Burgerville Workers Union Wins Second Victory

The following statement was released yesterday from the Burgerville Workers Union, after another store successfully won union recognition. The BVWU is the first officially recognized fast food union in the United States and is a part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Today Burgerville workers once again voted overwhelmingly in favor of the BVWU, this time at the Gladstone location. This is the second NLRB election the BVWU has won in a month. The first, at 92nd and Powell, made us the only fast food union in the country, and this one demonstrates the momentum the BVWU has going into contract negotiations.

Gladstone workers in particular deserve extra celebration for their win today. Despite the friendly attitude Burgerville has taken in the press about being willing to work with the union, Gladstone workers didn’t see anything close to friendliness on the shop floor. During the election, despite all their words of openness and cooperation, Burgerville was up to its old tricks: retaliation, intimidation, even straight up lying. Gladstone workers faced down all of that and STILL won a major victory for the union. Standing up to your boss like that takes bravery and every one of them deserves applause.

The win at 92nd wasn’t the end of the fight, and neither is this win at Gladstone. The fight won’t be over until Burgerville stops paying us poverty wages, stops threatening undocumented immigrants through their use of e-verify, and stops treating us like we’re disposable. We demand respect, and we won’t stop until we get it. Gladstone is an important step in that journey.

Remember too that the boycott is on until the company signs a fair contract. They’re not off the hook yet.

NC IWOC Prisoner Petition Against Mailroom Censorship

Radical prisoner and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) member Stanley Corbett, Jr., recently set up a petition to protest mailroom censorship at Maury Correctional.

The petition can be signed here. It reads:

Hey everyone. My name is Stanley Corbett Jr. I’m currently housed in solitary confinement at Maury Correctional Institution in Maury, NC. I’m seeking for the Secretary of Corrections, Erik Hook, here in North Carolina, to create a policy and procedure stating that only mailroom staff be allowed to touch prisoners’ incoming and outgoing mail, unless there’s a security interest involved, and that all incoming and outgoing mail is logged, not just legal mail.

Each facility (prison) has mailroom staff that scans our incoming and outgoing mail, but mailroom staff do not pick up mail directly from us, nor do mailroom staff deliver mail directly to us. Instead, mailroom staff picks up mail from each unit’s mailbox, and delivers mail to each unit’s supervisor’s office, then the unit officers deliver the personal mail to us. They are the same officers that I, and thousands of other prisoners, have filed grievances, petitions, and civil complaints against. They are also the same officers who I, and thousands of other prisoners, have had verbal or physical altercations with. Due to these facts a lot of these correctional officers censor my/our incoming and outgoing mail, or they trash it! And sometimes the officers deliver my/our mail to other prisoners, intentionally. There are thousands of prisoners within the NC department of Public Safety’s Division of Adult Corrections who are experiencing the same issues.

Anytime I, and thousands of other prisoners, address the problem to the mailroom supervisor(s), they tell me/us to address the problem to unit management, but when I/we address the problem to unit management, they tell me/us to address the problem to the mailroom staff. The problem never gets resolved because the mailroom staff shifts the burden on the unit staff and vice versa. At most facilities the mailroom staff delivers legal mail to our cell doors, in which we have to sign for it to receive it, but they do not deliver our personal mail to our cell doors, nor do they pick up our personal/legal mail from our cell doors.

If I lose this campaign, my freedom of speech rights (and other federal laws) will continue to be violated along with thousands of other prisoners’ rights, including your rights! If I win this campaign, it will stop corrupt correctional offers from retaliating against me and thousands of other prisoners; it will stop corrupt correctional officers from violating federal laws; it will help me and thousands of other prisoners maintain communication with society (family, friends, and associates); it will help protect your (the public’s) freedom of speech rights; and it will help stop a lot of prisoners from harming or killing themselves–due to being cut off from society by corrupt correctional officers. They put us in solitary confinement for long periods (5, 10, and 20 years), then stop our communication with society. Isn’t that mental torture?!

