Showing posts with label union organizing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label union organizing. Show all posts

Monday, September 05, 2016

*Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History-The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in America And The Struggle For Trade Unions

Click On Title To Link To Wikipedia's Entry For The Great Railroad Strike Of 1877

Every Month Is Labor History Month.

This Commentary is part of a series under the following general title: Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!

As a first run through, and in some cases until I can get enough other sources in order to make a decent presentation, I will start with short entries on each topic that I will eventually go into greater detail about. Or, better yet, take my suggested topic and run with it yourself.

Monday, February 22, 2016

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-New York City-Bloomberg’s Snow Job on Working People-Beat Back Attack on Public Workers Unions!

Markin comment on this article:

I did not originally intend to post this article in this space but given the developments with the Wisconsin public workers unions over the last week the political points made in this article about the New York City public workers union struggles are appropriate.

Markin comment:
Sometimes politics, our working class-oriented politics, is a no-brainer. This occasion is one of those times. The lines are drawn very visibly now with the yahoos of the Tea Party movement entering the fray. “Which side are you on?” is the question of the hour. All out in support of the Wisconsin Public Employee Unions!
Repost from American Left History

Friday, February 18, 2011

Victory To The Wisconsin Public Workers Unions!- Hands Off The Unions! -Hands Off The Democratic Legislators

Markin comment:

I suppose we all knew that it would come to this. Probably the last serious bastion of organized labor-the public employees unions are starting to face the onslaught of governmental attempts to break those collective bargaining agreements, crying budgetary crisis- the heart of any union operation. With the demise of the industrial unions (representing less than ten percent cent of the workforce in the wake of the deindustrialization of America) the public employee union became the obvious target in the bosses' relentless struggle to break any collective working agreements. Wisconsin, as all sides agree, is the tip of the iceberg and will be closely watched by other states (and the federal government).

On the question of the Democratic legislators who have left the state (at least as of today, February 18, 2011), to avoid voting on the proposals. While it is unusual for those of us who consider themselves communist labor militants to demand hands off for this crowd under normal circumstances in this case we are duty-bound to defend their action. Stay the hell out of Wisconsin until this blows over. A good idea would be to put workers on the borders to make sure the State Police don't try to force them back. Okay. Strange times that we live in, strange indeed.
Workers Vanguard No. 972
21 January 2010

New York City

Bloomberg’s Snow Job on Working People

Beat Back Attack on Public Workers Unions!

The administration of multibillionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg enraged working people throughout New York City with its criminally negligent response to the Christmas weekend blizzard. Having already reduced the municipal workforce, the city basically did nothing to prepare for a major storm that everyone knew was going to hit. While most Manhattan streets serving tourists and the wealthy were cleared within a day, many in the outer boroughs did not see a snow plow for days after the storm. Unplowed streets were littered with abandoned cars, along with 100 snow plows and over 200 ambulances. Some 1,000 buses were stuck, their drivers told to stay inside the vehicles for hours on end by Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) management. Untold numbers of the elderly and sick were trapped in the subways. At least two people died in the conditions created by city officials. Meanwhile, Bloomberg blithely encouraged tourists to take in a Broadway show!

As anger over the disaster mounted, the capitalist politicians of the Republican and Democratic parties cynically tried to pin responsibility on municipal workers. Along with the rabidly anti-union New York Post, Republican city councilman Dan Halloran, citing anonymous sources, accused sanitation workers of having staged a slowdown in solidarity with supervisors who were facing demotion, prompting one worker to tell the Daily News (5 January), “We don’t care about management on a good day, never mind during a blizzard.”

With outgoing Democratic governor David Paterson calling for a criminal investigation, four separate probes were launched—by the NYC Department of Investigation (DOI), by the Queens and Brooklyn district attorneys and by the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office. In addition to the “slowdown,” workers are reportedly being investigated for allegedly “padding overtime.” On January 3, the DOI issued a fink memo warning transportation workers that “they are obligated to come forward and report information about misconduct.”

Part of a nationwide drive against public sector unions, the obscene witchhunting of NYC public workers should be fought by every union in the city. It was the municipal workers who responded heroically under enormously difficult circumstances to help people get through the storm. Emergency medical service (EMS) workers, unable to drive their ambulances down snowbound streets, often carried stricken residents on stretchers for blocks. As for “padding overtime,” sanitation workers have toiled 21 straight days following the storm, often working at least 12-hour shifts, to dig the city out and remove trash.

As one sanitation worker told the Daily News, the city’s response to the blizzard was “a perfect storm of fewer men, inferior equipment, 70-mph winds and a political failure to declare a snow emergency,” adding, “this was all about money.” Snow plows were fitted with cheap, inferior chains that snapped, sometimes ripping tires off the rims. Sanitation workers were given shovels that were unassembled—and missing the bolts! Another sanitation worker, speaking to WV, summed up the problem in one word: “manpower.” The Sanitation Department has at least 400 fewer workers than two years ago, and Bloomberg plans to further reduce the workforce through attrition. Already last fall, Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association president Harry Nespoli warned that the city was “rolling the dice” by cutting the workforce (Daily News, 14 October 2010).

As the storm hit, EMS union officials urged the fire department to declare a snow emergency but were told that City Hall had turned thumbs down. Ambulances were not equipped with traction snaps for tires, and many ambulance battalions ran out of gas. As for the MTA, efforts by transit workers to confront the crisis—and the sheer ineptitude of the bosses—are described in the accompanying letter.

Many of the New Yorkers cursing Bloomberg recalled how then-mayor John Lindsay bungled snow removal after a 1969 storm, helping to bury his presidential hopes. One thing U.S. mayors are supposed to do with some competence is snow removal. But in order to do it, you need the personnel. That’s not how Bloomberg and his capitalist cronies see it. To cut costs, the mayor, whose personal wealth is greater than the state’s budget deficit, is pushing a scheme to further reduce the workforce via privatization of city services.

Bloomberg’s deputy mayor for operations, Stephen Goldsmith, made a name for himself as mayor of Indianapolis in the 1990s when he slashed the city workforce by some 40 percent through privatization and layoffs, while attacking health and safety regulations (and bungling a 1994 snow storm). In New York, Goldsmith is overseeing a “Workforce Reform Task Force,” which issued a January 7 report proposing wholesale attacks on workers’ rights and city unions. It called for rewriting union contracts and civil service laws to make it easier to fire and discipline workers, to gut seniority in order to lay off teachers and to extend probation for city workers.

The attacks against New York municipal workers are part of a broad assault by Republicans and Democrats alike on the wages, health benefits and (notoriously underfunded) pensions of public workers. With the continuing world economic crisis, governments in Europe as well as the U.S. are ramping up attacks on public workers, cutting wages and gutting pensions. The capitalist rulers are determined to further cut spending on social services, which they regard as “overhead” expenses that cut into the billions they make from exploiting labor.

In the U.S., the anti-union offensive takes its cue from Democratic president Barack Obama’s brass-knuckle attacks on the teachers unions, which are used as scapegoats for the sorry state of public education. The Obama administration, which recently imposed a two-year wage freeze on two million federal workers, got its start by showering billions on the banks and auto giants while wresting massive concessions from the United Auto Workers, meekly agreed to by the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy. After decades of attacks by the capitalists, abetted by the union tops’ concessions, the industrial unions, historically the powerful core of the labor movement, have largely been decimated. Now, for the first time, public employees account for the majority of union members in the U.S. But those numbers include cops and prison guards, who should have no place in the unions. Their job is to break strikes, terrorize blacks and other minorities and suppress opposition to capitalist rule.

In New York State, newly elected Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo promptly launched what the New York Post (24 November 2010) termed an “all-out war with the public-employee unions.” His first act upon taking office was to sign off on the layoffs of 900 state workers, followed by the announcement of a one-year wage freeze. In response, Stephen Madarasz, a spokesman for the largest affected union, the AFSCME-affiliated Civil Service Employees Association, declared: “We don’t have any problem doing our part.”

