Consulting

I have consulted trade unions both in Germany (ver.di, IG Metall) and Britain (Unison) in following areas: – membership development and engagement – organizing drives – industrial disputes I’ve also worked as an independent researcher for a Trades Union Congress (TUC) Project.

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Talks

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Academic Presentations

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Teaching

Taught Courses I have taught and lectured in following undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Queen Mary University of London, School of Business and Management Comparative Employment Relations (PGR) Work & Employment in Context (UGR) Employment Relations (UGR)    

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Book Reviews

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Publications

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Academic Writings

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Curriculum Vitae

CV 2017 2018 Teaching Position QM MB by Mark Bergfeld on Scribd

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Public Engagements

Bergfeld, Mark, 20 Nov 2013, Paper Presenter at Generations of Protest: Marxism Matters?, De Montfort University, Title of Paper: The role of anarchists in Occupy Bergfeld, Mark, 14 Nov 2013, Panelist at Essex Radical Conference, University of Essex, Social Movements and Activism Today Bergfeld, Mark, 3 Nov 2012, Paper presenter at ‘Our universities are not […]

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Public Sociology

2017 Willkommenskultur durch Arbeitsmarktintegration? Ansatzpunkte gewerkschaftlicher Arbeit mit Geflüchteten, labournet Germany & express – Zeitung für sozialistische Betriebs- und Gewerkschaftsarbeit (September 2017)  2016   2015   2014 Bergfeld, Mark, 11 Jan 2014, Beyond the Hashtags? Gezi Park and the AKP’s Media Power, ROAR Magazine Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, Regime Crisis in Turkey, Counterfire  Bergfeld, Mark, […]

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Consulting

I have consulted trade unions both in Germany (ver.di, IG Metall) and Britain (Unison) in following areas:
– membership development and engagement
– organizing drives
– industrial disputes

I’ve also worked as an independent researcher for a Trades Union Congress (TUC) Project.

Talks

Academic Presentations

Teaching

Taught Courses

I have taught and lectured in following undergraduate and postgraduate courses at Queen Mary University of London, School of Business and Management

  • Comparative Employment Relations (PGR)
  • Work & Employment in Context (UGR)
  • Employment Relations (UGR)

 

 

Book Reviews

Publications

Academic Writings

Curriculum Vitae

CV 2017 2018 Teaching Position QM MB by Mark Bergfeld on Scribd

Public Engagements

Bergfeld, Mark, 20 Nov 2013, Paper Presenter at Generations of Protest: Marxism Matters?, De Montfort University, Title of Paper: The role of anarchists in Occupy

Bergfeld, Mark, 14 Nov 2013, Panelist at Essex Radical Conference, University of Essex, Social Movements and Activism Today

Bergfeld, Mark, 3 Nov 2012, Paper presenter at ‘Our universities are not supermarkets’ Conference at SOAS, London. Title of the Paper: Can students strike? Lessons from the Quebec student movement

Bergfeld, Mark, 7 Jul 2012, Paper presenter together with Hossam El-Hamalawy at Marxism Conference at UCL, London. Title of Paper: Revolution 2.0? Social movements and Social Media

Bergfeld, Mark, 22 Jun 2012, Speaker, ND-Haus, Was ist ziviler Ungehorsam?, Marx‘ is Muss-Kongress, organised by Marx21 (Die Linke)

Bergfeld, Mark, 15 Jun 2012, Paper presenter at For a Public University! Conference at Nottingham University Title of Paper: Neoliberal universities, neoliberal students? – Rediscovering the subjectivity of students

Bergfeld, Mark, 23 May 2012, Crisis & Resistance in Europe: How can the 99% win?, Augustine United Church, Edinburgh

Bergfeld, Mark, 6 Apr 2012, Discussant, with Sukant Chandan, What’s really behind Syria’s uprising, Shia Ithna’ashari Community of Middlesex (SICM)

Bergfeld, Mark, 11 Dec 2011, Discussant with Andrej Hunko MdB, Nicole Gohlke MdB, Haris Triandafilidou SYRIZA, „Krise und Protest in Europa. Ein Erfahrungsaustausch”, Studierendenkonferenz der Fraktion DIE LINKE. im Bundestag, Berlin

