Another win for Dorset Wobs!

Recently we successfully managed a disciplinary and grievance case on behalf of a Fellow Worker charged with misconduct. The employer seemed hell-bent on dismissing our member with no regard for procedure or evidence. The casework was skillfully handled by one of our newest trained reps. Our Fellow Worker wrote:

“Throughout what for me was a very stressful Time my Union worker with their professionalism and calm approach has taken the anxiety out of the process.

By going through the company’s policies and using them against the company won the day for me as they couldn’t argue with a firm precise response. Attention to detail is the key and I was looked after with such”

Want to help the work along? – Join the Union – Get involved!

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom: by Paul Haw.

Paul Haw is Dorset IWW Branch Secretary, a volunteer youth worker and campaigner on LGBTQ+ and disability rights.

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom.

I’m going to be 27 by the time 2020 comes to a close and as someone who is firmly in the millennial category, the whole universe of Harry Potter has been a fixture in both my childhood and my adult life. As a kid I remember my dad taking time out from his taxi driving job on a Friday night so he could join the queues at my hometown’s sole bookshop to be one of the first to obtain the new Harry Potter book.

The first time I remember going to the cinema was in 2001 to see the first Harry Potter film and I remember my excitement to see the story on the big screen as a seven year old boy shivering outside the tiny, two screen cinema that was in the big town about a half hour’s drive from our house. I remember how magical it was to escape into that world and I remember the messages of overcoming adversity resonating with my young self, being the only boy in the class with cerebral palsy and having to wear brightly coloured leg splints and having daily sessions of physiotherapy.

In my teenage years, I retreated away from this world and dove full throttle into the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, B-movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and 1980s slasher horror films. I believe these campy, macabre worlds were probably linked to the love my childhood self had for the kitchy, campy, creepy world of Harry Potter. As I approached my twenties and got diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder, the world of my childhood provided much needed comfort at a time where I was experiencing frequent episodes of depression and psychosis whilst trying to complete a degree in English and live on my own for the very first time. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of my coping mechanisms at the beginning of lockdown was to watch a Harry Potter film on Saturday night by candlelight whilst eating Chinese takeaway.

All of this means that I was deeply disappointed by Rowling’s recent tweets that parroted the TERF talking points about “sex-based rights” and her absolute revulsion against the term “people who menstruate”. The damaging implications of sex essentialism have been documented on this blog and many others and I shall not repeat those same points. However, it says a lot that the world’s first billionaire author decides to use her time during a global pandemic and an uprising against state-sanctioned racism to further marginalise and vilify one of the most oppressed groups of people on this planet.

As a response to the criticism and fury she received on Twitter from trans people, queer people and their allies, she decided to write a 3,600 word essay on her blog. I’m not going to link it here because I do not wish to befoul this blog with transphobic rhetoric but it’s very easy to find if you want to read it; although, I would advise that it is very intense and it will probably be quite an upsetting read. I cried tears of rage reading it and I cried for the trans youth that I work with as a youth worker for a local LGBTQ+ charity.

In the essay, Rowling provides a narrative of her life in the early 1990s before Harry Potter exploded into our cultural consciousness. She frankly and openly talks about being a survivor of severe domestic and sexual abuse. As a sexual abuse survivor, I empathise with her and I do hope that she has been able to access the support needed to be able to process the trauma she has experienced.

The question that remains, however, is why did she choose this moment to speak about it? It plays into the unfounded, deeply bigoted caricature of trans women being men who just want to pose as women so they can sexually assault women in public bathrooms. When we look at the reality, we see that in the 21 countries which have introduced self-ID for trans people to change their birth certificates, none have reported an increase in sex crimes as a result. We can also look at several US States, the most notable being North Carolina, where bathroom bills were introduced and we see an increase in assaults being perpetrated against trans people in bathrooms and an increase in those same assaults against cisgender people who present in a gender nonconforming manner.

It is also important to consider that one of the “leaders” of the TERF movement, the increasingly irrelevant and deplorable former Labour Party hack that is Linda Bellos is actually on film saying that she would beat up a trans woman if she happened to be in the same bathroom as her. Approximately every 72 hours, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world because of their gender identity and by playing into myths and caricatures, JK Rowling has put those people at increased risk.

Rowling also moves onto the topic of incels. Incels, for the record, are men who believe that they are owed the right to sex just because they happen to be male. They are angry that women choose not to sleep with them and several incels have gone on to commit murders of those women. They also harbour a hatred for the men that they see as stealing their opportunities to pursue the women that they wish to sleep with. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in California back in 2014 as “retribution” for his lack of sexual experience and activity.

In 2018, Alek Minassian murdered 10 people in a vehicle-ramming attack in downtown Toronto to instigate an “incel rebellion” and had written several internet posts praising Elliot Rodger. Many incels look at the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989 as a positive thing and something to be inspired by. In this massacre, Marc Lepine burst into an engineering class, forced the men and women in the room to stand on opposite sides and shoot all six women there. He then rampaged for a further twenty minutes, killing eight more women before killing himself. His motive was to “fight feminism”.

