An Open Letter from America’s Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports

by Paul Garver

As part of our ongoing series on Labor and Occupy, we are cross-posting items we found important in discussing the relationship between the Occupy and Labor movements.  Although the letter from the port truck drivers speaks for itself, we note that tens of millions of exploited American workers like the port truck drivers find it very difficult to achieve dignified terms of employment and union recognition through the NLRB.  Though the Teamsters are supporting their cause, such vulnerable members of the 99% need all the help the Occupy movement can give them.

 

December 12, 2011

We are the front-line workers who haul container rigs full of imported and exported goods to and from the docks and warehouses every day.

We have been elected by committees of our co-workers at the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, New York and New Jersey to tell our collective story. We have accepted the honor to speak up for our brothers and sisters about our working conditions despite the risk of retaliation we face. One of us is a mother, the rest of us fathers. Between the five of us we have 11children and one more baby on the way. We have a combined 46 years of experience driving cargo from our shores for America’s stores.

We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.
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22K NYC Office Cleaners Prepare for Strike

 

Pacifica misappropriates KPFA workers’ pension money, hires new law firm

KPFA Worker

Two months after KPFA’s union discovered that the station’s parent corporation Pacifica was illegally raiding the 403b pension funds of its union members for as long as 18 months, the network has finally admitted to workers that “during the past few years employee contributions . . . were not deposited into your accounts on a timely basis.”

The pension contributions come from employees’ own earnings. Pacifica had been deducting money from paychecks but not always depositing it in individuals’ 403b accounts, a violation of federal law and a form of wage theft.

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Occupy Wall Streets Next Steps – How to Win a Fight with the 1%

Editors’ Note:

We have added a new “Labor and Occupy” page with links to Talking Union blog posts on the occupy movement, its relationships with labor unions, and related matters. Click on the above tab. We invite your comments and suggestions for other articles.

There is no more important topic to discuss as we work to create a vibrant movement in 2012 and beyond. Talking Union will be posting articles by its editors and its favorite bloggers on Labor and Occupy. We will also be cross-posting the best articles we discover on other blog sites. An excellent example is an Alternet interview of Stephen Lerner by Sarah Jaffe, How We Can Mobilize to be the Greedy 1%s Worst Nightmare .

In the first of this Labor and Occupy series John Jacobsen analyzes the work of the Seattle Solidarity Network. This post originally appeared on the Trial by Fire website as a follow-up to this earlier post. The same publication carries an article on an exemplary action where Occupy Atlanta joined with anti-foreclosure activists to save the home of an Iraq war veteran.

by John Jacobsen

John Jacobsen

Over the past month, Occupy Wall Street has  chalked up a large number of bold actions against both government and private authorities; it has led an attempted general strike, raucous marches, occupations of banks and abandoned buildings, disruptions of political speeches and press events, and a massive West Coast shut down of major port terminals partly to aid longshore workers in their fights against their employers.

The actions, moreover, have already achieved limited successes – besides having created space for Americans to come together outside of the established political system, they have rightly been credited with having stopped fee increases amongst the largest banks in the country, as well as having widely validated the American public’s fury over increasing inequality, generating massive media exposure. Largely, however, the only real material victory of Occupy so far – its having stopped increased bank fees – has been incidental, and was in no way a conscious objective of the Occupy Movement.

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The Diversity of the White Working Class

by Jack Metzgar

Jack Metzgar

The recent firestorm of debate stirred by Thomas Edsall’s New York Times report of a behind-the-scenes plan by “Democratic operatives” to “explicitly abandon the white working class”reveals more about the degraded state of political journalism than it does about either Democratic operatives or the working class.

Edsall is a highly respected member of the political punditry who has made a good living covering and analyzing American politics for more than 30 years.  So you’d think he’d know that three items in his lead paragraph are spectacularly false:

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And the Farmworkers are still poor

by Michael Yates

Review of Frank Bardacke, Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers (New York: Verso), 742pp, hardcover, $54.95.*

Frank Bardacke labored over this book for fifteen years. We can be grateful that he didn’t give up. This is the best history ever written of the United Farm Workers (UFW) and Cesar Chavez. It explains better than any other book how the UFW under Chavez’s leadership became in the 1960s and 1970s one of the most remarkable and successful unions in U.S. history but then crashed and burned so breathtakingly fast that by the end of the 1980s it had pretty much disappeared from the fields. Bardacke relies on primary sources—letters, interviews, personal papers, archives, newspaper accounts, court and police records, his own considerable experiences as a farm laborer (He spent six seasons in the fields between 1971 and 1979. A minor political conflict with the union during the 1979 lettuce strike led to his blacklisting by both the growers and the union, and this forced him to take up other employment). In the main, he lets the record speak for itself, avoiding the apologetics or the rancor we typically find in books, articles, and reviews about the UFW and Chavez.

Several things set Bardacke’s history apart from everything that preceded it. First, he pays attention to the farm workers themselves, to their organizing history, the nature of their work, and the changes that have taken place in their industry. His descriptions of the skilled, difficult, and body-destroying work of harvesting lettuce, celery, broccoli, asparagus, and lemons are among the most moving and beautifully written parts of the book. They help to foreground the author’s demonstration that the organization of farm workers did not spring suddenly from the will of Cesar Chavez. As Bardacke shows with scores of examples, agricultural workers have been doing battle with their employers for nearly one hundred years. Their skills, the short time the growers have to get crops harvested, and the self-organization of the workers, especially those who toiled as part of tightly-knit teams, all combined to create a sense of potential power, power that became reality when conditions were propitious.

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Trampling Out The Vintage?

Cesar Chavez and Duane Campbell -1972

Trampling Out the Vintage ?

by Duane Campbell

A  dissident’s view of the rise and the fall of the United Farm Workers union.

Frank Bardacke’s Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers. (2011, Verso). is the view of a well- informed observer  who  worked in the lettuce fields near Salinas for six seasons,  then spent  another 25 years  teaching English to  farm workers  in the Watsonville, Cal.  area. His views on the growth and decline of the United Farm Workers union – some of which I do not share–  offer  important points of history and reflection  for unionists today, particularly those working with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Trampling Out the Vintage, provides several insights not previously developed in well informed books on the UFW  including  important  differences between grape workers and  workers in row crops such as lettuce; the length of time workers were in the UFW,  the more settled family nature of grape workers, the strength of each  type of ranch committees,  the leadership of ranch crews  ( and thus the potential differences in creating democratic accountability), and the differing histories of worker militancy in  different  crops.  The author correctly argues that each of these led to somewhat different organizing environment in building the  union. He also details problems of administrative mismanagement in the hiring halls in the grape areas and alleged  mismanagement of organizing within the union sponsored health care insurance and clinic systems .

Based upon his own experiences and the histories of workers   in the Salinas valley, Bardacke  makes the case  that farm workers- not Cesar Chavez – created the union.  They built their union on a long history of previous collective work stoppages and strikes.  The union was created on the ground in Delano,  Salinas, Watsonville, and surrounding towns- not in the union headquarters of  La Paz.  The author reveals his strong viewpoint in the  title apparently referring  to Chavez “Trampling out the Vintage” where a union had  been created.  Continue reading

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