PO Box 1293, Olympia Wa, 98507 Organize@OlympiaIWW.com 360-362-0112

Statement regarding the ongoing Nationwide Prison Strike issued August 22, 2018, Day 2 of the strike.

Issued by the Prison Strike Media Team

Amani Sawari
official outside media representative of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

Jared Ware
Freelance Journalist covering prisoner movements
@jaybeware on Twitter

Brooke Terpstra 
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)
National Media Committee
@IWW_IWOC on twitter

August 22, 2018

So the prisoner strike has been underway for more than 24 hours now. In the first day we got word of actions coming out from the prisons from Halifax, Nova Scotia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington and Folsom Prison in California reported strike action.

We saw outside solidarity actions in at least 21 cities around the US and as far abroad as Leipzig, Germany. We saw Palestinian political prisoners give a statement of solidarity from their prisons in occupied Palestine.

We called this conference call because those of us who have been coordinating media relations on the outside have been overwhelmed by the number of reporters and outlets who are covering the strike. Some of us who were involved with media relations in 2016 can say that the difference is dramatic and we thank you for your interest in this prisoner-led movement. Many of you have the same questions and so we want to give you all an opportunity to hear our responses in one place.

We want to note that although there aren’t widespread reports of actions coming out of prisons that people need to understand that the tactics being used in this strike are not always visible. Prisoners are boycotting commissaries, they are engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge, and they will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside. As we saw in 2016, Departments of Corrections are not reliable sources of information for these actions and will deny them and seek to repress those who are engaged in them.

We have spoken with family members who have suggested that cell phone lines may be being jammed at multiple prisons in South Carolina, New Mexico had a statewide lockdown yesterday. The Departments of Corrections in this country are working overtime to try and prevent strike action and to try and prevent word from getting out about actions that are taking place.

As you report the strike, we encourage you to uplift the actions that we do know about, but also acknowledge that strikers may be resisting in ways that are tougher to quantify and view. We encourage outlets to issue FOIA requests to prisons that we believe will show attempts to quell the strike and also evidence of boycotts and other strike activity.

We also really want to remind the media that this strike is about ten different demands. While prison slavery has become a galvanizing force in the public eye, and it is a key element that prisoners are protesting against, they have given you ten specific demands and it is important to talk about all of them or report on them individually. People need to understand how truth in sentencing laws function, how gang enhancement laws function, and how the prison litigation reform act works and why these are things that prisoners are targeting their protest around. We need to be talking about the lack of rehabilitation programs, mental health care, and the lack of education programs and how this undermines the ostensibly rehabilitative nature of the prison system itself.

Prisoners crafted these demands carefully through national organizing, based on the circumstances of the Lee Prison violence that occurred earlier this year, in an understanding of how the state brings about the conditions of violence like that, and the types of changes that are necessary to prevent that sort of violence from recurring. This is a human rights campaign and each of these demands should be understood through a human rights lens. 

Prisoners all across the country go on strike against Slave Labor!

On August 21st, the anniversary of the killing of Black Panther George Jackson, prisoners all over the country went on strike. There are sit-ins, work-stoppages, commissary boycotts, and other actions happening till September 9th, the anniversary of the Attica Uprising. This strike could be the largest strike since the national prison in late 2016.

Launched on September 9th, the 2016 strike was one of the largest prison actions in US history, drawing the participation of an estimated 24,000 prisoners in 20 facilities across two dozen states.

In April of this year the uprising in South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Facility, in which seven people died, sparked the idea of the current strike.

Prisons are plagued with massive under-staffing, poor food, and unhealthy water. The under-staffing leads to extensive use of lock-downs and solitary.

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak has previously issued this list of ten demands:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole. 
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.

Kevin Steel, is a former prisoner, who is a spokesperson for the New York Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC). “There are a lot of peaceful protests that go unspoken outside the prison walls,” said Steele, “That’s something a lot of people out here don’t expect because of the stigma that incarcerated people are violent,” he added.

Deirdre Wilson, a former inmate who served as a firefighter in the Puerta La Cruz fire in California, told Newsweek that prison volunteer firefighting was a “cruel joke” after it was revealed that firefighters typically make about $75,000 per year plus benefits, while inmates from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation make about $2 per day, and $1 extra when fighting an active fire.

