U Is for Uplift

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations. Check out the intro post here to see an overview of the whole framework.]

Introduction

The uplift part of AIEOU is where we support and follow-through with people as they do or don’t do the tasks that they volunteered to do. When people complete a task for the first time, it’s good to follow-up and debrief with them about how it went. When people don’t complete a task, it’s good to follow-up and see if there’s anything you can do to support them.

In the previous post in this series on the “organize” part of AEIOU, I highlighted how we should avoid as much as possible leaving new people on their own to organize. There’s many steps to take from first getting involved to becoming experienced and knowledgeable about the many aspects of organizing, and taking each step in community with others helps foster relationships and share best practices. But no matter how collective we make organizing, there are still countless moments where people have to do something on their own, where they have to overcome some part of themselves and their environment using their own resources and confidence.

Life is hard, workplaces are complex, coworkers are complicated, capitalism is a big, bad jerk, and sometimes organizing tasks don’t get done. Uplift is about staying in relationship with people through the ups and downs of organizing.

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O Is for Organize

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations. Check out the intro post here to see an overview of the whole framework.]

Introduction

The organize part of AEIOU in 1-on-1s is about getting people involved in the concrete tasks of organizing. After having agitated with someone around grievances, created a plan in educate, considered the boss’s next moves and addressed people’s fears in inoculate, you are in position to put the rubber to the road. “What do we do now?”

Just as workplace problems are complex, so are workplace solutions involving collective action. The organizer can help break the problem down into chunks and separate the solution out into a series of manageable tasks. In supporting people who are new to organizing and motivated to solve problems at work, the organizer’s role is to discuss with people what needs to be done and how to do it.

One of the contradictions of being an organizer is the opposition between the speed and effectiveness of doing things yourself vs. taking the time to show others how to do things. Everything an organizer does can be done by someone else, and if the organizer already knows how to do it, the aims of the organizing will be served in the long-term by showing someone else how to do things instead of doing them oneself. 

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I Is for Inoculate

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations. Check out the intro post here to see an overview of the whole framework.]

Introduction

It’s often said that union campaigns are won or lost on the strength of their inoculation. Like rough-housing children, organizing is all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and then shit gets serious real fast. 

When organizing workers are attacked by the boss and haven’t been prepared for it, the threat of the loss of a job can make even the most courageous worker fall into line. This should be expected and is why inoculation is so important.

As discussed briefly in my introduction to organizing conversations post, the inoculate part of AEIOU is about anticipating and preparing for the boss’s next move and dealing with people’s fears. In high-profile and more traditional unionization drives, professional union-busters are often used to supplement the boss’s aggression and to intimidate workers into voting no on union representation. For those who find yourselves facing union-busting consultants, knowing what to expect from them and how to fight them is critically important and has been discussed widely elsewhere

But the organizing approach advocated on this blog often takes other forms, such as organizing in a workplace already formally represented by a union or organizing in a non-unionized workplace without the goal of union representation. In these and other cases, boss aggression against workers often looks different than having big union-busters show up at work. In this post I’ll go deeper into inoculation as it occurs at the level of workers taking direct action themselves, irrespective of if it’s connected to a formal unionization drive.

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Tools for Political Conversations in Organizing

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations.]

Political conversations are often the most difficult kind of conversations and those least likely to succeed. We naturally want other people to see things our way, but there’s no easy way to do this and trying really hard to make people see things our way usually has the opposite effect.

In a companion blog post I sketch out some important contextual considerations for thinking about political conversations, but here I aim to simply sketch out some observations on best practices and a general method of political dialogue. These ideas are best applied when people are in a position of relative equality, a relation of mutual respect, and a setting in which both people have the emotional energy to engage across lines of political disagreement. Some adaptation may be required to apply these principles across individual communication styles and different cultural patterns of communication, but I believe the same basic principles admit to wide application.

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How Social Conditions and Personal Experience Shape Political Conversation

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations.]

There’s a hard pill to swallow for people who first get interested in radical politics: No one cares what you think. “Oh, so you don’t like white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy?” For the most part, nobody cares.

I’ve heard countless instances of someone expressing a radical belief to others with the hope of being agreed with or at least sparking an engaging discussion. But most commonly we are met with blank stares and utter disinterest, and we falsely take this as evidence that nobody cares about social issues or that there’s nothing we can do to change people’s minds.

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