Sunday, December 27, 2009

[olympiaworkers] The Wobbly Organizer

 The Wobbly Organizer

(one Wobbly's point of view)

Working people of the world live under the domination of the employing class who exploit the labor of working people for their profit. The employing class pays working people wages which is only a small percentage of the wealth that working people produce. This arrangement exists because of the organized power of the employing class and the lack of organization of working people.

As unorganized individuals, working people have very little power to influence their wages and working conditions, and no power to end the exploitation.

For working people to improve their conditions and gain a larger share of the wealth they create they must organize together in a union organization. In order to do that they must learn that their interests as workers are directly connected to the interests of all workers and stand together as a powerful force.

The gains made by working people depends upon their organized power. Though the employing class seems to     be very powerful and is aided by governments that act in   the employers interest, if organized working people can be far more powerful. Throughout the world on every job that exists working people have in their hands the tools of production and services. The employing class does no useful work and is completely dependent upon working people's labor. No society anywhere can exist without labor fulfilling the needs of that society, but no society is dependent upon an employing class to exploit that labor.

As working people organize their power of production and services they will be able to improve their conditions and wages, through a process of winning concessions. Though many business unions believe that is the extent of their goals, the IWW seeks to also end the exploitation and the historical conflict between the employers and working people that has gone on since the exploitation began.

As working people organize their unions for day-to-day struggle, the IWW believes that they are also organizing the power of working people to end the exploitation. At which time the organized power of the working class is greater than the organized power of the employing class, workers will be able to seize the tools of production and services, withhold all of its labor and produced goods from the employing class and then carry on their labor for the   benefit of all. If the employers then want to share in the benefits of production and services they must join working people in producing those benefits.

Industrial union organizations do not often organize themselves. They have a need of union organizers. The IWW union organizers, Wobbly organizers, are different than the type of organizers found in many other unions.

The Wobbly organizer is not a leader. The Wobbly organizer does not seek to organize followers. The Wobbly organizer seeks to help other working people create functioning industrial union organizations in their workplaces and in their industries. The goal of a Wobbly organizer is to organize themselves out of a job. In other words when the shop organization and the industrial organization is organized to function on its own, the job of the Wobbly organizer is done.

The Wobbly organizer is not an organizer by profession.  The Wobbly organizer is a worker doing a job that needs    to be done As a worker the Wobbly organizer knows that   all workers who labor for a living are just as much workers as any other workers, there are no second class workers. And every worker who joins the IWW is just as much of a Wobbly as any other Wobbly, there are no second class Wobblies.

Not every Wobbly is an organizer, but every Wobbly can help with organizing. The job of a Wobbly organizer is just one of many needed jobs that goes into creating industrial union organizations. These needed jobs can include: writers, artists, researchers, computer work, fund-raising, accounting, reporting, and so on. Each job is important to the process of creating industrial unions and each is just as important as any other job. For it is the complete effort that goes into industrial union organizing that creates what the organization becomes. It is like firefighters at a fire. The firefighters can set out all their hoses and be ready to do their job, but if no one turns on the water their effort has no purpose. And if someone turns on the water and no one has set out the hoses, that effort has no purpose. So who is the most important part of firefighting? They all are. So the Wobbly organizer and those doing other jobs must work together as a team with a common purpose.

The Wobbly organizer does not know all things. The job of being a Wobbly organizer is both using organizing skills and knowledge and being open to a continuous learning process. We all go through a learning process that starts when we are born and continues until we die. If we try to stop that process by thinking we know every thing then we limit our true knowledge. The Wobbly organizer knows that she/he can learn from any one. They can learn from older, more experienced folks who can share what they have learned. They can learn from younger folks who have new ideas. A Wobbly organizer is both a knowledge giver and a knowledge seeker.

The Wobbly organizer does more with their ears than they do with their mouths. The Wobbly organizer must be a good listener. By using their ears a Wobbly organizer learns about the concerns, hopes and opinions of those that they are trying to organize. They learn about the job and its conditions. They can learn what skills workers have and what they like or do not like to do. And when people feel they have input in the organizing process then they are more likely to be a part of it.

The Wobbly organizer understands that workers are not machines and a union needs to be more than just a bargaining unit. Workers are people, individuals with concerns and problems that effect them on the job and in industrial union organizing. One such off the job thing that can have an effect on organizing and industrial union action is the family and friends of the workers. Often the family and friends of workers can create stress on workers, even conflict, in time of organizing and action. A Wobbly organizer can think that a worker is a strong union member, only to see that worker drop out of the effort due to family problems. The problem faced by the Wobbly organizer is that many workers are in the situation where industrial union organizing or action takes time away from their family and friends and that can make the family and friends feel left out, neglected and so on. Often when that happens they blame the union. The solution to this problem is to keep the families and friends informed with meetings for them where they can ask questions. Also, when possible get the families and friends involved. There are many support activities they can work on. If nothing else union social events. And the union should get more involved with the children than just daycare. The union should have organized activities for the kids. Just think how much that can benefit future organizing if kids grow up liking unions. Whereas stress from families and friends can undermine a strong union, but on the other hand if family and friends are involved and supportive of the union that can create a union bond that is very hard to break.

