Saturday, September 22, 2012

An Organizing Attempt

I just withdrew my case against my employer. That officially closes my attempt to unionize the Dillons within Wichita, KS I had worked at. I didn't want the case to move onto the appeal process and put a scar on possible uses of the NLRB within Kansas, so that's why I didn't go through it. I'm a fairly young organizer, and this was my first serious attempt at using the law in practice.

I had kept a work journal. I can't emphasize enough how useful this was to me in the process of filing. There was no way I would have been able to remember all the information which the NLRB lawyer had asked for without it. I used a format suggested by the Kansas City IWW Branch which recorded who worked, what their shift was, and their duties that day. I also recorded my scheduled time as well as my actual clock in/out times. In my notes I recorded the general mood of the day, whether or not I got breaks, infractions which other workers performed, interactions between myself and the boss, interactions between the boss and other workers, and sometimes some closing thoughts on the campaign. I don't know if I should have recorded all of this, because I never went to court and so didn't get to admit my worker journal as evidence. But it did help in filing a great deal.

I learned that the work conditions make it difficult to organize in service sector jobs. That isn't to say that it's not possible, but that the work conditions as well as the social conditions of Kansas make it so workers tend to sympathize with power -- the boss -- and don't believe in themselves. If they do believe in themselves, they don't see the value in collective action. This made me think that the union battle in conservative states is more than a shopfloor battle. It's a cultural one. There needs to be a culture of resistance established so that people have the thought in their heads that they can collectively fight worker oppression.

I've also been organizing with Occupy Wichita. Not sure if any of y'all have hopped on that bandwagon, but the efforts being made there have been fruitful for Wichita, so I've layed off of the IWW organizing to some degree. I'm still kind of the "contact" guy, but I only have so much time. As of right now I use the IWW as an educational body, mostly. If I'm hired into a workplace, I'll be right back at it. (Oh, I was fired from Dillons for insubordination, attempting to use Sec. 7 in a creative way to throw away food in protest, but the lawyer thought that while I may have a case for concerted activity, that that activity would most likely be voted down as "protected". Just fyi. Live and learn, right?)

While this doesn't relate as much to feminism in the worker movement, it is a bit of news from one of the fronts in a conservative state. Thought I'd try to keep people up to date on activities like that. I feel much more prepared from the experience, and know that I'd spend more time building the social network prior to acting on my own. However, I'm uncertain -- in Kansas -- how that would be possible without a culture of resistance, and that is something I'm working on building through Occupy.

Hope things are well with others in their organizing efforts.