Be His Payment High or Low


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The American Working Class in the Sixties

By Martin Glaberman
Thought Crime Ink
Printed by Black Cat Press

In Detroit auto plants in the 1960s and 70s, relatively high payment went hand in hand with exploitation and frequent injury. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union served to discipline workers and water down their demands on management. In response, workers undertook direct action and other rebellion to reclaim control over the shop floor and their lives. Be His Payment High or Low details these developments. Its author, Martin Glaberman, was an autoworker and chronicler of strikes and independent worker activity.

In this booklet, Glaberman talks about workers’ militant, self-organized responses to union and management directives. In Part 1, “The Union and the State,” Glaberman begins by discussing the union’s muting of democracy and mutation into “an integral part of the system of authority needed to operate the plant.” In Part 2, “Modernization,” Glaberman describes how autoworkers, based on their experiences, pose different questions than business and union leadership about how automation is carried out at the expense of workers, and respond accordingly. In Part 3, “New Forms of Struggle,” Glaberman considers how minor forms of shop floor tension boil over into revolutionary situations.

From these observations, of independent worker activity in relation to unions and factory foremen, Glaberman develops a perspective and method of organizing with his fellow workers: not on a ‘vanguard socialist party’ model that offers workers ‘correct’ lines of thought and activity, but through understanding and listening to workers and ‘the working class’ through their contradictions.

Additional information

Weight 2.3 oz
Dimensions 8.25 × 5.25 × 0.125 in


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