Doing For Selves: Open Source Supplies and Tenant Organizing
Welcome to a podcast special from The Final Straw. While William is was busy producing an episode featuring voices of medical professionals and activists inside and out of prison to talk about the impacts of covid-19 on incarcerated people for broadcast, I had a couple of conversations about work folks are doing on the outside that I’d like to share.
Sean Swain [00:08:06-00:15:12]
Hacking To Fight Covid-19
First, I spoke with Bill Slavin of Indie Lab, space in Virginia that is in the process of shifting it’s purpose since the epidemic became apparent from an broader scientific and educational maker space to work on the manufacturing and distribution of covid-19 related items in need such as testing kits, medical grade oxygen, ventilators and 3d printed n95 quality masks for medical professionals to fill public health needs. Bill talks generally about the ways that community and scientists can come together through mutual aid to deal with this crisis left by the inaction of the government on so many levels. They are also crowd-sourcing fundraising for scaling up their production and facilities and there’s a link in our show notes on that. The platform that Bill talks about in the chat is known as Just One Giant Lab, or JOGL. Consider this an invitation for makers to get involved.
Organizing With Your Neighbors For Homes and Dignity
Then, I talked to Julian of Tenants United of Hyde Park and Woodlawn in Chicago. What with all of the talk about rent strikes in the face of such huge leaps in unemployment during the spread of covid-19 and accompanying economic collapse, I thought it’d be helpful to have this chat to help spur on these conversations of how we seize power back into our hands while we’re being strangled by quarantine and hopefully afterwards. You can learn more about the group Julian works with at TenantsUnitedHPWL.Org. Philadelphia Tenants Union and Los Angeles Tenants Union were both mentioned and will be linked in the show notes, alongside a reminder that the national Autonomous Tenants Union Network (ATUN) is being organized and folks can reach out to Philly TU or LA TU via email to get onto their organizing zoom calls. Finally, if you’re in the Chicago area and need a lawyer for housing, check out Lawyers Committee For Better Housing online at lcbh.org. Julian also mentioned squatting of homes in southern CA owned by the state, here’s a link to an article.
WNC Mutual Aid Projects
Linked in our show notes is also a googledoc that Cindy Milstein and others are helping to keep updated that lists many mutual aid projects that have sprung up all over concerning the exacerbation of capitalism by the covid-19 crisis, as well as a similar page up from ItsGoingDown.Org
If you’re in so-called Western NC and want to get involved, the project Asheville Survival Project has a presence on fedbook and is soliciting donations of food and sanitary goods for distribution to indigent, bipoc, elder and immune compromised folks in the community. We’ll link some social media posts on the subject that list our donation sites around Asheville in the show notes and you can venmo donations to @AVLsurvival.
And check our show notes for an invitation to call the NC Department of Public Safety and Governor’s offices to demand the release of NC prisoners susceptible to infection and possible death of Corona Virus in the NC system due to improper care. Wherever you are listening, consider getting together with others and calling jails, prison agencies and the executive branches to demand similarly the release of AT THE VERY LEAST the aged, infirm, folks in pre-trial detention, upcoming release or who are held because they can’t pay bail.
North Carolina Corrections Department-Prison Division
My name is ________, and I am a North Carolina resident deeply concerned about the safety of the states’s incarcerated people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Incarcerated people have a unique vulnerability to disease due to their crowded, unsanitary living conditions and lack of access to adequate medical care. For humanitarian reasons as well as reasons of public health, we call for the immediate release of all people in the North Carolina prison system. We also urge that you stop the intake of new prisoners during the pandemic. The cost of failing to take these steps will be paid for in human lives, and we refuse to abandon our neighbors and loved ones to die in lockup.
Even while the world burns, our 10th anniversary still approaches and we’re still soliciting messages from you, our listenership. Not sure what to say, likely you have a LOT of time on your hands, so go back through our archives and dive in. If you want a deep dive, visit our website where you can find hundreds of hours of interviews and music. If you want to drop us a line, check out the link in the show notes, or you can leave a voicemail or signal voice memo at +18285710161, you can share an audio file with the google drive associated with the email email@example.com or send a link to a cloud stored audio filed to that email address. Tell us and listeners what you’ve appreciated and or where you’d like us to go with this project.
If you appreciate the work that we do here at TFS, you can also help us out by making a donation if you have extra cash rustling around. The link on our site called Donate/Merch will show you tons of ways. If, like most of us, money is super tight at the moment, no prob, we struggle together. You can share our show with other folks to get these voices out there and more folks in the conversation. And if you REALLY like us and have a community radio station nearby who you’d be excited to have us air on for free, get in touch with us and we’ll help. The page on our site entitled Radio Broadcasting has lots of info for radio stations and how to let them know you want us on the airwaves. Thanks!
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From Monument To Masses – Sharpshooter – The Impossible Leap In One Hundred Simple Steps
COVID-19 and the Prison System: 5 Voices from the Front Lines of Resistance
Today we have a show about COVID-19, specifically how the pandemic is being handled in prisons and detention. This show includes a lot of voices, and we structured it that way in order to both include as many perspectives as we could and also to take some of the expectation that interviewees speak to us for an extended period; everyone who is working on this is very busy and we wanted to respect that.
In this show you’ll hear from:
– Rebekah Entralgo who works with the non profit Freedom for Immigrants,
– Finn, a healthcare worker and member of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR) working in an outbreak epicenter here in North Carolina,
– Elijah Prioleau who is incarcerated at Waupun Correctional in Wisconsin, where there is a COVID-19 outbreak and they are currently on lockdown,
– and JM and Nikkita of (among other groups) COVID-19 Mutual Aid in Seattle, which is at the outbreak epicenter in the Pacific Northwest.
