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New Union Organizing

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throwhen
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Jan 17 2007 16:04
New Union Organizing

How would you organize a new union shop?

throwhen
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Jan 18 2007 00:46

Ok. So none of the big bad anarchists have any actual ideas on how to organize workers INTO unions.

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Bubbles
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Jan 18 2007 01:00

people are not responding because they dont want to submit themselves to your banter.

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Serge Forward
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Jan 18 2007 03:12

I can think of loads of comments about organising workers into the TGWU, USDAW, Unison, NATFHE/UCU, GMB, GFTU, NUT, UCATT, etc, etc. But they probably won't be the kind of comments you'd want to hear. Two of those unions I've been an active member of in the past, a third, I'm still a member of now, as well as being in the IWW.

But before you shoot your mouth off about how great you are for 'organising workers,' you might be a bit more magnanimous and accept that some of us big bad anarchists might also know a thing or two about this.

I went on my first picket line back in the 1960s when I was only 8 years old, and in the 1970s I helped organise a strike at the factory I worked at when I was a tender 16 years of age. I've been involved in plenty of disputes over the intervening years and I've got plenty of ideas to do with actual workplace organising today...

But that wasn't really the question you asked, was it? You wanted to know about organising workers into new union branches. But from what I've seen of your previous comments on these boards, whatever I say, you will probably just sneer at. So I really can't be arsed to respond further.

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MJ
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Jan 18 2007 03:52

Trick question. If a workplace is worth organizing the unions will send an organizer.

throwhen
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Jan 18 2007 04:06
Serge Forward wrote:
I can think of loads of comments about organising workers into the TGWU, USDAW, Unison, NATFHE/UCU, GMB, GFTU, NUT, UCATT, etc, etc. But they probably won't be the kind of comments you'd want to hear. Two of those unions I've been an active member of in the past, a third, I'm still a member of now, as well as being in the IWW.

But before you shoot your mouth off about how great you are for 'organising workers,' you might be a bit more magnanimous and accept that some of us big bad anarchists might also know a thing or two about this.

I went on my first picket line back in the 1960s when I was only 8 years old, and in the 1970s I helped organise a strike at the factory I worked at when I was a tender 16 years of age. I've been involved in plenty of disputes over the intervening years and I've got plenty of ideas to do with actual workplace organising today...

But that wasn't really the question you asked, was it? You wanted to know about organising workers into new union branches. But from what I've seen of your previous comments on these boards, whatever I say, you will probably just sneer at. So I really can't be arsed to respond further.

I'm asking a serious question. I've tried to answer about how i organize and everyone seemed to just want to attack it. so now it's on you.

How would you organize non-union workers?

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Steven.
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Jan 18 2007 09:46
throwhen wrote:
Ok. So none of the big bad anarchists have any actual ideas on how to organize workers INTO unions.

Also you can go act like the big organising man but it's a lot easier when you're a paid union organiser with no risk. You're not the one who can lose your job/home/potentially family. Also for those of us who actually work we have the difficulty of finding jobs we'll be at for long enough to even start thinking about it. Most places I've worked have been as a temp in unionised places, but the unions there have been pointless.

Dundee_United
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Jan 18 2007 10:12
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How would you organize a new union shop?

Regular workplace bulletins, get to know members of staff, build up a rapport, focus on specific grievances and try and build organisation for power by encouraging people to see their own strength if they act collectively; in that initial stage it will be a very long and boring process. You could cast the net wide and continually leaflet and talk to people at lots of workplaces, or you could put your eggs in one basket, salt and have a go at a specific workplace, freeing up more hours to be spent on the one place. I don't have a decent answer to this question, which was why I posted the 'where will we strike next thread' and why in IWW Clydeside GMB we're having these discussions.

