"Direct action casework" groups

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Mar 4 2009 02:01
"Direct action casework" groups

What do people think of these kind of groups? I'd like to start a discussion about "direct action casework" groups, their limitations and advantages. Here are some links and questions to start it off.

Direct action casework manual - http://ocap.ca/node/91

Seattle Solidarity Network - http://www.seasol.net

OCAP - http://ocap.ca/

LCAP - http://www.lcap.org.uk/

I'm a member of Seattle Solidarity Network, formed a little over a year ago by mostly Seattle IWW members, which was vaguely inspired by OCAP and the idea of flying pickets amongst other things. We have less of a focus on homelessness than OCAP and try to put energy into backing up people with workplace issues, although many of our fights have been against landlords.

Here are some assorted and incoherent questions, with occasional examples of what we have done in SeaSol. I'd be interested in hearing what people in LCAP or OCAP did (if there are any on these boards) as well as people's opinions in general. The answers are just rough thoughts and represent only my personal views, blah blah blah.

To what extent is the activity of these groups really direct action and not action on behalf of someone by a third party (i.e. charity/social work)? The term "direct action" is massively misunderstood. In SeaSol the people contacting us to initiate a fight are required to be involved in the planning and execution of any actions - everyone else is there to back them up. We say that we expect anyone that we help out to help us out too in other actions unrelated to their particular fight - which most people do. Some of our fights have been started by people who were already members of SeaSol, but most come from people who contacted us seeking help.

How can these groups avoid becoming just social work groups? How can they avoid remaining separate from the people they help as "organisers"/"activists"?

What tactics are more likely to build confidence, encourage people to act for themselves, and escalate resistance? What tactics will lead passivity, or dependence on activists/professionals/lawyers, etc.?

How can these groups advertise their existence and seek fights to take up?
All we did in Seattle Solidarity Network was put up posters around town, near large workplaces and in working class areas, etc. I was surprised this worked.

How can they move beyond merely enforcing the law?
A lot of fights we take up in SeaSol involve reclaiming deposits from landlords, reclaiming unpaid wages, forcing landlords to make repairs, etc. There are already legal mechanisms to make these things happen, although they are slow and rarely used. But it would be better to move beyond this and prevent rent increases, resist evictions, improve working conditions...

Long term strategyI see direct action casework as a useful stepping stone towards the creation of groups within workplaces or neighborhoods, as well as a way of publicising tactics that work - hopefully other people will try these out independently.

See also ABC thread - http://anarchistblackcat.org/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3122

syndicalist
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Mar 4 2009 05:08

Excellent questions and posting. If I might, I would also add "workers centers" (US) into this
mix. Very similiar approach to 888's examples.

Some examples:

Make-the Road By Walking: http://www.maketheroad.org/whatwedo_workplace.php
NMASS: http://www.nmass.org/nmass/index.html
CSWA: http://www.aintiawoman.org/index.html
Miami Workers Ctr.: http://theworkerscenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40&Itemid=76
Young Workers United: http://www.youngworkersunited.org/article.php?list=type&type=35

posi
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Mar 4 2009 12:28

Thanks for starting the thread. I'm not very involved in LCAP at the moment, but have been recently and probably will be again.

Some other examples:

Also in Canada:
Peterborough Coalition Against Poverty - http://peterboroughcoalitionagainstpoverty.blogspot.com/
Vancouver Anti-Poverty Committee - http://apc.resist.ca/

US:
Portland Coalition Against Poverty - http://pdxcap.wordpress.com/
Kensington Welfare Rights Union (Philadelphia) - http://www.kwru.org/

UK:
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty - http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/

This is an interesting example of the international diffusion of a particular organisational/strategic approach to class struggle. Apart from KWRU and the workers' centres, the rest are basically inspired by OCAP. Anyone who isn't inspired by OCAP, check out this film: http://www.hackneyindependent.org/films/raise_the_rates_2007.html

LCAP has an article with a brief history and analysis of DAC here. I think there's a move to start calling it Direct Action Advocacy, because it sounds less patronising.

