January 15th, 2018 –
Prisoners in Florida are engaging in a work stoppage with three main demands:
1. Payment for our labor, rather than the current slave arrangement
2. An end to outrageous canteen prices
3. Reintroduction of parole incentives to lifers and those with Buck Rogers dates
To learn more about the brutal and inhumane conditions, check out this article by prisoner Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “Florida Prisoners are Laying It Down”. Prisoners are gassed, tortured, and beaten, and prison officials discourage grievances. And even though prison labor is unpaid, prisoners still have to pay for basic necessities like toilet paper ($1.00 a roll) and multivitamins ($7.21)–or do without.
The objectionable conditions being protested include unpaid slave labor, compounded by outright price-gouging in the system’s commissary and package services, and the gain-time scam that replaced parole, which, coupled with extreme sentencing, has created overcrowding and inhumane conditions.
How can we show solidarity for striking prisoners? Check out “5 Ways to Support Florida Prisoners” for more details. Where to start? Get informed, spread the news by social media, and contribute to this campaign.
What: Centennial of the spreading of Joe Hill’s Ashes
When: Monday, May 1 at 7 PM – 9 PM
Where: Mt Pleasant Cemetery
700 West Raye Street, Seattle, Washington 98119
A songwriter, itinerant laborer, and union organizer, Joe Hill was well known in hobo jungles, on picket lines and at workers’ rallies as the author of popular labor songs and as an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) agitator. Thanks in large part to his songs and to his stirring, well-publicized call to his fellow workers on the eve of his execution—”Don’t waste time mourning, organize!”—Hill became, and he has remained, the best-known IWW martyr and labor folk hero.
Joe Hill was murdered by the State of Utah, November 19th, 1915. Two years later, his ashes were distributed and spread across the world by Wobblies. http://local.sltrib.com/charts/joehill/ashes.html
At the May Day 1917 ceremony in Seattle, Wobblies packed Mt. Pleasant Cemetery to watch Joe’s ashes scattered on the graves of the martyred Everett Massacre victims. Thousand of men, women, and children marched in four lines each wearing a red carnation. The procession was 15 blocks long!
A memorial and gathering to honor Joe Hill, and his contribution to the workers of the world will be held on the 100th anniversary of the spreading of his ashes – May 1st at 7PM. Please join us to celebrate in song and solidarity.
This weekend, IWW members visited and joined a Northwest Detention Center Resistance encampment, outside the Tacoma Detention Center, for support and solidarity. The full reportback is here, but here’s a quick excerpt:
Even if we had not received the warmest of welcomes at the encampment where we shared stories of struggle and organizing campaigns and broke bread with a variety of individuals from NWDC Resistance and other organizations, there would be little room for doubt that we were on the frontlines of one of the most critical flashpoints of resistance in this region.
The Tacoma Detention Center is a human rights disaster and a great injustice. It is a for-profit prison, and the company running it has a contract guaranteeing them payment for running a mostly full prison. In April, detainees began a hunger strike to demand legal representation, health care, and an increase to the $1/day wage for running the prison’s basic services.
The IWW GDCS from Greater Seattle and Olympia are calling on everyone to continue to show up for this struggle as frequently and in as many ways as possible.
Here are two upcoming actions:
This Tuesday 4/25 the Tacoma City Council is holding a public hearing on expanding the NWDC. Please show up early, around 4:30 to sign up for public comment and get in touch with NWDC Resistance organizers to receive a statement to read on behalf of one of the detainees in their own words. Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1369020549826533/
Wednesday 5/10 (Latin American Mother’s Day no less) Cynthia, a community member and mother from Hondouras is facing a deportation which will tear her family apart after fighting for years to remain in the U.S. She has requested that people join her as she shows up to be processed. Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1158229104323268/
For other ways to get involved, visit the NWDC Resistance website (http://www.nwdcresistance.org) which has detailed press releases, pictures of detainee demand letters, and information about upcoming events.
Seattle’s brand-new General Defense Committee now has a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed. Check them out!
The aim of the Greater Seattle GDC is, among other things, to provide defense and relief to members of the working class who are being persecuted for their activity in the class struggle–in keeping with the IWW motto:
“An Injury to One is an Injury to All!”
