Working Smart


This 315-page manual by Mike Parker and Jane Slaughter takes union members through the ins and outs of participation programs, focusing on strategies. The case studies by activists who are grappling with the programs, supplemented by the authors' own years of experience, guide unions to a range of tactics.

Mike Parker is an industrial electrician and Jane Slaughter is a founder of Labor Notes. They have written and spoken widely about participation programs, for union and other audiences.

Authors of the case studies include Dan La Botz, author of A Troublemaker's Handbook 1; Ellis Boal, labor attorney; Ben Watanabe, National Union of General Workers, Tokyo; labor educators Nancy Jackson, John Price, and Roberta Till-Retz; and members of these unions: Service Employees, Communications Workers, Mail Handlers, Auto Workers, Letter Carriers, Teamsters, Machinists, Postal Workers, United Nurses of Alberta, and the Volvo workers of Sweden.

Save Big When You Buy in Bulk

Interested in buying a Labor Notes book for your whole study group or steward training conference? Big discounts are available:

  • 5-10 copies = 10 percent off
  • 11-50 copies = 25 percent off
  • 51 copies and up = 40 percent off

You can order discounted purchases online. Simply add the number of books you want to your shopping cart and the discount will be applied automatically!

For questions about discounted bulk purchases, call Labor Notes’ Detroit office at 313-842-6262.

Contents include:

  • Why participation programs don't "work" -- but management likes them anyway
  • What's wrong with "equal partnership"
  • Management's special definition of "quality" -- and a union definition
  • The collective bargaining model for participation
  • Programs' special implications for women and people of color
  • Using the law
  • Public employees: what happens when governments adopt quality
  • Reengineering for the information super-highway
  • The truth about Saturn Corp.
  • The pitfalls of "protective involvement"
  • Ideas for a pro-union quality campaign
  • How to survive lean production
  • Video resource guide

From the forward:

"The Clinton Administration is looking for a way to encourage labor-management cooperation. But the fact is, we already have such an institution -- it's called collective bargaining...Voice and dignity cannot be bestowed by the company -- they can only arise from an independent workers' organization."

— Bob Wages, President, Oil, Chemical, & Atomic Workers International Union

What others are saying about Working Smart:

"After reading Working Smart, you will not only have a much clearer picture of QWL programs and their implications for workers; you will have ideas of how to deal with them." — Bob Hasegawa, secretary-treasurer, Teamsters Local 174, Seattle

"Working Smart exposes management techniques and goals hidden behind the feel-good jargon of participation programs. It's packed with tools to help unions avoid participation program traps and dead-ends." — Laura Sager, former Program Director Clerical-Technical Union, Michigan State University

"The case histories on specific industries are most helpful in destroying the myth that worker participation guarantees job security and a more satisfying work environment. Working Smart should be required reading for all labor leaders who favor EI/QWL, as well as the politicians who purport to be friends of unions." — William Burrus, vice-president, American Postal Workers Union

"Working Smart builds upon experiences across a wide range of industries, from public sector,clerical, and hospital workers to auto workers. It describes a whole range of challenges to 'lean and mean.'

Working Smart analyzes and critizes the ideology of competitiveness, and challenges the idea that workers can somehow defend their interests by breaking down the independence and militancy of their unions. — Buzz Hargrove, President, Canadian Auto Workers

"Working Smart is a guidebook through the minefield of global competition. It's a dictionary to decode management's propaganda, and it's a strategy manual to strengthen the union." — Judy Ancel, director, Institute for Labor Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Longview Community College

"Reading this book is like attending a conference on participation programs and being able to talk to thousands of people about their experiences." — Angaza Laughinghouse, staff organizer, AFSCME Local 1194, Durham, N.C.