Assuming this groundwork has been done, where you go from there would depend very much on the industry. As John pointed out you can't fuck about with this stuff, asd people's lives matter, so you have to be honest with people about the capacity of your organisation to protect them to give them the information that they can make an informed decision about whther or not they want to organise with your organisation, and so they don't just go to their managers the next day and say 'I'm organising a union and you can go to Hell!' (as one of my friends once did with the predictable immediate result that he got sacked). In some industries everything may need to be done completely in secret for months until enough of the local leaders are on board, in other it might be easier (either way no talking on the job about it) and there's always the risk that the management finds out and starts sacking everyone.

Once you have the basis for your organisation you need to find something a victory can be made on. For example I think John or Catch posted something about winning the right to not wear a tie etc., or another analogous example would be where our tenants group here forced a number of very minor repairs, but it showed that it was possible. You need to to then use such small victories to build up the confidence and solidarity of workers to self-organise. As Saul Alinsky put it about a tower block he was once organising, "They started off by asking for hamburgers and ended up demanding steak." That's probably one of the key points that left-wing political activists never really understand; you can't have human emancipation and the collapse of capitalism if people don't feel able to organise to get decent window frame fittings off their landlord.

Every community and workplace is organised, it's just that the great majority will be organised for powerlessness. That is the major battle.

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cantdocartwheels
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Jan 18 2007 11:00
throwhen wrote:
How would you organize a new union shop?

In your own workplace, meet people, work out roughly who'd be open to stuff in your own workplace, discuss stuff, talk over your grievances, then later maybe talk about your options eg unionise, wildcat, smaller non-union actions etc, usually start with some basic grievances that could be sorted out by a go slow or just by people standing up for themselves and putting a little pressure on management.

As for wokrplaces your not a member of, well depends on the type of workplace and sector really i don't really think you can formulate a catch-all theory of organising. I mean if it were say a warehouse or a school then i guess union ,members or organised workers from other workplaces could stand outside and talk or distrbute literature of a morning/lunch break, but thats obviously probably not going to be very practical in an office enironment simply because you've got a different workplace culture, where workplace organising is not viewed as 'normal'. Whatever you do it always still requires a level of organisation in your own workplace though, without that you haven't got a leg to stand on, since you can't ask other workers to risk it and organise at work, if you're not doing it yourself.

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Wobbly Preacher
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Jan 18 2007 11:46

I wouldn't take a general catch-all approach. Whatever strategy I took would depend on the industry, what my relationship to the campaign was (inside vs. outside organizer), the resources available (am I organizing with a union with massive resources? the IWW? one of syndicalistcat independent unions? a union affiliated with CtW?) and various other factors. I think this thread would be most interesting if someone came up with a specific scenario and then everyone else explained how they'd approach organizing a union under the circumstances described.

throwhen
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Jan 18 2007 12:44
John. wrote:
throwhen wrote:
Ok. So none of the big bad anarchists have any actual ideas on how to organize workers INTO unions.

Also you can go act like the big organising man but it's a lot easier when you're a paid union organiser with no risk. You're not the one who can lose your job/home/potentially family. Also for those of us who actually work we have the difficulty of finding jobs we'll be at for long enough to even start thinking about it. Most places I've worked have been as a temp in unionised places, but the unions there have been pointless.

ummm..

I lost my job for organizing a union when I was 20 years old, about a year after my daughter was born.

I organized a union when I was a construction worker. I learned some of the basic skills and concepts from the IWW, and books.

I had my boss threaten me. I had him take a picture of me, blow it up really big and right traitor underneath it when he hung it in our break room

I had my friends at work freak out and stop talking to me when they got scared.

I had my official union reps fuck me over and pull the union election without telling us. I was fired for standing up for my union.

anything else you want to know about how I became an organizer.

Flint
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Jan 18 2007 12:51

I'll make the scenario more interesting.

A friend of yours who is working as cook at a local restaurant knows that you are always talking about "class struggle this" and "working class that" comes to you and asks about organizing a union in their workplace. The restaurant has about 50 employees, and they seem to have a lot of minor grievances from issues to scheduling, low pay, and lack of benefits. The restaurant is part of a national chain that has hundreds of restaurants, five of which are within one hour driving time of your location. At the moment, the only resources you have is your own library, the internet and a telephone. You've also got some shitty job, that pays the bills but keeps you working 40 hours a week.

