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Wobblies stick up for workers rights in Eugene

A group of thirty members and supporters of the Industrial Workers of the World marched up 13th avenue in Eugene chanting "Union bust, lose our truxst!" and kept themselves warm by vigorous sign waving and singing on a gray and cold Monday, February 9. Mother Kali's bookstore has illegally locked out the four employees, all members of IWW Industrial Union 660 in a blatant attempt to bust the union.
Mark Ross, the well-known Wobbly troubador got the festivities started off with stirring renditions of the IWW classics "Union Maid" and "Solidarity Forever" while accompanying himself and the crowd on his boss-terrifying banjo. During the singing a crew of hard-hats at work remodeling the building abandoned by Sacred Heart hospital took a long break and leaned on the guardrail to watch.
The action was taken in solidarity with the IWW members who find themselves jobless after some pretty low double dealing from the bosses at what purports to be a politically progressive feminist bookstore. The workers received termination without notice. Their health benefits, negotiated as part of the union agreement, were also terminated. They should have continued for a year under the existing agreement.
The former worker's co-operative has been undergoing some financial difficulties recently. "The board of directors seems to think that it can fix its money problems by mistreating the people who get the work done,'" said one member of the picket. Others expressed surprise over the conflict between workers and management at a progressive concern. "I guess this should show people that progressive feminist capitalists are still capitalists," said Ben Tyler of Chicago who attended the demonstration after hearing about it from a friend. "I'm glad to see people in Eugene standing together for labor, because it seems to be something people here forget about since it is supposed to be a nice liberal college town."
The four locked out workers presented a list of workers demands including:
- A public apology forom the board of directors of the bookstore for untrue statements made to the media
- The board's immediate resignation and return of the bookstore to a worker's cooperative structure
- Termination compensation as was promised
- Health benefits continued for one-year.

The IWW asks that you contact Mother Kali's Books in Eugene to express your solidarity with these fellow workers. Their phone number is (541) 343-4864, email  kali@efn.org.

whatever eugene wobs 11.Feb.2004 01:10


This is complete bullshit. I have no other way to say it.

"A group of thirty members and supporters" "'glad to see people in Eugene standing together for labor'"
Yeah, I see Eugene's working class throwing off there chains.

Okay so some problems.
1. It's a locally owned politically leftist bookstore. Eugene wobs, recognize the fact that you're fighting against your support.
2. This isn't some crazy fight against the bosses or capitalism, what you're simply going to be doing is pricing yourself out of the economy that the "bosses" of that local business can't afford.

SO summary.

Their fighting against a leftist small business for demands that are unreasonable (at least to a small leftist business). Their organizing drive consists of 4 workers (which I assume goes with there policy of industrializing the industry), which could easily turn to what, how many workers of small leftist bookstores could they organize at max in Eugene? 30-50? maybe? Revolution is coming around the bend I see.

My opinion.

1. Wobs stop organizing places that don't make sense. Independent, locally owned, small businesses, etc. THEY WILL SIMPLY CLOSE IF YOU WIN! They can't pay for a whole bunch of workers, nor can they pay for there healthcare, YOU ALL KNEW THIS WHEN YOU STARTED WORKING THERE!
2. Do organizing drives that actually matter to other folks. Hit industries that don't already have union or worker support. YES THIS WILL BE HARD, BUT THAT'S THE POINT!
3. Learn to fucking organize. We don't win revolution by screwing people that are basically on our side. Nor do we win by picking bad battles. Nor do we win by selective class organizing. Yeah I said it. The wobs i know, almost all come from the middle to upper class. Yes, they could be called working class in their fucked up weird definition (they don't rule over anyone so they have to not be part of the ruling class) but that doesn't matter. What I see happening is that these wobs get a job somewhere, usually not to organize a union but to get a job, they work there for a while, get pissed off at management of some kind, start "organizing". Usually consists of them getting there friends who work there to vote for a union. GENIUS! So these middle class folks get jobs at chic places to hang out with friends, get pissed and try to start a union. Most of the time they fail, how they fail no one knows but that's how it works. The rest of the time the business just closes up shop. Big fucking deal. They whine about their lost jobs for awhile and then start the cycle over again.

So I ask the wobs from now on.

Why should we support this bullshit? I would rather have solidarity with a feminist bookstore staying in business then some 4 workers, who obviously knew the owner well (it used to be worker owned, I can see there anger) who are just pissed.

Why should we support the "working class" when there obviously not doing anything for anyone but themselves?

How can you in good faith use language like "organizing the proletariat" when I have yet to see ONE, YES MOTHER FUCKING ONE!! Of you get a job that would count as being in the proletariat in the industrialized United States?

