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(en) US, FIREBRAND* #2 - WORKPLACE ORGANIZING - How To Start a Union-Part 1: The Organizing Committee

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 14 Dec 2004 09:43:34 +0100 (CET)


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They drive new SUV's, they live in the West Hills and
Lake Oswego, they take vacations every year to some
tropical resort, and they know they have it all yet we know
they are the scum of the earth. We work too much or too
little (or not at all), we ride the bus or drive an old car that
we can't afford to insure, we live in crowded, bug infest-
ed apartments with a toilet that will not flush because the
landlord won't ever fix anything, We take our few days off
work to visit with our family and friends. We have noth-
ing but ourselves, our class, the working class. Although
we've got shit when it comes to personal comforts, we
have one thing the bosses and politicians can't ever take
away from us, our power as the workers who run this soci-
ety. We can take back what is ours: our lives. But to do
this we must struggle, we must not just complain about
our job, the pay, health insurance (or lack thereof), and the
arbitrary discipline of the bosses. We must fight back, WE
MUST ORGANIZE TO WIN.
>>>> 1. LEADER, A CO-WORKER WHO HAS A
BASE OR FOLLOWERS.
2. ACTIVIST, A CO-WORKER WHO WILL
ASSIST IN ORGANIZING ON THE JOB.
3. UNDECIDED, A CO-WORKER WHO
DOESN'T KNOW IF THEY WANT TO JOIN
THE UNION.
4. ANTI-UNION, A CO-WORKER WHO
SIDES WITH THE BOSS OR IS IDEOLOGI-
CALLY OPPOSED TO A UNION.<<<<

The avenues of our self-organization, our workers organizations,
are wide open to our imaginations. Our objective in organizing
ourselves as working people is to be able to determine the course of
our lives and our class. One type of workers organization that has a
history of winning immediate issues that affect our lives and standard
of living is the Union. Within this series of article's I want to
talk about the workers unions. Although unions should not
be the stopping point for our struggle for a life worth liv-
ing, they are a starting point from which we can take our
collective power as a class and fight those rich bastards
effectively, eventually taking back what is ours.
So here I am talking' all this high-fallutin' idealism,
but, you ask, where do me and my co-workers start,
how do we begin? Well, let me explain how to start
from my experience at my job.
immediate issues that affect our lives and standard of liv-
ing is the Union. Within this series of article's I want to
talk about the workers unions. Although unions should not
be the stopping point for our struggle for a life worth liv-
ing, they are a starting point from which we can take our
collective power as a class and fight those rich bastards
effectively, eventually taking back what is ours.
So here I am talking' all this high-fallutin' idealism,
but, you ask, where do me and my co-workers start,
how do we begin? Well, let me explain how to start
from my experience at my job.
Chances are you have a group of friends at work.
Maybe they gave you the tip about a job opening,
maybe you go to the bar together after work, or
maybe you watch each other's kids. If you don't
have a group of friends at work, then I would sug-
gest you start making some. I think this group of
friends is where it starts; it is the embryo of your
union. You all know and trust each other. You all
care about each other and you all get fucked over by
the boss together. Well, stop talking about doing
something about the health care plan you can't afford and
start talking about setting' up a union for yourself.
The first step for you and one or two of your friends is to
sit down and start working on a list of all your co-work-
ers. Who do you work with that hate's the conditions at
your job? Who do you know that has a group of friends or
other people at work who listens to them? Who among
your co-workers is a leader? A leader is someone who has
a base, who can bring people out to a barbeque or a union
meeting. They are someone people can trust and respect.
Put a number one next to the names of all your coworkers
you know are leaders.
The task of identifying leaders won't happen in just one
sitting. You're gunna need to feel people out, talk to them,
and if you think they fit into a leadership position (see side
chart about the qualities of a leader).
You should write these conversations down and start keeping records
of your research into who's a leader, who's pro-union, who's undecided,
and who's anti-union.
The nature of your job will determine the next steps you take. If you
work in a small company (50 or less employees), once you have five to
ten co-workers identified as leaders you can pull together your first
meeting. If you work in a larger company where you don't know
everyone who works with you, where there are multiple job sites,
etc. then there will more work to do before you can pull
together your first meeting to start your campaign for recruiting
all of you co-workers into the union. At larger companies, like
mine, it's a good idea to identify as many leaders as you can
find, then you should figure out who can make contact with your
other co-workers and assess whether they are leaders. This process
can take a while and it can put you up against a wall. But you're
gonna have to get over that wall in order to recruit more
leaders.
This process of recruiting leaders is called setting up an organizing
committee. Once you have recruited around 10-15% of your
co-workers who are leaders to the organizing committee you
will have the people power to launch a campaign to get your
other co-workers into the union and win recognition.
The process I just described is only a brief outline. I now
want to supplement the process of setting up an organizing com-
mittee with other tasks you should be completing.

