I am honored to read this collective statement written by members of our industrial union 640 of the Industrial Workers of the World who work and organize in the DC and Los Angeles food service industry.
We are in conflict. We, as poorly paid workers who actually feed the world, up and down the food supply chain, with the bosses, capitalists and corporate restaurant groups that run the restaurant industry in every major city.
We, who despite the theft of inadequate poverty wages, we, who feed, who serve, whose labour & dedication are the crux of Michelin star reputations, we who toil in a grey existence and those whose interest is our continued misfortune, the bosses that calculate insufficient wages, the restaurant groups—their indifference, the capitalists—their pleasure is our destitution.
We feed the parasitic rich while we starve - starve for a decent wage, starve for safe workplace conditions, we are starved of healthy food for ourselves and our families, and most starkly, we are starved for POWER. These are our rewards for being servile and obedient, viewed as completely disposable by this city’s possessing class.
We dedicate all our capacity, faculty & being to the maintenance and profitability of the industry which belongs to the most parasitic elements in the city: the wealthy, the aristocracy, the politicians. Yet we remain malnourished, we are starved! Wages exist, but the ability to live does not, we surround ourselves with every kind of food, an abundance of nutrition, wasted on the wants of our oppressors! The stomachs of our kin know the only guarantee is that we are left lacking.
We have been ignored by other business unions, viewed as inferior and unorganizable.
And these unions? Subdued, emasculated long ago and today they serve to enforce our condition. To them we are nothing, undeserving and unable to be organized.
But we are the food caretakers and food producers and most importantly, we are workers and multi-dimensional labor organizers, and we are organizing because we know that the conditions of our work are created and can be changed and placed into our control through love and solidarity with our fellow workers, militant direct action, direct democracy, and revolutionary worker control.
And we organize because we know that Rebellion is not only imperative but necessary. We are Almighty Labor! We understand that only through our work, our labor- is our industry even possible. We take for granted the urgent necessity of rebellion. We, labouring masses on whose back the existence of industry depends. We declare ourselves resolved to put an end to the injustices! Through rebellious means, through revolutionary means, through militant action - & we are almighty in our resolve!
Our condition has been preyed upon to produce division, to produce an inability to challenge their monopoly over our dismay. The remedy is clear, solidarity! Between the bartender & the cook, Solidarity! The dishwasher & the host, Solidarity! Migrant workers run every single kitchen in this city. May we come from a far away land or from the suburb down the road we must recognize that because of our condition, our communal suffering, we are made kin. The highest expression of this reality is militant solidarity, fraternity is mutual aid and in it is our praxis that extends from every table to every low boy, every salad station to every expo screen, across all refreshments fountains to every employee smoking area and all spaces that we may sit and wonder "How so will we liberate ourselves from these injustices!?"
Our industry is a trap laden with landmines of sexual, physical, and verbal harassment, the exploitation of power dynamics resulting from the hierarchies of our workplace, the demeaning system of tipping, blatant wage theft, rampant substance abuse, and all of the innumerable, micro- indignities suffered through a normal shift. We are routinely dehumanized, disrespected, and rarely viewed as professional hospitality workers.
We must organize into a union with a fighting spirit and modern tactics. One that breathes the spirit of An Injury To One Is An Injury To All. We must be brave, believe in our revolutionary program and, most importantly, have each other’s backs. We want a union that will promote the solidarity of every worker, not divide them. A union that will take into its fold every worker in this industry. A union where every employer knows that all peace so long as the wage system lasts is but an armed truce. Together we must build a union where the dishwashers, bartenders, cooks go on strike together.
We organize today for material gains on our shop floor, and for tomorrow and the eventual devastation of the global capitalist system, wage slavery, and all its tentacles. Because we recognize that the products we cook with, clean with, were made by another worker sometimes across an ocean who is similarly chained by wage slavery, by the remnants of colonialism, imperialism, and other insidious heads of the pernicious capitalist hydra.
This is for all the restaurant workers across the world who are currently feeding the gluttonous rich who inhabit our cities, the workers who, as we speak, are scrubbing toilets, sweating in front of a red hot range, those sick at work because our industry refuses to provide us with sick leave, all those who couldn’t afford to take a day off. And especially to all restaurant workers lost to COVID. We will not forget you. You will be avenged.
So if you dig radical workplace democracy, worker autonomy and self-organization, if you hate your boss, want to talk about the future of the food service industry, if you wish to have shorter hours, higher wages, and respectful treatment by your employer or just want to help build a better world. Come talk to us. We are putting all bosses, all faceless corporate restaurant owners on notice. We are coming for you. You might as well hand over the keys to OUR restaurants and coffee shops now. Organize your workplace; do your duty and fight. To fight is to fight to win.
I just want to end with two quotes because we stand on the shoulders of giants - the first is from one of our many poet laureates in the One Big Union.
“Wherever you find injustice the proper form of politeness is attack.” - T Bone Slim
And in memory of comrade and fellow worker Ricardo Flores Magón
“Rebellion is life; submission is death”