Image contribution by Monica Kostas
Today’s piece comes to us from Daniel Cole who lives and works in Australia as a early childhood educator. His perspective shines light on what it’s like to do strenuous childcare work, and how managers and disconnected executives worsen the load by making ridiculous guidelines and demands, while pinning providers on a scale that doesn’t truly measure their experience and value. He aims to get other educators on board with imagining what it would be like to autonomously run childhood centers, and what can be done to organize in that direction.
Gabriel Kuhn is an anarchist activist living in Sweden and author of an impressive array of histories, translations, and collections published on anarchism, history of the left, and sports. His energy for writing is matched by a passion for soccer as a longtime fan and once professional athlete. We interviewed him about his experiences playing for a living, radical history, and controversies today.
Track / Image by Monica Kostas
Today our 5th installment in Politics on the Field comes to us from Chicago where Kingsley Clarke discusses his love of track and field, a view into youth coaching of the sport, and the class and racial dynamics that exist today.
Cleats / Image by Monica Kostas
Last week we focused on history and professional political athletes. Our contribution today comes from South Florida where Marcos Restrepo brings us to the world of youth sports in our fourth installment of Politics on the Field. With the Super Bowl past us and all the attention the world plays to sports industries and media, it’s important to remember that where sports grows from in the innumerable fields and arenas where children learn and play. Restrepo presents a picture of these games a father and someone critical of what capitalism has done to a game that continues to capture the passion and imagination of millions.
MMA Fighter Jeff Monson
In the third installment of our series “Politics on the Field” we bring the story of three IWW athletes. This piece of history is written by IWW Neil Parthun, a sports show host, who offers a glimpse into the lives and trajectories of the IWW members who played sports as a career, and ends with his reflections on labor in professional sports.
A Goal / Image by Monica Kostas
Last week we began our series Politics on the Field featuring pieces about where sports, life, and politics intersect. The second contribution comes to us from Monica Kostas, who also has done the artwork for our series as well many Recomposition works. She describes soccer in the life of her hometown while giving background on the sport’s history and radical roots, and reflections on playing in a militant life. In an era of unprecedented money driving the clubs and leagues, soccer gets lost in the ruckus of what capitalism does to it. With her piece, Monica reminds us of the beauty and joy that’s at stake to fight for a match worth playing.
Hat Trick / Image by Monica Kostas
We are proud to present the first installment of our newest series Politics on the Field. Each week Recomposition will bring you an article for the next month and a half focusing on the connections between sports, politics, and our daily lives. The series will feature some history, an interview, narratives, and a little bit of theory. Our first work comes to us from John O’Reilly in Minnesota and is about his experiences working at a liquor store. Sports is often there in the background shaping our interactions, defining relationships, and reflecting the struggles and aspirations of workers. In Hat Trick O’Reilly reminds us of the role of sports setting out the divisions and unity in our lives.
Seamstresses at work
The fourth installment in our ‘How I was radicalized’ series comes from Romina Akemi. She describes working at a garment factory in the American South, where she was mentored by an older co-worker. Romina recently moved back to Chile from Los Angeles, where she was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Black Rose Anarchist Federation.
For the previous posts on this series: Part I / Part II / Part III
The third installment in our ‘How I was radicalized’ series comes from Okwute Ekwensu. His powerful account describes the experience of leading a criminal life that led to incarceration, followed by his radicalization in prison. Okwute lives in the Twin Cities and is involved in the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC).
Part 1|Part 2|Part 3
The second part of our ‘How were you radicalized?’ series brings us to the 2000s. Starting with his family roots in the South African anti-apartheid and American civil rights movements, the author takes us through the post-9/11 and Iraq War era, a time when many of us found the radical left. This piece was written by our friend, Dee, who is in First of May Anarchist Alliance as well as the IWW. Although a lifelong Midwesterner, he is currently living in South Africa.
For May Day, we are presenting the start of a new multipart series around the question ‘How were you radicalized?’ On the radical left, many people often speak of their protest or organizing experiences, almost like old war veterans. But one of the more interesting stories…people’s personal path to radical politics, aren’t always told.
The first part in our series takes us briefly though the ’60s and ’70s and is from Tom Wetzel. Tom’s other writings can be found on his personal website, as well as on ideas & action, a publication by Workers Solidarity Alliance (WSA).
Is Life Worth Living or Should I Blast Myself?
