Labor Rising?

I tend to be pretty skeptical of the business unions leadership, although some of them are nice folks. But as organizations they are top-heavy, top-down, conveyor-belt for the ruling class, safety-valve against revolt, jingoist war profiteers, democratic patsies, historically racist and sexist, textbook example of recuperation, those “Don’t Bite The War That Feeds You Buttons,etc. blah blah blah. I had to get that out of my system, since the unraveling of capitalism may be forcing them to change their ways.

Big Labor tends to unconditionally support the democrats both morally and financially, and has gotten little in return, since Reagan was president. The recent corporate reparations and the success of the Republic Window occupation in Chicago may have reminded organized labor how they were originally able to force the capitalists into giving union members lower-middle class lifestyles, in the first place. I want to believe the that anarchists who work as organizers and bureaucrats played a role, and that their brutally hard work has not been in vain. I mean that sincerely.

The diffuse nature of consumer capitalism means that more workers than just those in Michigan will be affected by the collapse of the US auto industry and more unions than just the UAW will be losing members. The US senate voting against granting reparations to the US automakers has backed the unions, already weakened by years of ‘right to work’, so called “free-trade”, and the transition from an industrial to a consumer economy, into a corner. They appear to be ready to fight for their very existence when United Steelworkers International president, Leo Gerard, on a conference call for labor PAC, Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) says,

If we have Republicans who oppose us, we are going to take to the streets, we are going to occupy places. We are not going to allow any more of our members’ lives to be destroyed.

Then he shouts down a market-fundamentalist pundit who questions the USW solidarity with Colombian workers, saying

We should not do deals with countries that allow the shooting of people who represent the workers!

Not only do Leo Gerard and the Kaiser Chiefs predict a riot.  Gerald Celente, relatively accurate trend predictor, sees food riots, revolutions, and squatter uprisings in the US by 2012.  He also addressed our capacity for denial.

America’s going to go through a transition the likes of which no one is prepared for,” said Celente, noting that people’s refusal to acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, said, while referring to the auto bailout,

We’re going to have riots. There are already people rioting because they’re losing their jobs when everybody else is being bailed out. The fairness of it becomes more and more evident as we go along. The auto companies may be hurting,” he said, but “there are very few companies that aren’t hurting and they’re going to hurt. We don’t have enough money to bail everyone out.

Too bad that wasn’t a campaign promise.

Glad to see the unions are trying to tap into the old fighting spirit. Hopefully we’ll see them on the barricades. Gerard’s a big dude.

Rage Into The Machine

An overlooked irony in the 2008 US presidential race was that armed-struggler turned professor, Bill Ayers, was now a cog in the same Chicago political machine that empowered his former arch-nemesis (and friend of his father), Richard M.Daley with goons to chase and beat Ayers and the other dissenters outside of the 1968 DNC. This fact was not relevant to the McCain campaign, and would likely been unhealthy for the red-baiting of Obama which was pretty much all the GOP had to run on, after eight years of sloppy, sloppy power.

I’m writing from Pittsburgh and the Chicago machine is scary to me and that should tell you something. Didn’t the governor try to sell a congressional seat on ebay or something?

I hadn’t considered it at the time but all the criticisms of a “reasonable”, corporate friendly, Chicago power politician as a “socialist”, “radical black-liberation theologian” ,”Marxist”  who wanted to “redistribute wealth” etc. weren’t just amusing, but dangerous, as they caused oppressed people and leftists to rally around him yet, gave Obama many opportunities to prove that he could keep the “rabble in check,” and that his loyalty to power was greater than to the masses.

I’ve never been too impressed with 1960s US student radicals, partly because I saw where many of them ended up, and partly because the shit happening in the rest of the world was so much more awesome. I’m sure it also has something to do with the anti-intellectualism that was so prevalent in working-class neighborhoods and families. Higher education was a “waste of time” when steel jobs paid more than many jobs which required a degree.