Burgerville Workers Union Becomes First Formally Recognized Fast Food Union in the US

Burgerville Workers Union has won a union election in one location, meaning that the company will be forced to negotiate a contract with the workers. Other stores are expected to soon come on board. BVWU, a part of the IWW, also becomes the first fast food chain in the US to be unionized.

We won the election. We did it. We made history.

Today workers at 92nd and Powell overwhelmingly voted yes, making the Burgerville Workers Union the only formally recognized fast food union in the country. For a long time people have dismissed fast food as unorganizable, saying that turnover is too high, or the workers are too spread out. Today Burgerville workers proved them wrong.

The fight isn’t over, of course. We still need to bargain a fair contract with Burgerville, and until then the boycott still stands. And we need to remember what got us to this point: workers taking action for themselves, standing up against poverty wages and horrible conditions. We got here because of the strike, union benefits, pickets, and marches on the boss. We got here through direct action, and that won’t change now that we’ve won an election. If anything it’s even more important.

In this moment of victory we want to celebrate, yes, but we also want to turn our attention to the 4.5 million other fast food workers in the United States. We want to speak to everyone else who works for poverty wages, who are constantly disrespected on the job, who are told they aren’t educated enough, aren’t experienced enough, aren’t good enough for a decent life. To all of those workers, to everyone like us who works rough jobs for terrible pay, we say this:

Don’t listen to that bullshit. Burgerville workers didn’t, and look at us now.

Because our win today isn’t just about Burgerville. It’s about history. It’s about a movement of workers who know that a better world is possible, and that together they can make that world real.

Today we became the only recognized fast food union in the country. But we won’t be the only one for long.

Atlanta, GA: School Bus Drivers Stage Sickout

Report from the Atlanta General Defense Committee of the IWW on the recent sick-out strike by school bus drivers.

School bus drivers in DeKalb County, GA (part of Metro Atlanta) have begun a three-day sickout as of today, April 19th. The sickout is off to a strong start, with almost 400 drivers not reporting for work.

With this action, they are picking up the torch that was lit by teachers and school bus drivers in West Virginia, and has been carried by education workers striking and and waging sickouts in Jersey City, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, and Arizona.

They are also following the successful example of MARTA Mobility (paratransit) drivers in Atlanta, who held the first ever one-day strike in the MARTA system on February 14th and threatened another one for April 18, pressuring management to cave to their demands at the eleventh hour.

The important issues facing the DeKalb County bus drivers are those of pay, retirement, respect, and recognition. DeKalb County school bus drivers are among the lowest paid in the state, with exorbitant health care costs, and have not received a pay increase since 2010. Along with other bus drivers across the state, they have no retirement plans – when a driver retires after 45 years, other drivers take up a collection to see them off. Drivers also complain of a severe lack of respect or support from administrators. Drivers, mechanics, and other workers have been organizing to demand change for years, but these issues have not been adequately addressed by the DeKalb County School Board, even when multiple drivers and mechanics have consistently turned up to school board meetings for years to express the need for change.

Through their sickout, the drivers are withdrawing their labor in an attempt to push the school board to negotiate. All workers have the right to refuse to work, yet the school board refuses to acknowledge their concerted activity and are engaging in threats, intimidation, and disinformation, even claiming that the organizers have called the sickout off, and threatening retribution against those who have participated in the strike.

The Atlanta IWW and GDC are supporting the struggle of the drivers to push the School Board to do the right thing. Their struggle is an example for workers and communities all across Atlanta – a victory at DeKalb County will light the path for education workers and transportation workers across Georgia to fight and win!

