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Build endorses Resolution #67: Organizing the Unorganized

Why Is Build Endorsing?

  • Organizing the Unorganized stakes out new territory for radical change, where non-unionized workers are currently exploited and have minimal (if any) protections. While democratizing existing unions and growing their numbers is a necessary part of the labor puzzle, it’s not the only piece. One of Build’s key principles is “Yes, AND!” which embraces constantly pushing ourselves into new organizing opportunities, and a workplace where DSA members want a union but don’t have one is a very good space to be.

  • This resolution starts with examining DSA’s labor landscape as it is now. The census it describes will provide a strong, well-researched, base for the work to come. It’s imperative that we Listen to the Locals when their campaigns work (Congrats Anchor Union!), and when they don’t. We also need to trust that locals are in the best place to understand their own labor landscapes. National’s role should be to provide a wide range of skills trainings and tools that locals can use as they see fit. Everyone in DSA should have the skills to organize wherever they’re at; the DSLC’s role should be to pool isolated knowledge and experiences and share winning strategies and skills trainings with all members.

Why this strategy?

  • This resolution complements other labor strategies. It doesn’t compete with them.

  • Organizing in unorganized spaces better uses DSA’s existing capacity, as most members aren’t in unions.

  • If members want to organize their workplace, why not give them the knowledge and skills to do so?

  • Organizing the unorganized is often talked about as a “Step 2” for the rank-and-file strategy; we think it needs to be done concurrently with rank-and-file tactics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: DSA isn’t a union. Why would we act like one?

Answer: We’re not. This resolution calls for DSA to support workers in organizing their workplaces, like in Seattle DSA, Los Angeles DSA, San Francisco DSA, or any number of DSA chapters; work that’s already being done by DSA chapters across the United States. By intentionally supporting workplace organizing, especially in unorganized workplaces, we help build worker power and grow the labor movement. In many instances, workers supported by DSA chapters have chosen to affiliate with an existing union when they take their campaign public, like San Francisco’s Anchor Union affiliating with the ILWU.

Question: Doesn’t the rank-and-file strategy talked about in DSA include organizing the unorganized?

Answer: Yes -- as an outcome of taking union jobs and realigning the politics of existing unions, especially in strategic sectors. However, the discussion in DSA often de-emphasizes new organizing as an immediate priority and part of a strategy to revitalize the labor movement. Placing priority on organizing the unorganized utilizes DSA’s full capacity and expands the terrain of shop floor struggle into the places where the working class is at its weakest.

Question: Is this opposed to the rank-and-file strategy?

Answer: No - in fact, we believe it is an essential part of that strategy, which assesses that worker militancy is driven from the bottom up rather than created from the top down, and is created through any number of working-class formations (most commonly unions). It is, however, opposed to attempts to limit labor strategy to working only within existing unions and union shops.

Concern: We only have so many resources. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on strategic sectors?

Answer: We should absolutely focus on what’s strategic. However, we need to carefully consider what makes a workplace strategic in building worker power, and whether we should ignore golden opportunities for new organizing because they’re in the wrong sector, some of which may have much higher barriers to organizing. These decisions should be made by chapters that know their contexts best: what’s maximally strategic in Las Vegas (hospitality) is different than what’s strategic in Honolulu (logistics and shipping) or a college town (higher education), and campaigns can emerge in highly symbolic workplaces like San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing that build local buzz and generate national media coverage.