Relationship-Based Organizing: An Introduction

The most common refrain in organizing is that “it’s all about relationships.” It rings true enough that everyone accepts it on the surface but is vague enough that each person interprets it according to their own beliefs and the needs of the moment. 

Concealed underneath the words of that phrase are distant and often warring conceptions of what organizing actually is. What role do relationships play in organizing? What kind of relationships do we want as we fight alongside each other for a better world? 

Through my own organizing experience in the workplace and developing ideas with fellow organizers, I’ve realized that relationships play a much different role in organizing than is commonly thought, than is discussed in organizing books and articles, and than is taught in organizing trainings. The role of relationships in most organizing approaches is often instrumentalized in a way that contrasts sharply with what I now see as strong grassroots organizing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the power to organize and take collective action emerges from relationships between people in their workplaces and communities. The relationship is itself the primordial substance from which power and action emerge. It’s not the idea, not the feeling, not the level of formal organization, not the material conditions. Or rather, ideas, feelings, organization, and material conditions take on meaning and a role in building and exercising worker power insofar as they become part of human social relationships. The relationship is primary.

“Relationship-based organizing” is the term I’ve come to use to encapsulate all of these ideas. Relationship-based organizing isn’t a specific set of techniques, strategies, goals, power analyses, or political programs. It’s a lens through which to see and relate to all of these things.

To distill this idea down to its essence: instead of artificially imposing organizing principles on your relationships with your coworkers, every aspect of your organizing should be implemented in such a way that it strengthens those relationships. I suppose this is as vague as any other organizing truism, so below I’ll sketch out the meaning of this framing and color in what this kind of organizing looks like.

Relationship-First vs. Issue-First Organizing

I’ll start with discussing one aspect of organizing technique that is central to many organizing traditions, specifically the agitation part of 1-on-1 conversations.

One of the first steps taught in organizing trainings and manuals is “finding the issue”, i.e. finding what grievances a coworker has about their job. There’s a lot of reasonable advice in this literature about what kinds of issues are strategic for organizing–for example, a grievance that is widely felt, deeply felt, and winnable.

However, I find that this approach leads people to try to impose their organizing idea of “finding the issue” onto those around them in an artificial way. In my own organizing early on, I would think back to my union trainings and constantly try to hunt down the issue that my coworkers could be organized around. I was repeatedly faced with the dilemma of either trying to force conversations that weren’t coming naturally (“yea, yea, yea, but what really agitates you about work?”) or feel bad for somehow failing as an organizer when coworkers never seemed to want to talk about workplace issues.

In retrospect, I should have taken a chill pill. I honestly didn’t know my coworkers that well. Why would anyone pour out their feelings about work, something which can be personal or which they don’t want the boss to know about, to someone they just met?

Instead, if you spend time just getting to know people, supporting each other on the job, being able to have fun, then people will bring up their grievances when they feel comfortable doing so and you won’t have to go around aggressively prodding them. There’s no cookie cutter way to build relationships, but some ways to do so include creating space on the job in the break room or on the shop floor to chat, getting drinks or a meal with coworkers after work, inviting people to a birthday party, and meeting up with people 1-on-1 for a walk or coffee. 

The idea is to put your relationships first and let the grievances emerge from that base, instead of putting your goal of finding the issue first and trying to base your relationships with coworkers on that. 

This isn’t to say you should be passive as an organizer and just wait for the organizing opportunities to come to you. Rather, you should see the people around you as their own persons and that they’ll be ready to move together towards action only when they see the social relationships with those around them as strong enough to carry the weight of their political desires and offset the fears of failure or retaliation. 

Often you have to put effort into building the relationship first before the rest of organizing starts to flow. Forgoing this crucial step is perhaps the stumbling block that I most commonly see people run into after taking an organizing training because every organizing training I’ve seen glosses over this if it is discussed at all.

My first year at one workplace was characterized by an almost total lack of traction in my attempts to “find the issue” or move even an inch towards collective action. The social atmosphere on the job was very isolating and people kept to themselves. Even those I worked directly with I had a difficult time engaging with on anything beyond small talk. Being new to the job, I had my own personal struggles at work but couldn’t on my own distinguish what grievances were a “natural” part of being new to the job, which were grievances that only I felt, and what, if any, grievances my coworkers shared. I felt like I was failing as an organizer because I couldn’t “find the issue” and thus couldn’t accomplish even the first step of organizing. 