SMIWW: Report Back on J20 Solidarity Event


January 20th 2017 marked the inauguration of the 45th U.S. president. As it so often has in our pathologically violent and morally ambiguous history, the state marked this day with the punitive and unlawful repression of those who were brave enough to protest this Electoral College decree. Inauguration Day began with over 200 protesters, medics, legal observers, and journalists being trapped and mass arrested by a DC police force tasked with sanitizing protest. After being forced to stand for hours on wintery city streets, the group was processed and then each protester charged with the same eight blanket felonies for what amounted to a handful of broken windows. The majority of these tenuous charges have since been dropped “without prejudice” (a legal term that allows the prosecution to refile charges within a year). Through the application of flimsy legal standards, prosecutors are attempting to to turn activist into felons and to set dangerous legal precedents of criminalizing dissent. There are still currently 59 people facing charges. The next group court appearance is on April 17th and will focus entirely on members of the IWW (yes folks, people are being singled out for being members).

On January 20th 2018, Southern Maine IWW partnered with local groups to organize a legal defense fundraiser for defendants facing charges for protesting. The event was held at Local Sprouts on Congress street in Portland. Local speakers from Southern Maine IWW, Portland Confront, and Maine John Brown Gun Club were joined through Skype by organizers from DefendJ20Resistance, Tilted Scale Collective, and Rising Tide North America who spoke on organizing the protest. Participants from the march put together a slideshow illustrating the structure of organizer spokes councils and the J20 protest itself. Fundraiser success was furthered by offering beverages and prints from the Beehive Collective (from Machias, ME) for donations. The folks at Local Sprouts were generous in allowing us to use their space and donating their time.

All told, the event was a success. With community help, we raised $436.00. This was donated to D.C. Legal Posse at https://fundrazr.com/j20resistance for defendant use, support during the trials, and other needs as determined by the DCLP and the J20 Finance and Fund-Raising Working Group.

As the next round of trials gear up we must continue to show our support and solidarity in whatever manner possible. An injury to one is an injury to all. As all of our individual struggles are connected under capitalism, we believe that these trials and their outcomes represent a very real threat to all efforts to build more equitable structures of freedom, dignity, and mutualism. The charges brought against the J20 defendants are an experiment by the state in criminalizing dissent. If the courts are able to successfully prosecute those arrested at the J20 protests, they will have a sweeping new legal mechanism for repressing, containing, controlling, and eliminating social movements around the country.

Prosecutors Invoke Union Membership To Criminalize Inauguration Day Protesters

In prosecutions against Inauguration Day protesters, the government contends some of the defendants’ union memberships qualify as evidence of a conspiracy to commit a crime.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters converged for the Inauguration Day protests in 2017. One of the demonstrations, an anti-capitalist and anti-fascist march dubbed Disrupt J20, commenced in Logan Circle before heading out into the streets. Protesters marched in the streets carrying banners and signs, and chanting against Donald Trump. During the march, a handful protesters broke off from the main group and smashed the windows of a few store fronts, including a Starbucks.

Police, who monitored people involved in the protest for months before the demonstration, responded indiscriminately with stingball grenades and a deluge of pepper spray. Over 200 people were kettled, including protesters, journalists, legal observers, and street medics.

The first of nearly two-dozen trials over property allegedly damaged during the protests started in November last year, ending in sweeping acquittals for six defendants just before Christmas. After acquittals that month, the government dropped charges for all but 59 of the defendants.

The government’s communications to the press state the logic behind this decision: To focus on the “core group that we believe is most responsible.” Yet in all of the government’s proceedings in what is known as the “J20 trials,” Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff admitted she has already identified at least 12 individuals she thinks broke windows at the protest.

For the rest of the defendants, the government invoked Washington D.C.’s Riot Act, a law that was used against demonstrators who protested following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. The law has not been used against protesters in D.C. since those demonstrations.

So why do so many individuals still face trial?

“They’ve offered no real context or reasoning,” said one defendant in an interview for VICE. All of the arrestees have had their phones confiscated, and their messages and emails scrutinized by the prosecution. The only common element between some of them is their union membership with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), whose members are commonly called Wobblies.

Isaac Dalto, a Wobbly and J20 defendant, talked to Shadowproof about the case against him and his fellow workers in the union.

The IWW organizes units across the country called “General Defense Committees,” whose stated objectives are to “promote, through organization, action, and outreach, a mass, non-sectarian defense of the [working] class.” Dalto said he was involved with his local General Defense Committee (GDC) as plans for the J20 march were in motion and was caught up in a sting operation carried out by Project Veritas, the notorious right-wing entrapment group that received funding from The Donald J. Trump Foundation.

