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IWW Newswire: 2016-1

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 22:18

Compiled by x344543 - February 8, 2016

The following news items are culled from various other IWW internet news portals:

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Categories: Unions

Wobbles 2016-2

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 22:00

Compiled by x344543 - February 8, 2016

The following news items may be of interest to revolutionary industrial workers:

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Categories: Unions

Joe Hill 100 Road Show Tour Conducts Concerts in Three Dozen Cities

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 21:58

By Ron Kaminkow - January 25, 2016

On November 19th, 1915 a poor Swedish immigrant was executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City, Utah. And while his legal assassination was protested worldwide and his name was briefly a household word 100 years ago, today most people have never heard the name of this migrant worker, hobo, union organizer, song writer, satirist and agitator. But throughout the course of 2015 – 100 years after his execution – dozens of concerts, plays, sing alongs and other gatherings were conducted across the United Sates in remembrance of this man “who never died” – Joe Hill.

The Joe Hill Road Show 100 Tour was an ambitious effort to bring the words, music and ideas of Joe Hill to the people. In some three dozen performances around the country – starting in Chicago on May 1 (International Workers’ Day) and ending in Salt Lake City the day after his execution – crowds were treated to renditions of Joe’s songs as performed by a series of different musicians. While some of the crowds were small and others large, all shows on the tour were spirited events with lots of audience participation, enthusiasm, and laughter, all infused with the spirit of labor solidarity.

Performers at the various shows included a number of professional travelling musicians, others regionally based, as well as local talent, invited up on stage to join in the fun. Some of the musicians included: Anne Feeney, Mark Ross, Bucky Halker, George Mann, J.P. Wright, Marc Revenson (Lil’ Rev), Tim Gorelanton, Patrick Dodd, David Rovics, Duncan Phillips, Otis Gibbs, Charlie King, Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino of “Magpie,” Jan Hammarlund, and Chris Chandler.  Joining them in at least three cities, the Labor Chorus in each added another dimension, a unique element to these shows, one that encouraged group singing. They performed in union halls, taverns, community centers, concert halls, churches, and even in an old wooden boxcar by the railroad tracks in Northern California. Shows took place in 18 states in the following towns and cities: Chicago and Batavia, IL; Madison, Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Oshkosh and Green Bay, WI; St. Paul, MN; Indianapolis, IN; Washington, DC; Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA; Ithaca, NY; Schenectady, and New York, NY; Barre, VT; Springfield and Cambridge, MA; Louisville and Lexington, KY; Nashville and Knoxville, TN; Atlanta, GA; San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Nevada City and Weed, CA; Reno, NV; Phoenix, Eugene and Portland, OR; Bellingham, WA and Salt Lake City, UT. Additional commemorative events not sponsored by the Joe Hill 100 group were held in numerous other locales including Denver, CO and Oakland, CA.

So why all the fuss over an itinerant immigrant, shot to death 100 years ago? If Joe had been a loner, just another one of millions of isolated and destitute workingmen around the turn of the 20th century, he would have certainly died in obscurity. But Joe Hill (born Joel Emmanuel Haaglund), quickly assimilated to his new environment in the US, refused to be treated unfairly, joined the union that at that time was organizing unskilled transient workers (the Industrial Workers of the World) and found his voice. And what a voice that turned out to be! Joe composed hundreds of songs, never asked a penny for his services, and donated all of his works – songs, poems, cartoons – to the workers of the world to use as they saw fit to fight the class struggle. Workers from “San Diego up to Maine in every mine and mill” were soon singing Joe’s songs at work, on the picket line, on the street corners, on the soap box and in the jails. Yes, wherever workers would “strike and organize” that would be where you would hear the songs of Joe Hill.

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Categories: Unions

Wobs “instrumental” in getting worker’s job back

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 21:49

By 6eoff - Boston IWW, January 25, 2016

Pictured are MISU’s John P (recently reinstated), Evan and John M, as well as Genevieve, Geoff, Max and Jon from the Boston IWW.

IWW members returned to aid our friends and fellow workers in the Museum Independent Security Union on 1/23/16. Despite freezing temperatures, our hearts were warmed by a message from John M of MISU, who conveyed his belief that IWW support was “instrumental” in getting unfairly-fired MISU member John P re-hired with no discipline and with back pay. John P was fired by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts merely for fulfilling his responsibilities as a parent. The outcry that followed (which Boston wobs are proud have helped with) compelled the museum to take John back. The MFA has been forcing working parents out of their jobs and taking a hard line in contract negotiations with MISU, and the battle is not over yet. Please join the Boston IWW and MISU for pickets at the Museum of Fine Arts, Saturdays from 12-2 pm.

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Categories: Unions

Wobbles 2016-1

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 21:42

Compiled by x344543 - January 26, 2016

The following news items may be of interest to revolutionary industrial workers:

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Categories: Unions

WINE RACK FIRING UNFAIR! - MUST NEGOTIATE WITH THE IWW OR FACE BOYCOTT

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 21:26

By John Hollingsworth - Ottawa-Outaouais IWW, January 23, 2016

OTTAWA—The Industrial Workers of the World are picketing Wine Rack to defend a member unfairly fired on September 6, 2015.

Our member engaged in his legally-protected right to organize and was publicly engaged in a card-signing campaign by another union in efforts to certify a bargaining unit for Wine Rack locations in Ottawa, Ontario.

Wine Rack is owned by parent company Constellation Brands, a US-based multinational corporation with two billion dollars of profit in 2013. Front-line employees of Wine Rack are paid minimum wage and given only conditional yearly increases lower than the rate of inflation, compounding the difficulties posed by a part-time and unpredictable schedule for workers.

According to the Labour Relations Act, all workers have the right to form, select, and administer a union without interference from the employer. In response to our member’s organizing efforts, Wine Rack manufactured a spurious reason to terminate his employment without following their established disciplinary processes.

The IWW will continue to picket Wine Rack to demand fair treatment for our member until our demand for our member’s reinstatement on the job with back pay is met. All employees deserve to be able to organize without reprisal.

The IWW is calling on Ottawans to not cross our picket line and to respect a boycott of Wine Rack locations until management meets with our union to negotiate.

