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Bosses Hate This One Trick

Work-to-rule is not walking away from a fight, but a different way to fight.


Illustration by Terry Laban

work • to • rule


1. a disruption of operations in which workers intentionally do the precise bare minimum — down to the ​“rule”

“Work-to-rule is not walking away from a fight, but a different way to fight.” — Labor activist Jerry Tucker

Is work-to-rule the same as ​“quiet quitting”?

Yes and no. Quiet quitting entered the discourse this year as a successor to the Great Resignation, and both phrases respond to a deep anxiety that a strong labor market is actually allowing workers to — gasp — get paid more and refuse uncompensated work. 

But work-to-rule is a deliberate strategy unions have employed for decades to draw attention to grievances from protesting workers. Where strikes and walkouts can be risky (or unlawful), work-to-rule is theoretically unpunishable — because workers simply do exactly what they’re paid for.

+ How can I work-to-rule at my job?

Much like declaring bankruptcy, it doesn’t work if you just shout out your intentions.

It’s best undertaken as part of an organizing campaign to increase leverage against your boss. Are you expected to show up 20 minutes early to do unpaid prep? Your mornings are now for coffee and contemplation. Have unfinished work you usually take home? Get ready for an evening of Netflix and chill. Pesky paperwork getting you down? Start dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s.

+ Is it effective?

Like any job action, there’s no guarantee. But work-to-rule has been deployed successfully across industries throughout the decades, especially when traditional strikes aren’t an option.

In 1938, French railway workers barred from striking instead seized on a law requiring train engineers to consult crew members if there was any doubt about a bridge’s safety. Crew members began scrutinizing every bridge, incurring massive train delays and therefore gaining negotiating power.
In the 1980s, when United Auto Workers realized during contract negotiations that manufacturers were trying to provoke workers into striking — to permanently replace them with scabs — the union turned to work-to-rule, throwing production into chaos and winning a 36% wage bump over three years at one plant.

Teachers, including in Oakland, Calif., have repeatedly used work-to-rule to shine a light on the amount of unpaid labor required to keep schools running in an era of privatization and disinvestment.

There’s nothing wrong with setting better boundaries at work and maybe even making a TikTok about it. But if you really want to change your workplace (to paraphrase an old labor adage): Don’t quiet quit — organize.


A Landmark Bill Would Outlaw Bosses Cutting off Healthcare to Striking Workers

Employers regularly eliminate healthcare benefits as a strike-breaking tactic. A bill just introduced in Congress seeks to finally end this practice.



On Wednesday, House Democrats introduced a landmark bill that would make it illegal for employers to cut off healthcare benefits to striking workers. The Striking Workers Healthcare Protection Act would subject employers to a fine of up to $50,000, which could be doubled by the National Labor Relations Board for employers who have been in violation of the policy within the past five years. 

Rep. Cindy Axne (D‑Iowa) says she was inspired to introduce the legislation after John Deere threatened to take away healthcare policies from workers who were on strike in her district last fall. Several of the bill’s co-sponsors represent districts where cutting healthcare has been used by companies as a strike-breaking tactic, including Rep. Steven Cohen (D‑Tenn.) whose constituents were among the 1,400 striking workers at Kelloggs’ cereal plants in four states. Other co-sponsors include Reps. Brian Higgins (D‑N.Y.), Andy Levin (D‑Mich.), Jim McGovern (D‑Mass.), Bill Pascrell (D‑N.J.), Linda Sánchez (D‑Calif.) and Nikema Williams (D‑Ga.).

If passed, the legislation could better position workers to negotiate with their employers for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

“The threat itself is used to break strikes and force workers to accept contracts that don’t meet their needs. That’s why I wrote the bill,” Rep. Axne tells In These Times. ​“I heard about children who need their parents’ health insurance because they have asthma or needed glasses, or workers who need access to medication. I was appalled, and soon after I learned from other colleagues in D.C. that this had also been happening to their workers in recent years.”

In October 2021, 10,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) went on strike at John Deere for the first time in 35 years, demanding better salaries and overtime pay while opposing proposed increased healthcare premiums and a two-tiered wage system. The company responded by threatening to eliminate healthcare benefits for workers and their families over the duration of the strike, before ultimately reversing course. 

“Unfortunately, employers use this threat to discourage workers from going on strike or to push workers to end a strike before an adequate contract agreement has been reached,” says Laurel Lucia, the Health Care Program Director at the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. ​“With this threat looming, workers aren’t fully able to exercise their rights to a fight for a strong collective bargaining agreement.”

[Read on]

How Workers Can Win in 2022

They need to create a crisis in order to turn this country around.

