Submitted by syndicalist on March 22, 2012

I hope I'm doing this right. I'm mainly interested in hearing and learning about the current, actual on job practices of libertarian workers. This is posed in a friend, comradely manner. Not meant to say one practice is better then another
then another. What I mainly interested in how folks connect their ideas to their actual practice. Oft times connecting the ideological with the daily, on the ground grind, tests us in ways and manners that aren't always covered by our revolutionary manifestos, platforms and programs.

So, it's be good to listen, to learn and to absorb what folks current, on job practices are.

I understand that there are comrades who want to keep their identities low keyed. So, third person stories, so to speak, are cool as well. I'm less interested in where you work (and other sorta revealing stuff), then what the actual practice is.
While my interest is less so in the IWW practices (as they are coved in the direct unionism piece elsewhere on libcom),
folks with experiances at trying to implement same are surely welcome to share those experiances.

I've split this from http://libcom.org/forums/theory/having-critique-trade-unions-04032012?page=2#comment-474634
where I posed the following question:

Mar 21 2012 14:24
#74
syndicalist

Let me put this out there -- While a critique of reformist trade unionism is proper, what are the alternative that folks are currently working with that retains control in the hands of your co-workers? For the moment, I'm less interested in the IWW stuff, as their seems to be ample discussion of some of the "direct unionism" proposals and practices some engage in. Are the workfloor organizations you are engaged in building meant to be temporary? Is there a chance that more permanent anarcho-syndicalist forms can be built? Or do you engage in stuff in a more spontaneous way: arguing for workers assemblies in times of struggle, then, sorta fading away, when there's no crisis?

I guess I'm less interested in the theoretical and more interested in the current practice. I realize that ideology oft times gverns the practice, but sometimes I read lots of ideology and no practice. But I am honestly interested in learning what contemporary comrades are actually doing at building their alternative forms of workers organization.

Mar 21 2012 17:55
#75
sabotage

Agree with syndicalist a lot. I'd like to hear from those in the communist left who've been posting towards the end of this thread what you are doing for workplace organizing, or at least what models you are proposing/using. As far as I can tell folks are using workplace groups of communists and workers who agree to an anti-capitalist framework that then advocate for shop committees/assemblies, am I right? Sorta like SolFed's strategy but for Marxists? That such workplace cells of committed militants could down the road become larger workplace organizations, but still promote open shop assemblies. Like syndicalist, just wondering what people's actual practice/goals are.

Mar 22 2012 04:31
#76
syndicalist

Send PM
Actually, I would like to hear what the current Solfed shopfloor practice is. Or what Solfed militants are doing in their workplaces.

Mar 22 2012 08:56
#77
Chilli Sauce

Shit, Syndicalist, that's a big topic. I've just written a piece about some of the stuff happening in my workplace, but I haven't published it yet. Perhaps someone (you? me?) could start a thread for SFers to talk anonymously about what they've been up to at work. Anonymously.

Internally, for what it's worth, the education workers in SF keep sort of running workplace diaries on our internal forums where we update each other on what's happening at work, bounce ideas off each other, and just try to support each other generally.

Finally, at the last anarchist bookfair SF did a (very) abridged workplace organising training. Like the N. American IWW, we advocate workplace committees and once the talk was opened to discussion were like five or six people there (some weren't even SFers, but had been to the training, IIRC) who started off contributions with "In my workplace committee...".

So we are making some headway and I think we've tried to ensure that our theory is informed by our practice. There's even a motion at this year's conference to adapt the industrial strategy to some of the practice that's come out of the workplace organiser training

.

Mar 22 2012 08:57
#78
Joseph Kay

syndicalist wrote:

Actually, I would like to hear what the current Solfed shopfloor practice is. Or what Solfed militants are doing in their workplaces.

well, generally aiming at this. Lots of current examples aren't public for obvious reasons (see older stuff like this), though this one and this one have been written up, and Phil's elaborated the latter:

Phil wrote:

In organising terms, most of the actions that I've initiated - from holding mass meetings during walkouts to trying to form a strike committee - have been effectively boycotted by The Clique. There was even effective sabotage, with a planned mass meeting not going ahead because in my absence the leafleting to advertise it was called off.
in another instance, a member was brought up on disciplinary for appearing to follow the SF industrial strategy... obviously not every workplace is this organised, although this kind of thing should be better now we've made training more systematic. In terms of lower level stuff we've been involved in recently, this newsletter gives some idea of the issues.

Mar 22 2012 13:34
#79
Alf

sabotage wrote:

Agree with syndicalist a lot. I'd like to hear from those in the communist left who've been posting towards the end of this thread what you are doing for workplace organizing, or at least what models you are proposing/using. As far as I can tell folks are using workplace groups of communists and workers who agree to an anti-capitalist framework that then advocate for shop committees/assemblies, am I right? Sorta like SolFed's strategy but for Marxists? That such workplace cells of committed militants could down the road become larger workplace organizations, but still promote open shop assemblies. Like syndicalist, just wondering what people's actual practice/goals are.

ALF: You're not far off, but the idea isn't to restrict those kinds of groups to marxists (although I think you're aware of that already). I've no doubt that if I worked at the same place as a member of Solfed or AF I'd be working together and trying to create such a group, but the idea would be to create a group open to any worker who was in favour of independent forms of struggle. At the college Miles and I work at we have set up an open discussion forum for staff and students, which has had some success in offering a framework for discussion and on one or two occasions actual decisions about class struggle issues, but it's not a model for everywhere, and I would like to have seen more involvement from people who aren't 'marxists'......

Steven.

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, I'm not in Solfed, but here's my deal.

I am a union convener for Unison. This does contradict my political views, however as I mentioned on here before I really enjoy the union work, and as I don't have any career options to speak of and I've only got one life I do it.

However, I would say that where possible I try to push beyond the limitations of the unions. By when I organise meetings, I try to get as many workers as possible to come, and invite all workers regardless of union membership/permanent/agency status, etc. And also if we decide on any form of action we try to bring agency workers and non-union members into it as much as possible, and even try to work out ways we could defend them if they were victimised for sticking with us.

I try to help us turn individual issues into collective ones, i.e. if a couple of people get hit with underperformance proceedings we try to take up the issue of workloads collectively. It's very difficult at the moment, with the crisis everyone has been pretty demobilised, and there are so many job cuts (20% at my Council) that people are afraid to put their heads above the parapet nowadays.

We managed to get a very good turnout on strike on November 30, but that is such a big dispute (30 odd unions with 3 million members) that it is pretty much impossible to influence it from a grassroots level. Still, I generally try to push the idea that the "unions" are not actually on our side, and that our interests are different from theirs. And that the tactics of the left like voting in different union candidates/passing various motions is a dead-end. And that the only way we can start to turn things round and win is by organising action ourselves.

In terms of more day-to-day organising, outside of my team there is the shop stewards structure, but within my team the core of workers' organisation is a group of us workers (which fluctuates slightly over time), mostly those of us who have been around for a while and are in the union, who we know are on the same page when it comes to wanting to take on management and stand up for ourselves.

Outside of my workplace, in terms of networking with others, basically I do that through libcom. I also went to the Solfed organising training, which I thought was good, but could do with some tweaking for people who are already in unionised workplaces, which I offered to help do and deliver.

syndicalist

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steve, thanks for the reply.

Is a union convener like what we call a chief shop stewart? Elected by all the stewards/members to be the key person to organize stewrad meetings, etc? I've seen
it used a million times and have basically thought of it in this manner. Or is it like a one factory/large shop local union president?

Edit: I see that when I did the position, none of the interesting links appeared. I'll have do do a footnote link or something.

Steven.

10 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hey, yeah convenor is the name in unison for essentially a lead steward in a department (around 2000 workers) elected by the stewards/members. My role has half-time facility time attached. The local president in the UK is called branch secretary (who will also be a lay member possibly with facility time).

(The links didn't appear in your original post because it looks like you copied and pasted from the screen. To get the links to appear you would need to click the "quote" buttons on the posts you wanted to duplicate, then paste in the text)

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks folks. I was hoping that there'd be a few more replies about peoples current practice, but that's ok too.

I've not posted about my own, simply because I've been off the shopfloor for so many years that I am simply not current, in that respect. And am most interested in current stuff.

That said, Chilli wrote:

Political organisation, or union?
I was a member of SolFed throughout this, which is the British section
of the anarcho-syndicalist IWA. While the IWA has some active union
sections (including the famous CNT in Spain), at the time we were very
much a political organisation. By that I mean a group of people with
similar political ideas, meeting up to discuss ‘politics’ and doing
political activity, like distributing the Dispatch or Tea Break
bulletins. While I could sound off about stress in meetings, as an
organisation SolFed didn’t and couldn’t really help me. ‘Political
activity’ was completely separated from my everyday life. At precisely
the time when libertarian communist politics should have been most
relevant, the opposite was true. And to be honest the last thing I
wanted to do with my scarce free time was go to meetings disconnected
from my life.

For me, this really made me feel like I didn’t want to be part of an
anarchist political organisation, but an anarchist union. In other
words, I wanted SolFed to be an organisation that could support
workers like me in situations like this, whether through training,
networking, brainstorming strategies, sharing best-practice,
potentially meeting workmates outside of work to help with organising
and so on. We simply didn’t have the capacity to do these things at
the time (at least in my Local, and there was little co-ordination
nationally outside of the education sector). I wasn’t alone in these
feelings, and I think SolFed’s made great strides in this direction
over the past 3 years. Certainly, were I to find myself in a similar
situation again, SolFed would be an asset rather than an evening of
alienated political activity with little relevance to my life. And I
know other SolFed members are finding this in their workplaces too,
though obviously it’s a work in progress. Regardless of the
organisational specifics, I think it does make a difference feeling
like you’re part of an organisation that can back you up, even if that
back-up is only support/advice rather than industrial action.
http://libcom.org/blog/credit-crunched-working-financial-services-during-2008-2009-crash-23012012

I found this particularly interesting, mainly because most anarcho-syndicalist organizations (as we used to call 'em: "propaganda groups") were very much like anarcho-syndicalist dual (political) organizations. We wouldn't call 'em as such and they have a different meaning for some, but in essence, we all were.

When manyof us (outside of Spain, France & Italy) first got involved in the 1970s, the 1980s our groups sorta acted in a fashion that allowed for the "political" and the "workplace" (won't say union, cause, in most instances no one was or desirious to be... basically because of high rates of unionisation and lots of folks woking in unionised sectors, different story).
While we didn't see ourselves (well, not those of us in the US) as proto-unions, we did see our role as providing for solidarity work, support for comrades doing "mass work" (workplace, community, anti-racist). A place intended to provide much of what, I gather, the current Solfed is doing/trying to do.

By way of some background.... "training"...who knew from that or heard from that back then.
A lot of it was throw yourself into the fire and get burned....mostly. But, yeah, good that folks have been making efforts to try and systemize experiances and stuff relevant to workplace
organizing.

The north american IWW was not what it is today and "dual carding" was not seen as a positive thing. there were many bullshit fights over it and the IWW was, IMHO, a sad place to be if you worked in a shop represented by a reformist union. I think most of us in the US were members of the IWW at one time. I was even a Branch Secty for a wee-bit.But this was a different time, different place and different era. So, in our context, the IWW was not the same option is it might be today, as like 89% of the US workforce is unorganized.

And so the record is clear (cause the eyes are upon us -:) )..... I salute many of the constructive efforts that north american IWWers are engaged in. And, they too, live in an age of different (better) possibilities then in years gone by.

Anyway, I guss the point I was trying to make, was organizations that do not specifically set themselves up as "unions" (or workplace specific organizations) are, to a large practical/functional degree, political organizations with anarcho-syndicalist ideology/perspectives/guiding principles and aims. I'm sure I'll catch a bunch of hell for writing this, but that's how I see it.

More to folow.

devoration1

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I wrote about my personal experience in the thread you linked to about 'having a critique of the trade unions'. Honestly I'm just trying, through practice, to find out the means of combining theory and practice in the real world, at my actual workplace, with my actual co-workers. This includes distributing left communist newspapers and journals, anarchist history books, and syndicalist literature with particularly interested co-workers; discussing unions (AFL-CIO and independent business unions like UE) with other co-workers who have mentioned the word 'union' in the breakroom (including giving them material on said unions and describing the pro's and con's of joining either of them), arguing for more safety and health training with the bosses in private and in front of all workers on my shift, participating in shift-wide discussions about problems (staffing, cost of living increases, the complicated system of how one gets a raise, what constitutes 'abuse' of earned vacation and sick leave, etc), etc.

As well as looking into and contacting local and international organizations; setting up communication with local unions reps, attending labor council meetings, union led protests, tinkering with ideas on how to approach sympathetic groups or those on the periphery of workplace struggle (various Occupy x city groups, the modern SDS, OSHA, etc). Staying in touch with friends with similar politics (anarcho-syndicalist, communist) for joint activity relating to struggles outside my personal workplace (such as supporting the IWW activity at Starbucks and Jimmy Johns).

