Portland Anarchists Want to Fix Your Street's Potholes

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zylas
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Mar 19 2017 20:15

I'm new to this stuff, so go easy on me here, but this seems like an unambigously good thing. If the point is to show we don't need the state for this, I think from a layman's perspective doing it yourself looks less hypocritical than pressuring the local government to do it.

I guess it's a balancing act, I think this kind of action is needed to be the "good cop" to "bad cop" of protests, riots, and antifascist actions - because as much as I personally agree with those, if all people see and hear of anarchists is how they wreck things and get into fist fights, they will be put off

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Juan Conatz
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Mar 20 2017 00:22

I think some of the conversation around this is a good example of why I am not an anarchist.

I have no problem with the boogeyman state, a.k.a. the most likely unionized, disproportionately people of color city road workers fixing roads. I have no problem with the city being pressured to hire more unionized, disproportionately people of color city workers to do more road fixing that may not be getting done.

I don't think there's really anything admirable or cool about unpaid, unqualified, anonymous masked up individuals doing it, just because they're not the "state". I don't get the DIY appeal at all and it seems to be fully inline with the vision of Thatcher and people like Rand Paul.

zugzwang
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Mar 20 2017 02:25
Juan Conatz wrote:
I have no problem with the boogeyman state, a.k.a. the most likely unionized, disproportionately people of color city road workers fixing roads. I have no problem with the city being pressured to hire more unionized, disproportionately people of color city workers to do more road fixing that may not be getting done.

It's not being done, though. The revenue is not there or is being wasted in other areas. Why should we wait for these authoritarian and hierarchical government institutions to decide when potholes need to be filled? Aren't the people themselves perfectly capable of deciding that potholes are dangerous and need to be fixed, and then taking action to do so? I still can't wrap my head around why we should blame any group of people for taking matters into their own hands, even if the consequence of that is that some workers are negatively affected. It's not the fault of the people doing the work that wasn't being done; it's the system where people must sell their labor in order to survive (either to the state or private enterprises). To me that's just the same scapegoating used against migrants/refugees for economic problems instead of the capitalist institutions actually responsible for those problems (as pointed out by Serge).

Juan Conatz wrote:
I don't think there's really anything admirable or cool about unpaid, unqualified, anonymous masked up individuals doing it, just because they're not the "state".

What makes you say their goal is to look cool rather than do necessary work that's not being done?

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Juan Conatz
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Mar 20 2017 02:23

But it's not "just being done". This isn't like when I go out to smoke a cigarette and see some litter on the sidewalk so I pick it up. The Portland thing is being done, photographed, uploaded, given a political name and shared. At this point it becomes something very different than someone just doing something, it becomes a project spreading a message. I object to this message and haven't seen any evidence provided that there has been demands made on city services.

A few months ago, a group Puerto Rican and Mexican mothers went and bothered the city about putting traffic lights on my corner. The corner is high traffic and close to a school. Their harassment of the alderman, plus getting on Univision resulted in lights being put in the next week. I suppose it would have been more romantic for the moms to mask up and install the lights on their own but personally, I prefer my city services to be done by unionized, qualified fellow workers.

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Khawaga
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Mar 20 2017 02:55
Serge wrote:
But we will continue to lose more than we win because the level of class consciousness and class resistance is possibly at an all time low. It's not about what this or that anarchist group does but what the class does and it's this that needs to change. Stunts like filling in pot holes changes nothing - admirable though it might be, as long as it's not proto-scabbing.

As I wrote:

Quote:
To make a fancier autonomist-inspired argument: we're so utterly decomposed as a class and it seems like the process of recomposing hasn't even started yet.

So basically, we are fucked and starting from scratch. And we will lose a lot, but that doesn't mean we should just pick fights that we know will lose. In that cases, it is better to start with something to gain confidence, establish trust between people and so on than just doing whatever we have been doing so far and getting demoralized in the process. I am fed up with that.

