Posts Tagged ‘Industrial Unions’


May 17, 2009 marks five years since baristas at a Starbucks in New York City announced their membership in the Industrial Workers of the World and launched a campaign open to employees throughout the company. A worker-led organizing effort with the legendary IWW at the world’s largest coffee chain could have been a flash in the pan– brilliant and inspiring, but brief. But a fire was lit and a movement began. The idea that Starbucks workers could organize themselves and speak in their own voice, independent of company executives and union bureaucrats, could not be restrained.

The bosses did their best to defeat us, to bury any indication of our existence under a heap of lies and retaliatory firings. They tried to stamp us out, even as the campaign for secure jobs and a living wage burst from New York into Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and beyond.

While Starbucks used the economic crisis as a pretext for an all-out assault on our already meager standard of living, our struggle gained momentum this year amidst a stark decline of the company’s brand and widespread store closures. Baristas around the country and around the world made the decision to organize and fight back against severe cuts in work hours, chronic under staffing, and a new “Optimal Scheduling” program which forces many workers to be available to Starbucks for over 80 hours a week without being guaranteed a single work hour.

This journey has been full of set-backs and tests of will. Progress has been made yet much remains to be done. But one thing is certain: our voice for dignity is firmly planted and our union’s future is bright.

The biggest battles remain ahead, but every day our ranks deepen. We are confident in our solidarity and could not be more proud to be associated with our fellow workers across the IWW and like-minded unionists around the world. This year, courageous baristas in Chile became the first Starbucks workers in Latin America to raise a union banner.

The corporate-controlled economic, social, and political model has been exposed everywhere as a failure for working families. And everyday workers are bolder and more assertive in the fight against injustice and exploitation. The notion that democracy has no place at work has been exposed as a lie.

To every worker who loves liberty: this is our time!

Together we organize. Together we struggle. Together we win!


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Watch The Wobblies on :



Founded in 1905, The IWW, whose supporters were called “the Wobblies,” was a remarkable organization and this documentary captures the struggles, the spirit, the songs and satires of the movement. The production features the most astonishing interviews with elderly workers who participated in various IWW campaigns from the timber fields of the northwest to the Lawrence strike (1912) and the Patterson strike (1913) in which the IWW brought industrial unionism to fragmented and craft-conscious industries. None of them has lost their fervor, their belief in the revolution or their marvelous sense of humor. What other documentary offers a “talking head” who can both describe the debates in the lumber camps over the Russian Revolution and play—to concert level—a musical saw?
Beyond the powerful narratives, this documentary retrieved a terrific selection of old and archival footage, including cartoons and graphics, giving a narrative structure that provides a context for the interviews. The only intermittent narrator is Roger Baldwin, the founder of The American Civil Liberties Union, who at age 95 wrote his own script based on his brief membership in the IWW in 1919.
Bird and Shaffer describe both the making of this particular video and, in a retrospective after almost 30 years, its place in documentary movie history. For any student of documentaries as a specialty, this addendum is almost as fascinating as the main production. Inspired by The Sorrow and the Pity, the 1969 documentary about Vichy France, Bird and Shaffer claim that The Wobblies is the first of the “new wave” of documentaries that brought both new topics and new techniques to the field.
All of the “leaders–and how the Wobblies despised this term—were dead since this documentary was produced 73 years after the IWW was first organized. The producers, of necessity and of choice, had to interview normal IWW workers who became the “talking heads” for the production. Responding to a shift in labor history in the 1970s which emphasized the narratives of “ordinary workers”—in contrast to featuring union officials or institutions–Bird and Shaffer were determined to reach the grass roots. They relate with affection the interviews they conducted and the difficulties tracking down potential interviews. Shaffer describes the difficulties, for example, of interviewing workers in Bisbee, AZ, where 1,100 Wobblies were dragged into the desert in 1917, a moment in the town’s history that the residents wanted to bury.
Bill Barry
Community College of Baltimore County

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Fr. Bill Bischel SJ has dropped by Ireland to accompany both the Pitstop Ploughshares to court in Dublin and the Raytheon 9 to court in Derry. Bill was ordained in Berlin before the wall went up, carries some of Joe Hill’s ashes and has spent a number of years in jail for nonviolent resistance. One jail was in view of one of the seminaries he attended!

Reverend Bill Bichsel, or “Bix” as he’s known to friends and admirers, has lived an extraordinary life. Born in Tacoma in 1928, he has dedicated his life to education, and peace. An ordained Jesuit Priest, Bill was the dean of students at Gonzaga University from 1963 to 1966, he helped start the Martin Luther King Center of Tacoma for the homeless in 1969, he co-founded the Tacoma Catholic Worker, which houses and provides amenities for the homeless Tacoma. He has also been arrested over 45 times and spent nearly two years of his life in prison for protesting US military force on numerous occasions.

