The basis for successful workplace struggle

This is a translation made by a SAC comrade of an article published in SAC’s magazine ‘Syndikalisterna’ on June 10, 2008. He has made the translation because the article sums up the reform process that SAC has been through in the last few years, and the new spirit of workplace activism that they now promote. These reforms have also been discussed by Mattias Wåg in an article already published here, but it’s very interesting to have the argument as it was presented by SAC internally. Many thanks to the comrade for taking the time to make the translation.

The basis for successful workplace struggle

The foundation for all workplace struggles is a strong workers collective. The degree of union membership says nothing about the unity and militancy of the workers collective, but it can sometimes coincide.

Developing a collective at the workplace and initiating collective action

In many workplaces the employees don’t act as a collective but instead act as scattered individuals who do not cooperate for a common interest. At worst, they may even compete with each other.

A strong workers’ collective is a group of employees at a workplace who act united, who set limits and struggle against management for the realization of common interests based on a set of common rules of struggle or norms. Where the workers’ collective is strong, the atmosphere is good and you have fun together. The strength of the worker collective can be influenced and you can make a difference.

The worker collective is working class power at the workplace

There are many different ideas about the working class. We believe that the working class exists as a collective group at your workplace. To understand this is absolutely fundamental. Therefore a syndicalist is never alone at the job.

A trade union is primarily a tool for the working collective and should not be confused with the interest community at work. If you understand this you already have a good basis for workplace organizing.

Different types of workers have different conditions for resistance, they are struggling in various ways, depending on the position of production such as industry and working conditions, etc. So it may be difficult to establish general norms and values that are viable in all types of workplaces and worker collectives. But we are still trying to find things that are universal for most workplaces.

We differ from other unions on the crucial point that we want to move the initiative of employees to union members. We want members to be active, take the initiative themselves and build sections at their workplaces. We expect that the members should strengthen cohesion and solidarity of the worker collectives in their workplaces.

A strong worker collective at the workplace has the following characteristics:

1. Awareness of common interests

2. Common norms and values

1. Awareness of common interests means:

a) Being aware of the conflict between our interests and those of the management

b) Knowing that unity and solidarity between workers benefits us

2. The common norms are open or unspoken agreements about the behavior we expect of each other. For example that we will always back each other up and will not be friends with the bosses, etc.

Business strategies

A common business strategy today is that companies in different ways try to tie up their employees emotionally to the company and the management, in order to make the employees feel more loyal to the company than to their fellow workers. In healthcare, loyalty to the users / patients is used in a similar way.

Within management theory it has long been argued that the goals of various methods should be to change employees’ values and norms, thus weakening the workers’ collective. That is why companies are always trying by one way or another to shape the employees’ values and norms to fit with the company’s interests. The strange mood in some workplaces is no more than the outcome of a successful business strategy.

In just the same way, we must try to influence the norms and values in our workplaces. It is actually easier for us to influence these values than it is for our bosses, because our values coincide with our workmates’ real class interests and are not based on lies like those of the bosses.

A clear message to new members

In the SAC, we expect that members will be active and proactive in the workplace struggle, we want them to actively affect their fellow workers to a deeper understanding of common interests and that they will actively influence norms and values at work. We expect members to be workplace organizers.

Workplace organising should follow these steps:

  1. Build a collective based on solidarity and develop a militant spirit
  2. Initiate collective action and challenge power structures at work
  3. Build a workplace section of the SAC at the job

To establish norms at the job

It is important to establish a culture at the workplace where people can trust each other.

  • We share the workload in order to create a collective based on solidarity.
  • We back up and protect each other.
  • We do not talk with management and bosses about other workmates.
  • We are proud and set limits
  • We value our breaks, and never work at lunch breaks
  • We never talk about work with a boss at the break, because then we have a break
  • We accept no understaffing and slow down the work pace if we are understaffed
  • We will stop working when the boss shows up, for him to stop coming
  • We don’t do as the boss says if we don’t like what he/she proposes
  • We defeat hard head bosses who think they can put up on us
  • We do not give any suggestions on improvements, which does not benefit all employees in the long run, which they rarely do
  • We refuse to use equipment that is dangerous
  • We have fun together at work
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~ by swedishzine on August 23, 2009.

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