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Building Solidarity in the Workplace

Susan Notes: A Boston teacher, upset at how little social contact there was among teachers at her school, sent out a note to meet one Friday after school at a local bar for a drink. Thirty-five teachers showed up! It has become a regular monthly thing, with different teachers taking turns organizing it.


by Dave Stratman

Here's one of the simplest and most insightful strategies I've ever heard of for building solidarity in the workplace. It comes from Tom Laney, who worked for thirty years in the Twin Cities Ford Assembly plant. Tom was trying to figure out how to overcome the negativity and demoralization in the plant. Here's what he came up with. "The company and the unions and the general culture are always telling us that people suck and your co-workers suck, etc., etc. To overcome this, why not just make a list of all the good people you work with? You know you work with some good people, and I'll bet that, if you started to list them, you'd come up with a lot more than you think."

"Why not talk to some of those people? Start a conversation about solidarity. Encourage other people to make their own lists of the good people. Get them to start talking with one another about solidarity."

The reason I'm making this point is that, to build solidarity, we don't necessarily have to start with fighting the company or the union. Starting fights, even small ones, already assumes that we have a certain level of connections and solidarity. Starting conversations is easier than starting fights and can often get us someplace faster. Then we're
in a better place to choose or support the fights that we want to support.

One last point. Solidarity can be a means to an end--it can make us stronger, help us get things we need. But in an important way,
solidarity is an end in itself. It is one of the qualities that make us fully human and that enable us to rise above the capitalist culture of competition and me-ism. This is why solidarity is so powerful and so feared by our rulers.



Dave Stratman is author of We CAN Change the World: The Real Meaning of Everyday Life, and editor of http://www.newdemocracyworld.org. You can reach him at newdem@aol.com.

— Dave Stratman
Solidarity e-mail list
2006-02-15


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