I'm still young with a lot to learn and enjoy political discussions, weighing the opinions and practice of different organizations within the circle of revolutionary ideas, but getting involved in various avenues of practice as it relates to me personally is the conclusion I came to as to how to best find what I personally can do to 1) help make a difference and 2) gain the experience (positive and negative) to make future activity more fruitful.

We're seeing a large increase in the movement of the international working-class, both in and out of the unions, in and out of political organizations, across national boundaries. Recruitment and interest is seemingly up in most left of center organizations from social-democratic groups to the 'ultraleft'. Marx is selling out of bookstores all over the place (to the point that certain news organizations published stories about the abundance of copies of his work flying off the shelves). I think participation and communication are the best ways to not only catch up with the times of the 'Arab Spring', OWS, port shutdowns, strikes of size not seen in the US in years (35,000 Verizon workers out on strike down the East Coast), but be ready to move forward in a better direction.

I like the ideas of workplace groups of militants and/or pro-revolutionaries, be they organized groups of militants and/or pro-revolutionaries in a given workplace, such a group connected to a political organization or anarcho-syndicalist union, Solidarity Network, even a rank & file group in a union, or none of the above. The discussions going on in the IWW are really interesting, particularly the published articles in Industrial Worker about the direct unionism paper, and discussion relating to Dual-Carders (I know, a subject discussed a lot elsewhere on Libcom).

Chilli Sauce

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Syndicalist, I'm not sure it was me who wrote that! I mean, I agree with it, but maybe it was Joseph K?

Dev, you still in the IWW?

Syndicalist, I'm going to bullet point stuff about my workplace, please let me know if you'd like me to expand on anything. I'm also going to post up this thread internally in SF and see if we get any more hits:

- I'm in a unionised workplace and, as far as the union goes, I use it for two reasons: (1) To link up with other militants in the area and (2) as cover for holding meetings which I then make sure are opened to as many members of staff as possible. I do occasionally sign people up the union, but it's always with a warning that the unions are shit and that we should expect them to sell us out at some point. That said, we should use them for what they're worth.

- After a series shit experiences, the acting steward and myself wrote a letter to the branch sec requesting that the full time union rep for our sector not come back to our workplace. They haven't and the other branch officials are actually much better.

- I always make an effort to bring together workers across job roles (there's something like 5 different unions in my workplace, with full-time, part-time, agency, and subcontracted workers). It's a conscious strategy and relates to my next point.

- I have two levels of workplace committees in my shop. One is in my department and we're pretty damn organised. For those of you who have been to the IWW's OT 101/SF's intro to workplace organising, the majority of my department are 1s and 2s. The second committee is made up of militants from across different departments and we sort of try to push issues, organise cross-union meetings, picket lines, etc.

- I'm quite lucky in that I have another anarchist/left communist in my workplace who is much older and experienced than myself and highly respected by staff. Me and them do the majority of the background work, both inside and outside the union structure. Our last steward, who's left now, was sympathetic to the anarchy and was a union rep who hated the union. By default, the steward had devised various ways to bring issues to management. Sometimes they involved the union, sometimes they didn't.

- Two of my workmates (including the one mentioned above) have been to SF's intro to workplace organising.

- I invite my most trusted workmates to other SF trainings and activities. These are always practically focused on a real issues and SF's politics are secondary to the practical experience and advice we have to offer.

- We've written a series of collective letters to management. These were always done explicitly outside the union. Management--not surprisingly--always wants to make these collective concerns union issues. My workmates don't have any of it and we've won some pretty notable concessions by raising issues this way.

- I've identified some potential individuals who I'm trying to get more active in workplace stuff. These are folks who are pissed off and have a kind of common sense collective approach. The problem is lack of experience. So I've tried to get said individuals to pick up little tasks (handing in a demand letter, doing some research, getting trained up as a shop steward) in the hopes they'll develop the confidence to become that much more outspoken, militant, and organised.

- I rarely talk politics and put things as plainly as possible - "strength in numbers", "need to stick together", etc.

Chilli Sauce

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Fuck, that turned out way longer than I expected!

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

devoration1

I'm still young with a lot to learn and enjoy political discussions, weighing the opinions and practice of different organizations within the circle of revolutionary ideas, but getting involved in various avenues of practice as it relates to me personally is the conclusion I came to as to how to best find what I personally can do to 1) help make a difference and 2) gain the experience (positive and negative) to make future activity more fruitful. .

I hear you. Experiance is sometimes the best teacher...it often times challenges ones basics in ways that only sometime that's in your face can.

Although I absolutely consider myself an anarcho-syndicalist, and am clearly opinionated about some things, it's important to keep your eyes and ears open to most workplace perspectives. Basically others experiances have both successes and failures. What can I draw from them? How can I best incorportae them into my practice and critique.

Some from my generation were inspired not only by the revolutionary CNT and the revolutionary ideas of the IWA, but also the councilist experiances as well. The wild cat struggles, the experiances of the Italian "Hot Autumn" and the French May Days, various workers movements "from below" and the experiances of more traditional syndicalists and older Wobs all came into play. We mashed up the best of these events, struggles and so forth. It can only strengthen ones ideas, leaves one open to a non-stagnent way of thinking and allows for the ability to think outside of a rigid and strict box.

Of course, this was discussed elsewhere, but I thought the first draft of "Strategy and struggle - anarcho-syndicalism in the 21st century" tried to make an effort at incoprorating some of the better experiances/critiques of worker militants into a contemporary anarcho-syndicalist analysis. I'm not a full fan of the pamphlet, but I respect the effort by a newer
generation of comrades to try and grapple with stuff in the world they face.

Thanks Chili for the bullet points. I'll prolly come back to some of what you wrote in a future posting. Sorry, I thought you wrote the article I quoted from.

What I do find interesting, thus far, is how our "theoretical" ideas often times get shaped and modified by "on the ground" consitions. Particularly those in unionized settings.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks Chili, good stuff.

Right quick at the moment.

Chili: - I rarely talk politics and put things as plainly as possible - "strength in numbers", "need to stick together", etc.

My fear was always developing a sort of "pure and simple syndicalism" without any political content. But coming out of the box screaming "build a new world" won't win too many friends at first, for sure.I suspect in time this will change a bit. My experiance had thaght me that it does. I'll come to back in another posting.

Chilli Sauce

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ah, but it's not without it's politics, comrade. The politics come through in the actions. Folks joke that I'm "the revolutionary" and I have brought workmates to SF stuff which has political content (albeit, again, practically focused).

Harrison

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm not actually in a workplace at the moment as i'm studying, so my post might not be that useful. I just really like this thread as it's rare to get a nice practical discussion on libcom...

syndicalist

My fear was always developing a sort of "pure and simple syndicalism" without any political content. But coming out of the box screaming "build a new world" won't win too many friends at first, for sure.I suspect in time this will change a bit. My experiance had thaght me that it does. I'll come to back in another posting.

but with regard to political content, i think that there is something to say for how the CNT (currently and historically) fight struggles the other unions abandon, even when it appears that the dispute has already been lost.

So introducing the idea that because of anarcho-syndicalist political content we don't take a standard cynical realist mentality when deciding whether it's "worth" supporting something.

To be honest, i'm basing this off a friend who whilst not being ideological themself, speaks highly of the 'socialist' shop steward at their work as being someone who is always prepared to listen and help if you're having problems with management.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chilli Sauce

Ah, but it's not without it's politics, comrade. The politics come through in the actions. Folks joke that I'm "the revolutionary" and I have brought workmates to SF stuff which has political content (albeit, again, practically focused).

Not personally knowing you, ok, no dispute.

I guess I misunderstood what you meant by politics. I see political discussion different from syndicalist discussion .... in the sense that you can have very radical workplace action carried out, sometimes, by some very conservative people.

But I get your drift and inviting workmates to events sponsored by a politically inspired syndicalist (anarcho-syndicalist) organization is a political act...in the sense of opening them up to more than just stratight forward trade unionism.

And, yes, of course, we would hope that the way we engage in our actions, the way we share our ideas on the workfloor is both reflective of our "politics" and the libertarian workfloor forms of organization we want to build. Additionally to that, there is the broader non-shopfloor questions that arise. And here is where some of the more difficult bridge cross occurs.

Back again.

medwards

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I know you said you're not looking to go over the Direct Unionism debate again, but Recomposition has had a few pieces that are rooted much more emotionally in workers day-to-day lives:
http://recomposition.info/category/life-on-the-job/

Unfortunately this category looks like its got a bunch of nuts and bolts solidarity unionism pieces. I can specifically recommend
http://recomposition.info/2011/10/04/caring-a-labor-of-stolen-time/
http://recomposition.info/2011/07/01/what-do-you-do-for-a-living/

There two others that I think are just outstanding (and slightly less depressing) but I'm having difficulty finding them. I also don't know if these were what you were looking for, they're not really explicit all the time about their politics and its more about how you behave and resist on a day-to-day basis.

Edit: ah! Found them!
http://recomposition.info/2011/05/14/teacher-diary/
http://recomposition.info/2011/05/02/postal-worker-solidarity-defeats-compulsory-overtime/

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steve, just curious, howopen are you about your politics? I know in England, folks can be more open to a much larger degree then here in the US. I know that when I was on the shopfloor or in union settings, I was always considered "a socialist of sorts".....this was well before Seattle, afterwards "anarchist" was more on the political radar then back in my most active years.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

A piece by Scott Piannaples from Miami which I found to be ok:

Moving to Action: workplace organizing beyond recipes
https://miamiautonomyandsolidarity.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/moving-to-action-workplace-organizing-beyond-recipes/

Steven.

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

syndicalist

Steve, just curious, howopen are you about your politics? I know in England, folks can be more open to a much larger degree then here in the US. I know that when I was on the shopfloor or in union settings, I was always considered "a socialist of sorts".....this was well before Seattle, afterwards "anarchist" was more on the political radar then back in my most active years.

like chilli, I don't bang on and on about the revolution, however I do talk about politics with my colleagues from a working-class, direct action perspective. A few people in my team, or that I have represented, I have ended up chatting to about politics quite a lot and then they end up asking so I tell them I'm an anarchist. It's known by the other union reps as well.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven.

syndicalist

Steve, just curious, howopen are you about your politics? I know in England, folks can be more open to a much larger degree then here in the US. I know that when I was on the shopfloor or in union settings, I was always considered "a socialist of sorts".....this was well before Seattle, afterwards "anarchist" was more on the political radar then back in my most active years.

like chilli, I don't bang on and on about the revolution, however I do talk about politics with my colleagues from a working-class, direct action perspective. A few people in my team, or that I have represented, I have ended up chatting to about politics quite a lot and then they end up asking so I tell them I'm an anarchist. It's known by the other union reps as well.

Thanks.

Yeah, I don't mean to sound like I'm asking if folks walk into the job with read & black flag and bullhorn ...... I always found it a fine balance and weave of conversation with workmates. I also found how and what to talk about was often predicated with who I worked with, what was in the news, if the union took a "left" position on something, trying to crack the door open a bit on that.

My final shopfloor factory work, I worked with folks from the Carribean (Spanish & Creole speaking), Latin America, African-American and a few Egyptian's (of jewish background).
So there were issues around the war in Latin America (El Salvador, Nicargua, military dictatorships) and the struggle against the Dullavaier regime in Haiti which lead to some political conversation openings. The smashing of the air traffic controllers (PATCO), major workers struggles at Greyhound Bus, Phelps Dodge Copper, the Daiy News newspaper strike, Hormel meatpackers all lead to a greater discussion on working class combativity as well.

Some of the political stuff I tried to weave into the shopfloor stuff. For example, there was a hefty number of Haitian-American's in our shop. So we tried to connect the fight in Haiti (then under dictatorship) to imperialist US policies; to struggles here at home and in the community and trying to tie shopfloor workers to the Haitian Workers Associaition (HTA) in Brooklyn, NY.

At this time WSA was very much a strong IWA affiliate and so we tried to connect of the internationalist stuff with some IWA stuff. Not much, mainly around Latin America. Used some CNT stuff to discuss "our" type of unionism (mainly of the shop assembly type which the CNT was agitating for). Periodic, not regular, but worth trying to introduce to a couple of guys who seemed the most receptive.

Well, anyway, times gone by. But I would agree with the old notion which we've held in WSA, it's really in the practice, not so much the rethoric. The challenge will always be, finding the right balance between rethoric and concrete action.

Alf

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I’ve been putting off this response because the question of workplace practice raises so many questions it needs a whole article to do it justice. First off I am impressed by the energy comrades have put into their activity at work. One of the big problems in most workplaces is that the pace of work makes it difficult for workers to stop and think about what’s going on; in education, where I work, (but elsewhere as well of course) there is also the problem that people are so fed up with official meetings that they often can’t face the thought of giving up yet another lunchtime or time after work for the ‘unofficial’ ones. Militants are just as affected by this as anyone so it does take a certain level of dedication to organising discussions, links, protests etc at work.

There are clearly some points of agreement between what people like Steven and Chilli are doing and a ‘left communist’ approach, which would certainly make it possible for the latter to work together with class struggle anarchists where they work, or in groups that operate across workplaces. The key issue is the insistence on pushing for meetings that involve all workers, from different unions or none. This may seem banal but the trade union mentality of organising in your own little union club is very strong – I have given a number of examples from my own workplace, the most recent being this one: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/uk-public-sector-pensions-disputes-09092011?page=1 (actually on p 2). I would also be interested to know more about the ‘committees’ that Chilli mentions at his workplace.

