It’s times like these we are proud of our union, and we don’t have to be unsure of where the solidarity of our fellow workers’ lie. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is an international union that supports the Boycott Disvestment and Sanction (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid as well as the abolition of capitalism. An injury to one is an injury to all.
“The storytelling, the design, the art, letters, and color on Bizhan Khodabandeh’s Little Black Fish all stood out to me immediately as something really worth spending time with. This is his first comic I am told. I am impressed. It is a beautiful story. Anyone with a love of comics would do well to pay attention.”
“We are protesting Walmart’s retaliations against Associates and attempts to silence those who have spoken out for better jobs.”
Rally Point: We will be meeting outside the Starbucks located just on the perimeter of the Walmart Parking Lot at 7:30pm. There we will make sure everyone has the proper materials and know the rules of engagement, we will begin leaf-letting people waiting outside for the doors to open at 8:00pm.
Why 8:00pm on Thanksgiving Day? Because, Walmart nationwide with other retailers have announced that Black Friday sales will begin two hours earlier than years before, cutting deeper into an already short or non existent holiday for workers. A time traditionally held for family and friends, stolen by capitalist and their pursuit of profits over human and social needs.
Stand with Walmart workers in their fight for their rights. For decades, Walmart Stores, Inc have dragged down wages, forcing their workers to work irregular schedules, and intimidated and took retribution on any workers who fought back. It’s time for the retribution to end, so come to this local Walmart to show your solidarity and tell Walmart that they need to pay their fair share.
For more information please email email@example.com or call 804-496-1568. This event is being organized in part by the Richmond, Virginia Industrial Workers of the World [www.richmondiww.org ] and Food & Retail Workers United [ www.frwu.net ]
On Labor Day, 2012, 300 trade unionists, workers and community activists packed the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina to participate in the Southern Workers Assembly. The purpose of this gathering was to promote organizing the South, repealing anti-labor legislation, and strengthening the fight against racism.
By all accounts, this was an historic gathering and attendees left it united and in high spirits. The event received wide media coverage.
Below are the opening remarks by Saladin Muhammad, Coordinator of the Southern Workers Assembly, recently retired International Representative for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, and member of Black Workers for Justice.
Southern Workers Assembly: A Call to Action for Workers to Organize Labor in the South!
Why are we here? And what is our charge as Southern workers? Are we here mainly as a form of protest against the failed policies of the Democratic Party regarding worker rights? Both parties have failed the working class in this regard and more.
The Southern Workers Assembly is a call to action by rank-and-file workers to unite, organize the South and speak in our own name. Southern workers cannot wait for the Democratic Party and certainly not the Republican Party, to enact some progressive labor laws before we can begin a serious effort to organize ourselves into a labor movement. Unfortunately, this has been a serious error on the part of the U.S. labor movement for too many years.
During the 1950s and ’60s, the power of an organized and united labor movement in the South was needed to help fight against the racist system of Jim Crow, which greatly divided and created deep wounds and lasting scars within the working class that capital will always try to exploit. This is why a social movement is needed to organize labor and the working class in the South. We want the Southern Workers Assembly to be a launching pad that begins a process of building a South-wide social movement to organize labor.
In an economy and society where having a job is a requirement for providing ourselves and families with the basic necessities of life, worker rights become human rights. Thus a social movement to organize labor in the South must become a major part of the human rights movement, and must be organized with the same energy and sacrifice of the civil rights movement that helped to bring about some progressive reforms for Black and working people.
However, a human rights labor movement must also be a transformative movement that seeks to reorganize the economic, social and political relationships that determine the value of labor, the distribution of the wealth created by labor and technology, and that protects the lives of the people and sustainability of the planet. Capitalist globalization and its impact require that our labor movement have a basic vision of transformation as we organize to build power.
History has also shown that the failure of the U.S. national labor movement to make a concerted and coordinated effort to organize labor in the South has been a major factor allowing the most conservative political base within theU.S. from being effectively challenged by the organized power of Southern workers.
This has affected the class consciousness and confidence of Southern workers about our power to challenge corporate power, which clearly dominates and dictates the decisions and policies of the state and local governments throughout the South.
Corporate power has not only super- exploited the labor of Southern workers, it is also responsible for the underdevelopment and negative environmental impact on many working class communities, especially African American, Latino, Native American and poor white, because of the billions in incentives and tax breaks that were diverted from community development and given to the corporations to locate in the South.
