▶ [Slide 1]
It's on the hour, so we're about to start. If you're not tuned in to the stream, tune in.
Welcome to the Houston Spies' Introduction to Workplace Training.
It's inspired by the UK Your Job Your Union campaign. If you're interested in learning more, check out the IWW site.
▶ [Slide 2]
This will be a four-hour workshop. Save non-urgent questions to the end--usually this is done over six hours, so we need to blast through.
There'll be time for asking questions at the end. Urgent questions in full-group discussion.
Breaks will be as close as possible to the top of the hour.
▶ [Slide 3]
The course will be introductions, some exercises about understanding and mapping your workplace, getting started one-on-one (conversations between you and another worker), organising and building the team and preparing for the worst, and effective action in the workplace. What can we do to get what we want, as workers?
The channels will be #blackboard, for screenshots of slides and notes.
The #transcript is subtitles. Gwen will be writing stuff up. Thanks, Gwen!
#full-group-discussion is for conversations during large group texts, because we don't want everyone talking at once, in an online chat.
The types of activities will be full group (facilitators talking, participants discussing in text), small group discussions (voice or text in group discussion channels below), each choosing a speaker to report back during the discussion after, and paired activities in a room below.
When you're done, rather than going off-topic, pop back into the main room.
If you haven't checked out the resources, check them out.
▶ [Slide 4]
Take notes during this activity--we want to remember what our fellow workers have said.
We'll separate you into pairs for 10 minutes.
Name, pronouns, city or IWW branch, general profession and industry (not specific company), issues or grievances (this will be used later). (Issues or grievances could be, My boss doesn't give us the rota in advance; We're working with dangerous machinery and improper training.) Lastly, previous organising experience. This can refer to union organising, but also to anything that involves gathering people to work together, like putting together a birthday party, GMing a roleplaying game, babysitting three of your younger cousins--children are people.
Start filtering into your paired groups, and make sure to take notes.
The facilitators will introduce themselves first, then participants will introduce their partners.
I've written down grievances in the blackboard channel. Grievances are very common, I think everyone has issues. We might refer back to these, if you ever need an example of a workplace grievance. Think about how this might affect you or has.
We all have workplace organising experience. [Transcriber's note: We all have organising experience, which is a relevant foundation for workplace organising.]
▶ [Slide 5]
Our next group activity is talking about what a union actually is. You'll go into a group with another pair. Pick one person to take notes on answers to all of these questions to report back to a larger group.
What you want to be doing is start with your understanding.
Talk about what a union is. We'll give ours at the end, they'll probably be more similar than you expect.
What are three positive and three negative associations? They might be things you've heard other people say, or things you're not sure if they're true.
As a group, you'll make a definition, three positives, three negatives.
Crow Siphon, Flickering Fire eaters, Honey Debt, Fireproof Squids, etc. We'll put the one Squiddish person in Honey Debt.
Everybody's finished early! Best class.
First, each group speaker give their group's definition. Did you all nominate one?
Crow Siphon, what is your brief definition of a union?
They're a collective voice of labor when negotiating with people who hold power in the company.
(We'll go through one at a time, so each group gets a chance.) Flickering Fire Eaters, what is your definition?
A group of workers with shared class interest who come together to form strong collective bargaining.
A union is a group made of workers/people in your industry that works together to prevent unfair worplace practices and make positive change through collective action that grants them leverage.
These are good defintions! Our example answers was two or more people getting together to defend their interests in their workplace; an organisation that bargains a contract for workers; a group of people working to improve their working conditions.
Crow Siphon, give us one association, positive or negative, about a union.
Negative: abstract concepts that aren't well-taught in the US; it's hard to understand the value until you need one.
Flickering Fire-eaters, what's an association?
Positive: unions provide secure worker protections.
Positive: Unions ended child labor.
At least a vast majority of it.
In America, UK, etc.
Crow Siphon, give us another.
Positive: Produces collective ownership to help with distributing ownership and power for people doing the work.
Negative: In the early stages of building a union, you are highly susceptible to retaliation.
That's a good point.
That's one of the things we'll deal with today. Honey Debted, one more?
Sometimes inter-union power relations can benefit some workers more than others.
There's a stigma that I've heard in the US, that unions cause people to be lazy and not work as hard, because they're not going to be fired as easily. (Not one I believe.)
You'll see in media, "Ugh, unions." Do we want to do one more runaround or go to example answers?
Police unions are bastards.
There's a potential for corruption in union leaderships, especially ones with higher aspirations.
One of the things IWW tries to avoid is called a service union, one with a large passive membership and a couple full-time experts. They're basically job insurance, try and sell you on insurance and dues, but not helping people. They're making money off of making things marginally better.
A positive is that unions gave us an eight-hour work day.
If we could shrink it a little more...
