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Workplace Democracy: The Time is Right

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wm pasz
Post Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 4:41 pm

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 1219
Location: Toronto
A couple of years ago, workplace democracy advocate Rune Olsen posted an insightful article on the subject entitled Vertical to Horizontal: A New Workplace Reality. Since that time he and I have continued our exploration of this concept and I am pleased today to be able to share with you his latest work, The DemoCratic Workplace in which he takes a more pragmatic look at how we might go about implementing this new workplace paradigm.

To further explore this subject, how it might work, the changes it might bring and why the time for a change of this magnitude could be more right, I've prepared a Workplace Democracy Q & A.

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Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else. - Malcolm X
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SharynS
Post Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 12:34 am

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3624
Location: the 'puter
Exceptional piece Rune and wm. Who wouldn't want one!

Check out this little lumber mill on Vancouver Island B.C.. It came back to life after basically being rescued by it's community.
Quote:
Smiley said the difference is that the employees all chose to come back to work at Harmac. The owner-workers are motivated to see their jobs survive as well as their investment. An unheard-of 11-year labour contract along with flexibility -- workers now perform any job they are qualified to do -- were two of the major changes they agreed to.

Worker-owners also contribute cost-saving ideas and costly, time-consuming grievances have become a thing of the past.

"It really makes a difference to the guys on the shop floor," said Smiley. "They feel their contributions make a difference. And they do."
Whether their effort withstands the current attack from outside money is yet to be seen but I think the effort is a good a shell model where workplace democracy and leadingship could easily take root. As the economic crisis deepens (and it will) and corporatism dies it's due death (and it will), I think we'll see more community take-overs (and they will).

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the doc
Post Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 3:22 pm

Joined: 27 Sep 2006
Posts: 121
This sounds an awfull like what I was involved in at work in 1974. It was called "Quality of Working Life", and was developed be a man from Holland. I worked with Steinbergs Grocery chain at the time in Hamilton. The store employees had a worker council that met once a month to go over problems in the store as reported by employees or management. We met and worked to come up with changes to the status quo, that was the norm at time. We even developed a profit sharing plan for the employees. As head of the council we would also meet once a month with the VP's in TO, and union management to go over what we were doing and why. Of course being unionized, the union had said there were certain conditions under which we could operate. One was no change in the hrs. eg. no change to 8 hr. days, etc. It worked really well until we ran into a problem with the union (isn't it always the way). We had worked out a system of 10 hr. days in the meat dept. WHICH WAS TOTALLY VOLANTARY. The head VP in TO asked how it worked out and we had to report that sales were up, margins were up and the counter was always full, and those on the 10's were happy. The union (UFCW) went beserk at the idea, as they said they had fought to long for 8 hr. days and would not allow it. The head VP said alright then you work the shifts and I will pay you o/t for anything over 8 hrs. The UFCW was way behind the times, and now you have 9hr. shifts for a 4 day work week. Anyway the whole thing seemed to rest on who the Store Mgr. was because he could break it if he did not follow what the council said. Anyway they sent in a new mgr. and he was not the type of person who took direction from a group of employees. The whole deal eventually fell apart down the road, and the company did admit it was the mgr. who was fired eventually a few years later. But my point is there are a lot of ways out there to make things better for the worker, and not to just go with the old ways. Smile
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atuuschaaw
Post Posted: Fri May 08, 2009 8:30 am

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 781
Location: an ahwangan
Wonderful...absolutely wonderful Rune and Wanda! Yes it is time for something to happen...time for something to change. It has to begin, and the workplace is the lowest common denominator I'm thinking. There is so much that must change it can be very overwhelming. Where the people spend the majority of their waking lives is the best place to initiate change. From there it has to spill out over onto the rest of our lives, and must include our friends, neighbors, and the rest of the world.

I was just reading a very interesting announcement to the governments and the people of Earth. The people of our planet must take a participatory responsibility...somewhere, somehow, someway! From workplace democracy, then onward toward community participatory planning, and eventually grow into a sustainable form of global community. The beast is wounded now...what better time for a declaration?

