The ugly side of protest action for workers is going without pay for their cause. With the Workers Solidarity Fund, however, there is more relief for striking workers. In 2015 what started as a solidarity fund for striking UCT workers during Fees Must Fall protests has extended to workers at Robertson’s Winery.
Robertson’s Winery workers had been on strike since August 2016, demanding an increase in wages to R 8, 500 per month. The strike has since ended, however, with the workers only winning an 8% increase, or up to a R 400 increase depending on which is more. During their 14 week strike, a loose collective of students banded together to organize fundraisers to aid the Robertson’s Winery workers’ struggle.
Solidarity with striking workers
Last year the Workers Solidarity Fund was started to provide assistance to striking UCT workers. Through donations, they are able to provide necessary supplies to workers on strike for a liveable wage. They have since spread beyond UCT to provide aid for striking workers across the country.
Parties with purpose
The Manifesto Fundraiser came about to raise money to benefit the striking workers of UCT in 2015 and 2016. It started with a small team of five women and has since grown to include anyone willing to help out. Through contacting artists, musicians, and DJs to perform for free at Trenchtown, a restaurant in Observatory, Cape Town, the girls raised R 23 000 at the first event in December 2015.
“For an event that was relatively cost free…we were surprised,” Kyla Hazell, one of the organizers, says. With the 2016 Fees Must Fall, the group grew bigger to put on another fundraiser at Trenchtown and raised a record R 34 000 for the Fund after their October 2016 event.
“We built a relationship with the owner of Trench Town…he’s really supportive,” says Kyla. Keeping costs low is the model the group used to start off their fundraiser. Donations at the door are their primary revenue stream.
Both events were very successful and garnered support from various businesses who donated goods for second hand clothing sales, raffle prizes, and artworks.
Art in protest
The first Manifesto fundraisers saw an array of performers, DJs, bands, some of whom were actually striking workers. The art component was made of artists who used photographs from 2015 Fees Must Fall protests to create collage graffiti art. The art later went up around Cape Town in November 2015.
‘The Commune Fundraiser’ on December 2, issued a call to artists to donate work for a silent auction. Like their UCT counterparts, striking workers from the Robertson’s Winery made artworks for their benefit fundraiser.
“We have an ethical responsibility…”
“We have a responsibility not to treat the fundraiser [with a savior mentality], but as a recognition [of its contributors and benefactors],” Tarryn De Kock, another organizer, says.
Organizers remain aware of the demographics of their audience and beneficiaries when setting performance lists and selecting artists. They keep those demographics in mind when selecting traders for each event.
By supporting black business and artistry, “We have a chance to showcase what’s there already that doesn’t always have a platform.”