In becoming a great organizer, study is as important as practice. In addition to our organizer training classes, we recommend highly motivated organizers dive deeper into labor history, theory, and practice.
CODE staff and worker organizers have developed this recommended study list.
We will continue to update this list, and strive to feature a variety of books, articles, videos, and podcasts to accommodate as many learning styles as possible.
Ordered by organizing practice, tech and labor, and the broader labor movement and history.
Organizing Theory and Practice
Secrets of a Successful Organizer
Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter, book
A very simple and grounded advice book on how to organize. Extremely bite size and readable. Available in English and Spanish.
No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Guilded Age
Jane McAlevey, 2018, book.
An overview of a holistic worker organizing model and is applied to three case studies in labor and outside of labor. Relatively short read.
Jacobin, ft Jane McAlevey, 2018, Video
A short video in which organizer Jane McAlevey explains some fundamentals of solid union organizing, with a case example.
John Oliver, Last Week Tonight, HBO, 2022, Video
John Oliver breaks down the tactics and culture of union busting in the US.
Communications Workers of America, Website
A straight-forward and practical explanation of common anti-union tactics bosses engage in, and how to combat them.
Labor Notes, book
How to Jump-Start Your Union tells how activists transformed their union and gave members hope. Readers will learn how to run for office, work with their communities, build stewards networks, train new leaders, run a contract campaign, and strike. A case study of the Chicago Teachers Union andthe CORE caucus that revitalized it from 2010-2012, leading into a historic strike of 25,000 teachers.
Mike Parker & Martha Gruelle, book
Democracy Is Power, by Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle, provide a blueprint for building a member-driven union. They demonstrate what member control really looks like, and why it is crucial to labor's future.
With a focus on union activity in the workplace, the authors describe democratic approaches to contracts, grievances, communications, and leaders’ relationship with members. They shine a revealing light on democratic union culture, yet also address the more obvious parts of democracy, like elections and bylaws.
Democracy Is Power will be an important resource for anyone active in reforming their own union, whether as a rank and file member or as a local officer.
The Tyranny of Structurelessness
Jo "Joreen" Freeman, 1972, Essay
A foundational piece that simply and powerfully lays out the need for real, meaningful, and intentional structure in organizing spaces.
On The Importance of Education Prior To Action
Fred Hampton, Video
A short 4 minute recording of a meeting between Black Panther Party members and community organizers, in which Fred Hampton speaks to the essential nature of education as foundational to important organizing work.
Spadework: On Political Organizing
Alyssa Battistoni, 2019, Essay
An anecdotal exploration of what meaningful, long term organizing looks and feels like.
Tech and Labor
There is Something Missing from Tech Worker Organizing
Carmen Molinari, 2020, Article
A surprising good analysis of the successes and limitations to the many current forms of activism in the tech industry. Speaks to the need for real, deep, meaningful organizing based on actual workplace issues people care deeply about.
Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism
Safiya Umoja Noble, 2018, book
A revealing look at how negative biases against women of color are embedded in search engine results and algorithms
Kickstarter Union Oral History
Clarissa Redwine, 2020, podcast
Breaks down their organizing drive, the challenges, the failures, the successes. Covers lessons learned and features good analysis to apply to future tech industry campaigns.
Boss Fight: Organizing in the Game Industry
Emma Kinema, Video, 2019
A talk given at the XOXO Festival about the history and context of organizing in the game industry, as well as some basic theory of organizing and future steps. At 18:23 Emma stops mid-talk to speak about the importance of the not yet certified Kickstarter Union, while Kickstarter executives sat a few rows away in the audience.
What Happens When Game Devs Go On Strike?
Games and Online Harassment Hotline, 2020, Video
Anita Sarkeesian interviews Voltage Organized Workers member Kristen Perez and CODE-CWA Staff Organizer Emma Kinema about the Voltage Entertainment Writers Strike, unionizing, and working towards better treatment in the game industry.
Bit Tyrants: The Political Economy of Silicon Valley
Rob Larson, 2020, book
A solid account of the growth of monopoly power in the tech industry, the state of the big five tech companies, and some notions for how to address the issues the tech industry creates.
Automation, Labour Struggles, and the Future of Work
BITS Symposium, 2016, Video
One hour session about the intersections of automation and labor struggles by various speakers.
Sam Marcy, 1988, book
An analysis of where the labor movement was at in terms of the tech industry in the 80s. Featuring analysis of why it's important to organize in tech and provides some creative tactics labor could embrace to shift it’s current downward fate.
David F. Noble, 2013, book.
