For immediate release
Contact: Ryan G. (IWW) 503-422-1780
Dan Denvir (PCASC) 971-227-3527
Abby Sewell (Back to Back Café) 503-464-6396
What: The last May Day celebration at the IWW Hall and Back to Back Cafe on Burnside
Where: 616 E Burnside
When: May 1st, 5:30 PM to late (after the May Day march downtown)
Who: entertainment by Government Issue Orchestra, Vanessa Valsako and the Godless Moravians, speakers from the Industrial Workers of the World, the Back to Back Cafe, and the Portland Central American Solidarity Committee
This May 1st will be the last May Day celebration for the Industrial Workers of the World and the Back to Back Café on East Burnside. After calling the location home for four years, the radical union and the worker-owned café are being forced to move on.
The IWW is an independent, volunteer run labor union. It organizes in all industries using "direct unionism" tactics, educating workers to become organizers at their jobs and in their industries. The Back to Back Café is not run by the IWW but subleases a space from them. The cafe is owned by a collective of six workers and has served as an all ages music venue and a forum for meetings and classes as well as serving cheap vegetarian food, fair trade coffee, and microbrews. Also leasing an office from the IWW is the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC), which is organizing immigrants' rights actions for this year's May Day.
The storefront at 616 E Burnside, stood vacant for ten years before the IWW moved in and opened its union hall in 2002. The building was the property of local bar owner Jimmy Mak until fall of 2005, when it was sold. The new owners, who have plans to completely renovate the building, offered to buy the IWW out of its lease. Realizing that they would likely be booted anyway once their lease expired in 2008, the café and IWW decided to accept the offer.
In the four years since 2002, Lower East Burnside has begun to change from Skid Row to a new trendy destination street for shoppers and barflies. There are still remnants of the old Burnside, however, especially the immigrant day laborers who wait for work on the corner of 6th and Burnside.
The Back to Back's last day of business on Burnside will be May 14. The café will likely be reopening at a new location in Northeast Portland later this summer. The IWW plans to move into a new "worker center" space to be shared with the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) and other local working class organizations. Their intention is to create a permanent space for the radical left in Portland to meet, strategize, and strengthen the movement for workers' rights in Portland and beyond.
May Day, the international workers' rights holiday, has always been a big day for the Wobblies (as the IWW is affectionately nicknamed). This year's celebration on Burnside, after the May Day march downtown will be the biggest yet, with speakers and music by Government Issue Orchestra and Vanessa Valsako an