Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Organizing’ Category

History Made Real: How I Became a Wobbly by David Feldmann

I first heard of the IWW when I was a teenager in a conservative suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. I’d always felt out of step with my surroundings, so when I was reading Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” in homeroom one day, it felt exciting to read about the history of the Industrial Workers of the World. I couldn’t believe that there had been a labor union with such a radical vision as well as a relatively sizable membership during the first couple decades of the 20th century. I learned a lot from that book, but I remember being particularly intrigued by the sections dealing with the Wobblies.

After high school, I moved to the big city and worked a string of low-wage jobs in the service sector. I was a seasonal janitor at a non-profit wild bird sanctuary, a food service worker at a deli (a frustrating and disgusting job for a vegetarian), and a low-level clerk at a public library. It wasn’t until 2006, several years after reading Zinn’s book, that I learned that the IWW still existed, albeit as a much more marginal union with few members. I had read a graphic novel history of the IWW that came in at the library called Wobblies! and learned that the IWW, while largely inactive for most of the latter half of the 20th century, had seen a bit of a resurgence in the last few years. I was excited to hear the Wobblies were still around, causing trouble and getting the proverbial goods. I joined in late 2006 and have remained in good-standing ever since.

In the ten years since I got my first red card in the mail, I’ve gone through a lot of life changes, both with my work and personal life. I continued to work at the public library, off and on, until 2014. I worked at a cooperative bakery for a couple years, baking bread and making deliveries. After moving to the Twin Cities two years ago, I worked at a non-profit food charity as a fundraising canvasser and gardener. After leaving that job last year, I worked a seasonal gardening job elsewhere before getting a permanent, full-time gig as a truck driver for a Minneapolis bakery.

Through it all, my membership in the One Big Union has been a constant in my adult life. While I’ve never been part of an organizing campaign myself, the union has been there for me in other ways. The sense of community and collective strength that comes from being part of an organization that I know I could call on should I have an issue with my employer is comforting and reassuring. Earlier this year, while dealing with health issues, I received a lot of support (financial and otherwise) from fellow IWW members across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

It’s been exciting to see the IWW rebound the past decade after a long period of decline. Our numbers may still be low but I believe we have a spirit and dedication to class struggle that’s often lacking from the mainstream trade union and public sector unions. While I’m not as active with the IWW as some others, I’ve always been proud to be a member and I look forward to what the future has in store for Wobblies everywhere.

Hacking the Planet: How I Became a Wobbly by Dade Murphy

I grew up in a strange city famous for its outward and violent racism, which is at a level unusual for both its geographic location and size; it’s a city my Jewish friend described it as “The good ol’ South of the North.” As a white cis dude that appeared straight though, I was often invited to participate in or given a pass to witness terrible things that I found abhorrent. When combined with an abusive home life, I found my solace in computers. Witnessing authority figures abuse their power in that environment, even or perhaps especially those paying lip service to liberal notions of justice and diversity, left me unable to care for others on the surface for a long time.

I held a multitude of jobs, including roofing, loading trucks, cooking, childcare, and more, but none could seem to hold my attention or give me any kind of satisfaction with my work. Upon graduating from high school, I took my shot at academia. Despite scoring incredibly high on college admissions tests, I was rejected from a multitude of programs due to an only moderately high high school GPA (which probably stemmed from my general anti-authoritarian outlook). I finally made it into both the Physics and Astrophysics programs at my local research university, which truly challenged me, and I enjoyed it immensely when my life was in order. I worked with a few different research groups, but witnessed the capitalism/scientific method barrier issues with large physics experiments first hand, and left those projects feeling frustrated.

Around this same time, the anti-cult Project Chanology was launching. I was heavily involved in my local branch, as it was one of the first times I was able to express my thoughts and feelings among others who had a similar background in hacker culture. Our local branch also had a reputation for being one of the most effective cells in the nation, a reputation I chalk up to serious in person actions/organizing and rejection of national level activism. This experience made me a competent organizer on levels and in ways I find difficult to put into words.

After Chanology died down and I left research, I started a video games (as art) development club focused on education, horizontal participation, and an anti-capitalist core functioning. I had to leave university and my club a year after due to monetary issues and concerns with access to health care, but luckily my club reputation landed me a job as a programmer across the country. I packed up and moved to the South, only to figure out that the job itself wasn’t quite as advertised – I was actually designing and building slot machines to subvert gambling laws in order to put them everywhere and jack up the house take by about a factor of ten. The industry was super exploitative of both workers and consumers, litigious as all hell, and my position made me feel like I was working at a tobacco company. I was axed soon after I started asking questions, but I had to sign a non-compete contract to get the job in the first place, and I still cannot work with anything involving computers for nearly another year at the point of writing this.

After losing that job and facing police violence, a for profit hospital holding me hostage literally at gunpoint, and homelessness looming in an area with few to no friends, I returned to my hometown: the place I least wanted to be in the world. After composing myself for a few months and gaining the energy to fight back, I decided that the most important issues facing game developers (the skill diversity issue, fracturing of independent developers, and the capitalist structure of both corporations and greedy NGOs) could all be addressed by forming a union. At this same time, an old high school friend invited me to a GDC rally against the confederate flag and introduced me to the IWW. The solidarity model, the horizontal structure, and the anti-capitalist and revolutionary politics were exactly what I was looking for in both a union and in life, and I’m still baffled to this day that I had never heard of the IWW before!

Since joining eight months ago, I’ve been heavily involved with the General Defense Committee in both actions and trainings, and I’ve made a personal project of building and repairing the local branch’s technology infrastructure. I’ve also been involved with a local workplace campaign, and feel like Wobbling is something I’ve needed and have been working towards since before I knew what it was!

Revolution one step at a time,
Dade Murphy.