By Jane McAlevey


In the first full year of the Covid pandemic, Elon Musk’s wealth skyrocketed from $25 billion to $150 billion. Jeff Bezos became the first person on the planet to possess a fortune of more than $200 billion. The Financial Times has been fretting all of this past year about a crisis in superyacht production, and lately it’s been reporting on another crisis afflicting the rich. Flexjet and NetJets, two of the most well-known private-jet charter companies operating in the United States, recently stopped accepting new clients because they simply can’t acquire enough jets to accommodate the explosive growth of the billionaire class. Not only is this eye-popping wealth not being hidden; it’s being flaunted. After being propelled by his Blue Origin rocket for fewer minutes than the lifetime of a female mayfly, Bezos enthusiastically thanked Amazon’s employees and customers for allowing him to act as if he’d joined the ranks of astronauts like John Glenn and Neil Armstrong.

Our new Gilded Age of obscene wealth and arrogance stands in stark contrast to the everyday struggles faced by tens of millions of exhausted workers fighting just to stay healthy and alive, avoid eviction, make the next month’s rent payment, or find the kind of job that will leave enough free time to help their children with homework.

In April, 3.8 million Americans quit their jobs, which prompted headlines about “the Great Resignation” and “the Big Quit.” By July, that number would climb to over 4 million in a single month, bested again in August (4.27 million) and then again in September (4.43 million).

By October, pundits in the mainstream media began invoking a new trope, “Striketober,” as 10,000 workers walked off the job in the first strike against John Deere since 1986, with another 60,000 film production workers and 50,000 health care workers at Kaiser Health threatening to strike, along with dozens of small and medium strikes and work stoppages scattered across the country (including at Kellogg, Nabisco, and Catholic Health, in Buffalo). Although there’s no doubt that the abysmal treatment at the hands of absentee corporate bosses during the pandemic has led individual workers to resign in droves—and has caused a small uptick in strikes—anger at the elite and collective action by workers predate Covid.

[Read on]

Econ 101 with Robert Reich

Episode 224: Rumble with Michael Moore

Listen in podcast app

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (Win McNamee/Getty Images)


Today marks the second anniversary of Rumble with Michael Moore. Thank you for participating in and supporting my podcast! We’ve done 224 episodes and have had over 31 million downloads! 

On today’s Rumble, with the end of the year approaching & reports about inflation dominating the nightly news, Americans everywhere are anxious about what this means for them. Former US Secretary of Labor and progressive activist Robert Reich, however, thinks this is a major misdiagnosis: the problem isn’t inflation, but a lack of competition to stop big, monolithic corporations from jacking up prices. Robert joined me on the show today to talk about who is really responsible for your gas and milk prices skyrocketing, and why it’s more important than ever for the government to intervene in a moment when they’re trying to pull back. Plus, we discuss the rising labor movements in America and whether the “labor shortage” the media & big companies keep alleging is actually a general strike of workers across the country. 

I hope you’ll give this a listen and share with friends and family.



No, Striketober Is Not About Vaccine Mandates

The recent wave of militant labor action has been over workers demanding better pay and working conditions—not opposing Covid vaccine requirements.



This month, the United States has seen a noticeable uptick in the number of strikes by fed-up workers at companies like Kellogg’s and John Deere—a phenomenon many are calling ​“Striketober.” As a result, the U.S. labor movement is getting an unusual amount of attention. 

But because of the corporate media’s often spotty or ideologically slanted coverage of workers’ struggles, combined with the fact that only a small minority of Americans have any personal experience with unions, there appears to be some confusion among the general public over what Striketober is really about. 

A troubling number of Americans seem to have the false impression that tens of thousands of underpaid and overworked employees are going on strike in order to resist Covid-19 vaccine mandates — when they are actually walking off the job to win decent raises, equitable pay structures and relief from mandatory overtime.

Some of this confusion was on display last week as HuffPost labor reporter Dave Jamieson appeared on C‑SPAN to discuss the current wave of strikes. When host John McArdle opened the phone lines for viewers to call up, the vaccine-specific questions started to roll in.

“I wanted to know how much the vaccine mandates are playing in these strikes? What is the role of the vaccine mandate?” asked the first caller, a woman from South Carolina. 

About fifteen minutes later, another caller from Kentucky asked, ​“Do you think this vaccine is causing most of the strikes?” 

In response, Jamieson patiently explained that, ​“the vaccine is essentially a non-issue in these strikes we are seeing.”

“As someone who’s been following these strikes closely, I was a little surprised by the assumption that vaccines might be at the center of this,” Jamieson told In These Times. ​“But I probably shouldn’t have been. There’s been outsized media coverage of workers defying vaccine requirements, even though they seem to be quite a small share of the workforce.”

[Read On]

The Nabisco Workers Who Make Your Oreos And Ritz Crackers Are On Strike

Nabisco parent company Mondelez wants to do away with workers’ premium pay rates for weekends and long shifts.

No justice, no sweets.
No justice, no sweets.

Hundreds of workers who make and deliver Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers have gone on strike in a massive showdown with Nabisco parent company Mondelez.

The work stoppage and 24-hour picket lines began at a production facility in Portland, Oregon, last week and have now spread to a distribution hub in Aurora, Colorado, and another production facility in Richmond, Virginia. The workers are members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM), which hasn’t been able to reach an agreement with Mondelez on new contracts.

