Workplace and social struggles – late May/early June round-up

Cowley club appeal

Wessex Solidarity

If you’ve ever visited the Cowley Clubin Brighton it’s a great community resource and worth defending. It’s struggling financially due to the council imposing punitive business rates.

These places are a threat to those who seek the total commercialisation of our town centres and are coming under pressure everywhere. We’ll miss them when they’re gone. Please consider supporting this appeal:

If enough people set up a small standing order each month from their bank account we could thwart the bureaucrats and developers by keeping our radical social centre alive. A tiny amount you won’t miss, even one pound a month per person would be a massive help!

Name: The Cowley Club Ltd
Account no: 60362080
Sort Code: 09-01-55

Thanks! X

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From the FAU: Next stop, new International

[ca, de]

A conference was held in Frankfurt, Germany, this past weekend to prepare a new international association of anarchosyndicalist and revolutionary unions. This was the third conference of its kind.

At the meeting it was decided to hold a constitutional congress in a year’s time. The long runup is needed to facilitate the grassroots decision-making processes of the unions involved. Over the coming months, every individual member of the unions will have the opportunity to make proposals about the makeup of the international. Afterwards, they will vote on the proposals.

The conference was attended by the unions CNT (Spain), USI (Italy), ESE (Greece), IP (Poland) and FAU (Germany), who have all committed to taking part in this project. The CNT-F (France) as well as the IWW for English- and German-speaking European countries took part as observers. The conference was also joined via a video chat by Rocinante (Greece), IWW (USA and Canada) and FORA (Argentinia). The FORA has also committed to joining the project. Stimulating discussions and a productive working atmosphere meant that contentious issues were dealt with that had prevented these like-minded unions from coming together in the past.

Although there is still a long way to go before the first congress, it was clear at the conference that the unions were already providing each other with solidarity and mutual aid as well as cooperating in their union work. For example, mutual aid in the form of help for earthquake victims in Italy, solidarity in the form of direct action in support of the CNT’s struggle against Ford, and union cooperation in the form of an international campaign for delivery workers. The fact that many of the basics tenets of “syndicalism” are already being practiced across national frontiers bodes well for the nascent international.

“Appropriate action will be taken”: LSE bosses try to menace striking cleaners

Cautiously pessimistic

Management at the London School of Economics have written to striking cleaners, claiming that some of them had breached the government’s code of practice on picketing, asking them not to strike in future, and warning that “we are in the process of gathering evidence to identify those involved and thereafter appropriate action will be taken”. You can tell they really like saying “appropriate action will be taken”, since they use the phrase twice in one short letter. This is a clear attempt to intimidate workers.

If you’re in the London area, you can help back these workers in defying their employers’ attempted intimidation by going along to the next picket on Wednesday morning, the film showing about their campaign on Friday, and/or their party on Saturday night. No matter where you live, you can also help out by emailing LSE bosses at j.black@lse.ac.uk, a.blair1@lse.ac.uk,

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But then they cut my hours

scottish unemployed workers' network

catch22-1680-1050-wallpaper

In a world of precarious employment, many people who are getting by on minimum-wage agency work supplemented by Working Tax Credits can be thrown into a major crisis at the whim of their employer. When we met Phil outside the buroo he had been given only a few hours’ work in the last three weeks and was struggling to make ends meet. Another week with reduced hours and he faced losing his Tax Credits as well. Clearly this wasn’t sustainable. He had spoken to the DWP and been told that if he left the agency work and applied for Jobseekers Allowance he would be sanctioned for giving up his job! So his only option was to go on Universal Credit. The one advantage of Universal Credit is that you ‘only’ lose 63p of benefit for every pound you earn, instead of losing all bar £5 when you are on JSA. Otherwise…

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Cleaners and security guards strike together, Wednesday 17th May

So why is it called a jobcentre?

scottish unemployed workers' network

The pretence that jobcentres are organised to find people work – and not just to discipline them – seemed to be wearing particularly thin last week as we listened to accounts of the hurdles the DWP puts in the way of any serious job search.

Jim has been doing voluntary work for a housing association for a couple of years; just the sort of thing the DWP usually pushes people to do to improve their job prospects. But recently he got a new ‘job coach’ and she was not happy. She claimed that the housing association was not a charity (she managed to overlook the statement at the bottom of its website) and Jim should have been paid for the work he had done. These non-existent payments would therefore be deducted from his benefit. Jim had to prove that he was indeed an unpaid volunteer. If he had not managed…

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In Defence of Our Land: Historical Similarities Between the Enclosure of Common Land from the Thirteenth to Nineteenth Centuries and the Privatisation of Public Land in the Twenty-First; or, Why the Class War Never Changes, Only its Historical Form

Architects for Social Housing (ASH)

These extracts are from John Wright’s recently published book, A Natural History of the Hedgerow (2016). I began reading it partly out of my love and hatred of hedgerows, about which I have written before on this blog in an article on Land Values, but also as an escape from the violence, injustice, political corruption and urban squalor of estate demolition. Little did I expect that, far more than a natural history of the hedgerow, Wright’s book also contains a social history of the struggles arising from the enclosure of common land in England and Wales between the Thirteenth and Nineteenth Centuries; and reading it I was struck by how similar the motivations and injustices of enclosure were to the conflicts arising today from the privatisation of land through the programme of estate demolition, not only in London but across the UK. Above all, I was struck by the…

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