Tag Archives: labor

Strike at Insomnia Cookies, Harvard Square

19 Aug

Strike! Calling all Allies of Low-Wage Workers
Turn Out to Support Striking Workers at Insomnia Cookies!

Click here for article with photos

At 12:00 am on Sunday, August 18, the night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies voted to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare, better job stability, and freedom to build a union. Insomnia Cookies, with around 30 locations in the Northeast and Midwest, caters to college students and runs late night deliveries of warm cookies and milk to dorm rooms. Still delivering cookies until 2:45 am, Insomnia workers who double-duty as bakers and cashiers receive only 9$ an hour, while “drivers,” who are expected to deliver cookies by bicycle within a half hour, receive only 5$ an hour plus tips. Neither receive healthcare, at a job where turnover is so high, the typical employee lasts only a few months. Insomnia workers have had enough, and they need your help if they can keep their jobs and achieve their goals.

Picketing, which began Sunday afternoon, will continue tomorrow, Tuesday, August 20 at noon. Workers will picket at noon on Wednesday and Thursday as well, and also hold a mass rally at 6pm Thursday evening. Workers will hold their picket at the Harvard Square location, 65 Mt Auburn St  Cambridge, MA 02138.
The company also plans to open a new location near Boston University at 708 Commonwealth Ave in the near future.

Check the Boston IWW website for updates: http://iwwboston.org/
From the Strikers:

Harvard Insomnia Strike Agreement

The following Employees of Insomnia Cookies hereby vote to go on Strike on August 18, 2013 at 12:00am.

Our Demands:

1) Higher Wages.

2.) Benefits to Include Health Care and Dental.

3.) Union Membership.

We stand in solidarity with all those low wage workers across the country who are oppressed and exploited.

Long Live the Workers Movement!

(signed by four workers, a shift leader, 2 bakers, and a driver).

For updates:
http://iwwboston.org/

Link

Cradle of Liberty Issue 3

5 Aug

Cradle of Liberty Issue 3

Hey all, check out my newest articles and other great 
news stories in the latest issue of The Cradle of Liberty:

We are proud to announce the release of Issue #3 of The Cradle of Liberty,
a Newsletter of Mass. Struggles. View it here:
Issue 3

Inside this issue:
-Somerville Passes Wage Theft Ordinance
-Bostonians Vent Anger at Martin’s Death, Zimmerman’s Acquittal, and
Violence in Their City
-Workers and Allies Demand Higher Minimum Wage
-Fighting for Workers’ Rights at Harvard University
-Activists Rally to Re-imagine Reproductive Justice
-MBTA Hikes Averted, But Taxes Raised in New State Budget
-Hyatt Agrees to Union Contract for Workers in Several Major Cities,
Boston Not Included

Check out our website to download the Web Version or the
Print Version –
Print out some copies!The Cradle of Liberty is an all volunteer run organization, we invite you
to print out some copies on 11×17 paper and help distribute the paper to
your friends, co-workers and around your community!

History of May Day

1 May

Hey friends,

  Below is an essay that appeared in my book, Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation: The History of BAAM, and Other Essays. We ran various versions of this article in the old BAAM Newsletter, updating it each May. Enjoy, and hope to see you in the streets today!

       -Jake Carman

 

How Migrant Workers Won the Eight-hour Day: A History of May Day

The Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement Newsletter, Issue # 33 – May, 2010

 

 

In the United States in the late 1800s, workers in general and migrant workers in particular faced abysmal conditions on the job. Workers, including children, could suffer sixteen or more hours a day under dangerous, stifling, sweatshop conditions to earn starvation wages and live in cramped quarters. Like today, workers poured in from all over the world to pursue the American Dream through their own honest labor. Workers came from Ireland, Italy, Germany, China, Russia, Japan, Spain, Mexico, Norway, Syria, Slovakia, Poland, and elsewhere in search of better lives. When they arrived, however, they faced blatant racism and hate, just like migrant workers do today. Eking out hard livings in tight-knit ethnic communities, most were considered second-class citizens, regarded as diseased criminals, untrustworthy scoundrels, and, more importantly, a cheap and dispensable source of labor.

Comparing their tortured conditions to the lives of luxury and leisure that their labor provided to the factory owners and bosses, these workers became determined to do more than exist as slaves; they would organize and win for themselves lives worthy of humans. Many immigrants brought with them the radical traditions of their native countries. Anarchists, socialists, and other revolutionaries found eager ears among their fellow workers, foreign and native-born alike. Recognizing the injustices of the United States, they dreamt of a world where workers control the products of their labor, where all people have access to food and housing, and where communities, not politicians and bosses, make the decisions.

