Workplace Campaign Petitions

Overview

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

  1. Common demands from common issues
  2. An audience to collect signatures from
  3. A decision maker to target the petition with
  4. An escalation strategy that the petition fits into

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! 

🔥 Online Petitions Hot Tip 🔥

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.

Petition Goals

Online Petition

  • Increase visibility of your campaign, demands, and narrative by giving media an easy way to find the workers’ side of the story
  • Build a list of supporters
    • Get your local community on your side
    • Provide campaign updates and action steps to those supporters
  • Make the boss sweat

In-Person Petition

  • Build consensus among your coworkers on a set of demands
  • Demonstrate solidarity and power
  • Present clear demands and action steps to the boss
  • Prepare coworkers to take further action

Drafting a Petition

Framing the Issue

What’s an organizing issue?

You should be talking with your coworkers 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.

What’s the demand?

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 coworkers). 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.

Keep it short.

Tell your story about the workplace problems and why you’ve chosen your demands in simple, clear language in one or two short paragraphs.

Identifying the Right Target

Who are the decision makers?

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.

What do the decision makers care about?

Is it money, is it reputation, is it control and power? (It’s usually control plus something else.)

Personalizing

  • Stories: If one of the workers is comfortable being featured, consider including a personal story about how the workplace problems are affecting them.
  • Quotes: A direct quote from one or several workers can be powerful as well.
  • Photos: You can also include a photo of a worker or a group of workers. Photos where workers are in uniform or in front of the shop with a petition demand written on a sign are great ways to personalize a campaign.

Legal Language

Name your rights.

  • For private sector workers: Petitioning their employer is generally considered legally protected “concerted activity” covered by the National Labor Relations Act.
  • For public sector workers: Laws and legal protections vary by state. Talk this through with with an EWOC organizer.
 

✍️ Sample Petition ✍️

Use our sample COVID-19 petition language as a template.

Identifying the Audience

Who has influence over decision makers?

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.

Online Petitions

Coworkers 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.

Physical Petitions

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 coworkers on the same page.

Target a physical community that has present and direct influence over the decision-maker, including neighbors, colleagues, and peers.

How to Reach Your Audience

In-Person Petitions

Do:

  • House visits
  • Meet-ups
  • Grab coffee
  • Discreetly meet in the parking lot or a break room

Don’t:

  • Reach your coworkers or audience in work areas or in view of your supervisor or boss
  • Leave physical petitions lying around or where they can be grabbed (especially signed pages)

Online Petitions

  • Personal networks and social media: Workers should send the petition link to your personal networks, through email and social media. Ask them to sign the petition and spread the word to their contacts. If your campaign has a website, place the petition prominently on the home page.
  • Organizational boosting: Ask any ally groups to spread the word as well.
  • Influencer boosting: If you can get any online “influencers” to promote your petition, great.

Coworker Partnership Page Benefits

  • Can access a list: Using the EWOC partnership page with Coworker.org allows your campaign and EWOC to access the supporters list.
  • Control over data: You will have more control over this data.
  • Follow up with supporters: You can do regular follow ups with your supporters as needed.

Sample Online EWOC Petitions

🤝 For More Help 🤝

Contact EWOC and talk with an organizer!