IN closing.

1. I do support organizing unions, just not stupid ones.
2. Once the wobbles dump there class privilege, and start organizing drives like they did in the early 1900's (lumber drives, migrant workers drives, etc.) Translated into those kind of things they could organize now (janitorial drives, unemployment/tenant drives, extremely low income job drives, etc.) then I will sing as many renditions of solidarity forever that they cook up. I will be behind them 100%.

Busting Unions 11.Feb.2004 07:08

Antinomias Vermont

*Anyone* who locks out a worker is my enemy. *Anyone* who says they are on my side and locks out a worker is my enemy and a fucking worthless hypocrite, as well.

Union Busting remains union busting whether it is a country or two people 11.Feb.2004 10:57

Migratory Bird

A company that locks out its workers (like the daily grind grocery store did who is also owned by big plastics) is my enemy. They may say, we are locally owned so we will fire union sympathizers and you should shop here progressives but how progressive are you if you can't even support the union? Think about the word union, place it on a global scale, bring it back down to four people and your ability to bash them for asking for a union.

Your argument is that people are pretty low for asking for a union. What the hell makes you think this is a valid argument against firing people for forming a union.

Whatever scale, whatever size of the company: union busting is union busting. Anyone who works there is a scab. Anyone who shops there is a strike breaker. I am sorry that true capitals ugly face reared itself up today under the guise of Kali.

I hope kali does something about this.

Complete BS 11.Feb.2004 11:13

Shawn Lingo

I printed out your screed so that I could take it point by point, but upon closer examination it doesn't seem to be very organized. I was at the picket in question and I take issue with most of your half-baked arguments and with your arrogant tone. It is in fact "complete bullshit" to use your eloquent phrase.
The Owners of Mother Kali's (leftist, progressive, feminist--whatever you want to call it) are obviously not our support, because they treat their workers unfairly. Say what you want, as the respondent from Vermont says "anyone who claims to be on our side and locks out their workers is a hypocrite."
I find your pontificating about the proletariat to be offensive. Especially when you talk with the same breath about "pricing ourselves out of the economy" and making unreasonable demands by asking the owners of a business to do what they promised and then turn around and pretend to advocate class struggle. Sounds to me like you need to get your ideas organized.
No, I don't think that the revolution is right around the corner. That isn't what this fight is about. This fight is about four IWW workers who have unfairly lost their job. The union that they belong to is standing up for their rights as workers. I don't think anyone involved in this sees it as the final conflict with capitalism or any such truck. We see it as sticking by our fellow workers who have gotten the short end of the boss stick. And the fact that it is a progressive leftist feminist boss stick doesn't make it feel any better.
And let me say one other thing about your high tone. Try that line about class privilege out in person and I assure you that I can present some bourgeois-bone-cracking good rebuttals. I don't know who you think made you the deciding authority about the working class, but if for some reason you don't think that retail work is real hard labor then I can only suppose you haven't done any. I don't know who the "Wobs" you know are but the ones I know, my close friends and comrades, are day care workers, professional musicians, computer technichans, electricians, and retail workers. That's the working class in America today, friend. Sorry we can't be any more romantic and have log rafters, hobos, cow punchers, and dance hall girls like the old days but I don't see many among my neighbors. I also wish that their were more janitors, unemployed, temp-workers, and hard hats with us, but I don't see how that's gonna happen if we don't stick with the bookstore and computer workers who are members now. And what if they were low paid janitor from a progressive leftist business. Are you sure you wouldn't be making the same arguments. What's the difference between a low paid janitor and a low paid clerk. What you don't know about organizing would fill a book. It is done one by one by sticking together. Since only about 9 in 100 workers belong to ANY union it looks like we're in for the long haul. And most of the reason for the decline in union membership is because unions didn't stick up for their workers in any real way. The didn't make "unrealistic" demands.
And I guess I will qualify as the one Wobbly you can say has had a job that qualifies me as a member of the proletariat--in fact I've had about ten. Ready--paper bundler, machine operator in a paper factory, landscaper, nurseryman, piano mover, woodcutter, concrete worker, department store sales clerk, stockBOY (as the boss said), and yep, bookstore cashier. Furthermore, I am unemployed at the moment so that should doubly qualify me by your criteria. And I can give you a dozen more resumes from Eugene Wobblies that read the same.
And HEY! What the heck do you mean that crack about why "WE should support the working class?" Who the hell is "we"? Aren't you one of us? The working class acting in its own interest is exactly the whole point.
And we don't want you singing behind us. We (the working class, I mean) either want you fighting alongside us or getting out of our way.

