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May 14, 2024 37 mins

Mia talks with Alex, Rocky, and Madelyn from Blue Bottle Independent Union about organizing an independent union and how they outmaneuvered Nestlé.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Al Zone Media. It's it could happen here a podcast
where I didn't come up with an intro, So you're
getting this one. I'm your host, Bia Wong. This is
this is the podcast where actually this is the part
of the podcast where after things have fallen apart, you
put them back together again. And yeah, the thing that's

(00:24):
being put back together here. You know, I really I
really should have planned this intro more, but this is
this is what happened. This is what happens when we
get in night recordings. But yeah, the thing, the thing
we're putting together today is a union at a really
interesting kind of very very interesting kind of coffee shop.
So with with me to talk about this is Alex

(00:46):
Rocky and Madeline from Blue Bottle Independent Union. And yeah,
thank you all for joining me.

Speaker 2 (00:53):
Yeah, thank you so much for having us.

Speaker 1 (00:56):
Yeah, I'm excited to talk with you all. And so
I guess the first thing that I want to start
with is can you talk a bit about what Blue
Bottle is, because this is a really weird story that
I think kind of reveals a lot about the way
I don't know, the it is sort of lofty terms,
is like the direction that capital has been moving in
the past like ten years. Absolutely.

Speaker 3 (01:17):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (01:18):
So Blue Bottle is a specialty coffee chain founded by
James Freeman in Oakland, California, like two thousand and two.
Like most specialty shops, starts off as like this small
little cart where you know, one guy is doing all
the parts of production, roasting, serving the coffee and all that.

Speaker 3 (01:37):
And then.

Speaker 4 (01:39):
Throughout you know, the early aughts twenty tens, they do
lots of rounds of venture capital financing with like Fidelity
and other firms until twenty seventeen, when Nesley purchased a
sixty eight percent majority ownership in Blue Bottle at I
think a seven hundred million dollar evaluation. And since then, no, no, no,

(02:06):
the it was a seven hundred million dollar evaluation. They
paid four hundred million dollars too. Yeah, isn't this great?
And since then they've expanded from you know, the tiny
little location in California to seventy stores in the US
and then over one hundred globally, including in China, Japan,

(02:27):
Hong Kong, South Korea, and am I forgetting anywhere else.

Speaker 2 (02:32):
I think that's I think that's it.

Speaker 4 (02:33):
Yeah, yeah, it's it's a fun time to be a
coffee worker.

Speaker 1 (02:37):
I guess, Yeah, it's interesting to me the extent to
which this it has. I mean, okay, so like a
hundred shops is like a lot of shops, but it's
not seven hundred million dollars of shops. Like it really
seems like this company has like it really has like
tech valuation, which is alarming.

Speaker 4 (02:55):
Yeah, and I mean it's not uncommon for specialty right now,
which is also concerning. Like, as far as I understand,
Intelligentsia and La Cologne are also owned in part by
venture capital firms, and this is really confusing, especially because
for anybody that knows anything about like the economics of
coffee shops, the margins are terrible. Yeah, and really, as

(03:21):
far as I can tell, the only value that Blue
Bottle offers to Nesley is brand and like the ability
to eventually grow to the point where at some point
in the future they'll be able to make a little
bit of money.

Speaker 1 (03:34):
Off of it all, which is a deeply weird business strategy. Yeah,
and so I guess I wanted to start here because
it feels like a very different organizing terrain than a
lot of like, you know that a lot of the
shops that we've been that we talked to on this show,
because it's like the value this company is only kind

(03:57):
of tangentially, you know, all like honest, a macro level,
the value of the company is like kind of tenuously
connected to your labor. But on the other hand, like
at the individual shop level, you're still dealing with all
of the same sort of like you know, like hyper
exploitation and trying to like ring every cent out of stuff.
So so I guess I wanted to start by kind

(04:19):
of asking, like how how did that the weirdness of
what of what Blue Bottle is influenced? Like how this
campaign started to.

