Practical pros and cons of fulltime staff

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Jul 11 2007 15:42
Practical pros and cons of fulltime staff

Can we talk about the upsides and downsides to having fulltime staff in workplace organizing? Obviously these will vary based on what the fulltime staff are doing (admin, training, housecalls, etc). Also pros and cons of staff driven organizing ('staff' don't have to be paid, an unpaid volunteer who for whatever reason can work fulltime+ counts as a type of staff).

Pros and cons practically I mean, not so much in terms of principles or theory.

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Jul 11 2007 15:43

Actually, doesn't have to be just workplace organizing. Tenant organizing, whatever else other organizing. I know a lot of folk here have experience with this, it'd be good to hear from folk and have an honest useful discussion (as an experiment, like).

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Jul 11 2007 16:01

Pro: Substantial increase in research capacity, outreach ability (esp. propaganda output), sharing of expertise of the most militant members and increased ability to organise across workplaces by using paid members as a fulcrum.

Con: Disassociation from struggle, mutation into ‘service provider’ ethos undermining grassroots militancy, creation of exploitable control points for capitalists (eg. ‘gatekeeper’ creation in info distro and negotiation with bosses) – allied to potential difficulty in swapping out paid positions should people prove unreliable/pushing agenda etc. Shunting of best militants out of direct ground floor confrontation.

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Jul 11 2007 18:45
revol68 wrote:
what's your next thread, the pro's and con's of elections?

We are all voting for Boztaş*: http://libcom.org/forums/libcommunity/abdurrahman-bozta
Devrim
*This isn't serious before people have a go.

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Jul 11 2007 19:02
revol68 wrote:
seriously though these things shouldn't even be up for debate on an anarchist forum, well not amongst the anarchists anyway.

Well, it isn't the communist left who are arguing it. It is only 'anarchists' who are.
There are priciples:
For us the most important three are:
1) The rejection of parliamentarianism, and social democracy
2) The rejection of Trade Unionism
3) The rejection of all forms of nationalism, and the defense of internationalism
http://eks.internationalist-forum.org/en/basic-positions

I think that we are agreed with many anarchists on at least 1, and 3 here, and in agreement about the main points on 2, give or take some semantic trivia.

To us these are the positions of the communist movement. I have no problem that that includes people who refer to themselves as anarchists, Marxists, or neither.

All of these points have been argueed against on Libcom by those calling themselves anarchists though (of course that doesn't mean that we associate anarchists with them).

Devrim

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Jul 11 2007 19:23
revol68 wrote:
Jesus things are bad when we haveto start retracing the very basics of anarchism. These debates are hundreds of years old, we all know the arguments.

Jesus things are bad when we have to start retracing the very basics of respectful conversation with you, again and again and again.

I know your arguments against staff on principle. I don't care to rehash them with you. Again. On a thread which is about a different topic. On a thread which is predicated on bracketing the issues you're bringing. If you think staff are always nothing but a bad idea, more power to you. But don't repeat it on what is an attempt at conversation useful for some of us who disagree with you.

Nate wrote:
Pros and cons practically I mean, not so much in terms of principles or theory.
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Jul 11 2007 19:26
revol68 wrote:
Out of interest what's your thoughts on paid full timers? I'm assuming it's against them because youse can follow through the logic of your own principles, something that seems to cause alot of anarchists on here numerous problems.

My initial reactions are deeply against them. For me there are some exceptions though. If our organisation grew to the point where we owned a press, I would not be definatley against the idea of paid printers.
To conclude, their may be times when employing some full timers is neccesary (in a manual/practical role). It could be a good place to give work to blacklisted militants. I would never support the idea of full timers in a political role though.
Devrim

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Jul 11 2007 19:29
Nate wrote:
Pros and cons practically I mean, not so much in terms of principles or theory.

wrong site

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Jul 11 2007 19:39

That's funny MJ. But it fucking well doesn't have to be that way and it's very frustrating.

