5— Manufacturing the New Worker: Literate Activities and Working Identities in a High-Performance Versus a Traditionally Organized Workplace

Glynda Hull

Introduction: The Skills Debate On The Factory Floor

While reports in the 1980s (e.g., National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) called attention to the ways in which schoolchildren were performing poorly at reading, writing, and math, worry has focused more recently on adults already in the work force or young people about to enter it. This time, the perceived deficits in workers' "basic" and "higher-order" skills have been linked to lowered productivity in the workplace and a lack of competitiveness in the international market (U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor, 1988; Carnevale et al., 1988; Lund and McGuire, 1990; for critical reviews see Hull, 1993; Gee et al., 1996; Darrah, 1996). The claim is that in order to be competitive U.S. industries must adopt new technologies and new forms of work organization often labeled "high performance," in contrast to more traditional Taylorist models (Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, 1990; Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), 1992; Sarmiento and Kay, 1990; Appelbaum and Batt, 1993). The demand is that schools support these changes by teaching the knowledge and skills thought to be needed in restructured, technologically sophisticated workplaces (SCANS, 1992; see Marshall and Tucker, 1992). There is a developing consensus, then, that what is needed is a new kind of worker.

Definitions of what constitutes high-performance workplaces vary, but these workplaces are usually assumed to require greater collaboration and communication among workers, to provide increased opportunities for the exercise of different and more complex skills and literacies, and in general to give frontline



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--> 5— Manufacturing the New Worker: Literate Activities and Working Identities in a High-Performance Versus a Traditionally Organized Workplace Glynda Hull Introduction: The Skills Debate On The Factory Floor While reports in the 1980s (e.g., National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) called attention to the ways in which schoolchildren were performing poorly at reading, writing, and math, worry has focused more recently on adults already in the work force or young people about to enter it. This time, the perceived deficits in workers' "basic" and "higher-order" skills have been linked to lowered productivity in the workplace and a lack of competitiveness in the international market (U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor, 1988; Carnevale et al., 1988; Lund and McGuire, 1990; for critical reviews see Hull, 1993; Gee et al., 1996; Darrah, 1996). The claim is that in order to be competitive U.S. industries must adopt new technologies and new forms of work organization often labeled "high performance," in contrast to more traditional Taylorist models (Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, 1990; Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), 1992; Sarmiento and Kay, 1990; Appelbaum and Batt, 1993). The demand is that schools support these changes by teaching the knowledge and skills thought to be needed in restructured, technologically sophisticated workplaces (SCANS, 1992; see Marshall and Tucker, 1992). There is a developing consensus, then, that what is needed is a new kind of worker. Definitions of what constitutes high-performance workplaces vary, but these workplaces are usually assumed to require greater collaboration and communication among workers, to provide increased opportunities for the exercise of different and more complex skills and literacies, and in general to give frontline

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--> workers more responsibility. In addition, it is claimed that companies aiming to become high performance will need to make larger investments in training and offer higher salaries for the payoff of increased skills and productivity (see Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, 1990; Carnevale et al., 1988; SCANS, 1992; Appelbaum and Batt, 1993; Brown et al., 1993). In this atmosphere of change there is a tendency to speak about U.S. workers pejoratively—to worry that our increasingly "nonmale, nonwhite, and nonyoung" (Ehrlich and Garland, 1988) work force is poorly trained and poorly skilled and therefore ill equipped to cope with new workplace demands (see also U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor, 1988; Carnevale et al., 1988). Despite such claims about the skills, including the literacies, required in reorganized, technologically sophisticated workplaces, as well as about the skills that workers are assumed to lack, little is known about the actual demands of these workplaces or the kinds of training that new jobs might require. (For a review of existing research, see Hull et al., 1996; for recent examples of research on literacy, skills, and work, see Hull, 1997). In fact, most of the complaints about worker "illiteracy" arise not from detailed observations of work but from surveys and anecdotal reports that rely largely on the perspectives of managers (Baba, 1991; Darrah, 1996; Appelbaum and Batt, 1993). It is not clear, then, just what literate capabilities are required in the new workplaces or even what literate capabilities workers possess or lack—although such information would seem to be crucial for reconceptualizing secondary and postsecondary schooling, vocational training, and workplace education efforts. This chapter is drawn from a larger research project designed to fill in some of these gaps. The aims of the project were several: to develop a methodology for investigating literate activities in workplace settings; to document the actual literate activities in a high-performance workplace versus a traditionally organized one; to document the work activities associated with self-directed work teams and high-performance work; to make recommendations about literacy education and training for the present; and to find innovative ways to introduce educators, researchers, and laypeople to the changing face of work. This chapter focuses on a subset of the larger project having to do with literate activities and working identities. Current public debates and concerns about skills and skill requirements are, I would argue, efforts to develop a national consensus about new working identities—the ways of thinking, acting, talking, and valuing that are believed to be appropriate for the new worker. As we will see, a literate identity is an important aspect of a worker's sense of himself or herself in a high-performance workplace. But, as we shall also see, it is perilously easy for companies to so structure and constrain work activities that—even at a high-performance plant—the identities that workers develop around literacy are conflictual and limiting.

