Boston Wobs Help Organize 2 Events in 1 Night

On Thursday October 23, IWW’s helped organize a worker panel at Harvard University where former employees of Harvard’s Science Center discussed their experiences with discrimination at the world’s richest University. Speakers included Nassim, demoted three salary grades after defending a co-worker, Johany, who was sexually harassed on the job and then disciplined for reporting it. Nassim was later passed over for promotion in favor of a much-younger, US-born co-worker with far less experience. Harvard fired Nassim when he was out on a disability leave. Other speakers included Marvin, called “that dirty black man” by an Administrator in Campus Services, Betsy Shortell, who later cut his hours and spread them over 6 days. No one else in the department had a 6 day per week schedule or sustained any cut in hours, although Marvin was the only employee who used braces to walk (Marvin suffers from diabetic foot disease). Like Nassim, Marvin was later fired from his job when he went out on medical leave. Another speaker, Paul, was also laid off from his job after 30+ years of service because he had to take a disability leave. Students also read testimonials by workers, including Johany’s account of being referred to as an “embarrassing Latina,” also by Shortell, and slapped with a disciplinary warning merely for complaining that a co-worker was repeatedly grabbing her, and attempting to kiss her when she was at work (Johany had the discipline removed from her file, won additional sick pay, and was promoted as the result of a settlement at the MA Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).

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During the event, attendees conducted a phone/email zap of Harvard’s Labor Relations Department, protesting the discriminatory treatment of these long-serving employees. Immediately afterwards, participants delivered a letter to Insomnia Cookies right down the block, demanding reinstatement of fired IWW Organizer Colin, and that Insomnia stop preventing workers from taking legally-mandated breaks, and cease misclassifying them as “independent contractors.” The letter was delivered by a group of supporters including Wobblies and members of Harvard’s Student Labor Action Movement, AFSCME Local 3650, SEIU Local 615, and UNITE HERE Local 26.


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IWW’s and our allies will demonstrate against Insomnia Cookies’ recent termination of a union organizer who fought back against gay-bashing, harassment and illegal denial of breaks. You’re invited to our picket!

BACKGROUND: Since August 2013, Insomnia Cookies has fired 6 IWW worker-activists. The latest, Colin, a trained union organizer, was terminated after protesting disgusting homophobic slurs by a manager. Colin alerted upper management that the boss was making sick “jokes” about LGBTQ people, and had even told a young worker that she should flirt with customers!* Colin was working to build the union in his store, fighting the company’s practice of denying workers legally-mandated breaks, and insisting on an environment free from verbal abuse. His reward was termination. Please help us send the message that union-busting, sexual harassment and homophobia in the workplace are intolerable!

*Three days after Colin’s protest, which he told company officials he wished to make confidentially, the sexist, homophobic manager confronted Colin and grilled him about his complaint, asking, “So you find it offensive when I use the word f**got?” and encouraging him to “Quit if you don’t like it.” The company took no action against the boss in response to Colin’s complaint. The same manager also interrogated Colin about his IWW affiliation, demanding to know if he was a “mole” for the union.

Questions email

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Why Is The World Ignoring The Revolutionary Kurds in Syria?

by David Graeber

In 1937, my father volunteered to fight in the International Brigades in defence of the Spanish Republic. A would-be fascist coup had been temporarily halted by a worker’s uprising, spearheaded by anarchists and socialists, and in much of Spain a genuine social revolution ensued, leading to whole cities under directly democratic management, industries under worker control, and the radical empowerment of women.

Spanish revolutionaries hoped to create a vision of a free society that the entire world might follow. Instead, world powers declared a policy of “non-intervention” and maintained a rigorous blockade on the republic, even after Hitler and Mussolini, ostensible signatories, began pouring in troops and weapons to reinforce the fascist side. The result was years of civil war that ended with the suppression of the revolution and some of a bloody century’s bloodiest massacres.

