2006

Industrial Worker #1683 (April 2006)

Articles from the April 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

For paper subscription info, please visit the IW page at iww.org

All over the U.S.A. millions rally for immigrant rights - Mike Hargis

An account by Mike Hargis of the 2006 May Day immigration protests, which was one of the largest nationwide demonstrations in American history.

It was so incredible: I never saw the beginning of the march, nor the end. I didn’t hear one speech and never even made it to the Loop where the march was supposed to end. There was just this sea of humanity gathered in the streets, flowing in the same direction with the same object in mind: defeat the new, draconian immigration bill known as “The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005” (HR4437).

On March 10 at least 300,000 people took the day off work or school and converged in Chicago’s Loop to protest this bill, which would turn undocumented workers into “aggravated criminal felons” and those who assist them, such as priests and nurses (and unionists) into criminals as well for “aiding and abetting” them. The bill passed the House of Representatives just before Christmas, it is currently being debated in the Senate.

While the crowd was predominantly Latino there were also substantial contingents of Polish, Irish, Korean, Arab and other immigrant communities.

Chanting “¡Si, se puede!” (Yes, it can be done) and “¡El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido!” (The People United Will Never be Defeated), factory workers, dishwashers, carpenters, high school students and even small shop-keepers marched from Union Park two miles into the Loop. They carried hand-lettered signs saying: “We are America,” “My Mexican immigrant son died in Iraq,” “I’m a dishwasher – not a criminal” and “Don’t deport my parents.”

More than 100 factories in the Chicago area shut down for the day because so many workers had told their bosses that they were planning on taking the day of for “the general strike,” according to Jose Artemio Arreola of the Coalition Against HR4437.

The predominant colors of the day, however, were red, white and blue as U.S. flags were evident everywhere. There was even one small group who insisted on chanting “USA, USA.” (Were they being ironic, I wonder?) Undoubtedly many were eager to show their fellow Americans that they were just as patriotic as them – that all they wanted was to work, pay their taxes, raise their families and partake of the American Dream. “We are all America” and “We Pay Taxes” were other signs in evidence.

At the rally at the Federal Building local Democratic Party bigwigs spoke to those who were actually able make it there. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Mayor “Little Dick” Daley, Senator Dick Durbin and Congressmen Bobbie Rush and Luis Gutierrez all denounced the pending legislation noting that the city of Chicago was build by immigrant labor. Employers are undoubtedly concerned that this legislation will cut into their profit margins by depriving them of low-wage labor and the politicians want those Latino votes.

A small group of the anti-immigrant Illinois Minuteman Project held a press conference in Grant Park at 10:00 a.m. Their Latina-token front, Rosanna Pulido, declared, “I don’t care if there’s three million people out there, if they are illegal they do not have a voice in America.” What a putz!

The Chicago GMB voted at our March 3 meeting to endorse the protest, at the request of Union Latina. Unfortunately, we were not able to mobilize a visible contingent in so short a time. A call was sent to our e-list to meet up at the edge of Union Park but when I got there with my IWW flag there were already so many people it was impossible to find any other Wobs. Several people, however, did ask me what IWW meant. When I informed them that it was “Trabajadores Industriales del Mundo, mi sindicato” they nodded in appreciation.

March 10 was the largest workers’ demonstration in Chicago history. Not since 80,000 workers marched down Michigan Avenue in 1886 to demand an 8-hour workday has there been such a demonstration of solidarity in the streets of the Windy City. Still, in many ways, it was a conservative movement, aimed at preserving the chance at the American Dream for this new wave of immigrants that was enjoyed by those of past generations. On the other, hand it graphically showed the potential power of immigrant labor when united in a common cause.

Hopefully efforts to organize immigrant labor in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs will be given a boost by this show of solidarity. It should certainly awaken local Wobs up to the need to strengthen our connections to immigrant workers.

Originally appeared in Industrial Worker (April 2006)

Industrial Worker #1684 (May 2006)

The May 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the official English-language publication of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Contents include:

- The power in our hands

- A May Day fight for workers' rights

- General strike kills French anti-labor law

- No one is illegal by Arthur J. Miller

- Brooklyn warehouse workers winning with direct action

- Learning as we fight: AMFA & IWW by Jeff Jones

- Toward a new labor media movement? by Eric Lee

- Waking up might be a class act by Gary Cox

- Work injuries undercounted by Confined Space

- New York fines transit union $2.5 million, jails leader

- Whose hand is picking your pocket?

