Playing Bigger Than You Are: No One Said It Was Going To Be Easy

Stewart Acuff's look back at 30 years of union organizing

Of the many lessons woven throughout Stewart Acuff’s book Playing Bigger Than You Are:  A Life in Organizing (Levins Publishing, Minneapolis) is the valuable perspective he shares about the day-in and day-out work that is the reality of union organizing. Too often in our 24-hour news cycle culture, we tend to think everything is accomplished with the snap of a finger.  Instead, it’s the hard work of perseverance, resolve and daily efforts that bring about social movements and change that is chronicled in his book.

In Playing Bigger Than You Are, Acuff:

  • Takes us down the unglamorous dirt roads of East Texas as he helps to build the grass roots organization that bore fruit in union representation for Beverly Nursing Home workers.
  • Describes the months-long campaign in which he orchestrated dozens of entities into a seamless group to form the historic unionization of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
  • Paints the reality of the internal entanglements that beset any major organization.
  • Reminds us that working for social change and economic justice has ebbs and flows of joy and disappointment.

Stewart Acuff: "Organizing requires great effort and long hours."

Through his 30 years of organizing (which included arrests and jail) detailed in the book, Acuff remains true to his belief that the struggle for workers’ rights is rooted in fairness, righteousness and the lessons of nonviolence exhibited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

“Nonviolent civil disobedience…means sacrificing your freedom and comfort and convenience to protest and draw attention to injustice, to prick the conscience of the public and to create a disruption to business as usual.  Aggressive but peaceful and nonviolent civil disobedience can be remarkably successful.”

Playing Bigger Than You Are also stands as a testament to the critical need to recount our life’s stories – both for the generations to come and as a reminder of the values, the common purpose and the shared sacrifice that brings meaning to our lives.  Acuff provides a powerful reminder and documents the struggles and triumphs that have shaped his life and that of the American labor movement. He remains forever optimistic and focused:

“We organize to give people a voice.  We organize people no one has listened to and give them a voice everyone has to hear.  We organize for a place at the table of decisions.  We organize to make the city council or the CEO take notice…We organize for justice for all Americans.”

For more information on how to order the book, click here.

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