This week’s piece Is Life Worth Living or Should I Blast Myself?, first appeared in the blog Poe Man’s Dreams which narrates some of the miseries and experiences of everyday life for people with few resources. This particular story is an account of being a juvenile delinquent and having to live with a family who had a multitude of issues. Check it out below.
(In case you’ve missed it, we also posted Exhibit A from the same author a few weeks ago.)
Trigger warning: Accounts or discussion of suicide, sexual assault, self-harm, drug abuse and physical abuse
This week’s piece Exhibit A, first appeared in the relatively new blog called Poe Man’s Dreams which narrates the miseries and experiences of everyday life for people with few resources.
Check out the story below.
Introduction to Poe Man’s Dreams, a blog about experiencing ‘the struggle‘ in the American Midwest.
It’s like I’m trapped in a maze walk around in a daze
I won’t rest ’til I’m paid or I’m down in my grave
I wanna look tough, but my sneakers is scuffed
Everyday pants in the week is enough
I had a little money, but it came and it went
Now its either pay the rent or stay in a tent
And it don’t make sense how the shit is intense
And all you got up in your pocket is lint, you get the hint?
I had a cigarette for breakfast, just for beginners
Pride for my lunch and sleep for dinner
I tried to go to church, priest called me a sinner
He called me everything, except for a winner
I’m walking in the rain wishing things would change
It ain’t a game, man I pawned all the rings and chains
Emotionally scarred from losing my job
Pass the nod nigga, times is hard
–G. Dep “Everyday” (featuring Faith Evans & Meelah)
Sketch contribution by Monica Kostas
Get ready to never see bus drivers the same way again. This week we feature a story by John O’Reilly who takes us through the route of his daily tribulations as a city bus driver in Minneapolis.
You’re just driving along, keeping your eyes open, checking side streets and blind alleys, and it happens. No warning. It jolts you, and you instinctively look down the road for the next blue reflective bus stop sign. If you know the route well, you can visualize exactly where the sign is. If it’s a route you don’t drive often, you push your eyes as far as you can see to find the next one in the thicket of poles on the side of the road.
It’s not until you’re a bus driver that you realize exactly how many signs crowd the boulevards of our cities. Only one among them is the one that your passenger has signaled for you to stop at, and you have the short time between registering the sound in your brain and where the sign sits to apply the full weight of your brakes, hundreds and hundreds of pounds of air pressure, to slow a half a million dollar vehicle to a stop without taking out a side mirror, hitting a biker or crushing a car, and maneuver it smoothly to the side of the road at exactly the spot where the passenger intends to alight. Every time, hundreds of times a day, it takes all your concentration to accomplish this simple, single task.
Surprise – by Monica Kostas
This week’s piece comes to us by a regular Recomposition contributor, Invisible Man. In the face of fierce debates on racism, profiling, protests, and riots, his anecdote detailing an altercation with cops in Alberta feels painfully relevant.
A Worthless Piece of Plastic
by Invisible Man
There’s nothing to do on a Saturday night in Lacombe. We want to see a movie. In the fall of 1999, the nearest theatre is half an hour’s drive away in Red Deer, Alberta.
So, as usual, we drive into town with a borrowed ride – Terry at the wheel. (He’s white, you have to think of these things.) We turn into the theatre parking lot to read the lighted billboard on the north side of the building. As usual, there is nothing worth seeing.
“Let’s go to the cheap theatre. At least we won’t be wasting our money on a crappy movie.”
“You wanna walk?”
“Yeah, let’s walk.”
Vicious Care – sketch by Monica Kostas
This week’s piece comes to us from fellow editor Scott Nappalos, a healthcare worker in Miami. He writes about the challenges of salvaging human interactions and compassion while working in a profiteering healthcare system that renders impotent patients and healthcare workers alike.
We Carry Our Failures:
Working With People in a Dehumanizing System
My patient would come back to the hospital just as soon as he left. We’ll call him Mr. Jones. His arm was mangled by a rare cancer that took his digit and much of his sensation and movement. He wore a hat over his thinning hair that read ‘Vietnam Veteran’. Rare cancer, God only knows what he was exposed to there. He took to me and would greet me and discuss his condition even when I wasn’t assigned to him, “it’s miserable” looking to his hand “living like this”.
Everyone took him to be a problem. They accused him of being a drug addict and using the hospital like a hotel for room and board, as he would sneak off the unit to smoke, talk to vets, buy junk food, and tool around outside in his wheelchair. Doctors would discharge him and he’d come right back. No one believed the stories he gave that were enough to get him readmitted, essentially living in the hospital for months despite discharges.
