Organizing the workplace – Part II

Where we left off in Part 1, the organizing effort had met some success. The fight to get recognition cards culminated in reaching well over half of the bargaining unit. We were able to confront the executives with our victory at a commission meeting. Even though the effort was now “public”, it would be a tough hill to climb to get coworkers to openly express their support. Once workers in the agency began to show support, it would be up to them to keep that momentum going, and to encourage others, in particular new staff as the agency continued to hire more, while turnover risked us losing some of the more militant supporters. Now management was also publicly aware of the organizing going on under their noses. We wondered if this would mean increasing hostility and retaliation, or if it meant they would be compelled by upper management to remain “neutral”. It is, after all, technically within our legal right to file complaints against retaliation. Of course, we knew that enforcement against these types of complaints is weak. Planning in this new phase will require reorganizing our tactics around communication and maintaining pressure on management so that they would not sense that we were losing support. While we knew that there is a delay between recognition and the bargaining process, we were not sure how long it would take. If things dragged on for too long, morale could take a hit and fear could begin to set in. Supporters may move on to other (mostly union) jobs at higher pay and with better benefits. New hires will not be aware of the struggle faced by staff with more years on the job. All of this means thinking quickly and being careful about our messaging. Having never gone through anything like this before, I could not foresee the challenges ahead. I was shaking at the front of the conference room in front of all of management. It was at this point, that although I was caught up in the anxiety of putting words to our collective bargaining power, I came to realize that my own struggle was just beginning. What I may have underestimated at the time was just how important it would be to maintain resolve, not only against management, but against the union as well. 

Most committed labor organizers will paint a rosy picture of labor unions. In the process of organizing, this is how they will convince others that the union is looking out for everyone, and this is why they as a supporter should sign a card or appear with their fist held in solidarity in the next flyer. Some more passionate organizers will know and recite the history of labor’s successes throughout the 20th century. They may talk about the victories of won contracts in the face of often violent reaction by management, and in some cases reaction with the assistance of private or public police, and even the National Guard. The narrative is simple yet effective. The story goes that workers decide to form a union. The union, not as some separate entity, but as an organic emergence, appears from inside the struggle, and exists as an organization inseparable from the workers themselves. In this framework, the assertion of power is through the labor union. Want to see a difference in how things work around here? The union will make that happen! We see this attitude on the left, and in the United States, in this period of ever-decreasing union membership, there are fewer and fewer elders for us to ask, “What was it like to organize?” As bonds between past and present are broken, labor history becomes mythical, and mystified. So what is the real relationship between the labor union and the worker, or to the working class as a whole? And if you find yourself, as I have, downright compelled to fight back and to organize, what should your narrative be?

The workplace is the focal point of struggle

A common position on the communist left, which traces its tradition to the revolutionary period following the First World War, is that labor unions are managers for capital, that serve the interests of capital by redirecting struggle. In the common narrative on the left, unions have won many great victories, and in their inability to separate the working class from the legal entities known as labor unions, often the left fails to acknowledge that, if anything, the union often stood in the way of even greater demands. In one stunning example, May 1968, the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) commanded workers to return to work at a point when a revolution appeared not only possible, but likely. The large confederation of unions, “communist” dominated as it was, supported the Grenelles Agreements, making peace with the bourgeois state once and for all. In the United States, “communist” dominated red unions were to play the role of manager for capital. In 1934, a daring wave of strikes took place, starting at the ports on the West Coast and cascading throughout major urban centers across the United States and across many industries. These strikes were not endorsed by the unions, and in fact the leadership was at loggerheads with the militants who sought to grind the economy to a halt. The union leaders were concerned with reputation and continued cooperation with industry leaders. After a confrontation between police and strikers became lethal, the workers defied their unions and declared a general strike, which came to include 150,000 workers. 

Notice something about these events that goes against the narrative we often hear. I don’t want to make any blanket statements suggesting that every action taken by a labor union has been against the interests of the workers they legally and ostensibly represent. I don’t think that that is true. Instead, I do want to make the case that unions are a product of capitalist social relations and are inherent to capitalist social relations. Unions originated as a response to antagonism between worker and capitalist. Early unions were often illegal or were painted as illegal or revolutionary bodies. However, in time many of those same unions gained acceptance as legal assemblies. They grew, and in growing, they required their own division of labor, where someone, perhaps a long-standing member, took a full-time role as an employee for the union. Now the union could be understood as separate from the workers themselves. Although sanctioned and approved by workers in the fight to gain representation, unions grew to have an increasing number of interests of their own. Dues paid to salaried union employees must continue to flow for their union to continue its representation. Increasing membership means increasing the size and scope and resources that fall within the union. This is all well and good so long as one views the role of the union as a collective bargaining body and nothing more. However romantic narratives of the relationship of unions to class struggle go far beyond this. 

