A Union for All Workers
By Brian Ashton
The 'Wobblies' - or to give them their proper name the Industrial Workers of the World - are not just a chapter in the history of the American working class, they are a factor in the present day struggles. They always had an international dimension and today is no different, they organise in various countries, including Britain. There are branches in London, Edinburgh and Tyne & Wear; these are supplemented by groups in various regions of the country, the northwest included.
Today the Wobblies are at the forefront of organising efforts among migrant workers and others who are not organised in the US of A. They are currently recruiting truckers who are bearing the brunt of fuel price rises, and are active in support of migrant workers who are coming under attack from the state and employers in a battle around social security numbers.
The struggle around social security numbers is taking place in the Twin Cities at the D’Amico’s & Sons restaurant chain. It is known as the 'no match' dispute and is centred on the company’s decision to sack seventeen workers at the end of March. The workers had received ‘no match’ letters from the Social Security; these are notices that tell them that there is a problem matching their names with a social security number. The notices explicitly state that employers should take no adverse action against workers based on these letters. The no match can occur for a number of reasons, including typing errors. The legal precedent is that it is not for employers to correct the issue, and indeed the California Federal Court halted earlier attempts by the Bush administration to penalise employers for having workers with no match letters.
The owners of D’Amico & Sons have decided to sack the workers anyway, even though many have over a decade of service to the company. The no match workers decided to take action and drew up a petition that was signed by their fellow workers, they took it to the manager and demanded that their jobs be protected. They then staged a sit down in the dining area, refusing to work until the bosses negotiated. Outside, a lively picket rallied in support of the workers inside. It was made up of co-workers, Wobblies, and other supporters. With the company not responding to the workers' demand, the picket was put in place on the next day and managed to turn away three large delivery trucks. This was particularly useful as the restaurant also does the food prep for all the metro outlet stores. The IWW also organised a telephone blitz on the restaurant to tie up its lines. Since then the workers and their supporters have thrown up pickets at different D’Amico’s locations, and promise to continue their campaign on many fronts.
For more information on the IWW, visit www.iww.org.uk
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