"Direct action casework" groups

77 posts / 0 new
Last post
888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Sep 25 2009 20:01
Steven. wrote:
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

Yes, we could still do it, I PM'd you twice in Jan or Feb but got no reply so thought you weren't interested. I'll take a look at the questions...

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Sep 25 2009 21:41
smg wrote:
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?

I believe most "direct action casework" groups such as LCAP do similar things to what you did. What I meant was that SeaSol does not represent or argue for anyone - they are encouraged to do that themselves with our support and research, but if someone decides to take a legal course of action we leave it to them and the lawyers. The only time we spent (so far) in the court system was to defend ourselves against a restraining order brought on by turning up and making a nuisance at a boss's neighborhood barbecue. And we haven't spent any time in welfare offices or tenancy boards, although some situation might come up in the future, we don't see ourselves as arguing on behalf of our members.

What I meant by "private fights" is that we aren't involved in conflicts (so far) in which any branch of the state plays a large part. Instead we focus on fighting against particular landlords and businesses, and we resolve issues by causing economic damage and public embarrassment. See www.seasol.net for plenty of examples of the kinds of fights we have been involved in. How did you use direct action in your group?

smg's picture
smg
Offline
Joined: 20-06-09
Sep 26 2009 00:14

Seasol sounds very different than HCAP. Most of my casework time was spent mediating between someone who had come into the office with problem X and the Department of Community Services. Very little of my casework experience did not involve a government body. Much of my time consisted of playing phone tag with social workers, putting together faxes to social workers, putting together legal documents for tenancy hearings, going to hearings. Problems with landlords were often dealt with in a framework that included going to the Tenancy Board or at least threatening to go to the Tenancy Board. Special Needs Clinics were organized in order to get folks more $$$ on their social assistance checks. I know Ive probably said this a million times but I really do feel we were social workers and filled in some of the gaps that exist in the current welfare system in Nova Scotia. We spent far too much of our time demanding that the government follow its own policy.

We used direct action to put pressure on the government (or maybe more accurately: we used direct action as a convenient excuse to get on the governments skin): Department of Community Services occupations and fax jam for example, a demo at a bureaucrats house, interrupting City Council, crashing Tory events. Most of these have a spectacular element to them that I am not particularly comfortable with.

During HCAP's last year many of us were coming to realize that we were going nowhere and treading water. This lead to many conversations about ideology and practice. However, this was a very painful process that was not fruitful for the organization. It is very likely it was fruitful for those involved in the conversations. Divisions developed between individuals who wanted to continue doing social work and those who felt our organizational praxis should reflect an anti-capitalist analysis. Those of us who were tired of being volunteer social workers left. Some folks have stayed on but to my knowledge HCAP no longer has any public presence or profile, I believe it to be dead, but there are rumors its alive and barely kicking as an NGO or charity.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Sep 4 2010 20:38

http://glasgowsolnet.wordpress.com/
http://gritsolidarity.wordpress.com/
http://scsolidarity.blogspot.com/

we're (wobblies) starting one in our city too. a few of these look like they just popped up. i am noticing that "insurrectionists" are getting into the idea of them.

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Sep 4 2010 22:30

Where's your city? Here's a map of potential solidarity networks. Not that all of them will necessarily get off the ground. Smg/bizcaz on here said they were starting a similar group in Halifax - is this happening?

Yes, insurrectionists also like SeaSol - e.g. this article from Modesto Anarcho - but then they say "It must be asked then, do we even need organizations to do this?" which confuses me, as they just described organisation...

Volin's picture
Volin
Offline
Joined: 24-01-05
Sep 4 2010 22:53
888 wrote:
Where's your city? Here's a map of potential solidarity networks.

cool ...that looks really encouraging, though as you say it doesn't mean they're all as active as they could be.

Isn't there a solidarity network in Brighton, England too?

Anarchia's picture
Anarchia
Offline
Joined: 18-03-06
Sep 5 2010 00:27

The Wellington Workers Solidarity Network had its founding meeting at the start of this week too smile

bootsy
Offline
Joined: 30-11-09
Sep 5 2010 00:44

Yeah there are also networks starting up in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin which is pretty encouraging.