The Wobbly organizer must set a good example for the workers being organized. If the Wobbly organizer is going out and partying and getting drunk all the time or is neglectful of their families or are abusive to people then they are setting a bad example.

With worker self-management comes not only worker freedom but also worker responsibility. That means we are responsible for the effects of our production and services. This is also true of the Wobbly organizer who is responsible to the workers that the Wobbly organizer seeks to organize. The Wobbly organizer should keep the workers informed and let them make informed decisions on things that could put them at risk like strikes.

Each job and organizing situation is different. Thus there is no organizing blueprint that fits every situation. If there was such a blueprint then in time we would have to get rid of it because the employers would know our plans and thus be able to counter them. The Wobbly organizer needs a good imagination to keep the employers guessing as to what is going on.

The Wobbly organizer understands that the working class is not all the same. Though all workers labor to survive and have common interests, there is also a great diversity of culture, race, religion and so on. The employing class tries to use this diversity to keep workers apart and blaming each other for things that is fact the employing class is responsible for. But the Wobbly organizer knows that diversity is our strength and not our weakness.

When speaking or writing the Wobbly organizer understands that we must reach an agreement on ideas within the minds of working people, but it is reaching emotions, lighting a fire in the hearts of working people that makes them act upon those things that the mind agrees upon.

The Wobbly organizer knows that education is an important part of the organizing process. The wobbly organizer does not seek to just organize bargaining units but also seeks to create Wobblies.

The IWW is a constitutional organization. The IWW's Constitution, including its Preamble, is the common agreement between all members. The Wobbly organizer helps the workers on the job understand the Constitution and how to use it.

The Wobbly organizer teaches workers about union democracy, how it works and what union democracy protections the IWW has in its constitution.

The Wobbly organizers both teaches workers about solidarity and organizes it within the union structure. Solidarity is not just a nice sounding slogan but rather is an important part of all union activities. Solidarity needs to become a way of life for working people.  And solidarity is something that needs to be organized so that when there is a need for it the organizational means for it is in place.

The Wobbly organizer seeks to give workers the tools they need to act for themselves upon their interests and concerns without delegating to others that which they should do for themselves.

The Wobbly organizer seeks to create an industrial union structure on the job that includes all workers and excludes no one. The Wobbly organizer teaches the skills and knowledge the workers need and then places the responsibilities in their hands. Though every worker should share in the responsibilities, the Wobbly organizer is there to help them in every step of the way. The Wobbly organizer may suggest that workers team up for responsibilities to make it easy on them.

The IWW seeks in the long term to create a society where working people control their labor. And in the organizing process and the workplace actions the IWW advocates working people to act themselves in their own interests. In order to do that working people need to learn to speak for themselves. Worker self-expression comes in many forms such as, writing, artwork, music, story telling, and so on. The Wobbly organizer seeks to encourage worker self-expression by helping teaching skills for it and helping to create forums for worker self-expression. This helps workers to feel that they are being heard and are a part of what is going on. One simple way of doing this during an organizing drive is to publish a newsletter where the workers on the job write about their work experiences. Those with writing skills can help those with out writing skills.

The Wobbly organizer knows that what needs to get done must get done and that sometimes people don't get done what they say they will do. So the Wobbly organizer does not let anything fail because work that needs to be done is not done. At that point the Wobbly organizer, without complaining, just steps in and get that needed work done. There are two types of people in our struggle. There are those that do what ever is needed in any given situation. That could be taking some grand stand of self-sacrifice like going to jail or even being in harms way if needed, or something as simple as stuffing envelopes. It is doing what ever is needed. Such people are all off equal importance and the Wobbly organizer is such a person.. Then there are the people who will help at times but there are limitations to what they will do.

The job of a Wobbly organizer can be a lonely experience. The Wobbly organizer is not a leader or a celebrity. Often if they do a good job few people will really know about all the work that the Wobbly organizer has done. And this is what the Wobbly organizer wants because the Wobbly organizer wants the focus to be on the workers on the job and their struggle and not be focused on the Wobbly organizer. The Wobbly organizer's gratification comes from knowing that they helped create something that is needed.             

Arthur J. Miller; Ship Builders IU 320--IWW

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