Strikes expand and continue in Yakima Valley

There are now 6 fruit packing houses on strike in Yakima and Selah. Workers at Matson Fruit in Selah walked out Friday AM. Safe working conditions in the crowded packing sheds is the immediate concern, but other safety and wage issues are ever-present. The son of the owner at Hansen reputedly referred to the strikers as ‘animals’. Strikes are now on at both Monson and Matson fruit companies in Selah, Allan Bros in Naches, and Columbia Reach, Hansen and Jack Frost in Yakima.

The newest picket line.

The best immediate source for information is the Familias Unidas por la Justicia union’s Facebook page. IWW social media is trying to keep up. We want to have some ‘boots on the ground’, and hope to have people there within the next few days- unless the owners cave.

It has been 8 Days since Allan Bros workers went on strike and began this movement in the Yakima Valley.
Yesterday representatives from all 6 packing houses supported each others’ strikes by standing on the picket line in each others workplace. There was a moment of tension in the morning when someone threatened the workers with violence, luckily nothing happened.
It should also be said that the majority of the leadership and people on strike are women. Many elders are also on strike and fighting alongside younger workers. the company.STay tuned for updates here, or on the Whatcom-Skagit IWW facebook page, or at Familias Unidas por la Justicia. To donate much needed cash to purchase food and supplies for the strikers and their families, go to https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=fBBm3Nh_bb8y9maWD_nF8n75Jgo2LssD72A0_5wM7pGgkj-W4pbVxq-qEI7RGHJSlKv5RW&country.x=US&locale.x=US

pickets are insistent on social distancing. Most wear masks.

Solidarity Forever!

The Wobblies of the Whatcom-Skagit General Membership Branch, IWW.

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Fruit industry workers go on a wave of strikes in the Yakima area

“Workers of the World Unite”. Striker at Allan Fruit Co, Naches, WA

There has been a wave of strikes and job actions by largely Hispanic fruit packing house, winery, and other farm workers in the Yakima area. A 5-day strike at Allan Bros Winery in Naches won pay raises today. Workers at Roche Fruit Co. in Yakima won a pay raise on May 11. New strikes have broken out in the past day or so at Jack Frost Fruit, a packing house in Yakima, and Matson Fruit in Selah. To support on the ground organizing in the area, contribute to www.familiasunidasjusticia.org
The strikes focus on hazard pay, general wage increases, enforcement of the State’s Covid-19 rules for workplaces, abusive supervisors, and care for workers who have tested positive for Covid-19. Union organizers from Familias Unidas por la Justicia have been on the scene and their facebook page and Twitter feed @FUJWashington is the best source for up-dates. More strikes are anticipated. Much of the media coverage to date has been in Spanish. Some links for English speakers are https://www.elsoldeyakima.com/…/article_d4922408-84c1-5248-…
and
https://kimatv.com/…/allan-bros-fruit-company-resumes-opera…
Whatcom-Skagit IWW stands in solidarity with these workers, and wishes Familias Unidas por la Justicia the greatest success in further union efforts.

Workers celebrate their victory at Roche Fruit Co. in Yakima. Photo courtesy El Sol de Yakima.
Strikers march in Selah.
Strike at Allan Fruit Co.
Strike at Allan Fruit.
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(Labor Notes) Safety: Bosses Want to Fix the Worker, Unions Want to Fix the Job

Unions and bosses have different outlooks on safety. Employers say illnesses and injuries are caused by worker carelessness: he didn’t wash his hands enough; she touched her face. That’s the way the boss wants you to think, too.

But the union realizes that it’s the hazards themselves that cause injuries, and that it’s the boss who sets up the workplace, either designing in hazards or failing to design them out. The boss has everyone work in the same tiny space. The boss won’t install a cough guard between you and customers. Emphasize these different outlooks with workers.

Bosses want to fix the worker. Their only way to reduce illnesses and injuries is to require gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE). They focus on getting workers to work safely by threatening discipline and punishment. Now there are shortages of PPE and they have no other ideas.

The union wants to fix the job itself. Identify and eliminate hazards. Reduce existing hazards with engineering controls like improving ventilation or safer procedures, and move people away from each other.

The boss wants workers to think about safety his way. But workers become passionate when they start thinking about safety like unions do. Injuries turn from “I did something stupid” to “The boss did this to me.” Now more than ever, safety is ripe for organizing.

Full article here.

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Do You Feel Essential… or Expendable?

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Noam Chomsky: Bosses Are Making Coronavirus ‘Worse, for Their Benefit’

“Well, first of all, we should recognize that unless we get to the roots of this pandemic, it’s going to recur, probably in worse form, simply because of the manipulations of the capitalist system which are trying to create circumstances in which it will be worse, for their benefit. We can see that in the stimulus bill and many other things.

