Getting a Raise: Organizing Workers in an Industrializing Hospital Author(s): E.

Paul Durrenberger and Suzan Erem Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Spring, 1997), pp. 31-46 Published by: University of New Mexico Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3631114 . Accessed: 18/03/2013 20:39
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We don't just do maintenance vol. meetasking. in theirgreen uniforms. 73. The engineerscame in as a group. and reactions.I knew the maintenance engineerswere dissatisfiedwith the unionfromthe At the meetingto ratifytheir time I hadtaken over as their representative. SuzanErem.theunionrepresentative narratives. beginto drift worker. I hada feelingI was goingto take the heat for all the burned-out reps andlousy contractsthat hadcome beforeme. I knowyou can'tchangeanything of things worry us.they asked a few questions. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Paulwas sittingat the end of the tabletakingnotes.stuffed stormedout. for workers topresent in thestory. Pay is inadequate. ing " the trust of the engineers. Chicago.WORKERSIN AN GETTINGA RAISE: ORGANIZING INDUSTRIALIZINGHOSPITAL' E. Iowa of Anthropology.'Cansome twittylittle girl sittingin a management "They're to I'd been in I said half can?' than we do more trying gain desperation. I tackeda unionposteron the bulletinboardoutsidethe meetingroomthatthe had asmanagementof the hospital.An olderone namedGregory beganto outlinethe problems: Lots becausewe signedthe contract. thought. Employees and actionto underthat integrates Wedevelop a practice context. and observational an outside analytical perspective. the table On categoryof wageprogressions put signed Workers literature. University City.ratherthan reproduce. 1997) Research. perspective as she triesto change. their ballotsinto the box.or beforeor aftertheir shifts. I was ranting to Paulagainaboutmy strugglesat one THE to the airport ON WAY of the hospitalswhere I am the unionrepresentative. (Journal ofAnthropological 31 This content downloaded on Mon. responses. stickers.bumper in one by one. stand the workof a union representative our and downsizing in an industrializing conditions By alternating hospital.operatedby a nonprofitorganization.otherslonger. they were angrybecause they who they think unitas the janitors. speaks for herself an anthrowhilePaulDurrenberger. and contract. PaulDurrenberger of Iowa. I knew I was rightwhen I invitedall unionmembersto meet with me on their breaktime. Paul started scribblingin his notebookagain. some stayinga few minutes. provides pologist.all but one new one. were still lumpedintothe samebargaining dragdowntheirwages. for each of I charts me. Even thoughthe engineershadreceivedbiggerincreasesin this contractthan most of the other job classes. and union buttons.IA52242 Department and Suzan Erem IL60610 Local International Service Union. an insideviewof motives. 53. duringtheir lunchperiod.

. To providethe basis for new initiatives. Durrenberger Likethe rest of the labormovement. they hadheardpromises." then sittingbackand waiting. .says "putit in writing. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ."concerted activity.Nothinghadchanged. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? SuzanErem is the directorof communications for Service EmployeesInternational Union (SEIU) Local 73 in Chicago and a union rep.SEIUis awareof the declining influence of organizedlaborin the U. When out were thoughthey theyfigured they running in place.let's resolve it.we'd gain. .32 OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL work. A youngeruniformed workersaid: maintenance Whyhavea unionif every time we go upstairs they say "nomoney"and we come downhere andhearthe same thing? The men complained that while they are classifiedas "maintenance mechanics. they need the jobdonenow. .skilledwork such as layingpipe for plumbing and runningwire for electricity. by flexingtheirschedulesinsteadof payingovertimeas the contract the presidentof the hospital andhadwon a meeting They hadeven petitioned with management. organization every struggle Witha they give up. The engineerswere operating as didn't have a union at all."Let'stalk.. The union. Re-creating that time is such a that once workers do it and don't win.They hadboycotted overtimeworkbecausemanagement was demanding they do it demands. Paul is an anthropologist and professorat the Universityof Iowa. We can't change that.lettingtime pass."they do specialized.they decidedthey mightas well give "thenew unionlady" a shot.In anotherunionthey wouldhave received and "journeyman" status to recognizetheir educationin "apprenticeships" these skills." Management just as it would to avoida unionat an unorganized placeby saying. They also told me they'dfiled formalgrievances.. she concluded that while the com- This content downloaded on Mon. We keep the organizationalstructurein place and offerbackup.the leadership of the InternationalUnion appointeda committee and commissioned a study of its members and leaders.on the other hand.but nothinghadhappenedwith them." contract we don'thave to rev workersup every time.A to Z. but we can change conditions.. These workerswere engagingin classicunorganized work-sitetactics-in was responding legalterms. Ourunionoffersnone of that. They saidif we'd get professional rid of the union. .we'lllisten.S. .andthey felt thatone reasonmanwearthosetitles. As Erem read the results of the study. they hadlaidout their discontents. They give you a time. agementrefusedto recognizetheirskillswasthattheydidn't me in told how had the management's They protestthey boycotted holiday dinnerbecause they foundthe turkeysandwichesit offeredinsulting. We do a lot of workwe don'tget recognized for.