Pasting some examples we might not immediately think of. Better pay, better working conditions, health and safety. Unions are a vehicle for progressive social change. the IWW stays out of electoral politics, but encouraging people to organise is applicable to activism.
If we decide to strike, that has a big effect. Giving workers more power, solidarity, and support.
Company unions work with the employer, often management will be members of the union, mostly interested in a quiet life rather than transferring power to the workers.
A good example of that is a UK union, which organises workers in Operation Trident, a US nuclear base in Scotland, agitating to keep that around, even though no one else wants it.
They have workers who are management, so your union rep might be the manager. You don't want to bring your grievances to the manager, obviously.
Other examples are trade unions full of middle-aged white guys, though the jobs that need unionising most are minorities and people who are underrepresented in their industries.
In my last two school districts, there was something that looked like a union, and acted like one in certain ways, like negotiating about benefits and pay, but insisted they were not a union.
There was a marked difference between the benefits and rights and protections in districts where I had a union, and ones where I didn't. Generally, trade unions and union-esque things won't protect strikes and direct action.
These things exist to deflect organising away.
One more slide, then a break.
▶ [Slide 6]
The IWW was formed in 1905 in Chicago, pretty new in the UK and Ireland, last 10 years. Unlike other unions, which organise in specific industries or job roles, we seek to organise everyone, one union for all workers.
We are not associated with any political party, and are run by workers, no paid experts. Everyone who works in the IWW is doing that because they believe people should organise. We specialise in organising small industries and precarious workers, like hospitality and game industry, that would not normally get attention from other unions.
"The working class and the employing class have nothing in common."
We have another group discussion coming up, but for now, a five-minute break. Step out, get a glass of water.
Forgot to mention about IWW, to stop company unions, we don't allow anyone with hiring/firing power, or managers, to join the union. You can involve them in workplace organising but they won't be allowed to join the union itself, so that union reps will not be managers.
▶ [Slide 7]
What makes a good organiser? Ten minutes in groups, same groups as before. If you were an organiser, or looking for someone, what traits make a good organiser, and what should they not do? Take notes and be ready to report back.
Let's get started with feeding back these ideas. What are the characteristics of a good organiser? What should a good organiser not do?
Crow Siphon, give us one of these.
A good organiser should be busproof: if they get hit by a bus, the union isn't forced to start over.
(In general, good organisers should not get hit by buses.)
That's a really good one. Flickering Fire-Eaters?
You should not force or coerce someone into joining without giving information about the union.
A good organiser should be an active listener, picking up on what the people they organise care about and can take action on.
That's a really good one. It's important to understand people's workplace grievances. Honey Debted?
Honey Squiddy Debted.
They need to listen to experiences of different race, gender, and so on, and not be dismissive of those concerns.
As a white person in a workplace that's almost entirely of color, one of four white people in my workplace, and the most present union rep is also one of the only white people in the workplace. It's important to respect issues of race and gender specifically, and not make assumptions based on a white position of privilege.
A good organiser should not amass power for the sake of amassing power.
How do you mean?
They shouldn't be a union rep because they want a position of power. They should do it because they want to help people.
You're not a superhero. Otherwise it will lead to gathering power whether you want to or not.
Leans towards extroverted.
Comfortable talking to others? You can be a good organiser even if you're not super outgoing and sociable. It depends on how you approach it.
Let's do a third, we have Squids. Organisers should be from what they organise, not coming in from outside. If there's multiple fields, you should have people from different parts of that.
One more round? Crow Siphon, one more?
A good organiser needs to be cautious. They're responsible for other people, they can't be cavalier with what people are trusting them with.
In the process of organising a workplace, you'll be collecting a lot of personal information. You don't want to be reckless with that. Flickering Fire Eaters, one more?
An organiser shouldn't aim to recreate a hierarchical power structure.
What do you mean by that?
With hierarchies, you end up with people at the bottom with not as much representation. For our group, we came to it because avoiding that power structure helps avoid the issues that come with it.
At the end of the day, we're trying to give the people with less power more power. If we're just going to end up with people with no control over their lives, no point in doing it. Honey Debted?
Union organisers should be able to effectively communicate what the union is and what it wants.
That's a good one. Being able to talk about the union less as an independent entity that has its wants and needs, and more what the workers in the workplace want and need.
I have some example answers that we might not have thought of but are important.
Methodical and reliable, who takes notes. Keeping a diary helps so much. If someone says something and you don't write it down, you'll forget, but it's a grievance or a problem in their life that could be helped if their work was less shit.
Someone who reacts to change well, because the boss will change stuff up if they get wise. Keeping up to date with drives in similar industries--if someone says "We can't organise in the bar industry", you say "Weatherspoons down in Brighton organised and won paid overtime."
Someone who develops other workers' skills. That goes with not wanting a hierarchical power structure and being busproof. You want to push other organisers to get better at it and help, rather than doing all the work yourself.
