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

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.

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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!

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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.”

History of International Workers’ Day

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.

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Solidarity with the Rojavan Struggle!

“Where as the IWW is engaged in the struggle to end capitalism. Where as capitalism has engulfed the whole globe, and we need to build international solidarity to defeat an international system. Be it resolved that the Olympia GMB state that we are in total support of the Rojavan struggle, and strongly condemn any attack on their project including the most recent attack on Afrin by Turkey. We send our revolutionary greetings with warm hearts and raised fists.”

West Virginia: Extend the Strike, Build Long Term Power

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.

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Why Join the Industrial Workers of the World?

It does not take long to figure out that workers and their employers do not have the same interests. Workers want shorter hours, higher pay, and better benefits.

We want our work to be less boring, less dangerous, and less destructive to the environment. We want more control over how we produce goods and provide services. We want meaningful work that contributes to our communities and world. Our employers, in contrast, want us to work longer, harder, faster, and cheaper. They want fewer safety and environmental regulations and they demand absolute control over all decisions, work schedules, speech, and actions in the workplace.  We think if you work it, you should control it.

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Canvassers Give Grassroots Campaigns A Surprise Valentine’s Day Present – A Union

With Trump’s election, many organizations without internal fundraisers frequently turn to canvassing organizations such as Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated, which sends politically savvy workers all over the city of Seattle to alert people to important causes and issues that affect their lives, such as the American Civil Liberties Union or Planned Parenthood. These canvassers often face hostile opposition, sexual harassment, and intimidation while striving to make the world a better place.
However, these workers – crucial to the success of various nonprofits, who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various causes – frequently find themselves fighting for fair workplace treatment. And like many others, they’ve engaged in a time-honored way to get it – forming a union. Canvassers and field managers with the Boston-based company’s Seattle office have joined together, choosing to form under the Industrial Workers of the World, one of the oldest unions in the United States with a long history in the Pacific Northwest.
“We hope to see that Grassroots Campaigns, given its stated progressive bent, will accept this union without putting up a fight.” said one union organizer. “Given that the overwhelming majority of workers in the Seattle Canvassing office have signed union cards, it would be a violation of its stated principles to do otherwise.”
“Let’s call it an early Valentine’s Day present,” one union member said about their filing for recognition with the National Labor Relations Board, which occurred on Feb 12. “We know that the organizations we fundraise for value our labor and appreciate the results we bring. Morale is up now that we are organizing, and better treatment brings better results.”
“The perception is that this kind of work is just done by college kids who don’t need full-time employment – but canvassing happens year-round, and we need a living wage and job stability,” said another IWW member of the Canvassers Union. “The idea that someone could lose their job because of a rainy week where not many people were outside is not acceptable.”
Founded in 2003, Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated specializes in face-to-face campaigns for political parties, candidates and advocacy groups. Their employees help build bases and mobilize supporters for organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Democratic National Committee, the Nature Conservancy and Oxfam International.
Employees of Grassroots and members of the union are available for comment: please contact the Seattle Branch of the IWW at seattleiww@gmail.com to arrange for interviews.

In November We Remember

On November 11th wobblies gathered in Centralia to remember those who fell 98 years ago defending the Union.  On the same date in 1919 the IWW union hall in Centralia was attacked during an armistice day parade (which is now veterans day).

We spoke about the events that took place on that day, we talked about today and we looked forward to the future.

We cleaned the grave stones that were laid by the Union to mark the graves, and we placed wreaths and flowers.

In November — We Remember

New York: Wobblies at Singing Restaurant Win Major Victory

In a major victory for the singing servers at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, their employer has reached an agreement with their solidarity union, Stardust Family United, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). By entering into the settlement agreement, the company will narrowly avoid a trial on some 19 violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including 31 retaliatory firings.

Under the terms of the agreement, all 31 employees terminated over the last year in retaliation for union activity have been offered immediate and full reinstatement, and will receive back pay from the time they were fired. Of the terminated employees, 13 will immediately return to work at the popular Midtown diner.

In addition, the restaurant is required to mail official notices to all employees, informing them that the company will not violate federal law by engaging in certain unlawful practices such as surveilling and threatening workers, interfering with their use of social media, and discouraging them from taking action to improve working conditions.

For the singing servers, this has been a long road. The union, which is a branch of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), initially went public in late summer of 2016. Weeks after making their efforts known to management, 16 active union members were fired. Over the fall and winter, the workers continued to engage in direct workplace action to improve health and safety conditions, as well as pursue other demands. Another mass firing in January 2017 brought the total of terminated singers up to 31.

Despite this, Stardust Family United remained active, both inside and outside the restaurant. “I’m thrilled and proud to know our struggle and vigilance over the last year has paid off,” says returning employee Matthew Patterson. “I’m looking forward to returning and making a positive impact inside the diner.”

As published on IWW.org