Posted by Stephanie Basile - November 29, 2008 | News
MALMÖ, Sweden (SAC) —
A worker brutally beaten up by his boss.

Union members on trial for participating in a peaceful picket line.

A crackdown on legal pickets and protests.

I am not taking about the USA in the 1930s. Nope, I’m taking about present-day Sweden. Yup, Sweden- that peaceful, labor-friendly Sandinavian utopia.

Twenty-six union members in Sweden were recently found guilty of disobedience and blocking public space by participating in a legal picket line. While the sentences weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been (fines instead of jail time), the ruling sets a dangerous precedent by saying that workers who participate in legally protected actions may not be so legally protected after all.

While the case of the Malmö 26 might be news to some of us American labor organizers, militants in the Swedish labor movement have been engaged in this case for almost 2 years.

I learned of the Malmö 26 during a visit to Malmö, Sweden this past September. I was in town to attend the European Social Forum and was able to meet with members of the SAC, Sweden’s anarcho-syndicalist union and the union responsible for the “disobedient” picket line.

In 2006, workers from the SAC’s Hotel and Restaurant union organized at Izakaya Koi, a sushi restaurant in Malmö. That autumn, a cook was badly beaten up by the restaurant owner and subsequently fired. The SAC made several attempts to hold the boss accountable for his actions.

In response to this disgraceful behavior and the subsequent evasion of responsibility, the SAC put up a picket line in front of the restaurant on Dec 1st, encouraging diners to eat elsewhere. The police then attacked the picketers, using pepper spray and physical force to break up the line.

Prosecutor Mats Svensson then brought criminal charges against 26 of the picketers, and thus the 2-year battle ensued. According to the SAC, this is the first time there’s been such a case against industrial union action in Sweden. It’s also the largest conviction in connection with a picket line.

The case illuminates the threat posed by a union like the SAC. While unions in the mainstream trade union federation are given relative freedom compared to US trade unions, unions that fall outside the typical third party business union model are met with brutal state repression.

“Trade unions must be able to pursue industrial action to protect their members or to fight for better conditions. It is an absurd situation that the head of the state calls on police to get rid of us. Hotels and catering is a tough industry for workers with many frivolous and criminal employers. In the industry, there must be strong unions that fight for their members,” said SAC member Liv Marend in a press release (translated from Swedish).

As of yet, the SAC is unsure if they will appeal the case. A fiercely independent union, they have never relied on the law to exact justice. If anything, the case of the Malmö 26 further illustrates the absolute necessity for unions to rely on grassroots organizing and direct action to achieve gains for workers. This is a fact the SAC knows all too well, and they will continue the fight for justice.

Posted by Elaine Brower - November 17, 2008 | News

Matthis Chiroux flashes a sign of the times at the National Archives
(Photo: Elaine Brower / NLN)

WASHINGTON — Determined to demand the prosecution of George Bush and Dick Cheney for war crimes, I joined in with the Veterans for Peace in the long climb up the “scaffolding” on the façade of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. On Friday night, November 14th, myself and Matthis Chiroux, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and a war resister who recently announced he will not deploy to Iraq and soon to be court-martialed, drove down to join the vets who were in the midst of planning our ascent and occupation of the National Archives the next day.

An interesting crew, made up of 7 veterans and yours truly, a member of Military Families Speak Out and World Can’t Wait, who really can’t wait for the war to be over since my son is on his 3rd tour and is currently stationed on the border of Syria, inside Iraq. Participants on the ledge were Elliott Adams VFP: 61, Sharon Springs, NY, VFP President and former Army paratrooper, Viet Nam; Ellen Barfield VFP: 52, Baltimore, MD, former Army Sgt.; Kim Carlyle VFP: 61, Buncombe County, NC, former Army Spec 5; Doug Zachary VFP: 58, Austin, TX, VFP staff, former USMC Lance Cpl.; Tarak Kauff VFP: 67, Woodstock, NY, former PFC, Army Airborne; Will Covert VFP: 63, San Diego, CA, VFP lifetime member, former E4 Navy; and Matthis Chiroux IVAW, 24, Army Sergeant, served in Afghanistan, refused deployment to Iraq.

Providing support on the ground were our good friends Mike Ferner VFP: 57, Toledo, OH, former Navy corpsman; Debbie Tolson VFP: 52, Potomac, MD, associate member of VFP; Michelle White MFSO, 24, Clarksville, TN, Military Families Speak Out, wife of Iraq war vet currently serving in Afghanistan; Michael Marceau VFP: 59, Rockville, MD, VP VFP Chapter 16, former Army, Viet Nam; Bruce Berry VFP: 62, Minneapolis, MN, former SPC 4 Army, Viet Nam; Fred Nagel VFP: 65, Rhinebeck, NY, former SPC 4 Army; Jay Wenk VFP: 82, Woodstock, NY, former rifleman, 90th Infantry Div., WWII; Tony Teolis VF.

