Last week I visited an interesting event, organised by FNV Mondiaal. FNV Mondiaal is part of the large Dutch trade union FNV and focuses on supporting trade unions abroad. “FNV Mondiaal is seeking to improve the working conditions of employees in developing countries by supporting the local trade unions in their work. These unions accomplish change by being creative, by being smart and by having considerable courage.” The event was called “Organizing 2 Change“ and aimed to highlight the potential of a fairly new tactic: “organizing”.
As they noted on their invitation: “‘Organizing’ is hot. This method of organizing and mobilizing people, which has come across from America, is being used all over the world, including by the FNV. One example is during the successful strike by cleaners earlier this year.”
With workshop speakers from South-Africa (on organizing in trains) or India (on movements of landless Dalits) and a plenary by an experienced “organizer” from a US trade union, the event was already very informative. Highlight was the presenation of Andy Bichlbaum, one of the Yes Men. Their prankster actions have been around for a while, and many people have already seen clips on You Tube (like this one). Although you could debate their contribution to “change” (see Chris MacDonald’s blog on this) they certainly are able to draw attention to all sorts of issues they consider injust. They are organizing people – yet others will have to follow up. Indeed that is what they try to do: by teaming up with other groups – Andy pointed at the recent Chevron campaign in which they worked with the Rainforest Alliance Network. Stunts like these certainly are not the answer – they do not provide alternative solutions to problems but they definitely make the audience think about these issues. If some coordination can be arranged (as they try to do through The Yes Lab), these actions can be helpful tactics in organizing 2 change.