Tool #3: Organising collectively for your rights

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In a time when working arrangements are becoming ever more precarious, we would argue that in a capitalist economy more generally – taking time to collectively organise for one’s rights must be part of one’s working routine and ethos. When organising and taking action together with others, gains can be made that reach beyond the individual.

Through the (active) membership in professional associations, unions and/or (in)formal collectives, it’s possible to:

• Pressure for institutional action
• Lobby policy makers
• Perform acts of direct action
• Create structures for mutual support

When taking collective action it is, however, important to keep considering how one’s decisions and victories affect workers/people beyond one’s profession. Because too easily the gains of one sector can be based on or have negative effects on workers/people elsewhere.

Some examples of collective organising

In the U.S.A., the Freelancers Union brings together and represents 233,383 independents from a variety of fields. The union gives a voice to their concerns at state level, offers advice and support around “freelance issues”, networks its members for peer-to-peer commissioning and covers areas like medical insurance and pensions.

In Italy, ACTA (Associazione Consulenti Terziario Avvanzato) campaigns and lobbies for advanced service freelancers. They also provide information on how to navigate as a freelancer through the complex system of Italian taxation.

In Italy, San Precario campaigns for the rights of low-pay service workers and for raising the issues of precarious working and living conditions in public discourse. The group activates consultation points for service workers and organises direct action to pressure companies to pay wages and to raise working standards.

In England, the newly established Artists Union England aims to challenge the economic inequalities in the world of cultural production and to positively influence the position artists have in society.

In Germany, the BDG (Bund der Deutschen Kommunikationsdesigner) lobbies for favourable policies in regards to communication designers, monitors the income and working conditions of this group and provides a series of helpful tools to manage one’s own design practice.

In the UK, the Precarious Workers Brigade is an informal collective of cultural producers campaigning for better working conditions within the arts. They also function as a study group and as a collective to give voice and to investigate one’s own precarious situation.

Last edit: 18.06.2014