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Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth
Updated: 9 min 17 sec ago

New Class Composition, New Struggles

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:42

via Libcom.org

When the post-war boom ended at the start of the 1970s capitalists the world over attempted to make us pay with speed-ups and real wage cuts. Workers resisted so that the 1970s became a period of massive class confrontation. Faced with this serious working class resistance, capitalists across the world abandoned defence of the so-called “commanding heights” of the economy. Capital was written off and from 1979 on manufacturing investment was transferred to low wage economies in the so-called “developing world” where greater profits could be made. This was a key part of globalisation. [For more on this see leftcom.org]

In the UK, for example, the number employed in manufacturing fell from 27% to less than 8% today. And it was not just in the “industrialising world” that low wages prevailed. Workers today in the older capitalist states have real incomes lower than in 1979 despite a massive rise in productivity (i.e. exploitation) in manufacturing. Even the bosses’ papers admit it. In the face of job losses (especially in heavy industry), globalisation and capitalist restructuring over the last four decades there are plenty who think that the working class in the older capitalist states has lost “its identity”.

A New Class Identity?

Changed its identity we would say. And this is nothing new, as the shape of the working class has constantly changed throughout capitalist history. Today in the UK 83% of the workforce is in the services sector, which includes such socially necessary areas as health and education. As the system slides into deeper and deeper economic crisis these sectors cannot be funded adequately. The result is that once-privileged ‘professionals’ with years of education and training behind them are in the frontline of capitalist attack. Their working conditions are becoming increasingly like those of every other worker. From doctors to lawyers, script writers to teachers, a whole range of professionals are finding they have no more control of their job decisions than people controlled by “apps” in warehouses or the gig economy (another sector of the class where resistance is on the rise).

We got a taste of how the professions have been proletarianised in the UK junior doctors’ strikes two years ago and in the Durham and Derby teaching assistants’ fight last year. Now it is the turn of education workers across the world.

As we go to press Kentucky and Oklahoma teachers have just gone on strike In Kentucky it over pension cuts. In Oklahoma it’s about a 28% cut in the education budget (since taxes have been cut) which has made some schools go to a 4 day week. Arizona teachers are likely to follow them soon. No doubt they are all encouraged by the long struggle animated by West Virginia teachers who took on the state with virtually no support from their union. In Kenya and Zimbabwe strikes of lecturers have been going on for weeks. In Kenya these have been accompanied by strikes of nurses, some of whom face long arrears of pay. That these are now part of the proletariat would have come as no surprise to the young Karl Marx. He predicted that capitalist development would polarise society and destroy the middle class, reducing the vast majority to the condition of proletarians.

“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.” The Communist Manifesto

UK University Strikes

In the UK we have been able to observe this up close and personal. Lecturers and support staff have been on strike for weeks over changes to pension schemes. They have already rejected one dirty deal done behind their backs by the UCU union and many are preparing to fight on. In this they have been given tremendous support by students and some ancillary workers who have transformed what could have been a mere sectional dispute into something wider.

In the course of their struggle some education workers are gaining a new sense of class consciousness. After all, half of the lecturers are part-time, precarious workers on short-term or no contracts. The strike has also led to reflections amongst some of the lecturers about the purpose of their work and the nature of the society they are living in. Certainly this is only amongst a radical minority, but this represents some danger for a system which is churning out graduates when there are fewer and fewer graduate jobs. If under-employed graduates beyond the educational environment start to question what’s happening they could be part of a wider, more radical working class movement. Such a movement would have to break down the divisions of nationality, race, gender, ability, profession and union affiliation enforced on us.

Inevitably this would involve challenging the boundaries of sectionalism and legalism imposed by the state, something that the unions are not ready to do. In the daily struggles over wages and conditions working people have only one weapon and that is their collective ability to withdraw cooperation with the employers. Both the ongoing UCU strike over pensions and that of West Virginia teachers were stirred by ordinary members but the union officials have been quick to do deals behind the workers’ backs. In West Virginia the teachers were simply told by automatic phone message that the strike was over, despite the fact the Governor had signed no agreement. In the UCU dispute the union is trying to sell the bosses’ trick of postponing the pension cuts for a year so they can prepare better for the next round. They have been halted by votes in meetings in branches and on picket lines. The union’s next step is likely to be an online ballot to undermine the solidarity of the strike. The problem here is not just that the union bureaucracy is unaccountable but it is part of the legal framework of the state. All unions exist to haggle over the terms of wage labour on behalf of the system. Any questioning of this, whether practical or otherwise, is ruled out.

What the bosses and ‘authorities’ are truly afraid of is the kind of self-organised action of the working class that we have seen in West Virginia and the UK. Once we go beyond the trade unions’ rituals and the structures provided to us, that’s when we become dangerous, especially as more workers see the need to get involved. In the past workers often created their own structures which put the struggle directly into their own hands (be they neighbourhood assemblies, strike committees, workers’ councils, or even just independent workplace groups). Though often short-lived, genuine fighting bodies appear and disappear as struggles come and go. In terms of decision making, delegation, not representation, has been the classic method of organisation for the working class, from as far back as the Paris Commune. This cannot be accepted by the state and employers, and so they would much rather have unions control us instead.

The capitalist crisis is not going away. The system has nothing left to offer but increasing stressful, poorly-paid and precarious working conditions for us all. Its continued existence is increasingly at odds with the survival of humanity itself (since capitalism, in its never-ending search for profitable “growth”, is wrecking the planet for everyone). Every day the need to get rid of class society and create a human community conditioned by our needs and not profit becomes all the more urgent …

CWO
3 April 2018

From our Bulletin, Aurora 43

A preliminary summary of an IWW organising effort, winter 2017/18

Sun, 05/20/2018 - 00:38

via Libcom.org

Shift-changes, London’s western logistics corridor and the Wobblies
– A preliminary summary of an IWW organising effort, winter 2017/18

Dedication

This text is dedicated to our friend, comrade and fellow worker Peter Ridpath, who died on April 8th, 2018. Peter was a kind and dedicated member of the IWW London Branch and came out to support us in west London many times. Born in East London in 1948, Peter was a genuine working-class militant. He went from school into a series of factory and labouring jobs with spells of unemployment where he read voraciously, mainly on literature, history and politics. He became a bookseller and organised his co-workers. In his retirement Peter supported many strikes and pickets, especially the actions of the Sparks, a rank-and-file network of building workers.

Peter joined the IWW in 2009 and quickly became an indispensable part of the branch, holding a variety of positions and taking an active role in the life of the organisation. But more than his formal union work, he’ll be remembered for his dedication to making a better world, something that Peter embodied in his personal and political life. His warmth and personality made him universally popular, liked and respected by all. He had that rare combination of kindness and intellect that never failed to bring a smile to the face of everyone around him.

Here’s to you, Fellow Worker. Rest in power.

Synopsis

“The security came straight away after we had set up our table and flags. They complained about the stickers we put up last time and that they had damaged private property. They called the police who said it was ‘civil trespass’ and moved us on. I googled ‘civil trespass’ and it says this is only the case if it is an ‘unjustifiable intrusion’ – which obviously is pretty subjective! Some legal advice would be good here because no doubt we get confronted by the snouty-snouts again.”

In late September 2017 the IWW London branch invited friends and comrades to take part in an organising drive in West London factories and warehouses. Members voted for this as London IWW’s strategic focus for 6 months. We chose half a dozen companies, employing between 100 and 800 mainly migrant workers where there was no trade union present. Comrades from the West London AngryWorkers collective, who have been active in the area since 2014 provided some insights and a few contacts within these companies. The response to our invitation was positive and we were able to welcome around two dozen new friends to the campaign.

We organised a day-school where we learnt more about the area, the background of the local workers and the specific conditions in each of the companies. We formed half a dozen teams which were to focus on one company each. We discussed the first leaflet with which to address the workers, how to introduce ourselves, and what to ask and look out for during our first visits at the gate.

Over the following months we managed to organise four, five visits at each of the companies and distributed hundreds of leaflets, many of them translated into three or four different languages. We established closer contacts with some of the workers, often by supporting them with individual grievances. We learnt a lot, last but not least that under the general condition of fear created by migration policies and the factory regime, ‘organising successes’ are not easy to come by. Particularly in the food processing and logistics sector, which is hidden away from the public and dominated by so-called ‘unskilled’ and often female labour and crossed by language barriers.

But there were moments of promising energy, for example when over 20 workers from a sandwich factory turned up in a Somalian community centre; when they told us about the actions they had already taken and the steps they hoped to take in future. We had the joy of witnessing mainly South Asian factory workers listening to the stories of cleaning workers from Latin America, how they had resisted management and won the London Living Wage at the Ferrari showroom in central London. In the following summary we will focus on this experience with the sandwich factory workers to explain the possibilities and problems of our organising effort.

From a quantitative point of view the organising campaign might seem unsuccessful: after six months of activity we managed to sign on only a dozen or so new members. In only two cases management made concessions to workers, e.g. paying an extra-bonus, in response to the stir the union created. As participants in the effort we would still like to emphasise the positive result: we got deeper insights into the local conditions, we got to know many workers with whom we will stay in touch in future and we spread the word of a different kind of union amongst hundreds of working class people who might remember us when the time seems ripe for them. In this sense the organising and learning continues.

We would therefore still encourage fellow workers to take a step across the border and try out similar things. Below you can find a more detailed account of our experience. Any comments, criticisms, questions are more than welcome.

For the One Big Class Union

IWW/AngryWorkers

westlondon@iww.org.uk

www.iww.org.uk
www.angryworkersworld.wordpress.com
www.workerswildwest.wordpress.com

1. Why did we chose factories and warehouses in West London – what are the general conditions?
2. What was our general organising approach and concrete plan for this campaign?
3. Main example: experiences at A1 sandwich factory
4. Conclusions and open questions
5. Appendix: Short summary of the reports after team visits at the other companies, leaflets, pictures

——

1. Why did we chose factories and warehouses in West London – what are the general conditions

What was the constitution of the IWW London branch at the time when we decided to focus on the West London organising campaign?

The branch has around 250 members, though only around 20 to 30 fellow workers take part more actively e.g. by coming to the branch meetings. There is a cleaners’ branch which survived the initial split with the IWGB, but apart from occasional repping the GMB is less involved in the cleaners’ business. The main focus of the branch is on rep and organiser training and on the situation in workplaces of a few individual members, mainly the teaching sector, charity sector or hospitality. In this sense the branch was stable, but the ‘organising where we are as members’ didn’t create a wider dynamic, partly because of the composition of the branch (unemployed/retired, freelance, smaller workplaces). In this sense, focusing on bigger workplaces in West London was a jump into cold water and less of an organic development than a strategic decision. This was facilitated by the fact that the AngryWorkers collective – most of them IWW members – have been working and informally organising in the West London area since 2014. Informal structures like workplace groups and solidarity networks attracted a limited number of workers, perhaps also because 90 per cent of local workers have a background of recent migration. Would the idea of a union – a form of organisation that many people would be familiar with – give workers more confidence to act? We thought it was an experiment worth trying. Apart from a general knowledge about the area and basic contacts within the specific companies, AngryWorkers were able to help out with sleep-over sofas for early morning starts and community centre space provided by a local volunteer run charity organisation. They also organise weekly solidarity network drop-ins in the area that we could refer individual workers to.

What are the main conditions in the West London logistics and industrial area?

The area is part of the so-called western corridor, which stretches from Heathrow to Park Royal and contains the M4 and A40 as the main logistical axis. Attached to Heathrow airport there are a lot of warehouses and a fair amount of fruit, veg and other raw material comes in through the airport. In total there are around 80,000 workers employed in and around Heathrow. Recent studies say that 60 per cent of the food consumed in London is distributed, re-packaged or processed in the western corridor. Apart from Heathrow area there are various industrial estates in Southall (10,000 workers), Greenford (10,000 workers), Perivale (5,000 workers) and Park Royal (30,000 workers) – most of the companies we targeted are situated in these industrial zones – within an eight mile radius. There are only few workplaces employing more than 1,000 people. The workplaces we focused on range between 100 and 800 workers. Most workers in the area are on the minimum wage or slightly above and many workers are either employed through agencies or on zero-hour contracts. Working weeks of 50, 60 hours are the norm. Only few companies actually do things that infringe the labour law e.g. most pay the legal minimum, which means that unlike in, for example, the logistics sector in Italy it is not easy to mobilise people by pointing out that we have to ‘fight for our rights’.

