Practical workplace organising tips and experiences

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JDMF
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Sep 21 2005 08:58
enelpozo wrote:

But definitely one of things which people must try to avoid, like other people have said, is doing things for people and letting them rely on you. There are two people who recently left their jobs where I work but still have pay owed which the boss won't cough up. I offered to get a letter written from the IWW and now it seem they're quite happy for me to do the work. Far from an ideal situation. Anyone got any tips on how to avoid this?

difficult situation and no easy answers. I think as a militant you have to expect to be putting in a bit of an extra mile anyway. Never have i been in any constructive situation where that hasn't been the case (before being political had couple nice spontaneous walkouts where everyone was just so angry that no organising was needed - not that any of us would have known a first thing about it!).

But it is a delicate balance to act, and you have to continuously ask: is what i do empowering people, is what i do forwarding the idea of direct democracy, mutual aid and all that bollocks. Quite often the answer is no, and you end up doing it anyway grin But thats why i would try to avoid union official positions if possible, because that is just the way things are these days that union officials are seen as service providers and you end up trying to use your whole term to try to shake that off.

I tell you one thing what my friend did in a metal factory. He was elected as a shop steward which was pretty revolutionary as pretty much 100% of the shops are run by either social democrat or leftist union member in finland. Anyways, in the first mass meeting of workers he told people to stand up, and hesitantly everyone stood up. He then started talking how no one should ever listen to anything he says uncritically and why the fuck would everyone stand up just because he as a shop steward said so grin

can't see myself ever doing that, but the idea is good: to get people critical and questioning what leaders, be it bosses or the union officials are saying.

BB
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Sep 21 2005 11:19
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Start with small stuff (unless its a reaction to a particularly aggressive attack on existing tetrms and conditions/agreements) and build confidence. It does work - but keep at it its all so easily knocked back.

Keeping it small to begin with, winning it, builds confidence. Not only with those that have been involved but also with those workers who aren't quite ready to jump, when you first go for it.

http://www.iww.org.uk/info/basic.html

http://www.iww.org/PDF/IWW_organizing_manual.PDF

BB
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Sep 21 2005 11:29
enelpozo wrote:

But definitely one of things which people must try to avoid, like other people have said, is doing things for people and letting them rely on you. There are two people who recently left their jobs where I work but still have pay owed which the boss won't cough up. I offered to get a letter written from the IWW and now it seem they're quite happy for me to do the work. Far from an ideal situation. Anyone got any tips on how to avoid this?

What we've done (b'ton iww), is written a short leaflet to hand to folks when they come along for workers rights advice, something they can take away with them, after they've had an advice session. Just to explain a bit more, about what we're about. This came about due to the fact, that folks would take our help, an then we'd see jack shit. So now when we take someones case on we ask if, they're not interested in joining the union to make a donation, if they get a win.

The leaflet basically tells folks we're not a charity.

I'll hook it out if you're interested?

enelpozo
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Sep 21 2005 13:06

Oi, Button, your boss banned leggings and you campaigned to get them back? WTF??? confused

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Sep 21 2005 13:11

lycra liberation 8)

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the button
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Sep 21 2005 14:48

If I can't wear lycra, it's not my revolution. angry

Actually, forget I just said that. embarrassed

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oisleep
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Sep 21 2005 14:56
the button wrote:
If I can't wear lycra, it's not my revolution. angry

just in case

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Steven.
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Sep 21 2005 15:53
revol68 wrote:
i don't often side with management but leggings are well shite looking.

Sorry but black leggings on indie girls with demi miniskirts and vintage high heels are da bomb 8)

embarrassed

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Sep 21 2005 16:03

which actually brings us conveniently to another workplace organising theme i was hoping to get peoples experiences and stories from:

Challenging sexism and racism at workplace

Personally since i started being a white collar worker i haven't faced this much at all, but when working in construction, supermarket and metal factory etc it was widespread (in fact i was one of these guys embarrassed well, still trying to shake some of that sexism off...) and challenging it was often hard, in minority of cases it has been easy.

Now its quite easy because i'm not british and if someone says any anti-migrant comments i just go to them and say "i'm a fucking migrant, so anything you want to say, just say it to me" grin

Any good stories/tips/experiences?

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Steven.
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Sep 21 2005 16:55

I've always worked in offices, in over five years never come across any sexism, racism or anything. Everyone's generally very PC.

