Monthly Archives: June 2014

IWW Ritzy Solidarity Picket Sees Off ‘Red’ Len McCluskey

ImageYesterday’s picket of the FACT in Liverpool saw a dozen local wobblies and other activists come out at very short notice, in support of London Ritzy workers striking against Picturehouse cinemas for the living wage. We did everything we could to amplify their call – issued through the BECTU union – for a national boycott of the chain until the massively profitable company allow their workers to live decently. This is far more than can be said for Unite the union and their general secretary Len McCluskey, who planned to cross their picket line to – irony of ironies – see a new documentary about socialist novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. This was only cancelled at the eleventh hour when Unite got wind of our action.

As we reported yesterday:

“McCluskey was scheduled to be joined by Labour MP Tom Watson, and the documentary’s producer, Daniel Draper at 17:00. The event was arranged by Unite, and tickets were available through an email address associated with the union. However, Unite discovered our plans at the last minute, and tweeted a change of venue to the pier head convention centre. The tweet did not mention why the plans had been changed, and this is no doubt out of embarrassment due to the catastrophic faux pas.”

After the incident, the very best that can be said for McCluskey and his apparatchiks is that they are totally out of touch with class struggle as it exists in this country. If they were genuinely unaware of the vibrant, self-organised campaign of the Ritzy cinema workers, then that is a staggering level of ignorance for people supposedly paid good money to know about these things. In that case, this ignorance has been exposed by us – a bunch of genuinely working class amateurs, who do what we do because we actually believe in solidarity as a way of increasing our living standards and building a decent society.

On the other hand, if McCluskey and co. knew about the boycott call – as they should have done through BECTU’s appeal to all TUC unions – then they simply hold the Ritzy workers – and indeed all working class people – in total contempt. It has to be said, this option seems to make the most sense on a day when McCluskey has told Unite’s Liverpool conference that their biggest challenge over the next twelve months is to get the pro-austerity, anti-working class Labour Party back into Downing Street.

ImageAnyway, yesterday wasn’t about £140k a year bureaucrats, it was about supporting the Ritzy workers’ campaign, and reaching out to ‘ordinary’ people who may have little or no knowledge of union politics, who just wanted to see a film, or were out for a stroll through town on a sunny Sunday. This was a brilliant success, with hundreds of leaflets handed out, many people turning away from the cinema (sometimes telling staff why they were doing so), and lots of great conversations. Our new banner was a great hit, and the ‘wobblies’ part attracted people who wanted to know what they hell ‘wobblies’ were. We were sure to let them in on the secret.

One particularly interesting aspect for me was chatting with people who were coming across ideas such as unions and boycotts for the first time. They asked many questions about the Ritzy workers’ strategies and ours, and in the vast majority of cases it clicked instantly. People are definitely starting to grasp that it is ‘us’ against ‘them’, and are looking for ‘new’ ways of uniting and fighting.

To finish, I want to return to the issue of Unite. As stated above, they have refused to explain to their own delegates and the wider world what the “unforeseen circumstances” were which prompted them to move the screening. The rationale for this is clear – we are the unforeseen circumstances, and that must be hugely embarrassing. But as far as we can tell, Picturehouse must have still been paid by Unite. The Unite bureaucrats are therefore still strikebreakers, and the only way they could remove this stain would be to issue a statement supporting the Ritzy staff, condemning Picturehouse, and demanding their money back.

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Liverpool IWW Stop Len McCluskey Crossing Picket Line

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Unite’s Len McCluskey – class traitor

Liverpool IWW were due to hold a picket of the FACT yesterday evening, in solidarity with Ritzy cinema workers striking for the London Living Wage, who have called for a boycott of all Picturehouse cinemas. But that morning, one of us received a tip off that Unite general secretary Len McCluskey would be ignoring BECTU’s boycott call, and watching a screening of a documentary about The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists at FACT’s Picturehouse. We decided to rearrange things.

McCluskey was scheduled to be joined by Labour MP Tom Watson, and the documentary’s producer, Daniel Draper at 17:00. The event was arranged by Unite, and tickets were available through an email address associated with the union. However, Unite discovered our plans at the last minute, and tweeted a change of venue to the pier head convention centre. The tweet did not mention why the plans had been changed, and this is no doubt out of embarrassment due to the catastrophic faux pas.

Nothing could better illustrate the emptiness and corruption of the union bureaucracy. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is indeed a book worth celebrating, particularly in Liverpool, where its author Robert Noonan died. However, it would have been an obscenity for a man on £140,000 a year to do so, by crossing a picket line in the name of those living in poverty not too dissimilar to that described by the famous socialist novel.