But rather than seeing the slower periods of your organizing as a failure for not successfully identifying the issues, you can use that time productively by building your relationships with people. Conversely, when grievances are hot at work but you don’t have the strength of relationships with coworkers to be able to organize effectively around those grievances, that can make you feel inadequate as an organizer for other reasons. 

My second year at that workplace was the total opposite, where there were problems everywhere that everyone was agitated about all the time, but sadly we weren’t organized enough to push back with much success. I was able to meet up with coworkers individually after work and talk about the problems, but we never trusted each other far enough or had the confidence in ourselves to get things together well enough to take any collective action. In retrospect, it was a big advance in our organizing that our relationships became solid enough that we were able to talk openly and honestly about the grievances, but at the time it felt discouraging to be so powerless to resolve them. I then felt like I was failing as an organizer for a different reason. 

In my third year at that job I had a base of relationships with a broader set of coworkers in my and other departments, I had found another couple of committed people who I could organize with more closely, and I was much more familiar with the intricacies of the job and the workplace environment. I wasn’t just talking to an individual coworker here or there, but those individual conversations sometimes sprouted into group conversations and bloomed into ad hoc committees of workers forming to talk about grievances and taking action together to fix them. Organizing started to really click as now it was based in stronger relationships and wasn’t contingent on my applying a bunch of abstract union ideas to an unfamiliar workplace with a bunch of strangers. 

Certainly, it doesn’t need to take that long for everyone, and plenty of factors, from workplace culture, to turnover rate, to management style, to the normal cycles of grievances being cool and hot, can set the pace for how long it takes for your organizing to catch on. Whether it takes you a few months or a few years to go from getting to know people to identifying grievances to successfully taking action to resolve them, grounding yourself in your relationships with your coworkers will make you a better organizer, will save you the trouble of feeling that you have to pressure your coworkers to do things, and will prevent you from setting unreasonable expectations that invariably lead to failure and disappointment. 

I’ve encapsulated this lesson for myself as “relationship-first” organizing over “issue-first” organizing. This lesson isn’t just one that’s useful for people new to organizing or new to their workplace. Rather, this is central for relating to workplace grievances at any stage of organizing.

Big Messaging-Style Organizing vs. Local Relationship-Based Organizing

Sometimes when organizing is happening across a larger scale, there’s a desire to intervene at that larger scale directly and bypass the work of building relationships locally. One common way to do this is as a kind of “macro” version of “finding the issue”, where you feel around beyond just your workplace for the really big issue and once you think you’ve found it you turn it into a demand and broadcast it to the masses. Unfortunately, I think doing this often results in many of the same problems that “finding the issue” creates when trying to do it at the micro level of talking with a single other coworker.

If people are pissed off at a large employer or across a whole industry, organizers will often try to capture the moment by posing the issue in a poignant way to unify everyone and blasting that message out via social media, large email lists, or at large union meetings. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but most of the time it is applied as a shortcut because people try to intervene on the larger level *in place of* operating on the local level through their relationships with their own immediate coworkers.

For example, many organizers spend all of their time trying to find the right framing for appealing to people at the large scale, and totally neglect building relationships with their coworkers at their job or letting the grievances arise naturally out of their actual experiences with those around them. In the long-term, this leads to a style of organizing, I’ll call it “big messaging-style organizing”, where a small group of activists is constantly chasing after big moments by trying to frame the big issue in just the right way to stage the grand drama of everyone coming together and acting in unity.

But what gets lost is that none of these organizers really have much pull with their immediate coworkers. The actual workplace, as the basis for our organic relationships with our coworkers, gets neglected. Then organizing becomes more of a fight about public relations and media messaging instead of a fight of workers coming together on the basis of their relationships with each other and leveraging that cohesion to control production processes or press for demands by withholding their labor. On the rare occasion when big messaging style organizing does coalesce a large group of people around a specific issue or demand and result in some large-scale action, its power is usually fleeting and whatever concessions are won are easily reversed or watered down.

