A few scattered updates:
In the City of London, cleaners organised through the militant grassroots UVW union have called off a planned strike at Lee Hecht Harrison, after the bosses caved in and agreed to raise their wages from £7.50 to £10.20 per hour, a pretty substantial raise and a total reversal of their earlier threats to discipline and sack militant cleaners.
Finally, Notes From Below/the Class Inquiry Group is a new project from some people influenced by the ideas of Italian workerism/autonomism/workers’ inquiry. Probably the most interesting thing about it so far is their series of bulletins – so far they have one for tenants in Brighton, one aimed at “precarious workers” generally in London, talking up the ongoing campaigns of unions like the IWGB and UVW, and one for supermarket workers. It’s tempting to read this last one as “ah, I see one of the people who did Rebel Roo works in a supermarket now”, but there is an important difference there, in that Rebel Roo emerged directly out of, in response to, and as a contribution to, a wave of self-organised struggles by Deliveroo riders (more on that situation soon), and there’s nothing comparable happening in supermarkets at the moment.
As a slight criticism, I notice that the supermarket bulletin, unlike the others, doesn’t seem to be specifically aimed at workers in the South, and yet in terms of practical organising they just suggest looking at UVW and IWGB – one of which is a cleaners’ union that only exists in London, the other is a more general union that mainly exists in London and has one branch in Brighton. I appreciate that the recent record of the IWW in London probably isn’t as impressive as the records of those two, but it is at least a union that exists outside of those places, and so might be worth flagging up to people if you’re not looking to make a London-centric publication.
But anyway, those criticisms aside, it’s better than nothing, and future issues can only improve if more people (maybe even people who don’t live in London or Brighton!) participate, so maybe think about printing a few copies off, offering one to the till assistant next time you do your shopping, or leaving a few lying around the place.
As another suggestion on this subject, something that I’ve been thinking for a while would be really interesting would be a cross-union cleaners’ bulletin, that could share stories like those of the campaigns the UVW’s been winning in London, militant struggles waged through more mainstream unions like the Barts Health cleaners who’re members of Unite, international news like the striking French cleaners who visited London for a protest outside their bosses’ headquarters in December, and even news from outside London, like the Glasgow school janitors victory, or the Kinsley school cleaners who were sacked for going on strike and hardly anyone noticed because they worked in a village outside Wakefield. Since pretty much anyone who has a job will usually have a cleaner in their workplace, it would be fairly easy for anyone interested in the project to distribute at least one copy in a relatively “organic” way, but for it to be any good it’d probably have to be written by cleaners.
Finally, the whole subject of workers’ publications always reminds me of this observation from an interview with a former member of McDonald’s Workers Resistance:
“But seriously, people need to read the stuff and see it’s not so… Not as fucking po-faced as some things that get produced. And the sort of humour was just the sort of jokes we made at work. I mean, it was stuff that would only work in that environment. If you wanted to organise academics at the English literature department then you’d do it very differently, wouldn’t you? You’d probably have quotes from… Terry Eagleton or someone. You’d try to operate in the discourse of the workplace. That’s why I don’t understand the habit of producing leaflets for ‘the public’, you know? Make it specific. A leaflet for ‘food workers’ isn’t much use I’d suggest. A leaflet for bakers is better. A leaflet for your bakery is better still. And a leaflet for your bakery about the new procedure that started that week? Well then you might be getting somewhere.”