As I said earlier, organizers see the union playing a revolutionary role. Syndicalists argue the union for itself is a vehicle for revolution, and many on the left argue that the labor union will produce a “trade union consciousness” on its own without communist political education, but that the simple injection of this revolutionary consciousness is a possible way to co-opt unions for the purpose of transforming them into a revolutionary addendum to a communist party. I am making the case for neither of these positions. Instead, I understand that unions as bodies viewed separate from the rank-and-file can and do play a reactionary role in struggle. The union, like any other entity set up within the capitalist framework, has a legal obligation to settle disputes between the rank-and-file and the boss. The leadership does not want to see a confrontation. In fact, confrontations that lead to strikes can dry up the strike fund. A healthy union in this legal framework is one that has a constant supply of new members with minimal cost sunk into external organizing and is one that has a full strike fund that it never has to tap into, because both worker and employer are satisfied with their contract. For these logical reasons, unions will avoid the most difficult workers to organize and will take steps to pressure workers to accept weakened concessions from management if it means a quick resolution to conflict. If you are beginning to see the labor union not as a deep cover revolutionary body, but more like a lawyer trying to provide a swift and tidy settlement, then I am conveying my position as intended.

Labor unions have as their core interest self-perpetuation and have historically made their existence permanent in the landscape of capitalist society by making peace not only with bosses, but with bourgeois political parties. In the United States, that relationship is between the largest and most powerful unions and the Democratic Party. The Democrats have a bristling yet storied relationship with the American labor union. Democrats occasionally show up to picket lines with a megaphone, but mostly provide their critical support for the unions through their praises of the imaginary blue-collar worker still making family-wide decisions at the kitchen table somewhere in a contested purple state. In real life, however, rank-and-file union member support for the Democratic Party has been eroding for decades. Within the ménage-a-trois between the rank-and-file, union leadership, and the Democratic Party politicians, it seems that there is only one participant that is still interested: The union. While workers are abandoning unions as useless for their immediate material needs, and Democrats cannot even be bothered to put on a hard hat once in a while, the union will endorse the Democratic candidate with zeal. The reason unions are the most enthusiastic institutional shill for the Democratic Party is concealed in their “pledge to serve” the interests of workers. Of course, the Democrats may endorse a pro-union policy, and the union will express support for Democratic policy positions, but the two institutions are reliant upon one another, and that reliance comes before any reform. 

Many labor union activists with leftist leanings believe in gaining entry into the union in hopes to change it “from the inside”. I think there is enough of a reason to doubt that this strategy could ever work, given just how wedded to bourgeois politics the contemporary labor unions are. But we don’t need to speculate on how unions will treat entryists. The ones who tried found themselves purged. This strategy not only leads to a reaction from the union against employees that work inside the union, but it can have a chilling effect on those who are among the rank-and-file, who may now avoid intervening in struggle if it means getting targeted by their own union as a communist. The other side to this failed strategy is that, while you are never going to change the union from the inside, they may change you. People often think that this cannot happen to them, but this is one of the many ways we deceive ourselves into thinking that our actions and our hearts can co-exist in contradiction. Any time you enter an organization, you become a mouthpiece for the leadership. Even in the unlucky event that you become the leadership, you are subject to the rules of the organization, which dictate communications strategies, official positions, endorsements, funding, etc. The only way up the ladder is to abandon the class. And even with the best intentions, you will run into the reality that the union must perpetuate itself; it must continue to provide expedient resolution to conflicts and of course the union can’t run out of money. 

If we understand the reactionary nature of unions, we can understand how to work closely with workers that are engaged in struggle within their workplace, without succumbing to the politics of the labor union itself. Finding yourself in this situation means striking a careful balance, and not taking a position so anti-union that you refuse to engage with unionizing or unionized workers. Yes, workers that are in a union are worth talking to about communism. Sometimes, the situation at the workplace will push people towards unionizing, in other cases workers may push for other ways to struggle against the conditions of their labor. It is important to listen and it is important to speak. We do not want to “meet them where they are at” politically, but we do want to meet them where they are at physically. The workplace is where you’ll find workers, and it is where the working class will feel a sense of itself most keenly.

