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Preview: Industrial Workers of the World - NYC GMB

Industrial Workers of the World - NYC GMB

This is the news page for our New York City General Membership Branch. To get an overview about our contact info, news and events, please visit our home page.


New York: Wobbly Waiters Stage “Sip In” to Demand IWW Recognition

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:52:25 +0000

By Stardust Family Unted - It's Going Down, January 17, 2018

This following report and video comes from the Stardust Family Diner, which is a group of workers who are fighting as part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to be in a union. Recently the workers won the rehiring of several dozen employees who were fired in an anti-union campaign conducted by management. 

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Some footage (video, above) from (January 16, 2018) “Sip In” at Stardust diner, where servers and former staff are fighting for the right to join a union (that’s right, they don’t even have the right to fight for their rights), along with a laundry list of other abuses perpetuated by management.

The idea was to disrupt the Saturday dinner rush—several arrived, were seated, and only ordered water (with copious amounts of lemon), stayed for an hour or so, tipped the server generously (so that they wouldn’t be punished financially), and then as we left, told the manager that they should allow the servers to join the union.

The very talented singing staff started the action by singing Twister Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (feat. in the musical “School of Rock”), then went into Woody Guthrie’s “Union Maid.” During the chorus (“Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union…”), those participants in the diner, stood up, held their waters and ketchup bottles aloft and sang along (To the wtf-bewilderment of all the tourists). Then one of the servers who was fired last week for joining the union came in off the streets, grabbed a mic, and somehow turned “New York, New York” into an accusatory political anthem. She stood on the booth, pointed to the patrons, and after she belted the final note, raised her fist, and shouted “Worker’s Rights!”

Best dinner in quite a while…

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New York: Wobblies at Singing Restaurant Win Major Victory

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 23:28:38 +0000

By Stardust Family United - October 4, 2017 In a major victory for the singing servers at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, their employer has reached an agreement with their solidarity union, Stardust Family United, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). By entering into the settlement agreement, the company will narrowly avoid a trial on some 19 violations of the National Labor Relations Act, including 31 retaliatory firings. Under the terms of the agreement, all 31 employees terminated over the last year in retaliation for union activity have been offered immediate and full reinstatement, and will receive back pay from the time they were fired. Of the terminated employees, 13 will immediately return to work at the popular Midtown diner. In addition, the restaurant is required to mail official notices to all employees, informing them that the company will not violate federal law by engaging in certain unlawful practices such as surveilling and threatening workers, interfering with their use of social media, and discouraging them from taking action to improve working conditions. For the singing servers, this has been a long road. The union, which is a branch of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), initially went public in late summer of 2016. Weeks after making their efforts known to management, 16 active union members were fired. Over the fall and winter, the workers continued to engage in direct workplace action to improve health and safety conditions, as well as pursue other demands. Another mass firing in January 2017 brought the total of terminated singers up to 31. Despite this, Stardust Family United remained active, both inside and outside the restaurant. “I’m thrilled and proud to know our struggle and vigilance over the last year has paid off,” says returning employee Matthew Patterson. “I’m looking forward to returning and making a positive impact inside the diner.” #Stardustfamilyunited #IWW #Wobblies #SFU #Singingunion #Labormovement #Workersrights #Solidarity #Weareallstardust read more[...]

Why Did the UAW Vote at Nissan Fail?