Speaker 2 (04:28):
Be pretty frank about our campaign, Like there was a
crop of organizers before Gonzo myself, who I would say
at this point are kind of the longest running organizers
on this campaign. Look, there was a crop before us,
so we joined. We did not start the campaign here
at Blue Bottle, but I think, I mean it was
difficult in the very beginning, Like you know, blue bottle

(04:50):
it pays now, like I think starting wage for bristas
like eighteen an hour. You know, we just got to
pave up in April. So it's like I, you know,
I do make more than minimum wage. It's it can
be a tough sell for people to be like, oh,
but you know it's like marginally better, Like, oh, I'm
working at this like fancy coffee shop, don't they treat
us a little better? Like? But when you look at

(05:11):
like also, the coffee industry has a whole on like
on a global scale, incredibly exploitative industry that like we
are both we play into as people like in the
US who make incredibly expensive specialty coffee, but also like
as workers who are exploited ourselves. Like, this is something
that I think we have to think about often as

(05:34):
like how I don't know, how can our union affect
this industry as a whole, How can we affect you know,
Nestle as this conglomerate as a whole, But also how
can I afford my rent next month?

Speaker 5 (05:43):
Yeah?

Speaker 2 (05:44):
And so you know, having those kinds of discussions with workers,
like putting our day to day labor into this kind
of larger context both of the company and of the industry.
I mean, I think this campaign, you know, we didn't
we didn't start it out independent. We had a little
bit of shopping around almost of different unions. I think

(06:05):
we were also largely spouted here in Boston specifically, like
it is kind of a hotbed for coffee organizing. A
lot of shops around here organized. There've been some incredibly
like militant shops out here, Like I think Gonda and
I first got introduced to the Bluebell campaign from the
Starbucks eight seven four picket line and they were out
there for like two months, and I think that that,

(06:26):
you know, those kinds of things have really influenced campaign
and really influenced our organizing as we go into this
like really kind of corporate bougee coffee shops that is
hard to hard to reconcile with, like, hey, I am
also an exploited laborer. I you know, I am forced

(06:47):
to make coffee all day for customers who are frankly
quite rude, and having to have those conversations with your
coworkers of like, hey, we deserve better. It might be
marginally better than some other place, we still deserve better
and we can fight for so much more. So I
feel like I went on for a little bit there,
but I hope that is.

Speaker 4 (07:08):
One thing to kind of add on to that is
when organizing in the stores, part of the fact that
we're owned by NESTLEI makes it actually much easier because
people aren't like easily fooled. We understand that Neslie is
putting a lot of money into this company with the
hope of future returns you know, in the shortter, medium term.

(07:31):
And also people implicitly understand that the current model that
the cafes operate on is kind of reckless, Like because
we're owned basically as a venture capital scheme, this means that,
you know, we're constantly trying to cut costs that shouldn't
be cut. Like even today, Madeline and I ran out

(07:53):
of decaf.

Speaker 1 (07:54):
Coffy beans because they.

Speaker 4 (07:56):
Hadn't placed in order for them, Oh my god. Yeah.
And you know, we've run out of you know, milks
fairly frequently. We've run out of things like cups and
lids and very basic things that you need to run
a coffee shop as far as I can tell, only
because they need to keep operating costs comically low so

(08:19):
that way they can appease their nesty overlords.

Speaker 1 (08:23):
Which is pretty funny because the math doesn't make any
sense on that right, because it's like, okay, you need
to find a way to make like four hundred million dollars.
Your solution to this is We're going to delay ordering
more coffee beads? Like, is there anyone who like, No,
you don't like. This isn't even an accountant situation. This
is a like, is there anyone here who understands what
an order of magnitude is? What are we doing here?

Speaker 4 (08:46):
Wait till you hear about the saffron latte.

Speaker 3 (08:49):
Oh god, what a disaster.

Speaker 4 (08:51):
Oh yeah, so they don't have enough money to pay
us a living wage. But from January until April of
this year, we were serving a saffron alatte with and
I kid you, not real saffron, both in a syrup
and also and a powdered Yeah, no, no kidding. It
tasted like Plato. I kind of like that, but not

(09:11):
everybody does.