The Greater Seattle GDC has its own charter, part of the IWW but independent of the Seattle General Membership Branch (GMB). It is following in the footsteps of the antifascist elements of the Twin Cities GDC, which began its activities with picket training — specifically because members of their branch had been hit by delivery trucks during pickets — and out of a concern that fascists were videotaping immigrant rights marches in 2007. (Read more about the Twin Cities GDC here.)
The IWW’s union-wide GDC came to the aid of a fellow worker who was shot at a University of Washington protest that took place on January 20th, quickly organizing a fundraiser.
The first action of the Greater Seattle GDC will take place on Friday, March 31st at the UW’s Red Square: “All out Against Fascism and Hate.” Details from their website:
The Greater Seattle General Defense Committee calls upon the UW campus and community beyond to join us at Red Square on Friday, March 31st at 12PM in declaring that we will not be intimidated by the violence of the far-right! This includes the near-fatal shooting of one of our members at University of Washington on January 20th as well as the others who are currently facing attacks and harassment.
Through their inaction before and after the shooting on January 20th, the police and campus administration at UW have proven themselves unwilling and incapable of actually creating a safe and secure environment on campus. We hope to use this as an opportunity to show that despite this violence, we will continue to organize in our communities and build power to develop a united front against the rise of fascism. This includes organizing to develop alternatives to law enforcement, the criminal legal system, and the administrations which place a far higher value on profit than they do safety. These institutions can not and will not protect us; we must organize to protect ourselves and each other!
This action will begin at 12PM and will involve a brief walk between several locations around campus. Please share this event throughout your networks!
Welcome to the Greater Seattle General Defense Committee!
More than a century ago, founding Wobbly Lucy Parsons gave a speech advocating for a different kind of general strike. It was more like a general Occupy:
The trouble with all the strikes in the past has been this: the workingmen like the teamsters in our cities, these hard-working teamsters, strike and go out and starve. Their children starve. Their wives get discouraged. (…) That is the way with the strikes in the past. My conception of the strike of the future is not to strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production.
(From “The General Strike: The Strike of the Future, by Lucy Parsons”, a speech given at the founding convention of the IWW.)
A woman far ahead of her time, she asked her compatriots to set aside “differences as nationality, religion, politics,” and declared: “if there is anything that you men should do in the future it is to organize the women.”
Lucy Parsons was of Mexican American, African American, and Native American descent, and she had been born into slavery. She organized women, led picket lines, fought white supremacy, and so terrified the Chicago Police Department that they called her “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.”
For more about Lucy Parsons, visit her page on the Zinn Education Project.
Today’s “Solidarity Sunday” features an upcoming immigrant justice march and a song from Stardust United.
From Familias Unidas por la Justicia:
Familias Unidas por la Justicia los invita a marchar con nosotros. Familias Unidas por La Justicia Invites You to March With Us.
We invite our Brothers and Sisters from all movements to join farmworkers in solidarity. Our struggles are not isolated.
The march is on February 12th from 10am to 1pm in Burlington, Washington.
View the event here!
Meanwhile, from Stardust Family United comes a song, “We are the People!”
The song was written by one of the diner’s staff, #MaxDemers, and the chorus goes:
We are the people
We sing as one
We sing for all the beauty here and all the good that can be done
We are the people and we stand strong
We stand for who we are and who we may become
We are a family
Our love won’t be undone!
The full song is here, starting 5 minutes and 30 seconds in.
Wobbly, socialist, and disability rights activist Helen Keller has practical advice for troubled times. In an interview with Barbara Bindley, printed in New York Tribune, January 15, 1916, she explains:
. . . I realized that the wonder is not that conditions are so bad, but that society has advanced so far in spite of them. And now I am in the fight to change things. I may be a dreamer, but dreamers are necessary to make facts!
She became a socialist after learning that too much of blindness “was traceable to wrong industrial conditions, often caused by the selfishness and greed of employers.” But she soon became impatient with a solution that depended on socialists getting elected.
The true task is to unite and organize all workers on an economic basis, and it is the workers themselves who must secure freedom for themselves, who must grow strong.” Miss Keller continued. “Nothing can be gained by political action. That is why I became an IWW.
What prompted her to join the IWW in the first place? The Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, the “Bread and Roses strike.” Why?
Because I discovered that the true idea of the IWW is not only to better conditions, to get them for all people, but to get them at once.
Well, more than one hundred years later, we are still here, still organizing to secure our freedom. For all people over the world, and all at once.
Read the full interview, “Why I became an IWW,” on the IWW web page.