Quote:
==== Our Plans: ====

We are building our own society. We will supplement traditional tools with networking, cryptography, and anonymous messaging.

Our society will not be centrally controlled. It will rely solely on voluntary arrangements. We welcome others to join us. We are looking for people who are independent creators of life-affirming values, people who act more than talk, and people who re-affirm their place in this world in nuturing, self-fulfilling ways.

We will develop our own methods of dealing with injustice, built on the principles of negative rights, restitution, integrity and equal justice.

We do not forbid anyone from having one foot in each realm - ours and the old realm - although we demand that they do no damage to our realm. We are fully opposed to any use of our realm to facilitate crime in the old realm, such as the hiding of criminal proceeds.

We expect to be loudly condemned, libeled and slandered by the authorities of the old regime. We expect them to defend their power and their image of legitimacy with all means available to them. We expect that many gullible and servile people will believe these lies, at least at first.

We will consider traps laid for us to be criminal offences.

Any who wish to join us are encouraged to distribute this declaration, to act in furtherance of our new society, to voluntarily expand activities which will open up space for others to step away from the control of the current regime and to communicate and cooperate with other members of the new society.

Free, unashamed people cannot be ruled.


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markus
Post Posted: Mon May 18, 2009 11:50 am

Joined: 06 Jul 2008
Posts: 131
Location: Toronto
I don't know why you guys bother. You all write a lot,
but other than that, individually and collectively
you are all a bunch of 'do nothings'.

My impression is that no real action is taken so that
you can have something to write about. I think doing
nothing is benefiting a few.
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wm pasz
Post Posted: Mon May 18, 2009 1:35 pm

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 1219
Location: Toronto
Gosh Markus, I have been of the understanding that writing, talking, sharing ideas are all manifestations of doing something. Seems to me that some quite important things have come out of that kind of activity over the centuries.

What exactly have you been doing that's fomenting change? If you're waiting for others to make things happen, this may be why nothing's changing in your world.

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Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else. - Malcolm X
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atuuschaaw
Post Posted: Mon May 18, 2009 3:02 pm

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 781
Location: an ahwangan
markus wrote:
I don't know why you guys bother. You all write a lot,
but other than that, individually and collectively
you are all a bunch of 'do nothings'.

My impression is that no real action is taken so that
you can have something to write about. I think doing
nothing is benefiting a few.

So in your eyes writing is no longer considered an activist's tool to be used for change? Does this mean that you believe our speech is no longer useful as a weapon against oppressors and perceived injustices within society?

I would argue that writing and discussing issues is one of the most important forms of activism. I see it as our responsibility to point out the flaws we see in society. It's the best way I am aware of to let those who commit injustices know we are watching them and taking notes. It's putting forth our ideas that can create the catalyst for any and all social change. The people have to be able to recognize the problem, discuss it, offer possible solutions, and discuss how it could possibly be solved. There is no magic wand, no clap of thunder or bolt of lightning that will come and make the world a better place. It is a slow turning, and it begins and is maintained with the people's voices.

What part did Thomas Paine's writing play in our history? How about MLK, Thoreau, Orwell, Marx, Huxley, Friedman, Locke, Zinn, or Chomsky? Even the ranting of Ann Coulter had an effect on change in this country. To dismiss writing and writers as a bunch of 'do nothings' is self-destructive at best. Also as an aside, I will not speak for others, but I know for a fact you do not know me well enough to know what I have done or what I am doing! I would guess it's the same for the others who you refer to as 'do nothings'!

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"Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

Last edited by atuuschaaw on Mon May 18, 2009 4:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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SharynS
Post Posted: Mon May 18, 2009 4:10 pm

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3624
Location: the 'puter
Thanks for your input markus. It's safe to assume then that you've never been enlightened/moved/inspired by something you've read?
Quote:
My impression is that no real action is taken so that you can have something to write about
You may want to edit the above comment. I've always understood that it's the do nothings who have nothing to write about. Correct me if I'm wrong.

