Workers in Limbo

On March 3rd, the contract between Kroger and UFCW 770 expired. This contract guarantees the rights, responsibilities, and various whatnots of the workers. Although it remains in effect as long as negotiations go on, it means that there is currently no agreement between the bosses and the workers. As a worker, it’s a bit of a scary and stressful position to be in. On one hand, you feel like you’re working for a company that doesn’t give enough of a shit about you to even negotiate with your union, and, on the other hand, one feels that the union should have been a bit further ahead of this than they were. There’s an old saying — don’t wait until a battle to sharpen your javelin. This now seems to be the situation that we’re in. The barbarians are just over the hill and we’re still looking for our weapons. No two ways around it – That’s bad planning.

But, before I get too much into that or go at this from a bit more of a theoretical perspective, let me give you, dear reader, some information on how you can help out.

At this moment, the best thing you can do for us is to go to the website that UFCW 770 has set up. It’s called Food Fight. There is a petition. Signing it helps. Every signature we get improves our negotiating position. Hopefully, it will bring the bosses to the table and help us get a good contract and avoid a strike. You can find the site here and, if facebook is more your bag, you can follow along here. This site explains some of what we’re fighting for. So, please go, sign the petition, try to get some other people to sign, and help us out. At the end of the day, this is your fight too.

Now, for the more theoretical side of this . . .

It occurs to me that we workers are now operating in a sort of liminial zone. That’s a fancy way of saying that we’re in a waiting room. We’re between things. The old contract is expired, the new one is yet to be be negotiated. But calling a liminial zone “a waiting room: only gets to part of the experience. Liminal zones involve more than waiting. Sure, they’re a sort of limbo – times and places where the world is not yet defined. But they’re also those strange periods in life when the old world crumbles and you have to build the new one. I think we’ve all been through something like that. For me, one such experience occurred when I immigrated to America. I was not yet an American and not quite a Canadian. It might also be the period right after a break-up, finishing a project of some kind, or when you’re between jobs or training for a new one. You probably know the feeling. And knowing it, you might realize its power.

Liminial experiences are scary and disorienting. By their very nature, they’re confusing. For one reason or another, you are not quite who you were and you’re not yet who you will become. That’s bound to fuck a person up. But, if you approach these experiences in a productive way, these are also some of the most powerful experiences open to a person. These are the areas where you really get to exercise some choice. You don’t often get much of a say in who you are –we often operate from habit– but, in entering limbo, you get to make some choices about those habits. You get to decide what habits you wish to have. You have to make these decisions. It’s the only way out.

What I think we need to recognize, in this moment that we’re all in, is that we now have this power to make choices. We now have the power to make decisions not just about the contract but about the sort of place that we work in, how we work in that place, and what sort of people we’re going to be when we work there. This is a difficult moment but it’s one that’s also full of potential. We just have to rise to that. It won’t be easy.

Over the next few weeks, when I have the time between work and schoolwork, I’d like to post about some of these potentials and some of these choices. Some of the more theoretical aspects of all this and some of the practical actions and consequences too. It’s not quite going to be an old school “Grumpy Owl Theme Week” but I guess it’ll be something like that. I’ll probably just end up making enemies -as usual- but I hope to also provide some perspective on this shit. We’ll see how it goes.

We’re in a moment of real possibility here. I hope that we do not squander it.

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