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Last class we discussed the exciting history of the Industrial Workers of the World. We read the “Proclamation of the Striking Workers of Lawrence” (posted below) in class. Some students made comparisons between this proclamation, the Ten Point Program of the Black Panther Party, and the Declaration of Independence. The strike was referred to as the Bread and Roses strike because workers demanded the necessities for survival as well as dignity and joy in their lives. A similar strike occurred in the same years in the mills of Little Falls. More on that strike can be found here: http://upstateearth.blogspot.com/2011/01/iww-great-textile-strike-of-1912-in.html

One of the most dramatic labor struggles in American history took place in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1912 when textile workers, mostly women, European immigrants speaking a dozen different languages, carried on a strike during the bitterly cold months of January to March 1912. Despite police violence and hunger, they persisted, and were victorious against the powerful textile mill owners. Borrowing from the U.S. Declaration of Independence1, the following strike declaration, issued by the workers of Lawrence, was translated into the many languages of the immigrant textile workers in Massachusetts and circulated around the world.

From Voices of A People’s History, edited by Zinn and Arnove

We, the 20,000 textile workers of Lawrence, are out on strike for the right to live free from slavery and starvation; free from overwork and underpay; free from a state of affairs that had become so unbearable and beyond our control, that we were compelled to march out of the slave pens of Lawrence in united resistance against the wrongs and injustice of years and years of wage slavery.

In our fight we have suffered and borne patiently the abuse and calumnies of the mill owners, the city government, police, militia, State government, legislature, and the local police court judge. We feel that in justice to our fellow workers we should at this time make known the causes which compelled us to strike against the mill owners of Lawrence. We hold that as useful members of society and as wealth producers we have the right to lead decent and honorable lives; that we ought to have homes and not shacks; that we ought to have clean food and not adulterated food at high prices; that we ought to have clothes suited to the weather and not shoddy garments. That to secure sufficient food, clothing and shelter in a society made up of a robber class on the one hand and a working class on the other hand, it is absolutely necessary for the toilers to band themselves together and form a union, organizing its powers in such form as to them seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that conditions long established should not be changed for light or transient causes, and accordingly all experience has shown that the workers are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves, by striking against the misery to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and ill treatment, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them to a state of beggary, it is their duty to resist such tactics and provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these textile workers, and such is now the necessity which compels them to fight the mill-owning class.

 

Famed labor activist and painter Ralph Fasanella’s “Lawrence 1912: The Bread and Roses Strike.”

The history of the present mill owners is a history of repeated injuries, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these textile workers. To prove this let facts be submitted to all right-thinking men and women of the civilized world. These mill owners have refused to meet the committees of the strikers. They have refused to consider their demands in any way that is reasonable or just. They have, in the security of their sumptuous offices, behind stout mill gates and serried rows of bayonets and policemen’s clubs, defied the State, city, and public. In fact, the city of Lawrence and the government of Massachusetts have become the creatures of the mill owners. They have declared that they will not treat with the strikers till they return to the slavery against which they are in rebellion. They have starved the workers and driven them to such an extent that their homes are homes no longer, inasmuch as the mothers and children are driven by the low wages to work side by side with the father in the factory for a wage that spells bare existence and untimely death. To prove this to the world the large death rate of children under one year of age in Lawrence proves that most of these children perish because they were starved before birth. And those who survive the starving process grow up the victims of malnutrition.

These mill owners not only have the corrupting force of dollars on their side, but the powers of the city and State government are being used by them to oppress and sweep aside all opposition on the part of those overworked and underpaid textile workers. The very courts, where justice is supposed to be impartial, are being used by the millionaire mill owners. And so serious has this become that the workers have lost all faith in the local presiding judge. Without any attempt at a trial, men have been fined or jailed from six months to a year on trumped-up charges, that would be a disgrace even in Russia. This judge is prejudiced and unfair in dealing with the strikers. He has placed all the strikers brought before him under excessive bail. He has dealt out lengthy sentences to the strikers as if they were hardened criminals, or old-time offenders. He has refused to release on bail two of the leaders of the strike, while he released a prisoner charged with conspiracy and planting dynamite, on a thousand dollars’ bail. He sentenced, at one morning’s session of court, 23 strikers to one year in jail on the fake charge of inciting to riot. This judge has declared he is opposed to the union that is conducting the strike.

