Organising at work: introduction

A basic introduction on why we should organise at work, and a few tips on how to get started.

Almost everyone in this society is underpaid and over-worked. Many temps, contract and casual workers have very few rights, and permanent workers are still always under the threat of redundancy. Many people are massively exploited and ill-treated, and in Britain over 20,000 people are killed at or by their work each year*. Millions more suffer stress, depression, anxiety and are injured.

The indignity of working for a living is well-known to anyone who ever has. Democracy, the great principle on which our society is supposedly founded, is thrown out the window as soon as we punch the time clock at work. With no say over what we produce, or how that production is organised, and with only a small portion of that product's value finding its way into our wages, we have every right to be pissed off at our bosses.

At work in a capitalist society, we are forced to labour in return for a wage. Employers hire workers, and pay us less than the value of work we do. The surplus amount is taken from us and turned into capital - profit for shareholders and corporate expansion. Thus all workers are exploited. Consequently, we all have a shared interest in getting a bigger share of the fruits of our labour, as well as in winning better working conditions and shorter working hours.

We can do this by organising at work. Workplace organising on is a resource to assist all workers in improving our jobs in the here and now, and we also believe that by organising to fight, we build the seeds of a new world - not based on capitalist exploitation but on co-operation between workplace collectives where production is democratically decided by worker/consumer councils and working hours are slashed. Harmful or useless industries, such as arms manufacturing, or the banking and insurance industrikes, could be eliminated.

The real essentials, like food, shelter, and clothing, could be produced by everyone working just a few hours each week. Environmentally destructive industries purely concerned with profit, such as fossil fuel power plants could be converted to use clean, renewable energy sources.

Building this better world, and counteracting the day to day drudgery of contemporary wage-slavery we think can best be done using direct action in the workplace. Direct action is any form of action that cripples the boss's ability to make a profit and makes them cave in to the workers' demands. Different ways of taking action are outlined here.

All of the tactics discussed on this site depend for their success on solidarity, on the coordinated actions of a large number of workers. Individual acts of sabotage offer little more than a fleeting sense of revenge, which may admittedly be all that keeps you sane on a bad day at work. But for a real feeling of collective empowerment, there's nothing quite like direct action by a large number of disgruntled workers to make your day.

Article written by and combined with an edited article by the Industrial Workers of the World

* Estimated at 21,663 in 2001. Sources: CCA, TUC, Hazards Campaign 2002