recent fast food strikes

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Harrison
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Jul 30 2013 00:03

Hieronymous, I get that the strikes are probably part of an SEIU plan, and this influence is problematic, but i feel there is a need to separate out concern with the motives of involved cadres, from fear of where the impetus for struggle is coming from.

Specifically i think you are counterposing spontaneity and planned social orchestration, in a way that is problematic. This latter strikes me as little different from the organised spontaneity of the Italian hot autumn, often those wildcats were instigated and led by communist cadres from the workerist groupings.

Surely the problem is that this activity will eventually be steered into constructing an expansion of the restrictive machinery of social democratic institutions, not that it is fake or in some way an illusion of real worker activity.

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Hieronymous
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Jul 30 2013 01:19

2 summers ago, a group of us traveling across California gave a ride to a Minneapolis Wobbly who gave 3 talks in different cities about the Jimmy John's struggle. There was nothing spontaneous about their campaign, yet despite its limited NLRB recognition approach it was clearly based on working class self-activity. Outsiders, even from the IWW, did not come to the shop to tell the workers what to do.

In a work capacity, I have been in dozens and dozens of SEIU service industry shops over the last 10 years (and still do today) and I can assure you that the operating strategy of Change to Win unions is based on master plans created from headquarters by their -- often Ivy League-educated -- head honchos, like Wade Rathke. Since their neo-liberal partnerships include the Democratic Party, faith-based groups, and non-profits and NGOs, nothing can be too radical or too risky -- lest they lose their funding from corporate foundations. Hence the most edgy thing they ever do is attempt to "shame" these global corporations, with the goal of having management slice off a tiny bit of market share (with explicit agreements that other shops are "off-limits") so that they can collect dues from the members. They organize the workers, not the other way around (workers organize and make all the decisions within their own organization). That's my critique.

Harrison
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Jul 30 2013 01:58
Quote:
They organize the workers, not the other way around (workers organize and make all the decisions within their own organization). That's my critique.

For sure, there is nothing to disagree with there.

With regard to your reference to NGOs and non-profits organising people in an almost philanthropic way, i also thought this was interesting, even though its from six years ago. Its an objection to charitable NGOs going to the third world and attempting to place local social movements under their control.

Mike S.
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Jul 30 2013 22:36

Has anyone seen the recent McDonald's employee budget thing? Workers there should use that very budget to demand a raise. I mean, you know, I'm speechless. Here, just read this.

http://survivingeconomicwarfare.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-mcdonalds-budge...

syndicalist
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Jul 31 2013 02:53

Right quick. I'm not really near regular email/internet at the moment. But I support the workers, even if SEIU is pulling strings on the push for $15- minimum. It would behoove syndicalists and wobs to spread our own word, nit just say "seiu sucks, so there" (which they do.).

I see the corporate line in both fast food and walmart now is "we provide a good entry level job"....cept there are thousands of workers who's only job it might ever be.

Gots to go.

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Hieronymous
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Jul 31 2013 06:13
syndicalist wrote:
"seiu sucks, so there" (which they do.).

Truth be told, it's usually the workers who feel like they're being fleeced for dues who say it first (check out the Stern Burger with Fries blog to see the never-ending sellouts that dissident SEIU workers keep track of).

We're radicals, right? So we contextualize the radical implication of any action. Which is hard to do when it's mediated through media campaigns to lobby elected officials on one hand and attempt to use those same spectacular means to shame corporations to comply with what the politicians are legislating on the other -- that is, if they actually introduce new minimum wage laws.

Instead, here's an approach that I came across that I think we should follow:

Quote:
[We should] make intelligible the meaning and significance of ongoing events and developments for the class, to examine and, where we can, illumine the significance of social events, societal and historical processes, and class action as it forms, and as formed when it occurs, and in the last case to draw what this activity as class activity aims at in the historically transcendent sense, to argue for this as an orientation and direction, always to indicate the maximum development any situation may tend toward, and to argue for moving in that direction…

Which means stripping away the media gloss given these events by liberals like Salon and making a serious class analysis of the composition of these actions to locate whose agency it is based on. If it's some policy wonk decision by a Change to Win Political Action Committee in Washington, then we expose it as such. But if there are rank-and-file groups originating these actions, while seeking "partners" in the community, we acknowledge the importance of shopfloor initiative and support that critically. Critique means supporting the workers, but analyzing the effectiveness of cross-class alliances with elected officials, religious groups, non-profits and NGOs. The latter are always beholden to their funders, who usually set the limitations of what they're willing to tolerate. It that gets in the way of working class self-activity, we've got to say so. Not doing so is just run-of-the-mill American anti-intellectualism.