About those questions. All this is personal capacity.

To what extent is the activity of these groups really direct action and not action on behalf of someone by a third party (i.e. charity/social work)? Like SeaSol, any LCAP direct action will involve the people whose fight it really is. They are in control. I'd say that LCAP exists more on the basis of the threat of direct action than the reality of it. i.e. it's very rare we actually have to refuse to leave an office.

How can these groups advertise their existence and seek fights to take up? LCAP has not done postering, but leaflets job centres (well, a job centre) and housing offices. We get people referred to us by more conventional agencies, and other grassroots groups. Also by people who've had a good experience working with us passing on information, people seeing reports in the press, etc. (One successful case retrieving wages was reported in the Latin American press recently, 25 people contacted the journalist to get in touch.)

How can they move beyond merely enforcing the law?
I think it would be fair to say that, for LCAP, direct action advocacy is a minority of what we do. Most of it is organising and campaigning. I think how much you can achieve through DAC is fairly limited, more so in the UK than (e.g.) Canada, because low level workers have less discretion - a lot of decisions about benefits, for example, are made in offices in Glasgow or Belfast. Even with homelessness, we can fight for an application to be taken (it often does need a fight) or against eviction from temporary accomodation. But if a negative decision is made, it can't be retracted, there's nothing for it but judicial review.

So like I say, it's necessary to move beyond casework, because people have problems in common - e.g. condition of temporary accomodation - that they are only strong enough to solve together. Organising/campaigning and casework are mutually reinforcing in terms of bringing us into contact with people, giving us a rhythm of activity, and achieving wins.

In terms of collective action, so far it has been demonstrations (though we have 'taken the road' on both big-ish demonstrations despite the police) and delegations.

Long term strategy Basically, agree with you - that would be good, though I have to say I think it's far away. Even with temporary accomodation hostel residents, who had an organising committee meeting with activists from five different hostels in one borough a couple of weekends ago. That has taken a year or so to achieve in terms of relationships, trust, significant number of residents who've had experience taking action, etc.

I think that clearly the LCAP approach is limited, but in terms of providing a focus for organising outside of work, I think it's pretty good. It gets people organising and taking collective action around everyday life who you'd never even see near a normal activist group, and probably not a union either. For me personally, I value having been in contact with sections of the class who I'd not otherwise have been, and understanding a bit more about the sorts of challenges they face. In terms of building solidarity across the class, I think this is valuable.

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Mar 6 2009 21:33

Thanks for the replies and links.

It's true, as with LCAP and even with our being a new organisation and no one having heard of us, the threat of our taking action is often enough to make our opponent back down (e.g. here ).

I agree moving beyond casework is often necessary (and actually desirable in and of itself). We've only moved beyond individual 'casework' (I don't like that term either) in one case, with the Greenlake Motel, where the dispute started with one or two tenants but broadened to involve most (?) of the tenants.

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Mar 7 2009 13:11

I think continuing to ask precisely these questions of oneself and as a group is likely the best way to guard against the limitations and ossification that you're worried about. Though you don't want the, not necessarily (anti)political, people to think you're an oddball, being honest about why one is engaged in such activity (i.e.-due to having an anarchist, libertarian communist, etc. outlook) is important I think.
I'd reiterate posi's comment, "It gets people organising and taking collective action around everyday life who you'd never even see near a normal activist group, and probably not a union either. For me personally, I value having been in contact with sections of the class who I'd not otherwise have been, and understanding a bit more about the sorts of challenges they face. In terms of building solidarity across the class, I think this is valuable."
I'd increase the emphasis of "valuable" to vital. I just wish more anarchists would see the value in such activity.
Activities that I was involved in the early nineties that were somewhat fresh then, now just seem like comfortable cocoons for people to envelop themselves in (i.e.-Food Not Bombs, Anarchist Black Cross/Books to Prisoners, Anti-Racist Action, the summit hop), it's a shame to not see more originality from the youth nowadays but instead have them adopt certain formulas (that I felt I was part of a process of creating) as a pigeon-holed "anarcho-activist" role. While I don't want the "direct action casework" model to suffer the same sort of quasi-institutionalization as the aforementioned activities, part of me wishes it had the same sort of cache amongst the anarchist scene.

