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The Teacher Strike in West Virginia: Interview with IWW Teacher Michael Mochaidean

By Radical Education Department - It's Going Down, March 12, 2018

The Radical Education Department talks with West Virginia wobbly Michael Mochaidean, who has also spoken with IGD several times, about the recent teachers’ strike.

West Virginia has been rocked by a statewide strike by teachers, bus drivers, and other school employees.  Today, March 2nd, the strike enters its seventh day.

Beginning on February 22nd, workers shut down public schools in all 55 of West Virginia’s counties, rejecting abysmal and declining teacher pay and the state’s attack on public employees’ health insurance.  The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), one of the unions helping to organize the strikers, reports the following worker demands:

  • A natural gas severance tax that creates a self-sustaining source of revenue for PEIA [Public Employees Insurance Agency] and public employee pay.

  • No regressive taxes, which ultimately affect working-class families more than the wealthy elite.

  • A permanent tabling to any and all legislation pertaining to co-tenancy and joint development, which allow large natural gas industries to engulf local landowners.

  • A pay raise of 5% per year over the next half decade.

  • A permanent tabling to any and all legislation pertaining to charter schools, voucher systems, and any attempts to privatize public schools.

On February 27th, Governor Justice announced an agreement with three of the major teacher unions in the state: a 5% pay increase for teachers as well as a 3% increase for state employees generally. Union officials and the governor alike pleaded for school employees to return to work, despite the fact that key demands remain unmet.

On March 1st, however–defying the governor and official union leaders–teachers refused to return to work, swarming the capitol and chanting “It’s not over.”

Meanwhile, that same day, even the modest pay raise was refused in the state legislature.

(Following) is an interview conducted via email between John Schultz of RED and Michael Mochaidean, a West Virginia teacher and member of the IWW.

West Virginia: Extend the Strike, Build Long Term Power

By West Virginia IWW members - It's Going Down, February 26, 2018 (includes a February 27 update, below)

What follows is a proposal for how to extend the strike unfolding in West Virginia. To hear our interview with a striking teacher, go here.

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Download and Print PDF Here

The statewide strike of teachers in West Virginia that started on February 22nd is a model for teachers and other working-class people across the US of how we can struggle together for what we need. It is a desperately needed example of mass working-class solidarity in a time when the rich are attempting to fracture us even more. It is also an important model of the kinds of strikes we can wage when we realize that the existing labor laws (the same ones that the rich are trying to destroy anyways) are traps designed by the rich to tie our arms behind our backs and hold us back.

Some teachers and supporters in West Virginia are organizing through the IWW to spread a revolutionary unionist perspective in the current strike, to expand the strike and strengthen the militant mood of the teachers, and to build for long-term organization that is not reliant on politicians or bureaucrats. They will begin by distributing a leaflet to encourage teachers and other members of the working class to extend and expand the current struggle, and they will be looking for openings to expand on that organizing.

You can support their organizing by donating here. Funds raised will be used to print agitational materials, to cover travel costs related to organizing, to rent spaces or cover child-care for meetings, and to cover other costs related to building a militant and organized presence among teachers and working-class people in West Virginia.

The text of the leaflet they will be distributing is below. We also welcome anyone in West Virginia, or any teachers anywhere, or anyone else, to download the PDF and distribute it in your workplaces, schools, churches, and neighborhoods.

The Power of Working Class Solidarity

What Do We Face?

Jim Justice and the Republican-dominated legislature seek to cut state funding to the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), increasing premiums over the next several years, and eliminating teacher seniority while opening up the possibility of charter schools to privatize public education in areas in most need of quality public servants. The goal for this legislature is to utterly decimate public sector labor, reap obscene profits through private charter school investments which lack accountability measures, and ultimately reduce the quality of education in the state.

We know that both Democrats and Republicans no longer have a need for a highly-educated workforce. Instead, they seek to create a system of obedient workers who can perform the menial tasks asked of them by their corporate masters without questioning the powers that be. Careers that provide meaningful employment with a steady wage and quality health care no longer exist for the many. They have been replaced, over the course of the past few decades, with a series of half-hearted promises by both parties. If we do not act NOW to halt this reactionary legislation, we will ultimately lose our future – our children’s future – to big business and the corporate-controlled parties.

In sum, we face the daunting challenge to confront elitism in our political party system and the legislation they seek to create. BUT, we cannot create a new destiny simply by voting out one party and replacing it with another. For substantive change to occur, we must FIRST organize around our common destiny as workers.