- The plight for freedom: Bay Area Wobblies joing April 10 National Day of Action by Dean Dempsey

- May 1st: defend the rights of immigrant workers

- Si se puede to si se pudo: changing a moment into a movement

- Wide, wide world of sweatshops: 2006 SweatFree communities conference by Kenneth Killer

- Why "Buy American" won't work by Kertes

- The price of our future by Todd Jordan

- Organizing the education industry

- Review: History against misery by David Roediger

- March to the left by Dorice McDaniels

- Health care reform only a boss could love

- Labor fakers' luxuries

- World labor solidarity

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Industrial Worker #1685 (June 2006)

Articles from the June 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Contents include:

- Millions strike, march in massive May Day protests

- It's no silver screen: Shattuck Cinema workers go IWW by Dean Dempsey

- U.S. to dispatch troops to Mexican border?

- Readers' soapbox - Farewell, Fellow Worker: Reino Erkkila

- Madison IWW organizing downtown workers by John Peck

- Fabric store workers make gains with new contract by x345292

- Around our union

- Workers march against war

- NYC transit union sues to make bosses accept concessions

- AK Steel lock-out in third month by x360160

- Workers of the world have nothing to lose but their Zip Codes by Eric Lee

- 1,000 activists at Labor Notes meet by Harry Kelber

- Air transport workers form industrial network by Joshua Devries

- Delphi, unions nearing concessions deal?

- "My son was killed": Workers Memorial Day, Philadelphia

- Five Amersino IWW members fired after rigged NLRB election

- Open Letter: Where were you, big labor, the day workers moved a nation?

- Intransigent in Illinois: Hey Electri-Flex, show your workers some respect! by Rik Hakala and Matt Zito

- General strike hits employers in pockets

- The machines stand idle, producing no wealth by Steve Kellerman

- Euro Mayday protests casualization

- “We’ve been robbed long enough. It’s time to strike” : Remember the 1916 strike on Minnesota’s iron range by Jeff Pilacinski

- Remembering the Coors strike by Gary Cox

- Review: Bread & roses: mills, migrants and the struggle for the American dream by Bruce Watson

- Depression-era anthem echoes immigrant struggle by Mark R. Wolff

- Pittsburgh IWW celebrates May Day & branch charter day by Kevin Farkas

- Newspaper workers stand together in Philly

- World labor solidarity

- Unions celebrate May Day amidst growing social conflict in Mexico by Paul Bocking

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Farewell, Fellow Worker: Reino Erkkila

Reino J. Erkkila, a leading figure in the San Francisco Finnish community and in the maritime labor movement, passed away at his home April 5, at age 93.

Born Oct. 2, 1912 in Oulainen, Finland, he immigrated to the United States with his parents a year later. Reino spent the next ten years in Butte, Montana, where his father worked in the copper mines. Many of the Finnish miners were involved with the IWW, including his father who was an avid reader of the IWW daily Industrialisti.

In June 1917, 190 miners died at Anaconda Copper’s Speculator mine in Butte, many of them Finns. The miners struck over safety conditions and in July IWW organizer Frank Little came to help out the strikers. In the middle of the night on August 1, suspected copper company vigilantes broke into Little’s boarding house room next to the Finnish Wobbly hall, where he was nursing a broken leg, dragged him out, tied him to the rear of a car, and dragged him through the streets several miles out of town to the Milwaukee Railroad trestle where they hung him.

Incensed by the brutal murder, thousands of miners and their families walked in a funeral procession from downtown to the cemetery, the largest ever seen in Butte. Reino Erkkila, then 5, distinctly remembered walking with his parents in that demonstration, replete with union banners.

The Erkkilas moved to San Francisco in 1923, where Herman worked as a longshoreman and was active in the 1934 strike. Reino Erkkila joined his father on the docks and in the ILWU in 1935. In 1943 he became chief dispatcher in ILWU Local 10, and was later elected president of Local 10.

Reino was proud of his Finn Wobbly family background and it motivated his own years of activity in the labor movement.

He was one of the people on my IW “paper route” here and always enjoyed reading the paper. I recited two bilingual poems at his memorial. He was a great, generous-hearted guy. I’ll miss him.

General Strike hits employers in pockets

An article about the cost to employers of the 2006 May Day immigration protests, which involved walkouts and sick-outs.

Thousands of businesses across the country closed their doors May 1st -- some because there were no workers, others because managers preferred to avoid a fight with their employees that they could only lose. Many more worked short-staffed.

In Latino barrios throughout Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and Miami, thousands of restaurants, warehouses, newsstands, and money transfer services were closed. Many McDonald's outlets cut hours or shut down.

In Los Angeles, hundreds of sweatshop garment factories were closed. The strike paralyzed construction sites and industrial food production plants across the country.

"It was one thing to march," said Armando Navarro of the California-based National Alliance for Human Rights, referring to the earlier wave of immigrant protests. "Now we're going to hit Ôem where it hurts Ð in the pocketbooks."