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 00:40:55 +0000

By Marianne Garneau - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, August 7, 2017 There’s been much attention over the reported loss of a UAW union election at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi on Friday, August 4th. Many see the organizing effort as part of a larger question of whether the US labor movement can organize in the historically unorganized and union-hostile South. New York City IWW organizer Marianne Garneau writes this brief commentary offering her assessment. The defeat of a UAW election bid at a Nissan plant in Mississippi got a tremendous amount of attention this week, particularly from the left. People seemed especially disheartened by the defeat, and almost at a loss for why things turned out so badly for the union. Sure enough, the internet produced all kinds of hot, world-historic takes explaining the outcome, a lot of them looking for some kind of exceptional circumstances here. Most zeroed in on the Southern context. Granted, the union defeat was unfortunate. And it is possible it could have gone another way – we shouldn’t think it was some inevitable outcome (there is way too much fatalism on the left these days). But the reasons why the UAW failed are perfectly legible, and none of them are novel. Everything about the loss – the union’s strategy, the company’s union-busting, the social and political context – was textbook. Why the UAW Vote at Nissan Failed 1. The company union-busted like crazy. And yes, union-busting includes things like playing on racial divisions and threatening people’s jobs (these are the sticks), and paying workers high salaries (the carrots). The bosses apparently built a tent outside the plant and met with every single worker on shift, including the ones who weren’t even eligible to vote in the election. That’s brilliant union-busting, but it’s to be expected. That’s why unions have a counterstrategy to that, called “inoculation,” where workers are prepared ahead of time for the boss’ rhetoric, and their sticks and carrots. 2. The union took a weak-ass, conservative, timid stance of mostly trying to keep the stuff the company was already giving workers and playing nice/reasonable with management. UAW has repeatedly said that it wants to work with companies to help their bottom line healthy, etc. That borrows directly from the boss’s logic that they are gifting workers a job and a wage, as opposed to workers generating all the profits the owners get to pocket. 3. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) played its usual role of “wot, us?” It slowly churned through its processes of listening to complaints from either side. I don’t even remember what the outcome was of its rulings (or if it ever got to them). But that’s how little that matters to the actual, bloody fight “on the shop floor.” 4. By the way, none of this has anything to do with “the south.” What is supposed to be unique here? The fact that other jobs in the area pay terribly? The fact that workers are divided along racial lines? The fact that union density is low? Those are exactly the same conditions that beleaguer workers, and organizing efforts, elsewhere. 5. And yeah, unfortunately, these workers, who presumably voted this way out of fear, and wanting to keep their jobs, will die on their knees as their wages get cut, their jobs get automated or outsourced, or they get replaced by lower-wage temps. You can’t “play nice” or compromise your way to better wages or conditions. Playing nice with the boss means they retain the power to control your wages and your working conditions. The only alternative is to amass real power on the shop floor – real power to disrupt the flow of profits – and control how the boss treats you. You can’t escape the forces of capitalism inside of one plant, but you can fight like hell over every single site where your labor is exploited for the boss’[...]

“Proud to be part of a singing union”: the struggle at Ellen's Stardust Diner

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 22:07:44 +0000

By Chilli Sauce - Libcom.Org, March 5, 2017

(image) Ellen's Stardust Diner is a New York institution, a place where Broadway actors not only wait tables, but sing show tunes while they're at it. It's also the site of an ongoing labor dispute that has seen mass firings, strikes, protests, and picket lines that have turned away early morning food deliveries.

The employees at Ellen's have been organizing with the IWW for much of the past year. Their union, Stardust Family United, has been out on the streets, raising their voices and raising their fists to defend and improve working conditions.

Many Stardusters have worked at the restaurant on and off for years. To hear them tell it, Ellen's used to be a pretty nice place to work. Management were accommodating when it came to taking time off to be in a show. And despite the large numbers of wait staff and the time they take off for stage work, Ellen's was a tight-knit community. It was a place where workers developed their talents and built friendships that spanned decades.

All that changed last year when new management was brought in.

Managers ceased to be accommodating when it came to taking time off. Workers who raised safety issues or complained of sexual harassment were ignored or, worse yet, pushed out of the restaurant. Long-term workers, some whom had racked up years of service in the double digits, were unceremoniously let go.

So the idea came about to form a union. Workers contacted a couple of local unions and the IWW proved the most responsive, quickly arranging an organizer training for the Stardust staff. The workers found the IWW's model of solidarity unionism, which stresses rank-and-file control and a direct action approach to organizing, to be an asset to the solidarity they'd already built up in the workplace.