A movement for the eight-hour day started gaining momentum across the country. This struggle, undertaken by reformers and radicals alike, demanded eight hours for work, eight for sleep, and eight for leisure. Chicago’s strong labor movement pressed for, and was rewarded with, eight-hour legislation in 1867, to be enacted May 1. However, when that day came, the bosses refused to respect it and the government didn’t force them to. Chicago’s militant, organized workers went on strike to protest, but the police brutally crushed their resistance within a week and the despondent workers returned to their jobs. The only thing that changed for Chicago’s toilers is that they lost confidence that change could be achieved through legislation.

This rejection of reformism remained in the collective memory of Chicago’s workers and by 1886, another, more radical eight-hour movement sprang up. Led by migrant and other workers of the anarchist International Working People’s Association (IWPA), a general strike was planned for May 1 to proclaim the power and strength of Chicago’s determined workers. On May 1, 1886, 400,000 went on strike in Chicago, with another 350,000 joining them across the nation. Eighty thousand people marched through Chicago’s streets on May Day, defying the artificial boundaries the rulers used to divide them—race, sex, nationality, and trade—and their demonstration of unity terrified the upper class. Determined not to concede anything and to hoard all of the wealth they had robbed from the poor, the rich set out to crush the movement with violence.

 

Labor Crucified

The workers’ momentum continued with strikes and demonstrations. On May 3, the striking “lumber shovers” union held a public meeting of 6,000 near the McCormick plant. The police, loyally serving and protecting the interests of wealthy capitalists, attacked the meeting with guns and batons, killing one worker and wounding more. Outraged, anarchists posted a call in their daily German-language paper, the Arbeiter-Zeitung (“Workers’ Newspaper”) for a May 4 protest meeting at Haymarket Square.

On May 4, thousands gathered at Haymarket to denounce police violence. The crowd listened to speeches by migrant anarchist workers, such as August Spies and Samuel Fielden. Even the mayor of Chicago, who attended the beginning half of the rally, said, “nothing looked likely to happen to require police interference,” and he advised police captain Bonfield to send his forces home. Bonfield didn’t. Around 10 P.M., after the mayor and many attendees left, and as Fielden was calling the meeting to a close, Bonfield’s force of two-hundred officers marched on the rally, threatening violence and demanding it break up. Just then, someone threw a bomb at the police, killing one instantly and injuring many. In the chaos, police fired indiscriminately, killing seven of their own officers and numerous demonstrators, though they never counted how many workers they slaughtered.

A reign of terror followed while the state prosecutor publicly advised the police to target anarchists: “make the raids first and look up the law afterwards.” Police arrested all known anarchists and raided meeting halls, printing offices, and homes. Eight prominent anarchists, newspaper editors, and unionists were charged with the Haymarket bombing. They were August Spies, Sam Fielden, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg, and Oscar Neebe. Of the eight men, seven were immigrants, and only three were at Haymarket that night. The state prosecutor handpicked a biased jury, and presented no evidence connecting the accused to the bomb. As the prosecution argued in court, “Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the Grand Jury, and indicted because they were leaders. They are no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury; convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society.” So they did.

A massive international campaign for their freedom emerged, led by Lucy Parsons, wife of Albert and a skilled labor organizer in her own right. In response, the state commuted the sentences of Schwab and Fielden to life imprisonment, and Neebe got fifteen years. The gallows awaited the rest. The fiery young German carpenter, Louis Lingg, cheated the hangman. He committed suicide in his cell the day before his execution. On November 11, 1887, Parsons, Engel, Spies, and Fischer were hanged. Six hundred thousand people attended their funeral.

The state murdered those five anarchist organizers. At the time it was seen as a setback for the eight-hour movement, but the event radicalized many more, like Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre, who later became influential anarchists. Their radical careers were inspired by the anarchists of Chicago.

The American Federation of Labor and the anarchist IWPA took the streets again on May Day, 1890, and the movement for the eight-hour day pressed on. Carrying on the legacy of the Haymarket Martyrs, organized labor began to make headway. The United Mine Workers achieved the eight-hour day in 1898, as did the Building Trades Council of San Francisco in 1900, printing trades across the U.S. in 1905, and Ford Motor workers in 1914. In 1916, threatening a nationwide general strike, U.S. railroad workers forced the government to pass the Adamson Act, which won them an eight-hour day, with additional pay for overtime.