Cargill, the country's second-largest beef producer, closed seven meat-processing plants employing 14,000 workers. Tyson, Perdue and other meatpackers followed suit. Tens of thousands of farm workers stayed out of the fields, and the American Nursery and Landscape Association estimated that 90 percent of the half million workers in its industry took the day off.

According to Jack Kyser, an economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., the economic impact of the strike could total $200 million just in Los Angeles County. No one has done similar calculations for the rest of the country, but the total would have to run more than a billion dollars.

While several companies threatened to fire or discipline workers who took off work for the day, and some carried out those threats, many employers' associations urged caution -- warning that such actions could lead to further actions.

"Law firms have been advising their clients that the immigrant labor boycott is protected by the National Labor Relations Act, even though it isn't specifically a union action," reported the May 2 Wall Street Journal, which had real-time coverage of the May Day actions in its online edition.

Originally appeared in Industrial Worker (June 2006)

“We’ve been robbed long enough. It’s time to strike” : Remember the 1916 strike on Minnesota’s iron range

Jeff Pilacinski takes a look back at a 1916 IWW struggle in northern Minnesota.

On Saturday, June 3 we remember the valiant struggle of over 15,000 fellow workers and through our continued agitating in 2006, carry their fighting spirit forward. This date marks the 90th anniversary of the great mine workers strike on Minnesota’s Mesabi, Cuyuna, and Vermillion Iron Ranges – a strike that threatened the economic grip of the U.S. Steel war profiteers and strained relations between several prominent Wobbly organizers and the union’s general headquarters.

After a large uprising was crushed with the help of immigrant strike breakers in 1907, Minnesota mine workers were poised to confront the steel trust once again. In a report to the Minneapolis headquarters of the IWW’s Agricultural Workers Organization dated May 2, 1916, one organizer had “never before found the time so ripe for organization and action as just now.” The appeal from one Minnesota miner in the May 13, 1916 issue of the Industrial Worker summarized the workers’ discontent best as “the spirit of revolt is growing among the workers on the Iron Range,” and that there was a need for “workers who have an understanding of the tactics and methods of the IWW and who would go on the job, and agitate and organize on the job.” Less than a month later, an Italian worker at the St. James underground mine in Aurora opened his pay envelope and raged over his meager earnings under the corrupt contract system, whereby wages were based upon the load of ore dug and supplies used, not hours worked. By the time other miners arrived at the St. James for the night shift, production at the mine was halted. All pits in Aurora were soon shut down as the strikers proclaimed, “We’ve been robbed long enough. It’s time to strike.”

40 striking workers from Aurora, along with their families, then marched through other mining communities on the Iron Range and discontent spread like wild fire. By month’s end, almost 10,000 mine workers were out on strike. Frustrated by previous experience with Western Federation of Miners and having been ignored by the Minnesota State Federation of Labor, the disorganized strikers appealed to the Industrial Workers of the World for assistance. Wobbly organizers, including the likes of Carlo Tresca, Joe Schmidt, Frank Little, and later Joe Ettor and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn arrived to help local strike leaders draw up a list of demands. IWW membership in the Metal Mine Workers’ Industrial Union swelled amongst the strikers with the following list of demands crafted: an 8 hour working day timed from when workers entered the mine until they were outside; a pay scale based upon the day worked; pay days twice a month; immediate back-pay for hours worked upon severance; abolition of the Saturday night shift; abolition of the contract mining system. With a majority of the strikers being non-English speaking European immigrants, IWW and local leaders conversed with the workers in their native language - from Polish, German, and Croatian to Finnish and Italian. This commitment to engaging workers in the language of their homeland was sustained through IWW publications and the Work Peoples College well into the 1970s.

Without asking for union recognition or IWW affiliation, the strikers closed the mines that shipped vast quantities of iron ore to plants producing the highly profitable materials of the great European war – iron and steel. This direct threat to wartime profits forced the employing class to mount an all-out attack against the striking workers. U.S. Steel companies on the Iron Range deputized 1,000 special mine guards and strike breakers to keep the picket lines open. Bloodshed soon followed.

