• #StagehandView: First, We (Re)Organize Ourselves …

    by  • April 1, 2014 • Blogs, Community, Member Contributions, Stagehand View

    http://www.laborarts.org/about/

    http://www.laborarts.org/about/

    You’ve heard me talk about organizing. A lot. I’ve written about it here and elsewhere. But I can be a little stupid sometimes, so it only just dawned on me that all the local 205 members I’ve been talking organizing with probably assume I mean the external kind where a union targets a group of unorganized workers, brings them into the union, and negotiates a new CBA.

    That type of organizing is a big part of the equation. We definitely need more of it.

    But there’s a more fundamental, intra-union type of organizing that has to happen first because it serves as the foundation for the external kind. This kind of drive for primary, internal organizing has to grow out of the culture of a union local. Which is probably why it only seems to happen when the members actively run things instead of sitting back and relying on their e-board to handle all the work. It manifests in well-planned (and well-executed) bottom-up contract campaigns featuring strategic collective actions that back up the representatives at the bargaining table. Another sign that a union has embodied the organizing model is the presence of a lot of diverse, pro-active committees that accomplish assigned tasks on schedule. Internal union organizing boils down to the members making their local work for them by [You’ve figured out where I’m going with this, haven’t you?] working for their local.

    Don’t sneer. Sure it’s trite, but that’s because it’s basically what JFK said.

    You got a problem with JFK? I mean besides his pharmaceutical and sex dependence? … Or his refusal to push civil rights legislation. … But I’m http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2011/01/20/133083711/jfks-inaugural-speech-great-but-incomplete-on-racegetting off topic.

    I kind of feel like our local might be starting to move toward embracing an organizing culture. At least a little. Maybe I’m just a starry eyed dreamer, but according to President Magee, we had over 70% voter turn-out in the last election, and that was despite all of the balloting silliness. We just need to figure out how to keep up this momentum and use it to our advantage.

    Like the human body, if an organization sits still for too long it calcifies and starts to decay. Entropy affects collectives as much as it does individuals. And local 205 has been sitting still for a long, long time. So we need to keep figuring out ways to lube our squeaky joints and grind away at our shared rust.

    I’m a writer and an editor. That means I’ve started writing and editing for the local. It helps the union and it helps me build my online platform. Everybody wins.

    What are you when you’re not a stagehand? How can your unique skill set help?

    Or, even more fun, what do you want to learn how to do? Our newsletter’s layout editor, Brother Ellinger, is a great example of how a lot of times you don’t have to be qualified to start volunteering, just interested and available. You can learn on the job. Years ago when we first started Stage Call, he volunteered to do the layout because he wanted to master the program he uses to put each issue together. I’d say we all benefited.

    Because it’s not just about voting, though high election turn-outs are a good thing. It’s not just about paying dues either, though the money we amass can be a great weapon. It’s about the business union system – along with the thousands of passive, seemingly helpless members it continues to create – being just as much a part of the problem as Radical Right assholes like the Koch brothers and Grover Norquist.

    Unlike America’s seemingly inexhaustible ability to spawn rich, Nazi-esque dickheads, which I don’t pretend to understand or know how to curtail, union members can control how we organize our reactions to those dickheads. We’ve cowed these guys before and we’ll do it again. If we we’re willing to work for it.

    Unions have always been attacked from the far right, that’s a constant. Kind of like stagehands bitching about stuff, it’ll never stop. Unfortunately that means the union reaction to it can’t either. And, worse, we will never achieve any sort of ultimate victory. All we can do is choose to fight or choose to surrender.

    I agree that the neverending class conflict caused by cannibal capitalism sucks. But how’s that relevant?

    About

    IATSE Local 205 member since 2000. I'm a novelist-in-waiting; a former organizer; former president; former general fund trustee; former sgt-at-arms; current Stage Call contributor and copy editor (oh, and I created the newsletter back when I was CEO); blogger: on writing craft at yellowbirdeditors [dot] com, on most everything else at the address below, and on all things worker here.

    http://bradleypwilsonliterary.com