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.]


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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