Rowling will be acutely aware of how horrific these events are and how the state does not take violence against women seriously enough. Again, we have to question her motives around bringing up these issues in this particular moment. It is morally abhorrent and repugnant of her and her supporters to link trans people and their allies to incels. I’m a cisgender man but I stand with trans people who are just trying to live their lives as their authentic selves and be recognised as such. We are not murdering women to further this cause and we are not terrorists. We simply believe in human rights and in bodily autonomy. She should be ashamed of herself for insinuating that there is anything linking us to the incels and it proves that her interpretation of feminism is fundamentally and objectively wrong.

The final part of her essay I wish to address is where she talks about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a pseudoscientific term used by the TERFs and their allies to try and explain away the large increase of young people seeking help and support with their gender identity. They like to blame a plethora of things for this which include but are not limited to; Japanese anime, tumblr, YouTube and autism. There is a link between being autistic and being transgender but that link is being actively researched by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and cognitive psychology and will probably take a long time to come to any semblance of a conclusion. On the other hand, ROGD has seemingly been invented in a chat room on Mumsnet.

As a youth worker who is directly working with these young people, I can confidently say that ROGD is baseless and unfounded. Young people have access to the internet and they are able to learn about gender outside of a Eurocentric viewpoint. Young people have always explored their gender identity but it is only now that they have the tools and the vocabulary to be able to do so fully. Do I think that every single one of my young people who identify as transgender is going to end up transitioning as an adult? Possibly, possibly not. In spite of that, it is important that young people are able to access the support and guidance that they need whilst exploring their gender identity.

They need compassionate and empathic people around them especially as 80% of trans young people will self harm and about half will attempt suicide. These young people are very vulnerable in a world where transgender people are treated as though they are the lowest class of citizen and by using ROGD as an excuse to explain all this away, Rowling and her allies are creating moral panic reminiscent of the moral panic around gay men in the 1980s and 1990s. It is this kind of language that causes governments to enact legislation like Section 28 that will damage a whole generation of young people.

I do not believe that JK Rowling is an inherently hateful person because a hateful person could not have written the Harry Potter series which is essentially an antifascist parable; despite its use of questionable antisemitic and racial stereotypes. What I believe is, like many women who grew up in second wave feminism, JK Rowling is using her platform to try and stay relevant in a culture that has long since moved on. I also believe that she has possibly been radicalised by the likes of Linda Bellos and Graham Lineham on Twitter. Rowling does not need to indulge in this desperate attempt to remain culturally relevant as Harry Potter has become a permanent and ubiquitous fixture of popular culture. People come from around the world just to have their pictures taken at Kings Cross Station where they’ve set up the entrance to Platform nine and three-quarters.

Rowling has often tried to pander to us LGBTQ+ folks, wildly announcing that certain characters in the series are LGBTQ+ when no hint of that was given in the original stories. It is this that makes her latest outbursts beyond offensive. She has used our community to make money and royalties for herself whilst throwing the most vulnerable people in our community under the Hogwarts Express.

I still love those stories of my childhood and I am taking relative comfort in Barthes’ The Death of the Author to take some sort of ownership of those stories and to separate them from a woman I once admired. Her following is large but the loudest voices in that following are the minority and many of the actors who brought those stories to life have expressed their unequivocal support for transgender people. We will win this fight and we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, always.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

– Albus Dumbeldore

Paul Haw

Anarchy in the Sticks 2020!

Dorset Radical Bookfair

Dorset’s fourth Radical Bookfair will take place on the 8th August 2020 at Dorchester Corn Exchange. Invitations will go out soon, if you’d like to be involved please get in touch:

dorsetbookfair@riseup.net

Wob kitchen report for Tolpuddle 2019.

The usual rush to set up tent and kitchen on the Friday was nothing a small group of Wobs couldn’t handle and we were ready by about 16:00 when the rain truly got going.

Concerns had been raised about food waste in previous years so the kitchen was tasked to cut down on it, improve on recycling and recycle any monies saved back to branch.

With a budget of £125 the scope for savings were good; the numbers for the first meal were small, but feedback was good for the curry and all subsequent meals. We did not use the chafing dish, so saved on fuel for its use, and then again on the Sunday lunch.

Of the £125 pounds available we spent a total of £76 on all aspects of all meals, leaving a balance of some £49 that as agreed should be returned to branch for use as funds for the Wob kitchen at radical book fair in September 2019.

Slop waste was drastically reduced and that is correct, no foam plates were used or plastic KFS (knives forks and spoons), so reducing known harmful waste.

Tinned, jar and fresh vegetables were problematic but were reduced and leftovers given to branch members for use at home after Tolpuddle 2019.

This year we had no takers for the Wob catering Cadre, but this could be down to low numbers so if the branch wishes to continue with this, maybe at some future branch meeting we can structure the idea for its use in education and ease of use.

