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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.

#HANDSUPDONTSHIP: IWW UPS Workers Organize Against Police Brutality

IWW delegate convention in solidarity

IWW delegate convention in solidarity

 

From iww.org

Starting on Friday, August 22nd, IWW workers at a UPS sorting facility in Minneapolis began organizing against their and their coworkers’ labor supporting the ongoing police violence against the population of Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man. In a series of actions aimed at a local company shipping questionable shooting-range targets to law enforcement agencies nationwide, workers stood up to the idea that they should have to support racism, brutality, or murder in order to make ends meet. This action was organized in conjunction with, and under the banner of Screw Ups, a rank-and-file newsletter published by IWW workers at the facility for the past year.

Shortly after the murder of Michael Brown and the deployment of militarized police and national guardsmen to Ferguson, IWW workers and in-shop allies began researching Law Enforcement Targets, Inc, a company based in Blaine, Minnesota, which produces shooting range targets and holds hundreds of contracts with police departments, federal agencies, and military branches across the country. The company has held at least 10 contracts with federal agencies in Missouri, and far more with county and local police departments and other agencies. They sell product lines like “Urban Street Violence,” featuring photos of stereotypical “thugs,” and previously were forced to withdraw a line of targets called “No More Hesitation,” featuring pictures of gun-wielding children, pregnant women, mothers, and elderly people, all as if to say that you should consider everyone you see as a threat to be gunned down. Their products are shipped through the UPS sorting facility in Minneapolis every day.

After discovering what products L.E.T. shipped, and who to, a group of workers decided they would not be silent about the connection between their work and murders such as Mike Brown’s. Some removed targets from trailers that would deliver them to law enforcement agencies, while others stood in solidarity and decided not to ferry these packages to their intended trailers. Those who were uncomfortable or unable to directly engage in these actions posed with a sign reading “#handsupdontship” in order to speak out. Actions like this took place in various work areas across the building, and were taken by people with a variety of job positions. The following Monday, several workers continued the action, setting more targets aside for the second consecutive shift. This small group included both workers of color and white workers, both IWW members and not. It was agreed that this protest would be publicized online through the Screw Ups newsletter.

For just over two years, the IWW has actively been organizing workers committees within the UPS hub in Minneapolis. One of the main outgrowths of this campaign has been the publication of Screw Ups, a regular newsletter published by IWW workers in the hub that is handed out by allies outside the building to workers on their way to clock in. This newsletter has consistently raised issues of management harassment, speed-ups, sexual harassment and sexism, racial discrimination on the shop floor, and more, while soliciting contributions from other workers via email to screwups@riseup.net. It has educated workers about their rights on the job and called out the exploitation of workers by both UPS and the Teamsters union, which is happy to collect dues from the half of UPS’ workers working in sorting hubs, while forcing concessionary contracts onto this rank-and-file which only preserve poverty wages and sweatshop conditions for those of us who allow UPS a multi-billion dollar company.

However, the newsletter has only been one part of the IWW activity at the hub. IWW Workers and others have frequently confronted management on issues of safety, harassment, and more through collective actions. CB, an IWW organizer, noted, “We all know that conditions at our work are unsafe. We all know that we work too hard for too little pay. We know that the Teamsters either can’t or won’t do anything to fix these issues. And we know that we’re going to have to fight to change things.”

The IWW has always refused to restrict itself to issues of wages and conditions, and has encouraged workers to fight against exploitation and oppression both on the shop floor and off it. Unlike other unions and workers’ organizations which see things such as police brutality as “outside issues,” the IWW has a long history of fighting against the ways that workers are forced to uphold systems of oppression. “The rules say you have to do what you’re told at work. Doesn’t matter what you’re shipping, what horrible things are being done with them, UPS doesn’t care, so you don’t care,” said J.B., another IWW worker, “luckily, breaking the rules is what the IWW does best.”

He further added, “We don’t want to take the place of the Teamsters here. What we want is for workers to have an organization that can fight for—and win—meaningful, concretes improvements in our work and in our lives. We need an organization that isn’t afraid to stand behind workers when we confront management and isn’t interested in some long, drawn out bureaucracy. If they want to keep doing that, good for them. That’s their game, but it’s not ours.”

IWW workers at the Minneapolis hub have stated that they are committed to continuing to organize with their coworkers in order to directly fight against management abuses and other issues workers face. They are also working with UPS workers in other hubs to help them form similar committees and organizations, and are happy to talk to anyone interested in doing so. They urge any interested UPS worker to email the committee at screwups@riseup.net, and add, “don’t wait, organize!”

Gaining prominence in recent years for organizing Starbucks and Jimmy Johns workers, the IWW is a global union founded over a century ago for all working people. It is a member-run union for all workers, dedicated to organizing on the job, in our industries and in our communities. IWW members are organizing to win better conditions today and build a world with economic democracy tomorrow.

Educate, Organize, Emancipate: The Work People’s College and The Industrial Workers of the World

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Around 8 years ago, the Twin Cities IWW decided to resurrect the idea of Work Peoples College with a series of workshops, one-day educationals, and presentations. This eventually transformed into a multiple day event up in the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota in 2012 and 2013. In Germany, European Wobblies began their own WPC just this summer. But where did this concept come from?

Saku Pinta’s “Educate, Organize, Emancipate: The Work People’s College and The Industrial Workers of the World” gives background on WPC. Originally appearing in the PM Press book Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education, Pinta’s chapter focuses on the school, which was established by Finnish socialists in Northern Minnesota in the 1910s. It eventually became affiliated with the IWW and continued operation into the 1940s.

Published with permission from the author and PM Press. Read more

Second Youth Track Meet-Up this coming Tuesday at Penumbra – all (but especially young folks) are welcome to attend

Originally posted on Classroom Struggle:

We are excited to host the second Twin Cities Social Justice Education Fair Youth Track Meet-Up next week. Please join us if you are interested in helping to plan and recruit youth-led workshops and creatively vision other activities and meaningful spaces for youth at this year’s fair. All folks but especially young people of color, young queer folks and young women are welcome here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Penumbra Theater
270 N Kent St, St Paul, MN 55102
6:30pm-8:30pm
RSVP Here

Hope to see you there!!

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Beyond F*ck You 2: workplace organizing against oppressive language and behavior

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A sequel to a previous article we’ve published, a Twin Cities IWW member writes about how he’s dealt with homophobic remarks and sentiments at work. This originally appeared in YOU BETTER WORK: queer, trans, feminist workers stories #1, which has a Facebook presence and can be purchased here. Read more

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