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Read these books and organize!

"Democracy Is Power"

by Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle, 1999, the Labor Education and Research Project, (Labor Notes) 255 pp, paperback, $17.

This book is directed to union members who want to make membership-controlled organizations, rather than top-down. This means that members have the right to organize for a viewpoint, using caucuses or slates, have the ability and self-confidence to act on their own behalf, and have ways to hold their leadership accountable (caucuses, slates, leaflets, petitions).

Moreover, the union needs to protect both majority rule and minority rights. Union procedures should level the playing field; the union should have clear, simple rules. The entire constitution of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) fit on one sheet of legal size paper.

Confidentiality should not be one of the rules or procedures -- confidentiality is often a smokescreen for cooperating with management. The authors say that contracts should have advance rank and file input, rank and file representation on the negotiating body, and at least three days notice before a vote on accurately summarized proposals.

Parker and Gruelle also point out that minority and gender discrimination should be outlawed. Their proposed by-laws provide that there should be quality childcare at all meetings.

Included are generous appendixes that provide a guide to Robert's Rules; simplified rules of order, and suggested by-laws.

-- Maggie Phair

"The CyberUnion Handbook: Transforming Labor Through Computer Technology"

Edited by Arthur B. Shostak, 2002, M. E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY, 356 pp, paper, $28.50

Websites, interactivity, cellphones, laptops, PDAs, e-mails are the new tools unions need for organizing, contract negotiations, debate, and democracy. They cannot take the place of one-on-one contact according to the forty writers that Shostak has assembled to tell of their rank-and-file experience in implementing new technologies in their unions.

Nearly 60 per cent of union households have a computer, sometimes old and not very fast, but nonetheless cheaper and faster than a few years ago. They provide a way for unions and their members to communicate with each other even if they are spread out, far from their workplace or union hall.

Shostak and his writers say that unions need to get ahead of corporations in the use of technology, to advance to cyber-union status, in order to grow and win. Secondhand computers for low-income members are sometimes available through unions.

The Peace and Freedom Party website,, is included in a short list of recommended websites.

-- Maggie Phair

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