For a while, organizing occurred under the radar. Issues of health and safety were raised and workers used the internal communication system to pressure management. Workers also organized a successful march on the boss to get their tip bucket back and it was after this point the workers decided to go public as a union. The venue through which they chose to do this: The New York Times.

Workers hadn't filed for a labor board election, instead demanding owner Ken Sturm deal with them directly.

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Video: How to Organize a General Strike

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:27:30 +0000

By New York City IWW - January 14, 2017

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NYC GMB Discusses New Memoir of Sam Dolgoff, Lifelong Anarchist and Wobbly

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 03:44:11 +0000

By Eric D - New York City IWW, November 9, 2016

(image) On a recent evening, members and friends of the New York City General Membership Branch gathered to hear a book discussion by Anatole Dolgoff. The talk was held at MayDay, a left movement space in Brooklyn. Dolgoff, a professor at the nearby Pratt Institute, was discussing his new book about his father Sam, Left of the Left, My Memories of Sam Dolgoff , recently published by AK Press. The talk was introduced by radical scholars Yesenia Barragan and Mark Bray.

Sam was born in 1902 in Belarus and came to New York City at an early age. With little formal education, Sam went to work as a painter, and quickly found himself immersed in local radical politics. A brief membership with the Socialist Party led him to realize that he was an anarchist. He soon joined the IWW in the 1920’s and was a member until his death in 1990. Along the way, he developed friendships with many notable radicals, and had particularly close relationships with Carlo Tresca, the Italian anarchist, and Ben Fletcher, the legendary waterfront organizer.

Sam was a Wobbly activist and organizer for decades, involved in many campaigns and projects, speaking on street corners, meeting with workers who were organizing, confronting fascists in the 1930’s, and doing the dangerous and unglamorous work of keeping radical ideas alive during the tough times of the McCarthy era. Self-educated in the movement along the way, Dolgoff made significant contributions to the anarchist literature over the years, including a book on Bakunin.

According to Anatole, Sam knew everyone in Left circles for decades. One memorable anecdote about his father told the story of when they went to see the movie Reds together. Sam couldn’t keep quiet during the film, as he maintained a running commentary on nearly every major character, who he had known personally.

The book is a fantastic tour through the life and times of a lifelong Wobbly and working class intellectual, as well as a touching personal memoir of growing up in a radical family. It’s a great contribution to left history and we encourage all Wobblies to read it.

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Wobblies at Prominent New York Baking Company Heighten Struggle Against Private Equity Owners

Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:00:49 +0000

By Lawrence Goun and Biko Koenig

Workers at Tom Cat Bakery sharpened their resistance against company attacks this summer with a solidarity BBQ in front of the Queens-based factory. Tom Cat's private equity owners, Ancor and Merit Capital, are seeking devastating health care cuts and other takeaways from workers in contract negotiations with the Bakery Union. Dual-card IWW members are leading a struggle to build long-term power and secure a good contract, after beating back a de-certification attempt from a mob-dominated union earlier this year.

“These out-of-town investors already have their mansions, while we barely can support our families. The cuts they're demanding are impossible and we're united against them,” said Marino Aquino, a night-shift packer at Tom Cat and a member of the IWW. “Our unity is our strength and we will keep the pressure on until justice prevails.”

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Beverage Distribution Workers Win Nearly $1 Million in Wage Theft Case

Fri, 05 Oct 2012 00:25:16 +0000

(image) By to Focus on the Food Chain - September 27, 2012

A federal judge has awarded a group of immigrant workers over $950,000 in unpaid wages for work at a Queens-based beverage distributor. A group of Latino warehouse workers and truck drivers brought the class action lawsuit against Beverage Plus and its owners after years of disrespect and systematic violations of state and federal law, violations which the judge found were intentional. The workers are members of Focus on the Food Chain, a coalition promoting good jobs and a sustainable food system in New York City's growing food processing and distribution sector.

