This article explores how crises become opportunities. Through a study of a progressive teachers’ union caucus in New York City during the emergence of covid-19, this piece examines how organizations convert crises into opportunities for political growth. Drawing on sociological theories of political articulation and crisis, this article explores the role of union caucuses to foment political change. We argue that crises become politically significant according to how organizations use events to catalyze competing political narratives to drive new political formations. We examine how union caucuses engage in this work. Using ethnographic methods of participant observation and interviews, our study finds that caucuses with established visions, internal organizational structure, and moral legitimacy are better able to take advantage of crises. These conditions allow caucuses to exercise power, not just petition for it. We conclude that the existence of organizational infrastructure and ideological coherence enables a group to convert crises into opportunities.
Given the documented advantages of unionization, why don’t more workers support, let alone join, unions? This article presents findings from the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Niagara (PEPiN) study as they relate to precarious work and the union advantage. While precariously-employed workers in Canada’s Niagara Region enjoyed a demonstrable union advantage and were much more likely than other categories of workers to indicate support for unionization, a clear majority of precarious workers still expressed opposition to unionization. The article considers some of possible reasons for these seemingly paradoxical findings through a case study of recent workplace struggles in Niagara.