To the City of Olympia staff and Council Members,
We ask that you take the follow actions:
The goal is to develop a continuum of options created by the whole community that is sustainable. As stakeholders in this effort we wish to end the sweeps of camps that only creates more misery and suffering and erodes public confidence and partnership. We believe these are essential steps needed to ensure that all residents of our community have safe, legal, and appropriate places to live.
On May 4th, 1886, one hundred and thirty-two years ago, the event took place in Haymarket Square in Chicago that started what is called the Haymarket affair and ultimately lead to the creation of International Workers Day. The event itself was a rally, or what at the time was called a meeting or open air meeting, that was in support of the eight-hour day. This struggle had been going on for years and was reaching a fevered pitch with a general strike which had been called for May 1st, in which hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States when out on strike. After the events of May 4th, where towards the end of the rally a bomb exploded causing the police to fire into the crowd. Several people on both sides were killed. In the coming days seven people, all avowed anarchists, were arrested. Some of them were not even at the rally at all and most of them were not there when the bomb exploded. However, after the trial two were given life in prison, one had committed suicide while in jail, and four of them were executed. The trail and execution shocked the world.
“The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”
– August Spies just before he was hanged
For two years leading up to May 4th, 1886, workers had been struggling for the eight-hour day. In October of 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions had set May 1st, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard. All of labor, as well as the socialists and anarchists, had come to support and be involved in the struggle for the eight-hour day.
After a long pause in enforcement against camping, the City of Olympia is resuming the practice of sweeping encampments on public property, particularly those which are most visible and near downtown. The city originally halted its practice of sweeps in September, after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that it is unconstitutional to criminalize people for performing life sustaining activities, like sleeping and resting, on public property when they have no other legal alternatives (Martin vs Boise). When enforcement against camping in public was first paused, homeless advocates had questioned whether the city was pausing the sweeps in order to genuinely pursue more just and compassionate alternatives or simply to use the time to find a way for the city to return to “business as usual,” without exposing themselves to the same legal risk.
Actions like the creation of the first mitigation site and the finalizing of the tiny home village on Plum Street, provided some reassurance that the
city was committed to pursuing the former. Further, the city council remained consistent in their public commitment to finding legal alternatives for encampment residents before carrying out sweeps, even in the midst of receiving enormous pressure from many in the community to clear the camps downtown. However, recent events have again raised serious questions about the commitment to this more just and compassionate response to encampments. On January 29th and 30th, the City of Olympia executed the sweeps of the B Avenue and 7th and Jefferson homeless encampments.
The city justified the removal of the B Avenue encampment by claiming that a nearby construction project would be endangering the safety of the residents. The reason given for the removal of the 7th and Jefferson encampment was “to mitigate ongoing health and safety concerns.” Now, the city has announced its intention to sweep the remainder of the encampment in the Billy Frank Jr. Apartment parking lot after months of reassuring service providers and encampment residents that the camp would not be swept until after the creation of a second mitigation site. As with the removals of B Avenue and 7th & Jefferson encampments, the justification is based on mitigating public health and safety concerns.
Governments invoking various codes, ordinances, or laws pertaining to safety and public health to justify the removal of poor and marginalized residents from urban cores has been commonplace in history. During the mid-twentieth century about 1 million city residents across the U.S were displaced in slum clearances and urban renewal schemes after working class neighborhoods and communities of color were labeled as “blighted.” Additionally, during the time of the great depression, here in Olympia, a large informal community of unemployed, poor, and elderly people was erected on the edge of what would later become Capitol Lake. Known as Little Hollywood, the community was part of the wider Hooverville encampment movement that erupted amidst the Great Depression, both protesting federal economic policies and directly housing those in need.
In the late 1930s, the city government began condemning the dwellings, unit by unit, subsequently evicting residents and burning the structures, in the name of public health and safety. The striking similarities between the B Avenue and 7th/Jefferson evictions and evictions of the past is testament to how little progress has been made regarding the systemic treatment of poor people by governing bodies and institutions. That the highly vague rationale for camp removals could be applied so liberally to any other encampment in Olympia, is particularly concerning.
There is good cause to believe that the city carrying out sweeps in the name of public safety, is an attempt to resume “business-as-usual” sweeps, while skirting the implications of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determination. In other words, to resume sweeps without being required to ensure that all encampment residents have legal and accessible alternative places to go to. For, while the court’s determination, made it clear that it is unconstitutional for people to be criminalized for sleeping in public spaces when they have no legal alternatives, the court’s decision is not as clear if the pretext for a sweep is health and safety concerns, which could apply to virtually any camp.
