Originally published in What's Left Ypsi in August 2020.
I’d be willing to bet you hate your job. You probably work too many hours, for terrible wages, and live one paycheck away from desperation. You might even be like me and have two or more jobs. That is if you’re lucky enough to have a job. My question for you is, what are you gonna do about it?
Hello, I’m Jason and I’m a Wobbly. All that means is that I am a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (current Chair of AgiProp in fact). We’re here to help you and your coworkers use your power to fire your boss.
A little background before we begin. The IWW was started in 1905 and has been causing good trouble ever since. Unlike most unions, we are not just for auto workers or just for welders. We help organize any and all workers, anywhere, anytime. The only people not allowed in the IWW are bosses, landlords, politicians and cops. We don’t consider oppression a worthwhile career. Whether it’s starting a union in your shop or just navigating how to talk to your boss, we are here to help.
As for me, I joined the IWW after realizing that the salespeople at a job I had were making twenty times what I was while doing almost none of the work, I started researching ways to improve my situation. After one mention of the “u” word, I was fired within 24 hours. If I had been part of the IWW at the time, I would have known how illegal this was and would have been able to do something about it. Instead, I just found another low paying job and kept struggling. But as soon as I could, I joined up with the Ypsi branch and have been doing what I can for people like me ever since.
“That’s all well and good,” you might be saying to yourself, “but why are you writing this article?”
Good question. This article will be a mix of two things. First, we hope you’ll send in your workplace/union starting questions and we will do our best to answer them. Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a question and make sure you tell us it’s ok to print it. It’ll be like the letters page in old comic books but more radical and (slightly) fewer tights. Second, we are going to give you ongoing updates on campaigns we are working on. For obvious reasons, we can’t be too specific since we don’t want to put fellow workers trying to organize at risk. But that doesn’t mean we can’t tell you about our victories and defeats so we can all learn how to make a better world together.
For example, recently we have received word that the owner of Cross Street Coffee has been mistreating their employees for a long time and recently has been bullying employees who support Black Lives Matter online. Between this and ongoing concerns over COVID, our branch is working with service workers from all over Ypsi to help form a service workers union to fight for fairer and safer working conditions for the people working hard to give us a good night out. So if you’re working in a restaurant or bar in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area and are interested, head over to http://www.tinyurl.com/serviceworkersform and fill out the form to be kept in the loop. As a branch, we are also looking into the potential for forming co-op businesses to put the control of local businesses in the hands of the workers instead of problematic sole proprietors. After all, who would know how to run a business better than the people who work there?
So until next time, send us your questions, keep fighting and remember, an injury to one is an injury to all.