Misery Breeds: How I Became a Wobbly by W.H. Glazer

I started working when I was sixteen. I grew up in Baltimore and had learned how to sail as a kid, so I managed to get myself a job working as a deckhand and sailing instructor at this fancy boat club on the Inner Harbor. It was a sweet fucking gig. I got to work outside on the water, there was free beer in the fridge, and I got paid A LOT of money. I was expecting to get paid minimum wage, so when the boss told me I’d be making nearly twice that, I was ecstatic. For a kid with relatively few expenses and a free bed at home, this was an absurd amount of money. So absurd, in fact, that I wouldn’t make anywhere close to it until two years after I graduated from college.

I moved to Minnesota for college in 2008, and had a number of work-study jobs while on campus. They weren’t awesome, they weren’t terrible. They give me a bit of extra cash, and in turn took up about twenty hours a week of study time. I went home for the summer after my first year and worked as a camp counselor making minimum wage. All in all, these jobs signaled a somewhat precipitous decline on the income front. Despite this, though, I was always considered an exemplary employee. Never had a bad review, never got written up, never threatened with firing. Not once.

Immediately after finishing college with degrees that qualified me to do nothing, I began to work at the Whole Foods Market near campus. I took the job because (a) it paid significantly better than a lot of the other menial jobs I could find, (b) it had a vaguely liberal, Prius-driving feel to it that I really appreciated at the time, and (c) the employee discount made it almost affordable for someone making $10 an hour. I started off strong there and built some nice relationships with my coworkers and regular customers. I was good at raising money for Whole Foods’ various charity campaigns (which were in fact supremely questionable microloan schemes), and was generally on-board with the whole organic food thing.

About three months into the job, though, things started to change. I started getting called into the office at least once a week for various infractions- not smiling enough at the customers, checking my phone for texts, putting my foot up on the bag area and thusly displaying too much of my crotch to the customers (that’s a real one). I was told that my coworkers felt that I had an air of superiority about me, that they were complaining about my constant sass and sarcasm. When a customer told me to fuck myself, the bosses asked me to just take one for the team and keep quiet. The weekly office visits became daily, and my bosses were concerned about my happiness on the job (bless their hearts), and wanted me to know that they weren’t trying to “beat me down” as they called me into the office for the fourth day in a row. I was asked to finish a shift after I got a concussion (undiagnosed, but what else makes you start slurring your words and feeling dizzy after you bang your head?). Because I had too many absence points and would lose my job otherwise, I had to do a full shift with a high fever. You know, cause fuck food safety.

It was a pretty rough time. My feet and knees hurt constantly from standing on mats that provided almost no support. My wrist and back hurt from scanning groceries and bending over the conveyor belt. I started smoking a pack a day, I was drinking too much. Even when I wasn’t at work, I couldn’t stop talking about it and absolutely dreading going back.

About seven months into my tenure at Whole Foods, a mentally disturbed customer made a very creepy and, for all we knew, serious threat of violence towards one of my coworkers. Again, the bosses told us to simmer down and get over ourselves. A coworker of mine, who as it turned out was the Wobbliest Wobbly who ever Wobbled, organized a meeting after work to talk about this issue. He tried to whip up anger and frustration, but most of the folks at the meeting were concerned about their job security, and advocated a cautious approach. I don’t remember what I said at the meeting, but apparently it was radical enough to encourage this FW to talk to me a bit more openly. He gave me a copy of Think It Over, and I devoured it. Everything made sense. “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” Fucking right. We did a 1:1, and I imagine selling me on joining the IWW was the easiest thing he’s ever done.

I joined up soon thereafter, and have Wobbled ever since. My friend and I tried to organize Whole Foods without any success, but I’m weirdly grateful for that awful job. They say misery breeds contempt, but in my experience it bred radicalization.

From Here to There: How I Became a Wobbly by Juan Conatz

During 2005, I was working in a warehouse for a somewhat large mail-order company in Peosta, IA. At the age of 22, it was the longest-held job I had at that point. It’s hard for me to remember exactly when or why, but there were issues at work I thought needed to be addressed and the only way it seemed they would be is if we had a union. The IWW’s website said a lot of things I agreed with, and so I joined them through a membership application in the Industrial Worker, sending along a letter about my desire to organize. Unfortunately, the IWW didn’t really exist in any meaningful sense anywhere nearby, so I contacted a number of local unions who all referred me to the Teamsters.

The Teamster organizer gave me very little advice or help, but I did manage to get a small committee going through 1-on-1 meetings with some coworkers. But with no real assistance from the organizer and only a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election as a goal, we fell apart because of being unable to grow that much.

For the next 2 years, being only a paper member of an organization that didn’t have a presence near me, I drifted away. In early 2007, I moved to Cedar Rapids, IA and worked a succession of various temporary jobs. My sister and a number of people I had grown up with were living there and I made new friends fairly quickly. One of those friends worked in a massive warehouse that stored and shipped products from the nearby General Mills and Quaker factories. I also worked at this warehouse, but as a temp on first shift, as opposed to my friend, who had been hired on and worked second shift. One time, visiting his trailer, I spotted a copy of the Industrial Worker on his counter. Turns out, there had been an IWW member there, attempting to organize only a couple of months before I started working at this place! This Wobbly had also sold my friend the trailer he lived in. Eventually, my friend sold it to my sister.

About a year later, in 2008, I became involved in a small anarchist group in Iowa City, IA that was formed to get people to the Republican National Convention protests in St. Paul, MN. Turns out that this Wobbly that had worked at the same warehouse as me, and whose trailer my sister was now living in, had been a member of the Eastern Iowa General Membership Branch (GMB). This GMB was now defunct, but the main people that had been involved were the primary initiators of this anarchist group I was now involved in. It’s funny to me to think about the 1 or 2 degrees of separation I had with this Wobbly in Iowa (who I met a couple of years later, finally!).

