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AMCU Statement on the Breakdown of Possible Wage Settlement in the Platinum Industry

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union press release, April 25, 2014

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.

It is with dismay that our latest proposal at reaching a settlement was arrogantly rebuffed by the platinum cartel of Angloplats, Impala and Lonmin.

We made several different proposals based on increases to the basic pay of the lowest paid workers. These proposals looked at ways of addressing the affordability concerns of the employers within the mandate of our members. In spite of all our efforts we were faced with complete intransigence and games of smoke and mirrors.

The employers refused to provide information on the cost of these different proposals. When Angloplats eventually presented us with their calculation today after 13 weeks of the strike, it was found to be exaggerated by between R300 and R500 million. Their unaffordability argument collapsed when they were forced to acknowledge their false claim. Even the government officials observing the negotiations were left bewildered by their methods.

AMCU will address mass meetings of its members exposing the behaviour of the employers. We were extremely livid at these underhand methods. It is difficult to predict how our members will react and what mandate they will give us faced with this
situation.

The lack of seriousness with which the Cartel is approaching the negotiations was evidenced by the failure of most CEOs and CFOs to attend. We are left with the strong impression that there is a hidden agenda at play. This too will be discussed with our members and we will work out a joint strategy to break their intransigence and arrogance. This will include solidarity actions and efforts with our brothers and sisters all over the world where these companies operate and market their metals. The employers must know that we will not be diverted from our just struggle for a decent life for our members and for all mineworkers in our country. Nevertheless, we as a responsible union remain optimistic that we will find a solution to this impasse.

15 Now Conference Report

By John Reimann - Oakland Socialist, April 30, 2014

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.

On Saturday, April 26, some 400 activists and socialists gathered in Seattle to participate in the national "15 Now" conference. They came primarily from Seattle, but also from all over the country, including from as far away as Mobile, Alabama.

Mood

The conference and Socialist Alternative’s 15 Now campaign should be considered in its context. For decades now, there has been a general mood of resignation within the US working class – a feeling that nothing can be done to reverse the general course of things. This ranges from the most obvious issue of income levels and economic security to other issues like poisoning of the environment. In 2012, one of the first warning signs of a new movement sprang to life in the form of the Occupy movement. According to one person I talked with here (who is not a member of any socialist group), Socialist Alternative was really the only socialist group that was very present in Occupy Seattle and consistently sided with the left wing of that movement. Most prominent of the Socialist Alternative members in Occupy was Kshama Sawant, and that played an important role in Socialist Alternative and Sawant winning a base among the radicalized youth.

It is also clear that Sawant’s election victory has helped the consciousness here in Seattle. For instance, I was in a coffee shop here and got to talking with a young mother sitting next to me. This was a pretty middle class woman, but she was definitely aware of Sawant (she liked her “passion”) as well as the issue of the fifteen dollar minimum wage. She had some doubts about it, but those doubts were easily put to rest. Although Socialist Alternative had been hoping for up to 1000 at the fifteen now conference, even 400 is not a bad outcome and would not have been possible had Sawant not won the election. (Probably close to 200 were Socialist Alternative members.)

Involving Low Wage Workers

However, the conference also showed that the campaign has not really made any major headway in breaking into exactly that sector who most need a $15 per hour minimum wage – single working parents, black and Latino youth, etc. From the outside, it is impossible to know for sure if this is because of the orientation of Socialist Alternative or because it is exactly these layers who feel the most depressed and abandoned. Whatever the reason, it must be admitted that the orientation and strategy of Socialist Alternative – who run “15 Now” – does not help.

An Interview With Staughton Lynd About the Labor Movement

By Andy Piascik - ZComm.net, April 30, 2014

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.

For more than 50 years, Staughton Lynd has been a leading radical in the United States. He was an engaged supporter of the Black Liberation Movement in the Deep South in the early 1960’s, most notably as coordinator of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi Summer in 1964. He was an active opponent of US aggression in Indochina, including as chairperson of the first national demonstration against the war in Vietnam in April 1965.[1] In recent decades, Lynd has been an attorney representing prisoners, particularly at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, and has written a book, a play and numerous articles about the 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.[2]

Since the late 1960’s, Lynd has also been deeply involved in the labor movement as an activist, attorney and prolific writer.[3] Inspired by Marty Glaberman, Stan Weir and Ed Mann,[4] Lynd has been a passionate and prolific proponent of decentralized, rank-and-file driven unionism. In November 2014, Haymarket Books will publish a book by Lynd entitled Doing History from the Bottom Up: On E.P. Thompson, Howard Zinn, and Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below and a new edition of his book Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below with an introduction by radical labor scholar and activist Immanuel Ness will be published by PM Press in Spring 2015.

Piascik: What is your general view of the state of organized labor in the United States today?

