On Saturday, October 24th, the Ypsilanti IWW marched in solidarity with service workers and alongside members of Service Industry Workers of the Ann Arbor Area (SIWA3), University of Michigan’s Graduate Student Organization (GEO), Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America, and the Washtenaw General Defense Committee through downtown Ann Arbor to showcase the power of worker unity against abuse and exploitation. With snare drums and megaphones, the marchers reminded restaurant patrons and managers who their lifestyle depends on- “Ann Arbor is a working town, if we don’t work we’ll shut it down.”
The march started in the Diag, a central part of the University campus, where workers shared their stories of being mistreated by bosses who lie, coerce, and do whatever they can to keep the power and profits away from the workers who risk their lives to build those fortunes.
The secretary of GEO, who recently conducted a strike resulting in better childcare subsidies and transparency of COVID contact tracing, pointed out that without university administrators nothing would change, but without the graduate students, the university would crumble. Dom from SIWA3 spoke about the history of the “service” title that kept his family in poverty and his hopes for a future of businesses run not by bosses, but by the people, “we are Leviathan, and we are many.”
Zingerman’s employee Ale told his story of being treated as expendable: laid off at the start of the pandemic he was later passed up for re-hiring by one of their many dining establishments that pretends to be progressive but has stagnant wages and no transparency.
Chloe Castro-Santos shared her experience working at Savas, where she was one of many women verbally and physically abused by a cook at the restaurant. At least one employee was fired after reporting the
harassment to management. Chloe’s coworker Ghia was coerced into signing an NDA after being threatened with a lawsuit by the parent company, Savco Hospitality. Savco claimed to have conducted an investigation that determined she lied about being assaulted.
Since businesses refuse to look out for their workers, the workers set an example by looking out for each other. Ypsi IWW provided free PPE and water at the event, GEO managed traffic to ensure safety, and medically trained personnel volunteered their time and resources in case of injury.
The marchers left from the Diag through the streets of Ann Arbor and ended at 4th Ave and William St, causing a ruckus that drew the attention of the entire city: those currently on the job making too little, the U of M students on lockdown after a COVID outbreak due to irresponsible leadership, the annoyed managers and owners at downtown businesses, and the police officers who protect those managers and owners far more often than their citizens. Together, the workers sent a message to the city: do what you will to silence and divide us, but we will always come together united and strong.