Saturday, November 18, 2006

What did you do in the Class War, Daddy? - The SBC-CWA micro-strike of 2004, Part I

In 2004, SBC hadn't yet bought AT&T and changed their name back to AT&T. I worked in the Indianapolis SBC building as a code monkey putting semi-modern web application skins on decrepit ancient Mainframe applications. It was a living.

Every day I reported to a grey building and went up to a crummy cubicle off in an out-of-the-way area on a largely abandoned floor of the 18 floor building. Most of the people I worked with were in St. Louis, hundreds of miles away. Alienated? Yes. I hardly felt like a part of anything, but soon my arm would be twisted to stand alongside 'management' against 'labor', as labor's contract was up for renegotiation, as happens every 5 years.

The thought that I was part of 'management' was a joke. Nobody reported to me. I was classified as management so I would be unable to join the Union. I later heard on the SBC yahoo message board, where a lot of the posturing and mind-games around the strike were to take place, that people like me were called 'gerbils' in Union lingo, but that was the only time I heard the term, and half-assed Google searches didn't turn up much.

For several months in that year, 2004, our group essentially wasted our time on ineffective training so we could 'replace' the Union workers if it came to that, and our Union counterparts got to wear t-shirts with snakes on them and have the protests with the inflatable rats, satisfying some intrinsic need humans have to mob together and do the protest thing now and then. We already wasted time on stupid shit like the United Way, making sure everybody filled out their timesheets and TPS reports properly, and various programs to encourage us to do the hard sell on our family and friends, but during the strike it was like we all said to hell with any pretense of doing anything related to telecommunications or whatever the company was about. Some of my 'management' counterparts were very gung-ho, ready to fire everybody affiliated with the union in anyway (had they known how I felt about things, I probably would have been hung in the conference room as a class traitor) and re-build the company from there.

next time - going beyond the call for some asshole Texan cowboy not named George

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