Speaker 1 (09:12):
Apparently, you know the first time, This is the first
time I've ever said this in my entire life. But
I sincerely hope that they were buying the fucking cheap
fake stuff they were real saffron. Oh god, Well, to
be fair, to be fair, a lot of something people
think is real saffron probably is fake. So maybe maybe

(09:33):
the scammers were getting something out of this. But dear God,
that doesn't make them look good.

Speaker 4 (09:38):
But yeah, no, real, somebody who's good with the economy
helped me out here. You know, three thousand dollars a
week for Saffron and eighteen dollars an hour for Bereiza's.

Speaker 1 (09:52):
God, that's gonna like haunt me in my dreams. So
what order are gonna add? How much should that lost?
Eight Jesus Christ yep, oh no, but not enough money
to pay us a living wage. No, that's I don't

(10:12):
know that is that is that is jeny wily disgusting.

Speaker 3 (10:16):
Like how you know, when you think about it, we
can like buy a little over two of them every
hour we work, so like that's all we need.

Speaker 1 (10:29):
Yeah, yeah, that's also got to be like a kind
of radicalizing moment of oh my god, yeah, and our
time is worth so little to these people.

Speaker 2 (10:39):
This is actually one of the biggest conversations I would
have with my cochers that I had to stop having
so it'd make them incredibly upset. Was I would break
down the mouth of them. I'd be like, you can
make a latte in about a minute, two minutes, Like,
and those lattes are seven dollars you make seventeen an
hour make three lattes and that's more than your hourly wage,
and you're making what one hundred of those an hour
in a rush. Like people would get really upset when

(11:02):
you're confronted with like the oh wow, the money coming
in and then the money that I'm receiving. It'll drive
you crazy.

Speaker 1 (11:10):
Yeah, And I think, I don't know. That's one of
these things where I think in a lot of industries
it's kind of that kind of value thing is abstracted
because like I don't know, like you're like I just
talked about it like an accountant earlier, right, Like you're
an accountant. You have no idea how much of well,
I guess maybe an accountant would know exactly about a value, Okay,

(11:33):
I don't know. You work in like you work in
a factory that produces an auto part, right, like one
thing that goes into an assembly of an auto parts,
Like you have no like there's no good way for
you to like actually understand the sort of value things.
You can get kind of close, but I think it's
less visceral than just yeah, this is an item of
food that I'm watching all of these people like consume

(11:54):
that I'm making, and it's like, yeah, sure, obviously there's
like you know, like back down the value chained is
also probably like Nessley doing like slave labor, like child
slave labor to get chocolate or something. Right, But I
don't know, there's this there's something really kind of just
viscerally horrifying about like I've produced eight hundred dollars of

(12:15):
coffee and they're paying me eighteen dollars. Yeah, so speaking
of eight hundred dollars of coffee this show. Actually, I
don't think we've ever gotten the coffee ad, which is
sort of remarkable. You'd think at some point.

Speaker 4 (12:29):
I don't know, I don't dream really funny, you know,
if if on the ad that we're about to go
to it's you know, like the Black Rifle Coffee Company
or some shit.

Speaker 1 (12:36):
Oh god, wait no, I think I think one of
the I think one of the insane. It might have
been the other one. So there's like Black Rifle Coffee,
which is the right wing coffee thing. But then they
they condemned Kyle Rittenhouse murdering all those people, and so
then there became a second, even more anti wokee coffee
shop that was even shittier. I think those people might

(12:58):
legitimately have tried to sell it add to our show.
At one point we were like, no, what the fuck's
there's We had so many insane ads we had the
famously the Washington Highway Patrol put one on here. So
all right, let's let's hope you have a reasonable ad
instead of that, and we are back. Luckily this is

(13:33):
podcasting are not regulated like radio, so I could just
fucking say, shit, it's great. We love we love, we
love to be we love to be in podcasting. So yeah,
this this brings us in no particular bye by by
no particularly rhymer reason. This brings us to a neoxt
thing I wanted to sort of talk about, which is
about the decision to go independent and about independent unions

(13:56):
versus sort of the traditional business unions that have been
trying to run a lot of these campaigns. So yeah,
I guess wherever you want to start in that whole
sort of thickets of issues.

