By Sandra Marsh
Tubeworker, on the London Underground, is the longest-running of the bulletins produced by Workers’ Liberty. It has been running for fifteen years now.
It comes out once every three weeks, with occasional special issues in addition. The front page has one or two longer stories — at least one of them about general politics, outside the Underground — and the back page carries about a dozen short pieces of workplace news and comment. Each issue is prepared and designed by a meeting of Workers’ Liberty activists and sympathisers working on the Tube, but the bulletin quite often gets material from other interested Tube workers.
The bulletin is distributed in three ways. A number of Tube workers — not AWL members or sympathisers — pay to get a regular small bundle of bulletins posted to them. Others receive it by email, or download it from the AWL website. And the staple is other AWL members (not Tube workers) going round the Tube stations and depots to distribute the bulletin hand-to-hand.
These guidelines give an idea of how we go about collecting and selecting material for Tubeworker.
• Tell workers information that no-one else will tell them. Spread important news between the different departments. Tell workers about the management cock-ups that have been covered up.
• Listen to what people are talking about at work. What are their complaints about management? About their working conditions? Have they told you about incidents or issues which arose in other departments, or on other shifts, than yours?
• Give workers ammunition against the boss. Has a manager been excused for a mistake that workers would be severely disciplined for? Are there agreements that are not widely publicised but which workers can use to assert their rights? (On the Underground, for example, the bosses were flouting — in fact, denying the existence of — an agreement that “reserve” station staff should have 28 days’ notice of their shifts. A campaign by Tubeworker made the bosses recognise and observe the agreement).
• Think what has happened at work recently. An accident, injury, or other safety matter? A clampdown on some trivial rules about uniform? A new manager? A machinery breakdown? A problem with a contractor?
• Prioritise topical stories, but do not ignore “timeless” issues. If the discipline policy, or the state of the building, is awful, say so, even if it has been that way for years. We want to convince workers not to accept the way things are “because they have always been like that” — and not just to react defensively to attacks, but to fight for improvements.
• Look for stories about, or from, workers who might otherwise be ignored or considered “peripheral”, e.g. catering staff, cleaners, temps or agency staff, contractors. Talk to them! Listen to them!
• What was discussed in the last union/ management negotiating meeting? If you’re not the union rep yourself, ask the union rep, or check the minutes. Read union newsletters, circulars, and notice boards.
• Read the employers’ publications too. You may find good stories — and you will probably find stupid quotes you can ridicule.
• Monitor media coverage of your industry. Check the papers and websites.