Who Gets Paid When Machines Do the Work? A Look Back at the Luddites, and Why Capitalism and High Technology Are Incompatible

200 years ago in England, artisan cloth workers launched what became known as the Luddite uprising, smashing machines which were “destroying their trades, undercutting wages and forcing them into unemployment and destitution.” Although their legacy has been distorted over time, the original Luddites were primarily concerned about the introduction of technology into their field which was “hurtful to commonality,” or the common good. A thoughtful web site celebrating their intent is here: http://www.luddites200.org.uk/

Although labor-saving technologies definitely have their advantages for those who own them, as long as economies are governed by the principle that social members’ access to the commodified essentials of life — food, shelter, medical care, etc. — is regulated by one’s access to money (which typically comes in the form of wages), there is a limit to how helpful these technologies actually are to workers. For example, since the 1970s, the introduction of computers into the workplace has exponentially increased workers’ productivity per hour, increasing company profits likewise, yet the capitalists who own the workplaces (and the technologies) have refused to share the wealth. Rather, workers’ wages have stagnated over the last 40 years, and layoffs have abounded — because we do not control the technology, also known as the means of production.

For workers to be able to embrace labor-saving technology, which could afford us all a four-hour workday (or less) at the same rate of pay or better than we had forty years ago if it were distributed properly, we must unionize and put massive pressure on the capitalists who own our workplaces to do so. Ultimately, we must also change the social norms which state that it’s permissible for a handful of 1%er fat-cats to own and operate productive industrial infrastructure on which the common good depends according to their whims, for their own private profit, and often without regard to natural resource limitations and pollution. After all, what good is high technology when all it does is make your boss’s situation more stable and enriched, and yours more precarious and disposable?

Save the machines; ditch the 1%. Join the IWW and help to abolish wage slavery worldwide.

Insomnia Cookies Union in Boston Needs Support!

This Thursday and beyond, please support Insomnia Cookies workers in their struggle for $15/hour, health benefits, and union neutrality!

**Rally Thursday, November 14, 9:30pm, Harvard Square Insomnia Store, 65 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA**

Since August 18, five workers at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies have been fired for legally protected union activity. Help the Industrial Workers of the World demonstrate to Insomnia Cookies that we do not tolerate union-busting in Boston!

1. Upcoming Actions
2. Phone/Email Blitz
3. Sign the Petition
4. Donate to the Organizing Fund
5. Background of the Struggle

1. Please join Insomnia workers and other IWW members and supporters on the picket line:

-Thursday, November 14, 9:30pm, Harvard Square Insomnia Store, 65 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA

-Friday, December 6th – Picket at Harvard Sq Store, 7-8pm Harvard Square Insomnia Store, 65 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge, MA

-Wednesday, December 11th – Service Workers Resistance forum, 7pm, Boston University – Details TBA

Can’t make the pickets? Other ways to get involved:

2. Email/Phone Blitz:

Insomnia fired IWW member Tommy Mendes after he told his boss he was a union member. Please email Tommy’s manager Ryan at ryand@insomniacookies.com, and call CEO Seth Berkowitz at (877) 632-6654 and let him know Tommy should be reinstated with back pay! For more details about the strugle at Insomnia, read the “background” at the bottom of this email.

3. Sign the petition to support the strikers’ demands:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1TLCetxHNxmGHk57FD1Sy9KAtUNHXP5alQWrgxPcb-Lk/viewform

4. Donate to the Insomnia Organizing and Strike Fund:

https://www.wepay.com/donations/insomnia-cookies-workers-strike-fund

5. Background:

At 12:00 am on Sunday, August 18th, the night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies voted unanimously to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare, and freedom to build a union. They were fired immediately. On Tuesday, August 20th, all four strikers joined the Industrial Workers of the World, and launched a public campaign to achieve their goals. The workers filed legal charges against the company, and partnered with students at Harvard and Boston University (where Insomnia opened a second location in September) to hold pickets at both locations.

Two months later, on October 24th another worker, Tommy Mendes, was fired shortly after he declared his union affiliation to his supervisor. Tommy, a baker at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies, joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) after his coworkers declared their strike. According to management Tommy was fired because his register was short, but the camera trained at the register proves Tommy is blameless. The IWW believes Tommy is a target of Insomnia Cookies? ongoing union-busting, and the union is prepared to escalate until Tommy and the 4 strikers are reinstated with full back pay.

For more information about the Insomnia Cookies campaign, find us Online:
https://www.facebook.com/insomniaunion
http://iwwboston.org/

To reach the Boston IWW:
Email: iww.boston@riseup.net
Phone Number: 617-863-7920
Mailing Address: PO Box 391724
Cambridge, MA 02139
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BostonIWW/

To Stave Off Zombie Apocalypse, Organize a New Society Within the Shell of the Old

Brad Pitt wonders why he didn't join the IWW while there was still time.
Brad Pitt wonders why he didn’t join the IWW while there was still time.

by x365097

Let’s think back to late summer, 2008 — half a decade ago, right about now. It had been more than five years since the invasion of Iraq by the US, and nearly six years since the invasion of Afghanistan. The PATRIOT Act was still in the news, there was massive anti-Bush agitation from liberals and the left, and many people were looking forward to a change of regime — any change — in 2009.