Most workers are migrants, visa status is a big issue and migration raids in factories and warehouses are common. Around half of the workforce is from Eastern Europe, the other half from South Asia (workers from African countries are in a minority). This means that Brexit or the Windrush-‘scandal’ hang over workers’ heads, as possible threats to their future in this country. This also means that workers don’t come from regions with recent experiences of struggle, such as in South America or the countries of the so-called Arab Spring, which influenced migrant workers’ struggles abroad, e.g. the logistics workers in Italy. In food processing and small-scale manufacturing most workers are women, harassment in the workplace is rampant. Inside the factories the sexist division of labour is obvious, e.g. women work on the line, have the most stress and lowest pay, while men tend to get the easier jobs or supervisory positions. Workers tend to live close to the workplace, many of them in Wembley (Gujaratis), Southall (Punjabis, Somalis) and Greenford/Ruislip (more Eastern European). Most workers live in shared flats, many share rooms. There are only very few social spaces for mingling after work: temples tend to play a role, or standing together drinking beer.

In many places it is difficult to talk at work (line work, machine work, productivity targets), either because of the nature of work or the strict surveillance. Job rotation is high amongst the young and more rebellious (male) workers. Many people have arguments with supervisors, don’t show up, rebel individually and are sacked. Many find something better after a short while, as it is not too difficult to find work. People who stay in the job longer tend to get depressed or submissive, often because they have lower prospects on the labour market, e.g. non-english speaking, ‘unskilled’ women. Our experiences with existing unions are dismal: in many bigger workplaces we find GMB, USDAW or UNITE representation, but mainly for the permanent workers or completely tied up with management. Workers general view on unions is negative, either because of direct experiences or background (e.g. Solidarnosc sell-out in Poland). We needed to keep that in mind when introducing ourselves as members of the IWW union. At the same time, ‘strike’ and ‘union’ seem the main thing people come up with as the solution to their workplace problems. When ‘strike’ is portrayed as the main thing to do, then the bar ‘to do something together’ is set very high, also in order to explain why someone is afraid to do anything. We wanted to emphasise that there are other possibilities to take action at work (work to food hygiene standards, warehouse health and safety, refuse overtime etc.). When it comes to organising, the so-called ‘social leaders’, in particular amongst the South Asian workers, tend to be patriarchal figures who easily are pushed into middle-men positions (union reps, supervisors and in many cases both), and can’t just be ‘used’ as organic organisers.

We think it is important to organise amongst these workers for various wider and political reasons. Individually these workers are amongst the weakest, but their collective potential is amongst the most powerful, as they keep London and its financial centre ticking over. The political climate directly impacts on workers confidence (Brexit etc.) and any resistance from their side can change the social atmosphere. These workers can’t defend ‘their professional status’ as they are ‘unskilled’ workers. This would make it easier for any struggle to generalise: workers share the main experiences of being bullied at work, low pay, insecure status etc. – in a world of modern technology, from voice-control picking via a headset, to hand-held scanners to GPS systems used in delivery vans. Struggles amongst these workers can make visible how modern cities are run and what they depend on (circulation of goods, food supply). To organise in the western margins of the city will be much harder than organising amongst migrant workers in places like SOAS, LSE etc., as the companies have no name or major reputation that could easily be damaged. There is no leftist scene around, like on campus. The areas are remote and outside of the public spotlight. We have to bear this in mind when mobilising people.

2. What was our general organising approach and concrete plan for this campaign – report from the initial day school

Based on our knowledge about the general conditions we chose seven, eight companies to focus on. The main commonalities were that they are in the logistics of food processing/light manufacturing sector, employing between 100 and 1000 mainly migrant workers and with no union presence. Although we knew workers in some of the companies, they were not willing to take over an active organiser role, mainly because of fear of management repression. In terms of our approach we discussed that we want to take the lead from the workers and first see where they are at, what they might have tried themselves, what they see as the main hurdles when it comes to challenging bosses’ power. We knew that we would have to deal with the major structural pressures that exist outside of the workplace but impact on workers’ confidence: the migration regime, the family structure. In this sense our main aim of the organising effort was to help with building any kind of collective structures that help workers’ confidence at work and beyond the workplace. We were not focused on membership recruitment as such. At the same time we also made it clear that if a certain amount of workers would formally join the IWW we could enter a legal wage dispute with the company, meaning, we tried to link membership to a concrete medium-term goal.

Apart from this we saw the organising campaign as a way to gather new experiences helpful not only to the IWW, but the revolutionary left in general. We were inspired by the way that migrant warehouse workers in Italy managed to re-focus the otherwise rather sectarian left on class struggle and its practical necessities. We hoped that the engagement with migrant workers at the margins of town could make a useful contribution to a largely middle-class left in London, which has lately focused more on the stage-show of Labour and parliamentary politics rather than on working class self-emancipation. We organised various film screenings and talks to invite people to take part in the organising effort as we had decided that this would be a public campaign, open to all, regardless of whether or not you were in the IWW. We got a very good response, mainly from students who had gathered experiences during the struggle of outsourced workers on their university campuses. In total around 25 people joined us in the campaign, out of which only around a quarter were actually IWW members. While the teams had a good gender balance we lacked people who shared a similar language background as the workers, which posed a considerable problem. All in all, the organising effort was a good and largely self-organised collaboration between people of various groups, from Solfed to Plan C to UVW, and a lot of people who haven’t been members of any particular group before.

We started the campaign with a day-school where we shared knowledge about the area and workplaces, formed teams for each company and developed a rough workplan. Each team of four to five people was meant to research additional information on their respective company and write an initial leaflet. The leaflet should address company specific problems we already knew about, ask workers directly about additional problems and introduce the IWW as a workers-led union. During the first team visit additional information and first contacts should be established, followed by an – ideally! – weekly presence at the gates over the following weeks. Each team elected a coordinator who was responsible to report back to the whole organising campaign after each visit, in order to share information about what worked and what didn’t. We tried, when possible, to support individual workers with their problems, also in order to build up some reputation. The initial leaflet was then modified, newly gathered information added. After four months we organised a first review meeting where all the teams came back together. We also tried to organise a bigger presence – a ‘show of force’ – at each of the companies, to demonstrate to workers that if necessary we could mobilise more than the four, five team members. The organising campaign was fairly horizontal and unbureaucratic, basically relying on personal relationships inside the teams and a mailing-list for coordination. We managed to visit each of the seven, eight companies up to five, six times – distributing hundreds of multi-lingual leaflets, all on a budget of £100 or so. We could have done with more face-to-face meetings amongst ourselves and more frequent visits – but that is London for you, many team members travelled one or two hours from the other end of town. Read the concrete company reports below – followed by a more detailed description of our experiences at the A1 sandwich factory.

3. Main example: experiences at A1 sandwich factory

We got a very positive response from workers of a local sandwich factory and were able to organise two meetings with over 40 workers. We therefore want to give a bit more space for the description of this experience.

/// General conditions

A1 is a major sandwich supplier for the main supermarket chains. People in the UK buy around four billion sandwiches a year, a big and labour intensive business. Despite its seemingly ‘home-made’ character the sector is dominated by a few bigger corporations, e.g. Greencore (another company we visited during our campaign) and 2 Sisters produce around a quarter of the national demand. There is currently a fair bit of restructuring going on; A1 recently closed a plant in Middlesborough and shifted production. In factories like A1, 300 to 400 workers can produce 250,000 sandwiches and more per shift. The work is tough, there is little automation, most work is done on conveyor belts. Workers stand on one spot in the chilled environment and repeat the same work-step every 5 seconds. Most of the workers at A1 are from South Asia and Eastern Europe (Lithuania in particular). There is a lot of bullying pressure from management, something systemic in the ‘low-skilled’ industrial and logistics world. Workers also face frequent workplace raids by the migration police.

/// First visit

The first visit was tough: security called the police and tried to stop us talking with workers. He even told workers, “You’ll get into trouble for talking to them!” He was a total pain, but we stuck it out and put the flags away. We hid in a shop opposite until it get a bit darker and then attempted to talk to people again. Security threatened to call the police again, but even if he did call, they didn’t show up again, knowing it was not a serious issue. Hurray for police cuts! Some of the workers we talked to were angry, rather than intimidated: “How dare they wanting to decide who we can talk to or not?!”

When we first visited A1 we had no direct contact – a friend of ours had worked there as a cleaner, but that was a year ago. The first surprise was the amount of workers who are employed at the factory – from short reports and the size of the building we guessed it was around 300, but it turned out to be more like 800 plus agency workers. The second surprise was the response from workers that went beyond a merely positive attitude towards the idea of a union: people were eager to put down their phone numbers and promised to turn up for a meeting. In general their level of English was better than the local average.

“K spoke to a forklift driver, who gathered several other men working in goods-in. She spoke to them for a long time considering they were on shift – they didn’t seem afraid of managers. Some of them even took leaflets and started giving them to other workers. They said they had tried asking for higher wages individually but it didn’t work: last year they only got an insulting £0.04 pay rise. They, too, were mainly Punjabi and keen to form a union. When they brought up the issue of victimisation, K said this is the reason why “there shouldn’t be visible leaders”, so they can’t go after just one or few people – they were very receptive to this and said, “everyone should be a leader”. She also told them they can go the “legal” route of getting 10% membership, or find other ways to put pressure on management but that we would need a meeting of workers from across the factory to discuss our options.”

“The supervisor of the warehouse – Albanian guy – is sound. He said that he had fought with management to get everyone in the warehouse at least £8.85. Hygiene guys in the factory are still at £8.50, whereas the production workers only get £7.50 (at least the agency folks). He also said that management promised pay increases several times, but never gave one.”

After two or three trips to A1 someone called us directly to ask us when exactly the meeting would be. He said many people were interested in coming. We promptly set a date and place (a Somalian community centre in Southall) for the following weekend. We contacted others whose details we had and let them know.

/// First meeting

We prepared a rough structure for the meeting, not knowing exactly how many people would attend:

* What is the IWW, what is our approach, what do we do in the area;
* Each worker should introduce themselves, where they work, what their main grievances are, what they already tried to do about it;
* How to talk to and involve more co-workers in future meetings.

Around 20 workers were present at the meeting. Apart from two Lithuanian women it was mainly workers from an Indian background. Around three quarters were women – although they had initially used a guy to contact us to set up the meeting. Most workers were from the production department (production operatives, staffers and quality controllers), one worker worked in hygiene/cleaning. Apart from two workers everyone had worked in the factory for more than two years. Goods-in workers were on shift, but some of them also announced interest. Most of the time was taken up by workers’ description of the situation in the factory.

During our first meeting with A1 workers did most of the talking. They were keen to tell us about the general conditions and their major grievances:

* Minimum wage of £7.50 for most workers on the assembly lines who prepare the food; after working for the company for 5 – 10 – 15 years; only 30p more for nightshift and quality control workers;
* No regular working hours even though most are permanent staff. They never know when they will finish work – it could be 4pm or 9pm, which makes childcare and family responsibilities difficult to juggle;
* Overtime is paid at single rate for most workers, at 1.5 for workers with older contracts;
* When orders are down, they are told they have to take the day off as holiday with no notice period;
* They get one half an hour break and one 15 minutes break during the shift which can sometimes last as long as 14 hours. If they stay for ‘overtime’ they do not get an extra break;
* Break times are also rushed because the time it takes to get through the changing room and into the canteen is part of the total time allowed for the break. So in reality, break times are even less than this;
* It is cold in the food prep area where workers stand for 8-14 hour shifts.

* About 20% of workers are on the old ‘Superior Foods’ contracts, the rest are on the newer ‘Food Partners’ contracts (there was a merger some years ago). People on old contracts get higher overtime payments and paid breaks.
* Around 60 agency staff. They have worked there for years, have the same conditions as the Food Partners people and get offered contracts when the company needs more workers. The relationship between permanent and agency workers is good.
* Main nationalities are Indian (Konkani and Hindi speakers), Lithuanian, Romanians, Poles.
* December and the period May to June is less busy, due to school holidays.