The brutality of the police in dealing with the strikers has aroused them to a state of rebellious opposition to all such methods of maintaining order. The crimes of the police during this trouble are almost beyond human imagination. They have dragged young girls from their beds at midnight. They have clubbed the strikers at every opportunity. They have dragged little children from their mothers’ arms and with their clubs they have struck women who are in a state of pregnancy. They have placed people under arrest for no reason whatsoever. They have prevented mothers from sending their children out of the city and have laid hold of the children and the mothers violently and thr[own] the children into waiting patrol wagons like so much rubbish. They have caused the death of a striker by clubbing the strikers into a state of violence. They have arrested and clubbed young boys and placed under arrest innocent girls for no offense at all.

The militia has used all kinds of methods to defeat the strikers. They have bayoneted a young boy.2 They have beaten up the strikers. They have been ordered to shoot to kill. They have murdered one young man, who died as a result of being bayoneted in the back. They have threatened one striker with death if he did not close the window of his home. They have threatened to stay in this city until the strike is over. They have bayoneted one citizen because he would not move along fast enough. And they have held up at the point of the bayonet hundreds of citizens and Civil War veterans.

The city government has denied the strikers the right to parade through the streets. They have abridged public assemblage by refusing the strikers the use of the city hall and public grounds for public meetings. They have turned the public buildings of the city into so many lodging houses for an army of hirelings and butchers. They have denied the strikers the right to use the Common for mass meetings, and they have ordered the police to take little children away from their parents, and they are responsible for all the violence and brutality on the part of the police.

The Massachusetts Legislature has refused to use any of the money of the State to help the strikers. They have voted $150,000 to maintain an army of 1,500 militiamen to be ready to shoot down innocent men, women, and children who are out on strike for a living wage. They have refused to use the powers of the State for the workers. They have appointed investigation committees, who declare, after perceiving the signs of suffering on the part of the strikers on every side, that there is no trouble with these people.

All the nations of the world are represented in this fight of the workers for more bread. The flaxen-haired son of the North marches side by side with his dark-haired brother of the South. They have toiled together in the factory for one boss. And now they have joined together in a great cause, and they have cast aside all racial and religious prejudice for the common good, determined to win a victory over the greed of the corrupt, unfeeling mill owners, who have ruled these people so long with the whip of hunger and the lash of the unemployed.

Outlawed, with their children taken away from them, denied their rights before the law, surrounded by bayonets of the militia, and driven up and down the streets of the city by an overfed and arrogant body of police, these textile workers, sons and daughters of the working class, call upon the entire civilized world to witness what they have suffered at the hands of the hirelings of the mill-owning class. These men and women can not suffer much longer; they will be compelled to rise in armed revolt against their oppressors if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue in Lawrence.

Footnotes

1 “Proclamation of the Striking Textile Workers of Lawrence” (1912). In Charles P. Neill, ed.. Report on the Strike ofTextile Workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912,62nd Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document 870 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1912), pp. 503-04.

2 On Tuesday, January 30, 1912, a young Syrian striker, John Ramy, was bayoneted in the back and later died.

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Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
Union/Workplace Organizer Training

Saturday, March 29
10am-5pm (9:30am for breakfast)

Sunday, March 30
10am-4pm (9:30am for breakfast)

At Cornerstone Community Church
500 Plant St., Utica, NY 13501

Do you have a job? Will you have a job in the future? Are you a worker? Do you want higher wages and more benefits? Do you want to fight injustice at work? Do you want more rights, power and a voice at your work?

If the answers to any of these questions are YES, then you should consider organizing at work and joining the one union open to all workers, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). This training will show you how to organize at work and form a union. The IWW labor union is looking to form in Utica and excited to organize the unorganized. The union has an exciting history and formed at a time in US history when other unions were mostly concerned with organizing white, male, skilled workers. The IWW opened its doors to workers of all races, industrial and farm workers, immigrants, and women.

Local activists decided to have the training in light of the need to reach out to workers who are not in unions and to create a culture of grassroots labor organizing locally. It is being done through the newly formed Mohawk Valley Freedom School and is cosponsored by CNY Citizen Action.

