Dual power at work

Ignore the boss - and do it yourself!

The best way to get something done is simply organise and do it ourselves. At work this can take the form of dual power strategies - workers making changes to their work environment without seeking management approval.

Rather than wait for the boss to give in to our demands and institute long-sought change, workers often have the power to institute those changes on our own, without the boss's say-so.

Some practical examples:
Pay
The owner of a San Francisco coffeehouse was a poor money manager, and one week the wage packets didn't arrive. The manager kept assuring the workers that the cheques would be coming soon, but eventually the workers took things into their own hands. They began to pay themselves on a day-to-day basis straight out of the cash register, leaving receipts for the amounts advanced so that everything was on the up-and-up. An uproar ensued, but the cheques always arrived on time after that.

Conditions
In a small printing shop in San Francisco's financial district, an old decrepit offset press was finally removed from service and pushed to the side of the press room. It was replaced with a brand new machine, and the manager stated his intention to use the old press "for envelopes only." It began to be cannibalised for spare parts by the press operators, though, just to keep some of the other presses running. Soon enough, it was obvious to everyone but the manager that this press would never see service again.

The printers asked the manager to move it upstairs to the storage room, since by now it merely took up valuable space in an already crowded press room. He hummed and hawed and never seemed to get around to it. Finally, one afternoon after the printers had punched out for the day, they got a moving dolly and wrestled the press onto the elevator to take it upstairs. The manager found them just as they got it into the elevator, and though he turned livid at this blatant usurpation of his authority, he never mentioned the incident to them. The space where the press had been was converted to an "employee lounge," with several chairs and a magazine rack.

Breaks
Workers in one London office thought it unfair that only smokers were allowed to take 5-10-minute breaks whenever they pleased, so decided that all workers should be entitled to these breaks. Without asking management or HR, staff decided to just start taking them, and inform new members of staff of this "rule".

There are thousands of similar examples - why not think about what changed you can make in your workplace? Often systems and rules de facto implemented by workers can be difficult for managers to challenge afterwards for fear of rocking the boat or damaging a "co-operative" atmosphere.

Edited and added to by libcom from an article by the Industrial Workers of the World