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Sustaining an Organizing Drive in Retail: X342099

The drive to organize Kinko's workers in Santa Cruz was started in 1993 along with the founding of the Santa Cruz Branch. The focus of both the drive and the branch was the I.W.W. slogan:

  • Education,
  • Organization,
  • Emancipation.

So, appropriately enough, our first efforts at Kinko's were all related to educating the workers about their legal rights, general labor history and theory, and the history of Kinko's itself. From the beginning, we decided to have the I.W.W. delegates who were working at Kinko's act as co-worker advocates in an unofficial capacity.

These concepts worked well as we continued to develop them. We held weekly "cafes" in the homes of fellow workers where we answered questions, exchanged literature, played Bridge, Scrabble, and sang many a raucous union song. Hosting these gatherings for fellow workers in their homes, delegates became known as reliable sources of information and responsible representatives of the union. These dedicated Kinkoids served as Co-workers' advocates on the job site and were able to make both effective changes in Co-worker culture as well as in immediate working conditions.

After several months of educating Co-workers about their history and legal rights, an important ideological change happened on the shop floor: Co-workers started taking responsibility for their rights themselves and started asking questions about what they should be doing.

We have addressed many issues of concern for Kinko's Co-workers, such as: Health and Safety codes, timeliness of reviews and raises, unannounced schedule changes, the dress code, and generally bad managerial attitudes. There seem to be as many direct action tactics as there are Co-workers; Kinkoids are nothing if not creative. As a delegate, my favorite tactic is to schedule myself to give an immediately useful presentation at our mandatory monthly store meetings. So far I've instituted an emergency plan for the building (there wasn't even a First-Aid Kit when I was hired), given a talk about copyright law, and presented a workshop on how to fill out order forms and translate Kinko's arcane, in-store symbols. All delegates in our store seem to make it their business to be the life of the party at monthly meetings. We bravely ask pertinent questions like "Won't Workers Compensation stop covering us if we don't have a safety training program?" or "What is `practically non-toxic in rats' supposed to mean, anyway?" (from the Material Data Safety Handbook). The Co-workers quickly picked up on this idea and started asking anything and everything they wanted to. The managers in turn were properly dismayed and finally asked us if we wouldn't like to go bowling instead. We politely declined.

Another prominent change in store culture came with the arrival of the first Co-worker Factszine; this publication changed not only the attitudes of Co-workers and their managers, but affected nationwide company policy as well. In every store of our region, the bosses removed our bulletin boards and replaced them with ones reserved only for company information. All outside publications, such as daily and weekly newspapers, were removed from the stores on command from regional administration. This created quite a stir with the customers who were used to having something to read in line at Kinko's.

The Co-workers themselves had mixed feelings about the Factszine. On one side it had brought more restrictions to their workplace, but on the other side they discovered that they were not alone in organizing at Kinko's. The Factszine also had the effect of forcing some Co-workers out of the closet as I.W.W. members, thereby making them more visible and effective. As things have heated up, Co-workers have also become interested in coming to meetings outside the store. Currently, more Co-workers are coming to Branch meetings as well as meeting frequently on their own. Some Co-workers have developed a positive habit of meeting after work to bitch about their jobs and share information. This is a surprisingly sustainable tactic and one that our managers haven't failed to notice.

At present, Kinko's Wobblies are experiencing a "changing of the guard." Several 'K-Wobs' have left recently and new ones have taken on delegate status to fill their shoes. We view this as a sign of the sustainability of our drive and a validation of our original goals as well as the delegate system. As Co-workers leave our store, they take their experiences as organizers with them to other workplaces in Santa Cruz and to other Kinko's all over the U.S. In other words, we think our plan is working.

In Solidarity

X342099 secret agent 99 still working for Control ... of the point of production.