24 November 2008

Next IWW Meeting

The next meeting of the IWW Vancouver will be on Wednesday, November 26, 7
PM at Spartacus Books, 684 E. Hastings. All are welcome to attend.


IWW IU 450

24 September 2008

Next IWW Meeting

The next meeting of the IWW Vancouver will be on Wednesday,
September 24, 7 PM at Spartacus Books, 684 E. Hastings.
Thanks to Sean for informing us that the 24th is the
90th anniversary of the IWW being declared illegal in
Canada. All are welcome to attend.


8 September 2008

Kenneth Rexroth's Rebel Poetry

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982) was an American poet who acted as an inspiration and mentor to the burgeoning Beat Generation of the 1950s. In addition to this he was an IWW member with a long involvement in radical, anarchist, and anti-war causes. His poem "The Bad Old Days" (1956) reflects upon how he spent his youth gaining a growing class-consciousness and awareness of capitalist monstrosities.

The Bad Old Days

The summer of nineteen eighteen
I read The Jungle and The
Research Magnificent. That fall
My father died and my aunt
Took me to Chicago to live.
The first thing I did was to take
A streetcar to the stockyards.
In the winter afternoon
Gritty and fetid, I walked
Through the filthy snow, through the
Squalid streets, looking shyly
Into the people’s faces,
Those who were home in the daytime.
Debauched and exhausted faces,
Starved and looted brains, faces
Like the faces in the senile
And insane wards of charity
Hospitals. Predatory
Faces of little children.
Then as the soiled twilight darkened,
Under the green gas lamps, and the
Sputtering purple arc lamps,
The faces of the men coming
Home from work, some still alive with
The last pulse of hope or courage,
Some sly and bitter, some smart and
Silly, most of them already
Broken and empty, no life,
Only blinding tiredness, worse
Than any tired animal.
The sour smells of a thousand
Suppers of fried potatoes and
Fried cabbage bled into the street.
I was giddy and sick, and out
Of my misery I felt rising
A terrible anger and out
Of the anger, an absolute vow.
Today the evil is clean
And prosperous, but it is
Everywhere, you don’t have to
Take a streetcar to find it,
And it is the same evil.
And the misery, and the
Anger, and the vow are the same.

25 July 2008

Next IWW Meeting

The next meeting of the IWW Vancouver will be on Wednesday, July 30th, 7 PM at the new location of Spartacus Books, 684 E. Hastings.

All are welcome to attend.

10 July 2008

Wobbly Art: THIEF!

I just came across this fabulous piece from the IWW campaign to ban child labour, I assume, in the US. I know very little about the actual piece, but I can only guess that it was done pre-1938. That was the year child labour was officially banned in the US under the "Fair Labor Standards Act"--and by that point the IWW had been in decline, as far as I know, after repeated red scares and crack downs on the part of the government. My best guess is that this from sometime in the 1920s.

Nonetheless, a great piece. Don't you wish union posters were still this honest?

30 June 2008

Global Day of Action Against Starbucks

For Immediate Release:

IWW Starbucks Workers Union, StarbucksUnion.org

Global Day of Action Will Protest Starbucks¢ Anti-Union Terminations

Coordinated Actions Across the U.S., Europe, and Latin America Could Be Largest Ever Against Coffee Chain

Grand Rapids , MI ( 06-30-2008 )- Union members and social activists are gearing up for what may be the largest, global coordinated action against Starbucks ever. Protesters will decry what they see as an epidemic of anti-union terminations by the world¢s largest coffee chain. Starbucks and its CEO Howard Schultz have exhibited a pattern of firing outspoken union baristas ever since the advent of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union in 2004 and are demonstrating the same practice against the CNT union in Spain.

"On July 5th people around the world will show Starbucks that we, baristas along with our supporters, will have a voice and Starbucks discrimination and repression of our efforts will not go un-checked", said Cole Dorsey.

The IWW and CNT have called for the day of action in response to two recent anti-union terminations. On April 24, Starbucks fired Monica in Sevilla , Spain , for her activity on behalf of the CNT union. She asked to be identified by only her first name to avoid future employment discrimination. On June 6, Starbucks fired 2 year barista Cole Dorsey in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for his activity on behalf of the Industrial Workers of the World union. These firings come in the midst of Unfair Labor Practice charges being investigated by the NLRB against Starbucks in Grand Rapids, including whether Starbucks violated a previous Labor Board settlement there, and deliberations by a judge on the anti-union terminations of three IWW baristas in New York City.

The firing of Monica, in Spain , made clear that Starbucks union-busting policies were not specific to the US, but were decided by the top echelons of the corporation in Seattle . The Confederacion Nacional de Trabajadores ( CNT ) quickly responded in Spain with local pressure to reinstate their member.

