by: J. Pierce
It might be old news by now, since the bosses are now on the offensive, but in the last year or so the media has really been getting their rocks off on the phrase “The Great Resignation”. The phrase is stupid, we all agree. But the phenomenon of employees choosing to quit in large numbers and bosses not being able to find slaves to exploit is pretty profound.
What finally got me to start this article was a ridiculous piece on NPR back in April. Some HR guru comes on the program and he says something like:
“Its not the Great Resignation. It’s the Great Exploration. Workers are exploring right now… HR managers need to help workers explore without feeling like they have to quit their jobs. We need to help workers find their WHY.”Some HR guru on NPR who is trying to sell his new book
And I was like, “No shit. Why?! Why do I come here? Why do I do all this work for practically nothing? Why do I let them exploit me and insult me and abuse me everyday?” So the guy is right: all workers should be thinking “Why the Fuck!!??”
But let’s back up. First of all, NPR is on the clock for capitalism every hour of the day, even when they reference the “murder of George Floyd” or “white supremacy”. NPR economic stuntmen are being paid to juke and jive and turn your head all the way around. I always end up in the car right when “Marketplace” is on and their cheerleading for capitalism is shameless. Whether it comes to the housing ‘shortage’, consumer goods ‘prices’, the stock ‘market’, – you name it – NPR will not tell you that these are all employing class tactics in a class war against you. Why? Well because the Democrats, the Tech employers, the Pharmaceutical companies, a list of billionaire foundations, and an army of managerial-class technocrats are paying for it all. Thus NPR’s job is to subsume and co-opt the resistance of workers. NPR’s grind is to keep the slaves on the plantation.
The General General Strike
Young workers have turned quitting their jobs into an art form. They are not just “quitting” a specific job: they have begun a generalized rejection of the wage slave system. A General Strike, in the sense used by the IWW, is a strike for specific demands that starts to be joined by more and more workers farther away from the original conflict. So you can have a general strike encompassing one industry – “The Southern Textile General Strike of 1934” or one city “The Oakland General Strike of 1946”. Or even the fairly new addition of general strikes centered in ethnic groups like the “Gran Paro” or “Day without a Mexican” strikes of 2006 and 2007. But what about a generalized refusal to do what the capitalist class expects of you? Young service industry workers have decided truly “en masse” to leave work, not give notice, not show up, come late, leave early, or just not work very hard. They correctly see their bosses as puny tyrants and have said “later” to that.
Workers of the more “professional” variety, [the ones NPR is especially concerned with], tech workers, for example, have been resisting in their own ways as well. They want to stay remote and keep working from home, with all the small and large freedoms and conveniences that it provides. They hate doing the work they have been asked to do and want to work on something meaningful. Rejecting the corporation’s assumed moral neutrality, professional workers are demanding ethical changes in their companies.
And so much more…
We have been witnessing a General General Strike. A strike wave so widespread that it’s tough to say exactly who is striking and why. But the bosses have felt it for sure, and in reaction have started attacking the working class by cutting off pandemic aid, raising prices, evicting residents, storming homeless encampments, beating protestors, forcing the end to COVID safety measures, and pumping out a relentless stream of propaganda trying to force everybody back to the way it was.
What should workers and the IWW do at this moment?
As this article is coming out, the Great Resignation appears to be coming to an end, in so far as the bosses will shortly be forcing everyone back to work. Therefore, the IWW’s traditional admonition to “organize”, is once again the correct watchword for the moment. So yes, we advocate talking to your co-workers and forming a union with the IWW.
But let’s just suspend that call for a second. The IWW’s traditional phrase “Don’t quit, organize.” is not everywhere and always applicable. Since the beginning of the pandemic the bosses have put so much strain on so many workers that many of us have simply wanted to assert our humanity. We have wanted to reject and negate wage slavery – reject and negate the bosses’ work entirely. “Take this job and shove it” – to use an old refrain.
Workers right now want freedom. We have been in rebellion, and there is a difference between rebelling and organizing. Workplace organizing is a long and arduous process that is very nearly the opposite of freedom. It takes the patience of a monk, lemme tell you. Trying to organize a union at your workplace is the definition of patience; it means that you will fail again and again. This is the opposite of the victorious feeling of throwing open the exit door, ripping off your apron and name tag, and giving the middle finger to the pee-wee Henry Ford who wrote you up for insubordination.
So here’s what I think: Yes, I DO think the time is right to organize unions. This, of course, has always been the IWW’s mission. So that’s a given. But even beyond the patient work of workplace organizing, workers should be taking advantage of this time everywhere.
So, (not-yet-organized) WORKERS: if you’re not in a position to organize a union at your workplace, now is still a great time to do the following: 1.) Shop around for a better job 2.) Find a similar or better job that you could get if you were to quit 3.) Use this new knowledge as a bargaining chip with your current employer 4.) Begin the process of asking for a raise, a better schedule, small immediate improvements, etc. If the bosses don’t budge, and you think that organizing a union is a non-starter – go ahead and apply to that other job. If you get it, tell your current employer “adios.” Or if all that is just too much work, and you’re looking for some freedom, go ahead and quit right now.
Labor organizers are not supposed to tell you to quit. But if you’re going to quit, you might as well do it while there are still “Now Hiring” signs around your town. Because right around the corner is a time when no one is hiring, and you’ll have to stick it out at your Shitty McJob no matter how bad it is.
IWW MEMBERS: Try to help workers either a.) gain their temporary freedom by quitting, or b.) help them re-purpose their anger and frustration into a plot against their employer. Now is the right time to organize and fight the bosses, so we all have to be on-the-clock helping workers to form their union and make demands.
The Great Exploration – Beyond Capitalism
Maybe you never did quit during the Great Resignation. You clenched your teeth and bore the brunt of the pandemic working away like always. You risked your health, and that of your family, and everyone called you “essential”, remember that? And meanwhile the bosses got their $20,000 PPP loans for their fake ass side business that doesn’t exist (and another $20K for their spouse’s fake business!). The bosses laughed their way through the pandemic, first firing everybody before two weeks were up. Then hoarding sanitary supplies. Then watching their stocks shoot through the roof. Then opening back up while it was totally unsafe. Then complaining about all the unemployment checks the working class got. Then resentful of all the workers who didn’t want to be slaves anymore (or murdered in cold blood by the cops). The bosses were living their best life while YOU did all the dangerous work to generate their profits.
Are you mad yet? You should be.
But hey, if you haven’t yet made your mark during the General General Strike, now’s your chance to get back at the bastards.
The HR guru is right: workers need to ask themselves WHY? Why do we tolerate such an inhumane, miserable existence? Why do we let the employers, the capitalists, tell us what to do and make billions off of our sweat? Why do they get to live their best life while we struggle to scrape together the cash to pay the rent? Why do we allow capitalism, the for-profit system, to continue?
Now is not the time to “resign”. It’s time to “explore” the real General Strike.