Friday, January 26, 2007

The long awaited conclusion to my story about my role in the 4-day Class War of 2004

The Union, CWA, made the announcement the week before Memorial Day. This wasn't going to be an old school strike, where everyone would stand together for weeks, maybe months, until the company came back to the table to give them a square deal.

This was a new concept in strikes for a new century, one where the folks in the Union had drunk the materialism/consumer culture Kool-Aid every bit as much as any Beemer driving Junior Exec with his eyes on the prize, and they were up to their eyeballs in SUV and McMansion debt as much as the next guy. To their credit, the people running things at the Union recognized this new reality called for a different approach. This would be a MICRO Strike.

The Union would walk out Thursday night. The faithful would show up to picket Fri-Mon, taking turns to ensure everybody got a shot at the 3-day weekend barbeque scene.

The management (and 'management') suckers would miss out on the 3-day weekend, and their Friday was really going to suck, too.

I was to report at 7:30am. If I didn't, I'd face disciplinary action up to and including termination.

I left the house around 9am. I showed up a bit after 10. I was, as I previously mentioned, dreading this assignment to the point of physical illness (way to go, CWA). I was at this point kind of hoping to get fired.

It seems irrational, seeing as there was an end in sight, and I wasn't being asked to spend a year away from everyone and everything I love in a desert shithole or anything like that, but that's what phobias are, irrational fears. I had a phobia about working Customer Service. Pretty much every move and action I had taken in life was geared toward avoiding working Customer Service. Yet here I was, going to my shift.

At the front door, I was met by a couple of women from the Union. They were picketing, I think, though they didn't have signs. They hadn't even had their kids make signs like some of the other Unionites did.

'Are you management?' one asked.


'Good luck'

'Good luck to you'

As I entered I heard them laughing. "He looked so SAD!"

I'm sure I did.

Inside I collected tickets good for $5 worth of cafeteria food. On the 18th floor, I read a paper with some last-minute instructions. It told us we were to tell everybody who called we couldn't fix their phone for a month, and blame it on the strike.

A woman wearing a t-shirt depicting Rosie the Riveter and her slogan 'We Can Do It' ('it' being stomp the last wisps of life out of the working class, I guess) optimistically asked was I in for an 11am shift.

'No, 7:30' I said, offering nothing in the way of apology or remorse.

I was ready to get blasted, but her face just kind of fell and she thought about things to say but didn't say them, opting eventually to say 'I'll show you to your seat'.


I took very long coffee breaks including a really long walk around the downtown area. I ran into somebody I knew who eventually asked if I was on strike, and I said no, I'm working. After about a day of alternating between my breaks and having elderly people share their fantasies about my father having a medical emergency and dying because his phone didn't work, I said 'fuck this shit altogether', and called in sick the next day. And the next, and the last. During one of the calls I got voice mail, and might have been drowned out by Chris Rock's 1993 Gangsta Rap version of 'Spinal Tap', 'CB4', because I was watching it at the time.

Tuesday morning we watched the news and an SBC PR flunky announced everything had been worked out and we were a happy family again. My wife said 'Oh that's great, now everything's back to normal and you're probably out of a job'.

'Eh, I'm going in anyway.'

I showed up and somebody in the elevator in the parking garage clued me in that we were to go to a meeting where we'd be 'released' from strike duty. I went and sat with a bunch of management flunkies while the guy in charge of all the customer service people thanked us profusely for saving the company and doing a great job, blah blah blah. Then we all left and shook his hand on the way out. He had a puzzled look on his face as I shook his hand. I smiled at him.

I went to my cube and never heard anything from anyone about it again. I told one co-worker about my antics, but otherwise kept my mouth shut and said nothing. I did find out one of my colleagues wrote a lengthy e-mail to our boss Thursday night after 5pm explaining he would show up for his regular job and work the longer (12 hour shift), but no way was he going on strike duty, because that wasn't what he signed up for. They called him at home to tell him his ass was fired and he didn't need to come back. Supposedly a lot of people got cut loose this way, but in a company of 17o,ooo people, nobody really matters.

That weekend, I realized that, and I decided to use the fact that nobody gave a shit about me to my advantage. So the Union lost, and CWA lost, but I won.

Some people have had long careers and built whole lives and families around being utterly meaningless cogs in the machine, catching the scraps of cash the company leaks their way, both and SBC and at other corporations, but eventually I got offered a job elsewhere and got the hell out of there.

Next time, back to briefer, goofier material.