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Feature Story (continued)


Leanna Noble
Field Organizer, UE (California)

Free to Speak ... Assemble ... Organize

I’m not a lawyer and I’m not a historian, so some of the details in this paper are new to me. But it makes sense in terms of my own organizing work.

We’re doing organizing of ancillary staff in hospitals. On one hand, it’s a workplace that’s often more low-key and physically accessible than a manufacturing facility. And yet the employers have still created an atmosphere where people feel that not only can’t they talk about a union, but if they dare to ask somebody what their wage is, they’re going to be fired.


People are very aware of the limits on their free speech, on their ability to get together with their co-workers, the way that they’re told they can’t post something on a public bulletin board or hand out literature in a public place. People can’t go to a cafeteria without feeling that they’re under surveillance. People step past the time clock and are aware that suddenly they’re not free. And they resent it.

Very early in any organizing campaign, we always have to get across to people that the labor law is usually not going to protect us as workers. Our real strength and power comes in our numbers and in grabbing our basic rights. There’s no reason for us to accept a denial of our rights in the workplace any more than there is in our neighborhoods or anywhere else.

So I find the approach put forward in this paper is exciting, and also very connected to what workers experience. I’ve passed it on to other trade unionists, and they seem intrigued. It’s kind of thinking outside the box. And I think there’s an interest in sitting down and talking about it.

Next: A Conversation with Jill Furillo ->
<- Previous: A Conversation with Libby Devlin

Labor Party Press
Labor Party

January, 2001
Labor Party
Press Index

Free to Speak.
Free to Assemble.
Free to Organize.

Discussion Paper
Toward a
New Labor Law

with ...
 Ed Bruno
LP Organizer

 Peter Kellman
Program on
Law & Democracy

Jim Pope
Rutgers Law

 Libby Devlin
Organizing Director,
SEIU 285 (MA)

 Leanna Noble
Field Organizer,

 Jill Furillo
Dir., Gov. Relations,
California Nurses Association

 Enid Eckstein
Mobilization (MA)

 Jerry Fishbein
UNITE Joint Board,
New England

 Richard Moser
National Organizer,
Association of

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