I have been reading about employee owned and operated industries in Latin America. I was contiplating that this is the way things to go in our country and long overdo. It's something we shouild do at least starting out in smaller community businesses. I realized I had wriiten something on this several years back when I worked 28 years at a barrel factory before it closed in 1999. Here it is:
WHO'S THE BOSS?
by Jim Jordan
I just finished reading the 1997, revised and updated edition of STRIKE by Jeremy Brecher. I highly recommend it and feel its one of the best books I've read on labor history.
One of the stories in the book that interested me was about a general strike in Seattle in 1919. Workers throughout the city went on strike. They formed a General Strike Committee that controlled and ran the city. Major General Morrison, who was in charge of the U.S. troops in the city, said he had not seen a city so quiet and orderly run. This is the point that I want to make, that workers can and will efficiently run their workplace if they are in charge.
I believe in Anarcho syndicalism, which is defined as a worker controlled and owned workplaces. Think about the bosses you've had, if they're anything like the ones I've had, you have proof workers could run things better. Of course every workplace has some employees that are incompetent but odds are they'll be justly weeded out. Of course, companies nowadays, weed them out and promote them to foreman or supervisor. I can pick out guys destined for management from their first days on the job. You know the guy who says within earshot of the bosses, "Employees here are overpaid and underworked." They earn nicknames like "worm" or "weasel" and are destined for bosshood. Guys that just don't have those troublesome scruples. Our plant is the kind of place where maintenance men nicknamed Bailing Wire Bill and Duct Tape Dave are destined to be maintenance foremen. A place where a guy nicknamed Blind Louie or Four-Eyes Pete is sure to become head of Quality Control. Our newest plant supervisor worked his way up from the shop floor. His nicknames were Sleeping John and Sleepy. This was fitting because Sleepy was one of the seven dwarfs. We had already had some of the other dwarfs for boss, mostly Grumpy and Dopey. I'm personally pulling for Happy.
The worst supervisor we ever had stared out as a laborer. He was called Little Ricky, he had a Napoleon complex and was a kleptomaniac. He stole every and anything in the plant. On top of that he ordered supplies. His policy was one space heater for the loading dock gang and one for his garage. The last news I heard about Little Ricky was his arrest. It seems his father and him stole freshly planted trees in an area park.
At least when bosses are brought in from the outside they have an anonymity about their idiocy and incompetence. Well, at least until they have a break-in period or open their mouths, which ever comes first. Our strangest boss who came from the outside was Big Harry. Harry's highlight was the time he defecated in the company pick up truck. He was so dumb he told everyone in the office. The employees found out because he had the janitor clean it. We hung a roll of toilet paper on the turn signal for Harry, in his case it was a useful car accessory.
Most employees I work with don`t want a management job. A good example of why, was illustrated by a foreman who just quit. He said considering the long hours he worked, his salary averaged out to less than minimum wage. He left to be a school janitor. Only in our barrel plant could leaving a foreman's job to be a janitor be considered a step up...a big step up.
I`m just scratching the surface on bad bosses at our plant. We had a past owner, who along with his vice-president, and our plant supervisor all went to jail for price fixing. Our last owner ran the plant into bankruptcy within a year. He had been too cheap to hire salesmen so we were only working two days a week. He finally admitted to employees,"You guys were right I failed because I didn`t have a salesforce." The present owner picked a beancounter to run the place. His first act was to eliminate an inspectors job. He bragged how he was saving the company $80.00 a day. The downside was that without the inspector we now have gone from $300.00 to $3,000.00 in scrap everyday. This has been going on for over two years and all he cares about is that he eliminated a job. Meanwhile they are creating deadwood management jobs like head of special projects. For the last 100 years our plant has gotten by without a special projects department. I've got a special project for them, prove to employees that bosses can run this place better than they could. They can't, that's why we get a new owner every 2 to 3 years.
Am I saying all bosses are bad? Yes, in my experience. I had someone tell me, "What about Aaron Feuerstein owner and CEO of Malden Mills? When his plant burned down he paid workers for a few months until it was rebuilt." I was asked, "don't you think this is a good boss?" I said there must be more to the story, let me investigate. I found out the mill was a 100 year old firetrap, where workers feared for their lives from constant gas leaks. He also forces workers to put in 12 hour days. He has tried to get his workers to give up seniority, and he has a two-tier wage system where new hirees never reach wage parody. I don`t care how many awards Aaron received or that he sat next to Hillary Clinton at the President's State of the Union Address. I felt vindicated, here was another bad boss.
There's a saying, you're not going to be promoted to Pharaoh by being a slave who built the pyramid. Well we don`t need workers who are slaves, and we don`t need Pharaohs. We need workers who are their own bosses, they`re the guys who get the job done on a daily basis. We don`t need politicians giving tax-abatements and corporate welfare to keep companies in their district. We need politicians and communities to back employees in acquiring the means of production. We`ve got to put the operations of companies in the hands of the people that run them....the workers.
Jeremy Brecher in his book Strike tells us those Seattle strikers of 1919 saw their activities in management during the strike as a preparation for the time workers would run society. They stated in The Seattle Union Record: "Some day, when the workers have learned to manage they will begin managing..."
Brother and sister workers that day is here.