I thought as I continue my story about how organizing happened at my workplace, I would start off with this deeper dive into my position on labor unions, my apprehensions and the difficulty organizing as a communist that is completely aware of the reactionary unions that are reliant on the very logic of capital. I wanted to frame the narrative around this, because as I continued my work, tried not to get fired, onboarded new co-workers, and watched many comrades leave for better pastures, my current position on unions came to be. Early in the process, I was ambiguous about unions. I had heard the critique of unions as reactionary, and I understood it logically, but I had an optimism that I have a sense many others have. I think it is fair to say that many readers of this series will be skeptics of my position. They might view the union as one with the worker or might not be ready to drop the notion that institutions from within capital’s juridical framework will tend toward support for capital, expressed often in the form of a conciliatory attitude toward management. The period I am discussing in this piece taught me that lesson first hand, and I hope readers can take something from my experience. 

Between recognition and bargaining

Recognition felt like a victory, but that feeling was short-lived. I knew that my co-workers believed things would improve immediately as a result. I also knew that the rules changed very little after recognition, because there was still no contract in place. Management would seek to drag out the process as long as they could. At this stage, the strategy is to pressure management to get to the bargaining table as quickly as possible. The bargaining process involves voting for delegates who will act as representatives of the whole bargaining unit, while management will appoint their own delegates. Each side has a lawyer to represent them. The whole ordeal is a nightmare to be frank, but it will be the focus of part three of this series. Instead I want to focus on the missteps, miscalculations, and minor victories of the period before management finally reached a stage of acceptance that the union was there to stay. 

After a few weeks, the union called meetings and encouraged attendance from anybody who could make it. The union wanted us to form two branches, one who will focus on communication and one that would be elected to sit at the bargaining table. We were warned that the process would take some time, and that we needed to stay engaged. The methods of engagement proposed by the union were activities like tabling in front of the office, handing out lanyards and fliers. They wanted us to continue to talk to people, and to ask for their support. One thing I felt at this point was a lack of enthusiasm. I thought these strategies could only serve to reinforce support for the union, and nothing else. At best, this would help people get into the habit of wearing union colors and trinkets. At worst, this can only serve to promote the idea that the union is the source of strength. It felt as if a gulf was forming between the union and the original supporters. The strategy proposed was one of escalation, in which you get people comfortable with increasing expressions of resistance by showing solidarity. The realm of escalating tactics discussed always remained symbolic, and it was almost as if there was a fear that our expectations for action were too high from the start. While the union stressed the importance of getting collective buy-in, there was always a hidden message that we don’t want to cause any real trouble.

I had other ideas in mind. After remaining “underground” attempting to get cards, I wanted to find ways to encourage ownership of our collective accomplishment. I knew of course that workers locking arms and taking a daring stand against management were going to win more concessions, but there was a lot more to it than that. I knew that there was a culture of obedience and fear of management that the workers needed to shake. I was just as afraid of management as anybody else. The mission of the agency is deeply flawed, and the execution of plans to solve homelessness is so hindered by the state finding ways to make homelessness a profitable endeavor for somebody, but there is pride in work that involves a direct service to somebody in need. Of all types of work, what outreach workers do should have some small impact in the lives of people broken down by the system. However much these brave people go through to help others, they were often subjected to being demeaned by supervisors. They are given little to no autonomy in work that often requires quick response and experience. Many of these workers experienced homelessness and know a hell of a lot more about it that some of their superiors. What I had hoped for going into this organizing effort was to connect with co-workers who need a voice, to listen and to provide support when they chose to fight back. One person alone would be fired on the spot for standing up against management in this agency. However, we had cards signed from nearly every member of outreach, and enthusiastic support along with organizers right at the center of our struggle. Organizing is not about simply winning a contract. It is about expressing power. That expression of power is a lesson in struggle that makes the power of an organized working class real. Finding the easiest possible way to quietly sign a contract with no teeth was not going to provide anybody that lesson. 

