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Beyond “F*ck You”: An organizer’s approach to confronting hateful language at work.

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Most likely many of us have had to deal with hateful language and sentiments at our jobs. Here is an account about an organizer’s response at their workplace.

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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

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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

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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!

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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.

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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!

New blog from IWW Education Organizing Committee

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Go on over to Classroom Struggle and check out the Education Organizing Committee of the Twin Cities IWW’s new blog.

From the ‘About Us’ section:

Who We Are

This blog and the Twin Cities Annual Social Justice Education Fair are projects of the Twin Cities IWW Education Organizing Committee, a group of education organizers open to all K-12 public education workers. We strive to bring together educators, students, parents and caregivers, and communities from across the Twin Cities who believe that another  kind of education possible. We are working to identify and eliminate the ways schools perpetuate injustice, and seek to transform our education system on the principles of community self-determination and worker control, sustainability, freedom, and social justice.

Part of our goal then is to create a team of like-minded people dedicated to these values and to growing a powerful movement in education. Right now in our schools, we see two urgent and connected struggles:

  • One is for social justice in our schools, along the lines of race, gender & sexuality, colonialism, and capitalism.
  • Another is against further divestment, de-professionalization, standardization, and privatization.

Both are essential for the future of our schools, and only an authentic coalition of educators, students, parents, and community for racial and social justice and against ‘reform’ has the potential to transform our schools.

Our blog then, like the Social Justice Education Fair, is not only about identifying and better understanding the threats to the kinds of education we desire. It’s also about the actions and solutions small and large that we can make in our classrooms, schools and communities to build our power and make real change.

 

Two new pamphlets of Twin Cities IWW writing

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Both of these pamphlets were made about a year or so ago, but fell by the wayside somehow. The first one, ‘Towards a union of organizers’ challenges the sentiment that someone’s workplace is impossible to organize and gives some examples of preliminary steps one could take. It was originally written by db for The Organizer in April 2012. This pamphlet also includes an editorial written in 1913 for the Industrial Worker newspaper, about a strike in Duluth. Thanks to Grace Parker for finding that!

The second pamphlet included here is called ‘Small time unionism’. Written by Kevin S, for The Organizer in July 2012, he talks about the contradictions between being a union with more experience with smaller employers and growing to be able to exert power on bigger targets.

Note: These are meant for printing, and are ‘imposed’, which means the pages alternate in a way so they end up consecutively when you fold them to make the pamphlet.

Towards a union of organizers + Duluth 1913 editorial (PDF)

Small time unionism (PDF)

New editorial statement and plans for The Organizer

IWW bloc and cold 2011 May Day march

IWW bloc at cold 2011 May Day march

Hello all,

This is the incoming editor of The Organizer, the official blog of the Twin Cities General Membership Branch (GMB) of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). I thought it would be good to post an update and lay out some plans for the next year.

First of all, as sort of a ‘guiding spirit’ to govern this blog and the material it publishes, here is a new editorial statement.

The Organizer is the official blog of the Twin Cities General Membership Branch (GMB) of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). We seek to be an active resource for the Twin Cities IWW, not only publicizing its activities, but promoting an intellectual culture of working people who aim to fundamentally change our society. Along with our organizing efforts, which are a priority, reflections and accounts of our experiences will help build towards our goals. We welcome all writing and perspectives on both the IWW and the wider situation and experience of working class people in the Twin Cities.

With this in mind, here are some more specific types of articles that could be run on this site.

Press releases/event announcements - the Twin Cities GMB usually has multiple campaigns and several public events every year.

Reportbacks - articles about events, pickets, protests or other such activity that members of the Twin Cities IWW are involved in.

Stories about organizing and work life - accounts of fighting back against the bosses and/or how work effects our daily lives.

Opinion/analysis - articles written that analyze what we do, how we do it and ways to do it better.

Pamphlet series - if possible, I’d like to release 3 pamphlets of original Wobbly writing in the next year.

“Blast from the past” - republishing articles from the print version of The Organizer, as well as getting accounts of past campaigns that now only exist as oral history.

Local issues - things happening in the Twin Cities area of relevence to the IWW and its members.

-The Organizer editor

Sisters’ Camelot striking canvassers form new non-profit, remain on strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MINNEAPOLIS—Canvass workers from the non-profit mobile food shelf Sisters’ Camelot have formed a foodsharing organization of their own, the North Country Food Alliance. The canvassers went public to their bosses, the Sisters’ Camelot managing collective, as a union affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) at the end of February. On March 1st, the managing collective refused to negotiate with the union causing the workers to go on strike. Three days later management fired one of the striking canvassers, a firing that was later found to be illegal by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Rather than accepting the NLRB’s settlement offer, the Sisters’ Camelot managing collective chose instead to work with a national union-busting law firm, FordHarrison, to fight the decision before a administrative law judge. Both sides are awaiting the verdict from the trial. After four months of striking and witnessing Sisters’ Camelot lose its positive reputation and their source of funding, causing them to drastically scale back programming, and move out of their warehouse space, the canvassers from Sisters’ Camelot decided to start something new.

North Country Food Alliance (NCFA) is a worker-run, IWW closed union shop. It is modeled on the principal that workers who are empowered within their workplace have greater investment in their jobs and therefore in the organization as a whole. NCFA is operated democratically through the workers’ weekly meetings, at which all decisions concerning the daily operation of the organization are made. All workers have an equal say and no group or individuals’ votes are valued above anyone else’s. Despite being a brand-new organization, this non-hierarchical model has already attracted several new workers, who say they enjoy being part of an organization that they truly believe in.

“Most of us at have worked at other non-profits on issues that we care about and have realized most of them function hypocritically,” said Quinn Bourdot, an NCFA worker who was not part of the Canvass Union, “Instead of causing workers to become disillusioned by chewing them up and spitting them out, North Country provides workers with a rewarding experience where they can develop diverse skills, confidence in, and commitment to their ideals.”

North Country Food Alliance increases access to food and shares food with people in need. This is accomplished through three main program areas: foodshare, foraging, and gardening. The foodshare program works with local co-ops to collect their overstock produce, which would normally go to waste, and distributes it for free in low-income neighborhoods. “We pick a different location every week to do our foodshare,” said NCFA worker Will Dixon, “and we make sure to mix it up and not get stuck doing foodshares in the same neighborhoods all the time.”

The foraging program holds weekly workshops which teach participants to safely identify and harvest wild-growing greens, berries, mushrooms, and other foods. “The foraging program has allowed me to meet a lot of wonderful, new people and overall has been a very rewarding experience,” said Maria Wesserle, foraging coordinator.

North Country Food Alliance is developing a gardening program to provide resources for communities to take full advantage of the urban gardening opportunities in the Twin Cities. Their goal is to help create gardens and in time hand them over to the communities where they are based, providing the tools and resources to empower people to grow their own food. “We’ve been making a lot of headway in building relationships with neighborhood associations to establish community gardens. We also have some gleaning opportunities coming up,” said Tiffany Keri, one of the garden coordinators.

Despite finding having new jobs with their organization, the canvassers are not ending their strike at Sisters’ Camelot.

“We want to make one thing perfectly clear,” said NCFA worker ShugE Mississipi, “We are still on strike at Sisters’ Camelot and anyone who canvasses for them is a scab.  We have zero tolerance for scabbing.”

Look for the North Country Food Alliance at busy intersections, community garden plots, local wild areas, and at your doorstep. To learn more or to make a donation visit it www.northcountryfoodalliance.org.

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