Because I couldn’t include everything that each person said in full, and frankly that was the hardest part about editing, I’m making a page on our collection at archive.org which will include each interview in full. Just give me until tomorrow to get that up, cause my eyes are starting to cross from all the radio related screen time!
Many thanks go out to everyone who was interviewed, and a special thanks to Ben Turk and the folks at Forum for Understanding Prisons who passed along his phone call with Elijah. More about them, their updates, and lists of demands can be seen at prisonforum.org
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To write to Elijah at Waupun Correctional, address letters to:
Leon Elijah Prioleau 420053
Waupun Correctional Institution
PO Box 531
Waupun, WI 53963-0351
To get plugged into mutual aid efforts in Asheville, you can follow the Asheville Survival Project on Facebook, and if you are interested in donating to these efforts in our town the venmo is @AVLsurvival.
List of people and projects that I’m aware of who are boosting prisoner’s voices right now:
Kite Line Radio, which has a Coronavirus call in line for people who are both impacted by incarceration and by Coronavirus, that is 765-343-6236
As corona virus spreads, the failures of capitalist states becomes even clearer and many people are forced to take some breaks from participating in the economy in the way they did before, we’d like to offer some audio we’ve been sitting on. The good folks at the radical bookstore and community space, Burning Books in Buffalo, New York, has given us a small trove of audios from presentations by authors, activists, visionaries and revolutionaries they’ve hosted over the last 7 years or so. We hope that you’ll take away some good perspectives from these luminaries, on struggle, on change, on shifting terrain and on the revolutionary solidarity impulse that they communicate. These are scary times we are living in, but we want to remind you that sometimes in scary times people bring out their best to the fore because we are stronger together.
Get involved in local efforts to organize in your area by visiting this IGD post and searching down the page for the regional mutual aid groups you can plug into.
In this podcast special series, we’re sharing a presentation by the author, historian and activist, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz on September 17th, 2015, speaking about her book ‘An Indigenous Peoples History of the United States’. From the website, reddirtsite.com:
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz grew up in rural Oklahoma, the daughter of a tenant farmer and part-Indian mother. She has been active in the international indigenous movement for more than four decades, and she is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. After receiving her Ph.D. in history at the University of California at Los Angeles, she taught in the newly established Native American Studies Program at California State University, Hayward, and helped found the Departments of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies.
The audio cuts off rather suddenly after just about an hour due to recording device, sadly, so we lose Dr. Dunbar-Ortiz part way through a sentence. We’ll have more information at the end of this about where you can find more of her writings.
If you are thinking of purchasing any of her titles, we suggest that you check out getting them from a local bookstore rather than Amazon. And while quarantine is ongoing, if you prefer to order online from Burning Books, they are offering free shipping in the US on orders more than $25 (as of this recording on March 18th, 2020) from their website, burningbooks.com. Feel free, also, to support our local venue and regular supporter of our site, as well, Firestorm.Coop, which sells titles online as well.
This week on The Final Straw, we’re presenting two conversations. The first was a chat with workers from the local, plant-based protein company ‘No Evil Foods’. The company has been getting flack for using social justice imagery while working to undermine unionization efforts at it’s factory here in Asheville, NC. The workers talk about strategies they took in organizing attempts and experiences they had with disinformation about collective bargaining from the management and the union-busting consultants in their employ. In order to protect the anonymity of the workers, we’ve replaced their voices with our own. See our show notes for a script of the chat.
Although not affiliated with the unionizing effort, the fedbook page for Asheville Solidarity Network hosts some of the flyers in support of workers unionizing No Evil Foods and Mission Hospital. It’s also acting as a hub for posts about mutual aid responses to the Covid-19 and the Corona virus crises in the Asheville Area. For more resources in different places around solidarity and mutual aid in this intense time, visit ItsGoingDown.org.
To see a few pictures of the propaganda distributed to No Evil Foods workers, check our show notes. Here are also a couple of links to flyers against the union busting found on social media (1, 2) as well as a post about a Zapatista school complaining of misrepresentation by No Evil Foods in their marketing and a collection of links including audio recorded from one of the forced anti-union meetings.
PLANning for Anti-Pipeline Action
After that, you’ll hear a conversation with Garrett, an anarchist involved in Pipeline Legal Action Network, based in so-called Minnesota. PLAN has recently published a legal workbook for people planning around resisting pipeline infrastructure expansion, in particular with the Line 3 pipeline. The guide also brings together a lot of other useful resources for any crew or affinity group and is available for free at PlanLine3.com alongside a lot of other material.
Share Your Words For Our 10 Year Anniversary Show
Basically, we’re opening up the lines to hear what you have to say to us. Send us a message about the show, any memories you have, what you’d like to see or how it has affected you. Instructions for signal voice messages, voicemails or sending us mp3’s can be found here.
New Free Community Meals in Asheville
On Sundays at 4pm near 644 Haywood, just around the corner from Firestorm Books, a project calling itself Hot Potatoes is offering free, hot meals from reclaimed and donated ingredients to the community as well as free produce when available.
Grand Jury Resistance
Grand Jury resistors Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond have been ordered released from the Arlington, VA jail where they’ve been held while refusing to participate in Federal Grand Juries concerning Wikileaks and the attempted extradition of Julian Assange. This came days after Chelsea self-harm or suicide in her cell under the stress of nearly a year in prison and after only about a year after being released from an military prison. Amazingly, although the government was imposing a fine of a thousand dollars for each day of her incarceration for refusal, within a few days of her release the fines a crowd source fundraiser paid off the remaining $267,000 in fees she was facing upon release. Jeremy Hammond, meanwhile, is being transferred back to Federal prison where he will resume the last few months of his incarceration. His time was put on hold during his resistance of the grand jury. More on his Jeremy’s case and how to write him a letter of support can be found at FreeJeremy.net and more about Chelsea is up at ReleaseChelsea.com.
