Laborwave Radio speaks with Shannon Ikebe and Tara Phillips, two striking workers at the University of California, on the power of wildcat strikes, importance of deep internal union democracy, and organizing worker insurgencies. They are the authors of the piece, The Grassroots Wildcat Strike for a COLA and the Fight for a Democratic, Militant Union.
Shannon Ikebe is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. They study social democracy and labor movements in Europe.
Tara Phillips is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of California Berkeley where she studies US and Latin American Literature in the twentieth century from a food studies perspective. She is a also an academic worker and rank and file labor organizer at UAW 2865.
Our conversation provides an update on the wildcat strike at the UC system, and largely focuses on the strategies behind the strike and rebuttals to criticisms from certain detractors. Ikebe and Phillips reject the view that a wildcat strike must conform to pseudo-scientific claims about the "physics of strikes," and largely take their inspiration for worker insurgencies from the likes of Rosa Luxemburg and her writings on the "mass strike."
"You can't calculate everything and predict the outcome in advance. You have to experiment and see what's possible for workers. In the process our movement has grown organically and exponentially, and workers expectations have been raised.
The key point is that we now have a movement that formerly we have not had. We have not won a COLA yet, but I don't think it's a defeat as some people may like to call it. I think it's an inconclusive ending for now, but the difference being that we have a movement. Also, the way in which people have a real lived experience of doing a wildcat strike, and the wildcat strike as a repertoire of tactics has become normalized as part of the things we can do. I think that was completely unimaginable in November, 2019."
Other show references:
Maximillian Alvarez, Antifascism and the Left's Fear of Taking Power, Baffler Magazine
Strike University, https://strikeuniversity.org/
Damaged Bug, Lovely Gold