You don’t have to be a member of the union to come to the training. The training is completely free and open to the public, including unemployed workers. As long  as people do not have the power to hire or fire anyone they are welcome to come. Organizing materials, information, and breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

Two experienced union organizers, will give the nuts and bolts of organizing at work, how to set up a workplace organizing committee, the AEIOUs of organizing, go over labor law, how to make demands on the boss, and build grassroots power at work. This is a very interactive training that includes role plays and active participation. The training will also go over social charting, mapping, contracts vs. solidarity unionism, and a history of the IWW.

It is an exciting moment in US history to get involved with social movements and stand up for dignity and justice. One way you can do that is at work by organizing with the IWW. We hope you join us in this exciting movement.

Please RSVP to the event by emailing mvfreedomschool@gmail.com or calling 315 240-3149.

More information about the IWW can be found at http://www.iww.org

Also, feel free to learn more about the IWW from scholar and activist Noam Chomsky. He also happens to be a member of the IWW.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBaEQ7DT6TI

 

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Just a reminder, people!!! The next meeting of Occupy Utica will be Monday March 10, 2014 at 7 P.M. at the Cornerstone Community Church. We discussed meeting more frequently in the near future, but people’s schedules did not allow this as of yet. Remember!!! The group decided to change our venue at this time from the Other Side to the Cornerstone Community Church in Utica (500 Plant St, Utica, NY 13502; behind the Dunkin Donuts at the Oneida Square Roundabout on Genesee Street).

We will also be getting together on March 12th at 7 P.M. at Cornerstone to discuss Pedagogy of the Oppressed along with the Mohawk Valley Freedom School and other community members. The book can be read online in PDF form at this link:
http://www.users.humboldt.edu/jwpowell/edreformFriere_pedagogy.pdfSee you at the meeting!

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Monday, February 24, 2014
7:00pm
MVCC Utica Campus
ACC Commons (Cafeteria)

Former Black Panther Aaron Dixon is slated to speak in Utica on February 24 as part of a statewide speaking tour that has six other stops. The MVCC prisoner justice organization Incarcerated Flavors decided to bring Dixon to Utica as part of Black History Month and to encourage people to become actively engaged in social justice and social change. In addition to speaking at MVCC, Dixon will also speak at Proctor High School earlier in the day, an event set up by the MVCC Science & Technology Entry Program (STEP). Dixon will speak about his life as an activist and his recently published memoir My People Are Rising. Books will be available for purchase and autographs.

IN AN ERA of stark racial injustice, Aaron Dixon dedicated his life to the revolution, founding the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 at age nineteen. In his new memoir, he traces the course of his own radicalization and that of a generation. Through his eyes, we witness the courage and commitment of the young men and women who rose up in rebellion, risking their lives in the name of freedom. My People Are Rising is an unforgettable tale of their triumphs and tragedies, and the enduring legacy of Black Power.

Although the Panthers are seen as a controversial organization to some, the group was crucial in the struggle to expand the rights of not only Black people but poor people of all races. Across the nation, the Panthers established free medical clinics and dental clinics, free schools and childcare, and countless other free services to the disenfranchised. One of their most well known programs was the Free Breakfast for Children program which fed over 10,000 hungry children every day. The Panthers were also a leading antiwar and economic justice organization.

As an adolescent, Dixon marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to end housing discrimination in Seattle, and was one of the first volunteers to participate in the busing program to integrate schools. While a member of the Black Panthers, Dixon started the Free Breakfast for Children program that fed thousands of hungry Black children; and he helped to open a free community medical and legal clinic. The clinic continues to this day as the Carolyn Downs Clinic, now part of Country Doctor Community Health Center.

AARON DIXON is one of the co-founders of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party. He has since founded Central House, a nonprofit that provides transitional housing for youth, and was one of the cofounders of the Cannon House, a senior assisted-living facility. Aaron ran for US Senate on the Green Party ticket in 2006.