Prisoner Corona Virus Hotline
Starting Monday, IWOC and Fight Toxic Prisons chapters will be opening a hotline that prisoners in the so-called US can call into to report outbreaks, denial of adequate medical care and other circumstances related to Corona Virus. To allow for the calls to be free for prisoners, fundraising is happening now. You can learn more at bit.ly/covid19prison
Update on Eric King
Anarchist and antifascist prisoner Eric King is fighting a possible 20 year charge added to his remaining time. In recent disclosures he talks about his targeting by prison staff at FCI Englewood, who threatened him and his family during visiting time, including consciously sitting his partner and their two kids near to the sex offenders during visitation, rather than in the separate family section. In his statement to the court, Eric says that when he attempted to use the prisons own complaint mechanisms he was further targeted for assault and harassment by staff, including continued harassment about his family, threats that fall under the protections afforded by the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, interferences with his ability to communicate with his family and his lawyers, removal of his personal and legal items and more. You can read the whole thing up at SupportEricKing.org, where you can also find the fundraiser for his legal defense to fight this 20 year hit he might face. The fundraiser is also up at fundrazr.com/e1cKo1. You can also find our interview from last year with Eric at our website.
Month in solidarity with Bomani Shakur
Finally, for the month of April, 2020, the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement and others will be trying to focus attention on the Lucasville Uprising death row case of Bomani Shakur, aka Keith Lamar. He’s been held for almost 18 years for charges related to the uprising and has been denied the ability to effectively challenge his death sentence even though the state recognizes that it withheld potentially exculpatory evidence in his initial conviction. You can learn more about his case and how to get involved in the month of action for Bomani at revolutionaryabolition.org , more about his case at KeithLamar.org and our past interview with Bomani at our website.
TFSR: Would you care to introduce yourselves for the purposes of this conversation and what your relationship with No Evil Foods in Asheville is?
No Evil Foods Workers: All of us work in the production area of No Evil Foods. This means that we are directly responsible for measuring and mixing the ingredients, running the mixes through the machines, cooking the mixes into the product, cooling the product, portioning the product, and boxing the product so it can be shipped out.
TFSR: Can you talk about the situation? What were the working conditions like at No Evil Foods when active talk of unionization started, how was response from workers?
No Evil Foods Workers: Active talk of unionization began at least as early as the summer of 2019. At that time, one of the shift supervisors on second shift was spearheading the campaign, and was very vocal and open about it. He had even apparently gone directly to management asking them to recognize the union. At that time, employees had no health care, and there was no shift differential for second shift. Those were two major concerns that were eventually addressed, but the biggest reason for desiring a union was simply for the production team to have a seat at the table when it came to future changes. The company is going through a huge growth period right now, and the production employees that make up the vast majority of the workforce are caught up in the undertow, so to speak. In response to the initial unionization campaign, management gave a speech about how they felt unions weren’t right for the company. Mere weeks later, they changed the production schedule from a four-day work week to a five-day work week with monthly mandatory Saturdays. Dozens of production team workers quit in response, and the unionization campaign seemed forgotten. However, reps from the union reached out to workers who had signed cards, and slowly we began to seek out more signatures and discuss the ongoing need for representation. The response from workers varied of course, but there was no hostile conversation about it among employees before the union busting tactics started. Some weren’t sure what a union actually did and the protection it offers. Others had only heard negative things. But the more it was discussed between production workers, the more we felt as though we had a decent chance of bringing everyone together for this cause. The open dialogue was almost always positive, and many employees were excited and curious about the possibility of being able to have a greater say in their working conditions, pay, benefits, etc.
TFSR: How did No Evil Foods respond to talk of workers organizing themselves or joining a union. Who did they hire to bust the effort and what has that looked like? What union were you working with?
No Evil Foods Workers: We really have no way to know for sure when management found out that we were attempting to unionize, but we have theorized that it was probably around December-January. It’s likely that their first attempt to deter a “need” for a union was to find out what we wanted and attempt to give it to us. In January, they gave night shift a pay differential, they made sure night shift was getting out on time and not staying late – as had been the trend. They even added an employee award program to give us each a free gift. This was the start of what would be a serious manipulation campaign.
When management was officially informed that we had filed with the NLRB, the first poster we were handed was about union cards. The word “dues” was mentioned nearly 10 times. “Union authorization cards are LEGAL documents” it reads. “Do not sign a union card unless you are willing to accept all the possible consequences of unionization…” (“Consequences of unionization”) “Union representatives are salesmen…” “Collective bargaining involves give and take, and is a risk…” Ironically, this flyer started out by assuring us that No Evil just wanted to give us all the “facts” to help us make an “informed” decision. This theme of wanting us to make an “informed” decision was a consistent talking point throughout the entire campaign, even though what they were actually doing was trying to drastically misinform us.
It didn’t stop there.
On top of the flyers, the main response by management was to bring us into captive audience meetings. These meetings were mandatory and involved each shift being corralled into dimly lit rooms and subjected to various power point presentations about unions. The topics varied, but the information was always slanted, with a lean towards either being anti-union or being neutral – never positive. One meeting went over the legalities of the union constitution, which felt like an attempt to just confuse everyone with an hour’s worth of legal lingo. Another meeting was about the UFCW and how much those at the top make. (Curiously, nothing was mentioned about how much those at the top of the No Evil food chain make.) Another meeting was all about collective bargaining. Demonstrating just how biased these meetings were, an employee at the collective bargaining meeting asked if there were any benefits and the speaker had nothing positive to say. The very last of these meetings was about the investors of No Evil and how the owners (Mike and Sadrah) “can’t control” what they might do in response to a union. This was the meeting that essentially scared the piss out of everyone, and many of us believe that this was the meeting that really tipped the scale. People walked out of that meeting truly fearing that they would lose their jobs and the warehouse might shut down if the majority of eligible voters voted ‘yes’.