The financial catastrophe that would soon arrive, however, punctuating the presidency of George W. Bush like a second 9/11, would make matters unfathomably worse, complicating the US economy for years to come and paving the way for the austerity agenda to trample workers’ hard-won economic rights like Orwell’s proverbial jackboot to the face. Of course, there had been preliminary signs of trouble; those had been plain to see. But when the blows finally started hammering down, they caught almost everyone unprepared.

Individualist survivalists, already bolstered by the much-hyped threat of terrorism, came out of the woodwork to sell emergency water filters and K-rations to the gullible and (somewhat justifiably) afraid. The average American worker hunkered down, usually alone or with a few family members, and prayed that the worst — a foreclosure, an eviction — might pass them by. And the media told us endless stories about the struggle to survive amid the mindless hordes who would ravage the remains when it all finally broke down outside the “Green Zone” of Wall Street.

It didn’t — and still doesn’t — have to be this way.

The concept of a labor union like our organization, the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, is simple: when workers, those whose only real commodity to sell to provide for themselves is their labor, gain class consciousness and act together to protect what we recognize as our class interests, we benefit far beyond what we would be able to accomplish as individuals. But for the IWW, the imperative goes much further than protecting the job standings of some skilled breadwinners who want to preserve their traditional social roles. We want an end to all — 100% — of the exploitation and unease throughout society, and it can be done.

As the preamble to our union’s constitution states:

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

In other words, if workers wish to prevent the chaos that would stem from a sudden breakdown of the current order, unjust and destructive though it may be in the long run, we must begin — today — to organize an alternative and more socially just replacement which can carry on production in the event of TEOTWAWKI. By doing this, we can stave off a needless plummeting back into the pre-industrial era or a me-first “bunker mentality.” The 1% files such preparations under the name of “continuity of government.” The class-conscious among the 99% call our equivalent “liberation.”

For now, the crisis that is capitalism is in remission. Today, it lies dormant, waiting for another clear opportunity to pounce on the working class as it did in 2008. But when that day returns, and return it shall, there is no need for a Mad Max scenario, no need for the brutality of the Thunderdome, but we must begin to organize against it right away, building on the successes of social movements such as Occupy and of movements found more distantly in the past. A better world is possible, but it takes workers putting our petty differences aside, differences like race and gender that the capitalists want to use to divide us. We must instead focus our efforts on coming together and learning to manage and control our labor, the basis of all wealth, democratically. If we succeed in doing this, we will never be so vulnerable again. This is the IWW’s mission. Are you with us?

Southern Maine IWW Condemns US Preparations to Attack Syria

NO WAR BUT CLASS WAR

Since the 9/11 attacks of 2001, the US government has destabilized and invaded country after country in the name of the Global War on Terror. In so doing, they have diverted untold fortunes which could have been used to meet human need toward the disruption of millions of workers’ lives worldwide.

Rather than changing course as they had promised, the Obama administration has elected to continue the Bush administration’s legacy of death and destruction in the Middle East and central Asia and austerity for workers in the US. Time and again, they have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice the lives and wealth of the working class for the profit of their capitalist patrons.

This week, US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced that the US military is prepared to launch yet another strike, this time on Syria. The Southern Maine IWW condemns any such action in the strongest possible terms and urges workers around the world to organize for an end to war and a transition to a democratically managed economy. Without such control of the productive industrial infrastructure, present and future generations of workers remain vulnerable to the infinitely callous whims of the insatiably avarous 1%.

The Illusion of Self-Employment in a Capitalist Economy

by x365097

It’s considered a high honor in the American value system to open a business and “be your own boss.” From a Wobbly point of view, a problem with this idea, even for those who operate without employees, or for worker-owners of cooperative enterprises (both of which categories qualify for IWW membership), is that the broader marketplace in which the business must operate is still almost entirely under the control of the capitalist 1%.

What that means, first of all, is that the supposedly independent businessperson or persons must, in most cases, purchase tools, fuel, and other business supplies primarily from exploitative, monopolistic, for-profit entities. Also, for owner-operators whose industry is so consolidated that there are only a handful of customers to whom they can sell their goods and services, the lack of independence is even more pronounced.

All a situation like that amounts to is that the worker or group of workers must provide her, his, or their own equipment, and yet there is still a powerful economic dependency. In effect, the controllers of the market remain a boss even for the supposedly self-employed, or for workers who, within their workplace, have substituted the rule of an owner or manager with a cooperative system. The market-controlling 1%, by virtue of their sheer economic influence and power, are able to determine prices and set a number of other conditions that the workers, despite the certain degree of control they have asserted over the way that they work, must obey.

Given this, it is clear that for such workers to remain disorganized and estranged from other each is for them to willingly accept the very sort of submission that the praise they receive from their communities for their “self-employed” status presumes that they have rejected. The IWW has a solution, which is for workers of all backgrounds to organize by industry into One Big Union governed by direct democracy and aimed at breaking the 1%’s control over our economic lives.

Workers today can either embrace the illusion of independence and continue to be manipulated by the capitalist owning class, or we can unite to break — in reality — their control over our labor and redirect production according to human need as determined through democratic processes. This is the purpose of the IWW: to agitate, educate, and organize all workers in the understanding that until all of us are free, none of us are free.