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Western Service Workers Association

I have been volunteering with Western Service Workers Association for almost a year now, and have not come across any of the so-called "authoritarianism" described in another article in this publication. I have seen no "brain washing" nor are there any "weapons" stored anywhere on the site of their office in Santa Ana California.
Western Service Workers Association as I have come to know it from my volunteering work with them for almost a year is an organization with some very simple and effective values and tactics. Our society is dependent on the service workers that do almost all of the real work that our daily lives depend upon. They are the people that keep our hotels and restaurants functioning. They care for our elderly. If we own a home and need work done, they are the people who do the work. The Association has also embraced temporary workers and those independent contractors who are small operators and get paid directly from their customers.

What all of these millions of people have in common is that they are generally not organized into any type of association that can provide them with the kind of benefits that are enjoyed by people that work in more traditional companies or can be classified as professionals. They have no health benefits. They accrue no sick leave. There is no vacation pay. There is no retirement plan. There is no income if they are sick or injured. They are not eligible for unemployment pay. The only benefit provided by law is the minimum wage.

First, these people provide a real value and should be paid a wage that provides at least the basics such as food, clothing, rent and medical care. Second, they need to learn how to organize themselves into a functional and fighting force so that they can have a voice with oppressive landlords, bosses, public utilities and laws that work against their best interests. Third, as they are human beings, they need to be provided with some of the basics such as food and clothing on an emergency basis until they can provide these things for themselves.

In this spirit, Western Service Workers Association teaches by effective actions and examples the value of working together to get things done. Their volunteers go out into the communities where these people live and find out what problems they are experiencing. They look for things that they can specifically do to turn these things around. Using the power of organization, they convince landlords to fix the appliances in their apartment buildings, demonstrate that government agencies can be reasoned with and show that oppressive bosses do not have the power to do anything to their workers that they please without consequences. The association, through its volunteers, works with low-income workers and local business people to get things done. Food and clothing is collected and distributed to those in need, eyeglasses are distributed and medical and dental care is provided through the voluntary contributions of local professionals in the community. All of this is accomplished without any paid staff or fund raising drives.

Volunteers make their own schedules and come in when they can. Nobody is forced to do anything. The only "power" the association has over their volunteers is the power of persuasion, passion and commitment and the obvious need for what they are doing in the local community around them. The agenda of the organization is set on a weekly basis by a board of volunteers that meets in open session and decides what is needed in the following week.