a andI bothknewthatI couldharmthe hospital's imagethrough Management I And would service.and worked the study. and analysis. wouldprovidethe outsiderview by ethnographic observation Durrenberger andinterviewing. ing: andto shift fromour earlierindefinite breaksome of the formulae third-pernarratives. This situationstruckus as a uniqueopportunity to experimentwith new to approach some questionsaboutinequality and ways of doinganthropology power. contract ment by wavingthe signedandratified SOCIALMOVEMENTSAND PRACTICE Paul: Suzan's struggle to mobilize resources on behalf of the engineers is one example of larger historical processes that social historians see developing in predictableways through time. as Suzanput it.Durrenberger observed.butI couldalso includeworkersfromotherpartsof management. of the to related hospital's anyaspect publicity campaign andhelp unifythe rest withinthe hospitalto inform distributed use literature I could shut downthe entirearguknew of the workforce. and academicand practical anthropology.Erem the scope of employersto industrial and coworkerfor writing moved amongthe roles of informant. participant.analysis.A secondaryissue that becomes more salientin this essay is thatwhatSuzanwas doingis an example of tryingto achievechangethrough everydayactionwithina settingof differwas the ability of engineers entialpower. We later expanded the scope of the studyto includeother reps.interviewed. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . peopleto see the unionas an organization with the rep as an agent who insteadof seeing it as an insurancecompany comes in to fix things wheneverthere's trouble. getting thingaboutanthropology of themselves so they can run it. work-siteleaders (unionstewards). hindthe unitythe engineerswere showing.and other members.it hadnot madethese datarelevantto the dailyactivitiesof peopleworking in the locals. with Eremon writing. the hospital.andorganizing of what we had As we started to experimentwith variousformulations of the formulaic remonstrated Suzan learned. resourceson behalfof ourmemcanmobilize Suzan:Unionrepresentatives to put some punchbeto use these resources I saw an opportunity bership.Eremwouldprovidethe dayto-dayinsiderview by keepingdetailedrecordsof events andconversations.questioned.A RAISE GETTING 33 mittee hadamasseda largeamountof surveyandfocusgroupdata.I coulduse the limitednumberof laborlaws with some impact. on a collaborative We resolvedto embark study.I knew I couldcallmeetingswith as they had. management in my faceandwalkingaway. Their current paradigmcenters on ques- This content downloaded on Mon. inside and outside voices.We extended work sites as well as hospitals. pedanticwritagainst dryness to try to determined stock and trade of academic We the anthropology. to first-person son formulations Paul: The mainissue I was thinkingaboutwas how we couldmake anyrelevantto the problemof.The mainpowerSuzanhadavailable wouldgive her Their solidarity to work togetheras a unit. Still. whatJimScott (1985)calleda weaponof the weak. to be organized.

andmaterial interests. inequality Suzanand I are studyingdifferential detailsof power in the ethnographic the workof a unionlocalas it confronts to benefitits members.However.The writers in the volume she and AldonMorriseditedarguedthat the connectionsbetween social furthertheorizingrequiredunderstanding of social movementsand the disparitiesin the resources and opportunities structures.Zald(1992) reinforcesthese views.andinterpretations moves the questionfrom one of individual construction of meaningto how is maintained andhow workersrespondto it.some of them enhancing agement'sgoals. have gainedincreasedatof meaningand structural construction inequality andtranstention. in political life.actions. pablehistorical by clever slogansor literaryactionalone.their effortsto date had provedineffective. anthropologists could move toward coordinating field studies with larger issues of structure and system in America. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .If struggleswere primarily symbolic. straightforwardly we couldunderstand them as contestsbetweenpolitical tropesinsteadof palevents (Tarrow andengineerscouldwintheirgoals 1994:119). She foundthat to production of manageworkerscontributed aboveandbeyondthe demands than in because each rather active resistance or ment. through The problem for socialhistorians. This is what Caroline White andhow they affectinvolvement of two factories (1987-1988)didin her participant-observation study English that led her to ask why workers work as hardas they do. interestsdon'ttranslate roles of action. form such cooperative was also a of resistance that showed incomactivity up line's pacing. We agree.S. butWhite Motives. arecomplexandcontradictory.and the definition formation works. nor why there is resistance at one time and not another. the reasonsworkerstry to expandtheir controlin the work The opposition between capitaland labordoes not process are problematic.Material into guidesfor action.34 OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL or obof resourcesand state facilitation andorganization tions of availability CarolMueller(1992)reviews how questionsof the structionof mobilization. petence of a superiorandgaineda respite fromthe production As Whitesays.the development of actors embeddedin social netof meanings.Centralis the analysisof socialcontext.ideas. This content downloaded on Mon. He argues (Peacock 1994:42) that via ethnography U. is to sort out the as for anthropologists. and Morris(1992) suggests those dimensions of cultureandsocialorgathe importance of understanding nization thatgenerateandinhibitcollectiveaction. management have the responsibilJamesPeacock(1994:42)suggests that anthropologists ity to describe the particularitiesof cultures because nobody else does it very much or very well and that is what we do best.wherethey camefrom.Morrisconcludesthatthe involvedeterminations of how systems of domination (hospikey dimensions tal management) andinfrastructures of challenging groups(the engineersand their union)are structured time andwhomthey benefit. engaging sabotage. some of manexplainthe manyformsof resistance. the engineerswin theirdemands Whycouldn't by sheer forceof argument? to studybarriers to participaMacLennan (1994:61)calls for anthropologists tionto showhow they are erectedin specificsettings.