“Sure. We’ve done it before. I lived through the Depression. That’s why I have this long white beard. But in the 1920s the labor movement was totally crushed. Take a look at David Montgomery, a labor historian, one of his great books is The Fall of the House of Labor. He’s talking about the ’20s. It was crushed by the liberal Wilson administration, the Red Scare and all the rest. In the ’30s it began to revive. The CIO organizing sit-down strikes, great threat to management, sit-down strike, workers are sitting there. Next thing that’s going to come to their heads is, “We don’t need the bosses. We can run this place ourselves.” And then you’re done. It’s a very fragile system. Well, that led to reactions. There happened to be a sympathetic administration, which is critical. A very good labor historian, Erik Loomis, has studied case after case of this and he points out that moments of positive change have almost always been led by an active labor movement [emphasis added] and the only times they succeeded were when there was a relatively sympathetic administration, at least a tolerant one.”

Full interview here.

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Restaurant Staff Fight for Coworkers Left out of Pandemic Relief

[Via organizing.work.]

Marianne Garneau interviews a restaurant worker organizing support for migrant coworkers who cannot access government assistance in the wake of pandemic-related layoffs

The restaurant industry in New York runs on migrant labor – especially the “back of house” or kitchen — much of it undocumented. As explained in this excellent article by Eater, employers are fully aware when they are hiring undocumented labor, but use third-party fixers to maintain “plausible deniability if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes knocking.”

When most restaurants closed last month, migrant workers were left out of account, by both employers and government. The undocumented will not receive stimulus checks, and cannot even access benefits like unemployment insurance, even though they pay billions in taxes and into Social Security on their paychecks. Even documented migrant workers risk long-term penalties for accessing relief, because of a new “public charge” rule that discriminates against them with respect to residency or citizenship if they use certain kinds of public assistance.

One union looking to address this is Stardust Family United. SFU is a solidarity union at the landmark Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Times Square, home of the singing waitstaff. Workers have been organized with the IWW since 2016 (full disclosure: I worked as an outside organizer on that campaign). They don’t have — or even want — formal recognition or a contract, but they nonetheless regularly secure gains and improvements in the workplace, including fixing unsafe equipment, winning pay raises for workers, and ending tip theft. Membership in the union is voluntary, and instead of dues checkoff by the employer, they have a worker “delegate” who collects dues from workers every month, depositing them into the union bank account. Formally chartered with the Department Of Labor and IRS, they elect a treasurer and secretary every year — also “rank-and-file” workers in the workplace.

The restaurant closed on March 16, along with most businesses, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the main attraction of the restaurant was the singing staff, it has not remained open for take-out. As a result, all staff have been laid off. Some have been able to apply for unemployment insurance, and receive other government aid, but they also immediately thought about their coworkers who may not have so easy a time. Therefore, the singing staff started a fundraiser, donating $2,000 of their own dues to kick it off, and set to work offering to sing requests for donors.

I spoke to Alexis, one of the workers at the restaurant and organizers of the fundraiser.

Tell me about what you are doing.

We are fundraising through GoFundMe for our coworkers who are struggling the most right now by being out of work. I believe it was March 16 that [we] got a message from management that all employees would be laid off and furloughed until this crisis was over. That’s over 200 people, and there are some that are struggling more right now. [The fundraiser is] for those who need it most.

How did you decide to do this?

The idea had been floated around by some members of the union. At some point our secretary said we should have a meeting to discuss it, and discuss the parameters of the fundraiser. I think there were 21 union members on the call. We decided to do the fundraiser as Stardust Family United, and we set up parameters: who is eligible, and the deadline for applying for aid and for the fundraiser, how money would be handed out and split between people.

How are you running it?

There are about seven of us on this fundraising committee. There are a lot of different parts to this: running the webpage itself, keeping the momentum going, reaching out to staff. We are trying to split up those tasks between the people on this committee. We also had to gather the contact info for all 200 employees. We had the campaign go live [last] Monday, and now we’re just trying to figure out how to keep [up] the momentum.

You contributed some of your own dues?

During the Zoom call with the union, we voted to start the fundraising off by donating $2,000 from dues we’ve collected. So it started with a $2,000 donation from SFU. I think it was a unanimous vote to do that.

And people are donating individually?

There are a lot of SFU employees that have donated their own money to the campaign. They’re part of the group that doesn’t need extra assistance right now.

What about the boss? Are you putting pressure on the employer to help these workers out?

That is something we’re still discussing, but ideally we would like to see the owners either match what we fundraise or make some kind of contribution.

Tell me about the rewards you are giving to donors.

That’s our brand, is singing. You can make a song request if you donate a certain amount of money, and we’ll send that to you personally. We’re hoping that will incentivize people. We’ll continue to use our talent and the time we have now.

Can you tell me what you think this fundraising effort represents? How does this relate to your union?

I think it’s a shining example of solidarity because none of us are contractually obligated to do any of this, but it really goes back to “an injury to one is an injury to all.” When there are people suffering who we work with, we take it personally and we want to help them.