When other organizers say we have to go big if we want to have big wins, what I usually interpret them to be saying is that we should organize not on the basis of organic relationships but rather on the basis of broad appeals in messaging and political framing with the mostly anonymous masses who we have no real relationships with. I hear them saying that organizing is really about big numbers and is not about relationships at all and that it’s more efficient to ignore the coworkers around you and instead build up a broader base of anonymous supporters who subscribe to your email list or follow you on social media or nod in agreement at your speeches at big rallies or vote for your proposals at big meetings. The goal of building up such an anonymous mass following is building a critical mass of people who will heed your call for action when the big moment comes. In this approach I see a willful neglect of the human relationships in the workplace as the underlying source of worker power.

To be fair, this big messaging style of organizing is often what’s reported on in the newspapers and is what’s depicted in popular accounts of labor history. It’s also appealing because that’s what we’re told leads to all of the big wins and thus is how the “real” organizing happens. I’m just afraid that when we focus on this style of organizing we end up losing sight of what makes us strong in the first place, which is our ability to relate to those around us and take collective action on the basis of relationships of trust and solidarity.

Furthermore, what appears as the successes of big messaging-style organizing, like large mobilizations or big strikes, is more often a result of the success of the small but hidden stuff done right and linked together, and more often than not big messaging-style organizing takes all the credit for the actual effort expended doing local relationship-style organizing. When big messaging-style organizing fails, it’s not because of strategic errors of this or that tweet or speech, but rather because it wasn’t actually based in the power of local relationships. When big messaging-style organizing appears to succeed, more often than not it’s actually because organizers had spent years creating the relationships on the ground that gave workers real power and the skills to exercise it.

I don’t want to be mistaken for saying organizing should never go big or that actions should never be taken at a large scale, as I only mean to say that such large-scale organizing is only destined to succeed when it’s built on the strong foundations at the level of worker-to-worker relationships and solidarity in the workplace. Ultimately, I want to go big too, but I want to do so from a position of strength and not rely on the fleeting power of a temporary and often shallow unity imposed through a catchy slogan or riveting speech or charismatic social media presence. In building worker power, we can make our castles out of beach sand or carved stone.

The Social Relationship vs. The Political Relationship

In any number of ways one might think that the social side of relationships and the political side of relationships in the workplace repel each other and that these things conflict and you can’t have both. This is a result of defining the social and political in opposing terms, where the social part of life is where the non-political happens, where you just have fun with and enjoy people’s company, where leisure and hobbies and non-political ways of relating exist, where we interact as equals, and so on. In contrast, the political is where you engage in conflict with others over different ideas, where right and wrong and good and bad are fought over, where people are for us or against us. 

Unfortunately, this kind of dichotomy tries to separate out parts of ourselves and parts of our communities that are organically tied together. Because we spend so much time in the workplace and often interact with a larger number of people on a regular basis than we do in any other part of our lives, these are inherently social spaces. But these are also political spaces, where hierarchies of authority, income, race, gender are imposed on us, where workers contest these hierarchies and struggle to get their own needs met. The social and political inhabit every crevice of the workplace, and as organizers we should engage bonds with others in the workplace in all of the social and political ways we need to be fulfilled and have agency.

You don’t have to separate out your relationships with friends and coworkers into a box labeled either “social” or “political”, but rather you can form your relationships with others in the complex of ways that meet the needs you both have. Every relationship mixes these things in different proportions and relates the political and social in different ways, and your relationships will be healthier when they can be expressions of many parts of each person.

This may seem obvious, but I think a lot of organizing theory and practice is applied so as to instrumentalize relationships as a political means to a political end, rather than also seeing relationships as social ends in themselves. We’re told to get someone’s contact info so we can talk with them after work so that they can get them to join the union or do the action. This is all well and good, but if you’re going through all of the political motions of organizing without also building social bonds of trust and mutual affinity, then people will feel used and you will feel alienated from the people you’re supposedly trying to make a better world with. Rather, healthy relationships are both the means and the ends, and insofar as relationships are also a means to changing our conditions of work and life, it’s a means that everyone should have shared agency over. 

Perhaps the main overarching reason that relationships get instrumentalized in organizing is that building and maintaining relationships takes a lot of work. For those who are in a rush to reach benchmarks and win demands, it feels much easier and faster to ignore the social aspects of workplace relationships and to focus only on the political aspects. If you see your coworkers merely as a means to building a big union presence and don’t value your relationships with them as whole people, you’ll skip over getting to know them and you’ll just try to bring them along for your own political goals. There’s no union training or organizing guide that explicitly tells you to treat people this way, but I think this is often implied in union spaces.

