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The Organization of Organized Discontent: The Case of the Postal Workers in Britain

However, the populist character of the measures, which lacked economic justification, has resulted only in statistical manipulation by regional authorities to meet the required indicators. Typically, authorities cut jobs in the relevant sector, then increase the salaries and the already high workloads of the remaining personnel: it appeared that the decrees could be executed only if doctors and teachers carried at least twice their usual workload.

Some of these payments were two to three times the normal paycheck and evidently came as a complete surprise to the workers, more so because they were then warned by their employers not to take out loans because the salary bumps would be short-lived. This discrepancy can be easily ascertained by any state worker with the help of the online calculator provided by Aleksey Navalny. In his new project, Navalny does not call for protest mobilization but encourages people to file complaints, which is more in line with the current pattern of Russian contentious politics.

Whereas in advanced democracies, participation in peaceful mass protests is accepted political behavior, in Russia people use open public actions as a tactic of last resort.

Filing a complaint, with or without the help of the NTU, is likely to be perceived by people as a benign form of action and thus could potentially attract more supporters for political opposition. The nature of social discontent in Russia is gradually becoming more politicized , which basically means that citizens are increasingly holding authorities responsible for policy failures.

As living standards continue to decline, more and more people are recognizing the need for political leverage to deal with social and economic problems. Skip to main content.

Foreign Policy U. By Irina Meyer-Olimpieva. Irina Meyer-Olimpieva.

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Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance. Her basic research interests are in the field of economic sociology with a particular focus on post-socialist transformation. See Step 1 below to start fighting for your rights as a worker. To unionize your workplace, start by contacting the local union you'd like to join for support.

Then, speak to your fellow workers to gauge interest in unionizing, but avoid discussing this with management since they may oppose it. To strengthen your campaign, gather information about other workers in your industry who are unionized so you have a model for your own organization and contact supportive politicians. Finally, campaign to get at least 30 percent of the workforce to sign authorization cards, then petition the NLRB to hold an official union election.

To find out more about negotiating contracts and combatting myths about unions, read on! This article was co-authored by our trained team of editors and researchers who validated it for accuracy and comprehensiveness. Together, they cited information from 6 references. Categories: Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Learn more Understand how unions work. In the United States, unions are a divisive topic.

Some laud them as some of the few organizations fighting for the rights of common people, while others decry them as bastions of corruption and laziness. Before trying to unionize, it's important to understand how unions function in an objective way - free of bias either in favor of or against unions. In a union, the employees at a workplace agree to band together either on their own or with employees from other workplaces to collectively negotiate for any number of things - higher wages and better working conditions, for instance. If enough people in the workplace agree to join in a union and the union is made official, the employer is required by law to negotiate a contract with the union, which represents all the workers, rather than with each worker individually, as the employer normally would.

Collectively, workers in a union have greater negotiating power than they do individually. If, for instance, a worker who isn't in a union demands higher wages or better treatment, she or he can often be ignored - the worst-case scenario for the employer is the employee will quit and someone else will have to be hired. If, however, the workers band together in a union and demand better treatment, the employer has to take notice - if all the workers agree to stop working in an action called a "strike" , the employer has no way to run the business and is out of luck.

Finally, members of a union have to pay "dues" - fees that are used to run the union itself, pay pensions, pay union organizers and lawyers, lobby the government for favorable policy-making, and some use a portion of dues to a "strike fund" - money used to pay union members so they'll be able to support themselves during a strike.

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The amount of money paid as dues varies based on the decision of union members or leadership, depending on how democratically-run your union is. The goal of a union is for increased pay and better working conditions to more than outweigh the cost of membership. Know your rights. Often, the management at a business will try to discourage employees from forming a union, as union workers usually get higher pay and better working conditions than non-union workers.

It's important to know your legal rights when it comes to forming a union so you can protect yourself and, if necessary, fight back against any illegal action by your employer. Most courts have decided the Section 7 of the NLRA dictates the following legal mandates: [1] Employees may discuss the idea of forming a union and distribute union literature during non-work time and in non-work places - like, for instance, a break room. They may also display their union support through clothing, pins, jewelry, etc.

Employees can ask other employees to sign petitions regarding the formation of a union, specific employment grievances, etc. Employees can also ask employers to recognize these petitions. Additionally, most courts agree that Section 8 of the NLRA provides the following protections: [2] Employers cannot offer raises, promotions, or other incentives to employees if they agree not to unionize. Employers cannot close down a work site or otherwise transfer work away from certain employees because of union affiliation. Employers cannot fire, demote, harass, dock pay from, or otherwise punish employees because of union affiliation.

Finally, employers also cannot threaten to do any of the above acts. Don't believe common myths. Because it's difficult for employers to legally discourage unions through direct intervention, many will resort to myths, distortions, and outright lies to dissuade employees from forming or joining a union. If your employer spreads any of the following rumors, recognize that they are inaccurate and inform your fellow workers of this fact: [3] Union dues aren't worth it.

In fact, the goal of union dues is to allow negotiation that is more effective so your increased wages and improved work conditions more than counteract the cost of membership. Dues aren't paid until the union negotiates a contract that's approved by the members. Union supporters will lose their jobs before they can form a union. It's illegal to fire or punish someone because of his or her union sympathies. By joining a union, you'll lose the benefits you have now. It's illegal for employers to withdraw benefits because of employees' union sympathies.

