Since becoming Secretary for WISE-RA I have overseen various necessary changes; the most important of which, to my (alas, all-too-limited) mind, has been the constitution of a committee charged with establishing a new procedure by which internal disputes can be better handled. We have also, as a union, started to have various conversations about how we communicate with the wider world, and, of course, with each other. But much more work is to be done and I have become aware of how we are painfully reliant on the hard work of comparatively few people. Those who have been active in unionism, or activism, or any sort of organising will be aware how quickly burnout can occur in virtue of too much work being undertaken by too few people.
I am explicitly e-mailing a request for help. There are profound disparities in both membership numbers between regions, and member participation. As a consequence of this, there are some glaring holes in our union that need filled – preferably soon. I know that there are people in our union wanting to help, or to get involved, but they feel unable, or, simply, they don’t know what rôles are open or available to them.
There are various things to say about this, but as a matter of urgency we need to find a new Casework Officer. Our outgoing (or, outgone) Casework Officer, Sandra, has been absolutely incredible and I’m sure we all owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for how well she handled the department. I was constantly humbled by how competently she performed her duties and how passionately she pushed for the means by which we dealt with casework to be revised and reformed. Sandra has left an incredible legacy – it is the mark of a good officer that they leave a department in better shape than they found it, and Sandra has certainly done this.
We will obviously be looking for someone to take over from Sandra and continue her outstanding work. If any Fellow Workers are interested in this rôle please do get in touch. It is absolutely not necessary for you to have any prior experience. All that is required is a willingness to learn, and an ability to communicate with other Fellow Workers in a timely fashion.
We are also looking for someone to act as Chair for the Organising Department. This task isn’t extremely onerous, but it is necessary. The rôle mostly involves collecting reports from members of the Organising Department, and scheduling meetings using zoom, or another such platform. Again, you would not be ‘dumped’ into this position and you will be offered all the support and comradeship you need.
Finally, we are needing people to step up at the branch level. Too many branches are at risk of becoming redundant, not in virtue of a lack of members, but in virtue of a lack of engaged members. Our union cannot survive on the participation of others. We exist in a capitalist culture where if an obligation is everyone’s responsibility in general, then it is perceived as no-one’s obligation in particular. We cannot allow this culture into our union and we must resist it where we can. This means getting involved to make things work, rather than sitting by to ‘allow’ things to work.
If you would like to take an active part – at any level – please feel free to get in touch. We can have a chat about your skillset and interests, your availability and your requirements. Our union is best when our union is diverse. We need BAME members. We need disabled members. We need LGBTQI+ members. We need women and non-binary members. And yes, we still need cis-white dudes, too.
We are building the new world in the shell of the old; it’s time we organised and picked up our tools.