This week we bring you a second piece from a Starbucks worker about a firing, following Work to Rule. Part of struggle is not only the lessons and strategies, but also the experiences and the real life costs that occur when we start to take action. This submission succinctly takes us though one woman’s experience that ended too soon.
I think back to the last I worked at Starbucks on 80th and York, and recall what a beautiful day it was outside, that day was a nice break from the harsh winter we had this past year. As I walked into the store that day, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. However I still clocked in for my shift at 2:15 pm to close the store with one of new supervisors, put on the “happy barista persona” required of me, and went on the floor to work. About 15 minutes after I had clocked in I watched my supervisor Margret waltz in (15 minutes late and out of dress code) with her sister (another Starbucks partner) in tow, she had the most confused look on her face at the site of me. She said to me “Lyssa are you closing?” I looked at her with an even more confused face and responded to her. “Yeah I am. Why?” To which she replied, “So why did Jennifer have me bring my sister in to close?”
The people we work with usually reflect what the dominant culture of our society is like. This includes some of its worst aspects, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and heterosexism. For worker-organizer’s, these present their own difficulties. They impede our short term goals such as being able to withstand the drudgery of a job, as well as exist as obstacles to uniting our coworkers against management. In addition to these problems, they stand in stark contrast with our long-term goals of creating a new world free of oppression and exploitation. But how do we deal with this? Here is an account from Coeur de Bord about their response to hateful language at their workplace.
by Emmett J. Nolan
The issue I’m writing about may seem rather trivial to some readers. To be honest, I too was shocked that my co-workers and I had to fight so hard to be heard on such a small and seemingly obvious issue. The issue which management picked to draw a line in the sand over was providing a trash can in the dining area of the café I work at. Yes, a trash can. Something most customers and workers take for granted. Rightfully so, because who could imagine a counter service café with a bus your own table practice operating without a trash can?
In an effort to make the company more green, a composting service was hired and new compostable packaging materials were chosen. Now, compostable items were separated from recycling and garbage. A part of this change included removing all four of the trash cans within the dining and patio area of the café. The cans weren’t replaced with a sorting station like many other businesses had done. Instead the company replaced them with a sign that read:
by Emmett J. Nolan
When we encounter challenges and worsening conditions at work, if we don’t respond immediately to those negative changes we risk having those degraded conditions becoming standard procedure. Whether it’s a reduction of staffing, an increased speed of work or anything else that makes our day-to-day lives on the job more complicated or less valuable, we must act quickly or run the risk of these lower standards becoming firmly established into precedent. The longer we wait to respond to these issues, the more challenging it becomes for us and our co-workers to change them. One such example my co-workers and I encountered involved a safety concern. If we did not respond to it immediately, the result would have been a permanent risk to our well-being.
One day I arrived to work and nothing seemed to be different; a day that was starting off just like the rest. Fifteen minutes into my shift, I needed to slice a loaf of bread for a customer. Our slicer is automatic, just push a button and a weight pushes the bread against a dozen or so jostling blades, neatly slicing a full-size loaf of bread. For years we’ve used this machine with no issue. I trained and seen countless co-workers trained on this machine. Each time, the optical sensor –if triggered– will stop the blades. This feature is pointed out and demonstrated often by one passing their hand by the sensor. The safety feature came in handy in the past when errand objects fell into the slicer and we needed to fetch them out by hand.
by Emmett J. Nolan
On my first day of work, my manager explained to me the three options regarding breaks:
clock out for 30 minutes,
take two 10-minute breaks on the clock, or
take a 20-minute break on the clock.
Additionally, an hour and a half “black-out” period existed for breaks during the busy middle of the day. The actual state law is a 30-minute meal break and two 10-minute rest breaks for a work period over six hours. Not only was this buffet option of breaks illegal, but it was also a strain on the body during a 7 to 9 hour shift. This situation continued on for two years and I discovered that this system was not just limited to my department or workplace, but existed within other departments and at other locations in the company.
by Emmett J. Nolan
Chances are we all will inevitably have a run-in with the disciplinary procedure at work. In these moments, it’s natural to feel targeted personally. Often times the warnings are sprung on you by surprise, there may be multiple managers in the meeting with you, and the process doesn’t resemble how you thought the progressive disciplinary procedure worked.
