Democracy In The Workplace

I give credit where credit is due. This article is inspired by Dr Richard Wolff, who runs the YT channel, “Democracy At Work”. If you do not follow Dr Wolff, you really should. Dr Wolff is a highly experienced professor and explains several things in this video, which you may want to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOqqRD1t47Y

That said, no, this article is not a review of that video. I prefer making my own statements but give credit to my inspirations, be it a conversation with my girlfriend or a more known source like Dr Wolff.

Americans like to think we have democracy. Yet at work, we surrender to hierarchic structures where we simply follow dictates handed down by business and corporate demands. Those demands consistently benefit the business and corporate entities far more than it benefits the workers.

We are told by employers to refrain from discussing politics at work. The rationale promoted being that it causes stress and division. That statement is demonstrably false.

The slave mind. I do agree that some people take things personally which they should not. Why? Because our society has been (as I have written about extensively) indoctrinated into a slave culture mindset addicted to entertainment and chained to celebrity over substance.

The slave mind is promoted by two factions- the slave owners/masters and the slaves too fearful to oppose the owners/masters. The latter will adamantly and even violently defend their own slavery. These are the workers who are “brown nosers”, the ones least trusted by coworkers because what you say in their presence will make it up the chain, even if your words were completely benign. These are people that have an innate need to be led, that need an authority figure to dictate to them. These are people who will remain in an abusive relationship or environment or even thrive on it. They are motivated by instilling fear, division and drama or literal addiction to the same things and their own submission.

Indoctrination. This subservient mindset is embedded in our consciousness from childhood via religion and public education. By the time we enter the workplace, we are fully surrendered to faithfully defend the slave masters, to think that our labor, our thoughts, our very existence should be dedicated to the well-being of our employers, elected officials, judicial system and military worship, even when it is contradictory to our own best interests and that of the economy, society, the environment and the planet at large.

Democratic work space. Have you ever worked in a workplace where laborers have open communication and are allowed to voice ideas for improvement which are taken seriously? I have on several occasions. What happened was that there was greater cohesion, greater productivity, more efficiency, less theft and better morale. People felt like their ideas were heard, even if voted down by a democratic majority or rejected for practical reasons. They felt like they contributed. They felt rightly that they were cared about by their own coworkers.

Democratic leadership. In this environment, fostered by leaders who promoted it, I was able to criticize that leader (usually privately). It did result in some pretty strong arguments yet, in the end, we respected each other. There were no repercussions. I was not written up, did not have my income reduced, was not terminated. I respected them more because I was able to voice my opinions and thoughts, even when they ran contrary to instructions from above or the most popular view. They respected me because they knew they could trust me.

Hurt feelings. Think employers worry about your hurt feelings when they tell you that your family comes second to the job? That your cost of benefits are increasing? That your hours are being cut? That someone less qualified (but more subservient) is being promoted or even hired in over you or given a position you applied for? It’s not feelings that matter. Have you ever noticed that cohesion and motivation have been replaced by “professionalism” and productivity? In other words, shut up, follow orders, get along with fellow slaves and do your job or suffer the consequences. Sound familiar? How do feelings count in that environment?

Recent changes. Can anyone recall not so long ago when tech startups were a big thing? Many startups had environments and meetings where workers were allowed and often encouraged to voice ideas for improvements and tactics. That attitude spread beyond tech startups into other industries as well. Companies expanded benefits and changed environments to become more inclusive. That didn’t last long. What happened was that workers began demanding more benefits, recognition and compensation for their contributions. Some claim that this led to the tech bubble bursting but that’s not true. The tech bubble burst because of numerous startups that never produced anything and never had a cohesive concept to begin with, so they never should have been funded by anyone. Many were nothing but con artists. The demand for more compensation and recognition was frowned upon by capitalist investors who bought out smaller companies. Reduction of compensation and benefits was enforced by executives who were given stock options tied to stock price. We went through years of cutting salaries and benefits to reduce costs to support profit margins as executive salaries skyrocketed and executive stock packages grew ever larger. Today, profits are completely unrelated to company profits while stock holders get richer by artificially inflating stock prices. There is no need to consider worker needs other than public image.

Long term changes. Before tech startups, we had another structure which defended our interests and where our voices were once heard. Unions.Unions brought us the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, child labor laws, worker safety regulations, worker health insurance, worker retirement accounts, workman’s compensation, unemployment insurance and a lot more. These things were achieved through communication and mass movements, strikes and protests. Yet over time since Reagan, unions have lost cohesion due to internal corruption at the top and weakened through “Right To Work” legislation pushed through by corporate bribes in the form of lobbying and campaign “donations” to elected officials.

Competition over cooperation. The modern business environment, social environment and even educational environment encourages competition. Who decides the winners? Most commonly authority figures who profit in some way by the results of a competition. Cooperation is encouraged only when it involves one team competing against another. The division is constant and cooperation which would benefit all members of all teams equally is not only discouraged but my be grounds for elimination of/from a team. School students are graded on a curve rather than as a group. Workers are pitted against coworkers, businesses are pitted against other businesses in the same industry. Singers are judged individually and not allowed to sing as a group/choir unless authorized or ordered. Seniority and productivity earn you a mass produced pin on your uniform or a computer generated and printed award to hang on your wall. There must always be an “other”, an opponent, an enemy that must be “beaten” so “we” can “win”.

Disclaimer: This is not making a statement against competition or striving to do better. I am making a statement against this being a mindset in a way of life that we accept as a constant. Personally, I can be brutally competitive when debating things that involve human lives. I can also be very seriously competitive in games but remain polite.

The real fear of capitalists. When workers discuss politics, it will invariably lead to economics and working conditions. Or vice versa. This is unacceptable to capitalists. In many tech startups mentioned above, those who made major contributions at first gained a real share of benefits and wealth for their efforts and ideas. As startups eventually sold ownership to larger and larger corporate investors, those gains for individual workers slipped away gradually. Replaced by positions where improvements and ideas were expected, demanded and mandatory to earn flat salaries. Rewards were replaced with threats. Benefits became more expensive to the worker or were reduced, even eliminated. Today, if a worker offers an idea which improves efficiency, reduces cost or results in an entirely new income stream for a company resulting in billions in profits, the worker may get a small bonus instead of a share of the profits. Or simply a letter of recognition.

No more divide and conquer. As should be obvious through all of this, the entire goal is to keep us divided. As long as we remain divided, we can be controlled. Break up unions, split the workforce, make us compete like performing animals, tell us that the most subservient will be rewarded, follow orders, watch one another and report disobedience, accept the roles assigned no matter how demeaning or below our capacity and capability, accept the workload no matter how crushing, ask no questions, make no demands, struggle to survive so the rich and corporations survive and profit. As long as we remain divided, we surrender our own power as a group, a workforce, a community, a society. We hand our power over too willingly and lock our own shackles.

We can do better. If we want things to improve, we have only one choice. To unify. That means communicating with each other. Yes, it may at times be uncomfortable but eventually we gain more respect for each other. Can all of us agree on everything? No. However, we can gain consensus. In other words, democracy in the workplace. Which leads to democracy in ever-growing concentric circles to community, city, state, nation and world.

THAT absolutely terrifies capitalists.

The only other choice is surrendering to the oligarchy and perpetuating our own subservience where more chains will continue to be added as time goes on until we can no longer carry the weight. In the long run, if we communicate, even on the issues we disagree on, then when conditions improve, we gain more respect and caring for each other. It’s called being a society. Which is the root word of Socialism. Remember that.

Break the rules. Turn to your coworkers and start talking about real issues. Today. Don’t wait any longer.

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