This may be why recent notices of sweeps are titled as “Notice of Area Clean-up” instead of “Notice of Trespass” and why they avoid any language alluding to the threat of trespass, citation, or other forms of criminalization for those who do not leave the encampment by the given deadline. At this point, the City of Olympia, has declined to explain or clarify their reasons for changing the language used to justify sweeps, why they are resuming sweeps after such a long pause, whether or not people can expect sweeps to continue without alternative places for people to go, or how they see their interpretation of Martin vs Boise justifying these actions and decisions.
On January 6th, thousands of workers in Bangladesh went on strike against low wages in garment factories. The “ready-made” garment industry in Bangladesh supplies major retailers around the world, such as Walmart, H&M, and Tesco. According to Aljazeera 52 factories were shut down due to the strike. Last year they made apparel worth about $30 billion. Millions of Bangladeshi workers work in about 4,500 textile factories. The minimum monthly wage is around $96 a month. This was increased in September of 2018 from around $50 a month. The increase went in to effect in December. However, when workers were paid in January they found they had been paid less. On January 13th the police attacked the workers. Firing water canons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and attacking them with batons. The workers barricaded the highway. At least one worker was killed and more then 50 were injured. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) threatened to lock the workers out if they did not return to work on the 14th. Workers began returning to work towards the end of week after government assurances that the discrepancy in pay would be made up. However, hundreds of workers upon returning to work found they had been fired. Notices were hanging on factory gates informing them of their dismissal along with photos of their faces. Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, who worked as a child laborer in textile factories, said: “The workers that got fired know the law and their rights. In many cases they were union leaders in their respective factories. These workers are picked intentionally so there is no voice left in a factory to fight against retaliation and form a union.” According to a report from Fair Wear Foundation, a worker was beaten up on orders of management and threatened with murder. The woman said she was also robbed of her severance pay. The factory initially denied the allegations but later fired the manager and paid the woman in compensation. The garment industry in Bangladesh still lives under the shadow of the 2012 Dhaka fire. Where at least 117 people died in the factory fire and over 200 were injured. Workers were unable to escape because of inadequate fire escapes and exits which were locked in order to keep workers from leaving during the work day.
Workers at Little Big Burger know that our safety, well-being, and voices are important. Every single day we serve customers, cook food, bus tables, and wash dishes. We have formed the Little Big Union to ensure Little Big Burger is truly inclusive of our collective voice as workers.
Portland, Oregon is ground zero for fast food organizing. We love this city and call the Pacific Northwest our home. However, rent and the cost of living have continued to increase while our wages have not. Now, it is increasingly difficult to live in the neighborhoods we serve. This is why we are proud to stand in solidarity with the Burgerville Workers Union, as members of the Industrial Workers of the World, in the fight to make food service an honest, dignified, and dependable job.
Little Big Burger is no longer a small business, they were acquired by North Carolina-based multinational corporation Chanticleer Holdings in 2015. Us workers and our families depend on this job for our livelihood, and we hope those who prepare the food, serve the guests, and create the environment that has built Little Big Burger stand to grow with our company. Workers continue to struggle by stretching our paychecks month to month, surviving off minimum wage, unreliable tips, and inconsistent schedules released often a day or two before we work. We are proud of the hard work we provide Little Big Burger, which is why we demand:
Upon recognizing LBU, Little Big Burger stands to become the second fast food company in the history of the United States to enter into a collective bargaining relationship with a union. We believe that Little Big Burger deserves that distinction.
We are your neighbors, your friends, your classmates, your family, and we are just scraping by like so many other low paid workers.
We are the ones who make the food, now it’s time that we eat too!
Check out there website here!
Check out there Facebook page here!
Teachers continue to organize and struggle. In the United States in the past two months we have seen headlines for teachers striking from Los Angles and Denver to West Virginia and Virginia. Teachers in West Virginia seem to have shaken something loose with their state wide strike this past year.
In the face of legal obstacles and the general repression of labor in general teachers fought back and won. Public sector workers, in West Virginia, do not have the legal right to collectively bargain. It is important to note that the places that have the least legal options for labor seem to have the most radical and invigorating movements. This is not to say that places like West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, simply need to change their laws and all will be well. It is rather that places that have more legal mechanism in place, such as Washington state, labor is more easily subsumed into the formalist processes where we have a disadvantage.
February 15, 2019
On November 7, 2018, the Industrial Workers of the World South Sound General Education Union delivered a demand letter to the administration of the Evergreen State College calling for:
As of today, we are now proud to announce that Evergreen’s administration appears to be meeting our demands. A campus police position vacated in 2018 will no longer be filled, and although the hiring processes are obfuscated by university bureaucracy, we have it on good authority that new positions have been opened in Political Economy and Community Media. We extend our thanks to all the fellow workers and comrades who joined us in solidarity over the past three months. Furthermore, we call upon you to join us in vigilance, to make sure that the administration does not fall back into their old ways. If they do, we will be ready to resume our campaign until these demands are met.
