Shame On Job Corps Union Busters!

Student employees of the Keystone Job Corps Center in Drums, Pennsylvania started an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizing drive on June 9th, 1997. The Job Corps recruits young people aged 16-24 who are interested in job training, getting a GED, or receiving a college diploma. Largely working class, these young people turn to Job Corps in an effort to secure a better future for themselves. But when they arrive at the Job Corps Center, recruits often find that they have been lied to about conditions, are subject to harsh restrictions on leaving the campus or expressing their civil rights, and can even be neglected by the infirmary to the point where their lives are endangered. Keystone Job Corps Center is managed by a private company called Management Training Corporation, but the young people in Job Corps are defined as employees of the federal government in their handbook.

On June 26, 1997, the Keystone Job Center suspended two of the union driveís most vocal supporters, Matt Wilson and Joe Marra, for 10 days pending final termination after an investigation. The reason was clear: Job Corps wants to have total, unchecked control over their wage-earning students. Joe was accused of inciting a riot by management while signing up a fellow worker. Matt was told he was harassing students, although no students had complained about him. Both were told that they were employees of the federal government 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and were not permitted to organize on company time. On the final signed report, the reason for their suspension was Inappropriate behavior that poses a threat to self or others.

The IWW demands that Job Corps immediately reinstate its organizers and calls for a no-tolerance policy in Job Corps for union busting.

Please call the Job Corps at 1-800-762-7288 and demand immediate reinstatement for Matt & Joe and an end to harassment of student employees at the Keystone Job Corps Center:

On August 23, the kind folks at Radio Mutiny, WPPR (West Philly Pirate Radio), came together with the IWW to help us fan the flames of discontent inside of Keystone.

Our mobile transmitter was packed up into a van, and we headed out to Drums, PA from West Philly. Our broadcast started around 9:45 pm. We called in to the dorms at Keystone (had arranged this earlier) and several people on the inside had smuggled in fliers which they quickly distributed. Pretty soon, everybody on the Center had their ear to the radio listening to our broadcast which included us reading from the banned issues of the local paper The Standard-Speaker, testimony from a friend of a young woman almost killed by the infirmary staff, a story from Solidarity Forever, a bit from the Dario Fo play Mistero Buffo, and an excerpt from Matt Wilson’s termination hearing. Plus lots of music: Last Poets, Rage Against the Machine, Utah Phillips, Public Enemy, Meat Beat Manifesto, Cypress Hill, Rhythm Activism, Funkadelic, Nine Inch Nails.

So we get about halfway into our broadcast (had 100 minutes of tape – all our battery can handle) and in pull the cops. Job Corps had sent around their security (Keystone Cops?!?) to find us – we were in our usual spot at the only pay phone in Drums, PA. The cops took a look at our rig and asked us if it was a bomb. They were worried because we were right outside of a post office (geez, if I wanted to take a post office – why the hell waste my time on Drums’ which probably has all of 8 letters inside?). Anyway, after some dithering around, we told them what it was and they didn’t really know what to do with us. They had no jurisdiction and weren’t really sure if it was illegal anyway. Sometime during all of this, a reporter from the Standard Speaker showed up and I did a quick interview. The cops talked to the pizza place, the proprietors of which had no problem with us being there (this is the regular IWW hangout while we wait for our people to be terminated, harassed, or sometimes released into our care.) So, the cops asked us to leave once it closed. They recommended that after pizza place closed that we move to the parking lot of a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts (yes, they really did.) When they found out it was the IWW, they said, Oh! IWW – why didn’t you just say so! because we’ve gained a little reputation out there – I dealt with the one cop before when Matt & Joe first got terminated. So, IWW is notorious in Drums, PA.

We took it mobile when the pizza place closed and circled the Keystone Center a few times. The Keystone Coppers followed us around for most of that stint. Don’t know what they hoped to accomplish by that.

The people on the inside were very happy to hear our broadcast. A few of the residential advisors called up my number to wish us well and tell us how energized it made everyone feel.