We touched on not necessarily being charismatic.
What you shouldn't do is take charge; telling lies or making false promises: "We can get you a pay rise" or "How would you feel about getting 10 pounds an hour?" If it doesn't happen, everyone thinks you're full of shit.
If someone has a grievance or is being pulled in for discipline, don't say the union can help you or will keep you your job. If the union isn't able to, the person will be jaded.
Do no harm. Don't take risks with people's livelihoods, keep workers out of danger as much as possible. Keep your notebook out of the boss's hands, don't brag about who you're meeting with.
In the handouts there are other things to bear in mind as an organiser, but honestly all of these are things that we can practise. An organiser isn't a Superman. They're just another person. Anyone in your workplace can become one.
▶ [Slide 8]
Over the rest of the slideshow, we'll be talking about these stages of a campaign. Understanding the workplace--how to gather information, how to map and chart physical and social layout of a workplace, talk to them one-on-one and identify the natural social leaders.
Every workplace has a Mary, the secretary who knows how to do the job, everyone asks her for advice, she trains new folks and isn't a manager: that's a social leader. Not necessarily in charge, but everyone respects her. We want to identify these people and get them on-side: "What does Mary think?"
The third section is building the team and recruiting them to the union, to the organisation in the workplace which doesn't necessarily have to be part of the union.
Lastly, determining the main grievances and strategy and going public. How do we announce We're here and this is what we want?
Don't make yourself or the organising drive a target before you go public. Don't expect immediate results. It may be a year or two before the workplace is organised. It's OK to get small, achievable gains at first, then share those so everyone knows you're doing this.
▶ [Slide 9]
This is my favorite part of organising. It makes me feel like a spy.
The next activity is workplace mapping.
One of the most important parts of an organising campaign is knowing your workplace, as your boss does.
That can look like a physical map, drawing out the workplace and marking where the bartenders are and go, waiters are and go, kitchen staff.
But it can also look more abstract, like this. I like to do this as a spreadsheet as well as the visual information, because you can store more information on a spreadsheet.
The workplace mapping here is simple. In the center, you've got you, the person you can always trust. In the first circle, people organising with you, union members or those who are interested.
Two is sympathisers, who agree but aren't actively helping you. Three is neutral vibes; unknowns are here or outside the circle. Four is those who will actively work against you. Even nice sympathetic managers must go in circle four until the union is established.
This helps us think about who to talk to first, who talks to who, who's influential, how to keep the element of surprise.
First, optionally, divide it into slices: in half: coding, versus artists, in a game dev situation. Kitchen workers, bar workers, waiters.
If there are people working very different jobs, separate those out and mark who talks to who between those jobs.
All the kitchen workers going on strike will have a big effect, but everyone going on strike will be much better.
Then place workers, or bargaining units in larger workplaces, around based on where you think they should be.
A bargaining unit is a group of workers who would be bargaining together.
That map would be made in addition to a smaller workplace map. We want to go for individual people if possible.
Lastly, map relationships, like Joe's friends with Terry and not with Tim. Draw arrows between workers who are friends.
This is an individual exercise. Just draw some of these circles in our notebook or Paint and put people in our workplace around these circles. If you're in the same workplace, you can compare maps. Often you'll realise where you thought someone was, isn't--they're dating a manager, or used to be a union organiser.
We'll have 10 minutes, then if anyone wants to volunteer to show their map, we'd love to see it and have you walk us through it.
Ten minutes starts now.
[Activity begins, but further answers and explanations are given]
Bargaining units are people with similar interests for union negotiating purposes, when mapping very large workplaces.
It's important to map relationships between union members and managers, because when building the union, you want to avoid looping in people who might accidentally let something slip to managers before you're ready to go public.
People who work in the same workplace but for different businesses are great to get on-side, and worth mapping, because people working together for strikes are very effective. [Example given.]
[Soliciting volunteers for sharing their workplace map to go over afterward.]
I made a big spreadsheet with the names of workers at my last workplace, whether they were part or full-time, how long I thought they'd been working there. I kept it updated as we talked, and it helped. First impressions weren't always right.
There was an Italian guy, metal listener, libertarian, I thought would be anti-union, but back home he'd been in syndicalist unions, and ended up joining the IWW.
Especially in larger workplaces, you'll have workers you don't know the name of. You can draw question marks outside the rings, or draw an asterisk and note if you don't remember the name, where you think they are. Your top priority should be learning who they are.
Another reason we map our workplace is to have a rough idea of who is in the workplace and who's good to look at, even people we don't know personally.
▶ [Slide 10]
[Note: two participants shared and explained their workplace maps discussed. This is redacted.]
We've got this example, also posted in Blackboard at higher resolution. This is one we'll come back to later. It's in the handout.