This is yet another instance of arbitrary firings and disrespect for the Labour Relations Act happening here in Ottawa. Workers can win these fights when they unite and take action. The IWW is a member-run union for all workers and is dedicated to organizing on the job.

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Categories: Unions

On Voting

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 21:16

By FW W.H. Glazer - Twin Cities IWW, January 20, 2016

Introduction

Every four years, Americans are subjected to a painfully long election cycle. It is January of a presidential election year, and that means that we can anticipate another ten months of mainstream media coverage that manages to simultaneously overwhelm us with its volume and leave us with no novel or useful information (did you know, for example, that Dr. Ben Carson was a rageful and violent nerd growing up in Detroit? Or that Donald Trump is a shameless blowhard whose racist, classist, and sexist rhetoric appeals to a sizeable group of racists, classists, and sexists?). My boss loves to play CNN in the office as background noise, but my proximity to the television means that I know a lot more about Martin O’Malley and Carly Fiorina than I ever needed to.

Inherent in the decision to enact non-stop coverage is an assumption that all of this election stuff really matters, that who you support and ultimately vote for can have a tangible effect on the lives of millions of people. We are taught from a young age that our right to vote is a tremendously precious one, and further that failure to participate in the election process is a failure of civic duty. We are Americans, god dammit, and it is our responsibility to uphold justice and liberty and democracy through our voting process.

From a pragmatic standpoint, there is actually some truth to this idea. It is, from a purely practical point of view, smart to vote for the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton is less likely to impose anti-Muslim immigration reforms than is Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders is considerably less scary and objectionable than are the cackling hyenas who comprise the Republican field.

 

In the IWW, though, we can’t only think in terms of pragmatism and practicality. We are a revolutionary anti-capitalist union, and it can be convincingly argued that active participation in electoral politics is not only counterproductive for our organizational goals, but counter-revolutionary. After all, no major party candidate will ever advocate for the dissolution of our capitalist economy and the establishment of a worker run society. Voting third party in a presidential race may be more morally justifiable, but barring tremendous social and political upheaval, a third party candidate will never take the White House.

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Categories: Unions

Workers Power Against Police Brutality and Racist Terror

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 21:03

By the Life Long Wobbly - January 18, 2016

The Chicago Teachers Step Up – What does it mean?

The decision of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to participate in the Black Friday protests against police brutality is an important step forward, advancing both the struggle against the Chicago police department, and allowing the CTU to flex its muscles before the end of its contract. Chicago Teachers voted overwhelmingly to support a strike in their recent strike authorization vote, and if they can win another strike as they did in 2012, it would be an incredibly important victory for the working class around the country. It would show that education workers can fight and win, especially if they have united with the broader working class around issues such as institutional racism.

The simmering rage against Chicago’s blatantly racist, terrorist, secret prison-operating police department provides an important backdrop. US anti-labor law illegitimately limits what workers can strike over; if the teachers go on strike, and demand the removal of police from school campuses, or defunding of the police force, that would make their strike “illegal” in the eyes of the state. Chicago teachers have an important choice. Even if the teachers go on strike and don’t say a word about the police, the CPD is intimately tied to Rahm Emanuel’s austerity regime, and a teachers’ strike could strengthen and build on the movement against police brutality and terror. However, if the teachers do explicitly include anti-police demands in their strike, and stick by them even when threatened with injunction, they could really inspire the rest of the working class in Chicago to mobilize and support them. A victory in that case would also show that workers can successfully take on the system of anti-labor laws in this country, particularly those which declare certain kinds of strikes “illegal”.

Could teachers and other education workers strike to remove police from schools? Nothing could stop them from putting this into their demands. If a teachers union prioritized “cops off campus”, and waged a strike on the level of Chicago in 2012 or Seattle earlier this year, this would be a massive step forward. This would be particularly powerful to the degree that it spread beyond the teachers to include other education workers. Of course, any industrial action for “cops off campus” would meet bitter resistance from the city administration, at the same time that the national media, the Democratic Party, and – most importantly – the national unions would stop at nothing to sabotage this action, and force or cajole the workers into moderating their demands.

This is why militant education workers would have to prepare for this struggle, beginning by consciously identifying with the victims of police brutality, against the police rather than with them. An initiative to strike for “cops off campus” might need years before education workers actually have the strength and organization to pull it off – but the situation in the US over the last several years has also been very fluid, and things could develop much quicker than we might expect.

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Categories: Unions

15 at UPS

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 19:31

By Coeur de Bord - The Organizer, January 17, 2016

Eleven months ago, the Package Handler’s Organizing Committee (PHOC) voted to begin a campaign demanding the starting wage at the three UPS hubs in the Twin Cities be raised to $15/hour (from the current $10), and a corresponding $5/hour raise for all hub employees.  We had our sights set on building power towards some form of disruptive action during 2015’s Peak Season.  Now that Peak has arrived, I would like to share some of my feelings on the progression, evolution, and execution of this campaign, as well as some ways it has influenced our organizing in general at UPS in Minneapolis.

I feel this document is useful as part of a future retrospective assessment of the Boxmart campaign and the PHOC committee itself.  However, I hope it can also serve as a useful reference for other IWW organizing committees thinking about taking on labor-intensive, medium- to long-term campaigns such as this.  Whether or not such a campaign would have a positive impact on your organizing is a decision that only your committee can make, but I hope that by offering my perspectives other Wobblies will be able to make a more informed decision.

The motion (original language):

Notes 16/01/15

What: $5 hourly raise across the board, which would bring starting wage up to $15. Also, end petty wage theft and other shop floor issues where possible.

When: Major direct action during peak season 2015 aimed at entire Twin Cities operation.  Smaller DAs before them, at moments to be determined. Campaign to start within two months (petitions coming out along with Screw ups at MPLS, Eagan, Maple Grove and airport).

Who: Petition to be drafted by core committee, Mass meeting to be run by ——, other tasks delegated to —, —- and — wherever possible to gather support from rest of branch. New shop floor contacts will be expected to further trenchwork on shop floor, canvass for issues to be addressed by escalating Direct Actions, and inoculation. OTC to arrange an OT soon after mass meeting for new contacts. Core committee (eg —–) to fill in gaps where people cannot attend a full OT.  

