i have been organizing gypsy-style this week, without a real office and from various points in the city using cel phone and laptop with airport card to download, sift, sort and connect. i don’t suspect next week will be any different.
tonight i am on the late ferry, and tomorrow i will be on the early which makes for truncated sleep, but at least i am buoyed by the flow of energy and comraderie of my fellow organizers – if there is anyone who understands this fluid state between work and organizing, it’s those alongside in the same struggle.
next week i give three strike trainings at three different locations, and if all goes according to schedule i will be walking a picket line the week after that. i don’t think i have ever spoke in front of people as often as i have in the past four days, and until this ends each day will follow a similar pattern – phone, email, meeting, speaking.
as i have said before – every struggle is a lesson – and in this one i am learning about the role of many small leaders in a strike this large, and seeing how this strike mobilization is so different this time around because of it. to lead in this capacity is not to tell people what to do, but to stand up and say i’m not afraid to do it – because our employer is pulling out all the stops to scare people off the picket lines.
yesterday i went to leaflet a worksite at the end of the day, and within minutes of showing up a manager came out and watched us through the window – i suppose to let his employees know they would be witnessed if they stopped to talk to us too long. i wonder why they behave this way, these petty regional managers, as if the money we might win belongs to them personally, they would rather see our earning power slip away year after inflationary year, than have one of *their* workers walk off the job for even one minute.
but the real reason they fear it is not for the money we might earn, but they sense the danger in empowered workers who know their rights and have contact with the union reps – they might actually start demanding all their rights after a fashion, and then where would that manager’s power go?
i don’t want to be simplistic about it, but in my experience it is true that a worker who wins one thing (such as a grievance) may soon develop a confidence they will win the next thing (like a pay raise), and in the long term may even start demanding the bigger things (ie: respect). it’s a slippery slope, and i’ve seen it happen before – which is why these suited people get nervous when we come to the door, our innocuous leaflets and so little material power in hand.
i know – it seems hokey, especially given the pathetic state of worker’s movements today in canada – but on that individual level, it plays out that way – as if we really are a big, scary union as opposed to a bunch of scared workers – and our managers stand as symbols of intimidation even though most of them are not more skilled or educated than those who work for them.
we shall see what unfolds in the coming days. as it is tonight, there is a beautiful half-moon hanging over a clear and starry sky here in the creek, and tomorrow i journey inland for three days to visit nathan at his new home in tonasket. one thing helping me to get through long days is the knowledge that i have amazingly beautiful places to seek respite from urban organizing world when i need them – which makes all the difference from my past style of “activism”.
now i will post this and go outside for one more breath of the clean air of september apples and coastal mist before i put this tired me to rest.