In the town of Virginia (where the strike was headquartered), armed company thugs confronted a group of pickets holding signs of “One Big Union, One Big Enemy” and opened fire on them. When the smoke cleared, a Slovenian striker by the name of John Alar was dead from gunshot wounds. Despite city bans against mass marches, several thousand mourning workers marched from Virginia to the fairgrounds in Hibbing where speeches in many different languages urged the strikers to maintain the struggle and fight back in spite of company repression. With this show of boldness by the workers, the U.S. Steel bulls struck back and raided the Biwabik home of a Montenegrin miner in search of a “blind pig” or illegal alcohol still. Violence ensued, leaving one deputized strike breaker and a bystander dead. Philip Masonovich and his wife were arrested along with three immigrant boarders in their home. Within a day of the incident, a number of IWW organizers (who were at strike headquarters in Virginia during the scuffle) were also jailed on the grounds that they were accessories to murder. It was claimed that their impassioned speeches against the bosses encouraged chaos. Despite violent repression and with strike leaders locked up, the miners’ struggle pressed forward.
The mining companies refused to recognize any of the strikers’ demands and instead red-baited the workers by calling them IWW revolutionaries and vile anarchists in the newspapers. After futile negotiations between U.S. Steel and local businessmen/public officials in support of the strikers, the workers looked to the federal government to mediate. Mediation broke down, and with winter fast approaching, the Iron Range locals of the IWW voted to end their strike on September 17, 1916. Though heralded as a defeat for the workers, their bold confrontation struck fear in the companies, who by mid-October granted a few of the strikers’ primary demands. In November of 1916, only two months after the strike’s end, large wage increases were introduced by all of the mining companies. The bosses claimed these increases were meant for workers to benefit from wartime prosperity, but the IWW and even the otherwise hostile local papers realized what prompted this action. The Duluth News Tribune accepted that the concessions by the bosses were an “answer to the threat of a renewed IWW strike on the ranges next spring.”

Attentions then turned to defending those still in jail from the Biwabik episode. A large defense campaign was mounted, with support coming from the IWW’s AWO office in Minneapolis and other workers from around the country, including Eugene Debs. Shortly before the murder trials were to begin, a settlement was reached between prosecutors and attorneys speaking on behalf the IWW whereby Masonovich and two of his immigrant boarders would plead guilty to manslaughter, and all others would be released. Masonovich and the two immigrants accepted the offer with the understanding that they’d serve one year. However, the three were handed terms up to twenty years with parole eligibility after one year served. This outcome angered Bill Haywood, the IWW’s General Secretary-Treasurer for what he saw as a betrayal of the workers in exchange for the freedom of the Wobbly organizers. Haywood lashed out at Gurley Flynn and Ettor, who in turn criticized the IWW’s leader of withholding much needed defense funds for the case while transforming the organization into a top-heavy bureaucracy. Some say this tension led Tresca, Ettor, and Gurley Flynn to withdraw from IWW involvement. Whatever the organizational fallout from the legal settlement, the workers on Minnesota’s iron ranges continued to participate in IWW agitation, with many of the 1916 strikers involving themselves in the great lumber workers struggle the following year.

With the 90th anniversary of the strike upon us, Twin Cities and Duluth IWWs will host a public event on Saturday, June 3rd in the old Virginia Socialist Hall, where the 1916 strike was headquartered. The program will feature music, historical presentations, poetry, and the stories of area residents about the strike. The event is free and open to the public. Area residents with old stories from the strike or the IWW are encouraged to attend and share.

We gather to remember those who came before us, and also to celebrate the renewed organizing efforts on Minnesota’s iron ranges. Fellow Workers, we’ve been robbed long enough. We must continue to bite the hand that robs us of the products of our labor.

Originally posted: May 30, 2006 at iww.org

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Industrial Worker #1686 (July/August 2006)

The July/August 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Contents include:

- 115 unionists killed in 2005

- Australian Wobs call for general strike by Marcus Neofitou

- May Day actions kill anti-immigrant law?

- Readers' soapbox

- Starbucks workers at fifth New York store join IWW

- May week in Edmonton by Desiree Schell

- International actions for Starbucks workers' rights

- Pittsburgh grocery workers go IWW

- Online campaigns: survey shows promise and challenge by Eric Lee

- Bosses seek chemical gag rule by Confined Spaces blog

- Anti-sweatshop all stars converge on Pittsburgh by Kenneth Miller

- Leveraging union power for social change: the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas by Paul Bocking

- Mexican teachers' struggle for better conditions inseparable from fight for social justice by Paul Bocking

- Remembering the Coors strike by Gary Cox

- March to the left by Dorice McDaniels

- Action against tip stealer challenged by Mark R. Woldd

- War, protesters and the longshoremen by Eric Chase

- Neither the "open shop" nor the dues check-off by Nick Driedger

- Book Review: All together now: common sense for a fair economy by Jared Bernstein

- Can we afford the rich - Mass evictions by corps in NYC by Mark R. Wolff

- World labor solidarity

For paper subscription info, please visit the IW page at iww.org

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Neither the “open shop” nor the dues check-off - Phinneas Gage

An article by Phinneas Gage that lays out some of the ways 'dues check-off', where employers deduct dues from paychecks and give it to the union, hurts workers.

To a business unionist, perhaps the strangest thing about the IWW is our opposition to the dues check-off. After all, many people in the labour movement consider the union shop along with the employer checkoff to be the two of the greatest gains the labour movement has ever made. Typically, pro-employer groups try to undermine these two benefits by advocating an “open shop.”

