WORKERS AT BELLINGHAM RETAIL STORE UNIONIZE WITH INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD

disturbing_trendRetail employees at West Marine in Bellingham have unionized with the Industrial  Workers of the World (IWW). Workers informed management Tuesday afternoon that they are members of IWW’s Industrial Union 660 and are now a union shop. The workers organized over the past week. At their request, an IWW delegate met with the workers and issued union membership cards. This is the first IWW retail union shop in Whatcom County in a century. The new union is affiliated with the IWW’s Whatcom-Skagit General Membership Branch.

The store’s employees met with management at 1:30 PM to announce the formation of their union. “Management was surprised by the announcement, but overall the meeting went well. We decided that making a union was the best and safest way to get management to agree to changes to working conditions” said union member Austin Carlson.

Bellingham IWW members gathered in the parking lot to show solidarity with the new union members as they met with management, and to congratulate them in person after.

West Marine is owned by private equity firm Monomoy Capital Partners. The Bellingham store is one of 240 owned by the company.

The new union will apply for an official Union Shop card from the IWW General Administration in Chicago. Union members will determine the next steps toward formal recognition of the union by West Marine management. The union may request a National Labor Relations Board election. As union membership in the shop is nearly a unanimous, a much simpler card check union certification can be arranged in place of an election. Union members will also decide whether they wish to negotiate a contract, or to practice the IWW’s brand of ‘solidarity unionism’ which foregoes a contract and instead focuses directly on issues as they arise in the workplace.

The Industrial Workers of the World, formed in 1905 and commonly known as ‘Wobblies’ organizes all workers in all industries. IWW organizing continues among workers in other Bellingham stores.

‘Drive-by Soapboxes’ by the IWW in Bellingham

Whatcom-Skagit IWWs have been standing along busy streets at rush hour to promote the union idea, and the IWW’s brand specifically. We have been along Lakeway, Holly and James. We get lots of waves and honks and ‘solidarity fists’. Sure, a few fingers too, but not very many. People stop to talk to us; we have leaflets they can take with them. Keep an eye out for us on a street near you and wave and stop by to say hello.

Subscribe to IWW media- Seattle Worker and Industrial Worker

The Seattle Worker is the bimonthly newsletter of the Seattle IWW. Seattle is one of the largest and most actively unionizing branches in our union. You can subscribe to get paper copies in the mail, and also view content online. It is locally focused, and occasionally features articles from Wobblies in the Whatcom-Skagit branch.

Industrial Worker is the official online publication of the North American administration of the IWW. You’ll find news and thought-provoking articles about direct actions in workplaces, and book reviews. Subscribe! Its free.

Know Your Rights: Washington Equal Pay and Opportunites Act

[This article is copied from the Seattle IWW web site.]

The “Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act” went into effect on July 28, 2019. It states that when interviewing for a job:

  • Your potential future boss can’t ask you how much money you make (or even how much you have made in the past) until after they have made you a job and compensation offer.
  • And, if the company you are interviewing at has 15 or more employees, and they offer you a job, your potential new boss has to tell you the minimum salary for the job if you ask.
  • If you already work at a company that has 15 or more employees, and you get a new position or promotion, your boss has to give you a pay range for your new position if you ask. Finally, your boss can’t stop you or your coworkers from discussing how much money you make.
  • If your boss, or potential future boss, violates this law, file a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. You can also sue the bastards for up to $5,000 plus interest, costs, and attorney’s fees.

You can find out more, and also get details on how to file a complaint, at the Washington Labor and Industries website:

https://www.lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/wages/equal-pay-and-opportunities-act

Of course, if you really don’t want to worry about your workplace rights being violated, join the IWW and get organized!

Art by Carlos Cortez, Chicagp IWW

UPDATING THE BELLINGHAM IWW WEBSITE

Friends and fellow workers, The Whatcom-Skagit IWW branch is finally beginning to update our website at bellinghamiww.org. Many links lead to an outdated IWW website so we are fixing those. We will get back to regular blog posts. To learn more about the IWW in Northwest Washington write to us this cleverly disguised address bellingham at iww dot org

Our IWW branch has grown by leaps and bounds since we last attended to the website, and our members are agitating-educating-organizing in several work places. If you aren’t yet a member of our union you are encouraged- no you are URGED to join IWW , Members in Whatcom, Skagit, and now Island Counties can affiliate with our branch, learn about unionizing, spread the word, and help the work along. There is a world to gain for the working class.