I suppose the key disagreement, certainly between left communists and anarcho-syndicalists, is the old one about ‘politics’. Chili says he rarely talks politics to his workmates, although syndicalist does seem to feel that what he is doing is essentially political, which I would agree with. I don’t agree with the definition of politics as something alienated from real life. Politics is not the end of communism of course, but the working class has to struggle on the political terrain in order to create the conditions for transcending politics. Politics in the broadest sense does keep cropping up in workplace discussions, whether we are talking about elections, wars, the economic crisis and its impact etc. To me it’s obvious that a revolutionary at the workplace would take part in such discussions and even, when there are passionate debates going about them, organise meetings at work to make the discussion more ‘formal’. One of the most successful meetings of the open discussion forum we have at our college was on the Middle East – students took the initiative for organising it and there were over 80 people present. The necessity to connect with issues that go beyond the workplace has always been a key element in the conception of the communist party advocated by the communist left. It became a very acute divergence in the period of ‘Bolshevisation’ of the Comintern, where the Italian left in particular argued against the CI’s efforts to re-organise the base units of the party as factory cells rather than ‘territorial’ sections. For the Italian left this meant an attempt to narrow the focus of the class struggle to purely immediate and workplace issues.

But at the same time the more day to day issues of what’s happening at the workplace or the sector are also political. If you are an oil tanker driver, for example, that’s rather evident right now, but most issues of day to day exploitation at the workplace are also posed on a general political level – the pensions dispute being an obvious example, where the enemy you are facing is quite clearly not this or that employer but the capitalist state as a whole. But it’s not just a question of direct material or ideological attacks from the government. The issue of the trade unions and assemblies is also deeply political. First because trade unions are tied up to the state at so many levels that a rejection of their way of doing things is also one of the first points of conflict between workers and the state. Looked at more positively, the break with the legalism of trade unions, the holding of autonomous assemblies, the formation of strike committees and eventually of workers’ councils are links in the chain between today’s class resistance and tomorrow’s revolutionary struggle, and revolutionaries have to constantly ask themselves whether what they are doing is furthering this process or in some sense hindering it.

It is in this context that I would bring in the question of whether revolutionaries at work should be shop stewards or involved in recruiting or signing people up to the union. I don’t want to get into the issue of whether or in what circumstances communists should be union members, because that is a secondary question which often distracts discussion away from the main one. But to me I just can’t see how you can consistently argue that we have to develop forms of organisation which challenge and tend towards breaking out of the union structure if your day to day actions tend to reinforce the idea that the only way to do things at work is the union way (however ‘shit’ they may be). Acting as a militant rep or steward surely strengthens the appearance that the union can be ‘ours’ as long as we elect the right bloke for the job, rather than recognising that we really do have to self-organise in a different way and with different aims.

That said, this latter point is by no means a new discussion on these boards and I would not want it to be the sole focus of this thread. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to go back to discussing what we do have in common (such as the defence of assemblies) and the see to what extent our disagreements might get in the way of joint activity.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

[Alf].....there is also the problem that people are so fed up with official meetings that they often can’t face the thought of giving up yet another lunchtime or time after work for the ‘unofficial’ ones. Militants are just as affected by this as anyone so it does take a certain level of dedication to organising discussions, links, protests etc at work.

Certainly poses a challenge at times. We used to do quickie shop meetings. usually sround the lunch hour. 10-15 minutes......but that was mainly when it was key stuff/update stuff. Things that would require longer time were harder to get folks attention, but sometimes it just had to be done.

Politics in the broadest sense does keep cropping up in workplace discussions, whether we are talking about elections, wars, the economic crisis and its impact etc. To me it’s obvious that a revolutionary at the workplace would take part in such discussions and even, when there are passionate debates going about them, organise meetings at work to make the discussion more ‘formal’. One of the most successful meetings of the open discussion forum we have at our college was on the Middle East – students took the initiative for organising it and there were over 80 people present.

I would agree with the sentiment, but, I suppose it's harder to pull something like that off in a non-educational setting. Perhaps, at univirsities and colleges folks might come out for a lunch time discussion on a political topic. the folks I wrked with would talk politics --- and everything else under the sun --- but I think the setting was not conducive this sort f thing. But all power to yas if you can pull it off.

It is in this context that I would bring in the question of whether revolutionaries at work should be shop stewards or involved in recruiting or signing people up to the union. .... But to me I just can’t see how you can consistently argue that we have to develop forms of organisation which challenge and tend towards breaking out of the union structure if your day to day actions tend to reinforce the idea that the only way to do things at work is the union way (however ‘shit’ they may be).

I think is prolly one of the harder questions to takle. As a militant who faced this question, I think it's a real tug and pull. There are no doubts compromises involved. But it don't mean you have to be compromised either.

Acting as a militant rep or steward surely strengthens the appearance that the union can be ‘ours’ as long as we elect the right bloke for the job, rather than recognising that we really do have to self-organise in a different way and with different aims.

Alf, I guess it comes down to whether or not the individual sees themself as the "Savior."
A comrade steward would prolly do all in their pwoer to organize those who elected them to the position. Encourage and facilitate fuller and greater worker participation and "ownership" of the daily struggle stuff. granted the steward gets dumped on more from all angles by virtue of being the elected person, but, a stweard can be a facilitator and not simply a union drone.

I'd also think that in some spots, it's just not a wise course to run for and get elected to any shopfloor union position. So I would argue, as with most stuff, a lot of ones tactics and approaches are determined by their "objective" conditions just as much as their political convitions.

Nate

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I work at a place with some unionized and nonunionized units. Last time some of the unionized folk went on strike, me and my friends and comrades at work put a lot of time into strike support. A lot of us were IWW but not all of us. The strike was badly run for the most part - a lot of standing around holding picket signs and trying to get cars to honk. We put a lot of energy into pickets really early in the morning talking to delivery drivers at one of the loading docks trying to get them not to drop stuff off. The union leadership saw us as a threat and tried to keep people away from us, and it wasn't too hard because it was crazy early in the morning, but we were also the liveliest picket and some of the most personable people so we developed a reputation. Management flipped out pretty quickly (among other things, a scab hit one of the comrades with his car, it was fucked up stuff) which meant it was working. The union adopted the tactic eventually with the idea of running these kinds of pickets at all the loading docks (we were too few to take on all the docks ourselves) but this happened pretty late into the strike and it basically folded.

That helped give a boost to a lot of our activity in general, and we've generally led with relationships and activity over membership. For a while then we did some confrontational stuff around grievances that some of the union members had, under the pretext of talking to bosses via a steward who was part of our efforts. This was important for those of us in non-union units, as it gave us cover and legitimacy to avoid retaliation. That in turn became a network of people taking action on a range of issues. In the unit where I work we've moved letters and marched on the boss against layoffs and paycuts. Our successes are mixed, mostly delaying rather than stopping stuff. Along the way we've built a lot of relationships and have become pretty highly respected as people. There's been major ups and downs, though. At one point we had a group of about 40 people (not all IWW and not all radicals) that was meeting regularly, with many more supporters, putting out a regular newsletter at work, taking various actions, etc. That turned into an attempt to unionize one of the nonunion job classes (several of us opposed this but most people didn't and we couldn't stop it), which failed in the end. Along the way we ran some actions via informal groupings we built. The union drive failed it washed away almost everything except the relationships and expectations we built through those actions.

In terms of politics, I'm open about my politics and I like to get into it with people. At the same time I try to meet people where their at and appeal to what they believe in. People aren't going to do stuff on the job because I'm a communist, they're going to do it if they think it's right. I do think it's important to try to move people's ideas and stuff, but people who don't share my views aren't going to act because of an appeal to my views. They act because they think it's right according to their views, and being part of collective action plus long term conversations as part of relationships, that helps move people, at least in my experience.

baboon

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I agree with quite a lot of the previous two posts. In my last job, outside of the union and in an industrial rather than educational setting, there was little problem with engendering political discussion. One had to be a bit courageous to start them up on some occasions (sometimes best not to for various reasons) but otherwise it was a case of the right time. There was a certain avoidence of them but that also reflected a general contempt for "politics" - something that can only be stronger now I think.

I don't think that it's a question of a union drone versus a "saviour" regarding being a shop steward or not. I was a convenor of stewards (unpaid) but was more and more being sucked up into the union machine. The only politics that I came across at the time was a couple of local SWPers but my position, away from the workers and into the union, became more and more untenable for me. I had to quit.

As a shop steward how do you support this sort of activity reported in the Guardian today: "...Usdaw trade union has declared an end to the Unilever industrial dispute in which strikes (hit production)... Usdaw said that its members had reluctantly accepted changes to the pension scheme after staff in Unite backed the proposals. The dispute arose after Unilever announced that it was closing its final salary scheme. 'Usdaw members were left with little option but to reluctantly follow suit or face fighting the company on their own' said Usdaw's regional officer. The GMB has yet to declare an end to the dispute". How do you not conclude from that that the major role of the trade unions in Britain today is to keep the workers divided one from each other?

Rats

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

"While I could sound off about stress in meetings, as an organisation SolFed didn’t and couldn’t really help me. ‘Political activity’ was completely separated from my everyday life. At precisely
the time when libertarian communist politics should have been most relevant, the opposite was true. And to be honest the last thing I wanted to do with my scarce free time was go to meetings disconnected from my life."

Who wrote this?! How did you read my mind! I'm serious, what the fuck! It was literally a day ago i said "i was dealing with union shit at work all day, i didn't want to come to an IWW meeting!"

I'm currently a 'dual carding' wobbly. I sign people up to the reformist union at work, a hard enough task on its own. I participate in trainings with the union, go to barbeque's at the office, delegates Christmas party, etc.

I spend my days fighting uphill battles against management for basic legal rights - e.g. you can't send permanent workers home without pay when there's not enough work, you can't just cancel shifts, you can't just cut hours, you have to provide us with rain jackets to work in the rain, you have to negotiate a new agreement with us because the old one expired, you can't fire me for joining a union, etc.

I never really understood legal rights, then i discovered how many of them we had, but it was immediately after that i discovered how little showing the boss a piece of paper with a law that says "YOU MUST PROVIDE YOUR WORKERS WITH RAIN JACKETS" actually accomplished. Sometimes it helps if you call the bosses' lawyers and they tell you the company disputed their legal advice - that's if you didn't know the quality of the kind of people who run your life already.

I've learnt a lot from doing what i've done. I've had friends of years take on the same job at different companies, tried to talk to them about the union and... well its a shitty way to work out who your friends actually are. I've been fired and got my job back. All sorts. But we get up every morning and go straight back in, i don't know why. Might have been all those books i read.

Hey i really liked this thread - it's really good to hear(and tell) stories like this and know that comrades i might never meet are having the same thoughts as me(what i mentioned above). Ciao!

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

One last comment on the question of "politics". I never made it a fetish, but always tried to weave it into stuff at appropriate moments. That said, most people care less about your politics when you're not shoving it down their throats and when you're doing good stuff. The introduction to our ideas is not a walk in the door thing. I found that most times it comes after a process of becoming integrated into the workplace, developing mutual relationships and basically just not being an on the job jerk.

Alot of what we do comes in time. This is why I often have my own doubts about "salting". It may be a good learning experiance, but the real challenges are based on pushing stuff forward -- and helping co-workers further their own self-development --- that often times takes years to develop.

Alf

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

agree with syndicalist about developing political discussion as part of an overall process which involves building up bonds of mutual trust and respect

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Baboon: but my position, away from the workers and into the union, became more and more untenable for me. I had to quit.

Ultimately that's the "power" you have as an indvidual to deal with a bad situation.

Baboon: As a shop steward how do you support this sort of activity reported in the Guardian today [Unilever struggle]........How do you not conclude from that that the major role of the trade unions in Britain today is to keep the workers divided one from each other?

I would hope that the revolutionary who's elected to the stewards position would neither support shit agreements or shitty internal union tactics. It's not black and white as many folks like to paint with the ideological paint brush.

It's not the role of a revolutionary who takes on a steward to be the voice piece of some bureaucrat at HQ. Folks elect you (and you run for) cause you want to do right by co-workers, want to help them build self-confidenece and want to adavnce struggle....and that don't always sit well with bureaucrats who want parrots. I think a key is both being elected and maintaining the important bonds of support of co-workers.

In the final analysis, being a steward may not always be either tactically correct or poltically appropriate. But I won't write it off either.

Caiman del Barrio

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

baboon

There was a certain avoidence of them but that also reflected a general contempt for "politics" - something that can only be stronger now I think.

I dunno, but I think a lot of this may have something to do with the approach that you lot seem to encourage: that of 'discussion' about 'politics' as something abstracted from everyday life. I also think there's a further point to be made about the false distinction between 'political' and 'apolitical' people (which is soul-crushingly common on the leftist/activist scene).