So does anyone have any more concrete details about these things? Someone in Seattle said they had a comrade involved in the fast food actions there. Could you see if they could post their experiences on Libcom? Or talk to them and report here what they say?

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Steven.
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Jul 31 2013 09:19

Yeah, if anyone has any contact with workers on the ground who would write something about their experience that would be great!

On a related note, Walmart has begun disciplining and firing people who went on strike last month:
http://www.labornotes.org/2013/07/after-pause-walmart-strikes-back-0

syndicalist
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Jul 31 2013 14:36
Quote:
It would behoove syndicalists and wobs to spread our own word, nit just say "seiu sucks, so there" (which they do.).

this is what our organizations need to concretely figure out, is really my point. i'm all for critiques. but i'm of the "school of thought" that, where possible, to offer concrete suggestion along with crtiques.

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Hieronymous
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Jul 31 2013 20:13
syndicalist wrote:
where possible, to offer concrete suggestion along with crtiques.

Here's what some comrades and I came up with, after having been involved in 2 workplace strikes ourselves (one succeeded, the other failed).

POINTS OF UNITY
    1.) Self-organization: based on the directly democratic idea that the rank-and-file should be the only ones making decisions. Hierarchy is power exercised vertically; solidarity is power shared horizontally. Our actions are based exclusively on the latter.
    2.) Cross-sectoral organizing: the working class is not weak because it is divided, it’s divided because it is weak. Solidarity must not be limited to individual workplaces, enterprises or industries; instead solidarity should be practiced within the entire working class, uniting the struggle against these artificial divisions. An injury to one is an injury to all; which can also be stated as the concern for the condition of all working class and oppressed people everywhere.
    3.) Extension: struggle must go against any geographical limitations of localism and link up with workers, not only regionally, but internationally. The division of labor now has the entire world as its shop floor [or workplace, of whatever variety]; so, the struggle against the exploitative relations of work must be fought on a global scale as well.
    4.) Tactical aggressiveness and creativity: labor unions [and other professional activist organizations] are amongst the most law abiding, rule following and predictable institutions in society. What passes for “direct action” today are often just bland, harmless media pranks or mild symbolic protests [pickets that are barely pickets]—especially when compared with the radicalism of the entire history of class struggle in the U.S. up to World War II [ie. the many, many mass strikes that spread across the entire continent like the great upheaval of 1877 and others afterward, the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, or the wildcat strikes from the 1940s onwards—as just a few examples]. Our limitation is our lack of imagination and our unwillingness to experiment with new, innovative tactics.
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Pennoid
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Aug 1 2013 18:29

Hey I was trying to get some more info on the Fight for 15 (minimum wage) group in Chicago. Does anyone know what that's about, what they've done and how they've succeeded? Any info on their connects? Any contacts?

Here's a link to their website BTW : http://fightfor15.org/en/

Thanks!

syndicalist
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Aug 1 2013 02:15

Ja mon, will come back to the points, which on fast first read, seem cool. Is this a group or something which puts them forward?

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888
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Aug 2 2013 03:17

Went to a weird orchestrated arrest in downtown Seattle today. There was a series of speakers (some of whom were actual restaurant workers) in Westlake square followed by a short march to Pine St where a small group of about 6 SEIU staff sat down in the road (not at the intersection, which would have been more disruptive. We were told to move to the sidewalks because some people were going to be arrested... which happened, while the crowd chanted. The arrests may have been pre-negotiated with the police as they sometimes are at SEIU events, I don't know. I guess it had some limited impact in terms of raising awareness, and there did seem to be a few fast food/coffee (etc) workers there, but it was all a bit odd.