As long as pot-hole filling is just a stunt and is just supposed to go up some groupsicle's instagram of Facebook page, it is as worthless as freeganing. Aight on its own, but has feck all to do with politics. But if pot-hole filling happens because a local community has come together and wants it to get done, that is a whole another ball game. A community that comes together like that may have all kinds of capacities and know-how (who knows some of them might even be city workers whose job it is to fill in holes). I am pretty sure that they will figure out a way to get it fixed whether it be the DIY approach or making demands on the state. But I think it is silly to condemn pot-hole filling in and of its own as if there is some weird division of labour anarchists have to stick to.

I mean, let's face it guys. What we've been doing is not working. We shouldn't be that quick to condemn, even though in this case of ideologically motivated public service where it's done for that reason plus a few likes is clearly a dead end.

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Khawaga
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Mar 20 2017 02:58
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But it's not "just being done". This isn't like when I go out to smoke a cigarette and see some litter on the sidewalk so I pick it up. The Portland thing is being done, photographed, uploaded, given a political name and shared. At this point it becomes something very different than someone just doing something, it becomes a project spreading a message. I object to this message and haven't seen any evidence provided that there has been demands made on city services.

Would you have been against it if the community had decided collectively to go the DIY round?

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Juan Conatz
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Mar 20 2017 03:28

I think people who live in a neighborhood getting together, collectively deciding to harass/pressure the city to provide the services that they are supposed to and do primarily because of past organizing is preferable to masked up anarchos just deciding to do so on their own to display some sort of strap-on-your-boots American self-suffiency.

zugzwang
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Mar 20 2017 06:50

I would also object if the "volunteers" were not knowledgeable in what they were volunteering for. I certainly wouldn't want them handling traffic lights if they weren't qualified. I know nothing about repairing roads, but by the looks of the article, it seems the Portland anarchists had some idea of what they were doing.

Quote:
A small circle of friends created Portland Anarchist Road Care in February as a response to deteriorating road conditions, which they believe make driving and cycling less safe (as well as a financial burden to owners of damaged vehicles). Whereas the planet’s other pothole vigilantes rely on mostly passive approaches to draw attention to holes—painting male genitalia around them in the U.K., making them tweet the government when run over in Panama—Portland’s avengers take direct action, using a temporary but well-established mending technique called cold patching.
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I suppose it would have been more romantic for the moms to mask up and install the lights on their own but personally, I prefer my city services to be done by unionized, qualified fellow workers.

If it were qualified workers volunteering for these sort of things, would you object then just because it adversely affects the jobs of some other workers? It's not that I'm against demanding anything from the city or government; it's just that I think the Portland anarchists are to be taken seriously and not dismissed, ridiculed and blamed. I would be glad, for instance, if they repaired a road I cycle or drive on.

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Hieronymous
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Mar 20 2017 05:51
zugzwang wrote:
I still can't wrap my head around why we should blame any group of people for taking matters into their own hands, even if the consequence of that is that some workers are negatively affected.

How 'bout if those workers are negatively affected out of a job? That's called scabbing.

Reminds me of the "thousand of points of light." Anyone else remember that mantra of austerity?

zugzwang
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Mar 20 2017 06:05
Hieronymous wrote:
zugzwang wrote:
I still can't wrap my head around why we should blame any group of people for taking matters into their own hands, even if the consequence of that is that some workers are negatively affected.

How 'bout if those workers are negatively affected out of a job? That's called scabbing.

Reminds me of the "thousand of points of light." Anyone else remember that mantra of austerity?

Yes, but they're not working for anyone during a strike or dispute to undermine those efforts; they're volunteering to do work that wasn't getting done. Is the goal not to destroy governmental institutions, as well as remuneration for work, and replace them with more democratic organizations and work based around mutual aid and meeting people's needs?

Tom Henry
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Mar 20 2017 07:27
Quote:
Zugwang:
I still can't wrap my head around why we should blame any group of people for taking matters into their own hands, even if the consequence of that is that some workers are negatively affected.