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Jul 11 2007 19:57

No, Revol. What you're doing is reiterating a position you and I have already hashed out at some length just recently, reiterating it in a thread which is predicated on a view you disagree with. Since the thread is predicated on a position you disagree with, it's not likely you will have much of use to contribute to it. Thus far, you haven't, beyond registering your already obvious disagreement. I hope you won't continue to do so, so that folk who are interested in the topic can have that discussion in a way which is useful for those folk, if there's anyone here but me who is interested other than me.

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Jul 11 2007 20:15

Revol, you have more than the right to point them out. You have the right contribute unconstructively. I hope you won't, though. I hope you'll also do said pointing out in another thread.

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Jul 11 2007 20:33
Nate wrote:
Pros and cons practically I mean, not so much in terms of principles or theory.

The pros are obvious (to consider the comparison in a somewhat simplified form):

If you have one well-defined job that needs doing, equating more or less to 40 person-hours a week, you might get 40 person-hours of productivity out of a full-time paid person.

If you use volunteers, you realistically have no chance of getting one person to do they job - if you're lucky, you might be able to get 8 hours per week work from each volunteer. However, a certain portion of these hours are going to be taken up with communication - what the other volunteers have done, what needs to be done, and communicating the same to the others. Realistically, each volunteer is going to have to spend a couple of hours of their eight getting up to speed, and getting the other volunteers up to speed - meaning each volunteer has only got 6 hours of productivity left over - so you need at least 7 volunteers, each committing 8 hours per week each, to do the job of one-full-timer - you're wasting 2 whole working days of time.

In general, the communication overhead grows much faster than linearly with the amount of people involved - if you have 4 people on a job having to communicate with each other, you have 4*3 = 12 interfaces, if you have 8 people you have 8*7 = 56 interfaces. Also, since no communication channel is 100% reliable, the number of miscommunications grows exponentially with the number of people involved. Meaning that you're going to do a worse job with a larger team, or else you're going to have to add more people - meaning even more wasted time. There's also the fact that training overheads have to be factored in and the greater the size of a team, the greater the probability of churn. There's a rule of thumb called Brooke's law which states that "adding (hu)manpower to a late project makes it later" - and there are surprisingly few known counter examples. Basically, it works like that because, at a certain point, the communication overhead added with each new member is greater than the productivity of that member.

Of course, this all depends on the nature of the role - if it is perfectly partitionable into blocks of arbitrary size, needing no communication between the parts and with simple, well-defined interfaces connecting them, then you can simply add people for more productivity. However such jobs don't exist in reality and there is always some overhead required in partitioning any task.

So, to sum up, the pro is increased productivity and normally better quality work (due to less errors due to miscommunication).

The con is that, all else being equal, a full-timer is in a much stronger position than any ordinary member in terms of their ability to influence the practical politics of the organisation.

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Jul 11 2007 20:49

So basically what I said except much more longwinded and without the extra cons wink.

gurrier
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Jul 11 2007 21:07
Saii wrote:
So basically what I said except much more longwinded and without the extra cons wink.

The Cheek!

Not really though - you listed some of the consequences of what I said. I went to such tedious length to illustrate the underlying problem and it's practical basis (i.e. something that can't be wished away or ideologically out-manoeuvered).

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Jul 11 2007 21:10
revol68 wrote:
And questioning the unpsoken assumptions and parameters of a question is very valid, infact I thought it was the basis of anarchist critique.

IIRC when thugarchist did this, he was told to start a new thread, or get banned. By catch or Jef Costello I think. Anyway, I don't care that much, but I think admins should be consistent about it.

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Jul 11 2007 21:16

fwiw jef's not an admin

posi
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Jul 11 2007 21:40

Admin - snip

Joseph K. - ok, but it definitely happened.

Mike Harman
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Jul 11 2007 23:12
revol68 wrote:
Devrim wrote:
revol68 wrote:
Out of interest what's your thoughts on paid full timers? I'm assuming it's against them because youse can follow through the logic of your own principles, something that seems to cause alot of anarchists on here numerous problems.

