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Summer 2018 Industrial Worker

Wed, 10/10/2018 - 18:39

The Summer 2018 Industrial Worker is finally out. It looks back at some pivotal events for the IWW and workers that have shaped the direction of the union, its members, its detractors, and its beneficiaries. The issue also examines current events that affect workers across the United States in both negative and positive ways.

In 1917, copper-mine workers organizing for parity in wages with the IWW’s help endured the Bisbee Deportation (see Industrial Worker Summer 2017, #1780). One hundred and one years later comes the powerful film Bisbee ’17, about 2017 Bisbee, Ariz., in which the community reenacts the atrocity and faces up to a very dark time in the city’s history. The Summer 2018 issue of IW has a review of the film.

Writer Andy Piascik revisits he Lawrence textile strike of 1912, emphasizing that its success was due to two major factors: It was led primarily by women, who insisted that the strikers remain peaceful, without retaliating against massive military and police opposition; and IWW representatives went to Lawrence, Mass.—at the strikers’ request—but rather than taking over the strike, as so many union leaders do, they advised the strikers in tactics but trusted them to follow their instincts.

It’s 100 years since Eugene V. Debs was tried and imprisoned for treason and sedition for his speech in Canton, Ohio. And at least 100 Wobblies were rounded up and tried for treason and sedition, as well. Their “crime” was not supporting U.S. involvement in World War I—the Great War—and arguing against participation in it because it was a war between rulers vying for power and had nothing to do with workers and the people. Two short articles express sentiments that still apply today.

The Janus decision by the Supreme Court struck a blow to public-sector unions when it ruled that paying dues to the unions is no longer mandatory. However, there are two edges to the Janus sword. As a dual-cardholding Wobbly writes: “[W]ith the West Virginia Teachers Strike . . . the teachers were through with bosses and took up the model of solidarity. They used the power of the worker united.”

Finally, an article full of facts and figures provides a stark picture why teachers in the U.S. have fallen so far behind in their pay and benefits that public education is suffering from a shortage of good teachers: “Teachers and parents are protesting cutbacks in education spending and a squeeze on teacher pay that persist well into the economic recovery from the Great Recession. These spending cuts are not the result of weak state economies. Rather, state legislatures have enacted them to finance tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.” It’s a bleak picture that can be improved only by forcing the powers that be into enacting legislation for the people and not the rich.

Download a free PDF of this issue.

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Categories: IWW

Seattle IWW Local 650 Day of Action Round Up Against Grassroots Campaign

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 18:00

By Seattle IWW - It's Going Down, August 13, 2018

Report back on recent day of action in solidarity with Seattle IWW local 650 who are fighting against an illegal lockout by Grassroots Campaigns.

Fellow Workers from the Seattle IWW Industrial Union local 650 (IU650) at Grassroots Campaigns (GCI) are facing an illegal office closure by the GCI bosses in retaliation for an Unfair Labor Practice Strike action protesting egregious labor violations. Just under a week after the office closed, Wobblies at the Seattle GCI job branch called for a National Day of Action on Friday, August 10th. Wobblies in other GCI offices around the country are starting to face increased heat from management’s aggressive union busting. Most are fighting back – and winning. Here’s a quick roundup from each of the seven actions.

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Categories: IWW

New Prisoner Audio Confirms “Humanitarian Crisis” at Stillwater Prison: Prisoners and Families Demand An End to the Lockdown

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 17:46

By Joanna Nuñez - Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, August 10, 2018

The lockdown at Stillwater Prison is now in its 27th day. As families and prisoners demand an end to the lockdown the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is releasing audio from inside Stillwater prison to showcase the urgency of the lockdown’s immediate end and to expose the lies being spread by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC). The audio, shared by Stillwater inmate Tony, last name removed due to concerns for retaliation, was received on August 11th.

This audio interview - along with other independent reports from prisoners in Stillwater - document human rights violations, the power of the media’s impact in changing conditions inside, and, as Stillwater prisoner Carlos Smith says, that the “[DOC] spokesperson is not being truthful.”

Multiple independent reports from prisoners contradict the claims made by the DOC in an August 10th statement to KSTP. A DOC representative said prisoners are receiving “showers every 3 days and were given hygiene bags as well as fresh linens”. Yet, prisoners report not having received more than three showers in 24 days of being locked down. Nor have Smith or Tony received clean clothes. Smith shared, “Our clothes are mildewed because we have only had the chance to wash them once in the last 24 days.”

