Saturday, February 10, 2007

Not Without a Fight: NYC’s food warehouse workers unionize

NYC’s immigrant food warehouse workers unionize with IWW - Not Without a Fight: NYC’s food warehouse workers unionize. 01/28/2007 By Diane Krauthamer and David Graeber

The last year, however, has witnessed something of a social miracle. Immigrant workers in five different warehouses, long bypassed by mainstream organizing drives, began organizing themselves under the banner of the IWW—the famous Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies—and achieving immediate and dramatic improvements in shop-floor conditions. Within the last few months, bosses have begun a major counteroffensive, breaking contracts and engaging in illegal mass firings of anyone engaged in union activities. Mexican and Chinese immigrant workers are standing their ground and with the support of the rest of the New York IWW, battling back in the name of solidarity and dignity of labor.

The battle promises to be intense but the stakes are, potentially, historic. The struggle marks the confluence of two historic trends. On the one hand, the startling reemergence of the Wobblies themselves, a union that even a few years ago most labor historians had relegated to the dustbin of history. The IWW of course were, in their heyday in the days of Joe Hill and Big Bill Haywood, the first union in theUS willing to work with Mexican and Chinese immigrants when others were systematically excluding them, which makes these new developments all the more significant. On the other hand, the growing right-wing backlash against immigrant laborers across America, the most vulnerable and exploited of our labor force, and their brave and defiant mobilizations against it.

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