Worker Occupations and the Domino Effect Marie Trigona For many the worker occupation of the Chicago Republic Windows and Doors plant on December 5 may have come as a surprise. But for US workers who are facing a very bleak economic horizon - the Chicago sit-down strike has ignited a spark amongst workers fed up with corporate bailouts and job losses. In the midst of an overwhelming financial crisis, massive layoffs and a deepening economic recession workers are left with little other option that to take direct action in order to defend their rights. In Chicago, a group of workers decided to occupy their plant - to demand severance pay and benefits after being abruptly fired. Inside the plant, 50 workers rotated during the occupation - sitting firmly on fold out chairs and taking care of the now quiet machinery. Outside, supporters and fellow unionists carried banners in solidarity with the Chicago sit-down strike stating "Bank of...America gets bail out, workers get sold out." The workers at the Chicago Republic Windows and Doors plant are setting an example for the millions of people who are set to lose their jobs in the US recession. They are the voice of workers who see the emergency bailout plans for Wall Street as unfair and ultimately hurt working America. One of the winners on Wall Street, Bank of America, the second largest bank in the US and major beneficiary to the government's bailout plan for banks, refused to loan the company, Republic Windows and Doors, 1.5 million dollars the company owed to the 200 workers in severance and vacation pay.
Stony Brook research assistants vote to unionize Andrew Stricklker Newsday Research assistants at Stony Brook University have voted to unionize after a nine-month campaign that organizers called the largest union drive on Long Island in recent memory. In a vote of 214-135 tallied Friday evening, the research assistants - all doctoral students - decided to join Local 1104 of the Communications Workers of America. There are about 745 research assistants at Stony Brook, organizers said.
Workers Take Over Factory in Chicago Workers who got three days' notice their factory was shutting its doors voted to occupy the building and said Saturday they won't go home without assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay they say they are owed. In the second day of a sit-in on the factory floor that began Friday, about 200 union workers occupied the building in shifts while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind.
Spanish Bank Occupied by Workers Hildy Johnson In the southern Spanish city of Granada today, a powerful workers demonstration has been taking place. It includes the simultaneous occupation of the offices of a local developer/estate agents and the main branch of the BBVA bank. The Sindicat Andaluz de Trabajadores (Andalucian Workers Union) has been out in force on the streets of Granada today. This small activist union was formed in 2007 owing to disatisfaction with the representation offered by other larger trade unions. So far today city centre roads have been blocked and the offices of Osuna (major Spanish estate agent and developer) and BBVA bank have been occupied by several hundred protestors.
Support the Strike at York University Starting Nov 6, 2008, CUPE 3903, the union representing contract faculty, teaching and research assistants at York University in Toronto, Canada, went on an all-out legal strike. Significant issues include wage increase corresponding with cost of living increase, funding guarantees for graduate students (who also form significant number of workers at York U), improved working conditions (which mean improved learning conditions for students), and job security for contract faculty (some of whom have been teaching for several years on a sessional basis, carrying 1.5-2 times the load of the permanent faculty at 50-75% of the cost for YorkU). Find a summary of all outstanding issues at
Starbucks to Require Employee Availability Around the Clock and Cut Workforce in Major National Initiative The Starbucks Coffee Co. is in the process of an extreme revamping of its workforce policies according to company documents obtained by the Starbucks Workers Union of the Industrial Workers of the World. The initiative, dubbed "Optimal Scheduling", will require employees to make themselves available to work essentially around the clock to obtain so-called full-time status. Even for workers able to make the extraordinary sacrifice to obtain "full-time" status, no work hours are guaranteed- identical to Starbucks' current system of part-time status for all retail hourly workers. In addition, Starbucks will lay off workers who cannot meet minimum availability requirements. As baristas learn of the new program, discontent is rising. "I've had to make myself available each week from Tuesday to Sunday starting at 4:45am until 11pm in the hopes of possibly getting 32 hours of work but not being guaranteed a single hour," said Liberte Locke, a Starbucks barista in New York and member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. "It's impossible for me to get a second job now even though I need one and impossible to have a life outside of work." Under the new system, baristas who opt for pseudo full-time status have to make themselves available to work 70% of the total hours their store is open during the week. In an example given in the company documents, a store open 115 hours per week requires a barista to be available to work 80.5 hours each week - over double the standard work week. Week-to-week Starbucks can then schedule workers anywhere within that availability. In addition, workers who cannot make themselves available for at least three shifts a week will be fired, absent a "compelling reason" which Starbucks has not defined. Weekend workers must be available for at least 16 hours to avoid termination.
"Unfinished Business, The Cultural Commodity and its Labour Process" Stefano Harney We argue that the problems of managing in the creative industries cannot be fully understood in the current and most common overviews of the industries. We review the two ways the industries are understood as social trends before suggesting that they are both insufficiently broad and encompassing. We then use the history of cultural studies, its origins and engagements, to extend the horizon of the creative industries and also to focus on where the work takes place in these industries. This in turn leads us to post-workerist thought and its conception of the cultural commodity, a conception with modify with cultural studies. We then return within this wider frame to what we regard as the central problematic for management with the rise of the creative industries: the location of the labour process that produces the cultural commodity and its value.
Tags: South Africa Union refuses to touch Zim arms 2008-4-17 22:48 Durban - Opposition to a shipment of arms being offloaded in Durban and transported to Zimbabwe increased on Thursday when South Africa's biggest transport workers' union announced that its members would not unload the ship. SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) general secretary Randall Howard said: "Satawu does not agree with the position of the South African government not to intervene with this shipment of weapons.