“ORGANIZE ON THE JOB- WHERE YOU ARE ROBBED”

Teamsters in Bellingham vote to strike

If the workers at Bellingham Cold Storage do strike, IWW encourages you to show up and walk the picket line with them in Solidarity.

The following was posted on “The Stand” https://www.thestand.org/?p=99324 with information from Teamsters Local 231:

BELLINGHAM (June 15, 2021) — Teamsters Local 231 members at Bellingham Cold Storage (BCS) have voted unanimously to authorize a strike against their employer, after months of contract negotiations have led nowhere. The group of more than 100 workers receive product from ships, run forklifts, and work in cold storage warehouses in Bellingham, Wash. These workers are a critical part of the supply chain for perishables, and if they were to strike, there would be a severe impact on the food supply chain.

Negotiations for a new contract started in November 2020, and since then the two sides have met more than 20 times, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, even against the backdrop of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, BCS has insisted that health care for their hardworking employees is a luxury they do not deserve.

Managers from the company, which was recently bought by Seattle-based investment firm Joshua Green Corporation, approached the Teamsters with an insulting offer that would force our members to pay an absurd amount of their medical premiums out-of-pocket. When Teamster leadership demanded to know why the company would make such an offer, Joshua Green Corporation Executive Vice-President Aaron Singleton admitted the company’s goal was to invite government subsidies of their employees’ health care, saying “we want to incentivize our employees to seek other options for covering their dependents, such as Apple Health.”

Although the employer has since modified their medical proposal, management’s offers on pension and wage increases were similarly insulting and demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the work their employees perform each day.

“We are reasonable people, but there was nothing remotely reasonable about BCS’s contract offer – and our group is more than willing to strike to prove that,” said Teamsters Local 231 Secretary-Treasurer Rich Ewing. “This investment company wants to make money, but we will not allow them to make that money by scooping it out of our members’ pockets. These Teamsters are not rich, but they work hard and they deserve to be respected and compensated for that. To say they should seek government-subsidized health care is insulting beyond words.”

“Approximately 80 percent of the membership attended the strike authorization vote, and the vote was unanimous,” Ewing continued. “I think this tells BCS management everything they need to know. A strike is always a last resort, but if that’s what our members need to do to get respect, then believe me, we will head to the street with picket signs.”

Bellingham Cold Storage, long a locally owned food processing firm, was sold to The Joshua Green Corporation, a Seattle-based investment firm, in 2018.

Subscribers to the Whatcom-Skagit IWW ‘Solidarity Alert List’ will receive direct notice by email if the workers walk out. Subscribe by writing to iwwbellingham@gmail.com . We send very few emails, usually less than one per month, and all are related to strike activity or notices of IWW public events.

IWW will do our best to keep updates here.

Union loses at Amazon- one postmortem

There will surely be many analyses of why the Retail, Warehouse, and Distribution Workers Union [RWDSU] lost the union election at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer Alabama.

Here is one very insightful analysis of why RWDSU lost the union campaign in Bessemer. The mistakes made by this union are astonishing; things we learn on day 1 in the IWW Organizer Training 101. To think these were professional union organizers makes my heart sink.

https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/bessemer-alabama-amazon-union/

It is a longish read but very revealing, and worth remembering these lessons- repeated over and over again by business unions.

It will be very interesting to hear what the IWW- influenced ‘Organizing Work’ Blog will say. I highly recommend taking out a free subscription at https://organizing.work/

This RWDSU sign says it in a nutshell- the ‘union’ apparently is not the workers, it is something external. This is a cardinal error and shows lack of a connection between organizers and workers in the plant. Were the organizers also the workers inside? No, in fact. another cardinal error.

https://storage.googleapis.com/afs-prod/media/bfb4573a56d3474a8e8783601ed19e73/2000.jpeg

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.

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.

(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.