Where: Meetings at TC IWW office, actions in MPLS, Eagan, Maple Grove and airport.  Actions to focus on Minnesota operation unless tempting opportunities arise.

How:

  1. Use petition to gather contacts for mass meeting. Create Facebook, etc contact points.
  2. Use mass meeting to identify people willing and able to be organizers (and other roles) and set broad outlines of effort, changing as necessary to reflect workers’ concerns.
  3. Follow up with potential organizers, get to OT where possible and patch with one-on-ones where not. Create a campaign committee to broaden work, bring in smaller escalatable issues (eg petty wage theft, harassment etc), grow committee itself.
  1. Do direct actions on smaller issues, symbolic stuff where appropriate. Include off-shop-floor issues eg prison slave labour ala hands up don’t ship.
  2. Follow up on retaliation for the above.
  3. Bring smaller issues back in, build excitement and commitment and hold mass meetings in the months leading up to peak to organize peak action.
  4. Mess everything up during peak.
  5. Publicize concessions and workers’ eye view analysis of fight, follow up on retaliations.
  6. Set further goals.

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Categories: Unions

Free Parking

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 19:17

By Phineas Gage - Recomposition, January 7, 2016

Ike and I walked into Sam’s office at exactly ten in the morning. Not a minute before or after. We never talked to management, especially the Labour Relations guys, with less than a pair present. Sam ran the video on his computer screen for us to look at. It was a clip of a woman walking at night towards a door. She looks over her shoulder and a shadow glides towards her, she lunges for the door and struggles to open it with the key card. Then a leg that ends with a bicycle pedal and two wheels drifts into plain view and off camera. She opens the glass door and then slams the door behind her and leans on it, panting. The clip then looped and played over again.

“So, in the investigation, you told the sister that you think the union put her up to this?” I asked.

I was starting to feel a keen rage swelling up inside of me but I grabbed the arms of the chair tightly and tried to keep my cool.

Sam’s face was like cold stone.

“It’s too convenient. You guys start complaining about the health and safety at the Transportation yard and all of a sudden someone almost gets ‘attacked’ in the yard?” He was doing the scare quotes with his fingers.

The video clip completed another loop.

I could feel my anger at the situation starting to effect my judgement. He was probably egging me on.

“I don’t think this is staged Sam. I mean, really, all things being equal, what is more likely: a confrontation with someone at night outside a downtown workstation or an elaborate conspiracy to put a show on for the cameras?” I was smiling and trying to insert some humour into the situation.

The clip completed another loop.

I could feel a light stinging sensation on the back of my thighs as soon as Sam started to talk again. The hairs on my arms were starting to stand on end.

“What are you laughing at? This isn’t funny. See, this is his problem, Ike, he doesn’t take this stuff seriously.” Sam was dripping with condescension. That and cologne.

I shot out of my chair, like a bullet, and leaned over his desk stuffing my index finger into the space in front of his chest. I could see Ike’s eyes go wide as my one arm stretched out towards him, my index finger stopping just shy of his chest. ‘Never, ever, touch them, Phineas, especially when angry’, I told myself.

“You’re fucking lucky all I’m doing is laughing, you dickhead. A woman almost got assaulted in your parking lot and your first response is to spin an insane conspiracy theory about performance art in front of surveillance cameras? What kind of piece of shit sociopath does that?”

I regained composure and looked at Ike.

Ike nodded and said, “I think that is about as of thorough an exploration of the issues we are going to get today,” He gently grabbed my arm and we walked out.

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Categories: Unions

No One Strikes Harder than a Wobbly Dual Carder

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 18:13

By anonymous - New Syndicalist, December 24, 2015

Like many IWW members in the UK I work in the public sector. Traditionally this has been an area of high trade union density particularly in teaching, the civil service and health. It is also one of the last bastions of collective bargaining power for the trade union movement. Although as the recent record of capitulation to austerity policies, cuts in pay and cuts in social services shows trade union density rarely equals trade union militancy.

“Dual carding” – membership in a craft union alongside the IWW – is a relatively underdeveloped strategy for the UK. In spite of a reputation for “minority unionism” Wobblies have historically played animating roles in trade unions aside their commitment to building a combative and revolutionary alternative to craft union structures. The IWW, after all, was the product of an amalgamation of the most militant and advanced expressions of the trade union movement of the time.

In spite of this it would also be simplistic to say that membership in the IWW and activity in a broader trade union is fully harmonious. The IWW does ultimately exist as a criticism of the limitations of craft unionism and its reformist methods. Many leftists labour under the illusion that trade unions can be captured and turned towards revolutionary aims. In practice this has often meant running left leadership slates for union elections. A practice that is neither appealing to Wobblies nor has proved particularly successful in terms of shifting the actual activity of trade unions. An equally common approach is to stoke rank-and-file militancy at the branch level, either through the building of left caucuses or networks of militant reps. This seems like a more natural approach for a Wobbly to take promoting those qualities and methods that we see as valuable in syndicalist organising – militancy, activism from the roots, bottom-up over top-down etc.

Yet this approach also has its limitations. The structure and organisation of the trade unions can undercut struggles even at the rank-and-file level. Just like any experienced organiser should prepare strategies for dealing with a difficult and divisive boss, a dual-carder needs to anticipate and prepare for the possibility that trade union bureaucracies will undermine the work of militant organisers and remove them from a position of influence with the membership if they see them as troublesome or a threat. Our aims should also go beyond simply organising more militant and combative trade unions. We need to understand how our activities as trade unionists help to sow the seeds of workers’ control in our industries in addition to building links with those in unorganised sectors and supporting our fellow workers growing IWW campaigns.