My focus was on bringing groups of co-workers out of the office and somewhere to talk about what was giving them the most grief at work. I wanted to understand both where people were most at odds with their supervisors, but also how much they would gain or lose from pushing back. I knew I had less to lose than someone with a family, but I wanted to convey that I am willing to stand up beside them and that, with every person who takes the same stand, the chances of a serious retaliation diminish. I would talk about politics, both the inner politics of the union and politics in the abstract. I wanted to understand who was receptive to radical ideas, and who wasn’t. Most often, I found pushback from people with a strong loyalty to the Democratic Party. There is a certain kind of liberal both in the region and in the sector where I work that is resistant to anything so long as it challenges the supremacy of the liberal tradition, and especially any authority. Their vague support for the union was easily lost when the discussion moved toward any kind of action. These co-workers often had the belief in mind that we could reason with management so that they wouldn’t retaliate. I wasn’t surprised that there were people, although not many, who would do anything to “support” the cause so long as it didn’t involve physically supporting the cause in any way. In many ways, their support for the union was a mirror reflection of my skepticism. I could see that the union they wanted was a strong institution lording over the workers that represented liberal values. They didn’t want to have anything to do with the tradition of workers that stopped work, refused management’s orders, or occupied factory floors, often without the approval of the labor union.

Despite flaky supporters, and occasional detractors that preferred to leave all decisions up to management, I found buy-in from many co-workers in the idea that we needed to act in order to get things done. I knew that there were certain topics that animated a lot of people. One example is the director, mentioned in part one, that was infamous for bringing people to tears, pitting workers against one another, who engaged in light espionage in order to undermine the organization process. This director was vulnerable, because underneath them was a mini-revolution brewing. Not only was the director hated, but a particular manager they had hired was happy to play the role of enforcer. Everyone reporting to the manager were brought to the breaking point. They needed no convincing to sign a recognition card, and now that that step was over, they were ready to act. I tried to meet with them as often as I could. We discussed the possibility of taking a collective action against the manager and director, but it was difficult to come to a decision on how to act. The turning point arrived when management announced that there would be changes in their responsibilities. Their oblivious plan was to make these formerly contracted positions permanent, and to radically increase the number of responsibilities that fall in the job description, without any major change in compensation. People holding these titles were extremely upset. The decision to keep them as permanent, but to give them more tasks for nearly the same pay was a slap in the face. Within a very short time, we had meetings planned and the discussion to engage in a direct action against management was underway.

This was one of the most powerful moments in the whole experience, not just for me but for everyone involved. As confidence grew and plans were underway to organize a voiced response for more pay, there was also a call for the director and manager to step down. There was no alternative that would have been acceptable. They needed to go, and conditions needed to improve immediately. This wasn’t going to be resolved with a contract. The initial idea was to demand her resignation or termination at an all staff meeting. However, as we began an offensive, the moment to stand against management was taken from us. It isn’t clear what happened, but upper management either got wind of what we were doing or pre-empted the whole affair. After a year of tormenting staff, both the manager and director were quickly escorted out of the building one day. A member of upper management called the whole floor to a meeting and announced that the two were terminated and that we were not allowed to discuss what happened. We waited until we were somewhere safe, but we celebrated. Certainly, with victories like this, energy for more radical actions can be lost. I wanted to continue this fight because I knew a simple personnel switch was not enough to transform the toxic culture of the agency. I think everybody knew this. Moving forward, however, some of the most militant co-workers I knew were the ones that pushed for this action. The experience bonded us and made it very clear that management would only take us seriously when we showed our strength.

An additional plan was in the works to bring workers together to make immediate demands. This plan involved use of some existing structures. The agency developed a “committee” that existed for show, but that had the potential to entirely backfire on management. There was an hour meeting once a month for each department in which staff could discuss issues around the office, and then one representative would bring the message of the meeting to the executive team on a monthly basis. Management would stress that all they really wanted to hear was if the coffee machine was broken or what theme the next potluck should be. People tended to comply with this type of content, although nobody tended to show up. Sometimes someone would use the committee to air grievances, but this was always done in a way that kept that person atomized and vulnerable. Most of the time, whatever minor issues workers would try to resolve would get ignored. Now, things were beginning to change. People had begun to feel that they could bring up real problems in the workplace, including time-card irregularities, pressure to “volunteer” and so on. I knew that there were serious problems with the structure of the committee that hindered its ability to protect people who voiced complaints. I also noted that the committee was glorified a suggestion box, and that there really was no implied threat of direct action behind complaints. 