Hieronymous:
How 'bout if those workers are negatively affected out of a job? That's called scabbing.

Hieronymous is right. Any work we do that negatively affects other workers is scabbing. This works on a local and a local-to-global level. This makes any work in developing technology ultimately scabbing (whether it leads to joblessness or intensification of labor), or any work in education, for example, since education is necessarily exclusionary and negatively affects proto-workers (students). That is, it ultimately denies some sections of the community jobs and creates the possibilities for others to have them. The list goes on and on. Thus, everyone is a scab. It goes on: If we apply for a job and get it are we negatively affecting another worker out of a job? Just what kind of flag are we waving here when we argue for or against the Portland pot hole filler anarchists?

I think the Portland anarchists filling pot holes are hilarious, not good or bad, just amusing and charming, and inconsequential (or are they…??). However, by enlarging the discussion in this way, Hieronymous takes us somewhere far more interesting.

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Cooked
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Mar 20 2017 08:31

Despite being sarcastic Tom is correct really but that's capitalism. We're all reproducing it, so the contradictions are built in.

All the calls for pressuring the state being the best option... That's a pretty well travelled path. And there are more effective ways of pressuring the state than any immediate llbcom alternative. "Libcom a better way of influencing the state"

We're seeing the state failing to provide across the west. Propping it up and insisting on all the proper channels and institutions is surely not the way to go.

Sure this might be a media stunt more than anything but that's the issue not that theyre stealing jobs.

That Thatcher, Cameron Paul or the fascists are doing it is not a good argument against. I see way to much of that reasoning around.

Tom Henry
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Mar 20 2017 09:21

But Cooked when you say

Quote:
We're seeing the State failing to provide across the west.

What does that mean? Did it once provide? Was it once good for the mass of the people? Should anarchists model their notions of a future society on a previous state system? The 'high point' (?) of the Welfare State in Britain, for example?

Also, I wasn't being sarcastic, honest, guv. Though Hieronymous probably didn't intend his comment to be extrapolated in such a way, of course. But he did open up the discussion with his comment, even though Edging Sideways (Serge Forward's true name in a time of class decomposition) had already kind of gone there with his confusing view that while the actions of the pot hole fillers were "positive" and "admirable" they were also the strategy of a class enemy. smile

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Mar 20 2017 09:45
Quote:
Edging Sideways

Nicely done grin

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Chilli Sauce
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Mar 20 2017 14:12
zylas wrote:
I'm new to this stuff, so go easy on me here, but this seems like an unambigously good thing. If the point is to show we don't need the state for this, I think from a layman's perspective doing it yourself looks less hypocritical than pressuring the local government to do it.

I guess it's a balancing act, I think this kind of action is needed to be the "good cop" to "bad cop" of protests, riots, and antifascist actions - because as much as I personally agree with those, if all people see and hear of anarchists is how they wreck things and get into fist fights, they will be put off

Zylas, I'd just say that I'm not sure they dichotomy you've set up here is correct - although I do think it reflects a certain activist mentality that pervades the anarchist movement.

It's the idea that we, as anarchists, either do DIY shit or we go out and protest. When, in fact, our role should be to be active in wider struggles, pushing anarchist aims and methods, or to be organizing campaigns - which no doubt will have protests, demonstrations, and DIY as part of them, but should, at best, be a reflection of the larger activities that go into effective organizing.

So, I know you said you are new to this. I might recommend Give Up Activism. It very much pushes back against the idea that our activity is something to be understood (or consumed or experienced passively) by the non-activist layman, as you put it.

None of that is meant as a criticism, btw, I hope it doesn't come across that way.

Sharkfinn
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Mar 20 2017 14:31

The reason the potholes in Oregon aren’t being fixed is the same as anywhere in the US. Public infrastructure is dying because the state isn’t investing and that’s because of the economic base in anytown USA hasn’t been growing for almost a decade now. I don’t think the reason is that capitalist want to extort the highest surplus from road workers – the problem is precisely that they don’t. Low investment because of low rates of profit, plus tax cuts to the rich create a situation where it’s very possible the state just doesn’t have the budget for it (not sure if this applies specifically to Portland). So, it’s really capitalism not volunteers taking away workers’ jobs.