In my experience, speaking as a young person from the postmodern post-political generational swap who works with people of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds, there are no 'apolitical' people. Everyone has feelings on the issues that affect their daily experiences. The point is to harness those feelings as a constructive energy towards the end of improving their lives.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'd be curious what has been your greatest or most memorable workplace vicory..... and conversley, greatest or most memorable workplace defeat. And what lessons have you taken away from them?

Steven.

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

syndicalist

I'd be curious what has been your greatest or most memorable workplace vicory..... and conversley, greatest or most memorable workplace defeat. And what lessons have you taken away from them?

syndicalist, these are really good questions, and I think they deserve their own thread. So I have started one here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/what-have-been-your-biggest-workplace-victoriesdefeats-08042012

if people wish to answer this question please do so there.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven.

syndicalist

I'd be curious what has been your greatest or most memorable workplace vicory..... and conversley, greatest or most memorable workplace defeat. And what lessons have you taken away from them?

syndicalist, these are really good questions, and I think they deserve their own thread. So I have started one here: http://libcom.org/forums/organise/what-have-been-your-biggest-workplace-victoriesdefeats-08042012

if people wish to answer this question please do so there.

Thanks Steve for starting a thread on its own. One of the things that has troubled me about the various Forums that exist, the lack of experiance sharing. I think the one exception to this has been some of the IWW stuff. But, in the main, nearlly all the threads we read tend to place emphasis on how we see ideology or some really good organizational concepts, but not so much the cause and effects of practice. And, I must admit, this is not something new or generalized to today. Even comrades of my generation didn't do much of a good job doing this sort of exchange either.

I've seen many a wide eyed revolutionary get smashed on the shopfloor cause they just couldn't figure out stuff...or were impatient to introduce Bakunin on the first date. Or, getting bogged down in really, really time consuming immeditae "trade union" stuff, while important at the moment and not being able to build a bridge to a more radical content (and sometimes you just can't).. Or thinking ya got your back covered, then everyone running to all corners and you getting your teeth punched, even though folks said (going into a fight) they were all together, How does (for me) anarcho-syndicalism meet our working realities? How do we find a way to get our co-workers to act in more militant ways, when all they want to do is "turf out" the hard stuff to others? I dunno, there's obviously no clear answer to all situations, but it's good to talk about this stuff so we can learn and not always feel alone in our daily drudge of not only building viable shopfloor organization, but also in building "one syndicalist at a time" [OK, I stole the last thing from the spgb, they talk about building "one socialist at a time"].

Thanks for the interest Steve, and all others who have written something thus far.

baboon

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'll come back to the split thread in time but the post by Syndicalist above is good for showing many of the problems confronting not only militant and revolutionary-minded shop-stewards at work but also militant and revolutionary minded individuals that may or may not be in a union.

On the issue of the struggle of Unilever's workers to defend their pension conditions: three unions involved - all seemingly in a dance to undermine the workers' strength, dividing the workers into three opposing facets. What do you say if you're a steward of one of these unions, what do you say to your fellow workers, what would your position be? I'd like to hear more responses because this is an eminently practical question (and it also applies if you were a union or non-union individual in this workplace). Syndicalist has a go but I have to disagree with his view, as far as I understand it, that union bureaucrats want parrots for stewards. It's one of the strengths of the union apparatus for the bourgeoisie that it's so malleable and elastic - unlike the state unions of China and the like. I always found that the hierarchy - that I believe is generally aware of its role as a shop floor policeman - would favour militant, argumentative individuals coming in as stewards because this gives the whole structure its continuing credibility and such individuals could be groomed for higher things or remain constraiined in the rules and legality of the apparatus or act as examples for union recruitment and credibility but on a short leash.

Caiman above says "you lot" (presumably the ICC and its sympathisers) talk about discussing politics as abstractions from daily life (or something like that). But there's a clear distinction between political discussion and the general day to day activities of the defence of working conditions etc. I had many political discussions with workers (not in the education sector) but these were built up over time with a certain shared basis - even if we disagreed. Discussions on the nature of the eastern bloc, the Russian revolution, imperialism, etc. These sorts of discussions are separate and of a different ilk to discussing a response to cuts in shift pay or increases in holiday pay for all workers for example. Workers don't generally discuss the falling rate of profit or the lessons of Spain 1936 - but revolutionary minded workers could well discuss these issue if the ambience is right (and the security question is not ignored). Sydicalist puts it well, pointing to the dangers of "introducing Bakunin on your first date". So I don't believe that there's an abstraction here but a necessary division of labour that confronts any revolutionary minded worker or steward when discussing with others.

There's no doubt in my mind that there is a growing contempt for bourgeois politics and politicians. The whole Occupy and Spring movements show it and, however confused, it's in the general response that one gets in the UK talking about the news. It should get easier to talk about more broader, genuinely political issues to workers, students, etc., though it's never going to be easy. For the greatest part of my militant life trying to suggest anything about communism, equality and against bourgeois democracy, the general line from workers was "go back to Russia then". The whole idea was that any defence of Marxism or any argument against the state was automatically interpreted as support for Stalinism (the British state perfected this propaganda while, at the same time, making full use of its Stalinist trade unions in order to keep the working class disciplined, ie, from the 50s, 60s to the early 80s). This ideology was very difficult to fight against and even with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the bourgeoisie presented it as the end of communism and the victory of capitalism, thus giving a twist to the same old anti-working class campaign. Even five years ago in work I found, through wide-ranging discussions, that the word "capitalism" was a taboo word for workers to use (outside of leftists). Now the crisis is the factor and the driving force (unless you think that things are going to get better) and while this doesn't stop - indeed should encourage - the defence of immediate conditions or improvements to this and that at work - it also opens up the possibility for more overt "political" practices which potentially extend wider.

Chilli Sauce

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

What do you say if you're a steward of one of these unions, what do you say to your fellow workers, what would your position be?

So, I should say that I'm not a steward. That's partly because I don't want to be in a legal and policy position to ever be obligated to tell anyone to come in during a strike. However, I am in a workplace with multiple unions. When we have strikes, the first thing I do is begin talking to non-union workers and workers in other unions about not crossing picket lines. I always to try to propose collective ways not to come into work (all coming to the picket line together, for example, and calling in one after another). And, I've had success. And have taken shit from my union and management for it.

That said, I've recruited workers to join a striking union on the grounds that they want to strike but want legal cover. This isn't ideal, but if someone is joining a union so they feel they can strike, I'd rather have that situation than them coming into work.

On a related note, I was speaking to the PGCE student teachers at my school about not coming in on the last strike and was having success. Until, of course, the NUT sent them all letters telling them to come in :x

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Right quick as it's me B-day and going to eat w/ me kids, partner, cousin.

baboon ---On the issue of the struggle of Unilever's workers to defend their pension conditions: three unions involved - all seemingly in a dance to undermine the workers' strength, dividing the workers into three opposing facets. What do you say if you're a steward of one of these unions, what do you say to your fellow workers, what would your position be? I'd like to hear more responses because this is an eminently practical question (and it also applies if you were a union or non-union individual in this workplace).

Well, I'm not working for Unilever and don't know the on-the-ground situ. So my comment will be broad and general and really quick today.

There's the assumption that "the steward" would not have principles and would not be engaged in a fight to a) organize cross union cooperation and b) accept what is being bargained for.

baboon ---Syndicalist has a go but I have to disagree with his view, as far as I understand it, that union bureaucrats want parrots for stewards. It's one of the strengths of the union apparatus for the bourgeoisie that it's so malleable and elastic.....I always found that the hierarchy - that I believe is generally aware of its role as a shop floor policeman - would favour militant, argumentative individuals coming in as stewards because this gives the whole structure its continuing credibility and such individuals could be groomed for higher things or remain constraiined in the rules and legality of the apparatus or act as examples for union recruitment and credibility but on a short leash.

I actually agree and disagree here. But I think B's point about some unions wanting to have miliatnst on short leashes is true and fair enough. And I would say that some unions engage in a sort of controlled rank-and-filism and controlled militrancy. I fnd this mainly with those unions which consider themselves part of the Left.

Where I would disagree is with those unions which make no bones about being straight out conservatve and hierarchical. Most stewards are hand picked and are parrots.

As I've said before, I am not opposed to there being times when getting elected to office
is bad. It's bad when you have no autonomy. I dunno, I'd rather quit a steward position, after doing my best to wage the good fight, then allow some company suck-ass to help run the stacked deck. No guarantees with anything, and this is true with the steward position as well.

Gots to shove off.

Fast edit: If I may, anyone who's been on the workfloor prolly has many stories about the good steward who knew how to "wink and nod" with members and play dumb with the boss.

Outtahere......

Chilli Sauce

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think B's point about some unions wanting to have miliatnst on short leashes is true and fair enough. And I would say that some unions engage in a sort of controlled rank-and-filism and controlled militrancy. I fnd this mainly with those unions which consider themselves part of the Left.

I just want to up this part of S's post.

Steven.

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I would agree with baboon and disagree with syndicalists here. I wouldn't say that here stewards are parrots, quite the opposite, they are usually the most militant workers. As baboon says, militants as stewards are often the best at recruiting members and looking to workers like the union is fighting for them.

There is probably a difference with the US here, because stewards are just workers on the shopfloor, acting as a rep in their own time. They are nominated by members in their shop (nominally there will be elections, but union elections are almost never contested as there is always a shortage of volunteers rather than a surplus).

In terms of what you would do in the example baboon raises of Unilever, well basically I agree with chilli.

I mean I totally support his position of not being a union rep, which is ideological the the position I support revolutionaries taking.

However, in my role as a union rep what I do in these circumstances is call joint meetings in advance of any action, trying to get people to stick together, trying to get people not to cross each other's picket lines. And as chilli says, despite any reassurances often the best way to get people to join the strike is to recruit them to the union. In the run-up to our 2008 pay strike I organised the recruitment of over 100 members to the union. Including most of the GMB members in the sections (the GMB was not taking strike action, and so effectively supporting mass scabbing). Of course some unions, however, like the NUT cover different grades, so you can't recruit them, so as much as possible you have to just ask them informally not cross your lines, and argue for people not cross theirs when they take their action.

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ok, fast.... Steve....I suspect this is th eproblem with making generalizations. But not every stewrad that I've met (here in the US) has been militant. And not every stewrad has been a conservative parrot. But I can say from my own experiances (dated as they are), shop stewards in conservative unions have not always been either the sharpest or militant. Perhaps if one is elected, rather then appointed, chances for a better steward are greater.

Anyway, I think if we just focus on the position of steward, we'll prolly end with the position of agreeing to disagree.

Harrison

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

syndicalist

Thanks Steve for starting a thread on its own. One of the things that has troubled me about the various Forums that exist, the lack of experiance sharing. I think the one exception to this has been some of the IWW stuff. But, in the main, nearlly all the threads we read tend to place emphasis on how we see ideology or some really good organizational concepts, but not so much the cause and effects of practice. And, I must admit, this is not something new or generalized to today. Even comrades of my generation didn't do much of a good job doing this sort of exchange either.

kind of why i'm not posting more on this thread! since i've got very very little experience, posts that i've drafted up have turned into the kind of organisational concepts you describe, rather than sharing actual practice which is far more useful.

i'm following and reading this thread though, and want to see it continue...

syndicalist

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steve: There is probably a difference with the US here, because stewards are just workers on the shopfloor, acting as a rep in their own time. They are nominated by members in their shop (nominally there will be elections, ......

Point of clarification: How do UK stewards get into office, if different from above?

BTW, in US unions, not every steward is elected. And in some workplaces there are actual contested elections for steward positions.

Chili (and this is asked in a most comradely manner), does Solfed have a position against members being elected to stewards positions? I recall years ago, the DAM did not nor do I recall early Solfed. But I'm strictky going from memory here.

Quite interesting conversation. I hope others are willing to share experiances. Back to the slave grind....

Nate

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Also stewards in US unions are often just workers on the floor acting on their own time. Practices on this vary quite a bit (time off, other benefits for being a steward etc).

Steven.

10 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Syndicalist, union rules differ that normally you need to be nominated by a couple of members in your shop. If two people stand in one shop, they can often job share the role. But if more than that stand then there would have to be an election. (N.b. at my work which has 10,000 people at it, there has not been an election in years, as there are about three times as many stewards vacancies as there are stewards)

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I figured I bump this, to see if there's any additional interest in this sort of conversation.

Chilli Sauce

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Good bump. I remember earlier in the thread someone asked about the committee model proposed by SolFed. This is from an article due out in the next Black Flag:

We don't claim to have all the answers and, in any case, mass struggle always throws up its own forms of self-organisation. However, we are consciously trying to build a self-organised workers movement. We do this through the creation of independent 'workplace committees' made up of militant workers who seek to identify winnable workplace grievances and tackle them through direct action. By building on small victories, we grow our committee, and take on larger grievances. These committees link through industrial networks to share tactics, develop strategy, and eventually begin taking on industry-wide issues.

The other advantage to this committee model is that it gives us, as revolutionaries, a way to reach out to and organise along our non-radical workmates. If folks join SF in the process, great! Fundamentally, however, it is this struggle—based in the workplace and around material conditions—politicises workers and provides us, as radicals, the space to begin talking about capitalism and class struggle.

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks Chili. What's the title of the article or what's it about?

Chilli Sauce

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Better than we know ourselves: a ruling class view of the trade unions.

