Employers have shown which side they’re on. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages around us, bosses have chosen to put short-term profits over the health of their workers and the community.
The Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), a joint project of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), recognizes that the costs of employers’ greed are disproportionately borne by people of color. If we want to build a multiracial working-class movement that can win a good life for us all, we have to organize from the shop floor up.
Inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign’s distributed-organizing model, EWOC relies on an army of motivated socialist volunteers to take on work traditionally done by paid union organizers. By putting its faith in ordinary Americans who wanted to make Bernie’s vision for the country a reality, the campaign mobilized millions of people to build working-class political power together. EWOC takes the Sanders model from political organizing to workplace organizing. EWOC is built on the belief that, with the right training and commitment, any member of DSA can help workers organize their workplace.
Of course, it won’t be easy. Workplace organizing is time-consuming, delicate, and complicated—and now it needs to happen almost entirely virtually. EWOC has recruited a team of longtime workplace organizers and developed extensive training programs for workers and new organizers. It has developed new forms of worker outreach and new processes to support workers virtually as they begin to organize their workplaces. Training workers and new volunteers to take on serious responsibility—and thrive doing it—is key to EWOC’s success.
The strategy is working. Only a few months from its founding, EWOC has helped close to a thousand workers in 10 workplaces across the country win their demands. Workers assisted by EWOC have won hazard pay, paid sick leave, personal protective equipment, and more. And we’re just getting started. Now, EWOC is involved in campaigns that are in the works or under way in 20 states, and more are getting off the ground every week.
One recent campaign began when a worker requested EWOC’s assistance in organizing his workplace through our website (workerorganizing.org). He and his coworkers at a Taco Bell franchise in Michigan received guidance on organizing their colleagues; writing a petition demanding that management implement reasonable safety precautions and fairly compensate them for the risk they took every day by showing up to work; and then making their demands public. The workers won hazard pay (including back pay for time they’d already worked during the pandemic), paid sick leave, and more. They won their demands not just for themselves, but for their full franchise—which employs hundreds of workers.
To hold on to this momentum, EWOC needs your help. Whether you’re coming to EWOC to organize your own workplace, as a new organizer ready to support comrades engaged in shop-floor struggles, or as an old-hand organizer with years of experience to contribute, we need you. As we expand across the multiracial working class, we will particularly need organizers who speak languages other than English. The EWOC model is built to meet you where you are, to develop your skills, and to give you the responsibility you are ready for. All you need is the belief that every worker deserves democratic control over their work, and the commitment to make that belief a reality.
If that sounds like you, get in touch for help organizing your workplace or to sign up to be an organizing volunteer at workerorganizing.org.