There's a couple people with more friendships than others, like Cat, you, James, and the manager. These are people to keep an eye on, because they have a lot of connections in the workplace.
If you were in this workplace, your goal would be to move the influential people, and everyone else, further into the middle of the circle.
The waiters are likely to talk to the bartenders and kitchen, so it's useful to get them on side, because they will be able to talk to anyone without getting in trouble. Cleaners are also in that situation, basically invisible, and always treated like garbage.
▶ [Slide 11]
When talking to other workers, whether in a one-on-one, or beforehand at work, it's useful to take notes. The information you want can vary, but the necessities are: name and pronouns to avoid being a jerk; job role--team leaders got a pay rise and the work of 10 people. They have a lot of grievances but will get into a lot of shit if they don't tell the manager about a union.
How do you get someone's contact information? Asking people is the best, but you can look at the company website or e-mail list, ask the boss for a list for cards or a party (this depends on the boss being lax on security), circulate an innocuous petition to get outside-work contact info.
You also want to know their issues with work (not too negative but you want to know what their problems are to fix them),
You want to know their relationships, their opinions on unions.
You might learn some by listening to other people.
One of the chefs would talk shit about everyone: C---'s been sucking up to the manager. K--- and the manager have been dating unsubtly though they're pretending they're not. Verify gossip but use it.
You can get information from people out of union, and about people out of union.
People who are neutral or anti-union may change their minds if specific things happen, or if they think something is possible or impossible.
If someone's a Nazi, you don't want to organise with them. It can be useful to know if they're ideologically opposed or with you, but you can still organise a Tory, and maybe change their mind. But they might be jerks and try to hijack it, so be careful.
If you know someone is involved in the queer community or an activist thing, that's a good excuse to get talking to them, and lets you know what organising experience they have.
If someone organises a pub crawl every year, they're a good organiser. If someone knows code, they can help.
My spouse whips up an amazing spreadsheet for Secret Santa.
To get this information, you can ask people, notice clocking-in cards, check the website. (Most of my data for my spreadsheet was from the rota published to the website.)
Looking through rubbish bins--illegal in the UK, so be careful--but if you have someone on-side who is a cleaner, that can be very useful.
My friend G--- in the care sector got a cleaner in the union. Managers would keep talking when he was around, and he'd overhear it, and when emptying the bosses' bins, he'd check the paper bin.
Have they talked about anyone, mentioned company information and secure information? They got really good information from that. The more info we have, the more prepared we can be.
Occasionally you'll get information because of mistakes or incompetence by bosses. In a tenant organizing effort, a landlord mistakenly sent it out as a reply all, so every person with a renter relationship with them knew the e-mail of every other such person, which saved them a year of information.
I did the exact thing when sending out the e-mail for this. By mistake. I forgot to bcc.
▶ [Slide 12]
You want to keep that personal information as secure as possible. Don't keep that on the work property, the work's laptop. Don't publicly mention it on social media. Don't share details on social media. Use two-factor authentication when you can.
In the last city I lived in, people who were just starting their union organisation effort typically came up with a code name or nickname for their workplace or effort, because it wasn't something I needed to know about. An IWW meeting was in a public room in a library, so it wasn't a safe place for private information.
This is often done to encourage the public to come, so be secure.
We have resources for data security.
▶ [Slide 13]
When organising people, one of the big mistakes that big unions may encourage you to do, is distribute flyers and hold big meetings and send out an e-mail to everyone asking them to come to the union meeting.
Don't do that. The boss will start an anti-union campaign immediately, trying to damage your credibility.
It'll alienate people: Why should I care? If they come, they might not feel comfortable speaking up. Especially shyer folks might have good ideas they won't share.
It'll waste a lot of time with questions from people who know the least: What is a union? Why should I join a union?
Meeting one-on-one reduces liability, both known and accidental. If you find out someone is married to the boss, it's just a social meeting, you're the only one at risk.
It also builds relationships between you and folks. It's more personal, it makes the union less of an alien thing, people coming into our workplace, more a thing we've organised together.
It lets you learn individual issues, how work is affecting this person, what could be better, how has the company wronged them.
▶ [Slide 14]
Talking to workers is best done one-on-one at least until they're on-side, then you can meet with two people or in a small group.
People always ask, How do you start a conversation? How do you just start talking about this? I tend to just talk about life.
Talk about life outside work, sports, splorts, TV. Avoid controversial stuff at first.
We don't want to make it a big ideology thing at first, don't want to say the word union.
Find out what the really important things in the person's life that their job conditions are preventing them from.
I had a worker who was like, My family is a family of teachers, so we're fine with working for little pay for long hours. But then talking to them, I'm studying this tourism course, and I wish I had more time, but I have to work 40 hours a week.
It would be really good if you could work less hours, but not have to worry about pay, right? When you relate work to people's lives, a lot of problems in their lives can be traced back to unfair treatment at work, or improved work conditions would at least help.
