May Day 2015: a year in the South Florida IWW
By Scott Nicholas Nappalos
May Day is the most important holiday for workers and IWWs in particular with our roots in the struggles of the Haymarket Martyrs. The reality of the American working class of those times gave birth to one of the first anarchist and revolutionary unions as the International Working People’s Association [1,2,3,4,5]. This would be followed by other within the US such as La Resistencia of the Florida cigar workers, and later the IWW which had Lucie Parsons amongst others who participated in the IWPA . Part of that tradition should be looking back at what we’ve achieved and the contributions each of us has made, often not without personal sacrifice and dedication.
Across the past year, workers in the IWW organized in their workplaces, stood in solidarity with others, and produced art, writings, and reflections to share. Quietly, members fought grievances at work in healthcare, printing, and retail. We participated in actions against police violence, contributed to events of women organizing, solidarity with prisoners, repression of union activists in latin America, and workers targeted for organizing in the US. The reality of the past decade in the US is that this work is being done without a road map, with dedication and sacrifice, and too often in isolation from an indifferent left. Frequently we find ourselves as the only ones in a city willing to sit down with people and work on their problems not being served by the well funded and organized government bureaucracies, non-profits, unions, and leftist groups. In these hard times we can’t congratulate ourselves, but there’s a beauty in our willingness to put our hearts into our work and keep moving forward.
Miami IWW members have tried to build something bigger than daily struggles, and this is reflected in the range of works we’ve created. Monica Kostas contributed illustrations including a reflection on South Florida’s place in the struggles of the Caribbean, an event we co-hosted about women’s struggles, protests in Chile, and a book of workers stories [7,8,9,10].
AB Kunin shared photographs that capture the intersection between daily life, politics, and struggle. His contributions included street art in Little Haiti, photos from the streets in Colombia, and a protest against police brutality [11, 12, 13]. Along with illustrations and photography, Luz Sierra shared poetry exploring struggle, her life, and work [14, 15].
We shared new pieces analyzing broader issues in society. Marcos Restrepo wrote an article about the past 30 years of history in Colombia, a critique of the role of the left, and an analysis of the peace process . James Malley analyzed the role of the State, prisons in society, and prison labor in Florida . After a conference of North American student unions, Michael Russo described the student movement in Montreal and lessons for us . IWW healthcare workers put out a statement challenging the narratives attacking safety net health services .
In English and Spanish, we published book reviews. Monica Kostas wrote about Angel Capelletti’s “La Ideologia Anarquista” . Emil Zola’s classic of literature “Germinal” was reviewed by Scott Nicholas Nappalos who also explored Raul Zibechi’s “The New Brazil” and new challenges for resistance within the capitalism of Latin America [20,21].
Worker stories play a prominent role in the life of the South Florida IWW. We hosted two events around workers stories. First was a workshop that explored the stories and experiences of workers in Miami . Second was a book launch for Lines of Work, a collection of workers stories including IWWs organizing with international contributions . Luz Sierra wrote about being a woman and organizing in South Florida . Adam Weaver discussed coworkers being fired and the dynamics of discipline at work . The theme of difficulties of nursing changing your personality and how health is bigger than health care was taken on by SN Nappalos [26, 27]. A library worker, Chuck Allen, described trying to win back time for living on the job . Luz Sierra told what happened when her organizing tripped up and discipline came down, and how to hopefully avoid it in the future .
Even a brief glance at these contributions shows not just articles and creations, but a window into the lives of people trying to carved out a more meaningful existence in a world that tries to impoverish us not only economically but personally and morally. The work is immense, but we have to also celebrate our own and the acts we do everyday often unnoticed that can inspire and keep us taking steps onward to a better world and humanity.
1. Dawley, Alan. (1986). The International Working People’s Association. Source: Roediger, Dave, and Franklin Rosemont, eds. Haymarket Scrapbook. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co. http://flag.blackened.net/lpp/aboutlucy/dawley_iwpa.html
2. The Pittsburg Proclamation of 1883 written by Johann Most at the founding of the IWPA for the ideas motivating the union of which the Haymarket Martyrs were members. https://libcom.org/library/pittsburgh-proclamation-1883
3. Parsons, Albert. (1887). Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis as Defined by Some of Its Apostles. http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bright/aparsons/parsonsanarchismtoc.html
4. Avrich, Paul. (1986) The Haymarket Tragedy. Princeton University Press.
5. Dolgoff, Sam. (1980). The American Labor Movement: A new beginning. http://www.iww.org/history/library/Dolgoff/newbeginning/5
6. Nelson, Bruce. (1988) Beyond the Martyrs: A Social History of Chicago’s Anarchists, 1870-1900. Rutgers University Press.