It’s often remarked that half of the Weatherman Underground are in prison and the other half are college professors. An exception is another “Days of Rage” participant turned registered lobbyist and Obama fundraiser, Marylin Katz, who is also a flack-catcher for various Chicago agencies, including their storied police department‘s community policing initiative as well as about a dozen other agencies.

I’m not sure what role Ms. Katz had in managing the rest of the irrelevant aging new lefties, who spun Obama’s candidacy to legitimacy amongst those who profess to have radical politics. Long-time sycophant Tom Hayden continues to enrich himself promoting the progressive personality du jour. I guess the Democrats finally noticed the successful GOP strategy of the past 25 years that involves appealing to the ideological base to win the center. What remains to be seen is whether the Dems will continue their policy of screwing their base or will they actually make some concessions? The business unions have continued to unconditionally support the Dems despite their horrible track record on labor issues.

What lesson can modern radicals take from all of this? If you’re selling out, make sure you’re compensated for it and a system that can recuperate (sub)urban guerrillas can find a place for anyone who is interested. Still, I wonder what Shortshanks would think of his former opponents’ places at his table?

An Open Letter to the “Anarchists” Who Voted for Obama

In a future revolutionary period, the most subtle and most dangerous defenders of capitalism will not be the people shouting pro-capitalist and pro-statist slogans, but those who have understood the possible point of a total rupture. Far from eulogizing TV commercials and social submission, they will propose to change life… but, to that end, call for building a true democratic power first. If they succeed in dominating the situation, the creation of this new political form will use up people’s energy, fritter away radical aspirations and, with the means becoming the end, will once again turn revolution into an ideology. Against them, and of course against overtly capitalist reaction, the proletarians’ only path to success will be the multiplication of concrete communist initiatives, which will naturally often be denounced as anti-democratic or even as.. “fascist”. The struggle to establish places and moments for deliberation and decision, making possible the autonomy of the movement, will prove inseparable from practical measures aimed at changing life.
-Gilles Dauvé: When Insurrections Die (Part 2)

Beloved and respected friends and comrades,

I’ve been putting this off for a little while, because it pertains to those who I “know” only digitally, and those of you whom I know and care for, which is little different than my normal motives for procrastinating. I’m also having difficulty coming to any kind of conclusive conclusion. Sometimes I feel like that straight-edge teen I used to be. The one who had to ignore my friend’s personal habits, if I wanted the friends I had. I’ve since exchanged abstinence for abstention, but the moral highlands get lonely. We all have moments, every day, when our words and actions are not explicitly anarchist ones. That’s no real contradiction. Theory’s theory,  and reality is reality. I lack the formal education to decide at what point (or which actions) we rack up enough ‘un-anarchist’ points to get the discount on gas or free coffee or purged from the Movement.

The recent US national election saw many of you anarchists (outside of the title, I’ll refrain from using quotation marks or “self-described” out of respect) publicly endorse and proudly vote for Barack Obama. I was unaware of the existence of modern anarchists in the US in August of 1999, but when I look back, I can find no evidence of any radical fanfare when Franklin Raines became CEO of Fannie Mae.

Looking back, It seems that anarchist involvement in US political conventions seems to be a baby-boomer contribution. I’m unaware of any anarchist actions at the political party conventions before 1968. Other than the tactical lack of Republican mobs in the street, we seem to harbor a soft spot for the Democrats. Maybe later we can figure that one out and we can also discuss why we even protest the political conventions?

This election, many people who identify as anarchists, saw no contradiction in voting. Some of you weren’t even the “hold your nose and vote” types. Some anarchists seem  proud of themselves, their country, and their candidate, for the moment, but that’s a moment too long. The reasons you gave us were pretty much the same reasons that people who vote democratic tend to give, plus some debatable notions that democratic administrations allow room for social movements to flourish (like they’re mountain lions) and murky stuff about solidarity. Which you may remember is the flipside of my past endorsements of “the worse of two evils”, because “an increase in open repression, privation, and alienation would push our beloved homogeneous masses to open mutiny” and that “republican policies can hasten the end of US empire quicker than the democrats can”. But I was less than half-serious and never actually went through with it. I didn’t have much internet access before the election, so I was unaware of this backslide into electoral superstition.