A good analysis of the forces of production, helpful for someone wanting to dive into political economy of technology.
Wendy Liu, 2020, book.
An interesting personal account of a young woman entering the tech industry and unlearning the libertarian individualist fantasy it paints where everyone will be a CEO one day if they work hard enough. Anecdotal and useful for understanding tech worker mindsets.
Labor Movement and History
Organized Labor and the Black Worker, 1619-1981
A comprehensive history and powerful analysis of black labor organizing.
Out in the Union: A Labor History of Queer America
Miriam Frank, 2015, book
A telling of queer US labor history from the mid-1960s through 2013. Features in-depth interviews with LGBT and labor activists.
Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics
Eric Blanc, 2019, Book
A solid and brief history of the strike wave of teachers in red states a couple years ago. Covers how each succeeded and failed in different ways. The author breaks out the practical lessons well and is very applicable.
The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s
Michael Goldfied, 2020, book.
A rich history of organized labor in the US South, the successes and failures. Makes a case that the lack of strong worker organization in the South has deeply impacted the civil rights movement and politics in the US for decades.
Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States
Sharon Smith, 2018, Book
A broad accounting of US labor history, major trends, and some basic analysis. From the 1800s and into the 2010s.
A Bunch of Union Organizers Explain What's Wrong with Unions
Hamilton Nolan, 2020, Article
Several interviews with union organizers speaking about the gap between popular support for unions, yet low union density. Organizers speak about the challenges they see in the labor movement, and how they think things can be improved to build a fighting movement.
William Z Foster, 1922, Essay
Despite being written nearly 100 years ago, it remains perhaps one of the most essential texts one should read if they care about the future of the working class movement. Dual Unionism was a trend that drained the labor movement of its politically and class conciouss elements, causing decades of disruption to the development of the labor movement. Written by William Z Foster, arguably one of the most important labor organizers in US labor history, and key contributor to the rise of Industrial Unionism which took the labor movement to its historic peak in the 1940s.
A History of America in Ten Strikes
An “entertaining, tough-minded, and strenuously argued” (The Nation) account of ten moments when workers fought to change the balance of power in America
The Many and the Few: A Chronicle of the Dynamic Auto Workers
Henry Kraus, 1985, book
The Many and the Few recounts the dramatic "inside" story of one of the pivotal strikes in American history. For six weeks in 1937, workers at General Motors' Flint, Michigan, plant refused to budge from their sit-down strike. That action changed the course of industrial and labor history, when General Motors finally agreed to recognize the United Auto Workers as the sole bargaining agent in all GM plants. Through it all, UAW activist Henry Kraus was there.
Martin Jay Levitt, 1993, Book
Written by a former unionist turned union buster turned man of conscience. Mostly anecdotal, but has interesting snippets and lessons to learn from.
Jake Rosenfeld, 2014, book
Covers the impact of the decline of unions in the US on the working class and politics. Brief recap of the causes of the decline, does a good job of highlighting that unions declined in all post industrial capitalist countries after the 70s, even in Sweden where it sits around 80% unionization. Focuses on systemic aspects, not common excuses like “we stopped organizing as much” and “workers are treated too well.”
Robert H. Zieger, 2000, book.
Charts the rise and fall of industrial unionism as a truly independent and powerful movement in the US.
Black Detroit and the Rise of the UAW
August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, 2007, book
On New Terrain: How Capital is Reshaping the Battleground of Class War
Kim Moody, 2017, book
An insightful and timely analysis of how global economic restructuring will impact workers' struggles in the US. Covers the shift in the global economy towards tech based logistics with numbers and analysis to help shape the labor movement’s approach to the modern economy in a macro sense.
The Purpose of Unemployment, the Reserve Army of Labor
Michael Parenti, 2019, Video
A short 3 minute clip in which historian Michael Parenti briefly explains the purpose of unemployment, and why the capitalist class maintains and benefits from unemployment at the expense of the working class.
Means TV ft Michael Parenti, 2020, Video
A short 3 minute video that lays out how corporations, enabled by technology and logistics, must expand across the globe, seeking resources and markets to exploit.
Franklin, Episode 9: Organized Labor
donoteat01, 2018, Video
A very deep and comprehensive explanation of the development of the labor movement in the United States, and some of its causes and challenges - all narrated over a Let's Play of the game Cities: Skylines. Funny throughout, but note that there is crude language.
Valery Alzaga, 2013, Video
Organizer Valery Alzaga speaks about the Justice for Janitors campaign, and shares thoughts on organizing and how she sees these experiences informing the direction of the labor movement.