Mistakes are inevitable; we’re not robots. Since our livelihood is at risk in these moments, when we have to encounter discipline it’s important that it’s carried out in a manner that is transparent and equitable. Additionally, we should all have the ability to state our defense to the accusations that are brought forward in a disciplinary action. Too often management plays the role of judge, jury, prosecution, and jailor without our side of the story ever considered. In fact, while my company’s manager’s handbook states that during any disciplinary meeting with a worker, a manager is required to have a supervisor or another manager present; alternatively when workers request a witness or an advocate within our disciplinary meetings, our requests are routinely denied.
In this article, Madaline tells the story of how she fell into organizing and the IWW – pushed both by terrible bosses and by amazing solidarity among her coworkers.
Working at Artistry
By Madaline Dreyfus
If the first week of work at Artistry Bakery and Cafe was any indication, there was no way this four-month experience should ever have resulted in two of the strongest friendships in my life. I was introduced on the first day to a group of men and women, mostly about University age, who were also going to be working with me at the restaurant. Before our new manager arrived to start the training, I started talking to a tall, tattooed woman, and the conversation turned to things which embarrassed us. I said that I was embarrassed by my one of my middle names, Ruth, and continued for several minutes to tell her how much I disliked this name. Confidently, I ended with “God, I mean, what a horrible thing to do to your daughter. What’s your name?”
Stone-faced she stared and me and said “Ruth”. I was fairly sure she wouldn’t ever want to speak to me again.
Pissing Blood: Work Sucks
by Abbey Volcano
This is a story about anger, “non-profits,” and pissing blood. I was in my fifth year working at an independent health food store run by religious fanatics in a suburb outside of the city and I needed more money. I started off part-time at a cultural center, working the events. I would mainly be there at night, during performances and exhibits—taking people’s tickets, helping the artists set up, serving hors d’oeuvres, cleaning the toilets, etc. I was paid $12/hr to do this work and it was the most I had ever made in my life and it was the only job that wasn’t in the service industry, so I was pretty excited. Pretty soon after I started they asked me if I could take over the secretarial position. This was a full-time desk job. I really needed the money, especially because the health food store was closing down since a Whole Foods had moved into town. I took the job since I couldn’t have really done much better as far as pay went.
A friend sent us this story about organizing at a small hip business in New York earlier this year. Earlier we ran another story about organizing in places with a leftist or counterculture veneer. If you’ve got similar experiences, please post them as a comment here, or send us an email. As this piece notes, the organizing at this company in New York continues. We hope to hear more about it and wish them good luck.
Recomposition started at the end of August, 2010. We’re pleased with what’s happened in the last two years, and we hope you are as well. It seems appropriate to celebrate the two year mark with a work story and by getting more more interactive for a change. Below, Siobhan writes about her first job. In the comments, please tell us what your first job was, how old you were when you got it, and what that job was it like.
In this post M. Jones talk abouts how organizing on the job changes the job.
What We’re Changing
By M. Jones
In our organizing we are trying to establish power on the job. This power can be seen and felt in different ways depending on the job. But what we want from our organizing is control over our day to day lives on the job, this control will come from the power we can establish through collective action.
A brief look at informal work groups, which the author sees “as the seeds, and the tiny cells within a larger muscle of organization.”
By M. Jones
In every workplace throughout all of history, workers have come together and worked together for their common interests. This takes many forms. Sometimes its at the level of two workers next to each other in cubicles who support each other and make work less miserable by being able to laugh with one another; other times it forms into a group that encompasses enough people that they can informally control the speed of production and the work conditions that surround them; and sometimes it grows into a union a group of workers within a shop, ideally across and industry who can directly exercise power in relation to the boss. In whichever form it takes it is significant. In each form it challenges the isolation that exists in other aspects of our lives as workers. In these relationships we begin to see the possibilities of what it means to take collective action and what it means to control the means of production. We are empowered by these relationships, and where we can build on them we can have success and begin to make changes.
This is the last piece in our series on sleep. Juan writes about sleeplessness, stress, poverty, and work.
‘Bout to explode: a day in the life of a precarious worker
by Juan Conatz
“Damn it, where’s this pinche thing?”
Sometimes when I get real frustrated, a few Spanish curse words enter my vocabulary. My mom would probably be both amused and disappointed.
“Jesus Christ, there ain’t nowhere in here for anything to get lost!”
It’s 4:30 AM, and I’m frantically looking for both my house keys and bus pass. It was another all-nighter. I’ve been up for almost 2 days now.
Our series on sleep and dreams continues with a post about stress and lack of sleep in the education industry.