After reading a News Tribune article about Rev. Bichsel http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/story/457549.html , we at The Melon felt compelled to talk to such a brave and caring individual. After calling Bill, he invited us into his home where we talked about everything from his politics and personal accomplishments to the fall of the Soviet Union and his memories of the great depression.

We’ve turned the resulting discussion into a two-part interview with Bill that we’re very pleased to share with you.

Peacebringer: Interview with Rev. Bill Bichsel – Pt. 1
In part one, we discuss Bill’s influences, some of his protests, the fall of the Soviet Union, US interventionism, and more: Part 1: http://themelononline.com/2008/10/peace-bringer-intervi…rt-1/

Peacebringer: Interview with Rev. Bill Bichsel – Pt. 2
In part 2 of our conversation with Reverend Bill Bichsel continues where we left off. We discuss the upcoming election, the future of American warfare, abortion, activism and the Tacoma Catholic Worker Part 2:

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Sindicalismo Sin Fronteras
by Mike Alewitz
Assistance by Daniel Manrique and numerous volunteers
Approx. 8′ x 30′
Frente Autentico Trabajadores Auditorium
Mexico City 1997

On April 5, 1997, a public inauguration of two new murals was held at the auditorium of the Frente Autentico Trabajadoras (FAT) in Mexico City. The event was part of a cross-border organizing project of the FAT and the United Electrical (UE) union. The following is based on a dedication speech given by artist Mike Alewitz of the Labor Art and Mural Project (LAMP).

Sisters and Brothers:

It is a humbling experience to come to Mexico to paint, for this country is the home of the modern mural movement, and gave birth to some of the greatest public art of this century. Here is where the Rivera, Orozco and Siqueras were inspired by millions of peasants and workers to illustrate the historic conquests of the Revolution. On a smaller scale, we are attempting to illustrate the UE-FAT efforts to build international solidarity and cross-border organizing.

It was Emiliano Zapata who gave the greatest political expression to the Mexican revolution, and it is under his watchful eyes that our mural unfolds. We have also included the figures of Albert and Lucy Parsons. Albert was one of the Haymarket martyrs, framed up and executed for his leadership in the Chicago labor movement’s fight for the eight hour day. Lucy was also a leader in that movement, and she continued her labor and anarchist activities until she died at an old age. She was of African-American and Mexican ancestry, was an early leader of the feminist movement, and a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World. The Parsons hold in their hands some bread and a rose. “Bread and Roses” was a slogan of the Lawrence textile strikers; women who demanded not only the bread of the union contract, but the rose to symbolize that workers deserve a rich spiritual and cultural life.

The quotation in the painting is from August Spies, also executed on November 11, 1887. “If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement…the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in want and misery expect salvation-if that is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there and there, behind you-and in front of you, and everywhere, flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out.”

How fitting a quote for this land of volcanos. This is precisely what is happening today, as first a Los Angeles, and then a Chiapas explode, here and there, precursors of a generalized conflagration. Our class is like the core of the earth, being compressed under ever greater pressure, until forced to explode.

We are using this cultural project to illustrate our collective union vision. Unions are the first line of defense for workers. They keep us from getting killed or poisoned. They allow us some basic human dignity.

Unfortunately, too often our unions resemble exclusive clubs, or worse, criminal gangs. Even unions that pride themselves on being progressive are often beaurocratic and autocratic. Without the full and active participation of the membership, all the weaknesses of our organizations emerge. As workers, we often must not only battle the employers, but our own conservative leaderships as well.

This is a particular problem in the United States, where employers keep us stratified and divided. They attempt to pit low-wage workers against the more privileged. They use divide-and-conquer tactics to convince us to be for “labor peace.” But labor peace is the peace of slavery, wether in the U.S. or in Mexico.

The Frente Autentico Trabajadoras is helping to lead the struggle for genuine union democracy. There have been, and will continue to be casualties in this historic fight. And today we dedicate this mural to those who have been victimized in the struggle for union democracy. This mural is the product of not only artists, but the thousands of workers who built our unions. This is their mural.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to denounce the criminal policies of the United States government. In particular I denounce the economic sabotage of Mexico and the criminal embargo of Cuba. The gang in Washington does not speak for me or millions of other American workers. They are waging war upon our class. They are my enemy and your enemy. They represent the past, we are the future. If we continue to forge these links of solidarity, they can never prevail.

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Judi Bari a was a feminist Earth First! activist and dues paying member of the IWW from 1988-94 who even served on it’s General Executive Board in 1991.