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--> Background: The Valley Of Heart's Delight The landscape is flat, hot, suburban, and bland—a seemingly endless juxtaposition of shopping centers, parking lots, tract housing, freeways, and electronics firms. If you look to the east, the Diablo Mountain Range is always in view; to the west and out of sight are the southern reaches of the San Francisco Bay. Just 50 years ago this whole area was verdant with olive groves, vineyards, and orchards of apricots and walnuts. The quintessential land of milk and honey, it was dubbed by residents the Valley of Heart's Delight. Today this 25-mile strip of the San Francisco peninsula is home to some 2,000 high-tech firms and some 200,000 workers. It is Silicon Valley, and although one can find examples of industries other than electronics here, the area now belongs to the design, manufacture, and assembly of computer boards, chips, and components. Silicon Valley is held up as a major economic success story in the United States and, as such, has gotten its fair share of attention from presidents, queens, and more ordinary visitors such as researchers. A recent example is Saxenian's (1994) study of the unique local industrial environment that allowed young entrepreneurs to parlay their considerable technical know-how into multi-million-dollar empires. And there have been a host of popular accounts of individual visionaries, inventors, and their companies, such as Rose's West of Eden (1989), a look at part of the history of Apple Computer. What is less common in the literature on the region are studies of frontline workers, the men and women who manufacture silicon chips and assemble circuit boards and do the actual work of production (for an exception to this tendency, see Hossfeld, 1988; see also Rawls and Bean, 1993, for a brief history). They constitute 80 percent of the Silicon Valley work force. Implicit here, of course, is the extreme segmentation of the valley's work force into highly skilled technical and professional workers at the top, and the much more numerous production workers, often recent immigrants from Asia and Latin America who do not earn a lot more than the minimum wage and for whom opportunities to advance are few. Nonetheless, such workers are increasingly expected to cultivate new skills, acquire new knowledge, and participate in new work practices, such as self-directed work teams—in short, to develop new working identities. They are the focus of the current study. I examined one subset of the computer industry, circuit board assembly, an instance of contract manufacturing. We often hear that the most prevalent job in recent years is the temporary one, a trend that provides workers little job security and few benefits (such as health insurance) but that enables corporations to adjust their labor overhead to the ebb and flow of the market (for a critical look at this trend, see Parker, 1994). A parallel phenomenon to temporary hiring is contract manufacturing, also called "outsourcing," and in fact, contract manufacturers depend heavily on temporary workers. Contract manufacturers perform services for other companies, often central services that were once performed by the companies themselves. For example, while big computer companies like Apple

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--> and IBM used to assemble all their own circuit boards in house for their own products, it is now customary to farm out this aspect of their production. Being a contract manufacturer has particular implications for doing business and has ramifications as well for the skills its work force is called on to develop and use, especially literacy. A company chooses one contract manufacturer over another because of lower costs, higher quality, and productivity, so there is much ado in these companies about minimizing defects and speeding up production. Because technology changes so quickly these days, a contract manufacturer's customers can be expected to be particularly demanding, calling for changes in circuit boards that are already in production and regularly returning old boards to be reworked and updated on short notice. Recordkeeping on such occasions is paramount: customers want to know what changes were made on which boards on what dates and by whom; paper trails are thick. Customers also want to be assured of a certain level of competence before they bring their business, and thus, circuit board assemblers, like a growing number of other U.S. and European firms, vie to be certified by international standards. These agencies enforce stringent procedures concerning documentation, so that factories are practically afloat in a sea of paper. It is customary for every single procedure that takes place within such a certified factory to be written down and documented, and workers' activities and their work practices are expected to match the printed account and are regularly audited to ensure that they do so. My research team and I studied two Silicon Valley circuit board assembly factories, one a high-performance workplace and the other a traditionally organized one.1 The traditional factory we called EMCO, for electronics manufacturing company. The other we named Teamco, a pseudonym that highlights the company's recent investment in self-directed work teams. What was remarkably fortunate about this choice of companies is that, aside from their policies and practices regarding work organization, EMCO and Teamco were very similar. In fact, I knew some frontline workers who were working simultaneously at both places, just on different shifts, though this was a violation of both factories' policies. Other employees—line workers, engineers, managers—had previously switched from one company to the other, and employees continued to do so as the study progressed. EMCO and Teamco are both quite successful, posting profits in the billions. They are both international, having plants not only in the Silicon Valley but in various countries worldwide. Indeed, they are both large, employing thousands of employees nationally and internationally. Their California factories are both multicultural and multilingual, drawing on work forces composed 1   It is important to note that this dichotomy is in some ways a false one, for a company can at one and the same time embrace features of high-performance work organizations and traditionally organized ones. To further complicate matters, companies sometimes "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk." That is, they claim to follow the high-performance model but in actuality rely on quite traditional practices.