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Hieronymous
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Aug 2 2013 05:01
888 wrote:
I guess it had some limited impact in terms of raising awareness,

Awareness of what? That the job of an SEIU piecard is to go through an empty pre-arranged ritual of pretending to get arrested? (I'm being serious here) This phony civil disobedience stuff was being exposed for the fraud that it is as long ago as the mid-1960s.

Here's what the S.I. said about it:

Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Society wrote:
. . . last March’s [1965] march on Montgomery, Alabama. Even after the latter scandal, a discreet agreement between the federal government, Governor Wallace and Martin Luther King led the Selma marchers on March 10 to stand back at the first police warning, in dignity and prayer. The confrontation expected by the demonstrators was reduced to a mere spectacle of a potential confrontation. In that moment nonviolence reached the pitiful limit of its courage: first you expose yourself to the enemy’s blows, then you push your moral nobility to the point of sparing him the trouble of using any more force.

They're substitutionist arrests, but for what? It's not even symbolic because what does it symbolize? That the pageant of succumbing to the state's authority requires bystanders to stand on the sidewalk so as to not disrupt traffic? WTF?

syndicalist
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Aug 14 2013 18:15

FYI only.....

Quote:
Fast food strikes to massively expand: “They’re thinking much bigger”
Top union officials tell Salon the largest mobilization of fast food workers in U.S. history is about to get huge

http://www.salon.com/2013/08/14/fast_food_strikes_massively_expanding_th...

EDIT: http://kasamaproject.org/threads/entry/whose-strike

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Pennoid
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Aug 14 2013 20:59

Thanks for those updates, Syndicalist.

Does anyone have inocculatory materials about the SEIU? (edit) Hieronymous you've indicated that you've had a lot of experience with them, are there any texts/books/articles I can read to boost my knowledge?

I think outlining a key set of Inoculation/Education about the SEIU and what they're doing is extremely important for A/S cats to do. As the Kasama article points out, we should engage with these workers in some regards, and I know some Fight for 15 cats are coming to my town soon so I'd like to be as prepared as possible. When on the ground and in discussions with these workers, we're going to need to have concrete examples to tie back to current campaigns about what SEIU has done in the past, and what we expect them to do here. Just like with them bosses.

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Aug 14 2013 20:46

Here's what the Salon article says:

Salon wrote:
A source who took part in a private SEIU meeting with allies last week in Las Vegas said that the union presented two tracks under serious consideration for transforming the industry. First, escalating pressure on fast food corporations – McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, in particular – with the goal of reaching a joint agreement under which the corporations would cover the costs of improved labor standards in their stores. And second, a legislative push for local living wage laws requiring improved compensation for fast food workers. Because most cities lack the legal authority to mandate higher wages for jobs that aren’t publicly subsidized, that push would involve statewide ballot measures in 2014 to allow cities to hike private sector workers’ wages.

The first tactic suggests lobbying the corporate chains, using various means -- like the media -- to shame them into compliance with the higher labor standards they are proposing. This reminds me of the disastrous results when the workers in Hormel P-9 in Austin, Minnesota hired Ray Rogers from Corporate Campaigns, Inc. to do something similar for their struggle against the concessions demanded by Hormel. The gains in the meatpacking industry were won by shopfloor militancy in the strike wave of the late 1930s, but with Rogers' non-class struggle strategy of guilt-tripping and secondary boycotts, the high wages and benefits in the industry were crushed and meatpacking work today is performed mostly by immigrant labor at around the minimum wage. Read Peter Rachleff's Hard-pressed in the Heartland: The Hormel Strike and the Future of the Labor Movement to see how despite valiant efforts at solidarity, Hormel P-9 was ruthlessly crushed, by not only management but in collusion with the UFCW International and the whole political establishment. The paradox is that the same kind of politicians who consented to the crushing of this militant sector are being relied on today to pass pro-labor legislation.

Which bring up the second tactic which is direct political lobbying for legislative change and failing that, statewide ballot initiatives. In the latter, it becomes a battle of war chest against war chest. This reduces it to the electoral equation of whether the unions and their allies can outspend management for services in the election industry -- because in that sector, like any other in capitalism, money is the only way to win.