We want to talk outside of work. Talking in breakrooms, people can eavesdrop or walk in, or the rooms are bugged, or in places like Amazon no one has free time to talk.
Listen and ask questions. As an organiser, most of what we say is going to be forgotten, so what we do say we want to count. We want to ask open questions, like How do you feel about this? What could we do? How could this be better?
Not questions like Do you feel your pay is unfair? because the answer is just No. End of conversation.
Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and our job is to listen to them, ask questions. We want to be constructive. Even when talking about how shit work is, we don't want a misery vortex. What can we do about this?
"I've seen a bunch of other folks have had similar worries. How can we fix this?"
A thought-terminating statement is something like Oh, what can you do? Why bother? I hate Mondays. As organisers, we have to answer, Well, what can we do about it?
Even if the person gets annoyed, they're trying to stop the conversation and stop thinking about it, you're still making them think a better world is possible.
If the first step is How does work stop them doing what they care about? the second step is something like What do we have the power to do about it? rather than putting the power somewhere in accessible or in the boss's hands.
When being constructive, we want to try and come up with, together, something that the two of you and perhaps the rest of the people at the workplace can do to make things better.
A lot of the time, stupid or silly ideas aren't stupid.
Let's take another five-minute break.
▶ [Slide 15]
We have another activity, in our groups. Imagine we're an organiser meeting someone about work outside the workplace for the first time. What are DOs and DON'Ts for before the meeting, preparing, versus during the meeting, versus after the meeting is over?
Again, choose someone to feed back to the rest of us. Pop into your big groups.
For the first one-on-one meeting, what's important to do and not do? Crow Siphon?
Before, you should practice your pitch/script, be sure what you want to say and can present it well.
Work out roughly what you want to say.
Flickering Fire-Eaters? (A very metal name.) Do or Don't for before?
Don't apply any pressure to join or commit before you even get there.
You do want to make sure that if they commit to meeting, they do come along, but don't pressure and double-text.
Honey Debted, do or don't for before?
Pitch this as a meeting for union stuff. Just go in and hang out and then slow-roll talking about stuff. Don't give the game away immediately.
Don't use the word "union" unless you're absolutely sure they're on your side.
Fireproof Squids, one for before?
Usually Sam has the option to hang out and have a drink after work with co-workers, and that's a good atmosphere to start a discussion. Pay structure tended to be a mutual point to focus on based on previous discussions.
Pick a mutual point to focus on, choose somewhere a person will be interested in.
Before going on to during, here are some of the before: Get advice from your area organiser in the union. "I'm meeting up with someone, could you give me advice?" Check their place on the workplace map, think about what their grievances might be, and prepare examples for similar actions in your industry.
The British branch likes to push, but the American branch doesn't necessarily, that you should meet in places that are non-alcoholic, so people don't think it's a date, or get drunk.
This was best practices in my location as well.
This isn't a social call. You're talking about problems at work. You don't want people to get the wrong idea, get trashed, and forget what they'd agreed to.
That doesn't mean don't socialize with a drink with your coworkers--just don't make your union pitch there.
What are DOs and DON'Ts for during the meeting? Crow Siphon?
You shouldn't disclose other people's status or opinions on the union.
Absolutely. Keep other people's concerns out of it. You might not be sure whether they're on your side yet, so don't disclose anyone else's membership. Flickering Fire-Eaters?
For during, we had do listen to their grievances, and take notes.
If it feels like they might get annoyed at you taking notes during the meeting, take them after.
"Hey, what's your e-mail?" "Hey, what's your phone number?"
Press them on what we can change, what we can do, don't stop at thought-terminating statements.
Obviously you don't want to badger them, but pushing a little bit is useful.
Wait time: If you ask somebody a question, give them time to put it together and answer than you're comfortable with, another five seconds or so. You get more answers. Push people through that thought termination. If you're not talking too much, people might talk more to fill that silence.
Fireproof Squids, give us one more.
During the conversation, make sure they understand that their interests are important to us.
At the end of the day, it's not us and them, it's you interested in the same things they are. A union is a we.
Even if we're just helping their interests, it will help all of our interests.
It's worth noting that your co-workers might have interests that you don't share. Those are important, probably the most important things to get from this conversation.
If you're white you might not realise there's a systemic racism problem in your workplace.
Some of the during examples are ask if they'd be happy to meet with you and another organiser or worker, if they seem on board. They could be shadowing you as you do it, or doing it themselves, depending on their confidence.
Ask if they want to contribute to the organising drive. (Don't say "union" unless you know they're on your side.) Could they talk to Charlie, in the kitchen, you don't get to talk to them very often? Could they draft up an e-mail? Think of a concrete thing they could help with, together.
