How to remove scabs and save workers’ health benefits

[UPDATE: Strikers have settled! But these suggestions below can come in handy next time, especially with more pre-planning and lead time. Heh heh heh]

Workers at American Licorice, located in Union City (irony noted), makers of Red Vines, have been on strike for a week now. More details here in the Union City Patch. The Occupy Oakland General Assembly recently voted to support the strike and early this morning, many Occupiers stood with workers on the picket lines, trying to prevent “scab” workers from entering the factory.

The strikers cannot legally block the gates, but nonunion supporters can do that and much, much more. Below are a few off-the-cuff ideas from previous strike support work I’ve done. The important thing is that, with a couple exceptions, they are all legal and nonviolent and help increase the support base by involving people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be involved in a picket line. These and similar tools also directly target vulnerabilities. Picket lines, while important for morale and highly symbolic are themselves somewhat tangential.

I might try to update this later, since I have to get to real work now. Any suggestions welcome!

Learn the scab hiring system and its vulnerabilities. Usually it’s a temp agency and they only have so many phone lines, so many recruiters, so much time.

* Call and chat about these jobs and how to get an interview and how much you get paid and the benefits and so on. Polite questions are not illegal, but it won’t take too many polite questions to jam up their phone lines.

[update: they are apparently hiring through a Craigslist ad. Email and inquire about these wonderful jobs! Ad screenshot at bottom of post.]

* Go in and fill out paperwork, try to get hired. There is only so much room in the temp agency’s office. Make a line out the door.

* Leaflet prospective scab workers at the temp agency. Be respectful, since they are probably struggling and temp workers are often some of the most abused workers in the U.S.

* Simply setting up a 2-person picket at the temp agency will be enough to discourage prospective workers. Strikers can’t do this or organize it or endorse it, but supporters can do whatever they want.

Learn the company hiring and training system. It is usually rife with tactical vulnerabilities that can be exploited nonviolently and legally.

* Get a scab job! You can spy on the company while you’re at it. Have a cheap button-cam or at least your phone on “record” at all times to record anti-union propaganda. Apparently, the company here has been juggling shifts around to throw off the picketers, so a “salt” worker could give up-to-the-minute intel needed by strikers.

* You might get a day’s paid training and free physical exam. (I got this years ago when I did this during a Steelworkers strike). This cost them money even if you walk off the job. Speaking of which:

* Get the job, get trained and walk off the job. Decide you can’t be a scab anymore. Walk out the gate to much fanfare. When I did this, the cops tried to stop me from leaving, but my union worker friends (who were in on the deal) began chanting “let the scab quit!” Excellent press and it was fun as hell. And legal. If 10% of the workforce each day walked off, the company would be screwed. And they could never trust any of their workers, never knowing who is a “salt.”

* Get the job and do poor work until fired. You even get paid!

* Get the job and do things like put stickers on the products or leaflets in the box. Imagine boxes of Red Vines going out with little stickers on the back saying “made with scabs.” Not exactly legal, so whoever did this should be prepared to make a show trial out of it. That’s probably the best way to make the company drop charges.

* Get the job and hand out leaflets to the scabs or loudly propagandize them until you’re thrown out. This might be grounds for disorderly conduct charges, but a smart company would not want the press that came with it. Best if you do this in twos or threes, so one can be livestreaming it.

* Learn the scab psychology. Learn who they are and why they are there. Make your propaganda more targeted and effective.

In my experience, the scabs responded to threats and aggression at the picket line by firming their resolve and moving toward greater allegiance to the company. Better to find weaknesses in their understanding and exploit those. To do so, you have to get in there and talk to them. Having one or two long-term salts to do this and help people on the outside tailor the message is invaluable.

* Cultivate supporters in the management, if possible. They can give you valuable intel.

* Associate their products with the strike. I don’t see a lot of anti-Red Vines propaganda out there at the gate this morning (watching on @OakFoSho’s livestream on Ustream.com). That should change. The company would settle overnight if a “Red Vines is made with scabs” meme got traction on the internet.

For updates, follow @LicoriceStrike on Twitter and follow the #LicoriceStrike hashtag. The tireless @OakFoSho has been livestreaming the action this morning (the local SWAT team showed up in their armored vehicle!), though he’s offline as of this 9am writing. Follow him here: http://www.ustream.tv/occupyoakland

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Here’s the Craigslist ad with American Licorice’s email.

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