For my part loved Tolpuddle 2019 and looking forward to 2020.

In solidarity,

Les.

Dopey deliveroo!

Ahead of the valentine’s day strike we sent our demands by e-mail and registered post to deliveroo, who were kind enough to copy us into the e-mail instructing their staff not to respond. Believe it or not, we’ve just had the follow-up:

It’s always good to know what calibre of adversary you’re up against in the Class War.

Skipton’s Bournemouth picket 16th February 2019.

This afternoon five of us picketed Skipton Building society Bournemouth branch in solidarity with Brighton Solidarity Federation’s Housing Union, as part of the continuing  campaign to obtain compensation for tenants rendered homeless by Fox & Sons in Brighton Kemptown.

Dorset IWW supports Brighton tenants against Fox & Sons

Fox & Sons is part of the Connell’s group which owns dozens of similar companies and reported pre-tax profits of £28.9 million in the first six months of 2018. It’s ultimately owned by the Skipton Building society so the campaign is being escalated to their branches and subsidiaries.

Landlord drops Fox & Sons after single picket, whilst our campaign escalates to Jade Software in Australia

As usual we received support from passers-by, the workers at Skipton’s didn’t actually know the company owned  Fox & Sons, they were friendly and even brought us some coffee!

– An injury to one is an injury to all!

Report from the front line: Bournemouth couriers shut down deliveroo on Valentine’s day!

L Bournemouth town centre, R banner drop on A338

Twenty-seven riders struck in Bournemouth. Nineteen picketed the largest and busiest KFC in Bournemouth, others went sick, or celebrated valentines with a loved one. Four scabs crossed the picket line, looking “furtive and guilty” – you know who you are! However four new riders were recruited to the strike group.

One striker assessed the viability of ordering food on the customer app:

“The only places I can order from are ones that provide their own delivery … It worked. I can’t get any (deliveroo rider) delivered food at the moment. … all the town centre and landsdowne restaurants show up … From 9:15 I couldn’t order food if I wanted to.”

Future actions will enforce deliveroo rates equivalent to the new minimum wage of £8.21 per hour. Another striker commented:

The overall feelings of anger, aggression and disgust towards Deliveroo, rose again last night, to a new level. We refuse to let Deliveroo reduce us to poverty stricken workers, who are grateful for crumbs that fall from the company’s table.

The support from other striking riders in the UK was uplifting, and show us that the battles being fought by individual towns and cities are now combining, to becoming a united and coordinated War.”

Don’t cross picket lines!

St Valentine’s day massacre! Bournemouth IWW couriers join national Deliveroo strike.

You can support the riders by not ordering food on Valentine’s day!

Couriers affiliated to Dorset IWW are taking industrial action this thursday 14th February 2019. We are demanding:

• Return to July 2018 fee level.
• Increase distance fees for journeys over 2.5 miles (amount to be negotiated).
• Reduce the delivery zone (size to be negotiated).
• Stop on-boarding* new riders and drivers immediately.
• Remove double orders that show only one address.
• Give reasons and supporting evidence when terminating contracts.

* This is deliveroo’s euphemism for recruiting scabs to break a strike. It is to be hoped prospective riders will have nothing to do with this despicable tactic.

Please don’t order a takeaway on Valentine’s day. Why not join your partner in the kitchen and cook something together? It’s a lot of fun, and no-one wants to f*** a scab.

https://iww.org.uk/iww-couriers-network/

https://www.facebook.com/IWWCouriersNetwork/

Tweets by IWW_Couriers

Dorset IWW supports Brighton tenants against Fox & Sons

Thanks to Grace for the picture.

On Saturday Dorset IWW picketed Fox & Sons Bournemouth branch in support of Brighton Solidarity Federation’s Housing Union, to obtain compensation for tenants the company left out of pocket through their negligence. The support we received from passers-by was heartening, and many interesting conversations were had. Despite the weather, it was a rewarding afternoon.

Last September, six students were kept waiting five days after their agreed moving date, at which point their tenancy was abruptly cancelled, rendering them homeless. The agency offered no help, and they were compelled to take overpriced accommodation they could ill afford.

Fox & Sons must accept responsibility and shoulder some of the burden – our comrades are each demanding £380 to cover the extra rent on the property they had to take at the last minute.

Fox & Sons then took another nine days to refund £1650 of the tenants’ money. Fox & Sons Is part of the Connell’s group which owns dozens of similar companies and reported pre-tax profits of £28.9 million in the first six months of 2018. It’s ultimately owned by the Skipton Building society so the campaign is being escalated to take in their branches also.

Fox & Sons received £720 compensation from the landlords, Jears Properties Limited, another multi-million-pound company, and instead of passing it on, simply pocketed the money.

Landlords and agents exploit the shortage of accommodation to make vast profits from those who can least afford it.

Bosses and landlords, agencies and the DWP are all on the same side and it isn’t ours. We don’t need to put up with their shady practices if we stick together.

– An injury to one is an injury to all!