Ever feel like you’re aiding the oppression of workers every time you order a mocha latte at Starbucks? According to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), you should, because the coffee chain is guilty of such brutal offenses against workers as hiring them part-time and paying less-than-premium wages for what is essentially low-skill work. Remember the IWW? Don’t feel bad if you don’t; it’s the ultra-radical union group, also known as Wobblies, that saw its heyday during the 1910s and 1920s. While I was aware of the Wobblies’ campaign, I was surprised to see them in D.C., since it’sâ€¦not Berkeley, from where Shawn Macomber reported on this campaign for Reason Online. He spoke with a concession stand worker at a movie theater the Wobblies were picketing:
“I’m not the type of guy to want to work my way up the corporation,” one unionized popcorn scooper in a Bad Religion T-shirt told the crowd. “You know, I’m the type of guy who likes to be in a community of people. That’s how I like to be. When you look at us, you know, the poor, we don’t work for the rich on top. We’re equal.”
Obviously, The Jungle this is not. It never seems to occur to these would-be revolutionaries that most retail workers don’t share their popcorn scooper friend’s seemingly complete lack of ambition, and instead take retail jobs on their way to finishing school and working their way up to better paying work. The most astounding thing may be that the IWW’s is even still around. With their proudly brandishing ideas that have been proven not only wrong, but insanely so, time and again—such as abolishing the wage system—it’s amazing that even the most naÃ¯ve college kid could take them seriously. Again, as Shawn Macomber notes:
No offence, but if the wage system is abolished and you choose to work at one of the aforementioned establishments it might be time to revaluate the cost-benefit paradigm you’re applying in your life. You would think when the Vanguard of the Revolution internalized Marx’s maxim “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” they had higher hopes for their ultimate abilities than latte slinger or popcorn jockey.
Ultimately, such self-anointed radicals do serve a function in our modern society’s division of labor—as a source of amusement. What’s not to find hilarious about an avowedly anticapitalist bunch that features such purist socialism in practice on its website as an online store where you can pay by credit card, through PayPal, or by check by mailing a printed form available in pdf (courtesy of Adobe)?