Fire Your Bosses!

Fire the bosses!
by Ron Smith

Members of the Groupe Anarchiste Bete Noire held a conference on anarchy in
the workplace last Friday night at Cafe La Petite Gaule. Bete Noire is the
Quebec member of North Eastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists.

Far from the old stone-faced Soviet leaders from the Cold-War era, these
communists promote Marx's original intention behind communism, to stop the
subordination of the working class by the bourgeoisie wealthy upper class and
to create equality in the workplace without hierarchy. This is the
fundamental principle of NEFAC.

This second conference on the difficulties employees face was aimed primarily
at non-unionized workers. Mathieu, who would only use his first name, opened
with what he believes to be the main problems in today's work environment.
His wording was strong when attacking directors of companies. In his view,
companies become rich by giving only 80 per cent of production profits to
employees while pocketing the other 20 per cent. He said if you multiply that
20 per cent by the number of employees the profit margin is astronomical.

Mathieu stated that the wealth bosses "steal" from workers is used to buy off
police and all other means of repression to help make them the dominating
class. He went on to say that "without that money they don't have the means
to control us."

He also attacked the textiles industry, singling out Nike and Benetton for
their refusal to use machines for production. Mathieu said they instead
choose to move production to developing countries to capitalize on cheap
labour, sometimes involving children. He condemned industries that are unable
to move their services, such as highway and building construction, to avoid
paying top union salaries. These companies break down their services and sub-
contract to non-union workers. However, no documented evidence was offered
for any of these accusations.

Next for the crowd of 20-25 people was a speech from two employees of Decarie
Complice, a door-to-door and telephone sales company that was recently
unionized. Bernard Turcotte and Karl Boutin gave some good advice on how to
unionize the workplace. In the case of Turcotte and Boutin, they decided to
seek union help after conditions at Decarie became unbearable. Boutin
described the process they took to bring in the Confederation des Syndicats

"You have to be very patient," he said, explaining that you need at least a
50 per cent majority vote that must remain constant. This wasn't easy for the
Decarie employees, as their boss kept a large percentage of part-time
transient workers on the payroll. They had to dig through recycling bins and
find old punch-cards just to get an accurate employee count. They submitted
their application to CSN in February 2002 and the union was adopted two
months later. The workers have had to wait from then until Oct. 16, 2003 for
their first contract negotiations.

Both Turcotte and Boutin advised extreme caution in this process because if a
boss finds out before the union is adopted, employees' lives could be made
miserable in the fall-out. Some examples given by Turcotte and Boutin
included going to work and finding you have less hours on the schedule. They
would find that even senior workers wouldn't get called for special events
like the Jazz Festival and lose potential earnings from commissions.
Commissions are the only way for Decarie workers to supplement to their
income, and these special events were already hard to get because the boss
had a tendency to hire friends and play favourites. To start promoting the
union to others at work, they had to find a couple of people to trust at a
time and spread the message that way.

The general message expressed by Turcotte and Boutin was to not be
intimidated by employers, but to be very careful how you start the ball
rolling. Owners of non-unionized companies don't want unions. The cost is too
much. Employees do have rights and there are people out there willing to help
guide people through the process.