Speaker 2 (14:07):
Yeah, the decision to go independent was maybe eight months
into our campaign. We did pivot to go independent. We were,
you know, kind of we had not affiliated with anyone.
We some weird stuff it had happened with some previous
business unions and so we were kind of a nice
shopping around phase, and I like good friend of the

(14:30):
union and someone who has helped us incredibly throughout the campaign,
said hey, can I pitch you guys on going independent?
Like and at that time, I mean I can't speak
for the other folks, Like I did not know anything
about independent unions. This campaign has also been an incredible
like learning process for me. And so you know, we
talked about a little bit of like, hey, unions, everything

(14:52):
that a union does, workers can do and really like
trying to like instill this like we can do it ourselves.
I think that like for me, like the dream of
independent unionism is like the having autonomy and control of
our lives both in the workplace and in our unions
at like ads workers and so you know this idea

(15:14):
of like oh yeah, this the union just takes care
of it. Oh, you pay dues and this stafford does
all these things for you. But when you know, when
we filed our petition, you know I filled that out,
it's not that hard.

Speaker 1 (15:24):
You know.

Speaker 2 (15:25):
There are so many things where it's like oh, yeah,
the union will take care of it, or oh this
is what dues pay for, Like oh, we can have
a lawyer look at it. At no part of this
process was there really anything that workers could not have done.
Did we seek legal advice? Absolutely? Did we have people
help us out who maybe knew more than I did. Yes,
But that isn't to say that we were not learning
the entire time. So to me, that's like the big

(15:46):
ethos of independent unionism of like learning it, doing it,
teaching others. I think it has been an incredible opportunity.
I think also like we really are committed to like
rank and file democracy and so having workers have they
say in all major decisions, especially like now that we
have had our election, we're moving into bargaining hopefully soon,

(16:09):
like being able to have workers submit proposals, have workers
look and do open bargaining, have them look at every
at the contract at every step of the way, and
things like this, having people participate in their unions. I mean,
I think that we are in a time of like
the revitalization of the labor movement, and I don't want
workers to get left behind in that. Like I think
that we, you know, like we are the labor and

(16:31):
so being able to control our unions and lead them
in the ways that we want to as democratically as
we can. To me, it's been what it's all about.
Did that mean that it was an easy campaign. No,
it was a lot of work. It was a lot
of work that maybe a paid staff or would have done,
but we did it ourselves and it took longer, and
it took a lot of education as well of explaining

(16:52):
to my coworkers of like, hey, we want to form
a union and it's not just this thing that kind
of happens to you, Like, actually, you have to make
it happen now if you want to do it. So
I think that for us the choice to go independent
independent has like only reaped benefits so far, it's been
this wonderful thing. I think that we are all much
better for it and much closer like as co workers.

(17:14):
I think that people are more excited about their union.
But it certainly, you know, it took a lot of work,
It took a lot of time, It took a lot
of trust from our coworkers as well.

Speaker 4 (17:24):
Yeah, I mean one of the most formative experiences that
has stuck with me, and I think I might have
mentioned this in the interview before the interview was when
we were shopping around with business unions Rocky and I
had sat down with somebody from a fairly large one,
and we're trying to ask all of these questions about,

(17:46):
you know, would we be able to have rank and
file control of our own campaign, would we be able
to you know, legitimately examine unconventional tactics for launching or
sustain our campaign, you know, what is the actual process
for requesting finances from the larger affiliate if we needed it,

(18:09):
And more or less, what we were told by the
staffer was that none of this would be in the
hands of rank and file, and it would either be
determined by what this particular staffer thought was best or
you know, they would have to get approval from you know,
whoever was above them, which, despite the fact that this
person was within the reform caucus of their union, did

(18:31):
not strike them as being anti democratic at all.