But as a research project I'd suggest following the money trail and asking the activists from the fast food organizing groups about this from the article:

Salon wrote:
SEIU, one of the largest U.S. unions, has devoted millions of dollars and dozens of staff to the campaign, which is also supported by a range of local and national progressive groups.

Who are these "progressive groups" specifically?

Where do they get their funding?

And what's their connection to the Democratic Party?

I've been researching from the other end, from the Democratic Party's major funders and their connections to "labor." One person keeps coming up, and he's not only the architect of this type of media-savvy activistism, but he also created the main lobbying/fundraising groups connecting the unions to the Democrats. That person is Wade Rathke, a high-level SEIU piecard from New Orleans, but also the founder of ACORN.

Here's a link:

In this we can see that Wade Rathke is on the board of directors of Drummond Pike's Tides Foundation, which in many ways functions as a money-laundering clearinghouse, moving money from corporate America to non-profits and NGOs who have to clearly operate within the mainstream -- basically, the money comes with strings attached. Tides Foundation has assets of $175,019,369.

Click here to see the links between Drummond Pike and Tides, the Soros family and the Obama campaign.

Here's who funds Tides Foundation:

Quote:
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Annie E. Casey Foundation; the Arca Foundation; the AT&T Foundation; the Barbra Streisand Foundation; the Bauman Family Foundation; Ben and Jerry's Foundation; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Blue Moon Fund; the Bullitt Foundation; the CarEth Foundation; the Carnegie Corporation of New York; Changemakers; the ChevronTexaco Foundation; the Columbia Foundation; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the Energy Foundation; the Fannie Mae Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the Foundation for Deep Ecology; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the Heinz Family Foundation; the Howard Heinz Endowment; the J.M. Kaplan Fund; the JEHT Foundation; the Jenifer Altman Foundation; the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; the Lear Family Foundation; the Liberty Hill Foundation; the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; the Ms. Foundation for Women; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; the New World Foundation; the Open Society Institute; the Pew Charitable Trusts; the Ploughshares Fund; the Proteus Fund; the Public Welfare Foundation; the Righteous Persons Foundation; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the Rockefeller Family Fund; the Rockefeller Foundation; the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy; the Stern Family Fund; the Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust; the Summit Charitable Foundation; the Surdna Foundation; the Threshold Foundation; the Turner Foundation; the Vanguard Public Foundation; the Verizon Foundation; the Vira I. Heinz Endowment; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

Recognize some of our most famous class enemies? You bet.

This is the kind of shit that all of us should be questioning.

PS:

Pennoid wrote:
@Hieronymous

This is not me. This person lives in Albany; I live in San Francisco.

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Pennoid
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Aug 14 2013 21:09

Thanks Hieronymous, I was using the "@" symbol because I thought it functioned herein as on Twitter, but not because I thought you were also the Twitter poster with the same name.

I'll check out the info you sent. I've actually read Hard-Pressed in the Heartland, about a year ago for a really great US Labor survey course. They teacher was a new professor from Illinois, who was gonna teach a graduate seminar for undergrads on U.S. labor but had to leave to work closer to his family.

In any case, I'll give that book another read (it's short) and also will keep in mind the money-chasing questions.

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Aug 15 2013 16:41

Here's another possible avenue of research: check out "Helots No More: A Case Study of the Justice for Janitors Campaign in Los Angeles" by Waldinger et al. about this successful campaign in the late 1990s. On pp. 112-113 they say that the campaign succeeded for 3 reasons:

    • centralized union leadership
    • industry-specific strategy and tactics
    • the presence of a mass of class-conscious immigrant workers (from Mexico & Central America)

They go on to say that the campaign seemed "bottom-up," but was actually "top-down" and "centralized" and that is was "not cheap by any stretch of the imagination." SEIU, at the time, devoted 25% of its budget to organizing because Justice for Janitors was "labor intensive." The costs were because it was:

    • research-intensive: one staff researcher who studied the structure of the industry
    • lawyer-intensive: because the high-risk confrontational tactics required a crew of lawyers
    • money-intensive: requiring substantial personnel & $500,000 a year for the Los Angeles campaign alone

After a brutal LAPD attack at a permitted march in Century City in 1990, Justice for Janitors bounced back and reached an inspiring level of success in downtown L.A. Bizarrely SEIU put Local 399, which organized these victories, into trusteeship in 1995 and killed the effort.