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Steven.
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Sep 21 2005 17:06
revol68 wrote:
And Chloe rocked that look.

Dude you are a fool. A fool!!!

redtwister
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Sep 21 2005 18:49

racism/sexism/anti-gay

Had a really atrocious racist/anti-gay christian manager at an IT training center I was a teacher at. We did several things.

First, we had enough confidence of trust with each other that we actually talked to each other. that was first, and that cam through finding ways to discuss politics openly. Doing that broke the sort of taboo of discussing more than crap, and discussing it so people kind of knew each other's politics and piss points.

Second, we had a strong, open relationship with the students.

then we set to work, discussing what we could do. The students filed separate complaints to upper management, and we backed them on each one. We then refused to talk to her directly and would only speak to the assistant manager. We gummed up her getting any info for weeks and made it impossible for her to manage. she was replaced not long after.

Of course, being a small place, they eventuallt hired someone who's job it was to either drive us out or break us. We all ended up qquitting because we refused to break.

chris

redtwister
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Sep 21 2005 18:52

At another place, we used US labor law to threaten unionization. We had no chance really, but we freaked thm out byhanding them an official letter saying that we were seeking an appropriate representative and that if they fired any of us for our grievances with the manager, we would be fully justified in a) going on strike b) suing them. The manager, who was a racist shit, was replaced.

Never be afraid to use a knowledge of labor law to bolster your position. Also, be careful with calling in a union because if this is an unorganized place, they will try and take over. The union organizer is usually going to be very bureaucratic and the union will try to take over the process and DE-mobilize people.

Chris

redtwister
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Sep 21 2005 19:06

On one occassion, at another workplace, we just refused to do a certain task we deemed absurd and a waste of time.

In all the instances, it required a high degree of trust and comfort, something that became stronger afterwards regardless of how things went. It also required some discussion and for me, as the commie, allowing other people to take the lead and make suggestions. Knowing I was a political meant that I could short circuit stuff by immediately proposing "solutions" when people posed a problem or a complaint. DO NOT propose solutions, let people figure out, in discussion, what they feel like they can and cannot do and allow people to be flexible in carrying it out and seeing if they feel like they can go further or where there is a wall. Most people will resent being given an option that is either a win or get fired scenario if they aren't ready to go that far. usually, it will kill any kind of action or make them very mad at you.

chris

redtwister
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Sep 21 2005 19:52

Last note.

Not all organizing, esp against bigots, is anti-management. sometimes you have to bring a fucked up co-worker to heel.

Some old rades of mine did this by getting everyone in the department to agree to refuse to speak to the person. For a week, no one spoke to her and she cracked. When she did, she was told in front of everyone to keep her racist shit to herself. After that, regardless of what she thought, she didn't use racist filth anymore.

Its a different approach from dealing with managers, and sometimes very important to do. But it also needs to be done in such a way that the person has a way out, a way to mend their actions, to change. I could give a crap about managers, but co-workers need to be dealt with in a better way, but dealt with they must be... If not, you will lose the respect of better people for an asshole.

Chris

kalabine
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Sep 21 2005 23:54

some good stuff there red twister 8)

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Sep 26 2005 08:59

two racism personal experiences:

First one in a metal factory, 100% white as it usually is in rural finland, second one in construction site work, again 100% white, few romani guys worked on and off. In the metal factory most males and quite a few females were outriught racists. So i took the activist approach, slowly and slowly talking to people one by one if there was an opportunity.

But there were so many racist jokes i didn't even counter all of them embarrassed Anyway, nasty situation and by no means easy when there is no base to build on, or that the racism would be somehow in the minority.

In the same metal factory place the shop steward and his "inner circle" of trade unionists used to call all males lads and all women pussies (as in female genitalia, not kittens)/cunts/vaginas. I suggested that we should start calling all males cocks and dicks and did so every time they used the pussies, eventually they stopped.

Anything to learn from this? No grin

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Sep 26 2005 09:02
JDMF wrote:
I suggested that we should start calling all males cocks

Jack's been doing that for years.

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Sep 26 2005 09:06

one thing close to my heart is environmentalism, and when being in EF style of groups i have argued the power of workers to change the production into something more environmentally friendly or to reduce resource consumption.

Any experiences on this?

