Radical media, politics and culture.

mutter mutter ramble ramble

Tuesday night was song night, a small event put on by the education department of the union. A small collection of people gathered, the sort that a friend calls 'cultural wobblies'. My partner and I served as the youth crew, since we're under 50 (pretty far under). I brought my little red songbook (the only little red book worth mentioning) and the banjo and guitar wielding trio kindly obliged my requests for We Have Fed You All A Thousand Years and Dump the Bosses Off Your Back.

My ear is terrible but it was fun singing with the small group. Sure, the songs and the style are dated - a little too 'Kumbaya' around the campfire for my hipster tastes - but I like the portability of it, and the 'everybody join in!' kind of vibe. Hip Hop Piquetero is awesome, but I have no idea how to participate.

One woman sang a song by a folk singer named Charlie King, called Bring Back The Eight Hour Day. I heard it a labor movement related thing a few years ago, before I really got what was at stake. I'm older now, older in part form working and hating it, so it hit closer to home. There are lines about overtime (not having time to enjoy the extra money) and about salaried work and how it just means extra hours. Like Dalla Costa says, if you're not paid hourly then who cares how long it takes you to get your work done? There's also a line about commuting,more of that unpaid work for the boss, and uncompensated expenses that the bosses are happy to see expand.

On the salaried work thing, my wrists have been hurting at my office job. I'm on the computer all day and I must doing something not ergonomically kosher. I have to watch that. "Immaterial" labor can still fuck up your body, especially for those of us who don't take adequate steps (enough sleep or exercise, etc) to preserve the saleability of our commodity.

I went to another union thing last night, spoke with some folks in a shop who are organizing. They've done great stuff, and are keeping together despite management hitting back. It was really energizing and inspiring to be there. We told them how people are paying attention to their campaign all over the US in our union, and we expressed our support. And we said we want to work with them to develop support beyond moral support, that's being developed right now.

One of the people at the meeting has some health problems partly connected to the work. Management makes the workers go to a company doctor - in their time off - to get excuses for work missed due to these types of health issues. More unpaid work. One thought that comes to mind is about this potentiality stuff in Virno and others. Clearly we have a potential to work, a subset of other potentials. And work can sometimes reduce both these sets of potentials - I can't play music when my wrists hurt, if I can't sleep I don't want to socialize or I'm less fun to be around, and these same conditions make me less productive on the clock. Capital digs own grave, maybe? Maybe, but who wants to get buried alive with it?

One thing I thought of as part of my new job is about the continued erosions of the protection in place for people whose commodity (their body) becomes unsaleable. There's proceses to exclude people from unemployment, health care, social security pensions and disability, etc. Where I work now we have the option to pay certain expenses (commuting costs, health costs) with pre-tax dollars, reducing the amount of wages we pay tax on. And reducing the amoung paid into social security funds by employees, and the matching funds paid in by employeres. My partner, who has worked a lot in informal work, got her social security statement a while back. She has not paid in enough money to earn _any_ monthly stipend should she find herself permanently disabled and unable to work. I guess we'll just have to hope we find jobs that provide pensions and retirement health insurance before we're too old and worn out.

This last makes me wonder again (or maybe I should say, admit my disagreement with) the idea that we're always productive all the time. (All the time? value productive? at the same rate?) I prefer to think in terms of a capacity, sometimes actualized for capital, sometimes actualized otherwise, maybe sometimes both at once, and maybe sometimes neither. This is I think particularly important with regard to the idea of a general income.

Arguments, demands, actions, and practices for our reproduction and survival just can't be based on our productivity for the boss. That concedes way too much for me. "We are productive so we should get income" implies that anyone shown unproductive should NOT get income.

On a micro-level it seems to me to mean that un- or less productive moments should be un- or less compensated, like my wrists and sleeplessness, or the person at the union meeting having to spend unpaid time to go to the doctor to keep a job after calling in due to health problems. Fuck that. Maybe this gets back to the legitimation stuff that Angela and I have been talking about. Wages, whether direct or part of the social wage, are not set by good arguments but by balances of force. Good arguments matter in so far as they impact balances of forces.

That's all from me, my wrist's a little sore (it's a good think I took a break today at work and wrote this out on paper, I'm preserving my health and my productivity for the boss!) and I need to do the dishes. I'll try to remember sometime later to complain about the US healthcare system, labor law, and workplace organizing models.

Over and out.