I wish I could lay claim to all the content of this handbook. Most of it is my own, but nearly all of the activities in this book have roots in other people's work and ideas. I expect that you too will find that the real "value added" will come when you adapt this material for your own uses.
I was going to quote Malcolm X "only the mistakes are mine" but in popular education that's kind of a bold claim. Popular Educators drive by touch, figuring out where we are by bumping into things. Without our mistakes, we would be disoriented. So, I have to share credit for my blunders with the coworkers, fellow educators, participants, and activists on whom I have so often relied. By publishing this handbook online as a work in progress I hope to be able to continue accumulating and adapting your wisdom and errors.
I try to give credit as I go, providing source and contact information wherever I can. But, in a number of cases more credit is due.
First of all comes Emily Schnee. Emily introduced me to popular education, when I was just starting out as a teacher at LaGuardia Community College. I found in her a dedicated, principled, creative educator, an utterly reliable coworker and comrade, and a dear friend. Emily got me started on this road and has been there all the way.
The Association for Union Democracy. Without AUD this handbook wouldn't exist. Herman Benson, Carl Biers, Judy Schneider, Kurt Richwerger, Jane Latour, Andy Piascik, Alice Joseph-Harney, Mike Orrfelt, Susan Jennik and the network of AUD board members and supporters contributed to my education as a union democracy advocate and in many cases collaborated in the creation and facilitation of the activities reflected in this handbook.
Working Group on Popular Education and Organizing. Emily Schnee, Charley MacMartin, Nick Bedell, David Levin, Pam Galpern, Roberta Silver, and Albricia Moreira. In that small working group of labor educators and organizers we studied popular education by using it to look at our own work. I am so grateful to have had the chance to practice popular education with such dedicated, creative, and thoughtful people, most of whom I continued to work with long after the working group ended.
Union Reformers, Organizers, and Educators. Doing this work brought me into contact with many more educators, union reform activists and organizers, all of whom shaped my thinking and my work. There are too many to name, should I try anyway? Here's a start: Nadia Marin-Molina, Leon Rosenblatt, Jane Slaughter, Sarah Ryan, Sarah Luthens, Jennifer Gordon, Michael Woo, Elly Leary, Maureen LaMar, Steve Jenkins, Steve Downs, Mike Ruscigno, Joao Paulo and Eleonora Castano Ferreira, Jessica Peaslee, Tenaya Lafore, Brendan O'Neill, and Joe Fahey.
I also owe a kind of debt to an expelled Teamster bureaucrat, Joe McDermott. I got my first training in popular education, my first full-time job as an educator, and my first union organizing experience while working at McDermott's Consortium for Worker Education in New York City. CWE is a not-for-profit education program with dozens of participating unions.
In grievance meetings (where we were on opposite sides) he introduced me to the wise guy lingo and theatrics used by Teamster officials of his type. He would slump in his chair, stare me in the eye, unblinking, then finally mutter something like, "It doesn't pick my pocket or break my bones" or "I don't have a dog in that fight."
More importantly, when I helped union members learn about their rights and put them in touch with a workers center, Joe fired me for "interfering in internal union affairs," which led me to contact the Association for Union Democracy. Like so many others, my first question to AUD was "can they do that to me?" (Herman Benson's standard reply to this is, "can someone walk up behind you and hit you on the head?")
AUD helped me understand the legalities of my situation and introduced me to the project of helping workers learn and use their democratic rights in the unions. When I later went to work for AUD, I found the space to put popular education into practice in the labor movement, without getting fired when it worked.
Participants. Finally, I owe a collective thanks to the many people who participated in these activities and helped me figure out what was valuable and what was unnecessary. People like Tom Crofton, Wayne and Virginia Stanton, Ramona Verges, Rico Bermudez, Marianela Hidalgo.