Speaker 5 (18:33):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (18:35):
Yeah, And at that point, I mean, you know, we'd
been talking to our co workers for months at that point,
you know, hanging out with them, becoming building community, and
it didn't seem like there was really anything that you know,
a larger business union would have had to offer to

(18:56):
begin with. In fact, in my own experience, the idea
of affiliation has more or less come across as an
implicit threat of how else you're going to take on
Nesley without all of the money and resources that we
have but won't let you use anyways.

Speaker 1 (19:14):
Yeah, which is like not a thing. I don't know,
if you've gotten to the point where your union is
threatening you, and this is something that like happens more
than you'd think, Like, you know, but listeners of this
show may or may not have listened to some previous
episodes talking to some of the reformed nurses slates that
we've had on the show where that's happened. But if

(19:34):
your union is threatening to you, something has gone very
badly wrong, and you're probably you're in a position where
you're probably going to be having to fight yourself out
of a deep hole. And one way you can avoid
getting in there in the first place is by not
digging the hole and building something yourself. Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 4 (19:53):
And I mean, you know, one of the things that
we heard a lot about at Labor Notes two weeks
ago at this point was people within larger unions talking
about how to fight off staffers or bureaucrats. And I'm
personally very glad that we are not in that fight
ourselves because we have Nestlie to take care of.

Speaker 1 (20:12):
Now.

Speaker 5 (20:12):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (20:15):
Yeah, the the sort of two way fight between you
your boss and then also your union staffers is not
a thing that usually goes well for you. It's a
bad situation to be it. I would recommend of waiting it.

Speaker 4 (20:30):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (20:30):
Yeah, So I guess the next thing that I'm sort
of interested in is, you know, so you talked a
bit about how sort of being an independent union like
made the union closer. How else did that influence how
the campaign went? And how is like how how has
it been going in the past, Like, I know, I
know you won your election remembering there, right, Yeah, it

(20:51):
was an election with Sorry it has been. This has
been the most chaotic two weeks I've had in several years.

Speaker 4 (20:57):
So, I mean, it's just like Lennin said, there are
years where you fuck around and weeks where you find out.
All Right, I'm gonna get so much shit for that
comment now. Anyways, cool Zobia is not endorsed. Letting yes,
two good lines.

Speaker 1 (21:17):
I promise I only said it for the joke. Yeah.

Speaker 4 (21:20):
Our campaign started April third. There are six stores in
the Greater Boston area with roughly sixty seven sixty five
workers across all of them. On April third, fifty workers
from five of those stores handed cards like union authorization

(21:41):
cards to management, announcing our campaign, our union, and asking
for voluntary recognition by noon on April eighth. Management accepted
the cards, but then did not recognize the union voluntarily
by newon April eight, and instead they put up a
flyer in the back of the house of all the
cafes saying that they would respect the outcome of an election,

(22:03):
at which point, no, yeah, they didn't even publicly acknowledge us.
So at that point, across five of the six stores,
we had to walk out on the eighth, and then
that same day went downtown to file for an election
with the NLRB, which despite the fact that we called
them a week in advance to be like, is it
okay if a lot of people show up kind of

(22:25):
spontaneously to file for an election, and despite the fact
that the person in the office said, yeah, it's fine,
so long as like less than one hundred and you
don't have like a sound stage or anything you got
to set up and if you do get a permit.
Once we walked up to the office at least four
DHS cop cars like s in front of us, and
they would only let Rocky go into the office to

(22:46):
file for our election while being escorted by a DFS
agent the entire time.

Speaker 1 (22:52):
You know, sometimes you get just these This is something
that's been happening, so like, I have no idea when
this episode is going to go. This is being recorded
the middle of the protest. Like literally today, seventy year
old professors are getting dragged out of like protests by cops,
And like, this is one of these moments where when
when when things actually happen, these really visceral demonstrations of

(23:13):
like what the society you actually live in is. And
I don't think there's like a more perfect demonstration of
the National Labor Relations Board sometimes will help you, but
also also is very clearly a bureaucratic mechanism of a
police state. Then the cops show up and only one
of you could go talk to the NLRP person escorted

(23:33):
by police. That is wild.