The  memory escapes me, but I am unaware of democrats nurturing radical social movements, I remember many armed right wing, “partiot”  groups, who are in favor of Jesus, if they don’t consider themselves Jesus. This time around, they can protect us from the UN and the Federal Reserve and al Qaeda in Idaho.  Dubya just didn’t deploy the black helicopters like Clinton did. Conspiracy kingpin, Alex Jones, should be able to afford an island soon. This is good news for the State security apparatus, because the similarities in views, structure, goals, and appearance between the FBI and the theocratic militias is much easier than these years of tormenting Muslims.

Anarchist voters also had to be pretty certain that Obama would govern from the center-right, in the manner expected of a modern US president, because if he was the “marxist” that right-wing radio still maintain he his, the repression against anarchists would likely be swift and brutal, if the 20th century is any indicator. The 21st century hasn’t proven to be much better.

Some of us knew that the campus radicals were easy prey for the democrats. The rise in anarchist votes in the last two elections seems to be reflective of the recent increase in youth turnout, overall, but many comrades who should have known better, “signed their social contract” last week. It’s not hard to see where material conditions become more of a concern as the acceptable age for youthful rebellion in the US is left behind. Add a few kids to that mix, and anything that has an outside chance to make material conditions even slightly less miserable must seem like a real good idea. Besides, who doesn’t crave some legitimacy every now and again and the pressure exerted by the people around you can be great? I also have the luxury of not being canvassed all day by co-workers.

I think that many of the anarchists who are concerned with building a mass movement of some sort, may have been more susceptible to voting. It’s likely some anti-authoritarians wanted to be on the winning team for a change, because there was that kind of group energy and momentum swirling around the Obama campaign, if you were willing to ignore the structure and aims. The business unions may have made voters out of some the anarchists who are there to radicalize the union. Which is telling, as far as the notion of changing the system from within is concerned, as if that one needed another debunking.

We tend to run with a pretty iconoclastic bunch, so it’s easy to forget, but hard to discount the effect that endorsements by some of the leading lights of mainstream anti-authoritarian academia must had. Bill Ayers probably gave Obama some radical credibility. Or was it radical chic? The republicans simply couldn’t grasp the political reality that people like Ayers are big-money liberal fund-raising props, like their wounded troops and police widows. Liberals love proxy violence and armed-struggle; so long as it is from another time or place, as sure as conservatives love US military and police violence. Zapatistas and Sandinistas and aging bombers are venerated money magnets, but break a window at a present day demo or hit a nazi with a stick and their American Exceptionalism is triggered. They’re incensed.

Like christmas, it’s not easy to avoid being sucked into the campaign reality grid, considering the resources expended on sucking us in. Avoiding Obama’s gravitational pull wasn’t easy, either. I guess even I’d seem pretty attractive if I spent $650 million of someone elses money to do so. I love politics as a spectator sport, though and this cycle was particularly entertaining, but I still don’t have a favorite team. Having lived through seven presidents, it wasn’t hard to figure out that the pendulum would favor a democrat this time around. McCain’s dementia-influenced health care plan which I sill can’t comprehend, was a far cry from the Wall Street sanctioned Obama proposal. When the reality that capitalism is just a game we all agree to play wounded the markets, there was no way Obama could lose. It was almost shocking to be reminded that the democrats were ever skilled at the game of elections.

US elections have also proven to be of extra dubious legitimacy lately, and electronic touchscreens have done little to make the results seem more valid. The participation of people I care about does nothing validate that process for me either. The fraud, intimidation, disenfranchisement, and other irregularities make the powerball seem like a better idea.

