As a Steward, you’re probably often told about various issues your coworkers experience on the job. You probably have to distinguish between issues that warrant a one-on-one with a supervisor, a grievance, or a collective action.
Often it can be hard to decide which issues require a collective action to solve a workplace problem. Some problems actually help mobilize members and strengthen the union.
Here are a few pointers on how to determine whether an issue will energize your coworkers into acting together.
Choose issues that are:
- Widely and deeply felt. They affect a large number of people and people feel strongly about the problem.
- Easy to understand and have a clear solution. Knowing what the problem is and how to solve it are key points in making change happen.
- Non-divisive. Avoid issues that will pit some members against others, or those that might divide members from the people they serve
- Building leadership and ownership. There should be many roles for people to play and many ways to be involved.
- Worthwhile and result in a real improvement in members’ lives. People should believe in the fight and see positive changes as a result.
- Winnable. You should have a good strategy and a good chance of winning on the issue.
If an issue at your workplace fits within these boundaries, chances are good that collective action will help you find and implement a good solution.
Developing and carrying out a successful action should give members a sense of their power. Not only does an active membership build confidence and solidarity, it also alters the balance of power at work, putting more power in the hands of the members.
Once you’ve helped determine whether an issue warrants a collective action, your next step is to figure out how to leverage power to move a boss.
In creating the strategy to win, you’ve got to figure out some important points.
- Who is your target? Who has the power to make the change you seek? Is it a supervisor, a manager, a director?
- Who else can move the target? Is he/she involved in any organizations, have an influential friend or a boss sympathetic to your cause?
- How do you want the problem solved? Do you have a solution, are you willing to work to find one and what happens if your target says no at first?
Now that you’ve found a widely felt problem and you’ve come up with a strategy that will help you reach your goal, it’s time to activate your members. Make a list of possible collective actions that you think your coworkers would take part in to put pressure on your target (a good tactic is one that people enjoy). Figure out who can help you communicate about this action with the rest of your coworkers. Make a list of other ways your fellow members can get involved and figure out who can do what.
This may seem like a long process, especially if the solution to your problem seems obvious, by making sure you have a solid strategy and a plan to move your target is key to a successful action.
Do you remember the last time you planned a collective action at your work site? How did it go? Share your story with us by responding to this email.
Colorado WINS Steward
Social Worker at Colo. Mental Health Institute at Pueblo