The open shop is a strategy aimed at weakening unions, and creates an opportunity for some workers to get a free ride from the sacrifices of their fellow workers who chose to struggle for better working conditions. It is also a way of weakening unions by removing the steady, reliable income that a dues check-off provides.

But the dues check-off that comes with the union shop model also weakens unions. Below I would like to explain why.

An accountable union

Dues check-off has a way of making unions less accountable to the rank and file. For instance, if collecting the dues and accounting for them are the responsibility of the workers themselves, corruption is much more difficult. It is more difficult because of the greater number of people involved in the process: all the delegates who collect funds report at every meeting; the financial secretary reports all the finances every meeting; and since spending decisions are made at every meeting, few decisions are made without the direct involvement of the rank and file. In the event of a crooked delegate (which has been known to happen), all one needs to do is compare membership cards against delegate reports to see how much money is missing and who is responsible. Because of all of these checks and balances, corruption, while not impossible, is very difficult and not worth the effort.

Voluntary dues collection also puts the money directly into the hands of the organization of workers rather than passing through the bosses. This not only makes workers less reliant on their employer, it also helps workers see that the union is something that they are actively participating in, rather than just another deduction on their pay stubs.

Solidarity is like a muscle – if it is not exercised, it atrophies. By managing our own affairs (especially our finances), and not leaving them in the hands of specialists and paid reps, members are kept in constant contact with each other. The more contact we have with each other, the easier it is for us to mobilize quickly around shared grievances.

The voluntary collection of dues cannot solve all our potential problems though – and it does have problems of its own. Collecting dues in a workplace where the workers have very little contact with each other can be burdensome. Also it can be tough for a small organization to do something like make the rent for an office without having a steady income to count on. There are some creative solutions that can minimize this problem, e.g., encouraging members to pay several months of dues in advance, or setting up voluntary bank withdrawals, with a delegate still meeting with members to make sure their cards are updated. A monthly withdrawal approach is used by many charities, NGOs, and political parties to raise funds. Such strategies could help smooth out union finances and make income a little more predictable.

Voluntary membership also means that sometimes numbers, and therefore finances, will fluctuate quite dramatically. Membership will often increase during times of job action, and decrease following resolution of the issue. While we of course want to build the organization, we also want to avoid the path of the service model business unions, where bargaining units exist as legal entities long after any rank-and-file participation has stopped. This does not mean we shouldn’t do our best to retain members, but coercing workers whose interest is flagging will not get us very far. Rather, we need to figure out ways to maintain militancy and to continue direct actions around new issues even as old ones have been resolved.

Self-Management

It would be a mistake to think that voluntary dues collection is an archaic way of doing things or the result of an interest in historical reenactment. The reason that some unions (including the IWW) take this approach to dues collection is because of a belief in self-management. We believe that workers should use unions to better their lives, and that unions should not use workers to build up their organizations. After all, the division between leaders and the led is just as prevalent in the business unions as anywhere else.

If we are serious about building a better world within the shell of the old, managing our own finances is a first step.

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (July/August 2006)

Industrial Worker #1687 (September 2006)

The September 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Contents include:

- The general strike by Staughton Lynd

- Starbucks fires 3 IWWs for union organizing

- 8 million U.S. workers may lose union rights

- Readers' soapbox

- Workers celebrate solidarity in Durham and Dorset by Peter Moore

- The IWW and the "Other Campaign" by Patricia Nuno

- War, Wobs and the web by Eric Lee

- Unions condemn bombing

- Sweatshop all stars picket Cooperstown by Sourdough Slim

- Yuengling brewery workers attacked by Walt Weber

- East End Co-op bosses refuse to recognize IWW

- Midwest Wobfest

- The Coors strike looked like a class act by Gary Cox

- Call for international support against Starbucks' union-busting

- The most dangerous song in the world: a rewrite by Len Wallace

- Book review: Solidarity for sale: how corruption destroyed the labor movement and undermined America's promise by Robert Fitch

- 1,400 Mexican strikers fired by David Bacon

- World labor solidarity

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Industrial Worker #1688 (October 2006)

The October 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Contents include:

- Northwest flight attendants strike barred by Joshua Devries

- Starbucks workers joining IWW in global fight for labor rights

- Making work safer with direct action by Daniel Gross & Joe Tessone

- Readers' soapbox

- Farewell, Fellow Worker: Steve Lindenmeyer

- Farewell, Fellow Worker: Jenny (Lahti) Velsek

- East End Food Co-op workers lose close NLRB election

- Organizing today for the One Big Union tomorrow by Dean Dempsey

- Boston GMB marches to end firing of Harvard custodian by Mark Wolff

- The storms that a resolution can cause: Istael, unions & democratic debate by Marc B. Young