I'll post it up in the library once the next Black Flag comes out.

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Better than we know ourselves: a ruling class view of the trade unions Ain't dat largely the truth .

Chilli Sauce

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's based on the trade union section from this book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-be-Minister-Gerald-Kaufman/dp/0571190804

When How To Be A Minister was first published in 1980, it received rave reviews. When it was out of print, copies became as prized as gold-dust and were known to disappear from the House of Commons Library. Recommended to incoming ministers in the Thatcher and Major governments by the Cabinet Office, it is also used as a primer by overseas governments. Gerald Kaufman, former Minister and Shadow Cabinet member, brought the book up-to-date in this revised edition. It remains the most authoritative guide to the processes of government ever published...

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chili, comrades....the oft times truism is that bosses have a better sense of how "stiff" or "soft" "their" workers will wage a fight.

In another thread, I mentioned how we thought we had a tight shop, could work the plant backwards....then the boss locked the shop out and the workers just collapsed. Obviopusly the boss knew something we didn't.

Anyway, be interested in seeing the BF article.

BTW, I trust you will address how the "independent workers committee" deals with going up against the boss
and, in unionized settings, the established union structure.

Chilli Sauce

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I mean, it's independent of the any recognised trade union but, at least in my workplace, when issues come up we make judgement call at which level we want to involve the union, if at all. We also stress, as you can imagine, that sometimes organised workers need to fight the union as much as the boss. In fact, I gave a presentation to a joint union meeting just last week and much of the conversation afterwards centred around just how shit the unions are and how, first and foremost, how we need to support each on the shopfloor.

All that said, I should stress that in the forthcoming article the workplace committee model is mentioned only in passing, pretty just the bit I've already quoted.

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

when issues come up we make judgement call at which level we want to involve the union, if at all

I think the qualifier is important. Well, in the sense that it often times reflects the on-the-ground reality for.

I guess, I've always been one who never believed that everything fits into "neat" little boxes. That situation's often times demand of us what tactics to employ, how hard and fast each principle in my organization's program is rigidly adhered to and so forth.

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Discussion closed? No one is interested in this?
Perhaps this just isn't something of value outside of ones group or branch.

Okee-dokie.

A Wotsit

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

edit: overly-long post will come back and edit with fresh eyes. Repeated myself but forgot to say, I'm struggling to find anyone who wants to get together as a team/ shop/ workers committee (excluding people I meet at union meetings from other shops), I feel without this I won't be able to do much.

I'm a shop steward. I agree that mainstream unions do create problems for workers, that they dilute and divert the struggle and confound and betray it, and that we should be critical of some of the things they do and their broad social role. I also think Unions present real opportunities to make our lives as workers slightly better now, to get our own back on the bosses from time to time, help us to get away with slacking or other anti-work pro-social things from time to time and they present opportunities to build working class self organisation skills. It presents opportunities to get people involved in struggles to win small victories (or loose and be sold out by union leadership with shitty concessions). Engaging in class struggle, even if at a reformist level, can elevate class consciousness and solidarity. I think I would not be able to do as much stuff to try and make work more bearable and open up discussions where I can share my politics if i weren't a steward. If I ever have to do something clearly anti-worker I will resign as a steward and make it known why (if sensible to do so).

I use my role to open up conversations about politics and work issues where I give a few of ideas from an anarchist perspective (subtly) and encourage people to stand up for themselves and each other if the bosses/ government try to screw us over (more than usual). Workplace anarchist stuff is still pretty new to me. So far I have had some promising conversations and have just been trying to get people help via the union if they might need it (partly because I think it might help their politics develop, mainly because I want to help however I can when management gives them shit). I try to:

- help with individual problems my workmates are having (even if it ain't always going to advance the struggle, it still beats work) trying to spot potential for collective action

- get a better appreciation of what people's problems at work are and assess and try and gently nudge their willingness to take action to improve their lives make work more bearable or resist worse pay/conditions by giving the bosses shit or using their own rule books against them (if collective action just isn't going to happen and someone is facing a disciplinary has an individual grievance or whatever)

- tell my workmates about all the shitty stuff I know about what the government has planned for public sector workers- and my own local authority's efforts

- explain what the union is doing, talk about what might happen if the union looses or sells us out and what we might be able to do to resist with or without the union, and what I think we were capable of doing with or without the union

- tell my workmates what I think about how work would be much better if it wasn't managed by a hierarchy but by workers and the local community directly (on few occasions)

and so on. I am new to it, and so far I've only got really full-on ranty political with a couple of people in my team who I know well and trust. When there has been a group discussion about work or economics or the government I have made tentative but politically honest little statements to convey the idea I think we are in a class-based conflict, we can't put any faith in the political parties and we need to fight back together as workers (often avoiding misunderstood buzzwords like communist and anarchist though).

I hope to get more of my workmates out on strike when there next is one, but most people I've spoken to who didn't strike last time (N30) still seem reluctant to do so next time. Only 1 non-union member didn't cross the picket in my team (not because of me) only one person joined the union in order to join the strike. My team is shamefully lacking in solidarity though, it's very socially fragmented. I'm not sure if this is true for my whole shop yet.

Having the chance to go on union training and speak
to other workplace militants who want to get other people involved in struggles is also good. Its good to talk to union militants and reps about the limits of unions as they are and the potential of grassroots organising (against the established union rulebook).

So I feel like right now the steward thing is best for me in my workplace, its fun and its useful to me and my workmates as far as I can see. If my workplace was different I would probably follow the SolFed workplace organiser model more closely. As I said, if I had to do anything I felt in direct conflict with my political views I would cease to be a steward, I do know sometimes it diverts my energies but not to the extent it outweighs the opportunities it brings up. Thinking about it I might join SolFed to talk about this stuff more... but I talk about it a lot already so maybe not

Jared

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I too think this is a great thread, and hopefully people can contribute their experiences. I thought I'd share my own work situation, in the hope others may have advice/experience to share.

I work in a small manufacturing plant in Christchurch, New Zealand. There's probably 12 or so on the payroll — 3 full timers, and the rest part timers. The make-up is predominately working class women who are skilled machinists, mothers, and have been with the company a long time. We work directly with the boss, and the vibe is very paternalistic — "we're all a family" sort of thing.

Due to the size and the nature of the environment, its tricky to organise. My co-workers overwhelmingly think the boss is good (as far as bosses go), despite being on shite wages or not having contracts. They like the flexibility (the boss is happy for people to come and go, take leave etc). This situation is super common in NZ. I read that over 94% of workplaces in NZ have less than 30 workers.

Whenever there are issues I try to involve the entire workplace, and despite being loyal to the boss my co-workers know differences exist between us and him. For example, we joke at how many holidays the boss takes, and when there was an issue of sick pay some of the most loyal stuff shocked me by adding: "he may play nice but he knows exactly what he's doing." Apparently before my time they also staged a go-slow one summer.

Yet when I touch on the issue of contracts or wages, the response I often get is: "no contract means he can't hold us to anything either"; or "if we asked for higher wages he couldn't pay them, we'd be out of a job etc". It can be quite disheartening at times, but I hope that in examples of real conflict that the sense of us vs him may crystalise better.

I'm only there one day a week now, but I try too:

— take note of issues/grievances, and jot them down
— keep an eye on a few workers who are more outspoken and ready to challenge the boss
— use humour during smoko's to highlight the differences between the boss and us (this seems to work quite well).

Overall, I haven't committed to any major action, simply because I literally sit next to the boss when I'm there (I do a bit of web/design stuff now). And paternalism is ripe. But knowing this is a common situation, I thought small workplace organising tips would be a good thing to discuss on this thread.

asn

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

In this discussion of individual workplaces many seem to lose sight or are completely oblivious to the "big issues" which have a major impact in individual workplaces and what workers and militants can do there concerning the class struggle. Such as the pace of the employer offensive, the role of Governments in intensifying its pace and inspiring private sector employers to follow suit, repressive industrial legislation which makes most industrial action let alone direct action illegal and suicidal in small and non strategic workplaces; and the critical importance of assisting workers self organisation and big actions in strategic sectors in slowing down the employer offensive in terms of preventing new waves of speed ups and staff cuts and raising workers morale generally in less strategic sectors and in particular small workplaces.
For an example of this "slowing down" the employer offensive see "Anarcho-Syndicalist Strategy for Australia, Today" in the archive section of our web site www.rebelworker.org which looks at the defeat of Govt plans for restructuring of the CityRail station network for privatisation and a new wave of speedups railways ub NSW in Sept 1999 prior to the Olympics in Sydney in 2000.
A pamphlet which throws important light on this phenomena is "Dare to be Daniel" by Wilf McCartney - which looks at the emergence of a syndicalist catering workers union in London in the years immediately prior to WWI. Despite extremely difficult circumstances involving small workplaces and casual work situations - a syndicalist union emerged using on the job tactics which won many actions. However, the rise of this union must be seen in the context of the backdrop of a massive upsurge in direct action in the transport and mining sectors which raised the morale of workers in the less strategic catering sector and so combined with syndicalist propaganda - they stuck their necks out and combined with others on this project. See "British Syndicalism 1900 to 1914" by Bob Holton for a discussion of this back drop.
This activity in strategic sectors would probably take the form of assisting militants pursue a "boring from with" approach given such sectors are likely to be highly unionised. However without massive assistance in getting their "organisational ball rolling" eg networking of militants, regular workplace workplaces, web sites, flyers etc, they won't get very far and would require syndicalist groupings "setting priorities" to get this work done - and not getting involved in every issue or struggle going on and under the sun. Despite clutching claytons "strategy documents".

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Quickly....

1. Jared -- I've mostly worked in shops of under 100 workers. In the needle trades, most shops were under 50 workers, usually in the 10-30 range. In metal working, most of the big plants were closing or long gone. So most manufacturing jobs in these parts are on the small scale as well.

Sometimes in small shops, there's little conventional or "traditional" stuff you can do. You sorta gotta go with the flow of where people are at and see if there's anything that can be (in this case) informally pulled together. And sometimes, there's little we can do but win little skimashes.

I recall the time I worked in a sports fishing supply warehouse.... they had lots of cool fishing gear, but it was a mumified place to work. It was "union", but the union long ago stopped having any meaning on the shopfloor. The steward, a nice guy on a personal level, would piss in his pants at the sight of the boss. The boss would say jump, he'd say how high?
A shame, cause he really was a nice person.

Anyway, there was no way that without a really long term commitment to clandestine work in that shop might there be a possibility of maybe breaking thru. I was lucky enough to be in my 20s, no family and footloose as well. I got the F. out after a few months. But, yeah, no way that shop was going to be the scene of any class battles soon.

2. ASN -- I realize Australia and NZ are in the same neighborhood, so many there's a subliminal message there (said in good humor).

On a more serious note, the reason I figured I'd kick this sort of "limited" focus discussion off mainly is prolly two fold. First, all folks seem to talk about here on Libcom, in our organizations and so forth are big picture stuff. All of which have merits and are overall important to building a revlutionary workers movement beyond our small organizational numbers.

My long time interest has always been, how does the rubber meet the road in your own workplace? How do we take strategic and wonderful theoretical ideas and put them into practice? What is the push and shove, the contradictions, the challenges and so forth? I long ago began the process of zoning out on pontification. On neat little squares and boxes which everything is supposed to fit in. They don't. So the real front line of ideas is the practice, not the ideas themselves.
IMHO, the ideas give guideance to and suppliment the practice. They give broad frameworks, but they do not replace implementation.

So, in this respect, I figured, let me ask what are folks experiances with trying to put their ideas into action in the workplace. Afterall, even with a tight workplan and a collective policy to engage within a specific sector, company and so forth, the individual
militant has to implement, gets the shir or the rewards of their work and the rath or love of their co-workers, right?

Gots to run.

Fast edit: I should say that in the traditional industrial areas, the shops are small. A newer phenom
has been the growth (in former and/or transitioning rurual areas) to mega warehouses. See: New Jersey’s Supply Chain Pain: Warehouse and Logistics Work Under
Walmart and Other Big-Box Retailers
-
http://newlabor.org/?p=424&lang=en

Steven.

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, I would also like to stress that instead of responding to the comment of asn people should stay on topic, and asn can start a new thread if he wants to discuss that.

no1

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

syndicalist

On a more serious note, the reason I figured I'd kick this sort of "limited" focus discussion off mainly is prolly two fold. First, all folks seem to talk about here on Libcom, in our organizations and so forth are big picture stuff. All of which have merits and are overall important to building a revlutionary workers movement beyond our small organizational numbers.

My long time interest has always been, how does the rubber meet the road in your own workplace? How do we take strategic and wonderful theoretical ideas and put them into practice? What is the push and shove, the contradictions, the challenges and so forth? I long ago began the process of zoning out on pontification. On neat little squares and boxes which everything is supposed to fit in. They don't. So the real front line of ideas is the practice, not the ideas themselves.
IMHO, the ideas give guideance to and suppliment the practice. They give broad frameworks, but they do not replace implementation.

I agree - the thing is though, a lot of us feel uncomfortable discussing our actual organising activity so publicly, it's something which is better done within our organisations. Most of the time, workplace activity is also very mundane and non-eventful, at least from my perspective.