The union bureaucracy is often talented at talking a good game – indeed, just four days ago, McCluskey called on the government to back the findings of the Living Wage Commission, and raise wages for the poorest employees. However, actions speak louder than words, and that’s why the IWW union – which organises without a bureaucracy – found itself on opposite sides to the Unite big wigs.

We believe that all working class people should unite in One Big Union, control their own struggles, and dump the capitalist lackeys like McCluskey off our backs once and for all.

Liverpool IWW Calls For Boycott of Picturehouse @ FACT

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Liverpool IWW are calling for solidarity with workers at a Picturehouse cinema, who are striking and campaigning for a London Living Wage. The Brixton Ritzy workers are calling for a national boycott of Picturehouse cinemas, until the chain agrees to pay them enough to get by and live decently. However, as Liverpool IWW, we would like this struggle to spread across the country, and we appeal to all staff in FACT and Picturehouse – paid and unpaid – to join our campaign. Currently, almost all Picturehouse staff across the country are living below the poverty line.

The IWW is a union for all workers, no matter what their industry, including the unemployed. FACT – which hosts the Picturehouse in Liverpool – recently made eleven workers redundant, and replaced them with unpaid volunteers. This was a sickening attack on the local working class, and shocked people around the country. Currently, according to FACT’s own figures, out of 125 people working for them, 76 are not being paid for it – 61% of the total. Without ‘volunteers’ – often unemployed young people trying to improve their CVs – FACT simply could not open.

FACT is a so-called ‘charity’ being run in the interests of the people based on the top floor who do the hiring and firing, who make money off the unpaid labour of desperate young people. Picturehouse is a massive corporation, which made £31 million in profits last year, yet claims it can’t afford to keep the people who made them that money out of poverty.

Liverpool IWW aims to organise all workers in poverty into one big union, and that seems to be everyone who keeps the building we are picketing ticking over. We appeal to cinemagoers not to cross the Ritzy workers’ picket line, and refuse to give Picturehouse’s bosses any more money til they make an acceptable offer. And we appeal to workers in the FACT building to join us, and help build resistance here in Liverpool. Email us: liverpool@iww.org.uk, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Liverpool IWW will be holding a picket at FACT on Saturday, 28th June at 6pm.

Fight Back Against Discrimination & Harassment

An appeal from our Nottingham Fellow Workers…

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The IWW have been supporting some of our members in a large Nottinghamshire employer for some time, where the attitude and behaviour of the employer stink and there has been ongoing unreasonable treatment of one female, pregnant worker of Polish birth in particular.  Whilst not going public on the name of the employer at this stage we are looking to rally forces in defence of our fellow workers and prepare a campaign to expose the behaviour of the high profile employer in its’ large Nottinghamshire workplace.

We are therefore appealing to those who are interested in opposing unfair treatment of women at work, who want to defend workers’ rights during pregnancy and who oppose discriminatory behaviour to get in touch with our secretary – particularly if you are East Midlands based and have links to Women’s organising.

We are looking at a potential meeting, social media campaigning and practical support…

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IWW UK Statement on Operation Centurion

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The IWW condemns the intensification of immigration raids across the UK under Operation Centurion. We believe that all workers, regardless of their place of origin or legal status, need to support one another in order to fight the common enemy; the present system that upholds the interests of business and other elites at the expense of ordinary working and unemployed people.

The undercutting of the pay and conditions of British workers by migrant labour is not caused by the immigrants themselves but by business owners, managers and government who seek to maximise their profit by forcing working and unemployed people to compete for an ever-diminishing number of jobs. This ‘race to the bottom’ forces us to work harder for less money, and all workers suffer from this – while bosses happily rake in their profits.

The IWW urges British and documented migrant workers not to demonise those without papers but to look after one another at work and create a strong labour movement to promote the interests of working class people of all nationalities – improving pay, working conditions, and collective power at work for everyone. The first step is to join a union.

What is the IWW?

We are the union for all workers, working across the globe to empower workers to improve their lives together. We are one of the fastest-growing unions in Britain, and we pride ourselves on real democracy and getting results through collective worker-led action. We welcome anyone who works for a wage, whatever their immigration status, because we believe that an injury to one is an injury to all.

www.iww.org.uk

 

Boycott FACT’s Picturehouse in Solidarity with Striking Cinema Workers

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Liverpool IWW are supporting workers in the A Living Wage for Ritzy Staff campaign, who are holding repeated strikes at their London Picturehouse cinema. They are calling on trade unionists, socialists and sympathisers to boycott Picturehouse brand cinemas nationally until the company concedes their demands.

Liverpool’s Picturehouse is hosted by FACT on Wood Street. Liverpool IWW members will be taking part in this boycott, and holding a picket calling on others to do the same on Saturday 28th June, from 6pm. This follows on from our successful picket of FACT on May Day.

The Facebook event page is here. Please spread the word about the boycott, and invite your friends to this event!