I was talking with a close friend and comrade today. He was telling me a story about his union winning some grievance and how they were like “we have won X amount of dollars from the employer!” (X is some very large sounding sum of money that I can’t remember just now) and he was like “well, yeah, sort of, except it’s on a grievance spread across a huge bargaining unit so it’s really like twenty bucks or fifty bucks per worker, which sounds very different.” We got to talking about wins and how this kind of thing isn’t really what inspires us. For us the stuff that’s gotten us fired up and that keeps us going is harder to quantify, mostly respect and dignity issues and workplace control issues. Those indignities have been really intolerable so we feel strongly a gut level need to fight on them, and the aftermath that we carry with us is more the experiences of the fight and the relationships we built in the process, more than the contents of the win. And when we do get fired up about the contents of the win it’s usually mixed and it’s usually about management having to eat crow more than it’s like “work is fine now” because work *isn’t* fine. Part of this is about equivalencies. We don’t really want money in exchange for our time and for the horribleness of being at work and being bossed. We sometimes settle for that, and are sometimes asked to and sometimes the other side will raise the amount of shekels to get the settlement but… the equivalency in that exchange is a false one, the quid pro quo doesn’t make quid and quo identical — even if they’re rendered monetarily equal they’re not *really* equal. The other side can be made want to give the money instead of our other demands, and there’s a reason why they want that, and what we really want is not the equivalent of our demand in money because what we *really* want is not really representable in monetary terms, you can’t buy what we really want — even if we might be willing to agree to undergo this shit for a sum of money that doesn’t really mean that the undergoing and the money are truly equivalent. There’s an element of this sensibility in every movie and TV show ever where someone shouts all melodramatic “I don’t want your dirty money, I want XYZ that I want!” There’s a fiction in some of the laws that cover injuries and that cover work and workplaces, about this equivalency that isn’t really an equivalency, the idea of being ‘made whole’ via being given a certain amount of money. We reject that, we’re not going to be made whole by more money — we’ll take the money if that’s our only option, but that’s not really what we want.

Reminds me of these Thompson quotes I mentioned in this post

“The injury which advanced industrial capitalism did, and which the market society did, was to define human relations as being primarily economic” but really above al “the injury is in defining man as “economic” at all.” And, people “desire, fitfully, (…) to throw off this grotesque “economic” disguise which capitalism imposes upon them, and to resume a human shape.”

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