United States: RCA comrade could face 90 days in jail for giving leaflets to coworkers

On June 10, RCA comrade Milos Minos will appear in court for an unusual crime: discussing wages and working conditions with their own coworkers at the Minneapolis International Airport.

[Originally published at socialistrevolution.org]

Facing a misdemeanor charge of “constitutionally protected speech in an undesignated area,” Milos could be sentenced to up to 90 days behind bars, all for distributing leaflets containing economic data … that was published on the airport’s own public website.

Apparently, it’s appropriate for the bosses to discuss these figures in their boardrooms and publicize them in their finance reports—but when workers discuss them on the job, it becomes a criminal offense. It turns out it’s a security threat for workers to be informed of how much value they’re generating for their employers, if the discussion happens beyond the security gates.

Airport workers show solidarity

The Communist has received messages of solidarity from airport workers inspired by the leaflet and outraged over the repression against Milos:

When taking the time to look through the pamphlet, workers agreed with all of it. They’re outraged by the facts. This airport makes huge sums, with prices exceeding 2–3 times average pricing. While hungry imperialist businessmen pace through the terminal thinking about their next bite to eat, the working class is on the edge, living check by check, watching as your peers are fired left and right, working overtime to support an airport filled with poorly managed companies. Almost every worker asked me, “What’s next?

It’s scary seeing how easily we workers can be threatened by the legal system for expressing our ideas. It’s dehumanizing compared to how important they want us to treat the customers. We need change!

Milos definitely left an impact. Don’t think it’s been silent after they were escorted out of the airport. My coworkers and I are outraged that Milos was terminated for exercising free speech. All because of a flier? I truly believe MSP airport does not support their workers. Rather than make things fair for their workers, they go to these lengths to avoid being exposed for exploiting their workers.

All the facts and statistics in the pamphlet that was going around came from the airport website itself. We as staff at the airport restaurants are understaffed and overworked. I agree with every fact that was stated. I do not agree with the removal of the employee for utilizing their freedom of speech rights.

“Would you ever work for free?”

Milos has worked at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for three years, and is one of several RCA comrades who formed a communist cell there—a workplace of 21,200 employees.

“It all started with a discussion about Marxist economics,” Milos said. “I was studying Karl Marx’s Value, Price and Profit with comrades in the party, and learned that the working day is divided between necessary labor time, in which we produce the value that covers our own wages, and surplus labor time, in which we generate the value that goes toward the profits of the capitalist class.”

It got them wondering about their own workplace at the airport, and how much of their coworkers’ labor goes to fill the pockets of the bosses.

“All it took was a quick internet search and, lo and behold, all the economic stats were right in front of me.” Milos came across a finance report published on the airport’s website. “The best part was that the airport itself had publicly released this data.”

The report clearly stated that the airport’s 21,200 employees earn $1.3 billion in annual wages and generate $3.9 billion in direct GDP. The average worker generates $183,000 each year, but earns $61,000 in wages, i.e., workers are receiving a third of the value generated by their labor. Put another way, the average full-time airport employee, who works 260 days a year, is essentially working 173 of those days for free.

The comrade wasted no time. “I was actually at work when I was looking up these figures.” Right there in the breakroom, Milos tore out a page of a notebook, made a first draft of the leaflet, and walked up to some coworkers. One of them, a cook, works two jobs at the airport, from 4am to 9pm each day.

“Would you ever work for free?” Milos asked him. “Of course not!” the cook replied. Milos handed him the leaflet, “Well, you already are.” As the workers read the information on the page, their jaws dropped: “Oh my god!” On the spot, they began making plans to circulate the leaflet throughout the airport.

“My coworkers were enraged by the rough draft of the leaflet,” Milos said, “It took me about a week to lay out and print hundreds of copies of the leaflet. Every time I’d show up to work that week, my coworkers would ask me, ‘So do you have the leaflet yet?’ They were very excited to get it in their hands.”

How the leaflet went viral

Milos Image RCAFacing a misdemeanor charge of “constitutionally protected speech in an undesignated area,” Milos could be sentenced to up to 90 days behind bars / Image: Revolutionary Communists of America

It wasn’t until the leaflet began to circulate among the workers that its real power became clear.

“When I would hand a leaflet to a worker and tell them, ‘This is about you.’ They would see the cover title that reads ‘The Exploitation of the MSP Airport Workers’ and smile and thank me so warmly and sincerely, and immediately crack it open.” The amused grin on the faces of the workers turned into expressions of outrage as the workers processed what they were reading.

“They would look up at me and say, ‘Is this true? What are we gonna do about this?’ Workers all know we’re being screwed, but we rarely have the figures laying it out in front of us in black and white.”

Many workers felt so strongly about the leaflet that they volunteered to help distribute them to their coworkers. Eventually, the leaflets were being distributed by baristas, baggage handlers, cooks, and even managers.

“One day, one of my managers told me we needed to talk. I saw my leaflet in his hand, and my stomach dropped. But then he told me, ‘This leaflet is amazing, this is such a good idea!’ and he became one of the distributors! Later I saw him handing them out to all the workers behind the counter in his restaurant, and they all began reading it on the spot.”

Milos described handing out leaflets to airport workers who were riding the train to work. “I would work my way through a train car, giving one to anybody with an airport badge. When I got to the end of the train car I’d look back and see all of them reading it intently.”

The workers also passed the leaflets to each other independently of Milos or the other distributors. “I would hand someone a leaflet and they would tell me ‘My coworker already gave me one. It’s messed up that we’re being exploited like that.’”

In real time, the leaflets were becoming a sensation, but they were also bringing class consciousness into the workplace. Workers who had never encountered a communist before were learning in concrete terms what the class struggle is all about. “We were planning to take our breaks at the same time and discuss Marxism with those workers who wanted to know what we can do about this. Several workers expressed interest in the RCA.”

Political repression

One day, two airport detectives appeared at Milos’s workplace, with the leaflet in hand. They charged Milos with the misdemeanor of “constitutionally-protected speech beyond the security gate,” and proceeded to confiscate the comrade’s airport badge. “They physically escorted me out of the airport in front of all my coworkers. My phone started blowing up with text messages of concern and support.” Milos received a call from HR informing them that they were fired. It is unclear who exactly called in the detectives, but a manager later informed the comrade that the leaflet had made its way to the airport’s Midwest Director of Operations, and that the airport executives considered the leaflet, “offensive.”

Whatever happens in the courtroom on June 10, the bosses haven’t seen the last of us.

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