I never thought I would, in my own lifetime, see the same thing happen again. Obviously, no historical event ever really happens twice. There are a thousand differences between what happened in Spain in 1936 and what is happening in Rojava, the three largely Kurdish provinces of northern Syria, today. But some of the similarities are so striking, and so distressing, that I feel it’s incumbent on me, as someone who grew up in a family whose politics were in many ways defined by the Spanish revolution, to say: we cannot let it end the same way again.

The autonomous region of Rojava, as it exists today, is one of few bright spots – albeit a very bright one – to emerge from the tragedy of the Syrian revolution. Having driven out agents of the Assad regime in 2011, and despite the hostility of almost all of its neighbours, Rojava has not only maintained its independence, but is a remarkable democratic experiment. Popular assemblies have been created as the ultimate decision-making bodies, councils selected with careful ethnic balance (in each municipality, for instance, the top three officers have to include one Kurd, one Arab and one Assyrian or Armenian Christian, and at least one of the three has to be a woman), there are women’s and youth councils, and, in a remarkable echo of the armed Mujeres Libres (Free Women) of Spain, a feminist army, the “YJA Star” militia (the “Union of Free Women”, the star here referring to the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar), that has carried out a large proportion of the combat operations against the forces of Islamic State.

How can something like this happen and still be almost entirely ignored by the international community, even, largely, by the International left? Mainly, it seems, because the Rojavan revolutionary party, the PYD, works in alliance with Turkey’s Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a Marxist guerilla movement that has since the 1970s been engaged in a long war against the Turkish state. Nato, the US and EU officially classify them as a “terrorist” organisation. Meanwhile, leftists largely write them off as Stalinists.

But, in fact, the PKK itself is no longer anything remotely like the old, top-down Leninist party it once was. Its own internal evolution, and the intellectual conversion of its own founder, Abdullah Ocalan, held in a Turkish island prison since 1999, have led it to entirely change its aims and tactics.

The PKK has declared that it no longer even seeks to create a Kurdish state. Instead, inspired in part by the vision of social ecologist and anarchist Murray Bookchin, it has adopted the vision of “libertarian municipalism”, calling for Kurds to create free, self-governing communities, based on principles of direct democracy, that would then come together across national borders – that it is hoped would over time become increasingly meaningless. In this way, they proposed, the Kurdish struggle could become a model for a wordwide movement towards genuine democracy, co-operative economy, and the gradual dissolution of the bureaucratic nation-state.

Since 2005 the PKK, inspired by the strategy of the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Turkish state and began concentrating their efforts in developing democratic structures in the territories they already controlled. Some have questioned how serious all this really is. Clearly, authoritarian elements remain. But what has happened in Rojava, where the Syrian revolution gave Kurdish radicals the chance to carry out such experiments in a large, contiguous territory, suggests this is anything but window dressing. Councils, assemblies and popular militias have been formed, regime property has been turned over to worker-managed co-operatives – and all despite continual attacks by the extreme rightwing forces of Isis. The results meet any definition of a social revolution. In the Middle East, at least, these efforts have been noticed: particularly after PKK and Rojava forces intervened to successfully fight their way through Isis territory in Iraq to rescue thousands of Yezidi refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar after the local peshmerga fled the field. These actions were widely celebrated in the region, but remarkably received almost no notice in the European or North American press.

Now, Isis has returned, with scores of US-made tanks and heavy artillery taken from Iraqi forces, to take revenge against many of those same revolutionary militias in Kobane, declaring their intention to massacre and enslave – yes, literally enslave – the entire civilian population. Meanwhile, the Turkish army stands at the border preventing reinforcements or ammunition from reaching the defenders, and US planes buzz overhead making occasional, symbolic, pinprick strikes – apparently, just to be able to say that it did not do nothing as a group it claims to be at war with crushes defenders of one of the world’s great democratic experiments.