Ukraine: miners strike back against wage arrears

By Gabriel Levy - People and Nature, August 4, 2017

Miners in eastern Ukraine have responded to the build-up of wage arrears and steep inflation with strikes and underground protests.

At the Kapustin mine in Lugansk region, 54 miners staged an underground sit in, and forced from their employer, Lisichanskugol’, a promise to cough up wage arrears dating back two years in some cases.

The cash was promised for Wednesday (2 August). But when it came, it was 10% short of the total, and yesterday (3 August) miners again refused to start work.

Vladimir Ivanshin, head of the local Trade Union of Coal Industry Workers (the “official”, government-linked union) said that the 10% shortfall was a “breach of the first point of the agreement” made after the sit-in.

The dispute at Kapustin first erupted on 16 July. A group of face-workers and ancillary underground men refused to leave the pit. The action began “spontaneously” and without any trade union involvement, local media reported. Miners at the Novodruzheskaya pit, owned by the same company, came out in solidarity.

The sit-in at Kapustin lasted six days. All work stopped, except for water pumping and ventilation needed to keep the mine open. A representative of the occupation came up the pit to join talks with the employers and the energy ministry in Kyiv.

NUMSA fully backs Coal sector strike

By Castro Ngobese - NUMSA, October 5, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), on behalf of its 365 000 members, pledges its unwavering support and unflinching solidarity with the striking coal workers, as led by two class orientated and anti-capitalist workers formations, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

We call on workers to unite behind their legitimate and genuine demands, irrespective of their union’s logos or t-shirt colours. Furthermore, we call on the striking workers to use this strike to agitate and propagate for coal as a strategic mineral resource to be nationalized, in order to build the required and necessary capacity for the democratic State to supply cheaper electricity to Eskom and the national grid.

The strike is happening amidst the socio-economic burden faced by workers of taking care of the vast number of the unemployed, especially amongst the youth and women, who are ravaged by squalor and poverty in working class communities, informal settlements and rural slums, post the 1994 failed negotiated political settlement. The workers are demanding a fair share of the surplus in the absent of a legislated Minimum Wage, as a stated key socio-economic demand of the Freedom Charter.

The ongoing strike should consolidate working class power from below to challenge the colonial and racist economic dominance and wealth concentration in the hands of a tiny minority. This is against the super remuneration packages and benefits enjoyed mining’s Chief Executives, whilst ordinary workers are paid Apartheid poverty wages. The demands by the unions on behalf of their members will elevate the socio-economic living standard of workers, including a life of dignity.

We call on the workers not to soften their demands when Executives, Shareholders’ salaries, bonuses and perks remain obscene, whilst workers who are producers of wealth are squeezed deeper into abject poverty and economic misery.

Numsa calls on the coal mining oligarchy to concede to the reasonable and affordable demands of workers. In line with workers’ battle slogan: “an injury to one; and injury to all”, Numsa calls on its members and communities to join the picket’s line in solidarity with the striking workers. Through solidarity actions we shall diminish the fictitious wall erected between community struggles and struggles on the shopfloor.

Greenpeace Workers Strike Amid Claims of Exploitation

By Cyrus Ward - Young Progressive Voices, August 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Workers at two California Greenpeace offices have gone on strike amid concerns over an unjust quota system that creates a zero-sum, high pressure environment which puts canvassers in risk of being fired, every 3 weeks.

According to a press release sent by a new organization named “Greenpeace on Strike,” many the environmental organization’s canvassers with over 1 year experience regularly raise nearly 6 to 7 times as much money as they are paid. Despite the significant payday for Greenpeace, the organization uses a quota system that doesn’t take into account the lifetime fundraising totals of canvassers. The system runs on a 3 week quota that means that canvassers can be fired for short-time lull in fundraising even if the canvassers’ lifetime totals are still above the 3 week average.

In response to the strike, 16 of the Greenpeace workers in San Diego were delivered with letters of intent to terminate by Greenpeace under a claim of job abandonment. Greenpeace On Strike’s press release claims that these letters are a direct violation of section 7 & 8 of the National Labor Relations Act.

Despite the threatening response by Greenpeace, one of the striking canvassers said “by no means are we doing this to bash Greenpeace. We love Greenpeace, and we are Rainbow Warriors. That’s why we want to make Greenpeace better.”

Regardless of the outcome, it is abundantly clear that despite its leftist political ideology, Greenpeace’s workplace is far from democratic.

