NOT SERVANTS, NOT MACHINES: Office Workers Speak Out! by Jean Tepperman

NOT SERVANTS, NOT MACHINES: Office Workers Speak Out!

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The girls"" in the office are fed up. Tepperman, spokeswoman for Nine to Five, a Boston-based office workers' movement, talked to the women holding the low-level, low-pay jobs in insurance, banking, and other giant enterprises. She got an earful: ""business stinks for women""; promotions into management are largely a myth; boredom and speed-ups, lack of prestige and basic dignity are the rule. Janice, a bank teller, summed it up: ""Crummy! Real crummy!"" But there's more to it than just the ignominy of asking permission to go to the john. Office workers are starting to organize--not always in unions (not yet), but around specific grievances. Some even hope that the infusion of feminist consciousness into the job ""ghettos"" will transform traditionally male-dominated trade unions--which have hitherto tended to write off clerks and secretaries as unorganizable. Shooting from the hip, Tepperman points out that automation and routinization are making the once genteel white-collar office more like the factory. Collective action may still be in its infancy, but she suggests that proto-unions in the office represent a new phase of the women's movement: an economic attack on the class-structure of the workplace (the white college-educated men behind the mahogany desks) which reaches a broad social stratum of women who aren't white middle-class professionals. Much of this is, of course, wished-for rather than actual--some will call it utopian. And as the title suggests, it's a tract--feisty and hard-hitting.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1976
Publisher: Beacon