If there is a parallel today to Franco’s superficially devout, murderous Falangists, who would it be but Isis? If there is a parallel to the Mujeres Libres of Spain, who could it be but the courageous women defending the barricades in Kobane? Is the world – and this time most scandalously of all, the international left – really going to be complicit in letting history repeat itself?

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New Boston IWW Twitter page!

If you have a Twitter page of your own and want to follow what’s going on at the IWW page, follow us at @BostonIWW – we’ll try to keep it updated with article links, events, union news, and more. Solidarity!

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Joe Hill Centennial labor history calendar now for sale!

Solidarity Forever Labor History Calendar 2015

The annual revolutionary labor history calendars now for sale! published by the IWW Hungarian Literature Fund and IWW branches since 1985. This year they have gone large format (12″ by 11.5″), to mark the centenary of the judicial murder of IWW songwriter and organizer Joe Hill. Each month, images from labor history are linked to an excerpt from one of Joe Hill’s best-loved labor anthems. The calendar also includes two pages of information on Joe Hill’s life and organizing, his songs, and the successful effort in 1988 to free the last of Joe Hill’s remains from federal custody. If you would like to purchase please visit or send $15.95 to Boston IWW, po box 391724 Cambridge, MA 02139.

Solidarity Forever!

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Last week IWW member Colin was fired from his job as a baker at Insomnia Cookies in Harvard Square. A trained organizer, Colin was working to unionize the company, which has been dogged by charges of racism, wage theft, failure to provide breaks and retaliation against union activists. Last year Insomnia was forced to pay back wages  to four IWW members illegally fired for striking. Colin is the sixth IWW unfairly fired by the company in less than two years.

Colin protested the store’s failure to provide any break time when he worked a 9-hr shift. He complained in writing about his manager’s homophobic and sexist remarks, including his directive that female employees should flirt with customers. Colin’s reward for pushing back against these abuses was to be terminated, although he has been a model worker. Colin’s manager, who knows he is a union activist, falsely claimed he had video evidence of Colin stealing, but he’s refused to show the video, or even say when the alleged theft supposedly took place. In reality the whole “incident” was concocted to give management an excuse to fire Colin for his organizing.

Please tell CEO David Lasus and Regional Manager Liam Halloran to an end to Insomnia’s union-busting practices (please no profanity):

David Lasus: (917) 603-0629

Liam Halloran: (718) 610-9681

Or email, and

Suggested message (please feel free to use your own words):

“I am contacting you to voice my support for the IWW campaign currently underway at your Harvard Square location. I demand the immediate reinstatement of union organizer Colin, and no retaliation against any worker for their union activity, and recognition of the IWW Insomnia Workers’ Union. Failure to do so will invite further consequences.”

The Facebook event is here. Feel free to share this campaign as widely as possible!

To help Colin pay rent and survive, please consider making a donation here.

Posted in Insomnia Cookies Strike & Union Drive, Sweatshops | 1 Comment



Today Wobblies from Boston took to the street to support Portland OR canvassers, employed by Grassroots Campaigns Inc (GCI), who formed the United Campaign Workers* union in response to poverty pay, impossible quotas, meager training, and blatant disrespect. Canvassers’ demands included $15/hr, overtime pay, and sick leave. The company retaliated by shutting down its Portland operation, laying off employees with no notice and just two days’ wages!

GCI has its headquarters here in Boston at 186 Lincoln Street. Today local IWW’s leafleted to expose GCI’s union-busting and exploitation. We sent the message to GCI and the neighborhood: there is nothing progressive about terminating canvassers for not meeting unreachable quotas, or for banding together to negotiate better terms and conditions. GCI apparently heard we were coming, and had to arrange for special security goons, who however were camera-shy and hid demurely inside the building when we attempted to preserve their images for posterity. It was a great time & we’ll be back!


*Affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World

Posted in Boston GMB, Sweatshops, Uncategorized, workplace organizing | Leave a comment