Another factor that bends the stick in this direction is the professionalization of organizing. Full-time organizing staff aren’t paid to get to know people for their own sake, but rather are paid to organize people for certain political goals. 

An organizer friend recounted to me a story of when she was first trying her hand at union organizing at her workplace. She and a couple coworkers had been talking about getting a union and got connected to a staffer from a local union. My friend had a coworker, Ava, who was very agitated about recently having her break time cut in half and was a potential social leader but also had expressed criticisms of unions. The staffer told my friend to get Ava to talk to him, even though my friend knew Ava wouldn’t be comfortable with it. When asked if she’d talk to the staffer, Ava said yes, but she never followed through. 

My friend reflected, “I just thought I had to be uncomfortable, and make her uncomfortable, and that was somehow gonna be good for the union.” I had had many experiences like that before too, as we both had early on been conditioned to the idea that being uncomfortable is something you just have to blindly push through in organizing. But there’s a difference between discomfort stemming from supporting people in overcoming internal fears and discomfort stemming from externally pressuring coworkers to do things they don’t want to do (I discuss this distinction more here). Despite the latter kind of discomfort being very detrimental to organizing, it’s how new organizers are typically trained to approach their coworkers. And this was a double-layered instance of instrumentalization, where the staffer was pressuring my friend to do something she felt uncomfortable with, which was in turn to pressure Ava to do something she was uncomfortable with. Instead, if my friend had been encouraged to get to know Ava better and open up space to talk about her thoughts on unions and workplace grievances, maybe a path forward could have been found that made respect and trust part of the relationship instead of just using the relationship to get Ava to talk to the staffer even though Ava clearly didn’t want to.

It’s not that staff intentionally devalue actual relationships between workers in the workplace (though I think some of them do this too), but the very nature their job, with which they have limited time and energy to organize large groups of people, are forced to relate to people in such a way that the social aspect of relationships are de-emphasized and instrumentalized. Insofar as most trainings and organizing guides are written and facilitated by professional organizers, the methods being taught often reflect this bias as well.

The Sources of Worker Power

Artist and organizer Ricardo Levins Morales speaks of sun spaces and moon spaces to explain how power is generated in some spaces but is merely derivative or reflected in others (in pamphlet form here, in a video here). I first heard about the concept when a fellow worker and organizer created a workshop of these ideas and brought them to a picket line where we were both on strike. I’ll apply his brilliant metaphor to relationship-based organizing and develop it in some other directions as well. 

I’ll start by quoting Morales at length because he illustrates it so well:

By a “Moon Space” I mean the places like union

negotiating tables, peace treaty negotiations,

court rooms, legislatures, the places where

contending forces try to settle their differences

and come up with a decision.

I call them “Moon Spaces” because they don’t

generate power. The moon doesn’t generate light

– it reflects light from the sun.

The “Sun Spaces” are where the people are. The

Sun Spaces are where the power is generated,

where the movement, where the contending

forces represented in those moon spaces get their

energy and their strength from.

And:

People who spend a lot of time in the Moon Spaces often

come to believe that that’s where the power is,

that that’s where the story is being written. They

think of themselves, especially if they didn’t go

in with a real strong power analysis, as being the

spear when they’re really just the point of the

spear, and the hands holding that spear are on the

outside.

In order to really be able to take advantage

of these spaces, there needs to be an organic

connection.

It’s not so important whether it’s inside the system

or outside the system, but whether your feet are

firmly planted in the community where the

power really originates. (emphasis in original)

I want to draw out this idea further and really try to sharpen the lines whereby we see power being generated, being nurtured, being exercised, and those spaces where power is illusory, fleeting, or contingent. 

In labor organizing, the community where our power originates is the workplace itself, which has two unique and distinguishing features: 1) The workplace is where workers spend the most time together, work with one another, and come to form relationships. 2) The workplace alone is where workers can come together to exert pressure by withholding their labor to stop production or can exert influence over production directly by implementing their own workplace policies.

Just as the sun generates light while the moon merely reflects it, the workplace is the “sun space” where worker power is generated. Any power that workers have, for it to be their own and real power and not just an illusion of power or power borrowed temporarily from another source, always comes from worker relationships in the workplace. I’ll call workers “sun people”.