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Mar 7 2009 20:56

I don't think it can suffer the same quasi-institutionalisation - at least not in the same way as FNB, ABC or ARA, because it requires constant interaction with new groups of people outside anarchism, which means it's not much of a comfortable cocoon. The greater risk is developing into a bureaucratic NGO type organisation. If direct action casework had anywhere the level of interest amongst anarchists* as food not bombs, that would be a major step forward.

*Anarchists or, as a Trot I once met called them condescendingly, "semi-anarchist youth".

Just came back from handing a demand letter to a big landlord, and meeting to plan a wages recovery action with 3 unpaid workers tomorrow - things are looking busy...

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Mar 8 2009 02:52

I agree with posi's comment about "casework" sounding a bit patronizing. Otherwise, I find this approach to be one of the most promising approaches around. I find it interesting that each of the three groups the conversation is focused on use the same approach but seem to have found different niches.

What seems to be the retention rate for people who've been helped out helping others?

Also, this might seem like a small thing, but I think the idea of victory parties is really effective.

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Mar 8 2009 03:35

Too early to judge on retention rate, but people have been coming to other actions, no one has played a part in organising other actions not related to their own fight yet though.

What do you mean by victory parties?

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Mar 8 2009 03:37

ah there was a thing on the site about a victory bbq i think.

fatbongo
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Mar 8 2009 22:14

I've got a couple of questions which relate to the similarities/differences between Direct Action Advocacy groups and NGOs - and the risk of the former becoming the latter.

These days, NGOs are supposedly moving away from doing advocacy or campaigning 'on behalf of' their clients, often due to pressure from below as people have campaigned for more say in the organisations that claim to represent them.

'User involvement' is in vogue, especially in the health and disability fields. NGOs and state agencies are now paying people to carry out research and to participate in focus groups about new services, what issues to campaign on etc. Our local Mind also has an advocacy project based on "empowerment" of users who are supported to put their views across to agencies.

However, from my experience of working in an NGO with an active "user group" it is hard for people to gain significant influence for a variety of reasons. The hierarchical nature of NGOs where decisions about strategy and activities, and the power to overule the users/staff generally belong to the management/board is a big part of the problem. In so far as this is the case, a non hierarchical direct action advocacy group should be able to resolve the difficulties. However, I think that other factors come into play.

Two which spring immediately to mind are i) the specialist knowledge that the advocate/activist develops - they become "an authority on" benefits, housing regulations, mobilizing people etc and ii) the fact that people who most need support often face problems such as homelessness, alcoholism, mental health problems which make it very hard for them to concentrate on anything but the business of day to day survival.

So, I'm interested in finding out how people think that DA Advocacy can deal with these issues.

Another issue is that of resources. In part, NGOs work the way they do because they have gone down the route of getting grants or government funding which requires organisations to become "professional" and bureaucratic. However, without adequate resources (eg to rent space, computers etc) DA Advocacy groups will inevitably have limited capacity. So what's the solution?

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Mar 10 2009 03:55
fatbongo wrote:
Another issue is that of resources. In part, NGOs work the way they do because they have gone down the route of getting grants or government funding which requires organisations to become "professional" and bureaucratic. However, without adequate resources (eg to rent space, computers etc) DA Advocacy groups will inevitably have limited capacity. So what's the solution?

