A Labor Department of One

There’s an old anecdote about a Texas Ranger who showed up in some town in response to a request to the state government for help with large-scale riot control.  The mayor and chief of police, aghast, asked him:  “They only sent ONE of you?”  His response:  “There’s only one riot, ain’t there?”

In a previous column (“The Desktop Revolution in Worker Protection,” 06/25/10), I mentioned a few examples of how networked organization has won battles for workers where the dying unions and allegedly “progressive” state either can’t or won’t:  the Imolakee Indian Workers’ campaign against Taco Bell, associated pickets by the Wal-Mart Workers’ Association, and the UFW’s campaign against Giumarra Vinyards.

But the beauty of the desktop revolution is that it’s easier than ever before to be your own one-person activist organization, and to declare war on your employers from the comfort of your living room.

Just think for a moment about how easy and risk-free it really is.

You probably know all kinds of embarrassing dirt about what really goes on at your employer: How they treat workers behind the “big happy family” facade; how they gut human capital and long-term productivity to massage the quarterly numbers and game their own bonuses; what really goes into the product, despite all the “quality” and “customer service” happy talk in their mission statement (itself probably drafted by multi-million dollar consultants), when the customer isn’t looking.

If the malfeasors are at corporate headquarters, you can probably identify your employer’s major outlets and suppliers — and their senior management and directors — with a little creative Googling.  You can probably find assorted consumer and advocacy groups, wire service reporters who specialize in such coverage, and lots and lots of message boards and blogs catering to disgruntled consumers in your industry.  And I’ll bet you can even find email addresses for the United Way, Chamber of Commerce, country club, and other local venues where senior management is likely to hobnob, in the town where corporate headquarters is located.  Compile these into a single distribution list calculated for maximum damage and embarrassment.

If your problem is with a local employer or the local campus of a national corporation, you can do the same thing with their local suppliers, customer base, etc., local reporters who cover news related to that employer, and the local Rotary Club yahoos the management hangs out with.  Regarding the latter, the society page of your local paper do doubt regularly prints pictures of the boss donating giant checks, wearing pink ribbons, and kissing pigs for diabetes; your goal is to make him embarrassed to meet the eyes of the people he’s photographed with. If your employer is part of a national corporation, don’t forget to cc the home office — especially their PR office — so they’ll know how much embarrassment the local folks are causing them.

Just put everything you consider most damaging in a big textfile, upload, and click “send.” Of course, you should keep your email distribution list for future use in ongoing labor issues.  Best of all, you can do it all anonymously through a proxy server and a web-based email account set up especially for the occasion.

Just turn on the kitchen light, and sit back and watch the fun, as the cockroaches furiously scurry under the refrigerator.

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