Here is a clear expression of the role of the union officialdom as capitalism’s labor statesmen. With the rulers gunning for the public sector unions, the response of the labor tops is to bargain over terms of surrender, or even to serve as willing tools for the bosses. Such is the case with Gary LaBarbera, a top union official of the NYC-area construction trade unions. With at least 20 percent unemployment among unionized construction workers in New York City, LaBarbera told the New York Times (9 December 2010) that “without a fiscally sound environment, we will not be able to attract new businesses to the city,” brazenly adding, “At times there will be competing interests between public- and private-sector unions.”

Next door in New Jersey, Steve Sweeney, an Ironworkers union organizer and the president of the state senate, is a staunch advocate of right-wing Republican governor Chris Christie’s drive to slash state workers’ pay and benefits. The treachery of these labor traitors prompted the Wall Street Journal (4 January) to gloat about “the first stirrings of a true American class war: between workers in government unions and their union counterparts in the private sector.”

Even to begin to turn around the anti-union offensive, there must be a struggle against the labor misleaders who aid the bosses’ divide-and-rule schemes. All labor—industry, transport, construction trades, services—must defend the public employees unions, and vice versa: An injury to one is an injury to all! The public sector unions must fight for their right to strike, currently barred under New York State’s Taylor Law. Down with the Taylor Law!

With their large black and Latino membership, the public employees unions provide a living link between the labor movement and the ghettos and barrios. A fight by public workers to defend their hard-won gains could mobilize broad support among working people and the unemployed, all of whom have a vital interest in fighting against attacks on social services. Like the fight for free, quality health care and education, for free mass transit and other vital services, this requires hard struggle against the capitalist class, a tiny fraction of society whose obscene wealth is gained from exploiting labor. No less than the Republicans, the Democratic Party is a party of and for the capitalist class. While the Republicans openly appear as enemies of trade unionists, blacks, immigrants and the poor, the Democrats pretend to be their friends, only to end up doing the same thing. Break with the Democrats! Build a workers party that fights for a workers government!

Basing itself on the political independence of the working class from the Democratic Party and all other agencies of capitalist rule, a class-struggle labor leadership would fight for a shorter workweek at no loss in pay to spread the available work. It would call for a massive program of public works to rebuild the schools, hospitals, roadways and other infrastructure. By fighting for such transitional demands, a revived labor movement would win the support of the unemployed, of the ghetto and barrio masses, in struggle against the common capitalist class enemy. As revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky wrote in the 1938 Transitional Program:

“If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. ‘Realizability’ or ‘unrealizability’ is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what its immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Houston Janitors Strike for Economic Justice

Houston Janitors Strike for Economic Justice

by Mark Vorpahl

Email: info (nospam) (verified)

27 Jul 2012

Echoing the story of David vs. Goliath, janitors in Houston are on strike and taking on such corporate giants as JPMorganChase and Exxon Mobile in an effort to pressure the janitorial companies they employ to agree to the workers' modest demands. It is these big business behemoths that are the real powers behind cleaning contractors such as ABM, GCA, ISS etc. By striking against these contractors, and publicly targeting these contractors' employers, the janitors are using their collective power in a showdown that has great significance for not only the Labor Movement but all workers.

The janitors are members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, which has a membership of 3,200 in Houston. Currently, these workers' wages top out at $8.35 per hour. On average, they make under $9,000 a year. The government defines the poverty line as an income of $22,314 for a family of four and $11,139 for an individual.

The janitors are asking for a $10.00 per hour starting wage. In response, the contractors offered a combined 50 cents an hour raise over the course of a five-year contract. With the growing cost of living over this time, these workers would sink even further into poverty if they accepted this. The contractors' proposal was nothing more than an insult.

Not content with merely insulting their employees, the contractors began to back up their position with injury. The janitors were subject to captive audience meetings where their jobs were threatened if they participated in union activity. Management warned that they would call for an immigration audit if the employees didn't quiet down. In addition, they also withheld paychecks of some union supporters. In all, 13 Unfair Labor Practices have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Union contract expired on May 31st. The janitors held a series of rallies and one-day work stoppages in order to convince management that they meant business. However, because these actions did not seriously impact the contractors' profits, they did not feel compelled to move. Consequently, the membership of SEIU Local 1 had no choice but vote to go on strike.

There are two features of this strike that make it exceptional.

One is how it highlights the growing inequality that exists in this nation and the need to fight it. Houston leads the nation in the growth of the number of millionaires. The companies targeted by the strike in its public campaign are some of the main players in the big business elite. On the other hand, not even the most rabid right-wing pro-corporate media can effectively portray the janitors as greedy unionists. This strike has the potential to tap into a growing discontent in the U.S. over inequality that helped launch Occupy as well as the Madison, Wisconsin Capital occupation in 2011.

The other exceptional feature of this struggle is the use of work stoppages and rallies nationally in solidarity with the Houston janitors. Solidarity strikes was one of the tactics employed by the CIO in the 1930s that propelled its rapid growth. Because of this tactic's effectiveness, it was outlawed in 1947 with the bi-partisan passage of the Taft-Hartley Act.

To get around the rigged rules of this slave labor law, many SEIU janitorial contracts have a "conscience clause." This clause enables janitors to refuse to cross a picket line at their work place without fear of penalty. As a result, picket lines have been set up in several cities at work sites that employ SEIU janitors, elevating the economic impact on the contractors, who are in Houston, to a national scale.

These contractors and their corporate employers are organized to pursue profits across the U.S. These profits are the only thing they care about. While they can more easily handle a strike isolated in one city, the nationwide solidarity work stoppage tactic employed by SEIU is much more difficult for them to deal with. If the bosses refuse to budge, it will be necessary to escalate this tactic further.

By highlighting the issue of inequality and countering the contractors with a nationwide response that uses work stoppages, SEIU is challenging the limits of the corporate political machine. It will be necessary to break these boundaries for Houston’s janitors, and all workers, to decisively win.

Currently, some Democratic politicians, such as Vice President Joe Biden, have voiced support for the strike. Given the massive funding both parties receive from Wall Street and the resulting pro-corporate policies they pursue, there should be no surprise that they either neglect or attack the issues of most importance to workers, so that such fine speeches like Biden’s have the appearance of cynical electioneering.

SEIU, and the unions in general, will not find a national voice by getting a seat at the table with these politicians who ignore or attempt to bind the membership's struggles. Instead Labor must devote its resources towards empowering its own members to fight for their own needs, without fear of offending the politicians, and create a social movement that speaks for all workers.

The demands that the Houston SEIU janitors are putting forward are extremely modest. However, their actions and organizing are growing more bold. They are already providing an example of greater struggles for economic justice in the near future.

For more information and to support the strike go to
More info about this article at


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Hilton Boston Workers Persist to Form Union with UNITE HERE!

Hilton Boston Workers Persist to Form Union with UNITEHERE!


Tula Connell

Congratulations to the newest members of UNITEHERE!—75 housekeepers, front desk attendants and others at the Hilton Boston Downtown whose persistence in the face of management roadblocks resulted in a successful effort to unionize. The workers waged nine months of sit-ins, pickets and talks with Hilton management before formally winning a voice at work Friday.

The workers get a $2 an hour pay increase and are eligible for health insurance through UNITEHERE! Local 26. Brian Lang, president of Local 26, said many of the workers have been enrolled in MassHealth, the public health insurance program for low-income residents. The contract also guarantees the workers job security if the hotel is sold and regulates workloads by union rules.

The Hilton workers join 900 other food service and hotel workers who have become Local 26 members in the past year, including employees
at Northeastern University, Harvard Law School, the Ames Hotel and the W Boston hotel. About 55 percent of hotel workers in Boston and Cambridge are unionized.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

From The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Website-New film on farm labor and reforms wrought by CIW's Fair Food Program in the works...

New film on farm labor and reforms wrought by CIW's Fair Food Program in the works...