Here are my thoughts in terms of things we do or plan to do in Seattle Solidarity Network:

To increase the size of the group and therefore its resources in terms of manpower, skills, mobilising capacity, by gradually bringing people we've helped into the organising team. As we present ourselves as a solidarity group and not a charity, we tell people we expect them help out in other people's struggles too, if they can. Most people will probably only have the time/motivation to help out a little, e.g. by coming to actions. Even though we can only expect a fraction of people to become more dedicated organisers able to spend several hours a week, at least we will then be an expanding organisation, not a static one. We can also hope to attract more help through increasing our profile through our victories. Not that much in terms of resources is required anyway.

Large anarchosyndicalist unions have been able to run themselves with limited resources and no full time staff - so we should be able to too.

Quote:
However, I think that other factors come into play.
Two which spring immediately to mind are i) the specialist knowledge that the advocate/activist develops - they become "an authority on" benefits, housing regulations, mobilizing people etc and ii) the fact that people who most need support often face problems such as homelessness, alcoholism, mental health problems which make it very hard for them to concentrate on anything but the business of day to day survival.

i) We rotate tasks frequently and hold training sessions - hopefully this can allow skills and knowledge to spread.
ii) We don't usually work with homeless people, more with tenants and workers, so this may be less of a problem for us.

Caiman del Barrio
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Mar 10 2009 11:45

If anyone's interested, there are moves afoot to establish a South East London section of LCAP. PM me for details.

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Mar 20 2009 19:25

Our IWW branch does a small amount of casework through our organising committee and there are some in the branch that want to see us move towards a more workers centre oriented approach rather than building a permanent presence in workplaces. These are pretty much the exact same questions we've been asking ourselves about it so its nice to see this discussion going on.

Its funny that LCAP mentions the not having to call a picket, we've done about five or so 'cases' over the last year or so and have never had to call a picket yet. The threat gets them to pay up fast.

How do other groups advertise the casework function of the group? Mostly now its through social contacts in the organising committee.

classic
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Mar 20 2009 23:31

SeaSol advertises through posters, door to door flyering, internet presence, and word of mouth. We are considering a few new methods for getting the word out.

Our big trouble isn't getting fights, its getting fresh organizers.

We are considering developing a presentation/talk we can take to different places (community colleges, community groups, churches, ect)

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Apr 15 2009 18:40

Do you guys have a very good track record of building membership through actions? In Edmonton we tend to solidify members who we take action on behalf of but have yet to have anyone sign up because of it.

Also, what kind of experience do you guys have with people who are basically mentally ill and you aren't really equipped to help?

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Apr 16 2009 04:01

I was involved in SeaSol when I used to live in Seattle. One thing I thought SeaSol did well from the beginning was tell people right up front that we were not paid to help them, and that we were helping them fight their landlord or boss so that they would help us with our boss or landlord the next time. There is an expectation that they are going to come to actions in the future. I think that's important (even if it doesn't always happen).

I think it's very important with this kind of group, to not lose sight of a specific strategic approach to struggle, and not just try to right every wrong to every poor person. There are degrees of mental illness. Some people have some ticks, but basically can understand what's going on and are going to be involved with a campaign. That's no problem. I was involved with one situation, though, where we decided there was nothing we could do, partially because the situation did not look winnable, but also partly because they guy was not all there, and didn't seem to be understanding our approach. And there seemed little hope of him getting involved in any useful way in future actions. It's easy to feel bad about anyone getting fucked over. But the people who have problems we're going to build a campaign around, though, have to agree to a direct action approach, have to come to every protest or picket about their situation, and if there is negotiation with the boss or landlord THEY have to do it themselves. Essentially they have to take the lead, with some ideas on organizational tactics and some backup manpower from SeaSol.

That said, I haven't lived in Seattle for almost a year, and I don't want to speak for SeaSol.

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Apr 21 2009 23:00

Quint - you're correct, and this is how we hope to keep doing things. I'm working on a brief intro on how SeaSol functions to announce at the beginning of general meetings and will be including something pretty similar to your first paragraph.