There has already been a victory won by those setting up networks around the country. We picketed a chain called burgerfuel all over the country a few weeks ago because they fired a worker under the 90 day laws (on her 89th day). There was another picket organised for yesterday but it must of really scared the shit out of them because the company agreed on Friday to compensate the worker and also that they would no longer use the 90 day laws. So that's pretty encouraging.

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Sep 5 2010 01:18

Great news from New Zealand! There are solidarity networks being set up in most of the main English-speaking countries... Maybe some translation is in order. Please let us know your websites when you have them set up - I intend to add links to all nascent solidarity networks to the SeaSol site soon.

Here's a Spanish article about a SeaSol fight - but in general there is no information about this type of organising in other languages yet.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Sep 5 2010 02:02

hey 888 we're starting this up in Providence, RI

been planning it for over a year.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 5 2010 02:48
Volin wrote:
Isn't there a solidarity network in Brighton, England too?

Well Brighton SolFed are trying to do more 'individual conflicts' (i'm lothe to call it 'casework' as the approach is pretty different). As an when specific conflicts materialise we'll advertise them here and elsewhere...

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Sep 5 2010 02:51

Yeah we don't call it casework either - the thread title is from a year and a half ago...

Laozi - good luck and let us know how it goes! I sent a bunch of information to "Juice" - hope you got it.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Sep 5 2010 08:55

ya we got it grin

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Sep 5 2010 20:06

We're in the process of trying to start a solidarity network here in Iowa City as well.

communal_pie's picture
communal_pie
Offline
Joined: 18-10-08
Sep 5 2010 22:09
Joseph Kay wrote:
Volin wrote:
Isn't there a solidarity network in Brighton, England too?

Well Brighton SolFed are trying to do more 'individual conflicts' (i'm lothe to call it 'casework' as the approach is pretty different). As an when specific conflicts materialise we'll advertise them here and elsewhere...

Please do and good luck, hope it goes well!

I'm glad you're distancing yourselves from 'casework' as TBH that does sound social-workery. I think that LCAP and some of the other CAP's approach towards 'casework' can certainly come of as a little patronising as well as quite controlling (personalities do tend to dominate in these groups unfortunately, even though there haave been specific initiatives to combat this - which I acknowledge).

Perhaps a practical example would make more sense. I have seen families come in the jobcentre and simply demand to see the manager, given the whole bureaucratic trashtalking, then simply ignored it and walked slowly telling them that they need to get their daughter's claim running straightaway for <whatever lame reason> and you know, this no-nonsense approach works wonders.

Of course housing issues are quite different, but I have seen similar things at my local housing benefits processing office. The truth is that sometimes individual action can be more beneficial than officialising and dragging things out a little too much, ofcourse thats much less the case when it comes to workplaces and indeed, with several people who are facing trouble with their claims it's good to complain all at once - especially in response to a particular problem (ie computer pissage at the jobcentre--all too common).

The FAU in Germany stand out as the most inspiring example when it comes to organising that kind of thing, really I think we can learn a lot from them in a massive number of ways.

Nate's picture
Nate
Offline
Joined: 16-12-05
Sep 6 2010 07:26
Joseph Kay wrote:
Brighton SolFed are trying to do more 'individual conflicts' (i'm lothe to call it 'casework' as the approach is pretty different).

different how?

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 6 2010 12:18

Well from what I'm told about casework groups such as LCAP there's a a lot of sitting up late reading up on law and the like. Frankly if I wanted to be a social worker I'd at least get paid for it, the approach is much more the direct action end a la ZSP/SeaSol, and wherever possible we want to collectivise issues (stopping them being individual cases) and link it in with the organiser training to try and get people organising themselves. Now I know every direct action casework group ever talks about not being a service etc, but it seems many of them are anyway. I think it's probably got to do with the difference between an activist mindset (helping the unfortunate poor) and a union mindset (enlightened self-interest/class solidarity). I mean we haven't done a lot yet, and I'm sure we'll learn as we go, but generally you can no what not to do with greater certainty than what to do.

posi
Offline
Joined: 24-09-05
Sep 6 2010 12:40

I really think people talking about LCAP ought to find out a bit more how it actually works at the moment - I'm not involved really, but I hear a bit about what's going on. There was always a movement toward this, but now it's more or less entirely run by the self-organised groups.