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--> mainly of recent immigrants. This striking similarity means that the study was not an apples-and-oranges comparison, the juxtaposition of two essentially different work settings. Rather, the similarities made it possible to hone in with confidence on the differences in literacy requirements and practices that were associated with the factories' different perspectives on work organization and the roles and identities of frontline employees. A Note On Methods Rather than relying on ''grand tours" of the workplace, which can result in a limited and distorted view of workers' and managers' roles and activities (Darrah, 1990; Spradley and McCurdy, 1972), this project drew on ethnographic methods that allowed the investigation, in close detail, of the perspectives and understandings of the various stakeholders in the two workplaces. Fieldwork took place during a 3-year period, 1993 to 1995. Most data came from observations and interviews, the majority of which were audiotaped or videotaped. We also participated in the work of the factories on occasion, assembling the simpler products or helping out with literacy-related duties. One long afternoon, for example, I spent almost entirely on my knees along with the lead of one of the "hand-load" lines, meticulously combing the files of each set of manufacturing process instructions for each assembly in the plant. Our task was to determine the exact number of components that workers were expected to load for each assembly, figures that would then be plugged into a new formula for determining "standard times," or how fast people needed to work. This task, like many other new responsibilities, grew from the company's interest in making teams accountable for improving productivity. (For a detailed explanation of methods and the sociocultural approach that informed the research, see Hull et al., 1996.) Our public and official role in the factories was to be "researchers," a group from a local university studying the literacy requirements of work. In some ways, however, our roles went beyond the usual notions of "participant observation," crisscrossing the boundaries traditionally set between researcher and researched. Members of the research team frequently provided personal assistance to individuals. Since many workers were recent immigrants whose English was shaky, we offered ourselves, and were regularly relied on, as language intermediaries. Once a worker who moonlighted in a Chinese restaurant brought in a menu so that we could record the English pronunciation of "pot stickers" and "vegetable fried rice." I intervened on many occasions for a young supervisor, an ethnic Chinese who grew up in Vietnam but had developed an American penchant for credit cards and mail-order houses. Her query of "what is sweepstake?" began a months-long saga of negotiations with a disreputable mail-order house to return $899 worth of pens. We read and commented on essays from night school, interpreted traffic tickets and insurance policies, ventured opinions

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--> regarding medical options, and exchanged business cards with anxious parents happy to know a professor from the university where their sons and daughters were enrolled or had aspirations of attending. Our roles as language and cultural brokers helped people to trust us, people from whom we were separated by vast cultural and social gulfs. We became their friends as they became our informants, and these relationships helped us immeasurably as we attempted to understand work activities and social positions on the shop floor. In the same way, then, that a factory can be understood as the product of multiple influences—its industry, its local history, the current economic climate, the vision of its managers—so can the attitudes, abilities, and actions of workers be usefully interpreted in light of their work and educational backgrounds, their individual styles and creativities, their cultures and genders. Fieldwork at EMCO (approximately 100 visits from May 1993 through September 1994) resulted in over 200 hours of audiotape of interviews and work-related activities in all departments; 6 hours of videotape of training, manufacturing, and a team meeting; a database of all employees' education and work experience; and a wide-ranging collection of documents—process instructions, engineering changes, assembly drawings, performance reviews and disciplinary notices, quality alerts and requests for corrective action, supervisors' passdowns, workers' notes and drawings, meeting agendas, interoffice memos, and much more. Fieldwork at Teamco (approximately 200 visits from September 1994 through November 1995) yielded more than 300 hours of audiotape of work in all departments and of training, interviews, and a variety of meetings (including those of self-directed work teams and related committees) and approximately 100 hours of videotape of self-directed work-team training, meetings, and related committees and of self-directed work-team competitions and presentations to management. Also, as in our fieldwork at EMCO, we collected a wide range of documents, from the training curriculum, from team meetings, and from the factory floor—including process instructions, time standards, workers' notes and drawings, quality and productivity data, meeting minutes and agendas, and management assessments of team goals. From these abundant data, I have selected two stories to tell, two narratives that demonstrate in dramatic form the literate activities that were available to, expected of, or withheld from frontline workers at EMCO and Teamco. I present these narratives in some detail, introducing the workers who figure prominently in them, providing excerpts from their conversations, and describing and summarizing their work or training activities. After these narratives I will turn to a more formal analysis of the literacy practices that were a part of the work of circuit board assembly, as well as the practices that distinguished work at the traditionally organized factory from work at the high-performance plant.

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--> A Snapshot From The Floor It is important, if we are to understand how literacy does and does not function on the shop floors of EMCO and Teamco, to know something about the work of circuit board assembly, for this work structures the reading and writing that gets done in these factories and gives literacy its purpose. Before turning to case studies from each of the factories, I offer a glimpse, a broad sweep, of the work that people do on such a manufacturing floor. We will catch this glimpse by following a "bare board" and a kit of components (integrated circuits, diodes, resistors, capacitors, brackets, nuts and screws, and so on) across the manufacturing floor on their way to becoming completed printed circuit boards. This is a generic description, one that generally fits the circuit board assembly process at both EMCO and Teamco. Work begins in the storage and shipping department, where bulk components arrive and a "kitting" crew consults various documents—manufacturing schedules, manufacturing process instructions, bills of materials, approved vendor lists—to determine how many of which components are to be placed on which boards. The crew then makes up kits of those components, kits that will be picked up as needed by materials handlers from the various departments. Out on the floor the bare boards begin in an area referred to as "pick and place" or as "surface-mount technology" (SMT), which consists of lines of robots. A worker programs the machines to either spread solder paste or squirt daubs of epoxy on the board and then place the right components in the right spots. The boards, with components in place, continue along an automated line through an ''oven" or reflow machine, which heats up and solidifies the solder. Although it is possible for a single person to load the machine, monitor the process, and catch the boards at the end of the line, it is more common for two people to share these responsibilities, with the person who catches the boards acting as an inspector to see that all parts were placed on the board properly. Roving inspectors also conduct spot-checks here and throughout the plant. A worker (a "materials handler" on some shifts, a pick-and-place "lead" on others) places the boards on trays or in sectioned bins called "totes," sets the trays or totes on carts, and wheels the carts to a washing machine. (At EMCO, a movement log is filled out in triplicate and filed to document this and all transfers of materials in the plant; at Teamco a one-page "traveler" is filled out to accompany the cart, but the boards are also scanned at certain points to track them along the manufacturing process.) Another crew of one or two runs the boards through the wash, puts them back into bins, then puts them on carts, and wheels them to either "auto-insertion" or "stuffing" (also known as "hand-load"). Though board designs rely increasingly on SMT, all boards still contain at least some "pin-through-hole" components, components that have small wire "legs" or "leads" that stick through small holes in the board and are wave soldered or hand soldered on the back side of the board. Some of these through-hole components are placed

