This is the second power analysis paper I’ve done and the second A I got and once again this topic is heavily related to anarchism so I thought I’d post it. I hope you enjoy this post, let me know what you think through the comments or my Facebook, etc.
Power Analysis Paper #2:
Problems and Solutions
On the Road to Worker Autonomy
In Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed one of the major obstacles for her is to get around as a low wage worker dealing with the the managerial class. Throughout the book she explains how the managerial class looks down on the workers and hardly does anything productive and so on. This reveals a larger problem in the world; the fact that bosses and managers are a hindrance to overall production. Workers should be free to own the means of production just as the bosses and managers are. This system of centralized power and top-down hierarchy is not only opposite of the founding ideals of the American Revolution and what the country was supposed to be founded on but in a lot of ways but lowers the amount of productivity possible for the workers.
Instead, this top-down, highly centralized and bureaucratized system of authority should be cut down more and more until it is ultimately abolished. This can be done by taking all of these problems and putting them into smaller pieces. Once that is done a three step process of education, solidarity and peaceful direct action can help successfully replace the managerial class with a more equalized workforce. One made up of worker cooperatives, worker owned factories and firms and independent contractors. Such a world is not even close to being impossible and in this paper I will provide evidence that suggests that in order for the workers to truly have liberty, equality and solidarity, they need to fire their bosses.
One of the main problems of jobs today is the stress levels workers have to deal with. Recent surveys have shown that there are a multitude of reasons for this increase in stress. While managers are not necessarily the main cause of this stress they can be if the stress is interrelated to the system. After all, managers are supposed to be a help to the workers and create less stress but how can this be if the problem is systematic? In a Nation’s Business article Armin A. Brott, a freelance writer said that, “No matter how healthy individual employees are when they start out, if they work in dysfunctional systems, they’ll burn out.”  And so if managers cannot do their job sufficiently then it is workers who will suffer the most and not the mangers. This suggests that the managers have less of an incentive in the end to care about the workers especially when a lot of mangers of low wage jobs will just restock their workers at will. It becomes easier when the middle class are slowly losing their jobs and are being replaced by machines while the low wage manual work is falling more into favor. This leads to a polarization of workers in both sections of the economy and eventually will lead to more stress for workers who feel like they can be replaced at any second by their boss.
All of this stress for low-wage workers can be seen in Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed as well as the causes of such stress. (22, 48, 64, 74, 89-90) In all of these examples Ehrenreich or one of her co-workers are left to fend for themselves no matter how they feel. In Maine where Ehrenreich gets a job scrubbing mostly upper class people’s houses this theme of stress comes together. After finishing one the later houses a co-worker of Ehrenreich’s Holly trips and breaks something but still wants to work because she knows Ted won’t take mercy on her. (110) Holly does not become concerned about her immediate health but can only think about the job and losing it and disappointing Ted. Ted only relents when Ehrenreich stands up to him and tells him that she can’t treat them the way he is treating and that Holly needs help. (110) All of this shows a lack of concern from the managerial class about how their subordinates are doing. After all, the bosses can just replace the workers and hardly have to worry about them going to court and suing them for being treated unfairly with the low wages they get.
Another big problem about the managerial system and the employees they hire is that there are huge disparities in power, in wealth, security and money. That is through, surveillance; high bonuses for CEOs and basic conditions of working. The security discrepancy comes in the form of surveillance, where bosses and managers can and do spy on their workers. There seems to be little interest in stopping this invasion of privacy however. And while at the same time bosses and managers the workers the workers have no such advantage themselves. They’re not allowed to look at the boss’s resume to see if they’re a good boss or give them a test to see how agreeable they are about working together. They’re also certainly not allowed to go through their personal belongings or they risk being fired unlike the bosses. The wages between the bosses and workers seems odd to a lot of people since CEOs that hardly do as much as what the workers do are in some cases getting millions while the workers slave for hardly anymore than they were getting before.  These differences in pay raise suspicion among the work force that there’s more to the CEO’s pay than just their “capitalist spirit” and “entrepreneurship”. The fact of the matter is that a lot of corporate privilege comes from the state and not from their hard work or innovation. 
