This is the first part of a series of concrete examples and very brief summaries of organizations that have some component of direct action and a form of collective bargaining that operate outside the labour relations framework. The first series are entirely owner operator associations in Transportation. There is a conventional argument, bolstered by employers, that these folks are not workers but rather small business people. Of course that’s nonsense, being a worker is not determined by the form of wage you take and being paid piece rate is as old as payment itself. Owning your own tools does not make someone a business owner, if that were the case many tradesmen wouldn’t be workers. These workers have responded to a unique situation that opens up positive examples for organisers all over and should be watched.
Today we share a review of Lines of Work, a collection of stories on organizing and life on the job, put together by fellow Recomposition editor Scott Nappalos, and which you can find here.
This review is by Garage Collective and it first appeared on their blog.
An introduction to Lines of Work by Scott Nappalos is also provided below.
Lines of Work: Stories of Jobs and Resistance
By Scott Nikolas Nappalos, ed. (Alberta, Canada: Black Cat Press, 2013)
Review by Jared Davidson, first published in LHP Bulletin 64.
Lines of Work is a fascinating, at times bleak and emotive volume of stories about work and its effect on our lives. How fitting then, that my review copy was waiting for me after my usual 20-minute trip home from work had stretched to four hours, thanks to the flooding in Wellington of 14 May 2015. Work (with a little help from the weather) had kept me away from my loved ones even more than it already does on a day-to-day basis. That period after clocking out was clearly not my own time, but that of capital.
What is the role of unions in a future free society? How does the structure of capitalism and unions today reflect that? The difficulty of the end of the 1920s (fascism and repression, changes in demographics and industries) gave an opportunity for reflection on strategy and vision of the revolutionary movement. This happened mainly within the International Workers Association (IWA-AIT) which at the time likely involved millions of workers across the world, but also within the IWW. The subject is poorly studied with minimal resources in English, most of what is publicly available about the IWA can be reduced to a few articles. The debate was wide ranging covering union structure, future society, revolutionary methods, amongst other subjects. Part of the discussion focused on whether revolutionary unions should adopt craft or industrial unions as their primary structure.
What follows is a translation of Medios de Lucha, Means of Struggle, by Emilio Lopez Arango, a working class autodidact and baker; the main thinker of Argentina’s powerful Federacion Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA). The FORA dominated the Argentine labor movement for decades in the turn of the century and its model spread across Latin America, in some cases like Chile and Mexico displacing the IWW affiliates. In the piece Arango grapples with the question of industrial organization and industrial unionism and critiques the IWW’s idea that unions within capitalism should form the basis for a future society especially centered on using capitalist industries as the model. He was not alone in this as some IWWs also critiqued it. We also recommend reading the recent piece by S Nicholas Nappalos that looks at the debate more in depth.
The piece today is also part 5 of our Against the IWW series, which, to be clear we’re not anti-IWW, we’re very pro-IWW and we’re running this series because we think IWW members should read criticisms of the IWW, discuss them with each other, and be able to respond to those criticisms. In our organizing we inoculate our co-workers to the criticisms employers make of the IWW. Similarly IWW members should be inoculated against political criticisms of the IWW. We invite people to write full rebuttals to this and all of the other criticisms of the IWW and submit them to us and to other web sites and publications.
Today we share an article that first appeared in Deric Shannon’s book The End of the World As We Know It? published by AK Press. “Necessary Steps in Tough Economic Times” by Marianne LeNabat, one of our editors at Recomposition, takes us through an overview of how students in recent decades have become saddled with debt, how a student movement rose up in NY during the height of OWS, some of the lessons we can draw from organized resistance, and the ripples that student fights caused spreading solidarity throughout various sectors of society.
Today’s post comes to us from fellow IWW’s in Houston giving us a brief overview on their recent work around the USW strikes on the oil refineries.
Click here and you can also listen to an interview with two of the Houston wobs talking about the work their branch is doing, and also their perspectives on the IWW’s projects at large.
A Houston Wobb’s Reflection on the USW Strike
Unions’ power is in decay and lately have been resorting to more creative methods in order to remain relevant. We’ve seen the Democrats putting their money behind the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight For $15 in Houston at the same time attempting to “turn Texas blue.” But this dependency of unions like SEIU and the United Steel Workers (USW) on the Democratic Party means they are severely limited in what they are willing to do in the realm of tactics. This along with union density being sharply in decline, as well as union power being undermined by Right-to-Work spreading to states like Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, means the unions are not up for waging anything close to a class struggle. Instead unions like the USW maintain their position as representing only certain interests and timidly bargaining around them. (more…)