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--> by machine in the auto-insertion area after going to SMT, others by hand in the stuffing (hand-load) and mechanical assembly areas. Stuffing is a line of perhaps a half dozen workers who hand place more components on the board, components that because of their size, shape, or other characteristics, could not be placed during the earlier stages of the process. The components added in auto-insertion, hand-load, or mechanical assembly require soldering and so are moved, according to the customer's specifications, either to the wave-solder area or to the area known variously as "second ops" (second operations) or "touch-up." Staffed by one to three operators, the wave-solder machine makes it possible to solder the leads of through-hole components en masse—an important time saver when a single connector might have a hundred leads or when a board might have a few hundred small through-hole components, each component with at least two leads. Second ops is the most labor-intensive part of the plant. It is here that workers (usually women) perform the hand soldering known as touch-up (adding final components) and rework (removing and/or replacing components). Second ops also includes some hardware assembly, where workers screw brackets to boards, add bar code labels, and snap in components that do not require soldering or that cannot be subjected to the wave-solder process. The assembled boards are then "shipped" to another department for in-circuit and functional testing and quality inspection. Depending on the results, the boards are next either sent back for rework or packed and shipped out. Surrounding and interacting with the manufacturing process described here is the work of designers, engineers, and managers of various kinds—the people who prepare for and oversee the manufacturing process and who interact with customers, vendors, and employees at other plants owned by the corporation. "Operator Brain Dead": A Reading Problem At Teamco The first narrative that I will tell to demonstrate the literacy activities and literate identities of workers in circuit board assembly has to do with a literacy problem, a documented instance of EMCO workers who apparently failed to read or follow instructions and thereby almost made a production mistake that would have had serious repercussions for an important customer. This story began one evening during EMCO's second shift while I was "shadowing" a process engineer, Wade. (See Figure 5-1 for the chronology of this event.) This engineer, who usually worked during the day, was on special assignment to the second shift that evening. I followed Wade about as he made his rounds in the plant, stopping to check with the leads in each department to see if all was well, and I sat with him as he completed his main project for the shift, the construction and assignment of a rework task. The rest of this paper contains a number of transcriptions of conversation. I use the following transcription conventions:

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--> [ ] researcher's explanation ( ) researcher's best guess (xx) unintelligible word or phrase = overlap (simultaneous speech) == latching (one speaker following immediately after another) - cutting off word or phrase caps stress :: fluctuating intonation .. pauses of less than 0.5 seconds [2] pauses timed precisely (2 seconds) … omitted talk One of EMCO's major customers had returned a batch of boards that EMCO had already assembled; the boards were to be upgraded and altered according to the customer's current specifications, and the relevant paperwork was to be updated, approved, and appropriately distributed and filed. This kind of rework task is common in circuit board assembly, for computer companies are continually 9/22 The TASK Process engineer, Wade, sorts a box full of 35 or so printed circuit boards that have been returned from a customer for modifications or "rework" to bring them up to current specifications. 9/24 The PROCESS Rework begins; line workers solder, etc., create new labels, affix labels, and eventually send the completed boards to testing. 9/28 The PROBLEM Engineer Wade discovers the boards have been labeled improperly; investigates, talking to the supervisor, the line workers, his boss, other managers; issues a "Corrective Action Report" or "CAR" to the appropriate supervisor; puts other boards on hold. 9/29 The SOLUTION Supervisor meets with workers who did the rework to "retrain" them; Wade releases the remaining boards to the floor; new labels are made and Wade himself puts them on the boards; boards are released to the testing department. FIGURE 5-1 Chronology of the "label problem."

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--> improving the design of boards that are already being produced. The challenge for a contract manufacturer like EMCO, then, is to simultaneously maintain production and to update the old boards that have already been assembled—and to do so quickly and accurately. The boards the engineer showed me that evening, which arrived in a batch of 35 in one big box, each board worth about $600, were not all alike; that is, they represented five or six different versions of the same board, each version manufactured at a different point in the design process. Wade therefore had to examine every board singly and sort each into appropriate categories. He made handwritten notes to himself, listing individual boards by their serial numbers, notes he would later convert into instructions for the workers. As he explained, "The operators [employees who would perform the rework on the boards] will not have to look at it [each board] and try to decide what, which board. Just look at the number and know what (it takes. Checklist." Having completed his sorting and note taking, he remarked that the rework would probably be done by a couple of operators and stretched out over several shifts. He said he would check the first few boards for "workmanship" but would leave the main inspection for the test and quality departments. During the next week members of the research team observed the rework that was done on a subset of the 35 boards, three especially complex "mother boards" that were designated "hot" or high priority; the oldest in the batch, these were the boards the customer wanted returned pronto. We observed the addition of a green wire, as directed in the instructions, by one worker, and another worker explained what she had done on the board, characterizing the rework as "straightforward." (For the specific rework directions, see Figure 5-2.) This employee added that all that remained, before the boards were sent to the test department, was the addition of a datecode label (also as mentioned in the directions), and another worker set off to make the new labels. We saw nothing that struck us as unusual during this process, but when Wade, the engineer, checked on the progress of the boards a few days later as he had said he would, the fur flew. "See the little jumper wires I referred to on the instructions," he started to say approvingly as he showed me one of the completed boards. Then he paused and noted quietly, "We got a problem here though. The instruction says to make a datecode label of A-3337. … Need to reject these." Jamal, the lead in the test area, perhaps taken aback by Wade's consternation, pointed to the rework instructions and said to Wade, "I think this is your instructions." "I know," Wade replied, "and they didn't follow them." It was not that the workers had done the actual repair of the boards incorrectly. In fact, as Wade would later point out, their handwork was so superb that the three boards were virtually identical, just as they should be. Rather, the problem was with the datecode label, a tiny identification affixed to every printed circuit board. (See Figure 5-3 for a replica of the actual label and Figure 5-4 for