Who Dismisses the Teacher: On The Work that Follows You Home and Steals your Sleep
I stare up at the computer’s clock on the right hand side of the screen, the numbers blaring at me, “10:45 pm.” I’ve finished the PowerPoint presentation for one class, but have nothing prepared for my other class. Luckily for me, tomorrow I have a planning period between 2nd period and 6th period (where I teach we have 90 min block classes, 4 blocks a day), so I can use that time to put something together for the class I wasn’t able to plan for the night before. The “even days” afford me such a luxury, the “odd days” don’t. On the “odd days”, my reaction to this nightly routine is much more irate. Immediately the panic and anxiety sets in. I feel a pain in the side of my stomach, sometimes accompanied by nausea. My girlfriend asks me from the couch if I’m calling it a night, to which I respond with an annoyed, “No!” followed by grumbles about how I’m probably only going to get 3 or 4 hours of sleep that night.
Our series on sleep continues with a piece by Gayge discussing divisions and oppression within the working class.
by Gayge Operaista
I wake up with a start, and do my usual “where the hell am I?” look around. When you’ve been couch and guest room surfing for months, because you moved back across the country and still haven’t found steady work, it’s a reasonable “why am I awake?” question, especially when there’s no urgency to get up out of bed.
Our series on work, sleep and dreams continues with a story about a sleepwalking postal worker.
Let me sleep on it
By Phinneas Gage
I woke up and rubbed my eyes, Saturday was a long time coming this week. My aching body stumbled towards the fridge. I swung the door open and my eyes focused on the first clear object of the morning, a bottle of Catsup. I grabbed the bottle and stood up, straightening my aching back. I opened the freezer and my eyes focused again on a frozen bag of breakfast sausage.
Our series on work, sleep, and dreams continues with a story by our friend Invisible Man, about race, stress, and family.
by Invisible Man
The belt sander was screeching. The high whine tore through his eardrums. It began to drown out the clatter of the polishing drum and the pulsating whirr of the milling machines. Time to replace the sandpaper.
This post continues our series on work and sleep with a post about stress and dreams in the education industry.
Good Morning Sweetheart
By Nate Hawthorne
I’m just… furious. Like so angry I’m sputtering and stuttering, as in “I – I – how could you – why would you ever think that … I just – you need to knock it off!” I’m standing in front of a room full of my students, and I’m spitting out these chunks of sentences and I’m doing it loud. I’m full-on shouting. I’ve definitely lost my composure. I’m yelling at them because they’ve been sleeping in class, and they’ve been turning in their homework late and doing it really poorly, and that makes my workload even higher because late work means more stuff I need to keep track of, and poorly written assignments take a lot longer to grade. And class size went up ten percent this year so I’ve got more students than last year’s maximum. So part of what I’m really shouting at them about is the fact that I can’t handle the workload.
More from our series on work, sleep and dreams. This one features Lou Rinaldi describing a nightmare and how it’s his subconscious taking the very real alienation he feels at work and running with it.
Even My Dreams These Days Have Work-Related Scenes
by Lou Rinaldi
I’m stuck there in a chair in my kitchen. It’s like I can’t move, I guess I really can’t explain it, but I’m looking up at the clock (wait, I don’t have a clock!) and the time changes nearly every minute to something completely different. I’m starting to feel nauseous and disoriented. And then – there it is! The right minute. I’m allowed to go now. I can get up and I leave my apartment and hop onto the bus. It’s strange to me because I don’t remember the bus going right to my apartment before. Oh well, I don’t really have think of how absurd this is because of the overwhelming feeling of dread and nervousness I have looming over me. You see, I’m three hours late for work!
The series on work, sleep, and dreams continues with this account of working without much sleep and the dreams associated with this.
Reflections on Dream Baking and Sleep Deprivation
by besherelle et la lutte
It is raining out side, but not too hard that I can’t ride my bike. I turn away from the front door and walk towards my room to find my rain gear. Of course this extra 5 minutes of getting all these extra layers on, means I will be 5 minutes late for work. I am tired, I have a sleep headache and the idea of being late for work, makes it worse. This always happens when the middle of the week comes around. Getting more than 4 or 5 hours a night’s sleep isn’t feasible working these early hours. There is a tension that exists when you work early, a fear of sleeping in, or not opening the store on time. It turns into a resentment, an anger that sleeps inside of you. These feelings are present and accessible at all times and they are created out of fear and powerlessness. You are vulnerable and disposable and any day now, this reality will be confirmed. It’s dark outside and I fumble around trying to find the buttons on my bike lights, both are blinking and I carry my bike down the stairs to the street.