Due to Starbucks globalized response to union activists, the Starbucks Union (IWW) and the Sevilla CNT vowed to join struggles for the reinstatement of their members. As a consequence of that declaration, July 5th was called for a Global Day of Action Against Starbucks Repression. In a show of solidarity, Cole and Monica vowed not to return until both were reinstated.

Actions against Starbucks will take place in: Argentina, Chile, the British Isles, Italy, Japan, Norway, Serbia, Poland, Slovakia, 4 cities in Spain, 6 cities in Germany. In the US: Phoenix, Philadelphia, Grand Rapids, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles .

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is a grassroots organization of employees at the world's largest coffee chain united for better pay, stable work schedules, safer working conditions, and easier access to more affordable health care. The union has members throughout the United States fighting for systemic change at the company and remedying individual grievances with management.

Grand Rapids Protest begins at 4pm at the Starbucks located at 2757 East Beltline
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

18 June 2008

Next IWW Meeting

The next meeting of the IWW Vancouver will be on Wednesday, June 18, 7 PM at the new location of Spartacus Books, 684 E. Hastings. All are welcome to attend.

My apologies for the short notice on this one, folks.

12 June 2008

Union Busting in Poland

A message from trade unionist Laure Akai in Poland on the situation within the country:

"Hello. I'm a member of a Polish union (KFP) and a political group called ZSP. Attached please find an article about a case which is underway in Poland... Thank you very much for your consideration.

One Corporation's Public Secrets: Lionbridge Case to be Closely Observed

In January I published an article entitled "Lionbridge, the Globalization of Low Wages" on the internet. Lionbridge is the largest corporation in the globalization industry, which, among other things, translates and localizes software for giants such as Microsoft, Google and Adobe, provides Microsoft hotline services and even, controversially, provides interpreters to the Irish courts. As the company is not a household name, the article did not, at first, generate any real interest and probably would have gone unnoticed had people from that company not read it and had it not lead to the firing of a unionist in their Polish office."

Read more: Link to Full Story

30 May 2008

Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73

The offical Obituary as provided by the family, May 24, 2008.

Nevada City, California - Utah Phillips, a seminal figure in American folk music who performed extensively and tirelessly for audiences on two continents for 38 years, died Friday of congestive heart failure in Nevada City, California a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains where he lived for the last 21 years with his wife, Joanna Robinson, a freelance editor.

Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son of labor organizers. Whether through this early influence or an early life that was not always tranquil or easy, by his twenties Phillips demonstrated a lifelong concern with the living conditions of working people. He was a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as "the Wobblies," an organizational artifact of early twentieth-century labor struggles that has seen renewed interest and growth in membership in the last decade, not in small part due to his efforts to popularize it.

Phillips served as an Army private during the Korean War, an experience he would later refer to as the turning point of his life. Deeply affected by the devastation and human misery he had witnessed, upon his return to the United States he began drifting, riding freight trains around the country. His struggle would be familiar today, when the difficulties of returning combat veterans are more widely understood, but in the late fifties Phillips was left to work them out for himself. Destitute and drinking, Phillips got off a freight train in Salt Lake City and wound up at the Joe Hill House, a homeless shelter operated by the anarchist Ammon Hennacy, a member of the Catholic Worker movement and associate of Dorothy Day.

Phillips credited Hennacy and other social reformers he referred to as his "elders" with having provided a philosophical framework around which he later constructed songs and stories he intended as a template his audiences could employ to understand their own political and working lives. They were often hilarious, sometimes sad, but never shallow.

"He made me understand that music must be more than cotton candy for the ears," said John McCutcheon, a nationally-known folksinger and close friend.
In the creation of his performing persona and work, Phillips drew from influences as diverse as Borscht Belt comedian Myron Cohen, folksingers Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and Country stars Hank Williams and T. Texas Tyler.

A stint as an archivist for the State of Utah in the 1960s taught Phillips the discipline of historical research; beneath the simplest and most folksy of his songs was a rigorous attention to detail and a strong and carefully-crafted narrative structure. He was a voracious reader in a surprising variety of fields.
Meanwhile, Phillips was working at Hennacy's Joe Hill house. In 1968 he ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. The race was won by a Republican candidate, and Phillips was seen by some Democrats as having split the vote. He subsequently lost his job with the State of Utah, a process he described as "blacklisting."

Phillips left Utah for Saratoga Springs, New York, where he was welcomed into a lively community of folk performers centered at the Caffé Lena, operated by Lena Spencer.

"It was the coffeehouse, the place to perform. Everybody went there. She fed everybody," said John "Che" Greenwood, a fellow performer and friend.
Over the span of the nearly four decades that followed, Phillips worked in what he referred to as "the Trade," developing an audience of hundreds of thousands and performing in large and small cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. His performing partners included Rosalie Sorrels, Kate Wolf, John McCutcheon and Ani DiFranco.