From : Coalition of Immokalee Workers

See how you can help wrap up production!

There have been several high profile studies of the CIW's Campaign for Fair Food of late, beginning with Barry Estabrook's "Tomatoland" and continuing, most recently, with the US premiere of the Canadian documentary "Payback" at the Tribeca Film Festival last week.

But as "Tomatoland" was published just a touch too early to include a much-needed chapter on the the concrete changes underway since the implementation of the Fair Food Program, and "Payback" focused on the relationship between workers and growers to the exclusion of a broader look at how the industry as a whole is paying back the decades-old societal debt owed to farmworkers for the long-standing undervaluing of their labor, there remains space in the media for a closer look at the actual changes in progress in Florida's tomato fields and the crucial role of the retail food giants in making those changes happen, and making them stick.

And into that space has stepped the film -- now nearly finished shooting and well into the editing stage -- entitled "Food Chain" (click here to see the trailer and how you can help wrap up production).

Here's an excerpt from a recent blog post by "Food Chain" director, Sanjay Rawal ("Meet your Food Chain,"

"... The deeper we explored the oppression, however, the more we became attracted by the possibilities of transformation. We began to meet a number of extremely powerful people in the farmworker community, workers that embraced their duty in the food chain while lashing back at the subjugation they experienced.

Some groups, like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, continue to change the structure of the food chain itself, going straight to consumers of the top purchasers like McDonalds and Trader Joe’s to demand an increase in wages and working conditions.

We learned that the policies of the large buyers, in particular the supermarkets, are at the heart of the problems workers face. Supermarkets are no different from other multibillion dollar corporations. They dominate agribusiness and either know of the violations at its base or enjoy a willful ignorance. Food justice begins with a transformation of the grocery industry..." read more

We'd definitely watch that! So check out the trailer, and, if you can, drop a little something in the collection plate over at the "Food Chain" link at

Coalition of Immokalee Workers • PO Box 603, Immokalee, FL 34143 • (239) 657-8311 •

From The Coalition of Immokalee Workers-#6 on the Chipotle List is ready for your review!

#6 on the Chipotle List is ready for your review!

#6 on the Chipotle list is ready for your review!

Our series continues... Plus, a special bonus: A long-overdue Chipotle media round up!

#6: "You may be interested to hear that Chipotle has supported the CIW."

Fact: Unless by "interested" Chipotle means "shocked," we, as the hypothetical supportee, would beg to differ.

This one is almost too easy, but the List must go on...

The online dictionary defines "support" as:

"a. To aid the cause, policy, or interests of;

b. To argue in favor of; advocate;...

... to give approval to (a cause, principle, etc.), to subscribe to;"

And here's how Chipotle CEO Steve Ells expressed his "support" for the CIW, during a November, 2009, presentation at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business:

“Of course I’m not in favor of slavery! But signing an agreement [with the CIW] does not actually change those conditions for farmworkers. I mean, they just don’t see the bigger picture,” he continued. “To change the fast-food paradigm is huge. We’re trying to do the right thing.” read more

So, you can judge for yourself whether Mr. Ells' words can be construed as supportive, but as the purported recipients of Chipotle's "aid" and "approval", we think we have something of a say in this, and our verdict is unequivocal: No, Chipotle does not in fact support the CIW.

Go to the CIW website today to read more from #6 on the Chipotle List and for the Chipotle media round-up!

You are subscribed to the CIW Mailing List as:
Click here to unsubscribe.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers • PO Box 603, Immokalee, FL 34143 • (239) 657-8311 •

FromThe Coalition Of Immokalee Workers-Left Behind: Slavery Museum in Lakeland, CIW in Dallas, and more!

Left Behind: Slavery Museum in Lakeland, CIW in Dallas, and more!

Left behind...

Students at Lakeland's George Jenkins High (named after the founder of the Publix supermarket chain) experience the weight of a full tomato bucket during the visit of the Modern-Day Slavery Museum to the school last month.

Things can get a little hectic in the Campaign for Fair Food and, as a result, every now and then we look around and realize that we have allowed a number of great stories fall by the wayside while we try to keep up with all the day-to-day happenings. And so today, in order that those stories do not molder away forever under stacks of the very latest news at Campaign headquarters, we are debuting an update that will appear from time to time in these pages that we call "Left Behind".

So go to the CIW website today to see the complete "Left Behind" update, including more from the Modern-Day Slavery Museum visit to Lakeland, news from a CIW panel discussion in Dallas with Eva Longoria (yes, that Eva Longoria) and WalMart, and a Media Round-Up!

Live from the Labor Notes Conference

Live from the Labor Notes Conference

Records are being broken all over the place as 1,500 union activists, worker center members, and workplace troublemakers are gathering in Chicago for the biggest Labor Notes conference yet. Photo: Jim West.

They have a huge list of almost 150 workshops, meetings, and plenaries ready for them, not to mention a full program of actions in support of local workers, music, art, film, and plenty of opportunities to build the networks that make our movement strong (and maybe shake a few tail feathers in the process).

Participants are learning foundational union skills and creative tactics. One workshop promises training in "strategic mischief." Meanwhile others prepped for debates, including a Saturday session that will ask if Mayor Rahm Emanuel's attacks on teachers and other public workers in Chicago will make the city this year’s Madison. Here's how the Community Media Workshop described it:

It’s one of dozens of workshops that will be attended by 1,500 rank-and-file activists and leaders at the national conference of Labor Notes, a magazine that’s advocated labor democracy and militancy for over 30 years.

Topics cover a wide range, from broad political themes to nuts-and-bolts organizing. International speakers will address European workers’ response to austerity, labor and the Egyptian democracy movement, and Japanese labor’s response to the Fukushima crisis.

You can still jump in if you're close by and haven't registered yet. Come register on site at the conference hotel get a dose of inspiration at our biggest conference yet.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In Boston-No More Union Busting! Community Picket to Support Janitors!-All Out On May 9th At 4:00 PM At Saint James Street (In Back Bay)

Click on the headline to link to the Facebook event page for the Boston Janitors Support Rally.

Markin comment:

In Boston-No More Union Busting! Community Picket to Support Janitors!-All Out On May 9th At 4:00 PM At Saint James Street (Back Bay). Victory To The Janitors!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

From The Coalition Of Immokalee Workers (CWI)-The April 12th Quincy (Ma) Rally At Stop& (Sweat) Shop)-Victory To The Florida Farmworkers!

Click on the headline to link to a report from the Coalition Of Immokalee Workers (CWI) website-The April 12th Quincy (Ma) Rally At Stop& (Sweat) Shop)

Markin comment:

The headline says it all--Victory To The CIW Florida Farmworkers!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

From The Coalition Of Immokalee (Fl)Workers (CIW)- Stop & (Sweat) Shop Supermarkets Bargain For Fair Wages And Working Conditions Now !

From The Coalition Of Immokalee (Fl)Workers (CIW)- Stop & (Sweat) Shop Supermarkets Bargain For Fair Wages And Working Conditions Now !


Stop & Shop tomatoes may be harvested by Florida farmworkers under the following conditions:

Sub-poverty wages

Workers are paid virtually the same piece rate (an average of 50 cents per 32 lb. bucket) as they were 30 years ago. At this rate, a worker must pick over 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn Florida minimum wage in a typical 10-hour workday. Most workers earn less than $12,000 per year.

Denial Of Fundamental Labor Rights

Farmworkers in Florida have no right to overtime pay, no health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation or pension, and no right to organize in order to improve these conditions.

Modern Day Slavery

In the most extreme conditions, farmworkers are held against their will and forced to work for little or no pay. Federal Civil Rights officials have success­fully prosecuted seven slavery operations involving over 1,200 workers in Florida's fields since 1997, prompting one federal prosecutor to call Florida "ground zero for modern-day slavery." In 2010, federal prosecutors indicted two more forced labor rings operating in Florida.