“You’re not really volunteering,” Wilson told Newsweek. “The system evolved out of a system of slavery where we commodify human bodies and function off their labor.”

See these these websites for more info:

Tacoma Wobblys charter a new Branch!

We wish to congratulate our fellow workers in Tacoma upon the chartering of their new General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World.  This is the first step in a long march towards a better world!

Culinary workers are getting organized!

The Olympia Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World calls on you to join the Union!

Only together can we fight for better pay, shorter hours, and a better world!

Workers at Burgerville are doing it, so can you!

It is we, the workers, who do all the labor. We slave away in the kitchen, behind the bar, over the espresso machine, getting just enough money to survive. While the owners make all the profit off of our work! If you are tired of these conditions then join the IWW!

We believe that workers produce all wealth. We are an all volunteer union. That means we are workers just like you. We work hard and believe that we should get the total output of our labor. We fight hard on the job for ourselves and our fellow workers. We have joined together to help each other better our working conditions and make the world a better place. And by that we mean worker democracy.

When the unorganized worker goes to  work they leave their rights at the door. We ask the simple question of “Why do we do all the work and have none of the say?” Workers in restaurants, bars, cafes, and other public service jobs are some of the worst treated workers in the US. We suffer degradation, low pay, terrible hours, and massive disruption to our lives. All to make a few dollars so that we can pay rent and bills, grab some food and do it all over again.

We in the IWW believe this is terrible, unfair, and has to come to an end. We also recognize that the workers have to help themselves. Not only are workers the only ones with the real power to fight for these gains, but in doing so we learn to understand our true power on the job. Only together can we stand up for ourselves when the boss comes round.

So if you are tired of having to decide at the end of the month between food, bills, or rent. If you are tired of the boss telling you how to do your job. If you are tired of working long hours and never getting over time and hardly getting breaks. If you are tired of the bullshit “open door policy.” Where they never listen to you anyway. Then the Join the Industrial  Workers of the World today! And fight for these rights for yourself, for your fellow workers, and for a better world!

The Olympia IWW is actively organizing in this industry. Join the fight today at your shop!

Contact the Olympia IWW
by email at Organize@OlympiaIWW.com
by phone at 360-362-0112

IWOC Endorses National Prison Strike and Pledges Support

Whereas, trusted comrades, collectives, and networks behind the prison walls have convened, called for a “National Prison Strike” from August 21 to Sept 9, 2018, issued a set of demands and guidelines and requested outside support, Whereas, we, the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the IWW have heard their call for support and find the strike and its goals completely aligned with our material work and with all points of our Statement of Purpose, Be it resolved, we endorse the strike, pledge our support and furthermore, embrace the work of solidarity. We, as the national body of the IWOC network strongly encourage all outside branches and members-at-large to take on the support work to the utmost of their capacity and according to their best judgement. As the strike develops, the scope of of work will also develop and will need further guidelines and ratification, so we offer this motion as a framework and a beginning. Further motions to amend are entertained as the work demands and teaches. The areas of work appropriate to our network, as we see them now, are as listed below:
1. Immediately add our name to the list of endorsing organizations and solicit other organizations to endorse and support.
2. Spread the word of the strike and demands inside as best and responsibly as we can so that our inside members and contacts can make informed decisions as to their positions and possible actions.
3. Media
a. National Media Committee: assist and coordinate with the Jailhouse Lawyers Speak/Millions for Prisoners media representatives according to their protocols in fielding and fulfilling media requests, strategizing, spreading social media, and assisting in generating original works in all available mediums.
b. Locals: generate, share and publish educational and agitational material in all available mediums.
c. Make available whatever vetted media representatives we can muster regionally and nationally to speak on the strike to groups or to media outlets (according to the prisoners’ protocols for media requests).
4. Anti-repression
a. To immediately begin building networks of outside supporters committed to phone blasts, demonstrations, and pressure campaigns of any type to combat repression and retaliation against prisoners. Repression is already underway and prisoner groups are already making requests for support.
b. Educate all IWOC members and groups, all other support groups and public at large on the tactics and depth of retaliations undertaken against prisoners.
5. Local demands: Outside IWOC groups can aid prisoners in their area in adding their own demands to local strike messaging. Such addition has been approved by existing inside strike leadership.

