Petitions are your opportunity to present your narrative, demands, and a demonstration of the power you can bring to bear in your campaign in the form of signatures.
Broadly speaking, workplace campaign petitions come in two categories: in-person and online. Regardless of the category, workers should identify
Online and in-person petitions do not need to be mutually exclusive. You can absolutely circulate an in-person petition in your shop and also a virtual petition to a wider audience. However, online and in-person petitions often will have different audiences and accomplish different escalation goals!
If your campaign will put out an online petition to get external support from outside your workplace, you should consider using our partnership page with Coworker.org to help you create online petitions. Through this partnership page, you can build a list of supporters to reach out to and mobilize.
However, no campaign should rely completely on online petitions, so you should also engage in traditional workplace organizing to put pressure on key decision makers. See Organizing Basics for help and talk with an EWOC organizer.
You should talk with your co-workers about the workplace problems you want to improve. The organizing issues are those that a majority of workers are concerned about and want to address.
These collective discussions should lead to several key demands, usually no more than 3–5. The fewer and clearer the demands are, the more likely it is your audience will understand them, and the more likely it is you can focus your boss’s attention on the ones you care the most about. These demands, clearly, concretely, and concisely stated, are the crux of any good online or in-person petition. Your demands online should also be consistent with any demands you have made in writing at your workplace.
Demands that you make of your boss about wages, hours, benefits, or specific workplace conditions are protected by the National Labor Relations Act Section 7 (as long as they are presented in concert with your co-workers). However, broader ideological or political demands (i.e. demands not directly about workplace conditions) often don’t have the same protection. Additionally, the current National Labor Relations Board is not a pro-worker organization, and most labor law is not on the workers’ side. That’s why workers should always be prepared to maintain their own protection through strength in numbers and controlling the public narrative.
Tell your story about the workplace problems and why you’ve chosen your demands in simple, clear language in one or two short paragraphs.
This should be the person or people at your employer who have the power to concede your demands. It could be a store or restaurant manager, district manager, or the CEO. Who the right target is will depend on what your demands are.
Is it money, is it reputation, is it control and power? (It’s usually control plus something else.)
Name your rights.
Who in the general public would care about this issue? Who would the employer be concerned about if they signed in support?
An example for grocery store or restaurant workers would be asking the customers to support the campaign. For many workplaces, it could be asking people in the local community for support.
Co-workers in decentralized workplaces or at other work sites, local community, supporters, local activist and organizer networks can benefit from online petitions.
When determining the audience for an online petition, also consider how many signatures you should aim to get on that petition. The general answer is of course to get as many signatures as possible.
The reality is that depending on the size of the worksite you should be coming up with a number that you think would feel intimidating to the employer.
It’s rare for employers, even small employers, to meet demands simply because of the number of petition signatures on an online petition. If you’re hoping for an impact from just the numbers alone, then you’ll have to aim high and make it clear those petition signers can be mobilized to build tension with the decision-maker.
In order to ensure that you are taking democratic action within your shop, a primary goal should always be to get the majority of your co-workers on the same page.
Target a physical community that has present and direct influence over the decision-maker, including neighbors, colleagues, and peers.
Contact EWOC and talk with an organizer!