Also check out David Harvey's Spaces of Hope, especially the part called "Struggling for a living wage" (chapter 7, section 2) about these kinds of campaigns, especially accounts of municipalities that passed "living wage" ordinances. Harvey seems to be making a very academic stretch by justifying community partners, be they clergy or bourgeois politicians, when he quotes Marx saying that we need "allies in those social layers not directly interested in the question" (from Capital vol I, p. 409). But otherwise it's a useful historical survey. This is not the tradition of class war and the Wobblies, so it's important to see how Harvey rationalizes the use of "community partnerships" because these campaigns "meant a move away from traditional workplace industrial organizing towards a city-wide movement to change the baseline conditions for the circulation of variable capital." As I've said many times before, I'm skeptical about top-down, staff-driven, heavily-financed lobbying campaigns that de-emphasize power on the shopfloor and instead rely on cross-class alliances to pressure management and politicians for legislative change.

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Aug 15 2013 21:34

Thanks for that Hieronymous. I agree that the Justice for Janitors campaign is likely to be helpful for getting a handle on these current events and I've been wanting to read more about it. Sort of related, I thought this quote was interesting: "As is now well documented, many of the most successful initiatives of the SEIU have actually been “top-down” efforts, engineered not by the rank and file but by paid staff in the upper reaches of the union bureau- cracy. Thus, “business unionism” has been the handmaiden of social movement unionism, not its antithesis! And the leaders who launched many of these initiatives often relied on trusteeships to do so." That's from Ruth Milkman's book L.A. Story, p21, which is generally pro-SEIU. (The intro is online here https://www.russellsage.org/sites/all/files/milkman_intro_0.pdf) She's a co-author of the paper H linked to.

syndicalist
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Aug 16 2013 01:17

Many folks sorta forget that some in trade union leadership have come from the new left. So this sorta centralized top down community organizing style is reflective of new left social democratic perspective and style.

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Aug 16 2013 06:22

Yeah, noticed that -- and that lots of them are Ivy Leaguers. Also saw that almost all the commentators are New Left academics. Have yet to read -- or watch -- an interview with one of the workers that didn't seem scripted. But it's mostly people like Mary Kay Henry telling us how great all of this is. It would be better to hear the opinions of the workers themselves.

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Aug 29 2013 15:44

News on the Fast Food Workers Strike from the south,

http://www.wral.com/fast-food-strikes-set-for-cities-nationwide/12829652...

Currently there are workers, wobblies, Teamsters, and others in Raleigh NC striking and having some pickets and actions.

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Aug 29 2013 20:50

Yesterday, union activists at the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach joined this centrally-planned nationwide day of action to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom.

Here's a link to an In These Times report about the 1-day demonstration at the LA/Long Beach ports: "Wave of Low-Wage Worker Strikes Hits LA Ports"

I hate to be a constant skeptic, but I have problems with how cozy all this is with the Democratic Party and how it's really being driven from the outside:

In These Times wrote:
Workers were joined by religious leaders and local politicians, including the mayor of the city of Carson, Calif., where the Port of Los Angeles is located, and U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn (D). One city council member, Mike Gipson, spent much of the night with the workers, from midnight to 4:00 A.M.

On Tuesday, workers returning to work accompanied by community members were initially turned away from the company’s entrance. But after a half hour outside the gates, the company eventually agreed to the workers’ return to work today—leading the union to declare victory.

Since there are nearly 12,000 short-haul troqueros at the combined LA/Long Beach ports and only 1/5 of them are waged workers -- the other 4/5 are misclassified as "independent contractors" -- I don't see how the union (SEIU? Teamsters?) could declare this a victory.

Here's an excerpt of a critique of how SEIU is running these demonstrations (from the International Marxist-Humanist webzine):

M-H wrote:
SEIU Involvement and The Unexpected Outcomes of Venture Syndicalism

While this strike presents an unprecedented opportunity for fast food workers, in some ways it is problematic. Although there is a huge amount of grassroots enthusiasm and participation from workers that has fueled this movement, the spark was supplied by funding from the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU). The major actions thus far, including the August 29th strike, have been underpinned by planning and organizing carried out by a variety of groups, all of which are funded by money that originated from the SEIU.

