The Truth About NATLFED

Benefits Plan as Flypaper

Tell me about it!  Cadres running around trying to fill members’ benefits requests.  It’s a never ending process.  There is a lot of need.  Clothing is probably the easiest thing to obtain as a benefits resource.  Some people like donating when they hear “suggested donation of 5 cents an item” and also learn that fee is just about always waived.

The concept of helping people, whether it involved doing nice things for the farmworkers or just poor people in general, makes the benefits work an ideal opportunity to recruit volunteers.  It’s hard to get someone to agree to stand in front of the the grocery store with a bucket soliciting money and volunteer sign ups.  It’s usually easier to get someone to come in and help sort a large donation of food from a local manufacturing plant.

Was it just flypaper?  Some would argue the benefits program is merely that — to snag unsuspecting volunteers and hook them into the organization.  There are many ex-cadres who will tell you that’s not true.  The benefits programs managed to provide a lot of resources back into the community.

When a member walks in with a benefits request, all action on the floor ceases until that member is helped.  Some entities reduced this to the mere taking of a benefits request and letting the person go at the clothing closet.  Some would argue this was to keep the cadres off balance, always stopping what they were doing to take care of a request (very linear thinking).  If a member came in the door needing dental assistance, that member should not leave until they have an appointment in hand.  If it meant all persons had to get on the phone to find a dentist willing to help, that was what had to be done.

If the systems were in place, however, that should not be necessary, as a card file of volunteer dentists would be on hand ready to assist with services.  Same for lawyers and other resources.  That is what some ex-cadres failed to understand.  Instead, they ran around like chickens with their heads cut off scrambling to fill the request because they didn’t have the dentists in the first place.

It’s easy to get confused about this.  People don’t see sorting clothing as an act of revolution.  People don’t see sorting donated food as a means to overthrow the government.  This is one way people are attracted to the organization and begin participating.

It is this level of seemingly innocuous activity that is start of many NATLFED organizing careers.  So how does one end up being a committed full-time revolutionary dedicated to overthrowing the government and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat?  It’s a long and arduous process, discussed in few forums.

If someone were of the mind to target all the areas where NATLFED entities exist, to utilize a publicity campaign urging all members of the local organizations to go down to the office on the same day (kind of like D-Day) and ask for benefits assistance, it is my opinion that such an event would cause great upheaval within the Organization.

Would cadres desert in droves?  Probably, as most of the offices have long since abandoned the processes that originally made the benefits programs a success.  How would national leadership react?  “The bourgeoisie is attacking!”  What about volunteers?  Can’t say for certain.  Some do benefits volunteering for self-gratification, to feel good.

Would members get what they need?  Maybe the first few dozen.  It depends on how many members would actually show up to an event.  If hundreds arrived, the entity would more than likely shut down.  If the entity had a reputation of not providing, they probably wouldn’t get much interest to such a campaign but then again you see it in the paper and think what the hell.

There is no one trying to coordinate such an effort at this time.  Why?  Because no one person could do it.  A person would need a crew of people in the different areas to participate in such a campaign, would need some type of organizational structure to support such a campaign, and that sounds too much like trying to build a counter-NATLFED as far as many ex-cadres are concerned.  Any “normal” person would think such a person as needing a little help with some medication, perhaps.

It’s up to you whether or not you believe the benefits program actually does good in a community or is just flypaper to attract unsuspecting persons.    I keep hearing that people get called multiple times a week being solicited for volunteer participation.  There used to be a time that trying to call through all the volunteers in the card file would take hours upon hours of time in EFWA Suffolk.  We did it once, to try and reactivate persons that drifted away.  There’s no reason they should be calling the same people so often.

These are just some of our thoughts.  Remember, one of the benefits of being a member is the organizational newsletter.  Some of them younger cadres forget that.  We’ll set that to the side for the moment.

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