THE HARD FACTS
1. Does your boss steal enough from you for you to be
able to start taking back what is yours? Finding the tax
forms of "your" company is a good way to figure this out.
2. Shopping for an official union: Although you and your
co-workers are the union, in order to win a campaign that
betters your working conditions, you need a union with
the resources and will to back you up. In looking for a
union to take on assisting you with organizing your job,
you want to consider a few things:
A. Are they willing to devote the resources (paid union
organizers, lawyers, etc) to your campaign? Are they actu-
ally organizing in your field of work? If they aren't organ-
izing in your industry and are willing to take on you
efforts at organizing your job you will want to think abou
the union's motivation. Are they are haphazard union tha
will take on any campaign or are they a union that take
on a campaign knowing they will be able to assist you and
your co-workers is better the conditions at your job?
B. Are they a directly democratic union? If you were
member of this union, would you get to vote on who rep
resented you?
C. Do they have a history of winning campaigns or loos
ing them?
D. Is the union there to support us workers in moving
towards self-determination, or is there an entrenched
bureaucracy who has interests different from the union
members?
You can find a list of all the unions in your area by look
ing in the yellow pages under `labor'.
3. Research the company you work for: Have people tried
to form a union there before, if the company you work fo
is a chain, are other affiliates unionized? If so, what union
are they represented by? Does that union exist where you
live? How hard did the company fight the union cam
paign? This will let you know how hard the company you
work for will fight your campaign.
This first step will take as long or as short as you make i
last. It's all about how much effort and passion you and
you're fellow organizing committee members put into
organizing. Although this first step is the least glamorous
it is the most important. The organizing committee is th
base, the leadership of your union campaign, and ensuring
a strong organizing committee betters your chance at win
ning. And don't forget what you're fighting for in all of th
sometimes slow and nerve-wracking organizing. Contro
over your life. We want more power in the hands of ou
class and less power in the hands of the bosses. The book
'Unfinished Business: The Politics of Class War' has thi
to say about practical struggle: "As part of the working
class we are involved in everyday struggles, we fight to
make gains, defend those gains and oppose losses to ou
freedom and standard of living...we need to struggl
towards greater self-organization, solidarity, and aware
ness...a culture of resistance" (pg. 101). A culture o
resistance to the bosses and this fucked up economic sys
tem called capitalism starts with us working people saying
"NO, WERE NOT GOING TO TAKE SHIT WAGES, NO
HEALTH CARE, AND FLACK FROM THE
BOSS...WE'RE GOING TO FIGHT FOR WHAT'S
RIGHTFULLY OURS. WE RUN THIS SOCIETY AND
WE'RE GONNA TAKE CONTROL OF IT, WE'RE
GUNNA RUN IT OURSELVES AND WE WILL START
BUILDING TOWARDS THIS REVOLUTION TODAY
BY ORGANIZING OUR JOBS AND TAKING BACK
POWER FROM THE BOSSES!!!
WERE NOT
GOING TO TAKE
SHIT WAGES, NO
HEALTH CARE,
AND FLACK
FROM THE
BOSS...WE'RE
GOING TO FIGHT
FOR WHAT'S
RIGHTFULLY
OURS.
=============================
* The Firebrand Collective identifies itself as anarchist-communist.


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