As we were to find out, workers had already undertaken various collective steps themselves:

* People want to work overtime because this is the only way to make ends meet. But their situation is being exploited by bosses who are getting away with paying their workers peanuts. One time, when some women workers decided to stay for overtime they asked for a third break after 10 hours. Managers refused. So workers on two lines got fed up and all clocked out at the same time. The next day, nobody said anything to them about leaving.
* Because it is food production it is cold in the factory, plus things are transported in and out, so it is also drafty. The uniforms that are given to workers don’t protect them from the cold and the rubber boots are often way too big or small. Shopfloor managers ignored many complaints about this. A group of a dozen workers had enough and went straight to the office of the main factory manager to demand better uniforms. This caused a big stir, the shopfloor manager screamed their head off, but things got moving.
* Three maintenance workers got together and engaged a solicitor to write a collective grievance about being down-graded as ‘maintenance operatives’ after having worked as technicians for several years.
* Workers individually refused to sign the new contracts (from Superior Foods to new A1 contracts). After complaints, management held a meeting last year where they promised to equalise the conditions between different contracts, but nothing happened afterwards.
* Workers decided to come together and write a letter to management about the short breaks, irregular shifts and long hours that left no time for family and a life outside work. Around 90 workers signed it, from all language groups, both temps and permanents. Management tried to invite single workers for a meeting, but initially workers were clear: “This is an issue affecting of all of us, so speak to all of us”. Workers insisted on at least 3 workers attending. Three of them did go, but it seems the meeting had no further results.

* We wrote up all the grievances they raised and handed them out to workers during the second meeting (see appendix);
* We decided not to ask people to sign up to the IWW at the first meeting, but to first try and create a working relationship;
* We decided to make a clear visual plan of the next steps for the next meeting: the first meeting was about gathering all the problems together, the second meeting would look at steps to take etc.;
* We talked about the fact that many workers will be on holiday in December and that it would be a shame if the dynamic would be lost due to meetings being smaller during that period. One suggestion was to make a clear decision that things start again in early January and that in the meantime we can deal with individual grievances and smaller meetings;
* We created a WhatsApp group.

Apart from the big meeting we also met up with a maintenance worker and tried to support him and his workmates with a grievance. We hoped that this would raise our profile a bit, as he had worked in the plant for over 15 years and seemed well connected. But his co-workers, who were also affected, did not show up with him at the following meetings and momentum petered out.

We tried to arrange similar meetings around specific grievances with other groups of workers, e.g. the quality controllers who voiced particular concerns about having to oversee two lines for no extra pay. Unfortunately the QCs had no time or energy to meet separately. We had hoped that these smaller meetings could work in tandem with the big ones and create more mutual trust.

Between the first and the second meeting we were asked by one of the workers to accompany her to a meeting with management regarding the petition workers had undertaken independently. We decided that this would be too early and would put her at risk, as management would connect her with the union. In hindsight this might have been a mistake, as the worker (and her colleagues) might have seen this as a lack of support, despite our efforts to advise her regarding the meeting and explaining why we would not attend as union reps at this point. This was also a turning point in the sense that initially workers said they would not go in a small group to meet with management – and we encouraged them in this. Management addressed some (mainly Lithuanian) women directly, workers then decided to go in a group of seven, eight. In the end, either because ‘the Goan workers chickened out’ or because management refused to receive a bigger group of workers as representatives only three women went and were pretty disillusioned afterwards. They said that they felt left alone by their co-workers and didn’t attend the following union meeting. Management reacted to the petition by announcing to introduce a different clock-out system for breaks, to make things more ‘transparent’. We said: management ignored the workers’ letter with common demands, let’s put forward a letter as a union with at least half of workers as members – they cannot ignore this, as we can ask ACAS or other boards to address management formally.

Last, but not least we offered on-site childcare for workers who wanted to attend the meeting, taking into account that may workers have family duties.

/// Second meeting

We thought of the following structure for the next meeting:

* Handing out our list of typed up grievances from the first meeting;
* Highlighting the importance of the collective steps workers had already taken (e.g. their petition);
* Doing an IWW presentation about the union and why it was different to the bigger unions. We emphasised the fact that workers would have to take the lead and that we could support them;
* Photocopying their contracts to undertake research into possible illegalities by the company;
* Asking workers to keep a detailed diary of incidents, e.g. in case they are sent home unpaid (date, name of supervisor etc.);
* Talking about how we can put forward our demands, even without a formal union and how to back up demands without becoming targets (e.g. work to rule);
* Our options in terms of going for formal recognition and what that would involve, and how we could build up power on the shopfloor through collective actions;
* Short input from the Ferrari showroom cleaners about what they did and how they got better wages and conditions.

A similar amount of workers came to the meeting, though half of them hadn’t come to the first meeting, also meaning, half of the workers from the first didn’t come to the second. Unlike the first meeting, this time we ended up doing most of the talking. There were more men this time, whereas at the first meeting the majority were women. We asked why not more co-workers came and people mentioned family commitments and holidays as reasons, but also fear. People also mentioned that many workers have little knowledge of general union rights in the UK – we noted these various issues down to re-work our leaflets. We collected copies of the two different contracts to study them in detail.

We agreed to focus on break-times and being sent home unpaid as the main issues for the moment and put forward the proposal to first collect 50 signatures before handing in an official grievance. We discussed afterwards that it would obviously be easy to turn these workers’ complaints into formal grievances and to shower management with them – problem is that workers seem not really prepared for a more sophisticated response from management, e.g. to pay some QCs more or to shift trouble makers to other A1 sites. We wondered whether we had struck the right balance between being enthusiastic and encouraging, at the same time, being realistic about what management could do in retaliation and the fact that nothing would change overnight, or just by them filling out a membership form. There was a similar fine balance between, on one side, encouraging workers in their individual outrage, e.g. about the contract situation, and on the other side explaining to them that the law is, in many cases, on the employers’ side.

Even though we tried to stress that we need to start from a collective position, people still were quite focused on their individual/departmental problems e.g. one hygiene cleaner who said his shift worked harder than the other hygiene shifts because they had to deep clean machines and use chemicals – the insinuation being that they should get more than the others. We should maybe think about what our approach should be in this situation. Obviously, it would be better for everyone to fight together for the London Living Wage rather than a quid more for their own department/shift. We could have suggested this when we had these smaller meetings with them. At the same time, it would be good for them to try and stand up to management in smaller groups with workers who are all immediately affected by an issue in specific situations. We need to think about how to encourage this, while at the same time, trying to get them to see how they’re all actually facing the same problem, just in different ways and that if they want to fight together, they will need to focus on broader demands that affect all workers.

Regarding union membership: we handed out membership forms, but told workers to bring them back next time. We wanted to make sure that we had all their details – address and phone numbers of workers who signed up. Some people said that £5 monthly membership fee was too high. We decided that at the next meeting we would accept £1 as a symbolic membership fee and tell people that they could consider paying more once they see that the union is something that they are part of and that makes a difference in their lives.

It was great to have cleaning workers from the Ferrari showroom and UVW comrades at the meeting who could tell the A1 workers about their experience of taking on management. The fact that they are migrant workers themselves, who have similar problems regarding language and other barriers, made a difference.

/// Third meeting

While over 20 workers came to the first two meetings, numbers came down for the third – only around eight, nine workers turned up. This meant that our initial plan to break up into smaller groups of three – four workers and discuss more face-to-face fell through. Workers reported that management had spread rumours that people who join the union will be fired and that people are generally sceptical about what can be achieved. Workers who have been in the UK for a longer time said that the ‘recently arrived’ workers just want to keep their heads down and don’t understand their rights. They want immediate results, if possible through pressing a ‘legal button’ by someone who knows the law. Also workers said that certain ‘key figures’ had given up, which meant that other workers also got discouraged. Perhaps we should also have pushed for a meeting in early January, given that the holiday break left a bigger gap (over a month) between the second and the third meeting – we might have kept up more of a dynamic. We tried to fill the gap with smaller group meetings (QCs, maintenance) – but they were seemingly more difficult to arrange.

Eight workers signed membership forms at the third meeting, but we knew that we would have to rekindle some of the earlier fire, as only the maintenance worker came to the follow-up meeting a week later. The WhatsApp group didn’t really work, we received few replies, apart from Goan Catholic memes! We kept on calling workers individually and some said that they are afraid that things from WhatsApp would be passed onto management. A short reflection from a fellow worker after the meeting:

“Obviously, when we’ve gone from meetings with 20-25 workers to meetings with a near-total no-show, it’s easy to be dispirited. Perhaps we could have been faster in coming up with a detailed plan. However, I think overall we’ve been efficient, reliable and enthusiastic in all our dealings with A1 workers so far. There certainly may be truth to the workers being initially hyped-up and then less interested when they realised they’d have to put work in themselves. Management may have also done more to scare them then we might know. In any case, an organising drive in a factory this size, with these conditions and ethnic diversity is likely to take years. There’s still lots to play for so we should dust ourselves off and go back to basics.”

We decided to return to the A1 factory with more translations and more information on basic rights, also addressing the nightshift. We also went to the company’s second factory and the bigger warehouse near Heathrow airport which did not elicit any enthusiastic responses. We found out that the Bakers’ Union was present in the second factory, but that conditions were not much different.

We agreed to meet workers after their shift in a nearby cafe to collect membership forms, but although we reminded workers to bring their colleagues no one turned up. At this point it was clear that the mood had shifted.

At this point we were a bit demoralised. Workers at A1 were reluctant to proceed. They gave a number of reasons including a lack of trust that other workers would step up (“they say ‘yeah yeah’ but then they don’t do anything”); that the time is not right, that things will become more hopeful after Brexit and there are less workers around to plug the gap; that people were too scared; that people don’t have time to come to regular meetings etc. After a 2 month break we went back to A1 but focused more on leafletting the night-shift workers who had not been present at earlier meetings. We distributed a modified leaflet with basic information about unions in the UK. The response was very good. We gave out over 100 leaflets and workers were interested to hear that we had met with workers from the day-shift.

On our second visit with the new leaflet to night-shift, one of us wrote:

“The most promising people I spoke to were two Goans who were really pissed off and listed loads of problems – unpaid overtime, problems with falling sick and being unable to get home, no raise with the statutory minimum, the super fast line speed ‘killing their hours.’ They said they wanted to meet and would bring 10-15 guys with them. Also spoke to a guy called M. He said ‘his prayers had been answered’ because he’d been wanting a union to get involved for years. Another Goan guy said he’d heard about the day meetings with us through friends but said night shift can never make them. He said we should arrange a meeting at 9pm or 9.30pm somewhere close to A1 for the night shift. Seemed v angry and keen.”

We went twice more since then and we reckon things are still brewing. We heard of rumours that management paid a compensation for the day-shift for loss of break-time – which was one of the demands both workers’ petition and our leaflets focused on. We will try to organise a smaller meeting with four – five more committed workers and build things up slower e.g. maybe through offering specific organiser training sessions for the workers. We will also keep an eye and an ear out regarding disciplinaries and grievances, where workers might want our support – officially or not. We organise monthly general ‘social meetings’ in the area and invite our A1 contacts.

4. Conclusions and open questions

* Most of us think that despite the limited ‘success’, the effort was insightful. We managed to organise the stuff ourselves and with little resources. A paid-full time union organiser might have been able to be in front of the gates more frequently, but a group of 20 volunteers can cover a fair bit of time and space.

*This experience underlines the fact that the situation for migrant workers in particular in this ‘hostile environment’ is tough and we won’t build anything overnight. Yes, a spark might set things off, but we cannot bypass the day-to-day organising that requires a longer-term approach.

* Apart from migration, the nature of the work poses a challenge, as in the surveillance and control. In comparison, (many – not all, of course) cleaners in central London often have chances to discuss the work and problems and solutions together with their workmates out of sight of management.

* We were aware of the problem of not having a group of workers inside the workplace, but having to depend on getting to know workers through frequent visits. Most examples show that ‘cold organising’ is a difficult and time intensive effort. At the same time we learnt a lot during our conversations with workers. With even just one or two contacts and the name of the union spread amongst hundreds of local workers, some seeds might grow for the future. A1 showed that with a bit of luck we can be at the right place at the right time.

* As described earlier, the so-called ‘social leaders’ on the shop-floor – outstanding workers other workers tend to look up to – are often tied into the general hierarchy by being given middle-men positions. Having said this, our type of organising effort will rely on finding workers who are more committed and who are able to motivate other workers to get things going. We are aware of the tension between these two facts.

* We still face a classical conflict: for strategical reasons AngryWorkers chose jobs in bigger local workplaces (major food factories and retail warehouses), where mainstream unions are well established. We try to build independent ‘workers’ groups’ and newsletters and at the same time see what is and isn’t possible inside the existing unions. There is little scope for official IWW involvement at this point, as it would just be seen as another act of union competition.

