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Industrial Worker: Fall 2017 #1781 Vol. 114 No. 4

Industrial Workers of the World - Thu, 2017-11-09 19:49

By IWW.ORG Staff - November 2017

The theme for the Fall 2017 Industrial Worker is "In November We Remember." For this issue, a number of Wobblies sent in their remembrances of those long gone but not forgotten and those dear and only recently taken away from all of us. August 1 was the 100th anniversary of the murder of the early Wobbly organizer Frank Little. Butte, Montana was where he was brutally killed, but Butte was also the place that celebrated Frank Little's life and work, with a gathering of far-flung Wobblies as well as his great-grandniece Jane Little Botkin, who wrote Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood That Stained an American Family.

The issue's cover is a collection of photos, drawings, paintings, posters, and even a sculpture of people whose lives were devoted to making the world a place where workers were recognized for their contributions to society. In their work in organizing, ministry, public service, writing, poetry, songs, films, and art, each of the people commemorated on the cover—from an 18th-century female scientist to an androgynous pop icon and social critic we lost only last year—saw the ills of class warfare and capitalistic dominance and acted to improve the lives of those around them and around the world. If some of the choices I made come as a surprise, look them up and learn about their contributions.

Download a Free PDF of this issue.

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Do Solidarity Unions Need to ‘Go Public’?

Industrial Workers of the World - Mon, 2017-11-06 22:58

By LibCom - It's Going Down, October 31, 2017

In an election-driven, workplace-organizing campaign, going public is a key step. The workers or union try to organize under the boss’s radar for as long as possible, so that they can avoid retaliation and union-busting before they accumulate strength in numbers. Eventually, however, they have to legally file or “petition” for an election, at which point the workers notify the employer of their campaign. The goal of these types of organizing drives is formal recognition from the employer, which in theory compels the employer to sit down with the union and negotiate a contract.

In the IWW, our main model of organizing is the “solidarity union.” A solidarity union consists of a group of workers taking direct action in a workplace to get what they need and want, without regard to formal recognition by the bosses. Instead of relying on legal processes, workers use the power they have at any given moment, seeing as their hands are on the levers of production—and therefore on the boss’s profits. Examples of using that power include work slowdowns or stoppages, refusing certain kinds of unsafe work, confronting the boss with problems as a group, and even strikes.

What is the significance of “going public” in a solidarity unionism campaign? If workers are not seeking legal recognition through an election, what purpose does going public serve? Does it need to happen at all? In this article, we reconsider the pros and cons of going public in the context of the IWW’s distinct and powerful alternative to business union organizing.

Does going public heighten the risk of retaliation?

In the Ellen’s Stardust Diner campaign in NYC, IWW restaurant workers went public in the form of a major story in The New York Times. The reporter contacted the owner for comment, and this was the first he had learned of the union. He said he was shocked that people were unhappy, and that he would gladly sit down with them. This turned out to be a lie. Even though the union had gathered the support of virtually all of the servers, the owner refused to meet with them about their demands. In response, union members held a large demonstration outside of the restaurant, displaying a bright, new banner with their name and logo—Stardust Family United—while singing and chanting noisily, to place public and emotional pressure on the boss to bargain.

Two weeks later, every person at that demonstration was illegally fired.

Sometimes, bosses react in the strongest possible way to finding out that a union is forming in their business: by attempting to eliminate union supporters through firings. This is something we know in the IWW, which is why we cover it at length in our organizer trainings.

Stardusters had gone public because they felt it was the next logical step in their organizing. They had already gathered nearly unanimous support among servers, they were meeting regularly, and had learned to act as a group. Now it was time to simply tell the boss point-blank that they were a union, and that they had demands. In a way, they were following the steps of a recognition campaign, just without the NLRB election. They believed the owner would see their strength and negotiate. But the union’s coming-out party didn’t have that result. Instead, the owner started firing people for union activity and hired a union-busting lawyer.

An IWW campaign in Chicago offers an interesting contrast. At Arrow Messenger, the union of messengers did not go public as a “union” – they did not use “the u-word” – but simply approached the boss with specific demands, initiating direct bargaining sessions between the bosses and the workers. When bargaining did not yield the results they wanted, a quickie strike and a series of prolonged direct actions won them most of their demands, including a commission raise for over one hundred couriers.