Ask if they want to come to an organising training, if they're on board with the union. Contact your local union, and if there's more than one of you looking to organise, they'll run you a training.
Other people can help you collect contact information.
They might have information you don't. You don't want to talk in the work WhatsApp about union organising, but you do want the phone numbers.
What are DOs and DON'Ts for after the meeting, Siphon Crows?
Do follow up about things you're talking about.
If they agreed to do anything, make sure to do it. Check how they're feeling. Don't badger them, but stay in contact.
Afterwards, do update the mapping and other tools with new information. Keep up with your paperwork.
I guarantee in these one-on-ones you'll learn things you hadn't known. People don't want to talk about themselves in the workplace, because they don't want to show weakness and get in trouble. Outside, people will spill their hearts out to you.
Honey Debted, give us one.
All of our points are already covered.
Give us a before or during if there's one that hasn't been picked.
A good during is don't get into a despair spiral, keep the conversation productive. You're commiserating, but you want them to feel there's possibility for change.
We don't want to burn them out, we want to light them on fire.
[Everyone is distressed by this metaphor.]
Make sure there is a channel open for communication for a later date.
You want constant communication. The more they feel they can communicate with you, the more that normalizes contacting with others, in a support network.
Make them feel they can come to you when they have an issue, rather than they can discuss issues when you set a meeting with them.
Our examples for after were mostly taken also. Debrief with the organizer, so they can update their campaign diary. If you're in touch with the union, let them know. They want to know how it's going so they can help.
Make notes, a full write-up with all the problems. Follow up on action points: If you said you're going to do something, do it.
I have one more: Do ask people to do things. If they're on board, ask them favors, stuff they can help with. People will usually do a thing if you ask them to.
This might not be the most terribly ethical way of keeping notes, but you can record conversations on your phone, if you don't want to openly take notes.
If you think someone's on board, ask before you do that.
Follow up on ask people to do things: Yes. What happens is you're leveling everyone up. They're more capable, they did a thing, they're invested in doing things together.
That turns other people in your workplace into organisers too. That's how you build them up.
What's best is doing a bit of Socratic method, so they start asking people to do things.
▶ [Slide 16]
Next activity: social leader identification.
This exercise (do on your own) is looking at workers in an imaginary workplace and who you might reach out to, what the pros and cons are of reaching out to each one first.
We'll be keeping the server open for a couple of days, so if people want to converse about it after, that's fine. The gist is you've got a couple workers, James is kind of a lad and has organised people to get together regularly, Megan knows everyone and wears a union badge, Cat is a waiter who's organised in the past, and Lukasz is pro-union and has organised in the past.
▶ [Slide 17]
Agitate, Educate, Organise
This is an age-old labor movement slogan. Agitate: making a connection: It's like this for me too. Find out issues, ask questions, and make individual problems about everyone. If someone is having a problem, someone else might, too.
Make people recognise that it's structural and boss issues that are in the place, not their own fault.
The workplace is designed to make people feel accountable for problems they have.
Sometimes people don't want to blame the boss, but the structure is more removed.
Educate is not telling them what to do, but asking them to think about how things could be different, encouraging them to suggest solutions, providing examples of solutions that have worked in the past. Having plans and creating plans together.
Point out the problem. Point out the solution. In that conversation, you'll be doing both.
This activity is roleplaying a conversation with agitating and educating. Use grievances from the introduction. This will be done over 20 minutes, 10 minutes each.
[People are having to leave.]
Question. In actual one-on-ones, I'd want to lean on things we've done and are planning to do.
Imagine there's not an ongoing campaign yet, this is one of your first reaching-out conversations.
Should we pretend to be part of the organiser's workplace?
Yes, that might be a good way to provide some context.
Try to be someone from their workplace--talk about who the archetype is in their workplace they'd like to practise talking to first.
How did everyone find that roleplay exercise?
[various:] good, enjoyed it, started off feeling unsure about the goal but realised that you can start talking about whatever and shift the conversation over: "Did you hear that Marcus quit recently? I heard he was really burned out too, like you were talking about." That's a very realistic topic: what happened, high emotion, etc.
The aim is to normalize and make natural starting these conversations. Pushing through that awkwardness, it's a normal thing to do.
▶ [Slide 18]
Our next part is Organise. We kind of covered this already. When organising, we don't want to tell people what to do, we want to work together, share the workload, and use everyone's skills.
Maybe they know how to program a site, maybe they know how to do teaching. Play to everyone's strengths. The union won't fail and flounder if one person gets ill or injured or dies.
▶ [Slide 19]
Inoculation is the practice of giving a bit of a bad thing to make you stronger against it.
As an organiser, you want to be realistic about the risks and difficulties, what the anti-union campaigns will be like, what people's worries will be.
Don't make false promises, promise pay rises, promise success. Be prepared that things will go bad that you have no control over.
