Interested in organizing with your coworkers, but don't know where to start? Here are six simple steps to get you on your way to forming a union! Make sure to keep discussions about the possibility of unionizing away from the ears of employers, even if you think they're sympathetic to your cause.
- Reach out to existing unions and organizations in your area for help, advice, and solidarity. Game Workers Unite chapters, related trade and industrial unions, and existing game worker unions internationally are all great resources for learning how to organize your own workplace, and establishing relationships now can strengthen both parties' actions in the future. If possible, talk to experienced organizers or attend a training session on workplace organizing.
- Talk to your coworkers one-on-one about their problems in the workplace, away from the supervision of management. Ask questions, and let them tell you the things that they want to fix; listen carefully, and don't assume you know what their problems are. Be supportive and understanding, and help them realize they're not alone in these issues. Don't start talking about unions yet! Start by identifying problems to solve.
Help them identify collective solutions to the problems they've shared. Just talking about issues isn't enough; stopping there can build frustration and anger without being constructive with those feelings. Your goal is to guide your co-workers towards seeing collective action as a solution to their problems, by asking questions and listening to their answers. Open-ended questions like "Who else feels this way?" and "What would happen if…" are useful. Always be honest! Don't oversell what's possible, and don't minimize the potential dangers.
Organize a first action to solve a simple, achievable problem. You don't need the whole office on board! Start with 10% of your coworkers, and target something concrete and achievable: demanding free coffee, or complaining to the boss as a group. By winning these fights, you and your coworkers will see the power of collective action, gain courage and experience, and inspire others to join in the next action. Before you take that first action, though…
Prepare your coworkers for the bosses' reaction when they find out you're organizing. Bosses have a lot of tactics to break up organizing workers, and they can be very effective and intimidating to the unprepared, but they're also very predictable. Learn these tactics yourself, and share them with your coworkers. These plays are much less effective when people know they're coming, and you've already had a chance to counter their anti-union lines.
- Push your coworkers to become organizers themselves. You can't do everything yourself, so help your coworkers become more involved by giving them tasks and following up. A task can be anything from taking notes at a meeting, to designing and printing flyers, to bringing in new members themselves. Don't forget to set deadlines and follow up on these tasks; this is real and important work, and doing it is empowering. Eventually, your coworkers will be suggesting their own tasks and managing themselves!
Only go public when you're confident you have the backing of the majority of your workforce and you have a concrete plan that everyone has agreed upon. People are routinely fired for trying to unionize, so make sure to protect your privacy, and the privacy of your fellow workers. In most countries a worker's right to unionize is protected under law, so make sure to inform yourself on what your rights are (local unions can help with this).
Reach out to us for more details. The GWU membership application as well as links to local chapters are available here: www.gameworkersunite.org/get-involved
If there's no GWU chapter in your area, contact the international and we can help put you in touch with local unions and even help you start a new chapter!