* During our organising drive we were unsure how much to push individuals or a group of workers. How many times do you call a worker or invite a worker before you accept that they are not interested? How much do you encourage a group of workers to take steps when you see that they already have a full plate of problems. We always emphasised that this is up to the workers and that workers can do a lot of things at work without becoming targets. We didn’t shy away from providing a fair bit of service, despite our critical attitude towards ‘service unions’.

* At the same time, in terms of the bigger picture, what we need are examples that can inspire other workers. If there was a successful strike in one of the hundreds of medium-sized factories and warehouses, this could spark an enormous dynamic! This is so palpable and therefore we can understand comrades who want to push this example into being. However, we run into a problem when a minority of workers want to act in a larger workplace because chances are that they will become isolated and lose their jobs. In Italy they managed to break this dynamic by having a large Left presence as external supporters. But it is difficult to get people to come, or stay interested in these western hinterlands… Although inspiring, the current examples of migrant cleaners organising in central London happen in a significantly different context (e.g. on more politicised and public campuses).

* We were caught in a contradiction: our main way to show support for workers and build trust seems to be to help them with legal matters and grievance/disciplinary proceedings. At the same time this re-enforces their idea that someone who knows about local law can do some magic trick for them.

* We should encourage a more open exchange of workplace and organising experiences within the IWW and other smaller unions like the IWGB and UVW. We are more often than not only presented with the final and official outcome of organising efforts – reports of problems and failures are often not shared openly.

* We were cautious to avoid a union competition when we heard that one of the mainstream unions was already present. At the same time we should be confident enough and ask the question: workers here complain about the conditions, you have recognition here, so what is your plan? More importantly, workers themselves should discuss what they want to do – if the existing union is not willing to support them we should encourage independent action.

* In the long run we have to transition from occasional leafletting to continuous presence in the area: solidarity networks, drop-ins, workplace newsletters and working class newspapers are essential in order to create a wider structure of working class self-organisation. (While writing this review we were contacted by truck drivers of Punjabi background through our solidarity network, who want to organise with the IWW)

* We should also re-discuss the potentials and limitations of salting, of going to take jobs in workplaces like A1, L1 etc. in order to help organising. We hope to be able to present a paper on the issue soon.

———

5. Appendix

a) Short summary of the reports after team visits at the other companies
b) Write-up of grievances at A1
c) Leaflet A1

a) Short summary of the reports after team visits at the other companies

*** E1 – Ink-cartridge re-filling factory

E1 employs around 150 mainly female workers of Gujarati and Lithuanian background, who re-fill ink cartridges. Most workers have been working there for five, ten years or longer and are on permanent contracts. Management is of the paternalistic and patriarchal type. The company expanded during the early 2000s, employing up to 250 people. Colleagues said that in their heyday they re-filled 15,000 cartridges a day: the UK consumes around 45 million cartridges a year and with 250 people and basic machinery you can recycle around 4 million of them. While the company clocked £2 million profit per month, the wages of the workers did not increase. During the late 2000s the competition from re-filling factories based in China grew considerably, thanks to internet retail and logistics chains. By that time the upper-management had diverted a fair amount of business profits into real estate and kept the business ‘ticking over’ – the rounds of redundancies and spells of short-time work became more frequent. By the mid-2010s there were only 150 people left in the ink department.

Their main concerns are the low wages and the fact that during periods of low work volume during summer months workers are sent on short-time and suffer wage loss. There has been resistance of a group of ten, twenty workers to sign a new contract which inscribed the right of the company to sent people home unpaid. Some of the male workers in supervisory positions had been in touch with GMB union, but this didn’t lead to any results. One of us had worked in the plant for about a year and we were in close touch with two male workers, but they were reluctant to take on a more active role, saying that ‘the women are just waiting for their retirement’.

In our first leaflet we addressed the main issues and the fact that workers could do with a collective response next time management introduces changes to contract:

“We managed to catch two workers coming from night-shift, there are only 10 people on nights – one of them started recently, but he seemed interested. Most departments and language groups got enough leaflets to circulate them around (Moroccan men in maintenance, Lithuanian women in packaging, Gujarati and Goan women in production, Goan men in the warehouse). Response was positive, though less enthusiastic by some Gujarati women. Only two refused to take a leaflet, and they were quite specific that they don’t want to have to do anything with a union. I guess the talk of a union has been around for a while. The only white British shop-floor worker – he is called the ‘pitbull’ because once he engages you in a conversation he would not let go – talked general bullshit about ‘for the Indian women worker this here is only social activity, they don’t need the job, they all have houses and money’ etc.”

One of our E1 contacts replied:

“So I have been trying to ask a few guys amongst the staff of how they feel about it but surprising enough most of them are very sceptical about it. A few of them are already a member of another Union and because they haven’t had a particularly good experience with that one therefore they don’t see IWW being any different. But the majority of the staff have worked for E1 for well over a decade and many of them are relatively close to retirement as well so they just want to see their time out without any trouble. On the top of that the management got hold of one of your flyers which didn’t go down well with A. [CEO] to say the least. Today he issued a letter to the staff to encourage every one to approach the management with confidence if you have any problems, concerns etc. instead of joining any Union.”

The letter said:

“Response from A. [name of CEO] regarding International Workers of the World (IWW) leaflet
[…] I am sure that any of you who were interested in what you read will have found out more information about the IWW organisation from the web. The IWW has been in existence since 1905 but has always had a small following (just 3,742 members in 2016) As stated on their website, “the IWWis a revolutionary global union” and prides itself on “autonomy, common militancy and solidarity”. This is far cry from the values of E1 and what we do together as a working team. Instead of taking a militant stance, we have always encouraged open conversation and resolution, not revolution. […]”

In our second leaflet we addressed the fact that some workers had bad experiences with main-stream unions and emphasised that with the IWW decisions are made by workers themselves, supported by other workers. We also made clear that E1 management often just presents workers with their decisions and that their talk about ‘conversation and resolution’ is hypocritical. A union would be a vehicle to first discuss things amongst ourselves and then present management with a common stance. We offered to meet workers after work. During second distribution we had short conversation with a young Goan warehouse worker, he is unhappy about the wages, which are still below £8. Another warehouse worker promised to get in touch. The big manager came out after 5 min and started filming. Workers didn’t get in touch, but management reacted internally.

From our E1 contact:

“With the festive period right upon us I thought I’d give you a little update of what’s going on at E1. You may not have had a huge amount of interest from the guys here at E1 with regards to the Union, yet by the looks of things your “antics” had a good impact on the management which resulted in some positive news for us. Just a few days ago we had a meeting held by A. [CEO] (a kind of staff update of how the business is doing) where he explained that the company has come a long way since 2015 when the business was on the verge of bankruptcy. So he thanked everyone for our hard work and he backed up his appreciation by giving £100 bonus for each member of staff. This is the first time in 8 years that we have received any sort of bonus. Further more he promised that the salaries and performances would be reviewed individually and the ones that have more responsibilities and the overachievers are going to be rewarded in terms of pay rise. Moreover every quarter of the year there will be meeting where representatives from each department (from the staff) can take part and raise their issues, concerns, ideas for improvement etc. directly to him.”

We went another time to leaflet in a bigger group and invited individual workers via phone contact to a meeting with A1 sandwich factory workers, but with no result. We maintain individual contacts.

*** K1 – Crisps factory

The factory produces crisps for most major supermarkets, employing up to 1,000 workers, including many workers from temp agencies. Although some of us work in a ready-meal factory next to K1, we actually knew very little about the conditions and had no stable contacts inside. Workers complained about low wages, compulsory Saturday shifts and unsafe working conditions – there had been bad accidents at the frying stations. Most workers are from Gujarati and Romanian background. Only after our first visit we found out that the GMB has individual members there. The GMB had distributed a leaflet after an accident criticising that management had called a taxi instead of an ambulance. We addressed these concerns in our leaflet and also made clear that we don’t make a difference between permanent staff and agency workers. Initially we only had leaflets in English and our team-members could only address Polish workers in their mother-tongue. Translating leaflets and having native Gujarati speakers during following visits made a difference:

“V., A. and me visited K1 for the first time today. We arrived at factory’s gate at 2pm. At around 2.30 workers from Response agency started gathering to sign in for a shift. Mostly Gujarati speakers and some Romanians. Had few conversations.”

“V., J. and I me visited K1 again. This time we had English, Romanian and Hindi copies of the leaflet. We distributed around 70 English, 50 Hindi and 30 Romanian copies. Spoke to two Polish women, one said that there were people from other unions distributing flyers before (GMB?), second one said that everyone is scared to lose their job and all just wait till end of the shift everyday.”

“We were told by one Hungarian guy that a Romanian worker might get in touch cause he got injured on that same day. The Hungarian one was particularly enthusiastic and started explaining people what the leaflet was about. Romanians were positively surprised to see leaflets translated into their language. One guy, possibly British Afro-Caribbean stopped by to say he would like to get involved with a union and “help people, defend workers’ rights”.”

“I spoke with Romanians (in Italian, it actually worked out:), Moroccans, Hungarians and Gujarati speakers. Some were interested, got the idea that if we speak with the management they would listen more. Some were also in favour of petitions to voice their demands. Others were skeptical saying that management would fire them if they dare to stand up for their rights. Most people complained about the minimum wage, so I told them about the cleaners’ case and mentioned A1 workers as a case of self-organisation. Ethnic divisions seem to be an issue in the factory, Eastern Europeans were blaming the “Indian management” and saying there were too many South Asians workers. About injuries, they confirmed that no one cares nor they would call an ambulance if you get seriously hurt (although none of them had been seriously hurt apparently, only minor cuts on their hands). One worker asked how he could get his taxes back, I honestly didn’t know what to tell him other than check HMRC. Vanessa fittingly said we should tell them to come to a drop-in session anyway, as there would be people who are able to help on tax issues anyway.”

“Me, V., H., A. and J. went to K1 again, today at 2.15pm. H., who is Gujarati speaker, has agreed to come along with us and talk to the workers. We gave out around 150-200 leaflets in Gujarati, Hindi, Romanian and English. It was good time to approach workers as they were gathering outside before and after shifts. People seemed to be more keen to talk to us than before. Spoke to group of Polish women, they said that ‘everyone is racist’ and they don’t see the point of getting together, but took leaflets.”

We organised four, five visits and made various attempts to invite individual workers to our weekly drop-ins – with little results.

*** P1 – Logistics warehouse

The P1 warehouse is situated close to other warehouses we either want to organise around or we work in ourselves, so we thought of giving it a go despite not having much insights or contacts. As the name suggests, the warehouse mainly shifts pallets between trucks – apart from office staff there are only 50 to 60 lorry drivers (plus self-employed drivers) and 30 to 40 forklift workers, mainly from eastern Europe. It operates 24 hours, seven days a week. The company is operating internationally, with warehouses in other European countries. There is a lot of pressure on drivers, they sack people for minor mistakes – while increasing the number of self- employed drivers. They pay a bonus if workers go on a second round (20 pallet plus), but they pay the bonus arbitrarily. They also give drivers unequal routes, which causes frictions. The fork-lift drivers are over-worked, which leads to delays, which makes it difficult for the drivers to get their bonus.

We gathered this basic information during our first visit and used it to re-write the leaflet, incorporating these particular grievances. This was well received.

“One very vocal Polish driver who had been working there for 12 years was very keen to organise and we took his number. He suggested we host a meeting at P1, he seemed very confident that this would okay. He said there may be an issue with high turnover and agency staff that could make organising difficult. He also said there weren’t common areas, people just come in, get their delivery list and leave again – not much cohesion.”

“We spoke to guys from Hungary and Bulgaria who were also keen and had worked there for some years. Most of the Eastern European workers were very welcoming and greeted us with handshakes and were interested in the union. There was also a Romanian and Lithuanian, someone from the West Indies, loads of different nationalities. The Eastern Europeans at least, seemed to have good communication with each other. One had had a bad experience with unions in the past and said he ‘shits on them’. One suggested our time would be better spent at DPD in Southall. The few English workers we met were quite dismissive and hostile. Some worked as self employed drivers.”

“6.50, we met a few people from last week again, they were friendly. I spoke to the Hungarian guy when he was in his cab, he said “there’s no equal opportunities here” which meant some people get more work and better work arbitrarily. He also said he was nervous because there’s cameras everywhere, even in the cabs. Another guy called me over and asked for a leaflet. He told me yesterday someone got fired unfairly and they both would be interesting in meeting us. I gave him my number. We spoke to a black guy in his cab who said he isn’t interested in the union because he’s scared of losing his job. No chance to reply because female supervisor in orange fluorescent came out of warehouse and told us politely to go away. We went home.”

