Mapping Your Workplace For Power On The Job

Mapping Your Workplace

Workplace mapping can be used to identify health and safety hazards or the strengths and weaknesses of union membership in any workplace. Our concern here, however, is building strong workplace organisation by providing the ‘big picture’ and the details of the workplace. Mapping must be a collective process done by as many stewards or activists as possible in face-to-face situations. This, in itself, is a step toward better organization across the workplace.

The first step is simply to draw the outlines of your workplace (plant, department, office) and the various work areas or stations, entrances, machines, desks etc., like that pictured above. Use a large piece of white paper like that from a flip chart, drawing the basic outlines with a marker in black. Using different colour markers you can then begin filling in the sort of information you find most useful. Here are some ideas:

  • location of stewards
  • location of managers or supervisors & their attitudes
  • identify work groups—those performing their work together
  • work paths—who moves where as a result of their job, mark in dotted lines for possible lines of communication between areas and work stations
  • meeting areas if any, where people take breaks
  • who talks to who
  • grievances most common in each area—are there common issues across the entire workplace? Can you make grievances collective?
  • Past turnout for strikes, actions, ballots, and other relevant activity in each area to identify stronger or weaker areas.

You, of course, may have a better idea of the information you need to be more effective. If your workplace is large you may want to make more than one map. Some people use transparent plastic sheets to overlay the sort so information listed above. Start out simple, picking the types of information you think will help most. Later you can fill in more. Mapping can help you construct some of the infrastructure of organising, such as phone trees and email or facebook networks. Remember, however, surveillance by management is universal these days, so don’t use any company communications systems.

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