Scott Nappalos writes about the problems of working in a hospital and how conditions seep into his dreams.
by Scott Nappalos
Within a few months of being on my own, the dreams started. I won’t say nightmares, because nightmares have a distinct sense of terror and harm; my dreams weren’t always like that. I was working as a nurse on an medical-surgical floor for oncology patients in a major urban hospital. Just out of school, I managed to fall into one of the most hostile units in one of the worst hospitals in Miami.
Jen Rogue writes about how our work life infiltrates itself into our dreams and technically amounts to unpaid labor.
Off the Clock
by Jen Rogue
“…. Peaches …. 4401 …. Lemons …. 4033 …. Carrots …. 4560 ….”
A blaring alarm clock interupts my restless slumber. Damn it! Time to go to work. And do what I’ve been doing in my sleep for the last few hours, unpaid. In the shower, I wonder about how much space in my brain are taken up by produce codes. Are bananas (4011) edging out my memory of the first time I rode a bicycle? I can’t even remember the last time I ate a clementine but 4450 might as well be tattooed on the insides of my eyelids. I chug coffee and try not to think about how awful it is to wake up feeling like you already put in your eight hours only to realize they haven’t even begun.
As part of our series on sleep, work and dreams, Al Tucker dreams about temporary warehouse work.
And I am still sleepy.
By Al Tucker
I am pulling into the old parking lot. It looks like it should look. Large tumble weeds growing up from decade old cracks in the asphalt. The painted lines faded away to almost nothing in afternoon sun. I should be off by 2:30 AM, unless there is forced overtime and I have to stay until 6:30 AM. Either way I am still sleepy right now. Why did I answer the phone? Why did I agree to come in? Why did they even call me?
This article comes from a comrade who is a member of the Solidarity Federation in the UK. He describes the article as “An account of working for a credit company during the financial crisis, as well as workers’ attempts to resist speed-ups and workload increases.”
Holding the line: informal pace setting in the workplace
by Juan Conatz
Often when talking to people about their frustrations at work and the prospects for organizing, a common response is one of negativity and desperation.
“I could never get anything goin’ where I work!”
“Other people don’t care.”
“It would be too hard.”
Our friend Jennifer Ng wrote this about her job and her organizing at a nursing home. It deals with a lot of issues about the commodification of life and of death under capitalism as well as issues of race on the job, and the specifics of caring work.
Our friend Lou send us this article. All of us in the Recomp editorial group are strongly feminist, though you wouldn’t always know that because we don’t talk much about it here. One of the things we sometimes struggle to articulate is that our focus on the waged workplace is part of our feminism. A lot of workplace struggles are feminist struggles. Lou’s account of an incident in the food service industry shows this.
Swept Under The Rug and Left for Dead; How, According to the Boss, Swearing is Worse than Harassment
by Lou Rinaldi
At the beginning of the summer some trouble came to my little restaurant. Our store has a history of going through assistant managers like water, they’re in and they’re out.
This essay by a comrade in the Wild Rose Collective speaks to something we talk about a lot here at Recomposition – the ways our jobs limit our lives. As the piece says, different people’s lives are limited in different ways and some people really do have it worse than others. Work still sucks, though, even if some people have it worse.
The Work and the Job
“I don’t think I’m cut out to be an employee.”
It was a bitter joke. My friend had just finished venting about one of her two jobs. She was typing to me just after getting bossed around on the smallest details of her job at a small nonprofit. After that, she had an evening as a temp to look forward to, grading middle-school standardized tests. She had said that working so much was starting to mess with her head. She hadn’t played music in too long. Too much of her life went to satisfying somebody else.
We just found this, a translation of Phinneas’s Waves of Struggle article. We’re pasting the translation below. Since we don’t speak the language we’re not entirely sure what to make of this but we’re flattered and pleasantly surprised. If the translator(s) read this, thank you for translating this article! Regretfully, we mostly just speak English so it is hard for us to read your web site. We would like to know more about you, if there are any English-language writings of yours, and if you want to correspond with us please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If anyone who can tell us more, please do so, we appreciate it.
