I would hope that in addressing any labor union gathering, that Dr. Yates would make a pitch for a bottom up, rank 'n file, union driven education & training program. A program that the union members feel comfortable with and one that offers a varied selection of education & training courses of interest to the rank and file union member.
Chuck Grimes wrote:
> 2. Work as meaningful, with a maximum integration, in every job, of
> our uniquely human capability to conceptualize and carry out work
> tasks, and a sharing of society's more onerous tasks. A democratic
> union will naturally turn its attention to the workplace, and the
> hierarchies found there will be no more tolerable than those in the
> union. Workplace hierarchies are based, in part, upon an inhuman
> division of labor, which divides up our jobs and doles them out to us
> in little mechanical pieces, unfit for truly human labor. From
> democratic unions to democratic workplaces seems a natural
> 3. A good deal of consumption fully socialized: education at all
> levels, health care, including care for the aged, child care,
> transportation, and recreation (libraries, parks, playgrounds, gyms,
> etc.). In a real democracy, peoples' basic needs must be socially
> provided. Otherwise it will be difficult for some to fully
> participate in making decisions, in unions and in other organizations,
> and democracy will be defeated.
> Michael Yates
> Rakesh already mentioned something along the lines of well rounded
> skills and capital's dependence on such a work force. But I want to
> suggest something similar, but heading in a anti-capitalist direction.
> As I was reading your talk, I imagined myself sitting in an audience
> with my work buddies. The first question that came to mind was, `yes,
> yes, but what are we supposed to do about it--in direct concrete
> terms?' Then I recalled an old thought, my usual answer to myself on
> these matters.
> The one thing that an intellectual class can contribute directly to a
> working class is education skills. So, in the context of a union, that
> is something that the union can directly offer its members,
> i.e. school. Not tuition credits or vouchers or some programmatic get
> an education jive---but straight ahead, night school, with union
> selected teachers, union designed courses. However, the direction is
> not for apprenticeship or improved job classifications or
> certifications or other little hierarchical nonsense. The direction
> and goal is improved working lives.
> I've seen many people try to go back to school at community or city
> colleges and they all have the same reaction. They come into a
> classroom full of other students and feel stupid, old, and
> worthless. Many teachers do nothing to make them feel welcome and the
> entire process is so ego destroying that they give up either
> immediately, or very quickly. The result is that all the oppressive
> nonsense that they carry around in their minds is re-enforced by the
> education system.
> Now, I have no idea what the state of education and skill is for most
> members in your union. I would assume since the union is called United
> Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, that both the skill
> and education level is pretty high. No matter really, because neither
> skill nor education is ever completed.
> (A brief personal digression.) At one time, I had to pass an employer
> paid for package course (Healthkit) in electronics so I'll use that as
> a basis. After that course I was certified (a laugh) as an electronic
> technician. I got to thinking about the concrete difference between
> that course which cost my jerk-off boss several thousand dollars (and
> me, several hundred) and about the same amount of time I could have
> spent in electrical engineering courses for something like thirty-five
> dollars a semester at a city college. The single biggest difference
> between the two was the level of math and physics. At the technician
> level we were taught (with a heavy basic algebra refresher) a limited
> variety of circuits and devices in some detail. After cross checking
> with an old physics text, I recalled similar devices and circuits were
> also covered, but at a theoretical level, i.e. not in a usable
> form. My guess would be that the engineering level would be somewhere
> in between these two extremes.
> With that background, I think you can see where union courses and
> education fits as a bridge between all three levels: science,
> engineering, technical. These levels are essentially the division of
> labor that partitions the class hierarchy and provides the
> socio-economic means to reward one class over another and directly
> suppress or oppress the others---with the understanding that both
> rewards and oppression are just differing modes of exploitation---some
> obviously more egregious than others.
> The long term direction and goal to this suggested union based
> education (not mere training) is complex. Capital specializes in
> appropriation of skill and its conversion into the means of
> production. The way out of this equation of depredation is to
> re-appropriate those skills and knowledge, and retain them as part of
> a culture of labor, not a culture of capital. And, the only way I can
> think of to cut this loop is to provide sophisticated levels of
> education and skills learning within a union context that
> re-appropriates prior generations of skill and knowledge devoted to
> production. Pull that blood and sweat back out of the hands of
> capital, so to speak.
> Of course this doesn't just apply to one particular group, but any
> group of workers at any level, from finally learning how to read and
> write, to being able to argue with some managerial clone over
> engineering principles in quality control.
> And whatever else happens, I can assure you that management and
> capital positively hate workers who are smarter and better educated
> (in concrete terms) than they are. Such a position highlights the lie
> of meritocracy for the entire system. Evidentially, a sophisticated
> level of shop floor expertise grinds away all the flimsy hierarchical
> crap that goes on---leaving nothing but the raw armature of
> exploitation in full view.
> One way or another, good luck with your presentation.
> Chuck Grimes