Worksheet: Plan Your March on the Boss
Marches on the boss come in different flavors. Some are spontaneous, as in Auriana Fabricatore’s story where a “mini-march” got great results. She was smart to encourage her co-workers to confront their manager immediately, while they were fired up with righteous anger—if they had set a date for next week, nervous jitters might have set in.
In other cases you’ll want to plan ahead, to get more people involved and maximize impact. Your action should be well planned but quick, before management finds out or members lose interest.
The tone of the confrontation can vary too, depending on your workplace culture, how strongly your co-workers feel about the issue, and how they feel about the boss. You may want a lighter touch—making your point respectfully, attempting a sit-down meeting, or delivering documents for the boss to review. Or your group may be ready for a more aggressive tone—showing anger, blocking the exits so the boss can’t run away, and timing the march to disrupt operations.
As you prepare, review these points as a group:
- Time and Place:
- Anticipate Management’s Response:
- Know Your Rights:
- Back-Up Plan:
- Debrief Plan:
Who should be there? Who’s affected by the problem? Include a cross-section of job classifications and shifts.
Who will you confront? Start with the lowest-level manager who has the power to solve the problem. If they won’t back down, you can escalate from there.
When and where will you stage the confrontation? You want as many workers as possible to participate, while still being able to catch your target. Also consider what will have the greatest impact on operations and the manager’s psyche. Is there something important that you can disrupt?
What materials will you deliver? Besides your demand, do you want to bring other evidence, or carry signs or creative props?
Define the problem and what examples you will give. Agree on your demand and what deadline you will set for resolution.
What might they say? What will you say back?
Besides being a God-given right, marches on the boss are protected by federal labor law. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act safeguards private sector workers’ right not to be disciplined for engaging in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” This means a group confronting the boss together has greater legal protection than someone acting alone, even a shop steward. Use words like “we” and “the union” to make clear that you’re speaking for co-workers too.
Someone should volunteer to lead things off, and be ready to tell the manager not to interrupt your co-workers. Others should describe the problem and tell their own stories of how it affects them. Someone should present the demand and deadline. You might want a scout to verify that the boss is in the right location before the march.
What will you do if you can’t find the target person? Can you identify a Plan B target?
Immediately after the march, your group should huddle out of the boss’s earshot to react to whatever just happened. Your co-workers may be thrilled, or they may be confused or dismayed that things didn’t go as planned. Buck everyone up, find the positives—even if you didn’t catch your target, you sent a message—and agree on next steps.
Ryan Olds is a labor and community organizer in the East Bay, California. Contact him at ryanolds30[at]gmail[dot]com. He co-taught the March on the Boss workshop at the 2018 Labor Notes Conference, where Auriana Fabricatore got the idea.