Working The Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centers

An author presentation & discussion with Jamie Woodcock

Co-sponsored and hosted by Interference Archive

Call centers have become synonymous with low-paid and high stress work, dictatorial supervisors and terrifyingly precarious job contracts. However, rarely do we have access to the experience of workers in this context. For Working the Phones, Jamie Woodcock spent time working undercover in a UK call center in order to provide insights into the daily experiences of call center workers, and to understand and analyze methods of control and resistance that exist within the highly regulated environment. Call center work has become emblematic of the shift towards a post-industrial service economy, and all the issues that this produces, such as the destruction of a unionized work force, isolation and alienation, loss of agency and, ominously, the proliferation of surveillance and control which affects mental and physical well-being of the workers. The talk includes three parts: first, it makes an argument for the use of workers’ inquiry as a method to study contemporary work conditions, in this case involving an undercover activist ethnography; second, it draws on heterodox and critical Marxist theory to understand the transformation of work; third, it focuses on the challenges of resistance and organization in contemporary work through a concrete example.

Jamie Woodcock completed his PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is currently a fellow at LSE. His research interests include: digital labour, technology, management, critical theory, and the sociology of work. Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres is published by Pluto Press, further information: https://t.co/O4wr47ZGF3

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Heavy Radicals

The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists
A talk and discussion with visuals by Aaron Leonard

The RCP [Revolutionary Communist Party], RSB [Revolutionary Student Brigade], and its front groups…represent a threat to the internal security of the United States of the first magnitude. —FBI Internal Assessment, 1976

Between 1968 and 1978 the FBI conducted a far-reaching “Internal Security” investigation against the largest Maoist organization to arise in the United States out of the sixties, the Revolutionary Union – later named the Revolutionary Communist Party. As a result of research conducted by author and historian Aaron Leonard and Conor Gallagher, including systematic filings of Freedom of Information Act requests, we now know that this “investigation” included: office break-ins, poison-pen letters, ‘bad-jacketing’ (claiming dedicated members were police agents), deportations, firings, setting organizations and individuals against one another through rumor and provocation, and informant penetration into the very top of the group’s leadership.

Highlights of the presentation include:
• The Bureau’s secret efforts to split SDS—including backing what would be the Weatherman faction against the old left, Progressive Labor Party faction.
• The super-secret “Ad Hoc Committee for a Marxist-Leninist Party,” a whole cloth construction of the FBI which claimed to be a “pro-Chinese entity within the old Communist Party USA,” which was in fact used to disrupt the CP and the Revolutionary Union.
• The missionary couple the Bureau used to penetrate the Revolutionary Union’s executive committee and their later testimony to Congress.
• The FBI informant who sat on the Revolutionary Union’s highest leading body and his successful effort to disrupt a merger between the RU and the Black Workers Congress and the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Worker Party, which had been the Young Lords Party.

Aaron Leonard is a writer and historian. He is a regular contributor to Truthout, Rabble.ca, the History News Network, PhysicsWorld, and Canadian Dimension magazine. His research interests focus on twentieth century US history, particularly Sixties history. He is also a veteran political activist who has participated and written on events ranging from protests by Iranian students aiming to depose the Shah in the late 1970s, the street actions in the wake of the torture of Abner Louima in 1996, to the wave of demonstrations surrounding the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. He has a B.A. in Social Science with a concentration in History, magna cum laude, from New York University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
For additional information Aaron at: www.heavyradicals.com or leonaa01@nyu.edu

Here is the link to Aaron and Connor’s book: http://www.zero-books.net/books/heavy-radicals

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Abe and Julia: Honor and Survival During Hoover’s Reign

A celebration of the lives of Abe and Julia Kotelchuck
An evening with David Kotelchuck, author of a new book on his parents just published by Blue Thread, an imprint of Jewish Currents

Abe and Julia Kotelchuck were pursued as Communist Party activists by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI with a relentless vindictiveness that reached deep into their work and family lives for well over two decades. This thoroughly researched memoir by their adult son, Dr. David Kotelchuck, uses 2,200 pages of Abe’s and Julia’s FBI files, interviews with family members, news articles (particularly by the great independent journalist, I.F. Stone), books by historians of the McCarthy Era, and personal memory to create a portrait of resistance to government repression that is at once chilling and heartwarming.

Kotelchuck reveals his parents as “persons of great moral courage” who “refused to change their views in the face of governmental persecution.” He also reveals Hoover’s FBI as using dirty tricks, forgeries, illegal wiretaps, and intimidation while “hounding . . . domestic opponents of U.S. policies during the Cold War period, often illegally, without prior evidence of or subsequent findings of wrong-doing,” a pattern that “deserves public attention as our country continues to this day to struggle with individual citizens’ rights to dissent from and organize against governmental policies on the one hand, and the nation’s right to investigate and protect itself from potential domestic and foreign threats on the other.”

You can order the book from Jewish Currents as follows: http://jewishcurrents.bigcartel.com/product/abe-and-julia-honor-and-survival-during-hoover-s-reign-by-david-kotelchuck

Dr. David Kotelchuck is Professor Emeritus of Occupational and Environmental Health at the Hunter College School of Health Sciences, City University of New York. His Ph.D. is in high-energy physics from Cornell University, and he holds an MPH in Occupational Health from Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Kotelchuck has worked as director of health and safety for the United Electrical Workers union and was a founder of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at Hunter. He has a long record of civil rights, labor, environmental, and public health activism, and has worked closely with several unions on worker safety issues. He and his wife Ronda, who has had a distinguished career in preventive and primary-care medical delivery, have two children and six grandchildren.

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