AT is spot on - you don't know me well enough to know anything about what I do or don't do. I do READ a lot, which helps me do the things I do and don't do. But that's a long story and you're probably not interested but if it helps you to draw conclusions, then my work here is done. Remember you read it here first eh.

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prototype
Post Posted: Mon May 18, 2009 10:01 pm

Joined: 19 Jan 2008
Posts: 128
Location: Canada
Markus -

One of your comments was, "You all write a lot, but other than that, individually and collectively you are all a bunch of 'do nothings'."

I've found your comments to be very unfair.

If you've spent the time to delve into the past history of some of our fellow posters here you'll see that some of them have spent many years actively helping others. Some of these people's stories are right here on this website, including
on m-f-d.org. Other info can be found by googling.

This website alone is one of the biggest gifts to workers on the internet, thanks to SharynS, et al.

If this website wasn't online where would we all go to expose, discuss, and attempt to bring about positive change in the working world?

And in case you're confused about the purpose of discussions here's a list on how to instigate change -

- The problems have to be exposed

- The discussions about the problems have to occur

- The solutions, to fix the problems, have to be discussed

- The actions have to begin, to make positive changes happen

Some other points to consider -

- Changes don't happen overnight

- Sometimes it takes money (court, etc.) to instigate changes

- Changes might happen sooner, and cheaper, if enough people get together to help instigate the changes

At least your voice is heard here Markus. How many people were listening to you twenty years ago, before the internet.

Cool
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SharynS
Post Posted: Tue May 19, 2009 3:15 am

Joined: 28 Jan 2006
Posts: 3624
Location: the 'puter
I can't help but think markus's criticism is akin to walking in on a group of people gathered in a room discussing the days events or news or what have you and calling them do nothings.

First it's curious that markus felt the need to take a shot at uncharted when all it's ever done was to provide a space for people (him) to air their views. In fact, a space to take shots. Even more curious is why choose this particular thread? If someone had a legitimate beef or an opinion on the value or lack thereof in forum discussions and/or exposes then why not begin a dedicated thread and give people an opportunity to respond? Very curious indeed.

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Laboryes
Post Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 6:33 pm

Joined: 29 Jan 2006
Posts: 2055
markus wrote:
I don't know why you guys bother. You all write a lot,
but other than that, individually and collectively
you are all a bunch of 'do nothings'.


Markus...Markus...Markus how silly of you to make a comment like this! While I don't have the time today to get into this with you I will leave you with a message until I can get back to you and prove you very wrong!

Hey JB...your up!

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John Briley
Post Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 10:16 pm

Joined: 21 Nov 2007
Posts: 2157
Quote:
Markus...Markus...Markus how silly of you to make a comment like this!


Markus..... with all due respect regarding your most recent comments.

Quote:
My impression is that no real action is taken so that
you can have something to write about. I think doing
nothing is benefiting a few.


For starters...... here is a link that contains some REAL ACTION on the part of some VERY ACTIVE UFCW members here in Northern California.

http://forums.uncharted.ca/viewtopic.php?p=12984&highlight=#12984

To be continued......
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The Third Element
Post Posted: Thu May 21, 2009 10:27 pm

Joined: 22 Feb 2006
Posts: 368
Markus, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and let's hear some more from you.

From one activist to another, I am looking for some ideas, perhaps motivation.

You have the collective mind focused on your opinions, what would be a "do something" course of action?

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No Beast so fierce knows but some small amount of pity, but I know none and so I am no beast.
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The Third Element
Post Posted: Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:30 am

Joined: 22 Feb 2006
Posts: 368
I have not been here in a while... whatever happened to Markus, he promised such entertainment.

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No Beast so fierce knows but some small amount of pity, but I know none and so I am no beast.
~ Richard III
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markus
Post Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 1:15 am

Joined: 06 Jul 2008
Posts: 131
Location: Toronto
I still say you guys are all do nothings. Ten years from now you'll
still be writing about the same crap because collectively you would have done absolutely nothing.
And doing nothing ensures that Wm pasz has something to
write about.
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