Does anyone really believe that the aircraft carrier of State can make a quick 180 degree turn, no matter how cool the captain seems? That’s why there are so many bizarre laws still left on the books, it’s not easy to put these things back into the box, Pandora. The State ensures its existence by passing laws, not repealing them. The issues that separate the US parties are meant to stay unresolved, or all they have to differ on is semantics and the parties would go out of business. Abortion & firearms seem to be the defining ones, and both are here to stay. The need to be armed and voluntary eugenics will never go out of style, as long as this system exists. The firearms manufacturers love democratic presidents, who become amazing gun salesmen through hysteria generated by lobbyists and pundits. Dubya was quite the Planned Parenthood fundraiser. Issues that unite the parties include; staying in Iraq, also known as supporting the troops, and as much surveillance as is technologically and near-economically feasible, which is pretty much just not mentioned by politicians or the media, at all. Obama, as you may recall is a-ok with domestic suveillance, and the “War on Terror®” is the replacement for the cold war. I don’t know which of the “changes” you “believed in” but they apparently weren’t in white house staffers, since 37 of the 41 appointed so far were ex-Clinton lackies. Can we look forward to more “workfare”, humanitarian airstrikes, and extra cops, fresh back from Iraq? Elected democrats are often called upon to prove how ‘tough’ they are on certain issues, typically these are mostly things like “Crime”, “Communism/Terrorism,most-isms”, “Drugs” and ocassionally “Poverty” or “Illiteracy”. The last two aren’t as much a priority, because they seldom involve explosions.

I can’t pretend to begin to have anything even resembling a clue, as far as how many of us the US consider themselves to be anarchists. I’d prefer to be wrong, but it can’t be too many. There’s probably a bigger Fiero owners club. In fact, I doubt that if every anti-authoritarian moved to a sparsely populated US state; all of us put together would not be enough to change the outcome of a US election. The math is what makes any argument for voting moot. I thought we knew our votes didn’t count? Had former 1960’s bomber John McCain won the election would that have jogged your collective memories? Would so many have admitted to voting? The folks who took a sabbatical from practicing anarchist theory and voted were not even a factor. Had you all remained proper abstentionists, like a big chunk of the population who don’t consider themselves anarchists, I wouldn’t be wasting a week on this one post.

Once again, it made little difference to the election whether anarchists participated or not, so I guess it shouldn’t matter to me?  I don’t know why I feel a little betrayed, though. Maybe it’s just knowledge of the loss of a shared affinity? After the passage of a little time, I have to question the election as a great historical event. Whites in the US have accepted Tiger Woods as the greatest at an activity that brown-skinned people have traditionally had sense enough to avoid, like skydiving. For 35 years I’ve listened to the blue-collar bigots in my family and neighborhood profess their admiration for Muhammad Ali, a physically dangerous black man with legitimately radical views, who practiced Islam.  As long as our celebreties are attractive enough, race can be easily overlooked.

I guess I didn’t campaign too vigorously against this election, out of guilt, which I imagine is what led you to endorse, campaign, and vote for Obama, and why you are still proud of your vote.

Parts of this will be addressed later, but something had to be said.

Love,

yinsurgent

“Joe the Plumber” & The American (Pipe) Dream

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
-Jay Gould, Robber Baron

The 15 minutes of fame awarded to republican mascot, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber”, confirms what I have long considered to be the single greatest psychological problem afflicting working people in the US. Not the taste for mass-produced,  country “music” that is pumped from Nashville into large motor vehicles and  suburban and rural homes like sewage, but that steady journey to a mirage of an oasis, in this social desert. Mr. Wurzelbacher embodies the economic Stockholm syndrome of working people confusing their desires with those of the elites.

A lesser evil was the form that some of the corporate media/liberal blogger attacks against Mr. Wurzelbacher took. Not having internet access, at the time, I missed out on some of the more entertaining, but sadly untrue rumors such as the ones where his dad was Charles Keating’s (of McCain’s “pre-maverick” days) son-in-law. There’s no way I wouldn’t have bitten on that one. I fully comprehend that he volunteered to be a partisan combatant and should not have been surprised when bureaucrats in Ohio and elsewhere ran his numbers. The media focus on his back taxes and inability to complete a specialized training program and obtain professional licensing, portrayed being working poor as a moral failing, since millions of us have been in those kinds of situations. The liberal strategy of combating phony populism with genuine elitism seems somewhat misguided.

