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First issue of the Incarcerated Worker

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Introducing a new publication from the Industrial Workers of the World, the Incarcerated Worker! Over the last year or so, some prisoners in the U.S. and outside supporters have gotten together and formed the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee to address concerns such as prison labor and conditions.

CONTENTS

  • The IWW by Sean Swain
  • Biographical Profile: Dennis S. Boatwright, Jr. by Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan
  • Understanding the Role of Prisoner Intellectuals by Dennis S. Boatwright
  • Forgotten Warrior Waits on Death Row By Isa Abdur-Rasheed
  • Lynching: Then and Now By Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan
  • Induced Failure By Imam Siddique Abdullah Hasan
  • Crime and Punishment by Bomani Shakur
  • A Flicker Turns into a Flame: Alabama’s Prisoners want change by The Free Alabama movement

PDF AVAILABLE HERE

Anti-police brutality protest shakes things up at the Mall Of America

lushworkersLush workers walk out of the store in solidarity with Black Lives Matter at the Mall of America on Dec 202014. Photo: Nick Kozel

Last month, Black Lives Matter, which has led a number of protests, marches and rallies after several high-profile police killings of black males nationwide, organized a rally at the Mall of America. Prior to the rally, the Mall of America and City of Bloomington police waged a war of legal threats through the media, instructing protesters to gather somewhere else, or risk arrest.

The rally went on as planned, and since then, 10 organizers have been charged with a variety of misdemeanors, along with the City of Bloomington promising to seek restitution for police overtime and other costs. You can support the 10, by contributing to their legal defense fund here.

The following article appeared on the front page of January/February 2015 Industrial Worker, which is our official newspaper. It is an account from Twin Cities IWW member, x378436, about the Mall of America rally.

Anti-police brutality protest shakes things up at the Mall Of America
by x378436

On Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, a protest organized by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis aiming to shut down the Mall of America took place. The demonstration was part of the ongoing movement against police brutality and structural racism in police departments nationwide. Thousands of protesters crowded into the rotunda of the largest shopping mall in North America with banners proclaiming solidarity with Ferguson and “black lives matter.” Chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” echoed through the mall and sometimes got loud enough to shake the windows. Protesters who showed up a little late were greeted by members of the Bloomington Police Department dressed in head-to-toe riot gear and plainclothes mall security guards. Several members of the Twin Cities IWW were present and a few were arrested when they tried to break through these police lines set up to block protesters’ access to the rotunda and the other half of the mall. An entire section of the mall was entirely shut down, with all the shops closed. Many food court workers walked off their jobs and stood with their hands up while still wearing their Auntie Anne’s Pretzels or Dairy Queen uniforms. Employees at the animal-friendly cosmetics shop, Lush, stood outside their store with their hands up in solidarity with the protesters. Many employees who were trapped inside their shops by the barricades that mall security guards set up stood by the shop windows looking out at the protests and raised their fists in support.

For a few hours, the Mall of America was partially shut down and the people who worked there seemed totally fine with it, and even supportive in some cases. Whether or not food court workers who abandoned their posts and joined the protest could be called a “wildcat strike” is up for debate, but it certainly speaks volumes that this is an issue that resonates with so many. It resonates enough with people that they are willing to refuse to work and instead take action against a white supremacist police state. Previous Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have linked the Service Employee International Union’s (SEIU’s) Fight for 15 and Fast Food Forward campaigns with the movement against police violence. McDonald’s workers, still in their uniforms, blocked highways and led chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Some of them participated in die-ins on the highway or in the middle of busy intersections. The fact that many people of color who experience the brunt of police violence also make up a considerable amount of those who work at low-wage fast food and service jobs speaks volumes about the white supremacist capitalist system that we find ourselves living in today. It is the hope of this Wobbly and many others within the general antipolice movement gaining traction that we can link direct action against bosses who exploit us for our labor and pay us menial compensation with direct action against a State which uses violence to enforce a white supremacist and patriarchal social order.

Actions like “Hands Up Don’t Ship” (a symbolic protest by rank-and-file workers at the United Parcel Service [UPS] hub in Minneapolis in which workers refused to ship packages from Law Enforcement Targets Inc.) and these spontaneous walkouts by food court workers at the Mall of America are just the beginning of what is hopefully a new movement: a movement which can begin to combat both the mistreatment at the hands of the employing class and the mistreatment at the hands of the police; a movement that can bring working-class people together regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation and fight for its emancipation. The Twitter personality “@zellie,” who has been extremely active in reporting what has been going on in Ferguson and also in New York in response to the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, said “If you ever wondered what you would be doing in the Civil Rights Movement, now is the time to find out.” Let us all find out together. In the face of such blatant disregard for the lives of people of color in this nation by the police, inaction on our part is complacence.