Lynd: My general view, like that of everyone else, is that the labor movement is in catastrophic decline. My particular view is that the reason for this decline is not the Supreme Court, or the McCarthy period, or anything that might be remedied by changing the top leadership of unions, but the model of trade union organizing that has existed in all CIO unions since 1935. The critical elements of this model are: 1) Exclusive representation of a bargaining unit by a single union; 2) The dues check-off, whereby the employer deducts dues for the union from the paycheck of every member of the bargaining unit; 3) A clause prohibiting strikes and slowdowns for the duration of the contract; 4) A “management prerogatives” clause giving the employer the right to make investment decisions unilaterally.

In combination these clauses in the typical CIO contract give the employer the right to close the plant and prevent the workers from doing anything about it. So long as collective bargaining agreements conform to this template, the election of a Miller, a Sadlowski, a Carey, a Sweeney, or a Trumka will not bring about fundamental change.

Piascik: You have written extensively about the working class upheaval of the 1930’s, both the early years of the decade and the formation of the CIO.[5] How and why was the CIO consolidated as a top-down organization?

Lynd: It tends to be forgotten that the CIO was created by John L. Lewis. There is now a significant body of scholarship to the effect that 1) Lewis centralized the administration of the UMW so as to minimize the traditional influence of local unions and ran the national union in an altogether high-handed manner; 2) Lewis went out of his way to assure the business community that if they bargained with the CIO such phenomena as wildcat strikes would become a thing of the past; 3) many liberals and radicals such as Roger Baldwin of the ACLU opposed the Wagner Act, believing correctly that the result would be exactly what has occurred and that alternatives such as the Progressive Miners in southern Illinois would be steamrollered; 4) contrary to popular belief, the revival of unionism among miners began from below before the passage of the National Recovery Act with its Section 7 during the Spring of 1933 and the long-lasting miners’ strike the following summer was created and persisted in by rank-and-file miners despite endless attempts by Lewis and his lieutenant Philip Murray to settle it from above.

Piascik: You consistently underscore the importance of local initiatives. What do such initiatives look like in practice and why might they be more fruitful than national reform campaigns?

Lynd: At first glance any imaginable agglomeration of local groups appears helpless in contrast to gigantic international corporations. Indeed, in my early struggles with this dilemma, I highlighted the absence in the steel industry in the 1930s of effective coordination between new local unions improvised by the rank and file in a variety of locations.

The same problem presents itself today as low-wage workers in a variety of communities are simultaneously assisted, but also managed by, existing national unions like the UFCW and SEIU. For the moment, the unions say they only want to help these workers win specific demands through direct action. Down the road, however, these same unions may seek to make local direct actions serve as stepping stones to their familiar objective: exclusive bargaining status, complete with dues check-off and no-strike clause.

Arriving at May Day: Lockdowns, Throwdowns, and Direct Action

By the Earth First! Journal Staff - Earth First! Journal, May 1, 2014

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.

When the Global Climate Convergence announced the Earth Day to May Day series of events and actions, it revealed a gap between daily reality and Hallmark posturing. More than 100 actions—such as the occupation of the DEQ in Portland, Oregon, by Rising Tide—have taken place in dozens of cities as part of the Climate Convergence.

Over the last few days, IWW fellow workers in California have protested the Koch Bros PetCoke Facility in Pittsburg, the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, and Crude by Rail at the Union Pacific’s Ozal Train Yard in Martinez.

One Wob organizer named Elliot Hughes U-locked himself to the gate of the Koch Brothers facility to halt business as usual. “Our goal is the liberation of the people on the planet that is our home. With the increasing amount of industrial disasters, we cannot wait any longer because the health and safety of all workers of the world is on the line.”

EF! shares numerous crucial membranes with the IWW and the labor movement, dating back to Judi Bari’s founding of the IWW timber workers local #1 in Northern California in the late 1980s. The goal of uniting loggers against Maxxam’s junk bond dealing, land grabbing, and clear cutting was to restore timber lands to the public interest. While some hardcore EF!ers were repulsed by the notion of chatting up loggers, let alone working to move timber lands into the hands of communities that would take part in “sustainable logging,” most agreed that the terms were vastly superior to clear cutting old growth.

Indeed, growth from the Redwood Summer movement at the turn of the 1990s fed the entire radical movement, developing critical understandings that would be cultivated and emerge in Seattle 1999 and again during Occupy. According to stories passed down to us over the years, activists being shot at in Northern California’s redwood forest by the same loggers they were trying to organize later on that night in the barroom would, ten years down the line, take part in the free states of Cascadia, and the No Borders Camp of the Sonoran desert five years later.

In the words of Buenaventura Durutti, “The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.” The inter-generational movement of Earth First! grows in the interstices of stories and ideologies, yet we often lag behind when it comes to social analysis.