Finally in 1938, massive militant movements of workers and the unemployed forced the Roosevelt government to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act, establishing for many the eight-hour day with extra overtime pay, as well as a national minimum wage, and the abolition of “oppressive child labor.”

 

Repression: The Decline of Labor

Frightened by the gains of the U.S. labor movement and by the revolution in Russia, the U.S. ruling class utilized their government to undermine labor’s achievements and used violence, racism, nationalism, and red baiting to splinter the movement. On May Day 1919, police and citizens bitten by the bug of blind patriotism attacked workers’ parades. Hundreds of workers were arrested, hundreds more were badly beaten, and many workers’ headquarters were ransacked. In Roxbury, MA, police and nationalists assaulted parading workers, beating them with clubs, trampling them with horses, and shooting at them. In the ensuing battle, two workers and two officers were shot, and a police chief died of a heart attack.

Beyond the violence of the police club, the government also passed a slew of laws to make the deportation of immigrant activists easier, and to keep foreign radicals out. In 1903, a new law excluded anarchists and other revolutionaries from entering the United States and enabled the government to deport radicals who had lived here for three years or less. It was broadened in 1917 to make immigrants deportable for up to five years, with no time limit for those who advocated anarchism or revolution. In 1918, a new law allowed the deportation of “aliens who are members of, or affiliated with, any organization…that writes, circulates, distributes, prints, publishes or displays, or causes to be written…or has in its possession…any written or printed matter” of an anarchist or revolutionary nature. From 1919 until 1921, U.S. Attorney General Palmer used these laws in a wave of arrests and deportations, targeting Italian anarchists and other radicals. Radicals who were not deported either fled overseas or went underground. The Palmer Raids decimated the workers’ movement. During this time, Massachusetts framed and executed immigrant workers Sacco and Vanzetti based on their Italian heritage and anarchist beliefs in what is recognized worldwide as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in history.

From the Palmer Raids to the Red Scare, the government used fear of radicals and hatred of foreigners to divide the labor movement. These divisions still cut through the working class. As a direct result, organized labor is a depressing shadow of what it once was. Most unions are too weak and corrupt to effectively combat the dominance of the capitalists. With help from the U.S. government and pro-capitalist unions, workers have even forgotten their holiday! Although International Workers’ Day is celebrated throughout the world, until 2006 only a small handful of U.S. radicals commemorated May Day.

 

We Struggle On: May Day Today

In May 2006, it was again the migrant workers who led the struggle for the rights of workers worldwide. Reviving the tradition of International Workers’ Day with El Gran Paro Estadounidense (the Great American Strike), migrant workers organized a one-day strike of work and school and a boycott of commerce. Millions participated in the demonstrations, especially in Los Angeles and also Chicago, the birthplace of International Workers’ Day. Tens of thousands marched in Boston and Everett, MA. Everywhere, workers and student allies joined the immigrants, and the demonstrations helped to stop H.R. 4437, a bill that would have made felons of all undocumented immigrants. In Boston, as across the country, workers again marched for migrants’ rights on May Day 2007 and 2008.

In 2009, we march on May Day once more. Bosses and politicians, aware of the economic depression their system has caused, look for scapegoats. Fearing a renewed movement of united workers that might force them to share the wealth and power, the rich spread racism and nationalism. They hope to turn U.S.-born workers against their migrant sisters and brothers. We will not let this happen.

The state terrorizes migrant worker communities with raids and tears families apart with deportations. They beg U.S.-born workers to separate themselves from the “foreigners,” and celebrate not May Day, but “Loyalty Day” on May 1st. To this we reply: we U.S.-born workers are loyal. We are loyal to our class, loyal to our communities, and loyal to the workers of the world! No human is illegal, and all workers deserve the same rights and freedoms. Just like the Haymarket Martyrs, we will march onward until the day when workers are no longer divided, exploited, or terrorized. We will work together to free ourselves from the bosses and politicians who have dominated our lives with fear and violence for so long.

Until that day, we remember the Haymarket Martyrs, and all of the other nameless workers who have fallen in the struggle for justice, for freedom, and for the workers’ revolution.

No Borders! No Deportations! No Bosses! No Nations!