Then there are some outsiders who operate neither in the sun or the moon spaces, and I’ll call them the “satellites” because they move around outside of those spaces. The satellites can be helpful or detrimental, determined purely on whether they bolster worker power in the workplace by strengthening worker confidence and relationships or not. Lawyers, politicians, union organizing staff, lobbyists, nonprofits, social media pages and personalities, and so many others are the satellites. A lawyer may be helpful in suing an employer to get a worker their job back after an unfair firing, or a lawyer may be detrimental by trying to pressure workers to stop organizing and instead rely on the courts for winning demands. 

Not always, but all too often, the satellites play the role of using workers and siphoning away their power instead of nurturing worker power. They aren’t intentionally doing this, but oftentimes they have an attitude that the workers need their expertise and are weak and childish on their own without more enlightened guidance. 

Typically, the further removed the outsider is from the workplace the more their interests differ from the workers and the more liable that person is to siphon away rather than nurture worker power. Politicians and lawyers are least likely to support worker power because their economic position and social relations in society are often leagues apart from that of workers organizing against their employers. In contrast, a workers in the same industry across town or a group of customers who support a worker campaign or a group of parents who support striking educators or an org of community artists, these are the kind of people who are often closer to the workers in their material interests and class position. In any case, it’s central to remember none of these outsiders have union power themselves, but at their best can play a secondary role in nurturing power for workers.

Sometimes outside union organizers help workers build their confidence, skills, and connections in a way that empowers the workers to create stronger relationships of solidarity with each other, and when that happens, grassroots power is being nurtured. However, sometimes outside union organizers just come in and try to tell workers what to do, or even show them how to do it but without giving them influence over how it’s done. In these cases, power is not being nurtured or built, but is rather being bound and captured and siphoned away from the workers themselves. 

Then there are those people whose special authority is entirely contingent on the grassroots power of others, those who operate mostly in the moon spaces and who I’ll call the “moon people”. The moon people speak or act on behalf of workers. For labor organizing, this is usually union negotiators, elected union officials, and occasionally politicians who align themselves with workers. The moon people have no independent worker power of their own, and every bit of agency they do have rests on the power that workers built themselves through their relationships with each other.

People in moon spaces are even more likely to betray grassroots power, because, as Morales says, they come to think that the moon space is where power is generated, and come to see themselves as the real power holders and the workers as just getting in the way when they aren’t doing what they’re told. When people in these positions are able to convince workers that it is the moon people that truly hold power, then the workers become mere bargaining chips or passive followers of the big-shot leaders who make the “real” decisions in the moon spaces.

The terrain of struggle that bosses prefer in their fight against workers is the moon space, or any place that is far away from the workplace. If coworkers aren’t talking to each other around the workplace about how to change the labor process to their advantage or threatening to withhold labor, that’s good for the bosses. Thus, bosses try to pull worker struggle out of the workplace where coworker relationships are strongest and into the union negotiating room, into the legal system, into the halls of government where workers are separated from each other. When workers outsource all of their agency and power to the moon people that’s when workers become helpless in the face of bureaucratic co-optation and capitalist control.

To avoid having their power siphoned away and to maintain their strength through relationships with coworkers, the orientation of the rank-and-file to moon people must be one of vigilant oversight, accountability, and discipline. 

If the grassroots were to design their own institutions and organizations, I think we’d mostly do away with the specialized roles of the moon people (union negotiators, lawyers, politicians) who get sent far away from the workplace to discuss things behind closed doors with our bosses. While in an ideal grassroots org there’s still room for some degree of specialized roles, I think it would be far more limited than the systematic disempowerment of workers that happens in many unions today. 

Often, moon people will try to bring in sun people into the moon spaces to distract from and sever the sun people from the true source of their power. Often, workers will be invited onto union negotiations teams or will be asked to testify in a labor court or will be asked to speak at a political rally. None of these are inherently bad, but they become so when workers who enter these moon spaces are then taught to think that the moon space is where the real power lies, and that they’ll be more effective in winning worker demands by neglecting the workplace and their coworkers and instead targeting their efforts at rallies, court rooms, and negotiations tables. Just as moon people can siphon power away from workers and the workplace, so too can workers siphon away the power of their coworkers when they are assimilated into moon spaces.

There are ways for workers to take collective action by circumventing the systems of mediation that typically govern “labor relations” where moon people are in control. When workers find their union leadership uninspiring, they often take the initiative themselves and lead “wildcat” strikes and other actions in defiance of union officials. When workers find union contracts unhelpful in creating fair working conditions, they can come together to create and enforce their own rules on the job. 