Conditions inside Stillwater sound nightmarish. A prisoner who wishes to remain anonymous reports “the stench in the units from the garbage is gagging. Fruit flies are abundant and everywhere. Toiletries are not passed out daily. Some days you find yourself having to ask your neighbors for toilet paper... [which] is prohibited”.

During lockdowns prisoners are supposed to be in cells a brutal twenty three hours a day. Yet Tony reports they were “locked in their cells...for 20 days straight” without proper medical supervision, and when displaced for searches prisoners were surrounded by staff “with automatic weapons and several canines”.

A prisoner who wishes to remain anonymous says he “can't stand by and allow the DOC to lie to the public, bolstering their own image to request more money off my pain and suffering. I am paying my dues to society and now the DOC's the one victimizing me for their own personal gain.” He asks that “[you] report the truth to the public. Open their eyes to our plight and the problem of warehousing over reintegration.”

Some prisoners see progress being forced by stories in the news, including their first hour out of their cells during the day. “A lot of change has occurred as people understand what is going on inside the prisons [from the TV]” Tony reports.  

The DOC says they are “transitioning off of lockdown” but it is “a process without a definitive end date”. Prisoners and their families are not willing to wait. The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is circulating a petition demanding the DOC immediately end the lockdown at Stillwater. IWOC is calling for an emergency meeting this Sunday at 7pm for family and friends of prisoners in Stillwater to end the lockdown. “The DOC is preventing prisoners from speaking out so we will do whatever is necessary to make their conditions heard”, says Joanna Nuñez of the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

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Categories: IWW

In Wake of Death, Minnesota Prisoners Speak Out

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 17:59

By the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, August 10, 2018

As the Minnesota Department of Corrections ends its lockdown at all prisons except Stillwater, prisoners there are speaking out against human rights abuses and calling for the lockdown to end.

According to Carlos Smith, a prisoner at Stillwater, “we are currently without any basic humane treatment here... We still have not received any showers nor are we any closer to seeing any end to this nonsense.” Stillwater has been locked down since a lone prisoner killed a guard on July 18. When facilities are on lockdown, prisoners receive no more than one hour a day outside their cells.

Smith says prisoners are being held hostage in a struggle between the DOC and AFSCME prison guards, some of whom are calling for the resignation of the commissioner.

Beyond the lack of laundry and showers, the 1600 men inside Stillwater are facing humiliation during the lockdown. “They took two sections, about sixty of us, handcuffed together, naked. Then we sat like that in the gym for an hour and a half while they ransacked our cells,” Smith reports.

AFSCME, the prison guard union is looking for a bigger budget for staffing but David Boehnke of the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee doesn’t believe staffing alone will reduce violence. “If you don’t give respect, you won’t get it. Overcrowding means reduced programming and inhuman conditions - violence which begets violence,” Boehnke says. “The solution is there. Release the thousands of people locked up for petty parole violations and reinvest that money into improving conditions.”

A 2017 study from California prisons notes a robust relationship between reducing overcrowding and lowering prison violence. Minnesota prisons are already above maximum capacity, resulting in hundreds of people being housed in county jails while the prison population is projected to be more than 1,300 people over maximum capacity by 2022. As of July 2018 35.6% of Minnesota’s prison admissions, 2771 people, were incarcerated for crimeless technical violations of parole.

Beyond the recent killing, both guards and prisoners are facing increasing violence inside Minnesota’s prisons. Without changing conditions, it is hard to see an end rising violence. But right now, Smith hopes the public will speak up to end the lockdown and its human rights abuses. “We are just sitting in these cells smelling like billy goats,” he says.

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Categories: IWW

IWW Canvassers On Strike, Nationwide Actions in Support

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:43

By Seattle IWW - It's Going Down, July 31, 2018

Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. (GCI) is a nationwide, for-profit canvassing contractor which fundraises for progressive nonprofits. GCI canvassers can be seen on countless street corners in large cities and college towns, talking to folks about groups like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and Doctors Without Borders. Despite the company’s claims of a “progressive” platform, its record of worker abuse and union busting is extensive.