We were able to meet one of the drivers from Romania who got dismissed for allegedly not securing his load properly. We sat together and wrote a letter to management pointing out that this could be unfair dismissal due to discrimination – which was a bluff and management called it a bluff. We had hoped that by being able to help this driver we could create more trust amongst other drivers. This didn’t work out. We managed to gather a fair amount of phone numbers from drivers, but didn’t manage to convince them that it is worth meeting up. Given the lay-out of the warehouse it was difficult to get in touch with the fork-lift drivers. In Italy, P1 workers organised industrial action together with Si Cobas, we thought about trying to get a solidarity message from Italy, to boost the morale in London, but that didn’t materialise. There are still individual contacts, but they are sporadic.

*** W1 – Warehouse and packaging plant for fruit and veg

W1 packages veg and fruit for all major supermarket chains. Most of the veg and fruit comes in passenger machines (Egypt, Kenya, Jamaica etc.), arriving at Heathrow airport nearby. W1 has contracts with around 14,000 ‘independent’ small farmers in Africa and has their own agro-farms in India. There are around 180 workers at W1, all permanents, working on two shifts. Around 70 per cent are women, most workers are from Gujarat, Goa and Tamil speaking. It is mainly line work, standing up continuously. Unloading the air-containers is heavy and dangerous (heavy boxes taken over-head with vacuum crane). Workers are supposed to stay till work is finished, up to 14 hours. Many workers have been working there for five years or longer, still they get the minimum wage. The general level of english is pretty low. The warehouse is located opposite of P1, were we are in touch with drivers. One of us had worked in the warehouse briefly and we are still in touch with an ex-colleague, but he wants to keep low profile. We visited W1 several times, but workers seemed intimidated and in a rush. Only after four visits we managed to distribute a translated leaflet.

“Around 50 workers went past in twos and threes. Pretty much everyone at W1 took a leaflet , but we only managed about 4 conversations. One in Portuguese (with a probably Goan lady) the rest in Hindi. Workers were pretty much all of South Asian origin and spoke next to no english. I didn’t feel like it was a very productive hour at W1, it’s very dark because it’s before dawn, and people seem suspicious of us.”

“I met a woman at the W1 gates at about 7.05. She was late for her shift but was still keen to talk. She is in quality control so she said she earns more. And works maybe two hours less a day (but still 10 hours if I understood correctly). However she was really interested in the union and and keen to meet up outside of work to talk about it. Will message her today. Feels like a bit of a breakthrough.”

“Only spoke to night-shift guys, they are pissed off about 12-hour shifts and low night-shift bonus (they get £7.95). I have one guy’s phone number, meaning that we have one number from day and one from night-shift. Will contact them both tomorrow and see if they are up for meeting us…”

We managed to speak with one of the workers on the phone, they wanted to know if something can be done about the fact that management refuses to give more than three weeks holiday. We tried to arrange a meeting, but it fell flat. We try to maintain individual contact.

*** S1 – Sofa warehouse

S1 is a sofa and furniture store, now taken over by DFS. The warehouse in west London employs around 50 people, many from agencies, plus van drivers. Most of them are from eastern Europe and of Afro-Carribean and African background, all male. One of us had worked in the S1 store for a while, but was made redundant during restructuring. There was no union present, so S1 installed a phoney ‘staff forum’ to pretend that there was some sort of consultation process. Our friend heard from S1 workers employed in the nearby warehouse that there are a lot of arbitrary (and racist) disciplinaries and warnings issued by management. Workers representatives are told that they are not allowed to talk during disciplinary meetings, which is not correct. On top of this, delivery workers often have to work unpaid overtime to be able to finish their rounds. We addressed these issues in our first leaflet.

“It looked like some agency workers, but not many, where coming in later. They seemed receptive to the idea of the union and all of them took the leaflet. We could speak with some of the more veteran workers that where going out the depot with the trucks. They listened more when I told them that I was in the store and was seeing all the disciplinaries.”

“Because of conflicting information and to be completely certain of shift start times we got there for 4.15am expecting some workers to start coming between 4.30 and 5am. We soon found out that this day was special because a series of managers turned up for what we later learned was a meeting with workers to discuss pay and overtime rates, presumably in advance of the Christmas season. A manager had travelled down from Manchester for the occasion, too. One boss told us forcefully that unions are ‘not recognised by this company’ and insisted we not give leaflets or ‘harass’ the workers or he would call the police. First workers entered at 5.30am, and a total of 25 workers. Reception from the workers was positive and a couple were confident, with one saying that the meeting about pay had been called because the workers asked for it, and another insisting that we should be allowed inside to talk at the meeting. They said that the meeting had been positive for the workers but the bosses also told all staff not to talk to us in the future.”

“The quality inspector, J., has been working at S1 a few weeks and is angry about a supervisor’s disrespect towards him, and the supervisor’s racist attitude towards a colleague. J. is under investigation for allegedly being late on one occasion. He has to travel 2 hours from his home outside London and arrive for a 5.30am start. J. expects to be disciplined, and we advised him to challenge any management attempt to do this without giving him a formal letter or without offering him a chance to be represented. He was as, if not more, concerned with the supervisor’s arrogance, and for now, we advised him to keep a note, date and time of incidents of abuse to able to use the evidence against the supervisor later.”

“So far though, the workers seem quite alienated or disconnected from each other, with the drivers maybe knowing only their truck partner well, while the mix of permanent and agency workers in the depot means there is some unfamiliarity between workers which would need to be overcome.”

We didn’t manage to organise a bigger meeting, but try to keep in touch individually.

*** L1 – Industrial laundrette

The laundrette employs around 150 workers per shift, around 10 to 20 per cent of them hired through agency. The company supplies restaurants, gyms and hotels in London. Most of the workers are women from South Asia and ester Europe. Wages are around the minimum, even for permanent workers who have been employed for years.

“The GMB is apparently present, though many seem to be unaware of this. One driver said “We definitely need a union in here”, indicating he didn’t know there was one even operating inside. When I asked one woman if the GMB helps, she replied “10p above the minimum wage – do you think they help?”.”

This also meant that workers were generally a little weary when we said that we are coming from a union.

“After all the workers were gone, two bosses came out to bully us. They tried to act intimidating and accused us of “harassing” the workers – according to them one of the workers felt harassed by us giving a leaflet. They also told us the information on our leaflet was “incorrect” and “defamatory”, that they will contact the “person who is responsible for this”, threatening us with “solicitors” and saying we had trespassed private property (the roads are indeed private)… At least they told us they have 500 employees and all are union members, though the latter claim is clearly bullshit.”

We asked a GMB organiser, who is an old lefty and he confirmed that there are around 120 GMB members at L1 and that they have a recognition agreement. We discussed what this fact means to us: conditions are bad, management and union have an agreement, meaning that there is no legal chance to enforce a recognition agreement even if you organise the majority of workers – see summary of discussion in the final conclusion bit of this text. In this specific occasion we decided to try and get in touch with the GMB reps in the factory, to talk about what workers had said to us (low wages, work pressure etc.) and to ask them what we can do about it. The GMB organiser tried to facilitate an exchange, but the GMB factory reps refused to meet. We distributed leaflets a second time and then decided to focus on the nearby A1 factory.

———

b) Write-up of grievances at A1

*** Main problems at A1 – Notes for workers from meeting, 18th of November 2017

1) Wages

Wages in general are below the London Living Wage of £10.20.

2) Line Speed

The line speed often exceeds limits which would maintain workers mental and physical health. Production targets are often set too high, resulting in necessary cleaning of belts and machinery being neglected. Quality Controllers are told off for stopping the lines when they notice quality problems, which are largely due to excessive work speed.

3) Disparity of conditions between employees with Superior Foods and Food Partners contracts

During a meeting in 2016 management promised to equalise conditions of A1 employees with Superior Foods and Food Partners contracts. This did not materialise and workers with Food Partners contracts and newly hired employees still have significant disadvantages. Unlike workers on Superior Foods their breaks are not paid (which amounts to £27 a week), they don’t receive 1.25 payment for overtime after 45 hours weekly working time and 1.5 payment for work on their days off or bank holidays. Back-payments are given arbitrarily.

4) Workers do not get the statutory break time

Management asks workers to clean machinery and get in and out of protective clothing during their break time, which results in substantial cuts to their actual break time. This is worsened by queues on the way out from the shop-floor. Management cuts 15 min from workers wages if they arrive 2 min late from their break. Workers also report about being harassed when they ask to go to the toilet. If necessary ingredients arrive late, workers have to make up for it by working continuously after their arrival, without being given their breaks. If management orders overtime and shift times exceed 10-11-12 hours workers are often not granted a third break.

5) Workers are not paid their contracted hours and forced to take holiday

Despite having contracts which state the weekly working times workers are sent home unpaid with short notice. Sometimes this results in weekly working-times of less than 35 hours. If there is not enough work workers are forced to take holiday or otherwise they are not paid for the day off work.

6) Shift-times and overtime are announced too short notice

Start of shift times is often announced only the day before and only through notifications on the shop-floor. Workers who are not at work that day do not receive this notification. Workers are forced to work overtime short notice. Sometimes the statutory rest time of 11 hours between shifts is not given.

7) Holiday payment does not reflect previously worked hours

Holiday pay is only paid at the basic hourly rate, whereas it should reflect the average amount of hours worked over the last 12 weeks period.

8) Workers cannot decide about their holidays

Management only grants two weeks holidays on stretch, which is not enough for longer travels, e.g. to India.

9) Workers are being shifted between departments arbitrarily

Maintenance workers have been shifted from the maintenance to production department without consultation.

10) Pay grades are set arbitrarily

Maintenance workers with the same formal skill set are categorised as either multi-skilled or maintenance assistants arbitrarily.

11) Workers have serious health and safety concerns

Management ignored complaints about cold and draft conditions several times. Management ignored complaints about inadequate food wear several times. Trays with ingredients are often overloaded, resulting in workers having to lift up to 100kg. Cleaners are not given enough time between shifts to do their job.

12) Doctors notes are questioned and workers disciplined for being off sick

Doctors notes are not being respected. Management indicates at meeting with worker that they will influence the decision of the ‚independent‘ assessment doctor. Workers who have taken their annual holiday are told that “you can’t be sick for the next three months now”.

13) Workers feel disrespected

Overall management treats workers with disrespect. If workers raise concerns they are told to “look for another job”.

c) Leaflet A1 – Next page

A1 workers in Wembley: Let’s fight for £10 an hour!
– Report from A1 workers’ meeting in Southall

We are part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a different kind of trade union. You make the decisions and we support you – for better pay and more justice at work. We help people if they have problems with management, landlords or the immigration office. At the moment we are getting in touch with workers at a few companies in this area.

We have organised meetings with A1 workers in Southall. They had written a petition to management signed by about 100 workers. Their main problems are:

* shift changes with short noice
* if there is no work, people are sent home unpaid or are forced to take holidays
* often shifts are too long, with no extra breaks
* workers are on different contracts: those on Superior Foods contracts get overtime bonus and paid breaks, those on Food Partners and A1 contracts don’t
* QC workers often have to work two lines at the same time
* hygiene workers don’t get enough time to finish their work
* maintenance workers are shifted from maintenace engineers contracts to maintenance assistant contracts

We discussed these things at the meeting. We also discussed that it is important to create links between A1 in Southall and other A1 sites. We visited the warehouse near Heathrow and now talk to you in Wembley.

What can we do..?

Our goal is to ask A1 to pay you more and listen to what workers have to say.

• Meet us to discuss things face to face. Bring one, two, three colleagues you can trust.
• There are various things a group of workers can do at work to put pressure on management without becoming a visible target.
• If just 10% of A1 workers at this factory join the union and 50% of them agree that the union should negotiate for better wages, we can address A1 management directly to ask for better pay.

The IWW is different from other unions…

• We are not here to get your membership money
• We don’t have paid staff or expensive offices
• We don’t tell you what to do, but listen what you want to do.

How to keep in touch…

Please send us a text or write us an email. Tell us what you think, ask questions. Tell us when and where we can meet in Wembley or somewhere close to where you live.