Why such a “great american”  who is connected to an astrofturf pseudo-union would choose to lie and associate himself with something as “marxist” as trade union (on myspace and facebook) is beyond me, especially when said trade union had given the member dues to the opposition candidate. Personally,  I’d no sooner pretend to be a member of plumbers union than a motorcycle “club”.

Like many people in the US, Wurzelbacher suffers from the delusion of cross-class mobility. Some people are willing to suffer any indignity, not just higher taxes in the here-and-now and allow the wealthy to get away with anything, in anticipation of a massive rise in personal income, like lottery winners and Bill Gates and Michael Jordan and Metallica and they can’t bear the thought of their dream wedding, hypothetical fortune being overtaxed. It’s Stockholm syndrome. How many people toil their lives away under the mistaken impression that they will one day buy the business they work for? I have about the same chance of buying that plumbing company as he does. Is it just another version of “being rewarded in heaven” or an economic Rapture? If a corporate entity is large enough, even the working poor who toil for it can buy stock in the company they work for. It is regarded as great privilege to possess a speck of a symbolic representation of the means of production. You become a gambler, although a less than insignificant one, and your low wages and paltry benefits and even your layoff, should it be deemed necessary, are all fixes implemented to benefit and improve the odds, for you, the shareholder. Your 401(k) depends on large groups of other workers and the planet itself being done even worse than you are.

Even in the US, these market fundamentalist, folk traditions often exact an even higher toll than mere degradation and wholesale boredom and they are not without their martyrs. Some people work themselves to death much faster than others in pursuit of the “American (sic) Dream”.

Rob Baran or Robber Baron? (part 3.)

Part 1. Part 2.

Call, write, email, stop in or take whatever action you deem appropriate, to send a message to “co-op” management, letting them know that such conduct is unacceptable, especially from an establishment which sells itself as an alternative to chain stores.

Petty, East End Food “Co-op” tyrant, Rob Baran, has apparently suffered a head injury, similar to the one that makes Ben Roethlisberger spend thousands of US dollars on doggie clothes.
Maybe Mr. Baran needs a helmet?
An email that is circulating on several local email lists was received by the YT. In it, a co-op worker sheds some lights on Mr. Baran’s latest egomaniacal demands:

To anyone interested in justice or at least in the well-being of your friends at the EEFC, especially those involved with the city paper:
The cafe staff has been subjected over the past two weeks to numerous actions of questionable legality and are being threatened with a wholesale lay-off upon refusal to sign a document we’ve endearingly termed “The Ultimatum.”

Background:
A new manager was hired two weeks ago. Upon his first active day in the kitchen, he was demonstrably hostile to at least three employees, shouting continually in an unprovoked fit of rage despite their calm tones and attempts to pacify his outburst. He screamed things like “All the shit you make here is garbage!,” “I will not put my name on this crap” (while slamming a full pan of pasta into a trash can, and other things. When one staff member reminded him (his name is Terry) of a meeting he was scheduled to attend, he misheard her and screamed repeatedly “Terry IS THE MEANING! Terry IS the MEANING! Terry IS THE MEANING!!” These are the words of a megalomaniac. All the while, he shouted through the store, walking out the aisles to the lobby continuing to shout. Both employees to whom he had originally raised his voice were written up for insubordination. One, who has worked here over 10 years, insisted that if Terry were permitted to continue working as the manager, that she would deliver her two weeks notice effective the day in question. This is exactly what happened.