Surveillance fits in Nickel and Dimed rather nicely in situations where Ehrenreich is closely monitored by her bosses, especially at Wal-Mart where “time theft” that is doing anything but working, is strictly prohibited. The drug tests that she has to take as well as the “tests” to get some of the jobs are also an invasion into her privacy. At one point she mentions that Ted, the boss of her in Maine while she scrubs wants her and her coworkers to imagine they are always being watched. (97) The pay of the boss is never directly mentioned in Nickel and Dimed, but it’s clear Ehrenreich has a disdain for their jobs as bosses (22, 41, 59, 74, 115). Given the inequality of conditions, pay, the lack of trust between the two classes of people (the working class and the managerial class) and the stress it can cause this system is problematic and seems to cause more harm than good. If so what should replace it if it were to be abolished?
To find solutions workers can’t try to face the whole problem on their own without any knowledge or any sense of what action they want to take. They’ll want to be well informed about how to fire their own boss. The first step is to reexamine the problem once they realize that there is a problem to begin with. What can be done about this problem, what causes it and how to best get rid of it should all be considered by any worker seeking more equality and autonomy in the workplace. Once that is through the workers should start dismantling the managerial class through a three step process: education, solidarity and peaceful direct action. It would serve time and space better to just outline the first of this strategy just to see if the overall strategy itself is even worth considering. There also should be evidence that not only does the education work but the end goal, that being worker owned factories and cooperatives and so on work as well. Without these important things being shown the workers will have little to no confidence in such a process and may reside themselves further into economic slavery.
The future in some ways already looks bright, you just have to look at certain sides of the story right now and realize it. For instance, doing a little research you can find that there are many places for a worker to get more educated about what sort of tactics they should use or how best to face the current system and examples of the end goal. Such examples come from mostly alternative media sources online, such as Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS), AlterNet and cooperatives in the US also have a specific site. But in order to get towards a better educated work force so they can begin this three step process towards liberation and equality steps in the right direction must be taken. One of the ways this is already being done is through flexible work arrangements. These arrangements often empower the worker while giving the boss a little bit more work and enthusiasm from the worker. This happens because the workers know that they have a little bit more power and use it to be more productive. The great thing about this step is that it’s not a terribly difficult one to make and in some cases can the company too. Examples of giving more power over to workers and good coming from it comes from one example in particular. This being the Mondragon Corporation which is a federation of worker cooperatives in Spain and the world’s largest and most successful experiment in a large worker cooperative. And although Mondragon was started up and is still funded through government to an extent it is still a good example of workers taking their labor into their own hands. The workers must realize however that as long as government claims their labor through taxes and funding they will not be nearly as equitable and autonomous as they want to be. So both Mondragon and flexible work arrangements are first good steps in the process but they’re not enough.
Education is therefore necessary to push these steps into giant leaps forwards towards liberty, equality and solidarity in the workplace. What sort of education and how this education should be done and for whom and how are all very valuable questions. Distributing pamphlets to workers who have low paying jobs may be a good first step. People in such jobs are already feeling the oppression of the current managerial system if Nickel and Dimed has any validity to it. And therefore they are good targets for education and to help spread the word throughout other low paying jobs and people who work there. Another good target is people who are out of work because of the current recession or even better because of the managerial system itself. Both of these groups are already disgruntled with the managerial system in one way or another and educating them can in some cases can help them channel this energy into more productive action.
From there more solidarity can be reached and more education can be done until workers start forming their own alternatives to the managerial system. Two other great ways of spreading the word to the disgruntled and left behind is alternative media source and social networks. Alternative media sources are already online but really finding them and their stories and passing them out to the working class along with connecting with them using social networking can help make education that much more simple and cost effective. All of this education leads to more solidarity among workers for better alternatives and eventually peaceful direct action against the managerial system.
