The (End) Work Zone: Tales of Spontaneous Rebellion in the Workplace – Part I

By Smoker

End Work Zone

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.

This first piece comes to us from a person who goes by Smoker. It recounts a spontaneous work-stoppage at a fast-food restaurant where the workers had previously developed a culture of small-scale resistance and solidarity.

When I worked at a fast-food joint, we were set to absurd timer demands for speed of service, and this one boss and his employee buddy always spent most of their time talking, messing around, and smoking out back while the other two or three of us did all the work while still held accountable for the service times. Eventually we all got sick of it and one particularly rough night we were expressing our frustrations to each other while rushing around, when we all sort of spontaneously agree that it was bullshit and we weren’t going to be overworked like that anymore (by someone who didn’t do shit as well). We grabbed some food went to the break room in the back and just chilled and had some good conversation for a good 15 minutes before the manager even realized what had happened (as they were out back smoking). When they finally came in all horrified as to the timer, and demanded to know what was going on, we simply told them we were tired of doing all their work and were taking a break. Since we all did it together, and were heavily relied upon, they just sheepishly told us that “when you are finished, please hop back on the line” and went to deal with the angry customers. They couldn’t afford to fire all of us for doing it together and of course had their own ass to cover, so we got away with it, and those shifts weren’t as bad anytime thereafter as they were afraid of a repeat event.

They didn’t even bust us for the obviously “stolen” food (we made), which normally led to discipline when caught. We only got a 50% discount when we worked a full shift, and full price otherwise. Which is the other micro-resistance that took place there, there was a large network among the crew who made food for each other clandestinely or looked the other way when people took it, to the point that most people never paid for their meals, snacks, or take home dishes EVER while working there despite attempted strict enforcement by management.

  1. 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. []

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