Two weeks lapsed with no word from management as to the status of Terry’s continued employment. Upon coming into work on Monday, November 26th, having never even met this man, I was prompted to a meeting with management along with the rest of the cafe staff. We were handed a legally questionable document by the general manager of the store, Rob Baran, REQUIRING our signatures by the next day at 5PM, to a list of promises including a promise to work FOR this man whose behavior was completely threatening and unprofessional. Keep in mind that, speaking only for myself, I had no idea this was coming and did absolutely nothing to provoke this ultimatum.
Quoting from the “cafe transition vision”/”ultimatum”: If you are unable to make this commitment, for whatever reason, you will be laid off at the time that best suits the business interests of the coop.
Please come into the coop, CALLing would be even better, or just come in and fill out a comment card and insist to be heard — that one of the best places to shop, a co-op no less, which is supposed to operate on democratic member-reviewed process, is trying to fuck all of us over as quietly as possible and sweep this under the rug. Our deadline has been extended to wednesday at 5pm.
TAKE ACTION IF YOU CAN!!!

A loyalty oath? Is it a slightly above minimum wage job or a motorcycle gang? What’s next, 7 year FBI background checks? Hair testing for drugs? Interviewing neighbors to see if a prospective employee is “co-op” material? Do the greenwashed chains put the people who work for them through this kind of nonsense?

Another “co-op” worker is also expressing their discontent with the conditions and atmosphere, and not just the working ones. Sounds like management is ignoring some pretty basic health and sanitation concerns, despite what appears to be multiple attempts to remedy them.

Even loyal consumers (or ‘member-owners’ or whatever pretentious bullshit title your membership fees pay for) are questioning whether “co-op” management views them as the same kind of captive audience that they view the workers to be, as evidenced by this exchange. I guess the “co-op” is overcharging people for the good feeling they get by shopping there?

 

 

Starbucks: PA Turnpike Actions & No Mansion for its CEO Email Campaign

http://www.starbucksunion.org/Union Spreads News of SBUX Organizing Drive Across PA on Black Friday with Leafleting at Turnpike

Submitted by SWU on Mon, 11/19/2007 – 5:27pm.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Central PA – Hawa Lassanah
(717) 380-6085
Western PA – Kenneth Miller
(412) 241-1339
Updates on: www.starbucksunion.org

PITTSBURGH, PA — On Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, members and supporters of the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU), part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), will spread the news of union organizing and the exploitation of coffee workers by the world’s largest coffee chain, Starbucks, at rest areas along the PA Turnpike.

Starbucks, a company that has built a reputation as the leader in “Socially Responsible” business practices, has been exposed as a union buster, and its claims about respectful treatment of coffee growers does not hold up to the most elementary scrutiny.

“Starbucks has deceived many people into believing that it is a decent employer. But the reality of working at Starbucks is a poverty wage, irregular scheduling, and unaffordable health care. Starbucks needs to stop the union-busting and respect our rights now,” says SWU organizer Daniel Gross. The SWU organizes workers at both company-owned and licensed Starbucks facilities.

read more

File under: IWW Starbucks Workers Union News

 

E-mail Action: Say NO to Starbucks Chairman Mansion Purchase!

Friends:

As Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz wages a crude
union-busting operation against baristas striving for
a living wage and secure work hours, he is applying to
buy a $25-$30 million co-op apartment in Manhattan!

Tell the building’s Co-op Board that New York is a
union town and Howard Schultz is not welcome here!

Click here to participate in the e-mail action:
http://starbucksunion.org/node/1903

Thank you for all of your hard work.

-The IWW Starbucks Workers Union, http://StarbucksUnion.org

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File under: Starbucks Union

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Starbucks-Licensee Threatens IWW With Frivolous Lawsuit

Submitted by SWU on Thu, 11/15/2007 – 4:56pm.

For Immediate Release:
IWW Starbucks Workers Union
November 15, 2007
Contact: starbucksunion@yahoo.com

Statement of Starbucks Workers Union Followed by Legal Threat Letter from HMSHost:

“Starbucks should be ashamed that HMSHost, the
operator of 150 Starbucks stores, is threatening
frivolous litigation against the Industrial Workers of
the World to stifle First Amendment activity. This
type of anti-worker conduct is among the factors
contributing to the decline of the Starbucks brand and
attendant earnings woes. The IWW Starbucks Workers
Union will not be deterred by a baseless lawsuit and
we look forward to carrying out our communications
initiative at Pennsylvania’s HMS-operated Starbucks
stores this Black Friday. We call on Chairman Howard
Schultz and Starbucks to insist that HMSHost immediately
rescind its anti-speech legal threat.”