Essentially, either by design or by coincidence, these meetings were all designed to play on very specific fears of the workers. Fears about sexual harassment and how the union might make it harder to get rid of stalkers. Fears about not understanding the union constitution and its legalities. Fears about collective bargaining. (“You may get more, you may get less.”) Fears about job security and how the warehouse might close down if we end up moving forward with unionizing because the investors might not like it.
To answer the question about who they hired, the lawyers names are Leigh E. Tyson and Jonathan Martin, both from the firm Constangy Brooks, Smith, and Prophete.
From their website:
“We can help you realistically assess the employee-relations atmosphere in your workplace environment. And we can help you build and foster the kind of workplace environment in which a union is irrelevant. We know it doesn’t always pay to be the proverbial bull in the china shop. Even as we advise management on union organizing drives and decertification efforts, we have maintained professional relationships with the unions. We are not known as “union busters” – nor do we want to be. The firm has particular strength in collective bargaining and negotiation experience. We take pride in knowing the subtle differences, like when to be tough – and we can be extremely tough – and knowing when a non-adversarial approach is in the best interests of clients.”
They’re not “union busters” and yet coincidentally, they specialize in “union avoidance campaigns”.
To answer the other question about which union, it was the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union, aka, the UFCW. This was Local 1208, based out of Tar Heel, NC.
TFSR: Can you talk about some of the rumors management and the lawyers have been fostering about unions, including the weaponizing of fears of sexual harassment at the workplace?
No Evil Foods Workers: One of the very first rumors was about drug testing – specifically, about the union coming in and drug testing everyone. No Evil does a fairly noble thing and hires felons. It also doesn’t drug test. So between those two things, the fact that a rumor was started about the union deciding to randomly drug test everyone (which would not happen unless we voted for it to happen or the company pushed for it to happen) could be a coincidence – or it could be evidence of management playing on the fears of its workers.
TFSR: So, management offered to get No Evil Foods living wage certified. What does that mean? How does that measure to the cost of living index for Asheville and is there a significant difference with what a union might help with?
No Evil Foods Workers: No Evil Foods is determined to be “living wage certified” by Just Economics (a regional membership organization based in Asheville that has a voluntary certification process to determine if an employer pays what is considered a “living wage” in the area). When you look into the requirements to be living wage certified according to Just Economics, it’s very interesting what that actually means. The way this is determined is through what’s called the “Universal Living Wage Formula”. To be brief, it is based on the idea that one employee, who works 40 hours a week, should not have to spend more than 30% of their gross income on housing. While No Evil Foods pays better than most places in the area, anyone who has or currently lives paycheck to paycheck can tell you that this formula does not account for utility bills, expensive emergencies, monthly payments for necessities like a car or phone, or childcare. It’s not to say that No Evil Foods isn’t taking a step in the right direction in this regard, but it would be naive to assume their “living wage certification” accurately reflects the living cost of their lowest paid employees.
A union could have drastically changed the lives of all Production workers at No Evil. The mere opportunity to get a say in wages and benefits is something that EVERY workplace should strive to achieve. While the idea of using a formula that assumes everyone fits into the same box when it comes to living expenses isn’t a bad place to start, no arbitrary certification program or employer knows what their paycheck to paycheck employees truly need to be paid in order to thrive in today’s economy.
TFSR: This push to counter or bust unionization among the workers at No Evil Foods seems to fly in the face of the ethical image they push as not only a producer of vegan, alternative proteins and their leftist imagery. How does that feel and how have you seen this conversation happening?
No Evil Foods Workers: Being vegan means something different to everyone, but at its core definition, it should be about maximum harm reduction to all living beings – animal or human. Even the No Evil Foods mission statement reads:
“No Evil exists to empower people to make positive changes for themselves, the environment, and the welfare of animals through awesome food. Do No Evil is the crux of what we do and the center from which all good emanates. We’re family founded, majority women-led, human centered, and purpose-powered, and we’re determined to bring people closer to the origins of their food while addressing issues like food insecurity, economic justice, and climate change. At The Axis, No Evil Foods’ homebase, we cut through the noise, speak our truth, and attempt to change the world one bite at a time.”
Empowering people should include empowering their workers – and empowering their workers should be about more than monthly team meetings and a suggestion box where we leave mere suggestions. The truest way they can live up to their mission statement (and it’s still not too late to do the right thing) would be to empower their workers and allow them to unionize. It would mean allowing their workers to have a collective voice in day-to-day decisions. Back that mission statement up with radical actions to prove it.
No Evil Foods Workers: A common business model in Asheville these days, at least among breweries, seems to be to build a brand and sell it off to a bigger company once it’s out of debt and expanded. There’s been speculation about why the ownership / management might push so hard back on attempts to structurally raise standards for the workers at No Evil Foods because of a fear of spooking the investors. Speculating, does that seem like a possibility in this case and how would leveraging for working conditions differ between a locally owned versus larger employer?
A: It’s absolutely a possibility. Leveraging with employers whether they be a small, family owned company or a massive corporation will never be a simple task if the position of management is to put the bottom line above all else. Historically though, large corporations are notorious advocates for nothing but profit at the expense of their employees. Having a solidified contract in place at this stage would protect us from this if in fact this is their plan for the future. It’s worth noting that at one of the captive audience meetings we were told by Mike (one of the two owners):
“It’s a very real risk that having a union at No Evil Foods would greatly impact our ability to continue raising capital, which risks the survival of our business. To be frank, I had one of our current investors say this week, ‘I’ve seen hundreds of companies come across my desk, and I have never seen an investment in a unionized startup, especially not at this stage. If I was looking at this business for the first time, I would run the other way.'”