She developed the notion of cognitionas stretchedacross individual future conhistories.GETTING A RAISE 35 Barrett(1984:201-2)identifiesan emergingsynthesisin anthropology parallel to that of socialmovementtheory.loosely integrated. thatMacLennan to the synthetic Weareattracted (1994)andBarrett thinking and the social historians of practice.manipulation. power. study powerbefor immorality cause it alwayscontainsthe capacity (Barrett1984:151). through We found this practice point of view congenial because it allowed us to see motives. But he. andeconomicstructures time. Ortner in everyis reproduced wonderswhetheranychangeis possibleif everything of understanding the practice of peoplewho dayaction. and interpretations in complex and shifting relationships (Durrenberger 1990. actions. 1996). namicratherthan static analysis.Whatpeople and normsbut makepragmatic want dependson what is useful to them in their historical contexts. lopsided.Hencethe importance them.People don'tjust act out rules choices to get whatthey value. like the it is closer to the character that we focus on social historians. dycomplexity.Some of the issues it focuses on inof the mental of culturefromthe dialectic clude:the processof the production with the material. peoplelike unionorgaattemptto changethingsratherthanreproduce nizersandreps. individuals definingpractice as well as the limitsgivenby the past. cludedthatit isn't possibleto makesucha division.To understand howordinary cialworldis organized people she mind and the worldandconasked relations between the about calculate. view whenshe arguesthatthe arrangeOrtner's JeanLave(1988)reinforces ments of knowledgeinsidepeoples'headsis indivisible fromthe way the sooutsidetheirheads.Otherpeoples'understandings and motives constrainany person'salternatives. projections.as (1984. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Reviewing thatare "attimes contradictions" arguesthatwe live in a worldof "cluttered located.andthe explanation conceptual Dorinne K. andhistorical crete ongoingsituations. choice. Knodo (1990:114-225) hoped to abandonthe search for an Archemedian point outside social action and to understand people as lives as they strugglewith decentered. Suzan's goal was to change people's minds so that they would participate in small actions-actions she could interpret to This content downloaded on Mon.and devoidof ultiambiguously messy.a tolerancefor disorderand open-ended of expressionsof inequality." hairof Frenchrationalism standon end"butthat andmake"thephilosophical of social life thantidy systems. Ortnersees historyandanthropology unifiedin the question of how societyandcultureare produced andreproduced interhuman through actionandaction. schemes. multipleselves who live contradictory on contradiction.contradiction. 1996) urge-an anthropology Ortner when she that the called it (1984) Sherry suggested principlesand their siturelationsamongcultural elements derivefrompeopleinterpreting ationsandactingcoherentlywithintheir institutional orders.Rather.This viewpoint focuses our attentionon agency and performance. that this view He materational maydrivelogicianscrazy recognizes design.does not echo Knodo'srecommendation we differential individual for should quests meaning. Barrett the massiveliterature (1984:150) meaning.

a move to trainanddeploynew organizfunded the "Union Summer" Institutehas provided a totalof four ers. by makingit difficult maintain unions(Durrenberger 1991). Evenif strikesare forbidden by contracts.). She couldthenrepresentthis success to otherworkersas an of unionstrength whichtheycouldemulate to achievetheirobjectives.Thus it and to handlegrievances turnedunionsintovast bureaucracies (Durrenberger of the Erem n. welare less costly thanstrikes. process and removed hasbecomebureaucratized.JohnSweeney and the newly elected (in 1996) leadership and AFL-CIO organized appearto want to reverse this trend.The act changedthe disputeswere settled by arbitration members function of unionsfromorganizing workers. strikeor slowdown.As 1992.and organizing actionto protectingmembersagainstunfairmanagement practices.36 OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL as sufficiently so thattheywouldrespond to the engimanagement threatening neers'demands.d. 1986b)observedthata limited number of forms of action are feasible to achieve the interests shared by the people of any time and place. role.For federalworkers and some others. or strikes have become in one way another. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Unionswere to betweenmanagement mentsenforceable contracts fortheircompliance by seeing to it that representworkersandbe responsible ratherthanstrikes. ASYMMETRIES OF POWER Lawsandlegalpracticestructure betweenlaborandmanagerelationships to organizeand ment. to labor'sdistinctdisadvantage.whichmadecollectivebargaining comedthe Taft-Hartley agreeandunions.has disof theirwork. 1995.decisions. is takingan increasingly thatorganization important mayindicate The insurance role of the unionhas mademembersrelianton unionrepresentativesas quasi-lawyers and.employers Becausegrievanceprocedures Act of 1947. example We couldsee the relationships betweenpersuasion. action. in determining the conditions their active participation couraged in the of workers via the that once hands a was Disputesettlement. workersto protecttheir own rights againstmanagement to fromorganizing of contracts.because the relationsare indirect.The AFL-CIO of 1996. by law.mobilizing unorganized membersfor political for building better bargaining leverage. they weren'tunlawful SocialmovementanalystCharlesTilly (1983.1994.andresults.forothers.Geoghegan in and executo management forces favorable gainedascendancy legislative laborlaw has redefinedthe functionof unions tive branchesof government. We couldthen ask questionsabouthow and why effortsto encourage workedin different participation waysin different places.Ordidnot.they are banned ineffective. that the protectiondirectlyby enforcing provisions providing of workersto being Thus the unionsmovedfrombeingprimarily organizers of their contracts with insurersof the provisions particular management. 1984. the process of state formationand the expansion of capitalism led to the replacement of old forms This content downloaded on Mon. In Western Europe. hundred new organizers. professionalized. In the pastfouryearsthe Organizing This development The goalfor 1996is one thousand. 1996. from their awareness and purview.

