Ramblings on unions

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Thunaraz
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Dec 20 2017 19:48
Ramblings on unions

At great risk to my employment I've been asking around the office what people think of unions, would they join if we formed one, and if not, why, would they at least be a little interested, and would a different kind of worker's org be preferable.

Now, I asked some just whether they would join if we formed one and what their opinions on unions are and the answer is a resounding "No" from most on the first question, especially among the older folks I asked. Almost every single person I asked who said no also cited an instance of a family member or friend having a bad experience in a big name union. Also, I live in an "At will"/"Right to work" state in the USA, so there's that. It's pretty dangerous to our income to go around babbling about unionizing, especially the way I posed the question, making sure I clarified that I would like to form a completely decentralized union that focuses on direct action in the workplace. Most folks thought the idea of a union by the workers for the workers was a good idea on paper but in our state pretty much would just mean that we would be fired right away and achieve nothing but the opposite of what we set out to do.

Our company has a high turnover rate (call center used for outsourcing tech support for big ISP / telecom company) and most people here are glad to be making 2 or 3 bucks above minimum wage, so they wouldn't risk it by organizing. I've wondered whether the idea of organizing in the confines of my workplace and not locally as some kind of worker's federation would be a mistake. I asked some of the more sympathetic coworkers that same question about whether a local workers federation would be preferable and those particular folks really liked the idea, so long as the org didn't get bogged down in the same stuff that the big unions that their family had been in had suffered from.

so, in short, the cause is a bit lost here. fear keeps us in line. what can we do to change it? nobody wants the little comfort/sliver of a life they can eek out to be disrupted by the consequences of organizing. they've backed us into a corner and all we can do is growl and gag because we still wear our muzzles. we, here in the deep south. those who care about worker's causes here are so few and far between that its staggering that I was even capable of convincing one random guy I work with to say, "Okay. so if I had to choose, im a libertarian socialist". before I met him he didn't even know what socialism was. but after going back and forth, polishing our "weapons" and spitshining our proverbial, useless and unwarranted combat boots, he has become a hard-earned convert.

again, we are afraid.

syndicalist
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Dec 20 2017 22:15

Right quick. Sorry if this is a bit thrown together.

Quote:
whether a local workers federation would be preferable and those particular folks really liked the idea, so long as the org didn't get bogged down in the same stuff that the big unions that their family had been in had suffered from.

One might want to consider (at this time) a sorta underground and informational workers committee. One that comes together around issues, tries to collective address them in whatever way works best for your particular workplace. Given the isolated nature of your situation and fear factor, my suggestion is go slow, build around issues and not necessarily around recognition of a formal organization by management. How you build out of this and at what pace, and if at all, will be determined by the situation on the ground.

Recently folks at a Target store in VA have self-organized in their store. Here's their latest newsletter: https://nrvstrike.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/our-store-newsletter/

Stan Weir wrote an interesting piece on "The informal workgroup": https://libcom.org/library/informal-work-group

Sorry for the rushed comments

Dave B
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Dec 20 2017 23:25

I suppose it is interesting as the situation varies from place to place and over time.

The first place I worked in the late 1970’s was a massive food factory employing about 2000 people, Cadbury’s making Typhoo tea bags, Smash instant potato, chocolate fingers, a range of biscuits and cakes , crème eggs etc etc.

I was part of a summer student intake, to work 60 hours a week on the night shift.

What was interesting was that as grunt manual workers it was a closed shop so we were forced to join the grunt trade union which was the TGWU.

The grunt workers were in dispute at the time and the student intake were not allowed to vote on the issue even though ‘we’ were paid up.

I suppose their was some legitimisty to that but it didn’t sit well with my early ‘libertarian’ principles.

The concept of the closed shop, ie you can’t work unless you are in a union, seems like a surreal dream compared to you can be sacked if you are in one.

In the middle period of the 1980’s being in a union had you marked down and noted.

Dues were collected in cash and all trade union activity was done outside work time.

Where I work now trade union ‘activity’ or ‘input’ is encouraged and seems to be viewed as the voluntary part of the human resources dispute resolving function.

And they are quite happy to let you have your union dues deducted from and managed by the wages department.

And there are about 10% of key middle management who are still in the union, albeit bods who have risen from the shop floor like myself.

‘Trusting’ in people on 150K a year as having shared values and a sympathy with your difficulties is another problem.

Paul Kenny, leader of the GMB Union, saw his pay package rise from £121,000 to £127,000.

It takes Mr McCluskey’s [unite] total pay and pension packet – drawn from members’ subscriptions - to £140,281, up from £135,211 last year.

Thunaraz
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Dec 21 2017 17:34
syndicalist wrote:
Right quick. Sorry if this is a bit thrown together.

Quote:
whether a local workers federation would be preferable and those particular folks really liked the idea, so long as the org didn't get bogged down in the same stuff that the big unions that their family had been in had suffered from.

