Around the union

A round-up of short articles on IWW efforts and campaigns. Originally appeared in Industrial Worker #1617 (November 1998)

Winnipeg grocery workers go IWW

After a bit of a bureaucratic run-around from the Manitoba Labour Relations Board, the IWW's General Distribution Workers Industrial Union 660 has been certified as the representatives of the Harvest Collective grocery store in Winnipeg. Only two of 22 eligible workers voted against the union.

Management has been informed of their obligation to bargain with the IWW. Harvest workers are paid minimum wage and work part-time hours that keep them in grinding poverty.

Detroit Truckers

Detroit Wobs have signed up a majority of workers at a small trucking company, and have secured agreement from the boss to begin negotiating. They are also meeting with workers at a local restaurant, where a few Wobs were hired in only to learn that conditions were not what they ought to be and so proceeded to fan the flames of discontent amongst their fellow workers.

Aussie Wobs join fight

Members of the Melbourne IWW group joined a protest Oct. 4 in memory of Semira Adamu. The protest was part of an international day of action calling for an immediate halt to all deportations, closure of all deportation camps, and papers for everyone.

The conservative Liberal-National Party regime has been returned to national Government, but with a reduced majority to push their Goods & Services Tax on all food etc onto the electorate. Several pollies have lost office, including the infamous Pauline Hanson and David Oldfield from the One Nation Party of bigots.

The conservatives' union-busting - most spectacularly the War on the Wharfies - will continue. Civilian Conscription (Work for Dole) is to expand. The Jabiluka uranium mine on Mirrar aboriginal land will be pushed on. So more "trouble coming everyday" expected.

-- Margaret

Chicago IWW going good

Chicago Wobs joined the locked-out projectionists on the picket line again Sept. 13, picketing the Webster Place shopping center where a Loew's Cineplex is located. While Local 110 members picketed the main parking lot, Wobs held forth as the read-guard, handing out leaflets urging fellow workers to boycott the union-busters. Getting people to roll down their car windows to take a leaflet as they approached the lot was not always successful, but we did manage to hand out quite a few, and honking horns from passing motorists.

Gauging the success of the boycott is difficult as management is handing out free passes left and right, so many movie-goers are getting in for free. As of this writing (Oct. 4) there is still no end in sight.

A week later, on Saturday the 19th, we joined up with nearly 40 members and friends of the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee to picket a Hyundai auto dealership in support of striking Han Young auto workers in Tiajuana, Mexico. The Korean-owned Han Young plant welds chassis exclusively for Hyundai Precision of America. Workers have been on strike since May 22 in pursuit of their first contract, after their vote for the independent October 6 Han Young Auto Workers Union was ignored by management and the Mexican government. Hyundai is Han Young's only customer. If enough pressure can be brought to bear on them perhaps they will, in turn, put pressure on Han Young to settle with its workers.

We wound up a busy September with another "Discussions with the Wobblies" forum. The topic this time was "Art and Revolution," with Wobbly veteran and fairly well-known artist Carlos Cortez. Carlos spoke on the importance and power of visual art in getting across the revolutionary message and showed several slides of some of his poster work.

In the discussion that followed, we discussed the particular value of mural art and the respect these works of art elicit from the community, even taggers often leave these pieces alone. On the other hand, the powers that be will often go out of their way to destroy murals that challenge the status quo, as was the case with the mural on the wall of the union hall in Austin, Minnesota, which the UFCW bureaucrats had sand-blasted to wipe out all memory of Local P-9's struggle against Hormel and the UFCW. It was also pointed out that the intended meaning of images can be altered by context and text, as when billboard messages are altered by activists or when a firm appropriates an "alternative" cultural icon and turns it into a marketing tool. The turnout was half non-Wobs, and a good discussion was had.

Our next forum, Oct. 28, features Penny Pixler leading a discussion on the revolutionary potential, or lack thereof, of modern technology.

-- Mike Hargis

Loblaws stores `help' Wobs spread anti-hunger message

What was supposed to have been a short 15-minute leaflet distribution turned into a 90-minute educational event when Loblaws executives, private security and Metro Police descended on the Bathurst/St. Clair store to try to prevent customers from receiving flyers about the grocery chain's role in perpetuating hunger in Ontario.

