Organizing During COVID

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has helped create some workshops. I had a look at one:

That’s “Working During COVID: Organizing Your Workplace for Safety” about which she says:

COVID-19 is not over. From the lack of paid sick leave to asking workers to reuse PPE, workplaces have not put in strong enough safety protections. That’s why we’re doing this workshop. We’ll teach you your labor rights and how you can reach out to your co-workers, organize your demands, and win safety protections.

It’s a pretty good video. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t actually in it, preferring to let labor organizers do the talking, and they give a pretty good overview on how to do some of this important work, while providing some resources to help you do it. And this work is important. No matter who wins the election, this stuff needs to be done. American workers need organization.

Now, that word –“organizing”– makes it all sound a lot more complicated and abstract than any of it really is. You could be forgiven for wondering “what does ‘organizing’ even mean?” let alone being a bit lost on how to get started and what to do. But it’s all pretty simple.

Really, most of organizing is just having conversations with your co-workers, listening to their concerns, then simply figuring out a way to act together to change the situation. If you’re going to organize, you really have to listen. If you start having these conversations with your co-workers and you listen, the issues to organize around will rapidly reveal themselves. Those issues will suggest solutions. As you get more organized, the routes from conversations to actions get shorter. Your workplaces gets better at it.

Like, fuck’s sake, on a job, most the time everyone knows what’s wrong and what has to be done to fix it — we just have a hard time figuring out how to make that happen. Organizing let’s people know that they’re not alone. (In my workplace, every department was going through the same shit but all thinking it was limited to them.) And it lets people know that something can be done about it. Then you figure out what to do and you do it. Together.

And then you keep doing it until you get your result.

That’s pretty much all there is to it.

That’s not to say it’s easy or safe. There’s resistance and danger almost every step of the way. And it can be exhausting. But it’s not complicated. Most of it is legwork. Believe me, if you can manage to do a job, you can organize a workplace. It’s probably easier to do than your job. You don’t need to be some great strategist (there’s pretty much a step by step to the actions) or some grand, inspirational firebrand. You don’t need to be a hero. You just need to put in some time, listen, and do the boring work. You do that, the excitement will come. Whether you want it to or not, the excitement will come. Ups and downs.

One thing that I think is really important, which this video doesn’t really touch on, is the importance of your word. Your word is bond. Don’t make crazy promises. If you don’t know something, just say that you don’t know. If you say you’re going to do something or look into something, do that. Make sure you do what you say. All of the time. Every time. If you can’t do something, say so. Better that than lying. And communicate. Even the bad news. You have to be open and honest. Organizing runs on trust. Trust is earned. Honesty earns it.

If you’re in a situation where you can do this work, do it. It can be pretty damn tiring and difficult but it’s necessary and not all that complicated. It’s just work. You can do it. And you won’t need to do it by yourself for very long. People will help. People want to help.

You can do it.

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