Why did he say this? Because if this speculation about the inevitable selling of No Evil Foods is true – if a large corporation were to buy them out – this large corporation would have to listen to it’s employees who already have a solidified contract of employment that directly benefits the workers.
TFSR: Word on the street is that workers are talking union at the local healthcare system called Mission, which is a huge employer around here and was recently purchased. What would you say to your coworkers at No Evil Foods or workers at Mission or elsewhere who might be considering a struggle for a workplace union?
No Evil Foods Workers: Do a Google search for the Union Busting Playbook and inoculate your coworkers to the tactics and talking points that they will inevitably be subjected to. Maintain solidarity with your coworkers and constantly find new ways to draw more people into the “organizing committee” – or the primary core of people responsible for the drive. Organize casual get-togethers outside of work. Strong bonds between workers are the best defense against any nonsense management decides to pull. Be resilient, be calm, and do your research. Know the ins-and-outs of the union and be able to answer questions people will inevitably have. Be ready to be yelled at. Be ready to be threatened. Be ready to be manipulated and gaslit. There is no bar too low that management won’t stoop to in order to get people to turn away from unionization, as many of us found out. Communicate to coworkers that your struggle to organize your workplace has far reaching effects for workers in the region. You aren’t just empowering yourself, you are taking part in a historical struggle that’s been waged for years; you’re fighting for our collective future.
And one more piece of advice to current/future organizers: Record your captive audience meetings!!!
It’s a safeguard, and exposing these union busters and showing the public how all of these talking points and strategies are the same in so many ways is incredibly important.
TFSR: Will you continue working and struggling at No Evil Foods even after this vote against a union? Why?
No Evil Food Workers: We said this many times during the campaign, but this is not the worst job we’ve had. There are some really awful places out there to work and while this one definitely has its problems, it’s not among the worst. Unfortunately, this was often used against us as an argument by management – i.e., “Even union organizers have said themselves that this isn’t a bad place to work, so why do we need a union?” They didn’t really understand why we wanted a union. North Carolina being Right to Work was one of them. (In the month since the election concluded, four people were fired.) It’s also fair to say that about 98% of production workers haven’t been there for more than a year, a telltale sign of a company where job security isn’t really something prominent. On top of that, management often makes decisions rather willy-nilly; the top-down approach creates a lot of problems. Yes, there are ways for us to “suggest” different ways of doing things, but suggestions are suggestions, and management always has the option to ignore us. Collective bargaining would have given us a voice that couldn’t be ignored, and management proved by hiring “union avoidance consultants” that they’re not really interested in taking what we have to say seriously.
So to answer the question, yes, I think a lot of us will stay there and continue fighting for this. But I also think that for many of us (including some “no” votes who are slowly coming around and realizing they were misled) there’s not a day we walk into work and don’t expect to be fired for something trivial.
Management has fallen back into the same patterns that brought the union in to begin with. The firings only prove that we don’t have job security. The random, day-to-day changes in new policies and procedures only prove that we need collective bargaining and ultimately a union.
For a company that markets itself like No Evil Foods does, union busting shouldn’t be the kind of problem that it was during our campaign. Either the company takes off the mask and stops pretending to be revolutionaries who care about their workers, or they step up, do the right thing, and help their workers form a union.
May of 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the weekly anarchist podcast and show, The Final Straw Radio. Over that time, we’ve produced approaching 500 hours of audio, spent countless hours researching and editing and thinking about the project. And anyone with us for this ride will have seen it change and shift as the producers have, and as the culture around anarchy has as well.
In many past years, our early May TFSR birthday episode has featured introspection on the format of anarchist audio and video production by projects we appreciate. Last year, you heard the two main people behind the show, William and Bursts, talk about the project and what we hoped might come of it, what we enjoy and what stresses us out. It was fun for us to step out of the normal role of inquisitor and become the subject of the chat.
As our 10th birthday approaches we thought we might try something else novel. We’d like to invite listeners to record voice memo’s about what The Final Straw has meant to them, what they’d like to see from it, any moments that stand out and the like. We won’t promise to air everything, but we’ll happily share a lot of what we get from y’all.
You can leave us or a signal voice-memo or a voicemail at +18285710161, or email a link to mp3 audio via wetransfer.com or another service, or you can share it with the googledrive for firstname.lastname@example.org !
We’ll be taking submissions between March 11st and May 1st. Thanks!
This week on The Final Straw, we’ll hear a conversation from a few month back with Anthony Rayson and Mike Plosky, who have run the South Chicago Anarchist Black Cross Zine Distro since 1998. They send zines to prisoners, publish the writings and art of politicized prisoners as a project of public education, and help advocate and support prisoners organizing for their own education and liberation. You can find a full catalogue of zines at DePaul University library’s zine special collection. Donations can be made to their GoFundMe, and you can request catalogues and titles or just contact them at:
South Chicago ABC Zine Distro
PO Box 721
Homewood, IL 60430
We’ll also hear Sean Swain, who in many ways was brought to anarchism and had his books, cartoons and zines published by South Chicago ABC Zine Distro chat with Tony and Mike. More of Sean’s work, as always, at https://seanswain.org. We’re also joined in the conversation by Casey Goonan, an editor of True Leap Press which also does similar work to SC ABC Zine Distro. More of True Leap’s work, including their catalogue at https://trueleappress.com.If you’re listening to the podcast and want a more concise edition of an hour, check out our archive.org post linked in the show notes.Some of the prisoners and activists mentioned in the interview include:Sean SwainCoyote AcaboTalib RashidLeigh SavageAnastasia SmithKevin Rashid JohnsonTodd Hyung Rae TarselliRussell Maroon ShoatzTony Hunnicutt
This was a great interview to have for me, because this is a topic we haven’t yet presented on this show and we cover a wide range of topics; our guest’s personal history with witchcraft, what is meant by magic, witchcraft, and animism, how anti-racists and anti-imperialists could approach having a magical practice that doesn’t fall into appropriation, and many many more topics! We also discuss her new book at length, what led her to write this book, and what she hopes readers might get from it.