Project Veritas is known for recording liberals and leftists undercover, then heavily editing the footage to manufacture a misleading image of their targets. The project infiltrated a planning meeting for Disrupt J20, where Dalto and some of his peers announced a picket training with the GDC. Some members of the GDC and IWW acted as marshals during the march.

Video of the meeting, although doctored, was a key piece of the prosecution’s evidence against the defendants in the first trial last year. “We’ve seen otherwise normal fixtures of a protest used in court as if they were evidence of conspiracy, or that there’s something nefarious about them,” Dalto added.

Dalto contended a lot of organizing activities, “which are kind of standard, basic things that happen before literally every demonstration, have been twisted and used by the prosecution as evidence of this ‘criminal conspiracy.’”

After his arrest, emails from his GDC list, GDC meeting minutes, and the by-laws of his GDC local were taken from Dalto’s seized cell phone and entered into evidence. One of his peers had their IWW membership card confiscated and entered into evidence after their arrest as well, according to Dalto.

In the first J20 trial, Kerkhoff attempted to argue that the presence of widely practiced protest infrastructure could constitute evidence of a conspiracy to commit a riot. To support her argument, she presented first aid supplies from two of the street medics arrested, jail support forms (which inform the police of your medical needs in the event you are arrested), and messages exchanged with other marchers with the intent to help them find each other.

The jury rejected the notion that these elements of protest, which are recommended by the National Lawyer’s Guild as a matter of policy, could support this theory of a conspiracy to riot. However, the government seems prepared to pursue a similar strategy, this time by implying that unions are the infrastructure on which an alleged conspiracy rests.

Such an approach directly criminalizes union membership.

“It’s a really, really disturbing trend in this case,” Dalto asserted. This “hearkens back to the Green Scare of the early 2000s, the Red Scare of the McCarthy era, and the First Red Scare during the Palmer Raids, when the state first attacked our union.”

Referring to historical periods of widespread political repression of anarchists and unionists, Dalto suggested, “This is a very clear case of political targeting, and because certain IWW members were part of the organizing for this event, anyone who is a member of the organization is now considered suspect.”

Gary Roland, an investigative reporter who has covered the J20 trials, tweeted that the prosecution “continuously” referred to a GDC local’s vote to “endorse” the march as evidence of conspiracy to riot. All of the defendants for that hearing were Wobblies, according to Roland

Sam Menefee-Libey, a member of the Dead City Legal Posse, a support group for the J20 defendants formed after the initial arrests, observed how Kerkhoff has used“a lot of anarchist vocabulary” when discussing the defendants. For example, a March 2017 D.C. Superior Court filing states, “Many of the defendants who participated in the events of [Inauguration Day] were organized into ‘affinity groups,’” a term sometimes claimed by egalitarian organizers to describe non-hierarchical structure.

“It’s clear that [the prosecution] has done some research into the contemporary anarchist movement, but it’s hard to know, when they’re invoking [those terms], what they really mean by it,” Menefee-Libey added.

It’s also unclear if Kerkhoff understands the nature of the GDC. During an April 6 hearing, a defense lawyer had to explain to the prosecution that the GDC is an established organization that has existed for over a century. Menefee-Libey concluded “[The prosecution] is criminalizing social networks, longstanding networks tied to both labor organizing and community self-defense.”

Chip Gibbons, an attorney for Defending Rights & Dissent, agreed. “There is an increased attempt to impose liability on civil society groups for supporting or organizing protests, especially environmental and labour groups. This could be viewed as part of that trend.” Gibbons argued.

Gibbons has covered the United States government’s history with the IWW and how the Espionage Act was abused to frame their protests at that time as treason during World War I. The J20 Trials remind him of that era. “It’s an assault on civil society, and it has many similarities to the way powerful interests manipulated the legal system to smash labor organizing before the New Deal.”

