Work-to Rule

February 12, 2006

Dear Socialist Viewpoint,

Received the January issue of the magazine. You gave me a feast like we had in Minneapolis every
New Years.

My first job was for the Long Canning Co. here in Chippewa Falls, about a country mile from where I live now. I was young but big for my age and used to work. The job was on the line; hard and the hours very long. You started work early when the farmers brought the peas in and kept working until they were
all canned.

Often we worked sixteen to eighteen hour days; no union, no work breaks except for a fifteen-minute bag lunch—the boss was always yelling, “faster, faster.”

One day after we had worked six or seven hours, fast, with no break, the man next to me said, “We are all going to work to rule, so work faster.” I thought, “What the Hell! faster?” but he was going faster so I had to go faster too. Then, the line stopped dead. We had worked faster than the machines could go and they broke down. We all stopped and we had a long break while the machines were being fixed.

Work to rule has many meanings depending on the situation. At the minimum it gives you a feeling for your power as a worker.

With warmest comradely greetings,

Joe Johnson