My initial reactions are deeply against them. For me there are some exceptions though. If our organisation grew to the point where we owned a press, I would not be definatley against the idea of paid printers.
To conclude, their may be times when employing some full timers is neccesary (in a manual/practical role). It could be a good place to give work to blacklisted militants. I would never support the idea of full timers in a political role though.
Devrim

yeah that's a very sensible position.

That's not too far off my views on this.

It'd be quite nice if this site ever got much busier to pay someone (not necessarily me) to optimise the server/software/database properly rather than shell out for ever bigger and better hosting (we'd need to have about 6 times as much traffic to make that worth thinking about though). That'd be like a couple of days work then an hour or two a week though, so not a 'full timer'.

It'd also not be out of the question to pay people to OCR/translate pamphlets for the library - either really good rates to people in other countries via the exchange mechanism, or just a free scanner or something if they're in the UK and have time on their hands + want to do it anyway. They're both jobs which take time and care, and are hard to do on top of full time work on any great scale. Having said that, I find it weird that infoshop have paid writers (not much I understand) to do new writing for them, I don't agree with that at all, money's a shit motivator for political writing.

I think full time people in 'political' positions is an absolute dead end (or actively harmful in some circumstances), and have been surprised how many people are in favour of it on here.

Mike Harman
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Jul 11 2007 23:19

posi, revol, split it yourselves to a new thread, otherwise I'll probably just delete your posts by the end of tomorrow, or another admin sooner with a bit of luck.

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Jul 11 2007 23:49
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I told you posi I don't discuss with parasites, come back when you get another job.

Revol, this kind of shit isn't helping. At least some folk who work as organizers etc have reservations about staff positions, though not necessarily ones that outweigh their positive views. I don't expect you'll sympathize with them and that's not the issue. The issue is that some libcommers (one anyway, me) are interested in trying to get some of them to give honest expression to some of that as part of this discussion. You're posting here is of a sort which might discourage that, which is really really frustrating. This isn't a libcommunity thread. If you don't like the topic or the people on it, start another fucking thread about how much this one sucks.

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Jul 12 2007 00:13
posi wrote:
revol68 wrote:
And questioning the unpsoken assumptions and parameters of a question is very valid, infact I thought it was the basis of anarchist critique.

IIRC when thugarchist did this, he was told to start a new thread, or get banned. By catch or Jef Costello I think. Anyway, I don't care that much, but I think admins should be consistent about it.

revol has been banned from libcom more times than thugarchist (and warned many more times), usually by me iirc. He's also (amazingly) better behaved than thugarchist going by posts in the past 3-6 months. A link would help me put that warning in context, and I've already said I'll just delete these posts when it isn't past my bedtime.

That's another post I'll be deleting tomorrow, better split quick if you want to have this conversation, 'cos I won't.

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Jul 12 2007 01:27

Catch would you consider union organising 'political work'?

I think the pros and cons are pretty self evident. Probably the toughest thing to get around is when you take organising entire industries seriously, and when you work in a workplace larger than about 50 people yoo have to have a pretty good mechanism for communication over that large of an area. Also if you add Skip's comments on the NYC organising, the fact that the workers on the floor are working over 110 hours a week, it makes for some pretty serious barriers to self organisation.
I read the Bangladesh garment workers federation uses paid full time organisers because everyone works too much for them not to.

One option is work release, of course that drives you into contractualism and may be used as a bargaining chip to get concessions, or even to try and use the organisation to demobilise the workers. Using black listed workers is a good bet, but in the long term its better for those workers to get back into the straight workforce, its not like the IWW is going to give them a career they are going to want to stick with forever anyways.

In the end I like the idea of rotated temporary organisers backed up by part time and possibly permanent administrative staff. Having people hired to file paperwork is not such an issue to me, it's the front line organising that can lead to dangerous egos and power trips.

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Jul 12 2007 01:50

Revol no one's asked you to be helpful and you know it, all I'm asking is that you let some folk who want to have a conversation you disapprove of do so. At this point arguing you has made me less interested in this thread, actually arguing with you has made me less interested in raising any topic I think you may raise objections to in what seems to be the way you habitually raise objections.

