Direct action at an electronics factory

A brief account of workers' co-operation and workload-reduction at an electronic transformer factory by Jay, a coil winder .

Submitted by libcom on December 29, 2005

While working as a coil winder in a big transformer factory, we workers faced the dehumanising "science" known as Minutes Times Motion, which is where a computer estimates how long it should take to complete a task such as building a transformer. Every day, we would check the number and type of transformers built, and at the end of the week we would get a computer-generated analysis of our efficiency rate. If we "beat the clock," we would get a happy face on our evaluation report. A frown face would mean that we were just not up to par, as far as our computer was concerned.

To get a grip on this bad situation, especially in a non-union plant, we required a total conspiracy amongst workers. Starting with the guy I knew the best, we each agreed to slow down production on one of the transformer types. We each handed in approximately the same number of units as our co-workers. After a few frowning faces on our monthly reports and a talking-to by the supervisor, the management had to readjust their computer time accordingly. It makes management look bad to have a product constantly come in under production goals. Adjusting to our new time made them come out around 100 percent again. This victory encouraged other assemblers to do the same, with equally good results.

As we became faster at winding, we would overproduce and thus we would have to store some units in our lockers. We soon saw the wisdom of having a bank of units, in case we didn't want to work as hard one day, or a friend needed one because they messed one up. We earned more free time at work, and were still working at 100 percent, as far as management was concerned.

This is an edited extract from Sabotage in the American Workplace by Martin Sprouse taken from

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