. … . ..
You can go to sarahlyons.org to see more information by and about our guest, plus upcoming projects. You can also follow her on Instagram @citymystic and on Twitter @_sarah_lyons_.
Support the Maroon Movement and the Baltimore Free Store!
@MaroonMovement and a coalition of anticapitalist organizers are looking for individuals and organizations that want to assist with a regular Baltimore Free Store that will offer no cost food, gently used clothing, toiletries, books, housing items, & services such as sewing, haircuts, classes, etc.
The are actively fundraising to purchase food, toiletries, rental space, transportation, serving items, storage and other fees needed to launch and make Baltimore Free Store happen. They would appreciate the solidarity. Any amount – $1, $5, $10 etc. – helps to alleviate the real life effects of anti working class budget cuts and poverty that impacts our community! Together the village will win. All Power To The People!
Social Justice and Struggle in Lebanon and Syria: Joey Ayoub and Leila Al-Shami
This week on The Final Straw we’re featuring a chat with Joey Ayoub and Leila Al-Shami. In this conversation, Joey tells us of some of the history of Lebanon, since the civil war that ended in 1990 and up to the current demonstrations against the clientelist warlords in power in that country. Intertwined with this, Leila speaks about the sparking of the resistance to Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, the tumult of the civil war, and the state of anti-authoritarian and social justice organizing and media work in that country. Then the two talk about the experience of countering disinformation, conspiracy thinking and poor solidarity in the so-called Left in the West and ways to combat ignorance.
This is another long conversation, covering a lot of the last 30 years in these two neighboring nations. The guests proposed speaking about the interrelations across that border because of the similarities, differences, and shared experiences between the two places. Lebanon has Syrian refugees, it was occupied by Syria until 2005. Both spaces share Palestinian refugees, experienced war with Israel, are politically influenced from Hezbollah, mostly speak Arabic and even the flames of the recent wildfires that ignited anti-regime sentiment in Lebanon last fall crossed the border between Lebanon and Syria. We hope to have future chats that play with borders in this way to explore ways we can bridge these borders in our understanding in hopes of increased solidarity.
Lebanese Protests of 2015 & 2019 [00:21:35 – 00:31:40]
Syrian Revolution to Civil War [00:31:40 – 00:41:34]
Current Social Justice Struggle in Syria [00:41:46 – 00:45:56]
Daesh / ISIS and Syrian Civil War [00:45:56 – 00:49:56]
Solidarity with Syrians in Lebanese Protests [00:49:56 – 01:05:38]
Leila on Tahrir-ICN [01:05:50 – 01:09:18]
Educating Ourselves on Syria and Lebanon [01:09:18 – 01:23:07]
White Helmets and other Conspiracy Theories [01:23:07 – 01:32:59]
Syrian Diaspora and Western Left [01:32:59 – 01:37:19]
Rojava and the Syrian Revolution [01:37:19 – 01:41:56]
Better Practice in Solidarity with people in Syria and Lebanon [01:41:56 – 01:53:38]
Michael Kimble Benefit
Last week we announced a fundraiser for Michael Kimble. Because of issues with the platforms, the fundraiser for Michael Kimble’s legal benefit to help raise money for his fight to get him released from prison has been moved. Now you can find it at ActionNetwork.org/Fundraising/Support-Michael-Kimble . Because the fundraiser had to be moved a couple of times, some of the initial push to get word out and initial donations may be irreplaceable. So, folks are asking for an extra push to help rasie this money to get our comrade out and organizing on the outside after 33 years behind bars.
BADNews February 2020 (#31)
This month, the A-Radio Network released it’s monthly, international English-language podcast featuring voices from anarchist and anti-authoritarian radio shows, pirate stations and podcasts from around the world. The episode is up at A-Radio-Network.org by clicking the B(A)DNews. If you’re interested in joining the network or learning more, info’s up on that site.
This week we got the chance to sit down and catch up with Ben Turk, who is an anarchist and prison abolitionist living in Milwaukee WI, about some recent efforts that he has been involved in and some ways that listeners can plug in and do solidarity work from afar. We speak about the lockdowns that have been occuring in Columbia CI, continued efforts to raise awareness about solitary confinement and bringing mental healthcare services to people undergoing incarceration, efforts to change legislation regarding old law prisoners, efforts to free Chrystul Kizer, and how the face of anarchist abolitionist organizing is shifting.
If you’re interested in getting networked with Ben and the work of Forum for Understanding Prisons, to help with compiling information from the WI DOC shift logs, to help support people being tortured via solitary confinement, to donate to efforts to free Chrystul Kizer, and many more you can email him at email@example.com or follow the websites prisonforum.org, freechrystul.wordpress.com, and fireinside.noblogs.orgif you’d like to read more about prison abolition.
Detailed notes from our guest concerning the topics we covered in the show:
Resisting lockdowns at Columbia CI and elsewhere.
We leaped to action against the prolonged and excruciating lock-down at Columbia Correctional Institution, which started on November 8, and wasn’t completely lifted until December 22. Midway through the lockdown Muhammad (Larry) Bracey was killed by guards through medical neglect. We posted 13 reports, letters or updates about the lockdown on our website. We also staged a New Year’s Eeve noise demo outside Columbia and two rallies at the Wisconsin DOC building.
We mirrored the demands of incarcerated people, including hunger strikers, who called for Warden Susan Novak to be fired. Our efforts got us a meeting with Secretary Carr and other top DOC officials, who haven’t yet met our demands, but have fired some racist and sadistic guards, including multiple involved in Muhammad Bracey’s death. Unfortunately, conditions remain unsafe at CCI following the lockdown, two more mendied preventable deaths on the week of January 13.