Starbucks-Licensee Legal Threat Letter

November 13, 2007
Via Regular Mail and E-Mail
Kenneth Miller
7125 Thomas Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15208

RE: Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and IWW’s
intention to picket and Request that Customers Boycott
Starbucks products

Dear Mr. Miller:
This is a follow up letter to one that had
previously been sent to you by Christopher Townsend
from HMSHost Corporation. Your communications to the
Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and your letter to
HMSHost clearly set for the union’s dispute with
Starbucks Corporation and your organizational campaign
drive against Starbucks. As stated in Mr. Townsend’s
letter, and as you have also been informed by the
Turnpike Commission, Host is a tenant at the Turnpike
that has a franchise agreement with Starbucks to
operate stores on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Your contemplated picketing and boycott activity
of Host’s Starbucks stores on the Turnpike constitutes
illegal secondary activity and a violation of Section
8 (b) (4) (ii) (B) of the National Labor Relations
Act. The Commission has also advised the union that
its conduct and continued communications with it
asking it to boycott Starbucks products and business
from the Turnpike could support a claim for tortuous
contractual interference.
Please be advised that Host will take all
necessary action to protect its business interests and
should any picketing and boycott activity occur as
contemplated that Host will seek legal recourse to
protect its rights, including seeking the recover of
damages that will occur because of the union’s
unlawful conduct. Historically, Hosts’ stores on the
Turnpike do very well over the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Therefore, Host will seek all lost revenues and costs
associated with bringing such action from the union
because of its unlawful secondary activity.
Should you have any further questions, please
feel free to contact me directly.
Sincerely,
Mary Helen Medina
Cc: Chuck Powers
Christopher Townsend
Brian Gallant
Stephen Stokwitz

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File under: IWW Starbucks Workers Union News

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An Open Letter to the “Astroturf” Drink Tax Foes-Retracted

Due to a hasty skimming of a Pittsburgh Tribune Review article, the YT had carelessly and incorrectly associated FACT, with the DC lobbying firm, the American Beverage Institute. They are apparently waging separate campaigns against the proposed drink tax. Despite the fact that the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, the primary source of FACT’s funding(as in single largest contributor), is affiliated with ABI, that does not constitute a direct link.

Dear Friends Against Counterproductive Taxation (FACT),

As a former restaurant employee, who has done eleven years hard time, primarily in mom-and-pop or local chain establishments (including some who are involved with FACT), I’m well aware of the difficult nature of that industry. You may also be aware that it is financially much more difficult for eateries that don’t have the State’s consent to sell alcohol, with its hefty mark-up. I’m not sure how the County’s other purveyors of alcohol are faring, but it’s absurd for any of the men who make up FACT’s board of directors to cry indigent or that their particular alcohol centered businesses will be drastically affected by the proposed 10% levy.

Do you worry about corporate chains running you out of business? Personally, if I were you, I’d be more worried about them than any drink tax or even the costs of fair treatment of the people whose labor you profit from. Do you think that being installed as an astroturf (a fake grassroots organization, created by lobbyists and PR firms that is meant to appear local and spontaneous) group for lobbyist Rick Berman, whose American Beverage Institute is the brains and bankroll behind your FACT group and the stopdrinktax.com website, could have some undesirable long-term consequences? Do you think Mr. Berman is more concerned with his Allegheny County pawns, who put the petty in petit bourgeois or his other clients, which include:

American Restaurant Group, Anheuser-Busch, Arby’s, Brinker International, Burger King, Carson Restaurants Worldwide, Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Cracker Barrel, El Torito, Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, Hard Rock Café, Hooters of America, Inc., Houston’s Restaurants, International House of Pancakes, Jack-in-the-Box, KKR Enterprises, Luby’s, Marie Callender Pie Shops, Marriott Corp., Metromedia Restaurant Group, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Panda Management Company, Perkins Family Restaurants, Rare Hospitality International, Red Lobster, Shoney’s, Sizzler, Steak & Ale, TGI Friday’s, Uno, Vicorp Restaurants, Wendy’s and more than I cared to copy and paste, but none of those omitted were local brewpubs. Seems like Stockholm syndrome or just little suicidal to me.