From the summer of 2008 until late 2010, Iowa City was my home. The anarchist group I was a part of eventually reformed and became reorganized. We started to talk about specific long-term things we wanted to do. I was always in favor of starting an IWW branch and doing workplace organizing, but being in the minority on this, it never happened. Despite that, I re-joined and paid dues on and off. Attending an Organizer Training 101 in the Twin Cities, I finally met active members of the IWW and planned to organize at work, which at this time was a warehouse contracted by Procter & Gamble to put together and ship merchandising displays. However, despite some small informal job actions, me and my coworkers didn’t attempt very much, and my time there ended soon after.

Finding stable and reliable employment became more difficult for me in the over-educated university town of Iowa City, which resulted in getting more or less got evicted and living wherever possible could for a few months. Around this time, while living in Davenport, IA, massive protests erupted in Wisconsin in reaction to the right-wing Governor’s proposal to abolish public sector collective bargaining, with the largest centered in Madison. The IWW branch there was heavily involved, and was swamped with tasks. Some IWW members in Minneapolis and Detroit knew I didn’t have anything holding me down, and so convinced me to move to Madison to help out with things, primarily trying to push for a general strike.

Once there, I was put on a (very) modest stipend and instructed to do various tasks. Members of the Madison branch provided me with housing. I helped plan events and trainings, fliered at marches, built relationships with other groups, wrote pamphlets, attempted to make state-wide contacts in the public sector, among other things. It was a very memorable experience.

As the movement in Wisconsin put everything into an effort to recall the Governor and multiple Republican state senators, I moved to Minneapolis for better job prospects.

In Minneapolis, I became a part of the Twin Cities branch of the IWW. I’ve helped run pickets, edit and write for the union’s publications, facilitate organizer trainings around the country and many other activities. Although small, I’ve gained invaluable knowledge and experience from the IWW. I’m proud it has been an important part of my life for the last 5 years and hope it will be for far longer.

On Voting- by FW W.H. Glazer

Introduction

Every four years, Americans are subjected to a painfully long election cycle. It is January of a presidential election year, and that means that we can anticipate another ten months of mainstream media coverage that manages to simultaneously overwhelm us with its volume and leave us with no novel or useful information (did you know, for example, that Dr. Ben Carson was a rageful and violent nerd growing up in Detroit? Or that Donald Trump is a shameless blowhard whose racist, classist, and sexist rhetoric appeals to a sizeable group of racists, classists, and sexists?). My boss loves to play CNN in the office as background noise, but my proximity to the television means that I know a lot more about Martin O’Malley and Carly Fiorina than I ever needed to.

Inherent in the decision to enact non-stop coverage is an assumption that all of this election stuff really matters, that who you support and ultimately vote for can have a tangible effect on the lives of millions of people. We are taught from a young age that our right to vote is a tremendously precious one, and further that failure to participate in the election process is a failure of civic duty. We are Americans, god dammit, and it is our responsibility to uphold justice and liberty and democracy through our voting process.

democracy!

My allegiance is to the Republic!

From a pragmatic standpoint, there is actually some truth to this idea. It is, from a purely practical point of view, smart to vote for the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton is less likely to impose anti-Muslim immigration reforms than is Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders is considerably less scary and objectionable than are the cackling hyenas who comprise the Republican field.

 

ed

Gov. Jeb Bush

In the IWW, though, we can’t only think in terms of pragmatism and practicality. We are a revolutionary anti-capitalist union, and it can be convincingly argued that active participation in electoral politics is not only counterproductive for our organizational goals, but counter-revolutionary. After all, no major party candidate will ever advocate for the dissolution of our capitalist economy and the establishment of a worker run society. Voting third party in a presidential race may be more morally justifiable, but barring tremendous social and political upheaval, a third party candidate will never take the White House.

So what do we do then? Do we vote as a practical measure to prevent things from getting worse, or do we refuse to vote because it ultimately represents capitulation to the status quo? I sent this prompt out to a number of Wobblies- Is participation in elections (national, state, and local) ultimately a capitulation to a system that actively works against working people? Or is it a pragmatic tactic to ensure that those in power are as minimally objectionable as possible? What bearing does this have on the IWW? How should we talk to people we are organizing about voting? A few notes:

  1. I have changed the names of the FWs for the sake of anonymity.
  2. I have edited the responses for style and grammar, but have not changed any of content.
  3. This article is not intended to portray any official IWW stance on voting, nor is it intended to encourage the establishment of such a stance. Rather, it is meant to begin conversation on an important subject that will only become more relevant in the coming months.
  4. The opinions and political stances of the FWs below are theirs alone.

Opinions

FW Emma

In my own personal philosophy of anarchism, I believe that, in general, voting is a waste. That being said, I have voted in national elections several times when I thought something very bad would happen if the Republican candidate were to win office. Maybe it truly doesn’t matter? They’re all generally alike. I’m not sure. Voting in federal elections may not matter at all anyway because once someone holds office it doesn’t mean they actually have any power. They are still controlled by the military-industrial complex and the capitalist system.

The reason I don’t vote in local elections, however, is due to a lack of faith in the entire system. I don’t believe in reform. I don’t trust the government to create any positive change that’s good enough for the people. I don’t want to participate in an election when the results just mean more of the same. Maybe voting isn’t so bad sometimes, but I think the more you start to participate in electoral politics, the more you risk falling victim to the false belief that things will change if we only get the right people in office. That seems counter-productive. It’s also a belief that most of our coworkers have, and I believe only education can really solve this issue. People just don’t know the truth–at least our truth–about capitalism and true democracy… the list goes on…

I studied public policy in school and was on track to participate in local and state politics to try and influence social change, specifically in public schools. I abandoned that pursuit because I didn’t want to be a part of our political system. I didn’t want to work in a field dependent on electoral and general politics. Trying to do research and write reports that politicians may or may not even read, let alone consider, seemed like a huge waste of time. I felt my time and resources would be used better elsewhere.  If voting took up a large amount of my time, there is no way I would ever participate. I came to believe that the power of the working class could change the system; that we should be organizing the working class and promoting class struggle, because class effects absolutely everyone, and most people are workers.  