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Apr 22 2009 03:59

For what it's worth, I think this is a very promising strategy. Are the people that aren't commenting doing so because of tacit agreement, because they find it boring or because posts like this dont add anything to the discussion?

posi
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Apr 25 2009 07:36

Contributors to this thread may be interested in a diary of LCAP's upcoming events over the next month or two.

http://libcom.org/forums/announcements/london-coalition-against-poverty-april-may-june-24042009

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Sep 20 2009 19:50

Posi asked me to comment on the demise of the Halifax Coaltion Against Poverty, a direct action casework organization loosely modeled after OCAP in Toronto. HCAP lasted for about 5 years. I was involved during the final year of HCAP's existence doing casework and media stuff as well as trying to push the organization in a more explicitly anti-capitalist direction.

At the beginning most of my casework was around tenancy issues. Basically, I made sure that the Tenancy Board stuck to its already pro-landlord policies. Nova Scotia is particularly regressive when it comes to housing legislation. It takes 5 years to get security of tenure and there is no rent control here. Sometimes my casework was augmented by a direct action component. My most successful cases however were "won" through the legal processes because we were able to bury landlords in evidence favoring the tenant. I also did casework involving welfare. I was basically a social worker and on a first name basis with the general manager of the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority, a branch of the Department of Community Services. I believe that because we acted as social workers we were treated as such and never really developed strong connections with the majority of folks we struggled with. On occasion folks we struggled with would want to get involved but they often saw us as another NGO rather than a political organization. We are responsible for this because that is how we acted for the most part.

I left HCAP during the Spring of 09. We had involved in a campaign against the then Tory government for their closure of a homeless shelter of last resort, Pendleton Place, as well as part of a coalition of NGOs and churches organizing a volunteer shelter. HCAP organized a brief occupation of the Department of Community Services offices on Gottingen Street. This was mainly a media stunt. There were no arrests but many of us received protection of property acts which prevented us from stepping on DCS property for a year making it very difficult if not impossible to attend DCS hearings as an advocate. I was not part of the occupation but was handling media stuff and banned from DCS property. Our second action of this campaign was a mock funeral at the home of the minister involved in the decision to close the shelter. The funeral was held in the morning and was for those individuals who would potentially die on the streets of Halifax in the winter. This was spun as a death threat against the minister. DCS stopped communicating with us making case work involving welfare recipients much more difficult. We also managed to isolate ourselves from many of the NGO and Church folks who supported us in the past for jeopardizing the opening of another shelter in the future. At this point many of us started doubting our participation in the organization. It was not worth the time and energy to fight DCS in order to continue to act as volunteer social workers. Some of us were also involved in the running of a homeless shelter that winter which consumed much of our energy. I believe the small amount of repression if we even want to call it that, that we faced, had such a detrimental effect on the organization because it was already collapsing from the inside.

HCAP has never been a coalition to my knowledge. During my involvement it was maintained and run by activists in their early to mid twenties along with some older folks on social assistance who may or may not live in public housing. The day-to-day operations of HCAP were mainly in the hands of the younger activists who were also often involved in organizing on campus or other projects. So folks were strapped for time from the get go. Many of these individuals had organized together for years and had developed a pretty fucked up group dymanic that scared many folks away. Meetings were always a drag. I almost always showed up drunk or stoned just to deal with the level of the bullshit that was normal. Basically, it was a group of younger anarchist folks trying to sort themselves out both politically and personally and alot of the time it was not pretty. By the time HCAP was about to die those who had invested the most time into the organization simply needed a break in order to grow both personally and politically. These are my observations and others may disagree based on their own experience. Posi, if you have any specific questions please ask them; I'm sure my summary leaves out tons and makes little sense.