For several years now, GCI workers have attempted to organize with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Building interest has not been too much of a challenge, since idealistic folks get recruited for “organizing” and “activist” jobs, but soon find that miserable conditions lead to high turnover rates. New hires are often sympathetic to any drive to bring about change.

The larger hurdle in the past has been how to navigate GCI’s blatant disregard for labor law and the challenges of keeping a campaign going in the face of constant attrition. Past drives in Portland and Ann Arbor laid some of the groundwork for how to organize, but ultimately fell short of their goals and provided valuable insight into the company’s strategies.

The current campaign, originating in Seattle, has thus far been the most successful. Although workers there have faced countless abuses since going public in February, they have managed to expand the public presence of their IWW IU650 campaign to New Orleans and wider, while building out a network of support and solidarity across the country. A number of small victories so far, such as a $2/hr raise in New Orleans and the resignation of several abusive corporate-installed managers in Seattle, have fueled this rise.

GCI has not made the task of organizing easy. For a week-and-a-half in June, the company illegally locked out its Seattle office in retaliation for a union action demanding better training and onboarding for new hires. The lockout was broken through nationwide direct action and legal threats, but since reopening the company has waged an all-out war on its workers. Workers around the country have been faced with direct sabotage by the company and numerous illegal unilateral changes to working conditions. To top it all off, three workers in different cities were illegally fired in July amidst a cloud of blatant lies and deceptions from the company.

With this latest attack, GCI workers across the country were forced to fight back. On Friday, July 27, Seattle IU650 members kicked things off with a strike against the company’s unfair labor practices. In seven other cities, actions took place aimed at building the union’s shop-floor presence and forcing the company to do right.

IU650 members are united in demanding the rehiring of all those impacted by the company’s illegal union busting, improvements to the company’s harsh quota system, and protections in the case of bad weather, street harassment, and other issues that might force canvassers to drop shifts. In addition, they are working to fight unique local challenges ranging from lockouts to laundry.

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Want to Stop Violence in Minnesota Prisons? Free Our People

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:23

By IWOC - It's Going Down, July 31, 2018

Editorial from the Twin Cities chapter of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) that links horrific conditions inside with ongoing violence. 

On July 18, the first prison guard in Minnesota’s history was killed, on top of recent violence in Oak Park Heights and Stillwater prisons. Yet all the DOC does is ask for more money on top of their 1.2 billion dollar budget. We need a new approach to change in Minnesota’s prisons. Stop putting money into a violent institution that is not correcting anyone. Free our people, and reinvest savings into reentry and rehabilitation.

For those of us who have been incarcerated or in regular contact with Minnesota’s prisons, recent violence is not a surprise – it’s an inevitability due to the behavior of the prisons system itself.

  • Minnesota’s prisons have gotten progressively worse. Lip service to rehabilitation has little application to daily realities, while harsher parole practices, sentencing, and increased criminalization of our communities have manufactured an overcrowding crisis. And our people are dying. Between 2000-2013, 280 people incarcerated in Minnesota prisons were killed – 75% of them due to medical neglect. Yet we spend $41,366 per incarcerated person each year.
  • Many prison guards in Minnesota are racist and abusive. The day before the killing at Stillwater, a prisoner reported that the man killed was telling everyone that “guards can do whatever we want to you and you can’t do anything about it”. Last year the Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee released a podcast just scratching the surface of guard abuse in Minnesota’s prisons.
  • It is well documented, including by the MN DOC, that increased community connection reduces recidivism. Yet the MN DOC regularly prevents mail delivery, makes visiting miserable, and represses prisoner and community attempts to build bridges with each other. Results are predictable: 48% of people released on parole end up back in prison, a shocking 88% of them for minor “technical violations” of parole, not new crimes. Even DOC employees are saying low staffing in overcrowded conditions are creating extreme dangers for prisoners and staff, while a rash of quitting has followed the recent killing.

There’s an easy solution to these violent conditions – free our people. Instead of putting yet more money into prisons we should immediately release all people in prison for crimeless “technical violations” of parole and nonviolent crimes, at least 40% of the population. Savings should fund successful reentry and rehabilitation programs. The parole system must be changed to ensure everyone has the opportunity to earn a life worth living. (Learn more about this fight on Saturday August 25th, 1-3pm in North Minneapolis – flier and facebook).

Nor can conditions be improved without prisoners having real power and community connections. Prisoners should be allowed to form their own unions and represent themselves. Community groups and family members should be welcomed. Visiting hours should be expanded, while mail censorship must end.