PRAISE
“Dixon’s lyrical prose provides a candid appraisal of the Black Panther Party that highlights the neglected contributions of Northwest activists. This is a striking blend of social history, memoir, and political analysis. Required reading for all those interested in Black liberation struggles and radical history of the twentieth century.” –Laura Chrisman, editor in chief, The Black Scholar, and the Nancy K. Ketcham Endowed Chair of English, University of Washington

“Dixon has that uncanny ability to convey to his readers the feelings that came along with the party’s triumphs and defeats. Most readers will be amazed to discover what it took to create and then sustain the Black Panther Party’s many community service programs. They will be equally shocked at how close party members were to the ever-present threat of death. Unlike previous autobiographies of BPP leaders, this one does not sugarcoat the organization’s shortcomings, nor does it glamorize its hard fought and often well-deserved victories. It does, however, provide a valuable, though painful, reminder of the high price of real change in these United States.” –Curtis Austin, associate professor of history, The Ohio State University

“My People Are Rising is the most authentic book ever written by a member of the Black Panther Party. Aaron Dixon does a superb job of presenting life in the party from the perspective of a foot soldier–a warrior for the cause of revolutionary change and Black Power in America. He pulls no punches and holds nothing back in writing honestly about those times as he successfully presents a visual picture of the courage, commitment, and sometimes shocking brutality of life as a Panther activist. This is an unforgettable, must-read book!” –Larry Gossett, chair, Metropolitan King County Council

“There have been many books about the Black Panther party but never has there been a Panther book as illuminating as this memoir by Aaron Dixon. It’s the story from a different perspective than we’ve ever seen: the former member who has remained a long-distance runner for revolution. It’s indispensable for anyone with an interest in black politics or the politics of change in the United States.” –Dave Zirin, the Nation

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(A mid-May) May Day

Saturday, May 11
4:00pm Rally and Celebration

Watson Williams Park in Utica
(on the corner of James and Steuben Streets)

Worldwide, May Day is traditionally Workers’ Day – a day of labor solidarity, and a public holiday. It’s a day to celebrate and rally in support of worker and immigrant rights. In protest of the corruption of the worldwide marketplace, which has led to illegal foreclosures and evictions, mass unemployment, low wages, high taxes, and a penalization of all those who do not own the world’s wealth, come out to voice your concerns and to envision a world built on social and economic justice.

This year, Utica is celebrating May Day on May 11th, a Saturday, to allow more people to come out who would have been at work on May first. Please come and listen to speakers, music, eat food, play games and celebrate with the community.

For more information, please call 732-2382 or contact maslauskas84@gmail.com.

The roots of May Day are in Chicago when a general strike was called to enact the eight hour workday in 1886. Hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike but the peaceful demonstration deteriorated into violence when the police started a riot in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. An unknown number of workers and police were killed. The authorities rounded up strike leaders who were later executed, not for any crime they committed, but because they were union organizers and anarchists. May Day is celebrated the world over and has long been a day of protest in the US. In 2006, the largest strike in US history occurred when undocumented immigrants, workers, and many others went on strike for immigration reform.

“If you think that by hanging us you can stomp out the labor movement, then hang us. Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, and there, and behind you, and in front of you, the flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out. The ground is on fire upon which you stand.” – August Spies, Haymarket Martyr

For a history on the origins of May Day, read historian and IWW member Eric Chase’s article:

http://www.iww.org/en/history/library/misc/origins_of_mayday

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When: April 13 – meet at The Other Side on Genesee Street (across from the Uptown Theater) this Saturday, April 13 at 2:30pm for a carpool heading to Colgate University for a 3:30 peaceful protest.

On Saturday April 15 at 5:00pm, Colgate University will host former Mexican president Felipe Calderon as an honored guest and speaker. Calderon came to power in what was largely viewed as a stolen election in 2006. He waged a failed and bloody “war on drugs” that resulted in the torture, forced disappearances, and extra-judicial killings of up to 120,000 people.

He violently repressed the democratic political movements in Oaxaca and the indigenous Zapatistas in Chiapas. In 2011 he was charged with crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court mostly for his handling of the drug war. His disastrous economic policies pushed millions of Mexicans into poverty while only the wealthiest in Mexico and a number of U.S. corporations profited.

Unfortunately, Colgate is not alone in applauding the policies of Calderon. The former president was awarded a fellowship at his alma mater of Harvard. Protests erupted in response, both in the street and in the form of a petition.

Calderon’s ability to speak at prestigious U.S. universities unfortunately comes out of the long history of the U.S. government supporting human rights violators and dictators that do the bidding of U.S. big business. A change in policy is long overdue.

Sign the petition to appeal Harvard’s decision to grant Calderon a fellowship.

http://www.change.org/petitions/harvard-appeal-100-000-signatures-one-for-each-person-sacrificed-during-felipe-calder%C3%B3n-s-senseless-us-backed-war

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Today the movement is in a state of impasse. Perhaps by turning to history, exploring the experiences of movements animated by similar values and confronting similar roadblocks, we’ll find some guidance on how to move forward.

