By Ed Dalton for Incendiary News
Austin’s Beerland is a landmark venue located downtown, its workers have organized themselves and gone on strike to demand back pay from working long and difficult shifts during the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. Incendiary News Service issues the following open letter of support and solidarity to the striking workers.
Dear Striking Beerland workers, and all service industry workers in Austin,
We applaud the courageous actions taken by the workers at Beerland who have gone on strike; your actions are in the service of all the working class in Austin. We stand with you!
SXSW offers nightmarish working conditions for service industry workers, an influx of tourists, and a motor for gentrification, which in Austin has the dual effect of pricing out service industry workers, making them unable to afford living close to work, and closing down small businesses, which attracted the gentrifiers to begin with. These conditions crush service industry workers between two boulders. To make matters worse, small business owners in Austin made desperate by gentrification and overheads run amok, engage in illegal acts of wage theft like Beerland’s former owner Richard Lynn.
Our solidarity is meaningless unless it is put into action, the first way to help is to refuse to cross the picket line established by the striking workers, this means refusing to attend or promote events at Beerland until after the workers’ demands for their wages are met and the criminal actions of the owners are accounted for. It also means refusal to work events at Beerland while the workers are on strike.
Beerland, like all businesses, will likely bring in scabs, these are workers who will come and work in place of those who are on strike, making the strike less effective or totally ineffective. Many service industry workers are desperate for shifts, but their hard conditions are no excuse to go against the workers who have been forced to strike in the face of homelessness and hunger. Scabs must never be tolerated and must be prevented from entering the workplace, when possible scabs should be confronted.
Austin has witnessed the bravery and combativeness of its service industry workers, who in the recent past have lead numerous impromptu confrontations against fascist Proud Boy’s and their ilk along 6th Street, confiscating MAGA hats and allotting the appropriate level of violence toward the bigots who wore them. They have made our city better with their actions and unlike professional activists, they sought no praise or recognition. As a city, we owe solidarity to service industry workers like those at Beerland.
As working people we feel the same pains of hunger, rent increases and being forced out of our communities, we feel the same stress and anxiety caused by SXSW, and know only a fraction of what these working men and women have to deal with during the festival. We must all support lthe strike and lend our voices to theirs, demanding that the wage theft be stopped.
Even with receiving what they are owed, the downtown service industry workers are overworked and underpaid, while venue owners and certain performers make millions off Austin’s entertainment district. It is the workers who make Austin run, and it is the workers who should run Austin. Slogans of gentrification like “Keep Austin Weird” are designed to cover up the crimes of small business owners and encourage us all to look the other way when it comes to their robbing and stealing. We must be clear, it does not matter if you are a corporation or a small business, when you abuse and steal from your workers, you become a legitimate target of class struggle. Beerland must pay its striking workers or pay in other ways for their crimes against them.
While the return of stolen wages will have the immediate material effect of staving off eviction and hunger for the striking and affected workers, it is not nearly enough and will not address the root problems on its own. At the root of things is the question of power, who has it and who does not. The few hold power over the many, they are able to abuse us for profit and steal our hard earned wages at will, that is, unless they are stopped. Organizing and striking are a good start, but the abuse and theft will not stop unless the workers organize this fight all the way and make revolution—creating a society in which workers hold the power and owners do not exist.
Incendiary will always support the people’s movements and revolutionary struggles against the root causes affecting working people, you can help us by copying and distributing this material and sharing our online articles throughout your networks. If you have any information on this developing story please email us at Incediarynews@protonmail.com, if you know of other solidarity actions, other instances of wage theft, or other strikes taking place, please contact us.
Beerland workers, you have set a great example for others who face your conditions, keep up the strike, do not relent, and hit the boss where it hurts! We conclude with a public statement from one of the striking workers:
“We were not going to post anything public out of respect, but in light of the new press release I can no longer stay silent.
Last night we- the employees of Beerland- issued a letter to owner Richard Lynn of a general strike until all back wages have been paid, including bookers, door staff, bartenders, and managers.
We have been dealing with our paychecks bouncing since SXSW and there has been absolutely no transparency on the owner’s part. For months we’ve been working solely on the vague promise that we’ll get paid for our labor and have no idea when/if we’re going to get reimbursed for the hours we work.
Our hearts and souls have been put into Beerland to keep it open and all of us share deep sentimental value to the club and would be devastated to see it go, but were finally forced to take direct, drastic actions because we financially cannot keep working with no pay.
In addition- less than 24 hours after the strike letter was sent- found out through a press release on Austin360 that Beerland has been sold to an undisclosed person. Again, zero transparency.
We have no idea what the future of this staple Red River venue will be, but can only hope that the new ownership (whoever you may be) understands why we have decided to cease working until we’re fully compensated and shares our respect for the club and its employees.
We ask that the community stand in solidarity with the Beerland family and do not cross our picket line attending, playing, or working shows until we are paid what we’re owed.”
UPDATE: It looks like former owner of Beerland, Richard Lynn, decided that his money would be better spent on a lavish vacation in Mexico, complete with fine dining, instead of paying his employees their back wages or even bothering to inform them that he was selling the business. Below is a screenshot from his Instragram.
NEVER CROSS A PICKET LINE!