Direct action to demand more public investment is unlikely to work when the conditions are extremely unfavourable to it. Communism is supposed to be about abolishing the present state of things, not reaffirming them in workers' favour – that’s a losing strategy. If volunteering builds dual power in the community, that could be used to go beyond the existing forms of working class politics, I’d say it’s worth it.

Wanksy works too but that depends on the situation. If the potholes are there because of negligence, then yeah, any kind of demands with media profile will probably help. But there are more significant underlying problems behind infrastructural decline. The left can’t deal with this because our strategies are from a time of industrial expansion.

Is this actually happening?:

Quote:
In this instance, it appears to have prompted management to initiate a speed up in competition with these volunteers!

I'd assume road workers are working harder now because its spring time and in cold countries construction industry is seasonal?

huli
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Mar 20 2017 15:01

As far as I can tell, this was announced a few days before the first PARC pot-hole-filling, but I could be wrong:
"The bureau will send out 12 to 15 crews to fill the potholes, far more than the usual two or three crews that usually do the job."
http://www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/346637-226538-city-crews-warm-up-shovels-for-pothole-patch-a-thon

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Steven.
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Mar 20 2017 15:01
Quote:
Hieronymous:
How 'bout if those workers are negatively affected out of a job? That's called scabbing.

Sorry, but that's just wrong. Scabbing means doing the work of striking workers. If these potholes had been filled while road workers were on strike, then yes that would have been scabbing. But doing it themselves is just volunteering. Hell, haven't you done free teaching of English for migrant workers? Now that doesn't make you a scab, taking the job of potentially employed English teachers does it?

petey
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Mar 20 2017 16:49

excellent post #47 from sharkfinn.

zugzwang wrote:
Quote:
A small circle of friends created Portland Anarchist Road Care in February as a response to deteriorating road conditions, which they believe make driving and cycling less safe (as well as a financial burden to owners of damaged vehicles). Whereas the planet’s other pothole vigilantes rely on mostly passive approaches to draw attention to holes—painting male genitalia around them in the U.K., making them tweet the government when run over in Panama—Portland’s avengers take direct action, using a temporary but well-established mending technique called cold patching.

this is what i was waiting to read. assuming that most of those whose cars and bikes would be damaged by the potholes were FWs who depend on their transportation, i applaud the class-conscious motivation of the potholerers. i remember the anger i felt towards leftoids in 1999 when they were chuffed that the riots in Seatlle included smashing up people's cars. your car. in most of the states, is how you feed you and yours.

dunno about "avengers" tho'. a bit dramatic.

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Mar 20 2017 17:22
Tom Henry wrote:
But Cooked when you say
Quote:
We're seeing the State failing to provide across the west.

What does that mean? Did it once provide? Was it once good for the mass of the people? Should anarchists model their notions of a future society on a previous state system? The 'high point' (?) of the Welfare State in Britain, for example?

You're trying to hard it's plain that you're only using me as text mass for your nefarious ends! Sharkfinns post covers it really. People used to rely on the state for things they no longer can and it looks like the decline will continue.

zylas
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Mar 20 2017 19:23
Chilli Sauce wrote:

It's the idea that we, as anarchists, either do DIY shit or we go out and protest. When, in fact, our role should be to be active in wider struggles, pushing anarchist aims and methods, or to be organizing campaigns - which no doubt will have protests, demonstrations, and DIY as part of them, but should, at best, be a reflection of the larger activities that go into effective organizing.

So, I know you said you are new to this. I might recommend Give Up Activism. It very much pushes back against the idea that our activity is something to be understood (or consumed or experienced passively) by the non-activist layman, as you put it.

None of that is meant as a criticism, btw, I hope it doesn't come across that way.