For decades, Florida's farmworkers faced poverty wages and daily violations of their basic rights - including modern-day slavery in the most extreme cases - in order to harvest the food on our plates.

Today, however, a new day is dawning in the fields. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) — an internationally-recognized farmworker organization — has reached groundbreaking agreements with ten of the world's leading food retailers, including McDonald's, Subway and Trader Joe's. Hailed by the New York Times as "possibly the most successful labor action in the U.S. in twenty years,"the Fair Food Program establishes a worker-designed code of conduct in the fields and requires retailers to pay one more penny per pound for the tomatoes they buy to go directly to the workers who picked them—all of which is monitored and enforced by the independent Fair Food Standards Council.

Supermarkets like Ahold (parent company of Stop & Shop) leverage . their high-volume purchasing power to demand the ever-lower prices that result in farmworker exploitation. By refusing to partner with the CIW, the steps the company has claimed to take fall far short of the substantive, verifiable and enforceable standards that the situation requires, consumers expect, and others within the industry have embraced.

Demand that Stop & Shop uphold farmworker rights and join the Fair Food Program!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From The March 22nd Verizon Workers Support Rally In Boston- Photos and Video Via "Boston IndyMedia"

Click on the headline to link to a Boston IndyMedia website entry on the March 22, 2012 rally in Boston for the still contract-less Verizon workers.

Markin comment:

Simple- Victory to the Verizon workers!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Class Struggle Heats Up, A Victory For Our Side For Once-Public unions win in Ohio referendum on Gov. John Kasich restrictions on bargaining

Markin comment:

After last week’s Oakland General Strike and the closing down of the Port of Oakland I thought we were on the offensive, finally. And I was not wrong. The molecular process that has been going on down at the base of society after years of being beaten down in the one-sided class struggle has finally gotten some push back, if ever so slightly just now.

The Ohio referendum vote was a sweet victory to put the breaks on this “in your face” right-wing slide that we having been dealing with for a long time. While, in the final analysis, hard struggles, hard street struggles, still lie ahead we will take our victories, small or large, wherever we can. I don’t think that the bourgeoisie is ready to make reservations to some island and let us take over yet but I would think that some of the more far-sighted elements might be checking their frequent-flyer mileage status. Nor am I so intoxicated by Ohio that I would raise the propaganda slogan to build workers councils now. But I will raise right here, well in advance of the 2012 bourgeois electoral fist-fight, the need to fight for a workers party that fights for a workers government. And I am not wrong on that.

P.S. Anytime anybody anywhere says labor and its supporters need to spent union dues to elect bourgeois "friends" like Obama just point to Ohio. That is the way to spend our dough-and not have it wasted. That, and putting a ton of money into organizing the unorganized.
Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Nov. 8, 2011 at 6:47 pm | November 8, 2011 6:47 pm

This from the Associated Press:

COLUMBUS, Ohio The state’s new collective bargaining law was defeated Tuesday after an expensive union-backed campaign that pitted firefighters, police officers and teachers against the Republican establishment.

In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers.

Labor and business interests poured more than $30 million into the nationally watched campaign, and turnout was high for an off-year election.
The law hadn’t taken effect yet. Tuesday’s result means the state’s current union rules will stand, at least until the GOP-controlled Legislature determines its next move. Republican House Speaker William Batchelder predicted last week that the more palatable elements of the collective bargaining bill Ñ such as higher minimum contributions on worker health insurance and pensions Ñ are likely to be revisited after the dust settles.

Kasich and fellow supporters promoted the law as a means for local governments to save money and keep workers. Their effort was supported by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio, farmers and others.

We Are Ohio, the largely union-funded opponent coalition, painted the issue as a threat to public safety and middle-class workers, spending millions of dollars on TV ads filled with images of firefighters, police officers, teachers and nurses.

Celebrities came out on both sides of the campaign, with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and singer Pat Boone urging voters to retain the law and former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn and the Rev. Jesse Jackson urging them to scrap it.

Labor and business interests poured more than $30 million into the nationally watched campaign, with the law’s opponents far outspending and outnumbering its defenders.

Opponents reported raising $24 million as of mid-October, compared to about $8 million raised by the committee supporting the law, Building a Better Ohio.

Tuesday’s result in the closely divided swing state was expected to resonate from statehouses to the White House ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Ohio’s bill went further than a similar one in Wisconsin by including police officers and firefighters, and it was considered by many observers to be a barometer of the national mood on the political conundrum of the day: What’s the appropriate size and role of government, and who should pay for it?

Kasich has vowed not to give up his fight for streamlining government despite the loss.

For opponents of the law, its defeat is anticipated to energize the labor movement, which largely supports Democrats, ahead of President Barack Obama’s re-election effort.

Monday, September 26, 2011

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Longshoremen Play Hardball in Longview, Washington-ILWU Fights Deadly Threat

Workers Vanguard No. 986
16 September 2011

Longshoremen Play Hardball in Longview, Washington

ILWU Fights Deadly Threat

SEPTEMBER 13—For decades the unions in this country have been taking it in the teeth, their leadership lying down in the face of a union-busting juggernaut launched when the PATCO air traffic controllers were smashed in 1981. But on September 8, in the port town of Longview, Washington, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and their allies in other unions mobilized the kind of militant labor action that built the union movement in this country.

In the early hours of the morning, a picket of more than 500 unionists massed outside the newly built $200 million grain terminal of the giant EGT Development conglomerate, which wants to keep the ILWU out. Police who had earlier clubbed and pepper-sprayed picketers decided to take a hike. Faced with hundreds of longshoremen, the Longview police chief said, the cops had “used the better part of discretion.” The company’s security guard thugs also fled under police escort. Now EGT is complaining that grain cargo aboard a 107-car Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train that had pulled into the terminal earlier was dumped on the tracks and that the train’s brake lines were cut. Later that day, a federal judge who had brought down a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) injunction against “aggressive picketing” in Longview complained that he felt “like a paper tiger.”

For months, ILWU Local 21, which has controlled all work loading and unloading ships in Longview for more than 70 years, has fought the EGT union-busters. In mid July, a mass picket of hundreds of ILWUers and other unionists stopped a BNSF train from delivering grain to the terminal (see “ILWU Battles Union Busters,” WV No. 984, 5 August). BNSF suspended service to the terminal. Then, on September 7, the company tried to move in a train carrying grain from Minnesota. At the port of Vancouver, Washington, just up the Columbia River from Longview, the train was blocked by 200 picketers occupying the tracks. While the unionists temporarily prevailed, later that day the train was on the way to Longview, where 300 longshoremen and their allies massed on the tracks to stop it.

Attacked by riot-equipped cops wielding clubs, tear gas and guns loaded with rubber bullets, the picketers stood down. ILWU International president Bob McEllrath was brutally manhandled by a gang of cops. Calling on the workers to disperse for now, he argued, “You can get maced and tear-gassed and clubbed” or wait for the backing of other longshoremen. ILWU members were outraged by pictures of McEllrath being roughed up and detained by the cops—an attack reminiscent of PATCO leaders being led away in shackles. The ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett were shut down as union members walked off the job early on September 8.

Hours later, there were reinforcements on the Longview picket lines. EGT, its hired thugs and the cops got a real taste of union power. Even the New York Times (9 September) acknowledged: “The longshoremen’s actions were a rare show of union militancy, reminiscent of labor actions a century ago.” Today it was reported that two pro-union protesters have been arrested, one of them on four felony charges, with the police threatening more arrests. All labor must back the ILWU and demand that all charges against the unionists and their supporters be dropped.

The stakes in this battle are high. Negotiations for a new Northwest Grainhandlers Agreement between the ILWU and the giant conglomerates that dominate the grain business begin this month. EGT—a joint venture between St. Louis-based Bunge North America, the Japanese Itochu Corp. and the South Korean shipping giant STX Pan Ocean—is Bunge’s first foray into the Pacific Northwest. If EGT gets away with keeping the ILWU out at Longview, it will be a declaration to other grain companies that it’s open season on the union. A defeat at Longview would be a body blow against this powerful union, whose core longshore division contract is up in 2014.

