Posts tagged Industrial Workers of the World

Shameless Self-promotion All-Hallows Day

Happy Day of the Dead, y’all.

As you may know, I’ve out and about doing Food Not Bombs work; I’ve also been working to help put together this year’s Living Without Borders, which is coming up just this weekend. If you’ve been considering coming, you may be interested to know that a list of confirmed workshops is now available online, including my own workshop — No Borders, No State: Anarchism, Immigration Freedom, and the Interconnection of Struggles — as well as Susie Demisse’s workshop on prison abolition, Joanna Núñez’s workshop on the criminalization of immigrants, and a workshop by FW Paul Lenart (of the Reno IWW) on internationalism, radical unions, and labor solidarity across borders. Interested? Register to let us know you’re coming. Come on down. And spread the word!

And y’all? What have you been up to this week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

Gnu’s to me

One of the nice things about my recent journey to Alabama is that I got the chance, along the way, to hang out with my folks in Auburn for a couple days, and, before I left, also managed to drop in at my second favorite used bookstore in the world, The Gnu’s Room. (Now both a used bookstore and a café, apparently; also now enjoying the patronage of the Auburn University Philosophy Department.) Here’s what I scored while I was there; I found all but two of these books sitting together in one stack, apparently recent arrivals. The other two came from the Philosophy shelf. And none of them cost me more than $4.00.

  • Raymond J. McCall (1952/1961), Basic Logic: The Fundamental Principles of Formal Deductive Reasoning, 2nd edition (Barnes & Noble, Inc.). A peculiar and (judging from the Preface) delightfully cranky textbook in logic. The peculiarity comes from the crankiness: McCall is a Catholic Aristotelian who spends the preface railing against the Wolffian perversion of the modern mathematicized logic (which he believes is due to a confusion of material logic and formal logic). He then devotes the entire textbook to a hardcore course in the categorical syllogism with some closing material on the theory of judgment.

  • Mary Hartman and Lois W. Banner (eds.) (1974), Clio’s Consciousness Raised: New Perspectives on the History of Women. An anthology with a great title and a pretty good spread of topics from Feminist Studies Inc., published by Harper & Row. The modal topic is, as usual, women in Victorian America and Victorian England, but several other things get covered too.

  • Evelyn Reed (1969/1970), Problems of the Women’s Liberation Movement: A Marxist Approach. From Pathfinder.

  • Hugh Hawkins (ed.) (1970), The Emerging University and Industrial America. A short anthology of essays — some from participants like Josiah Royce, others from historians looking back — from D.C. Heath’s Problems in American Civilization series.

  • Bertrand Russell (1926), Education and the Good Life. A paperback edition from Avon Books, which looks to be a printing from the early 1960s or so, but I can’t find the date of the reprint.

  • E. David Cronon (ed.) (1963/1969), Labor and the New Deal. A documents reader from the Berkeley Series in American History.

  • Albert A. Blum (1963/1972). A History of the American Labor Movement. An alleged survey of American labor history, published as American Historical Association pamphlets #250, which I read on the plane back from Alabama. It’s actually just a recitation of the AFL-CIO party line on the triumph of state unionism, the wisdom of George Meaney and Walter Reuther, and the glory of the NLRB; any mention of the labor radicals (land-redistributionists, money reformers, the IWW) is only to summarily push them aside in a few opening paragraphs about their utopianism, foolishness, or failure. Blum, remarkably, manages to discuss the big drop-off in unionism from 1919-1929 without even once mentioning either the Palmer Raids or the Red Scare more broadly.

Direct action gets the goods

(Via William Gillis 2009-04-22.)

I’ve never given much of a damn about how many NLRB rulings the Wobbly baristas at Starbucks might be able to win; or about conventional labor politics like the debate among labor bosses and corporate bosses over card-check procedures for NLRB recognition. The reason I haven’t given much of a damn is that those sorts of things aren’t worth it. The NLRB is a rigged game, and a tool of the corporate State; it uses superficial privileges, illusory benefits, and the most rigid sort of regimentation to domesticate the labor movement, and to bury any potential for dynamism or for radical socio-economic change under red tape, paperwork, and politically-controlled rules of engagement. That sort of thing it is, increasingly, demonstrably ineffective; it’s also authoritarian, and ultimately founded on coercion. But, also, that shit is just boring. Why waste your damns on that sort of thing, when there are things like this to give a damn about — solidarity expressed through free market action, and fight-to-win unionism carried out through free association on the shopfloor, without the permission of bosses or bureaucrats:

WORKER DISCONTENT over Starbucks’ pay and conditions set the stage for organizing. In May 2004, workers at a midtown Manhattan Starbucks launched the SWU.