Now, when you think about it, the Social Justice Education Movement is working within the system. For them, there seems to be no way out in order to win battles for workers and students alike. Attending school board meetings and organizing around issues not directly related to working class solidarity is a different approach than what I’ve seen most campaigns do in the IWW. However, they aren’t pulling for any specific people to be elected to the school board or engaging in political action that requires voting.  

FW Coeur

I see voting as a primarily defensive act. Sure, there are benefits to preventing the obviously harmful candidates from obtaining public office. But I don’t see any productive outcomes from voting. Our political system is set up in such a way that even if a candidate truly set out to enact drastic reforms of the Capitalist system, they would be prevented from doing so through perfectly legal and “democratic” means.  That’s why I think in the end, the best defense is a good offense.

The danger in accepting the “least awful capitalist” is the potential for increased apathy. People see a politician doing all of these “progressive” or even “radical” things and think, “Yea, maybe just a few more years of X politician or X party, and things will really start to turn around.” But guess what: That’s what we’ve been saying since the bourgeois revolutions dumped the monarchies in favor of “democracies” run by a slightly larger body of the ruling class.

Listen, Wobblies can and should vote as little or as much as they want. I usually go to my polling station, grab a ballot, and drop it in the box without even looking at a pen. No matter what the outcome, the IWW’s mission and tactics remain the same: the revolution of the working class against Capitalism through direct action and industrial control.

When I talk to my coworkers about voting, I treat it as any other conversation. Above all, it is important to give your honest opinions to anyone you are seeking to organize in order to build trust and accountability. If they want to vote, I generally encourage them to do so, while also explaining my issues with voting. If people are going to vote, I’d rather them be an informed and critical voter than one who is just a step (or less) away from drinking the Kool-Aid.

I love telling people that I’m not going to vote in the next election. Watching their eyes double in size, listening to the stammered phrases of anger and disbelief. Then I explain to them why, and often they think for a while and then say “Oh, yea, I guess that makes sense…”

FW Okwute

I’m openly hostile to electoralism. To vote in a representative “democracy” is to give away power. Our power lies in our numbers, solidarity and direct action. Voting as a way to pursue a progressive agenda is the strategy of social democrats and liberals. But, I don’t try to stop people from going out to vote, I mostly try to convince them that we must do much more. Arguments can be made that voting could improve some things here and there within the capitalist system, but it’s not a strategy for building mass movements capable of carrying out social revolution.

FW Brett

My thoughts are that the discussion is vital and needs to be had, and be had in ways that move away from what I think of as posturing. Yes, representative government is bad; no it cannot be a tool in our revolutionary toolbox (it will destroy us if we try, by transforming us into what we loathe). But simply shouting “I don’t vote” and getting claps on the back from fellow radicals is not enough. There are good moral reasons for avoiding voting – including the sense that participation in the system affects a person’s moral fiber, as well as registering you for jury service, to determine a fellow worker’s potential freedom or liberty. There are good strategic reasons for not relying on voting – it cannot actually progress our agenda. But many of the arguments I hear are silly – it takes too much time (really? unless you’re campaigning, it doesn’t), that it’s completely rigged (a conspiratorial perspective that collapses the ways in which the system is genuinely rigged with a fantasy about a cabal of people manipulating the vote; the vote is rigged far before anyone gets into a booth), etc. I think we need to discuss ways to move people from relying on representative structures of decision-making to reliance on ourselves and each other. But lecturing people about voting with poor and transparent arguments are not useful.

FW Maria

I always vote. I think I have only missed one election, both state and national, since 1966. I missed one because I was too sick to go. The pervasive cultural indoctrination of the 50’s and 60’s probably has something to do with my participation. I view it as a pragmatic tactic, I guess. When possible, I vote for communists or socialists of any stripe, hoping that my vote shows up in a chart somewhere and registers as a vote against the norm. Pretty pathetic. I don’t think I have ever tried to get a worker to vote.

Conclusion

There is not a clear answer to the dilemma of voting. To some, it will always seem at best a waste of time and at worst a capitulation to the capitalist state. To others, it is a sound defensive tactic whose utility is increased because our ability to go on the offensive is curtailed by our small numbers and relative obscurity. One thing I think we can all agree upon is that this is an important issue that’s worth discussing at length. As FW Brett mentioned, “simply shouting ‘I don’t vote’ and getting claps on the back from fellow radicals is not enough.” We need to talk about voting and electoralism amongst ourselves so that we are prepared to talk about it with our decidedly less radicalized coworkers. When the dominant narrative says that voting is important and everyone should do it, anti-capitalist revolutionaries like Wobblies should have thoughtful, well considered responses to challenge it.

I encourage Wobblies and fellow radicals to consider the issue of voting and respond with thoughts and ideas. Email them to theorganizertc@gmail.com!

15 at UPS- by FW Coeur de Bord

Eleven months ago, the Package Handler’s Organizing Committee (PHOC) voted to begin a campaign demanding the starting wage at the three UPS hubs in the Twin Cities be raised to $15/hour (from the current $10), and a corresponding $5/hour raise for all hub employees.  We had our sights set on building power towards some form of disruptive action during 2015’s Peak Season.  Now that Peak has arrived, I would like to share some of my feelings on the progression, evolution, and execution of this campaign, as well as some ways it has influenced our organizing in general at UPS in Minneapolis.