Go!

Flint
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Jan 18 2007 12:53
throwhen wrote:
anything else you want to know about how I became an organizer.

You left out that part where your boss intentionally gave you the most dangerous jobs.

throwhen
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Jan 18 2007 12:56
cantdocartwheels wrote:
throwhen wrote:
How would you organize a new union shop?

In your own workplace, meet people, work out roughly who'd be open to stuff in your own workplace, discuss stuff, talk over your grievances, then later maybe talk about your options eg unionise, wildcat, smaller non-union actions etc, usually start with some basic grievances that could be sorted out by a go slow or just by people standing up for themselves and putting a little pressure on management.

As for wokrplaces your not a member of, well depends on the type of workplace and sector really i don't really think you can formulate a catch-all theory of organising. I mean if it were say a warehouse or a school then i guess union ,members or organised workers from other workplaces could stand outside and talk or distrbute literature of a morning/lunch break, but thats obviously probably not going to be very practical in an office enironment simply because you've got a different workplace culture, where workplace organising is not viewed as 'normal'. Whatever you do it always still requires a level of organisation in your own workplace though, without that you haven't got a leg to stand on, since you can't ask other workers to risk it and organise at work, if you're not doing it yourself.

That makes sense.

talk to your co-workers, talk about issues, talk about options.

no one size fits all strategy.

What about for a large shop or an unorganized industry.

I want to use my favorite example here, obviously it doesn't fit for everyone.

Indian Gaming. These are casinos owned by tribes. There are roughly 200000 employees in this industry, up until 2 years ago it was 100 percent non union.

There are no laws to protect you for organizing a union, and everyone knows it. As a matter of fact there are also no laws at work that if your caught organizing a union security guards can't kick the shit out of you for it.

You work for one of the big casinos, Foxwoods. It is the only industry in the area, and the company has 15,000 employees.

Your a cocktail server on day shift. There are 100 other cocktail servers on day shift, and 300 overall. You know about 8 of the servers well as a friend. You probably have a few more friends in the slots department, and maybe valet.

You want to organize a union.

Here are the problems:
1. If I talk about it I will get fired
2. I only am friends with about .01% fo the workforce
3. There is no density in the industry so winning anything worth winning will be hard
4. The only leverage against a casino comes from the state in the form of a treaty (compact) and I have no political pull
5. Striking a casino is a dumb idea since gamblers would walk over the dying mother to gamble.

It's in this scenerio that we developed our non-one size fits all plan of the secret long term campaign.

Flint
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Jan 18 2007 15:48
Flint wrote:
I'll make the scenario more interesting.

A friend of yours who is working as cook at a local restaurant knows that you are always talking about "class struggle this" and "working class that" comes to you and asks about organizing a union in their workplace. The restaurant has about 50 employees, and they seem to have a lot of minor grievances from issues to scheduling, low pay, and lack of benefits. The restaurant is part of a national chain that has hundreds of restaurants, five of which are within one hour driving time of your location. At the moment, the only resources you have is your own library, the internet and a telephone. You've also got some shitty job, that pays the bills but keeps you working 40 hours a week.

Go!

After talking to your friend for awhile about it, you determine that the restaurant is in a neighborhood of similar restaurants, about twenty of them. Ownership varies from single proprieters, small family businesses, franchises, and parts of national chains. The workforce at your friends restaurant is racially diverse, but there is also some racial tension--particularly with claims that the boss gives preferrential treatment in scheduling, raises and promotion to white workers. The workforce is fairly evenly divided by gender, but women tend to be wait staff. Some of the women complain about sexual harrassment from the night shift manager, but also some of their male coworkers. There is a pay differential with wait staff having a smaller wage, but getting tips that they individually recieve. The dishwashers are mostly immigrants, who it's suspected some don't have papers to be legal residents. They also largely speak a different langauge, that neither you nor your friend speak. About a quarter of the staff are elderly folks who use the job to suplement their meager pensions, another quarter are adults with dependents (children, elderly parents...) and another fourth of the workforce are students some in highschoo, others in college. About a fifth of the workforce have another job in addition to this. Turnover is high.