LCAP, June 17, 2010, wrote:
I am writing to you as you are all on a list in the LCAP office of people who have done direct action casework training and / or have supported people as part of the London Coalition Against Poverty in the past.

At the last general meeting we decided that we needed to shift the focus of our work away from supporting individuals who contact us from across London and towards building and supporting groups of people like the Hackney Unemployed Workers group, Hackney Housing Group and Haringey Housing Action group. We want to start new groups in more areas - and this has begun in Islington, South London and hopefully in Waltham Forest, although more help is needed in these areas.

We have found that the people who join the groups as a way to resolve their and others problems are much more likely to stay involved and to campaign for change that can benefit everyone. When we support people as individuals, separate from a collective experience then these people tend to leave once their problems are resolved. Given this and our limited resources we decided to focus on the groups rather then continuing to administer a system by which we could support individuals. LCAP is becoming a coalition of these groups rather then a group or a organisaiton itself. We are growing, which is good!

We think all of this is really positive and hope you would like to be involved. While we will no longer be 'allocating' casework to anyone on this list, we continue to support people within the groups and in areas where groups are starting. Please consider joining one of the groups or helping to create one in your own area. You do not have to have a current housing problem, or issue with the job centre to join a group - the point is that together we are stronger and all need affordable and decent housing and benefits we can live on.

Not all the group work happens in office hours, for instance there is always a need for fun fundraising events and office work is needed too. Details of meetings should be emailed to you in the regular updates but please get in touch any other time if you want help getting involved.

EDITED TO ADD: and as for more doing direct action... that's all very well, but it's not up to you, it's up to the person concerned, and if there is a viable legal route that has a chance to work in time, which there often is, they will often want to try that - quite reasonably.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Sep 6 2010 12:46

Agree with this comment. I went to a group meeting a week or so ago and was impressed by the attitude of the people in the meeting, who definitely all had enough of their own problems to worry about, and showed a strong sense of solidarity and committment to the other people in the group.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 6 2010 12:47

Posi: Yes and if people don't want to take direct action that's fine, but that doesn't mean it's my job to be a free legal advisor. I know LCAP have been changing how they go about stuff, but a few London SolFeders are quite involved so I'm not just pulling this out of my arse. EDIT:

LCAP wrote:
We set out to identify areas in which we could start to take ‘direct action casework’ with the help of members who work as professional advisors. 

it's great that LCAP's moving away from this, but these are precisely the connotations of 'casework' I was keen to avoid.

dashoflime
Offline
Joined: 5-04-08
Sep 6 2010 13:29

No, definately not. LCAP is independant.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Sep 6 2010 14:12

Sure, I never thought you were talking out of your arse. I know the problem of the role of the activists and how they relate to the people who come in asking for help is a difficult one, I'm just saying I think in LCAP they are trying to address it. If your group have a different focus and you think they are managing to avoid the "helping" relationship that's great. I just wanted to say that I think the groups approach LCAP are using is positive and is working.

If your group is managing to avoid this relationship, ok, that's great. Can you tell us a bit more about how you do it and what methods of organising you are using?

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Sep 6 2010 14:15

Just read those comments now, no there is no link with the TUC, where did that come from? If there are union fulltimers involved, not that I have actually heard that there are, that doesn't make it a TUC backed project as it isn't receiving any money or support from the TUC.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 6 2010 14:31
fingers malone wrote:
Can you tell us a bit more about how you do it and what methods of organising you are using?

Well as I say this is very new to us and we've only had a couple of small things and only one action so far (which was subsequently called off by the worker involved, as they'd already all-but given up when they contacted us and they decided to leave the country).

I think the main thing is we're clear about why we're doing this. We don't just want to win odd things with people, we want to change the culture in Brighton to the point of shifting the balance of power between employers and workers, to normalise direct action grievances and to encourage self-organised action. That's quite ambitious, but not impossible, but it does mean any element of service provision is directly counter to our goals, even if it wins the immediate grievance.