I feel this document is useful as part of a future retrospective assessment of the Boxmart campaign and the PHOC committee itself.  However, I hope it can also serve as a useful reference for other IWW organizing committees thinking about taking on labor-intensive, medium- to long-term campaigns such as this.  Whether or not such a campaign would have a positive impact on your organizing is a decision that only your committee can make, but I hope that by offering my perspectives other Wobblies will be able to make a more informed decision.

The motion (original language):

Notes 16/01/15

What: $5 hourly raise across the board, which would bring starting wage up to $15. Also, end petty wage theft and other shop floor issues where possible.

When: Major direct action during peak season 2015 aimed at entire Twin Cities operation.  Smaller DAs before them, at moments to be determined. Campaign to start within two months (petitions coming out along with Screw ups at MPLS, Eagan, Maple Grove and airport).

Who: Petition to be drafted by core committee, Mass meeting to be run by ——, other tasks delegated to —, —- and — wherever possible to gather support from rest of branch. New shop floor contacts will be expected to further trenchwork on shop floor, canvass for issues to be addressed by escalating Direct Actions, and inoculation. OTC to arrange an OT soon after mass meeting for new contacts. Core committee (eg —–) to fill in gaps where people cannot attend a full OT.  

Where: Meetings at TC IWW office, actions in MPLS, Eagan, Maple Grove and airport.  Actions to focus on Minnesota operation unless tempting opportunities arise.

How:

  1. Use petition to gather contacts for mass meeting. Create Facebook, etc contact points.
  2. Use mass meeting to identify people willing and able to be organizers (and other roles) and set broad outlines of effort, changing as necessary to reflect workers’ concerns.
  3. Follow up with potential organizers, get to OT where possible and patch with one-on-ones where not. Create a campaign committee to broaden work, bring in smaller escalatable issues (eg petty wage theft, harassment etc), grow committee itself.
  1. Do direct actions on smaller issues, symbolic stuff where appropriate. Include off-shop-floor issues eg prison slave labour ala hands up don’t ship.
  2. Follow up on retaliation for the above.
  3. Bring smaller issues back in, build excitement and commitment and hold mass meetings in the months leading up to peak to organize peak action.
  4. Mess everything up during peak.
  5. Publicize concessions and workers’ eye view analysis of fight, follow up on retaliations.
  6. Set further goals.

 

Observations:

We got off-track from the original motion early on.  The first round of petitioning went rather well, gathering over 200 signatures from the Minneapolis & Maple Grove hubs.  Within a short period of time, we had collected that contact information into a shared document and called through the whole list.  We planned the first mass-meeting for early March.  We had about a dozen people who said they would attend.  And then nobody showed up.  We tried again, with the same results.  We then shifted our focus to setting up One-on-Ones with contacts.  This had more success, but we failed to reach the number of signatories we had hoped for.  

Being off-track early on meant that the committee did not grow to the level we needed to continue escalating as planned.  A small committee decreased our ability to hold actions around smaller grievances.  Our influence didn’t spread to other areas of the buildings.  Looking back, these should have been early signs that our strategy needed to be revised..

But we did gather a lot of contacts.

We did an OK job of generating conversation and some level of “hype” around the demand through several symbolic actions.  We had petitions out with every Screw Ups, which added new contacts to our document.  We called each one to set up 1-on-1s or invite to committee meetings.  In September, we handed out stickers along with Screw Ups that read “I Support a $15/hour Starting Wage and a $5 raise for current employees.  It’s Time!!”  Lots of people wore them around work that day, and many stickers ended up on walls, equipment, and other surfaces around the hub.  In November, we stood outside the hub at the end of Twilight and Midnight shifts one night with posters containing the same text as the stickers.  We took pictures of people holding the signs, which were then posted to the facebook page.  

But hype is not organization.  Many people who have been “touched” by this campaign don’t get anywhere beyond signing the petition.  Unsurprisingly, it has been the people with whom organizers have a longer, more in-depth relationship with who come to meetings, and participate in the campaign in a larger way.  Those relationships have been built through several pathways, but the common thread is the one-on-one (or other style of targeted AEIOU conversation).  

Agitation has not often been an issue when organizing our coworkers.  Where I think we have had the greatest difficulty has been Educating and Inoculating.  Because agitation is so high, those are generally the first areas that we cover when meeting with coworkers.  They are also very difficult topics to cover in passing while at work.  If you can’t get past the Education and the Inoculation, how are you ever going to build long-term Organization?  One-on-ones become even more crucial in this equation.  Repeated one-on-ones.  The most consistent participation we have had has been the result of a series of out-of-work interactions and a persistent effort to work through issues that may be holding someone back from organizing.

Thoughts:

One thing I think we failed to do is allow the campaign to evolve as the size and capacity of the organizing committee changed.  Early on in the year, we were riding a high of momentum and had a relatively large committee that peaked at 6 members in good standing organizing at two local hubs.  At that point, we were optimistic about our capability to organize a broad swath of hub workers and pull off a large-scale action during peak season.  At the same time, we were falling behind on doing one-on-ones, which have always been high on our list of effective organizing tools.  I think we relied too heavily on workplace contact and conversation, as well as agitational tools such as Screw Ups.  Later in the summer and fall, our committee lost half of our in-shop organizers, and didn’t keep them on as outside organizers.  The reduced committee stayed the course without taking time to analyze our capacity.  We realized too late that we hadn’t conducted enough one-on-ones, or otherwise developed our coworkers to the point where we could ask them to step up to keep us on track.  