Speaker 3 (23:37):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (23:38):
It was also the same day as the solar eclipse.
Oh my god, it was a very magic day. Yeah,
nothing was more enchanting than the fact that we got
to watch the eclipse. When we otherwise would have had
to have been at work that rules.

Speaker 1 (23:54):
Yeah, yeah, I get I guess. I guess that's another
way to get to get turned out for a walkout.
It's like, hey, look we're gonna go a walk and
also you could go see the eclipse instead of serving
rich people coffee.

Speaker 4 (24:05):
And it worked.

Speaker 1 (24:06):
Hell yeah.

Speaker 2 (24:08):
Yeah. But all that is to say is I think
being independent, let's us do fun and creative things.

Speaker 1 (24:13):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (24:14):
Yeah, thank you for remembering what the actual question was.

Speaker 2 (24:20):
Like, I think we're allowed to be a little silly
with it, and we're allowed to have fun, and we're
allowed to come up with ideas that maybe other like
haters would shoot down. But when me and my coch
are saying, yeah, that would be cool and fun, we
just get to do it and there's like joy and
creativity and all of it.

Speaker 5 (24:37):
Yeah.

Speaker 1 (24:48):
Yeah, So I guess you know, do you have anything
else that you want to make sure we get you
before we sort of wrap things up. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (24:55):
So.

Speaker 4 (24:55):
I mean, as much as we've talked about a lot
of the benefits of independent unionism, one of the downsides
is that we have no money, and if people would
be so gracious as to give us some of their money.
You can go to link t r dot ee slash
Blue Bottle Union, so link Tree slash Blue Bottle Union,

(25:18):
where there'll be a link to our GoFundMe. I'll also
say that since we don't have staffers, our overhead is
incredibly low and this will once again allows us to
you know, actually do cool and fun things like we
were able to pay everybody that did the walkout because
we were able to raise enough money in the in
between from April third to eighth, which was incredible.

Speaker 3 (25:40):
I have like some personal stuff when it comes to
like filing independent and talking with a lot of people
that I know, I feel like it actually helped the
fact that we were independent because you know, there was
none of that background oh unions. You know that there's
a big influence when it comes to like unions and

(26:02):
like big scary unions taking all your money through union
dues and YadA YadA. But you know, with filing independent,
you know we can just be like, actually we don't
have to worry about anything like that. We set union
dues democratically and like, and so it's just been like

(26:23):
really helpful for when we were getting organized and everything.
Just relaying that idea to coworkers to family, friends and
everyone just kind of like helps them be like, oh
that makes sense.

Speaker 1 (26:41):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (26:41):
I mean the old like you know, anti union talking
point of like you know, there being an outside organization, Yeah,
really falls flat with an independent union because it literally
is just you and all of your friends. And then
on top of that, it also means that management hasn't
known how to respond to us, because in the week
leading up to our election, which we won thirty eight

(27:03):
to four this past Friday, May third, Yeah, they put
out like three or four different flyers, one talking about
business unions that have signed management's rights clauses in the
most fucking like I'm not owned, I'm not owned. I'm
still going to get my mensments rights claus.

Speaker 1 (27:21):
Like ever.

Speaker 4 (27:23):
And then also another flyer about union dues and examples
of business unions that you know, to anybody that doesn't
know anything about unism, would seem high.

Speaker 1 (27:33):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (27:33):
They also, in a letter that they sent out to
all of us the night before our election talked complained
about us seeking external assistance, and all of this just
completely falls flat because you know, it's literally we've done
those mostly by like having pot luckx together to talk
about all of our issues at work and or like
movie nights or some shit, and it's much tougher to

(27:56):
convince people to vote against the person that they're on
the floor with eight hours a day.

Speaker 3 (28:00):
Yeah, the overall like way that these papers were received
is has been like met with kind of like a
lot of skull emojis in group chats and like just
kind of like generally making fun of the whole thing.
And I think that like that's been really good for

(28:21):
morale as well, because like, you know, it's just not
getting to us. It's goofy and like just doesn't work.
So and also the way that they've been handing these
flyers out, I don't know about like other cafes, but
at mine specifically, it's been kind of awkward, like haha,

(28:44):
cover my eyes, here's this flyer that I have to
hand you kind of thing, and it's just like okay, yeah.

