Tag Archives: london

Is the home the new place to organise?

One of my motivations for trying to get something going for renters was my feeling that people on the left need to start thinking about finding new ways to engage and organise people as workplaces becomes more fragmented and employment more precarious.

In the UK, Sarah Kwei is wondering the same thing as casualisation and fragmentisation makes workplace organising much harder there too:

Contrast this with 2014, when more than 1 million workers exist on zero-hours contracts and are told via texts whether they have work or not. The insecurity of the lowest paid is much the same, but the potential for workers to access one another and organise for something better has been undermined by these increasingly individualising practices.

In addition, most low-paid work is unstable. Workers frequently find themselves performing different roles over several months – perhaps a delivery driver one month, a shelf stacker the next – interspersed by periods of unemployment. [With the decline of industrialised Britain, few are able to look to one local company as their most likely source of employment. […] Such a radically different workplace poses significant problems to traditional forms of worker organisation, especially if most workers will struggle to say who their colleagues are or, indeed, their employer is, from one month to the next.

In this context it’s not surprising that some of the most inspiring (and successful) direct political action in the UK is centred instead around housing. Groups like the Focus E14 Mothers have shown that campaigning over quality and availablity of housing can capture the public imagination.

The issues around housing in New Zealand are markedly different from those in the UK but the core idea – that this rediscovered option for community organising has a lot of potential – rings true for me.

Sarah Kwei concludes by saying that she thinks that cooperation between established unions, with their organising expertise and resources and new community organisations is important. I can’t disagree and once we have our experiment in community organising up and running finding common ground and ways or working with unions will undoubtably strength us too.

“Sticking together gives you hope that things can be different”

Focus E15 mothers are a group of young mothers who were evicted from a hostel they lived in. The hostel was a place of shelter for women facing homelessness and domestic violence. Their response to this eviction and the accompanying attempts by social service to disperse them across the country was to organise.

What strikes me about the actions of these brave women and their supporters, is that organising and campaigning of this nature is also an exercise in community building. And what better way to (re-)build communities than though campaigning on housing?

Finding the confidence to stand up for yourself and those around you is not easy but when you do you give others the confidence to do the same. Solidarity and action can be infectious and can strengthen a community to the point where it can begin to find it’s own solution to problems as well as become impossible for those with the power to ignore.