There have been several moments over the course of the campaign when we have had an influx of momentum.  These have been moments when our coworkers with whom we have strong relationships (both at and outside of work) have attended our meetings and contributed their ideas on the campaign and other grievances.  The lesson here is simple: We need to be consistent about agitating, educating, and organizing our coworkers.  It is really hard to generate momentum when weekly meetings consist of the same people, talking about the same things, coming up with the same tasks.  Also, it is easier to get less-organized coworkers to meetings if their friends and/or trusted coworkers are attending.

I began writing this document at a moment that felt particularly “low” energy.  In that same moment, we as a committee had a serious talk and have since generated significantly more energy.  We just welcomed a coworker into the IWW.  There is serious talk of having a sick-in.  I am even more hopeful now that this document can serve as a tool to improve the overall quality of our organizing, in terms of both building worker power at UPS in Minneapolis and building a revolutionary, militant working class movement composed of sharp, hardened, and committed individuals.

Impacts to Organizing:

When this motion was first presented at the January 16th 2015 PHOC meeting, I had reservations about a few aspects of it.  My major sticking point centered on my concern about taking on a campaign of this scale with a committee that was both relatively small (>1% of the part-timers at the Minneapolis hub alone), and relatively young (half the committee had worked at UPS for 3 months or less).  Could we manage the pressure of building for such a monumental demand in a relatively short time-frame without losing sight of the smaller issues that have been galvanizing moments in our previous organizing?  Would anybody take us seriously?  Could we decide to change course in 6 months without losing all our support, or feeling like our time had been completely wasted?

I ended up voting in favor of this motion.  I am glad I did.  That being said, I have wavered back and forth over the course of this campaign on whether it was having a positive or negative effect on organizing in general at UPS.  Some of that is due to the aforementioned peaks and valleys of momentum.  Below is some analysis of my initial reservations that I think accounted for the rest of my mixed feelings.

  1. Could we manage the pressure of building for such a monumental demand in a relatively short time-frame without losing sight of the smaller issues that have been galvanizing moments in our previous organizing?  For the most part, I think we maintained the ability to take on smaller fights.  We even got better at addressing small grievances in a way, as our social network got larger and we got “in” with lots of people.  I believe we learned about more workers’ grievances, and that more people came to know us as people to approach when they had an issue with conditions at work.  

On the other hand, conducting this campaign has been incredibly labor-intensive.  Even when we have fallen behind on tasks, Burnout has always been lurking in the shadows.  Screw Ups was published less frequently this year than it was last year.  And though I hope this is not true, I wonder if the chronic stress associated with a few organizers (most of whom were working 2-3 jobs throughout the year) working on a massive campaign in a large workplace stopped us from taking on smaller fights.  This could have come in the form of blatant rejection, or in the failure to recognize an issue/opportunity when it presented itself.  I can at least say that we never, to my knowledge, turned away a coworker who came to us with an issue they wanted to organize around.  But did I fail to pick up on someone who was obviously having a bad day?  Did I do a bad job listening to a coworker who was trying to organize me?  These are important questions to revisit on a regular basis.

  1. Would anybody take us seriously?  Yes.  Not everybody, but I don’t think we were ever that naive.  Working a unionized manual labor job that pays less than comparable non-union work across the city means that people listen when the topic of a raise comes up.  For newer workers (let’s say within the last 5 years/since the last contract), our part time wages are almost never enough to live on.  For those who have been around the company longer, they have seen their wages remain stagnant since Reagan was president.  Stagnant wages are one of the rank-and-files biggest issues with the Teamsters.  So in that sense, wages were a great issue to take on for a dual/solidarity union campaign.

But of course there were those who dismissed us.  Many of these reactions were based on people’s (begrudging) allegiance to the Teamsters.  “That’s not in the contract,” and “not unless the Teamsters support it,” were typical responses we heard from people who did not support our petitioning and other efforts.  A successful antidote to these sentiments was a good old-fashioned one-on-one meeting.  Being able to sit down with someone, explain the role of the Teamsters in our shop, and why we were raising this demand as rank-and-file workers, was often enough to at least garner support.  One of our most successful lines, corny though it may sound, was something to the effect of “well if the Teamsters won’t get it for us, we’re gonna have to get it for ourselves.”  The biggest lesson I learned here is the power of the one-on-one.  If someone just knows you as an agitator, they are less likely to take you seriously than if they know you as an organizer.

  1. Could we decide to change course in 6 months without losing all our support, or feeling like our time had been completely wasted?  This is a tough question to answer, as it is completely hypothetical.  However, I still think it has some value as a way to evaluate a large campaign.  Things don’t always go as planned, and it is useful to have a backup plan that can help salvage the gains you have made and begin to move forward in another direction.

This question forces you to think critically about the steps you take in building and running a campaign.  For instance, our first step of gathering names and contacts en mass through a petition ensured that we would have gained a valuable resource even if we had to abandon the $15 starting wage campaign.  That list also generated one-on-ones with a variety of workers whom we would otherwise maybe not have contacted.  Even if the campaign folds, we have built relationships with more of our coworkers, and hopefully developed some of them into organizers.  

Conclusions:

Undertaking this campaign has taught me many important and lasting lessons as a union organizer.  Many of these lessons I would not have learned had we continued along our existing path. I learned the importance of a democratically functioning committee with a diversity of opinions and perspectives.  Accountability among committee members must be established early on, and maintained throughout even the most difficult moments of a campaign.  I quickly realized that I could not be an effective organizer by only talking with people I knew already.  Organizing is not a comfortable, social affair; at times, it feels like what my co-committee member describes as “a fucking war zone.”  And as long as you understand and are prepared for that, you can make impressive gains in the struggle against the wage system.  