The avoidance of word “union” may have made it easier for the bosses to give concessions to the workers, but it did not prevent retaliatory firings in the long run, and the active committee of about 20 workers was picked off one by one. So it’s clear that workers can also be fired in an active campaign that isn’t “public” in the traditional sense. If you’re effective, you’re going to end up with a target on your back, one way or another.

Fortunately, at Stardust as well, despite not one but two rounds of mass firings, workers were able to win on a majority of their demands, by using direct action in the workplace. The owner never sat down with them, but by taking on issues one by one, and coordinating work refusals and other tactics, the workers made multiple gains, including refusing unpaid work, fixing unsafe equipment, and generally improved working conditions. Going public, in retrospect, was not a necessary step for that.

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New York: Wobblies at Singing Restaurant Win Major Victory

Industrial Workers of the World - Mon, 2017-10-09 19:28

By Stardust Family United - October 4, 2017

In a major victory for the singing servers at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, their employer has reached an agreement with their solidarity union, Stardust Family United, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). By entering into the settlement agreement, the company will narrowly avoid a trial on some 19 violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including 31 retaliatory firings.

Under the terms of the agreement, all 31 employees terminated over the last year in retaliation for union activity have been offered immediate and full reinstatement, and will receive back pay from the time they were fired. Of the terminated employees, 13 will immediately return to work at the popular Midtown diner.

In addition, the restaurant is required to mail official notices to all employees, informing them that the company will not violate federal law by engaging in certain unlawful practices such as surveilling and threatening workers, interfering with their use of social media, and discouraging them from taking action to improve working conditions.

For the singing servers, this has been a long road. The union, which is a branch of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), initially went public in late summer of 2016. Weeks after making their efforts known to management, 16 active union members were fired. Over the fall and winter, the workers continued to engage in direct workplace action to improve health and safety conditions, as well as pursue other demands. Another mass firing in January 2017 brought the total of terminated singers up to 31.

Despite this, Stardust Family United remained active, both inside and outside the restaurant. “I’m thrilled and proud to know our struggle and vigilance over the last year has paid off,” says returning employee Matthew Patterson. “I’m looking forward to returning and making a positive impact inside the diner.”

#Stardustfamilyunited #IWW #Wobblies #SFU #Singingunion #Labormovement #Workersrights #Solidarity #Weareallstardust

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Statement from the CNT on the situation in Catalonia

Industrial Workers of the World - Thu, 2017-09-28 07:59

Open letter from CNT’s International Secretary

Our position on Catalonia

Dear comrades,

First of all, thanks for the support that so many of you have provided with translations, putting statements up on social media, planning actions, etc. CNT, as a whole, and the comrades in Catalonia, particularly, are really grateful for your support.

As you know the days are momentous in Catalonia and, to a lesser extent, in the rest of Spain. As I write these lines, riot police and the infamous military police, Guardia Civil, are attacking masses of people in the streets of many towns across Catalonia. CNT, together with other unions, is calling for a general strike on the 3rd of October against this repressive wave.

You probably know that the unity of Spain has always been a rallying flag for the far right here. Therefore, any calls for self-determination from any part of it, as is the case now in Catalonia, spark a vicious response. We are already seeing an increase in the presence of fascist groups in many towns across Spain and the conservative government is taking an increasingly authoritarian stance, trampling on many fundamental freedoms. These are ominous signs of what might lie ahead for us. Repression is only likely to worsen on many fronts, may be even involving the military.

On some international forums, CNT is being criticised for, allegedly, playing into the hands of the nationalists with our call for a general strike. That’s understandable. As we've said somewhere else, it's a fine line we're trying to walk here and it's only normal that its nuances are lost in the distance (or in translation). It is also difficult for us, and there are lots of internal discussions/debates going on about our strategy, as you would expect in an open and plural organisation like CNT.

