This Week’s Craft Meeting: WTH is a Craft Meeting?

Craft meetings, old school gatherings of workers from the same shop or trade at the work-location, have been around a long time; long before the employer-friendly “No Strike” clause was invented. Back in the day, when management made an unpopular change at work, a craft-meeting of the affected workers outside the gate the next morning was usually a sign of trouble. Catching site of a craft meeting always set management on edge as often what followed might be a job-action, or even a grievance-strike.

This is pretty much how it works

Some union leadership have moved away from craft meetings now that we live in a brave new world of digital “instant” communication, in favor of websites, email and social media. This is wrong. Craft meetings and digital resources are both tools, but one cannot replace the other any more than a hammer can replace a pair of pliers.

Craft meetings serve multiple purposes

  • Of course, the first, most important purpose is to build unity
    • When we come together in a physical space, we put eyes on each other; we see that we all cared enough to show up for each other. “Shoulder-to-shoulder” becomes real, not union rah-rah
    • Who didn’t show up? Why? Leaders should not assume rats, pets or other fuckery – yet! It is more likely that better, trusted, communication tools need to be put in place by work-group leaders. Everyone should be given a chance – at first
    • Protect yourself from snitches (PDF)
  • Craft meetings f*ck with management’s minds
    • Managers become tense/scared when they see a craft meeting because they are afraid it may be about them
    • Meetings should take place where management can see them
    • Management is not permitted to spy on these or ask questions; they risk a Board charge by doing so and should be told this if they are dumb enough to ask
    • During bargaining, AT&T managers are required to report these to bargaining committee as sign of concerted action – a good thing!
  • Craft meetings are cool for passing the word, but they are really for planning action!
    • Actions should be discussed and agreed upon by the group and should take place soon after the meeting
    • Management is slow on the uptake; they will need the reason for the action explained (like with a nasty leaflet, say, or flyer), if not obvious. This also provides notice of “protected concerted activity”
    • Examples:
      • Petition. Signed in meeting and presented as group
      • Loudly clapping/chanting as walking into work
      • Handing out and wearing “union flair” such as buttons, stickers, or t-shirts
      • Painting PT/WT head w/ 24-hour red paint (so they can wear red on Thursday, of course)
      • Use your imagination, tailor the boss’s experience to fit his crimes
    • Eventually, the craft meetings will lead to picketing, work-stoppage, etc. in the form of grievance strikes due to boss’s actions and over-reactions

What is your Local doing to support your unity?

If the boss overreacts, there’ll have to be another craft meeting!
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