We are still getting responses to our open records requests, and will put out more reports shining a continuous light on the horrors that creep in the corners of this institution. We will continue to fight for our demands until they are satisfied, including the firing of Susan Novak.
How you can help this campaign:
Show up. We plan to be wherever Secretary Carr is and to repeat our demands there. He will be appearing at a Supporters of Incarcerated People (SIP) meeting at Grace Episcopal Church on February 12. Join us there.
Shine a light. Much of this work involves research, going through released records and correspondence with incarcerated people to generate reports and expose the hardships. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help with that work.
Remain vigilant. Shortly after the CCI lockdown, there was a 10 day lockdown at WaupunCorrectional. People held there say it was the worst they’dexperienced. We need to be ready to mobilize and maintain pressure to keep the DOC from dragging out more of these unlawful lockdowns and humanitarian violations.
Abolishing solitary confinement and advocating for mental health treatment.
Ending the torture of long term solitary confinement has been the driving goal of FFUP’s work for more than 15 years. We are continuously dismayed to see this practice and attending tortures expanding in Wisconsin, despite inspiring reform efforts happening elsewhere.
In February, we will release a comprehensive report by FFUP founder Peg Swan, describing the history of solitary in Wisconsin and its many impacts, large and small. Joining testimonies from survivors, historical events and legal analysis, the report advocates for strong and decisive action toward restricting and eliminating Wisconsin’s use solitary confinement and replacing it with mental health treatment.
Governor Evers and Secretary Carr have talked about reforming solitary confinement, but cautioned us that the changes will be gradual. David Crowley and other law-makers have introduced a bill calling for psychological reviews of people in solitary confinement. The trouble is, DOC doctors are already routinely altering mental health diagnoses to enable the use of restraint chairs and other forms of torture that aren’t officially sanctioned for use on people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses. We expect that if the proposed law or similar restrictions come to pass, DOC staff will dodge their effect by continuing their practice of altering diagnoses to put whoever they want into solitary.
Instead, Wisconsin needs the follow the success story in Colorado. When Rick Raemisch took over the DOC there, he made a dramatic commitment to replace solitary confinement with mindfulness practice and treatment. Within his first year, changes were happening, and now Colorado restricts solitary confinement to a maximum of 15 days.
How you can help this campaign:
Reduce the harm of isolation. Peg Swan has begun an email newsletter and penpal program to provide people held in long term solitary confinement with what they need most: human connection. If you would like to receive the newsletter or can write to someone in solitary, you may help save lives. Contact Peg at email@example.com.
Contact Governor Evers. Tell him you support the abolition of long term solitary confinement. Half measures and gradual steps are not enough when lives hang in the balance. Call (608) 266-1212, email GovPress@wisconsin.gov, file public comment here.
Fighting for old law prisoners.
Volunteers with FFUP have been attending recent parole board meetings to track progress toward reforms and increased releases by the new administration. There are about 3000 people held in Wisconsin prisons under the old law, most of them would be released by the standard expectations of their sentencing judges by now if not for very regressive policies of the DOC and parole commission. Peg and other FFUP contacts maintain regular correspondence with many old law prisoners. Releasing these people will not only reunite them with their families, it will have a significant impact on the overcrowding that makes everyone’s life harder in prison- both captives and staff.
Last spring Governor Evers appointed John Tate II to be the Chair of the Parole Commission, promising increased releases and long overdue justice for people sentenced before Dec 31, 1999. Unfortunately, from what we’ve observed in meetings transition to that agenda has been very difficult. On January 8, we witnessed an alarming level of obstruction, disrespect and apparent sabotage of reform efforts by parole commissioners. This behavior, combined with obstructive practices by DOC staff in classification, programming and community corrections are drastically curtailing the possibility for release of people incarcerated under the old law.
We have decided that a stronger public voice in support of reform and releases is necessary, so we’re encouraging people to attend parole commission meetings and will follow the next meeting (Feb 5) with a rally. We also released Ben’s notes from January publicly and sent them to hundreds of people incarcerated under the old law. Last summer we delivered a rules change petition to Governor Evers and Chairman Tate. At the monthly meetings we will be delivering the petitions again, showing increasing public support for the release of old law prisoners.
How you can help this campaign:
Support Tate’s confirmation. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has delayed Tate’s confirmation for seven months. Contact him to demand that he allow a confirmation vote for Chairman Tate. (608) 266-5660 or Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
Voice support. Sign the petition calling for parole reform and expanded releases.
Bear witness. Attend or invite people to the February 5 meeting at 9:30 and / or the rally at noon. Both at the DOC building 3099 E Washington.
Defending sex trafficking survivor Chrystul Kizer.
On June 20, 2018 a 17 year old Black girl named Chrystul Kizer from Milwaukee defended herself against a 34 year old child pornographer and sex trafficker named Randal Volar, ending his life. Volar had been investigated by Kenosha police since at least February when he was arrested, but released despite possession of child pornography and other clear evidence. Kenosha DA Michael Graveley failed to charge Volar, but is now pursuing first degree murder charges against Chrystul.
FFUP volunteers are working closely with Chrystul and her family to raise awareness of her case and to demand that charges be dropped. We’ve helped pack the court for each of her preliminary hearings and taken control of the narrative around her case. We are also helping organize a rally at 5:30 pm on February 5 at UW Parkside, where Graveley teaches Criminal Law. On Thursday February 6, 8:45 am Chrystul has another hearing at Kenosha County Courthouse. She is requesting a bond reduction to one we can fundraise enough for, so she can come home while awaiting trial.
How you can help this campaign:
1. Follow #FreeChrystul on social media and share the campaigns stories and updates.
People all over the world are mobilizing to combat the climate crisis. It’s time to build skills and take action!