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Ed
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Jan 18 2007 16:02

Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?

wink

Dundee_United
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Jan 18 2007 16:20
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Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?

This thread is actually organisational, regardless of what you might think of Chuck's intentions for starting it; keep the discussion political please or just simply don't post.

If you want to make wisecracks, can you keep it to libcommunity, as some of us are actually interested in developing the discussion. Same goes for Jack and Revol.

throwhen
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Jan 18 2007 16:25
Flint wrote:
throwhen wrote:
anything else you want to know about how I became an organizer.

You left out that part where your boss intentionally gave you the most dangerous jobs.

sorry. I forgot that part. Also where i was moved to an offsite location 2 hours away from every other employee.

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Steven.
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Jan 18 2007 18:14

Admin - off-topic shite deleted

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madashell
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Jan 18 2007 18:31
throwhen wrote:
That makes sense.

talk to your co-workers, talk about issues, talk about options.

no one size fits all strategy.

What about for a large shop or an unorganized industry.

I want to use my favorite example here, obviously it doesn't fit for everyone.

Indian Gaming. These are casinos owned by tribes. There are roughly 200000 employees in this industry, up until 2 years ago it was 100 percent non union.

There are no laws to protect you for organizing a union, and everyone knows it. As a matter of fact there are also no laws at work that if your caught organizing a union security guards can't kick the shit out of you for it.

You work for one of the big casinos, Foxwoods. It is the only industry in the area, and the company has 15,000 employees.

Your a cocktail server on day shift. There are 100 other cocktail servers on day shift, and 300 overall. You know about 8 of the servers well as a friend. You probably have a few more friends in the slots department, and maybe valet.

You want to organize a union.

Here are the problems:
1. If I talk about it I will get fired
2. I only am friends with about .01% fo the workforce
3. There is no density in the industry so winning anything worth winning will be hard
4. The only leverage against a casino comes from the state in the form of a treaty (compact) and I have no political pull
5. Striking a casino is a dumb idea since gamblers would walk over the dying mother to gamble.

It's in this scenerio that we developed our non-one size fits all plan of the secret long term campaign.

I think the most important point that pops up in this post is that there are no one size fits all answers.

As others have said on here, the best thing I think you can do when you're starting out is to talk to other employees, identify a few common grievances people might be willing to take action over and figure out what action, if any, can be taken.

The Casino example is an interesting one, because you're talking about a highly casualised industry mostly based in areas of high unemployment. What was the nature of your campaign there?

throwhen
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Jan 19 2007 01:42
madashell wrote:
As others have said on here, the best thing I think you can do when you're starting out is to talk to other employees, identify a few common grievances people might be willing to take action over and figure out what action, if any, can be taken.

The Casino example is an interesting one, because you're talking about a highly casualised industry mostly based in areas of high unemployment. What was the nature of your campaign there?

But why would talking to a few individuals be the way to start a campaign to organize 200000 workers across two states. We have to think bigger.

Dundee_United
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Jan 19 2007 14:33
Quote:
Chuck responded
Quote:
madashell wrote:

As others have said on here, the best thing I think you can do when you're starting out is to talk to other employees, identify a few common grievances people might be willing to take action over and figure out what action, if any, can be taken.

The Casino example is an interesting one, because you're talking about a highly casualised industry mostly based in areas of high unemployment. What was the nature of your campaign there?

But why would talking to a few individuals be the way to start a campaign to organize 200000 workers across two states. We have to think bigger.

