Administrators of the Washington State Carpenters Facebook group “Peter J. McGuire” have banned World Socialist Website writers and members of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) Kayla Costa and Jerry White to post or comment in the group. Shortly after publishing an article they co-authored, “Seattle Carpenters Strike at Crossroads, Union Scrambles to Suppress Grassroots Rebellion,” White and Costa said. ‘initially been “silent” and unable to comment for 28 days. Hours later, the two were banned from the group altogether.
An Australian carpenter and WSWS supporter, Michael Collins, was also banned for expressing his opposition to the undemocratic measure.
The Facebook group has been a forum for many carpenters who oppose the efforts of the Pacific Northwest Carpenters Union (NWCU) to push through a pro-business contract. The NWCU attempted and failed to push through four such agreements before being forced to go on strike on September 16, the first walkout in two decades. And even then, the union kept 10,000 of its 12,000 members at work, citing no-strike clauses made with the contractors association and state and local authorities.
The September 27 WSWS article denounced the strikebreaker efforts of NWCU Treasury Secretary Evelyn Shapiro, United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) General President Douglas McCarron and their witch-hunt against group leaders Peter J. McGuire and militant carpenters seeking to extend the strike. At the same time, the article warned: “While there are many militant carpenters who look to the Peter J. McGuire group to voice their opposition, it must be said that the political outlook of the group’s leaders is inevitably imperfect. No matter how sharp their rhetoric against the UBC bureaucrats is, they ultimately hope to convince Shapiro & Co. to adopt more militant policies and reform the union.
The article was widely circulated among striking carpenters and no doubt sparked a debate over the WSWS call to form grassroots strike committees not to appeal to the union bureaucracy and the Democratic Party, but to mobilize larger sections of the working class to strengthen the strike. Rather than allow such an important debate, the directors of the group decided to censor the critics of their false orientation.
The WSWS urges the striking carpenters and all workers to oppose these bans and demand that the Peter J. McGuire group reinstate Costa and White and not censor the WSWS. The effort to prevent a serious discussion on the direction of the strike is not only an attack on the WSWS but on all workers. If allowed to stand up, it will seriously weaken the Carpenters’ struggle and play into the hands of the NWCU and UBC bureaucrats who have long used such undemocratic methods to gag the grassroots and silence their left-wing opponents.
In the comments section under the WSWS article, Administrator Art Francisco quoted the passage about the group leaders’ “fatally flawed” outlook, saying it was “several false statements” in the article. . However, he did not provide any evidence to support this claim. Before being banned, Costa responded by asking, “Why is this a false statement? I read your platform and interview with Jacobin. “
White then commented on how these false and naive views were deliberately reinforced by Seattle City Councilor and Socialist Alternative leader Kshama Sawant. Calling on the UBC to adopt more militant policies, White wrote, “This is the explicit position of Sawant with whom the PJM group is aligned. She repeatedly asked ‘Sister[s] Shapiro and Grant and the Anderson and McLain brothers’ to support the expansion of the picket line, set up a strike fund and define a strategy to win the strike.
He continued: “The WSWS has warned that such designs are fatal. The trade union apparatus has material interests which are completely separate and hostile to the interests of the working class. We call for the formation of grassroots committees so as not to appeal to the union bureaucracy or non-existent “progressive elected officials” ie Democrats, but Amazon workers, educators, Boeing workers and other sections of the working class to lead an industrial and political counteroffensive.
In response, Francisco asserted that while the WSWS is “welcome to write articles about our group… WSWS members” should “opt out” of posting to the group. A second message announced that “the two members of the WSWS [Costa and White] were muted for 28 days. Their comments disputing the alleged “false statements” have been deleted.
Collins later called the “actions of silencing Jerry and Kayla completely undemocratic.” He has also since been banned from the group.
The prohibition of World Socialist Website is entirely due to our political positions. The Peter J. McGuire Group regularly publishes articles to corporate-controlled media, including the Seattle Times, and even statements by union representatives threatening grassroots carpenters with legal sanctions for “illegal” or “unauthorized” actions. In addition, the Facebook group regularly posts articles from publications and bloggers who describe themselves as socialist and leftist, including Jacobin, the unofficial publication of the Democratic Socialists of America and Sawant Socialist alternative website. These publications are clearly acceptable to Francisco because they claim that workers can defend their interests by putting pressure on corporate unions and the Democratic Party.
A recent post in the group confirms Costa and White’s warnings about the dire direction of the Peter J. McGuire group. On September 28, Jason Bartos, a prominent member of the group, wrote a glowing review of a rally called by the NWCU on Monday, which he left with a “fairly optimistic outlook for the future of our union.” Bartos based his feelings on “the representatives, board members and staff” who gave him a “warm welcome”, as well as an evening meeting with Evelyn Shapiro who had “no enmity from him. or anyone else ”.
Bartos ‘evening ended after he went with’ my buddy Elias to say goodbye to Evelyn and all the representatives and delegates from other parts of the area who were having dinner. We said goodbye and shook hands with Evelyn one last time.
Bartos’ post was followed by several critical comments warning of the “good cop, bad cop” ruse of the NWCU and UBC bureaucrats, which they said was aimed at silencing or co-opting their opponents. .
For years, workers have suffered from uncontrollable attacks by the union bureaucracy, the on-the-fly adoption of contracts without information or democratic debate, and critics’ silence by unplugging their microphones at union meetings. The Peter J. McGuire group claims to be a forum for democratic discussion and debate, but it uses the same anti-democratic methods against the WSWS that the NWCU and UBC bureaucrats employ against the grassroots carpenters.
For carpenters, it is a fundamental issue of workers’ democracy to defend their right to criticize the point of view of the leaders of the PJM group, read World Socialist Website articles, form their own opinions and debate the critical issues that will shape the course of this important battle. Every grassroots carpenter who agrees with these basic democratic rights should demand that the WSWS ban be lifted and that Costa and White be reinstated in the group.