Make no mistake, while we firmly oppose repression from an increasingly authoritarian state and their fascist allies, we are in no way supportive of the nationalist agenda. All along this week there have been countless demonstrations in Catalonia to defend today's referendum, independence, self-determination…you name it. CNT has not called for or supported any of these. In fact, where comrades have a local presence, they've been busy making themselves uncomfortable for the nationalists, bringing economic and social issues to the fore, reminding people that the Catalan government was very keen to introduce social cuts only a few years ago, etc. This, in fact, is stated in our call for the general strike, in a very similar wording.

So much so, that the call for a strike is not directed only to Catalonia, the only place where, for obvious reasons, the strike will actually take place. No, the text makes it abundantly clear that it is addressed to the whole of the Spanish state. It is understood that, in this situation, to achieve our goals as a class, we have to spread resistance everywhere. This should not be a fight between nations, but between classes. Between an oppressive regime and its fascist allies (as much a part of the “people” as anyone else) and those of us who stand for freedom and rebellious dignity.

We expect repression to increase during the following weeks and days and we will use our weapon of choice, the general strike, to make it difficult for police to move around, get supplies and do their work in general. We'll see how things move forward from today on, but an already difficult situation can actually get nasty, in terms of repression. As revolutionaries, we don't believe we can just remain idle, while the police attack the people in the streets and fascist gangs roam our towns freely.

Again, thank you for your support. We'll keep you updated.

Miguel Pérez, International secretary, CNT.

AFnA

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(2017) GEB Statement on the Misuse of Boston GMB Funds in 2016

Industrial Workers of the World - Mon, 2017-09-18 17:29

In 2016, $4,510.00 was illegitimately withdrawn and spent from the Boston IWW General Membership Branch’s bank account. This is a statement of what occurred in that case.

 

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Milwaukee, WI: General Defense Committee Rallies Against Islamophobes

Industrial Workers of the World - Tue, 2017-09-12 19:02

By The Milwaukee Industrial Workers of the World General Defense Committee Local 19 - It's Going Down, September 11, 2017

When the Milwaukee IWW General Defense Committee heard that Act for America was scheduled to have a rally in Milwaukee we immediately began organizing to oppose it with the goal of shutting it down completely. ACT for America is an organization that stokes fear and hatred of immigrants and Muslims to lobby for heightened national security. We spoke with Twin Cities General Defense Committee members who had opposed ACT for America in the streets previously. They told us that ACT for America drew Islamophobes and Trump supporters, with some Alt Right fascists thrown in the mix at a rally in St. Paul.

We knew we couldn’t let this organization take the streets of our city, so we organized logistics, started doing turn out and made a plan. ACT for America had scheduled their rally for 8 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Milwaukee, so that’s where we would go. In the past several weeks debates on antifascism have erupted all over the country. Some suggest we ignore them, some suggest we hold rallies on the other side of town, but we believe that we must go where they go. We must always confront them with the goal of allowing no platform for racism and fascism. Shortly after masses of people in Boston smashed a fascist march, ACT for America canceled their rallies all over the country. Some questioned if we should bother turning out at all, but we felt we had to make good on our commitments and send a message to the far right that they would be opposed at every turn. We also knew there was a possibility that some rightists would turn out anyway.

We set two rendezvous points, one in front of the courthouse and the other two blocks away, so we could engineer a coordinated confrontation with the right if needed.But the right didn’t really show. As we gathered and began to march, a few right wing goons heckled us, but then quickly scuttled away. They must have turned up to assessthe scene. Across from the courthouse approximatelysixty people gathered as we heard from speakers on the importance of solidarity, the struggle living as an immigrant in America and the vile racism of our society. Speakers called for unity with oppressed groups and the importance of working class organization. A General Defense Committee member said, “ACT for America has tremendous influence not only over the average person where they can play on fears, but over the State as well. But appealing to representatives is a dead end; a fruitless act. We have to use collective action in our communities to build the power we need to stop this threat.”

As we build our organization we navigate a difficult path. We know that there must be mass opposition to fascism and racism in order for it to be combated, but we have to do what is necessary to no platform the far right. It’s a path worth navigating in order to build a mass organization that can utilize direct action.

Every day on the shop floor, in the school, and in the neighborhood, we must build working class self-organization. We have to have conversations about who is really responsible for the outsourced jobs at huge old Milwaukee plants like Allis Chalmers and Tower Automotive and who is responsible for the cuts to education, public service, food share, and transportation. The rich are the ones who suck the blood of our class. If we don’t have those conversations the right wing will.