So for us the important things are to clearly explain what we can do - and what we don't - then if that appeals sit down and work out an escalating plan of action with the person. Wherever possible we want to look to collectivise grievances, and there also needs to be ongoing 'innoculation' to prepare ourselves for the likely consequences of our action plan (emotional, legal, physical...). Now I can only reiterate we're not very experienced at this, but it is something we've given a lot of thought, and while we're going to make mistakes (and already have), we don't want to repeat the mistakes already made by others which we should be learning from.

bizcaz's picture
bizcaz
Offline
Joined: 14-09-09
Sep 6 2010 14:57
888 wrote:
Where's your city? Here's a map of potential solidarity networks. Not that all of them will necessarily get off the ground. Smg/bizcaz on here said they were starting a similar group in Halifax - is this happening?

Yeah. We planned an action which didn't end up happening because the workers who were owed wages (a month's worth each!) ended up getting paid the day before we had it planned. So we haven't actually had any "actions" yet.

We tried postering and leafleting heavily in our town for a while but it didn't end up producing any solid connections with people. A few people called up but they just wanted legal info.

The connections we have made have been through word of mouth - people who heard about what we're trying to do through mutual acquaintances. We're hoping that our first few "actions" will happen through these word of mouth connections, then we can use some initial victories to get the word out more broadly. We're holding off on a website and other promotions until we have something to show for ourselves so that people have a clearer idea of what we're trying to do.

888, thanks for your encouragement. And good to hear about other solidarity networks getting going.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Sep 6 2010 15:24
Quote:
The FAU in Germany stand out as the most inspiring example when it comes to organising that kind of thing, really I think we can learn a lot from them in a massive number of ways.

More info? Link?

Tommy Ascaso - re: TUC

You're probably thinking about the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group which is officially a project of the Brent Trades Council and has heavy involvement from a SERTUC organizer and contains in some folks who are close to LCAP (if not outright members of LCAP and L&S)

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Sep 6 2010 17:43

Thanks JK, if you are mainly thinking about workplace stuff that will probably give the group a different MO and practice from a group which is mainly doing stuff to do with housing and benefits, could be different people getting in touch with you too?

I thought the group meeting I went to was very positive, but I thought there was an inherent problem- as we were a housing group, we were dealing with homelessness issues and the appeal procedures, knowing what to do next etc. were complex and intimidating for me, and the letters from the council I had to read (I was at the meeting translating) were sometimes incomprehensible just because they were so badly written. I thought that making sure everybody understood everything would have been pretty impossible as the meeting couldn't have gone on longer (kids getting bored, people having to go back to work). In these circumstances I'm not sure about how to go about breaking down the activist/specialist role.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Sep 6 2010 17:51
fingers malone wrote:
Thanks JK, if you are mainly thinking about workplace stuff that will probably give the group a different MO and practice from a group which is mainly doing stuff to do with housing and benefits, could be different people getting in touch with you too?

well i don't think we're just targetting workplace issues, but it's where we have most experience (although not much of that). we aren't specifically targetting landlords either, and there's already a claimants group of sorts that we're involved in who we'd probably look to work with (although that's more of a campaign than a solidarity group...).

it does sound like housing could be a more of a legal quagmire, the only way i can think to get around that is to sit down with the people involved and research the laws/regulations itself... still over time you'll build up knowledge and become more of a specialist. i mean i don't pretend to know all the answers, but certainly where we want to get to is where we're not just enforcing the law with direct action, but going beyond it. then maybe knowing all the regulations wouldn't be as important. getting to that point in itself isn't easy though.

fingers malone's picture
fingers malone
Offline
Joined: 4-05-08
Sep 6 2010 18:10

Thanks for that.

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Sep 6 2010 19:54
posi wrote:
EDITED TO ADD: and as for more doing direct action... that's all very well, but it's not up to you, it's up to the person concerned, and if there is a viable legal route that has a chance to work in time, which there often is, they will often want to try that - quite reasonably.

If people want to take legal action we give them information about various free legal resources, and say goodbye. We will leave that kind of work to other groups. However most people we actually end up meeting with want to do direct action - there's a chance that they will win more via a lawsuit but it will take a very long time. In a few cases, they've already won a court case but there's no way for them to collect the money...