Jane F. McAlevey, Who Empowered Workers Across the Globe, Dies at 59


After leading successful campaigns for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and the Service Employees International Union from 1997 to 2008, Ms. McAlevey transitioned to consulting, coaching labor groups across the country on how to energize the rank and file, attract new members and fight off employers’ aggressive anti-union tactics.

She also worked with immigrant rights organizations, tenant groups and climate activists, and traveled internationally, advising German hospital unions, Irish communications workers and labor organizers in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

A magnetic speaker with a dry sense of humor, Ms. McAlevey expanded her global reach in 2019. She led a free, intensive six-week online course, “Organizing for Power,” at the Berlin-based Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, a democratic socialist nonprofit. Over four years, 36,000 people in 130 countries logged onto the workshops, which were simultaneously translated into a dozen languages, including Arabic, Hindi, Portuguese and Russian.

Ms. McAlevey’s books and courses drew on long-established organizing techniques, said Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University. But “Jane’s charisma and her teaching methods inspired people around the world, especially young people, to use their rank and file power to organize.”

She also drew about 4,500 participants over four years to workshops at the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center, where she was a senior policy fellow. In 2022, United Food and Commercial Workers local No. 770, a large Southern California union, sent 100 members and staffers to the workshops as it prepared to bargain with grocery chains, the group’s president, Kathy Finn, said.

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