This kit is a tool for organizing and fighting back: simple steps and approaches that can help a group grow in size and power, and effectively take on issues and institutions that are too big to confront as lone individuals.

A good definition of organizing is “getting things done together that you can’t get done alone.” To organize, you recognize that a lot of your troubles at work and in your community are not individual problems that you can solve on your own. A problem like lack of affordable healthcare isn’t something we fix on our own, just by trying harder, it’s something that is the result of complicated power dynamics between many groups of people.

When you organize, you build relationships with the other people around you who are affected by the same concerns or have the same needs. Together, you take action. As you take action you build new relationships and deepen existing relationships so you can take bigger and stronger actions, until you win the change you need in your workplaces and your community.

The vast majority of people in America are struggling economically, which means there are a lot of people who share your concerns. There are also a lot of different ways people can take action together: lobbying, protesting, letter writing, occupying, etc. Different actions fit different situations, and different groups of people will decide which action is the ‘right’ one. All actions work best when they involve many people together rather than one person alone. Action is more effective when you are organized!

Created by We Are Oregon

In the summer of 2011, two SEIU union locals started an exciting project. 

SEIU is the largest and fastest-growing union in the United States. But by mid-2011 it was clear that even with the size and strength of a national union, working people needed a new approach to deal with the ongoing financial crisis, rising unemployment, the attack on wages and benefits for all workers, and the devastating impacts of these trends on communities all across the country.

Two SEIU union locals in Oregon, the state-wide public employee and long-term care workers’ union (Local 503), and the healthcare and property services workers’ union (Local 49), joined forces to try something new: We Are Oregon (WAO). WAO is a new strategy in the fight for economic justice, applying union organizing strength and experience to grassroots community organizing outside the workplace on the economic issues that affect working people the most.

WAO started by canvassing tens of thousands of homes in the Portland area, finding out what issues most concern working class communities, and then began organizing around these issues, including foreclosure, unemployment, food access. In late 2011, the rise of Occupy Wall Street inspired many around the country into fights for economic justice and against wealth inequality, opening up conversations that weren’t happening before on the national level. WAO has worked with individuals and groups active in Occupy Portland and its various offshoots, and continues to organize in Portland.

This kit is meant as a tool to spread our approach, and accompanies a training to get folks started organizing in their worksite or community.


Economic Emergency Kit, version 1.1

Authors: Aaron Giesa, Angela MacWhinnie, Alejandro Juarez, Angus Maguire,
and Chris Lowe

Editing: Sarah Schneider

Design & Illustration: Barbara Quinn and Angus Maguire

Photography: Rebeca Beeman

Reviewers: Craig Mahaffy, Danica Finley, Gretchen Barr, Jake Dacks, Joye Camacho, Kari Koch, Khanh Le, Lorene Scheer, Mac Coyle, Maribel Gomez, Marvel Smith, Mic Crenshaw, Michael Alexander, Rebeca Beeman, Sean Staub, Semir Said, Steve Shumate, and Maggie Long.

This kit is released under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. You are free to share the contents of this kit, and to adapt, remix this work as long as you attribute the source of this work, use it only for non-commercial purposes, and release any resulting work under the same license.

License details.

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