The normal course of a person’s working life typically produces a plethora of stories where the boss got one over on the employees and faced no retribution; countless unfair firings, anomalies with the paycheck, bullying, mistreatment and abuse. Hidden within, and on the periphery of these tales, is evidence of a small scale class-struggle springing into and out of existence in every imaginable kind of workplace.1
While many of these instances of rebellion do not result in long-term organization and often include a small number of workers, these events still play an important role in the class struggle. They become major contributions to a person’s constellation of experience in the workplace that reveals the counterpoised interests of the boss, as well as the potential for resistance.
For some. these moments become an important part of their overall development into class-struggle militants, and as such, are of more of novel interest to those seeking to build mass movements. It is with this in mind that Ideas and Action presents a series of short stories reflecting those moments of spontaneous mutiny, impromptu sabotage and most importantly, solidarity. We welcome contributions from our readers; please see our ‘Contact’ page for more information.
In this third installment of the (End) Work Zone, we turn to a member of the Workers Solidarity Alliance and his tale from the ‘trenches’ of temporary employment.
I was working as a temp and had spent the last week hand digging ditches for a plumbing outfit. A backhoe wouldn’t fit in the work area so they called in a couple of meat machines to do the digging. It was a Friday and the light rain was not really bad enough for the boss to call off the job, but it was bad enough to make us both miserable. We showed up at the house whose backyard we were excavating at the designated time and started working. After a week, the boss had pretty much left us alone, checking in at the end of the day to give us grief. About a half hour into another day behind the shovel my mate and I started discussing the weekend. We had decided to get up in the mountains to relax, bad weather or no. A couple of clods of dirt later, it struck us both like lighting: we needed to get the fuck out of that ditch for good.
We discussed some strategies and opted for that most time honored of traditions; sabotage. I went and hooked up the garden hose and marched over to the ditch, tossed it in and cranked it up. After filling the ditch a 1/4 way up my mate called the boss to say the weather had fucked up all the things and we couldn’t hack it anymore. With some guff, he agreed to come out and assess the situation. Upon his arrival he was dumbstruck at the amount of water in the ditch. He looked up at the lightly drizzling sky, trying its best to understand what had happened and how it was our fault. He failed in this endeavor, shrugged and sent us home.
- See Informal Workgroups by M. Jones and Holding the Line: Informal Pace Setting in the Workplace by Juan Conatz for further discussion of small scale, informal and spontaneous resistance. [↩]