The labor movement of the 21st century cannot avoid the presence of white supremacy or patriarchy in our society. It must combat them as well as combat capitalism. Then and only then will we begin to see a much less miserable world, one in which all of us will be free to carve out our own destinies free from the confines of wage labor, patriarchal subjugation, and white supremacist marginalization. Wobblies of the world, let’s get to work!

Common objections to the Black Lives Matter movement

On the center divide on Highway 55 in Minneapolis after grand jury decision to not indict Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. Photo: Juan Conatz

On the center divide on Highway 55 in Minneapolis after grand jury decision to not indict Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson.
Photo: Juan Conatz

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’re aware of the protests and actions that have sprung up in the wake of the police murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. In Minneapolis, we’ve taken our marches onto the highways, blocked traffic, demanded to be met at city hall, and defied the Mall of America by gathering there for a rally.

Much like anywhere else though, along with a lot of support, there’s been a fair amount of negative reaction. In the comment sections of local media, in our workplaces, maybe even in our families, we’ve begun to notice a string of repeated objections.

Patrick O’Donohue, an IWW member and a participant in the local Black Lives Matter movement, responds to some of these objections.

Common objections to the Black Lives Matter movement
by Patrick O’Donohue

“People need to stop making things about race.”

Agreed. Racist institutions and people need to stop making things about race by treating people of color unfairly. Until they do, we should all point out their racism and criticize them for it.

“We need to come together, not be divided!”

Agreed. We should come together against racism.

“ALL lives matter!”

Agreed. So, when the police treat lives as if they don’t matter, we object. When the police target some ethnic groups, such as black people or Native Americans, for disproportionate abuse, we point out that racist targeting. When police continue to summarily execute black people and get away with it over and over, and treating black lives as if they do not matter, it is appropriate for us all to say, “Black lives matter!”- because all lives matter.

“Irish-Americans were persecuted, too”

Agreed. Many decades ago, but agreed. That’s why Irish-Americans should stand on the side of people who are currently going through discrimination similar to what our ancestors went through. Same goes for people whose ancestors were Italian, German, Jewish, Slavic, Spanish, or any other ethnicity that faced discrimination when they first came to America. Really, the same goes for all of us.

“All this race stuff just divides us against the real problems like class and government abuses of power”

Agreed. Racism has historically been used to keep exploited and governed populations from working together against their common interests. As such, racism is a supporting pillar maintaining the power of class and the state. Instead of allowing racism to fool us into supporting the institutions of the state and of class, we should unite with people of color against those institutions and against the racism that upholds them.

“White people get killed by the police, too!”

Agreed. We get killed at a much lower rate, and the media doesn’t demonize the white victims of police brutality to nearly the same degree that black victims of police brutality get demonized, but yes: white people get killed by the police, too– especially white queer, mentally ill, homeless, or working class people. These aspects of police discrimination should be discussed, just like the racial aspect should be- and, of course, every summary execution by the police should be condemned. The demands that the Black Lives Matter movement is making- demands like body cameras, independent investigations of police violence, community oversight of the police, and an end to ‘broken windows’ policing and the drug war- are demands that will help all victims of police brutality, regardless of our race.

“You’re inconveniencing people!”

Agreed. That’s the point of civil disobedience- we aim to make it impossible to continue ignoring the problem of police brutality and racism. We aim to make our movement a constant problem for those in power and for those who’ve ignored the problem, because we have seen that politely asking for the state to please stop summarily executing people doesn’t work. If you only support social change when it’s convenient, non-disruptive, and doesn’t interrupt business as usual, then you don’t support social change at all. Change is disruptive by definition.

“You protestors are breaking the law!”

Agreed. The law is breaking human beings and communities every day. The law targets working class people and people of color for mass incarceration through the racially targeted drug war, ‘broken windows’ policing that gives unforgiving punishment for minor ‘offenses’, and policies of minimum sentencing. The law operates as a back-door tax on the communities the police target, and as a way to funnel people into prisons to be used as cheap labor. The law covers for the police when the police murder unarmed people. We are absolutely breaking the law, and hope to break it so thoroughly it can no longer be used to target and oppress working class people and people of color.

IWW snapbacks!

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Like the IWW? Like snapbacks? Want a union-made IWW snapback? The Twin Cities IWW has them available for $30 plus shipping & handling!