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“Destroy All Prisons Tomorrow”: IWOC Responds to Jacobin

Industrial Workers of the World - Tue, 2017-09-12 18:57

By IWOC - It's Going Down, September 11, 2017

The weekend of August 19 2017, amid the second nationwide inside/outside mass protest against prison slavery in as many years, Jacobin Magazine published an article against prison abolition entitled How to End Mass Incarceration by Roger Lancaster. Lancaster argued that returning to an ideal of puritan discipline and rehabilitation is more realistic than pursuing the abolition of prison entirely.

Jacobin caught a lot of deserved flack from abolitionists on social media for it. Numerous scholars, organizers and journalists decried Lancaster’s article, creating such an online storm that Jacobin decided to publish a response article entitled What Abolitionists Do penned by Dan BergerMariame Kaba and David Stein. Unfortunately, this response fails to fully critique Lancaster’s arguments and instead sells other abolitionists out. Their thesis paragraph reads:

Critics often dismiss prison abolition without a clear understanding of what it even is. Some on the Left, most recently Roger Lancaster in Jacobin, describe the goal of abolishing prisons as a fever-dream demand to destroy all prisons tomorrow. But Lancaster’s disregard for abolition appears based on a reading of a highly idiosyncratic and unrepresentative group of abolitionist thinkers and evinces little knowledge of decades of abolitionist organizing and its powerful impacts.

The Lancaster article levies the typical straw-man critique of abolition as an unrealistic “heaven-on-earth” vision. He presents Michel Foucault’s vision of a carceral society from Discipline and Punish as an alternative aspiration and argues that “we should strive not for pie-in-the-sky imaginings but for working models already achieved in Scandinavian and other social democracies.” He accuses abolitionists of being “innocent of history” and “far out on a limb”  when comparing prison to chattel slavery.

These arguments expose a poverty of Lancaster’s analysis, and they are easily refuted. The idea that the US could adopt a Scandinavian style prison system through simple public awareness campaigns is desperately naive to the history of racial capitalism on this continent. The idea that a Foucauldian carceral society could exist here without massive quantities of racially targeted violence and coercion is far more pie-in-the-sky than the abolitionist recognition that prison depends on and cannot function without abominable levels of dehumanization and torture. Lancaster is the one with a utopian vision divorced from history, his prisons without torture or slavery can only be imaged by someone who hasn’t honestly grappled with the history of the US as a settler colonial nation that has always been existentially dependent on putting chains on Black people.

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Incarcerated Workers #7

Industrial Workers of the World - Tue, 2017-09-12 18:51

By IWOC - It's Going Down, September 11, 2017

The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), organizes prisoners into unions and support organizing efforts of incarcerated people. Check out their latest newsletter below. 

Issue 7 includes an important announcement of IWOC’s restructuring, theory and strategy from incarcerated workers, exposés on conditions in the prison industrial complex and more.

The Incarcerated Worker – Issue 7 (Printable) The Incarcerated Worker – Issue 7 (Readable)

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The Anti-Capitalist Politics of Antifa

Industrial Workers of the World - Tue, 2017-09-12 18:44

By Stephanie Basile - CounterPunch, September 6, 2017

As antifa has burst into the mainstream in recent weeks, suddenly the efficacy of confronting Nazis in the streets is being debated on the national stage. Antifa is not one particular group, but a term used to describe anti-fascists committed to stamping out fascism before it can rise to power. The debate around antifa tends to stay narrowly focused on the use of physical self-defense in public spaces. What’s received less attention is the anti-capitalist politics of antifa, and how some anti-fascists and are putting these politics into practice through workplace organizing.

When workers at the New York City feminist sex toy shop Babeland participated in a workplace action this past spring, it was the first time that every single NYC Babeland worker unanimously agreed on something: the company needed more diversity in its hiring practices. The Babeland workers, who in 2016 unionized with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), had negotiated language into their contract requiring their employer to seek diverse candidates when filling positions. When it became clear the company was violating this, the workers at Babeland all signed onto a letter called on the company to hire more workers of color and more trans workers. “To me, the most significant thing about that was that we had every single New York City employee sign,” says Phoenix V., a Babeland worker and Shop Steward.