A lot of blaseball is about things going bad that you have no control over, like [Ruby?] Tuesday.
Bosses do illegal shit all the time.
A fine is just how much it costs to do something illegal.
Collective action helps hold the boss accountable. The law will not reliably protect us.
▶ [Slide 20]
This exercise is usually 10, we're cutting it down.
We'll talk about fears and worries, what the boss's propaganda, tactics, and threats might be. Then we'll talk about responses.
"I could get fired."
What's a response to that? Talk out loud if you want.
If you're on the verge of going public, you can use someone getting fired as the story.
I'd find that compelling, but I'm a single person with no family to feed, if you had kids and a mortgage that would be harder. What about saying, "We don't need you to be a front-line worker, you can be shielded from the immediate fallout"?
And making sure you don't move until you're ready to move all at once, because it's harder to fire everyone.
If there's a clear leader, they might fire them "for unrelated reasons" for legal purposes, but it's because they organised.
If someone is fired, have them bring up a grievance, bring in union reps.
What else could you do?
[various:] strike, slowdown, work to rule
What's another worry?
Being harassed for being a member of the union.
Even if they don't fire you, they might bully you.
Discussing amongst yourself, making sure that person is not alone with management, they always have someone with them to step in and say something, changing the tone or acting cheerfully oblivious to defuse that harassment.
If the boss starts talking shit about Cheryl, whom they know is a union member, maybe they have an ulterior motive.
Boss is talking shit. Join the union.
[Hesitant:] Go to HR maybe?
Document bullying/harassment for evidence for the future.
You can do it in ways that keep digital timestamps, take photographic or video evidence.
In the UK, harassment law is very strong, so bosses try to portray the union as harassing them.
Keeping evidence of times you've gone out of your way to be nice or helpful helps protect against this tactic.
You could get put on shit detail.
You're now cleaning the toilets. You're doing all the hard work, night shifts.
Anything to make you want to quit before they fire you. cut your hours if you're a shift worker.
Put you on a horrible job or one where you won't interact with anyone.
If you have a solid base of aspiring union members already, and the boss was trying to be under-the-table about it, having people be "Oh, I'll take a shift of that" so they don't have that excuse to put you on it exclusively.
A lot of workplaces let you swap shifts as long as the work gets done, so if you can sort that out to keep talking to people is good.
I know you need to not be working at three so you can pick your kid up from daycare, so can you take my night shift and I'll take your afternoon shift?
If the boss doesn't let you--
Frame it so other workers are switching with you.
It sounded like you wanted to say something, S---?
You may, if they won't accept a coworker's innocent request for switching shift, it tips their hand on why they're doing what they're doing. It's harder to play ignorant when people are pushing back in a blameless way.
What can we do to address people's fears regarding feeding their family?
Unions can cover pay if workers go on strike or get fired unjustly, once it's set up.
Making a campaign to reinstate you doesn't always work but it's an option. There's ways to make sure you definitely get of your bonus or holiday pay.
A big worry about being fired is it's really embarrassing and traumatic, and having a support base of people who know it wasn't your fault can help a lot.
If you're being realistic about the risks you're asking people to take, that somebody could get fired for this, and we're going to do what we can to stop that and protect you or rally to get you back if you want--there's also emphasizing the costs and risks of not doing anything.
If you're in a workplace where you fire you could get fired for organising, how stable is your job anyway? One person was talking about bosses joking about firing people, like it's a bit.
Emphasizing the risks of not doing anything is the other part of inoculation, but you want to be realistic.
What's propaganda bosses might use?
In our industry, it's, The studio can't support the union's demands, the industry will collapse if people unionise.
"Oh, it's in your best interests not to unionise": How do we fight that?
Check the resources page for a good example.
"Our restaurant is a family. If you're talking against it, you're talking against your family."
If the company starts doing this propaganda, what should we do to respond?
Combat misinformation with facts, while protecting yourself.
Organise a campaign, posters and such.
There's a lot of education you can directly do. Union members statistically make more money from being unionised than they lose in dues. Get the benefits out there, how much you stand to gain. If your health care plan gets cut by $60 a month, if you get a 3% pay raise, if you get severance pay when you get laid off by your company downsizing in a couple years, that'll be three to 12 months of pay.
Also union fees are not as expensive as companies like to say. I pay two pounds a month.
I believe I pay $20 a month.
▶ [Slide 21]
Next activity: What kinds of actions can people take, how risky are they, how many people need to be involved?
Have several people confront a boss together: We've seen how you talk about so-and-so, we'd like you to stop, it's creating a hostile workplace and we don't like it either.
You take turns in talking and make it clear that you have power and people and want to be very obviously organised.
A sit-in is something which usually happens at student organising levels. When fees were going to raise by 10%, the grad student union and the undergrad one for solidarity sat in the dining hall for a day and a half. The workers were given a heads-up, everything was fine. The hall was shut down.