I do this on every workplace i go to: reduce consumption, recycle stuff, co-ordinate resources so you dont have to keep getting more and more and so on.

Simple things really: at the same metal factory i mentioned above together with couple other workers we managed to get a plastic recycling facilities there (we produced loads of plastic waste), and found ways of cutting metal sheep consumption when producing these industrial lamp shades (you know the long lamps you probvably have in your workplace as well). Of course the company pockets the profit from this, but you can balance it out by stealing more grin

Keep on doing this in office environments with simple things as well like encouraging people to print two sided, turning off lights and machines, simple things really.

It would be inspiring to have more powerful examples of these kinds of changes, because too often in enviro publications credit for any kind of green policies and changes go to some manager with a good heart. Of course this ties to workers not having control over their working environment, but you can build this sense of ownership and will to have control over your working environment with small gradual steps, and enviro issues are one way to do it IMO.

Jason Cortez
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Oct 8 2005 15:14

Shouldn't this thread be a sticky?

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Oct 8 2005 15:26
Jason Cortez wrote:
Shouldn't this thread be a sticky?

i don't know mate - some really useful tips and thoughts here, but the therad didn't really get off the ground (at least not in the way than the supermarket and the quality of the london transport stuff did wink ).

Perhaps it should be collected into an article? Some really easily approachable article collection perhaps.

Mike Harman
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Nov 4 2005 20:53
steve - on the getting fucked over with wages thread wrote:
Oh another good thing about the H&S meeting. It does not have to be restricted to union members only. You can have one for the whole workforce, full-time and part-time and including any casual or temporary staff.

Steve I might have a reason to call that sort of meeting over the next few weeks. Would like to get a meeting of staff from several departments without managers together many of whome aren't unionised (including me at the moment, haven't actually joined yet roll eyes). Any chance of some more information?

Steve
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Nov 5 2005 13:18

As I understand it only the TU Safety Rep can call a meeting. Once this is done any worker can attend and it is up to them to stop managers attending. The regualations state that the meeting should be for workers only without managers so you can quote that. I can check this out.

In some unions, like UNISON, there is a problem because managers are also unions members and often can be the safety reps as well.

If you know who your union safety rep is get them to call a meeting. If you haven't got one join the union and get yourself elected to the position, it's not hard as you'll be the only candidate.

This is one of those instances of using the union structure for protection but then going beyond its limitations and effectively having a workplace assembly.

What union would you be joining? They should have info on their website etc. If you do get yourself elected Safety Rep then you are entitiled to do workplace assessments. You can also go on H&S training courses which are run by the unions and are handy. I went on one years ago but the regs are constantly being updated.

Mike Harman
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Nov 5 2005 13:41

it's UNISON. The overall rep isn't a manager, very low membership across the workplace as far as I know.

Don't know about getting elected as a rep but it's useful advice.

Quote:
This is one of those instances of using the union structure for protection but then going beyond its limitations and effectively having a workplace assembly.

8)

Steve
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Nov 5 2005 13:52

If it's UNISON then you may have a problem keeping managers out unless, of course, none of them are members.

Each workplace can have a rep and each union too btw.

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Nov 5 2005 13:53

One of the places I work the biggest union (unison) person in my dept is the arsehole boss who gives everyone shit all the time. Yesterday she was trying to get people to join and go to a meeting about the restructuring...

Mike Harman
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Nov 5 2005 14:04
Steve wrote:
If it's UNISON then you may have a problem keeping managers out unless, of course, none of them are members.

Each workplace can have a rep and each union too btw.

Yeah, membership is so low that people might be persuaded to join a different union if they knew managers could be members of UNISON. I'm still in the early stages of discussing things with people - although it's going better than I expected so far. Tranlating that into actual results will be tricky though.

Steve
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Nov 5 2005 14:14

Take it easy, although it's illegal to sack someone for joining/trying to form a union if the management find out they'll try to get rid of you. Best of luck.

Mike Harman
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Nov 5 2005 14:27

yeah I know. I'm on probation still as well. angry

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Ramona
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Nov 6 2005 15:02

I don't know if this counts, but me and a co-worker at a children's play centre got our line manager to stop being a dick about kids with non-english names (i.e. deliberately mis-pronouncing them, refusing to say them properly when other people corrected them etc) by complaining to the director. It wasn't exactly a significant change but hey.