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A Match Made in Hipster Labor Heaven



It does seem that bike shop workers and the modern IWW fit together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Somewhat OT, I have been perplexed by the establishment of DIY bikeshops and anarcho-leftist organizations over the last ten years. If learning how to fix your own bike is a step on the way to revolution, I may not be prepared for that new society. I know this is a different kind of bike shop and thus the need for a union.

Also, the IWW continuing to avoid contracts as it did a century ago means that even if tens or hundreds of thousands of workers joined it, it would still run into the same problems it faced at Lawrence and other places where it had initial victories, i.e, the inability to consolidate and institutionalize any gains for workers in a situation where the employer really knows how to consolidate and institutionalize its gains.

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  • Malaclypse
    • Believe I will link this in the OP

      • JL

        I have to say, Bikes Not Bombs is a great group (that has been around for quite a while). They have a particular skill. They use it for international development, youth job creation, environmental justice programs, promoting affordable inner-city transit. They have apprenticeships. They run workshops on job-hunting skills for their participants, who are mostly poor and working-class kids. They teach kids about climate change and how to get involved in climate organizing. They work in as part of economic justice and pro-public-transit coalitions in the Boston area. They’re quite a bit more than “Hey if you learn to fix your own bike you’re bringing the revolution!” and quite a bit more than a hipster bike shop

        They’ve also been around for 30 years, so they aren’t an example of an organization from the last 10 years either.

        • Marek


        • tinycatpaws

          I know someone who joined a collective bicycle workspace along these models in another city. He politely declined invitations to their governance meetings and vegan potlucks, and basically joined to have access to the workspace and the tools. He ended up fixing his own bike and helping some other people with theirs, mainly homeless folks and people in other precarious living situations, immigrant workers, and people who he suspected were biking because they had a DUI but didn’t want to admit it. In a city with crappy public transit it filled a need, regardless of whether you wanted to attend some of the organizers’ punk shows or read their zines or whatever.

  • Linnaeus

    Contracts? Pshaw! That’s just business unionism!

    • Weed Atman

      Such a frustrating organization.

    • Well, it’s not as if those contracts are worth much, given the erosion of unions in the United States.

  • pianomover

    Workers of the world unite in the pressing battle to smoke a joint.

    • LeeEsq

      It makes it easier for the Pinkertons to disrupt them.

      • Brett

        It was an eye-opener to find out that the Pinkertons are still around – and still called “Pinkertons”, even if the company was acquired by a larger security firm.

    • witlesschum

      Actually they should. Workplace drug testing is but one of the out-of-control monstrosities of contemporary America.

  • busker type

    Fhar Miess? Haider Hakky? Is the IWW still primarily composed of immigrants from northern europe?

    • LeeEsq

      Those are just the names they use for steampunk labor unionism cosplay.

    • Redwood Rhiadra

      I know an IWW member – she’s a German immigrant, so you may be correct.

  • rhino

    It’s easy to sneer, but the switch from using a car to using a bicycle as basic transportation is probably the single most effective way for any individual to erase their personal carbon debt. Combine it with veganism (and the earth can boil away before I give up eating meat) and humans could probably reverse global warming.

    So bicycle activism makes quite a bit of sense, really.

    As for the IWW thing? I read it as symbolism, these people want something like the IWW of the old days, another kick at the cat of non-trade unionism. So do I: As a guy in a trade union, I am here to tell you it’s not going to solve our problems. We need the workers of the world to unite, and all trade unions do is set us plumbers against everybody else.

    • witlesschum

      Yeah, I’m not clear what Loomis’ actual problem is other than hippies ur dum. It’s not at all clear why hipster bike shop people calling themselves the IWW is better than hipster bike shop people not doing that.

      With your point about trade unions, though, isn’t that pretty much a problem that people worked through in the 30s and created cross-union institutions like the AFL and the CIO to solve and get unions to work together?

  • Brett

    Bike shops seem like the type of thing where that kind of anarchism could work. Small business, low capital requirements, small staff – makes it easier to do everything informally.

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