Industrial Worker – Issue #1763, March 2014

The Industrial Worker is the official newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union.

Headlines:

Being A Woman Organizer Isn’t Easy
Mobile Rail Workers Win, Wobblies Organize Worldwide
International (Working) Women’s Day

Features:

Staughton Lynd: A Tribute To Rosa Luxemburg
Jane LaTour: Toward Equal Employment For Women
Addressing Sexual Violence In The IWW

Download a Free PDF of this issue.

Your Power as a Worker

by x365097

When you’re at work, you’re likely to receive dozens, if not hundreds, of do-it-or-else orders from the boss or manager on a day-to-day basis. What happens when you disobey? Maybe nothing will happen the first time — maybe it’ll just be a write-up or a lecture — but if you keep working the way you want to work on “their time,” even if your way is simply more comfortable than the way they’ve approved, you’ll eventually be out the door.

What happens then? Once you’ve been cut off from the income you depend upon to pay your rent or mortgage, grocery bill, and other expenses, meeting your needs can be enormously difficult, if not impossible. If hiring is slow across the industries in which you have experience and training, a firing can be a social death sentence for a worker, resulting in anything from a depleted savings account and damaged credit rating to hunger and homelessness.

That’s a lot of control for an employer to have — too much control. Take a step back and look at how many hundreds of millions of people and their dependents around the world are caught in a similar situation, and you could even call it global tyranny.

The ability to hire and fire is the key to the employing class’ power, and it stems from our outdated and dysfunctional system of property rights. These rights state that productive industrial equipment, even that which has been paid for many times over by the goods and services it has been used by hundreds or even thousands of workers to produce, may be owned and operated by individuals or small groups of individuals and run for their own personal profit rather than to meet human need. This is what has resulted in the enormous imbalances of wealth which now threaten workers’ rights all over the world.

The good news is that workers hold a counter-power which, to our collective detriment, we have rarely exercised in recent decades. It requires organization, cooperation, and togetherness — solidarity — which are currently not in fashion. Still, if employers hold workers by the throats due to the fact that they control the workplaces, and the only commodity we workers have to sell is our labor, then the key to workers’ power is the withholding of our labor from them. Workers refusing work together can shut it all down and, if we organize correctly and often enough, bring democracy to the workplace.

Withholding labor can take many forms, from walkouts and strikes — total work refusals — to intentional, coordinated screw-ups and slowdowns. The term, “sabotage,” is commonly associated these days with property destruction, but the IWW has historically used it more broadly to mean any action on the job which interferes with production. There are thousands of examples of workers successfully uniting to withhold labor in various ways to enforce our demands, just as employers have always threatened to withhold access to “their” workplaces in order to enforce theirs.

For a number of complex reasons which are outside the scope of this article to examine in full, unionization among US workers has dropped way down in the last few decades to about 8% in the private sector. Some of these have to do with intrinsic factors such as the mainstream business unions’ willingness to make concessions to employers and be unresponsive to their membership, while others have to do with external factors such as employers’ support for union-busting legislation. However, if you are among the majority of US workers who would join a union if there were one organized in your workplace, contact the IWW today for info on how to get one established. In exchange for very low dues, we provide training and support to help you win your demands for better pay, better conditions, and more control over the way you work — and we are all-volunteer, with no paid officers at the branch level.

Statement of Solidarity with Striking Walmart Workers

Workers everywhere, union and non-union, in retail and in other fields, owe a debt of gratitude to the courageous Walmart workers who exercised their right to strike to force America’s largest employer to change for the better, and the Southern Maine Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) stand in solidarity with them. We stand ready to support their fight to improve their workplace conditions, to be treated with respect, to raise their economic standing, and if they so choose, to empower themselves through collective bargaining and direct action.

We recognize that workers everywhere have a moral and legal right to have a voice in the workplace, and when Wal-mart workers recognize and exercise their power to improve their lives, all retail workers, and workers everywhere, will see their living standards improve.

***Southern Maine workers, do you need a union at your workplace? Contact the Southern Maine IWW.***

Festival of Nations Table a Success

Although it was rainy, the Southern Maine IWW put out a table at the Festival of Nations today to talk with and educate workers about organizing for the abolition of the wage system. Those of us who staffed the booth had a very good time meeting those who approached us, and we thank the organizers and other participants for putting on and contributing to the event.

Southern Maine IWW to Appear at Portland’s Festival of Nations, 7/29/12

The Southern Maine IWW has reserved a booth at the tenth annual Festival of Nations in Portland’s Deering Oaks Park this coming Sunday, July 29th. We’ll be running a table there from 11 AM to 7 PM to meet and talk with workers about industrial unionism and workplace organizing. This event is open to the public, and admission is free.