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Steps in Planning a Strategic Campaign

Based on materials developed by Andy Banks & Teresa Conrow

(from a presentation by Mike Andrew)



-         What you want to actually get out of the campaign (defining what victory is)

-         What are the key issues that the union should address, and

-         How the union should publicly express these goals and issues


It must be very clear what the campaign is about. When the campaign strategy and tactics are decided, you must always looks at the goals and themes of the campaign to avoid getting sidetracked.



  1. Everything starts with the members
  2. Research and develop a global picture of the company. Think like the boss.
  3. Express campaign goals and issues as a fight for social justice
  4. Include important elements of the broader community
  5. Devise a strategy that will impact the company’s public image
  6. Create real financial costs
  7. Tactics start small and increase with intensity
  8. We will never stop! Keep the pressure constant and changing.



    1. Organize a worker communication system
    2. Analyze union and employer strength and weakness
    3. Identify workers and union issues
    4. Determine the union’s goals
    5. Create the campaign theme
    6. Select targets and allies
    7. Develop campaign strategies
    8. Develop tactics that fit your strategies
    9. Create a campaign timeline
    10. Evaluate your strategies
    11. Develop new tactics to fit the new strategies



Campaign issues are the central cause or purpose of the campaign. Most campaigns are built around one issue.


Good campaign issues must be felt widely and deeply by the union members.


A good campaign issue is winnable, at least in part. If the campaign issue is too big to win in the immediate future, for example, “the end of the World Bank,” the issue should be instead restated as the first step toward a longer goal, for example, “Stop the World Bank’s Efforts to Privatize the Water Utility in Our Town.” Once union members and their allies get accustomed to winning, they can be persuaded to tackle bigger and bigger problems. On the other hand, almost nothing is more demoralizing than losing a big struggle over a just but unwinnable cause.




What is the campaign theme?

-         It is the public expression of workers’ issues, campaign goals and employer vulnerabilities.

-         Repeated in all campaign communications, literature, buttons, posters, etc.

Why have a campaign theme?

-         To inspire workers

-         To define the central issue

-         To send a message to the employer

-         To win community and public support

The test of a good theme:

-         It fits the situation

-         It appeals to the broader community

-         It unites workers



There are two kinds of groups in a campaign – targets and allies.


DIRECT TARGETS are those who have the power to grant or deny your campaign demands such as employers, government, and financial interests who may be calling the shots from behind the scenes.


INDIRECT TARGETS wield influence and power over the primary target. For example: financial institutions, shareholder groups, vendors, government regulatory agencies, subcontractors, other companies linked through members of the board of directors, clients, and customers.


Your tactics should be designed to either persuade or pressure specific target groups.


ALLIES are those who might united with the union to help pressure the targets. For example: media, community groups, religious organizations, other unions, politicians, and the occasional sympathetic member of the business community.


For each of the allies:

  1. Identify their main concerns. Can the union support this? How can your union’s issues be tied to these concerns (if at all)?
  2. Identify what assets they bring to the campaign and what liabilities they may bring to the campaign.






A strategy is the overall plan for the campaign or a significant piece of the campaign.

-         Strategies should reflect the campaign theme

-         Good strategies are based on good information

-         The strengths and vulnerabilities of the target are what drive the strategy



-         Effectiveness

-         Long term/short term goals

-         Impacts

-         Education

-         Measurable goals

-         Relationship with authority

-         Who determines your demands

-         Internal/external power relations


-         A march/rally

-         Ephemeral actions

-         Action for the sake of it

-         “Bearing moral witness”



Four steps in developing strategies

1)      Break down the problem

2)      Determine where and how to find information

3)      Prioritize your decisions

4)      Never do the exact same thing twice



-         Tactics are the individual elements of a campaign strategy

-         Good tactics will usually involve union members visibly



-         Direct action

-         Education

-         A march/rally

-         A means to an end

-         Non-violence/violence (not as a principle)

TACTICS is not

-         Principles

-         An end in itself, i.e. strategy





-         Good strategies and tactics are designed to place pressure on the target

-         A grassroots tactical approach requires unions to spend significant time on public and member education and communication

-         Good strategies are ones that escalate tactics from low to high in intensity for the target and from low to high risk for the workers

-         Good strategies are ones that compress the length of time between various tactics in order to build momentum for the campaign.



1.      Power is not only what you have but what the employer thinks you have

2.      Never go outside the experience of the workers

3.      Whenever possible go outside the experience of the employer

4.      Make the employer live up to its own rules

5.      A good tactic is one that the workers and their supporters enjoy

6.      A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag

7.      The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself

8.      The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative

9.      Pick your targets, freeze them, and polarize them

10.  The degree to which workers are successfully mobilized has a direct relation to the amount of time you spend listening to them.


Alinsky’s Iron Rule: Never do for others what they can do for themselves.




  1. Incomplete buy-in by the union members
  2. Incomplete buy-in by the union structure
  3. Thinking Tactically (checklist approach); Not Strategically
  4. Message or Theme Not Appealing to the Public



Make lists for

  1. What we need
  2. What we have
  3. Things to do (to get what we need that we don’t have)


Assessing resources for the campaign.

-         List the needed campaign functions (For example: coordination; developing a one-on-one workers’ communication network; recruiting volunteers for campaign activities; conduct ongoing campaign research and information gathering; contacting and seeking help from other unions; outreach to get community support; contact and follow-up with various media outlets; seeking support from government officials; campaign skills training for union officers, staff, stewards, and activists)

-         For each of the campaign functions, identify the respective: (a) responsible structure, and (b) how workers will participate.


Campaign function

Responsible structure

How workers will participate