Steven.

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

You don't have to talk about specifics to identify your workplace or your employer, just ballpark stuff about your general approach I think would be interesting.

syndicalist

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Steven.

You don't have to talk about specifics to identify your workplace or your employer, just ballpark stuff about your general approach I think would be interesting.

Yes, absolutely. It's less about where you work, then how you go about your practice.

That said, I respect and understand why some folks don't are a bit hesitant. But there are ways to get around that if folks want to. Don't folks do that in their publications?

I'd figure I'd give it a try. If, for wahetever reason, folks don't/can't want to engage, I'm cool with that. But it is pretty sad that there can be lots of postings on stuff with titles about "nilist communism" or weather this marxist or that marxist was a councilist,and few postings on on-the-ground stuff.
Well, just my own feelings.

Anyway, proceed or not, figured I'd put it out.

PS EDIT:

no1, no doubt all roads to conciousness raising and revolution are built on boring and mundane stuff....but folks can learn from that stuff too.

OK, I suspect SF's trainings are based on boring and mundane stuff: mainly winning small victories, building self-confidence working towards a big-bang practice. So, what I'm partly driving at, how has the implementation of this stuff gone on the workfloor? Has the training/theory worked in practice?

For what it's worth, I recall how all the ultras, the militants, the revolutionary anarchists would say to us: you're shit is boring.... we'll, I suspect anarcho-syndicalism is. But, then again, who have built mass organizations based on libertarian principles/practices? Obviously a different discussion and debate. But the road to the new dawn is paved with lots of boring and mundane tasks.

klas batalo

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I just want to post a bit about my limited workplace practice.

I've always worked fairly precarious jobs, mostly in food and retail. This is why when I learned about the IWW 6 or 7 years ago I joined. Unfortunately I didn't get my first training until about 2 years ago. But since then I've been through three, plus went on a salt retreat for Unite-Here which mostly was practicing AEI since they sorta leave O and U to the staff organizers. It was still useful, and there were many revolutionary workers that were salts.

Anyway I got to echo the just building relationships stuff, getting to know your co-workers story. Most of my jobs have been at most 6 month stints before I'd be laid off or the boss was trying to shake things up and get people to quit, which really worked to be honest, until I became more conscious of such things. The relationships thing is hard though considering the length a lot of these jobs has lasted.

Well so in practice when I have taken action it mostly has been trying to form the informal workplace resistance groups that I think are good precursors or the self-organized embryo of future independent worker committees that SolFed and the IWW try to build (we use the same 101 training basically).

Building these committees is no matter if you are in a union or just want to organize is really I think the first step. It is what the unions that do organize in the USA all take as the first step, the issue I think that is most important is about their autonomy. In the IWW this has translated to the "union committee" often being separate from the IWW as a whole. I do think asking folks to take out a card does give more ownership over the struggle over time and helps folks become more identified with longterm struggle as an anti-capitalist minority, but I still see value in having "open" worker committees, especially as the trend is towards open shops and no official collective bargaining (i.e. Wisconsin all unions are "minority" unions now, have to get people to voluntarily pay dues and take out cards). Other unions don't give the committee that much autonomy, some even have the staff pretty much dictate or get rubber stamped approval for their ideas and strategies within the committee, making the committee more a vehicle for them winning a contract and getting more dues money, and not a vehicle for direct workers struggle by the workers for the workers.

Okay so a lot of that was more abstract but it's what I've noticed in my work in IWW and trying to become a salt with Unite-Here and then backing out before I got into a shop, it just wasn't for me.

So again really my practice was mostly identifying leaders and getting them to take small actions about grievances on the shop floor. Like one night at a Chicken Wings fast food joint electric current was going through all the water when we were mopping the floors and when any of us touched equipment we got shocked. Well once I realized this was happening, cause a worker got me to touch stuff and I got hella shocked, our little workplace resistance group all did a march on the boss to his backroom where he was sleeping, with his fucking cat (gross), and knocked on his door until he came out and fixed things. That type of stuff.

Oh and he went OB. Which is probably great for the workers who are now working there (it went under new management) cause he was a really shitty boss.

EDIT:

Also just want to chime in about sorta the typical left communist thing I hear a lot of calling for meetings of all workers or assemblies, that lead to strike committees, that could lead to workers councils, etc Well I have often heard also from some left communists about things called struggle groups or struggle committees, would these be like the independent worker committees SolFed and IWW (US) speak of? Mainly I say this, because as others have probably said elsewhere we've had really shit luck starting off with mass meetings in struggles at workplaces. It seems to me the first thing to do as a communist/radical minority is try to get informal workplace groups to become more over struggle groups/committees that eventually once they have more power on the job could potentially if it made strategic sense call for mass assemblies (regardless of union affiliation or sectors). If then through lots of struggle you got to the point that that was fairly regular I could see strike committees and if campaigns extended geographically workers councils or whatever. But for now it seems to me setting up these struggle groups is the most important first step for organizing.

Chilli Sauce

10 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Good post Sab, what's OB?

klas batalo

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chilli Sauce

Good bump. I remember earlier in the thread someone asked about the committee model proposed by SolFed. This is from an article due out in the next Black Flag:

We don't claim to have all the answers and, in any case, mass struggle always throws up its own forms of self-organisation. However, we are consciously trying to build a self-organised workers movement. We do this through the creation of independent 'workplace committees' made up of militant workers who seek to identify winnable workplace grievances and tackle them through direct action. By building on small victories, we grow our committee, and take on larger grievances. These committees link through industrial networks to share tactics, develop strategy, and eventually begin taking on industry-wide issues.

The other advantage to this committee model is that it gives us, as revolutionaries, a way to reach out to and organise along our non-radical workmates. If folks join SF in the process, great! Fundamentally, however, it is this struggle—based in the workplace and around material conditions—politicises workers and provides us, as radicals, the space to begin talking about capitalism and class struggle.

So an interesting thing about this, is these committees are independent from SolFed there seems to be a lot of emphasis on that, and when I am feeling more ultra-left I'd say I agree, (edit: it seems like I did above). What I do know though is that I've heard on and off around Recomposition folks is that they think we really should instead be trying to recruit people to the IWW, and it provides longer term commitment. Maybe that is actually the same additude that SolFed has, that ideally you want folks to join then revolutionary union, but you will respect peoples autonomy at same time?

klas batalo

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chilli Sauce

Good post Sab, what's OB?

Out of Business.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh, OOB ;)

these committees are independent from SolFed there seems to be a lot of emphasis on that, and when I am feeling more ultra-left I'd say I agree, (edit: it seems like I did above). What I do know though is that I've heard on and off around Recomposition folks is that they think we really should instead be trying to recruit people to the IWW, and it provides longer term commitment. Maybe that is actually the same additude that SolFed has, that ideally you want folks to join then revolutionary union, but you will respect peoples autonomy at same time?

Lot to say their comrade.

On the joining stuff, I can speak from my experience helping to write Direct Unionism. One point of definite difference between the authors was how much to emphasise membership.

I think I can sum up the difference between the IWW and SF position as follows (although I'd be glad to hear Wob's opinions, esp the Direct Unionists):

IWW: recruit individuals who are practising solidarity unionism. Deeper political conversations will happen later once they're in the organisation.

SF: recruit individuals who are both practising solidarity unionism and, through conversations had as a result of involvement in struggle, have come identify with the aims of SF and abide by the A&Ps.

Worthwhile thread on that here.

So, yeah, ideally, as SFers encourage struggles--acting through the independent and autonomous workplace committees--we pick up members through their practical experience of struggle and the space for deeper conversations that opens up. However, our main goal is to see anarcho-syndicalist methods (if not sensibilities) spread as widely throughout the class as possible.

I think we'll pick up SF members through this process and form functioning revolutionary unions (although I can't ever really see us ever being more than a minority in most workplaces), but the political-economic revolutionary union will always be made up of anarcho-syndicalists. We'll spread the struggle as widely as possible, however, through the workplace committees and, ultimate, workplace assemblies.

Nate

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chilli Sauce

the difference between the IWW and SF position (...)
IWW: recruit individuals who are practising solidarity unionism. Deeper political conversations will happen later once they're in the organisation.

I'd put it more like this for the IWW:
Recruit individuals who are involved in IWW organizing. 'Recruiting' involves having conversation about the IWW preamble and the vision and values included there, and actively trying to convince people of that vision. Everyone who becomes a member is expected to abide by the preamble and share that vision. Further political conversations will happen later once they're in the organization.

That's not to say it always actually happens this way, but it's supposed to and is what we aim for. (I cut the bit about solidarity unionism, because the IWW does sometimes - regretably, IMHO - practice contractual type organizing. The orientation toward recruiting is meant to be the same either way though. I would say that contractual organizing has pressures that push against talking frankly about the preamble and our core values, but that's not something the IWW as a whole agrees on. Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand...)

I think this is closer to what you describe for SolFed:

Chilli Sauce

SF: recruit individuals who are both practising solidarity unionism and, through conversations had as a result of involvement in struggle, have come identify with the aims of SF and abide by the A&Ps.

Also, last I knew, SolFed did not require 'solidarity unionism'/'direct unionism'. This may have changed, or I may remember wrong, but I recall the SolFed industrial strategy document including participating in other unions or pursuing recognition sometimes. That is, it seems like SolFed is an organization where direct unionism is the predominant vision or approach but where it's not mandated/required. That's what the IWW is like in the US as well. If I'm right about SF (apologies if not) then it seems to me that really the SF position is more like 'recruit individual through organizing whether solidarity unionist or otherwise', like the IWW.

Anyway, that aside, comparing these --

IWW: Recruit individuals who are involved in IWW organizing, including conversation that seeks to get them to agree with the IWW preamble. Further political conversations will happen later once they're in the organization.

SF: recruit individuals who are both practising solidarity unionism and, through conversations had as a result of involvement in struggle, have come identify with the aims of SF and abide by the A&Ps.

It seems to me that the main difference in vision here is at the level of the difference between the IWW preamble and SF's aims and principles. (Which I've read but don't remember so I can't speak to those differences right now.)

Harrison

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think building SF capacity to recruit within it's workplace committees is going to require a pretty big effort to develop workable strategies and techniques at this. In my opinion, considering we won't have the luxury to publicise our committees, its not enough to leave it as something that each SF organiser has to figure out for themselves as i just can't see it getting off the ground that way. (sorry if that puts a downer on the discussion)

Auto

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Harrison

I think building SF capacity to recruit within it's workplace committees is going to require a pretty big effort to develop workable strategies and techniques at this. In my opinion, considering we won't have the luxury to publicise our committees, its not enough to leave it as something that each SF organiser has to figure out for themselves as i just can't see it getting off the ground that way. (sorry if that puts a downer on the discussion)

*The following post is long, rambling and a bit stream-of-consciousness. Some points might need clarifying*

I agree with Harrison. I have been attempting to organise in my workplace, following the SF model, for some time now. Collectively speaking, me and my colleagues have come a long way. We've developed a very strong collective identity that crosses the fake divide between permanent and contract workers but excludes the line manager. We have used online messaging to create a space where we can talk amongst ourselves outside of the gaze of management. We've even had some victories, avoiding a prospective pay-cut, getting new chairs and an ergonomic workplace assessment after collective complaints - we're now talking about a collective push for a wage increase. Bearing in mind that I work in a historically un-organised, low paid and precarious industry, we've come a long way.

The thing is, most of this has happened spontaneously - arising from the material conditions of me and my workmates - combined with, quite frankly, either a very stupid or very confident employer that pays no heed to damping down tensions in their workforce. I have played a role in this though. I believe SolFed has given me the knowledge and tools to act as an effective catalyst in my workplace. Having done the workplace training, I'm now far better able to support and nurture this emerging collective feeling; helping to agitate against things such as low wages, increased workload and overtime.

The thing that I am confused about is how SolFed fits into this as a Union body. As things stand, I'm still just an isolated militant. An isolated militant who has received good advice and training, but isolated nonetheless. I can't see any of my fellow workers ever joining SolFed - which is a shame, as some of them have moved into an essentially anti-capitalist, anti-boss position. To those few trusted workmates who know my politics, SolFed is just 'that group [Auto] is in' - along with all the preconceptions and assumptions that go with Anarchist political groups. SolFed does not really exist in my workmates' world as an active agent.

This is a bridge I still think that we need to figure out how to cross. My work in organising has left me facing workmates who are clearly sympathetic to libertarianism and worker self-organisation, but there seems to be no easy way for them to engage with SolFed as a wider organisation (or Anarchism as a whole for that matter). They remain locked out by the mis-perception of what anarchism and anarchist groups actually are.

klas batalo

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

@Auto

Well one way SolFed could get more in the picture would be to salt in another SolFed member possibly. As in train a member to get a job there as a salt. The reason I think this is important is because then you could eventually when working with developing relationships it is not just silly Auto, but also Salty, for lack of a name.

So I know that could seem sorta weird perhaps, I don't know your workplace, but it would be an institutional form of support from the rest of the union, if your workplace made sense and was strategic to try to organize.

Steven.