has developedin-plantstrategiesfor workersto gain controlof workplaces fromthe inside. hours.and the repertoiremaybecomean institutionalized featureof politicsas usual. wage andbenefitcuts.if not fired. She seized on the discontentof the engineersas one way to do that. LaborleaderTom Balanoff (1988:7)explained why. As some of these methodsbecome conventional.andterms andconditions of employment. advocatesthis approach to organization. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .otherunionmembersmightsee the valueof in-plant strategiesforthemselves and might begin to organizetheir own work arenasto achieve their objectives. when high unemployment createda largereserve of replacement workersand administrative interpretations of the NationalLaborRelationsAct beganto supportthese replacements.GETTING A RAISE 37 of contention suchas shivareesandbread riotswiththe demonstrations.petitions. If she could organizethese workersto attainsome of their goals. but as they becomeless risky. This development would then shift Suzan's role from insurance agent to organizer. The ized. one of her tasks was to strengthen the unionin the hospital.they are strikingover wages. The mainidea is for workersto stay in a plantand legallyapplypressurefromthe inside to gain concessions(Balanoff As presidentof SEIULocal73. ORGANIZINGCHANGE Suzan: Gregoryand the other engineers at the hospitalwere displeased with their contractandfelt they hadbeen ignored. rallies. they lose their power.barricades. Paul: Fromthe time the contract was ratified.strikes. social movementsof the eighteenthand nineteenthcenturies (Tilly 1986a. andurbaninsurrections of the publicmeetings. Suzan knew that an early model of success was important for her credibility with workers and would serve as an example for future efforts. so strikes play into the handsof employerswho want to bust unions.If workersstrike over this offer.morepeopleparticipate.The International ers. but actually to achievean impasseso that it can implement a finaloffer.is renderedinefBrotherhood of Boilermakfective. Tom Balanoff 1988:17). repress cycle windsdown. Strikes have been ineffectivesince the 1980s. 1990). This content downloaded on Mon.They form a vocabulary of protestwhichpeoplecancombineto suit theirneeds. As one modulein the repertoryof contention. They arethus definedby lawas economicstrikerswhocanbe workersare hired.the replaced.Whenreplacement permanently unionis displaced. Sidney Tarrow(1994) observed that some forms of contentionare modular-usefulto different socialactorsagainstdifferent targets. anotheris developed. Management apwhile proposing is trying pearsto bargain. As a repertory of protestis routinauthorities learn how to diffuse or it. they hadmadetheirdispleasure knownby theirangrycomportment towardunionreps andtheirepisodic to management for reliefof specificcomplaints. WhenSuzantook approaches over as rep afterthe contract was ratified. whichrepresentscement workers. the strike.

The humanresourcesdirectoragreedto namean ad hoc committeeto considerthe issues. He also discussedthe economicexigenciesof the hospital: All of us are tryingto figureout how to do with the resourceswe have. The membersnoticedthe newsletterandwere waiting to see whatwouldhappen. andmeetingswith memberswhen they are off dutyto clarify goals and methodswith workers. the economics ofcontracting Michael. but whichmay improvethe operations of the workplace andgive workersopportunities for input..Thereare trade-offs.Withthe help of who atAngela. Meanwhile.I foundMichael. to raise matters grievanceprocedure) that may not be clearcontractviolations. HumanResourcesresponded: I don'tknowwhatthe contractcost is.a responsiveindividual tendedthe training sessions.who is doingit? There's more thanmeets the eye in this process.the union's communications resources to produceand distributea newsletter to members. Paulwas there with his notebook. Everydepartment has to findways to be as productive as possible..andI held a membership workers. Michael. Paul: Suzanbeginsto use the organizational elementsthatare available to her-union stewards. the steward fromengineering. We'remaking toughchoices. the Director of Human Resources cited This content downloaded on Mon. an informal unionshavebuiltsuch meetingsintotheircontracts to createa forum(before the formal.Many meeting.She uses labor-management as for arenas meetings continuednegotiation with management.Agreements madeat these meetings are not binding.The new stewardfromengineering reada letter in whichhe outlinedthe discontentsof his department. Whenan employeeis sick or on vacation. though.the steward.We don'thave unlimitedresources. Suzan: I organized a labor-management meetingbetweenthe unionstewardsandthe hospital's Directorof HumanResourcesandothermanagement meetpersonnelto discussa rangeof issues thathadcome up in membership ings..the union'sabilityto trainnew stewards.the chief steward.. Howdowe payforit? If we don'tget increased productivity-operationally. but they often provideresults that are mutually beneficial. I knowwhatthe employeecost is.Then I meeting to hear directlyfromthe engineeringdepartment sent a newsletterto the entire membership to announcethat we wouldaddress the engineeringdepartment'sissues at the next labor-management forumused by both sides to discuss concerns.and often confrontational. I acknowledged that we would discuss such topics in further meetings.38 OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL Suzan: I beganto recruitstewardsamongthe engineers. challenged forgroundskeepers ratherthanpayingwageworkers The Directorof directly. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..it's not good.. Paul: The ad hoc committee to discuss issues created an arena to continue the discussion.

