Those of you who pay attention to the US news will know that Communications Workers of America has decided to stage a four-day strike in protest of SBC’s intransigence on technical but critical areas of the proposed contract, chiefly dealing with how much employees will pay towards health care costs, access to other company jobs in case of layoffs, and scheduling of wage increases. So, as of 12:01AM Friday, I was officially on strike. Not that I would have been working at that hour anyway, but many other departments such as Repair and Operator Services do maintain 24 hour operations. Friday morning, instead of going in to work, I reported for picket duty outside my workplace, and spent four hours walking up and down with a sign and chanting, which is, frankly, harder work than I normally do. Fortunately, I had the ten AM to 2 PM shift, which meant that the torrential rain that moved through the area that morning had mostly tapered off by the time I arrived, well armored against the weather. The six AM to ten squad were giving a good impression of drowned puppies, and most skittered off to warm baths or hot drinks on being relieved. Between chants, we exchanged jokes with those of our managers that were minding the front doors, and grimly speculated on how much pressure the heavy weather would put on the axiomatically overstretched Repair replacements.
I’m not wild about striking. I haven’t before, and my prior experience of strikes was a bitter winter in the mid-1960’s when the International Association of Machinists struck my father’s workplace, a small manufacturing company in Wisconsin Dells. The winter wasn’t all that was bitter, as, unlike SBC, the management was close by, and there were a lot of personal resentments involved that never really healed afterwards. Georgie’s family weathered a number of strikes during her father’s career at American Optical, and usually concluded that the lost wages from striking were never really made up for in whatever was gained. For this reason, I appreciate the union’s strategy of a limited strike, which it hope will have the dual purpose of showing the company that the workers are serious, and that their vaunted contingency plans may not work too well. As of this hour, negotiations continue. Here’s hoping they bear fruit.