This August 21st – September 9th, prisoners around the country are going on strike against inhuman conditions confirmed by prisoners’ legal status as slaves under the 13th amendment to the US Constitution. Will Minnesota’s prisons join other systems in regular deadly violence between slaves and their cagers? Or will we treat humans like human beings, stop senseless incarceration, and use savings for rehabilitation and community? We say slavery must end – free our people!

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Categories: IWW

Dispatch from the Picket Line: IWW Fights Lockouts in Seattle

Thu, 07/26/2018 - 18:18

Seattle IWW - It's Going Down, July 25, 2018

The union drive at Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated (GCI) has been nothing short of profound. Throughout months of organizing we built an unparalleled culture of resistance and solidarity and a tangible sense that we don’t need bosses to get work done.

At the beginning of May we realized that something was off. May and June are typically the biggest hiring periods with the office frequently swelling to 40 or 50 canvassers by midsummer. This year, though, the interim directors sent by corporate were simply not bringing in new people.

Thanks to shop floor agitation and legal threats, we were able to force the company to begin hiring by the end of May, but we soon found ourselves with a new problem. New hires were being made Field Managers (FMs) on their fourth or fifth days. FMs are similar to shift leads at other jobs but with extra paperwork, no real power, and often no increase in pay. When new workers should have been learning the skills needed to canvass, they were instead being asked to supervise other people.

These new hires felt like they were being pressured to quit by being given such responsibilities so quickly. They joined the union to do something about it. We sympathized with their issue and decided to March on the Boss on Friday, June 8 to demand that new hires get at least two weeks on the job before being asked to take on FM responsibilities. We reasonably expected the current director would accede to our demand on the spot, but, because of the company’s consistent and blatant lawbreaking practices, we wanted to have the agreement in writing, which was something the company was incredibly averse to.

Ten of us, including all of the recent new hires, entered the director’s office shortly before our morning circle. We delivered our demand and, as expected, she agreed verbally. She stated that she would get us something in writing by the end of the day but that she needed to talk to Laurie Owen (the company’s General Counsel and chief union buster) to find out exactly what she was allowed to write. She agreed that one of our members could stay a bit late while she waited for approval.

Most of the office went out to canvass, and the hours ticked by. By noon it was starting to become clear that Laurie wouldn’t give us anything. The director was told to write nothing down, although she was assured she had discretion over the policy to ensure all new hires have at least two weeks on the job before taking on FM responsibilities. At lunchtime, one union member pointed out that because we had received a promise to have something in writing by the end of the day, the day couldn’t be over until we had it. We all agreed and decided that if we didn’t have something by the time we returned from canvassing we would remain on the clock discussing workplace conditions with our manager until she gave us what she had promised.

After the afternoon debriefs, seven people found themselves in the director’s office. For the next four and a half hours, there was continuous discussion about workplace conditions with the manager interspersed with songs and teach­-ins. We were told repeatedly that no one would have to leave or be forced to clock out. At 9:45pm, we finally received a written notice from the manager that she could not commit policy to writing. Having forced a response that would greatly aid in future legal matters, we left feeling elated at the power of direct action.

In IU650, the 9th of the month has become something of a harbinger of major events. On March 9, we voted 15­-2 in an NLRB election for federal recognition of our existing union. On April 9, our contract was signed. On May 9, we held a March on the Boss regarding holiday pay that coincided with the New Orleans office filing for an NLRB election. June 9, the day after our sit-­in, proved equally momentous as it turned out to be the first day of our lockout.

We had been preparing for a lockout for the better part of a month. While its immediate arrival was somewhat of a surprise, we were more than prepared to meet it head on. The very first day we received calls from corporate stating that the Seattle office was suspended, but we showed we were more than capable of working even without an open office. This act struck existential fear into management, who now knew we could do our jobs without them. We also had a solid legal case against them, thanks to their admission that the lockout was retaliation for the June 8 action.

Typical companies might obscure retaliatory actions behind a thin smoke screen. GCI, though, has been so blatant and consistent with its lawbreaking that even the NLRB can’t help but find sympathy with our arguments.

