Any union organizer who wants to win has to be tuned in to culture

Barbara Ehrenreich

Why Workers Culture?

Workers culture is the soul of working life. It is the way we share the struggle and joy of earning our daily bread, and includes music, jokes, cartoons, posters, poetry, and murals. It can be noble or crude, insightful or clichťd. It can also be a very effective way to learn truths that may not be evident in surveys and questionnaires, and be the best medium for community building and shopfloor organizing.

The annual Conference on Creative Organizing teaches organizers to use songs, puppets, pranks, cartoons, and more in organizing.

We are dominated by corporate culture. When is the last time you saw the real issues of working people dealt with respectfully on tv? Never?

It's not there because it is in the interests of corporations to keep us divided.

Or as Elise Bryant of the National Labor College says:

The biggest hurdle is the dominance of corporately produced culture that is all about the individual. We need to know that itís not about an individual rising higher in the union hierarchy or being able to afford one of those four-car-garage beginner-castles. It is about, has always been about, making it possible for all of us to rise together.

The labor movement is missing soul and spirit. We didnít maintain the culture. Itís just shirts and mugs and caps now. The power of the people raising their voices together has been left at the side of the road. Now itís just chants.

People say, "We have tv, we donít need theater" but how are you going to help people losing their jobs facing that reign of terror and fear coming down in their lives with a pamphlet or a book or a video. You put real people in front of real people and itís different.

It can be a homegrown talent show in a local. Okay, so itís not great theater but thatís what people do: sing, dance, put on plays. Itís in our basic nature.

Iím not going to say to anyone "you have to throw away the vcr, tv, cd and dvd player" but sometimes you need to turn them off and just sing, play, converse. Until we reclaim that, our culture, they will control us because itís a drug.