Worker resistance at a liquor company

An account of resistance at a closing-down alcoholic drinks company by Roy, a shipping clerk.

Submitted by libcom on December 29, 2005

There was a time when I was a temp worker, an employee of Kelly Services. It was always amusing when I, obviously male, walked into a new assignment, when they'd called for a "Kelly Girl." I got to see a lot of people cutting slack for themselves in the world of work. As I moved around, one assignment in particular stands out as a hotbed of slacking off.

I did a stint as a shipping clerk at the Old Mr. Boston liquor warehouse. This was during the last six months the company was in Boston, before it moved to Louisville, having been bought out by another company. The previous shipping clerk quit when he found out the company was not going to transfer any of the workers to the new location. Everyone knew their job was ending, and for all the resume help and outplacement services, the bulk of them were going to end up unemployed. This completely destroyed morale in the entire plant. With even the plant manager about to go out on the streets, there was no one who cared to check up on the employees and keep them working hard.

So none of them did. Things were especially bad in shipping, since most of the warehouse employees were long-time alcoholics; I was one myself, encouraged by this job. One of my duties was to help my boss go around the warehouse once a week and pick up all the half empty bottles, and set the cases that had been broken aside so they could be refilled. The worst of the half-open bottles we would pour down the drains. The better stuff came into the office, where we drank it ourselves.

And we certainly had time to drink it. There were three people in the shipping office - with work for only one and a half which declined rapidly as operations moved to Louisville. Whenever I was done typing up shipping papers for the day, I turned to reading. We also talked a lot about everything from auto repair to what was wrong with employers.

Meanwhile, in the warehouse, the half-drunk guys continued to knock over full cases of liquor with the forklifts, and more than once the stench of cinnamon schnapps filled the air. Every month we'd take inventory and track the "shrinkage," which should have been called "drinkage."

Things got worse and worse as the date for the final move came closer. Adding machines vanished from the offices all over the plant. Apparently a grand piano and a solid oak conference table did the same. Finally, the guys in the shipping department decided that we might as well arrange for our own severance bonuses as well. On the final day, we were supposed to load all of the remaining stock in a boxcar and send it down to Kentucky. We loaded about 200 cases of mixed liquor onto a panel truck instead, and drove it around town, stopping at the houses of all the workers. When it got back to the plant, the truck was empty.

I still have some of that booze...

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

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