You can also come to our Solidarity Network for advice and support. We meet regularly between 5pm and 6pm:

First Monday of the month: McDonalds Greenford, Retail Park, UB6 0UW
Third Monday of the month: Asda Café, Park Royal, NW10 7LW
Fourth Monday of the month: Poornima Café, 16 South Rd. Southall, UB1 1RT

07544 338993 / westlondon@iww.org.uk / www.iww.org.uk

Call Congress’s “Blue Lives Matter” Bills What They Are: Another Attack on Black Lives

Sat, 05/19/2018 - 15:50

via The Intercept

by Natasha Lennard

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed the Protect and Serve Act of 2018 by a vote of 382 to 35. The act — a congressional “Blue Lives Matter” bill — would make it a federal crime to assault a police officer. The Senate version of the bill, which also has broad bipartisan support, goes even further, framing an attack on an officer as a federal hate crime.

The bills exemplify the very worst sort of legislation: at once unnecessary and pernicious.

The Protect and Serve Act would allow anyone who knowingly causes serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer to be imprisoned up to 10 years. And it creates even harsher penalties for other criminal acts against police: If a police officer were kidnapped, killed, or faced a threat on their life, then the perpetrator could get a much longer sentence, including potentially life in prison.

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Snipers Shooting Unarmed People at 100 Meters Isn’t a ‘Clash’

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 14:41

via FAIR

by Adam Johnson

As FAIR has noted before (e.g., Extra!, 1/17; FAIR.org, 4/2/18), the term “clash” is almost always used to launder power asymmetry and give the reader the impression of two equal warring sides. It obscures power dynamics and the nature of the conflict itself, e.g., who instigated it and what weapons if any were used. “Clash” is a reporter’s best friend when they want to describe violence without offending anyone in power—in the words of George Orwell, “to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

It’s predictable, then, that in coverage of Israel’s recent mass shootings in Gaza—which have killed over 30 Palestinians and injured more than 1,100—the word “clashes” is used to euphemize snipers in fortified positions firing on unarmed protesters 100 meters away:

  • Journalist Among 9 Dead in Latest Gaza Clashes, Palestinian Health Officials Say (CNN, 4/7/18)
  • Burning Tires, Tear Gas and Live Fire: Gaza Clashes Turn Deadly (Washington Post, 4/6/18)
  • Demonstrators Wounded as Gaza Clashes Resume (Reuters, 4/7/18)
  • Israel Clashes: Seven Palestinians Killed in Gaza Border Protests (Independent, 4/6/18)
  • After Gaza Clash, Israel and Palestinians Fight With Videos and Words (New York Times, 4/1/18)

It’s almost as bizarre as the time several media outlets referred to a white nationalist driving a car into a crowd of unarmed protesters in Charlottesville as a “clash” (FAIR.org, 8/17/17):

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Talking Back to the Patriarchy

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 03:01

via Dissent magazine

by Ann Snitow

First off, and above everything else: for a feminist activist like me, after forty-five years, #MeToo is simply marvelous: “We believe the women!” Although this is an absurd, generic statement, once again sealing one inside a restrictive existential category that can’t hold, still, what a change. To be believed, to have what one says make things move. Yes, marvelous.

The worries many have expressed are also pressing in: fear of backlash (the richly recurring hatred of women who speak); fear of a loss of due process and proportionality in punishment; fear of a misdirection of the eye toward individual “monsters” and away from the need for systemic change. For me, too, a dislike of some women’s current delight in the shaming of men, which puts women in their traditional role as moral arbiters and, sometimes, scourges. Making men ashamed, from cradle to grave, is a constitutive part of how men—excuse the generic—spend their lives trying to establish a masculinity to cancel all doubts. Shaming men is simply joining the system, a return to the idea of women as sexual gatekeepers. (Women are constantly shamed, too, in quite a different way. They should be experts in the failure of this emotion as a goad towards positive change.)

What might work better? I was recently at a lecture where a speaker I admire made the suggestion, based on her research, that levity, playfulness, a change of tone in the struggle might cut through both female self-righteousness and the arrogance of male associational life. She rounded her remarks off by saying that this buoyancy of tone would be new for feminists, pointing to the strict, puritanical earnestness of the second wave.

What! I felt consternation at this misreading of our collective U.S. feminist past. Why has an earlier, radical feminist history been so distorted in common memory? The high spirits of the new have dropped out, along with sweeping demands it’s hard to imagine now. I intend no nostalgia here. Beginnings have their own special voice, one of high expectations. But, it is in the interest of feminists of all generations to invent and reinvent a more complex, resistant, and sexually curious strain in feminist thought and action. I offer the following personal, potted history of feminist tones of voice used in response to tireless sexism and relentless sexual harassment. Tone is an elusive subject. In each social context, feminists seek a language to be believed, using tones of voice that are currently available.

The potted history

1970—The height of the sexual revolution before AIDS, before the anti-eroticism of failure, before the low spirits that follow defeats. Contrary to my young speaker’s received idea of this phase, we feminists were wild in the streets. Enraged but enchanted with our new understanding, we were W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell); we were theater; we were excitement. We had seen the actual situation at last and, glowing with this new knowledge, we expected to be believed. The new news about patriarchy was dark, but at the same time the social atmosphere in which this new knowledge was blooming was hopeful and exuberant. The sexual revolution had been for men so far. But now we wanted it on our terms. Anne Koedt had explained everything in The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm (1970). Birth control was beginning to be legally obtainable. The last line of Alix Kates Shulman’s 1970 piece heralded the joy women could have from sex: “Think clitoris!” This erotically charged exuberance suffused feminist activism then. The uncovering of feminist understanding was so startling that we held our new truths to be self-evident.

1979—Only, they weren’t. Backlash was a shock, enabled as it was by the slowdown in the economy that made the tone of exuberance unusable. A new precarity led to a new exhaustion. Reaching for a return to an earlier passion, some feminist activists began the anti-pornography campaign around this time. To those of us who opposed this move, in what became the feminist sex wars, attacks on pornography were a misdirected rage: men were predators, immoveable; we must take their misogynistic candy away. The anti-pornography movement in feminism was all about no more fun and games. Play about sexuality was seen as unthinkable, an evasion from the sober truth about men. (This phase in feminism is often called “radical” feminism. It was not.)

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#REDFORED – Teacher Strikes Show Social Movements the Way Forward

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 20:45

via Black Rose Federation

By Michael Reagan

There have been growing calls for electoral participation in the wake of the Trump
presidential victory and the horrendous political and social climate that have come in its
wake. Most of these voices encourage a social movement strategy called “inside/outside”
organizing which argues that protest, mobilizations, and disruptions are good, but that
social movements also need “inside” political actors – elected officials – who are
sympathetic to movement goals and can help push progressive agendas forward. Many call for supporting progressive democrats. Some favor breaking from democrats and creating a third party.
As logical as the “inside / outside” strategy is, it is a deeply flawed, and
the movements of teachers and education workers in the “Red for Ed” movement show an
improved way forward.

A Striking Turnaround

Arizona teachers just won a 20% pay increase after a week long strike that shut down the
state’s schools. Like much of the country, teachers in Arizona faced miserable working
conditions and underpay, a crisis that only got worse since the 2008 crisis. Their strike
turned that around. In addition to a 20% pay increase, the state has put hundreds of
millions of dollars forward for increased education spending, including fully funding the
cuts from the 2008 crisis, providing tens of millions of building renovation and renewal,
and millions for improved student mental health resources on campus.

No Allies in Arizona

What is most remarkable, they won in a deeply red state. The state governor, Doug Ducey,
is an arch-conservative. His policies have included attempts to repeal the Affordable Care
Act, to support keeping up confederate monuments (Arizona was not in the confederacy), and state wide austerity policies that led to 400 firings of state workers. The state
legislature is dominated by some of the worst republican toads in the country, including
senator Steven B. Yarbrough who as recently as 2015 argued for harsh cuts to the state
budget, and JD Mesnard who worked to restrict voting access in his own district. Even with
these republican conservatives dominating state politics, teachers have won tremendous
policy transformations.

Outside and Organizing

Why? Because political power is more than just who holds office – it is about building
power with each other – in the streets, for massive mobilizations and demonstrations – but
in our jobs too. When we take workplace action like this, our schools, business, and the
state governments cannot function. This is a tremendous source of power that “trumps”
whoever may be in office. As the late Howard Zinn wrote, “what matters most is not who is
sitting in the White House, but “who is sitting-in” – and who is marching outside the
White House, pushing for change.”

The Arizona teachers show this so clearly, as do those of Oklahoma, and West Virgina. So
too for the students from Parkland Florida, who have transformed their republican
governor’s stance on guns through their direct action.

Instead of “inside / outside” we need a movement strategy that builds organization and
protest, an “outside & organizing” framework. When we fight this way, we win.

Micheal Reagan is a Seattle based historian and organizer. You can follow him on Twitter
at @reaganrevoltion

http://blackrosefed.org/teacher-strikes-social-movements/

Repeal vote still too close to call when likely Don’t Know to No taken into account

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 20:35

via Workers Solidarity Movement

by Andrew Flood

The referendum to remove the clause in the constitution that limits what medical care, including abortion, women in Ireland can access approaches at the end of this month. With another poll appearing this morning we have updated our graph of how that May 25th vote would look IF the polling companies had a similar margin as they had for the Marriage Equality referendum a couple of years back. As you can see they suggest if nothing changes the result of the May 25th, Repeal vote will be too close to call until the count on the 26th.

We are going to post what the polls actually say in the first comment to this story, all the actual polls show Repeal passing. This graphic isn’t a scientific prediction, simply a warning that in reality the result may be too closed to call and so every effort made in the remaining 3 weeks will matter. In 1995 Divorce passed by a tiny margin of votes, about one per ballot box – something similar is possible this time too.

This latest poll is from the Sunday Independent and carried out by KMB. It shows an increase in the No vote. Their raw numbers were:

Yes 45%
No 34%
Don’t Know 18%
No response 4%

In the 2015 Marriage Equality referendum there was a sharp drop in the last week with many Don’t Knows switching to No. There were 4 polls published the weekend before the vote by same range of companies polling this time around and we calculated the error made in each companies poll then and applied to the poll data for the same company this time around. KMB were pretty close, so their adjustment is small. This is explained in more detail in our first piece on this topic, below

This poll would appear to indicate that the No method of spending an enormous amount on online advertising, billboards and posters to spread misleading fear-based messaging is having an impact. We estimate that while Yes have 5 or more times as many volunteers No has 10 or more times the cash. Whereas the source of Yes funds is pretty transparent very little is known as to where 95% of the No spend is coming from, speculation is a lot is coming from outside the country in contravention of the rather toothless SIPO rules which are powerless to prevent online ads being placed from elsewhere.

The question is what will turn out to be more persuasive over the next 3 weeks, the Yes strength of personal contact through canvassing or the No strength of a deluge of online and offline paid advertising. One thing that can be said is Facebook’s failure to introduce meaningful ad transparency is in danger of deciding another vote.

We can also see the problem with referendum campaigns coming through – by their nature they are short term attempts to convince people to come over to a side rather than to change fundamental attitudes. The huge age discrepancy between Yes & No illustrates how central the tactic of playing on deep-seated prejudices against women are for the No campaign. Such prejudices have shifted substantially for most younger voters – there is almost an opposed pre & post 1960s feminism vote at that level, something that can also be observed in the Trump and Brexit votes.

BTW we’ve seen anti-choice spokespeople claim this result reflects how people felt about ‘who won’ the Late Late Repeal show. This isn’t possible as that broadcast was 27th and this polling was carried out from April 18 to 30th, i.e. 3/4 before that broadcast.

Repeal the 8th isn’t in the bag yet – a warning from Marriage equality poll comparisons  – April 30th story

Today we are warning that Repeal the eighth vote can’t be assumed to be already won even through No have failed to increase their vote.  If the same last week shift comes into play as for Marriage Equality & Divorce we are looking at a result to close to call. We are going to explain why we are saying this in detail using polling figures from Marriage Equality and this campaign.  Its going to get a little scary as we go through these but there is hope at the end.

The 1995 Divorce referendum looked to be in the bag from advance polls with a 2:1 lead but on the day was only narrowly carried 50.3% Yes to 49.7% No.  A result so close that its said the difference was only one vote per polling box in the country.  It appears with Divorce that either the polling companies had got it wrong or more likely a major drop in the Yes vote happened in the last 10 days.  This was too long ago to draw detailed parallels between polling but we can do just this with the Marriage Equality polls.