After police threatened arrest and insisted that Toronto Action for Social Change members are all banned from Loblaws property, Matthew Behrens and Laurel Smith decided to continue their flyering on the sidewalk until darkness fell. A team of Metro police in a cruiser and police jeep, teamed with two carloads of private security and Loblaws executives, re-inforced the message that Loblaws is not interested in opening a dialogue on ending the root causes of hunger in Ontario.

As they have throughout their month-long Fast to End Hunger and Homelessness, TASC members leafletted the Loblaws store to draw connections between the corporate grocery chain's practices and growing hunger in Ontario. Those practices include glowing support for the Tories, unpaid deferred taxes of over $56 million, paying President Richard Currie in excess of $8 million in 1997, and profiting off food drives by selling at retail prices goods which people donate to the food drive.

Behrensbarely stepped into the parking lot before he was accosted by two plain-clothes security (videotaping his every move), a Loblaws executive, and Debbie Regina, Senior Manager of Loss Prevention at Loblaws, who immediately ordered him off the property. He was then joined on the sidewalk by Laurel Smith, doubling the size of the action. This threat did not go unnoticed by Loblaws, and within minutes the police jeep marked "Supervisor" for 13 division was on the scene.

"We decided that since Loblaws contributes to so many thousands of people going without supper every day in this province, that we, along with the Loblaws executives would all be a little late for supper," said Smith.

"We handed out a lot more leaflets than we expected to, a lot more people saw our message from the street, and we had some good conversations with customers who were disgusted to find police vehicles in the Loblaws parking lot defending corporate hypocrites from two people armed only with pieces of paper. Thanks to Loblaws, what could have been a disappointing and disheartening vigil turned into a really good educational event."

Loblaws has had 10 members of TASC (IWW IU 670) arrested at prior anti-hunger events, often in the middle of food drives. Among those arrested have been the Easter Bunny and three bunny helpers, Santa Claus and two elves, Robin Hood and a schoolteacher who stopped to read a leaflet after he finished shopping. All go to trial in November, December and January.

Solidarity with Han Young workers

Philadelphia IWW members joined activists from Delaware County to picket a Hyundai dealership in Springfield, Pennsylvania, October 10th. The picket was called in support of Mexican Han Young maquiladora workers, who are currently on strike because management refuses to negotiate a contract. Han Young is a contractor for Hyundai.

The Campaign for Labor Rights organized an east coast tour for Jamie Garcia Barron, a striker from the plant. During his Wob-hosted stop in Philadelphia Oct. 1st, Barron told stories from the ongoing struggle to win recognition for a union independent of the government. Government-controlled unions have attempted to raid the drive with no success, and three times workers at Han Young have voted in an independent union. When the company illegally tried to maintain production with scabs, strikers borrowed the company's fuses and stopped production. Government officials have defied federal orders and torn down strike banners, declared the strike "non-existent," and put out arrest warrants for union leaders.

Workers from the Mexican plant are returning from a solidarity visit with Hyundai workers from Korea, who also recently went on strike. The workers from Han Young have made an international appeal to hold Hyundai accountable for the conditions in the maquiladora and look forward to making solidarity links across the globe.

-- Alexis Buss

`Labor Day' in Lancaster

The Lancaster, Pennsylvania GMB made its second annual appearance at the Lancaster Labor Council/United Way Chili Cook-off. Our vegetarian tofu chili didn't win, but we got out several IWs and fliers for the Han Young Workers tour. The big hit of the afternoon was our brand-new red IWW T-shirts.

East Bay workshops

The East Bay IWW is holding a series of workshops at their office at 2022 Blake Street in Berkeley on Thursday Nights at 7 p.m. Upcoming sessions include:
October 29th - Dead Martyrs Night: a workshop/party for "In November We Remember" featuring histories of various Wobbly Class War prisoners and victims of capitalist murderers.

Nov. 12th - a discussion of the various proposals on the November IWW ballot.

December 24th - Wobbly Carol-In. We'll take to the streets and visit the hot shopping districts to sing Wobbly-ized Carols to remind shoppers of the exploitative and capitalist nature of the holiday season.

January 14th - History Workshop

Jan. 29 - Forum: What is Syndicalism?

Future workshops may include Contract Negotiations, Website Design, and Video Activism.

Regional Meeting in B.C.

The new Victoria, British Columbia, GMB is hosting a regional IWW meeting November 14 and 15th. Please contact them in regards to desired agenda, housing, etc.
The Victoria IWW can be reached at 250/360-9803, or POB 8283, Victoria BC V8W 3R9

Originally appeared in Industrial Worker #1617 (November 1998)