"My co-workers and I were deprived of our pay and badly exploited but we finally learned about our rights," said Richard Merino, who drove a delivery truck at Beverage Plus for six years and was a named plaintiff in the case. "We stood up together and now justice has arrived for us and more importantly for our families."

Beverage Plus employees were worked as many as twelve hours a day, deprived of overtime, and subjected to unlawful deductions from their pay.

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Flaum workers win in biggest victory yet with IWW support!

Thu, 24 May 2012 01:55:55 +0000

By Daniel Gross - May 7, 2012

We are overjoyed to announce the biggest victory yet from Focus on the Food Chain!  Workers at Flaum Appetizing, with your unwavering support, have won their campaign with an exemplary global agreement.  Our members have recovered $577,000 in unpaid wages and compensation for retaliation along with a binding code of conduct ensuring Flaum comports with all workplace rights going forward including anti-discrimination and health & safety protections.

You can check out some of the press coverage on today's victory:

New York Times: Kosher-Food Manufacturer to Pay $577,000 in Settlement

Crain's New York: Settlement paves way for end of hummus boycott

Jewish Daily Forward: Uri L'Tzedek Celebrates Flaums Victory

For over a decade, workers at Flaum Appetizing worked grueling sixty to eighty hour work weeks without overtime pay and sometimes not even the minimum wage.  Latino workers were subjected to constant verbal harassment and forced to work at unsafe speeds.  Focus on the Food Chain, a joint project of Brandworkers and the NYC IWW, helped the workers launch a powerful campaign that persuaded over 120 grocery store locations to remove Flaum products from their shelves and convinced the world's largest kosher cheese company to stop using Flaum as a distributor until workers' rights were respected. In the process, Flaum workers won a precedent-setting victory at the Labor Board in D.C. helping workers nationwide fend off unfounded allegations into their immigration status.

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Coping with Clopening: Retail Worker’s Most Dreaded Shift

Sat, 28 Apr 2012 17:44:56 +0000

By liberte Locke - April 11, 2012

(image) I drag my broken jittery body home through the maze of late night construction New York City subways. I finally reach my quiet apartment where the only ones up are our three cats screaming for food and persistently walking just where I’m trying to walk. Tonight I manage to not step on them but usually, in this state, I can’t help it. I apologize with head-pettings and catnip. I feed the cats and then remember that I spent my entire lunch break at work chain smoking away that last extremely rude customer I had before clocking for my break instead of eating the ramen noodles that I brought. I open the fridge and realize that every meal possible would take way more work than I have in me so I close the door.

I go to the bathroom and while peeing set my alarm on my phone. This is a ritual. I’ve learned in the past that it is completely possible after a closing shift that I may just fall asleep in the bathroom. And if not the bathroom, maybe while sitting up trying to eat a late meal or laying on the couch watching tv. So setting my alarm as soon as I get home is crucial. Being late to work when I’m targeted by management (because of being a union organizer) is not an option, ever.

I’m awake enough from all the caffeine I consumed at my job, Starbucks, that I don’t fall asleep in the bathroom but I do spend ten minutes fumbling brainlessly through the clean laundry I didn’t have time to put up. I’m looking for something loose to sleep in – it takes so long because twice I forget entirely why I’m digging through the bag and I start putting laundry up thinking that is what I what I meant to be doing. I then suddenly stop, thinking to myself, “it’s too late for this, I’m exhausted. Go to bed. Go to bed.” I finally change and go into the living room to watch tv.

I already know that going straight to bed, no matter how tired I am, won’t work. I have to turn off my brain first. Without some distraction my brain will just fill will endless To-Do lists. My responsibilities pile up. All the things I need to get done combine with what I’d like to get done. I’m filled with regret for what I was unable to get done with my day because of having work and then being too exhausted to do anything else. I’m so tired that petty concerns really consume me. I think and re-think about Facebook status updates to reflect my exhaustion and busyness just praying that all the crucial folks will see it and realize why I haven’t returned their phone calls, emails, or finished my deadlines for different projects. These lists go on and on but I’m too tired to even hold a pen to write the lists down.

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