Why Passengers Cheered a Vermont Bus Strike

By Ellen David Friedman - Labor Notes, April 22, 2014

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.

An 18-day bus drivers’ strike in Burlington, Vermont, ended in a win April 3 when drivers ratified a new contract 53-6.

Strikes are rare these days, and fewer still result in victories—so why was this one different? What generated public support for the strike, despite management’s aggressive plan to blame drivers for the loss of bus service for nearly three weeks?

This strike succeeded through a powerful combination of workers organizing on the job and organized community solidarity, the roots of which go back to at least 2009.

Get Intersectional! (Or, Why Your Movement Can't Go It Alone)

By Kristin Moe - Yes Magazine, April 4, 2014

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.

"Intersectionality" has evolved from a theory of how oppression works to a notion of how people can fight it.

"There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives." –Audre Lorde

Here’s the scenario: This year’s epic drought devastates agriculture in California. Water use is rationed, so the cost of grain goes up, and, because cattle eat grain, the cost of beef goes up too. To cut expenses, the owners of a fast food restaurant cut a worker's wages and benefits by a couple bucks an hour. Next month he won’t be able to send money to his wife and kids back in Mexico, where the same drought is also decimating farms—and may be contributing to even more northward migration.

What’s the origin of the restaurant worker’s predicament?

Is it climate change, which makes droughts more severe and more likely to persist? Is it the labor policies that allowed the worker's wages to be cut? Or is it that NAFTA has flooded the Mexican market with cheap, U.S.-grown corn since 1996, forcing him to leave his family’s farm and migrate to California in the first place?

The likely answer is that it’s a little bit of everything. “People don’t have one dimensional identities as human beings,” says Brooke Anderson—a Labor Fellow at the Oakland-based nonprofit, the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project—and the issues that affect them aren’t one-dimensional, either.

There’s a word for this kind of thinking: "intersectionality." And while the word has been around for more than 25 years, it’s being used more and more frequently all over in social justice movements today, from climate to reproductive rights to immigration. It’s a way of thinking holistically about how different forms of oppression interact in people’s lives. More recently, it's also led to a more collaborative form of organizing that reflects that, rather than taking on one issue at a time.

Our Plan for May Day — All out to fight for the working class!

Statement by United Rank and File in San Francisco - April 30, 2014

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.

On International Workers’ Day, Thursday, May 1 (yes in two days) join us as we take our fight to “Smash the 2 Gate System” directly to those who profit from it.

If it is at all possible for you to be there at 5am, please do! We will need numbers in the beginning for the action to last and be successful.

If you cannot be there at 5am, get there as early as you can. Use this rough schedule to find us, and follow @UnitedRnF on Twitter to get updates. Obviously, some of this may require adjustment due to circumstances that morning but generally you should be able to meet up with us along the way.

Here is the plan:

5am – Meet at 16th and Mission

We will have United Rank and File T-Shirts and picket signs for folks, donations accepted but not required. Otherwise, wear work attire but comfortable walking shoes. Please, do not wear construction union specific (shirts/hats with bugs, etc.) apparel so as not to give the implication that this was organized by any construction union officialdom but by rank and file workers ourselves.

5:30am – March to 2 Gate Jobs

If you are not able to make there before we leave 16th and Mission, walk to Market and Guerrero. Cross Market onto Laguna. Walk a few blocks up Guerrero. Turn right, walk one block to Octavia. Walk back toward Market on Octavia. If you walk this route, you should see and/or hear us someplace nearby. There are a handful of 2 Gate jobs in that area and we will be at one or more of them.

6am – Set up pickets at 2 gate job(s)

We will have a flag at each location that we need to be at. We plan to have well organized pickets. Please know that we have a process for making decisions at this action should we need to adjust our actions. We will stay at any given location until an outcome has been determined.

10:40am – March to the War Memorial Performing Arts Center

201 Van Ness Ave. The Herbst building is currently undergoing a complete remodel. They are using the 2Gate System. A nonunion subcontractor is doing around 10 million dollars in work. This is unheard of in downtown San Francisco.

11am – Rally at the War Memorial Performing Arts Center

We will have a short speakout against the 2Gate System and building a sustained and united fight for the working class.

11:30 – March to City Hall to meet up with the Building Trades Council’s rally.

END – After this there are other rallies in the Bay Area that people should consider attending. If you are hosting or know of one, please comment with the information. 

As construction workers, are directly affected by the 2Gate system and so we strive to collectively lead this effort as organized rank and file workers. This is one part a larger struggle that affects all working people and for that reason we call on all members of the working class to come out and join us.

We also realize that solidarity goes both ways. Members of United Rank and File have gone to many other actions in solidarity and plan to continue in the future as an organization.

