Listen, Organize, Act! Organizing & Democratic Politics

S1.E11: Campaigns as Public Action

May 05, 2021 Jonathan Lange, Janice Fine Season 1 Episode 11
Listen, Organize, Act! Organizing & Democratic Politics
S1.E11: Campaigns as Public Action
Show Notes

This episode discusses the process of identifying an issue, developing a campaign to address that issue, and the kinds of public action a successful campaign involves.  How organizing develops and conducts campaigns is different to how many other kinds of campaign are run, whether that be an election campaign or an advertising campaign. To discuss with me the distinctive approach to campaigns and how they constitute a form of public action that not only wins change, but also builds up a community better able to act for itself rather than simply be acted upon is Jonathan Lange and Janice Fine. The conversation with Jonathan and Janice focuses on the initiation, development, and then subsequent spread of the Living Wage Campaign, a campaign in which Jonathan played a key role and that Janice researched and wrote on extensively. The focus on the Living Wage Campaign, which originated in Baltimore, serves as a case study through which to stage a wider discussion of what campaigns are, how they develop creative policy proposals, and their broader role in organizing.


Jonathan Lange comes from what he describes an old fashioned Jewish socialist family. His grandfather and father were active union members. It was in the labor movement that he got his start, organizing with the Clothing and Textile Workers Union in the 1980s.  He then became a community organizer with the IAF and has since organized in both work based and place based forms of organizing for over 40 years. As we shall hear, he was the lead organizer of the first ever Living Wage Campaign. A key aspect of his work has been training other organizers and leaders around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom and Germany which is where I met him over 15 years ago now.

Janice Fine is Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University. She is also the co-founder and Director of Research and Strategy at the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO). Fine teaches and writes about forms of collective action among low-wage workers in the U.S including innovative union and community organizing strategies. She also studies historical and contemporary debates within labor movements regarding such issues as immigration policy, labor standards, privatization, and government oversight.  Much of this is addressed in her book Worker Centers: Organizing Communities at the Edge of the Dream. Prior to becoming an academic she worked as a community and labor organizer for over twenty years.

Resources for Going Deeper


Mike Gecan, “Part II: The Habit of Action,” Going Public: An Organizers Guide to Citizen Action (New York: Anchor Books, 2002), 49-126;

Joan Minieri and Paul Getsos, “Part Three: Developing and Running Campaigns,” Tools for Radical Democracy: How to Organize for Power in Your Community (San Francisco: John Wiley & Son, 2007), 35-124;

Luke Bretherton, Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship and the Politics of a Common Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), Chapters 4 & 5;

Taylor Branch, “The Montgomery Bus Boycott,” Parting the Water: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), Chapter 5;

Saul Alinsky, “They sit to conquer,” John L. Lewis: An Unauthorized Biography (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1949), Chapter 6.

The Living Wage Campaign:

Janice Fine, “Community Unions and the Revival of the American Labor Movement,” Politics &