Behind EGT stands the power of the capitalist state. In August, the NLRB filed for an injunction seeking to stop “aggressive picketing” at the Longview terminal and challenging the ILWU’s right to the jobs at EGT. On the afternoon of the September 8 action, a federal judge made permanent the injunction requested by the NLRB, although he refused the NLRB request that all picketing be banned. Carrying fines of $25,000 per violation, the injunction was extended to cover the entire ILWU. The union now faces a “contempt of court” hearing. Nationwide, the hired pens of the capitalist media have unleashed a rabid, labor-hating barrage against the ILWU, slamming it as a pack of “thugs.”

The ILWU demonstrated the power of labor that lies in its collective organization, discipline and above all its capacity to shut down the flow of goods. Working people around the country, whose unions, jobs, wages and working conditions have been ravaged in a one-sided class war that has hit especially hard during the current economic crisis, cheered the ILWU’s action: Finally, a union is standing up and fighting back! To be sure, it is not easy to win in the face of the forces of the capitalist state. But it is better to fight on your feet than die on your knees! And when an important strike is won, it can dramatically alter the entire situation. In 1934, the San Francisco general strike that forged the ILWU and the mass strikes in Toledo and Minneapolis—all led by reds—set the stage for the 1937 Flint sitdown strike against General Motors and the rise of the CIO.

Labor Traitor Trumka Stabs ILWU in the Back

The ILWU must not stand alone! Unions must be mobilized in concrete actions of solidarity, beginning with the Teamsters-affiliated Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen who drive the BNSF trains. Nothing should move in or out of the EGT facility! The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), which organizes longshoremen on East Coast and Gulf ports, issued a statement of solidarity with the ILWU, condemning the police attack on McEllrath and other union members. The Washington Federation of State Employees (AFSCME Council 28) did likewise, condemning “the management actions to break the ILWU at Longview or any port along the West Coast.” It’s going to take more than words to stop the EGT union-busters.

Outrageously, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka has come out in opposition to the defense of the ILWU! Instead, Trumka is peddling the lie that what’s involved in Longview is a “jurisdictional dispute” between the ILWU and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 701, whose members are scabbing on the ILWU. Trumka’s “jurisdictional dispute” line is the same one being pushed by EGT as a fig leaf for its union-busting. While the company went through a show of negotiating with the ILWU, it’s been clear from the beginning that EGT wants a non-union facility.

In January, EGT filed a court suit against the provision in its lease with the Port of Longview mandating that the company employ ILWU Local 21 members, arguing that “the lease did not impose any obligation whatsoever upon EGT to utilize union labor at the terminal” (our emphasis). After longshoremen shut down the BNSF grain shipment in July, EGT turned around and hired a subcontractor which employs Local 701 labor. Ever since, these scabs have been crossing the ILWU’s picket lines, while EGT cynically boasts that it is providing “local, family-wage” union jobs. Only a company dupe could buy this line.

The executive committee of the Oregon AFL-CIO passed a resolution condemning the IUOE “scab labor actions” at Longview despite the attempt by state federation president Tom Chamberlain to rule it out of order. In August, Trumka sent a letter backing Chamberlain, arguing that “the resolution should be considered void, and no action should be taken by the state federation under the resolution.” Trumka wants the ILWU to call off its fight and submit to a complicated hearing under the AFL-CIO’s provision for jurisdictional disputes. The only “jurisdictional” dispute in Longview is between capital and labor! And Trumka has taken the side of the bosses.

While the ILWU was fighting for its life in Longview on September 8, Trumka was a guest of honor at Barack Obama’s “fight for jobs” speech to Congress. The AFL-CIO president is especially concerned that militancy at Longview could ignite a class battle that would threaten Obama’s re-election. The Wall Street Journal sees the same possible outcome. In a September 9 editorial headlined “A Union Goes Too Far,” this mouthpiece for the corporations and bankers declared: “If ILWU shops begin slowdowns in sympathy with the union in Washington state…the events yesterday will become a national issue demanding the attention of a President who is desperately trying to hold his union base together. This one is worth watching.”

The price that has been paid for the bureaucrats’ subordination of the unions to the Democratic Party—which less crudely than the Republicans represents the interests of the capitalist class—can be seen in decades of broken unions and busted strikes. Such class collaboration is a central obstacle to the workers waging the kind of class battles needed to defend their interests. The AFL-CIO officialdom’s commitment to the Democratic Party is equally shared by the ILWU International leadership. But with the very existence of the union on the line, McEllrath has been propelled into an episode of the class struggle that is inevitable in a society based on the exploitation of the many for the profits of the few.

“There Are No Neutrals There”

The ILWU’s battles in Longview have starkly laid bare the irreconcilable class divide between the workers and the capitalist class enemy. But this is obscured by presenting it as a fight of the Longview “community” against a giant multinational conglomerate. The refrain of the old coal miners’ Harlan County fighting song asks: “Which Side Are You On?” This question is being increasingly posed in Longview, where shopkeepers are under pressure to remove signs supporting the ILWU from their windows. The local newspaper ran an appeal from Cowlitz County sheriff Mark Nelson to turn in union militants involved in the September 8 struggle. Defense of the “community” has fed “outside agitator” baiting by the cops, directed against ILWU members from outside Longview, including McEllrath.

Illusions that the cops are just regular community folks are suicidal. The job of the police is to “serve and protect” the interests of the corporations, as was more than amply demonstrated in their brutal assault on ILWU picketers. Every hard-fought labor struggle in the history of this country has been a pitched battle with the capitalists’ strikebreaking thugs, from cops and company goons to National Guardsmen and other scabherders. Behind them stand the courts and other state agencies. These are all part of the machinery of the capitalist state, whose purpose is to defend the property and profits of the capitalist owners through the suppression of the working class.

This machinery includes the NLRB, which was created under the Democratic Party administration of that “friend of labor” icon, Franklin Roosevelt, to head off and co-opt the class battles of the 1930s. The NLRB exists to tie the unions up in endless legal machinations in order to prevent workers from using their collective power to organize, stop work and stop the flow of profits. Today, the suit against the ILWU by the NLRB—two of whose three current members were appointed by Democrats—is a brief for EGT union-busting.

The lie peddled by the union tops that the state can be pressured to serve the workers’ interests is matched by their promotion of the interests of American capitalism against its overseas competitors. In a press statement, ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said that the purpose of militant actions by longshoremen in Longview is “to stand up to a foreign company that’s trying to get a foothold in Washington and undermine the grain industry.” Agriculture is big business in America, and one of the few where the U.S. has a competitive advantage. But anyone who thinks that this has benefited U.S. agricultural or other workers is severely deluded. No less than their foreign counterparts, American corporations are in business for one reason only, and that is to generate profits. The workers have no interest in promoting the profitability of their “own” capitalist rulers, which is purchased through the increasingly brutal exploitation of labor. U.S. grain bosses are just as eager as EGT’s non-American components to bust the ILWU.

For longshoremen whose very jobs are dependent on foreign trade—both imports and exports—to wave the red-white-and-blue “made in the U.S.A.” banner is particularly ludicrous. Unlike the Trumka leadership of the AFL-CIO, the International Transport Workers’ Federation has issued a statement in support of the ILWU. Whether or not the ILWU wins this battle might well depend on support actions by port and maritime workers throughout Asia refusing to handle scab EGT grain shipments. The ILWU isn’t going to win such support by waving the flag of U.S. imperialism, which is soaked in the blood of countless workers and oppressed masses around the globe.

Break with the Democrats! Build a Workers Party!

With their backs against the wall, the ILWU leadership has taken some bold action. The fight has been engaged and there’s no going back. The strength of the union lies in its multiracial coastwide membership. The Pacific Maritime Association bosses have long tried to pit one port against another, playing the overwhelmingly white Pacific Northwest locals, the largely black San Francisco local and the largely Latino membership in Los Angeles/Long Beach against each other. It is crucial that the union stand as one and fight to galvanize the rest of the labor movement in struggle behind it.

