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The AUD Union Democracy Worker Education Project: workshops, classes, conferences, and resources.

The Union Worker Power Line: how to do it.

A photo of a power line.

See also: Popular Education for Union Democracy, a handbook by Matt Noyes

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Sample Activities

Educators always crave examples of work that others are doing, so that we might learn new techniques, reflect on our own approach, and adapt other's tools to our own use. In that spirit, we provide here plans for activities we have used. Please send any feedback to

The Union Worker Power Line

(Adapted from an activity developed by the Association for Community Based Education by Matt Noyes, AUD Union Democracy Worker Education Project)

This activity asks participants to rate the strength of their union in a series of categories that mix democracy ("workers vote on contracts") with union power ("contracts good and getting better"). When the group has finished, the result is a large wall chart that graphs each participant's assessment of their union, shows areas of agreement and disagreement, and provides a code that workers can use to discuss goals and strategies.

Materials: Flip chart paper, several sheets; colored stickers; markers.

Purpose: To begin a collective analysis of the strategic situation of the union (or rank and file group). To help the participants identify key points of strength or weakness, and/or differences in their various assessments of the union’s strength. To establish a broad framework for discussion of goals and strategy for a union or a group.

Process: When it is used at the beginning of a workshop or discussion: as people come in, they are directed to the power line (on big paper) on the wall, where, using brightly colored stickers, they are asked to rate the power of their union (or R&F group) on a scale of 100% "perfect strength" to 0% "absolute weakness" in a series of categories.

The facilitator has to identify these categories based on the group, their concerns, the issues they face -- you need to get some of this info. ahead of time, or brainstorm the categories on the spot. Make sure the categories are sufficiently specific and concrete: e.g., "contracts are good and getting better," "all stewards are elected," "elections are fair," etc. Leave space for participants to add a category or too.

When all have posted their stickers, begin discussion by asking for impressions of the power line -- "What do you notice? What stands out?" -- then use it to begin discussion of your theme. You may also want to draw lines to link the dots, as in a line graph.

Watch for: It may be important, where the assessment is overwhelmingly negative -- creating a "weakness line" -- to brainstorm what makes for a strong union, or to have people identify what resources they have. The point is not to simply hold a bitch session, but to build a common assessment of the situation and begin to discuss how to organize for change.

Variations: 1) Assess the strength of a rank and file group relative to the administration by creating a chart for each group, using organizing categories. 2) Assess the progress of an organization by having the participants do power lines for their group X months or years ago, and their group today. 3) Compare different possible strategies, making a power line for each to show how it will build power. 4) Your variation here.

Here's how it looks, (the original spreads over six sheets, some dots were placed on the floor):

powerline.gif (102958 bytes)

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