The Republic Workers Remind Us That Direct Action Gets the Goods

17 Dec

The Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement Newsletter, Issue # 16 – December 2008

 

 

At a time when big business is begging the government for big-money bail-outs and getting them, while workers get laid off and tenants and home owners get evicted, the employees of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago have taken matters into their own hands. And they have won. On December 5, 2008, following the announcement that the factory, which employs 300 people, would close in three days, 250 workers began a sit-down strike that may serve as a catalyst for a renaissance of working-class resistance throughout the United States. Republic CEO Rich Gillman informed the workers that although Bank of America recently received a $25 billion bailout, they were pulling their loan from the factory. As a result, Gillman gave his employees three days notice of the closure of Republic—well short of the 60 days notice required by federal law.

Facing the grim prospect of joining millions of others on the unemployment line, the workers, members of the United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 1110, refused to leave. They conducted a sit-down strike and took over the factory. The occupation lasted five days, and quickly won attention from the media, politicians, and others, and shamed Bank of America back to the bargaining table.

Well-known activist Reverend Jesse Jackson brought food to the workers and said, “These workers are to this struggle perhaps what Rosa Parks was to social justice 50 years ago… This, in many ways, is the beginning of a larger movement for mass action to resist economic violence.”

President-elect Barack Obama also offered his support. “When it comes to the situation here in Chicago” he said, “with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right . . . what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.”

On December 9, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich came out with a statement that his state’s government would boycott Bank of America until the loan to Republic was reinstated. The next morning, however, the FBI arrested the Governor for alleged corruption. As a result, the media that had gathered at the Republic factory left to cover the Governor’s arrest. All the cars on the street outside of the factory were towed. Workers inside issued a call in fear of a raid on their plant. The raid, however, never came.

The politicians and corporate media were not the only ones paying attention. According to Giuseppe, an eyewitness to the occupation, “there is definitely an increased sense of class consciousness…other workers have been inspired.” He also said that mainstream unions, which had previously shunned the UE, have pledged to use similar tactics. Republic workers have vowed to offer the same kind of solidarity and support they received to others struggling in the future.

After only five days of the occupation, the media attention, and the resulting public outcry, Bank of America agreed to reinstate some of its loan, along with $400,000 from JP Morgan Chase. According to Chicago Independent Media Center, “late Wednesday night…more than 200 workers and members of UE Local 1110 voted unanimously to accept a $1.75 million settlement that includes eight weeks of back pay, two months of continued health coverage, and compensation for unused vacation time.” “We fought to make them pay what they owe us, and we won,” said Local 1110 representatives.

Republic has stated that it will not reopen the plant, and neither will the landlord, the Mars Candy Corporation. According to Giuseppe, the union “has created the Windows of Opportunities Fund to raise money to buy the factory, which would make it essentially worker-managed. There hasn’t been discussion about what that would look like.”

As embattled Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner said in an interview, “The workers in Chicago are showing us the way…We see them stand up and say `If them, why not us.’ That’s the nature of evolutionary/revolutionary change.” Just like the Chicago workers who led the 1880s movement that won us the eight-hour day, the workers of the Republic Windows and Doors factory are an example to the rest of us. The government is willing to use our tax dollars to help the richest CEOs keep their companies, but when it comes to defending what is ours–our jobs, our homes, our communities, and our futures–the only way to win is to band together and fight back.

Remembering the Angelica Strike

10 Dec

In remembrance of the victorious strike that began three years ago today.

Angelica Workers Win Strike

The Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement Newsletter, Issue # 29 – January 2010

After a five day strike beginning on December 10, 2009, the largely immigrant workforce of Angelica Textile Services in Somerville won a new contract with benefits and higher wages. Angelica, a billion dollar company with over five thousand workers nationally, counting on its board the likes of Jeb Bush (George’s brother and former Governor of Florida) had stalled negotiations with the Somerville workers. The workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1445, were asking for a one dollar wage increase, more company contribution to the healthcare plan, and an extra dime an hour for the pension plan. They voted to strike on December 1. As Local 1445 representative Fernando Lemus told the Boston Globe, they were willing to “sacrifice this Christmas” because “the cost of living is so high.”

Five days later, the company offered a new contract. Hundreds of workers and supporters from other unions and Centro Presente (an immigrant workers center across the street from Angelica) had maintained picket lines from 6 A.M. until midnight. The workers voted to sign the contract, ending their strike and declaring victory. Supporting unions, according to the Party for Socialism and Liberation, included: “the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35; the International Brotherhood of Operating Engineers, Local 877 Area Trades Council; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2222; the American Federation of Government Employees; Unite Here, Local 26; and the Teamsters, Local 25.” Along with the outpouring of support, Local 1445’s impressive unity and resistance to the bosses’ attempts to divide them contributed to the overwhelming victory.

 

From “Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation: The History of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement and Other Essays” by Jake Carman