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Besides this, your current wages and benefits stay in effect until the members of the union that includes you decide on a different contract. You'll lose everything when you're forced to go on strike. Despite the popular misconception, strikes are exceedingly rare. Additionally, if you join a larger union, rather than organizing your own, you'll likely have access to a strike fund, from which you'll be paid during the strike. Unions are unfair to employers or take advantage of employers' kindness. The goal of a union is to negotiate an agreement between the employer and the employees - not to rob the employer or drive him or her out of business.

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No employment contract comes into effect until both parties agree to it. Finally, if an employer doesn't pay a reasonable wage for an employee's work and see to it that working conditions are safe and reasonable, the employer is actively doing the employee a disservice by robbing him or her of the opportunity cost of his or her time, to say nothing of his or her wellbeing. Find a local union, if so desired. When it comes time to unionize, you can legally form your own independent union with members only from your workplace.

This is a valid, reasonable option. However, employees at many workplaces prefer instead to join a larger union, which, owing to the fact that it has more members, will have greater resources at its disposal when it comes to representation and negotiation. You can search a complete list of unions in the U. Additionally, local unions are usually listed in the yellow pages or other business directories under "labor organizations. It's not unusual, for instance, for office workers to be a members of the United Auto Workers. It counts members in the fields of nursing, police, fire, general factory, and more, but, to be clear, not all the workers in these jobs that join unions have chosen the Steelworkers.

The Industrial Workers of the World IWW represents all working people under "One Big Union" and, besides performing typical union functions, encourages individual membership even if your workplace is not unionized or is represented by another union. Contact the union of choice.

If you can, call the local union office directly - if you can't, contact the national or international office to be put in contact with the local office. Even if the union isn't interested in representing you, they may be able to recommend you to another union that is or may provide free resources to you. Reasons why a trade union may not want to represent you may include the fact that your workforce is too small or that you're involved with an industry the union isn't comfortable with or isn't qualified to represent.

Different unions may employ different methods of organizing based on type of work and employer. Working with the local organizers allows you to access seasoned union personnel who have experience organizing unions and negotiating fair contracts. Many, but not all aspiring union members find this to be the best way to organize their workplace. Provide as much information as possible. Most unions will be interested in knowing how many people work at your workplace, where they work, types of work performed and the current wage and benefit levels.

Unions will also want to know specific grievances you have with your employer - for instance, pay inequality, unsafe conditions, or discrimination, so have these complaints ready. Be ready for plenty of opposition. To put it bluntly, most employers welcome a union like the plague. This is because it will likely cost the employer more to have a unionized work force due to the increased costs of labor and benefits associated with it.

These additional costs can reduce the amount of profit the employer enjoys, meaning there may be less for them to keep. Some employers will stop at nothing to prevent this from happening; some will even resort to illegal tactics. Be prepared for animosity both from your employer and from their close confidants.

Experienced union organizers can tell you exactly what to expect. One good rule is to be especially careful not to "mess up" on the job in any way. In other words, your employer can't legally fire or punish you for trying to form a union, but if you give them any other reason to, they may jump at the opportunity. Remember that, if the organizing drive is successful, the employer will no longer be able to dictate the terms of employment, but will be obligated by law to negotiate in good faith with your union representatives.

For a union to have a chance of forming, the majority of workers in your workplace will need to support it. Talk to your fellow workers - are many of them unhappy with their treatment or pay? Do any of them have reason to suspect unfairness, favoritism, or discrimination? Have many been left in dire financial straits due to cancelled benefits, etc? If most of your fellow workers seem discontented, you may have a good chance of forming a union. However, be careful where and to whom you raise the prospect of unionizing.


Members of your company's management naturally have a stake in the status quo - they stand to make less money if their employees unionize. Also beware of any "favorite" employees or people who have close relationships to the management, as these people may not keep your secret. At first, try to involve only people who you know and trust. Gather information and support. Research your industry - are there other workers in your industry or employed by your competitors who are unionized? Who are your strongest allies in the workplace? Who is willing to help you in your efforts to organize?

Are there any local politicians or community figures who are sympathetic to your cause? Organizing a union is hard work - not only will you have to organize the union itself, but you may also need to take part in rallies and community outreach efforts. The more friends and resources you can secure early on, the greater chance you have of succeeding. As you gather allies and ammunition for your unionization effort, try to remain discrete. The farther you can get without your management learning about your plans to unionize, the better.

Create an organizing committee. If your union is to succeed, it needs not just the broad support of the workers in your workplace, but also a strong sense of direction provided by determined leaders. Meet with the people who have pledged their support, and, if you've appealed to a larger union, their representatives again, you may want to do this discretely so as not to notify the management at your workplace. Decide upon a coalition of the most dedicated union supporters - in the early stages of union formation, these people will act as the leaders of the organization movement, motivating employees to take action and spearheading efforts to gain support.

Demonstrate support for your union to the NLRB. This usually means getting as many workers in your workplace as possible to sign special forms called "authorization cards" declaring their desire to be represented by a union. Note - these authorization cards must specify that, by signing, a worker is declaring his or her intention to be represented by a union.

If the card says only that, by signing, the worker is declaring his or her support for a vote on the matter of unionization, they're not valid. Often, to garner support, organizing committees will throw rallies, host speakers, and distribute literature to educate workers about their rights and encourage union membership.

Consider these tactics to increase support for your union. Have an NLRB-sponsored election.