Trumka’s treachery vividly illustrates the role of the labor bureaucracy as the bosses’ agents in the unions, in which they serve as a central obstacle to working-class struggle. In 1921, in the face of an “open shop” offensive that was decimating the unions, James P. Cannon, then a leader of the Communist movement and later the founder of American Trotskyism, described the political program necessary to reforge the labor movement:

“The ‘open shop’ campaign is one of the manifestations of a state of war that exists in society between two opposing classes: the producers and the parasites. This war cuts through the whole population like a great dividing sword; it creates two hostile camps and puts every man in his place in one or the other….

“Let the unions put aside their illusions; let them face the issue squarely and fight it out on the basis of the class struggle. Instead of seeking peace when there is no peace, and ‘understanding’ with those who do not want to understand, let them declare war on the whole capitalist regime. That is the way to save the unions and to make them grow in the face of adversity and become powerful war engines for the destruction of capitalism and the reorganization of society on the foundation of working class control in industry and government.”

— “Who Can Save the Unions?” (7 May 1921), reprinted in James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism (Prometheus Research Library, 1992)

In 1934, Cannon and his party would provide the leadership for the series of strikes in Minneapolis that forged the Teamsters as an industrial union.

There is massive discontent at the base of American society that can be galvanized through class battles like that at Longview. But to realize this potential poses the question of leadership. The current labor misleadership must be ousted and replaced with workers’ leaders who link the fight to defend the unions to building a multiracial revolutionary workers party. The Spartacist League/U.S. uniquely puts forward the program to build such a party, the necessary instrument to lead the working class in the fight to do away with the entire system of capitalist wage slavery through socialist revolution.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Phil Och's "Hazard,Kentucky"

Click on the title to link to a site to hear Phil Och's Hazard, Kentucky.

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.


Markin comment:

Of course this one has special meaning as my father was born and raised down in that country, coal country.

Hazard, Kentucky Lyrics
Artist(Band):Phil Ochs

Well, some people think that Unions are too strong,
Union leaders should go back where they belong;
But I wish that they could see a little more of poverty
And they might start to sing a different song.

Well, minin' is a hazard in Hazard, Kentucky,
And if you ain't minin' there,
Well, my friends, you're awful lucky,
'Cause if you don't get silicosis or pay that's just atrocious
You'll be screamin' for a Union that will care.

Well, let's look at old Kentucky for a while.
It's hard to find a miner who will smile.
Well, the Constitution's fine, but it's hard reading in the mines,
and when welfare stops, the trouble starts to pile.

Well, minin' is a hazard in Hazard, Kentucky,
And if you ain't minin' there,
Well, my friends, you're awful lucky,
'Cause if you don't get silicosis or pay that's just atrocious
You'll be screamin' for a Union that will care.

Well, the Depression was ended with the war,
But nobody told Kentucky, that is sure.
Some are living in a sewer while the jobs are getting fewer
But more coal is mined than ever was before.

Well, minin' is a hazard in Hazard, Kentucky,
And if you ain't minin' there,
Well, my friends, you're awful lucky,
'Cause if you don't get silicosis or pay that's just atrocious
You'll be screamin' for a Union that will care.

Well, the badge of Sheriff Combs always shines
And when duty calls he seldom ever whines.
Well, I don't like raisin' thunder, but it sort of makes you wonder
When he runs the law and also runs the mines.

Well, minin' is a hazard in Hazard, Kentucky,
And if you ain't minin' there,
Well, my friends, you're awful lucky,
'Cause if you don't get silicosis or pay that's just atrocious
You'll be screamin for a Union that will care.

Well, our standard of living is highest all around,
But our standard of giving is the lowest when you're down,
So give a yell and a whistle when they light that Union missile
And we'll lift our feet up off the ground.

Well, minin' is a hazard in Hazard, Kentucky,
And if you ain't minin' there,
Well, my friends, you're awful lucky,
'Cause if you don't get silicosis or pay that's just atrocious
You'll be screamin for a Union that will care.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

All Out In Defense Of The Washington State Longshoremen- Close The West Coast Ports In Solidartiy- Labor Needs A Victory Here Now

Click on the headline to link to an Associated Press, dated September 8, 2011, online report on the struggle by Washington longshormen.

Markin comment:

Below is a an article relate to the general struggle by West Coast longshoremen to keep their militant union traditons alive.

Workers Vanguard No. 979
29 April 2011

Union Attacked for Solidarity with Public Workers

All Labor Must Defend ILWU Local 10!

Reliance on the Democrats: Recipe for Defeat

In their call for nationwide protests on April 4, the AFL-CIO tops said the day would be one of “rising up to support workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other states.” But the only genuine labor action was taken by members of Bay Area Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), who overwhelmingly stayed away from work that day. The port of Oakland was shut down for 24 hours.

Now the shipping companies represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) are gunning for the union with a lawsuit against Local 10 and its president, Richard Mead, demanding that the ILWU foot the bill for “damages sustained” by the PMA as a result of the port shutdown. Although no price is named, in a similar suit East Coast shipping companies are demanding that the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) pay $5 million for a two-day shutdown of the ports in New York and New Jersey last September in response to a union-busting attack on ILA jobs. According to the head of the PMA, the employers also want the courts to enforce an injunction against further work stoppages.

Local 10 longshore workers stood up against the assault on public workers unions. Now all of labor must stand up for Local 10! Stop the PMA’s union-busting attack!

That Local 10 members gave up a day’s pay in solidarity with embattled public workers unions is a real statement of the deeply felt anger and desire to fight at the base of the unions. This was also witnessed in the tens of thousands of workers who mobilized in protest outside the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, this winter. But the labor misleaders have done their level best to contain any militancy and redirect it back into support for the Democratic Party. This was the intended purpose of the April 4 “We Are One” rallies, as was baldly stated a week later by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka in a speech to the National Women’s Democratic Club in Washington, D.C. Declaring that “the energy of working people is infectious and their solidarity and commitment are inspiring,” Trumka advised that “if Democrats are to take back the House in 2012, and to hold on to the White House and the Senate, it will be because they succeed in riding this wave.”

The price of the bureaucrats’ subordination of the unions to the political fortunes of the Democratic Party, which no less than the Republicans represents the interests of the capitalist class enemy, can be counted in busted unions, millions of unemployed and the living hell that is life for the ghetto and barrio poor and countless others who have been written off by a system based on the exploitation of labor. So beholden are the labor bureaucrats to the capitalist order that even the notion that there is a working class in this country has been deep-sixed, reflected in the pitch at the April 4 protests to “reclaim the middle class.” By the same token, the union misleaders were desperate to avoid the remotest hint of working-class struggle against the one-sided class war by the capitalist exploiters and their state.

At the “We Are One” rallies in Oakland and San Francisco, called by the Alameda and SF Labor Councils, the organizers would not even allow a speaker from ILWU Local 10, the only union whose members took any kind of actual labor action! There was no such censorship of a representative of the strikebreaking cops. One of the few speakers at the opening rally for the thousands-strong SF protest was the president of the Police Officers Association of San Francisco, who used the occasion to declare: “I am a member of labor just like you are.” Far from being “union brothers,” the cops are the armed thugs of the capitalist state whose job is to smash labor struggle. This would readily be seen if there were any real fight against the union-busting assault on public workers, just as it was seen when the SF police killed two workers in the 1934 longshore strike. The “bloody Thursday” assault by the cops was the spark for the citywide general strike that laid the basis for founding the ILWU.