The ways that SEIU involvement is problematic are neatly summed up by the experiences of workers who attended a conference funded by the SEIU to prepare for the strike. The conference brought workers from around the country to meet in Detroit, ostensibly to network and to obtain a consensus for the goals of the strike. However Seattle workers who came back from the conference reported that the program left little time for networking between workers and did not include opportunities for workers to develop ideas collectively or even to vote in an authentic way on the proposed plans for the strike. Instead of using the conference to get feedback from workers and create new ideas collectively, workers came back with a sense that they were simply force fed information and enthusiasm from the strike funders, which they were expected to regurgitate on strike day.

Contrast this with the wildcat strike at the Port of Oakland that was self-organized by the troqueros themselves last week. On the morning of Monday, August 19th they parked their trucks across the driveways at the entrance of 5 of the terminals at the port, shutting them down completely. They later spread their action other terminals until police arrived. They were able to maintain a blockade of several choke points like the Oakland International Container Terminal East and West gates throughout the morning. Longshore workers from ILWU Local 10 honored their lines and a health & safety arbitrator ruled they didn't have to cross. But eventually the police cleared all the terminals and the longshore workers went to work.

Here are some news stories about the wildcat of Oakland troqueros:

http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2013/08/19/port-of-oakland/

http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_23892956/port-oakland-truckers-b...

The troqueros attempted the same the next day, Tuesday morning, and had skirmishes with the police and were unable to block any terminals.

Since Teamsters often implant themselves as representing the truckers' jurisdiction without their consent, the troqueros put up a banner saying "Teamsters DO NOT Represent Us" to show that it was a self-organized autonomous action. See photo below:

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Aug 29 2013 20:43
Marx-Trek wrote:
News on the Fast Food Workers Strike from the south,

http://www.wral.com/fast-food-strikes-set-for-cities-nationwide/12829652...

Currently there are workers, wobblies, Teamsters, and others in Raleigh NC striking and having some pickets and actions.

That's great. Are you in NC yourself Marx-Trek?

I'd love to hear an interview with some of the Wobs who've been on the picket lines (especially those who are on strike!).

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Aug 30 2013 00:22

http://machete408.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/fast-food-workers-strike-what...

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Sep 1 2013 00:28

http://libcom.org/library/super-size-my-pay-fast-food-workers-new-zealan...

a reminder of where some of the pioneering aspects/inspiration for the recent campaigns came from...

in fact i've seen propaganda used for the recent campaigns that say things like, why aren't we paid like workers in NZ.

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Sep 1 2013 05:22

I read the linked piece above (I met the author once, briefly, and he's a solid comrade). The lessons I drew from the Unite experience are the following (using direct quotes from the article):

    1. It was also based too heavily on a small number of union organizers organizing fast food workers, rather than the workers organizing themselves
    2. When workers began to organize themselves, and sometimes took wildcat action, Unite bureaucrats attempted to subvert their actions
    3. The Unite president then signed a deal with fast food management without consulting the union rank and file
    4. Super-Size My Pay was a conventional union drive (that used unconventional tactics) to work towards a contract
    5. Unite doesn't have radical aims. Its constitution doesn't mention class struggle
    6. New forms of struggle require new organizational forms
    7. And finally, above all else, many fast food workers have learnt the time-honoured lesson that they should never trust union bosses and officials.
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Sep 1 2013 15:57

Protesting fast food workers fill a McDonald's restaurant on New York's Fifth Avenue, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013.

The following is a second-hand report back from August 30, 2013 East Bay Fast Food Workers Walk Out!