Join us for 10 days of learning, training, and taking direct action to disrupt the systems that are destroying our climate. We will come together to build on Appalachia’s rich history of direct action against extractive industries, which has included tree sits, blockades, and walk-ons to resist mountaintop removal, fracking, and fossil fuel pipelines. After fighting the Mountain Valley Pipeline for over two years, we aim to grow the resistance to fossil fuel exploitation and take power out of the hands of corporations and politicians that are threatening our collective future.
We are inviting community members, activists, students, and families to learn the skills needed to execute a variety of actions that disrupt the power structures wrecking the environment we depend upon and contributing to climate change. We will be hosting people in the southwestern Virginia/ southern West Virginia along the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, providing food and trainings to participants for 10 days. We will have more information in the coming weeks.
Location and more event details to follow upon registration!
Floods in Eastern Kentucky and South West Virginia
There’s a request for funds for relief from recent floods in Appalachia in coal-country. Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, in partnership with local activists who helped support Black Jewel Miners Blockade are requesting funds and goods to Harlan County and surrounding areas. You can learn more on instagram at @weloveminersblockades, you can donate on venmo at mutualaidky, cashapp at $ekyswvafloods, paypal via firstname.lastname@example.org and you can email them there as well.
Anti-ICE protestors harassed in Florida
A group of activists known as the GEO9 who were arrested while protesting on December 3rd, 2019, outside the Boca Raton office of GEO Group, which contracts immigration prison services for ICE, have experienced ramped up harassment. They received misdemeanor charges for trespassing and the use of a megaphone and were released on their own recognizance after their initial arrests. But now apparently are facing felonies and one activist of the 9, Alexis Butler, was even rearrested under fishy circumstances at her house by Broward County Sheriff on February 7th. More info is available in the write-up at itsgoingdown.org linked in the show notes and a fundraiser for the activists legal defense via EverRibbon.com can be found in our notes as well.
Chuck Africa is Free
We are happy to announce that Chuck Sims Africa, the remaining member of the MOVE 9 left behind bars was released from prison after 42 years on February 7th, 2019. There is a fundraiser for his post-release situation up at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-chuck-africa-rebuild to help Chuck get rolling on the outside. Free Them All!
Michael Kimble Legal Defense
His support crew needs funds to challenge his initial conviction. Here’s the text from that site:
Michael Kimble is a passionate freedom fighter who has been held captive by the Alabama Department of Corrections for nearly 33 years. After defending himself during a homophobic attack by a known white supremacist in 1987, Michael was arrested, charged with murder, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. His trial was typical of what could be expected from a racist criminal justice system in Jefferson County, Alabama.
Since his conviction, Michael has been fervently involved in efforts to free himself and others, assisting in legal defense for fellow inmates, organizing reading groups and Black History events, speaking up for queer folks behind bars, and helping to organize and agitate alongside the Free Alabama Movement for the historic national prison strike of September 2016.
The Alabama prison system has recently come under fire from the federal government for its abhorrent conditions, and Holman Prison, where Michael is incarcerated, is being decommissioned and largely shut down. In this context, many Alabama prisoners have been successfully challenging the length of their original sentences. A group of Michael’s supporters on the outside have recently joined forces to hire a new legal team to help him push for a sentence reduction. Given the amount of time already served, we are hoping this could result in his release.
All the money raised will go directly towards filing motions for sentence reduction, and anything left over will be used to support Michael’s day to day life inside with things like stamps, books, and commissary funds. Fingers crossed, we’ll also be raising money to support Michael once he joins on the outside.
For more information, check out this awesome interview with Michael from a few years back, as well as his blog.
Until Every Cage is Empty,
–Michael Kimble Support Crew
Josh Harper of SHAC7 and Voices from Gidimt’en Access Point
This week, we feature two portions of the show.
Josh Harper on ‘Animal People’ film
First up, we’ll hear Josh Harper, a co-defendant from the SHAC7 case and former political prisoner talking the struggle to shut down the company, Huntington Life Sciences, a contract animal testing laboratory, in the early 2000’s in the so-called US. Josh talks about the case, his post-release experience, archiving the history of earth and animal liberation with The Talon Conspiracy (currently on hiatus) and some views of moving forward. Josh and the other co-defendants are the focus of a recent documentary film called ‘The Animal People’, which is available on all of the paid streaming sources, which speaks with participants in the case and their prosecutors, plus journalists like Will Potter who documented the Green Scare. Gut wrenching is a great descriptor for the film.
Then, you’ll hear the voices of three warriors who were on the barricade on the road to Unist’ot’en Camp at the Gidimt’en Access Point. Eve Saint (Wet’suwet’en land defender), Anne Spice (Tlinket land defender) and Shilo Hill (from Onandaga nation, Haudenosaunee, Six Nations) were there to defend unceded Wet’suwet’en land from the Canadian state’s violent imposition of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline. They talk about what brought them to the Gitdumden Access near so-called Houston, BC, the buildup to the impending raid by RCMP troops, indigenous sovereignty, land and water defense, the long road to decolonization and the importance of outside support and solidarity from indigenous and First Nations peoples and their allies and accomplices.
On Thursday morning, the day after this recording, at about 5am Pacific, the RCMP began their raids and arrests in an attempt to impose the injunction and clear the land and water defenders from the Wet’suwet’en lands. Media have been detained and released and at the time of this publication, 6 land defenders have been arrested and refuse to sign and conditions imposed by the Canadian state and so are still in state detention.
Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation are asking for people to take solidarity action in support of their autonomy. Solidarity actions have looked a lot of different ways in the last few months across Turtle Island, so-called USA and Canada. Take a moment and listen to your heart, find your friends and do what you think needs to be done to get the ball rolling.