Industrial Worker (January/February 2015)

Articles from the January/February 2015 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

Anti-police brutality protest shakes things up at the Mall Of America

An account by x378436 of an illegal rally at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

On Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, a protest organized by Black Lives Matter Minneapolis aiming to shut down the Mall of America took place. The demonstration was part of the ongoing movement against police brutality and structural racism in police departments nationwide. Thousands of protesters crowded into the rotunda of the largest shopping mall in North America with banners proclaiming solidarity with Ferguson and “black lives matter.” Chants of “Hands up, don't shoot!” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” echoed through the mall and sometimes got loud enough to shake the windows. Protesters who showed up a little late were greeted by members of the Bloomington Police Department dressed in head-to-toe riot gear and plainclothes mall security guards. Several members of the Twin Cities IWW were present and a few were arrested when they tried to break through these police lines set up to block protesters’ access to the rotunda and the other half of the mall. An entire section of the mall was entirely shut down, with all the shops closed. Many food court workers walked off their jobs and stood with their hands up while still wearing their Auntie Anne’s Pretzels or Dairy Queen uniforms. Employees at the animal-friendly cosmetics shop, Lush, stood outside their store with their hands up in solidarity with the protesters. Many employees who were trapped inside their shops by the barricades that mall security guards set up stood by the shop windows looking out at the protests and raised their fists in support.

For a few hours, the Mall of America was partially shut down and the people who worked there seemed totally fine with it, and even supportive in some cases. Whether or not food court workers who abandoned their posts and joined the protest could be called a “wildcat strike” is up for debate, but it certainly speaks volumes that this is an issue that resonates with so many. It resonates enough with people that they are willing to refuse to work and instead take action against a white supremacist police state. Previous Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have linked the Service Employee International Union’s (SEIU’s) Fight for 15 and Fast Food Forward campaigns with the movement against police violence. McDonald’s workers, still in their uniforms, blocked highways and led chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Some of them participated in die-ins on the highway or in the middle of busy intersections. The fact that many people of color who experience the brunt of police violence also make up a considerable amount of those who work at low-wage fast food and service jobs speaks volumes about the white supremacist capitalist system that we find ourselves living in today. It is the hope of this Wobbly and many others within the general antipolice movement gaining traction that we can link direct action against bosses who exploit us for our labor and pay us menial compensation with direct action against a State which uses violence to enforce a white supremacist and patriarchal social order.

Actions like “Hands Up Don’t Ship” (a symbolic protest by rank-and-file workers at the United Parcel Service [UPS] hub in Minneapolis in which workers refused to ship packages from Law Enforcement Targets Inc.) and these spontaneous walkouts by food court workers at the Mall of America are just the beginning of what is hopefully a new movement: a movement which can begin to combat both the mistreatment at the hands of the employing class and the mistreatment at the hands of the police; a movement that can bring working-class people together regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation and fight for its emancipation. The Twitter personality “@zellie,” who has been extremely active in reporting what has been going on in Ferguson and also in New York in response to the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, said “If you ever wondered what you would be doing in the Civil Rights Movement, now is the time to find out.” Let us all find out together. In the face of such blatant disregard for the lives of people of color in this nation by the police, inaction on our part is complacence.

The labor movement of the 21st century cannot avoid the presence of white supremacy or patriarchy in our society. It must combat them as well as combat capitalism. Then and only then will we begin to see a much less miserable world, one in which all of us will be free to carve out our own destinies free from the confines of wage labor, patriarchal subjugation, and white supremacist marginalization. Wobblies of the world, let’s get to work!

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (January/February 2015)

The toughest skin - Liberté Locke

A great, short article by Liberté Locke demonstrating the differing experiences one can have at work, based on issues of identity.

Being a woman means knowing mostly women will actually read this column.

As a woman who works in retail, I am making next-to-nothing for serving everyone.

I have always worked with my hands. I have used them to care of other people’s children. I have used them to clean bachelor pads while men I don’t know watch television and occasionally look me up and down when I know that this will not be a reoccurring gig. When men stay home to watch the housekeeper they hired from Craigslist for next-to-nothing, they were hoping to get more than their money’s worth to watch a disenfranchised broke woman clean for them. I’ve been asked why I was wearing so much, asked how much I weigh, asked why anyone would hire me “looking like that.”

I’ve been called every insult, been “offered” paid and unpaid sex work from complete strangers while selling them cups of coffee for barely over the minimum wage. And I have considered it.

I know touching a man’s hand while giving him change makes for a 75 percent chance I’ll get a tip. I know laughing when he asks if I’m on the menu means not being called “bitch.” I’m called “bitch” often.

Being a large woman means that thin rich New York white ladies will almost always change their drink orders after looking me up and down to non-fat, nowhip, and sugar-free.

Being an injured woman worker wearing wrist braces on both hands while making drinks at neck-breaking speeds means undoubtedly that the few people that feign concern mostly want to waste my time telling me how I don’t take care of myself, how losing weight will help my arms. They will make every assumption about me, my class, my life, and assume I somehow did this to myself and not capitalism.

Being a big, injured, openly-queer woman, exhausted, overworked, underpaid, almost bottom-rung worker at a major corporate chain means that I’m on display constantly—for every judgment and every critique. Being confident means customers go out of their way to break me down because shit rolls downhill and their jobs suck too, but differently. Very differently.

I know being a woman organizer is breaking down from all the misogyny I experience daily, the ableism, the homophobia, the transphobia (from openly supporting and loving trans people, and admitting to being a bit fagboi myself), being truly working class—born and bred—that male organizers will hear all that as counter-revolutionary complaining or “identity politics” for those with the time to be all academic about my reality. One such even said I wasted his time with it. Same such said I needed “tougher skin” for this work, meaning unionizing.

Being an injured queer fast food working woman who has always made her money through physical labor and knows homelessness, and knows need, and feels compassion for others’ struggles...I know that means that I embody toughness; even through my tears, and even through my breakdowns. Even through my struggle with daily misogyny, fatphobia, homophobia and ableism, I keep on keeping on. I realize that I can defend my emotional state until I’ve lost my voice and broken my own heart but that true allies, true comrades, true Wobblies would never ask me to do such a thing.

I’m still fighting, I’m still breathing, and that’s in spite of the haters and people who misunderstand me. This life ain’t easy, and it ain’t over. And I’m not giving up.

“Marginalized Workers’ Voices” is a new column for women, gender minorities, and any LGBTQ+ Fellow Worker. It’s for Wobblies of color, workers with disabilities, and any other marginalized voice of the One Big Union. If you’d like to contribute, please send your article to iw[at]iww.org with the subject line “Marginalized Workers’ Voices.”

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (January/February 2015)