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Home » Organizing » Workplace Meetings Are Valuable Organizing Tools

Workplace Meetings Are Valuable Organizing Tools


by Gabriel Feldman-Schwartz, AFM Field Organizer

There are two competing ways to view the workplace. There’s the boss’s way: a place where workers shouldn’t communicate with each other and should do whatever is assigned to them with no hesitation. This workplace vision is full of deference to management, isolation, and competition among coworkers.

Separately, there is the union’s view of the workplace: a place to organize with each other, to be in community with one another, and to fundamentally shift power imbalances so that musicians have a say in their day-to-day lives. To create and sustain this vision of the workplace, workers have a valuable tool in their arsenal: the workplace meeting.

A workplace organizing meeting is important because there is no better place for peer-to-peer interaction. It takes advantage of shared location and does not require that people commit to driving someplace after a long day of work to participate. These meetings are a great way to agitate your colleagues into action, to craft and plan workplace actions, to give updates on contract negotiations, and to give musicians the important space to bring their concerns and ideas to the table.

Here are some tips on setting up effective workplace meetings:

  1. Have an agenda, and if possible, share it widely before the meeting. This will provide better structure and time management for the meeting, while giving your coworkers the ability to request additions or adjustments to the topics to be discussed. Ideally, there should always be a portion of the agenda that opens the floor to give musicians space to raise issues that may not be known.
  2. Have a sign-in sheet to collect names and contact information. This will provide valuable insight about who is attending the meetings and who isn’t. If the same people are coming repeatedly (and the same people aren’t), you’ll know who needs to get more involved. Sign-in sheets also help you build databases to reach out and activate the musicians for collective action.
  3. Pick a location that is as accessible as possible for everyone, ideally in or near your venue or rehearsal space. If a location favors one type of musician over another, fewer people will be involved. This can lead to ineffective and divided organizing.
  4. Lead the meeting with what is important and keep the meeting as concise as possible. This is gospel for any meeting, but especially for workplace organizing meetings. Bosses everywhere use fatigue and overwork to their advantage, so workers don’t have energy left to organize. We must be mindful of this and try to get agenda points across as efficiently as possible.
  5. Finish with an ask of the musicians. This will serve to more equitably distribute organizing work as well as keep your colleagues engaged and feeling like they are a meaningful part of the process. The ask can be as simple as bringing another musician to the next organizing meeting, wearing a union pin or shirt to a rehearsal, or helping to plan a job action.

In workplaces without a strong union culture, these meetings can feel intimidating, and musicians may feel they could bring on retaliation. However, the National Labor Relations Board has established that it is illegal for management to prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during nonwork time, such as before or after a gig or during breaks in rehearsal. Likewise, they may not prohibit you from distributing union literature during nonwork time, and in nonwork areas, such as parking lots or breakrooms.

You are well within your rights to lead and attend workplace meetings. Now organize!

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