On February 1st, 1960, four Black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at the counter of a local Woolworth’s, refusing to leave until they were served. Unaware that their actions were to ignite a movement that would radically shake the nation. Similar to Occupy Wall Street, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) emerged out of a wave of direct action that spread almost spontaneously across the country, reshaping the national conversation around inequality and providing space for a new generation of radicals to find each other. The Civil Rights Movement, which had for sometime been stagnating, was given a fresh infusion of new energy. But as the wave passed, the young radicals found themselves in a moment of confusion: the initiative was firmly in their hands, but they were unsure of what direction to go in or how to move forward. Having perhaps reached the limit that style of activism had to offer, they began to shift gears to the longer-term work of community organizing.

Broadly speaking, the Civil Rights Movement can be thought of as containing two distinct traditions of movement building: community mobilizing and community organizing. The former focused primarily on large-scale, short-term public events. This is the Movement of popular memory, best associated with the legacy of Dr. King. The organizing tradition, on the other hand, was animated by a sense of freedom eloquently summed up by Septima Clark as “broadening the scope of democracy to include everyone and deepening the concept to include every relationship.” To this end, more emphasis was placed on the longer-term work of cultivating a sense of leadership, agency, and power of everyday people. The success of campaigns was judged more for how they facilitated the personal transformation of those involved than if they met particular tactical goals. The movement became a kind of training in democracy.

As they would arrive in town, SNCC organizers were often ignored or avoided by local people, often dismissively referred to as “dat mess.” Even folks initially sympathetic to the movement simply had too much to lose by publicly affiliating with it. But the organizers dug themselves in, engaging the community, getting to know people and their struggles, building relationships. Slowly, impressed by their ideas, actions, character, and courage, some local people chose to cast their lot with the movement. Within a year, they would have the capacity to mobilize an entire town; even conservative local leaders felt obligated to express their support. When SNCC organizers would leave town, they left behind lasting autonomous organizations led by local people, who otherwise would never would have thought of themselves as politically engaged. They transformed the South.

SNCC organizer Bob Moses was once asked how you organize a town. “By bouncing a ball,” he responded. “You stand on a street corner and bounce a ball. Soon all the children come around. You keep on bouncing the ball. Before long it runs under someone’s porch and you meet the adults.”

SNCC often thought about organizing and building relationships interchangeably. Canvassing was the prototypical organizing act. It was the first step in engaging and developing relationships with those in the community not already sympathetic to the movement. Anyone who showed interest would be asked to become involved in a single, concrete task. This could be helping to plan a workshop or going canvassing themselves, but it often meant attending a mass meeting. Mass meetings were the means by which curiosity was cemented into commitment. Mass meetings borrowed their form from the Black church. Strategy and tactics were discussed, internal problems aired, educational lectures given, gospels sung, updates given on what was happening with the movement elsewhere. One of the major components of the mass meeting was folks publicly narrating their life story. Mass meetings helped break people out of their sense of isolation by showing them how many of their neighbors had also come out. Citizenship schools aimed to raise people’s basic literacy skills to prepare them to register to vote, but they were taught using a radical pedagogical style that emphasized structural critique, Black history, “community problem solving” (ie, direct action), and ultimately, subjective transformation. Other major tasks of organizing a town were locating co-optable networks (social networks already predisposed to movement values),  and developing informal leadership (those in communities already holding informal leadership roles). Ultimately, this organizing allowed SNCC to move communities of ordinary people into sustained political action.

Much of what has become common sense in Occupy Wall Street and contemporary anarchism has its origins in SNCC. Skeptical of traditional organizations, SNCC experimented with consensus decision making, horizontal structures, and group-centric leadership. They developed a kind of independent radicalism, untethered by dogmas or established political ideology. They developed a try-and-let’s-see style of organizing, open to experiments and learning from experience. To borrow a phrase from the Zapatistas, SNCC attempted to “walk while asking questions.” SNCC found their way out of their own impasse by shifting their emphasis from dramatic events to the steadier work of community organizing. It seems today that a similar shift is needed: toward radical community organizing.

Shyam Khanna

Originally published in Tidal. http://tidalmag.org/mississippi-goddam/

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