Granted you must be thrilled with some of Mr. Berman’s other work with front groups such as the Employment Policies Institute, which does all it can to keep the minimum wage as low as possible, the anti-worker Center for Union Facts, but not for you, for his big clients. Berman and Co. have even set up a group called Activist Cash, which seeks to discredit any organized opposition to their clients interests by painting them as recipients of dirty money or most ironically as front groups, like FACT and all the other Berman constructs.
The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) obviously doesn’t spend it’s money wisely, as the first priority of any bureaucracy is to ensure it’s own continued existence; the agency’s stated function is secondary. Contrary to what the media would have you believe, wages and benefits are not the problem, silly underwater tunnels that lead to casinos and management bonuses are the problem. Unlike yourself, I truly believe that bus drivers, as well as all working people, including those who make you fat, deserve a decent material standard of living.

Given the vast sums of public money that is spent locally to militarize law enforcement and on handouts to corporate parasites, I agree that the poured-drink tax wouldn’t have been my first choice, but at the end of the day, I’m more concerned with public transit than your profits. Nothing personal. You shouldn’t be shocked that I’m concerned with the interests of my social class, the same as you are concerned with yours. Life’s tough, just like you tell your employees if they need a weekend off.

However, your affluence comes with a high social cost and I’m not referring to the obvious things like drunk driving and heart disease and agribusiness. There are enough paid expert witnesses and politicians and activist-types to deal with that. I’m talking about the compensation and general treatment of the people who work themselves to death, so you don’t have to. Most of you only pay your waitstaff $2.83 an hour, because you can legally get away with it, and few if any of you offer any type of benefits to non-management. I’m talking about health insurance, not a 20% discount while they are at work. I wonder how many of your employees are forced to apply for medical assistance and how many of them fall through the cracks because “they earn too much”? Your exploitation of working people creates a burden on what passes for a “social safety net” in the US.

Your establishments are unsafe for the people who work there, physically and mentally. You pit workers against one another as another means of control, beyond your cameras and ID numbers and magnetic cards. Your schedules are erratic and subject to change at moment’s notice, and posted at the last possible moment, sometimes a day or two after it is already in effect. The hours are bad and it is hard to have much of a life when a shift typically starts in the afternoon and ends late at night. People who work in food service often carry on their social life while on the job which can lead to a hostile environment with all the near incestuous mating, dating and breaking up. Sexual harassment is so prevalent it often goes unnoticed, as there is nothing to contrast it with.

You also have a drinking and substance abuse problem. Not you personally, well, not all of you anyway. The industry, especially the trendy establishments, seem to favor a certain kind of lecherous, pretentious, Trustafarian, with a fondness for Peruvian marching powder, as the ideal candidate for management. You’ll turn a blind eye to all the open consumption of alcohol and other less socially acceptable inebriates, because you know if they sobered up, they’d never come back for more abuse from you and your customers. The police and courts are more than happy to deal with uninsured people who are having a substance abuse problem, by locking them up, since your industry’s aversion to employee benefits turns their medical issue into a moral/legal one. At least it’s one industry that has never really taken up the disturbing practice of urine testing.

I’m aware that you feel there is already too much State interference in your privileged existence as a business owner, but remember, like the lobbyists you are in bed with, the State is no more concerned about your continued financial well being as you are about a worker’s, and would love to replace all of your establishments with corporate chains. When that day comes, remember, you had a hand in your own undoing.

Sincerely,

Arson Daily

PS-Apparently alot of people aren’t fooled by this, since their online petition only had 4510 “signatures” as of 10:15 am 11/16/07

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