Just got off the phone with a friend (a member of IBU, ILWU's maritime division) who attended yesterday's event in Oakland that met outside the Labor Temple of the Alameda County Central Labor Council. To him, it was "amazing" that over 700 people turned out. It was a media-friendly event, but it didn't get much coverage. The spectacle of the impending U.S. attack on Syria crowded it out. The Labor Council event was organized by both the SEIU, which my comrade confirmed by identifying the staffers (but who weren't wearing perfunctory purple), and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) with their ubiquitous yellow t-shirts. ACCE is the former ACORN, which had to change name to cover its tracks due to several recent scandals. Since it was the co-organizer of the main event in Oakland, some background is necessary:

Quote:
ACCE is building alliances with civic, labor, religious, business and policy partners that will translate into the campaign infrastructure needed to win progressive tax, budget and policy reform for California communities. One important piece of this work is with the California Alliance, a coalition of grassroots organizations engaging in a multi-year campaign that will move 500,000 targeted voters in eight regions to become consistent voters in support of progressive tax and fiscal reform.

Prominent at the event were members of the local clergy and parishioners from these mostly African American churches. A minister of one of them presided over the ceremonies. Also in attendance were Congress representative Barbara Lee, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan (the butcher of Occupy!), Oakland City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, and Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle. The rally began at 4:00 p.m. with gospel singing and ended with a speak-out in front of a nearby McDonald's. Orange-vested marshals were there to ensure everyone marched on the sidewalk and left promptly when it ended a couple hours later. While it was billed as a "strike," my comrade said no one identified themselves as a worker from any of the McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Taco Bells that had been targeted. Yet some fired Walmart workers spoke out about the how the struggles were over the same issues. My comrade was impressed at the enthusiasm and large turnout.

There were at least 2 other rallies around Oakland, one organized by East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) and which had several hundred people. Workers from different fast food chains spoke out at them, but again no one (from the reports I heard) identified themselves as a striker.

KFC in Oakland that was briefly occupied.

The only online TV coverage I could find was from the local CBS affiliate (see video in the middle of the page), where their story was more of an unsympathetic hit piece. In the video they interviewed a customer, who said he "wouldn't" pay more for his junk food so workers can have higher wages, unless it was "more [food] for the buck." A KFC worker was opposed to $15 an hour and said it's "unfair to everybody else." A guy who just paid $11 for a meal, was asked the stupid loaded question of whether he would pay "double, $22" for the same meal, and of course he said "no." So lame spectacular media strategies, begging the media outlet to shame the fast food chain, can backfire -- especially the part in the above TV news clip with a fast food industry talking head who was able to spin $15 an hour as a bad thing, saying it "would significantly affect job creation."

*****anti-SEIU rant*****

I heard through the labor grapevine that SEIU is trying to transfer staff to hotspots for this campaign, offering to parachute them into new locations. Also, the campaign is costing the SEIU a fortune, so they're paring back on the other wasteful ways they spend dues-payers' money. But in researching, I realized this is an off-year and the mid-term elections don't come up again until next year, and saw this article "Union Is Top Spender for Democrats" in the Wall Street Journal from 9 months ago.

Here are some of the more startling facts:

    • The Service Employees International Union has emerged as the top outside spender on Democratic campaigns this year [2012], surpassing even President Barack Obama's main super PAC.
    • the union has funded almost $70 million of campaign donations, television ads and get-out-the-vote efforts for Mr. Obama and other Democrats.
    • It makes SEIU the top financial backer working directly for Democratic candidates in the 2012 election, outside of the political parties.
    • "The presidential election is our number one priority this year [2012]," SEIU political director Brandon Davis said in a recent interview."
    • In an election year marked by the rise of super PACs, the work of the SEIU and other unions underscores labor's continuing importance to the Democratic Party.
    • SEIU said about 300,000 of its members donate an average of $7 per paycheck to help out with political activism, on top of their dues.
    • So far this election, SEIU campaign hands have knocked on more than 2.5 million doors in eight presidential battleground states, including 400,000 in Ohio. In a development made possible by recent changes in election law, the union has spent millions of dollars trying to persuade non-union workers to vote for Democrats.
    • In recent days, SEIU has been urging early voting. On Sunday, it transported more than 5,000 people, most of them African-American churchgoers, to vote in Florida's "Souls to the Polls" event, it said. The union in the coming days will focus largely on getting people with a low propensity to vote to the polls.