There was an opportunity to speak out against some of the regular abuses that took place in this agency, and to demand that a formal structure come into place that would position itself as workers representing themselves. After attending a few of these meetings, I went back to my co-workers that were most deeply involved in organizing. I proposed that we should each go to our respective department committee meeting with a course of action to bring back interest in the committees and transform them into something stronger. I suggested that we reframe the way we communicate with the executives by having our representatives make demands on behalf of the department, with vote counts to show how strong support was for these demands. In addition, I thought it would be a good idea to break barriers between departments so that there could be agency-wide votes for immediate demands. I thought that the immediate change of tone and in the types of demands being made to executive management would send a signal to them that we were serious. It would be an autonomous project, separate from the union, that would again prove that workers have the final say if they are organized. Additionally, this committee could keep all the workers in the agency linked together so that a plan to stop work could be coordinated effectively. 

When the next scheduled meeting arrived, I spent the first half of it listening. A lot of the complaints were the same as previous meetings. I had trouble containing myself and the anticipation was making my palms sweat. When things reached a nadir, and it seemed like the meeting could end early, I raised my hand and proposed the idea. I spoke for a while, and by the midpoint I had everybody’s attention. People were nodding in agreement that things needed to change and that the current committee model wasn’t working. Eventually, others began to chime in, bringing up specific complaints that they have voiced in the past fearing some retaliation and yet have seen no improvements. Others joined the chorus, and eventually the meeting was filled with conversations all happening simultaneously. Within minutes the concurrent conversations became an uproar. The energy in the room could hardly be contained. Then, with a sudden drop, the room fell silent. One of the executives was standing in the doorway of the meeting room. They appeared angry, and commanded us to break up the meeting immediately. They said we were interrupting an important meeting with elected officials in attendance several doors down!

Look back, I wish I had pursued this path more aggressively after that initial meeting. Predictably, the executive team not only cancelled the next committee meeting for every department, they also sent out an email stating that the meetings will be cancelled indefinitely. In the email, they said that the meetings would no longer be necessary, now that there is a union representing us. They instead told us to go to our union with any complaints that we have, which will then assist us in resolving them through the contract. This message, that we would now rely on the union to deal with all complaints, that we will deal with disputes through the union contract, was to become their favorite way to diffuse autonomous activity of workers in the agency. Even if someone was to abide by the “open door policy” of a manager, the manager would send them away saying that they should talk to the union if they have a problem. This worked out in favor of management in a lot of ways. People often believed that this statement was true, and that the union was the method that we would be able to see change in the office. It would keep people from seeking alternative avenues to get concessions from management. It would put pressure on the union to deliver things that it cannot do, things that only workers can make happen through direct confrontations. This message sends workers to the union with a promise that they will solve all their problems, only to let them down slowly when they realize nothing’s going to change. This all produced a pessimism that was to become the greatest challenges we would need to overcome.

I attempted to build support for something that would parallel the original committee structure, but that would exist outside of work and after hours. This was a slow and difficult process, especially after the rug was pulled from beneath the last attempt. After the initial committee takeover attempt, turnover reached a peak. The agency received some new funding, and began a hiring frenzy. The plan was to double the size of the agency in around a year. First, they hired many new supervisors, and many of them were internal organizers. They found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t participate in either the union or the pressure campaigns we were conducting. By the time a year had passed, many of the dedicated organizers were gone or promoted. I was one of the few remaining. Some of the staff that were now involved were long-time employees that felt compelled to participate now that the main cohort was gone. Others were staff that were hired at some point after recognition went into effect. Management would sometimes criticize us now, by suggesting we were no longer representative of the agency as a whole. Many people were onboarded into the agency without being told there was a union organizing effort in the process. This forced me and others to change gears to make sure that new staff were aware of our past efforts and our continued commitment to make improvements. Even though things were not improving all that much, new staff were often less aware of some of the long-standing problems their longer-serving co-workers dealt with. And when problems did arise, the agency always had an excuse: we are a growing organization and we are just experiencing some growing pains. Of course, any time a firm doubles in size, it will require new supervisors and old policies that worked for a small company will need to change to make way for a more complex structure. These excuses would work for a time, but within about a month, new staff would find that they couldn’t hold onto the halo of positivity that comes with a full time gig for the first time at the tail end of the recession.