Let the work begin.
For solidarity over the walls and wire,
For a world without prisons,
For liberation!

To learn more about IWOC see this website.
If you are interested in getting involved in IWOC
locally please contact us.

Interview with Ballentine Palubinsky

DB: How old are you Ballentine?
BP: 36
DB: Where did you grow up?
BP: I grew up in Las Vegas Nevada, I have been in Olympia for about 4 years now.
DB: What was your first job?
BP: The first time that I ever worked was at a movie theater inside of a casino. I was 17 and they had me cleaning theaters when the  movies were done. I made $5.45 an hour.
DB: Were you still in school at the time?
BP: Yes.
DB: How long did you work there?
BP: December 1999 to April 2000.
DB: What happen when you left that job?
BP: Well I had been applying for a job at the mall where I wouldn’t have to wear a uniform. So I really wanted that mall job because not only was there no uniform but I could wear dresses and nail polish. So I upgraded jobs was all. I worked at the mall selling cloths for 5 years.
DB: How much did you make there?
BP: I took a pay cut. I made $5.17. When I left after 5 years I made $7.25.
DB: What was that like working in the mall, in retail?
BP: There were parts of it that sucked, but there were parts that were cool. The mall in itself was like its own community. You got to know people that worked at other shops and there was a friends circle of just mall people. It was close to my house, I could walk. They were  flexible and I told them that I was going to college to be a teacher so they would only schedule me when I didn’t have class and I was living at home at the time so I could getaway with working 15 hours a week and it wouldn’t be a big deal. In that way it was kind of cool.
DB: Then you became a teacher?
BP: Yeah, I was in college. I student-taught for a year, well like 6 months then I got hired, well I was a substitute teacher for about 2 years and that was the worst job I’ve ever had. Nobody respects a sub.  You roll into a different school everyday and then you never see those  people again. Everyday is like your first day but you are expected to work.
DB: Going back to the retail job, what was the worst thing about working there, if anything?
BP: So it was super cool the first year, … And then we got bought out by the gap. Shit changed real quick. … They were all about loss prevention. They said you had to catch so many people a quarter. And I just never would do it. … And if you didn’t meet [the quota] you didn’t get a raise. So sometimes I just wouldn’t get a raise. I would go 6 months and when it came up for review everything was perfect but I didn’t catch so many people shoplifting so I didn’t get a raise.
DB: What were the raises?
BP: 25 cents was the top one.
DB: and by the end of it you were still making minimum wage anyway?
BP: Yeah and this was completely without benefits.
DB: Did you consider yourself political at this time?
BP: Yeah, but at that time in Nevada in the early 2000s there wasn’t anything going on. …the entire time I worked at the mall I think the only thing I was involved in was some pretty minor anti-war protests.
DB: With the Iraq war?
BP: Yeah
DB: Was there anything defining about becoming political that happened for you?
BP: … I realized that [the FBI] did terrible things. The real kicker was that they sent MLK a letter telling him to kill himself and I was like I’m not onboard with the United States it turns out. It went against everything I was ever told. Then when I got to high school my  government teachers showed me two videos one about the Zapatista, and one about the Battle in Seattle.
DB: You’re a wobbly, right?
BP: Yes
DB: When did you join?
BP: 2012 was when I signed up. During Occupy there was an effort made by people in Las Vegas to make a branch of the IWW. It didn’t really work out.
DB: You rejoined the wobblies here in Olympia?
BP: Yeah, I rejoined when I was homeless.
DB: How long were you homeless?
BP: Off and on a couple times, but only for like 2 weeks at a time. It was always in between pay checks, just until I found a place. Each  time it was always wobblies that helped me out. Wobblies let me stay in their back yard, wobblies let me stay in their living room. Its hard with background checks and credit checks and my friend who I live with has an eviction on her record so we couldn’t find  anywhere to live.
DB: And your pretty involved with the IWW here?
BP: I’d say so. I go to a lot of the meetings, I am a chair of a committee, in the past I helped organize May Day. So I don’t know what all I do…
DB: You do a lot
DB: Any advice for people?
BP: If there isn’t a scene where you’re at, then just start one. That’s what I learned in Vegas. There was no shortage of people who wanted to do stuff but there was no one doing it.
DB: Thanks Ballentine

A Worker’s Independence Day

[Note: this was originally published in The Line on July 1st, 2018.]