Argentine police break up bus drivers’ protest action

Reposted by Karetelnik - Libcom.Org, July 31, 2015; original in Spanish at Notas

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Bus drivers of the #60 line of Buenos Aires, which includes 10 popular bus routes, carried out a protest action on July 27 2015, disrupting traffic on a number of arterial roads. Helping the drivers to block roads were workers acting in solidarity, including activists of the FORA (Argentine section of the IWA-AIT). The picket on the Pan-American Highway at the intersection of Highway #197 was brutally dispersed by the National Police, injuring at least 18 people.

Workers of the #60 bus line have been fighting for more than a month with the company owner. They had previously announced that they were going to block the La Noria Bridge and the Pan-American Highway at General Pacheco (a city in Buenos Aires province). The first picket was held without major incidents, but the second, in the northern part of the capital region, was met with repression by the police.

The forces of “order” attacked the protesters around 7:20 a.m., and the drivers answered with a hail of rocks. Three workers were arrested. At least 18 people were injured, including journalists.

Around 10:00 a.m., the scene was repeated at the La Noria Bridge. The police used tear gas and rubber bullets, while the workers defended themselves with whatever they could get their hands on.

One of the workers’ delegates, Santiago Menconi, explained that the protest was held because “currently there is no dialogue” with the company and the Ministry of Labour. “Fifty-three comrades are still fired.” He demanded a signed agreement on working conditions and the rights of workers’ delegates, and also payment to the workers for all idle time since the beginning of the conflict.

The protesters blamed the clashes on the police and demanded the immediate release of three persons who were arrested.

The conflict began on June 25 2015, when the drivers, as a sign of protest, stopped collecting fares from the 250,000 passengers who use the #60 line everyday. They demanded the re-instatement of Ariel Alejandro Benítez, fired the day before without any explanation.

EcoUnionist News #59

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

Bread and Roses:

EcoUnionist News #55

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 7, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

EcoUnionist News #50

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

1267-Watch:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

A Houston Wobbly’s Reflection on the USW Strike

By Adelita - Unity and Struggle, May 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Unions’ power is in decay and lately have been resorting to more creative methods in order to remain relevant. We’ve seen the Democrats putting their money behind the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight For $15 in Houston at the same time attempting to “turn Texas blue.” But this dependency of unions like SEIU and the United Steel Workers (USW) on the Democratic Party means they are severely limited in what they are willing to do in the realm of tactics. This along with union density being sharply in decline, as well as union power being undermined by Right-to-Work spreading to states like Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, means the unions are not up for waging anything close to a class struggle. Instead unions like the USW maintain their position as representing only certain interests and timidly bargaining around them.

Texas, like other Right-to-Work states, has a working class that is almost entirely disconnected with their own fighting traditions. There is no real culture of workers resistance, union or not, nor is there any historical memory of fighting strikes. However, recently in Houston we have seen a few significant developments unfolding in labor starting with the immigrant rights movement and detention center hunger and labor strikes, the Maximus Coffee strike and lockout at the end of 2013, the ongoing Fight For $15 “movement” and its semi-annual spectacles, and the most recent and equally significant, the USW refinery strikes. These developments are very exciting for Houston not simply because of the lack of historical memory of struggle to draw from, but also due to the high density of industry in Houston which is unlike most of the country.  This makes Houston a critical choke point for US capital and thus pivotal for workers struggle nationally.

Houston’s remarkably large industrial sector provides a lot of semi-skilled labor opportunities and has been instrumental in Houston’s ability to float the crisis better than most of the country. This and the extremely low levels of reproduction of the class, especially of black and immigrant people who make up the unskilled, low-wage, and casualized sectors of the economy. This leaves refinery work to be primarily composed of white and US-born Latino workers.

When the USW strike started it was the first strike the refineries and their workers saw in 30 years. Yet the USW was unable to carry out a successful strike nationally or locally. This is due to union decline mentioned above, but also because one-third of the oil industry is unorganized (many of which are contract workers). Also, the relationship between the USW and the Obama administration impacted the overall strategy of the strike. Only 5,000 workers were pulled out, a mere ten percent of all union workers, while local union leaders claimed this was part of their strategy. Overall this affected only about 20% of production which is pretty insignificant and we realized quickly that most workers had little to no information about the strike or negotiations. Locally the USW’s timidness looked like a handful of workers carrying signs at each gate while being unable to block scabs from crossing, or from even standing or parking on company property. The international didn’t even use their massive treasury to support their striking members.  It was clear that the USW was not in a position to be able to wage a political struggle against oil because they are beholden to the ruling party.

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