- Skypecasts: great new tool for union meetings online by Eric Lee

- Bradford IWWs stand up for fired Starbucks unionists by Peter Moore

- IWW assembly calls for Organizing Department

- 100 Wobblies and supporters rally for Shattuck workers by Dean Dempsey

- The right to organize in education

- What is the value of a worker's life? by Arthur J. Miller

- Are we not slaves? by Jon Bekken

- Poetry can be a class act by Gary Cox

- March to the left by Dorice Mcdaniels

- Harvey slays the time-study monster by J. Pierce

- IWW victory for taxi drivers at LA airport by Ernesto Nevarez

- Working Families Party wins Massachusetts ballot line by Mark Wolff

- World labor solidarity

For paper subscription info, please visit the IW page at iww.org

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Farewell, Fellow Worker: Jenny (Lahti) Velsek

An obituary of Jenny (Lahti) Velsek, who was closely associated with the IWW for many years.

Jenny (Lahti) Velsek, 93, passed away April 18 in a nursing home at Tucson, Arizona. She was born March 4, 1913, at Eagle River, Wisconsin, the fifth of seven surviving children of Finnish immigrant parents.

Her parents were part of the Finnish- American labor movement, active with the Finnish clubs associated with the Industrial Workers of the World. Jenny described her father as an avid reader of Industrialisti, the Finnish-language IWW newspaper.

As a young woman, Jenny attended classes at Tyovaen Opisto (Work Peoples College), the Finnish IWW school for labor activists near Duluth.

Most of her life she lived in Chicago. She was married to Charles Velsek, secretary of the Czech branch of the IWW, who died in 1979. Jenny then became a companion to anold friend, Fred Thompson, whose Finnish- American wife Aino had recently passed away. Thompson was a well-known figure in IWW history as an organizer, labor historian and educator, and as an editor and writer. In the 1930s, he had been a director and teacher at Work Peoples College, after classes at that institution began to be conducted in English.

After Fred Thompson died in 1987 at age 87, Jenny moved to Springfield, Missouri, to be near a niece. Later she moved to Tucson where she had a brother and his family, and where she lived for the remainder of her life.

Industrial Worker #1689 (November 2006)

The November 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Contents include:

- Talkin' union by Nick Driedger

- International support for Starbucks workers

- Garment strike closes Bangladeshi sweatshops

- Readers' soapboxes

- Farewell, Fellow Worker: Joe Glazer

- Chicago couriers fight NICA contractor scam

- East End workers still union

- Portland Industrial District Council anniversary bash

- German Language Area ROC

- Work Peoples College

- NLRB ruling will strip thousands of union rights

- Detroit news strike legal battles end

- Northwest Airlines mechanics surrender

- William E. Trautmann: New Zealand Wobbly by Mark Derby & Jay Miller

- The IWW in the history books

- Western Federation of Miners landmark at risk by Richard Myers

- The IWW is the class act by Gary Cox

- Solidarity forces Harvard to rehire janitor who fainted on the job by Mark R. Wolff

- Human rights baseball by Bret Grote, Clark Clagett and Kenneth Miller

- Book review: The enemy of nature by Joel Kovel

- World labor solidarity

For paper subscription info, please visit the IW page at iww.org

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Farewell, Fellow Worker: Joe Glazer

An obituary of labor folk singer Joe Glazer.

Labor singer Joe Glazer died Sept. 19 at age 88, after more than 60 years of sing­ing and writing songs of solidarity, justice, unions and workers. Among his 30 albums was a collection of IWW songs, reissued for the centenary and available from the IWW Literature Department ($15).

Born in New York City in 1918, Glazer’s father was a member of the Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. After Glazer took a job with the Textile Workers Union in 1944, he and his guitar were dispatched to picket lines in the south where he began writing labor songs, sometimes based on gospel hymns. Among his best-known were “Automation,” “The Mill Was Made of Marble,” and “Too Old to Work.”

In his memoir, Labour’s Troubadour, Glaz­er described leading strikers around a textile mill singing those songs. They were “basi­cally one-line verses that could be quickly changed” to suit any situation, he said.

William E. Trautmann, New Zealand Wobbly

A biographical article by Mark Derby and Jay Miller of William E. Trautmann, an early and important member of the Industrial Workers of the World.

“I was born in a country considered to be free – in New Zealand,” said William Trautmann, when he accepted the position of general secretary at the IWW’s founding con­vention in Chicago in the summer of 1905. Although he left New Zealand at an early age and never returned, Trautmann seems never to have forgotten his connection with his country of birth. He would no doubt have been proud to learn that his many publica­tions on industrial unionism strategies, and his achievements as a Wobbly organiser in the United States, became well-known and influential in New Zealand as well as in many other countries, and that a book published in New Zealand this year finally recognises his contribution to the rise of the Wobblies in his homeland.

