Person

Tony Perlstein

Location:

Washington, D.C

Nationality:

American

Occupation:

Left-of-center field organizer

Tony Perlstein is an activist and labor union organizer who currently directs several special campaigns and initiatives for the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), a left-of-center advocacy group. Perlstein leads several field campaigns and projects for the Center including its Make the Road campaigns along with dozens of affiliate organizations. Perlstein previously worked as a dockworker in New Jersey and as a union organizer for the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA).

Perlstein is credited for leading much of the CPD’s labor union outreach work, and he was also previously on the advisory committee of Our Story Hub, a project of the Proteus Fund that advises left-of-center politicians and groups on communications strategies. [1] [2]

Background

Tony Perlstein attended Brown University and joined the staff of the Center for Popular Democracy after 16 years as a labor organizer working with strawberry pickers, restaurant workers, lumberyard workers, and meatpackers. In a public-access television interview in New York City, Perlstein recounted working with the United Farm Workers during a campaign to organize strawberry pickers, organizing local Teamsters unions to elect “rank and file” leadership, and spending three years in eastern Washington organizing meatpackers following a wildcat strike. [3] [4]

Perlstein took a job as a dockworker to run for a leadership position in a local union representing port workers in Bayonne, New Jersey. He worked as dockworker for ten years in New Jersey, during which time he was a member of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and helped lead efforts to bring a “progressive reform” to the union, which at the time was described as significantly less left-leaning than other AFL-CIO affiliated unions. After a few years as a longshoreman he was elected to become the Secretary-Treasurer of his ILA local union, spending half time working and promoting union efforts and the other half working on “union business.” [5]

International Longshoremen’s Association

Upon joining the International Longshoremen’s Association, Perlstein became an organizer of the union’s progressive reform caucus, the Longshore Workers Coalition. Perlstein was a member of the ILA Local 1588 union based in Newark, New Jersey and was elected to the leadership team of the local union on a reform slate in 2007 after the union was placed into federal trusteeship to address mob corruption in the union. [6]

The reform coalition that Perlstein was involved in fought automation, mimicking organizing efforts of the more left-leaning International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which primarily consists of West Coast dock workers. Perlstein noted that many of the reforms supported by the Longshore Workers Coalition were inspired by the ILWU and that the coalition’s goals were to promote left-progressive principles within the ILA which at the time was considered “conservative, defensive and largely unwilling to organize.” [7]

Perlstein works at the left-of-center Center for Popular Democracy as director of field innovation and organization. He has described his role at the center to primarily be focused on promoting collaboration between the organization and labor unions, supporting the center’s nearly 40 affiliate state-level groups, and helping them negotiate contracts with local unions to secure funding. His work also centers around “corporate accountability” pressure campaigns. [8] [9]

References

  1. “Who We Are.” Our Story Hub. Accessed Via Wayback Machine June 6, 2022. https://web.archive.org/web/20180816075635/http://ourstoryhub.org/index.php/home/about/who-we-are/ ^
  2. “Staff.” Center for Popular Democracy. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://www.populardemocracy.org/about/staff ^
  3. “Staff.” Center for Popular Democracy. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://www.populardemocracy.org/about/staff ^
  4. “This edition: Tony Perlstein: The Center for Popular Democracy.” CUNY TV. March 1, 2017. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://tv.cuny.edu/show/eldridgeandco/PR2005994 ^
  5. Lydersen, Kari. “Progressive Longshoremen Fight Against ‘Race to the Bottom.’” April 30, 2010. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://inthesetimes.com/article/longshoremen-fight-on-several-fronts ^
  6. Lydersen, Kari. “Progressive Longshoremen Fight Against ‘Race to the Bottom.’” April 30, 2010. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://inthesetimes.com/article/longshoremen-fight-on-several-fronts ^
  7. Lydersen, Kari. “Progressive Longshoremen Fight Against ‘Race to the Bottom.’” April 30, 2010. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://inthesetimes.com/article/longshoremen-fight-on-several-fronts ^
  8. “Staff.” Center for Popular Democracy. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://www.populardemocracy.org/about/staff ^
  9. “This edition: Tony Perlstein: The Center for Popular Democracy.” CUNY TV. March 1, 2017. Accessed June 6, 2022. https://tv.cuny.edu/show/eldridgeandco/PR2005994 ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) (Non-profit)
    Deputy Director of Communications
  2. Our Story Hub (Non-profit)
    Advisory Board Member
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