Wartzman: Nation’s Most Successful Union Organizer Turns to New Models

Labor News

David Rolf at a minimum wage rally. Photograph: SEIU

Reprinted from Fast Company by Rick Wartzman on January 13, 2017.

“If anyone has shown a keen understanding of how to unionize workers in America, it’s David Rolf,” writes Rick Wartzman in Fast Company.

“In the 1990s, he was a key player in the Service Employees International Union winning the right to represent some 74,000 home care aides in Los Angeles–the largest union organizing campaign since the 1940s. In his present post, as president of SEIU Local 775 in Seattle, he has spearheaded growth from 1,600 to 45,000 members. In 2014, The American Prospect called Rolf ‘the most successful union organizer of the past 15 years.’

“All of which makes Rolf’s take on the collective-bargaining system–that it is a relic, and that those who truly care about workers should stop focusing their efforts on promoting it–particularly provocative.

“’I think we made a valiant . . . bet that if we put enough talent and enough resources behind traditional union organizing that we could somehow bring back the old model,’ Rolf told me on the latest episode of my podcast, The Bottom Line. ‘It wasn’t the wrong theory to try necessarily. . . . But ultimately, when you try something over and over again and cannot achieve the results you want, it’s time to try something new.’ …

Fast Company 1/13

About Jeffrey Burman 3199 Articles
Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at jeffrey.s.burman.57@gmail.com.

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