Don’t carp, carpenters!
Don’t wait, waiters!
Let’s put the team in teamster!
Every steelworker a steal-from-worker!
Every hoodlum a Robin Hoodlum!
Raise the bar, baristas!
Raise hell, bellboys!
Wage war, wage slaves—
April 15 is Steal Something from Work Day!
Just in time for April 15, a barrage of new STEAL SOMETHING FROM WORK DAY propaganda is hitting the airwaves. This announcement covers a movie, a full-length journal, and a new hip hop track, among other things.
Steal Something From Work Day VIDEO!
Steal Something From Work Day JOURNAL!
Heist is also available in paper form, including in bulk, from Wild Nettle Distribution.
Steal Something From Work Day ANTHEM!
And More Steal Something From Work Day Coverage…
STEAL SOMETHING FROM WORK DAY has made it to the other side of the world, in more ways than one. For example, the in-house magazine of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church of Australia and New Zealand promotes it in the “Trends” section of their April issue to 45,000 devout readers around the Pacific rim.
Alongside less sympathetic STEAL SOMETHING FROM WORK DAY coverage, the UK’s Dissident Island radio ran an interview with one representative on their April 2 show [starts at minute 53].
Finally, the STEAL SOMETHING FROM WORK DAY Facebook Site is more and more active.
Beyond Stealing from Work
In the final analysis, stealing from our workplaces is not a rebellion against the status quo, but simply another aspect of it. It implies a profound discontent with our conditions, yes, and perhaps a rejection of the ethics of capitalism; but as long as the consequences of that discontent remain individualized and secretive, they will never propel us into a different world. Stealing from work is what we do instead of changing our lives—it treats the symptoms, not the condition. Perhaps it even serves our bosses’ interests—it gives us a pressure valve to blow off steam, and enables us to survive to work another day without a wage increase. Perhaps they figure the costs of it into their business plans because they know our stealing is an inevitable side effect of exploitation—though not one guaranteed to bring exploitation to an end.
On the other hand, the notion that stealing from our employers is not relevant to labor struggle enforces a dichotomy between “legitimate” workplace organizing on the one hand and individual acts of resistance, revenge, and survival on the other. So long as this separation exists, conventional workplace organizing will always be essentially toothless: it will prioritize bureaucracy over initiative, representation over autonomy, appeasement over confrontation, legitimacy in the bosses’ eyes over effectiveness in changing our lives.
What would it look like to go about labor organizing in the same way we go about stealing from our workplaces? First, it would mean focusing on means of resistance that meet our individual needs, starting from what individual workers can do themselves with the support of their comrades. It would mean dispensing with strategies that don’t provide immediate material or emotional benefit to those who utilize them. It would establish togetherness through the process of attempting to seize back the environments we work and live in, rather than building up organizations on the premise of an always-deferred future struggle.
A workforce that organized in this way would be impossible to co-opt or dupe. No boss could threaten it with anything, for its power would derive directly from its own actions, not from compromises that give the bosses hostages or give prominent organizers incentives not to fight. It would be a boss’s worst nightmare—and a union official’s, too.
We might also ask what would it look like to go about stealing from work as if it were a way to try to change the world, rather than simply survive in it. So long as we solve our problems individually, we can only confront them individually as well. Stealing in secret keeps class struggle a private affair—the question is how to make it into a public project that gathers momentum. This shifts the focus from What to How. A small item stolen with the knowledge and support of one’s coworkers is more significant than a huge heist carried out in secret. Stolen goods shared in such a way that they build workers’ collective power are worth more than a high-dollar embezzlement that only benefits one employee, the same way a raise or promotion does.
Remember the story of the hardware store employee who embezzled enough money to get a college degree, only to find himself back behind the cash register afterwards! When it was too late, he wished he’d done something with the money to create a community that could fight against the world of cash registers and college degrees. Even as he broke the laws of his society, he had still accepted its basic values, investing in status that could only advance him on the bosses’ terms. Better we invest ourselves in breaking its values as well as its laws!
Practically everyone steals from work, even if many people won’t admit it, even if some people would like to reserve the privilege of doing so for themselves. Let’s draw this practice out of the shadows in which it takes place, so all the world has to engage with it and its implications in the full light of day. Perhaps workplace theft could be an Achilles heel for capitalism after all: not because it alone is sufficient to abolish wage labor and class society, but because it is the sort of open secret that must remain suppressed to preserve the illusion that everybody believes in and benefits from the present system.
So if you find yourself coveting items in your place of employment, don’t just steal something from work—think about how you could steal everything from it, yourself and your coworkers above all. Stealing from work one thing at a time will take forever, literally—it would be more efficient to just steal the whole world back from work at once. That’s a daunting project, one we could only take on together—but it’s one we can begin right now.