Workers and union representatives say the strike follows years of frustration with Mondelez, which was created in 2012 when Nabisco products were spun off from Kraft Foods. Mondelez is demanding changes to pay and health care coverage that would undermine what have long been solid, middle-class production and trucking jobs, they say.

“We’re not on strike to secure huge gains. We’re on strike to keep what we’ve already got,” said Cameron Taylor, the business agent at BCTGM Local 364, which represents workers at the Portland plant. “The job they want to give us wouldn’t even be worth fighting for.”

Taylor said Mondelez wants to ditch the premium pay system that’s long been in place and that guarantees time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours a day, time-and-a-half pay on Saturdays, and double time for working on Sundays. Instead, workers would be paid “straight time” until they hit a full 40-hours, regardless of what days they work or how long those days last.

Mondelez spokesperson Laurie Guzzinati said the company has proposed an “alternative work schedule” for some employees, who would work 12-hour shifts three or four days a week. The schedule would offer a three-day weekend every other week, Guzzinati said, while helping the company meet production on its most high-demand products.

[Read On]

Break the Isolation of the Strike of the Volvo Trucks Workers in Dublin, Virginia! (+3 more)

Joseph Kishore @jkishore

The World Socialist Web Site calls on Volvo workers and all autoworkers to come to the support of the nearly 3,000 striking Volvo Trucks workers at the New River Valley (NRV) plant in Dublin, Virginia.

Volvo Truck workers last month [Source: UAW 2069]

The Volvo workers have been on strike now for more than 10 days, following their overwhelming rejection, by 90 percent, of a second tentative agreement brought back by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. The workers are demanding a significant increase in wages to make up for previous concessions, a cost-of-living escalator clause to meet the soaring cost of consumer goods, an end to the multitier wage and benefit system, the preservation of the eight-hour day, and full health care for current workers and retirees.

The Volvo workers at NRV face a war on two fronts. First, they are waging a battle against a multinational corporation with more than $50 billion in annual revenue and more than $4 billion in annual profits. Volvo management, with the support of the entire capitalist state, is determined to intensify the exploitation of workers to pay for the billions of dollars it is handing out to its major shareholders.

[Read On]

Volvo Truck Workers in Virginia Return to the Picket Lines: A Turning Point in the US and Global Class Struggle

David North @davidnorthwsws

Following Sunday’s massive repudiation of the second sellout contract negotiated by the pro-corporate United Auto Workers, 3,000 workers at the Volvo Truck North America’s New River Valley Plant in Dublin, Virginia, are back on the picket line. Inasmuch as the struggle of the Volvo truck workers has been scarcely reported on in the national media and all but ignored in the publications of the middle-class pseudo-left organizations, it is necessary to provide a concise review of the events leading up to Sunday’s vote.

The UAW’s betrayal

Volvo workers originally went out on strike on April 17, determined to reverse the concessions that had been granted by the UAW to the Sweden-based transnational corporation over the last three contracts. Two weeks later, on April 30, the union bureaucracy announced that a settlement had been reached and ended the strike, without workers either seeing or voting on the contract.

[Read On]

Autoworkers: Form Rank-and-File Solidarity Committees to Break the Isolation of the Strike at Volvo Trucks!

The World Socialist Web Site calls for all Volvo workers and autoworkers to form rank-and-file solidarity committees to break the isolation of the ongoing strike at Volvo Trucks in Dublin, Virginia. These committees should prepare protests, slowdowns and other solidarity actions up to and including the shutdown of Volvo and the entire auto and truck manufacturing industry.

Stellantis workers in Detroit support striking Volvo workers (WSWS Media)

The nearly 3,000 workers at Volvo’s New River Valley (NRV) assembly plant are in the third week of their second walkout this year. Workers have rebelled against two attempts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to force through a concessionary contract, rejecting both deals by an overwhelming 90-91 percent.

The Volvo workers have taken a heroic stand for the entire working class. They are fighting to reverse the pattern of endless givebacks and concessions, the establishment of multiple tiers, ten-hour workdays, and the attack on the health care of workers and retirees. They are demanding significant pay raises and a cost-of-living escalator clause to meet the soaring cost of consumer goods.

[Read On]

An Open Letter to UAW International President Rory Gamble, UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry and UAW Local 2069 President Matt Blondino

June 14, 2021

To Rory Gamble, Ray Curry and Matt Blondino:

On Monday, June 7, the UAW International called us, the workers of the Volvo Trucks New River Valley plant, out on strike for the second time in two months. The strike followed our rejection of the second tentative agreement with Volvo that you brought back for a vote. We rejected both the first and second tentative agreements by an overwhelming margin—90 to 91 percent.

Volvo workers during their first strike in April (UAW Local 2069/Facebook)

We have now been on the picket lines for one week, but you have not told rank-and-file workers what the union is fighting for, how the next agreement will differ from the previous two and how the UAW intends to win this strike.

[Read On]