I know I'm a broken record with these rants, but I find this obscene. I've personally witnessed how the SEIU shakes down its members for political donations. They're like the Mafia. And it's fucking shameful how they squeeze In Home Support Service (IHSS) workers, who make barely above minimum wage, for these donations all the while spending millions of dues-payers' dollars for this $15 fast food campaign. I really expect it's a political project to give popular support for when Obama signs into law a measly $9 an hour minimum. And for which they'll take credit and declare victory.

And how successful is the union?:

WSJ wrote:
SEIU has had particular success in recent years in organizing workers in the health-care and service industries. About half of its members work in health care, including everything from janitors and nurses to home-care workers and security officers. The union's membership of 2.1 million is up from 1.6 million 10 years ago, even after it lost some during the economic downturn.

For some of these workers, it's better with no union. Especially the nursing home workers. How did Andy Stern "organize" them? With sweetheart deals with health care chains. Check this out:

SF Weekly wrote:
SEIU lobbyist Allen Davenport continued making the rounds of the politically connected in Sacramento, promoting the union's campaign to limit the right of disabled and elderly patients to sue nursing homes when they are neglected, maimed, sexually abused, or killed.

That's right: Just as the SEIU's highly public health-care-for-all sloganeering is gaining national resonance, the organization's lobbyists are visiting offices and conference rooms in Sacramento, hoping to limit the medical legal rights of the most helpless and infirm of Californians. The SEIU has entered a compact with the owners of California's for-profit nursing homes, and it involves an apparent, coldblooded trade-off: In the pact, alluded to on an industry/SEIU "alliance" Web site and described in greater detail by elder advocates who oppose the deal, the SEIU has agreed to help the nursing home industry obtain its long-sought holy grail of limiting lawsuits that hinge on allegations of mistreatment of patients. Among the benefits the SEIU would receive by dint of the pact is better access to nursing home workers who might be organized into the SEIU's ranks.

The compact that SEIU lobbyists are touting to legislators and others includes a warm-and-fuzzy package of health care reforms, such as higher wages and staffing levels and higher government payments to nursing homes that care for low-income Medi-Cal patients. But the real action, the deal's sweet spot, involves so-called "tort reform" for nursing homes. To this end the union is currently lobbying politicians and interest groups to sign onto a legislation package that would make it harder to sue the deadliest members of California's poorly regulated nursing home industry. If everything goes according to the SEIU/nursing home industry plan, some of the pact's "reforms" aimed at limiting patient lawsuits might be quietly slipped into the massive, 2004 state budget bill.(from "Partners in Slime")

That class collaborationist betrayal of both health care patients/residents and health care workers did go through 9 years ago. Left communist ideology says that unions have become part of the state. With the SEIU, that's simply impossible to refute.

While this is merely a contemplative moot point, think how long workers could stay out on strike with a $70,000,000 strike fund. That's $191,780 a day. Since it's not an election year, SEIU and their class collaborationist allies throw this money at these lobbying efforts to change policy on things like the minimum wage instead. These so-called strikes are nothing more than press conferences. Otherwise, wouldn't everyone still working in the shop be a scab? It's disingenuous -- and even anti-intellectual -- to call these strikes.

I would be very interested to hear how Wobblies, or other food service workers, compare what this campaign is doing with their experiences at Jimmy Johns, Starbucks or other chains.

I promise I won't post my long-winded screeds on this issue anymore, but I'll leave you with a paraphrase of a May '68 slogan:

You can't achieve revolutionary -- let alone radical -- ends with reformist means

Devrim's picture
Devrim
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Joined: 15-07-06
Sep 1 2013 08:50

I think this is quite interesting though difficult to understand from afar.

I have a few questions;

What sort of numbers are striking?
What sort of disruption is this causing to the work process (how many places have actually shut down)?
Are the companies victimising people?

Devrim

klas batalo's picture
klas batalo
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Joined: 5-07-09
Sep 2 2013 00:43

Before the last day of action, it was probably in realm of around 1,000 to 2,000 workers striking in reality across about 8 or so cities.

Mostly it is walk outs with a picket/rally for the press, or momentary "occupations" of the store lobbies, a la the "lightning strikes" described above. Some debate how much damage this causes.

Repression has been scattered, but there have been "walk backs" but folks wonder if there will be "walk backs" 3 months down the line, when things have moved on, will the unions care, etc?