Available here: http://twincities.iww.org/Donate/

7th Annual ‘Red November, Black November’ a success!

Setting up for the 2009 Red November, Black November (Photo: Erik Davis)

Setting up for the 2009 Red November, Black November (Photo: Erik Davis)

 

Red November, Black November
Red November, black November,
Bleak November, black and red.
Hallowed month of labor’s martyrs,
Labor’s heroes, labor’s dead.

Labor’s wrath and hope and sorrow,
Red the promise, black the threat,
Who are we not to remember?
Who are we to dare forget?

Black and red the colors blended,
Black and red the pledge we made,
Red until the fight is ended,
Black until the debt is paid.

— Ralph Chaplin (1932)

This is a somber month for labor.

The Haymarket Martyrs were executed in November. Joe Hill was put before a firing squad in Utah during November. Bueventura Durruti was killed in November.  The Centralia, Everett and the First Columbine massacres all occurred in November.

It is for this reason that the Twin Cities General Membership Branch (GMB) of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) began to put together a yearly social event called ‘Red November, Black November’ (RNBN). Recognizing the importance of this month to organized labor, RNBN is held to remember and reflect on both our own efforts, as well as those who came before us.

November 22nd marked the seventh time RNBN has been held. A $10 ticket ($5 for kids) bought you a pozole dinner with two beverages, along with a full program of reports, music, a kids’ skit, a quiz, raffles and conversation with other IWW members. Although a Twin Cities focused event, Wobblies from Winnepeg, Toronto, Chicago, Salt Lake City and Indiana were in attendance. This year also coincided with an Organizer Training 102 that happened the same weekend.

After dinner, and interspersed with labor songs throughout, attendees heard reports from the outgoing Branch Secretary-Treasurers. The two officers went over some of the better practices they had tried to establish in 2014, as well as announced the branch’s move to a new, larger office in December.

Next were reports from campaigns that members have been involved in over the year. How the #handsupdontship job action came together, contacts with prison laborers and activity from ‘dual-carders’ in education were among some of the things talked about. Extra time was set aside to watch a video greeting recorded by a branch member currently in South Africa.

Moving on to perhaps the highlight of the night was the kids’ skit. Organized by the Junior Wobblies with the assistance of some of their parents and siblings, the skit featured the kids poking fun at the campaigns and experiences of the Twin Cities IWW. As usual, it received a lot of laughter and a standing applause.

A staffer from General Headquarters in Chicago attended, and gave a broad report of what has been going on in the union. This was followed reports from The Organizer editor and the Junior Wobblies. This was the last of the reports.

The event then moved on to a “Trivia Pub Quiz” with the winning table getting an extra entry into the raffle. The raffle, which every attendee got at least one entry in, consisted of a number of prizes, including items from May Day Books, thoughtcrime ink, Recomposition and individual members. The last part of RNBN involved making toasts. Wobblies raised their glasses and saluted each other’s efforts. It was a display of appreciation for tasks not always recognized. This concluded the 7th Annual Red November, Black November.

Twin Cities GMB member, Emmett D said after, “It was a successful event that captured the energy and hilarity of our union. I think a lot of people left feeling energized and excited to see what we can accomplish in the year ahead.”

An important message from our upcoming newsletter: SCREW UP BLACK FRIDAY!!!!

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From ScrewUps Newswire Facebook page

On Black Friday this year, UPS workers are getting the worst deal of the year. Instead of relaxing at home, enjoying a long weekend, and stocking up on the cheapest retail merchandise of the year, we all get to go to work on a contract-guaranteed holiday! How ‘bout that for “holiday cheer”?

UPS is very likely going to make a shitload of money by adding an extra shift during peak season. How do they get away with it? Article 15 of the Central Region contract supplement guarantees seniority employees eight paid holidays, including Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday). But when you look at Section 4 of Article 15, the Teamsters clarify that any employees can be required to work on any of these eight holidays, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Well, almost nothing. As part of the Screw Ups peak season survival guide, here are some ways to SCREW UP Black Friday and make UPS pay for calling us in.

Teamsters Central Region and UPS Supplemental Agreement to the National Master UPS Agreement, Article 15, Section 4: “Except as otherwise provided in this agreement, regular seniority employees required to work on any of the above named holidays [which include the day after Thanksgiving] shall receive double his/her regular hourly rate for all hours worked with a guarantee of eight (8) hours for full-time employees and four (4) hours for part-time employees. Also, no employee shall be required to work on Labor Day unless authorized by the local union.”