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Auto, that's a really good post. And I would be really interesting to read a write-up of your organising experience at some point - respecting your anonymity of course (you could pretend to be in a different country, for example…)

Anyway, there is a union at my work but basically my experience chimes a lot with yours. Certainly with respect to the relationship between the political group and the workplace organising. I mean, I'm in the AF but the position is the same even though Solfed is trying to be something different. Although in reality I think that this is going to be the situation for all of us for the foreseeable future, except for those of us who work for really big employers with thousands of workers - then we could end up with a handful of members, but the situation would be comparable.

At least Solfed has done a good job passing on these organising skills to its own members, which AF hasn't (although of course AF members have attended the Solfed training)

Auto

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

@Steve Yeah, I am planning on writing up my experience at some point soon. It's going to take a while, as my workplace has been evolving for a few years now, so there'll be a lot to write about.

@Sabotage Well we did have one member (now moved on to another local) who was considering for applying for a job in my department, but it never came to anything. I can see how it'd work, but I'm not sure I'd advocate putting in other SolFed members from outside.

The strength in our department is that we have an actual open and grassroots forum for discussion. We use digital messaging to have collective chats off the department mailing list (which naturally includes the manager by default). I like to think of it as a 'digital shop-floor'. Like a shop floor, it's mostly just idle chat about work, but sometimes it does become a forum for serious, open discussion.

One example: when our annual pay review was coming around, we naturally started talking about wages, and it eventually moved on to how we should really push for more money. In the discussions, me and my workmates were kind of stretched out between two opposing poles. Me and a few others were of the opinion that the bosses would probably try and screw us over. Another couple of workers were taking the line that the bosses were 'reasonable people' and would see us alright. Most of the department was spread somewhere in-between. In the end, they tried to give the contract workers who were being made permanent a lower pay rise than they gave the rest of us for the same promotion a year earlier (so essentially a pay cut). We determined a strategy for it and managed to at least ensure everyone got the same wage rise as we did before. That was essentially the first action we took collectively.

Now to me, the strength of that was it was a collective act from which everybody came away more knowledgeable. Those who had taken the boss-friendly line couldn't help but be taken aback by the audacity of what the bosses had tried to do. It wasn't a case of 'ha-ha, we were right', simply that some of us knew what the bosses would be up to, now everyone knows.

As I say, I'm unsure where SolFed fits into this as my Union. I have a couple of workmates who, while not 'anarchists' or 'political' have essentially come to an anti-capitalist, pro-worker, anti-boss stance on the real practical issues of their daily lives - it is these people, I think, that SolFed could really start to engage with.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Nate

last I knew, SolFed did not require 'solidarity unionism'/'direct unionism'. This may have changed, or I may remember wrong, but I recall the SolFed industrial strategy document including participating in other unions or pursuing recognition sometimes. That is, it seems like SolFed is an organization where direct unionism is the predominant vision or approach but where it's not mandated/required. That's what the IWW is like in the US as well. If I'm right about SF (apologies if not) then it seems to me that really the SF position is more like 'recruit individual through organizing whether solidarity unionist or otherwise', like the IWW.

That's pretty fair comrade. I only used 'solidarity unionism' as shorthand for a type of organising that the libcom users would quickly identify with.

It seems to me that the main difference in vision here is at the level of the difference between the IWW preamble and SF's aims and principles.

Maybe, I don't know, I think this is something that's really tough in the IWW. To be perfectly honest, I don't think the tension between being an ostensibly non-political organisation that advocates workers coming together under its banner and practising syndicalist methods while also having an explicitly socialist preamble (that quotes Marx!) has ever really been resolved in the IWW.

I think the IWW and SF could actually run broadly similar campaigns, but I think the key difference is that IWW does want workers struggling in it's name in a way that I'm not sure SF does.

I think we could have a situation where a functioning SF union leads a campaign in a workplace or even an industry, but I think the goal is only to have enough committed anarcho-syndicalists involved to make getting the campaign off the ground a realistic possibility.

From there, it's about catalyzing struggle and hopefully winning over militants to our practice and politics in the process. And since we don't necessarily want the struggle under the SF banner (although, of course we'd promote the struggle and offer organisational support), there'd be a different emphasis placed on membership.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Two good posts, Auto. Good to have you floating back around on libcom and to hear what you've been getting up to.

I'm only going to respond to one short bit:

Auto

The thing that I am confused about is how SolFed fits into this as a Union body. As things stand, I'm still just an isolated militant. An isolated militant who has received good advice and training, but isolated nonetheless. I can't see any of my fellow workers ever joining SolFed - which is a shame, as some of them have moved into an essentially anti-capitalist, anti-boss position. To those few trusted workmates who know my politics, SolFed is just 'that group [Auto] is in' - along with all the preconceptions and assumptions that go with Anarchist political groups. SolFed does not really exist in my workmates' world as an active agent.

This is a bridge I still think that we need to figure out how to cross...

I arrived at a fairly similar place in my organising at work. I had two 'levels' or workplace committees and we'd had various fights with the bosses--most of which we actually won. Most of my workmates didn't know my politics explicitly--I was the "revolutionary" or the one folks tried to convince to become the union rep (or, worse, the prime minister...). But folks were involved and, as you put it, had developed a 'collective identity'.

So what I was trying to do in relation to SF was to begin inviting workmates to practical SF activities outside of the workplace. London SF began running trainings (well, I was running them to be honest) on labour law and the like. I also invited some workmates out to anti-workfare actions and SYB stalls, too. I was hoping to get the most militant and dedicated workmates (it'd be a self-selecting group, anyway) out to events like that and, combined with our workplaces experiences, use them as a springboard to talk about SF and begin deeper political conversations.

Of course, I've now left that job, but that was my strategy and I wasn't without my successes.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This is great thread, btw. Thanks again to Syndicalist for starting it.

Harrison

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

@auto thanks for expanding on my post in a way i wasn't able to !(because i have no prior practice organising at work) "Digital shop floor" is wholely awesome.

Chilli Sauce

So what I was trying to do in relation to SF was to begin inviting workmates to practical SF activities outside of the workplace. London SF began running trainings (well, I was running them to be honest) on labour law and the like. I also invited some workmates out to anti-workfare actions and SYB stalls, too. I was hoping to get the most militant and dedicated workmates (it'd be a self-selecting group, anyway) out to events like that and, combined with our workplaces experiences, use them as a springboard to talk about SF and being deeper political conversations.

thanks for expanding on that !

syndicalist

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ah, good to see some action here.

Auto: "The thing is, most of this has happened spontaneously - arising from the material conditions of me and my workmates - combined with, quite frankly, either a very stupid or very confident employer that pays no heed to damping down tensions in their workforce."

Comrade, oft times stuff will arise spontanesously, not always, but often enough. And I have generally found the boss to be a "better organizer" then us...because they oft times hand us the isusues on a silver f'ing platter! We just need to figure out how best to run with it when they do.

"The thing that I am confused about is how SolFed fits into this as a Union body. As things stand, I'm still just an isolated militant. An isolated militant who has received good advice and training, but isolated nonetheless. I can't see any of my fellow workers ever joining SolFed - which is a shame, as some of them have moved into an essentially anti-capitalist, anti-boss position."

I can't speak to this directly, as I'm not there or a Solfed member. If I may, let me suggest that your bridge might simply be a committee of shopmates.
If folks are not anti-organization, a shop committee can be just as effective as a union. After all, "union" means working together (ain't gonna use the real meaning, working in unionison ...wink, wink).
prolly the most important thing is keeping folks together, having your workplace assemblies, working on rotating delegation and so forth. I would think, short of going full Solfed-whatever, build the content, build the practice,gain some self-organized victories work the stuff as if Solfed was there. Maybe, other things will eventually fall into place.

Auto, sometimes it's not what we call ourselves or the rethoric we use, but how we conduct ourselves and constructively work with and bring in our workmates and engage the boss.

Well, good luck from across the pond!

Nate

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chilli Sauce

It seems to me that the main difference in vision here is at the level of the difference between the IWW preamble and SF's aims and principles.

(...)

I think the IWW and SF could actually run broadly similar campaigns, but I think the key difference is that IWW does want workers struggling in it's name in a way that I'm not sure SF does. (...) we don't necessarily want the struggle under the SF banner (although, of course we'd promote the struggle and offer organisational support), there'd be a different emphasis placed on membership.

That's really helpful, thanks. I agree. That's a big difference. But I think it's a difference over when to recruit and why, not how to recruit. I think the IWW is super sloppy in practice on this but I think the basic vision of how to recruit is what I said before, and I think that's basically the same as what you said about SolFed. Does that seem fair to you?

Joseph Kay

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Good post Auto. I think the 'problem' here is you're ahead of the curve in SF and we're playing catch-up. What I mean is 'phase 1 of operation become a union' has been focused on shifting from the culture of a propaganda group to an organising culture, putting in place the training and support to support this. This has been pretty successful, albeit very much ongoing and from a low base. E.g. SF/EWN has already been more supportive to my workplace organising than the official recognised union, which is mainly a wing of management. Perhaps that says more about Unison than SF/EWN, but still it shows being a union is about more than raw membership numbers.

The plus side is we're exploring new territory. The downside is we're now off the map, so to speak. i.e. we haven't fully worked out phase 2, which is the position people with active workplace committees are in. In my experience having a few militant workmates who are anti-boss, broadly anti-capitalist, anti-party politics and where there is one anti-union (in a good way) isn't that unusual. But people aren't idiots, and if they're active in a workplace committee and that's all they want to be doing, what does SF membership offer them?

The answer to that will vary, but at present it isn't necessarily much. Mainstream unions can offer various services and representation, as well as the possibility for lawful ballots. We can't, and don't want to. And we're not going to refuse to say, accompany a workmate to a disciplinary if they ask us to because they're not a member either. Which kinda leaves identification with the wider aims and activities of SF as the main reason to join at this stage (industrial networking may become a more significant pull in future).

I haven't quite got to this point yet, but I'm thinking along the lines of inviting my most militant workmates to an organiser training and opening up conversations about SF/anarcho-syndicalism around that. I've already had quite a few chats about organising in previous jobs without a recognised union, so I hope I've prepared some of the ground. I'm also lucky to be in a job with both a job branch and an active industrial network, which opens up a few other possibilities (i.e. getting other EWN people down to swap notes with workmates, and see they'd be plugging into an active if modest industrial organisation, or inviting workmates to workplace SF meetings).

In terms of the 'spontaneous' stuff... Well the gambit of anarcho-syndicalism is that every workplace is full of potential grievances which tend to be atomised without organisation. It doesn't necessarily take much to collectivise them, but often it does need a catalyst (since the whole of management theory and practice is about controlling the workforce and diffusing tensions before they lead to spontaneous open revolt). And this gambit is what underlies the orientation to future growth through workplace activity rather than the existing milieu (even if we haven't worked out the specifics of recruitment yet).

I wouldn't underestimate the catalytic role you've played either, e.g. I remember talking to you about several of the things you mention before they happened. That things develop pretty organically is a good sign, it's been the same in my workplace too with some low level job conditioning stuff. But equally, this never really happened much in jobs I've worked pre-organiser training, where spontaneous stuff remained pretty individualised and I kinda blundered about on instinct. I think sometimes it is as simple as having some structured conversations to break the isolation people feel, which means collective discussions of grievances become the norm (and collective action therefore is a small next step).

Perhaps a practical thing we can do is schedule a brainstorming session on phase 2 'becoming a union' for the southern regional conference in July. I think it would be really helpful for people with active workplace groups and/or committees to get together face-to-face and swap notes. Would be interesting to discuss what people feel they need to progress (e.g. if you'd like an industrial network in your sector, could we come up with a tailored workplace organiser training based on your experiences and advertise it across the sector? I dunno, just brainstorming).

Auto

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think your post has hit the nail on the head JK. SF has enabled me to be a more effective militant in a un-unionised, historically un-organised workplace, but SF currently has no decided strategy beyond that (as you say, because we've never been here before).

Perhaps a practical thing we can do is schedule a brainstorming session on phase 2 'becoming a union' for the southern regional conference in July. I think it would be really helpful for people with active workplace groups and/or committees to get together face-to-face and swap notes. Would be interesting to discuss what people feel they need to progress (e.g. if you'd like an industrial network in your sector, could we come up with a tailored workplace organiser training based on your experiences and advertise it across the sector? I dunno, just brainstorming).

I think this would be a brilliant practical step forward. Now that we have some people successfully agitating and organising with their workmates we should be getting together to discuss 'what next'. Hopefully SF can further develop its strategy off the back of discussions like this.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I think it's a difference over when to recruit and why, not how to recruit.

Nate, I definitely agree with this part of your post, I need to give it further thought for the subsequent question.

---

I should also note that in my workplace, I also managed to get a workmate or two out to the organiser training. I think it's good because it presents SF (1) not just as boring political organisation, but a group that actually does worthwhile things and (2) offers our support even if you don't subscribe to our politics, which I actually think is a really good way to get someone to engage with our politics!

On that same note, I think it's really good that in London we've instituted less-boring, more practical working group meetings. We've intentionally made these more social, always include an abridged new members chat. We always invite prospective members to them, not the business meeting.