"He was like an alchemist," said Sorrels, "He took the stories of working people and railroad bums and he built them into work that was influenced by writers like Thomas Wolfe, but then he gave it back, he put it in language so the people whom the songs and stories were about still had them, still owned them. He didn't believe in stealing culture from the people it was about."

A single from Phillips's first record, "Moose Turd Pie," a rollicking story about working on a railroad track gang, saw extensive airplay in 1973. From then on, Phillips had work on the road. His extensive writing and recording career included two albums with Ani DiFranco which earned a Grammy nomination. Phillips's songs were performed and recorded by Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez, Tom Waits, Joe Ely and others. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Folk Alliance in 1997.

Phillips, something of a perfectionist, claimed that he never lost his stage fright before performances. He didn't want to lose it, he said; it kept him improving.
Phillips began suffering from the effects of chronic heart disease in 2004, and as his illness kept him off the road at times, he started a nationally syndicated folk-music radio show, "Loafer's Glory," produced at KVMR-FM and started a homeless shelter in his rural home county, where down-on-their-luck men and women were sleeping under the manzanita brush at the edge of town. Hospitality House opened in 2005 and continues to house 25 to 30 guests a night. In this way, Phillips returned to the work of his mentor Hennacy in the last four years of his life.

Phillips died at home, in bed, in his sleep, next to his wife. He is survived by his son Duncan and daughter-in-law Bobette of Salt Lake City, son Brendan of Olympia, Washington; daughter Morrigan Belle of Washington, D.C.; stepson Nicholas Tomb of Monterrey, California; stepson and daughter-in-law Ian Durfee and Mary Creasey of Davis, California; brothers David Phillips of Fairfield, California, Ed Phillips of Cleveland, Ohio and Stuart Cohen of Los Angeles; sister Deborah Cohen of Lisbon, Portugal; and a grandchild, Brendan. He was preceded in death by his father Edwin Phillips and mother Kathleen, and his stepfather, Syd Cohen.

The family requests memorial donations to Hospitality House, P.O. Box 3223, Grass Valley, California 95945 (530) 271-7144 www.hospitalityhouseshelter.org
Jordan Fisher Smith and Molly Fisk
Molly Fisk, 530.277.4686 - molly@mollyfisk.com
Jordan Fisher Smith 530.277.3087 - jordanfs@gv.net

23 May 2008

Join the IWW (Video)

Next IWW Meet-Up

The next meeting of the IWW Vancouver will be on Wednesday, May 28, 7 PM at Spartacus Books, 319 West Hastings. All are welcome to attend. This will be the last meeting here, as Spartacus is moving into new digs about 8 blocks east, at 684 E. Hastings.


IWW IU 450

24 April 2008

Next IWW Vancouver Meeting

The next meeting of the IWW Vancouver will be on Wednesday, April 30, 7 PM at Spartacus Books, 319 West Hastings. All are welcome to attend.


IWW IU 450

2 April 2008

Job Market 2009

My apologies for the long delay in posts but it's been a busy couple of weeks. We'll hope to keep you posted on a more regular basis. Until then, a video on a interesting vision of the future?

1 March 2008

"Sun-Rype labour dispute finally resolved"

Sun-Rype labour dispute finally resolved
(Feb. 28, 2008)
Teamster members at Sun-Rype voted 77% on Feb. 23 in favour of a four-year agreement and are
expected to return to work soon.
The agreement is retroactive to August 2006 when the previous collective agreement expired and
includes a 12% wage increase over the four years (2%, 3%, 3% and 4% respectively),
severance clause and policy on contracting out.
Read more: 

21 February 2008

Forum & IWW Meeting

On Wednesday, February 27, 2008, at 6 PM there will be a Young Workers Followup Discussion Forum at the Organizing Centre for Economic & Social Justice 672 E. Broadway (at Fraser St.),Vancouver.

Afterward the IWW Vancouver will have our monthly meeting at the nearby Rhizome Cafe, 317 E. Broadway (across from the Kingsgate Mall).

3 February 2008

Speak Out: DTES Protests and Photo-Ops

Some more musings from our membership. As always, these are personal not reflections and not necessarily indicative of the "officially" views of the branch or union as a whole.

Homelessness, the Olympics, and the Downtown Eastside

On January 23, Michaëlle Jean, the appointed Governor General of Canada, visited Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Most people in the Greater Vancouver area are aware of the poverty and homelessness that afflict many residents there. It would not be an exaggeration to say that most people sincerely wish to put an end to this poverty and see to it that the long-term suffering of the area is ended for good.