Marriage Equality also saw a sharp drop in last week. There were 4 polls published a weekend before by the same range of companies polling this time around – the top left table shows each poll and then actual result first for raw data, then with Don’t Knows excluded, as you can see all 4 polls overestimated the share of Yes by 7 to 9%.

This table below compares each companies poll with the actual result & then calculates how much of Don’t Know became No and in the two cases where that was over 100% how much of the Yes vote became No.

Marriage equality as of May 16/17 SBP/RedC 11-13 SI/MB 2-15 ST/B&A 1-11 IT/MRBI 13-14 RESULT Yes 67 53 63 58 62 No 27 24 26 25 38 Don’t Know 6 23 11 17 Excluded removed Yes 71 69 71 70 62 No 29 31 29 30 38

 

SBP/RedC SI/MB ST/B&A IT/MRBI Shift N+6 Y-5 N+14 Y+9 N+12 Y-1 Y+13 Y+4 Ratio of transfer 100% +8% 61% 100% +2% 76%

 

Using these percentages in the bottom table we recalculate all the polls by applying the error ratios for each company from the Marriage Equality referendum to each of their polls on the Repeal the 8th vote.  IF (ands its a big IF) it was same error this time around the referendum would only narrowly be carried in the B&A poll and narrowly defeated according to both MRBI and Red C polls.

MRBI Jan Red C Jan B&A Feb B&A March Red C March MRBI April ST/B&A April Red C April Yes 60 55 48 48 52 54 46 51 No 40 45 52 52 48 46 54 49

Adjusted figures if the polls are as far out on Repeal as they were for Marriage Equality

To be very clear this is not a prediction, simply a warning that we can’t be complacent (who is!).  The campaigns are very different in intensity & length and there is some evidence in B&A polling that the Don’t Knows are splitting to Yes.

One major difference is that the No campaign have ran a very intense campaign over months with a huge spend on misleading ads since February.  Despite this  the polls show a failure to increase the No vote at all.  All the variation in the polls of the last 3 months have between polling companies. For each company their polls across the months show no change when you account for the 3% margin of error.

But the No campaign is not focused on convincing additional voters to No but in trying to make the referendum so nasty and confusing that undecided & Soft Yes voters will stay at home or, our of fear, opt for the status quo.    This would explain the often bizarre nature of the No campaign, their failure to discourage aggression, lying and indeed the active encouragement and even participation of their spokes people in such tactics. Disengagement and fear helps them, in 1983 only 54% of the population voted in the 8th amendment referendum which saw similar tactic and worse.

But this may not work this time around.  Much has changed in Ireland, in particular rural areas, and polls indicate that the Yes voters are quite determined and sure of their understanding of issue.  80% of Repeal voters say they would never change their mind in the last MRBI poll

Together for Yes is already canvassing areas that never had organised canvass teams during the Marriage equality referendum. Its expected that as May 25th approaches the Yes canvass will substantially grow in size & scope, as happened with Marriage Equality.  Canvassing is something you can do that will make a difference , you can sign up for.  Together for Yes have already distributed three times as many Yes posters as were distributed during entire Marriage equality campaign – in general you can say Together for Yes learned from and then built on the Marriage Equality ref experience.  Something that is of course also true of the No side, in that case its the same organisations and individuals running this campaign as who campaigned against Marriage equality (and indeed sex education, contraception and divorce, if they have been around long enough).

All the polls so far were from the period before Marriage Equality had even really launched but the No campaign has been in full swing since February.  So it may be we will see the Yes vote increase and No vote decrease in the next set of polls.

So again this scary comparison with the Marriage Equality polls in NOT a prediction but simply a warning that the strong and consistent Yes lead does not mean Repeal is already in the bag, its very much up to YOU to be part of a Together for Yes win by talking to friends, fellow workers and families and by getting formally involved in canvassing and other work.   As the referendum vote approaches people will pay more and more attention to whats said and written, particularly in final days.  So its not too late to get involved, indeed we expect that the early starters will really appreciate new faces and new energy in helping Yes win on the 25th.

What’s it like for a social movement to take control of a city?

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 16:57

via The Ecologist

by The Symbiosis Research Collective and Aaron Vansintjan

We proposed a broad vision of how to create a new world in the shell of the old in the last three instalments of our column. We can chart a new path forward by grounding that vision in the lessons learned from past struggles and an understanding of how hierarchy as the shared root of oppression.

But this can all feel a bit intangible without clear examples. To get an idea of what we want the future to look like, we need to take inspiration from and learn from those already building the institutions of tomorrow, today. In the next few instalments, we’ll be highlighting movements and initiatives that we think are some of the seeds of a new world, already sprouting.

In the summer of 2015, the streets of Barcelona pulsed with a victorious energy. Members of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH), a grassroots organisation fighting to stop evictions in the wake of the 2008 housing crisis, had started what they call a ‘citizen platform’, Barcelona En Comú.

Popular movement

Though they were registered as a political ‘party’, all decisions would be approved by citizen assemblies and participatory processes.

A year later, they won the majority of votes in the municipal elections on a platform of defending social justice and community rights, participatory democracy, and against a neoliberal city government model.

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The Web We Have to Save

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 16:00

Via Matter

by Hossein Derakhshan

Seven months ago, I sat down at the small table in the kitchen of my 1960s apartment, nestled on the top floor of a building in a vibrant central neighbourhood of Tehran, and I did something I had done thousands of times previously. I opened my laptop and posted to my new blog. This, though, was the first time in six years. And it nearly broke my heart.

A few weeks earlier, I’d been abruptly pardoned and freed from Evin prison in northern Tehran. I had been expecting to spend most of my life in those cells: In November 2008, I’d been sentenced to nearly 20 years in jail, mostly for things I’d written on my blog.

But the moment, when it came, was unexpected. I smoked a cigarette in the kitchen with one of my fellow inmates, and came back to the room I shared with a dozen other men. We were sharing a cup of tea when the voice of the floor announcer — another prisoner — filled all the rooms and corridors. In his flat voice, he announced in Persian: “Dear fellow inmates, the bird of luck has once again sat on one fellow inmate’s shoulders. Mr. Hossein Derakhshan, as of this moment, you are free.”

That evening was the first time that I went out of those doors as a free man. Everything felt new: The chill autumn breeze, the traffic noise from a nearby bridge, the smell, the colors of the city I had lived in for most of my life.

Around me, I noticed a very different Tehran from the one I’d been used to. An influx of new, shamelessly luxurious condos had replaced the charming little houses I was familiar with. New roads, new highways, hordes of invasive SUVs. Large billboards with advertisements for Swiss-made watches and Korean flat screen TVs. Women in colorful scarves and manteaus, men with dyed hair and beards, and hundreds of charming cafes with hip western music and female staff. They were the kinds of changes that creep up on people; the kind you only really notice once normal life gets taken away from you.

Two weeks later, I began writing again. Some friends agreed to let me start a blog as part of their arts magazine. I called it Ketabkhan — it means book-reader in Persian.

Six years was a long time to be in jail, but it’s an entire era online. Writing on the internet itself had not changed, but reading — or, at least, getting things read — had altered dramatically. I’d been told how essential social networks had become while I’d been gone, and so I knew one thing: If I wanted to lure people to see my writing, I had to use social media now.

So I tried to post a link to one of my stories on Facebook. Turns out Facebook didn’t care much. It ended up looking like a boring classified ad. No description. No image. Nothing. It got three likes. Three! That was it.

It became clear to me, right there, that things had changed. I was not equipped to play on this new turf — all my investment and effort had burned up. I was devastated.

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Subway Woes? Don’t Blame Workers

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 15:36

via Labor Notes

“Dirty, delayed, and dangerous.” That’s the slogan of a new ad campaign that blames New York City’s subway woes on construction unions.

The campaign plays on New Yorkers’ mounting frustrations with a system roiled by delays and overcrowding. It’s part of a volley of attacks on the city’s building trades unions by powerful developers and corporate mouthpieces.

The “Subway Scam” ads are the latest baloney from the Center for Union Facts, a corporate-backed nonprofit devoted to attacking unions. According to recent tax filings, its funders include Long Island hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, a major backer of the Trump presidential campaign and right-wing media outlet Breitbart News.

Subway delays have more than doubled in the past five years. Last year a series of New York Times articles dug into the history of neglect of the city’s transit system.

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Ireland: Anti-choice groups freak out as google bans referendum ads – what had they planned?

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 03:37

via WSM.ie

A few hours ago the referendum campaign in Ireland took an unexpected turn when google announced it was banning all referendum based advertising across all its platforms including Youtube. The howls of outrage from the anti-choice No campaign has been going on ever since.

This reaction across the No campaigns is telling. For the first time spokespeople are posting about No losing the referendum & suggesting the whole vote is rigged. Which makes you wonder what nasty online ads they were intending to run in the last 10 days?

We’ve been pointing to the problem of cash being used to push nasty misleading messaging online for some months and in recent days some parts of the mainstream media have started to report on this. What may have triggered todays call by google was the discovery that a Cambridge Analytica style quiz had been pushed at people in Ireland via google. Such quizzes were used in Brexit and the Trump election to carry out psychological profiling to identify those vulnerable to nasty dark ad messaging

What’s important with dark ad strategies is that only those vulnerable to the messages of fear and hate are served the nastier ones. You don’t want to alienate voters who may be shocked by bigoted messaging if it was visible to all. This also allows you to simultaneously lie to progressive voters as the No campaigns have been doing when they pretend compassion for women in crisis pregnancies.

It may well be this – along with No ads being targetted to children’s channels – that resulted in Google doing a sudden 180 and banning all ads. No campaign ads have been appearing in front of Pippa the Pig youtube videos. This, like the placing of posters around schools, is intended to traumatise children so their upset puts pressure on parents.

Google, unlike the rest of us, can see who is placing ads and how much they are spending. They can also see what sort of ads are being placed. If – as we suspect – we are talking of No spending 2 million plus and Yes less than 100k on online advertising the magnitude of difference might have come out at some point, in particular if Repeal was narrowly defeated.

For google this may mean the ad revenue they will lose was no longer worth the global focus switching from FB to them as something corrupting in need of regulation.

In any case this is a major benefit for the Yes campaign which lacked the huge flow of far right evangelical cash that has been pumping into the No campaign. Online ads function as an auction and the highest bidder always wins an auction.

Google hasn’t banned posts about the referendum, just paid ads. This means each campaign continues to be free to create content that will have organic reach as people interact with it. Together for Yes put out a video featuring actors Killian Murphy and Saoirse Ronan. The No campaigns will be able to respond using their celebrity endorsements from Crystal Swing and Dana.

When March 68 in Tunis Preempted the Paris Spring

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 03:34

via Verso Books

by Frédéric Bobin

First published in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.

A Letter from Tunis

Students hanging around in the faded quad, a cup of coffee in hand, and sometimes holding a cigarette. A few small palm trees and a pond lighten its very 1960s concrete decor. It is break time, and everyone is taking a breather between two sociology or literature classes. From the small hill on which the human and social sciences faculty is perched, you can see the banks of Lake Sejumi to the south, where the popular districts of Greater Tunis are clustered. But the university faces east, and most importantly toward the Kasbah, Tunis’s political and geographical centre, a gigantic promenade bounded with ministries on the edge of the medina.

In March 1968, this faculty’s students’ view of the Kasbah, this symbol of the Tunisian state, was such that they broke out in revolt, pre-empting their comrades in Paris by several weeks. The children of “Bourguibism” — following the name of the “father of the nation” Habib Bourguiba — broke out into a frenzy in the same key as youth around the world. The dissent, quickly silenced by fierce repression, left a lasting mark on the Tunisian Left and planted the seeds of democracy. These were events that shaped Tunisia’s unique course.

An Explosive Climate

Half a century later, however, the memory of this event barely survives. “I do not know a lot about this history,” sighs Sarah, a literature student with free-flowing hair and fashionably torn jeans. “Here, most students are on the Left because they are freedom-loving,” she adds. “On the Left,” certainly. But there is a rather weak line of descent from their older forebears from 1968. The transmission of memory from one generation to the next faces the problem of a memory that has been sterilised, its rough patches erased by decades of dictatorship. This loss has not been magically overcome by the Tunisian Revolution of 2011.

One man was at the heart of this tornado. Khemais Shamari, 75, is an emblematic figure on the Tunisian Left. A portly, chatty figure, this former far Left militant has retained intact his memory of 17 March 1968, the day when the police came to handcuff him in the dean’s office, where a student delegation had come to negotiate. The university had boiled over two days earlier as students demanded the release of Mohammed Ben Jennet, a one-legged student condemned to twenty years of forced labour for his supposed role in the riots — notably targeting the Jewish quarter of Lafayette, in the centre of Tunis — that had taken place during the Six Day War in June 1967.

