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STRIKING ACTIVISM: Support the ACORN Workers

Commentary by Arthur Miller, IWW Member and Publisher of Bayou La Rose.

"These are not real workers", an old diehard proclaims. "They don't have to deal with real bosses!" I then ask, "Real bosses who care not for the well being of their employees? Who forces them to work long hours and do not respect the fact that these are real people with lives off their job? Who cares not of the conditions of labor? Who ties to deny the universal right of all working people to organize into a union? Who fires those workers who speak out about their conditions? Who brings in scabs to replace striking/locked out workers? That is a real boss in my book, and that is an ACORN boss!"

There seems to be an idea out there among some so-called "progressive" people that those that work in public service activism are some how less than other workers. That because they serve the public they are not entitled to the same rights and working conditions as other laboring people. And because the organizations they work for advocate public good, those organizations and their leaders are not bound to the same values of public good when it involves the rank and file workers of these organizations.

This statement does not seek to speak for any other than the long time human rights working class publication Bayou La Rose. Bayou La Rose has, for over 20 years, sought to build solidarity between struggling people against the forces of oppression and exploitation, and now Bayou La Rose wishes to express its support for the gallant struggles of ACORN workers of Seattle and Philadelphia and its support of the right of all public service activist workers to the same rights as all other workers to organize into the union of their choice. And Bayou La Rose appeals to all those who believe in social justice to actively support these workers.

In this current struggle of ACORN workers and in past such struggles, I have heard comments made by many people who should know better than to make such hypocritical statements. I wish to address some of these misguided views.

  • "Public service activist workers are not real workers?" Every person who labors for a living, regardless of their labor, with the exception of those that labor at the expense of working people; the police forces of the rich and scabs, are all just as much workers as any other worker. Be they coal miners or hamburger slingers, be they longshoremen or office workers, be they farm workers or coop workers, be they steelworkers or ACORN workers, there are no second-class workers in my viewpoint. I do not make this statement as one who is trying to justify their own place, for I am a maritime worker and in my book all workers are equal members of the working class.

  • "The leaders of progressive organizations are not real bosses?" Any person, regardless of what industry or organization, that has the power to hire or fire workers and set their conditions of labor is a real boss.

  • "Public service progressive organizations should be held to different standards?" This is true, but the standards they should be held to is that of setting the right example for others to follow. Denying the right of workers to organize into the union they so desire is not living up to the higher standards we should expect of progressive organizations. Any organization that goes out into the public to influence the public good needs to have that same public good apply to their own organization.

  • "The disgruntled ACORN workers are only short time workers?" This statement has been made by some who seek to distract attention from the real issues. First off it is not true, and second it does not matter. Every worker from the first day of their labor on, have the equal rights of organization and decent working conditions. There are no second-class workers and the length of labor is never a justification for abuse.

  • "ACORN Scabs are not real Scabs?" Any person that takes the job of a striking or locked out worker IS A SCAB! (Quoting Jack London): "After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful stuff left with which he made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a waterlogged brain, and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor rotten principles...Judas Iscariot was a Gentleman compared to a scab. For betraying his master he had the character to hang himself - the scab hasn't...There is nothing lower than a scab."

  • "The IWW is just trying to make a name for itself at the expense of ACORN?" This is not an ACORN vs. IWW issue, for to think so lacks an understanding of what unionism is all about. ACORN workers have the right to the union they want. In the IWW it is the workers on the job that decide the issues of their struggle and the actions that they take. But it is very true also that once those workers make their decisions then all Wobblies will actively support them. This is what we call universal solidarity. Be it one worker or be it a million workers, the IWW stated principle is "an injury to one is an injury to all." There is great diversity within the IWW, we Wobblies may even get a bit cranky with each other from time to time. but when ever any of our members are engaged in job struggles or are under attack from the outside we set our differences aside and battle as one great fist of solidarity, and don't mess with us for we have a long memory.

Like in any other labor struggle, there is no fence to sit upon. You either support the rights of working people to organize a union and to act to improve their conditions, or you don't support these things. That and that alone should be the determining factor on which you decide if you support the ACORN workers and all other public service activists right to organize.