Skip to content

Archive for

Old Twin Cities IWW flyers

In the interest of keeping an archive of material that our branch has used, here are a number of flyers, handouts, etc, of past events and campaigns we’ve been involved in.

Scabs at Your Door

No_Scabs

From Sisters Camelot Canvass Union

Members of the Sisters’ Camelot Canvass Union (SCCU) have been informed by people in the Seward and Powderhorn neighborhoods of Minneapolis that scab canvassers from Sisters’ Camelot are soliciting donations at their doors. Please do not believe the lies of these scabs, and please do not give them any of your money. Regardless of what they say, the SCCU is still on strike with the full support of our union, the Industrial Workers of the World. Keep in mind that Sisters’ Camelot is a union-busting organization who has repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to lie and deceive in order to get their way. If you have come across any questions or concerns, please contact us at SistersCamelotCanvassUnion[at]gmail[dot]com. Thank you!

Lessons from fighting privatized public education in Chile

1502494_1423371321233250_448227732_n

From Classroom Struggle TC

Repost from the blog of the Education Organizing Committee of the Twin Cities IWW.

Written by Daniel Fox

This February, some of us were lucky enough to meet some Chilean Anarchists who gave a talk about lessons from the education struggle in Chile where there has been a massive student- and society-wide movement for free public education during the past decade.

Chile’s schools, like much of its society, were privatized by the US-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s through the creation of a privatized market in education. The key part of this was the creation of a voucher system where privately run schools—charter schools—could receive a certain amount of public funding per student. This, along with an amendment that allowed such schools to charge tuition and fees, has created a “pay to play” education system in Chile, where schools are ranked by test scores and are some of the most unequal and segregated in the world.

Students clash with riot police during a demonstration against the government, to demand changes in the public state education system in Santiago August 28, 2012 (Reuters / Eliseo Fernandez)

Students clash with riot police during a demonstration against the government, to demand changes in the public state education system in Santiago August 28, 2012 (Reuters / Eliseo Fernandez)

Another way to look at this is that it took a US-backed dictatorship in Chile to create the privatized education system currently being proposed in legislatures across the United States.

But since the early 2000s there has been a growing resistance to this privatization in Chile culminating in the mass mobilizations of 2013. On April 11th, 1 million people in of a country with 17 million inhabitants were marching in the capital of Santiago.

How did this happen? Our anarchist friends from Chile outlined how students built a radical mass movement in a few key steps:

  1. From requests, elections, and politics to the ‘movement tactics’ of direct action and direct democracy. Where do students have the most power? In their ability to disrupt schools. It is a lot easier to get 500 students to walk out, strike, and even to occupy a school than it is to get the same number to come to a School Board meeting. This started to happen in the early 2000s as students pushed through their fears and began acting directly. To make this possible students in each school started using assemblies—mass meetings where decisions were made collectively—which are an critical way to meaningfully support and continue such actions. By using what the anarchists call “direct action” and “direct democracy” the movement had awakened to its own power. It was no longer begging but growing into a force to be reckoned with.
  2. From fighting against something to fighting for something. In 2004 there was a draconian new education bill that helped launch a coordinated mass uprising of high school students, including marches, walkouts, and occupations. While they were successful in killing the bill, without a positive program organized among them, the movement couldn’t change the course of the broader trends they were fighting against. This was incorporated by Chileans in the next wave of struggles. It is also worth noting that Chile has the additional resource of many schools run directly by working class communities, serving as a counter model of liberatory community controlled education–however imperfect–but also inspirations for the more creative side of direct action and direct democracy.
  3. Leverage. In Chile, anarchists saw that despite the massive disruptive power of coordinated country-wide protests in schools, this wasn’t effecting the economy in the present. The ruling class could wait out the students, also giving rise to the possibility of a re-election of a Socialist Party Presidential candidate who when previously in power talked a lot about improving education but in fact continued the direction set in place during the dictatorship. In order to broaden the power of their movement, the most recent wave of protests were also coordinated with a dockworker strike of Chile’s main ports—through which 70% of the goods enter the country—as well as actions in the copper mines, a crucial export sector. This direction is highly promising in Chile, and was created by building links across society by talking about what society should be, what the economy should be, and who they should benefit.