اتحادیه کارگران پست کانادا می نویسد: “پست کانادا مبلغ دو ونیم بیلیارد دلار برای مدرنیزه کردن پست، قصد سرمایه گذاری دارد“. اتحادیه معتقد است که برخی از این سرمایه گذاری ها اثر منفی دارد. مجموعه این تغییرات سبب می شود که نامه رسانان زمان بیشتری صرف حمل و نقل، و زمان کمتری صرف طبقه بندی کردن نامه ها، خواهند کرد. با تغییرات جدید کار تحویل خیلی مشکل خواهد شد، زیرا کارگران باید، ضمن راه رفتن، کار خواندن آدرس ها را هم، انجام دهند. نیاز به نیروی کار، بدلیل ماشینی شدن، بخش هائی از کار، کمتر خواهد شد. شیفت های شب کاری نسبت به روزکاری افزایش خواهد یافت، زیرا محموله نامه ها، اغلب در شب به اداره پست می رسد. شدت کار، بالا خواهد رفت، زیرا ماشین های جدید، سریع تر کار می کنند. اتحادیه می گوید که سود این کارها فقط به جیب شرکت پست می رود، و می خواهد که شرکت پست، کارگران را هم، در سود سهیم کند. در هیچ سطری از این تحلیل، نشانی از مبارزه جوئی دیده نمی شود. حتی حرفی از مقابله با عواقبی که در انتظار کارگران پست است، دیده نمی شود، بلکه فقط پیشنهاد می کند، که پست، کارگران را هم در سود حاصله سهیم کند. حرفی از این که این سود چیست، چگونه سود حاصل می شود، در میان نیست. حتی “سعدی” وار در پند و نصیحت به ملوک، از مثال هایی که تقابل با آن ها بود حرفی نمی زند، یعنی از مبارزات کارگران حرفی بمیان نمی آورد. به همین سبب است که، وقتی کارگران، خواه عضو اتحادیه، خواه غیر عضو، تصمیم به تقابل با کارفرما می گیرند، و آماده اعتصاب عمومی و سراسری، هستند، این مبارزه جوئی عمومی، را به مبارزه گردشی، یا دوره ای در شهر و ادارات، تقلیل می دهد. با این حرکت، از اتحاد کارگران، که قدرت آن ها را، بالا می برد، جلوگیری می کند. با این حرکت ضعیف، کارفرما، قوت قلب می گیرد، و به معلق کردن کارگران، ابتدا جزئی و سپس کل حدود ۵۰ هزار کارگر پست، اقدام می کند. کارگران برای دفاع از منافع خود تصمیم به عمل مستقل از اتحادیه و با مدیریت و هماهنگی خودشان می گیرند. و در نهایت موفق می شوند جلوی اخراج کلی کارگران را بگیرند. اما سایر موارد از جمله بیکار شدن کارگران با طرح ماشینی کردن، کاهش انواع بیمه ها، جانشین ساختن تدریجی، کارگران قراردادی موقت، با کارگران رسمی، و پرداخت دستمزدها و مزایای کمتر، به آینده، و به مذاکرات سه جانبه بین اتحادیه، کارفرما و دولت سپرده می شود. یعنی، دستاورد مبارزه مستقل و جمعی کارگران، در تقابل با کارفرما، تجربه دخالت پایه ای کارگران، در چگونگی حرکت، و دفاع مستقیم از منافع شان، به چیزی در گذشته، نه راهی برای آینده، تبدیل می شود. به همین سبب می بینیم که در مطلبی که کانون مدافعان حقوق کارگر با عنوان؛ ” اعتصاب کارگران پست و درس های آن” می نویسد، “رد پایی از کارگران نیست“. از آغاز تا پایان، در مناقب اتحادیه کارگران پست کاناداست. تنها در جائی به این بسنده می کند که ” کمتر دیده شده که اعضای سندیکا، علیه سیاست های اجرائی سندیکا، معترض هستند“. اما هیچ از نوع اعتراضی که این بار وجود داشت، و به شیوه ای که کارگران، در مقابل شیوه مرسوم اتحادیه، بکار بردند، اشاره ای هم نشده است. برای نشان آن چه که کارگران به شخصه انجام دادند، و تصمیماتی که گرفتند و نظراتشان، به ترجمه مقاله زیر اقدام کردم. اما ترجمه این مقاله بمعنی توافق با نقطه نظرات نویسنده در کل نیست. اما معتقدم هر مبارزه کارگری در هر کجای دنیا که انجام گیرد به ویژه اگر به موفقیت هائی مخصوصاً در زمینه خود سازمان دهی، خود تصمیم گیری، ارتباطات کارگر به کارگر و حذف واسطه های تقلیل دهنده، دست یابد، باید، دستاوردهای آن؛ برای اطلاع و درس آموزی، برای تجزیه وتحلیل و نقد، جهت ادامه مبارزه ، در اختیار سایر کارگران قرار گیرد. بنظر می آید نویسنده از زمره چپ اتحادیه ای است و اشکال اتحادیه را در بورکراسی آن و دوربودن آن از پایه های کارگری می بیند. این مقاله در حقیقت می تواند به عنوان دنباله مقاله ” اتحادیه از توهم تا واقعیت” به همین قلم، به حساب آید.