But this campaign has been more than just a learning experience.  Despite some lingering moments of disappointment and nagging doubts, I am convinced that this campaign has had an incredibly positive impact on our organizing at UPS.  We have identified and developed a crew of shop-floor militants, and brought a few of them into the IWW.  We are tapped into social networks across our shop. These networks cross the boundaries of age, race, and gender.  We have learned to back off and play defense when conditions require it.  Through all of the stress, joy, disappointment, and abundant humor, we have stayed together and even grown as a committee.  While the $15/hour starting wage campaign itself may not be successful, I believe that we have shown that the idea of taking on a major, public campaign contributes to greater overall success in organizing our Fellow Workers.

For the One Big Union,

FW Coeur de Bord

PHOC member

Journalists: Robert Kroll Is Not Credible on Race and Policing

Robert Kroll: Not Credible On Race and Policing

Lieutenant Robert Kroll, Head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, elected to that position on April 30, 2015.

JOURNALISTS: WE WILL HOLD YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR DOING YOUR JOB: CONTEXTUALIZE QUOTES FROM KROLL ON RACE AND POLICE VIOLENCE.

This document has been prepared to begin a backgrounder for journalists on why we believe Lieutenant Robert, Kroll, current Head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, and why we therefore demand that journalists who interview Kroll for their stories involving race and policing, must mention that he has persistently been accused not only of racism, but of actively embracing the organizations of White Supremacy, such as the Ku Klux Klan, and their slogans, such as “White Power.”

To report Kroll’s words in these contexts is not responsible journalism, and it reinforces the racist violence that law enforcement is permitted to inflict on communities and individuals of color in this state.

This preliminary report intends to accomplish two goals:

  1. To break the silence in the media regarding the clear and persistent loyalties to organized and explicit White Supremacist and racist ideals and organizations by law enforcement officer and PD Union Head Lieutenant Robert Kroll. This should have been done by journalists and not left to us. We therefore do not pretend to encyclopedism; these links are intended for journalists to begin this work, and to let journalists know that we expect them to do this work.
  2. To place journalists who interview Kroll on race-related stories on notice: the community of the Twin Cities will no longer stand for the complicity of media with racist police. It is reasonable to interview the Head of the Law Enforcement Union on race-related stories, especially, as is all to often, the use of violent officer force on citizens of color. It is not acceptable or reasonable, and will not longer be accepted, that in those contexts journalists fail to mention Kroll’s history of racism, or question why he is permitted to speak for law enforcement, or what that means for the Police Union.

 

Examples of Stories in which Kroll was permitted largely or entirely uncontextualized comment as head of the Police Union, on racial-justice issues.

 

Kroll comments on officer caught on tape using force in racist context…
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/05/07/cop-caught-on-video-threatening-to-break-teenagers-leg-during-traffic-stop-is-placed-on-leave-but-there-may-be-more-to-the-story/

 

Kroll argues against Personal Police Liability insurance:

http://kstp.com/article/stories/s3803910.shtml

 

Kroll as MFP Pres opposed the repeal of spitting, lurking, other racist ordinances:

http://www.crookstontimes.com/article/20150608/NEWS/150609642

 

Kroll thinks BLM is a destructive force, pulls out the Black On Black crime card:
http://www.questionthepremise.org/new-blog/2015/8/12/where-is-the-outrage

 

More on Kroll opposing the repeal of lurking ordinances:
http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-argues-the-repeal-of-spitting-and-lurking-laws/302858171/

 

Easily Internet-Searchable Documentation of Kroll’s Race Problem:

 

The very first picture in the images.google.com search for ““Robert Kroll” Minneapolis” is this (at bottom of this note) http://s263.photobucket.com/user/dalton124124/media/Robert_Krull_kkk.jpg.html

Below is a 2007 court document claiming involvement by Kroll and Timothy Dolan in the systematic racist hiring, promotion, and firing of Black police officers, and specifically pointing out that Kroll wore a “White Power” badge on his motorcycle jacket (see “City Heat,” below), had a history of racist behavior, and implies he may have been involved in the distribution of a “KKK” flyer to Black officers. This report is primarily about Kroll’s “Crony” Timothy Dolan, who also deserves a very hard look.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2007/12/04/MplsPD.pdf Pages (4-5, 15)

 

2007 City Pages article about that time that Kroll called Senator Keith Ellison a “Terrorist.”:http://www.citypages.com/news/shoot-from-the-lip-6688455

 

City Heat M.C.

Same article above largely discusses “City Heat,” the Chicago-based Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club with a Twin Cities chapter that has been accused of harboring White Supremacists.

“I am disturbed that these Minneapolis police officers associate with other law-enforcement officers who very publicly and proudly display racist symbols of hate next to their police department badge and patch,” said Minneapolis police Lt. Medaria Arradondo, a 20-year veteran.”

http://www.twincities.com/ci_11422860

 

It appears that in 1995 he was sued in Federal courts for “beating, choking and kicking in the groin a 15-year-old boy of mixed race while spewing racial slurs.”

Indeed, Kroll owns a lengthy record of brutishness.

 

In 1995, he was accused of kicking, beating, chocking, and using racial slurs against a 15-year-old boy. But a federal grand jury cleared him of any wrongdoing.

 

In 1996, Kroll oversaw an Emergency Response Unit that performed a botched drug raid. In the ensuing confusion, one MPD officer was shot by his own colleagues. (See “Friendly Fire,” CP 9/9/1997.)

 

In September 2002, Kroll was involved in an incident that eventually led to a city payout of $60,000. (See “The Hit Parade Revisited,” CP 7/20/2005.)

 

And in December, the city attorney recommended Minneapolis pay $15,000 to settle a suit accusing Kroll of beating and kicking a suspect in an impound lot downtown in February 2004.