I recently had the opportunity to act as a representative for my local NUT (National Union of Teachers) branch, below are a number of observations developed from experimenting with this new role. My aim is that these offer a contribution to some of the issues that are raised above as part of a broader debate on dual-carding in the union:

1. Debunking the myth of the “militant union rep” – building a militant membership

It is a widespread view within trade union branches that it’s reps who should do most of the leg-work. This perception is reinforced by the fact that the majority of union resources, communication and, most importantly, meetings with management happen exclusively through the rep. The result is that workmates will talk more or less favourably about “bolshie reps” who are capable/incapable of standing up to management on their behalf. This is a bottle-neck in collective strength that a boss can easily exploit to demobilise, distract or diffuse the activity of the union. Good reps need to send the message out that it’s the membership that calls the shots and not them. A step towards building a new union culture on this basis is bringing workmates into these otherwise exclusive communication channels. Dual-carders should share rep guides and union resources, carefully minute meetings with management, show how issues raised have been actioned and insist that problems are raised collectively through regular branch meetings and not via private communication with the rep. Even in recognised workplaces workers need to be educated on the idea that the union is only as strong as its membership and a poorly organised union can easily fall into a forum of consultation with management or even be de-recognised.

2. The branch is not a social space – so make one.

Trade union branches are generally very poorly organised. This does create opportunities for dual-carders in terms of introducing more democratic and inclusive processes without much institutional resistance. But in the absence of such clear structures meetings can often just be collective moaning sessions that can be tiring and demobilising for those involved. It is, of course, important for people to blow off steam especially in stressful professions but this shouldn’t come at the expense of collective action. So why not create alternative spaces to do that? In the North we have been experimenting with this kind of model for young professionals in teaching. Our “Educators Underground” group meets once a month with young education professionals across the city. We talk about stresses and emotional challenges we have had at work, discuss alternative educational theories and provide advice and support to each other going back to our union branches. This helps to fill gaps in the current trade union structure as well as making us feel like we are well supported by our fellow workers in the same sector.

3. Act collaboratively, reproduce yourself.

Any good organiser should aim to reproduce themselves and this is as true of a dual-carder as it is an organiser within an IWW campaign. By sheer coincidence when I stood for position of branch union rep another workmate also expressed interest in the role. Rather than run a competitive election I suggested that we could share the job. This turned out to be a beneficial move for both of us. I was grateful for the help and support my co-rep could offer in getting to grips with the new role. Having another perspective on the running of the branch was also really valuable. I was able to support them in areas where they were less experienced such as meeting with the boss for the first time. And together we were able to bring in more robust changes to how branch meetings were run by virtue of the extra pair of hands and added energy. We also had the bonus benefit of strength of numbers in our last meeting with management (myself, my co-rep and the outgoing rep outnumbering the head 3-1)! I’m now convinced that this practice should be pushed in all areas where it is practical. It shares out valuable skills, makes sure that there are others to step up when you are unable to fully take on union responsibilities and further debunks the myth that the rep is the linchpin of the branch.

4. Act like OBU, even if you aren’t one.

Most public sector workplaces will have multiple recognition deals with different sections of the workforce. Legal action across these divides is difficult (that’s not to say that other forms of solidarity aren’t both practical and desirable) but there is nothing stopping you acting as a single unit in terms of how you organise within that work site. Inviting reps from other trade unions on site to your branch meetings is a good first step towards building dialogue between different sections of the workforce. Individuals or groups from unorganised sections can likewise be sought out and invited, for example, agency or temporary staff. Ideally at a more advanced stage this could evolve into a forum for discussion and decision-making across the work site and present a natural springboard for cross-site solidarity and industrial action.

Within this it is similarly important to maintain a parallel structure of social contacts and connections with workmates that exist outside the official trade union role. If you get into a position where you need to call unofficial or unsanctioned industrial action the trade union will do everything in its power to halt it. It’s important in this case to have a working knowledge of the social map of your workplace to ensure success irrespective of the existence of the trade union labels. If you have approached the role with the idea of organising the worker as well as the branch you should be able to call on the former when the latter comes under attack. In effect falling back on the strength of the red card when the blue/green/grey/yellow/white one has failed you.

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Categories: Unions

#4ThPrecinctShutdown- A Statement On Magic and Resistance

Wed, 12/23/2015 - 18:42

By Keno Evol - Twin Cities IWW, December 22, 2015

Still there is magic. Throughout the days I’ve spent at the 4th precinct, on that sacred, now spiritual road of Plymouth Avenue, I have seen what I’ve imagined in my mind’s eye for quite some time – a community blockade of resistance. I say sacred intentionally. Throughout black history the shedding of black blood has made things sacred. Consider the way we view voting. Often the argument is that it’s necessary to vote, because there is blood on these ballots. The people who came before us suffered so we can show up to the booth. This is true, though I think the idea distorts and manipulates people’s commitment to figuring out their own consciousness and defining for themselves what activism really is. It creates a sort of guilt complex around the trauma of our elders. I’m thinking of A letter to Maria when June Jordan writes, “So voting, or the right to vote, was a goal, yes, but not an overriding objective, nor was it a strategy, nor was it a tactic. The overriding objective was freedom from American apartheid.”

I also say spirituality intentionally, though not in terms of organized religion. But in terms of organizing around a common suffering, an approach which lends itself to a certain otherworldliness taking place – in this case within North Minneapolis.

I would go as far as to say the entire nation is in a moment of magic. I say magic within two categories of the word. For white Americans, I mean it in the most exhaustingly literal of terms. A Black boy vanishes and white America has a moment of immediate awe! They can’t believe it! Where did the black boy go? The cop, the magician in this ritual, knows what a person in his trade would know about fooling the audience. Tragically unsurprised, however, black people living in this country know where every mirror, every smoke canister and every trap door is placed. This is what I mean by magic centered in white America.

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Categories: Unions

The IWW grassroots direct action unionism in 5 easy steps

Mon, 11/30/2015 - 18:15

By the Bristol IWW - Bristol IWW, November 30, 2015

1. You’re having problems at your workplace. You may not be getting your correct pay, or your correct sickness pay, or holiday entitlement, but you are unsure what to do because you haven’t got anything written, or you do but it doesn’t make any sense to you and nobody has bothered to explain it to you.

You want to do something about it, but you don’t really know what your rights are and what the law says. You may be bullied, harassed or intimidated by colleagues and/or managers, and feel isolated and depressed. Or, perhaps, you may actually like your job, get on with your colleagues and not have any problems at all with it. You may be unemployed, or a student or a retired person. You may think you have nothing in common with people in different circumstances, but we think you do: we think you should all join the IWW. In the IWW we believe that whether you are in work or not right now, you are still part of a society based on paid work and as such you will be affected by it at some point or other.