The massive disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina in parts of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005 is an example of what happens when corporate wants are prioritized over the infrastructure and human needs of the people.
Now that the South has reemerged as a major region in the global economy, where U.S. manufacturing, foreign direct investment and finance capital is becoming concentrated — a Wall Street South — the South will be a major force in the shaping of U.S. labor and social policies. Efforts to pass anti-immigration laws are developing rapidly in the South, to create another source of super-exploitation that is based on the race and ethnicity of the working class.
The U.S. prison industrial complex, in addition to jailing mainly the unemployed from the Black and Latino working class communities, provides super-exploited labor for major corporations. This is largely why there have been draconian laws such as 3-strikes, you’re out, and crime bills enacted over the past 20 years by both Democratic and Republican administrations. The so-called “legal status” and stigma permanently branding the formerly incarcerated forces many to have to work for little or nothing, if they can get hired at all. This is a major reason forcing many back into crime and the high rates of recidivism.
Dividing the working class and the oppressed peoples in every way possible is the main strategy of corporate power. The U.S. labor movement must not see the independent worker-led organizations and initiatives of the oppressed peoples as something that divides the working class. They exist to take up the struggles against the special forms of oppression and exploitation that impact our lives, and that have not been taken up effectively within and by many of the trade unions.
The struggle to respect the right of these organizations to exist as part of the labor movement — while they are also leading the fight for self-determination as oppressed peoples — must be a main aspect of the struggle against racism to be waged within the U.S. labor movement and the working class, if we are to build a powerful and transformative labor movement inside the U.S.
Of the 100 million people living in the South, the largest region of the U.S., African American and Latino together make up close to 40%. Fifty seven percent or more than 20 million Black people, and 40% or more than 18million Latinos, live in the South. Black and Brown unity is therefore critical to forging and anchoring the unity of a strong Southern labor and working class movement.
Having pointed out the weaknesses of the U.S. labor movement in failing to organize the South, and the role of the South today in the global economy, it is important to make clear that this in no way is meant to suggest that workers in the South have not been organizing and resisting. Your presence at the Southern Workers Assembly is a testament that we are organizing and fighting.
However, our organizing and campaigns have been mainly local and unconnected to a broader framework that projects a South-wide movement. This has made it difficult to develop and promote workers’ fight-back climate, and has weakened and discouraged sustained efforts to organize unions in the South.
There will be many challenges in building this movement that we must educate and prepare ourselves for. The crisis impacting labor over the past 30 years from the restructuring and globalization of the economy, and the attacks on unions resulting in a loss of membership by many, has led to an unhealthy competition between unions, which have divided the working class by fights over union jurisdictions, raiding and splits in federations and national unions.
A Southern labor movement must build structures that unite workers within the same sectors, regardless of the national unions or organizations they are affiliated with, to democratically work out an independent plan for concentration and organizing within those sectors. It is from this base of organizing that we must win the support from national and international unions for organizing labor in the South.
Organizing in the South greatly needs the support of a strong rank-and-file movement within the national unions who work to build support from their local and national unions for the development and sustaining of a Southern Labor Alliance, including actions of national labor solidarity as we saw with the Charleston, South Carolina dockworkers struggle and the Wisconsin public sector struggle that closed down the state’s capital. Organizing the South must become a clarion call for the U.S. labor movement to go on the offensive.
We want to leave this Southern Workers Assembly with some basic framework in place that allows us to move to the next step in holding meetings to begin to map out a plan for forming a Southern Labor Alliance and launching a social movement campaign to organize the South.
Let’s get to work here today in our brief period at the Southern Workers Assembly.
Onward toward a Southern Labor Alliance!
Issued by the Emergency Labor Network (ELN)
For more information write firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 21004,Cleveland, OH 44121 or call 216-736-4715 or visit our website atwww.laborfightback.org. Donations gratefully accepted. Please make checks payable to the ELN and mail to the above P.O. Box.
Calling the Question: Building The IWW GMB In Richmond, Part 2 of 3
By Kenneth Y.
This is an article written for the ‘Building Blocks’ column found in the October 2012 issue of the Industrial Worker. You can view a .pdf of the issue [ here ]. The ‘Building Blocks’ column asked different branches to write about the trials and tribulations of building a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World. This is my perspective. Read Part 1 [ here ].
