Five Steps To Direct International Solidarity (April ’13 Industrial Worker)

Industrial Worker April 2013 Front Page

The April 2013 issue of the Industrial Worker is out. You can read and download it here. Below is one article about how Pheonix IWW is building international solidarity.

By J. Pierce

STOP: Read this column while using the internet. This will be practical and fun. The goal of this column is to have every IWW branch establish direct connections with workers abroad, based on which companies call your city home.

The Phoenix IWW has 100-plus Facebook friends who work for Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, a mining company in West Papua, Indonesia. We had several actions at Freeport’s headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz., prompted by requests from Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia (SPSI) unionists at the Grasberg Mine.

We are thrilled about this connection and we want to duplicate it for more branches.

Step 1: Search the internet for “Corporate Headquarters _______” and type in your city. If we take Phoenix as an example, 72 major corporate operations pop up. Some of these are as sets, some are regional headquarters and others are international headquarters like Freeport-McMoRan. Now, peruse your list and select a recognizable company that might have overseas operations and whose employees might advertise their employment. We are looking for miners, plantation workers, assembly workers, transportation workers, garment workers, etc. Contractors for companies such as Walmart and Nike might be harder to find, but it can be done. I will select American President Lines (APL) as my example. The APL shipping company has their North American headquarters in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix. APL likely has operations overseas, is unionized and might have a presence on Facebook. Plus, we are aware of previous dock worker struggles with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and anti-war campaigns against APL war shipments. These elements make APL a great target for IWW solidarity.

Step 2: Search for your company’s overseas operations. Look for their operations in a familiar locale or for their unionized workers. Wikipedia says that APL is owned by Neptune Orient Lines (NOL), that NOL is headquartered in Singapore and “wholly owned by the Singapore government” and that APL is the fifth largest shipping company globally. They have 10 terminals in the United States, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and China. They have 153 shipping vessels that call at 90 ports. So we are now thinking about the possibilities of supporting dock workers and seafarers. From my own experience wandering into the International Maritime Center, a religious hospitality house near the Oakland docks, I know that seafarers come from all over. I pulled out my old International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) magazines from that house. Evidently, the magazine is printed in English, Arabic, Japanese, Tagalog, Chinese, German, Indonesian, Polish Spanish and Turkish. So the ITF and its workers might be our target.

Step 3: Search for a union in your target area. I quickly found the Singapore Port Workers Union (SPWU) which matches all three—they are dock workers, they are in the country where APL-NOL is headquartered and in which 80 APL vessels call and they work out of the Port of Singapore. However, it seems that APL does not have its own terminal in this port. So we are starting to narrow down, if possible, to Singapore, seafarers and dock workers, and the ITF and SPWU. All this is based off of APL’s North American headquarters being recently moved from Oakland to Scottsdale.

Step 4: Search for radical labor in your target area. In a quick search, I found a history of left-wing unionism in Singapore, including communist, anti-colonialist and ethnic struggles. I discovered a very interesting Left union called the Industrial Workers Union which may still be in existence. So in addition to contacting the ILWU, ILA, ITF and SPWU, I would search for the IWU and other contemporary radical labor groups in Singapore. I could do this for other APL port cities as well.

Step 5: Search for groups and individuals on Facebook that fit your combination. For APL-NOL, I could not find the exact combination of an APL seafarer or dock worker that lives in Singapore. I did find some Singapore port workers, however. The key is finding the right name combination. For Freeport-McMoRan, they call it “PT Freeport Indonesia.” Using this name, you will find hundreds on Facebook employed by Freeport.

So far I have found individuals and groups for Port of Singapore Authority. I located a post by a Tamil individual that had a funny “trickle-down income” cartoon. I sent this individual a message in English and Tamil using Google Translate. Also, I discovered that Tamil-speaking Indians are historically known for their radical unionism in Singapore.

This part could take some time. Once you establish the correct circle of people and they know the value of connecting with militants in the company headquarters’ city, the “friending” will be easy. Our experience with Freeport was effortless because they were engaged in an occupation and strike, we did a solidarity action, they found the Phoenix IWW Facebook page, and they friended us!

When each IWW branch establishes direct connections with workers abroad and offers to support their struggles in the headquarters’ city, it could become common knowledge all over the world that you contact the IWW in the home city when you go on strike. Additionally, these relationships could grow over the years into formidable alliances and the possibilities are endless.

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