Bergfeld, Mark, Nov 2011, Discussant with Vegard Velle from Norwegian TUC, After Breivik: The fight against fascism in Europe, Marxisme, Copenhagen, Denmark

Bergfeld, Mark, 6 Oct 2011, Panelist with Owen Jones, Laurie Penny, Alan Whitaker UCU, Education Against Austerity, London School of Economics Students’ Union, London

Bergfeld, Mark 1 Oct, 2011, Panelist with French, Greek and Spanish student activists, Coalition of Resistance Conference ‘Europe Against Austerity, Camden Centre, London

Bergfeld, Mark 22 Jun 2011, Panelist with Mark Serwotka, John McDonnell MP, Unite the Resistance Meeting, Friends Meeting House, London

Bergfeld, Mark, 22 May 2011, Panelist with Tony Kearns Vice-President CWU, Communication Workers Union Congress, Meeting ‘Stop the Cuts’, BIC Bournemouth

Bergfeld, Mark, 12 May 2011, Paper presenter at Euro-Mediterranean conference ‘Rivolta di una generazione’ at Political Science, Faculty at La Sapienza, Rome, Italy Title of paper: Yearning for autonomy?  – Global youth revolts in context

Bergfeld, Mark, 29 Apr 2011, Panelist with Len McLuskey, George Galloway, Rally to Defend the Right to Protest, Strathclyde University, Glasgow

Bergfeld, Mark, 12 Feb 2011, Panelist with Michael Chessum (NCAFC), A people’s convention to build resistance to cuts and austerity, Right to Work Campaign, Friends Meeting House, London

Bergfeld, Mark, Dec 2010, Speaker, Solidarity with the Student movement, RMT Union Underground Engineering branch, London

Bergfeld, Mark, 15 Nov 2010, Main speaker,Where next after the national demo?, Education Activist Network, King’s College London.

Bergfeld, Mark, Nov 2010, Speaker, Solidarity with the Student movement, Financial Times, NUJ Chapel, London

Bergfeld, Mark, 31 Oct 2010, Panelist with John McDonnell MP: Time to Fight for Education, London Region UCU

Bergfeld, Mark, 15 May 2010, Panelist with Owen Holland (Sussex University), Stop the Cuts – Defend Jobs and Education, Steve Biko Building, University of Manchester

Bergfeld, Mark, 28 Oct 2008, Main Speaker: Another Education Is Possible Conference, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Public Sociology

2017

Willkommenskultur durch Arbeitsmarktintegration? Ansatzpunkte gewerkschaftlicher Arbeit mit Geflüchteten, labournet Germany & express – Zeitung für sozialistische Betriebs- und Gewerkschaftsarbeit (September 2017) 

2016

 

2015

 

2014

Bergfeld, Mark, 11 Jan 2014, Beyond the Hashtags? Gezi Park and the AKP’s Media Power, ROAR Magazine

Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, Regime Crisis in Turkey, Counterfire 

Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, Tot pot canviar un dia d’any nou…, En Lluita (Catalan)

Bergfeld, Mark, Jan 2014, The world according to Merkel, Al-Jazeera English

2013

Bergfeld, Mark, Sep 2013, The Many Faces of Frau Merkel, Al-Jazeera English 

Bergfeld, Mark, July 2013, ¿Por qué Marx tenía razón, GRUNDmagazine #4

Bergfeld, Mark, July 2013, The Pop-Up Union at Sussex: Start with Solidarity, Socialist Review

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Brasilien: Die Bewegung ist ein Schlachtfeld, Neues Deutschland, 28/06/2013

Bergfeld, Mark, June 2013, A Brazilian Autumn? An Interview with Miguel Borba de Sa, Jacobin Magazine

–          Translated into Spanish by José for GRUNDmagazine

–          Translation into Norwegian by Joakim Møllersen for Radikal Portal

–          Featured on Salon.com, Left Unity, Socialist Worker (US)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, How #OccupyGezi could transform society, New Statesman

