Sarah Woolley: “Trade Union Movement Should Back Organise Now”

Sarah Woolley General Secretary of the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union

Sarah Woolley, General Secretary of Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) is calling on the whole labour movement to back Organise Now, as it celebrates its first anniversary. 

As figures show that 200,000 workers (mainly women) left the trade union movement in 2022, and in a climate of real terms pay cuts and a cost of living crisis, the need to grow the breadth and scope of trade union density in response has become critical.

On celebrating Organise Now’s birthday, Sarah Woolley, said, “What has been achieved in just a year by this project shows its incredible potential to reverse declining levels of union membership and grow the trade union movement. The BFAWU is proud to be a founding supporter and urges the whole union movement to provide resources and support for this project.”

As well as providing support for workers through a large group of volunteers, Organise Now has played an active part in days of action, such as the Baristas United campaign in November. It also organised its own ‘guerrilla’ May Day campaign, enabling groups of volunteers to target shops and restaurants, talking to staff about benefits of joining and organising a union at work.

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), commented, “We were proud to become a supporter of Organise Now this year. We believe no worker should be left behind. All workers need to be organised in fighting unions, and we must grow our movement during this period of increased industrial disputes. We hope the whole labour movement will join us in supporting Organise Now.”

Organise Now has recruited over 200 volunteers from across the trade union movement. Imogen Woods, an Organise Now volunteer said: “I volunteered for Organise Now because workers organising in their own workplaces is the best way to build working class power, change working conditions, and challenge injustice. To do this workers need support and mentorship”.

Despite the project still being young, Organise Now has been able to deliver quick wins by supporting workers from all over the economy. Lee, a recycling worker, describes his experience, “I’m glad I found Organise Now! The help and support has been very welcome and beneficial. The coach gave me valuable tips and advice which I have implemented to good effect at my workplace. The best thing is, the support is ongoing and has given me the confidence to tackle the issues that exist.”

As of September 2023, the project had attracted the most worker signups from the hospitality sector (21%), followed by health and social care (15%), education (14%), retail (11%) and the charity sector (11%). Tess, a charity worker who contacted Organise Now, said, “The call was really helpful and exactly what I needed. Afterwards, I felt more confident and positive about the next steps and less worried about our anxious/reluctant management team. I was clearer about the issues and benefits of working towards a recognition agreement.”

Through delivering engaging workshops around developing the confidence of workers, Organise Now has been actively helping support workers not in unions to form them and get active. This has meant delivering a brief union organising guide, Get Organised Now! that has been used by younger people in helping them activate unions at work. Nehaal Bajwa, National Union of Students (NUSUK) Vice President, Liberation and Equality, commented, “Organise Now delivers uniquely powerful support that links together experienced trade union activists, who have led effective campaigns, with workers who need the confidence and support to organise effective unions at work. That is why we at NUS back this exciting project on behalf of students and apprentices.”

Organise Now is supported by Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), National Union of Students (NUS), Strike Map and Notes From Below. 

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