We continued rolling out a campaign of direct action and workplace self-­organization. On June 14th, we launched a phone zap against the corporate office with the aim of getting hundreds, if not thousands, to call GCI’s headquarters and demand they end the lockout. Coinciding with this, we began running our own autonomous canvass in the streets of Seattle designed to build support for the union and get people to join in on the phone zap. This powerful collective action gave us a profound sense of what it means to work for ourselves on our own terms and in control of our own labor.

Picketing started that same day. On Thursday and Friday we held spirited informational pickets outside our locked office in Fremont. We drew attention around the neighborhood and the community. Our numbers swelled from 30 attendees the first day to over 50 on the second. Simultaneously, we received solidarity from around the country with pickets at GCI offices in Denver, Raleigh-Durham, Philadelphia, and at the HQ in Boston. Taking to the streets was both a means of catharsis and community building and, when placed in a national context, had the potential to put serious pressure on GCI’s business.

We continued to organize over the next few days. We fleshed out our plans for a direct action escalation campaign. Fortunately, those plans became unnecessary on Wednesday, June 20, when almost everyone in the office received a new set of phone calls from corporate: the office would reopen on Thursday. The lockout was over. We had won.

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Categories: IWW

Burgerville Workers Fight and Win Co-Worker’s Job Back

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 16:29

By Burgerville Workers Union - It's Going Down, July 12, 2018

Report from the Burgerville Workers Union of the IWW who recently fought and won the rehiring of a co-worker.

Meet Brookelynn, a longtime Burgerville worker at the Gladstone store and a strong union supporter. She worked at Burgerville for two years before leaving the job in December for family reasons. Brookelynn reapplied shortly afterwards, much to everyone’s excitement, and it’s even Burgerville policy to rehire workers who reapply within three months of quitting

Because of how strong a union supporter she is, however, Burgerville refused to rehire her, violating their own policy. The General Manager, Michael Dawson, hired at least ten other people while Brookelynn kept reapplying, discriminating against her over and over again for her union membership. Meanwhile, Burgerville has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on ads claiming to value their employees and that they do not intimidate or retaliate against workers for being part of the union.

After months of fighting, Brookelynn and the union finally won her job back! She returned to work today and everyone is thrilled. Furthermore, the National Labor Relations Board found merit in Brookelynn’s charges of anti-union discrimination, which means Burgerville will likely face legal consequences for their union busting activity.

We’re excited about the ongoing contract negotiations, but this just goes to show how important it is to keep fighting outside the bargaining room as well.

Welcome back, Brookelynn! When we fight, we win!

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Fundraiser to Support Members of IU650

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 16:16

We’ve received an incredible outpouring of solidarity during and since the end of out lockout. While we may be able to win back the lost two weeks of wages through court battles down the line, many of our workers may have trouble making rent and paying other vital bills this month with the short paychecks. Any support you can give will go a long way towards helping those folks out and making sure we can stand strong as we continue our campaign.

Click here to donate to IU650’s hardship fund, which will directly benefit our fellow workers who experience financial hardship as a result of GCI’s illegal and immoral lockout.

Statement from IU650

We are not the first canvassing shop to threaten to Unionize. We aren’t even the first canvassing shop to follow up on that threat with an NLRB election.

But in a canvassing shop when you go down that path you always hear the same threat. The Bosses will close down your shop. Thats illegal, so they whisper it, they tell it through innuendo, they imply it with stories about other offices that tried.

On June 11th IU 650 Seattle was informed that operations were suspended at the office. We were locked out in response to legally protected concerted action and they were, you know, basically closing the shop.

We launched into action. We took legal recourse. We reached out to our friends and supporters asking them to help with our call in campaign. We reminded Grassroots Campaigns that we work in the street. You can’t lock us out of the street. We organize for a living, they cannot expect us not to organize.

We picketed. Wobblies in multiple cities, from Seattle to Boston took direct action on picket lines. Our IU 650 friends in the Deep South stood up for us.

And people called. Eventually they heard us.

The Seattle office of Grassroots Campaigns reopened its doors on June 21st and the members of IU 650 have returned to work. The terms are still under negotiation, many workers have been forced to change campaigns and it has of course provided cover for yet another round of unilateral changes.

But that office is open.

If you are a canvasser. If you organize folks for a living and your boss tells you that you will be punished for organizing with your coworkers. If they subtly imply that canvassing shops get closed down for organizing.

Seattle says they can’t.

Thank you so much for all of your help.

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Categories: IWW