ment. of of lack of alternatives. management cial obligations in fewer The memocontinand services" which resulted positions. and downsize. The Director of no choices to be made. this one is in the processof The presidentof the hospital industrialization.with Suzan: Thatafternoon.Changtantworkthatwasbeingneglectedbecauseof the consolidation a low to such had been priorityin new work relegated ing filters. the head of the engineering department and I became embroiledin an animateddiscussion aboutwho is responsible for changing filters in the hospital.. but he addedthat to providefor "appropriate to recruithighlyskilledprofessionals andmeet finanwageincreases. was never done. system." environment withshrinking healthcare interpret is going memosandmessagesto mean:less resources. He said snidely. thus makingthe union irrelevantto the goals and objectivesof the engineers. Like manyhospitals.. somebody to be outof work. Suzan: Almost immediately.fewerjobs. appearance inevitability. they said.. withthe headof the engineering resourcesdirector. it in rules that. practice.GETTING A RAISE 39 resourcesandproductivity. especiallythe changing as an exampleof imporfilterchanging Paul: The engineershadmentioned ofjobs. programs will with all directors as ued that "management continueto meet department andbeginsrestructuring of this workforcereduction [thehospital] implements ..they sometimesattemptto Paul: As hospitalsindustrialize coulddiscredit eliminate unionsamongtheiremployees.continue to restructure has set into motioninitiatives .andwith some othermanagement personnelincluding skilledtradeswork. servicesin a changing so thatwe cancontinueto provide quality programs Workers such fiscalresources. of filtersin the ventilation of downsizing. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . I was informed some head and other ment people. hadcirculated memoranda confor the and staff a and for the introduction profitable year gratulating physicians of new management systems. I called the engineeringdepartment stewardandthe workerwho hadraisedmatterswhenI firstmet withthem of the ad hoc committeemeetingthat the humanresourcesdirectorhadschedthat the engineerswere in a meetingwith the departuled.1 took this as a sign thatthe management the situationin was headof the engineering department tryingto ameliorate orderto move the employeesawayfromworkingthroughthe union.Onewaythe hospital the union wouldbe to actuallydeal with the engineers' discontentsthemselves. engineers a meansto continuethe discussion. mitteehe provided to remindthe Suzan: A week later.the human a vice president.Farfrombeinga neutral of resourcesandproductivity human resourcesdirector's repetitivediscussion to the conclusionthat there wouldbe fewer people doingmore contributed of Human Resourcesis tryinghere to createthe workwith less. "Do you know anythingabout filters.economizing the issues as defining by using Jasonframed of workthatwas not gettingdonebecause andthe problem fewercontractors.the by doingmorework. departJason. sufficient thatin the adhoccomthe was discontent of the However.someonewhostillhasa jobwillhaveto pickupthe difference statement of managerial fact. I met with the ad hoc committeeof stewards. This content downloaded on Mon.

40 OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL Miss?"I knewhe was tryingto separate me fromthe workers on eitherside of the question.. it's going to help.so I offered They didn't priateforumfor this discussion.interjected: All you'regonnaget for these wages is drugaddictsand such. You're goingto start and then it'll be too late..Suzandefers lem.Gregory. I toldthe management teamthatthese workerswere not making the prevailThe vice presidentinterrupted andasked. but in the last few monthsI've gottento knowa lot of them.".[Managementpeoplenoddedandmadethumbsup signs. I assertedthatwhatI knewwas thatthey were me."That'sright. This placeis like my home. so I ignored not beingchanged to my ability to invokethe frequently enough. the gravityof the probrecognizing wondered the had not mentioned it earlier. Suzan: The next issue was pay. gettingout of here.I'm for I'm looking somethingelse. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..EverydayI talkto a different guy who says. Paul: Suzanknew whatthe engineershadreported aboutfilters.I'mretiring in three or fourmonths. It's not so much-$1 an hour-but it's something.Gregory. "Eh.] Givethem a dollar more an hour." hospitals?" The senior engineer.The vice president.I've been here twenty-oneyears.who cares. losingthem.. why engineers that discussionfor reasonsthatwill becomeapparent later. I just want you to This content downloaded on Mon.andI alluded andbringin its agentsfora federal Occupational SafetyandHealthAct (OSHA) The vice president askedwhythe engineerswerejust nowbringing inspection. in all the work sites I've ever repped. I put my kids throughcollege here andanother working jobto do it. It won't breakthe bank.The head of engineering triedto use his presumed expertise. the olderengineersaid: You've got goodguys herewhodogoodwork.I've got to say. thatthis was not the approanswer. Youfolkshave been coastingtoo longon the loyaltyof these guys. I'm telling you all this for the young people.in an attempt to silence Suzanon the issue of filters. They deserve better. It's too late for me.I love the peopleI workwith. the issue forward. AndI knowthe unioncould have done a betterjob in the past keepingup with these guys' issues. thirtyguys? I joinedin: You'vegot peopleyou knowandtrusthere. what?Twenty-five.Youliketheirwork."ForChicago ingwagefor Chicago.But I'mold.as well as an technological to reference of implicit genderedknowledge engineering topics. You're know.. and they'll know you appreciate them and you want them not going to get good skilled workers like us .It's only. andI said.I've never seen such low morale.She counteredwith her abilityto involve a federalagency.

