Eli Friedman’s Insurgency Trap: A Review

 by Paul Garver

Insuregency Trap cover image

Eli Friedman’s Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China is indispensable for anyone trying to understand what is happening with hundreds of millions of internal migrant workers in China today. Postsocialist China has become the world’s largest manufacturing center and exporter to the rest of the world, and the future of Chinese society and of the global economy hinges on whether the new Chinese working class remains excluded from its social and political system.

Some readers may opt to skim through some of the technical sociological language, bearing testimony to the origin of the book as a doctoral thesis. But most of Insurgency Trap is made up of detailed and incisive description and analysis of specific case studies of the dynamics of Chinese “trade unions” in their interactions with workers. The chapter on Chen Weiguang, reformist leader of the Guangzhou Municipal Trade Union Federation is brilliant and revealing. Chen gave Eli Friedman full access to study the concrete results of some of his reform initiatives, and Friedman’s research reveals the limited accomplishments of even the most ambitious efforts at reforming China’s unions. Another superb chapter describes and analyzes the wave of strikes in Honda and Toyota auto parts supply plants that resulted in economic gains for workers, but achieved only very limited changes in the plant unions themselves.

Although I remain hopeful that the worker insurgency in China could leave to democratization of the sclerotic Communist Party and State controlled trade union apparatus, Insurgency Trap demonstrates enormous obstacles to real social advance when all avenues for autonomous political activity by workers remain closed. So long as the Chinese Communist Party remains so fearful of any independent political organization that it forbids any move towards genuine worker-controlled unions, the Chinese state will remain caught in its own “insurgency trap,” unable to advance towards a more inclusive society or make a positive contribution towards creating a more equitable global economy.

Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China by Eli Friedman is available from ILR Press, Ithaca, 2014, in paperback or in an Amazon Kindle edition.

Dark Money, Dirty War: The Corporate Crusade Against Low-Wage Workers

by  Mariya Strauss

Photo: Interfaith Worker Justice

Photo: Interfaith Worker Justice

During an April 16 event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Joe Kefauver—a lobbyist and PR man for the National Restaurant Association and the Convenience Store Association—warned the audience of business leaders about an emerging challenge to their corporate dominance. The threat comes, he said, from groups that “have the ability to leverage infrastructure to bring a multi-pronged attack, and force internal corporate changes [that] they wouldn’t have been able to get through [union] collective bargaining.”Though the organizing efforts the Chamber warns about take many forms, corporate PR lumps them together under the label “worker centers.”

At the same Chamber event, Kefauver gloated about industry’s recent successes in weakening “the union movement,” which, he said, “has hit a lot of roadblocks, in large part due to the good work of a lot of folks in this room.”1 Building on their victories, over unions, corporations are now deploying their firepower against a resurgence in low-wage worker organizing prompted by the worst economic inequality in a century.

The stakes are high. For too many working Americans, chronic debt and economic insecurity have become inescapable facts of life. Institutions that once offered refuge and the hope of escape from poverty have been hollowed out by decades of policies that concentrate wealth in fewer and fewer hands. Labor unions have been decimated by business interests’ relentless anti-unionization campaigns, and by their successful lobbying in Congress and state legislatures for laws and regulations that favor employers.

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Labor dispute may push shuttle drivers’ pay below poverty line

by Dave Anderson

SuperShuttle drivers

SuperShuttle drivers

If you’ve had an early morning flight from DIA, you might have gotten a ride to the airport with SuperShuttle. Everything seemed normal. The driver came to your door and was helpful and friendly. What you didn’t know is that, for five years, the drivers have been in a fierce fight against a humiliating system of indentured servitude.

In 2009, 94 drivers began organizing for a union after Denver SuperShuttle brought on many new employees, a move that reduced the take-home pay across the unit. Drivers had to work 60-hour weeks and six to seven days each week to compensate. They joined Communication Workers of America (CWA). Al Kogler, the CWA organizing coordinator, notes that it took two years before the workers could vote. In the meantime, he says the company fired union leaders without cause, instituted harsh disciplinary actions, manipulated the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) procedures, made unilateral changes to the conditions of employment and tripled driver fees.

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Update on Cesar Chavez, farmworker organizing, and immigration reform

by Duane Campbell

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally.

Cesar Chavez at the Delano UFW rally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Monday, as Californians celebrated Cesar Chavez Day the Real News Network has recorded an excellent two interviews with persons presently engaged in farmworker organizing. Both had worked with Chavez-
Marc Grossman and Rosalinda Guillen. They give current testimony to conditions in the fields, the role of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, and two different views of the issues of immigration reform. Guillen describes the current largely indigenous labor force in the fields

I encourage all friends of labor to inform themselves and these important struggles.

http://antiracismdsa.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-current-status-of-farmworkers-and.html

 

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Cesar Chavez, The UFW, and Strategic Racism

by Duane Campbell
Cesar Chavez

On March 31, Eleven states will hold holidays celebrating labor and Latino Leader Cesar Chavez. A new film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta opens in cities across the country on April 4, 2014. It is reviewed in a post by Randy Shaw.

