John Lepley

The Paper Airplane Simulation is a remarkable exercise. It brings to life so many of the themes and issues that shaped labor and working class history in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Workers’ earning power, or lack thereof, is often the main problem that popular accounts of labor history focus on. However, the beauty of the Airplane Simulation is that it illustrates how ‘scientific management’ was, at its core, a vehicle for employers to acquire and consolidate power in the workplace by capturing workers’ knowledge and using it to divide them. Labor education is about building relationships and solidarity by drawing on workers’ knowledge and experiences.

This exercise engages members in a activity that they can relate to their own workplaces — and it’s remarkably fun to boot!