In my (limited) experience, folks who get into politics through actual activity don't want the to do the boring, adminny side of things, but actually want to participate in practical activity. The adminny stuff is, unfortunately, inevitable, but the working groups allow us to bridge the gap in a way that is hopefully more appealing to workmates who may eventually get involved in SF through workplace activity.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This post may be relevant to this discussion, esp re: workmates and organizer trainings.

syndicalist

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Auto

This is a bridge I still think that we need to figure out how to cross. My work in organising has left me facing workmates who are clearly sympathetic to libertarianism and worker self-organisation, but there seems to be no easy way for them to engage with SolFed as a wider organisation (or Anarchism as a whole for that matter). They remain locked out by the mis-perception of what anarchism and anarchist groups actually are.

This is a problem we have had for decades across the pond as well. While we never stopped extending invitations to join us in/for stuff, the few symp. coworkers never really did. The best was go get some folks over to a local bar for some drinks and have convos about the shop, the union, ideas and how we could do stuff in the shop. I just think some of this is really just long-range planning and, if possible, commitment to being on the job.

klas batalo

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reflecting on Syndicalist's comments on Auto's post, I just wanted to mention that I think that this is why historically there has been a tendency towards trying to present options that are more broad and open for working on the mass level in the movement over the pond. You see this from folks promoting "trade unions that are open to all workers", to the IWW with it's apolitical revolutionary syndicalism that is open to all workers, or even I guess the calls for open committees and assemblies. Gosh, even the WSA historically has had a more broad public face, trying to avoid the @ word to later in pieces and publications. IDK I think how open we can be depends on the historical situation. There is certainly periods historically where pro-revolutionaries used different terms publicly, like libertarian, or social democracy.

Also I'd like to stress that you'll be amazed what more militant co-workers or community members will do/join with you after you've built solid relationships and trust. I think this is the benefit of the long term approach of sticking in some roots if possible that SolFed talks about a bit, and especifists too.

syndicalist

9 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Right quick...... the time I was refering to in my earlier post was when most of us worked in shops covered by reformist unions. This dynamic (except in public sector) is somewhat played out. I suspect if one organizes within the confines of, say, the IWW or a self-organized independent, the door is open a bit more to some radical talk/education at union meetings and trainings. But I suppose there are some serious limitations there as well.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Chilli Sauce

Better than we know ourselves: a ruling class view of the trade unions.

I'll post it up in the library once the next Black Flag comes out.

For you Syndicalist:

http://libcom.org/library/better-we-know-ourselves-ruling-class-view-trade-unions

A Wotsit

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm having a workplace orgainising dilemma. My line manager has been invited to our (as yet unformed, but very much potential) workers' committee. She is well known to be pro-worker (to an extent) and to openly challenge senior management's decisions. Should I just let her come (I do trust her not to deliberately undermine our efforts) or try and prevent management infiltration?

:bb:

syndicalist

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

stateless_crow

I'm having a workplace orgainising dilemma. My line manager has been invited to our (as yet unformed, but very much potential) workers' committee. She is well known to be pro-worker (to an extent) and to openly challenge senior management's decisions. Should I just let her come (I do trust her not to deliberately undermine our efforts) or try and prevent management infiltration?

:bb:

In general I'd be very weary. Is this like a working supervisor? has the right to hire and fire?
Will see feel you're organizing against her? What's the benefit of inviting her or having her participate?

Sometimes "pro-worker" supervisors are, like you said, "pro-worker" to a point. The best you can have her be is "nuetral" to as large a degree as possible.

syndicalist

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

DP

A Wotsit

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks Syndicalist,

"Is this like a working supervisor? has the right to hire and fire?"
She's a proper manager, not just a supervisor- she is sometimes part of the interview panel for staff that she'll manage but afaik has never, and is not to likely to, get anyone fired (though of course she may 'have' to under certain circumstances).

"Will she feel you're organizing against her?"
I don't think she will feel like we'll be organising against her. No one has any real beef with her. I am concerned that some people might be wary of what they say around her. She is a bit 'direct' and can rant (in an impassioned/ stressed rather than aggressive way), so those who don't know her well are sometimes a bit scared of her, and she can talk over people which might be annoying at meetings. One person she manages was upset when they got a fairly low (if partly justifiable) appraisal rating but tbf my manager was open from the start that she thought appraisal scores were a shit idea and she hates grading people. Bearing those things in mind perhaps some people might be reluctant to speak out in front of her at first- but most of us trust her more than the non-management snitches.

"What's the benefit of inviting her or having her participate?"
I think she's probably the second most militant person in my 'service'- so she might encourage others to take action if she comes to our meetings. She might be able to give us a heads up on management decisions that we should resist (as she has done in the past).

As well as challenging (and encouraging us to challenge) senior management decisions, she also covers for us when we're late, supports strikes, encourages people to join the union (which she is critical of to an extent- but thinks wider participation is a good thing). She encourages people to organise and is consistently generally safe as fuck. Her politics are confused but she definitely has some socialist (borderline communist) ideas. She's a former shop steward. Possibly a Trot or former one.

Rather than her being management's stooge, my main concern is that she might accidentally let something slip to one of the other managers inadvertently. There are so many managers at my workplace. In my service we have about 5 managers who manage 1-6 people each and a very unpopular service manager who manages them and quite a few layers of management above the service manager too (I work in local govt). The service manager is the one who capitulates to the tyrannical whims of her boss and is the one almost all people seem to consistently dislike (and some dislike their own line managers as well).

There is no way I would consider having any of the other managers involved in the committee, only one of the others is similarly decent, but he is not militant, just relaxed and a nice person. He didn't break the last strike at my workplace (he is not in the union but decided not to cross the picket on principle) I do think because there are so many managers in my shop that if we decide on collective action, we might want to involve one or two of the line managers (if we feel they can be trusted) after we've agreed to take action.

In my workplace it is very common for managers to be in the union (Unison) in my particular team half of the managers (inc. service manager) are in Unison- though we have some non-management GMB members too.

Originally I was going to try and make use of the union to organise. I became the shop steward and recruited a couple of people but I don't think the remaining non-members want to join, and the new members don't seem inclined to get active in organising via Unison. There is a general feeling that Unison is whack and too expensive to join and ineffective but there seems to be some appetite for organising (certainly for meeting informally at first), and people are starting to see my crazy militant ideas as more and more credible as we are slowly starting to be more open with one another about our workplace issues and begin to feel less isolated and recognise our common grievances.

I think I've talked myself round to accepting (maybe even welcoming) her presence at our after-work workers meetings (which will hopefully become a committee) but will just double check other people are happy for her to come before we invite her properly and I'll make sure no one else lets slip to any of the other managers that the workers are organising.

Chilli Sauce

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

wow, well it certainly seems like you've got potential in your workplace. I wouldn't invite your manager. In my organizing I often think there is a time and place to 'reach up' to lower levels of mgmt--during strikes or on common issues like pensions--but that doesn't extend to having them on your committee. As you've alluded to, she could be nice as fuck, but she's still a step up in the workplace hierarchy. If senior mgmt tell her to enforce a shitty policy or determine one person who has to be made redundant, that shit's her job regardless of her politics or her sympathies.

klas batalo

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

agreed with chilli you need to find a way to educate and innoculate your fellow workers on why this is a bad idea.

also is this already a done deal, did others already invite them?

syndicalist

9 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

No prob. stateless_crow.

It wll be interesting to see how the supervisor thing plays out. Caution is the better part of valor they say.

This is pretty cool:

Originally I was going to try and make use of the union to organise. I became the shop steward and recruited a couple of people but I don't think the remaining non-members want to join, and the new members don't seem inclined to get active in organising via Unison. There is a general feeling that Unison is whack and too expensive to join and ineffective but there seems to be some appetite for organising (certainly for meeting informally at first), and people are starting to see my crazy militant ideas as more and more credible as we are slowly starting to be more open with one another about our workplace issues and begin to feel less isolated and recognise our common grievances.

Unsoliciited advice: don't get too far ahead of everyone with your "crazy militant ideas". Pace them. Roll 'em out a fast or as slow as folks wish to grab on to them. Don't leave yourself way exposed, co-workers sometimes have a funny way of sometimes either running to you or way fast away from you when the heat comes down.

Keep us posted.

Solidarity!

syndicalist

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Bump ---- re-read

drakeberkman

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Though I try not to move around as much these days, I'm a pretty migrant worker, so I change workplaces a few times or more a year if I'm working at all as I move between cities and states. This makes it hard to actually establish any sort of long-term or permanent practice on the job.

Even though I'm rarely in a position to establish anything lasting, I still strive to make my co-workers conscious of both their legal rights in the workplace and their general ability to collectively dictate job conditions.

When I'm in kitchens or fast food, I usually manage to organize what I call "shittalk committees", which are basically just little informal groups that gather in the break room during breaks and lulls or before and after shifts to talk shit about the job and management. Sometimes in these meetings we devise ways to improve our lot too. One example being at McDonald's, where we have "lockdown" periods when you can't leave your station to use the restroom for about 2 hours about three times a day. We all agreed to just not follow that rule and whenever a manager would confront someone about it, the rest of us would stop working and back them up. As soon as food stopped going out, the manager would back down and let them go so the rest of us would get back to work.

Another time I was washing dishes in Richmond, Virginia under the table. I was doing this with a group of about 8 other people between two restaurants. We effectively had job control over the dish pits, so when we realized this, we started acting like it. We started organizing the dishwashers' schedules ourselves instead of having the owners tell us when to work, and we managed to get a one dollar raise for everyone at one of the restaurants. This was all fleeting though as people moved on or got promoted to other parts of the restaurants. After about a month the "Dishwashers Union Local 1" fell apart.

At a hardwood moulding factory I worked at, we hated working in our section in the winter because it was the coldest part of the floor and was always below freezing. On top of that, management wouldn't let us wear gloves while operating machinery (to be fair, gloves did have a tendency to get caught in sanders and whatnot, so it wasn't generally a bad rule). The lunchroom was heated though, so every day, instead of taking a thirty minute lunch break as was allotted, a few of us would just stay in there for an extra fifteen minutes or so to soak up every bit of warmth we could. After a few weeks, a few grew to about a dozen in a factory of 100 workers. A couple of us (including myself) who took the longer lunches were the only ones who knew how to run a certain segment of production in the factory - not even management knew the technical aspects of it - so we would take responsibility for the extended stays and management couldn't reprimand us too badly because they needed us to run those machines and fulfill those orders, or else they'd be screwed.

When I worked on river boats back in the spring, a lot of the guys I worked with had virtually no knowledge of labor law, so in the galley I'd often talk to them about facets of the NLRB and workers rights. I didn't have the job long enough to really do much beyond that with anyone and no one was really receptive to the ideas of the NLRB and labor law generally - for better or worse. I wasn't able to do much there, but I know other militants are playing their part to make some changes at the company, with more success than me.

Chilli Sauce

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks for sharing, Drake!

scarface

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It is better to think that there is no difference btw what u do in the workplace and afterwards. As the work time and free time distinction is an illuision, you need to combine each other to effectively combat capitalism and its representative at the workplace (bosses, spy workers and higher position stuff) but how come? İt is simple, whatever you do, you have to learn what is going behind at both organizational level and work settings. You firstly need to learn your legal rights, learn who is who, learn the history of your workplace, learn the syndicate you belong to etc. Knowledge is important. As a communist, you need to single out in every relation how can you get people to see the issue politically as you see. Make clear your position in the discussions. Be open to discussion, negotiation and show your ethical preferences to others. Make them (not only your working friends but also those around you) to acknowledge that we as workers are on the same boat. Think of that you and the communists can defeat this bourgoise ideology. Working conditions are hard for everyone, so show your friends that they are not alone. Always refer to the global issues and connect those issues to the local reality. This would be about increasing working hours or even on sports, always show alternative ways of thinking of an issiue. it is better to organize against the ideological apparatus of this society. The question is not only the problems at workplace, but the whole repressive social relations ranging from family to consumption practices. So wo changing ourself and those around us, we can not stabilize and make clear a perspective that is liberterian and communal in theoretical terms.

To sum up; I see basically three parties in getting organized

1 ) Workers: to help yourself and others finding out the creative potential we have, so by this way, we can assure that our class have the single alternative to organize affairs according to our wishes.

2) Intellectuals and so called middle class activists : to unravel capitalist ideological nonsense in every social sphere (not only in production/working time but also in consumption/free time domain) , help mainly the 3rd parties in the professional organizational affairs.

3) Those trade-unionists and activists who belong to various political organizations but open to discussion and against capitalism: to get involve in discussions and make clear the best political position for working classes on a global level and to unmask the reality behind the political agenda of the bourgeoise. They also have to form working classes agendas by providing the common ideological vocabulary of the oppressed against the bourgeoise.

It is impossible to become all parties at the sime time but the real communists or libertarians are the ones who have the ability to outline the conditions that we are in and foresee the possibilities for the communist or libertarian movement.

syndicalist

5 years 11 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Intersting and thanks for the share.

drakeberkman -- I wasn't able to do much there, but I know other militants are playing their part to make some changes at the company, with more success than me.

I'm a firm believer that someone has to go first. That others either build or, destroy or develop their own path based on the work of those who came before them.