I see, I read the piece and it did kind of cool my temper. Though if we should spread the awareness of our goals and reasoning, won't conducting such feel-good actions make a more fertile ground for those ideas?

I can bring up myself as an example. In Warsaw, Poland, there's a "reprivatisation scandal" - a bunch of landowners, using shady methods and bribes, is getting tenement houses they claim their family owned before WW II. Nowadays people live there, usually very poor, and they're being evicted, sometimes sued for huge amounts of money for "trespassing". But anarchists defended them, physically fighting off bailiffs. This was pretty much a symbolic action, they couldn't do that forever. But it made me think, I was always told and taught, in school as well, that anarchists are just bunch of thugs and bomb throwers; this threw a wrench into that. Then I learned about Food not Bombs, which further pushed me to learn about anarchism. I recently became involved in FNB, and I know this won't bring down capitalism or anything, but at least few dozens of homeless people will have a nice meal.

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Mar 20 2017 19:59
Steven. wrote:
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Hieronymous:
How 'bout if those workers are negatively affected out of a job? That's called scabbing.

Sorry, but that's just wrong. Scabbing means doing the work of striking workers. If these potholes had been filled while road workers were on strike, then yes that would have been scabbing. But doing it themselves is just volunteering.

Maybe it's different in various English speaking regions, but in the U.S. "scabbing" means to deny another worker of their means of subsistence. Here what Jack London said in his 1905 War of the Classes:

Jack London wrote:
The laborer who gives more time or strength or skill for the same wage than another, or equal time or strength or skill for a less wage, is a scab.

This would apply as well for doing for free what is ordinarily waged work. Made more problematic is performing the tasks normally done by public sector workers of color (as Juan correctly points out).

Sharkfinn
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Mar 20 2017 20:32

A scab is either a someone who crosses a picket line to undermine a strike by working, or a hard coating on the skin formed during the wound healing reconstruction process.

The working class is the proletariat in so far as they lack the means of their subsistence, and have to sell their labour power to get it in exchange. A scab cannot meaningfully deny a worker their subsistence as they never had it in the first place.

Mike Harman
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Mar 20 2017 21:03
Jack London wrote:
The laborer who gives more time or strength or skill for the same wage than another, or equal time or strength or skill for a less wage, is a scab.

This definition would include (mostly black) prison convicts leased to mines and factories in Jack London's time, as well as modern prison labourers in the US.

It's objectively the case that prison labour is used to undermine pay and conditions compared to 'free' labour but I don't think calling it scab labour is useful. Part of the defeats in the US was white workers organising against black workers rather than with them - by treating them only as potential strike breakers rather than as comrades. Chicago race riots started due to this iirc.

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Mar 20 2017 22:48

I do remember from an old IWW pamphlet (maybe the one on the four hour day?) saying that people who take overtime are "scabbing on the unemployed". That said, I think even in America the definition is generally used in a pretty straightforward way: crossing picket lines in order to do the work of striking workers.

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Mar 20 2017 23:02
Mike Harman wrote:
Jack London wrote:
The laborer who gives more time or strength or skill four the same wage than another, or equal time or strength or skill for a less wage, is a scab.

This definition would include (mostly black) prison convicts leased to mines and factories in Jack London's time, as well as modern prison labourers in the US.

It's objectively the case that prison labour is used to undermine pay and conditions compared to 'free' labour but I don't think calling it scab labour is useful. Part of the defeats in the US was white workers organising against black workers rather than with them - by treating them only as potential strike breakers rather than as comrades. Chicago race riots started due to this iirc.

Well, Jack London was a big bastard racist so I suppose it kind of fits. Anyway, to call these anarchos scabs is definitely over-egging the pudding. Well meaning but misguided and playing into the hands of the bosses, sure.... but scabs? That's just bloody daft.

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Mar 21 2017 03:45
zugzwang wrote:
It's not being done, though. The revenue is not there or is being wasted in other areas. Why should we wait for these authoritarian and hierarchical government institutions to decide when potholes need to be filled? Aren't the people themselves perfectly capable of deciding that potholes are dangerous and need to be fixed, and then taking action to do so?

One reason why road repairs are not getting done is that it's been an extremely wet winter. From California all through the Pacific Northwest roads have washed out and bridges collapsed. It's raining today in Portland, there is a flood warning right now, and it rained most days last week -- and it's supposed to rain everyday for the next week. You can't fix potholes when it's raining. So far, Portland Anarchist Road Care has patched 3, and according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation they have 997 to go to clear the backlog. At this pace, taking the rain into consideration, the Anarchists will have it done by 2020.

I suspect that this is just a silly publicity stunt. Perhaps like Trump's tweets, it's a distraction from all the arrests during the anti-Trump protests (and I hope it helps, but doubt it). And I don't think it's scabbing since the Portland Anarchist Road Care's level of productivity isn't putting any public sector workers out of a job. Real repairs are done by repaving using heavy duty asphalt paving machines and cold patching is like putting a Band-Aid on a scratch.

And the Portland Bureau of Transportation does have the resources, having passed a ballot measure in 2016 for a motor vehicle fuel tax worth an estimated $64 million (which I suspect the Anarchist pothole filling is attempting to draw attention to). Anyway, most road repairs are financed either locally, with general obligation bonds, or though taxation nationally, like the 18.3-cents-per-gallon federal excise tax on gasoline and gasohol and the 24.3-cents-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. So there's no shortage of money.

And for a mainstream definition of a scab (and to repeat, I don't think that it applies to Portland Anarchist Road Care):

    (1) : a worker who refuses to join a labor union
    (2) : a union member who refuses to strike or returns to work before a strike has ended
    (3) : a worker who accepts employment or replaces a union worker during a strike
    (4) : one who works for less than union wages or on nonunion terms

But the best definitions of class traitors like scabs can be found in laborlore books like Archie Green's Wobblies, Pile Butts, and Other Heroes: Laborlore Explorations, where he defines scabs, finks, rats and scissorbills.

Tom Henry
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Mar 21 2017 02:20

I'm sure I remember the time when Serge Sideways and I used to complain about people working because they were scabbing on our general strike... us being unemployed at the time.

Sike
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Mar 21 2017 08:26
Hieronymous wrote:
Maybe it's different in various English speaking regions, but in the U.S. "scabbing" means to deny another worker of their means of subsistence. Here what Jack London said in his 1905 War of the Classes:

Jack London wrote:The laborer who gives more time or strength or skill for the same wage than another, or equal time or strength or skill for a less wage, is a scab.

Well, I'm not so sure that Jack London meant what your implying in relation to this thread but if "scabbing" can be defined simply as denying another worker a means of subsistence by an act of volunteerism could it not be said that those non-professional organizers who seek employment at a workplace with the primary intent of organizing the workers there are potentially denying paid union staffers their means of subsistence?

This list below posted by you is a much more accurate definition of what a "scab" really is:

Hieronymous wrote:
    (1) : a worker who refuses to join a labor union
    (2) : a union member who refuses to strike or returns to work before a strike has ended
    (3) : a worker who accepts employment or replaces a union worker during a strike
    (4) : one who works for less than union wages or on nonunion terms

.

Although the list above consists of the most accurate definition posted here by far I should perhaps point out that I've know of workers who simply stayed at home during strike actions and were never ostracized by their striking co-workers for doing so. This kinda causes me think that perhaps the most commonly accepted definition of a "scab"in the US today for purposes of labor is as sharkfinn points out simply that of a worker who crosses a picket-line to recommence work in violation of a strike action.

Now, what was this thread originally all about? smile

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Mar 21 2017 10:09
Tom Henry wrote:
I'm sure I remember the time when Serge Sideways and I used to complain about people working because they were scabbing on our general strike... us being unemployed at the time.

Serge Sideways and Arse Sideways... the dodgy duo grin