Are there other examples of this kind of solidarity between “front of house” and “back of house?”

We have worked with them to make certain demands of management and owners. And we’ve won those demands. Pay raises, getting their uniforms laundered by the company, and a big one was when the A/C was not working, and it was the guys in the kitchen who were suffering the most because they have the stoves and all this equipment in a very small space. We all decided as a workplace, one shift, to walk out until they fixed the A/C. So we do our best to help them with what they need.

Donate to their relief efforts here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/9nt52-stardust-diner-employee-relief-fund

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IWW’s ORGANIZER TRAINING 101

IN BELLINGHAM

February 29- March 1, 2020. 9AM-4PM both days. $10 donation requested at the doorOT 101 Feb 2020

A two day workshop for workers gearing up to plan or help out with a union campaign on the job, whether formal or ‘guerilla style’.

This workshop is taught by IWW’s certified trainers. It focuses on the IWW’s model of SOLIDARITY UNIONISM, which uses direct action techniques to get what you need from your boss, with or without a formal union or a contract. The workshop includes a discussion of the basics of US labor law, and when to use, or not use, it. For more info write to us at

iwwbellingham  at  gmail   dot  com. Or, go ahead and register. Full info once you register.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdph6xSP_fChsYA5udc7zIpXfDB8etaJ3Pkg6D7IUk_p3dSMQ/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1

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IWW General Executive Board Statement on the Iran Conflict

The General Executive Board recently passed the following statement:

As an internationalist union, the IWW has always stood in opposition to the wars brought upon the world by the capitalist class. As one of the founders of the IWW, Eugene Debs, once said in his famous Canton speech (1917), “The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles; the master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, and the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose—including their lives.

We cannot allow the potential for conflict to rip apart the bonds that we as all workers share. The IWW encourages workers to double their efforts organizing their workplaces so we may overthrow capitalism, because capitalism produces imperialist wars. We want to build a better world without capitalism and imperialism, two blights on humanity. We encourage workers to engage in industrial actions which they deem necessary to democratically and safely prevent war.

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Organizer Training 101 February 9-10

As most people who visit this website know, the IWW differs from both social activist groups and other labor unions in some very important ways.

We are not a social activist group, our agenda never takes place on a political platform, and taking to the streets will always be directed at a workplace.

Also, we are not like other labor unions. We do not rely on the NLRB or other third party systems to speak for us at our jobs.

What we rely on is our own actions and our own relationships with our coworkers to work for the things we need or want, and our agenda will always be to improve working conditions for everyone and to eliminate the wage system that degrades our working conditions.

Over time, the IWW has established a First Step towards becoming the kind of worker that help those goals, it’s the Organizer Training 101. It’s an eight hours a day-two day course in practicing solidarity and direct action. You learn how to gauge your coworkers reliability and enthusiasm, how to speak with the people around you effectively, different tools of direct action and organization, and the follow-through. There’s role playing, work shops, and two IWW-trained trainers to guide you so that you have what’s needed to go to work next week and start effecting change.

We are excited to host another one this weekend, February 9-10, from 9 am to 5 pm both days. We’re having a big group dinner Saturday night at a local restaurant, and coffee, breakfast, and lunch will be provided at the class.

It will take place at the ReSources library (2309 Meridian St) and will be guided by a trainer from Portland and one from our own branch.

You have until the 6th to register here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfY9yzTkijmHDk66mESfSfTJF0Lo5YqXWDwnF9DV2W_3wAH-g/viewform?usp=sf_link

We are so excited to host this training and to continue the goals of the One Big Union.

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IWW Movie Night: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

IWW’s Rebel Worker Movie Night returns for our third winter series!

BELLINGHAM PREMIER OF

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU [2018]sorry-to-bother-you

Thursday, December 6, 8 PM

Alternative Library, 519 E. Maple

$5 donation requested, to support the Library and the IWW Organizing Fund.

No one turned away for lack of funds.

How did a film this radical get made in Trumpian America?

Sorry to Bother You, directed by Boots Randolph, is set in a world so similar to our Sorry-to-Bother-You-Trailerown that its dystopian futurism seems familiar. The economy is such that many ordinary people have signed lifetime contracts with a company called Worry Free Living, which guarantees them grueling work, crowded shelter, subpar food, and a modicum of free time. In other words: slavery. This absurdist dark comedy was written and directed by Boots Riley, in his directorial debut. It stars Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, and Armie Hammer. Set in Oakland, California, the film follows a young African-American telemarketer who adopts a white accent in order to thrive at his job. Once he does, he rapidly gets swept up into a conspiracy, and must choose between making money at the expense of humanity and joining with his activist friends to organize his fellow workers. [Wikipedia].

The Wobs who have seen it say this is a VERY WOBBLY MOVIE

This movie won the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Independent Films award.

Looking forward to seeing all our friends there!

In solidarity,

Movie Committee

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