Has it Come to This?  “Free” Organizing Advice!

ACORN ACORN International Community Organizing

Doha       One corollary of constant long-distance road work is the magazine subscriptions pile up.  I usually take an inch-high stack with me, and on an endless flight to Katmandu that includes an unscheduled seven-hour delay in Doha, Qatar, mining the mags can produce some interesting discoveries.  One is that the mainstream media now believes it is perfectly positioned to give advice and critique basic organizing and protests.  We’ll have to consider whether that is a recognition of our skill or a slap at our lack of production and a critique of our weakness.  Maybe both, I’m not sure?  Regardless, it’s interesting to read their take on the work.

In a New York Times Sunday magazine piece, there was a story entitled “How to Organize a Walkout,” which of course caught my eye.  It turned out to be an interview of sorts with Meredith Whitaker, who they identified as the “lead organizer” of the 20,000-worker walkout at Google almost a year ago.  The summary of Whitaker’s remarks indicated she was solid on the basics, so this squib was almost a nuts-and-bolts “to do” list.  Sort of a
Walkout for Dummies” thing.  Among the nuggets were these:

“Know your colleagues; build trust; get together to articulate common concerns and a vision for change.  Avoid detection…Often a walkout is most effective as a response to ‘symptomatic flare-up.’ Decide on a nearby public space that can accommodate a crowd.  A morning start time is best, if you want to get media coverage; alert news outlets in advance.  Carry signs…Someone should be prepared to voice your demands, which is best done with a large megaphone….”

Got that?  The message from the Times seems to be “go do likewise,” but they also mention that Whitaker was pushed out by Google harassment, although they don’t mention that the NLRB fined Google for unfair labor practices in curtailing concerned activity and speech.

A weird, somewhat left-handed critique ran in a recent edition of The Economist where for the life of me they seemed to be waxing nostalgic for the good old days of violent miner strikes in “Bloody Harlan,” the famous county where so many of them occurred.  This was all prompted by a widely reported, though small effort, where some dozen to twenty miners and their families had blocked a coal train while trying to get Blackjewel to pay them their back wages as it hid behind bankruptcy.  This columnist couldn’t contain his glee in arguing that the original action had been greatly assisted by a bunch of anarchists who had come to help, and then in his argument the protest collapsed once there was a falling out with the anarchists over one of the miner’s support for Trump.  Who knows “who shot John” on this one, but it was much more widely reported that the miners had succeeded in getting the revenue from the coal train they had blocked promised towards their back wages?

My point remains the same.  What’s up with all this advice?  Is this a call to arms or just another catcall from the cheap seats?