The only speaker who even mentioned that Local 10 members had not worked on April 4 was the secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, Stephanie Bloomingdale. But this was not to promote any such action by others, much less to address the crying need to mobilize the power of labor in strike action to fight the assault on public workers unions. On the contrary. Bloomingdale hailed the Wisconsin judge who put a temporary stay on the implementation of the state’s union-busting bill for not letting Republican governor Scott Walker “get away” with it. But Walker did get away with it, as did the Ohio legislature, which passed an even more draconian anti-union law in the immediate aftermath.

In response to the PMA’s lawsuit against Local 10, the San Francisco Labor Council passed a resolution calling for a “mass mobilization of all Bay Area Labor Councils and the California AFL-CIO” on April 25 at PMA headquarters. But the Labor Council officials did little to nothing to mobilize their membership for this protest, which drew about 150 people. Fine words will not stop the union-busters!

The capitalist rulers have been winning the war against labor because the power of the working class has been shackled by the class-collaborationist policies of the trade-union leadership. Labor’s weapons are inherent in its collective organization—strike action, mass pickets, plant occupations, hot-cargoing of scab goods, etc. The capitalists’ arsenal is the state—the courts, cops and military. The 1934 SF general strike, and mass strikes in Toledo and Minneapolis the same year, were pitched battles between workers and cops and other strikebreakers. All of them were led by reds. The 1934 Minneapolis strikes, which forged the Teamsters as a powerful industrial union, were led by supporters of the Trotskyist Communist League of America. James P. Cannon, the founding leader of American Trotskyism, underlined the political program that lay behind this victory:

“The modern labor movement must be politically directed because it is confronted by the government at every turn. Our people were prepared for that since they were political people, inspired by political conceptions. The policy of the class struggle guided our comrades; they couldn’t be deceived and outmaneuvered, as so many strike leaders of that period were, by this mechanism of sabotage and destruction known as the National Labor Board and all its auxiliary setups. They put no reliance whatever in Roosevelt’s Labor Board; they weren’t fooled by any idea that Roosevelt, the liberal ‘friend of labor’ president, was going to help the truck drivers in Minneapolis.…

“Our people didn’t believe in anybody or anything but the policy of the class struggle and the ability of the workers to prevail by their mass strength and solidarity.”

—James P. Cannon, The History of American Trotskyism (1944)

If the unions are to wage the battles necessary for their own defense and in the interests of all the oppressed, they must be mobilized in opposition to the capitalist state and independently of all of the political parties of the class enemy—Democrats, Republicans and Greens. That means a political struggle to get rid of the sellouts sitting on top of the unions who strangle the workers’ fighting spirit. It is in the crucible of the class struggle that a new leadership of the unions can be forged. This is not simply a matter of militancy but, as Cannon pointed out, a question of political program. What is needed is a leadership that will arm the workers with an understanding both of their social power and their historic interests to free all of humanity from the exploitation, all-sided misery and war inherent to a system based on production for profit. Forging such a leadership is in turn an integral part of the fight for a multiracial revolutionary workers party whose aim is no less than doing away with the entire system of capitalist wage slavery through socialist revolution.

“Progressive” Labor Tops: Different Talk, Same Walk

In an interview on KPFA radio the day after the April 4 protests, ILWU Local 10 executive board member Clarence Thomas said that “one of the reasons” no Local 10 member was allowed to speak “is because the Democratic Party is not in favor of workers taking independent action.” True enough. But when asked if he was opposed to the unions continuing to pour millions into backing the Democrats and funding Obama’s re-election campaign, Thomas responded that the unions should support only those Democrats who would be “accountable” to the working class. In short, behind all the seemingly radical rhetoric that has historically been a trademark of the “progressive” labor tops in Local 10 is the same old shell game of peddling the Democrats as a party that can be made to serve the interests of the working class and the oppressed if, in Thomas’ words, their feet are “held to the fire.”

Last year, the Local 10 leadership pulled out all the stops to mobilize the ranks for the election of Democrat Jean Quan as mayor of Oakland. Boosted as a “friend of labor,” Quan was the headline speaker at the Oakland April 4 rally. Denouncing Wisconsin governor Walker for stripping public workers unions of the right to bargain for their members, Quan contrasted the good offices of her administration, declaring: “We will have layoffs but they will come as part of collective bargaining.” It would be hard to find a more chemically pure expression of the role played by the Democratic Party. The Republicans revel in taking out the knife to slaughter the unions. The Democrats hand the knife to the union bureaucrats to slash the wages and benefits of their members in the name of “preserving collective bargaining.”

That’s exactly what the union leaders following the Democrats, who had already agreed to such givebacks, were willing to do in Wisconsin. In California, the bureaucrats promote Democratic governor Jerry Brown, who has axed millions from social programs for the poor, as a man they can do business with.

But Quan’s appeal for the unions to sacrifice more jobs did not go down well with much of the crowd at the Oakland rally. She was drowned out in a chorus of booing, a response aptly described by one reporter as reflecting “a schism between the labor leaders who invited Quan to headline their rally and rank-and-file workers impatient with years of government cut-backs” (Bay Citizen, 4 April). It is precisely such burgeoning anger that the labor tops are working overtime to head off.

At the same time, calls for a “general strike” have been coming from left-talking bureaucrats like Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422 in Charleston, South Carolina. Heading into an “Emergency Labor Meeting” held in Cleveland on March 4-5, which was called to “explore together what we can do to mount a more militant and robust fight-back campaign to defend the interests of working people,” Riley said, “I don’t see any other way than a general workers strike.” But there was no call for any such action coming out of this meeting, which drew some 100 of the more radical-sounding and even “socialist” labor fakers and their hangers-on. Rather, the best they could choke out was that labor “must go to the streets,” meekly adding that “where possible” the participants would promote “industrial actions” on April 4.

Evidently, they did not find it “possible.” Instead, the April 4 protests are being portrayed as helping build “momentum” toward a general strike. This is simply to provide some militant-sounding cover for a program these labor fakers share in common with the top AFL-CIO officialdom: reliance on the capitalist state. The “perspectives” approved by those attending the Cleveland meeting advise: “There is plenty of money available without demanding givebacks from public employees, but this requires changing our nation’s priorities to raise taxes on the rich, redirect war dollars to meet human needs, and more—all demands that we must place on the federal government.” Far from building momentum for any kind of real labor action, much less a general strike, such appeals serve merely to dissipate and divert the workers’ anger into the illusion that the government can be pressured into serving their needs.

A central chant at both the SF and Oakland rallies was “tax the rich!” The banks, corporations and other capitalist enterprises are sitting on mountains of cash, the ill-gotten gains of a system based on the exploitation of labor for the profits of the few. But the working class is not going to get its hands on this money by appeals to the federal government, whose purpose is not to “meet human needs” but to defend and increase the profitability of American imperialism.

Capitalist governments might temporarily increase tax rates for the rich to meet the needs of the ruling class as a whole, such as gearing up for war or bailing out their economies at times of crisis. And in the face of class or other social struggle, the rulers may shell out some money to buy social peace. But once such peace is purchased, the benefits gained through struggle come under attack, and all the more so in times of economic crisis like today. What they take out of the hides of the working class and oppressed at home they invest in waging war against the workers and oppressed abroad to expand their spheres of exploitation and their domination around the globe. These “priorities” cannot and will not change short of getting rid of the profit system in which they are rooted.

For the workers to reclaim the wealth that is the product of their labor, they have to break the power of the bourgeoisie and its state. That means fighting for a workers government that will expropriate the expropriators and put the wealth of this society to serving the needs of society under a planned socialist economy.

Bureaucrats Feeling the Heat

It’s not just left-talking labor bureaucrats who are mouthing the words “general strike.” In his column in the March issue of the ILWU’s Dispatcher, the union’s International president, Robert McEllrath, wrote: “Holding a rally is usually the first thing we think of. It’s good to feel pumped-up for a few hours or even a few days, but they’re soon over and then people ask: ‘now what do we do?’ If the answer is, ‘hold more rallies,’ then maybe we need to think harder, because our goal has to be about winning public support, and if rallies don’t help us accomplish that goal, maybe we need to be doing other things such as a general strike across the United States with support from all unions and labor.” This is an extraordinary, indeed unheard-of, statement coming from an official in the upper echelons of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy, for whom the very mention of working-class struggle is to be avoided like the plague. While it lacks credibility, it is a measure of the desperation of at least some of the union misleaders as they feel heat from the ranks.

