On Picket Lines and Boredom

[A text we received at the beginning of the strike, in response to our “Strike Lessons:”]

When the company pays us to drive in circles, they call it work. When the union pays us to walk in circles, they call it not-work. But either way, we always seem to end up back where we started.

As good employees, we show up at 5am for work duty. As good unionists, we show up at 5am for picket duty. Our sense of obligation is unwavering.

Whe company makes the rules, they call it work. When the union tells us how to behave, what to wear, what to say, what not to say, they call it not-work. And the company time sheet doesn’t look much different from the union boss’ picket roster.

If this is a strike, no wonder we chant for a new contract!

The picket line is not a media stunt. It is not a convenient backdrop for the 6 O’Clock News. It is not a performative utterance, a street theater production, a symbolic act, or a communicative gesture. It is a tactical position in the ongoing struggle against those who seek to control our time, our bodies, our labor. Any other effects are purely incidental.

The loyal worker is Jekyll to the loyal union member’s Hyde. Obedience may win accolades, but it doesn’t win strikes.

Sometimes being on strike means taking a long lunch break and forgetting what time it is. Sometimes being on strike means skipping the picket, staying home with friends and loved ones. Sometimes being on strike means evading the bureaucrats and smashing through the barricades that confine our picket and contain our imaginations.

Those who refuse work must also refuse the Long March of history, the tired slog of the professional revolutionary, the predictable drudgery of the circuitous picket.

Union officials pal around with police officers because both have the same job: confining the picket to a patch of sidewalk on the outer fringes of the city, where it can be neither seen nor heard. In defiance, we escape the picket’s circular orbit in favor of the spiral, the obelisk, and other Forbidden Shapes.

Forever Yours,
Picketers Against Picketing
17 January 2013