–          Translated into Norwegian by Helle Håkonsen for Radikal Portal

–          Featured on Pluto Press

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Food Fights Against Austerity, Climate & Capitalism Journal,

–          Translated into German by Rosenrot for DieFreiheitsliebe.de

–          Translated into Norwegian by Hallgeir Opdal  for Radikal Portal and Ni Tyd (print only)

–          Translated into Spanish by José for GRUNDmagazine

–          Translated into Greek by George Venizelos (forthcoming)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Interview with Dan Swain: Marx’s Theory of Alienation, Socialist Project (Canada),

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Interview with Francisco Louҫa, leading member of Bloco and Economist, Monthly Review Zine

–          Translated into Italian by Giuseppe Volpe for Z Net Italia

–          Translated into Spanish by Viento Sur

–          Translated into French by Presse-Toi A Gauche

–          Featured in International Viewpoint IV461, Socialist Worker (US)

Bergfeld, Mark, 22 May 2013, Der Anfang einer Krise des Regimes, Neues Deutschland

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, New struggles, New unions? On the Pop-Up Union at Sussex University, Ceasefire Magazine,

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Portugal: I Prefer The Horses In My Lasagne To The Donkeys In The Government, Monthly Review Zine

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Portugal: Police Batons for Protesters and Rubber Bullets for the Kids of Bela Vista, Monthly Review Zine

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Victory for Quebec students! Lessons from a strike, Adbusters Online

Bergfeld, Mark, Dec 2012, Crisis and Resistance in Portugal, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12165

–          Featured on RC44 – Research Committee on Labour Movements, Socialist Project (Canada), Global Research (Canada), Left Unity, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Portugal: When ‘good students’ turn sour, Trade Union and Global Restructuring, source: http://andreasbieler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/portugal-when-good-students-turn-sour.html (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Occupy: How Do You Build A Movement?, The Occupied Times London, source: http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=6448 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Germany: The Rise of The Pirate Party, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12051 (accessed 13/06/2013)

–          Translated into Dutch by Socialisme.nu

http://socialisme.nu/blog/nieuws/29967/hoe-rebels-is-de-duitse-piratenpartij/

 

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, From Quebec to London: Is Student Power on the Rise?, The Occupied Times London, source:  http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=5945 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, New Battles in Higher Education, The Occupied Times London, source: http://theoccupiedtimes.org/?p=3099 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Education Demolition, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11440 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, „The Birth of the Climate Justice Movement”, The Essex Graduate Journal of Sociology, Vol.10, source: http://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/documents/pdf/graduate_journal/10-11/the_essex_graduate_journal_of_sociology_2010.pdf (accessed 13/06/2013)

 

 

Reviews

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013 (forthcoming), Ed. Laura Khatib – We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy & Graeber, David – The Democracy Project, Contention Journal

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013 (forthcoming), Book review: Luis Suarez-Villa-Technocapitalism: A Critical Perspective on Technological Innovation and Corporatism, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013 (forthcoming), Alice Mattoni- Media Practice and Protest Politics: How Precarious Workers Mobilise, Interface Journal

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Shelley Streebey – Radical Sensations: World Movements, Violence and Visual Culture, Left Eye On Books

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Book review: Richard Wolff – Democracy at Work: The Cure for Capitalism, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12252 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2013, Book review: Campbell Jones – Can the Market Speak, Berlin Review of Books, source: http://berlinbooks.org/brb/2013/04/can-the-market-speak/ (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Book review: Eds. Sasha Lilley – Catastrophism, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12202 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Book review: Eds. Tad Tietze & Elizabeth Humphreys – On Utoya, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12007 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2012, Book Review: Stefan Collini – What Are Universities For?, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11972 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2011, Book Review: Lucio Magri – The Tailor of Ulm: A Possible History of Communism in the Twentieth Century by Lucio Magri, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11847

Bergfeld, Mark, 2011, Book review: Lars T Lih – Lenin (Critical Lives series), Marx & Philosophy Review of Books, source: http://marxandphilosophy.org.uk/reviewofbooks/reviews/2012/602 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Film Review: No Impact Man, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11390 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Book Review: Meszaros, Istvan – The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time, International Socialism Journal 125, source: http://www.isj.org.uk/?id=628 (accessed 13/06/2013)