One might want to consider (at this time) a sorta underground and informational workers committee. One that comes together around issues, tries to collective address them in whatever way works best for your particular workplace. Given the isolated nature of your situation and fear factor, my suggestion is go slow, build around issues and not necessarily around recognition of a formal organization by management. How you build out of this and at what pace, and if at all, will be determined by the situation on the ground.

ya know I didn't really think of an informal group. sometimes I get consumed by the idea of a formal group for mostly psychological reasons. thanks for the suggestion.

syndicalist
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Joined: 15-04-06
Dec 21 2017 21:21

Tactics and approaches should be "tailor made" for the situation at hand.

Mike Harman
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Dec 22 2017 14:51

Very much agree with Syndicalist on this. As well as Stan Weir, Marty Glaberman is another good person to read on how central informal workgroups are even at unionised workplaces. https://libcom.org/tags/martin-glaberman

The important thing whether you have a formal group or not, that you have a group of people with mutual trust, ability to meet people (or at least chat with them) outside work etc.

https://libcom.org/library/do-solidarity-unions-need-go-public talks about benefits and drawbacks of making the existence of the group known to the boss. https://libcom.org/blog/towards-wobbly-methodology-establishing-yourself... is good on early-stage workplace mapping. Also http://libcom.org/organise/organising-your-workplace from us.

syndicalist
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Dec 22 2017 18:14
Mike Harman wrote:
The important thing whether you have a formal group or not, that you have a group of people with mutual trust, ability to meet people (or at least chat with them) outside work etc.

I would second this.

Thunaraz
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Dec 22 2017 19:38

I typed up a first rough draft of a simple pamphlet. a first step. tell me what you think or any suggestions, if you feel like it. sorry about the spacing:

WORKERS
UNITE!

Why we should organize

I want to start by introducing myself. My name is Thunder. I am one of your coworkers. Obviously this is not my real name.
The reason I am concealing my name is because for most of the working world, big corporations like _redacted_
do not like it at all when their workers organize.The reason they don't like it is because of the idea of
"agitation". Agitation is a type of "direct action" where the workers cause disruptions within
a workplace or society as a whole in order to achieve a goal. You can probably understand why they'd want
to stop this. Nobody likes disruptions, and it's no different for big corporations and businesses, whose
money relies on workers like me and you staying quiet and obeying their orders at all times. So, just for
this particular pamphlet, I'm going to stay anonymous.

So, why am I explaining this stuff to you, you might ask. Well, here it is.

I'm sure that you've all had your fair share of problems at work. For example, recently they've
forced us all to change our schedules based on their intiative to "Reorganize" us more to their liking.
For the higher ups, all this involved was writing something down on a piece of paper. For us, the regular
workers, our lives could've been completely disrupted and thrown off by this change. Some of us have kids.
Who's going to pick those kids up from school if you work that time? Santa claus? I think not. Or maybe you
had a doctor's appointment scheduled way in advance, as most clinics do. Are we supposed to rearrange our
entire lifestyle to please the folks who wanted us to work different hours? If this decision affected the
workers directly, why didn't they ask us what we wanted to do about it, or if we had an opinion on it?

There is a pretty simple answer to those questions. Big business is going to look out for itself.
Not us. Me and you and everyone, the workers, the folks who make this company run as well as it does, are
just tools to them. According to them, we are supposed to just go along with what they want and it doesn't
matter if we suffer. They say "People First" and try to satisfy us with candy and little games but we are
all smarter than that. We know the truth.

Now, let me be clear. I ain't no politician and I don't have a political agenda, unless you consider
bringing workers together for a common cause a political agenda. I'm not a leader or a follower. Who am I?
Why am I asking you for your time?

We are at a critical time in history where the big corporations and the big labor unions our parents
were in have all failed us at the same time. The corporations have less rules to follow than ever and can
pretty much do whatever they want with their workers and we can't do a dang thing about it most of the time.
The big unions of today and yesterday are all bought and sold by the corporations, so they are useless. They
don't really represent the workers.

If you agree with me, or agree with a few of the things i said, or just think you're at least a little
bit interested in organizing with your fellow workers for better conditions then contact me.

syndicalist
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Dec 22 2017 19:44

Ive not read it yet, sorry. But who's the audience? How will this be distributed? Are you exposing yourself with a cubically distributed statement?

Thunaraz
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Joined: 14-07-17
Dec 22 2017 19:55
syndicalist wrote:
Ive not read it yet, sorry. But who's the audience? How will this be distributed? Are you exposing yourself with a cubically distributed statement?

im not sure on those particular details yet. right now its just an idea really. im pretty scared to initiate it. but I think I would sit them in the bathroom or put them at each cubicle under the phone. the audience is all of us.

syndicalist
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Dec 22 2017 21:21
Thunaraz wrote:
im not sure on those particular details yet. right now its just an idea really. im pretty scared to initiate it. but I think I would sit them in the bathroom or put them at each cubicle under the phone. the audience is all of us.

Its never bad to write stuff up. Look it over. Perfect it while thinking about a game plan.