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Workers Can Win – review

If you’re looking to organise your workplace, Ian Allinson’s book is a vital and useful guide, writes Lydia Hughes

3 minute read

A rally of protesters march behind a large banner that reads: 'McStrike'

Title: Workers Can Win: A Guide to Organising at Work

Author: Ian Allinson

Publisher: Pluto Press

Year: 2022

Ian Allinson’s new book is a living, breathing guide to organising in your workplace. He rightly considers organising to be a collective endeavour, as is the process of figuring out how to do it successfully. So not only can you read the book and try out the ideas yourself, you can give feedback on how it went through workers-can-win.info and add to the ideas in the book.

Collective action becomes part of the process of sharing organising tools but is also a key argument of the book. Allinson is clear that collective action is the source of our power in the workplace – an argument that, unfortunately, isn’t always taken as read in the union movement. If I could boil down my own experience in organising, and winning, it would be that action is key. Action is how we express our collective power and how we use it to win. Always bringing our organising back to this principle is essential in my view. My hope is that this book can add to the growing call for action in the union movement, ending decades of dormancy.

The book comes at an important time. The union movement is regaining momentum. Riding on the back of a ‘hot strike summer’, and going into a winter of potential strikes in schools, universities and hospitals, we need the confidence more than ever to take this energy into non unionised sectors. The proportion of private sector workers in a union still sits at 12.8 per cent, far off the 50.1 per cent of workers in the public sector.

Action is how we express our collective power and how we use it to win. Bringing our organising back to this principle is essential

Ian Allinson draws on decades of organising experience as a workplace activist in the private sector. He led the first national strike in the IT industry at Fujitsu Services UK in 2009, where, to name a few achievements, they won union recognition and improved pay and conditions. You may recognise Allinson’s name from the 2017 Unite general secretary election, where he ran as the grassroots socialist candidate, getting 13 per cent of the vote.

While Labor Notes and Jane McAlevey have excellently crafted guides on organising, Workers Can Win brings these important ideas into the UK context, which often diverges significantly from the US. If you’re like me and have a terrible attention span, the book neatly summarises its key points at the end of every chapter and provides useful discussion questions, making it a great collective read with your co-workers.

For those looking to deepen their understanding, Allinson is launching a course to pass on more of his knowledge. His hope is that people ‘don’t have to learn quite so much the hard way’. I would recommend buying the book for yourself, and for all your workmates.

This article first appeared in issue #238, Winter 2022, Deluge and Drought. Subscribe today to get your magazine delivered hot off the press!

Lydia Hughes is a co-editor of Red Pepper and of Notes from Below, and co-author of Troublemaking: Why You Should Organise Your Workplace (Verso, 2023)

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