My own department’s structure changed. I was moved from one department to another, then the department was changed, split, dissolved, and a whole new set were created. I could hardly keep up with the name changes, and would get corrected in meetings referring to departments by the second name they went by a few months prior. My work in data was specialized as the agency grew. Instead of being a vestige hanging off of the end of a large department, we budded off into our own division, and eventually into a full department in its own right. It seemed during this period that the supervisors outnumbered staff. Probably the biggest danger to solidarity was the massive expansion of the outreach teams, which ended up becoming around half of the agency staff. This department grew so large, and shed so many of its original members, that we nearly lost our ability to connect with new staff so we could provide them with materials and a run-through. Not only did they drastically expand this department, but they also began building out co-located offices. Before then, all staff regardless of the region in the district where we worked would arrive at the same building each morning, then they would drive out to their location. After the change, workers would share office space with other government entities like libraries and city councilor’s offices and would be cut off from the rest of the staff population four out of the five days of the work week. When they were at the main site, they were bogged down in meetings, and they were only there temporarily. This would mean that even just maintaining contact would prove a challenge. 

The executive team planned all of this change knowing that it would weaken the workers bargaining power and leave us without the ability to organize. By moving me far away from everything, and off into a different department with only a small number coworkers around, I was less able to interact with co-workers throughout the building, let alone across multiple locations. Meanwhile, the lawyers for the agency were dragging their feet, and managed to suspend bargaining activity for an entire year through sheer flakiness. Each time, there was a new excuse for not meeting with the union lawyer, and they knew there was little we could do. They took advantage of the rapid growth and changing faces to erode at our position of relative strength. The union held an election for the bargaining team. The bargaining team is the core group that will take time out of work to physically meet with the executive team to hash out the written contract. Each of the bargaining team members would be elected, and the plan was to nominate at least one person per department. At the beginning of the process, the number of bargaining team members proposed was modest, but by the end of the campaign to get a bargaining team together, the number of departments multiplied, and the team size grew too large. We eventually settled on five members. However, over the long and drawn out process, one of the biggest challenges of simply keeping the team alive was attrition, turnover, and promotions. By the time we were ready to nominate bargaining team members, two years had passed since the first whispers of organizing a union. 

The union organizers were mostly absent for a lot of the twists and turns of the year following recognition. It wasn’t clear that we would be able to get people interested in a contract negotiation, or if we would get half of the demands we were hoping for. What was clear was that there was a lot of work to be done to simply keep management from successfully suppressing the organizing effort. Even in an agency in a region of the United States where union participation is strong, and unions are regarded positively by bureaucrats and functionaries of the state, there will always be resistance. Once the union contract goes into effect the mood will change. The reason for this shift is simple. There is a loss of power held by management when a union forms. Even though the union will ultimately serve to mediate between workers and management, dampening further militancy through concessions, any loss of power comes with some mourning. In our case, there was hostility toward the organizers and subtle attempts to counteract the effort. Any time we would push for action an email would go out instructing employees to direct any questions or concerns to the union, noting that the contract is going to be the method of resolution from now on. This was misleading for a number of reasons. Of course there were small disputes and minor grievances that could be solved through basic collective action or through “open door policy” conversations. What these emails did was suppress dissent by pushing it so far out of people’s expectations that they would not even consider something as daring as stopping work or walking out. This had the double effect of framing the conversation away from making demands and simultaneously pushing people to see the legal contract as the be-all and end-all of collective worker action.

My own politics had evolved considerably since that time, and I had begun to see things differently as a result of many of these experiences. While much of the early decisions I had made were based on self preservation, some impulse, and a genuine desire for some relief, I came to understand that the balancing act of intervening in struggles is a heavy responsibility. In hindsight, I would make different decisions earlier on to push in a more radical direction, to explicitly educate and agitate based on the position that the union and management will both act as weights around the neck of organizers. Either through inaction, deferment to the contract, or retaliation, we find ourselves pitted in a classic antagonism between forces that want to suppress our self activity. It is not going to change with a change in leadership, and it will not change with the right formula of labor activism. These are features and not bugs within the logic of a framework of control. But this is the conversation to have with workers at the point of struggle. The point is not to run away from the possibility of connecting to workers. Communists must instead find themselves where workers are, where their coworkers are, ready to propose the impossible and to offer to demand the impossible right alongside them. Here, I am distinguishing between weaseling demands for the likely or improbable edgewise as some deceitful political bait and switch, and an honest approach laying out communist positions in their totality. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is that people prefer to get the truth and they will resent false promises and half-truths. The value of struggle is that it presents the working class with the unresolvable and the unimaginable. The value of communists intervening in struggle is to pass on knowledge to others of what pieces of the real solution to the never ending grind will look like when the chains we are all in are finally broken.