They'regoodpeopleandthey give you good work. Unions can. In environmentsless friendlyto unions-this one is relativelyfriendly-we would have hadto do proportionately more. politicalpower which unions now lack. CONCLUSIONS Suzan: A few weeks later.andin the end we may still have hadto wait untilthe contract was openfor negotiation to try to gainanything forthe There's a lot of in what we do. people to see the unionas an organization instead of seeing it as an insurancecompany-so they participate in it and become part of the problemsolving. engineers.The problem is how to get of themselves so that they run it.I've workedmyselfout of a job.Fearinghis future himin frontof his superior.Thereis no wayto tell whatswayedmanagement-whether it was the argumentthat they might lose their engineersto better-paying employers. use the resources available. if you give them decent money. The workers feel these This content downloaded on Mon. guesswork I continueto recruitandtrainstewardsandto urgemembersto takecollective actionsto defineandresolve their own workplace problemsthroughthe structureof the stewardsthatthe unionprovides.among them. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .the salience of contracts.In anyevent. the threatof badpublicity or OSHAinvestigation of unchanged filters. the discontents of workers as their companies downsize and consolidatemore work in the hands of fewer people. Paul: Law defines the positionsof unionsand employers. He then bolstershis argument with his personalstory. retaliation. Suzan: The Directorof HumanResourcessaidhe'dbe ableto respondby the endof the month. however. andgrievance To changethese limitsto actionrequires procedures. but they'llbe here a long time. Yougot to do this." Oncethey do that.the Human ResourcesDepartment of the hospital agreedto a $1.I'm outtahere.LaterI learned thatthe two stewardshadbeenreluctant to press the pointaboutfiltersin frontof the vice presidentbecausethey had raisedit repeatedly with their department head-the manacrossthe tablewho hadassuredthem that he wouldremedythe matter.A RAISE GETTING 41 to stay. agencyandsaying"solvethese problems. neer tries to reinforcethis by contrasting himselfand his colleaguesto the drugusers whomthe hospitalcouldexpect to recruitwith inadequate wages.25raisefor most of the engineersanda smallerone for the others. Paul: Suzanmentionsthe prevailing wage of other area hospitalsto sugThe senior engigest that the engineershave more attractivealternatives. insteadof reachingout to an external Thepointis to developtheiragency.or feelevokedby the seniorengineer'seloquence. they didnot wantto risk embarrassing This verifiedmy fears that management hadattemptedto maneuveraround me again.we ings of sympathy thatthere is anycause-and-effect won.thoughI am not confident relationship between our combined activitiesandthe responseby management.

42 OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL of productivity and changesin theirdailylives.They'reemploying We'reteaching workers themandthey're is an had to internalize this. behavior. As we were discussingthese questions.andI credittheirsuccess to theirowncollective actioncombined withmy abilityas a unionrep to maintain pressureandmake the collective action moreeffectivethaniftheyhadbeenacting alone.to present a crediblethreatof involving outsideagenciessuch as OSHA. changesthatmakethe rhetoric resourcesring hollowin their ears.Management can intimidate workerswho try to organizealternatives or to engage in individual or concertedaction. forts can makea difference At another hospital. came to the conclusionthat petitionswere workingbetter thangrievances. only respond quasi-legal of grievancehandling.I told Paul: newtactics.andto communicatewith membersin other departments at the same hospital. those who opposeorganized labor.If unionsare ineffective. procedure Both organization anddisorganization spiral. pervisorshavecontinued petitionsnow the have added the petimembers. Members up spring spontaneously among tion to theirrepertory of contention.management can create an atmosphere of insecurityby rhetoricsandpracticesof downsizing and to which can the union with an ineffective layoffs.butin almosteverycase it has met withthe membersandtaken actionto changethe supervisor's Two supervisors were discharged. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .or by the stewardsto file grievances. In the past. have had little or no influenceover these types of situations. workplaces The chiefavenueavailable forchangeis in the unionitself.Her task is not to convince-but to show-members thatthey canachievetheirobjectives through workingtogethervia the unionin a versionof the in-plant strategy.attemptsby the rep to intervene.Thus some in management. This content downloaded on Mon.they have greaterresources for such initiativesas lawsuitsand legislativeactionand can be even more effective. So there'llbe a changethere.use available means to thwart that are or unions every organized preventthem frombecomingorganized.as Suzandidwiththe engineers. The engineerswona raise.Finally. headscan co-optissues by promising action Department and establishing situationsin whichworkerscannoteffectivelychallengeinaction. Oftenmanagement reacts first withhostility.If they organize more workersandbecomemore effective. Suzan: Some unionmembershave begun to see that their collectiveefin the qualityof theirworksituations. are ordered all of the established rhetorics andmethAgainstthis approach ods of management. they lose membership andresourcesandbecomeeven less effective.andthatis what Suzanhas been tryingto effectamongthe members. At thathospital.unionmemberswho riskedpassingpetitionsto protesttheir supervisors have received immediateresponses.and suto act with impunity.[A steward] example. She She winning. The unioncan organize workersin their to pursuetheirowngoals.

