New short introductory video on SeaSol

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blarg
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Jul 6 2010 00:21
New short introductory video on SeaSol

Here's a new, halfway decent 20-minute video giving a brief introduction to what Seattle Solidarity Network (a.k.a 'SeaSol') is and does.

http://www.seasol.net/video

It's mostly taken from a couple presentations given at regional lefty events within the past year, illustrated with a bunch of still photos, plus a tiny bit of action footage.

Jared
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Jul 6 2010 04:15

Great stuff. We were just talking about showing your previous video at a conference to set up a militant network here in Christchurch, New Zealand. It's like you sat in on our meeting...

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Juan Conatz
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Jul 6 2010 04:31

Hey, thanks for posting this up. We in Iowa City are definitely inspired by what SeaSol does and you've been the focus of conversation as well as internal educations. Look forward to the possibility of seeing some of ya'll in Seattle in the fall.

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Rob Ray
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Jul 6 2010 12:59

I thought this was going to be about a libertarian socialist scientologist splinter group from the Sea Org. Disappointed.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jul 6 2010 15:30

That was really interesting, although if you want a tip, might be an idea to try and turn the speech up and the music down. I got about 5 min in and couldn't hear the dude with the cap talking about his supermarket job...

More generally, are you guys in touch with LCAP much? Your ideas are excellent!

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888
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Jul 7 2010 04:46

The red weird font captions on many of the photos are a bit hard to read.

Quote:
More generally, are you guys in touch with LCAP much? Your ideas are excellent!

I've talked to people in LCAP via forums over a year ago but that's all. Do you think we should be in contact with them more? It would be interesting to have some dialogue between similar groups.

Mike Harman
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Jul 7 2010 04:05

Agreed on the sound, wasn't possible to hear some sections.

While it was an example of "things we won't do 'cos they're not winnable", I was left wondering what "sack all building managers at something housing authority" means. I don't know what a building manager is - sounds like either a euphemistic job title for a janitor, or possibly the person who sits in an office and collects rents, either way didn't seem like a good example for a number of reasons, possibly was just made up on the spot though.

Reminds me a lot of the Solidarity Collective in Paris a few years ago: http://libcom.org/library/marx-makhno-meet-mcdonalds-loren-goldner

I didn't write that note in the introduction to that article, but I'd share the reservations on relying on an outside group for workplace issues - it seems like an effective tactic for small workplaces, especially small workplaces where the person with the grievance doesn't work there any more and wants back pay or similar, but there's both practical and political limitations applying it to different kinds of workplaces or disputes I think. SeaSol may well have had those discussions already, but it's a point which has come up on the workplace networks being discussed in other threads as well.

Having said that housing seems to be the main focus and it's definitely a lot more applicable there.

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jesuithitsquad
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Jul 7 2010 04:19

Just to say a property manager is more or less the de facto land lord or at least the face of the property owner usually found in larger rental companies.

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Tarwater
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Jul 7 2010 04:40

I assume that it would mean getting the worst managers (effectively stand-ins for landlords at a rental company) that actively try to take advantage of people fired (as in Maria's case). It seems like a good example of something desirable that can't be achieved...yet.
Also, in the 13 years I've been working, I think I've had one job where there were more than 10 or 12 employees. It's quibbling, but I don't really understand the (seemingly minor) objections. If there were a basis for support from co-workers then an outside group wouldn't be necessary. However in most situations here in the U,S, there are literally NO protections and workers can be fired without reason or notice. When I have seen issues similar to the ones Seasol is involved in, it often came with no warning and no time to build solidarity with the workers that weren't disciplined. Then, out of sight, out of mind...

Mike Harman
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Jul 7 2010 07:02

Thanks both for the explanation of building managers, I'm not sure we have a direct equivalent in the UK, or not as widespread. Most rental property is owned by small-ish private landlords, sometimes with a letting agency (realtor) acting as their proxy for repairs and rent collection, and I think there's a much higher percentage of houses to apartments compared to most US cities. Probably the closest would be the estate agents at the letting agencies, or people employed in housing associations.