Speaker 1 (28:56):
Yeah, it really seems like it is something, you know,
okay different. I'm not I'm not going to do my
tangent about the infiltration of political parties here.

Speaker 4 (29:05):
But yeah, I mean, really, political cults within the Greater
Boston area continuously subvert and undermine Union elections are not
just elections, but campaigns as well. I won't name examples
because these same cults are also incredibly vindictive and they
will try to dox me. But this is also the
implicit threat that you know, like if you know, they

(29:26):
can't turn a union into their own stupid vanguard, then
they will try and push through something that rank and
file don't want and try and undermine or tank the campaign.

Speaker 1 (29:36):
Yeah, and that's that's something I think like to take
to Okay, so to take a little step back. So, yeah,
one of the things that's very common in union in
sort of like local union spaces is there will be
like there'll be like a local of a union or
like maybe sometimes its own union that's just run by
a cult, and these sort of like these sort of
like I don't know, sometimes you're Stalins and under Trotskyites sometimes,

(29:58):
like it depends, the ideology changes to some extent. But
because because of like the you know, the because because
you can run like a staff union with like five people, right,
this is this is a pretty good way for them
to sort of like like you know, gain something that
looks like political power, and like it's a way for
them to bring other people who don't know what's going

(30:20):
on into like the influencers of their organization, and they
this can get really bad and really dangerous, at least
to the stuff you're talking about, where yeah, they start
trying to sabotage campaigns because they're not you know, like
these groups aren't actually in this for you know, like
they're not they're not in this for class struggles by
whatever they you know, will say about it. They're they're

(30:40):
in this specifically to expand the influence of their own party.
And you know, when you try to like actually do
your own thing, this stuff happens.

Speaker 4 (30:52):
Yeah, one hundred percent. It's uh, also really telling that
despite the fact that you know, some of these groups
are like known for undermining campaigns in this way or
for harassing staffers that you know, don't play ball with
them or whatever, that they continue to do the entriest thing.

Speaker 5 (31:11):
Yeah.

Speaker 4 (31:12):
Yeah, I don't have any good ideas for how to
subvert that, but I'm sure dear listeners will send me
many of them.

Speaker 1 (31:21):
Yeah. I think also at some point we're going to
do the micro We're gonna do the micro sect episode.
In Microsect episode to the to like introduce people to
the basics of like, hey, you are like the range
of tiny political parties in the US that are actually
cults that show up at protests all the time. So yeah,

(31:43):
maybe maybe maybe that will help too, because I think
a lot of it is people just you know, they're
you run into like the World Workers Party, and like,
you don't know that this party is a weird cult, right,
They're just sort of talking about workers stuff. Yeah, so
I think education will help with it too, but the
bureaucratic maneuvering stuff is like the only thing they're good
at because they're all these like weird micro party formations.

Speaker 4 (32:08):
So I don't know, yeah, one hundred percent. I only
way that I think might help is you know, horizontalizing
the structure somewhat, but then you still run into like
the issue of like social capital within that structure. So
if you know, somebody is savvy enough, they can still
indoctrinate people into a silly cult.

Speaker 1 (32:28):
Yeah, I mean, I don't know, that's that's just something
that you're gonna have to I mean, and we should
also mention too, like these thing these groups like they
work with larger unions too sometimes, Like so one of
the most famous examples of this is Pride at Work
which is a really big afl CIO thing, but it's
also jointly run with the Party of Socialism Liberation, which

(32:48):
is another one of these cults because of a bunch
of like long running actions, even though like a bunch
of their really senior staffers unbelief to be transphobic, and
you know, there's there's a whole thing there. But yeah,
this is something that is not just a problem with
independent unions and not just a problem with sort of
like random locals. It can and does get into actual

(33:10):
like national unions. On the other hand, one way to
avoid this is to in fact organize your own union
and don't let them be.