In the IWW we believe you don’t join the union only when you have a problem that you need an “expert” to fix; we think you should join anyway because being in a grassroots union is a key element of being involved and engaged with the world you live in. We think everyone has the right to take control and power back over their lives and work. We think everyone has the right to learn about employment rights and legislation and become their own “expert”. We become “experts” through formal training courses in casework and organising, but mostly we learn informally, by sharing knowledge and skills and supporting each other. We are grassroots, we are democratic, and we are fighters.

2. You are a member now, and suddenly you do have problems in your workplace. Your manager may have decided to change your terms and conditions and demanded you to accept. You may notice you are not getting paid all the hours you are working. You may be under a lot of stress and pressure at work and have to take time off work sick because of it. Who you gonna call? The Wobblies! You arrange to meet with one of our caseworkers and go through things with them. You finally have someone to talk to who will listen to you and give you guidance and support, help you understand the law and what to do.

In the IWW we believe in EMPOWERMENT not delegation: we don’t do things FOR you, we do things WITH you. Once you have a clearer idea of the options available to you, it is up to you to decide what steps to take, knowing that the IWW will have your back. The IWW can help you in many different ways, from standard workplace procedures such as grievances and disciplinaries to more complex casework such as supporting you to take your case to an Employment Tribunal if appropriate. All these words and expression may mean nothing to you at the beginning, and you may feel overwhelmed by it all, but slowly, with the help of your IWW rep, you will become your own “expert”. You will start to understand, learn and feel empowered: knowledge is power.

3. So, your case is ongoing and we are following the standard procedures. We may be supporting to write formal demands to your employer, attending meetings alongside you, helping you to find a good solicitor, advocating on your behalf with your employer or other organisations (such as ACAS).

Sometimes though things don’t work, maybe because your employer is not responding, or because the nature of your employment is such that standard procedures are not appropriate. So, what happens then? Simple: we use direct action. We get together, because together we are stronger, and we get your case “out there”. We may ask people to call or write to your employer and complain about they way they are treating you. We may ask for a boycott of the company you are working for. We may get in touch with local and national press to publicise your case. We may hold a demonstration at your workplace until your employer meets your demands.

This is what we have done recently for one of our members who had her wages withheld by the cafe she worked at. And just in case you are wondering, yes, it did work: direct action does get the goods! Read our report about it “What’s outrageous? Unpaid wages!”.

4. All is over now, your employer has seen sense and you are in the pub celebrating with the Wobblies and your friends. You will feel knackered. You will also feel thrilled, energised, inspired. You will look at yourself in the mirror and know you have had the guts to stand up for your rights, no matter how stressful it has been. You have learned that you are not alone, and you will never feel alone again when standing up to your boss because the IWW will always have your back. So, what next? Well, if you haven’t already done so, you could complete our training courses in casework and organising. You will now have the knowledge and skills to support people in the same situation, and you will have a personal understanding of how it feels to have a dispute with your employer and WIN. The sky is our only limit, for us Wobblies!

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Categories: Unions

No Badjacketing: The State Wants to Kill Us; Let’s Not Cooperate

Mon, 11/30/2015 - 18:03

We prepared this short piece after several comrades were badjacketed in public and with pictures on social media at the 4th Precinct Shutdown. We believe those individual cases have been dealt with, and don’t wish to cause unnecessary division by complaining, or publicly calling any group or individual out. Instead, this is intended to provoke reflection, and conversation, amongst all of us, as to how to deal with the suspicions we may have of people we don’t know in our growing movements, without creating the sorts of divisions among ourselves that does the work of the State and the police for them. We intend to act in solidarity with those who know how to act in solidarity.

We ask that all organizations and groups working for a better world in which we have killed White Supremacy, Capitalism, and all other forms of oppression, consider that (1) none of us represent the mandate of all the people, (2) that we may have instead genuine and important strategic and tactical differences between ourselves about the best ways to accomplish that world, (3) that we will not win by pretending these differences do not exist, or dictating against difference, but instead by engaging on these differences in the most democratic and least hierarchical ways possible.

Therefore, we ask that groups and individuals read this document against the practice ofbadjacketing, discuss it, and consider publicly endorsing here that we will refrain from the practices of badjacketing. This is not a call to be lax about security; indeed, many of us have been very involved in the provision of security at the Fourth Precinct. Instead, it is a call to be democratic and accountable about our security practices. Please indicate your endorsement in the comments below.

Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, and Anna Mae Aquash of AIM.

Every time people organize for liberation, autonomy, and a better world, the state and the bosses try to crush our movements. They don’t particularly care how they do it, but they don’t want to work hard. It’s easier for them, if we do it for them.

  • They can do this by misportraying us in the media, and they do.
  • They do this by sowing distrust and division within or between movements, and they do.
  • They can do this by harassing our people and preventing them from getting jobs, or demoralizing them with constant police contact, and they do.
  • They do this by sending infiltrators into our groups, and they do.
  • They do this by encouraging fascist groups to attack us, and they do.
  • They do this by directly and openly attacking us with police, and they do.

But perhaps the easiest and most effective thing they can do to neutralize and destroy our movements for liberation is to encourage us to act paranoid and to refuse each other’s solidarity. One of the most effective techniques for this is called jacketing (aka ‘snitchjacketing,’ ‘badjacketing,’ or ‘bad-rapping’), and it’s when one of our own (or a paid infiltrator) accuses others without cause or evidence of being a infiltrator, threat, or security risk.

BADJACKETING: creating suspicion, by spreading rumors or unsubstantiated accusations, that people are undercovers, infiltrators, snitches, or cooperators. Sometimes this is done out of fear and paranoia. But normally, those who ‘lay jackets’ on others want to consolidate their control over a movement and feel threatened in their authority. It’s a favorite tactic of the State in destroying movements of liberation.

These tactics of the state and the police go together, and jacketing often leads to direct violence and the destruction of movements. If you’re still reading, let’s take a look at two well known regional cases: the State assassination of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton and Mark Clark (1969), and the murder of American Indian Movement militant and Anna Mae Aquash (Mi’kmaq) (1975).