“On May 24, 1990, a car bomb exploded beneath environmental and labor activist Judi Bari’s car seat as she drove through Oakland, California with fellow activist Darryl Cherney. Judi and Darryl were prominent organizers for Earth first! Redwood Summer, a campaign of nonviolent logging protests.http://www.judibari.org/
Interview With Judi About The Bombing: http://www.monitor.net/monitor/bari/interview.html
Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judi_Bari

For several years before the bombing, Earth First! had spearheaded a growing movement of public protest and direct action against the big timber corporations’ strip-logging in the redwood region of Norther California. Judi in particular was instrumental in building a coalition of loggers and environmentalists opposed to cut-and-run logging, and in broadening the scope and appeal of the movement. During the month before the bombing, Judi had received a series of written death threats relating her to timber organizing, the worst featuring a photo of her with a rifle scope and crosshairs superimposed on her face. Shortly afterwards, the bomb exploded in her car.

The bomb nearly killed Judi, and left her permanently disabled and in severe pain for the rest of her life. Darryl escaped with minor injuries. But the terror of the attack did not end there. Within minutes of the blast, the FBI appeared on the scene. In defiance of all the evidence, they had Judi and Darryl arrested for possession of explosives, claiming two were knowingly transporting the bomb that had meant to kill them.

These incredible charges were then trumpeted in the national press, with the FBI and Oakland Police (OPD) falsely portraying Judi and Darryl as violent terrorists rather than the targets of a terrorist attack. After eight weeks of public statements from the FBI and OPD vilifying the activists, the district attorney declined to press charges for lack of evidence. To this day the FBI and police have conducted no serious investigation of the bombing and the bombers remain at large.

In 1991, Judi and Darryl filled a federal lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland Police, charging them with false arrest and conspiracy to violate the activists’ civil rights. The lawsuit charges that the FBI and police knew perfectly well that Judi and Darryl were innocent, and that they were in fact victims of a brutal assassination attempt. Their false arrest was part of an FBI-driven COINTELPRO-style operation to discredit Earth First! and to “neutralize” Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney as organizers.

The most striking evidence in the case is the police’s own photos of the bombed-out car. These photos show that the FBI and police knowingly lied when they rushed to arrest Judi and Darryl for the bombing.

The arrest was based on the FBI’s false claim that the bomb was located on the back seat floorboard when it exploded, and therefore that Judi and Darryl must have seen it and known they were carrying it. But the photos, along with the physical evidence and the findings of the FBI’s own bomb expert, clearly show that the bomb was actually located directly beneath the driver’s seat, and that this was obvious from the damage to the car.

The FBI also claimed that nails taped to the bomb for shrapnel effect were “identical” to nails found in a bag in the back of Judi’s car. In fact, the nails in the bomb were finishing nails while the nails in the car were roofing nails — two types of nails so different in appearance that no honest observer could have mistakenly called them “identical.”

Through the lawsuit’s discovery process, we’ve also learned that the bomb was triggered by a motion device consisting of a large ball bearing that had to roll into place to connect two contact points. In other words, this was a motion-triggered booby trap bomb, set to explode when the car was driven, and wrapped in shrapnel to insure maximum injury to the car’s occupants.

This clearly discredits the FBI’s story that Judi and Darryl were knowingly transporting the bomb to use in some kind of sabotage action. Yet even though the FBI and police retrieved pieces of the motion device within hours of the explosion, they never told the press and they ignored this critical evidence when they arrested Judi and Darryl on charges of transporting explosives.

Even more serious question about the FBI’s conduct have been raised by revelations of an FBI “bomb school” held shortly before the attempt on Judi’s life. According to FBI files and the sworn testimony of Oakland Police and FBI agents, the FBI held a training course for bomb investigator in Eureka, California, in the heart of the redwood region, just four weeks before the bomb exploded in Judi’s car. During the week-long course the FBI blew up cars with pipe bombs and practiced responding.

The teacher at bomb school was Special Agent Frank Doyle, the same FBI bomb expert who showed up at the scene in Oakland and supervised the collection of evidence. It is Frank Doyle who is quoted in the search warrant falsely stating that the bomb was in the back seat and that nails in the car matched nails in the bomb. In the FBI’s own crime scene video, Doyle can be heard joking with his cohorts in an apparent reference to bomb school, “This is it! This is the final exam.”

At the very least, bomb school set up a line of authority that caused the responding officers (many of whom attended the Eureka bomb school) to go along with Frank Doyle when he made false statements about the location of the bomb and the “matching” nails, even though these statements directly contradicted what they saw in their own eyes. At worst, FBI bomb school raises serious questions about the extent of FBI participation in the lead-up to the bombing of Judi Bari, and the possibility of FBI prior knowledge of the attack. ”

Judi Bari died of breast cancer in 1997.

While I’m sure not the only case, this tragic story clearly demonstrates FBI corruption and anti-activism in the U.S. government.

For more Judi Bari recourses:
Official Website:

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