The South Sound General Education Union continues to fight for popular control of educational institutions—not control by donors and the employing class, under whatever name they may go by. The police, acting as the military arm of the international program of austerity, have no place on this or any campus. A program of cuts and belt-tightening is the first prescription in a course of bad medicine, too often followed up by union-busting, political repression, and privatization.
We call on all members of the campus and surrounding community of the Evergreen State College to join us in a victory social on Wednesday, February 27th, to celebrate our victory and build towards our next steps. Location and time to be announced.
We were born June 3rd of 2018, on the rooftop of a “leftist” shop called Kinoki in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Our initial meeting was inspired by the struggles that the working class were fighting throughout the world. However, we were especially awed by the statewide teachers’ strikes occurring in the United States this past year, and the revolutionary uprisings which the CNTE (National Organizers of Education Workers), a radical union of Mexican teachers, initiated— such as the 6 month long 2006 Oaxaca Commune in response to police repression of the union’s yearly occupation of the city’s main square, and the caucus’s blockades of major roads and airports in retaliation to their demands being unfulfilled. With the rising worldwide movement of education workers, we sought to bring this struggle into the south Puget Sound region. Because the bureaucrats in the education business unions have consistently undermined worker militancy and solidarity by negotiating with the capitalists without the consent of the rank and file, we decided to form a revolutionary alternative to these craft unions. As we were packed inside a van leaving a Zapatista municipal center known as Morelia, our first version of the union’s points of unity were formed. This version emphasized our desire to organize education industrially rather than by craft, and to have schools be run democratically by the people who attend and work in them (students, faculty, and staff). The months of September and October were a long grind: revising the union’s points of unity, forming our own preamble and deciding how we would gain power. We slowly acquired a consistent membership and we gained a consistent core once we, the IWW South Sound General Education Union, decided on our first campaign. This campaign demanded that the Evergreen State College not hire another cop, and instead fund two full time teaching positions; one in political economy and one in the arts (either theater or photography). These demands were formed as a result of the college laying off over 20 positions during the summer of 2018, primarily in the art departments. As well, a political economy faculty member was not hired that summer, despite the fact that the department was labeled “top priority” for hiring. As of this writing, the school seeks to hire another cop, using the excuse of “mandated budget allocation” to not concede to our demands. Many students were angry about the layoffs as well, with some of them organizing large petitions to prevent the layoffs; yet, the administration ultimately ignored them. To debut our union and campaign, we conducted a rally on the central square of the Evergreen State College. Over 100 people showed up, making it the largest protest that happened on campus since the 2017 Spring uprising. We also marched into the office of the president and provost to read our demands, handing over the demand letter. We dispersed after the demand delivery. As of this writing, the administration has responded by portraying us as “illegitimate”. They wish to co-opt the union into avenues they can more easily control such as the faculty union and the student union, which is really more like a student government organization and does not have co-governance. The South Sound General Education Union will keep fighting! If you work in the education industry, whether K-12 or higher ed, whether as a teacher, student, or a cook, get in touch with us and get organized!
In its annual referendum, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) North American Regional Administration voted overwhelmingly to officially join the recently formed International Confederation of Labor (ICL). The ICL is an international organization linking together revolutionary unions in eight different countries in Europe, Latin America, and North America. The focus of the ICL is building a visible model for revolutionary unionism, a way to build unions that are based on solidarity, direct action, and which prefigure a world which has shaken off capitalism. ICL unions have already begun to coordinate their activity among app-based workers, such as those working for Deliveroo and Foodora, leading to coordinated strikes against Deliveroo in multiple countries. The IWW brings to the table our growing experience organizing in prisons through the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC). The ICL and its member unions endorsed the U.S. prison strike earlier this year, which was co-led by IWOC. Through the ICL, the IWW has begun to make contact with unions of prisoners in other countries. Aside from day-to-day organizing practice, the ICL allows member sections to share experience about mass working class struggles. Earlier this year, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT – the Spanish section of the ICL) played a major role in coordinating a Feminist General Strike on International Women’s Day on March 8, which the CNT and ICL will try to build on for 2019. The IWW’s vote to join the ICL culminates several years of joint work between these unions to bring the new international into existence. We hope to continue to develop our mutual projects and build relationships in other parts of the world. The IWW will share its experience and learn from the experience of others – to inspire and be inspired. With the continual economic, ecological, and political crises that capitalism is bringing on to us and intensifying, we need a vibrant and internationalist revolutionary unionist movement now more than ever. Long live the international!