Statement on the Goals and
Methods of Social Service organization
... adopted by the San Francisco SSEU General Membership Meeting of September 20, 1967
Many of us have the growing feeling that our backs are up against the wall, that the administration is regulating us out of doing any meaningful work.
If we are allowed to retain our jobs without being fired, we are forced to live in degradation. A great fear of losing one's job, of losing the benefits of the society we live in, vies with a sense of repression all about us. We must do something about it.
The only method of survival is to fight back. We have rejected running. There is nowhere to go, and we cannot run fast enough. To join the dehumanizing Establishment is impossible. It is giving up, on ourselves. But the individual cannot fight back alone. The only gratifying and effective method is to fight alongside and to enjoy the full support of others.
In order to do this, to persuade others to help us and to join them in helping themselves, we try to make our union a place where people can come to satisfy their needs. We do not put the organization first. We do not ask the people who join with us to go beyond the limits they want to go. We are oriented to our members and to everyone else who shares our work. All people, union and non-union, are encouraged to participate in each struggle, and in deciding what the union should struggle for. Grievances are fought for non-union members, as well as union members. Our goal is for people to use the union organization in deciding their own lives.
Business unionism, based on control from above, imitating and collaborating with management power structures, cannot achieve this. We do not want to fall into the same traps as the AFL-CIO. Only an organization that functions as a popular movement of its members, and is controlled by them, can enable them to survive and develop as human beings.
People can exert control over their work lives only through organizing. Through rank-and-file organization social service workers can make the policy and determine the programs that define their work. Union organization which is not designed for its members to operate the union frustrates these efforts.
People are increasingly distrustful of and unwilling to commit themselves to organizations that do not make popular activity the center of their attention.
We emphasize that workers must rely on their own mutual efforts, rather than putting blind faith in a collective bargaining contract. Contracts can have the effect of trading away workers' ability to influence their jobs, thus putting an arbitrary ceiling on their aspirations.
Persuading people that their well-being can be guaranteed by one or another politician discourages them from taking charge of their own lives. We see little change in people's lives when a politician who "really has the people's interests at heart" replaces another, leaving the people themselves powerless.
We recognize that social service workers as a lone force will not solve their ultimate problems. In order to develop the strength required for ultimate solutions, we believe in cooperating, in whatever way deemed acceptable by our membership, with all groups of people in the community who have developed popular organizations in their own areas.
We believe our emancipation is possible only by people controlling the conditions under which they work and determining the work they do. We have tried to organize our union so as to encourage and support each member in his efforts to accomplish this. Organization should help people develop self-confidence in confronting management, gaining dignity in their work, and changing their jobs to their own satisfaction.
We are not busy building a mighty edifice to wheel and deal in power politics. We do not buy and sell anything. When we enter into negotiations with administration, we go for as much as we can get, and organize support to get it. We have never agreed to give up anything.
Neither are we simple trade unionists, pursuing only grievances and economic gains for our members. We are defending ourselves. We are taking the offensive; we are going for everything we can get. There is nothing that will satisfy us short of emancipation.