From the beginning, the company went all out to bust the union. We wanted to negotiate with Starbucks over our serious concerns, [Starbucks Workers’ Union organizer Erik] Forman recalled. But rather than sit down at a table with us, the bosses began writing checks to the union-busting consultants of Akin Gump and the PR flacks at Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm. They contracted Edelman to craft a facade of social responsibility.

At first, workers filed for a NLRB election to vote on union recognition. Starbucks responded by using its political clout to gerrymander the bargaining unit from one pro-union store to every store in midtown and downtown Manhattan, Foreman said.

The workers realized they couldn’t win, so they tried a different tack. Unable to go the traditional route to unionization via an NLRB election, they drew on more radical traditions–fighting back around wages, benefits and working conditions and recruiting baristas to the union without official NLRB recognition. As Forman says:

We’ve decided to go back to the basics of the labor movement. Workers organized unions before 1935, before we had a right to organize…In developing an organizing model that works in the service industry, we’ve gone back to the roots of unionism, opting for a strategy that puts direct action at the center. We’ve been able to spread because we’ve done something that business unions would consider unthinkable–we’ve put our organization entirely in the hands of rank-and-file baristas.

Forman said that the SWU emphasizes what it calls solidarity unionism–that is, the idea that workers are most powerful where the bosses need us most: on the shop floor. Our power as workers comes from our ability to withhold our labor, or interfere with the production process in other ways.

At the Mall of America last summer, workers confronted management about unbearable temperatures in the store. As Forman described it:

We had been complaining about how hot it was for years, but management refused to buy a fan or install air conditioning because it was too expensive. At the same time, our store was pulling in $30,000 a week.

One morning, four of my coworkers walked into the back room of our store and gave the boss an ultimatum: Will you buy the store a fan? Yes or no? He stalled….so my four coworkers walked off the job, got in a car and drove to Target, leaving the boss to cover the floor. He was livid.

About 20 minutes later, my coworkers walked back in with a $14 box fan. They plugged it in, wrote Courtesy of the IWW, drew a small black Sabotage cat [the IWW logo] on it, and enjoyed the breeze.

This left management with a choice. They could either remove the fan, in which case they would look like jerks. Or they could leave it there, as a monument to their own negligence.

To their credit, they did the right thing. Two days later, the district manager arrived with a $150 industrial floor fan. Two weeks later, they began installing air conditioning. This is the power of direct action. One week, $40 is too much to spend to bring the temperature in the store to within OSHA standards. The next week, management is spending $10,000 to keep the workers happy.

— Adam Turl, SocialistWorker.org (2009-04-17): Standing up to Starbucks

Direct action gets the goods.

Southern Nevada ALLy Kelly Patterson speaks TOMORROW (Wed. 2/4) at Las Vegas Anarchist Cafe: “We Need The Wobblies Now More Than Ever! A Brief History of the Industrial Workers of the World.”

The Vegas Anarchist Cafe is a meet-up for networking, building community, and doing some outreach for anarchists in Las Vegas, which Southern Nevada ALL has been organizing together with unaffiliated local anarchists for the past several months. The main idea is just to give anarchists, anti-statists, and anarchy-curious fellow travelers a place to meet up and talk in an informal setting at a local coffee-house. There isn’t a fixed business agenda; the idea is to give people a place to find each other. Once they’ve found each other, A-Cafe can serve as a springboard for the independent projects that they may want to start.

After some discussions with regular A-Cafers, we’ve decided to start putting on a series of talks, presentations, skill-shares and open mics — tentatively titled the Free Speech Soapbox Series. Last week I gave the first Soapbox talk — an introductory talk on Anarchistic ideas, called What Is Anarchism?. Turn-out was good, and the discussion was lively. (For those of you wondering about the audio recording — I haven’t yet had the chance to check whether it came out audibly or not. News on that soon.)

This week — specifically, TOMORROW, Wednesday 4 February 2009, fellow Southern Nevada ALLy Kelly Patterson will be giving a talk on labor radicalism, wildcat unionism, and the Industrial Workers of the World, called We Need the Wobblies Now More Than Ever! A Brief History of the Industrial Workers of the World!

This week at the Anarchist Cafe:

We Need the Wobblies Now More Than Ever! A Brief History of the Industrial Workers of the World.Kelly Patterson — Wed., January 28 6:30pm — 7:30pm — Local artist, activist, and fellow worker Kelly Patterson will will give a presentation entitled We Need the Wobblies Now More Than Ever! A Brief History of the Industrial Workers of the World. The I.W.W. is a radical, anti-statist industrial labor union, which organized hundreds of thousands of workers and became one of the most powerful unions in America early in the 20th century — until the United States government targeted it for destruction. In this age of bail-outs, the government and the bosses have proven themselves incapable of delivering the prosperity that they promised; workers need a fighting union now more than ever. Kelly’s talk will look at both the I.W.W.’s storied history, and at signs of hope for a Wobbly resurgence in the early 21st century.

