Will The Revolution Have Job Control?

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Pennoid's picture
Pennoid
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Feb 15 2013 19:36
Will The Revolution Have Job Control?

What do people think about Wobblies on the Waterfront and the issue of job control? It's one thing to have a business union run a closed shop where paid bureaucrats siphon of the wages of their membership via dues checkoff. It's another thing entirely when a lean, member-elected, volunteer administration collects dues, and the workers themselves control access to work that's vital to their existence. Isn't the reserve army of labor a tool the capitalists use to pit worker against worker? Is revolutionary job control an answer to this?

I'm dreaming here, but bear with me, imagine a city get's a significant corridor of retail and food organized into a militant union (IWW, etc.). Would job control work? Would it be effective? Is it acceptable? I think it could WORK if the workers were militant enough and well lined up, but how ethical is it? I haven't finished Cole's book yet, so I'm not sure about how he comes down on "Wob" Control....

Thoughts?

radicalgraffiti
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Feb 15 2013 19:40

whats "job control"?

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Chilli Sauce
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Feb 15 2013 19:53

I really liked Wobblies on the Waterfront and my first response was, "This is f*cking awesome!". But then I got thinking about, there are problems with their model.

When successful, the ultimate strategy of much of the America labor movement is/was to limit the supply of labour in a given industry through things like union hiring hall or the closed shop. This same strategy was also pursued, at least in part, by Local 8. They did it through direct action--freakin' awesome--but I don't think it allowed them to totally escape its pitfalls.

While undoubtedly such a strategy does bring opportunities to protect wages and conditions, it's has some real dangers as well--whether pursued by reformists or revolutionaries. So, for example, we've seen--as in the example of the ILWU--joint hiring halls where the union participates in hiring decisions. Simiarly, the closed shops opens the ability for a union to get rid of dissidents by kicking them out of the union and, thus, making them ineligable to work in a given workplace or industry. Such systems also breed nepotism and often offer the most protection to already privileged element of the class ('aristocracy of labor') through things like last hired/first fired clauses.

In the case of Local 8, they actually pursued (and were briefly kicked out of the union) for having high initiation fees and refusing to recognise the red cards of non-Local 8 Wobs when it came to securing work on the Philadelphia waterfront.

So I guess the larger question is should radical organisation be participating in the organisation of the labor force? Does it bring pressures to bear that will force the union to act in the limited interests of a group of workers (their members, or workers in a particular industry, for example) rather than the wider class?

And, less I sound like I'm too critical, most of the stuff Local 8 did was fucking awesome, not the least of which included their racial policies and practicies.

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Agent of the In...
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Feb 15 2013 20:10

The revolution will have the abolition of "jobs".

Pennoid's picture
Pennoid
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Feb 15 2013 23:00

Local 8 is also fascinating because it used closed-shop, job control practices, to support some of the most marginalized workers (blacks in Philly).

Even revolutionary unions only ever actually act in the interests of a particular group of workers, they merely have aspirations to to behave in the interests of all. But the latter is an abstract concept, one which can't become concrete without real participation and generalization of membership.

I think you do make a good point about the dangers of nepotism and kicking out the radicals. Again, I think this is limited when something like the IWW is involved.

I think the controversy surrounding the hiring of out-of-town Wobblies is the best illustration of the limits of this kind of organizing. I wonder, what might some suggestions be for challenging this? Or do people know of historical examples of challenging or transcending this 'contradiction.'

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Feb 15 2013 23:29

So job control is essentially like a closed shop. You can't work, say, the Philly Docks without having a union card in the IWW.

syndicalist
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Feb 16 2013 00:12

I think, again, this speaks to the question of what happens when a workers revolutionary union reaches majoritarian strenghth in a non-revolutionary situation?

On the matter of a "closed shop".... I dunno, I see it as the unionists maitaining organization and keeping folks engaged and signed up in the union. You can effectively have a closed shop without it being written in a collecxtive agreement and without the boss collecting dues. I was in a reformist union where every month we got everyone to the union hall, had them hand tender dues, go to meetings. So it's a doable thing.

Oh, will there be job control under libertarian socialism....well, we'd be in the drivers seat, so.....

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Feb 16 2013 06:37
Quote:
I think this is limited when something like the IWW is involved.

This is going to come across really snarky, but like no-strike clauses? Intentions matter, of course, but the position an organisation puts itself in the workplace will limit/put pressures on the way it will act.

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Devrim
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Feb 16 2013 11:24

I was talking about this with somebody in the pub the other day in connection with both this book and our own experiences. When I worked in the UK Post Office in the 1980s closed shops and job control were not uncommon. My job was a post entry closed shop, and there was a certain amount of on the job control. I can remember there being a revision of the walks, and it was done by the union, not the management.

Quote:
It's one thing to have a business union run a closed shop where paid bureaucrats siphon of the wages of their membership via dues checkoff.

Quote:
You can effectively have a closed shop without it being written in a collecxtive agreement and without the boss collecting dues.

I think that the whole thing about dues check off is a particular American concern, and something that is probably rooted in the history of the IWW. I don't think it has the same resonance in other countries.

Quote:
Simiarly, the closed shops opens the ability for a union to get rid of dissidents by kicking them out of the union and, thus, making them ineligable to work in a given workplace or industry.

The UCW used this tactic. One quite well known example would be in the Grunwicks dispute.

Quote:
Such systems also breed nepotism...

This was particularly true with some pre-entry closed shops in the UK, particularly in the print and on the docks.

Devrim