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Jul 12 2007 14:11
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
In the end I like the idea of rotated temporary organisers backed up by part time and possibly permanent administrative staff. Having people hired to file paperwork is not such an issue to me, it's the front line organising that can lead to dangerous egos and power trips.

That seems sensible.

Paid staff for things like administration, tech roles like server admin, newspaper publishing/editing is ok.

I can also see that paid organisers could sometimes be necessary, and have been used by every large anarchists + rev syndicalist organisation, including the IWW, CNT, etc. Taking an example say of a large call centre which was self-organising, it might be sensible for workers there to pay people to head to other call centres to try to organise them too, to prevent work just being outsourced. Like EW says though these, and any roles with power (like newspaper editor) should be temporary, elected/delegated and rotated.

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Jul 12 2007 15:49
John. wrote:
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
In the end I like the idea of rotated temporary organisers backed up by part time and possibly permanent administrative staff. Having people hired to file paperwork is not such an issue to me, it's the front line organising that can lead to dangerous egos and power trips.

That seems sensible.

Paid staff for things like administration, tech roles like server admin, newspaper publishing/editing is ok.

I can also see that paid organisers could sometimes be necessary, and have been used by every large anarchists + rev syndicalist organisation, including the IWW, CNT, etc. Taking an example say of a large call centre which was self-organising, it might be sensible for workers there to pay people to head to other call centres to try to organise them too, to prevent work just being outsourced. Like EW says though these, and any roles with power (like newspaper editor) should be temporary, elected/delegated and rotated.

Organizers have only the amount of power the workers will invest in them because of a respect for skill, ability and trust. Oh wait, thats true for anyone. I'm wondering, and Nate will have some good examples having been a paid staffer for the big green, about when thts not true in different unions and why?

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Jul 12 2007 16:08

One problem at the place I worked at was that the strategy and the tactics were all laid out in advance. The organizers' job was to talk to people, build relationships, and agitate so that people would be like "something has to change!" then we'd be like "here's the plan for change." There's not necessarily anything wrong with that - the winning plan is the winning plan, I guess - but it was very much like the role of the workers was to follow. There was no effort made to involve workers in formulating any part of the plan. There was no effort to really walk workers through the steps by which the plan was made and no effort to teach workers how to strategize and so on. The other problem was that there was very little attempt to change small conditions through actions, like marching on the boss for respect and so on. The emphasis was on the long term to the exclusion of the short term, the response to every workplace issue no matter how small and winnable was "this is why need to have the union get in here" (it was a really big target with a several year plan). I think with some of this it was more a case of bad organizing than staff organizing per se.

These kinds of dynamics can all occur in situations where there are people working full time who aren't paid organizers (someone whose unemployed or whatever) and when people aren't working full time.

The main pro is that the organizer has way more time to knock on the doors of all the people in the areas they're organizing than any of those people do. I think this connects to the main con, which is that the extra time that organizers have can allow organizers who get impatient to substitute themselves for the workers - "we need this done fast so I'll just do it" whether it's writing a press release or chairing the meeting or whatever. I'd really like to hear more about non-substituting organizing.

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Jul 12 2007 17:35
revol68 wrote:
John. wrote:
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
In the end I like the idea of rotated temporary organisers backed up by part time and possibly permanent administrative staff. Having people hired to file paperwork is not such an issue to me, it's the front line organising that can lead to dangerous egos and power trips.

That seems sensible.

Paid staff for things like administration, tech roles like server admin, newspaper publishing/editing is ok.

I can also see that paid organisers could sometimes be necessary, and have been used by every large anarchists + rev syndicalist organisation, including the IWW, CNT, etc. Taking an example say of a large call centre which was self-organising, it might be sensible for workers there to pay people to head to other call centres to try to organise them too, to prevent work just being outsourced. Like EW says though these, and any roles with power (like newspaper editor) should be temporary, elected/delegated and rotated.

That's not really being full time, that's being covered in your expenses , afterall they will be working in the other call centre.