When Tiffany S. started working at the Takoma Park Silver Spring Food Co-op in Takoma Park, MD, she encountered disrespectful management and no way to address it.  Tiffany recalls feeling disempowered at the time: “You couldn’t do anything because you might get fired.” The co-op board eventually terminated the manager, but workers were left feeling like they had little voice in that process. “Workers still don’t know if they’re safe,” says fellow co-op worker Kenny Y. “If the next general manager comes and does the same thing, they don’t know if it would be any better.” Tiffany, Kenny, and the rest of their coworkers voted to unionize with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in August, and are preparing to enter into contract negotiations with the co-op.

Phoenix, Tiffany, and Kenny all identify as anti-capitalists and anti-fascists. They see combating fascism, racism, sexism, and capitalism as inextricably linked. “They’re inseparable, they are the pillars of white supremacy,” says Phoenix. “They can’t exist without each other.” Tiffany frames the connection between capitalism and other forms of oppression as being rooted in our material reality. “When I think about the connections between capital and white supremacy, I think- who owns what, and how did they come to own it? Slaves were working the land, producing cotton, or tobacco, or sugar. Where did that money go, and what does that mean?” For Tiffany, using concrete material conditions of workers’ lives as a starting point is the easiest way of making connections between systems of capitalism and white supremacy.

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Portland, OR: Fast Food Workers at Burgerville Launch Strike on Labor Day

Industrial Workers of the World - Mon, 2017-09-04 21:54

By Staff - It's Going Down, September 4, 2017

Members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) launched a strike in Portland, Oregon at fast food chain Burgerville. The strike is the latest move by workers at the chain who have been organizing for months and demanding wage increases, an end to harassment for union activities, better schedules, and improvements of conditions. The group announced the strike on Labor Day with a statement on their Facebook page:

The very first Labor Day was a massive strike and parade organized by thousands of workers in New York City in 1882. The chance for millions and millions of people to spend time with family and community this Monday was made possible by power wielded time and time again by striking workers.

Ironically, we workers at Burgerville don’t get to enjoy this day dedicated to celebrating the power of workers. Working at Burgerville means we can’t take proper holidays, since doing so means taking a substantial pay cut or facing retaliation from management. Working at Burgerville means that we spend our holidays working for minimum wage just like any other day, fully aware of all the memories with friends and family we are missing out on.

That’s why we are going on strike today.

Instead of going to work for poverty wages while corporate bigshots take vacations, we are taking a stand. We are taking back Labor Day for our families, our friends, our coworkers, and ourselves. We are taking back Labor Day because we know that better pay, fair schedules, consistent hours, and healthier work environments have only ever been won by workers standing together and fighting for them.

We are the heart of Burgerville and we deserve a change!

The strike also takes place as fast food workers at McDonald’s in the UK are also on strike. Burgerville workers union writes:

McDonald’s workers at two shops in England voted to go on a strike on September 4. These workers are organized through the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), whose demands include wage increases and more consistent scheduling (Sound familiar?)

Immediately after the announcement of a strike, McDonald’s stated that by the end of 2017 they will implement a guaranteed hours contract to every McDonald’s worker in the UK. The BFAWU plans to carry on with their strike to push for their other demands and to hold McDonald’s to their word.

Victory to the strikers!

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GDC-IWOC Joint Statement on Repression of Juggalos

Industrial Workers of the World - Fri, 2017-09-01 11:04

Fans of the band Insane Clown Posse (ICP), referred to as Juggalos, have been targets of state repression since being designated a “hybrid gang” by the FBI in 2011. The band’s logo, frequently called a “hatchetman,” has been deemed a gang symbol. This has resulted in harassment by local and federal police for having an ICP sticker or tattoo. Juggalos have been fired from employment, have been discriminated against in custody battles, have received longer and harsher sentences in court, and have been discharged from military service. The American Civil Liberties Union and ICP have been fighting this designation in court since 2014. So far, the courts have ruled that the FBI gang report should not be used as a reason to target Juggalos. However, this ruling is often ignored by law enforcement and it does nothing to hold the FBI accountable for the damage it has done.

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