Using Socialist Worker at work

December 19, 2018

SW can be a great tool for socialist workplace organizing if you follow these tips from labor veterans, compiled by Amy Muldoon, a longtime socialist and a Communications Workers of America member at Verizon in New York City.

This article is part of the International Socialist Organization’s (ISO) Socialist at Work Toolkit assembled by the ISO’s Labor Working Group. We hope this collection of articles — as well as the experiences of socialists that went into it and will come out of it — contributes toward reconnecting today’s revived socialist movement with the rich history of labor struggle in the U.S. Only in the U.S. is socialism seen as foreign to unions and shop-floor struggles. It’s high time that changed.

At SW, we’re publishing articles from the Toolkit along with contributions from our readers about their own experiences, collected in a series called Socialists at Work. Please consider contributing your own stories and the lessons you’ve drawn from them in an e-mail submission to SW — or just tell us what liked, or didn’t, about this series.

SOCIALIST NEWSPAPERS can be part of a thriving political culture and the backbone of collaborative, politicized relationships. They can provide a window out of the narrow confines of workplace gripes into a systematic view of exploitation and oppression.

Socialist Worker helps co-workers see you as something other than an individual with good ideas and a lot of optimism. They can help co-workers identify with other fightbacks and provide an impetus for solidarity and struggle. They can help people become socialists themselves.

Image from SocialistWorker.org

Here are a few do’s and don’ts for using SW at work. A lot of these points apply to the paper edition of Socialist Worker, but also think about how you can share and use articles from the website, too:

Do’s and Don’ts

Do read Socialist Worker yourself, publically if possible, in break rooms or cafeterias. People are always curious about anything they haven’t seen before.

Do get to know your co-workers. First impressions can be misleading. Sometimes, the people who seem most bold in the face of management are isolated and aren’t interested in being part of organizing, while a quieter co-worker might be passionate about Black Lives Matter or the environment.

If someone takes interest, do share! Offer to pick up an extra copy for them at the next meeting.

Do charge for the paper. When you bring someone their first paper, make a point of including: “It’s a dollar.” It is much harder to create a routine around actual selling if you wait too long. And don’t be shy about it! People are always passing money for lotto pools, school fundraisers, charitable collections, etc., at work. SW can become just part of the landscape of those transactions.

Don’t act uncomfortable. If you treat it like it’s normal, so will your coworker.

Do be patient. This isn’t a street tabling where you are meeting someone you may never see again.

Socialists at work

An SW series dedicated to discussing how to organize in your workplace. The ISO’s Labor Working Group has contributed how-to guides, and readers are adding their own experiences.

Do know what’s in the paper (and online). When a conversation develops about a certain topic, and you can’t pull out the paper immediately, go back to the individual later and say, “I was thinking about what you said, I think you’d really like this article.” It’s never too late, and everyone appreciates feeling like someone was listening.

Do post articles if you have a union board at work.

Don’t act like you know more than your co-workers, even if you have more information on specific topics. Don’t lecture — listen. This is especially true if you are in a blue-collar profession where people don’t have academic degrees. No one likes a know-it-all.

Do cover your workplace issues! Writing a letter or article with a co-worker is an amazing way to politicize a relationship. And when you write on any topic, be sure to share it with co-workers.

Do follow up. Often at work, it’s hard to stop and read an article right there. A follow-up text at lunchtime or after work can help remind people to get back to that piece.

Don’t give up! The people we work with have busy adult lives. If someone buys a paper and doesn’t read it, or you develop a regular buyer who seems to just want to support you, go back to square one. What topic are they passionate about?

Do organize a group around the paper. Having a lunch or happy hour gathering that starts with the paper can help you form a core of collaborators for struggles, inside and outside of the workplace. An SW meet up can be a space for discussing political issues or workplaces issues, collaborating on writing about them for the paper, and brainstorming ways to address workplace or other social issues.

Do use both the print and web versions. Comrades get higher engagement by selectively e-mailing and posting article in union Facebook groups, but that can lead to a one-way flow of information. Always follow up with a “What did you think?” Or even more helpfully, start with: “You know what I thought was really powerful about that article...” That can spark a more specific conversation than an “It was good, I liked it” reply.

Do use the paper when organizing. Use examples from other workplaces that reinforce the possibility of taking on whatever issue you are having. SocialistWorker.org has a deep archive if the current issue doesn’t have what you need.

Do use the whole paper. The thing about having a socialist newspaper that isn’t just about workplace struggles is that it can connect all the issues. Co-workers will buy the paper off certain issues, but then encounter a much bigger range of articles.

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