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--> 2ND OPERATION For serial number 032 only, remove diode at location Z3. FOR ALL ASSEMBLIES, PERFORM THE FOLLOWING REWORK Remove IC at location U16 (74BCT2440). Hand solder part number 1820-6307 (74HCT244) at location U16. Lift pin 19 of U17. Lift pin 11 of U34. Connect the following pins using #30 AWG green jumper wire. Insulate lifted pins with sleeving. U24 pin 1 to U34 pin 11 U34 pin 10 to U17 pin 19 Tack PAC wires every 1/2 inch. HAND CLEAN REWORKED AREA Remove M8 revision of the BIOS IC at location U22. Install M9 revision of the BIOS IC at location U22. Make new datecode label (A-3337). Apply new datecode label over old datecode on serial number label. Do not cover old serial number or assembly number of the label. Send assemblies to test. TEST Perform ICT if possible and functional. Record debug time spent and any rework performed on data sheets. FIGURE 5-2 Excerpt from instructions for board rework and datecode label replacement. an enlargement and explanation.) The parts of the label include the datecode (which indicates the version of the board—in this case "B"—and the week and year it was manufactured—in this case the 37th week of year 33, meaning 1993) and the serial number, the unique identification number for that particular board. Wade's instructions had directed the workers first to "make new datecode label (A-3337)" and then to "apply new datecode label over old datecode on serial number label." He further directed, "Do not cover old serial number or assembly number of the label" (see Figure 5-2). The workers' mistake was threefold: they had removed and discarded the original label; they had generated a whole new datecode label with a new serial number; and they had changed the version number on the new label from A to B.

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--> research at EMCO, the plant manager assured us that literacy was not very important at the factory and pointed out that most people there could not even read English. As I have demonstrated, he was wrong on both accounts. Even at Teamco, with its intense interest in the team concept, the role and importance of literacy went unrecognized. Yet we have seen that both factories were awash with paper and that at Teamco an important part of being an effective team member was developing what I have called a "literate identity." The project also complicates the notion of high-performance work environments. Appelbaum and Batt (1993) observed with a critical eye that the U.S. response to workplace innovation has been to try it piecemeal, adopting a few isolated practices associated with quality enhancement programs rather than the whole ball of wax. This characterization, while accurate for many companies, I am sure, does not quite get at the problems I saw surfacing at the high-performance factory. It is hard to imagine a much more whole-hog approach to reorganization around teams than Teamco's. What seems to be the case for that factory, and I suspect for others, is that it is quite possible for high-performance innovations such as self-directed work teams to coexist comfortably with Taylorist hierarchical work processes and Taylorist notions of how to introduce change. Teamwork at this high-performance company was directly connected with, and its success completely measured by, the improvement of quality and productivity rates. But this did not mean that workers performed their jobs differently or that the traditional plant hierarchy was rearranged or challenged. Those interested in workplace reform and high-performance innovation have a long row to hoe, both in implementing change and in understanding and circumventing resistance to it. In this paper I have illustrated the ways in which literacy is part of the texture of circuit board assembly. I would venture that similar portraits will emerge from research in other industries, since modern literacy requirements in manufacturing seem to be driven by an almost universal interest in and need for certification and recordkeeping. A new requirement for today's world of work, then, is developing a literate identity as a worker—becoming adept at and comfortable around the paperwork that is part and parcel of everyone's work now on the manufacturing floor, learning to conceptualize one's work in terms of its written representations, and being able to master and manipulate the social rules that govern literate activities in the factory. It is still customary to talk about literacy in terms of basic skills and to urge schools, vocational programs, and adult literacy classes to teach these fundamentals. But my research argues for a vastly different way of viewing workplace literacy. I have shown the remarkable variety and number of functions that reading and writing serve in circuit board assembly. What will also surprise people about this list is how small a portion of the functions fall into the category of "basic," by which I mean relatively simple, self-contained tasks: copying, labeling, keyboarding, tallying. The continuum of literacy functions quickly expands first to include categories in which the purposes that literacy serves are