they can win backthe people. continualgradingof students. "Thingslike that. Politicsdefinesthe legitimate termsforthe relations of production.Howtent anddemanding ever. Once they get to trust the union lead- ership. Whetherthe organization of workersthatwouldmakethis a meansof work will in the long termremainsto be seen.. Lave (1988)calledcognition It is this approach thatMiriam Wells (1996) uses so successfullyto show how economicandpoliticalsystems in California evolvetogether. the rep's effectivenessincreaseswith the activityandresourcesof the rest of the unionand its membership. we have sometimes This content downloaded on Mon.the answeris a qualified ests through "yes". shapethe structures actinglocallyreciprocally Because of the academiccontext of "merit"raises..they can do whateverthey want to. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . an of is that at an of what work. interweaving Smallactionsmake for slightlydifferent outlooksand dailylives that lay the for more changes. be effective handling problems As Michael. we see a dynamic To conclude."he answered. local in sociopolitical differences andworkstrucgenerated by and these or tures. 1993)describesin her studiesof downward mobility.the peoplewill go with them. but we discoveredthat a more relevantquestionis how memberscanmost effectivelyserve theirowninterthe union. of changing mindsandactions. the new stewardSuzanhadrecruited.. Showyou are fightingfor the unionmembership.GETTING A RAISE 43 Paul: We startedwith the questionof whethera unionrep can accomplish more than the engineers workingtogether.engage challenge systemsby abiding by resistingtheireconomicroles andby confronting their legal statuses in courtsandwork sites.andbeing gradedby deans and department chairs. Once they win the confidence of the people. andpeople around them.andwe thinkthey canbe effective. To move away from models of cultures as deterministic blueprints for unreflective action.the generalcondi"Bygrievances?" tion of the workingplace..anthropologists at universitiesare saturated with the ideologyof meritocratic individualism whichKatherine Newman(1988.to their purpose.not just that.This is the centraldimensionof the in-plant groundwork strategies.To the first question.. I asked. if for no otherreasonthanbeingmore consisin gettingmanagement to deliveron its promises. They can influencepoliticsand economics and the way Congress is run. saidin an interviewwith me severalmonthslater: If the unioncan be true to their word.Whatwouldbe missingwithout the unionis the ability to bringresourcessuchas newslettersandmeetingsto bearon issues andthe organizational Whatthis case contributes to continuity. The rep can help workersorganizea continuousin-plantstrategyto handleproblemsbefore they become grievances.as individuals of socialclasseswithheterogefluidly neousworldviews.. Our workplace ideology explains things in terms of individualqualities rather than overarching structures. the rep can accomplish more. anthropology example process example Jean in practice.

In the processshe enlargethe rangeof available for longerterm andmore collectivegoals. guyswerecomplaining I toldthem.andwe canattemptthe goalwe statedearlierof developing andpowerin a practical way. strives to organize The practicepointof view keeps us focusedon those dimensions of power that provideopportunities andfrustratethem." and they said. Hon.Shewas in therepunching it outforme. "Give her a chance. he'dbe fired. pologythatcan speakto questionsof inequality EPILOGUE Suzan: A few days after I got wordaboutthe raises for the engineers. "No." I told Paul. story suggestions that shapes their alternativesand their experimentsat using the available means to achievetheir goals. Or do not."Tomorrow he'll be backon the groundand forgetto file the grievances.a stewardcalledaboutgrievances.I also spoke with one of the engineeringdepartment members. but they didn'thave to listen. She'snotlike allthose ones thatcamebefore. Whensome of the You. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ."He said: guys have doneit withoutyou. Thus our ethnography does not get distracted to descripof of tions individual identity.. We see Suzandoingthe same thing. I went to the guys andI said. the constraints.44 OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL individualist projectedthe meritocratic ideologyof our academyto develop individual-centered accounts(Durrenberger andPRilsson 1996).symbolicforms. choicesto followSuzan's ing interpretations making not.Giveher a chance."You be proudof yourselves. In telling this story.if he cameto workdrunk. she's not. To be sure thatthe messageaboutthe raises hadbeen spread.I toldhim saint."Hey.I gottatell you. first met the rules and who hadgotten when After cynical explaining should whatraises..We couldn't thatonegotthismuchandthe othergot thatmuch. . .Two yearsyou guys havebeen whinBut.."And you did it. construction narratives.too.this is a victory. or Our focuses on neither of but on the context these. if he had a drinking problemand wantedto get treatment.a painterwho was very I him.every time.firsttime. or ananthroagency." firstgrievance meetingwithyou .I couldpleadhis case.I don'tthinkhe knowshow to file one butwon't admitit. them or not.A membercalledto enlist me in a fightagainsthis disI told himI didn'tcareif he were a chargebecausehe'dcome to workdrunk. or doing this work. .sellingyouguysouteverytime.tryingto meansandcreatenew ones.. I knewit." I told them." and I said. It keeps our attentionon the motives of actors. andhow theirresponsesmakedifferwhetherthey understand ences. She'sdifferent. . how they understandtheir situations. I said. The practiceperspectiveallowsus to see engineersin action--constructof insultor intimidation.andnothing.. "This girl. My bigger concern is that these workers give too much This content downloaded on Mon.whenI cameout of that ingaboutthis. "She's just. I don't have a vested interest in developing a fan club.