William Ernest Trautmann was born on 1 July 1869 in Grahamstown, a gold rush settlement on the Coromandel Peninsula, in New Zealand’s North Island. The town was then just a year old but already had a popula­tion of 18,000, mostly miners who worked by candlelight to hack gold-bearing rock from poorly ventilated shafts in mines which bore their owners’ optimistic names – Queen of Beauty, Lucky Hit, Bright Smile. To prevent the theft of ore, those owners forced each miner to strip naked at the start and end of each 10-hour shift, and cross a passageway separating their street clothes from those they wore in the mine.

One of the first miners to arrive in Gra­hamstown in 1868 was the German-born Edmund Trautmann, who had earlier been a ‘miner, forty-niner’ in the California gold rush. By 1874 Edmund and his wife Augusta had four small children. In May of that year, during a graveyard shift, Edmund Trautmann died after entering a pocket of poisonous gas in the Crown Prince mine. His work mates formed a committee to send his ailing wife and her children, ranging in age from seven years to nine months, back to their relatives in Germany. Ernest, the second of these children, was left there in the care of a mili­tary orphanage while the rest of the family departed again, this time for New York.

Ten years later, at the age of 14, Ernest moved to Poland and began an apprenticeship in a brewery owned by a distant relative. The apprenticeship was pure peonage as Traut­mann was required to work unlimited hours, at the beck and call of the brewmaster. After qualifying, he moved to Dresden, Germany, where he agitated on behalf of child workers in the bottling shops. He emerged from these experiences with an anarchist’s allegiance to individual liberty and a Marxist’s certainty in the class struggle.

Trautmann worked his way through East­ern Europe as far as Odessa in Russia before returning to Germany. En route he encoun­tered traditions of European radical thought from which he would draw throughout his life. After agitating on behalf of the most abused workers in the brewery industry, he was expelled from Germany as a dangerous radical in 1890, and followed his family to the New World, which proved to be indis­tinguishable from the Old.

After settling in Massachusetts, Traut­mann became active in the United Brewery Workers Union, the first major industrial union in the United States. In 1900, he be­came editor of the union’s German-Eng­lish newspaper, Brauer-Zeitung, where his dedication to the principles of socialism and industrial unionism soon put him in conflict with the American Federation of Labor. His vocal opposition to the increasing political conservatism of the AFL cost him his posi­tion as editor, and he was forced out in the spring of 1905.

Between 1900 and 1905 Trautmann combined his experience of the U.S. labour movement with his knowledge of intellectual currents in the European working class to de­velop ideas which later formed the theoretical framework of the IWW. One labor historian has suggested Trautmann “played the most central role in the founding of the IWW... [H]e provided the ideological starting point of the revolutionary industrial unionism of the IWW.” In 1904 Trautmann was appointed to the three-member committee that drew up the Industrial Union Manifesto calling for the formation of the IWW “as the economic organization of the working class, without affiliation with any political party.” At the IWW’s founding convention in 1905, a suc­cession of tributes testified to Trautmann’s broad knowledge of international labour movements, his dedication and his personal qualities (“he stands almost peerless in the way of a personal sacrifice to the interests of the working people”).

In its first years the IWW had fought numerous industrial skirmishes without winning a single major strike. Trautmann looked to break this pattern by concentrating his organising ef­forts among his fellow European migrant workers in the industri­alised eastern states. In 1909 he told readers of the IWW newspa­per the Industrial Worker, “I am off for McKees Rocks, perhaps to face the bullets of the foe.” McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, was a steel company town. When employers introduced an unpopular change to the pay system, five thousand workers, mostly eastern Euro­peans, spontaneously walked out of the mills. Violent clashes followed when the company’s private police force tried to bring in scab labour. As the violence escalated, the Pennsylvania state constabulary charged and clubbed picketing workers.

In response to a call from a group of exiled European revolutionaries, Trautmann arrived to head the strike organi­sation. He cautioned against further violence, but tensions in the town were already at breaking point. A gunfight broke out in which several strikers and five state troopers were killed, and Trautmann himself was arrested. Thousands of strikers thronged the town to demand his release and with a full-scale riot threatening, he was taken from his cell to an improvised courtroom, tried and acquitted. Two weeks later the strike was settled, the company compromising on most issues.

In the few exultant years following this victory Trautmann criss-crossed the eastern industrial states in response to a flood of requests to lead direct actions and set up IWW locals. In the northern winter of 1912, he joined Big Bill Haywood and other lead­ing Wobblies as an organiser of the textile workers’ strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the legendary ‘Bread and Roses’ strike. The strikers, mainly women and children, were opposed by a mounted militia of vigilantes, local businesspeople and students, who rode down the picket lines with bayonets and ba­tons. Using a pedal-powered printing press, Trautmann and his team deluged the militia with pamphlets, urging them, with some suc­cess, to covertly support the strikers.