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Sep 21 2009 08:26

smg, cheers for that. really useful reflections as we've been having discussions about the LCAP model in Brighton.

smg wrote:
because we acted as social workers we were treated as such and never really developed strong connections with the majority of folks we struggled with

apparently the way the CNT get around this is by having drop-in sessions after work, but instead of just taking on the case they stress they can't solve your problems for you, but will work with you to do so (helping research statutes or legal precedents, putting you in touch with contacts etc). in this way they try to resist becoming representatives acting on workers' behalf, but instead act as a catalyst for self-organisation. this is something we've discussed doing in Brighton - there is a long-running welfare rights advice drop-in, and the IWW used to do a workers' one when they existed here. we're probably not big enough to sustain it at the moment, because of the amount of effort it can take to do it properly, but it's good to hear others' experiences so we can try and avoid some of the pitfalls.

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Sep 21 2009 08:36

Yes, that's useful. It would probably be worth posting that as a library article - would you be happy with us doing that as it is, or would you like to make some changes?

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Sep 21 2009 08:48
Joseph Kay wrote:
apparently the way the CNT get around this is by having drop-in sessions after work, but instead of just taking on the case they stress they can't solve your problems for you, but will work with you to do so

Yes, that's what we do too.

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Sep 21 2009 10:34

HCAP had drop-in hours but during these hours we very much became specialists in welfare/tenancy rights--social workers--rather than comrades in struggle. Folks would drop in and drop there problems off for us to solve. I think part of the problem with HCAP was that many of us doing advocacy work were very much "middle class" and saw what we were doing as charity, anarchist charity, but charity nonetheless.

888, how do you stress that you cannot solve people's problems but only work with them? How does this look on the ground? The cases that I felt were the most successful were the ones where I was not trying to solve someone's problem for them but we were working on it together and they provided much of the direction.

Steven, I would want to revise what I wrote pretty heavily if it was gonna to be part of the library. Bizcaz, who just joined the forums here and wrote the legal aid pamphlet, would also be an excellent person to comment on HCAP's history.

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Sep 21 2009 11:02

I was unable to attend the LCAP AGM the weekend before last (partially cos I'm leaving the country - and therefore the organisation - in 3 days), but in the last few months, I have sensed a definite move away from the casework model within LCAP. Our South East subgroup definitely argued against it (despite originally being in favour of it in theory) not only due to the labour-intensive, emotionally trying responsibility of a caseworker, but also cos of the alienating trend towards specialisation which pushes the caseworker towards "radical social work".

Now in LCAP (although regrettably not in SE yet) I see moves towards the establishment of service user groups which meet regularly to discuss their shared experiences and act in solidarity with each other. This has some potential in it IMO.

[/personal capacity]

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Sep 21 2009 15:48
smg wrote:
888, how do you stress that you cannot solve people's problems but only work with them? How does this look on the ground? The cases that I felt were the most successful were the ones where I was not trying to solve someone's problem for them but we were working on it together and they provided much of the direction.

Well I'm sure 888 could chime in with more recent info/opinion, but I'm going to make a stab at answering this question... SeaSol stresses in meeting with people who bring grievances and in all its literature that it is a group of people who have had individual problems with bosses and landlords before, and that it is through collective direct action against them that change can be won, and while it exists to help, the individual with the specific grievance must take the lead.
Also I think SeaSol avoids 'caseworker' burnout by having a more specific focus. It puts out posters to pull grievances based around wage theft, and work related issues and security deposit theft and repair issues ... (though, of late, focusing on workplace related grievances mostly). And it limits itself to the 'direct action' side of things... so if someone wants to pursue a more legal system tactic they can be pointed to resources for such, SeaSol does not walk people through the legal system like a 'caseworker" (as it seems HCAP did).

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Sep 22 2009 10:05

Thanks for posting this up 888. I don't have the time to work throught this thread at the moment, but I did want to share this. I posted this up on an IWW forum not too long ago, but I'd be curious--in the context of this conversation--to get some responses here...

'NCWob' wrote:
(This is going to be a bit of a long one, so stick with me...)

So it seems to that from time to time branches are going to get contacted by individuals who have a grievance with their employer. It seems to me we have three options:

1)Ignore it - I think we call all agree this is a bad idea.