Response to Whatever Eugene Wobs 11.Feb.2004 11:18

Mo'Kals gurl

I am one of the 4 locked out workers at Mother Kali's. It is amazing that people feel they can just rant and rave about how fucked up you are and not even get half of the story right. One we organized ourselves months ago because of turmoil that has been going on in the store for almost 2 years now. (To get into all of that would be writting a novel) Mother Kali's is a non-profit, so there is no owner, only a board of directors. The board has been changing completly about every 4 months since i've been working at MK's. For example of the 3 women that are on the Board now the longest any of them have been on the board is 7 months. The four of us have all been there longer than that. You make it seem like we don't care about MK"s and just want to get a bunch of money. That is far from the truth. We have never made demands for higher pay because we know the store couldn't afford it. In fact this summer when the store has its hardest time of the year many of us volunteered our time instead of getting paid! We all want MK's to survive and the image of us just wanting to get more dollars form an independent feminist bookstore is a lie. The truth is that this is part of a larger story. In short we are not the first set of workers that have recieved unfair labor practices at mother kali's, and if we don't do something about it we won't be the last. I'm sorry that i did not support the wommin that were mistreated before me. There is nothing i can do to make up for that now. So what can i do? Make sure this never happens again at Mother Kali's books.

Hey, Mo' Kal's gurl 11.Feb.2004 15:24


We need to hear your story, that's what imc is all about. Why not write a longer piece so we have something to go by other than the boregonian account and the ravings of the uninformed-please please?

show photos too! 11.Feb.2004 16:04


good work all! Any more photos of the brave workers and community supporters of labor?

other non-profit union 11.Feb.2004 17:19

iu560 wob

Our shop didn't organize for pay.
We organized for better working conditions. We would like to see better wages, but that's not an option now.
We now have collaborative desicsion making, we are no longer under the whim-de-jour of our *former* boss. We no longer have the boss threatening to fire us at the drop of a hat.
Sometimes, it ain't about the wages.

Go MK Workers!!

Reminiscence 12.Feb.2004 00:44

Local traveler

The one time I went to MK's books was Friday, April 4th, 2003. I was in drizzly Eugene that afternoon, on my brother's birthday, visiting a dear friend whose nickname is the same as that of a popular breakfast cereal. Music: Simon and Garfunkel, also Res. Next sequential memory: April 5th-6th, the Americans make their first pass into southern Baghdad, killing some 3,000 in what was the deadliest day of the war. Apropos, then, that the book I purchased the day before at MK's was King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hoschild.

April, what a month - 2003, what a year

I always wanted to know more about the store, and would like to hear more from the person who works there

Reorganizing Comments 12.Feb.2004 14:15


Okay so i shouldnt have written when i was tired. Mostly inappropriate and backstabbing comments were had at others expense. i apoligize. But i think that we should address some issues.

1. Okay, so once again im pro labor. Im glad to hear the basis on why they organized at that shop (written by Mo'Kals gurl), it seems rediculous that they have to go through all that bullshit from that store but thats a different argument all togethor. My real question is, do they believe that their actually changing stuff outside of their environment? I read the title of the article "Wobblies stick up for workers rights in Eugene" and was looking for a story that accompanied that. It didnt but in the broadest sense of the title.

2. I think that shawn had some valid points. I think that supporting small labor strikes to build up the credentials (basically) of what the IWW means to workers, to ourselves, is important. What i would like to see is some actually strategy, group cohesiveness going along with it. And i also dont see the working class or just general folks getting educated by such a small scale organizing drive or action like this. If were building up the IWW as a union or at least the general image of the iww, why are we only fighting small scale battles like this? And i guess once again my real question is, how if were only supporting small scale struggles will we ever matter to a larger percentage of workers in our communites?

3. Why wobblies? Why did you all organize as wobblies? Does forming a syndacalist union at 1 bookstore make sense? (it makes sense for the workers at the shop to organize as a union, dont get me wrong, but why did you all form as wobblies?)

4. How does this coincide with any actual strategy about organizing the working class or organizing ourselves in mass numbers (to use shawns language)? Which i assume would be the reason you organized as wobblies. Because it might not be coming around the bend but it would be nice to see revolution at least on the horizon.

Re: Reorganizing 12.Feb.2004 18:10

iu560 wob

.."If were building up the IWW as a union or at least the general image of the iww, why are we only fighting small scale battles like this?"
Don't know why exactly they chose IWW. Isn't the fact that they *are* IWW reason enough to help them fight this? They *were* organized with IWW before termination.

me we? 13.Feb.2004 23:19


Me, you keep saying "we." Nice to hear the belated expressions of solidarity, but if you're gonna talk like that you'd better get your red card.