The industrial unions have been ravaged, with the rate of unionization in the private sector now below 7 percent. Public workers are now the majority of union members in the country, and the laws being brought down against them challenge their survival. Asking “Will we be able to win over workers—many who once belonged to unions—but have since seen their pay, benefits, and job security go down?” McEllrath argues: “The stakes in this fight couldn’t be higher, as it may determine whether the labor movement continues to shrink or survives long enough to organize and grow in the future.”

While the ILWU holds real social power in its hands, the union itself is an increasingly isolated bastion of labor organization in a sea of unorganized workers on the docks and the inland warehouses. The union leadership has done little to nothing to organize these workers.

Standing amid the wreckage that their sellout policies have produced over the past 30 years and more, McEllrath is expressing the bureaucrats’ concern for their own survival, which is, after all, dependent on having dues-paying members. To preserve their status, it is possible that they could be moved to take some kind of strike action. But that would not change their fundamental loyalty to the capitalist system, particularly as represented by the Democratic Party, which includes the labor officials among its key components. Following his musing over a general strike, McEllrath makes clear its purpose, arguing that “if we want more politicians to stand with us, then we’ll need to rally a lot more troops to our side.”

For a Multiracial Revolutionary Workers Party!

The April 4 protests were called in conjunction with the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, who was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was supporting a strike by black sanitation workers. The photos of these black workers with picket signs reading “I Am a Man” are a searing statement of the integral link between the struggles for labor rights and black rights. But while much was made at the protests of King’s dedication to labor’s cause, the truth is that King was a spokesman for reliance on the capitalist government, seeing the courts and the Democratic Party as the vehicles for legal reform of the racist status quo.

The myth that black people could achieve equality within the confines of racist American capitalism was ripped apart when the civil rights movement “came North.” Here the forcible segregation of blacks in the ghettos was not a matter of a legal code but was and is rooted in the very foundation of capitalist rule in America. When the black masses in the Northern ghettos entered the struggle—fighting for real equality, for jobs, for decent housing and schools—the role of King and others in the liberal leadership of the civil rights movement was one of fearful containment. Thus, King supported the troops sent in to brutally suppress ghetto upheavals in the 1960s.

With the deindustrialization of large swaths of the U.S., the ghetto poor who once supplied a “reserve army of labor” to be employed when the bosses needed them have been written off as a “surplus population” by the capitalist rulers, their labor and very lives no longer seen as necessary for the production of profit. But black workers remain a militant backbone of organized labor—from the ILWU to the public workers unions—and are critical to linking the power of the working class to the simmering anger of the ghettos. If the unions are to fight for their very existence, they must take up the defense of the ghetto and barrio poor by fighting for jobs, quality housing, education, health care and more, and must as well defend the rights of immigrants, an increasingly important component of the working class. Organizing the unorganized is a life-and-death question for labor everywhere. Crucially it means a fight to break the open shop South, directly posing the need for labor to combat anti-black racism and anti-immigrant bigotry.

Many workers no longer buy the lie peddled by the trade-union bureaucracy and its “socialist” water boys that the election of Barack Obama would bring “change” they could “believe in.” The massive protests in Wisconsin inspired many to believe that finally there might be some fightback against the war on their unions, their families and their livelihoods. The leaden hands of the labor bureaucracy are trying to drown any such impulse. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a real explosive potential here. But to transform that potential into some successful class struggle poses the question of leadership. The labor misleaders must be ousted and replaced with workers’ leaders who will link the fight to defend the unions to building a multiracial revolutionary workers party. This is the necessary instrument to lead the struggle to free the working class and the oppressed from the chains of exploitation, poverty and imperialist war.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Victory To The Verizon Workers!- All Out In Support Of The Communcation Workers Of America (CWA) And International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW)!- Labor Needs A Victory Here Now!-Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

Click on the headline to link to the Communication Workers Of America website for the latest in their strike action against "fat cat" Verizon.

Markin comment:

The issues: wages, health care, conditions of work, pensions and out-sourcing a now familiar litany of things that used to be negotiated without much muse or fuse but now entail a "cold" civil war in the class struggle. We need a win here, especially after the last few years. Victory to the Verizon workers! All out in solidarity with the Verizon workers! In the Northeast walk the pickets lines in solidarity!
Thurday August 11, 2011 update

Verizon is threatening to take legal action against its unions (CWA, IBEW) in Massachusetts for allegedly blocking access to their sites and "harassing" scabs and others trying to enter workplaces. B.S.- Picket Lines Mean Don't Cross- Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Victory To The Verizon Workers!- All Out In Support Of The Communcation Workers Of America (CWA) And International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW)!- Labor Needs A Victory Here Now!-Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

Click on the headline to link to the Communication Workers Of America website for the latest in their strike action against "fat cat" Verizon.

Markin comment:

The issues: wages, health care, conditions of work, pensions and out-sourcing a now familiar litany of things that used to be negotiated without much muse or fuse but now entail a "cold" civil war in the class struggle. We need a win here, especially after the last few years. Victory to the Verizon workers! All out in solidarity with the Verizon workers! In the Northeast walk the pickets lines in solidarity!
Thurday August 11, 2011 update

Verizon is threatening to take legal action against its unions (CWA, IBEW) in Massachusetts for allegedly blocking access to their sites and "harassing" scabs and others trying to enter workplaces. B.S.- Picket Lines Mean Don't Cross- Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

an injury to one is an injury to all, international working class solidarity, outsourcing, pensions, PICKET LINES MEAN DON'T CROSS, union organizing, wages

Friday, August 12, 2011

Victory To The Verizon Workers!- All Out In Support Of The Communcation Workers Of America (CWA) And International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW)!- Labor Needs A Victory Here Now!-Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

Victory To The Verizon Workers!- All Out In Support Of The Communcation Workers Of America (CWA) And International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW)!- Labor Needs A Victory Here Now!-Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

Click on the headline to link to the Communication Workers Of America website for the latest in their strike action against "fat cat" Verizon.

Markin comment:

The issues: wages, health care, conditions of work, pensions and out-sourcing a now familiar litany of things that used to be negotiated without much muse or fuse but now entail a "cold" civil war in the class struggle. We need a win here, especially after the last few years. Victory to the Verizon workers! All out in solidarity with the Verizon workers! In the Northeast walk the pickets lines in solidarity!
Thurday August 11, 2011 update

Verizon is threatening to take legal action against its unions (CWA, IBEW) in Massachusetts for allegedly blocking access to their sites and "harassing" scabs and others trying to enter workplaces. B.S.- Picket Lines Mean Don't Cross- Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

an injury to one is an injury to all, international working class solidarity, outsourcing, pensions, PICKET LINES MEAN DON'T CROSS, union organizing, wages

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Victory To The Verizon Workers!- All Out In Support Of The Communcation Workers Of America (CWA) And International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW)!- Labor Needs A Victory Here Now!-Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!

Click on the headline to link to the Communication Workers Of America website for the latest in their strike action against "fat cat" Verizon.

Markin comment:

The issues: wages, health care, conditions of work, pensions and out-sourcing a now familiar litany of things that used to be negotiated without much muse or fuse but now entail a "cold" civil war in the class struggle. We need a win here, especially after the last few years. Victory to the Verizon workers! All out in solidarity with the Verizon workers! In the Northeast walk the pickets lines in solidarity!
Thurday August 11, 2011 update

Verizon is threatening to take legal action against its unions (CWA, IBEW) in Massachusetts for allegedly blocking access to their sites and "harassing" scabs and others trying to enter workplaces. B.S.- Picket Lines Mean Don't Cross- Defend The Picket Lines At All Costs!