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Categories: Unions

IWW General Executive Board Statement

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 15:58

By the IWW General Executive Board, November 22, 2015

The General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of the World declares solidarity with the people standing up to the police state in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Black lives absolutely matter.

Standing up to the oppressive, murderous, and racist police occupation in north Minneapolis is just and we support it.

We stand in solidarity with everyone who stands up against oppression, and the racist violence of the police against people of color.

We pledge our solidarity with this struggle for justice and change that goes beyond reform. We pledge our solidarity with the people in north Minneapolis who deserve to live their lives without fear of being murdered by the police because of their economic status, where they live, or color of skin.

We stand in solidarity with protesters at the 4th Police precinct in north Minneapolis and stand in solidarity with the occupation until there is justice for Jamar Clark and the police are no longer a racist, classist, occupying army in north Minneapolis.

In solidarity and for total liberation,
-the Industrial Workers of the World General Executive Board

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Categories: Unions

What’s outrageous? Unpaid wages! Report from solidarity demo

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 14:38

By Communications Officer - Bristol IWW, November 14, 2015

Fellow Wobblies and supporters, Bristol Communications Officer here to report on the wet but very successful solidarity demo held this morning in Bristol outside Cafe Amore!

We organised the demo in solidarity with Fellow Worker Bonny, who worked at Cafe Amore for a while and was not paid the full wages she was owed after quitting. Bristol IWW union representative assisted her in writing a demand letter to the cafe’s boss, which Bonny then delivered by hand a week ago accompanied by fellow Wobblies. During the week, the boss paid her some of the money she was owed but not all of it, and didn’t provide a clear explanation as to why he couldn’t pay the whole amount, and when he would do so.

So, on we went this Saturday to hold a solidarity demo demanding the cafe’s boss to pay Bonny her wages, as well as to highlight the bad practices that Cafe Amore use on their staff – unpaid trials, underpaying migrant staff, and forced unpaid overtime. Despite the relentless rain, we had a very successful demonstration attended by around 30 people, with many members and supporters of the IWW, and members of Bristol SolNet.

Before the start of the demo, Bonny went in the cafe accompanied by her union rep and other members of the IWW to renew her demand and hand out flyers to customers. The boss was very aggressive towards them, making excuses as to why he hadn’t been able to pay Bonny’s full wages, and being very vague as to when he would pay her the remaining amount. He then went on to tell another IWW member who was trying to talk to customers to “get out of here or I’ll beat you up” in front of all the customers.

We stood outside the cafe for an hour, handing out flyers and singing songs in support of Bonny, and having lots of fun Wobbly-style! Lots of passers-by stopped to ask us what was going on and expressed interest and support for Bonny and what we were doing. But, Cafe Amore’s boss still hasn’t paid Bonny all the money she’s owed! Bristol IWW will carry on holding weekly solidarity demos outside Cafe Amore until Bonny’s paid up all the money she’s owed. Keep checking our blog and, especially, our Facebook page and Twitter feed (links on the right) and, if Bonny still doesn’t get paid, see you on Saturday 21 November at 12pm outside Cafe Amore (which is on Nelson Street, next to Holland & Barrett). Or, as we put it today in our chants: Pay Bonny her money and we’ll go away / Pay Bonny her money or we’re here to stay!

Do you also work in the bar & hospitality sector – bars, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, catering, etc? Does any of this sound familiar to you? The IWW has just launched a campaign to support and organise workers in these businesses. You can read our statement here: statement. We have also written an article on local paper “The Bristol Cable” highlighting the issues of bar & hospitality workers in Bristol. You can read it here: article.

If Bonny’s situation sounds familiar to you, and you need help and support to stand up to bully bosses who don’t pay wages and treat their workers like doormats, email us at bristol@iww.org.uk

We are a grassroots union that uses direct action methods to support workers to fight back for their rights. This is what we can offer you: training to know Employment Law and (where possible) use it to get what you want; training to represent your Fellow Workers in grievance and disciplinary meetings; training to organise your co-workers so you can speak as one voice, and get more influence over what goes on at work; and, finally, TRAINING TO WIN – better terms and conditions, better pay, and less bullying from your boss!

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Categories: Unions

Concrete examples of non labour relations board unions: Part III

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 14:28

By Phinneas Gage - Recomposition, November 6, 2015

This is the third part of a series of concrete examples (Part IPart II) 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 following examples are from the IWWs organising efforts in food service. This includes fast food as well as grocery stores in a lot of the examples the IWW actually engaged in innovative organising that broke ground in more high profile campaigns like the well known “Fight for Fifteen” campaigns around raising the minimum wage in the USA.

4. The IWW in Food Service

a). The Jimmy John’s Workers Union

The Jimmy John’s Workers Union started as an effort by the Twin Cities General Membership Branch of the IWW to organise in Fast Food. The campaign at it’s height had shop committees in multiple shops and a city wide committee. Ultimately, the campaign made a decision to go for an NLRB election and only failed by two votes with 85 in favour and 87 against. After that point the campaign went into steep decline but the organisers still managed to create an impressive track record of gains for themselves and their co-workers including: reversing decisions by management to fire people, addressing health and safety concerns for delivery drivers, tips jars, a city wide pay raise, and scheduling issues as well as countless smaller individual grievances in their shops. There is still an underground IWW presence in many shops across the USA and a very public campaign in Baltimore.

Advantages: Large numbers of workers mobilised. A city wide organisation spanning at all ten shops in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) at its height. Coordination through city wide mass meetings. The media work on this campaign was impressive including making the New York Times. Impressive gains before, during, and after the failed certification election.

Disadvantages: Campaign wasn’t merely oriented towards a youth counter culture, it celebrated it and was itself a function of it. Substance abuse on the campaign was a major issue and led to key organisers putting their jobs at risk and getting injured unnecessarily. Logistically it was very lax with campaign data, mostly being kept in the personal notebooks of key organisers. Many organisers were also goal oriented to the point of certification becoming an all or nothing proposition and the campaign slowly contracted as key people moved on to other projects after the certification campaign failed, despite efforts to downplay the legal process by some organisers. As well the ability to join the JJWU campaign but not the IWW also created a tiered membership that made it ambiguous as to who was actually a member and difficult to consolidate membership beyond just the shop. Ultimately failed to bridge some of the demographic divides in the industry.