It seems that the people who least wish to see this barbarism swept away are the capitalist press, who went out of their way to demonize protesters who accompanied the Governor General during her visit. They expressed concern at their heckling and loud presence at the event without attempting to explain their reasons for doing so. However, the protesters are right in understanding that photo-ops can never solve social issues, and our sluggish government needs to be prodded into action if we wish to see some long-term solutions to homelessness. In short, it will be voices from below that bring about the programs desperately needed in the neighbourhood, not public-relations extravaganzas from above.

This government has continued to spend exorbitant amounts of money on projects that will be beneficial only to the city's capitalists and CEOs. The most glaring example of this is the 2010 Winter Olympics. While an estimated 15,500 people in the province are homeless, the BC Liberal government has spent its budget on an enormous and expensive spectacle. Needless to say, the Olympics ensure that many large corporations will be kept busy with various contracts and projects all coordinated by the government itself. However, if we must have (for the time being) a government running under the current methods it should at least have taking care of those suffering the most as its number one priority, not the interests of capitalism. In order to create this the protests must continue. The photo-ops, on the other hand, need not.


28 January 2008

New IWW Canada Site

There is a new Canadian IWW site, still under construction, but looking good so far. Check it out and consider signing up or contacting your local branch(es).


23 January 2008

Next IWW Vancouver Meeting

The next meeting of the Vancouver IWW will be on Wednesday, January 30th at 7PM at Spartacus Books, 319 West Hastings. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

IWW IU 450

14 January 2008

Speak Out: Privatizing Transit

Since our members are making a regular habit of emailing me their thoughts on various issues concerning working peoples around BC, Canada and the world, I thought it would make sense to have a sort of unified title for these ala our "Wobbly Art" series. So, welcome to the first "edition" of "Speak Out"--the running column of sorts kept running by all the so inclined members of the Vancouver IWW.

Today's piece is on the recent events surrounding Translink and the future of public transit in British Columbia. As always, the views expressed here are those of the individuals members, and not necessarily those of the branch or union as a whole.

Privatizing Transit

As of January 1st of this year, Translink has raised their fares. Despite a $17 million surplus they have still found it necessary to charge riders more for the buses, skytrains, and seabuses of this area. For those who have gotten the short end of the capitalist stick this is very seriousmany people depend upon public transit as a means of transportation and often rely on bus services for their livelihood. When someone's income is low, the bus fare becomes yet another burden along with rent, groceries, bills, etc that the capitalist wage system is reluctant to cover. As such many people are aware of the rise in fares and have begun to feel their affects. However, what has been largely ignored is the BC government's decision on November 29th, 2007, to instate Bill 43.

This piece of legislature more or less removes any vestiges of democratic accountability from the Translink Board of Directors. What once was a democratically elected board of public officials is now a privately controlled board of capitalists who received their positions by appointment from such organisations as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC, the Board of Directors of the Vancouver Board of Trade, and the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council. This new board of directors will be able to institute a wide range of new policies without the same level of accountability to the people that was present before. Could the total privatization of our transit system be far off? An ominous development in this story was that the new board of directors came into power on January 1st and got busy right away, raising the fares on the very same day. This rather unsubtle move has received limited fanfare within the media.

What has received even less attention from the capitalist press has been a grassroots effort to oppose Bill 43. A spirited rally was held on November 21st, but more can and should be done to ensure that the transit system, upon which so many people depend, is kept out of the hands of a few businessmen who have no concern for the voice of the people.

External Links:

Keep Transit Public:

Bus Rider's Union


5 January 2008

Whistle Blowing Guide

The following is an article from LibCom that originally appeared in an issue of the Industrial Worker.

Whistle Blowing Guide

Sometimes simply telling people the truth about what goes on at work can put a lot of pressure on the boss. This page contains information on using information to winning improvements at work.

Consumer industries like restaurants and packing plants are the most vulnerable. And again, as in the case of the good work strike, you'll be gaining the support of the public, whose patronage can make or break a business.

Whistle blowing can be as simple as a face-to-face conversation with a customer, or it can be as dramatic as the P.G.&E. engineer who revealed that the blueprints to the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor had been reversed. Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle blew the lid off the scandalous health standards and working conditions of the meatpacking industry when it was published earlier this century.

Waiters can tell their restaurant clients about the various shortcuts and substitutions that go into creating the faux-haute cuisine being served to them. When their complaints about poor hygiene were ignored, IWW Starbucks union members in New York took photographs of rats and cockroaches in the coffee shop outlets and showed them to customers on picket lines.

On a related line - almost all businesses are very scared of a tax audit...

Just as working to rule puts an end to the usual relaxation of standards, whistle-blowing reveals it for all to know.

Whistle-blowers should be warned, however, that this carries a high risk of getting the sack - particularly in a small organisation - so be careful!