Kevin Keating writes:

Muni Social Strikeout

Kevin Keating

A critique of our efforts to foment a mass "self-reduction" movement on San Francisco's Muni public transit system.

In early 2005, bureaucrats in San Francisco's Municipal Transit Authority announced plans for a fare increase and service cuts for Muni, SF's main public transit system. Fares had been hiked in 2003 from $1.00 to $1.25, and the 2005 fare hike, slated to begin Sept.1st, was to be from $1.25 to $1.50. Several dozen bus lines would see drastically reduced service; other lines would be cut altogether. Plans were also announced for mass layoffs of Muni employees, focusing in particular on bus drivers.

In response, a small group of anti-authoritarians initiated an effort aimed at uniting Muni riders and drivers in large-scale action that could spike the attacks.

Our effort, modelled on similar actions in other parts of the world, especially Italy during the unrest of the 1970's, aimed at fomenting a city-wide "social strike" where Muni drivers and riders would act together, drivers would let people ride for free, and the fare collection system would collapse until the fare hike, cuts and threats of layoffs had been rescinded. The events would jump off on the date the fare hike and cutbacks were to begin, Sept. 1st, 2005.

An action like this around mass transit would be an arena of conflict between proletarians and capitalism that hadn't yet been colonized by the left, the left-wing of capital; the pro-wage labor, pro-state, culture of leftist failure that is what passes for an opposition to the powers-that-be in this part of the world.

Unfortunately the people behind the action, in the typical manner of contemporary US anarchists, lacked backbone and nerve, practical solidarity with one another and political cohesion.

The result was that the spineless anarchists ceeded the political initiative in the Muni action to the first Leninist-led/culture of leftist failure group that came along to hustle them. The culture of leftist failure crowd, with the anarchists sheepishly trotting along behind them, couldn't catalyze enough widespread and decisive resistance to defeat the austerity measures.

The fact that the fare strike didn't stop the service cuts and the fare hike wasn't in itself a failure. The failure was that the people behind the fare strike succeeded in turning the Muni action into a single-issue campaign, robbing the effort of any potential to be something new under the sun. The efforts of the leftists went ignored by the overwhelming majority of Muni employees and riders. In a much more important sense, an arena of potential autonomous working class resistance to ever-increasing exploitation and impoverishment has now been colonized by the leftist culture of failure crowd.

This article examines this failure. These problems aren't etched in stone. A rigorous critical examination of what happened with the failed 2005 Muni effort can contribute to a better, more aggressive, more far-going effort next time.

Cerámica de Cuyo: A Profile of Worker Control in Argentina

Benjamin Dangl

From Upside Down World

In the worn out meeting room of worker-run Cerámica de Cuyo, Manuel
Rojas runs a rough hand over his face. The mechanic recalls forming the
cooperative after the company boss fired the workers in 2000: "We didn’t
have any choice. If we didn’t take over the factory we would all be in
the streets. The need to work pushed us to action."

After working at the ceramic brick and tile factory for nearly 35 years,
Rojas joined the other two dozen workers at Cerámica de Cuyo and began
to organize into a cooperative. These workers were part of national
movement at a time when Argentina was in an economic crisis. Across the
country, hundreds of factories, businesses and hotels shut their doors
and sent their employees packing. Many workers, like those at Cerámica
de Cuyo, decided to take matters into their own hands. As the stories of
these workers illustrate, the cooperatively-run road hasn’t been easy.

Cerámica de Cuyo is surrounded by vineyards and artists' homes in the
bohemian community of Bermejo, Argentina, right outside Mendoza. Dust
blows around the sun burnt factory yard as I sit down with Rojas and his
co-worker Francisco Avila. Rojas wears a weathered blue plaid shirt
while Avila has a baseball cap resting on a head of gray hair. We’re in
the Cerámica de Cuyo meeting room. The ancient chairs have crumbling
foam cushions. Phone numbers and Che Guevara slogans are scrawled on the
walls. It’s easy to sense the wear and tear that lifetimes of labor have
had on the place.

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