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nomtastic's avatar

anybody know anything about the western service workers association?

Asked by nomtastic (974points) November 29th, 2006
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

12 Answers

radcliffd's avatar

I have met their staff and visited their office in the L.A. area. I was impressed by their commitment to community organizing and to advocating for fair wages and decent working conditions for "service workers"--some of the lowest folks on the wage/social ladder. The organization I was a part of at the time gave them a grant to assist in purchasing and refurbishing a house to use as an office/center.

David Radcliff
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nomtastic's avatar

interesting. when i heard them speak, they seemed a bit strange. and some folks think that they're a cult -- have you heard anything like this??

fahlbrs's avatar

I was involved in an affiliated organization, Eastern Farm Workers Association, as a full-time volunteer for 14 years. They do provide some services to low income people and do some limited community organizing and advocacy. They also however fit the definition of a cult. They are a front group for Provisional Party of Communists, which claims to be fighting a revolution in the US – no evidence of this in real life. Full time volunteers face an increasing level of mental, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. There are no checks and balances on their leadership’s authority and anything goes in the name of the revolution. Responses to criticisms are usually either an attack on the one criticising as being an agent of the government, or an assertion that the actions being criticised are necessary to make change.

neomatrixgirl's avatar

I just started working for WSWA in Santa Cruz, California and I see no signs of it being a cult. No one gets paid. It is all run off of donations and volunteers. And they have no political agenda. In fact, the Operations Manager at the Santa Cruz branch isn’t even registered to vote. I have never heard anything about a ‘revolution’. Only the goal of changing laws and getting wages raised and health benefits included for service workers. Please do some research. And stop by anytime at our office or call us. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you have.

ladysue's avatar

Wow, these folks are weird… They are part of the NatlFed, or national federation, this cult like group that is all about revolution and Marxism. Check out -actually there is quite a bit about NatlFed on the internet. Anyways, I really like to stick with better known groups for charity work, like the Red Cross or Salvation Army. These people will try and indoctrinate you with a load of BS and pretend to be a volunteer community help group. Be afraid!

littleren's avatar

They seem odd, a couple of them came into our business and wanted us to buy advertising in their brochure, but I never see these brochures anywhere. Why would you want to advertise in something that is never seen? Their brochure said they provide all this assistance to low income workers, but in reality, they provide nothing but referral to existing assistance programs that you can easily get out of the phone book. Where does all the contribution money go? to pay for their property/offices. I suspect this is a cult type organization- look into it for yourself.

loh's avatar

I volunteered there for a few years. To me, all they seemed to do was help people who nobody else was interested in helping. Those who are claiming they are a cult seem to be right wing business groups, which in my mind are the most cult like non-religious groups there are. Of course they would want to badmouth anyone who tries to help the workers they are busy exploiting. It is especially funny to hear them called a “political cult”, as they don’t have any voting platform or interest in supporting any political group.

sblackburn's avatar

The Western Service Workers Association has been around for quite a while. Way back when I was in college (~1976) I signed up with them to help organize and they struck me as creepy. At my introduction meeting I met with one guy and he asked me in a hushed tone if I knew anything about “Marxism” and had me fill out a personal information form – birth date, ss#, etc. The filling out of a personal info form was really strange – why do they want to know so much about who I am?..... I’d worked in groups before and no one wants to know your personal stats…. My SS#???!!! And I certainly had studied Marx’s and Marxist stuff by that time and felt no need to whisper about it. My first impression was “creepy”.
They do claim to try to organize some of the lowest paid and hardest to organize workers. They do position themselves to be very attractive to young people who want to make a contribution to people who are vulnerable and highly exploited. People, like me, who are willing to sign up to help organize vulnerable and exploited working people. Lots of well-intentioned people come walking in the door and sign up, just like me and end up on someone’s database.
They’ve been around for a long time, have not made any real inroads and have no obvious source of revenue…. Think about that…. Who’s interested in maintaining that? Some mysterious communist group? Hardly.
My guess at that time was (and still is) that it was an FBI front to collect info on people who might be of the “organize the poor people” persuasion. They certainly have not organized anyone and somehow maintain these offices in many towns and cities (college towns where there is a history of progressive action is my guess). I think that there is no cult behind this other than the paranoid cult still alive in the offices of the FBI that are left over from the J. Edgar Hoover days. The organization has to hold onto this paranoid anti “communist” line because from their point of view they cannot –cannot – be too careful.

candygram's avatar

These people are very strange.My company has a rule that they only contribute to groups that can prove they have a tax exempt status. This group was not able to provide me with one. If they are legitimate, why don’t they have a tax exempt status? How do I know they aren’t using it for other purposes? Also, why would I take the word of someone who works in the organization and defends i? Obviously, they are trying to protect their own interests. There is just too much negative information on the internet that would make me question contributing to his organization.

Blue9333's avatar

I am entertained by the communist suggestions. Unfortunately the WSWA is much closer to a charity organization and farther from a political movement. The reason they are not a tax deductible organization is because they reserve the right to organize their membership at any time (and often do) to fight a proposition (like in California) or a state commission that is about to make a foolish decision.
If a church were to substantially take part in something political like this, it would lose it’s exemption, as the government requires charities to remailn silent on political issues.

WSWA feeds it’s members, and anyone in need can be a member. They often connect members with outside professional services, it’s very common in the non-profit community to have “sister” organizations. When local lawyers want to volunteer their time, they form a group, and that group relies on places like the local WSWA to bring in people in need. It’s a great way to work together.

People make themselves sound foolish simply by speaking silly things, likely FOX news watchers.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
tbarton's avatar

I volunteered for about six months or so, 5–6 years ago in the Santa Cruz office of the WSWA. I gradually was pressured to increase my time and resources until I decided to quit. I was initially impressed with the volunteers’ level of commitment to helping those in need in our community, mostly migrant farm workers. And I still do believe they have done much good and needed work (food distributions, clothes drives, medical and dental advocacy, etc). But what put me off about them and why I think others might consider them quasi-cultish is the gradual, increasing pressure that they apply to their volunteers to make a full-time commitment (like quitting your job or dropping out of school to work for them full time). From the first time they asked me, I told them that I would never consider quitting my job to volunteer for them full time, yet they persisted to ask/pressure until I got so sick of it I quit. They are also not at all transparent in terms of their organizational structure, funding, political motivations, etc – at least from what I observed, as many of my questions were not satisfactorily answered. I think they try to gauge each individual and may use different tactics/strategies with each individual volunteer, which may explain why different people have had such different experiences. If you are looking to volunteer your time to an organization that is focused on helping people in need in your community, I would recommend looking elsewhere – just my 2 cents.

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