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This week, Kumars and Roqayah are taking a much-needed break for Labor Day. After they both say hi to everyone in the introduction, we replay one of our most important and criminally under-listened interviews with KB Brower, an expert union organizer who gave Kumars a crash course in the tools of the professional organizing trade.
KB Brower is an organizer with the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, the independent nurses union in Philadelphia, which has a long history of rank and file militancy and social justice unionism. Before moving to Philadelphia, KB organized contracted out workers and students with AFSCME 3299, and before that, she ran domestic campaigns for United Students Against Sweatshops. She got her start in the labor movement with SEIU 1199 New England, where she learned about building majority social justice unions that aren't afraid to strike and win. KB gives Kumars and our listeners a crash-course in organizing best practices, based off of a two-day training she recently held. She discusses key components of the internal structure of any successful community or labor organizing group, and ways to grow your organization. Kumars and KB talk about where power comes from, and go over the concept of power mapping, including identifying and recruiting natural leaders. KB explains the basic ingredients of an organizing conversation, including identifying issues that resonate with the person you're talking to, agitating them, and giving them a plan to win. KB explains how to deal with difficult questions through affirming the point-of-view of the questioner, answering their question concisely, and redirecting back to the issue the questioner cares most about. We discuss the idea of the "biggest worst", an area where our organization is lacking in strength and has the best potential for improvement. Given limited time and energy, focusing on biggest worsts will result in the generation of more power than focusing on areas where we are already strong that don't have much room for growth. We also talk about turning an issue into a campaign that not only achieves your goal, but also grows the power of your organization. Finally, KB stresses the importance of having both majority participation and a broader conception of social justice so that you have both the power to win in the short-term while remaking society to make those gains long-lasting.
KB isn't on twitter herself, but you can follow the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals on twitter at @PennaNurses.