کلمات داخل پرانتز و تاکید ها از من است.
Stan Weir is a big influence on some of us in the Recomposition editorial group. This piece talks about some workplace dynamics that we think radicals on the job ought to think about. The article begins with an introduction by Staughton Lynd, which appeared in a book he edited called Rank and File: Personal Histories of Working-Class Organizers.
During more than twenty years as an industrial worker, unionist, and organizer among seamen, auto workers, teamsters and construction workers, Stan Weir became impressed by the importance of informal work groups. The informal or primary work group is: “that team which works together daily in face-to-face communication with one another, placed by technology and pushed into socialization by the needs of production. It is literally a family at work torn by hate and love, conflict and common interest. It disciplines its members most commonly by social isolation and ridicule, it has a naturally selected leadership, makes decisions in the immediate work area, and can affect the flow of production.”
A friend of ours who blogs anonymously as Invisible Man sent us this three part story about his experiences at work and beyond. It’s powerful stuff about work, class, race, and the struggle to keep on keeping on.
C’est pas un pays, c’est un hiver
The Suit Shop
It was late in the afternoon and the sweaty, noisy, humid factory day was almost finished.
It was bitterly cold outside, but you wouldn’t know it from the inside of the suit factory. And you could easily forget that it was winter, because at Men’s Clothiers International where I worked, there were no windows to the outside. But 2003, my first winter in Montreal, was one of the coldest winters on record.
In this piece, Juan Conatz talks about some of his experiences on the job.
Sometimes We Don’t Even Get to the Point of Losing…
by Juan Conatz
Reading The American Worker and old Italian operaismo surveys of auto workers, it occurred to me that it would be worth documenting some of my own experiences in wage labor. We often forget how powerful and important first person accounts of what happens to us are.
We’ve posted a lot of articles about struggles at Canada Post. In this article Phinneas Gage lays out a detailed analysis of what went on in Edmonton.
Waves of Struggle, The Winter Campaign at the Post Office in Edmonton
by Phinneas Gage
Christine braced herself, took a deep breath and then jumped up on to a mail tub and began to shout “help! help! I am being robbed.”
In this article our friend Frank walks us through his job in a way that gets at the bigger picture.
“What do you do for a living?”
by Frank Edgewick
At a party, someone asks, “What do you do for a living?” I answer, “Get yelled at by wealthy people.” The answer is rehearsed and so automatic that I usually forget that it makes people laugh in surprise. It is a perfectly accurate response.
Lately we’ve been posting items more quickly than our usual pace here at Recomposition. Right now some people in the editorial group and some of our friends work at Canada Post where they are involved in an intense and rapidly changing struggle.
This is the second of two pieces our comrade Mordechai just sent us on the current Canadian Union of Postal Workers strike, a topic dear to our hearts (and for some of us, our livelihoods) here at Recomposition.
This is the first of two pieces our comrade Mordechai just sent us on the current Canadian Union of Postal Workers strike, a topic dear to our hearts (and for some of us, our livelihoods) here at Recomposition.
Recomposition is happy to post this article by Rachel Stafford about a recent victory in an ongoing struggle postal workers are having with management about compulsory overtime. Appropriately enough, our May Day post is about conflict over how long workers have to work.
In his article “Replace Yourself,” J. Pierce recommends “reveal your sources so others can think with you” and “encourage other members to read what you’ve read.” This latest post — Stan Weir’s “Unions with Leaders Who Stay on the Job” — does both at once. Weir’s piece inspired some of the ideas in all of the recent posts on leadership.
On Leadership, by Phinneas Gage
Miguel was charismatic. Middle aged yet still handsome, a principled family man, an open communist and refugee from Chile. He was part of the left, of the left, of the left, those who desperately argued that the working class had to defend themselves even as Allende their socialist President was dragged away and shot in a basement. As an entire generation was exterminated or disappeared, buried beneath soccer stadiums and dropped into Volcanoes Miguel managed to make it to Canada, like an entire generation of Chileans he vowed not to give up the fight. He was a survivor, a militant and a leader.