Drawn together by a lack of revolutionary organization, we hoped to build something that was able to address, from an anti-capitalist perspective, the everyday struggles of working people. The Industrial Workers of the World is that revolutionary organization, and it’s method of ‘solidarity unionism’, focusing on the organization of the worker, and the utilization of direct action to get their demands met, was a distinct departure from how other groups were organizing.
What set it apart from other forms of revolutionary organizations was that it is, first and foremost, an organization for the workers, by the workers. The Industrial Workers of the World does not align itself with any political party or ideology, freeing much of it’s energy to focus on organizing, rather than supporting political candidates or lobbying for reform. With this organization, we hoped to develop the union in such a way that we weren’t only organizing workers in shops, but also those same workers in their communities, and vice versa.
So… we had been meeting on a monthly basis, with the above goals in mind, mostly discussing our work with the Richmond Transit Riders Union, spending a lot of time with one another, establishing an at large delegate, signing up new members, and really just getting to know one another. It wasn’t until we finally were able to attend an Organizer Training 101 in November 2010 that we were able to really visualize what direction we needed to go as a union.
We began incorporating what we learned at the training into our organizing right away. We found that much of what we had learned, we were already doing. However, the training helped refine some of our ideas and provided structure to to the chaos. At this point we found ourselves with something between 10 or 15 members, half of them being extremely active, and the other half, not so much. Seeing as we were consistently collecting dues for the international, and we had exceeded the minimum number of members required by the constitution to apply for an official branch charter, we felt it was time to apply.
FW Tessone just a few months prior, because we were only 4 months old, suggested that we should continue to meet as a group for another year. This was to insure that we did in fact have the makings for a solid branch, for there had been many branches formed in haste who were de-chartered for not meeting constitutional requirements almost as soon as they were formed.
We seriously considered Joe’s advice, but three months later in December we we voted as a group and chose to apply. We formed a committee that drafted our bylaws, elected officers, adopted rusty’s rules of order, and collected signatures from all of our members in good standing, sent everything in for the General Executive Boards approval, and finally in March 2011 we were chartered.
So when do you know it’s time to formalize a group into an organization? In terms of the Richmond GMB, honestly, I think that we took a risk and hoped for the best. However, in retrospect, we had the following, 8 – 10 really dedicate members, utilizing their skills in order to move our work forward. We had members who were extremely skilled in research, who were organized, consistent, persistent, enthusiastic, social and willing to talk with strangers, and we all understood, whether it was thoroughly articulated or not, that we wanted to see this organization evolve into something that was truly influential.
We also understood from early on, mostly through working in other organizations, that in order to retain interest, or membership for that matter, we have to keep members engaged. Many people will join with the idea that someone will tell them what needs to be done, and when this doesn’t happen they tend to feel uncomfortable and don’t return. To keep this from happening, we made sure everyone understood the importance of greeting new members, calling them and inviting them to events, actions, meetings, etc. Asking them about their day, their passions, why they joined, what sort of experiences brought them to this movement, etc.
There will definitely be members who are perfectly happy supporting the work of others, paying dues and simply observing. For those members it is still very important to develop relationships and find ways to make sure they are included, for at some point they may feel compelled to get more directly involved with the union. Even though the IWW proudly declares every member an organizer, not everyone is an organizer. Some people are very good at, and perfectly happy doing administrative work, providing services for training’s (ie. cooking), driving people around, doing research, facilitating workshops, reading groups, and training, maintaining social networks, etc. All very important to the work of the union.
All these things are what helped us develop into a branch and maintain membership, but at a point, when you’ve reached a certain number of members, it becomes apparent that we also need to develop programs within the union that insure that fellow workers are growing proportionately with one another. Do all our members understand the philosophy and principles of the IWW? Are branch meetings operating as close to consensus as possible? Are we disproportionately privileged
These are struggles within the organization that can not be ignored and require an immense amount of commitment and sacrifice on the part of all fellow workers to effectively find resolve. If we are going to see a movement grow out our union, then towards a movement is where we need to put the majority of our free energy. Fellow Workers fought and died for the 8-hour work day, but perhaps, instead of the conservative watchwords, “Eight hours for work. Eight hours for rest. Eight hours for what we will.”, we should live by a more revolutionary “Eight hours of work. Eight hours for rest. Eight hours for ORGANIZING TO ABOLISH THE WAGE SYSTEM!”
In the third and final part, we’ll discuss and hear directly from our current membership and what they see is necessary for a growing branch and revolutionary movement.