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--> more complex—using literacy to explain, taking part in discourse around text, participating in the flow of information, problem solving—and then to include categories in which literacy is more obviously connected with issues of power—using literacy in the exercise of critical judgment, using literacy to acknowledge, exercise, or resist authority. Workers don't need just the "basics," whether those basics are cast in a traditional mold of reading, writing, and arithmetic or recast as higher-order thinking skills or other decontextualized competencies posted on various skill lists. I have observed workers using literacy for purposes that run the gamut of the categories. Indeed, my argument is that a literate identity means being able to do precisely that—that is, to dip appropriately as needed into a wide and deep repertoire of situated ways of using written language and other forms of representation in order to carry out a work-related activity. Happily, virtually all of the workers my research team and I observed were able to rise to the occasion. There was no literacy crisis at EMCO or Teamco. Despite having to traverse boundaries of culture, language, class, gender, ideology, and work hierarchy, these workers for the most part have taken on the challenge of developing a repertoire of literate practices, and they are meeting it successfully.5 One need only recall the picture of the frontline worker, the recent immigrant, standing before a roomful of managers, reciting from her graphs and charts, to recognize and appreciate the task and the achievement. In fact, the most formidable challenge for workers is not, I would argue, developing a literate identity but being perceived as capable of doing so, being viewed as fit for the occasion. It is almost a truism of current literacy theory that reading and writing are connected to power, but rarely have researchers traced those connections empirically. This project has demonstrated that particular functions for literacy—high-prestige functions such as those associated with exercising judgment and problem solving—are most often associated with and available to those in positions of authority, such as supervisors, managers, and engineers. On the other hand, certain other functions that literacy serves—lower-prestige purposes such as accomplishing simple, discrete tasks or using literacy to explain—are most often the categories associated with and available to frontline workers. Taking part in literate activities is not always so much a question of ability, then, as it is a question of rights and opportunities. In other words, patterns of literacy use are generally linked to structures of authority. What this means, practically speaking, is that skills change when authority changes. Thus, one reasonable measure of whether a factory is truly high performance—whether workers are actually imbued with the power to solve problems and to direct themselves—lies in the types of literacy workers are able to practice. 5   Exactly how they did so, how workers organized themselves individually and collectively to get their work done, including literacy-related tasks, will be the topic of a future paper.

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--> Acknowledgments The larger project upon which this chapter is based was funded by the National Center for Research in Vocational Education and the National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy. I especially thank the directors of those centers, W. Norton Grubb and Sarah Warshauer Freedman, respectively, for their sustained and helpful interest and guidance. For a more detailed account of the larger project on which this chapter is based, see Hull et al. (1996). The research team for the larger research project included Kathy Schultz and Berkeley graduate students Meg Gebhardt, Mark Jury, Mira Katz, Craig Wilson, and Oren Ziv. Appendix 5-A: Acon Team Explains Its Low Productivity* Researcher: It's still fifty=six= Xuan: =But= this week- this week had 1 day is fifty-seven, right? Woman: =Yeah= Researcher: =Ah, why?= Ah, why?== Eva: ==Why? Xuan: Becau- … us don't have job, right? Mai: Yeah [rapid speech] (Le-=e-e-e-he)= Xuan: =Acuson= board Eva: ==Oh:: yeah== Mai: ==Acuson board== Xuan: ==[xx]== very slow Eva: Yeah:: Mai: One hundred twenty Eva: We did a= Mai: =wh-= Eva: =Acuson board I think== Mai: ==1 hour -1 hour= Eva: =Wednesday= Mai: [rapid speech] Twenty boards -an hour= Researcher: =Ah, when you- said you did twenty boards -that day= Woman: =[laughter]= Researcher: ==Is that the day you're talking about? The day you -did twenty= Mai: =[xx]- First number wa- was -[xx]= Eva: =No, that's- different this week Researcher: Oh, this week. Oh, oh, oh, -that was last week= *   See the section "Operator Brain Dead: A reading Problem at Teamco" for an explanation of transcription conventions used here.

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--> Xuan: =I think we did sixty- twenty boards== Eva: ==We didn't have boards== because the melting machine was down= Mai: =[xx]= Eva: =and they let us do the Acuson board, and we spent- I don't know how many hours we did their board Researcher: Isn't- you don't -usually do Acuson-= Xuan: =(They give us)- 2 hour- you're not- overtime 2 hour they have eighty boards, but us how many, how-== Mai: ==One hundred twenty Xuan: One hundred twenty, but how-==how long= Mai: =how hour= Xuan: =How long?= Mai: I don't know how long Eva: I remember it== Hoa: ==may- =maybe it's-== Xuan: ==5 hour Eva: =5 hour, yeah= Mai: =maybe it's 5= =maybe 5= Eva: =maybe 4 to 5 hour= Mai: =maybe so: All: [laughter; comments in Vietnamese] Researcher: Why though? I mean Eva: Because it's- there so many defect boards= Woman: =[Vietnamese] Researcher: You're not used to doing that?== Eva: ==No, because that's- this is Acuson board== Researcher: ==Oh:, so you don't =do that Acuson board= Eva: =it's not our board= Researcher: It's not =what you= Eva: =We're just trying= to help it because we don't have any board to do Researcher: So it took you a long time; that made your productivity low Eva: Yeah Researcher: Would- Hmm== Hoa: ==[high pitched] Yeah Researcher: So== Woman: ==[Vietnamese] [.03] Xuan: Just how- how many person? Eva: =ten= Mai: =one= Woman: [Vietnamese] Mai: One, two, =three, four,=

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--> Xuan: =Acuson boa-= Mai: ==five. five== Xuan: ==five people== Mai: ==five people Xuan: Nah: =[Vietnamese]= Mai: =five people [Vietnamese]= Researcher: Oh, Acuson usually has seven== Mai ==Yeah [xx] Researcher: And you- just five of you guys Mai: Yeah =[Vietnamese]= Xuan =[Vietnamese]= Mai: Twenty, twenty, twenty, twenty-one== Eva: ==transistor- twenty pieces of transistor= Woman: =Oh::= Eva: =you have to put masking on it, and= Researcher: =Oh= Eva: =[xx]= Xuan: =each one= but it's hard, you know. You need to pick the (straight). If you (fall down) like that you cannot make it== Eva: ==That's why we're very very slow==

