Workplace Occupations

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Revolt-On-Goose-Island-235x279Rock Creek   The Kindle needed some juice and it was too early in the morning to get the converter humming, so I grabbed a book for a couple of hours that had been gathering dust at home, Revolt on Goose Island:  The Chicago Factory Takeover, and What it Says About the Economic Crisis by Kari Lydersen.  The book details the prequel and some of the postscript to workers occupation of their factory as Republic Windows and Doors tried to close them down in 2008 right after Barack Obama was elected as President. 

Most will remember that for some reason this incident then attracted wide attention because it reflected so much of the climate of anger around the economy at the time, job loss with warning, and the original argument by the company’s owners that they had been squeezed by the failure of Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase, even as they were receiving tens of billions of dollars in bailout monies.   The book ends with the belief that workplace occupations might become a common tactic for workers something on the order of the factory takeovers in 2001 during the Argentina financial crisis.

            If newspapers once wrote the first draft of history, then this book did a solid job on the second draft.  I had not realized that the UE union representative who developed the tactical response for the workers had been Mark Meinster, a former ACORN organizer in Washington, D.C, so that was interesting in itself.  But, what really got me scratching my head is why in the aftermath of the Occupy Wall Street phenomena and the occupy this and occupy that, why in fact has the Republic Windows situation not been duplicated more by angry workers being displaced from their jobs, as Lydersen seemed to believe might be possible?

            Of course the obstacles are huge for such a tactic, starting with trespassing arrests on private property and in unionized situations, most times the pre-shutdown bargaining, when it happens, provide enough to blunt some of the outrage.  But, increasingly workplaces are not unionized, so workers in such predicaments are on their own.   So, when people get screwed and they’re mad as hell, why aren’t they sitting in at their workplaces until they get severance or the straight story or something that explains the years of their lives they put into a company that is tossing them to a curb, especially when at that point they have nothing much to lose and their self-respect to salvage? 

I’m left scratching my head.    Seems like to me “occupy work” would be boiling over from place to place everywhere by this time?  Perhaps this is one of those explosions happening with a long, slow burning fuse.