What happened?
There is still an underground IWW presence in some shops across the USA and a very public campaign in Baltimore. After the certification election six key organisers were fired over a publicity stunt involving a fight for sick days and the NLRB process is now on its last appeal several years later. The campaign is an impressive achievement for an all volunteer union on a shoe string budget.

b). The Starbucks Workers Union

Where the Jimmy John’s Workers Union in the Twin Cities peaked at a failed certification election the Starbucks Workers Union really got going after a failed attempt at certification. In 2003 wobblies started organising at a Starbucks in Manhattan. In 2004 they tried for a union certification election. The National Labour Relations Board defined their bargaining unit as every Starbucks in Manhattan. which for an organising committee of only a handful became unfeasible as it would include hundreds of workers. So the campaign chose to continue outside of the recognition framework. Since that time over a decade ago the SWU has ran campaigns in dozens of cities going public in towns like New York, Chicago, Quebec, Minneapolis and Dallas. Countless underground committees have pushed back against management to rack up impressive wins like: changes to scheduling practices, enforcing the right to take bathroom breaks, winning a two dollar an hour raise for all Starbucks workers in New York, and improvements to health and safety. Perhaps their greatest achievement was winning Martin Luther King Day as a paid day off in the USA for all Starbucks workers, many of whom are African American. The union has also won countless small victories overturning discipline, fighting against sexual harassment and discrimination at work and extending international solidarity to Baristas in Chile. The union has made national press several times and has won several labour relations board rulings cementing some legal recourse to unions that exist outside the contract and certification process.

Advantages: Extremely fluid organisation allowed for rapid expansion to other cities and shops without too much red tape. The campaign can coordinate demands over multiple cities and countries. Strong emphasis on direct action, the campaign has repeatedly avoided certification elections since the initial defeat in New York and has since developed a strong practice of shop floor unionism.

Disadvantages: Like other IWW efforts in Fast Food the campaign suffers from a high turnover in their workforce and all the problems that come from that. The campaign was logistically lax at some points but fairly strong at others. Part of their very fluid structure made creating democratic structures and decision making difficult. The campaign also had a tendency to go public with a small minority in the shop. Part of this was due to a reliance, probably an over reliance, on media tactics. These strategic decisions put a tremendous amount of strain on key personalities and also create problems as far as giving credit to other people, creating an investment on the part of the less high profile activists, and bringing constant scrutiny and attention from management. Also when the Quebec wobblies joined the SWU from an already existing union formation things quickly fell apart due to differing emphases on direct action and a greater reliance on certification votes (which failed) in Canada. Ultimately the organisers quit en mass and called it direct action.

What happened?
The IWW still has organising activity at Starbucks stores all over North America and a public presence in New York that is going on twelve years this year.

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Categories: Unions

Can “solidarity unionism” save the labor movement?

Sun, 11/08/2015 - 11:56

By Eric Dirnbach - Waging Nonviolence, November 4, 2015

The debate on how to revive the troubled U.S. labor movement has been around for decades. Labor activists generally believe that much greater rank-and-file democracy and workplace militancy is the key to labor renewal. However, an essential perspective that is usually missing from the conversation is well represented by Staughton Lynd’s “Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below,” which was first published in 1992 and has been recently reissued.

Lynd is a legendary progressive lawyer and activist from Youngstown, Ohio. He is the coauthor with his wife Alice Lynd of the classic “Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers,” a collection of oral histories of militant union organizers, which informs much of the framework of “Solidarity Unionism.” At around 100 pages, the book reads more like a summary of his organizing philosophy, and many readers will come away wanting a more extensive discussion. It should be read along with several other recent books which make similar arguments: Stanley Aronowitz’s “The Death and Life of American Labor: Toward a New Workers’ Movement,” and “New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism,” edited by Immanuel Ness, who also provided the introduction for “Solidarity Unionism.”

Lynd argues for a rethinking of the assumptions of the labor movement and for a revived version of labor organizing that was more prominent in the pre-New Deal era that he calls “solidarity unionism.” What may surprise most labor-oriented readers is that central to this kind of unionism is the absence of a contract between the union and the employer.

Isn’t the whole point of forming a union to get a written collective bargaining agreement? Lynd doesn’t think so and he argues that workers fighting together with direct action on the job to make improvements in the workplace do not need a contract and may be hurt by having one. He is critical of the “management rights” and “no-strike” clauses that are standard in almost all union contracts. He believes they reduce the power of workers to influence major decisions in how the workplace is run and to solve their problems at work immediately as they arise. Contracts tend to remove agency from the workers and place it in the hands of union staff who typically bargain and process grievances while the members may be uninvolved and cynical. Lynd is also skeptical of a union’s exclusive representation of all workers in the workplace and automatic dues check-off, preferring for workers to actively join the union and pay dues because they want to.

Lynd’s view of the prevailing “contract unionism” differs from standard labor history, which considers the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA, labor reforms as a progressive advance for workers. In the mainstream view, workers organizing, with the support of President Roosevelt, finally won full government enforcement for the right to organize and bargain collectively. In exercising this right, unions typically hold workplace elections and then negotiate contracts with employers that set the conditions of employment and also guarantee labor peace (no strike/no lockout) for the term of the contract. This industrial relations framework led the way for millions of workers to organize and improve their wages and working conditions. This “class compromise” held for several decades until employers changed their mind and increased their opposition to unionization again.

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Categories: Unions

Wobbling to Victory: Are militant unions anarchist wreckers or the future of the labour movement?

Sun, 11/08/2015 - 11:23

By Dek Keenan - Union Solidarity International, November 5, 2015

In recent years, new or rediscovered forms of worker self-organisation have begun to appear – and often in the most unlikely of places.

Small independent unions, using a combination of often audacious direct action tactics combined with innovative campaign strategies are bringing victories to some of the most marginalised and precarious groups of workers. Punching way above their weight, these dynamic new (and some not so new) unions are fighting to win and organising with few or no full-time officials and on shoestring budgets.

Are they the work of anarchist wreckers, alien to the traditions of the labour movement, or do they offer a way out of the impasse that our movement finds itself in?