Bergfeld, Mark, 2010, Book Review: Derek Wall – The Rise of the Green Left: Inside the Worldwide Ecosocialist Movement, Socialist Review, source: http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=11454 (accessed 13/06/2013)

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“With warts and all” – Review of Jane McAlevey’s “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)”

“With warts and all” – Review of Jane McAlevey’s “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)”

By on February 3, 2015 in Social Movements, Trade Unions

In “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)”, Jane McAlevey tells her personal story of organising campaigns as a SEIU labour organiser following John Sweeney’s election as the president of the AFL-CIO in 1995. On another level, it is a story about how a social movement activist struggles with the internal power games, egos and lack of resoluteness of the trade union movement.

McAlevey is someone who had been brought up on the floor of the Carpenters’ Union offices, had gone on to be a campus radical and then an environmental justice activist before joining big labour. Hence, she is uniquely placed to tell this story – with warts and all. The many anecdotes in the book made me smile and gave me hope. It was astonishing to see McAlevey continuously thrown into the deep-end and master challenges. By thinking outside the box and using unconventional methods learnt from her student and environmental activism, she was able to shock her opponents, and set herself apart from older labour organisers who were set in their routines.

While McAlevey advances the notion of “whole-worker organising” in the introduction, the chapters that follow recount her time as a labour organiser for a multi-union geographic organising project in Stamford, Connecticut, her move to the SEIU and subsequent organising drives from Pittsburgh to California. One of the more peculiar organising experiences was the 2000 presidential run-off between Al Gore and George W Bush in Florida. Here, McAlevey showed how organising had ever so much to do with missing and realising moments. In the context of the AFL-CIO’s timidity during the recount of the elections, she laments the asymmetry between what the AFL-CIO did and where the Democratic voters were at – a story which would repeat itself throughout her time in the labour movement.

Whole-worker organising

However, McAlevey didn’t shut up but “raised hell” with her unconventional organising approach of “whole-worker organizing”. The concept and its methods run up against craft unionism, business unionism as well as technocratic organising models such as “hot shop organising” which only focus on union membership growth. On the contrary, whole-worker organising is based on building worker power in the workplace and in the community. In line with the title of the book, McAlevey writes:

“Organising at its core, is about raising expectations. (…). Of course, there is much more to organising, but everything else flows from raising expectations. In the normal course of human events, workers don’t expect much from their jobs, government, or unions, because the reality is they don’t get much. The job of the organiser is to fundamentally change this.” (253)

Whereas many unions take the view that the success of organising lies with the organiser themselves, McAlevey focuses on raising the expectations, harnessing the optimism, “the passions and desires of people who are not full-timers and political junkies, who have complicated and overwhelming lives (…)” (236). This is the most difficult task, as millions of trade union and political activists can attest. Yet, it shines through every line of the book that its success is also the most rewarding.

By no means can McAlevey’s organising methods be reduced to an easy formula sold neatly in workshops, training courses and books. It is a resource-intensive “face-to-face endeavour” (292) and a skill-based method guided by the principle of worker power (274,275). Informed a by a deeper vision of social justice and the belief that workers don’t only want to improve their situation at work but better their lives and their communities it seeks to challenge the powers that-be. As a consequence,

“Whole-worker organizing contrasts sharply with the more common approach known as labor-community alliance building. The term itself reinforces the idea that shop floor issues of wages and working conditions are the proper domain of unions and that when unions move beyond this narrowly defined terrain they are in the foreign land of “community”, where they must exercise a sort of diplomacy. (…). The point is not to build an alliance between “labour” and “community” but to bring community organizing techniques right into the shop floor while moving labour organizing techniques out into the community.” (304)

The implicit consequences are that trade unions should not use communities and campaigns functionally or presume their leadership role within them. They should rather see themselves as part of a mosaic of resistance. Of course, no one expects labour to stand quietly at the side lines while they pour their resources into community campaigns or social movements. Nonetheless, they need to treat other allies as equals and place themselves squarely behind the movement’s demands, strategies and tactics rather than solely see the movement/campaign as a means to an end – whether a membership increase or a seat at negotiating table with the powerful.