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7 iconic fights to keep fossil fuels in the ground

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 03:28

via 350.org

Despite the urgent climate crisis, fossil fuel companies and their financiers are still supporting new projects to extract, transport, and burn coal, oil, and gas. These projects don’t just threaten the communities in their path: they also lock us into fossil fuels for decades to come at exactly the time we need to stop.  When you’re in a hole, stop digging!

The fossil fuel industry is global – but luckily resistance is too. Here are 7 of the fights going on right now to keep it in the ground, and how you can help.

Kinder Morgan

In the west of Canada, people power on the frontlines – and actions of solidarity from around Canada and the world – has put the breaks on plans for an expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. On March 10th, the largest mobilization yet against Kinder Morgan took place, with 10,000 people taking the street in Burnaby, Canada. They took action in solidarity with Indigenous leaders who built a a “Watch House” – a traditional structure used by the Coast Salish Indigenous peoples for generations to watch over their enemies – on the pipeline’s path on Burnaby Mountain.

Since then, more than 200 arrests have taken place at the pipeline terminal facility on Burnaby Mountain, with Indigenous activists, students, grandparents, and many others — including 2 sitting members of parliament, standing up to take bold action to protect the land, water and climate from Kinder Morgan.

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‘The people have seen through the lies of the Moroccan State’

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 23:28

via The Dawn

The recent mobilizations in the city of Jerada and the Rif region in Morocco mark a new era of popular uprisings in the country. The Dawn News speaks to Abdallah Harrif, Deputy Secretary General of Morocco’s Democratic Way, on the mobilization over the year, the repression unleashed by the government and the way forward for the movement.

Q: The last year has seen huge mobilizations in Morocco, mainly on the issue of the mines in Jerada. Could you tell us about the nature of the mobilization and the current situation with respect to the struggle?

A: These huge mobilizations, particularly in the Rif region and the city of Jerada, are the second wave of the revolutionary process which were initiated by the so-called Arab spring. This struggle has been embodied in Morocco by the February movement, and took place in marginalized regions: The Rif region has a long tradition of struggles against the Moroccan regime, which has always marginalized the region and despised its inhabitants. Jerada is a town which lived, almost uniquely, on coal mines which were closed in the end of the last century and no alternative activity has been created.

In the Rif and Jerada, almost all the inhabitants participated in the mobilizations which took place: sit-ins, demonstrations, marches and other forms of protest. The trigger of the mobilization in the Rif was the murder of Mohcine Fikri, a fish merchant, who was ground to death by a garbage compactor in the presence of local authorities.

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What Really Helps the Unemployed Find Full-Time Jobs

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 23:20

via Yes! magazine

by Amanda Abrams

In April, President Trump signed an executive order requiring many Americans who get public benefits to join the workforce if they want to continue receiving assistance. The order, Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility, was immediately decried by advocates for low-income people as an ineffective effort to reduce government aid.

The most-cited reason has been that most people getting social safety net supports such as Medicaid, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), and housing subsidies, and other assistance already work at low-paying jobs. Of those who don’t, a majority of them face serious barriers to employment: criminal records, disabilities, homelessness, histories of substance abuse or domestic abuse. A simple demand for these people to find jobs likely will not land them livable-wage, long-term employment—especially in a tight labor market.

But more important, researchers say, social safety net programs need more money, not less, for a work requirement program to succeed.

In 2016, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities examined work requirements implemented by eight cities or counties around the country in the 1990s and found that they were largely ineffective. The requirements resulted in very little initial increase in employment, and virtually no impact five years later. More significantly, most of those people who had major barriers to employment never found jobs. Instead, they lost benefits and drifted further down the socioeconomic scale.

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Climate justice from below for climate harms

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 23:03

via The New Internationalist

by Harpreet Kaur Paul

Tasked with exploring ways in which to avert, minimize and address climate harms, the Suva Expert Dialogue – which took place from 2–3 May during the ongoing Bonn Climate Change Conference – was able only to agree to yet another meeting, theExCom8, for deciding the scope of the next technical paper on loss and damage.

Delegates from Sudan, Botswana and other developing countries insisted on the need for concrete proposals to address already occurring and ‘exploding’ climate risks and harms before the next COP (COP24), to be held from 3–14 December this year in Poland. As has now become natural law, developed countries shielded themselves from responsibility behind bureaucratic processes.

French, Swiss, British, American and Canadian delegates have been silent on financing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events. While Germany’s delegate referred to insurance as a ‘magic’ tool to redress loss and damage, insurance cannot redress harms that arise from slow onset events (since they are largely uninsurable), repair non-economic loss and damage, respond to climate migration, and is often insufficient where it is available and inaccessible to the most vulnerable. Still, ideological fervour mythologizes insurance as a cost-effective, determinable, and efficient solution to climate harms.

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Interview with Chelsea Manning: ‘There’s No Troll that Can Hurt Me’

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 00:10

via Spiegal Online

Interview Conducted by Angela Gruber

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ms. Manning, after seven years in prison, your sentence was commuted a year ago. How did you restart your life?

Chelsea Manning: At first, there was a euphoria, sort of a honeymoon period after my release. But all of the things that drove me into political activism and sparked my actions have gotten worse and accelerated in pace. So, I never got the feeling that I can just sit down now. There are lots of important political issues out there waiting to be addressed, not just in the U.S. but the whole world. We can’t wait anymore.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Can you provide a few examples?

Manning: We see the rise of authoritarianism all over the world, in Russia, in China and also in Europe. The technological developments have enabled a surveillance apparatus that is much more intense and threatening than ever before. Militarization is another issue: Our local police departments in the U.S. look like military units now. What we as people need to do is fight back.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What toll did your time in prison take on your life?

Manning: Even though there’s real work to be done, what I also realized within the last few months is that I also have to take care of myself. Sometimes I just try to forget about prison and the last decade, because it’s easier for me. My experience now, being a public figure, is definitely drastically different from the life I had – in prison or in the military.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You are quite active on social media channels like Twitter and Instagram. Was it difficult for you to catch up with the technology?

Manning: What I like to remind people of: I was using emojis back in the 1990s when they were still called emoticons. I’ve been on the internet since the mid-90s. Back then, there was the feeling that the internet was special, a place with liberating capacities. But as it became more entrenched in our society, it became a reinforcement of the existing system.

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What is the true cost of eating meat?

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 00:00

via The Guardian

by Bibi van der Zee

What are the economics of meat?

Food and farming is one of the biggest economic sectors in the world. We are no longer in the 14th century, when as much as 76% of the population worked in agriculture – but farming still employs more than 26% of all workers globally. And that does not include the people who work along the meat supply chain: the slaughterers, packagers, retailers and chefs.

In 2016, the world’s meat production was estimated at 317m metric tons, and that is expected to continue to grow. Figures for the value of the global meat industry vary wildly from $90bn to as much as $741bn.

Although the number of people directly employed by farming is currently less than 2% in the UK, the food chain now includes the agribusiness companies, the retailers, and the entertainment sector. According to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in 2014 the food and drink manufacturing sector contributed £27bn to the economy, and employed 3.8 million people.

It is not simple to separate out the contribution that meat production makes to this – particularly globally. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation states that livestock is about 40% of the global value of agricultural output and supports the livelihoods and food security of almost a 1.3 billion people.

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Lettrism and the Youth Uprising of 68

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 23:52

via Verso Books

by Joel White and Isidore Isou

Translated and introduced by Joel White. 

As Kristin Ross has made explicit, the variety of writers who are supposedly the true theoretical progenitors of France’s May 68 has not stopped proliferating since the “events” came to a close. Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilisation, Wilhelm Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Fascism, and Henri Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life come to mind. Whole books have been dedicated to defining what is now known as la pensée 68 (the thought of 68). Perhaps the most notorious of these so-called progenitors is Situationist Guy Debord, who, late into his life, even megalomaniacally claimed that it was he who “chose the time and direction of the attacks” (Guy Debord, Anselm Jappe, 100).

Before Debord and the Situationist International, however, there was Isidore Isou and Lettrism. Creator or novateur of the French avant-garde group, Isou moved to Paris in 1945 with the single purpose of founding a movement that would surpass Tristan Tzara’s Dadaism and André Breton’s Surrealism. Regarding these movements as exhausted of revolutionary and creative potential, Isou and his early supporters, Maurice Lemaître, Gil J. Wolman, and Guy Debord set out to reinvigorate France’s artistic and political avant-garde. (Wolman and Debord would later split to form the Lettrist International in 1952 before finally creating the Situationist International in 1957). Artistically, this meant “creatively diverting” (créativité détourné) the material support of formal artworks so that new possibilities latent in the material could become manifest. Words were reduced to graphemes and phonemes and then built back up again to make “hypergraphic” or “lettrie” poems. Images and figures were morphed into shadowy blocks that would consume themselves, and films were “chiselled” and scratched to which “discrepant sounds” were added and juxtaposed (for example, Lemâitre’s 1969 film Youth Uprising – May 68). While this had significant influence, via the Situationist International, on the aesthetics of 68, it is Isou’s “nuclear” political economy and his manifestos for the Youth Uprising (1949) that hold the most weight. The notion of the abolishment of “youth-capital” found in Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1967) and Mustapha Khayat’s On the Poverty of Student Life (1966) both develop the notion of a youth “externalised” from capital’s internal exchange “circuits.” For Isou, the youth constituted the “primary revolutionary force” of any insurrection because of their not-yet internalised but likewise exploited, socio-economic status. Isou even complains in 1974 that his particular conception of the revolutionary youth was the “real motor of the youth uprising in May 68,” and not the “neo-Nazi situationists” that only knew how to plagiarise him.

Translated here for the first time is a rare text published in the summer of 1968: no.5 of the second series of the Lettrist journal Youth Uprising, entitled “Between Isou and Marcuse.” In true Lettrist style, Isou (who writes in the third person) both insults and lampoons Marcuse’s “sub-sub-Marxism,” while excessively praising his own philosophical and political rigour. Correct or not in its assessment of Marcuse’s and Isou’s influence on ‘68, this text should be read as one of the first and most explicit attempts at theoretically re-appropriating May. Much of this text is also included into the script for Lemâitre’s 1969 film Youth Uprising – May 68 (this film can be found on display in room 33 at the Pompidou Centre, Paris). While the direct causal relationship between intellectual or theoretical development and political practice must always be subject to suspicion, the often oblique and implicit influence that texts and thoughts have on action must not be overlooked. After all, cannot dialectics break bricks?

Youth Uprising

(Number five)

“Between Isou and Marcuse”

(Summer 68)

*

The differences between the rigorous and reflective system of “Nuclear Economics” and the ersatz sociologist sub-sub-Freudist and sub-sub-Marxist Herbert Marcuse.

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Noam Chomsky Makes Case for Iran Nuclear Deal

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 03:44

by Noam Chomsky

via Telesur

Nothing can compare with the U.S. “war on terror.”

(This article was orginally published in 2015)

The nuclear deal reached between Iran and P5+1 was greeted with relief and optimism throughout the world, with striking exceptions: the U.S. and its closest regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are consumed with visceral fear and hatred of all things Iranian. In the U.S, even sober commentary declares Iran to be “the gravest threat to world peace” and warns that we must be vigilant, given the exceptional gravity of the Iranian threat.

It is perhaps of some interest that the world sees the matter differently: it is the United States that is regarded as the gravest threat to world peace (WIN/Gallup). Far below in second place is Pakistan. Iran is ranked well below, along with Israel, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

It is worthwhile to explore the reasons for the concerns of the rejectionist triad. What exactly is the colossal threat of Iran?

The threat can hardly be military. U.S. intelligence years ago concluded that Iran has low military expenditures by regional standards and that its strategic doctrines are defensive, designed to deter aggression; and that “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

Details are provided in an April study of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which finds that the Arab Gulf States outspend Iran on military weaponry by a factor of almost 10 to 1. The qualitative difference is even greater. The Arab Gulf states have “some of the most advanced and effective weapons in the world [while] Iran has essentially been forced to live in the past, often relying on systems originally delivered at the time of the Shah,” which are virtually obsolete. The imbalance is of course even greater with Israel, which, along with the most advanced U.S. weaponry and its role as a virtual offshore military base of the global superpower, has a huge stock of nuclear weapons.

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