But this isn’t always possible, and to the extent that we have to interact with these specialized roles and moon spaces at all because we’re stuck with them for the time being, the grassroots should at every instance be keeping the moon people in line and attacking them when they go against the grassroots.

Sun People and Moon Spaces in a Strike

I was on strike once with public school educators against our school district, and all of the roles noted in the previous section came out into the open in a way that aptly illustrates these concepts (credit to my aforementioned friend who first applied these ideas to the strike and which I build upon here). The strike took place across numerous worksites, the union negotiating team met with the employer negotiating team behind closed doors (due partly to public sector labor law that regulated this kind of strike activity), union staff were all around, and satellites of all kinds buzzed with activity. While the sun and moon metaphors are illuminating in showing how power works within social movements and organizations, it obviously is not a replacement for a class analysis but should be seen as a companion to it.

The picket lines were the sun spaces (right in front of the workplace) where the sun people (the workers) were generating their power. The relationships between coworkers were what kept the picket lines strong and viable. The bonds of personal affinity, political solidarity, financial mutual aid, and emotional support were the dimensions of these relationships which generated all of the power of the strike. The power generated from these relationships was then exercised in the form of the collective withholding of labor from the workplace.

Satellites involved in the strikes included union staff, community and political groups, students and parents, and the roles each of these satellite groups played illustrates the diversity of functions such agents can play. Union staff played coordinating roles for some strike bodies, particularly the picket line infrastructure. Some of this was helpful in empowering workers from each site with the skills and confidence to organize their coworkers on the picket lines. Other union staff played a pivotal role in organizing large rallies and influencing negotiations, and in many ways it seemed like these staff were taking agency away from workers who would have done things differently if they were given influence over this process themselves.

Some parent groups used their public platforms to shame the workers and push the district’s messaging during the strike. Some students took collective action to occupy district buildings in solidarity with the educators and to advance demands of their own on the district. If the students were to lead a strike of their own and the educators take collective action in support of the students, then the students would be the sun people and the educators would be satellites. Clearly, satellites aren’t inherently for or against the sun people. They can align themselves with a particular side, but their greatest leverage is in how their activity affects the morale, solidarity, and strength of the sun people’s relationships themselves. Whereas some parent groups hoped to fracture the unity of the sun people, some students sought to bolster it.

The moon people were the union negotiating team and elected leadership who were acting and speaking on behalf of the strikers. The moon space here was especially shady, being as the negotiations were happening behind closed doors, which frustrated efforts by strikers to have access to important information and enabled the moon people to act autonomously and, many suspected, not in the best interests of the strikers. The resolution of the strike saw some gains but fell far short of expectations and was deeply disappointing to many of the workers. This opened up questions about what could have been differently and how the sun people could better advance and protect their interests against moon people in the future.

Morales’ allegory of the sun and moon spaces provides a powerful frame through which to interpret worker struggle and power, a frame that workers can use to challenge official narratives and traditional union authority. Fundamentally, the allegory derives its analytical potency from the way it centers relationships between coworkers as the locus of grassroots power and narrates how that power flows between the many other parties involved in social conflict.

Conclusion

This lens of organizing being based in relationships refracts across every aspect of organizing. Even though I frame this piece in more theoretical terms, it feels like one of the most personal things I’ve written because of how hard won its insights have been and how it has necessitated a gradual but fundamental shift in my organizing worldview.

Much of my own recent growth as an organizer has come from taking union organizing concepts and theories, criticizing those aspects that devalue relationships, and then re-interpreting and re-appropriating them within a relationship-based theory of organizing. With every union idea or practice I come across, I can ask, “Does this strengthen my relationships with my coworkers or not? If not, can it be re-engineered to do so?” I find these questions applying equally to big-picture ideas like how to interface with national organizations or organizational bylaws as well as the finer details of how to have 1-on-1 conversations and facilitate union meetings.

I plan to elaborate these ideas in a series of follow-up posts, and in doing so pose the challenge of relationship-based organizing to the broader world of left unionism. Is the relationship the cornerstone of organizing theory and practice, from which all other organizing concepts acquire meaning and potency? If so, how deep into the heart of organizing as we know it does this critique go? Which organizing orthodoxies need to be cast off and which ones re-imagined?

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