By: J. Pierce
IWW Organizing Tips: “ABC – Always Be Contacting”
In the classic IWW organizing flick Glen Gary Glenn Ross, Alec Baldwin is the hard-nosed sales expert sent from “downtown.” He’s supposed to clean up or clear out this office of land parcel salesmen. He gives a talk where he teaches them to “ABC: Always Be Closing.”
I love this scene and try to use it as inspiration in my organizing efforts. But we don’t have a point in our process where the “deal” is “closed”, where the product has been purchased and there is no going back. In union organizing, someone can tell you YES and even formally join the union, pay their dues and everything. But then the very next day they get a good scare from the boss or from a family member and back out of the fight. So there really is no “closing” in union organizing.
So instead of “closing”, we are going to say “contacting”. As organizers we should always be contacting – in other words always be checking in with our contacts. Whether they are formal ‘one-on-ones’ at the worker’s house (the most ideal situation) or simply checking in via text and voice message, we must be in constant communication with an array of individuals.
We all go through ups and downs in our energy and morale. Sometimes I am so tired and burned out that I feel like I can’t do anything. But soon, without noticing it, I feel better. And I remember “ABC” – Always Be Contacting. And I look in my phone for all the contacts that need to hear from me. Provided here, broken down, are just a few of them:
Local: My co-workers
Hector, Monica, and Gina are current co-workers. We are already in constant communication. I have recently gotten in trouble with the boss and my co-workers are scared. They want me to slow down. I need to help fortify them. Do we need to have a bonding experience? In my next one-on-one, what details from their lives would help me understand their fears, dreams, and motivations?
Local: In the Tucson General Membership Branch
Sara, Martina, Laura, Kylie, Kisha, Ellison, Bree, and Renee are worker contacts in a shop that we are trying to organize. What is the next step for each of these workers? Are my text messages really sufficient or do they need an in-person one-on-one? Do they need a task? Have they been asked to formally join the IWW?
Greg, Courtney, Megan, Ignacio, Dave, and Rowan are active members of the Tucson Branch. Each of these FWs are already dedicated to the union. What is the next level of their development? Do they need more practical experience and should shadow an organizer? Do they need to deepen their understanding of the IWW’s historical perspective and would appreciate an IWW book? Do they need to be agitated – rekindling that fire of anger at all the injustices under capitalism – so they can break through to the next level?
Ellis and Jacob are long time members that are busy and stressed out. Do they just need a FW to tell them that it’s ok to take a break? I try and remind people that it’s capitalism that wants to work you to the bone. The IWW says you have a “right to be lazy”.
Regional: Around Southern Arizona (not including all the people I need to call in Phoenix!)
Braulio, Jose, Jesus, Marielos, and Gerardo are friends in other towns that might find their way to the IWW. Can I find something that they care about and connect it to the union? Can I lend them a hand and demonstrate solidarity? Should I just straight up tell them about the union and ask them to join?
Industrial: Contacts in my industry – Education
Jessica and Mike are two teacher co-workers of mine who moved to Florida (separately). Perhaps they might like to hear from the IWW in their new town. Can I put them in contact with a Delegate from the nearest Branch? What could the Florida Delegate do that would make an extraordinary impression and open up a new world for these friends of mine?
General: Friends and acquaintances who live far away
Ed, Matt, Zoe, and Samantha are former Wobblies from other Branches that might appreciate a message from me. They dedicated years of their lives to the One Big Union. Do they feel like it was a waste of their life? Maybe I could tell them they are remembered and appreciated. Maybe I could interview them to pass on their knowledge.
Francisco, Juan, Victoria, and Lalo are all friends of the IWW in Latin America. Are they ready to build the IWW in their country? What do they need? What can we do to help them prepare?
As you can see this is already a pretty good list of contacts. And for most of us, this is only a fraction of the contacts we are talking with on a weekly basis. In looking through my list, I might ask about the demographics of my contacts. What are the genders and racial backgrounds of my contacts? Am I “building up” a diverse group of workers, or only people like me? Who gets my ‘best’ effort and who gets only a fly-by interaction? I need to stay organized and aware if I want to develop everyone into the great Wobblies they could be.
Sometimes we are ready to give up. Maybe we just want to forget about organizing and go and hide. But that’s not going to solve any problems, now is it? Don’t worry. In a few days’ time, we will get that gust of wind and start calling again. Not sure what to do? Just pick up the phone: ABC – Always Be Contacting.