We the Industrial Workers of the World fight for a better tomorrow.

We believe “It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society  within the shell of the old.”

It is important to emphasize that by fighting for “bread and butter” issues on the job with the intention of building One Big Union organized industrially that has as it’s aim the overthrow of capitalism, we, as workers, are bringing together more and more workers towards the goal of their own interests.

We believe that Labor creates all wealth and we want what is our due.

Read More

The Teacher Strikes, the Janus case, and the path forward for labor.

On February 22nd the teachers of West Virginia went on strike. One of their motto’s was 55 strong. Meaning that all the teachers in all 55 counties in West Virginia are united in their struggle. The teachers in West Virginia are among the lowest paid in the country. Also, the teachers, being public sector workers, in West Virginia do not have the legal right to strike or bargain collectively. And yet they did  anyway, and they won!

There is a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. It is called Janus Vs. AFSCME. This case has been shaking everything up. Basically  it would make the public sector in all the states “Right-to-Work.” Meaning that workers in a union shop would not be required to pay dues or fees but the union is still legally required to cover them. Right-to-work laws and the Janus case are tools of anti-labor used to break unions.

Read More


What follows is a very basic primer for organizing your fellow workers on the job. This is just to get you thinking. We encourage you to take the Organizers Training 101 that the IWW offers. It is open to all workers whether they are a member or not. In the Olympia Branch we try to have at least two OT101s a year. So if you are interested then contact us for when the next one is happening. There also may be one happening sooner in another city in the region.
So what does AEIOU mean? It is simple really. Agitate, Educate, Inoculate, Organize, Unionize (or pUsh). In organizing our jobs it is important to talk to our fellow workers. We want to build relationships with them. Because how else could we work together, right?
To do this we have 1 on 1 conversations with them. We talk with them and learn about the issues at work and thus in life that we each care about. Whether it is pay, or conditions. Such as: due to cut backs at work they are not hiring enough people which means you all have to work more and your fellow worker who has kids hardly gets to see them!

Read More

Burgerville Workers Union Wins NLRB Election!

The workers at the 92nd and Powell Burgerville won their election yesterday!  We express our solidarity!

Join us on May 1st for International Workers’ Day where we will have a worker from the Burgerville Workers’ Union speaking about this election and all of their organizing.

The following is a statement from their Facebook page.

“We won the election. We did it. We made history.

Today workers at 92nd and Powell overwhelmingly voted yes, making the Burgerville Workers Union the only formally recognized fast food union in the country. For a long time people have dismissed fast food as unorganizable, saying that turnover is too high, or the workers are too spread out. Today Burgerville workers proved them wrong.

The fight isn’t over, of course. We still need to bargain a fair contract with Burgerville, and until then the boycott still stands. And we need to remember what got us to this point: workers taking action for themselves, standing up against poverty wages and horrible conditions. We got here because of the strike, union benefits, pickets, and marches on the boss. We got here through direct action, and that won’t change now that we’ve won an election. If anything it’s even more important.

In this moment of victory we want to celebrate, yes, but we also want to turn our attention to the 4.5 million other fast food workers in the United States. We want to speak to everyone else who works for poverty wages, who are constantly disrespected on the job, who are told they aren’t educated enough, aren’t experienced enough, aren’t good enough for a decent life. To all of those workers, to everyone like us who works rough jobs for terrible pay, we say this:

Don’t listen to that bullshit. Burgerville workers didn’t, and look at us now.

Because our win today isn’t just about Burgerville. It’s about history. It’s about a movement of workers who know that a better world is possible, and that together they can make that world real.

Today we became the only recognized fast food union in the country. But we won’t be the only one for long.”