 

“Bob Kroll’s record in dealing with minorities speaks for itself,” says former MPD cop Mike Quinn.
http://www.twincities.com/ci_11422860

 

Kroll has been accused of physically threatening a city councilman, Ralph Remington.

http://archive.southsidepride.com/2006/12/articles/policefederation.htm

 

As defendant in a 2004 case where he and another officer attacked a man at an Art Fair; the main question is whether they were acting as police officers at the time.
http://www.mprnews.org/story/2010/03/19/mpls-police-pretrial

 

He is one of the defendants in this civil case about excessive force from 2007.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-mnd-0_06-cv-00579/pdf/USCOURTS-mnd-0_06-cv-00579-0.pdf

 

So here is our demand to journalists covering Black Lives Matter,
and any issue that combines local policing and issues of race:

if you report on Kroll without mentioning his racism problem,
you have become part of the problem.

If you don’t talk about Kroll, we’ll talk about you.

 

Endorsed By:

Twin Cities General Defense Committee Local 14 | Black Lives Matter Saint Paul | ABC Detroit | ABC Kansas City | ARA Kansas City

 

to add your endorsement as a group or individual, leave it as a comment or DM on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TC.GDC

LT. Robert Kroll, Head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, elected to that position on April 30, 2015, and notorious racist.

LT. Robert Kroll, Head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, elected to that position on April 30, 2015, and notorious racist.

Reposted from Twin Cities General Defense Committee Local 14.

Twin Cities IWW wins unpaid wages from local daycare

unnamed

This summer, IWW member Anja was fired from her job at Crocus Hill Academy, a daycare. She was told that it was for talking to current and former coworkers about issues with their boss, Imran Khan. Two weeks later, Anja had yet to receive her final paycheck, her personal belongings, or a copy of her personnel file, which she had requested. Three union members from the Twin Cities IWW branch accompanied Anja to the daycare to deliver a demands letter. Mr. Khan reacted aggressively, shouting at and threatening the union delegation, accusing Anja of mistreating children, and calling St. Paul Police. He refused to accept the letter, and police asked IWW members to vacate the property.

The following day, a larger group of IWW members leafleted the daycare. As Mr. Khan yelled from the door, union members talked to parents about Anja’s firing and other grievances. Upon Mr. Khan’s continued refusal to receive the letter, branch members conducted a call-in and social media campaign against Crocus Hill Academy. Within a few days, Anja received a call from the school’s new director, begging her to give him a copy of the demands which Mr. Khan refused to accept. She has since received her final paycheck and an additional check for $120 to compensate for her personal belongings and personnel file, both of which Mr. Khan “misplaced.”

Manipulative, lying bosses like Mr. Khan are a danger to all working people, especially when they punish workers for protected activity like talking about work conditions and steal wages. But when we stand alone, or when we look to the government for help, we give up our power to fight. When we come together with other working people, we can get what we deserve. Direct action works and solidarity wins. Get in touch with the Twin Cities IWW if you have problems at work.

Email: twincities@iww.org

May 26th school board action #studentsnotsuspects

schoolboardaction-header

From Classroom Struggle Twin Cities

Upcoming MPS School Board Action, #StudentsNotSuspects:

Join the Social Justice Education Movement (SJEM) and the Coalition for Critical Change and come out to the upcoming special school board meeting to demand an end to cops in schools. At this meeting, the school board will determine a proposal for its contract for School Resource Officers (SROs).

May 26th, 6:00pm
Davis Center
1250 W Broadway Ave
Minneapolis, MN 5541
Facebook Event: please share widely!

You can also show up with us to one of three upcoming budget forums to demand that the $500,000 going to SROs be reallocated to support restorative, transformative, and non-punitive programs. Visit the MPS website for date, times, and locations. We hope to see you there!

15 Per Hour at UPS

22820_1407538262894553_2972093403476953302_n

From 15 Per Hour at UPS

We hear people talking about it every night. “Shit, we should be making a hell of a lot more than we do for working this hard!” “They’re gonna have to pay me way better if they want me to do that!” And we all agree, but we also know that words alone won’t turn into raises. So last month some sturdy friends of Screw Ups braved the icy terrors of winter to collect signatures on a petition calling for a $15/hour starting wage at UPS, and a corresponding $5 raise for everyone. We weren’t surprised by the positive responses–nearly 100 signatures at both the Minneapolis and Eagan hub!–and it was great to see people getting fired up about making a real improvement to our jobs.

Making a push to raise wages at UPS without waiting 4 years for the next contract is certainly ambitious. But we all know how big of a difference an extra $5 per hour would make in our lives. And let’s face it; lots of us won’t even be working here in four years. We deserve better wages now, not when (and if) union and company negotiators feel like it. That’s why we’re going to fight for it. Nobody is promising we can make it happen. But we are promising to fight for it.

Whether you’ve been at UPS for a week, or a decade, or longer, you know that they always demand MORE. More accuracy, more speed, more sacrifice. This is especially true during peak season, when UPS relies on us most to keep the operation running and their profits flooding in. Year after year, we make billions of dollars for the company, and what do we get in return? Poverty wages (and the occasional pizza at break). This is what UPS thinks all of our hard work is worth. But we’re willing to bet that most of the time, and especially at Peak, the effort you put into your job goes far beyond what most people working part time jobs for $10 (or $11, or $12, or more) an hour give.
If we want to stop the daily wishing for higher wages, we have to get serious about it. We’re smart enough by now to know UPS won’t just give us things when we ask nicely. We have to show them what we’re worth. Show UPS what you think $10/hour work looks like, and they might start to understand what we’re worth. Keep it up, and they won’t have a choice but to find a way to show that our work is actually important to them.

It is going to take a big group of us putting pressure on UPS to get this raise. If you want to join in and work for better wages, we want you to get in touch with us! We are ready to start moving forward, and there are a few ways you can get involved right away. Check us out at www.facebook.com/15dollarsUPS or send an email to screwups[at]riseup.net.