But why would workers in the end want this? It’s evident that in many places as high as the fourth face of power is heavily grounded in the worker’s mind. They think that this system is their only means of surviving and that they must sell their labor in order to make more money for themselves. But education can be just as much of a liberating tool as an enslaving one. The hope is that getting the workers a better idea of what it really means to be equal and free and have solidarity with their fellow man should eventually spark even some of the most indoctrinated workers. The key is to educate them based on reality and show them that not only is there evidence of alternatives and that they really do exist and but that they also work.
1. David s. Walonick, PHD: “Causes and Curse of Stress in Organizations,” http://www.survey-software-solutions.com/walonick/organizational-stress.htm, Accessed November 5 2010
2. Armin A. Brott, “New Approaches to Job Stress,” Nation’s Business, May, 1994 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1154/is_n5_v82/ai_15205143/?tag=content;col1, Accessed November 5 2010
3. Nathanial Cahners Hindman, “’Middle-Skill’ Jobs Are Disappearing From The Economy, a New Study Finds,” Huffington Post, June 14 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/14/middle-skill-jobs-are-dis_n_611455.html, Accessed November 5 2010
4. Lesley Alderman, “Safeguard Your Secrets from your Nosy Boss,” Money Magazine, December 1, 1994, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1994/12/01/200332/index.htm, Accessed November 5 2010
5. “What, Me Overpaid? CEO’s Fight Back,” Business Week, May 4, 1992, p. 142. http://www.businessweek.com/archives/1992/b326469.arc.htm, Accessed November 5 2010
6. Kevin Carson, “The Subsidy of History,” The Freeman, June 2008, Volume: 58, Issue: 5
7. This phrase is taken from the pamphlet, “How to fire your boss: A Workers’ Guide to Direct Action,” which details many strategies in order to make a more autonomous work place and can be found here, http://www.zabalaza.net/pdfs/organmans/howtofire.pdf
8. Two recent articles from C4SS include: Brad Spangler, “Public Pension Crisis: Free Worker Syndicates The Way Forward,” October 13 2010, http://c4ss.org/content/4376, Accessed November 6 2010; Ross Kenyon, “A Libertarian in Solidarity with the Jimmy Johns Workers Union,” September 14 2010, http://c4ss.org/content/3916, Accessed November 6 2010
9. Alternet is an alternative media source that has some great sources for showing evidence of what worker cooperatives are and what they can do. Examples include: Sena Christian, “The Growth of Citizen Co-ops is a Positive Development As Corporations Fail Us In Every Way,” January 5 2010, http://www.alternet.org/story/144969/?page=1, Accessed November 6 2010; Tracy Hukill, “A World Without Bosses?,” July 2 2005 http://www.alternet.org/story/23201/, Accessed November 6 2010; Gar Alperovitz, Ted Howard and Michael Williamson, “Worker-Owned, Industrial-Size, Environmentally Sound Businesses Rises Up,” February 11 2010, http://www.alternet.org/economy/145645/worker-owned,_industrial-size,_environmentally_sound_business_rises_up, Accessed November 6 2010
10. Source: http://www.usworker.coop/events/news, Accessed November 6 2010
11. Kathleen Howley, “Workers Today, Teleworkers Tomorrow,” June 1 1996, Realtor Magazine, http://www.tourthenewrealtor.com/archives/officeworkkatarchive1996jun?presentationtemplate=rmo-design/pt_articlepage_migratedcontent_print&presentationtemplateid=06ad608049e7ba93ab3dab87f8d337ee%3Ftourthenewrealtor, Accessed November 6 2010
12. For further reading on Mondragon: Manfred Davidmann, “Co-op Study 7: Mondragon Cooperatives,” 1996, http://www.solhaam.org/articles/mondra.html, Accessed November 6 2010