Slow Down. We say this pretty often, but on Black Friday it is particularly important. This is an extra day for UPS to turn a profit, and chances are they are going to try to push us harder than on any regularly scheduled shift. What is the best way to show the company you’re pissed about them stealing one of your vacation days? Cut into their profit as much as possible. We’re getting paid double our usual rate, so we’ve got to make it count. Don’t let UPS pull their usual corner-cutting bullshit that keeps our hours at a bare minimum. If they can push a high volume of packages through at the usual rate, UPS is going to hit the jackpot. Before you know it, they’ll start doing this on every “holiday.” Black Friday is a holiday: so take a break, relax, and work slow.

Ask for your minimum hour guarantee. Try to get as many hours as you can bear. Your supervisor won’t tell you that you are entitled to at least four hours (eight for full timers) of work that day. Maybe they’ll even tell you that it is only 3.5 as usual. If you get cut before reaching the minimum hours, let your sup know that you want four hours and that they are required to find you work until that minimum is fulfilled. Since you’ll be working slow anyways, chances are you will be getting over four hours already, but the more people who hit that mark, the less money the parasites in suits will make off of our work. If Black Friday profits are significantly lower than what UPS hoped to see, they will have to think twice before pulling this shit again next year. When it gives us tools, we should be prepared to wield the contract as a weapon against the company’s greed.

But what good is a contract that “guarantees” us a certain number of paid holidays, but then allows the company to cancel those holidays without our approval? UPS relies on us to get the work done, then treats us like the dog shit on the bottom of a boot. Fuck that. We need to be the boot giving the company a swift kick in the ass, dog shit and all.

What can brown people do for you?

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From ScrewUPS Facebook

Racism on the shop floor at UPS takes any number of forms, both the really obvious ones we see from time to time and the more subtle forms that often happen right peoples nose. In this article, one of our contributors speaks out about the issue.

What can brown people do for you?

As a person of color i often find it hard to talk about racism in the workplace with my co workers. Its a controversial topic that most prefer not to talk about. As a result many of my fellow white co workers will question whether or not racism even exists anymore. If you are one of these people let me be the first to say that yes, yes it actually does. It’s true that we’ve come along way since the civil rights era. This doesn’t mean that minorities are not discriminated against on a daily basis and If you don’t believe me just google “racial discrimination at UPS” and see what pops up. Just because no one is talking about it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. And even when we do speak up about it we are often ignored, shunned and degraded for pulling the “race card” etc etc in every way possible especially by management.

One way to see racism play out in the workplace is how UPS promotes it’s managers. Our workplace is a white male dominated environment no doubt. As a part time worker however almost half of the people in my section aren’t white at all. Yet the only faces i see with polos on are all white men. Every once in a while i see a black face here and there (gotta fill that quota somehow) yet all of the bosses in my area are all white. To be clear though i absolutely despise the bosses, not because of who they are but what they do. That hatred wouldn’t change just because my boss is black. I’m only pointing it out because it’s clear evidence of the significant power imbalances that exist between white men and minorities.

But it goes beyond just career opportunities, In Lexington KY there is a pending lawsuit where black workers are suing the company over racial discrimination they said they have endured for years. It got to the point where an effigy of a black employee was hung from the ceiling for 4 days outside of a managers office. While this kind of blatant prejudice may be unlikely to happen here in Minnesota its gotta be confronted however big or small and wherever it may appear. Silent oppression is still oppression, as people of color we especially have a duty to say something and most importantly DO SOMETHING whenever we see this happening to our fellow co workers (be it black, latino asian or otherwise). If you’re a white male please don’t take this the wrong way. This isnt meant to be an indictment of your character in anyway, nor am i saying its your fault. Just a friendly reminder that the fight for equality has never ended. You have a part to play in this too, as do we all. Let’s not forget that racism was pioneered in this country as a way to keep poor blacks and whites from coming together against the rich. There’s no reason for workers to be fighting each other over pitiful scraps, especially when we can organize and take the whole damn thing ourselves.

Members’ Corner: Dues Money

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In the IWW, like all unions, we pay membership dues. But what are these dues for, and why is it important that we pay them? John O’Reilly explains dues in this article from 2011.