Just like in the US, the economy is becoming increasingly concentrated into a massive sector of low wage, sub-contracted jobs with a smaller number of increasingly well-paid positions. This too is a link that needs to made in the US—our education system is about what our society should be. This is also why we at Classroom Struggle are so focused on providing positive models of social justice and community control over our education, because the status quo is not defendable. To stop the privatization of our educational system we need to have a vision worth fighting for. Currently our education system reproduces the inequities of society. We want education to be a force for fighting against inequity and for justice. We also believe our task of keeping public education public, and moving it towards community control and social justice is easier than the fight in Chile. After all, in Chile, the ruling class is not only the Chilean wealthy but also the ruling class interests all over the world invested in resource extraction and privatization there.

People march during a protest by students demanding access to free quality public education in Santiago, Chile, on August 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Aliosha Marquez)

People march during a protest by students demanding access to free quality public education in Santiago, Chile, on August 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Aliosha Marquez)

Two final ideas from their talk and then some take aways:

First, in Chile like in the US, movements are constantly facing the threat of co-optation. A constant message from within and without the movement is that in giving up their power to politicians, foundations, laws, new union leadership, socialist parties, ballot initiatives, or whatever, that they can get a free, quality public education that serves their interest with less work. We all wish that was possible, for more is better, and the easier the better. However, our friends from Chile push us to realize that if we give up our power we cannot get what we want. Hence the importance of organizing the base, exercising power in schools and in the streets, sharing and debating, and coming to the next stage of learning as a movement, for the movement as well as individuals learn through experience, reflection, and analysis.

Second, is the idea of a “right” vs. a “social right”. While this may sound philosophical, this difference is actually critically important, and something I had never heard before. What’s the difference? A “right” is what we all deserve as human beings—clean air, water, free education, health care, and so on. However, a “social right” is a right that we don’t only deserve as human beings but that our community should have control over determining what a right is. According to this distinction, the black, or Native, or Latino community in Minneapolis should not only have a right to a free quality public education but a free quality public education they control. And while most of us want to live in a multicultural society, and have to, I believe figuring out what community/worker control and social justice means is a challenge we face if we want to realistically transform public education for the better.

Ok. Some final take aways!
Privatized education does not work for the vast majority of people in Chile, it will not work for most of us here, either.

Switching to the movement tactics of direct action and direct democracy is the way forward for our movement, and we can already see students leading the way. For example, see last year’s walkouts at South and Hopkins High School and the recent walkout at St Paul Central.

Educators, like students, have the most power AT SCHOOL. This is where we have relationships with all the constituents we need to fight—students, parents, and communities. This is where we understand the dynamics and can not only resist but propose solutions and organize against privatization and for community control and social justice.

It seems to me that more and more in the US people are beginning to lose their fear, which is another way of saying that hope is on its way! Lets be the change we want to see in the world…

Managed instruction is not going away unless we make it!

focused-event

students, community members, parents, and educators at the community meal

From Classroom Struggle TC

Here is an account of a recent community meal organized by the Education Organizing Committee of the Twin Cities IWW.

by Erin Dyke, member of the IWW Education Organizing Committee

More than 50 people came together for the first social justice education community meal of 2014 on February 16th, to explore the prevailing trend toward managed instruction in our schools and potential alternatives. We gnoshed on a delicious (and free!) Sunday brunch of fruits, eggs, potato hash, breads, and other treats while we caught up with old friends and made new comrades. We want to take some time to reflect on what we learned from our time together and consider ways to move forward to fight against the forced de-skilling of students and educators.

Read more

Workload & teacher power: reflections on an organizing victory at my school this year

workload-overload-w6272From Classroom Struggle TC

Here is a repost from the blog of the Education Organizing Committee of the Twin Cities IWW.