In September 1917, the Bureau of Investigation (precursor to the FBI) and local law enforcement agents raided every single IWW chapter in the nation and the homes of some IWW members. “Everything from office furniture to paper clips” was confiscated, according to labor historian Steven Parfitt.

Discussing the reason for the raids, a Philadelphia district attorney said at the time that the intent was “to put the IWW out of business.” The early IWW endured years of surveillance and raids, in large part because of their participation in the anti-war struggle and their militant labor organizing efforts.

More broadly, the U.S. government has sought to criminalize and repress anarchists and labor organizing since the turn of the century. After the end of World War I, the nation was in a panic over the presence of leftist radicals, bringing about the First Red Scare. Anarchist and communist immigrants were deported, and anti-communist and anarchist hysteria was rampant. Radical leftists endured another wave of mass repression during the Second Red Scare, when McCarthyism hit the U.S. in the early 1950s following the end of World War II.

In fact, the J20 trials are part of a broader trend of criminalizing dissent under the Trump administration.

“In the last year, 20 states have proposed laws limiting or restricting protest, [and] we’ve seen felony charges levied against water protectors in Standing Rock, as well as us,” Dalto recalled. White supremacists and neo-fascists have committed acts of violence and menaced communities under Trump, but they have not faced this kind of zealous prosecution.

Unions also face intensified threats under Trump. In December of last year, Trump’s National Labor Relations Board overturned five Obama-era protections for unions. These “business friendly” decisions were no surprise to labor rights advocates, given that Trump stacked the NLRB with conservatives and union-busters. More recently, the Supreme Court heard arguments for Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31, a case that could severely limit workers’ ability to unionize.

Despite a political environment that is particularly hostile to both labor and protest, organizers remain committed to the struggle for a prosperous working class.

“If the state wants a fight,” Dalto declared, “we’ll give them a fight. We survived the Palmer Raids, we survived McCarthy, and we’re going to survive this too.”

Teacher Strikes Continue: “There is Nothing that can Halt our Revolution”

The following statement comes from the West Virginia Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and discusses the current strike wave in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and beyond.

Nine months ago, rank-and-file educators across the state of West Virginia began planning insurrectionary, direct action efforts to oppose upcoming reactionary legislation from their state lawmakers. It had become evident at the time that established business unions and their leaders would be incapable of leading workers in this fight, choosing instead to rely on electoral campaigns and endorsements of milquetoast candidates, rather than working to support mass people-power movements.

The results have shown the world that when the power of labor is unencumbered by hierarchies, driven by a singular purpose, and supported through a variety of autonomous networks with a focus on mutual aid, there is nothing that can halt our revolution.

Having learned the tactics of the West Virginia struggle, educators in Kentucky and Oklahoma are currently engaged in statewide strikes of their own, while those in Arizona have plans for future walkouts. In each of these deeply conservative states, where budget cuts and austerity measures have severely damaged the public good in favor of private interests, labor will make its stand in opposition to the dual forces of neo-liberal capitalism and its henchmen.

We have already seen the power of collective labor struggles across both private and public sectors, joining forces under the recognition that, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” From the Communication Workers of America and the United Steel Workers strikes to the struggles of educators in Puerto Rico and Jersey City. Workers around the world have engaged in solidarity actions in support of one another’s strikes, providing material and physical aid where possible while spreading the fire of rebellion.

The West Virginia IWW fully supports the struggles of rank-and-file educators across Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona to achieve the following:

  • Win higher wages for all educators and service personnel that are based on
    cost of living adjustments for the state
  • Provide future long-term funding for public schools through progressive tax structures
  • Increase state contributions to state insurance and retirement plans

As the famous labor activist Mother Jones once said, “Some day the workers will take possession of your city hall, and when we do, no child will be sacrificed on the altar of profit!” May the workers of this present revolution force the state to reckon with their demands, knowing that their task is one of liberating justice for working people and children everywhere.

Solidarity Forever.

Fellow Workers of West Virginia

#120Strong#77United, and #RedForEd