Members corner: dues money by John O’Reilly
Originally appeared in The Organizer # 26(April 2011) Read more

East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul “Raise the Roof” fund

Tsione Wolde-Michael reads in front of a crowd at East Side Freedom Library’s Juneteenth event, which celebrates African-American emancipation. About 100 people attended the event, one of three the library has hosted this summer. Source: Twin Cities Daily Planet

Tsione Wolde-Michael reads in front of a crowd at East Side Freedom Library’s Juneteenth event, which celebrates African-American emancipation. About 100 people attended the event, one of three the library has hosted this summer. Source: Twin Cities Daily Planet

The Twin Cities IWW recently donated $200 towards the fund to repair the roof of the East Side Freedom Library. The ESFL is a not-yet-open research resource in St. Paul, which will focus on the history of the east side of St. Paul, as well as African American history, the immigrant experience and working class studies and literature. To contribute to the ‘Raise the Roof’ fund, click here. To find out more about the East Side Freedom Library, check out their website and Facebook page.

Sickening working conditions at Jimmy John’s spark viral protest for Paid Sick Days

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From Jimmy Johns Workers Union

MINNEAPOLIS– Three years ago, Jimmy John’s fired six Minneapolis sandwich workers for putting up over 3000 posters publicizing a grisly truth and a simple demand: workers at the chain are routinely forced to come to work and make sandwiches while sick by policies that discipline workers if they stay home sick without finding their own replacement, and minimum-wage pay that makes it impossible to take a day off. Following a National Labor Relations Board ruling last week ordering the company to reinstate the unlawfully fired whistleblowers, the workers have escalated their campaign for paid sick days- this time putting up the now-famous “Sandwich Test” posters coast to coast in a social media challenge.

“Jimmy John’s thought that they could silence us by firing six core members of our organizing effort. They were wrong. Starting on Labor Day, union supporters will be putting up copies of the poster Jimmy John’s fired us for publicizing in cities all across the United States, and sharing photos of the posters on social media. We have simple demands: give workers paid sick days, and comply with the NLRB’s order to reinstate the six of us who spoke out with the truth,” said Erik Forman, IWW organizer.

The bold action comes one week after the National Labor Relations Board has ordered Jimmy John’s to reinstate six workers who were unlawfully fired in 2011 for blowing the whistle on company policies that expose customers to sandwiches made by sick workers. The NLRB decision slaps down the sandwich chain’s appeal of a 2012 trial that brought to light a sickening reality behind the counter at Jimmy John’s, with sworn testimony of workers forced to work with ailments ranging from pink eye to the common flu, and even a collapsed lung. A union survey found that an average of two workers work while sick every day at the Minneapolis franchise of the chain because minimum-wage pay means workers can’t afford to take a day off, and management writes up or fires workers if they take a day off when they are sick without finding a substitute. The IWW Jimmy John’s Workers Union has announced a renewed escalation over Labor Day weekend to call on the company to comply with the NLRB ruling, and underscore demands for paid sick days, a living wage, stable scheduling and guaranteed hours, and tip jars, and better policies around driver safety and compensation.

The campaign for better conditions at the 1,900-location sandwich empire began four years ago this weekend in 2010, when workers at the Minneapolis-area Jimmy John’s franchise owned by Mike and Rob Mulligan staged a work stoppage and picket in protest of minimum wage pay, shifts as short as two or three hours, rampant sexual harassment, arbitrary firings, and being forced to prepare sandwiches while sick. In response, Jimmy John’s launched a campaign of disinformation and intimidation reminiscent of McCarthy-era paranoia, casting their own employees as a “third party” that sought to sow anarchy in the workplace. The employer’s anti-union campaign crossed over into illegality, leading to over 30 Unfair Labor Practice charges and voiding the results of an 85-87 vote against union representation at the chain in October 2010. Jimmy John’s agreed to a re-run election under the terms of a settlement brokered by the NLRB, but rapidly reneged on its pledge to abide by the law with the mass firing of six workers in retaliation for their campaign for paid sick days.

The story of the fight for paid sick days at Jimmy John’s reads like a cautionary tale on the dysfunction of the US labor law system. The six fired workers filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against Jimmy John’s immediately after the mass firing in March 2011. In November 2011, the NLRB filed a complaint against the Minneapolis-area Jimmy John’s franchise asserting that the workers were fired illegally, leading to a trial in February 2012 before an Administrative Law Judge. The Judge ruled in favor of the workers and ordered their reinstatement in April 2012. Mike and Rob Mulligan, co-owners of the Minneapolis-area Jimmy John’s franchise, refused to comply with the judge’s ruling and sought to appeal to the NLRB. Hobbled by congressional infighting for most of 2012 and 2013, the NLRB has taken more than two years to deliver a decision on the appeal. The company now has 30 days to comply or appeal the NLRB’s decision to federal court.

Meanwhile, workers at Jimmy John’s pledge to keep up the fight. Open to employees at the company nationwide, the Jimmy Johns Workers Union is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union. Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people.

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