This week’s presentation is the second in the Free Speech Soapbox Series, a series of presentations, speeches, programming, and free speech open mics for the middle 60 minutes of the weekly A-Cafe (6:30–7:30pm). When we have a Soapbox, the first 30 minutes and the final 30 minutes are devoted to the usual informal meet-up format; the 60 minutes in between offer information, entertainment, programming, or a chance for A-Cafers to talk about issues that they care about or projects they are working on. The schedule of Soapboxes is available online. If there is something you’d be interested in talking about at the A-Cafe, contact us to set up for an available time slot.

–from the Vegas Anarchist Cafe website

The Anarchist Cafe meeting will begin at 6:00 PM. Kelly’s talk will begin at 6:30 PM (and should run about an hour or so, including time at the end for Q&A). During the time before and after the talk, A-Cafers are encouraged to check out material from local organizations on our table space, to meet each other, and to chat.

Here are the details on the event:

  • WHAT: Talk by Kelly Patterson of Southern Nevada ALL on the history of the Industrial Workers of the World, and why we need a radical, anti-state industrial union now more than ever
  • WHEN: Wednesday, 4 February 2009, 6:30 PM.
  • WHERE: Weekly Anarchist Cafe @ The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Running Rebel Plaza (across the street from UNLV). 4550 S. Maryland Parkway; we’ll be in the meeting room off to the left of the entrance.

If you’re in the Vegas area (or even if you’re not), it’d be great to see you there. If you know anyone around abouts who might be interested in a talk about Anarchism or radical labor organizing, then please do forward the announcement on to them.

More to come soon; watch this space.

See also:

Rad Geek Speaks: a talk on Anarchism and its ideas TOMORROW, at the Las Vegas Anarchist Cafe. Las Vegas, 28 January 2009, 6:30pm

The Vegas Anarchist Cafe is a meet-up for networking, building community, and doing some outreach for anarchists in Las Vegas, which Southern Nevada ALL has been organizing together with unaffiliated local anarchists for the past several months. The main idea is just to give anarchists, anti-statists, and anarchy-curious fellow travelers a place to meet up and talk in an informal setting at a local coffee-house. There isn’t a fixed business agenda; the idea is to give people a place to find each other. Once they’ve found each other, A-Cafe can serve as a springboard for the independent projects that they may want to start.

After some discussions with regular A-Cafers, we’ve decided to start putting on a series of talks, presentations, skill-shares and open mics — tentatively titled the Free Speech Soapbox Series. The idea is to take an hour of the A-Cafe time for ongoing programming — including introductory material that may interest non-anarchists as well as anarchists, talks about issues local anarchists care about, organizing pitches for projects they are working on, how-tos to share skills amongst ourselves, presentations of classic anarchist lectures, etc. etc. etc. Talks take place during the middle 60 minutes of the Anarchist cafe (6:30pm – 7:30pm), with the 30 minutes before and the 30 minutes after available for the usual informal meet-up and chat.

I’m happy to announce that our first Soapbox talk will be TOMORROW, Tuesday 29 January 2009. And I will be doing the talk:

At this week’s A-Cafe, Anarchist philosopher Charles Johnson will present a special lecture on the topic What is Anarchism? presenting the ideas of Anarchism in theory and practice, and correcting common misconceptions. For anyone interested in the ideas of philosophical Anarchism, or interested in conversation.

The Anarchist Cafe meeting will begin at 6:00 PM. My talk will begin at 6:30 PM (and should run to about 7:30 PM, including time at the end for Q&A).

Here are the details on the event:

  • WHAT: Talk by Charles Johnson of Southern Nevada ALL on the ideas of Anarchism, the main misunderstandings about anarchy, and replies to the main objections.
  • WHEN: Wednesday, 28 January 2009, 6:30 PM.
  • WHERE: Weekly Anarchist Cafe @ The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Running Rebel Plaza (across the street from UNLV). 4550 S. Maryland Parkway; we’ll be in the meeting room off to the left of the entrance.

If you’re in the Vegas area (or even if you’re not), it’d be great to see you there. If you know anyone around abouts who might be interested in a general talk about Anarchism, then please do forward the announcement on to them.

Future Soapbox events are already being scheduled; in particular, next week will feature Las Vegas ALLy Kelly Patterson giving a talk on the Industrial Workers of the World, We Need the Wobblies Now More Than Ever! A Brief History of the Industrial Workers of the World. See the Vegas Anarchist Cafe website for more details.

More to come soon; watch this space.

See also: