Walmart warehouse workers in California in wildcat strike?

92 posts / 0 new
Last post
Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Sep 12 2012 21:31
Walmart warehouse workers in California in wildcat strike?

So it says they have no recognized union, but I get the feeling there's a union behind this somewhere (plus a connection with religious and community groups). Anybody know anything further about it?

------------

http://www.warehouseworkersunited.org/southern-california-warehouse-workers-on-strike/

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Warehouse workers went on strike to protest unfair labor practices they have faced on the job Wednesday morning, following months of working in hot temperatures under extreme pressure in a major Walmart-contracted warehouse in Southern California.

Workers—who do not have a recognized union—walked off the job during the first shift at an NFI warehouse in Mira Loma, California to call for an end to retaliation and unfair labor practices. Workers have been fighting for more than a year for safe working conditions and for Walmart to take responsibility for conditions in the warehouse.

“When we spoke out to change terrible working conditions, workers were suspended, demoted and even fired. They spied on us and bullied us, all because we are fighting for dignity” said Limber Herrera, a warehouse worker for four years.

The strike comes one day before workers and their supporters begin a 50-mile, six-day pilgrimage from the warehouses to Downtown Los Angeles.

Workers face inadequate access to clean water, work under scorching heat that reaches well over 100 degrees, and have little access to basic healthcare, regular breaks, and properly functioning equipment. Their wages are low –$8 per hour and $250 a week, or $12,000 per year. Workplace injury is common.

But when workers tried to offer solutions to fix these abuses, they have been met with illegal threats and intimidation by management. Workers are employed by NFI and a temporary labor agency, Warestaff. Both companies are Walmart subcontractors, but the retail giant has ignored repeated attempts by workers to meet and address the inhumane and illegal conditions in its contracted warehouses.

As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart dictates the standards of operation in the logistics and distribution industry.

“These workers have exhausted all options,” said Guadalupe Palma, a director of Warehouse Workers United, an organization committed to improving warehousing jobs in Southern California’s Inland Empire. “Walmart must stop ignoring warehouse workers and intervene to uphold its own stated “Standards for Suppliers,” eliminate inhumane and illegal working conditions and sit down directly with warehouse workers to hear about their experiences in the warehouses and figure out how to improve working conditions.”

More than 85,000 workers labor in warehouses in Southern California, unloading merchandise from shipping containers that enter through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and loading it onto trucks destined for retail stores like Walmart. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating numerous federal charges filed by the warehouse workers.

WHAT: Press Conference to Launch Warehouse Worker Pilgrimage
WHEN: 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 13
WHERE: 601 S. Milliken Ave., Suite A, Ontario, California 91761
WHO: Warehouse Workers
Assemblymember Norma Torres
Rev. Eric Lee, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Art Rodriguez, President of United Farm Workers of America
Members of the clergy
VISUALS: Warehouse workers and their supporters will hold a short press conference in front of a warehouse and then commence marching up Milliken Ave. with signs and a backdrop of some of the world’s largest warehouses.

Warehouse workers will embark on their 50-mile march Sept. 13. They will sleep on church floors and rely on community organizations for support and meals. Marchers will be joined daily by supporters and elected officials. Workers will hold daily media events and will be available for interviews in English and Spanish throughout the entire march.

Follow the march on social media using the hashtag #WalMarch

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Sep 12 2012 21:56

Warehouse Workers United are behind it. It was started by Change to Win, so you can smell SEIU all over it -- as well as it being a way for them to poach on the warehouse division of the ILWU's jurisdiction (who remain in the AFL-CIO). It's righteous that the workers wildcatted, but it would be lame if the only demand is union recognition.

laborbund's picture
laborbund
Offline
Joined: 1-03-10
Sep 13 2012 13:19

From what I can gather its just SEIU taking a UE idea (http://www.warehouseworker.org/) and making it shittier. Walmart is a huge prize so I imagine SEIU and UFCW will fight each other over it. Still, it would be a crying shame if either of them actually got recognition as all they will do is negotiate a rotten contract not worth the paper its written on.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Sep 13 2012 20:14

Thanks y'all.

I'm also thinking the Interfaith Worker Justice Network folks are involved as affiliated organisations are linked pretty prominently from the WWU website.

I have to say, tho, some of those IWJN orgs seem to be doing some interesting things. Obviously, they have huge shortcomings, but it seems if they're capable of organising statewide conferences of temp agency workers that we could learn something from them.

http://newlabor.org/?cat=5

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Sep 14 2012 03:34

Chili...... Teamsters, don't forget the T roll eyes eamsters

syndicalist
Offline
Joined: 15-04-06
Sep 14 2012 03:36
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Thanks y'all.

I'm also thinking the Interfaith Worker Justice Network folks are involved as affiliated organisations are linked pretty prominently from the WWU website.

I have to say, tho, some of those IWJN orgs seem to be doing some interesting things. Obviously, they have huge shortcomings, but it seems if they're capable of organising statewide conferences of temp agency workers that we could learn something from them.

http://newlabor.org/?cat=5

All things considered, Nu Joisey "New Labor" does some decent stuff.....but then, again, they do some .....well.... let's keep it positive groucho

redsdisease
Offline
Joined: 31-12-10
Sep 20 2012 06:38

In a pretty interesting development, about thirty Walmart warehouse workers in Illinois have also gone on strike. This time they are affiliated with Warehouse Workers for Justice, which is a workers center associated with United Electrical.

Article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/17/warehouse-workers-strike-illinois_n_1891499.html

laborbund's picture
laborbund
Offline
Joined: 1-03-10
Sep 21 2012 18:28

if somebody's going to organize walmart workers I hope its UE. They're not anarcho-syndicalists but they're the best of all the business unions.

redsdisease
Offline
Joined: 31-12-10
Sep 21 2012 18:48
laborbund wrote:
if somebody's going to organize walmart workers I hope its UE. They're not anarcho-syndicalists but they're the best of all the business unions.

They seem to be making a pretty big push to organize warehouse workers in Illinois. Labornotes had an article about it last year: http://labornotes.org/2011/10/chicago-warehouse-workers-navigate-maze-contractors-organize

One thing that strikes me about this particular strike is the way it came about: they presented the management with a list of demands and then went on strike after facing retaliation. Perhaps I'm reading too much into that, but it seems like they're using more of a solidarity unionist approach than a typical contractual campaign. I suppose I can see how that approach could have some real advantages for folks working for temp agencies.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Sep 21 2012 18:58

Maybe, although I don't consider having a layer of paid organizing staff conducive to solidarity unionism.

UE has been known to practice to minority unionism, such as in the public sector in the states that don't allow public sector unions. Also, to be honest, being a smaller union not in the AFL-CIO, yet still somewhat set-up in the buisness union model, they don't have a huge amount of resources, so they make do with what they can. For example, raiding mobbed up unions in Chicago on recert/decert campaigns, which they've gotten a certain amount if growth from as I understand.

laborbund's picture
laborbund
Offline
Joined: 1-03-10
Sep 22 2012 16:23

UE definitely stresses member participation, union democracy, and direct action more than most business unions. And they are much more politically independent than most business unions. But they are still a business union. So I think it would make sense for them to rip a page or two from solidarity unionism, while not going for the whole thing. Especially anti-contractualism; I think they have always been pro-contract. And there is no way they would ever give up staff organizers. But yeah, if its a choice between UE and other generic business union, I'm going with UE.

Comrade Motopu's picture
Comrade Motopu
Offline
Joined: 27-04-07
Oct 2 2012 09:06

Related news from Chicago:

Security Force Arrests Supporters of Striking Walmart Warehouse Workers

http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/10/01/private-security-force-arrests-supporters-of-striking-walmart-warehouse-workers/

Quote:
Walmart had a private [see correction below] security force on hand to arrest clergy and community leaders there to support workers because the distribution center is located in a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). The distribution center, as WWJ’s website details, is also “one of the most important transportation and distribution hubs in the world.”

The only location in the hemisphere where all six Class I railroads meet, Chicago transports half the nation’s rail freight.
Seven interstate highways crisscross the Chicago region. Only two states have more interstate highway miles than Illinois. Chicago is a two-day truck haul from 219 million people, or 42% of the continent.
Chicago is now, by some estimates, the third-largest container port in the world, after Hong Kong and Singapore.
As a result, almost a trillion dollars worth of goods pass through the Chicago region every year.

NOTE: Article was corrected at 8:23 PM EST to correct an inaccurate statement that a private security force had arrested demonstrators.

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 2 2012 14:18
Comrade Motopu wrote:
Related news from Chicago:
Quote:
Chicago is now, by some estimates, the third-largest container port in the world, after Hong Kong and Singapore.

This is simply wrong. The world's busiest intermodal cargo container port is Shanghai (measured by the volume of twenty-foot equivalent units [TEUs] transported through the port). Singapore is a close second and Hong Kong a distant third. These facts are easily ascertainable.

43% of all goods entering the U.S. come through the combined Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Most travel around 60 miles by train or truck to the "Inland Empire," the massive logistics center (in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metro areas) where they are finally assembled (as many as 2/3 of imports, as greater L.A. is the leading site of manufacturing in the U.S.) and/or transshipped to other destinations. Chicago is secondary to this.

fnbrill's picture
fnbrill
Offline
Joined: 13-01-07
Oct 3 2012 06:06

If they don't have a union, technically it's not a wildcat.

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
Offline
Joined: 5-07-09
Oct 3 2012 06:21
fnbrill wrote:
If they don't have a union, technically it's not a wildcat.

yeah just like the chinese workers it is more like, fucking awesome!

Comrade Motopu's picture
Comrade Motopu
Offline
Joined: 27-04-07
Oct 3 2012 11:38
Quote:
Comrade Motopu wrote:
Related news from Chicago:
Quote:
Chicago is now, by some estimates, the third-largest container port in the world, after Hong Kong and Singapore.
Quote:
This is simply wrong. The world's busiest intermodal cargo container port is Shanghai (measured by the volume of twenty-foot equivalent units [TEUs] transported through the port). Singapore is a close second and Hong Kong a distant third. These facts are easily ascertainable.

I admit that I posted the data because I thought it was interesting, but I didn't verify it anywhere first.

I did just find this:

While there is a smaller amount of reliable data on the number of containers handled by inland locations than for ocean-based ports, logistics experts estimate that the container volume into and out of the Chicago area totaled about 15 million TEUs in 2004. This effectively makes it a larger container "port" than Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handled about 13.1 million TEUs. In fact, if all of the containers that arrive in Chicago by train were counted as if they were handled by a water port, Chicago would be the world's third-largest port after Hong Kong and Singapore.

source: http://www.spur.org/publications/library/article/thetortoiseandthehare08012006

I don't post it to endorse the views of that site, but to posit that maybe there is something to the factoid. Apologies in advance if I've just been careless again, but I don't have time to research further right now as bed time approaches and I have work tomorrow.

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 4 2012 13:42
Comrade Motopu wrote:

I admit that I posted the data because I thought it was interesting, but I didn't verify it anywhere first.

[edited: comment removed]

Comrade Motopu wrote:

I did just find this:

While there is a smaller amount of reliable data on the number of containers handled by inland locations than for ocean-based ports, logistics experts estimate that the container volume into and out of the Chicago area totaled about 15 million TEUs in 2004. This effectively makes it a larger container "port" than Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handled about 13.1 million TEUs. In fact, if all of the containers that arrive in Chicago by train were counted as if they were handled by a water port, Chicago would be the world's third-largest port after Hong Kong and Singapore.

source: http://www.spur.org/publications/library/article/thetortoiseandthehare08012006

I don't post it to endorse the views of that site, but to posit that maybe there is something to the factoid. Apologies in advance if I've just been careless again, but I don't have time to research further right now as bed time approaches and I have work tomorrow.

Shanghai is still the #1 container port in the world. Chicago doesn't move many containers onto or off of ships on Lake Michigan, but by being the primary railroad hub it is the most important transshipment center in North America. Ports are different from railroad yards.

Another difference with the L.A./Long Beach Port complex is that they move massive amounts of bulk and loose cargo, various chemicals and petroleum products, and autos and other vehicles. Frankly, it's stupid to call Chicago a "port."

EDITED: SPUR is the same "think tank" that has been promoting gentifcation and ethnic cleansing in San Francisco for over a hundred years. These are the real estate interests and developers who turned San Francisco into a yuppie playground. Their data is not only ideologically biased, it's flawed to the point of being erroneous. Whenever the City of San Francisco promotes austerity measures for its employees, it cites studies by SPUR justifying them; SPUR's director, Gabriel Metcalf, is frequently quoted in the media supporting such attacks on public sector workers. Therefore, SPUR's studies and reports are not credible.

EDITED: We at the Bay Area Public School are doing a 6-part seminar series on the dispersed global factory and supply chains. This is the model of research that we think is appropriate to the topic.

Comrade Motopu's picture
Comrade Motopu
Offline
Joined: 27-04-07
Oct 5 2012 23:30

Note: Hieronymous removed a lot of material from his posts on this thread that I was responding to. If my posts now seem to be overreactions, it is for this reason. I have kept copies of his original posts for my records.

As I look closer at the info on the amount of TEUs going through Chicago, it is relevant to the article's point about the importance of Chicago as a hub of container transport. Your condescening "this is simply wrong" missed the importance of the information, even if you're technically correct, that the use of the term "port" in the Dissenter article was sloppy.

But it's pretty disingenuous trying to portray me as if I'm promoting, or somehow buying into the gentrification ideology of SPUR, since my purpose in pulling the relevant quote was to explain the "chicago as third largest port" idea, which I think, if worded properly, is not without insight. I appreciate your catching the mistake inherent in the way it was worded, but wonder if you would consider not using that sort of quibble to launch into transparently hostile attempts to paint me as a spectacle loving liberal. I think that most libcom readers can see through such obvious tactics. And really, I made clear that I did not promote anything about the site and that I had posted the relevant snippet because it offered an explanation of the idea you dismissed. Sometimes I see your whole approach as a kind of "dialectics of willful misunderstanding."

And I don't find your other ad-hominems useful. While this will derail the thread, I hope the moderators will allow me to respond to some of Hieronymous's bullying smears. I don't want to go into great detail, but when you say I supported the NATO bombing of Libya, you refer to a question I asked on a yahoogroup with you, me, and three other members. I was worried about the people inside Benghazi, and asked a lengthy, heavily qualified question, with later further explanation, indicating that while I supported niether Gaddafi as some kind of "anti-imperialist" (as some on the left were doing), nor NATO, U.S., or any other capitalist efforts to steer the Arab Spring and related situations in the Middle East toward their own ends, that I still wondered whether anyone had any thoughts on whether people might accept help from imperialists/capitalist powers when they were facing a slaughter from a local dictator. The question itself might not represent my highest ever level of theoretical chops, but I was trying to get at the human element, even as I qualified it. The discussion that followed clarified that, so I hope you don't try to cut snippets to portray me as blindly cheering for NATO bombings.

Regarding the 9/11 attacks, this disagreement occured on the same yahoogroup. I respectfully disagreed with another member's belief that the attacks involved controlled demolitions. Since he listed a bunch of items he thought proved there was more to the attacks, I chose one only to respond to: the theory that there was not enough heat generated by the airplanes and their fuel, and the impact, to melt the steel in the building's structure and bring it down. I still find the explanation in Popular Mechanics, bourgeois Hearst owned magazine that it is, to be more convincing than the counter-arguments I've seen. I could talk about the way I think 9/11 conspiracy theories are usually right-wing, nationalist, and represent a total retreat from class analysis, and then try to tie you to those views, but I won't because I don't think those are your beliefs. I won't use the opportunity because on principle I know it would be destructive.

I think when you attack people in a disingenuous way, and then link to the Bay Area Public School, that you do them a disservice. Why would anyone want to go to a school where they think it could devolve into the sort of posturing "self-critique" you constantly demand of people? It's reminiscent of the film "United Red Army" and does nothing to establish your credibility as a revolutionary.

Edit: image added 10/05

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
Oct 4 2012 07:17

Guys, I've unpublished these comments. Any personal attacks will also see the posts unpublished (as I can't be arsed to go through them, picking out the salient points from the insults) and the user banned.

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 4 2012 18:13

I rewrote one of my last posts that Ed deleted (see below).

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Oct 4 2012 17:20

Related, workers at multiple Walmart stores in California are on strike today.

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/04/walmart_workers_on_strike/

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 4 2012 20:39

O.K. here goes again:

Anything SEIU and Change to Win touches turns to shit -- or gets changed into campaigning and electioneering for Obama and the Democrats. Are faith-based groups really partnering with local politicians to sanctify the pilgrimage and offer "community solidarity" to the pseudo-wildcat? Throw UFCW into the mix and I can't see how they can redeem themselves from the sabotage of 77,000 grocery workers in the bitterly defeated 2003-2004 Southern California supermarket strike. Yet the urgency of resisting Walmart's increasing reach becomes obvious when one realizes that it now sells 18% of the groceries in the U.S., as well as being the world's largest retailer of organic food.

I applaud self-organized work stoppages by any workers, but from my comrades in Los Angeles I've learned that this is media-savvy activism intending to appeal to the moral conscience of the L.A. City Council. What more would you expect of this coalition of liberal-refomists and elected politicians? But these spectacular actions for the benefit of the cameras do make good copy (see the photo below).

Let's look at the labor conditions at the Walmart import warehouse in Mira Loma in the heart of the logistics zone in the Inland Empire. Their facility is literally blocks from crucial highways 15 and 60 and only a little further from the cargo runways of the L.A. City-run (despite being one county away) Ontario Airport (where the iPad and iPhone arrive for Southern California consumers after being transshipped from the Anchorage hub). The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail line passes by then runs along highway I-15 north through Cajon Pass and then onwards through Nevada to Midwestern hubs -- like Chicago. The Union Pacific line goes nearby then goes on through the Coachella Valley, dipping southeast through Arizona before heading to central destinations like Chicago.

But the goods, an overwhelming majority coming from Asia, head straight to regional Distributions Centers (DCs), rather than going to other hubs (like Chicago or elsewhere). This is the backbone of the whole Walmart logistics system: final or near-final assembly at or near the Mira Loma warehouse, then repacking the goods and sending them in containers by train -- if the DC is over 500 miles away -- or by truck to DCs that are nearer, as well as directly to Walmart stores. Big Box retail outlets (e.g. Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Costco, etc.) function as in-store warehouses. The intermediary warehouse never shelve much stock, instead it gets cross-docked in a never-ending movement of goods that defines the inventory-less ("pull" production) just-in-time system.

Until the economic crisis of the last few years, Walmart had started to use more all-water shipments to East Coast ports to avoid the backlog at West Coast ports during the peak years of the mid-2000s. Then they could ship goods sent to ports like Elizabeth, New Jersey or Savannah, Georgia to regional DCs in the Eastern U.S., as well as directly to Walmart stores. This brings up the whole problem of the Panama Canal as the West Coast shipments have moved to post-Panamax ships (holding as many as 14,000 TEU containers) that can't make it though the Canal. Smaller ships that can have less efficient economies of scale and are at sea considerably longer -- resulting in greater transportation costs.

Now contrast this with the less efficient supply chains of Target, which might ship containers from L.A./Long Beach directly to Chicago, but then illogically have to ship goods back to Southern California -- the second largest consumer market in North America. This explains why Walmart, with 2,100,000 employees, is the biggest company in the world. If it was a country, it would be the 25th largest.

So if unions or activists are going to try to organize against this behemoth, they need to keep this scale in mind. The Warehouse Workers United are clearly not up to the challenge. What is the challenge? Understanding that workers in the Mira Loma warehouse don't work for Walmart. They don't work for the various Third Party Logistics(3PL) firms that Walmart and the other importers contract with for all their transportation, warehousing and planning needs. The 3PLs are companies like Exel, who manages the distribution for 8 or 9 other large retailers operating in the Inland Empire. Other 3PLs used by Walmart include NFI and Schneider (see the diagram below). Instead warehouse workers are employed by the the myriad of temporary worker staffing agencies that the 3PLs contract with. This way the 3PLs can externalize to the temp agencies the costs of legal/administrative handling of workers' compensation insurance claims, which are common with the repetitive stress injuries due to the breakneck speedup of warehouse work (check out this series of investigative articles, called "Inside Amazon's Warehouse," from The Morning Call which is a newspaper in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, to see first-hand account of the brutal conditions there). If the 3PL feels the workers are getting too comfortable or that their wages and conditions are are too high, they simply find another temp agency, who might lose a huge contract working one of the Big Box retailers warehouse, go bankrupt, and then reappear under a new name. The big players like Walmart call all the shots, but the different layers separating the worker from them operate in a giant stratified new version of the shape up.

So truly effective organizing needs to be along the whole supply chain, drawing in the solidarity of every worker along the way -- across not only continents, but across seas -- from workers extracting and processing the raw materials, to the burgeoning factories and sweatshops in places like China and Bangladesh, to the truckers and train workers hauling the goods to port, through the longshore loading and maritime workers bringing them across oceans, to the tugs that guide the ships to port, and the workers on the docks and all the transport, final assembly, warehouse and logistics workers reversing the order above to bring the goods to market. Not all sectors would have to strike, but just a few in coordination and crucial nodes -- and the whole vulnerable just-in-time production system could be brought to a grinding halt. I obviously missed plenty of details and got some stuff wrong, but we need to start thinking in these terms if we want to take on the fight against the global giants like Walmart.

knotwho's picture
knotwho
Offline
Joined: 13-01-11
Oct 4 2012 20:10

NOW:

Quote:
Today, for the first time in Walmart’s fifty-year history, workers at multiple stores are out on strike. Minutes ago, dozens of workers at Southern California stores launched a one-day work stoppage in protest of alleged retaliation against their attempts to organize. In a few hours, they’ll join supporters for a mass rally outside a Pico Rivera, CA store.
Quote:
Today’s strike is an outgrowth of a year of organizing by OUR Walmart, an organization of Walmart workers. OUR Walmart is backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, but hasn’t sought union recognition from Walmart; its members have campaigned for improvements in their local stores and converged at Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting.
Quote:
Walmart spokesperson Dan Fogleman ... suggested that today’s rally might have been organized as a stunt to impress visiting leaders from the UNI global union federation, who are currently visiting Los Angeles to launch a global Walmart labor alliance.

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/04/walmart_workers_on_strike/

Here's some kind of livestream of the strike in Cali.
http://qik.com/ourwalmart

Here's something about the UNI Walmart Global Union Alliance:
www.uniglobalunion.org/Apps/uni.nsf/pages/homepageEn?Opendocument&exURL=http://www.uniglobalunion.org/Apps/UNINews.nsf/vwLkpByIdHome/819DD2C61FEAFEA6C1257A8C00102D2B?OpenDocument

EDIT: Didn't see this already posted above.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Oct 4 2012 20:32

God, why does it have to be UFCW. Possibly the worst of the bigger unions in the U.S.

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 4 2012 20:38
Juan Conatz wrote:
God, why does it have to be UFCW. Possibly the worst of the bigger unions in the U.S.

It's like a horse race: SEIU and UFCW racing to the bottom, jockeying to get there first.

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 5 2012 05:30

I wrote in a previous post:

Hieronymous wrote:
So truly effective organizing needs to be along the whole supply chain, drawing in the solidarity of every worker along the way . . . Not all sectors would have to strike, but just a few in coordination and crucial nodes -- and the whole vulnerable just-in-time production system could be brought to a grinding halt.

Here are some examples:

SUPPLY CHAIN VULNERABILITIES

Supply chains are long, they stretch across the planet and like in military situations, the longer they are the weaker they are

Just-in-time system, with no inventory the whole process is easy to stop

Subject to seasons, some sectors have drastic fluctuations throughout calendar year when weaknesses are more exposed

International in scope, drawing different workers together into bonds of true internationalism

Big Box retailers (like Walmart ) are unpopular, making them good targets

Nodes, that can be targeted as chokepoints (see below)

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 5 2012 05:41

BREAKDOWN IN SUPPLY CHAINS

• Strike at American Axle in 2008 totally shut 6 GM plants

• Strikes at auto parts maker Rico in India in 2009 affected production in Ford and GM plants in Canada and the US

• A strike at Nanhai Honda transmission factory in May 2010 in China shut down all 4 Honda plants in the country (see Mouvement Communiste's pamphlet "Workers Autonomy Strikes in China", February 2011, and the strike wave spread to Toyota plants, electronics and plastics factories and a brewery)

