Basic Principles to Organizing At Work
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Organising begins when people question authority. Someone asks, “What are they doing to us? Why are they doing it? Is it right?” Encourage people to ask, “Who is making the decisions, who is being forced to live with the decisions, and why should that be so?” People should not accept a rule or an answer simply because it comes from the authorities, whether that authority be the government, the boss–or you. An effective organiser encourages their fellow workers to think for themselves.
The most important thing about organising is personal one-to-one discussion. Leaflets are necessary, meetings are important, rallies are wonderful, but none of them will ever take the place of one-on-one discussion. Frequently, when you have simply listened to one of your fellow workers and heard what is on his or her mind, you have won them over because you are the only one who will listen.
Find the Natural Organisers
Every workplace has its social groupings of colleagues and friends. Each group has its opinion makers, its natural organisers, its instigators. They are not always the loudest or most talkative, but they are the ones the others listen to and respect. You will have gone a long way if you win over these natural organisers.
Get People Involved in Activity
Life is not a school room and people do not learn simply by going to meetings or reading leaflets. Most people learn, change, and grow in the process of action. If you want to develop new organisers, get your colleagues involved in the organising.
We Are the Union!
The point of organising is not only to get individuals involved, but to join them together in a solidarity conscious group. We want to create a group which sees itself as a whole: Will you come to the meeting? Can we get the whole department to visit the boss together? Can we count on all of you on the picket line?
Activities Should Escalate Over Time
Ask people to become involved in activities of increasing commitment and difficulty. Are you willing to wear a union badge? Will you vote for a strike? Are you prepared to stand on a picket line? Are you willing to be arrested? Some union campaigns have included hundreds of people willing to go to jail for something they believed in. For many of them it started with that first question, “Will you take this leaflet?”
Confront Management Organising is about changing power relationships, the balance of forces between management and workers. Confrontation with the employer has to be built into the escalating activities. If people are not willing to risk upsetting the boss, they won’t win.
Win Small Victories
Most movements, from a small group in one workplace to massive social protests grow on the basis of small victories. The victories give us confidence that we can do more. They win us new supporters who now realise that “you can beat the boss”. With each victory the group becomes more confident and therefore, more capable of winner larger victories.
Be Prepared For Setbacks
Nothing runs smoothly in life, and organising is no exception. If it doesn’t succeed at first, be patient. Circumstances always change with time, new people come and go. Perhaps in a few months time your fellow workers will be more interested than they are at present. Sooner or later your employer will do something which will help that process.
Organising is Everything
Organisation need not be overly formal or structurally top heavy, but it must be there. A telephone tree and a mailing list may be all the organisation that you need, but if those are what you need then you must have them. Make sure your organisation is directly democratic, and any specialised positions you have, such as secretary, are instantly recallable. The last twenty years have supplied many examples of reform movements which fought hard, made some gains and then disappeared, simply because they didn’t stay organised. As one union organiser, Bill Slater, says, “Only the organised survive.”
Don’t Organise Alone
Contact the Industrial Workers of the World, or other radical workers and join up with other working people who will be more than willing to help you. Together we can do the things that we cannot do alone.