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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Manipulation and Trust in Organizing

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

Introduction

For people new to organizing it can feel like it’s about tricking people or manipulating them or guiding them to the correct place. People who shy away from organizing because of this have a healthy response to perceived manipulation. However, I think organizing that is sincere and empowering isn’t about manipulation at all and is just the opposite. Learning this distinction between empowerment and manipulation is of essential importance in organizing, both to be able to detect it in others and in your own efforts.

The reason people often say that organizing feels manipulative is that you have a goal in your interactions with other people. This is a key tension, and how you navigate this tension determines whether you respect someone’s agency and explore it with them or whether you try to use them as a pawn in your own desire to advance your activism. In short, empowerment vs. manipulation.

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Educate and the 1-on-1

[This post is part of a series on 1-on-1 organizing conversations. If not familiar, please read the intro post as it describes the basic definition of “educate” and how it fits into AEIOU (agitate-educate-inoculate-organize-uplift), which the writing below builds on.]

Intro

If you want to solve a problem in your workplace that you’ve discussed in the agitate step of AEIOU, you need a plan. The educate step of AEIOU is about how to make to a plan in talking with a coworker.

Sometimes my writings on this blog are meant to be succinct and hit home a point in a punchy way. Sometimes my writings, as in this post, are messier and more tedious as I wrestle with problems that I haven’t mastered yet, and I want to get my hands dirty.

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Organizing Is Not about Getting People to Agree with Radical Ideas

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

Intro

There is one misconception in organizing, especially workplace organizing, that is responsible for more confusion and dead ends than any other. It manifests itself in many ways, but it boils down to this: “The way I was radicalized and got involved in organizing is the way everyone is radicalized and gets involved in organizing.”

Most commonly, people new to organizing and radical politics try to show others their own new ideas, when really those same ideas will refract very differently depending on others’ very different experiences. Most often, people don’t immediately cling to the ideas you cling to. This often leads new organizers to become exasperated and confused, “Why does no one else get radicalized when I show them the things that radicalized me?”

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