Dry Bones Rattling proposes new answers to the problems of American democracy, community life, race relations, and the urban crisis.



Roots for Radicals: Organizing for Power, Action, and Justice

Chambers, Edward T.; Cowan, Michael A.

Roots for Radicals is a distillation of the IAF (Industrial Areas Foundation) philosophy and its unique approach to community organizing. The IAF is the oldest and largest institution for community organizing in the United States. For sixty years, its mission has been to train people to take responsibility for solving the problems in their own communities and to renew the interest of citizens in public life. The IAF, now headed by the author, Edward T. Chambers, has taken founder Saul Alinsky’s original vision, refined it, and created a sophisticated national network of citizens’ organizations. One of the key activities is its 10-day training sessions for community organizers.


The Activist’s Handbook: A Primer

Randy Shaw

The Activist’s Handbook is a hard-hitting guide to making social change happen. Shaw, a longtime activist for urban issues, shows how positive change can still be accomplished— despite an increasingly grim political order—if activists employ the strategies set forth in this desperately needed primer. In a new preface, Shaw describes how the power of grassroots activism has won newfound respect. Mass protests against globalization and in favor of stricter gun controls have led once-invulnerable targets like the World Bank and the National Rifle Association to take citizen action more seriously.

Inspiring “fear and loathing” in politicians, building diverse coalitions, and harnessing the media, the courts, and the electoral process to one’s cause are only some of the key tactics Shaw advocates and explains. Central to all social-change activism, Shaw shows, is being proactive: rather than simply reacting to right-wing proposals, activists must develop an agenda and focus their resources on achieving it.

The Activist’s Handbook details the impact of specific strategies on campaigns across the country: battles over homelessness, the environment, AIDS policies, neighborhood preservation, and school reform among others. Though activist groups can have widely different aims, similar tactics are shown to produce success.

Further, the book offers a sophisticated analysis of the American power structure by someone on the front lines. In showing how people can and must make a difference at both local and national levels, this is an indispensable guide not only for activists, but for everyone interested in the future of progressive politics in America.


Tools for Radical Democracy

Joan Minieri & Paul Getsos


Tools for Radical Democracy is an essential resource for grassroots organizers and leaders, students of activism and advocacy, and anyone trying to increase the civic participation of ordinary people. Authors Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos share stories and tools from their nationally recognized and award-winning work of building a community-led organization, training community leaders, and conducting campaigns that changed public policy and delivered concrete results to tens of thousands of people. This how-to manual includes:

  • In-depth analysis of how to launch and win a campaign
  • Tools and guidelines for training people to lead their own campaigns and organizations
  • Insights for using technology effectively, building more powerful alliances, and engaging in the social justice movement
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