Speaker 4 (33:18):
So this is actually something that we've thought consciously about
with our own union is that on the we sent
out a community support forum for people that wanted to
show up the data, we announced our campaign, and on
the form specifically, we made people tick a box saying
that they wouldn't endorse or try to fly, or for

(33:39):
or otherwise promote any group that they might have affiliation with,
including political parties or you know, otherwise organizations that are
not you know, our specific union. And so far that's worked.

Speaker 1 (33:53):
Hell yeah.

Speaker 2 (33:55):
I would also say, like in our constitution by laws.
I don't know if that if it's in the current ones.
We're revising them soon anyways. But the conversation that we've
had before also like people in like eyboard positions, what, yeah,
what kind of affiliations can they have to outside political parties?
Like where where are we drawing the line on that?
Like that's something that I think we also considered very
early on as well for people in the union.

Speaker 1 (34:20):
Yeah, And I think there's another aspect there too, which
is like another thing that can happen to your union
is that it gets eaten by the Democratic Party machine.
And that's happened to I mean, like this is this
is a lot of how like these giant business unions
became business unions, is they became basically these like lobbying
firms on behalf of like whatever random like local democratic
machine is running, Like this happens to Chicago, Like all

(34:41):
the time you get these like just like the most
important machine like candidates you've ever seen come out of
the Democratic Party who are like guys who are like
so comically corrupt that like you know, you're they're like
walking down the street and like like bundles of cash
are falling out of the suit cases and they're getting
endorsed by like the team stars, and it's like, well,
you know, okay, I wonder what happened there legally legally

(35:03):
legally conjecture, but you.

Speaker 4 (35:05):
Know, who's to say, really, yeah, you know, it just
so happens that they have these large briefcases full of cash.
Nobody can really say where the cash materialized.

Speaker 1 (35:20):
Yeah, but amazingly, I was actually going to go on
a different rancho political parties, So I'm going to circle
back to there to close this out. Which is one
of the nice things about independent unions is that, you know,
it's something that all three of you were sort of
getting at, which is that, like employers have been fighting
these sort of large corporate unions business unions for like

(35:40):
one hundred years now, right. They know how they operate,
they know how their campaigns work, they know what levers
to push against them. On the other hand, they have
not been fighting you, specifically, random listener of this show,
and you, specifically, random listener of this show, and your
coworkers can do things to surprise them and can do
things in ways that they don't understand. And you know,

(36:00):
you have we have a moment, like right now, Like
in like five years, they'll probably have worked out a
bunch of stuff aboutw to break independent unions. But right now,
like literally right now, we have a we have a
master strategic advantage because their playbook wasn't written to deal
with people who are running these sort of like very
low to the ground, very agile, very nimble, very sort

(36:22):
of like you know, these spontaneous and creative campaigns, and
you can use that to beat the crap out of
your boss and get more money from them. So this
is the BA endorsement of doing doing fun things with
unions that your bosses don't expect. Hell yeah, yeah, So
I think unless there's anything else where where else can

(36:43):
people find you, we'll have a link to your link
tree in the description. Is there anywhere else like social
media stuff where people can find the union?

Speaker 2 (36:53):
Yeah, Our social media for Twitter and Instagram is bb
I Union and then on TikTok, I believe it is
BBIU sixteen. Cool.

Speaker 1 (37:05):
We will have that in the description too. Yeah, and
thank you all so much for coming on. And yeah,
make make Nestlie bleed for us.

Speaker 4 (37:15):
Yeah, thanks so much for having us. We can't say
how much we appreciate it.

Speaker 1 (37:18):
Yeah, I thank you of course, and yeah, this has
been naked happened here. You can find us in the
usual places, and yeah, you too can also go start
your own union and make your bosses suffer from It
could Happen here as a production of cool Zone Media.
For more podcasts from cool Zone Media, visit our website

(37:39):
cool zonemedia dot com, or check us out on the
iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
You can find sources for It could Happen Here, updated
monthly at cool zonemedia dot com slash sources.

Speaker 5 (37:50):
Thanks for listening.

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