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Preview: Industrial Workers of the World - Iowa City GMB

Industrial Workers of the World - Iowa City GMB

Iowa City GMB


Holding the line: informal pace setting in the workplace

Tue, 20 Dec 2011 20:51:24 +0000

By Juan Conatz - originally posted at

(image) Often when talking to people about their frustrations at work and the prospects for organizing, a common response is one of negativity and desperation.

“I could never get anything goin’ where I work!”
“Other people don’t care.”
“It would be too hard.”

These types of sentiments cut across industries and sectors. Even folks in officially unionized workplaces that have unaddressed grievances feel this way many times.

But while your preconceived ideas of what workplace organizing entails may clash with the obstacles you think of, other things going on in your workplace perfectly mesh with what we commonly call ‘job actions’. Slowdowns, work to rule and pace setting are all tactics that workers have used in response to management doing ans saying things we don’t like. Most commonly, nowadays, it seems like our coworkers do these things as individuals, but when it expands beyond that…well, there’s an opportunity to get somewhere.


In early 2010, I was working at a warehouse as a forklift driver in Iowa City. Most of my day was spent on the shipping side of the building, pulling pallets off the production lines and staging them in a different area so they could eventually be loaded onto trucks. I also spent a fair amount of time loading these trucks, as well.

For the most part, the majority of my interaction with co-workers was limited to the other shipping forklift driver, the shipping manager and 2-3 temps who used a pallet jack to drop off pallets for me to stage.

The shipping manager, Phil, was basically a ‘lead’, with little power himself. Any power he had was mostly snitching power in that he directly answered to the Warehouse Supervisor. Phil was in his mid 40s and a casualty of the bad economy, being a recently laid of worker at a factoiry that made parts for General Motors.

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