Do teachers and other educators have power to change things in our schools? Everyday I talk to teachers who are upset, saddened by negative changes, struggling to ensure all of their students succeed. Many days I ask my co-workers what we can do, or if they can help with something. Sometimes they say yes, but mostly they say they are too busy to do anything. Sometimes I feel like we are too busy drowning to organize a raft to save ourselves.

Yet over the last few months I had an experience at my Twin Cities school that has inspired me to rethink this issue. In my school, like many others, teachers are terrified of losing their jobs. Many of our students are not getting what they need and consequently the District is breathing down our neck, and pushing more initiatives than the principals can keep track of, much less implement in a way that will benefit our kids. We gain a sea of mostly useless meetings, professional development, professional learning communities and new lingo, all while having less time with our kids. My older co-workers have seen this again and again. Quick fixes instead of building trust and collaboration. No wonder many of them switch schools or take early retirement packages.

But this year was going to be different, because we were going to start acting like a union. A group of three teachers and support staff, some of them stewards, decided to start a series of conversations in the building about what people were experiencing. We decided that the atmosphere of the school was the issue on people’s lips and that we should create a space to discuss issues and find solutions.

We held discussions around the building in teacher’s classrooms and had surveys that we sent around and distributed at union meetings. In total, nearly 60 staff participated. We compiled the results creating a compelling record of how much we all care, and the day to day issues we are facing. We then went through and identified common themes. At the core of it, staff at our building were concerned about workload, being involved in decision-making, and racial justice.

We had a follow up meeting where about a dozen staff came in the busy time of December to propose specific solutions. Most of the specific solutions were about workload. Staff also wanted to have meaningful input in important decisions and there was some discussion and ideas for furthering racial justice. Race is a conversation I want to talk more about with my co-workers more.

That said, the tenured teachers among us took our solutions to Administration where they basically didn’t get anything, with a few concessions here and there. Our main concerns were about having too many meetings, but barely any time to meet as a grade level team to actually collaborate and work together. Instead school staff were pushed into mandatory committee meetings to address content entirely dictated by the administration, where the work that was done felt useless and unmotivating. We sent the proposal we brought to Administration to our co-workers along with the Administration’s responses, and called a meeting to see what people would think and want to do.

People had lots to say, yet felt afraid of doing more. Our goals seemed important but beyond the realm of the achievable. We would need to both solidify and broaden our group of organizers to include educators from every grade and job class in order to break through the culture of fear and into a place where we could get the word out, push issues and policies, and partner with parents around common goals…

Then in the midst of these conversations circulating around the building and the mess from snow days and conference rescheduling piling up, we got a break. More than a break—a victory. Mandatory professional development and professional learning community meetings had been canceled until after spring break. For at least six weeks we’d be free from these nice sounding, but totally ineffective meetings. Meetings that are a huge waste of time because they are imposed on, rather than grow out of teacher’s work of educating their students and collaborating organically to help each other. What had previously seemed impossible and beyond our courage to organize for, had now (temporarily) been achieved.

I hope this will help my co-workers better understand their power. If we organize we can take back our time so our kids get the education they deserve, and so we don’t burn out under a pile of paper. I know my co-workers see the writing on the wall, that if we can do better—sadly through the strange prism of test scores—this change has the possibility of being permanent.

I hope we continue to grow our group to really be organized, to really build with parents, students, and the community, to use the time we gain to refocus on the other issues of racial justice and decision-making that are central to improving our schools. I hope more of us get serious about getting the skills we need to organize effectively, which I receive on a regular basis as part of the IWW Education Organizing Committee. Feel free to contact us to learn more or join us.

Because we can’t solve our problems by closing our classroom doors and hoping that someone else—the union? School board? President?—will solve our problems for us. And while we ultimately need to take over the schools and make them our system not a system that we live with, steps like these can be taken in every school, right now. And those of us doing this work can communicate with each other, learn, share, build. If this was happening at every school today, imagine how much more powerful we would be!