Early Saturday Morning

We hitched a ride at 6:30 AM to our destination from a Washington, D.C. activist, and we were already tired and needing coffee. But determined to get there by 7:30 AM, we pushed on. Putting on hard hats as to look like construction workers, we walked through the 10 ft. high barriers that were erected right on Constitution Ave. in front of the Archives, where we entered and walked up to the first level, ground floor. All our gear in tow, including 2 banners, one 600 sq. ft. and the other 400 sq. ft., sleeping bags for our determined 2 day stay 90 feet above the ground, water, juice and other necessary equipment, we started the climb. First on a ladder, then up to the first level of scaffolding. Me, being a sedentary office worker by trade, could not imagine doing this climb and watching the agile vets jumping over bars and carrying packs weighing more than me (and that’s a lot), made me realize that I crossed over somewhere from activist to being just plain nuts! But, there I was, so not being the type to back out and run, I grit my teeth and climbed.

We had to weave in and out of poles and construction scaffolding, where the workers had left buckets and their tools in anticipation of coming back on Monday morning, not knowing there would be “visitors” over the weekend. Every level had another set of “stairs”, and I use that term loosely, since they were skinny rung ladders going straight up at a 90 degree angle. We were all wearing our uniform: ARREST BUSH sweatshirts in large white letters.

The climb continued for a good part of an hour, and we went up what felt to me like 100 ladders, but I think it may have only been 10. Good thing I am not afraid of heights, because the more I climbed, the smaller things became on the ground. And to make it worse, it started to rain, so the rungs were slippery and the smell of wet plaster hung in the air. We did have a great time, though. We laughed and talked most of the way up, but this was a serious mission, and I became part of our little platoon of those out to demand war criminals must be prosecuted.

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Posted by Stephanie Basile - | News

Wobblies deliver a letter to a Starbucks manager.
(Photo: Benjamin Ferguson / NLN)

NEW YORK — Members of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union recently caused a small stir at an NYC Starbucks.

On Thursday, November 6, a group of IWW baristas entered the Starbucks on Union Square East in the middle of a Starbucks job fair. They came with a letter demanding two weeks’ pay for Anna Hurst.

Hurst, a barista and mother of two, was late for one of her shifts earlier this year. In retaliation for this, her manager removed her from the work schedule for two weeks, causing her to miss out on much needed pay.

Hurst’s fellow workers entered the store while she was working and hand-delivered the letter to the store manager. The letter calls for Hurst to be paid for the two weeks she was denied work.

Bert Garskof (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

I was happy as someone to the left of the Democratic Party to join the Obama
campaign. We needed to do the hard work of electoral organizing alongside
the thousands of Obama volunteers. A progressive government was desperately
needed to moderate the worst excesses of late capitalism and they knew it.
Obama touched millions of people, especially young people who were
dissatisfied w/o (mostly) being political, and even fewer being consciously
leftist in any way.

I think that these Obama volunteers could become the base of a mass ongoing
movement that lives on after Obama wins, a movement that would be in place
to give the Obama Administration direct, on-going, immediate information
from the base up and hear what Obama thinks from the Government down.

We can try to create such grassroots advisory committees in every district.
Even if we cannot make these ideas realities everywhere or even anywhere,
raising the ideas is a good thing. And in some places we may be able to do
it. Every town, or ward or even neighborhood that succeeds in creating a
post-election advisory committee would be a great lesson, a great guide for
others to build more participatory democracy.

Bert Garskof

NEW YORK — The Industrial Workers of the World present a Night of Film, Music & Revolution!

This Thursday, November 6th, from 6 – 10 pm.

The Film: * ‘The Take’ produced by Naomi Klein
Argentinian workers’ struggles turn the globalization debate on its head in this winner of the International Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize at the American Film Institute Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The Music: * Straight outta France: Fred ALPI of the CNT-F
French labor songs, acoustic set (

The Cause: A pass-the-hat benefit for the Wobblies and their efforts to help workers organize and fight for justice and fair pay.

Location: K&M Bar (Corner N. 8th Street & Roebling, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
Directions: L train to Bedford

There will $3 K&M Amber Beer and radical books for sale.

6pm – Wobbly chinwag
7pm – movie screening
9pm – music

See You There