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--> APPENDIX 5-B: TAXONOMY OF FUNCTIONS OF LITERACY AT EMCO AND TEAMCO Literacy Codes Description Actioning Accepting or assigning responsibility by committing in writing. Admonishing Admonishing an individual or group about possible or actual violations of documented procedures. Analogizing Comparing representations, processes, or activities in order to illustrate a point or to facilitate understanding. Assessing Assessing an individual's or group's understanding of a representation or literate activity. Assigning Assigning responsibility for authoring a representation. Bestowing blessings Declaring a literate activity good and worthy of time spent. Brainstorming Individually or collaboratively constructing a representation for heuristic purposes. Calculating Doing calculations (whether adding and subtracting or figuring standard deviations) not in service of one's self but as an integral part of literacy-related problem solving (e.g., for setting, adjusting, or justifying production schedules or team goals). Categorizing Sorting something in order to classify. Certifying Using a representation to attest to an individual's particular competence(s). Citing a) Referring to a representation that is not at hand; b) referring to a literate activity not at hand. Coaching Facilitating a literate activity or the understanding of a representation. Completing forms Completing routine forms. Conjecturing Inferring, theorizing, predicting, or guessing based on limited data. Constructing rules Constructing a rule regarding the use or interpretation of a representation or literate activity. Contextualizing Providing an historical or situational context for a representation or literate activity. Copying Copying a representation from one medium to another without qualitatively changing the representation. Correcting Ridding a representation of errors. Creating hypotheticals Creating a hypothetical comparison of representations or literate processes or activities. Critiquing Showing or expressing disapproval of or finding fault with a representation or literate activity. Deferring Yielding to the opinions or direction of another regarding a representation or literate activity. Demonstrating Demonstrating a literate activity for purposes of explanation, clarification, or instruction. Disputing Questioning, doubting, debating, and/or resisting the opinion or direction of another regarding a representation or literate activity. Dramatizing Explaining a representation or literate process by using a fictionalized example. Elaborating Explaining a representation by drawing upon details not present in the representation. Evaluating Evaluating the quality of a representation or literate activity.

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--> Literacy Codes Description Exhibiting Demonstrating a point by passing around a sample representation, as in show-and-tell. Explaining Using or referring to a representation or literate activity in explaining something to another person. Fudging Creating a deliberate misrepresentation. Gaining consensus Gaining and recording group agreement. Gauging reaction Considering alternate interpretations of, reactions to, and potential fallout from problem solutions. Giving direction a) Writing directions for what to do; b) telling another what to do with respect to a literate activity. Giving instruction a) Writing instructions for how to do something; b) Telling another how to go about a literate activity. Giving a show-and-tell Demonstrating by passing around a sample representation, as in show-and-tell. Granting permission Granting permission to alter or transfer a controlled representation or to revise or engage in an alternative to a controlled literate activity. Highlighting Emphasizing an aspect or aspects of a representation or literate activity. Identifying Matching the physical with the representation. Illustrating Using a representation to illustrate a point. Inferring Inferring or predicting consequences based on an understanding of causes and effects. Interpreting Understanding a representation in terms of its purpose or function a) within a work process or b) within the organization's hierarchical structure. Invoking Invoking an organizational rule, script, procedure, or personal understanding of how to carry out a literate activity. Irony Drawing on understanding of another literate function to make a joke. Justifying Drawing on forms of representation to justify a course of action. Keyboarding Entering any type of information using a keyboard. Labeling Creating a representation in order to identify. Locating Looking for a particular representation, which should exist, to satisfy a particular function. Looking something up Finding information in a document. Matching Checking that a physical item and a representation match. Miming Gesturing to represent another representation or a literate activity. Note taking Taking notes during work processes, class, or training for personal reference later. (Notes may serve any of a variety of functions, including highlighting, translating, reminding, simplifying, and correcting.) Perusing Reading or studying a representation. Planning Working from a representation to plan a course of action. Practicing Participating in literate activity solely for purpose of becoming proficient at process; "product" not intended for use. Presenting Using a representation to structure an oral presentation. Problem solving Drawing on literate and/or numerate resources in conjunction with background knowledge to construct a problem solution. Proofreading Scanning a representation for errors.

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--> Literacy Codes Description Proposing Creating a representation to propose an idea or course of action or proposing the creation of a representation as a course of action. Protecting Using a document to protect oneself from blame—assigning responsibility to another, documenting course of action, etc. Providing linguistic assistance Aiding someone in decoding and/or pronouncing written material. Quoting Drawing on or invoking company discourse to legitimate an idea, suggestion or position. Receiving instruction Receiving instruction on how to do something. Reciting Reciting from a written text (e.g., blackboard, workbook, flipchart, overhead). Recording Making note of an action. Recounting Reviewing, with some narrative detail, a literate activity. Referencing Referring to representations, literate activities or processes at hand. Reflecting Reflecting on some aspect (e.g., process, intention, efficacy) of a literate activity some time after the activity has been completed. Representing Creating a representation of something else. Reprimanding Writing a document that can have a disciplinary consequence. Requesting action Writing something to request action from another. Requesting and/or providing clarification Requesting and/or providing clarifying information about a representation or literate activity. Requesting documentation Requesting a representation for use or perusal. Requesting permission or approval Requesting permission to alter or transfer a controlled representation or to revise or engage in an alternative to a controlled literate activity; requesting approval of such an alteration. Revising Modifying or updating a process or document. Role playing Taking on the role of another person in order to enact a scripted hypothetical work scenario. Seeking direction Seeking direction from some authority in carrying out a literate activity. Seeking instruction a) Seeking written instructions; b) seeking instruction from another in how to carry out a literate activity. Signifying Matching up two signs for the same object. Summarizing Recapping the content of a representation or using a representation to recap a process or activity. Tallying Doing calculations to serve limited literacy-related ends (e.g., to complete forms) in isolation from the larger problem-solving contexts for which the data will be used. Translating Translating from one representation to another. Validating Sanctioning an idea or action proposed in or through a representation. Verifying Checking one's understanding of a representation, literate process or activity.