Thats salting. The biggest union salting program in the U.S. is in UNITE HERE. They don't pay salts. You are more reactionary than Chuck Hendricks. Awesome.

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Jul 12 2007 18:47
EdmontonWobbly wrote:
Catch would you consider union organising 'political work'?

In short, yes. Unless it really is just signing people up for direct debits, in which case it's about the same as a charity mugger.

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Jul 12 2007 19:07
revol68 wrote:
thugarchist wrote:
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
Its not my fault you have an internal contradiction between nutty ultra-leftism and reactionary positions on worker's movements dude.

You can't be guilty of a crime that hasn't taken place.

btw when you're clever you call it dialectics

Clever is a synonym for pontificating asshole?

It's funny union hacks seem to suffer the same strain of anit intellectualism as middle managers, a kind of chip on their shoulder that despite their 'practical' skills no one takes them seriously.

Talking like a normal person is anti-intellectual or not caring what you think is anti-intellectual?

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Jul 12 2007 19:49

revol, thugarchist, I'm temp banning you both, at least for a couple of hours so I don't have to spend my whole even doing

"delete"

"are you sure?"

"yes"

back, back

"delete"

"are you sure?"

"yes"

back back

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Jul 12 2007 21:09

This is very useful as most often these arguments jump straight to ideology and wishful thinking without first considering, even in the abstract, what the actual problems being solved are.

gurrier wrote:
The pros are obvious (to consider the comparison in a somewhat simplified form):

If you have one well-defined job that needs doing, equating more or less to 40 person-hours a week, you might get 40 person-hours of productivity out of a full-time paid person.

If you use volunteers, you realistically have no chance of getting one person to do they job - if you're lucky, you might be able to get 8 hours per week work from each volunteer. However, a certain portion of these hours are going to be taken up with communication - what the other volunteers have done, what needs to be done, and communicating the same to the others. Realistically, each volunteer is going to have to spend a couple of hours of their eight getting up to speed, and getting the other volunteers up to speed - meaning each volunteer has only got 6 hours of productivity left over - so you need at least 7 volunteers, each committing 8 hours per week each, to do the job of one-full-timer - you're wasting 2 whole working days of time.

In general, the communication overhead grows much faster than linearly with the amount of people involved - if you have 4 people on a job having to communicate with each other, you have 4*3 = 12 interfaces, if you have 8 people you have 8*7 = 56 interfaces. Also, since no communication channel is 100% reliable, the number of miscommunications grows exponentially with the number of people involved. Meaning that you're going to do a worse job with a larger team, or else you're going to have to add more people - meaning even more wasted time. There's also the fact that training overheads have to be factored in and the greater the size of a team, the greater the probability of churn. There's a rule of thumb called Brooke's law which states that "adding (hu)manpower to a late project makes it later" - and there are surprisingly few known counter examples. Basically, it works like that because, at a certain point, the communication overhead added with each new member is greater than the productivity of that member.

Of course, this all depends on the nature of the role - if it is perfectly partitionable into blocks of arbitrary size, needing no communication between the parts and with simple, well-defined interfaces connecting them, then you can simply add people for more productivity. However such jobs don't exist in reality and there is always some overhead required in partitioning any task.

So, to sum up, the pro is increased productivity and normally better quality work (due to less errors due to miscommunication).

The con is that, all else being equal, a full-timer is in a much stronger position than any ordinary member in terms of their ability to influence the practical politics of the organisation.

I think there is a second con which is very many left political organisations actually make the full times into the leadership (or perhaps vice versa). This pretty much gurantees that you end up with a membership that at best can have an occasional and under informed veto over the direction the full timers wish to take. But often rule are constructed to not even allow this, the British SWP for instance only allows members to caucaus for 6 weeks before their annal conference, it is impossible to effectively do so once your in an organisations bigger then a few dozen.

On the other hand most modern anarchists refuse to recognise the problems gurrier outlines and substitute wishful thinking and ideology. We are simply told there are certain rules and we must follow them on fear of excomunciation. This attitude really holds things back - or rather condemns us to a constant cycle of growth, failure and collapse as wishful thinking hits reality.