Deep in the gritty, industrial district of North Brooklyn/Queens, 15 workers of EZ Supply started the new year right by marching to their workplace and demanding that their highly abusive boss sign a petition recognizing the IWW as their union.
Little over a month earlier they had come to the workers’ night at Make The Road by Walking, and told of working long hours without being paid overtime, which ultimately amounted to being paid less than minimum wage. Sometimes the trucks would finally be loaded to the top at 3 p.m., and the workers would be told that all 25 stops in Manhattan had to be made. And they did something rarely heard of: they collectively forced their boss to rehire a fired worker, who had been fired because he hadn’t made all the stops that day.
Soon they signed up with the IWW, and decided on some direct action.
Wearing IWW pins and carrying IWW flags and a banner saying “abolish the wage system,” they were joined by members of the local NYC-GMB, Make The Road by Walking, and workers from Handy Fat, another warehouse nearby which has also organized with the IWW. Soon there were rowdy chants and a picket line which turned away at least one delivery.
“The boss thinks he’s God,” said FW Bert Picard, one of the key organizers in the campaign. FW David Temple’s command of the Chinese language conveyed the importance to this “god-like” boss of coming out to speak with the workers and signing the petition, or else there would be no work that day.
Ironically it wasn’t the chants in Chinese of “rat, rat, come out of your hole” by those on the picket line that finally brought the managers out of their hole, but instead management’s call to the police. By 11 a.m. the boss had the petition, to be shown to his lawyer, and the workers were back at work.
EZ Supply provides restaurants with coffee cups, take-out bags and other supplies, but the union drive at their warehouse is providing the sweatshops and exploited workers in the area with a wonderful example of revolutionary unionism. After the EZ Supply workers returned to work, Bert and other organizers remained outside and took the names and numbers of other deliverers and workers who had witnessed the brief strike and wanted to learn more about the IWW and how to organize.
It was only the second day of 2006, a year which so far promises to be very rewarding.
Industrial Worker - February 2006