Tarwater wrote:
I assume that it would mean getting the worst managers (effectively stand-ins for landlords at a rental company) that actively try to take advantage of people fired (as in Maria's case). It seems like a good example of something desirable that can't be achieved...yet.

This sounds a bit like calling for particularly bad HR managers to be fired, or for particularly nasty dole workers to be fired (although if I heard right the example was all building managers). There might be situations where someone particularly unpleasant gets fired as a by-product of a successful struggle, but it seems like an odd demand to make in and of itself - you don't know who's going to replace them for a start. Same as calling for someone in government to resign would be a bit strange too. Reminds me a bit of the arguments around benefits workers's strikes and claimants groups in the '90s here http://libcom.org/history/jsa-dole-workers-strike

Tarwater wrote:
Also, in the 13 years I've been working, I think I've had one job where there were more than 10 or 12 employees. It's quibbling, but I don't really understand the (seemingly minor) objections. If there were a basis for support from co-workers then an outside group wouldn't be necessary. However in most situations here in the U,S, there are literally NO protections and workers can be fired without reason or notice. When I have seen issues similar to the ones Seasol is involved in, it often came with no warning and no time to build solidarity with the workers that weren't disciplined. Then, out of sight, out of mind...

If I was working at a tiny company, got fired without notice, then I'd be pretty happy if something like SeaSol was around to help get unpaid wages back (although frankly I'd also be happy to get free legal support if that was the only option too in terms of just getting the money back, and that can work too sometimes). However it wouldn't necessarily do anything for the workers still at that workplace (unless it really scared management), and it doesn't give me anything I can do at my new job - except do similar things for other workers in different workplaces who are also isolated and get into a similar situation.

I've been working about 13 years as well, and pretty much every place I've worked has had hundreds if not thousands of employees - and in some cases places like the NHS which have national employment structures too with hundreds of thousands or millions. Can only think of one exception where there was around 30, although that place only had one person who was an actual legal employee so was strange too. Something like SeaSol wouldn't have been able to be effective at those workplaces (not a lot else was either but that's not the point).

I'm not saying these limitations are even necessarily a bad thing - for a strategy in small workplaces it seems a lot more effective than the tactics described in http://libcom.org/history/you-fire-worker-we-fire-boss-organising-showroom-cinema-sheffield - where in the end it boiled down to trying to get union density and official recognition - which both failed in their own right and are also problematic in general. Better to have a formula that works than a formula that doesn't. But that doesn't mean a discussion of where it starts and ends isn't useful.

I think I should re-read / bump http://libcom.org/forums/organise/direct-action-casework-groups-04032009 rather than taking over this thread though now I think about it...

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888
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Jul 7 2010 08:42
Mike Harman wrote:
There might be situations where someone particularly unpleasant gets fired as a by-product of a successful struggle, but it seems like an odd demand to make in and of itself - you don't know who's going to replace them for a start. Same as calling for someone in government to resign would be a bit strange too.

Calling for one particularly nasty property manager (or whatever) to be fired seems OK to me if it's part of some greater set of demands, on its own it's a bit vindictive and too limited. In any case calling for all property managers at a company to be fired was a totally hypothetical demand, I doubt it would make sense in any real situation, especially as if the owner is willing to do that they would be willing to concede much more useful things.

On the other hand, it does appear that a very bad property manager did lose their job as a result of our campaign against Nelson Properties - but all we asked for was a returned deposit and dropped charges.

Quote:
I've been working about 13 years as well, and pretty much every place I've worked has had hundreds if not thousands of employees - and in some cases places like the NHS which have national employment structures too with hundreds of thousands or millions. Can only think of one exception where there was around 30, although that place only had one person who was an actual legal employee so was strange too. Something like SeaSol wouldn't have been able to be effective at those workplaces (not a lot else was either but that's not the point).

Overall, the average size of workplace and the average duration of a job have gone down, which increases the relative usefulness of SeaSol type methods. In those large workplaces that still exist, the threat of action by an external group like SeaSol could make it harder for a boss to fire militant workers, enabling organising on the job by an internal group (possibly part of the same organisation). We have discussed with a militant postal worker how we could support him if he got in trouble with management. Unfortunately our options were pretty limited in that case (flyering, public embarrassment of particular managers etc) but it depends on the logistics of the workplace, sometimes pickets and other tactics might be effective.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jul 7 2010 14:59
888 wrote:
Quote:
More generally, are you guys in touch with LCAP much? Your ideas are excellent!