• Earthquake/tsunami in Japan in spring 2011 created shortages of 150 auto parts, causing Toyota’s N. American plants to operate at 30% capacity for most of 2011 -- GM couldn’t get 5 parts from Japan and had to briefly shut 2 U.S. plants until new sources were found (see New York Times article "Piecing Together the Supply Chain". May 12, 2011)

• “Companies including Toyota Motor Co and Honda Motor Co have already curtailed production at plants as far away as North America because their Thai suppliers are under water [due to floods]” (Reuters, October 28, 2011)

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 5 2012 05:53

STRIKES ON GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS

• 2006 Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex shut down 95% by wildcat of troqueros on May Day

• 2008 South African port and truck workers at Durban harbor refused to unload a Chinese ship with weapons bound for landlocked Zimbabwe, sending it away unloaded

• 2011 Suez Canal shut by worker strike during Egyptian Uprising in February and then again in September

• November 2011, port workers at the Adabiya Seaport in Suez refused to receive a shipment of 21 tons of a “crowd-dispersal agent” [most likely teargas] that was shipped from Wilmington, Delaware

• 2012 wildcat strike of over 600 truckers at Port of Seattle for 2 weeks in February

• 2011 wildcat strike by truckers at Port of Shanghai (world’s largest) for a week in April (see below)

Striking truckers at Port in Shanghai, April 21, 2011

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 5 2012 14:33

STRIKES ON GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS (continued)

• September 2010 Del Monte Fresh Produce moved their facility from an ILA terminal in Camden, N.J., to a non-ILA facility in Gloucester, N.J. -- leading to a 2-day work stoppage at six container terminals in the Port of New York and New Jersey, as well as spreading the wildcat to the docks of Baltimore and Philadelphia

• September 8, 2011 longshore workers went to EGT terminal in Longview, Washington at 4:00 a.m. and a grain train was sabotaged, cutting air hoses on 110 cars and releasing all the grain

• In solidarity, workers wildcatted that day at Washington and Oregon ports of:

▪ Anacortes
▪ Everett
▪ Seattle
▪ Tacoma
▪ Portland (Oregon)

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
Offline
Joined: 27-07-07
Oct 5 2012 14:31

In the autumn of 2002 imports to West Coast ports had dropped significantly due to the contraction of commerce in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. The ILWU was about to renegotiate a contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the shipping companies and terminal operators. PMA wanted to eliminate certain categories of ILWU clerks, so the union began a work-to-rule. With consumption down and a backlog of container traffic, the PMA locked out the ILWU at all ports on the West Coast. It lasted 10 days and ended when President Bush invoked Taft-Hartley to send them back to work.

During the conflict big retailers like Walmart were crippled since even with consumer spending down, they still needed some commodities in their stores. So Walmart broke away into a new coalition of ruling class interests, mostly comprised of multinational producers, retailers and shippers entirely dependent on globalized production and supply chains, to form the Waterfront Coalition to defend their class interests.

The working class in this worldwide production and distribution system should be doing the same. From the North American end of supply chains, sea-ground transportation workers receive commodities at the US end of the just-in-time global supply chain (all categories work in mirror-image at the source where the goods originate). Here are the sectors and their numbers:

• 60,000 longshore workers
• 28,000 tugboat operators and harbor pilots
• 60,000 port truckers (on the West Coast called troqueros)
• 850,000 freight truckers
• 165,000 railroad workers,
• 2 million warehouse & distribution workers
• 370,000 express package delivery people
• 160,000 logistics planners

There should be class-based networks of workers in all these sectors, linked up into wider internationalist networks across seas to link the same sectors on the other side.

laborbund's picture
laborbund
Offline
Joined: 1-03-10
Oct 5 2012 21:14

This might read like hyperbole:
If UFCW is successful it will be a fucking disaster for the US working class. UFCW is responsible for many people's negative ideas about unions. And if I equated the concept of a union with UFCW I would hate unions too. The idea that UFCW might end up being the bargaining agent / insurance company / boss of thousands of workers at such an important company is really horrifying. If they lose the campaign, the workers will probably be demoralized by the defeat and not want to go out on a limb and take action again. If UFCW wins the campaign, the workers will probably be demoralized by UFCW and probably not want to take action again. This situation seems pretty fucked and without decent, viable ways for our like to intervene in positive ways.