You can physically block the place.
How risky would you say it is?
For individuals, not much, but for face of the movement, much. Some were arrested and targeted, but it was people who knew what they were signed up for.
Work to rule is like a strike or slowdown, the idea is to affect the workplace conditions and business bottom line by meticulously following every rule and regulation, because usually corners get cut on those. It's like malicious compliance, but in a cheerful and smiling way. Done everyone all at once, to show coordination and power.
"No, can't do that, goes against safety guidelines." "Need three technicians." "This needs signed off on."
How risky is that?
Probably least risky of all the ones mentioned so far. They can fire you for insubordination, but if everyone's doing it, it's hard to pick someone.
It could be done individually, but it's much riskier. But in a workplace where you're doing multiple people's jobs, you can really slow things down even as an individual.
It's important to get workers across job roles and types so no one worker type can be villainized.
Publicizing worker conditions can be very effective, but you have to be careful to stick to the truth.
You're probably in trouble if they can definitely trace it to you.
Our company has something in the contract about openly disparaging the company.
If you can keep yourself secretive, it can just be yourself.
In some workplaces, whistleblowing can lead to imprisonment.
Coordinating sick days.
A sick-out! That can be effective. It's kind of a strike but in the rules.
The restaurant is shut down because everyone happened to catch the "not paid enough" flu.
It's less risky than a straight strike, but some workplaces can sanction you for sick day abuse. Everyone has to be on the same page that this is what you're doing, and that does risk leaking to the manager.
Writing a letter or petition can be a low-risk tactic.
Boycotting, asking the customers to boycott because your work is mistreating you.
A comms zap or phone zap applies pressure and attention to a workplace or office. The goal is to tie up their attention by coordinating mobbing them by phone. "I'm calling in because I've heard that people are being fired and losing wages. I'm a member of the community and I want you to stop it." It calls public attention and blocks workplaces from getting things done. It's more effective in some places than others. I've seen it used at prosecutors' offices, City Hall, jails. You get a thrill when they shut the phone boxes down.
Also effective: slowdowns, everyone is moving like molasses, taking a long time to get work done. When the bosses notice, maybe stop and don't mention anything but demands.
A sit-in strike is when they stop working for a certain time.
Monkeywrenching is sabotage. Be careful, because you can get in a lot of shit, but if all the printers stop working, there's not much the work can do.
A good-work strike is when you continue to work but don't charge the public, great for costing the company money and getting the public on side.
▶ [Slide 22]
Striking is the most powerful, but it costs money, the union covering wages, the company may have to close. It puts people at risk, but it's very powerful.
If the manager survives a strike, they've survived the worst we can manage, so we want to save them and try to escalate when they refuse, and gradually move down if they do what we want.
Tailor your tactics to what's effective for that boss, whether it's looking good, online reviews, delivering services effectively and quickly.
The IWW will use anything we can to apply pressure, legal, public, and economic.
▶ [Slide 23]
As well as organising in the workplace, we want to recruit people to the IWW, to the union once people are aware of it.
It grows the union, builds solidarity, leads to things getting better with the world.
It's also about recruiting people once you've built your union, when new people join the workplace.
▶ [Slide 24]
We're now taking questions.
Is there a way to protect immigrant workers when encouraging them to join in workplace organising?
You definitely want to be "culturally sensitive" and include everyone as you reach out and build a workplace support network.
Reach out to your local union branch for more advice and support.
The union culture in Mexico's auto manufacturing is pretty strong. They might have their own ideas to bring to the table. They also might have some biases and concerns that are different.
Your manager might make out that unions are Communist, but reach out and see what their history is. Companies often have several cultures inside them, groups of friends who have different grievances.
Don't assume they're not willing to take risks.
How do you broach the topic of collecting dues, asking people to contribute to a common pool?
I've only organised through the IWW, so I just pitch them on the IWW, here are the resources it provides, the dues are X per month but that's keeping the union going and funding strike funds.
In the US, IWW dues are six bucks a month for the under-minimum wage group, and they won't stop you from helping out if you're not up on your dues.
We've only talked about workplace organisers, but there are other kinds that the IWW helps organise, workers in prisons in the US, tenant organising.
These skills that we've looked into and demystified are very much useful in any kind of organising, not just for unions.
▶ [Slide 25]
Contact the IWW for support.
You don't need a branch near you to be a member.
Several of you mentioned grievances, wanted to start to organise, as workers or students. They'll fund organising campaigns. In the UK, check out Your Job, Your Union. This workplace training is based on that. In the US, contact their organising department. They'll send an organiser to give you a phone call and talk about your workplace. They run workshops like this.
We'll close the server after a few days. Feel free to contact facilitators for advice or help. We'll send out a feedback survey. Check the website we've linked for more resources.
▶ [Slide 26]