Would you be looking here to start a social movement type of organisation Chuck, in the first instance?

throwhen
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Jan 19 2007 23:12

I think a union can be a social movement; but the foundation must be a solid organization and plan to organize the entire industry over a number of years.

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Jan 19 2007 23:21

I tend to agree with Chuck that you need strategic thinking, and need to look at organizing an entire industry. If you don't, then your employer will either be driven out of business, decline, or more likely, be completely intransigent in regard to proposals due to fears of what the competitors will do. Having in mind a larger group of workers also means that potentially there are more people, more dues to an organization and thus more resources.

The aim should be to take things that affect workers out of competition -- wages, benefits, conditions. The problem is, this takes resources. I could imagine an organizing committee to try to organize, say, the entire restaurant industry in a city or metropolitan area, or all the carpenters and construction laborers in that metro area, whatever. Then you need to think about what kinds of resources are needed. Say you recruit some people, they want to fight, seem to be willing to commit to it, how do you train them? The relationship of the organizing campaign to the larger community, especially the working class part thereof, is another thing that has to be thought out, because community support can play an important role. And there are a variety of other things, like having lawyers in mind who you could call on...employers are likely to do various illegal things, and you need to be able to respond and use that against them.

t.

Dundee_United
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Jan 19 2007 23:23

I meant in this sense here Chuck:-

http://tom.acrewoods.net/research/philosophy/protest/resources

Resource mobilisation

There are always discontents and issues that will motivate protest. What varies is the resources available to them, and that they can mobilise. Even if grievances didn't exist a good Social Movement Organisation (SMO) would be able to convince people otherwise, so they don't even figure as factors.

Wealthier societies have more social movements because they have more disposable resources (including money, time, better education, means of communication and transportation, and so on)

The character of a movement is shaped by the mobilisation and management of resources (e.g. a SMO that has huge resource demands will most likely be more hierarchical).

Likewise organisation choices driven by other choices (e.g. the green preference for decentralisation) may determine the resource mobilisation capabilities of an SMO.

SMOs may often compete for resources, especially if we consider activists to be resources. Thus considerable energy may be diverted into competitive activities that don't directly impact on their goals.

Movement "entrepeneurs" have an important role in leading mobilisation efforts
Appropriate and effictive resource mobilisation can determine an SMO's success

Dundee_United
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Jan 19 2007 23:25
Quote:
I could imagine an organizing committee to try to organize, say, the entire restaurant industry in a city or metropolitan area, or all the carpenters and construction laborers in that metro area, whatever.

That's what I meant by an SMO really.

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Jan 19 2007 23:37

Having a campaign that one goes at strategically is different than what is called "hot shop" organizing, which is more opportunistic, and may not emerge in a situation where you have a strategy that that shop fits into with the appropriate resources.

t.

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Jan 20 2007 01:35
John. wrote:

Also you can go act like the big organising man but it's a lot easier when you're a paid union organiser with no risk. You're not the one who can lose your job/home/potentially family. Also for those of us who actually work we have the difficulty of finding jobs we'll be at for long enough to even start thinking about it. Most places I've worked have been as a temp in unionised places, but the unions there have been pointless.

Q. How many anarchists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. None. Anarchists refuse to change anything.

throwhen
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Jan 20 2007 03:36
thugarchist wrote:
John. wrote:

Also you can go act like the big organising man but it's a lot easier when you're a paid union organiser with no risk. You're not the one who can lose your job/home/potentially family. Also for those of us who actually work we have the difficulty of finding jobs we'll be at for long enough to even start thinking about it. Most places I've worked have been as a temp in unionised places, but the unions there have been pointless.

Q. How many anarchists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A. None. Anarchists refuse to change anything.

hahahahahaha

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Mathias
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Jan 20 2007 04:21

I sit my friend down and I pull out a few brochures advertising local colleges and universities.

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Jan 20 2007 04:26
Mathias wrote:
I sit my friend down and I pull out a few brochures advertising local colleges and universities.

Duke, Chuck and Mathias!

The fucking self-hating anarchist trifecta.