Across the US, mainstream unions are looking to cuts tens of millions of dollars from their budgets in the face of feared attacks under the new regime, as some of the heads of big unions are also trying to cozy up next to Trump. Organized labor under the leadership of the labor bureaucrats has taken a position of trying to maintain social peace at all costs; more interested in keeping a lid on potential worker insurgency than fighting for better wages, conditions, and environmental regulations.
But people in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), especially low-paid, millennial workers in high turnover jobs in the service industry – aren’t putting their hopes in the mainstream, pro-business and pro-capitalist unions. They also aren’t putting their hopes in legalistic fights with the bosses through the labor board. Instead, they’re building power on the shop floor, reaching out to the greater community, and building power at their worksites and in their neighborhoods.
To find out more how IWW locals are doing just that, in this episode we talked to Jordan from the Burgerville Workers Union (BWU) in the Pacific Northwest, (for an intro into the BWU check out this podcast), who was recently fired after his boss gave him a a $0.70 bagel at work and the next day claimed that he had stolen it. Clearly, the company was hoping to get rid of both Jordan and BWU, and a broad community campaign to get Jordan’s job back was soon organized, which included large scale actions inside the store, pickets on the street, and even serving free food outside of Burgerville chain stores with the help of other labor unions as a way to hit the bosses in their pocket books. They even got a big ass rat balloon!
We then talk with Jordan how the BWU is organizing collective counter-power through their union, by offering members discounted food boxes, child care, a worker hotline, bus passes, and many other services.
We then switch gears and talk with someone from Stardust Family United, a local of the IWW made up of service workers at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, a restaurant in NYC where performers and singers work and also perform songs during the dining experience. For the last several months, they’ve been organizing, taking action, and facing repression from their boss.
We talk about how and why the union came about, how the union grew over time, and how IWW member dealt with a series of firings. We also then discuss how workers have carried out a wide variety of job actions, strikes, and pickets which have all sought to put pressure on the company.
We hope that these stories of workplace organizing inspire you and show that workplace organizing outside and against the control of the big unions is still possible and can build power on the shop floor while also bringing together working-class people to fight for their interests.
Music: 21 Pilots, Dillinger Four, and Tom Morello