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--> APPENDIX 5-C: META-CATEGORIES OF LITERATE FUNCTIONS AT EMCO AND TEAMCO Performing Basic Literate Functions Using Literacy to Explain Taking Part in Discourse Around and About Text Participating in Flow of Information Problem Solving Exercising Critical Judgment Using Literacy to Exercise, Acknowledge, or Resist Authority Completing forms Analogizing Citing (a) (b) Coaching Brainstorming Assessing Actioning Copying Contextualizing Constructing rules Constructing rules Calculating Bestowing blessings Admonishing Correcting Demonstrating Highlighting Giving instruction (a) (b) Categorizing Certifying Assigning Identifying Dramatizing Miming Invoking Conjecturing Critiquing Constructing rules Keyboarding Elaborating Perusing Practicing Creating hypotheticals Disputing Deferring Labeling Exhibiting Presenting Providing linguistic assistance Gauging reactions Evaluating Fudging Locating Explaining Quoting Receiving instruction Justifying Highlighting Gaining consensus Looking up Illustrating Recounting Requesting/providing clarification Planning Inferring Gauging reactions Matching Role playing Referencing Seeking direction Problem solving Interpreting Giving direction (a) (b) Note taking Show-and-telling Reflecting Seeking instruction (a) (b) Representing Irony Granting permission Practicing   Signifying   Revising Validating Interpreting (b) Proofreading   Summarizing     Verifying Invoking Providing documentation           Irony Reciting           Proposing Recording           Protecting Requesting documentation           Reprimanding Tallying           Requesting action Translating           Requesting permission or approval NOTE: See Appendix 5-A for description of the functions listed here.

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--> References Appelbaum, E., and R. Batt 1993 Transforming the Production System in U.S. Firms. A report to the Sloan Foundation. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. Baba, M.L. 1991 The skill requirements of work activity: An ethnographic perspective. Anthropology of Work Review 12(3):2-11. Brown, C., M. Reich, and D. Stern 1993 Becoming a high-performance work organization: The role of security, employee involvement and training. International Journal of Human Resource Management 4(2):247-275. Carnevale, A.P., L.J. Gainer, and A.S. Meltzer 1988 Workplace Basics: The Skills Employers Want. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor and American Society for Training and Development. Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce 1990 America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages! Report of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. Rochester, NY: National Center on Education and the Economy. Darrah, C.N. 1990 An Ethnographic Approach to Workplace Skills. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Anthropology and Cybernetic Systems, San Juan State University, San Juan, CA. 1996 Learning and Work: An Exploration in Industrial Ethnography. New York: Garland. Diehl, W., and L. Mikulecky 1980 The nature of reading at work. Journal of Reading 24:221-227. Ehrlich, E., and S.B. Garland 1988 For American business, a new world of workers. Business Week Sept. 19:107-111. Gee, J., G. Hull, and C. Lankshear 1996 The New Work Order: Behind the Language of the New Capitalism . Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Hossfeld, K. 1988 Divisions of Labor, Divisions of Lives: Immigrant Women Workers in the Silicon Valley. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Santa Cruz. Hull, G. 1993 Hearing other voices: A critical assessment of popular views on literacy and work. Harvard Educational Review 63(1):20-49. Hull, G., ed. 1997 Changing Work, Changing Workers? Critical Perspectives on Language, Literacy, and Skills. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Hull, G., M. Jury, O. Ziv, and M. Katz 1996 Changing Work, Changing Literacy? A Study of Skill Requirements and Development in a Traditional and Restructured Workplace. Final report. Berkeley, CA: National Center for Research in Vocational Education. Lund, L., and E.P. McGuire 1990 Literacy in the Work Force. New York: The Conference Board. Marshall, R., and M. Tucker 1992 Thinking for a Living: Education and the Wealth of Nations. New York: Basic Books. National Commission on Excellence in Education 1983 A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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--> Parker, R.E. 1994 Flesh Peddlers and Warm Bodies: The Temporary Help Industry and Its Workers. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Rawls, J.J., and W. Bean 1993 California: An Interpretive History, 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. Rose, F. 1989 West of Eden: The End of Innocence at Apple Computer. New York: Viking. Sarmiento, A.R., and A. Kay 1990 Worker-Centered Learning: A Union Guide to Workplace Literacy . Washington, DC: AFL-CIO Human Resources Development Institute. Saxenian, A. 1994 Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills 1992 Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance. Washington, DC : U.S. Department of Labor. Spradley, J.P., and D.W. McCurdy 1972 The Cultural Experience: Ethnography in Complex Society. Palo Alto, CA: Science Research Associates. U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor 1988 The Bottom Line: Basic Skills in the Workplace. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor. Zuboff, S. 1988 In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power . New York: Basic Books.