Let us be clear. Chavez was religious, but he was not a saint. Neither were the growers, their Teamster collaborators, nor corporate agribusiness saints. Celebrations should not be about hero worship or uncritical praise, nor should we ignore the present oppression of farm workers in the U.S.

What they did accomplish along with Philip Vera Cruz , Marshall Ganz, LeRoy Chatfield, Gil Padilla, Eliseo Medina and hundreds of others was to organize in California the first successful farm worker union against overwhelming odds.

Each of the prior attempts to organize a farm worker union had been destroyed by racism and corporate power. Chavez, Huerta, Philip Vera Cruz, and the others deliberately created a multiracial union; Mexican, Mexican American, Filipino, African-American, Dominican, Puerto Rican and Arab workers, among others, have been part of the UFW. This cross racial organizing was necessary in order to combat the prior divisions and exploitations of workers based upon race and language. Dividing the workers on racial and language lines, as well as immigration status always left the corporations the winners.

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State of Our Unions – Sacramento

Posted by Duane Campbell

POSTER FINAL state of our union

Labor Leader Eliseo Medina on Fasting For Immigration Reform, Cesar Chavez

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has finished its work for the year without passing comprehensive immigration reform. On Thursday, leaders from both parties promised to revisit the issue early in the new year. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 immigration activists descended into the offices of House lawmakers on Thursday afternoon to protest the House’s inaction on the issue. The demonstrations came as the immigration reform organization “Fast For Families” concluded 31 days of fasting. Democracy Now speaks to Eliseo Medina, former International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union. Medina recently spent 22 days on a water-only fast. Medina worked alongside labor leader and civil rights activist César Chávez for 13 years. His career as a labor activist began in 1965 when, as a 19-year-old grape picker, he participated in the historic United Farm Workers’ strike in Delano, California.

Eliseo Medina’s Bold Fast

by Randy Shaw

The Obama's Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families  The Obama's Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families

The Obama’s Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families
The Obama’s Visit Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families

In my September 30 tribute to Eliseo Medina’s legacy when he retired from SEIU, I said he “is retiring from his job, though not from immigrant rights activism.” This has become clear as Medina and other activists have held a Fast for Families on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The President, Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett all visited Medina and the other fasters on November 29, bringing needed national attention to House inaction on immigration reform. I discuss the strategic use of fasts by both Cesar Chavez and Eliseo Medina in my book on the farmworker movement and its legacy, and the 67-year old Medina’s current fast harkens back to Chavez’ Arizona fast that spawned the Si Se Puede UFW rallying call.

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The Right To Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration

BaconA review by Duane Campbell

The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration by David Bacon  is a well written, well informed book that explains political and economic currents shaping the US immigration experience.

The U.S. public is  engaged  in a sustained and divisive debate over immigration. Unfortunately, at the same  time ,  most U.S. do not recognize that U.S. economic policy,  particularly NAFTA created many of  the conditions that produce the very immigration of some 8 million people  that many on the Right and the Tea Party   so oppose.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 accelerated a neo-liberal form of economic growth in Mexico that drove poor farmers, particularly in the indigenous south to lose their farms and their livelihood.  In  response  young men, and increasingly the young women,  made the dangerous trek to the U.S. in search of work and an income to feed their families and keep their families from losing their  farms.    Continue reading

Bosch Engineering to Guest Workers: ‘Hand Over Tax Refunds or Go Back to India’

by Mike Elk

bosch_building_615_461In 2005, Suraj Kamath began working for Bosch Engineering in India as an automotive engineer. In March of 2009, Bosch moved him to its test facility in Santa Barbara, CA. under an L-1 visa, which allows American companies to transfer employees based in foreign countries to the United States as “guest workers.” And in December 2012, Kamath says he received a letter from Bosch informing him that he needed to pay the company $45,102 in federal and state tax refunds that he had received over the previous three years.

When Kamath refused to hand over his refunds, to which he was legally entitled, he was met with another unwelcome surprise. According to a complaint he filed in federal court on Wednesday, Bosch threatened to send him back to India if he didn’t pay the thousands of dollars that it claimed he owed.

“I worked diligently for Bosch for years,” Kamath continued in his statement. “When I objected to Bosch’s demand to pay back all tax refunds I had received, Bosch threatened to fire me, send me back to India and make my life miserable. The way Bosch treats its employees is wrong and that’s why I am standing up to Bosch for myself and my fellow colleagues at Bosch.” Continue reading

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