I have some ideological quibbles with one of the authors of this, but the analysis is spot on: many times leftists make bad union organizers because they may be focused on abstract concepts like justice and ending capitalism which are not easily quantifiable/winnable and therefore are harder to organize around, whereas apolitical or even conservative workers may be more focused on bread & butter demands, which are winnable and easier to organize around.

@pizzacat What are the implications of this? What can we do to correct it?

@Gyro in terms of workplace organizing, my recommendation is to go through the steps of workplace mapping, social charting, contact gathering, and then having the one-on-ones, even if you don’t see it immediately meeting the personal demands you may have.

And also external organizers need to get better with our own one-on-ones, how to motivate a person to do the thing if they’re not sold that doing the thing is gonna give them instant gratification on their long-term demands.

@pizzacat @Gyro can’t really “correct” what a person’s demands are if their demands are genuinely good-intentioned like ending capitalism (as opposed to some ferkakta fascist demands), but it does require better focus and deeper understanding of each other’s goals and what everyone sees as a win, since winning is what sustains campaigns

@pizzacat @Gyro Also a big thing is accountability to other shopfloor organizers, and to build committees with accountability in mind. As boring as bylaws are, it’s important for committees to have them or at least community agreements so there’s an objective measure to fall back upon when conflicts arise, and they will arise.

@pizzacat @Gyro and in general when talking to workers, be realistic as to what is winnable what isn’t. If a leftist coworker doesn’t think that hazard pay during a pandemic or improved health & safety on the job is “good enough” of a demand because it’s not “radical enough”, as if demanding frontline workers be treated with slightly more respect instead of being treated like expendable human sacrifices, then that says a lot about that person’s brand of leftism.


Which author do you have an ideological quibble with, and why?

@winter one of the authors had published a piece that basically said that outing cops as having white supremacist affiliations is useless cuz at the end of the day, there are no good cops. Yes, ACAB, but most if not all US states require cops to have state-mandated peace officer status where they take an oath, and being a member of fascist orgs can be a violation of that oath, which opens the door to getting them fired. Which isn’t the same thing as no cops, but it could save lives.


I’m a little unsatisfied with the analysis here. It needs more information.

Are these white leftists? College educated leftists? Generationally rich leftists? As for the “normies”, what are their class, gender, racial etc positionings?

The article doesn’t explain *why* card-carrying leftists would be worse at focusing on “bread and butter” issues. I don’t quite understand why knowing Marx’s name would inherently make someone “like” their boss and not want to fight for better wages in their own workplace. Something is missing for me.

@winter I can’t speak for where the authors are speaking from, but in my experience I’ve anecdotally seen it hold true across gender, queerness, and race lines. (I’ve only ever organized with working-class people.) I’ve seen insistence on ideological purity and refusal to work collaboratively at the expense of working together to win demands kill campaigns, because the thing that sustains a campaign is working together to win and getting workers to be empowered in their workplace.

@pizzacat @winter

Complicating things, in white-majority or cis man-majority workplaces, bosses will often give raises to BBI, LGBT, or women workers, to try to peel them away from the organizing campaign, and it sometimes works, if the workers have not been inoculated enough to know “they only gave me this raise because they’re scared of how strong we could be together.”

@winter I just wanted to circle back to this because you asked really good questions and I gave a vague answer cuz I didn’t have consent to talk about a situation at a supermarket campaign at my friend’s job. I ran this past him and he said it’s ok for me to post as long as I don’t name names, the city, or the employer. It’s a little long and I’m gonna have to cut it up over multiple toots. I’m gonna try to do this so you don’t get a billions notifications, so here’s a thread:

@pizzacat In this case, your question about college-educated leftists, and also other demographics being factors is definitely a factor. In this case there is a town vs gown dynamic, and also an age difference and length of time on the job, and there’s been a lot of talking across each other, and definitely culture shock.

There are over 50 employees, about 60% are on board with the union, but there’s a lot of new workers coming in due to the pandemic.

@pizzacat The lead organizers are black and latinx mostly cis het workers in deli, produce, and warehouse departments who are in their 30s-50s and have worked there for 5+ years. Most workers in departments except for checkout and customer service tend to be nonwhite, are 30+ years old, more likely to be parents, and more likely to have worked there for more than a year. Most cashiers are under 30 and tend to be white and have worked there less than a year.

@pizzacat The 2 non-accountable workers are a clique of black (femme, she/her or they/them) and white (nonbinary, they/them) queer leftist college students working checkout. My friend said the white leftist was perceived as being worse in the nonaccountability and talking over non-college educated workers of all races than the black leftist, but they were friends and backed each other up. They’re much more geared towards mobilizing than organizing, and heavy social media users.

@pizzacat They got excited about the union and were posting about it on social media before the campaign was public, and got defensive when they were asked by an organizer to take the posts down. They hadn’t attended committee meetings, saying it conflicts with classes and papers, and hadn’t done any one-on-ones. They said they were more interested in communications which there wasn’t a need for at that time since it wasn’t public.

@pizzacat they wrote up a document (they weren’t asked to, they just did it) which was pretty awesome but it listed demands that they hadn’t cleared with the committee or gotten anyone else’s input, was kinda heavy on theory and used academic jargon, and they accused the main organizers of transphobia for cutting down a 10 page document to a 1 minute collective speech during a march on the boss action.

@pizzacat I was brought in as part of a potential mediation process because of the transphobia concerns, but they said they didn’t want to take part in it because they’re going to get a new job, and they just quit this week. The white leftist has been sub-posting about their “ignorant and backwards” coworkers and me and the black leftist have been trying to address with them why that’s harmful messaging.

@pizzacat but in general it’s a pattern I’ve seen a lot where even working class leftists retreat from engaging with their working class coworkers. I see it as being internalized classism, and this idea that the working class is oppressed because they’re ignorant and need to be educated, and leftists get frustrated that their “ignorant” coworkers may want to get their bread and roses and not learn theory, and totally overlook how the working class is already organized.

@pizzacat it’s waaaaaay more prevalent amongst white leftists though.

@pizzacat also learning theory doesn’t necessarily prepare an organizer to do the care work, check-ins, self care, holding space, emotional labor, etc necessary to develop and nurture new organizers and smooth through rough patches in a campaign. And white leftists especially may have been raised in a neighborhood, not a community. I joke that growing up in an evangelical church and being a Sunday school teacher did more to prepare me to be a radical organizer than anything I’ve read.

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