The same period saw a surge of revo­lutionary industrial unionism in his home­land. As Trautmann had rightly observed in 1905, New Zealand at that time could only be “considered to be free.” A long period of liberal, mildly progressive government had introduced better conditions for workers, but required all unions to submit to compulsory arbitration of their disputes. This regime meant real wages fell during the early 20th century, and workers were chafing under a paternalistic form of state socialism. However, from about 1908 an influx of seasoned labour agitators from the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia introduced IWW-style direct action strategies and side-stepped the arbitration system by negotiating directly with employers, through strike action if necessary. The response from miners, wharf workers, drivers, labourers and thousands of other mainly unskilled workers was immediate and enthusiastic. Branches of the IWW were set up in major cities and mining towns, helped by the distribution of large quantities of revolutionary literature, some of it written or translated by Trautmann.

In 1912 a prolonged strike broke out just a short distance from Trautmann’s birthplace in the company town of Waihi, which was run by a foreign-owned gold-mining consortium. The Canadian Wobbly J.B. King played an active part on the strike committee. After several months, the company persuaded the government to send in large numbers of strikebreakers reinforced by armed and mounted police. These police were soon labelled ‘Cossacks’ by the strikers, a term first used to refer to the mounted troops at McKees Rocks. The police deliberately en­couraged violent riots between the strikers and the scabs, which culminated in the death of striker F. E. Evans.

The following year a strike on the Wel­lington waterfront spread to most of the port cities of the country. The ‘Great Strike’ of 1913 saw the greatest civil unrest ever seen in New Zealand, before or since. Tens of thousands were on strike, headed by Wobblies such as the English-born Tom Barker who produced a weekly paper with regular articles in the Maori language. However they were con­fronted by police, military and large bands of strikebreakers from the rural districts, armed officially with long wooden batons and unof­ficially with Army revolvers. As at Waihi, this combination of state-sponsored violence and organised mass scabbery caused the defeat of the strike, and most of the Wobblies were forced to leave the country.

Trautmann’s autobiography shows that he considered his greatest achievement to be the many publications that helped spread the revolutionary industrial union­ism movement throughout the world. Today, he would find that despite such efforts his country of birth remains unfree. Gold is still mined in the hills above Coroman­del, where a vast and ugly open-cast mine disfigures a landscape which is otherwise one of the most beautiful in a very beautiful country. Some locals defend the mine for the jobs it provides, yet the average income for Coromandel people is lower than elsewhere in the country, as the foreign owners of the mine siphon off the profits.

We close with a Maori salutation: No reira, e te kaituhi o te Uiniana o Nga Kaimahi o te Ao, ka whawhai tonu tatou, ake ake, ake. (Loosely: Therefore, to the one who wrote on behalf of the IWW, we will carry on your struggle for as long as necessary.)

Mark Derby lives in Wellington, Aote­aroa/NZ, and wrote “The Case of William E. Trautmann and the role of the Wobblies” in Revolution – the 1913 Great Strike in New Zealand, ed. Melanie Nolan, Canterbury Uni­versity Press, 2006. Jay Miller is author of “Soldier of the Class War – the life and writing of William E. Traut­mann,” a Ph.D. dissertation completed in 2000 at Wayne State University, where Trautmann’s unpublished memoir can also be found.

Jay Miller is author of “Soldier of the Class War – the life and writing of William E. Traut­mann,” a Ph.D. dissertation completed in 2000 at Wayne State University, where Trautmann’s unpublished memoir can also be found

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (November 2006)

Industrial Worker #1690 (December 2006)

The December 2006 issue of the Industrial Worker, the newspaper of the revolutionary union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Contents include:

- Workers without bosses under attack by Marie Trigona

- Starbucks CEO hides from Wobbly protesters

- Media workers face bosses' insatiable greed

- Readers' soapbox

- Berkeley Curbside Recyclers contract includes modest gains

- UK Wobs organizing education workers

- International general strike the answer to neoliberalism

- Immokalee workers tell Chipotle to walk its talk by Kari Lydersen

- The new web and the unions by Eric Lee

- Adjunct professors work long hours for short pay by Mark R. Wolff

- Canadian postal workers refuse to deliver homophobic hate mail

- Wide Wide World of sweatshops: Pirates drop the ball by Kenneth Miller

- Oaxaca protesters under siege by Amanda Aquino

- Real democracy by Gary Cox

- March to the left by Dorice Mcdaniels

- General strike against Swedish "job creation" scheme by Klas Ronnback & Irene Elemerot

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