2) Pursue it 'through the proper channels' - in the US this may mean filing a ULP; in the UK we can send an IWW member to "rep" the individual. The upshot of this technique is that it may help solve a problem and as a result may bring a new member into the union. Likewise, it may make the IWW attractive to other members in the workplace that see us an organization that gets things done. This could lead to a successful organizing drive at the shop. However, like anything else in organizing, nothing is one-sided. Pursuing such a strategy can create a (or at least the appearance of) a service model of unionism. So, for example, we may successfully solve the individual grievance, but all the worker may take away from it (and what he or she may pass along to their co-workers) is that the IWW is worthwhile to contact if you have a problem.

3) Try and collectivize the grievance: This would entail getting as many co-workers to a meeting as possible and then trying to find some sort of collective solution to the grievance--Chances are if one worker has a grievance, others will too--then trying out some direct action: march on the boss, pickets, escalation, all that fun stuff... If successful, we don't just solve a problem, but empower workers and make it much more likely we get a shop committee up an functioning. The down side of this is that this is really hard, many branches don't have a whole ton of (successful) organizing experience, and that by not engaging with labor law we forego the (very limited) protections afforded by it.

I would imagine the most common thing branches do is some sort of combination of 2 and 3--assort of legal/direct action combo or possibly an 'if we don't get results with direct action, then pursue this legally'--but I still think it's worthwhile for branches to decide on which strategy to pursue first because no matter which we go with, we're only going to get better with practice.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because when I met up with this Swedish Syndicalist he was telling me about how they deal with restaurant bosses who don't properly pay their often undocumented workforce. Basically a member of the SAC contacts the boss and says, "One of the workers in your shop is a member of our union. We're not going to tell you who s/he is, but if you don't start paying the minimum wage [or give backpay to all workers you owe it to] we're going to blockade your restaurant." They've had a couple of successful blockades and now in most instances all they have to do is call up the boss and the problem is fixed. This is not exactly "collectivizing a grievance" as it doesn't involve all the employees, but it does demonstrate the collective power of the working class--which is a pretty damn empowering thing to see.

Anyway, the point of all this rambling is that I'm curious to hear about branch's experiences when they've been contacted with a grievance? What's worked? What hasn't? Any techniques you feel to be particularly empowering? Have individual grievances led to new members or successful campaigns and, if so, how?

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Sep 22 2009 19:48
smg wrote:
888, how do you stress that you cannot solve people's problems but only work with them? How does this look on the ground? The cases that I felt were the most successful were the ones where I was not trying to solve someone's problem for them but we were working on it together and they provided much of the direction.

What precariat said. Also when we do an action such as demand delivery (where the person with the grievance goes to the boss or landlord's shop or house backed up by 10-20 SeaSol members) they are the one who is handing the boss the demand letter and talking to them if necessary.

I think focusing on private fights that don't involve the state such as stolen wages and deposits makes it a lot easier actually to encourage self-reliance rather than mediation/advocacy, and I'd encourage any new groups to start off by focusing on these kinds of fights.

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Sep 25 2009 08:42
Steven. wrote:
Yes, that's useful. It would probably be worth posting that as a library article - would you be happy with us doing that as it is, or would you like to make some changes?

you didn't want an article on SeaSol cry cry

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Sep 24 2009 23:37

888, what do you mean by private fights? Conflict with landlords and bosses? HCAP took on a lot of case work and members of the organization spent time at the welfare office, at the tenancy board and in the court system often at the behalf of others; I know at times OCAP has done the same, how bought other "direct action casework" organizations? Or is the casework done through more informal channels?

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Sep 25 2009 09:04
888 wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Yes, that's useful. It would probably be worth posting that as a library article - would you be happy with us doing that as it is, or would you like to make some changes?

you didn't want an article on SeaSol cry cry

yes we would!

Sorry, did I say I would do something there? Maybe come up with some questions for you?

There is a list of questions here you could work from, if you still want to do it!
http://libcom.org/forums/organise/a-questionnaire-about-political-workplace-organisation