How to Build a Union
Clarissa Redwine 's recipe for
Start talking. Set up a chat with your favorite coworker to talk about the boss’s latest bs. Discuss how the workplace could be better and who on the team feels the same way. Divide up your team between the two of you and have a series of “this bs needs to change” convos. End each chat with something like this: "We’ll be safer and more effective if we show strength in numbers. If enough of our coworkers agree to act together, can we count on you to speak with us?" Start a fight. Once at least 3/4s of the coworkers on your team agree to stand together and demand specific changes, start to plan. Plan how you will bring your demands to the boss, what you’ll say, who will say what. Talk through how the boss might react and plan for the most likely outcomes: they’ll say no, they’ll say yes and never follow through, they’ll say yes but with caveats… Then talk through what the group is willing to do in response to each scenario. Now you’re ready to confront the boss and win. Start lots of fights. Once the boss concedes and you’ve won your first collective action, it’s time to find people on other teams who are ready to stand up and win too. Ask the people who helped lead the first collective action on your team if they know anyone on other teams who also care about a problem in the workplace. Join them for 2:1s with these workers, identify what issues they are most passionate about, and then share your experience taking collective action to win change. Ask them if they want to try collective action on their team and offer to support them through the process. The people who say yes and successfully carry out step #2 are organizers. Set up calls with each of these folks and ask them if they would be down to organize larger and larger actions with you. Don’t stop until at least 20% of the workers at your company have taken part in collective action. Try to keep these fights outwardly unrelated but internally coordinated so you don’t give the boss a sense of your power and reach. Imagine a new future. At this point, you’ve contributed to a significant number of collective actions. You have a functioning union. You and your coworkers have learned how to build trust, how to build consensus, how the boss responds to confrontation, and what winning feels like. Now it’s time to start talking to your coworkers about what this work could look like at scale. Start having group calls with all the teams that took action and ask how every worker at the company could have the same wins. Ask what it would take to make that happen. Ask how many of your coworkers across the company would need to band together and speak with one voice to force management to concede. Ask how you would be able to build consensus around the issues you fight for. Together, you will redesign the structural power of the workplace and create a new governing body with real teeth. Now repeat steps #1 & step #2 across the entire company. This is how you build new and lasting worker power.