In London, new unions such as the United Voices of the World (UVW) and Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) have been at the forefront of precarious, out-sourced and greatly migrant labour struggles. Recent high profile fights for the Living Wage, for sick pay and the reinstatement of union activists at the Barbican and at Sotheby’s auction house have brought the UVW into the media spotlight.

The first signs in the UK of this ‘new unionism’ were seen in 2011 when the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the famous ‘Wobblies’, organised a Branch for cleaners in London, recruiting dissatisfied members of Unite associated with the Latin American Workers Association (LAWA).

This Branch built on the existing community of solidarity in the LAWA and, through the establishment of workers’ advice clinics, language classes and much aggressive outreach by unpaid activists, expanded beyond the Latin American community to other groups of cleaners searching for an effective voice at work. London Living Wage victories at Canary Wharf and elsewhere followed, heightening the profile of the IWW and paving the way for subsequent initiatives from the UVW and IWGB.

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Categories: Unions

Organizing the Choke Points

Sat, 11/07/2015 - 10:55

By Joe Allen - Jacobin, November 3, 2015

It took the United Parcel Service one hundred and eight years to get to its current position in the world today, less than half that time for Walmart, DHL, and FedEx, and just over two decades for Amazon. The speed of transformation in the global logistics industry is rapidly increasing, spurred on by Amazon’s current building spree across North America and Europe.

For example, according to Business Insider,

Amazon has added 21 new logistics facilities globally over the last 12 months, up 14% from last year, bringing the total to 173 facilities worldwide. Of the 173 facilities, 104 are in the North America region, with the rest spread across Europe and Asia. The 173 logistics facilities include the large fulfillment-center warehouse; sortation centers, where packages get presorted for shipping; and Prime Now hub, a separate building to store one-hour delivery items.

Clearly big things are afoot. Amazon’s recent job listing strongly suggests it is building a senior staff for a major logistics and transportation department that includes a “Senior Program Manager — Last Mile Transportation SME,” “Driver Experience Manager,” and “Network Manager — Amazon Logistics Freight.” A former Amazon engineer told Business Insider, “If Amazon can stop paying FedEx and start controlling their own destiny in terms of the costs of fulfillment and shipping and transportation, it increases their profit margin.”

Another sign of the rapidly transforming logistics industry is UPS’s recent purchase of the Chicago-based Coyote Logistics for $1.8 billion. Coyote is a new model of freight forwarding; it has no vehicles or warehouses of its own, and instead provides logistics for 12,000 shippers with a network of 35,000 local, regional, and national carriers.

A decade earlier UPS made its largest acquisition up to that point when it bought Overnite Transportation, a huge non-union freight company. UPS’s purchase of Overnite was a major move into the traditional freight business, and followed FedEx’s acquisition of several regional freight companies and creation of FedEx Freight.

FedEx is also trying to keep up with the competitive pressures from Amazon and UPS. Earlier this year it acquired the Dutch parcel-delivery company TNT Express for $4.8 billion — giving it access to TNT’s Europe-wide road network to compete with UPS and DHL — and FedEx Ground has announced plans to build large facilities in Middleton, CT; Ocala, FL; and Hamburg, NY.

DHL — formally DHL Express, a division of Deutsche Post — is also reinvesting substantially in its US operations, including a $108 million upgrade to its Cincinnati air hub that processes about 46 million international shipments each year. Though it is smaller than UPS’s nearby Worldport or FedEx’s Superhub, DHL’s Cincinnati operations primarily focus on international shipments from Asia and Europe.

“If DHL is making investments in infrastructure expansion in Cincinnati, that means they’re very confident that they’re going to continue to grow their intercontinental network,” says Brian Clancy, a managing director with Logistics Capital & Strategy, a Virginia-based transportation consulting firm.

Meanwhile, DHL Global Forwarding signed an agreement with a Kazakhstan-based express company to speed the transit of rail-based freight across the Eurasian continent as an alternative to traditional sea and airfreight. In addition, it announced plans to establish its own parcel network in Austria by 2016 and to invest €47 million in sub-Saharan Africa as part of an effort to derive 30 percent of its revenue from emerging markets by 2020.

Not to be left out of the scramble, the United States Postal Service (USPS), the venerable, much-derided, and constitutionally mandated mail carrier, has emerged as a major player in the logistics industry.

This summer, Bloomberg Businessweek called the USPS “an extension of Amazon” and noted that “Amazon receives a deep discount from the post office because the e-tailer does so much of its own processing — including providing computerized address lists to make it easier for carriers to tailor their delivery routes for faster drop-offs.” A 2014 estimate by Bernstein Research, which tracks the shipping industry, put the USPS’s shipments and deliveries at 40 percent of Amazon’s volume, or almost 150 million items (UPS accounted for 20–25 percent and FedEx 15–20 percent).

While UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the USPS are fierce competitors, many people would be surprised by the cooperation between the logistics giants. Both FedEx and UPS have discounted residential package delivery services with the USPS called, respectively, SmartPost and SurePost. And the volume is enormous. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported:

For FedEx alone, the post office delivers an average of 2.2 million packages a day, or about 30% of the express-mail company’s total U.S. ground segment. UPS won’t specify how many of its shipments go through the post office, but a regulatory filing indicates those types of lightweight shipments accounted for 40% — or about 37 million packages — of its total increase in ground shipments in 2012.

Both SmartPost and SurePost services are designed to deal with the unwanted costs of the “last mile” — the industry term for the final step in the delivery process, handing over the package to the recipient. FedEx or UPS may have every address in the United States in their databases, but neither wants to go to every address every day, and they certainly don’t want to make a second attempt if the recipient isn’t home the first time around. The USPS, on the other hand, has to go to each address daily to delivery first-class mail.

Ultimately, UPS and FedEx want to snatch up the most profitable areas and dump the rest. For example, FedEx beat out UPS in 2013 for a seven-year, $10.5 billion contract with the USPS to fly its mail between US airports.

The rising volume of packages has transformed the USPS, necessitating major capital investment. In 2013, the post office spent $200 million to furnish its delivery vehicles with handheld scanners to provide real-time package tracking. And its plan to replace its fleet of 163,000 delivery trucks, which were not designed to hold packages, could cost as much as $4.5 billion.

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Categories: Unions

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