At this action, we ask that everyone comes in true solidarity. We ask that you be as militant as we are. We are respectful of everyone’s choice to protest in the ways that they feel are necessary at times but we ask that everyone coming to this action help make it a success in the using the tactics and strategies that we have worked very hard to organize.

We look forward to building United Rank and File and class solidarity with everyone!

See you on May Day!

Call to Action – May 1, International Workers Day

Statement by United Rank and File in San Francisco - April 2014

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.

United Rank & File Construction Workers Take A Stand on May Day

Join us as we return to a proud history of direct action to fight to protect our own livelihoods, to raise up and organize all workers and against laws that restrict us. 

On May 1, International Workers Day, we will be gathering at 16th and Mission at 5am to protest the 2 Gate System. This is a system that contractors and developers have created in order to impose the restrictive, discriminatory and repressive anti-worker laws of the Taft-Hartley act on construction unions.

San Francisco appears, on the surface, to be recovering from the economic disasters of recent years. There are cranes all over town and buildings are popping up everywhere. The people building these buildings are unable to afford the luxuries that many supposedly offer. We are also growing further and further from the chance of ever living a reasonable distance from the city in which we work. Most of us have long been unable to afford to live within the limits of the city we built. We see new wealth coming into SF all the time and yet we have gotten modest or no raises.

Many of us are lucky to have collective bargaining. We look forward to contracts coming up during this building boom. It seems the time has finally come for us to get the raises that we have lacked in the last few years while the cost of living has skyrocketed. We are looking forward to the opportunity to dig out of the financial holes we are in after years of unemployment, losing insurance for our families, losing houses and having to raid our retirement accounts to make ends meet. Now, contractors and developers need us badly and will have to give us a decent raise next contract, right? Maybe not…

Historically in San Francisco a vast majority of building has been done by workers who together, through their unions, bargain with all of their employers for a fair and equal wage rate for all of the labor done by their craft. This is still the case but we see other employers winning work contracts in SF at an alarming rate. Building has increased suddenly in San Francisco but it has disproportionately increased for the non-signatory contractors. There is an unprecedented amount of building being done by contractors who do not agree to the standards of pay and conditions that workers have fought for.

This gives signatory employers (those who employ workers under collective agreements) a powerful bargaining chip as we go into negotiations during this boom. They will argue that they need to stay competitive or the “union contractors” (and therefore workers) will all lose jobs. “Staying competitive” they argue, means that they cannot give raises, may even need some back, in order to compete. Suddenly, the snowball that has killed all the reasonably livable jobs across the country is being rolled around in San Francisco, the last bastion of hope for a decent living for those of us with blue collars.

The Brief Origins of May Day

By Eric Chase - Published on IWW.ORG, written ca.1993.

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers' Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don't realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as "American" as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860's, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers' lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were "taken over" by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

Green Unionism Strategy and Tactics - Railroad Workers and Crude by Rail Trains

By x344543, x356039, and x363464 - April 29, 2014

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. This is not an official statement of either Forest Ethics or Railroad Workers United, and neither organization has vetted this article.

As many of you may be aware, there has been a growing uproar against crude-by-rail, which is one of the major components of the current fossil fuel capitalist driven extreme energy boom. This is due in large part to the fact that there were more derailments involving crude-by-rail trains in 2013 alone than the previous four decades combined. In some cases, like Lac Megantic, whole towns have been nearly wiped off of the map.

This is particularly true in the San Francisco Bay Area where residents in five different communities dominated by oil refineries are organizing to prevent increased transportation of crude-by-rail into their homes. The organizers have built coalitions with local environmental and social justice groups as well as called upon the support of environmental NGOs. Their efforts have included speaking out at public forums, attending public hearings, watch-dogging the regulatory process (such as it is), participation in in electoral campaigns, producing alternative media, rallies, marches, and even nonviolent civil disobedience.

These community activists have even cultivated relationships with rank and file workers employed by the refineries--at least those not buying the company line. Still, there's another group of workers that these coalitions could approach, and that is the railroad workers themselves, but how to do it?

Many of our fellow workers who are union railroad workers are quick to point out that in spite of all of the recent derailments, rail is nevertheless the safest mode of transportation of crude, even the heavy and dirty crude resulting from the extreme energy extraction of tar sands and shale, relative to all of the others. This, of course, is a matter of degrees.

Transportation of heavy crude by any means is a risky business. In addition to derailments, there have been oil spills by ship and pipeline breakages. As the folks at Forest Ethics have pointed out, there is really no completely safe way to transport this stuff.

And the railroad workers to which we have spoken have hinted that they're entirely supportive of the efforts to transition away from fossil fuels to greener, non-polluting alternatives. It's just that of all of the cargoes they transport, crude-by-rail is but one of many dangerous examples.

So, can there be any common ground between the community organizers and railroad workers? The answer is, "yes" (according to those very same railroad workers).

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