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Common Sense Economics


We are witnessing the largest redistribution of wealth in our nation’s history and a great recession that has paralyzed communities, families and workers. The truth is the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. It’s harder for workers to hang on to a middle-class life in this economy. Entire communities are hopeless and jobless. Workers work harder but never get a raise or earn enough to make ends meet.

Only Wall Street seems to be able to predict and talk about the economy. For communities and workers all around the country, it seems the economy is like the weather, something unpredictable that is happening to us.

It’s time to give workers a voice in this economy and introduce some common sense into it so the economy starts working for all of us! REQUEST A TRAINING

Common Sense Economics

Common Sense Economics (CSE) is a flexible organizing tool built in the shape of a curriculum for mass education. CSE is intended to be shared, modified and flexible. It’s designed for all workers (union or nonunion) to understand why this economy is not working for working people and that the economy is not inevitable, but is shaped by policy. The tool’s main goal is to immediately connect people to action and put workers in the driver’s seat to start changing the direction of this economy.

There are six modules that look at important topics through an economic lens:

  1. Workonomics
  2. Globalization
  3. Immigration
  4. Women and Families
  5. Young Workers
  6. Mass Incarceration

Every module of the tool is based on key components:

  1. A “lived experience exercise” allows participants to explore how the economy is affecting their lives.
  2. A presentation of facts analyzes who benefits from the state of the economy, a historic overview of the decline of the economy, the main reasons why it is in decline, the corporate agenda and our strategy to fight back.
  3. A campaign overview looks at a local campaign that educates participants on the issue and provides an opportunity for them to engage in action.
  4. Participants develop a “rap” or message to engage others around economic issues and get them involved in the local campaign.
  5. Campaign next steps help participants understand how exactly they can continue to engage in action and be part of our progressive movement to change the economy.

How to Use Common Sense Economics

CSE is meant to engage workers in your campaigns, build a new wave of activists and volunteers and deepen their commitment to action. The tool can help develop or strengthen partnerships between labor and community. Wherever there is a fight for justice, you can apply CSE. A few examples of where and how to use CSE:

  • Use the tool at conventions. Include a CSE workshop or plenary.
  • Integrate the CSE tool into educational work.
  • Use with constituency groups as a tool to strengthen partnerships.
  • To bring partners closer, host joint CSE trainings with community allies.
  • For national unions, encourage local unions to use the tool in their campaign and educational work and to train workers at their worksites.
  • Implement a workshop in regional trainings or gatherings.
  • Include CSE training in volunteer work for canvassing or phone banking.
  • Encourage labor councils to use the tool and lead multiunion presentations, trainings or discussions. Use it with executive boards.


Experiences with Common Sense Economics

An excerpt of a letter from the North Carolina State AFL-CIO:

“We appreciate the flexibility of the curriculum and the ability to tailor our campaign to the audience and to the current policy debate….Our goal is not one victory on one campaign. Our goal is economic justice, and that means building a labor movement for the long haul. We believe that CSE will help us do that.”

Comment from Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council:

“The issue of income inequality resonates with our members and our community allies and our work for social and economic justice depends on a program like CSE that combines information with action.”

For More Information

For more information about Common Sense Economics, contact:

Northeast Region: Jan Schaffer
Midwest Region: Jim Lowe
Southern Region: Lorenzo Scott
Western Region: Randy Parraz
General inquiries:

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