Pilsson and E. Chicago: Universityof ChicagoPress.1990.Introduction. huh?" NOTE 1.P. 1915E.D.P. temporary Everyday IowaCity:Universityof IowaPress. Gulfof Mexico ShrimpFishery.Anthropology: Universityof TorontoPress.P. andDiscoursesof Identityin a Knodo. Toronto: Barrett. of Turtle E.S.. and S.1990.P. Barrett.S.1996. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 1988.andthe Law:Folk Modelsandthe Durrenberger. Anthropological E. 1984. "Well. Selves: Power..HumanOrganization 51:151-54. In-PlantStrategies:The CementWorkers'Experience.... GulfCoastSoundings: Durrenberger. we all did it. I answered. Part of the union's job is to prevent that.Which Farrar. We also thankthose membersand workerswhose stories we tell andthe invisibleotherswhose stories they echo. Palsson. UniversityPress of Kansas. Unionsin Mississippi. sentations. Labor's 5(3):66-76..ARAISE GETTING 45 credit to some outside force. S. "the union. People andPolicyin the MissisLawrence: sippiShrimpIndustry.. Geoghegan. of this project." and not enough to themselves and their willingness to work with each other and with me. Erem. n. American HealthCareWorkers. We thankTom Balanoff. especiallyLouiseLamphere. This content downloaded on Mon. 1994. Durrenberger). Historyof Shrimpers' Unionsin Mississippi. Blaming the victim is such a pervasive outlook that it is easy for victims to do it themselves without analyzing the power of the organized inequality they are up against. all of whomhelpedto makethe Research. The Rebirthof Anthropological Theory. SideAreYouOn?New York: StrausandGiroux.Power. Psychology. 1-24 in Imagesof ConIceland: Lives and GlobalContexts(ed.d. ExcluderDevice Regulations in the U.Policy.Mississippi Facts.andMisrepreDurrenberger. Pp.Figures.Labor ResearchReview 7:5-32.Gender. Durrenberger. by G. I've been and often still am on the end that fails-and that gets blamed--when they think that way.The Historyof Shrimpers' Durrenberger. 1955. I guess we don't make such a bad team. The Dance of Power:Ritualand Agency Durrenberger.. Unions. E.P. Heritage UnionsAgain: E. 1991. Union presidentof Service EmployeesInternational forhis support Local73 of Chicago.K. 1995.Crafting JapaneseWorkplace.andScience:The Implementation Durrenberger.Toronto:Universityof TorontoPress. amongUnionized E. A Student's Guideto TheoryandMethod.P.. T. REFERENCES CITED Balanoff. papermuchbetter thanit otherwisecouldhave been. The fieldwork uponwhichthis essay is basedwas carriedout in 1995 and 1996.P. T.. We also thankour diligentcolleagueswho read the paperfor the Journalof Anthropological andthe Editor.. 1996. E.andG. 1992.P.HumanOrganization 54(4):474-77..Maritime Studies3(1):69-86.. so I have to take the opportunitywhen I can to put the responsibility on them. 1996.

or SocialMove47:461-78.J. 1987-1988.D. UniversityPress.. in SocialMovement Mueller. New Conn.Surveys. by Theory Yale UniversityPress. 1986a. 1992.D.OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH JOURNAL in Practice: and Culturein Everyday Lave.. Engagement by Anthropology AnnArbor: Press. by Theory Haven. 23S. C.D.:Cambridge University A View fromAnthropology. New Frontiers MorrisandC.Oxford: States.Morris Yale UniversityPress.Pp. Capital.C. PublicOpinion Quarterly New York: Tilly.S..The Contentious Press.. 1993.eds.N. SocialReTilly.C. the American MiddleClass. Theory(ed. 1983.:CornellUniversityPress. Blackwell. 1984.: A.S.FallingfromGrace: Mobility The Free Press.D. Mueller).New York: of the American Dream.. 325-48 in Frontiersin New Haven. Frontiersin Social MovementTheory. University Tilly.M. SpeakingYourMindwithoutElections.Cambridge.C. Studiesin since the Sixties. S. 1984..Conn.LargeProcesses...CollectiveActionand Tarrow.A.Class. Big Structures. 351-73 in Morris.Pp.Mathematics. C.1996. 1994. Engagement Anthropology AnnArbor: Press.. Cultural Peacock.Y.: SocialMovement andC.Cognition Mind. DecliningFortunes:The Withering New York:BasicBooks.Theoryin Anthropology Societyand History26(1):126-66. in of Downward The Experience Newman.Ithaca.1988.J.. 50 in Diagnosing and Public America: Forman).byA. Comparative Ortner. Newman.N. Eng.K. Press.C. Universityof Michigan Scott.:Harvard French.European search 53(1):159-84. Power in Movement: Politics. Mueller). Eng..McC. (ed. Weaponsof the Weak:EverydayForms of PeasantResistance.D. 1994. 46 This content downloaded on Mon. Universityof Michigan Political Consciousness and CollectiveAction. Morris.WhyDo WorkersBother?Paradoxes of Factories. SocialMovements. New Haven. Fields:Politics. Cambridge.Cambridge.Conn.: YaleUniversityPress. Morris and SocialMovement Haven. of Resistancein Two White. C.McC. Critique Anthropology English on the Past and to LookForward: Reflections Backward Zald.A.Coercion. Forman)..S.K. (ed.J.McC..L. 7(3):51-68.and Workin California Wells.Conn. C..Building Theory. Democratic MacLennan. (ed. Pp.:Cambridge Tilly.:YaleUniversityPress.Conn.Looking Futureof the ResourceMobilization ResearchParadigm. 1994. 1992. C.. 1990. Participation: America: andPublic 51-74 in Diagnosing (ed. Mueller). 1988. Huge Comparisons.Mueller. Life.McC.M.3-25 in Frontiers C.A. Strawberry Agriculture. 18 Mar 2013 20:39:23 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . ments. Tilly. 1985.. Russell Sage Foundation.byS. Violenceand CollectiveActionsince 1700... in SocialMovement A.J. and C.:YaleUniversityPress. 1986b. Basil andEuropean 990-1990.. New Haven. Pp.McC. 1992.. Values:DisordersandChallenges.American Pp. Mass.D.

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