I've talked to people in LCAP via forums over a year ago but that's all. Do you think we should be in contact with them more? It would be interesting to have some dialogue between similar groups.

Yes I do...I've been forwarding some SeaSol stuff onto email lists, etc. I'm not currently involved in LCAP for obvious reasons, and starting to question some of it tbh. My old branch appears to be slumping into inactivity, even though it doesn't seem to lack members, more ideas. I don't wanna sound harsh or uninformed, hopefully someone will read this and clarify/send me a furious email. wink

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Volin
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Jul 7 2010 17:41

A bunch of people in Glasgow, Scotland have set up a group using similar methods to SeaSol, which we've found really inspiring. At the initial stage it's focusing on targeting bad landlords, but also wants to branch into employees' and claimants' rights.

Check it out:

Glasgow Solidarity Network

The first public meeting is coming up on the 13th July (7.30pm, Daisy Street Neighbourhood Centre, Govanhill)!

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888
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Jul 7 2010 18:17
Volin wrote:
A bunch of people in Glasgow, Scotland have set up a group using similar methods to SeaSol, which we've found really inspiring. At the initial stage it's focusing on targeting bad landlords, but also wants to branch into employees' and claimants' rights.

Check it out:

Glasgow Solidarity Network

The first public meeting is coming up on the 13th July (7.30pm, Daisy Street Neighbourhood Centre, Govanhill)!

Nice! If you need any advice or want copies of our documents such as training materials etc., pm me. Good luck!

Jared
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Jul 7 2010 21:53
Quote:
I'd share the reservations on relying on an outside group for workplace issues - it seems like an effective tactic for small workplaces, especially small workplaces where the person with the grievance doesn't work there any more and wants back pay or similar, but there's both practical and political limitations applying it to different kinds of workplaces or disputes I think.

Here in Christchurch, New Zealand we are aiming to set up a similar network, which we do think will have relevance to the workplace (small or large). It's not so much that people with issues turn to us as an outside group for resolution, but that members of the network could be encouraging activity where they are (on the job or in the community). So while there is an aspect of helping others in time of need, we also want to be engaged with ongoing and long term activity. From our wee text on our ideas (here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/beyond-representation-tactics-building-culture-resistance-aotearoa-28062010)

Quote:
the role of those of us in a network would be to put forward explicitly anarchist ideas and call for open assemblies in our workplace or community struggles. We would argue for direct control of these struggles by the mass assembly itself (not by any union or representative, including our own network). This means wherever we are based we should try to get together with our workmates and neighbours to collectively discuss our problems, regardless of whether they are in the network or not. Anyone who is affected by a particular issue should be included and involved, regardless of their union membership, place of employment, gender, race or age. The key is the self-activity of all of those concerned, to widen the fight and encourage a state of permanent dialogue.

I think members of SeaSol have had the kind of discussions you mention, especially about encouraging self activity rather than being a social work/ help line sort of thing: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/direct-action-casework-groups-04032009

Anyway it's really inspiring and cool to hear of similar tactics being employed worldwide.

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Adroobus
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Jul 8 2010 17:42

I think a lot of the criticism I've seen on here of the SeaSol model is fair. The model certainly has many shortcomings including that it seems to be most effective so far only when someone has already been fired at work, has difficulties being percieved as social work instead of promoting sustained militant self-activity, and is inevtiably always on the defensive.

That said, I think it is important to realize that I can safely say everyone is SeaSol views what we are currently doing as a starting point not an end point. We are trying to build a strong enough base of militant supporters in order to eventually do bigger and better things. We have found that these small-scale direct action campaigns are a very effective way of building support while winning real (if small) victories. We talk often about how we are going to overcome the challenges our methods brings and I think we all look forward to altering our model, perhaps completely, as we continue to grow and conditions change. But for now I can say that for me at least, it is the most viable strategy I have yet encountered given the current state of the labor movement in the US.