Grassroots Community Organizing
Many people are frustrated that more is not being done to improve the quality of their lives and communities. They are frustrated with the pace of social change and feel cut off from political debate. They do not see their concerns reflected in the way current issues are discussed, nor do they believe there are ways to participate in discussions on those issues. They are angry and frustrated about the ever-greater concentration of economic and political power in a handful of corporations, and the devastation this concentrated power has wrought on people and the environment.
Western Organization of Resource Councils believes there is a need to build permanent, multi-issue, membership-based organizations. These organizations can help people analyze and solve complex problems, build local leadership, expand people’s knowledge and understanding of their own and other cultures, challenge people to act on their values, and achieve long-term social change. Grassroots organizations of this type also hold corporate and government officials accountable for their decisions and actions, a necessary ingredient in making our democracy work for all Americans.
Formed in 1979, Western Organization of Resource Councils is a network of eight grassroots organizations (located in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Montana’s seven Native American reservations, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming) with 15,000 members and 37 local chapters. WORC helps its member groups succeed by providing training, coordinating issue work and advancing the vision of a democratic, sustainable and just society through community action. Over the last forty years, WORC has built a grassroots base of concerned citizens working for stewardship and conservation of the land, water, and energy resources; family farms and sustainable agriculture; and civic engagement.
WORC and its member groups have been at the forefront of shaping policies at the local, state, and national level since the 1970s. WORC’s staff has decades of experience in community organizing. We have a strong record of building community-based groups. Hundreds of our members are strong, skilled leaders. We have advanced members from local issues to state and national campaigns and have helped them prepare to participate on boards and commissions and other leadership positions in their communities.
Forty years of winning for the west
In the 1970s, WORC’s member groups focused on coal mine reclamation and taxation of natural resources, winning passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) and federal coal leasing reforms. In the 1980s, we expanded our focus to energy policy and family farm agriculture issues, and challenged the farm lending practices of private banks and the federal government. We helped table the ill-conceived Synthetic Fuels Corporation and develop new farm credit reforms at the state and national levels. In 1986, WORC initiated its training workshop, Principles of Community Organizing, which has since trained 2,079 leaders and community-organizers. In the 1990s, WORC tackled the concentration of economic power in agribusiness, reform of hard rock mining practices, and factory farms.
In the 2000s, WORC launched programs to work for safe food and fair trade, helping to win country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat, produce and fish. We championed a proposed pro-competition rule to implement Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) regulations that would have stopped the use of captive supplies of cattle by meatpackers to artificially drive prices down and force ranchers out of business. In 2004, WORC’s efforts forced Monsanto, Co. to shelve the commercial release of its genetically modified wheat. In 2006, we moved into our new energy-efficient building, Home on the Range, which received a Platinum rating by the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program in July 2007.
In the 2010s, WORC pressured the EPA and BLM to reform their rules governing methane waste from oil and gas wells and infrastructure. WORC also got involved with the bankruptcies of America’s three largest coal mining companies, ensuring that they had adequate bonding so as not to leave coal communities without the funds to reclaim the land should the mines close. We launched a new campaign, Transition to Homegrown Prosperity, to advance our vision of moving local and regional economies away from fossil fuel dependence and towards clean renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and local foods.
Our grassroots community organizations are:
- Dakota Resource Council (North Dakota)
- Dakota Rural Action (South Dakota)
- Idaho Organization of Resource Councils
- Northern Plains Resource Council (Montana)
- Oregon Rural Action
- Powder River Basin Resource Council (Wyoming)
- Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action
- Western Native Voice (Montana)
Based in Billings, Montana, WORC has field offices in Montrose, Colorado, and Washington, D.C.
WORC’s guiding principles
1. We work to affirm people’s abilities, develop their own talents, and speak and act for themselves.
2. We promote a bottom-up philosophy and process.
3. We develop public relationships by meeting with people one-to-one, face-to-face.
4. We foster democratic values.
5. We emphasize popular education.
6. We build and exercise power.
7. We value action over rhetoric.
8. We pursue a variety of strategies.
9. We are multi-issue.
10. We strive to reach out and be inclusive.