Theory and Practice

McAlevey moves beyond the notion that workers simply have to be “pissed off” to act. Instead they need to understand the power they hold and confront. The power structure analysis is the tool to do just this. For McAlevey it is an intrinsic part of any campaign. Workers and their unions need to gain a better understanding of who the power players in a given community, workplace and politic are (671). More so, it is

“a power-building process in itself, as workers began to realize they had resources they never even knew about- personal relationships, social networks, and knowledge of their community – which could be mobilized on their behalf.” (683)

By placing such emphasis on this analytic tool, McAlevey’s reconfigures the relationship between theory and practice, and elevates theory vis-à-vis the power structure analysis to a form of activism itself by placing the knowledge necessary for the power structure analysis firmly in the hands of the activists themselves. This has repercussions for academic research on (and for) labour movements. While quantitative research helps her to identify the weaknesses of the opposing side, structured interviews, provide insight into the workplace (labour processes, shift patterns, HRM etc.) and non-workplace issues (housing, schools, etc.) people face. The question for labour movement researchers is to seek to understand the kind of knowledges it generates and develop this form of participatory research so to advance the movements at hand.

This is also the case for another piece in the puzzle of her organising-approach: “leadership ID”. According to her, most inexperienced organisers will believe that the loudest worker who stands up to the boss is a leader (713). Instead she proposes that those workers who are the go-to people for all kinds of issues are the “organic leaders” in a given workplace, as they command the respect of work shifts, units and even their bosses. It is the task of the organiser to then turn these “organic leaders” into trade union leaders on the shop floor (695).

In the book, this tool helps McAlevey to confront and challenge power in creative ways as she understands where power lies and how workers can build power. Thus, the hospital workers in Las Vegas, Nevada did not let themselves be provoked by the union-busters. Rather, they mocked the anti-union campaign. When all workers were forced to watch an anti-union film, workers brought along popcorn. After the union was kicked out of the hospital, McAlevey and her team parked the big union bus outside of the hospital and made it their office. They undermined the intimidation campaign by holding buffets for the workers and turning it into a hang-out place. Thus, they avoided a possible scenario of fear.

On the other hand, she understood that legalistic mechanisms such as bargaining and negotiations had to be transformed so to empower workers and expose the other side. Thus, she used existing laws to invite all workers – union and non-union – to participate in the collective bargaining process. She aptly labels this “big bargaining”. This tactic turns one of the most technical and bureaucratic processes of trade unionism into a form of activism and participation. But her bargaining tactics went a step further:

“we proposed what is called pattern bargaining. We would open our negotiations first with the employer from whom we thought we could get the best deal. All other negotiations would open only after that gold standard was established.(…). Pattern bargaining is not without risks – we could end up setting a low standard to which all the other employers would try to sink. And by delaying the start of negotiations at the other hospitals, we risked having the contracts there expire, opening a legal window for management to run a decert campaign” (3342).

Fortunately, it always worked in her favour.

The Tale of Sisyphus?

While McAlevey’s account of her time in the labour movement is filled with optimism and hope, it ends on some ugly notes, and her being forced to quit for various personal and professional reasons. Her story echoes various accounts of activist burn-out and disillusionment. Despite the many successful campaigns she ran, her work is ultimately destroyed by an ugly turf war and inter-union battle, turning her work into “the labour of Sisyphus” as Rosa Luxemburg described trade unionism for other reasons more than hundred years ago.

For the many social movement activists who have moved into the trade union movement since the mid-1990s, McAlevey’s story will raise the question why the labour movement has not renewed itself to the extent that many had hoped for. There’s an easy answer: Old habits die hard. The old guard inside the labour movement did not necessarily agree with the reorientation following Sweeney’s election and continues to block new initiatives. But the situation is more difficult than that. Perhaps the question is not whether the trade union movement can renew itself but how the balance between old and new practices could change. The answer presumably lies with the politics of the union leadership.

All numbers in brackets refer to the Location number on the Kindle edition by Verso Books  

For the sake of the reader, all spelling has been unified to English (UK).

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