Voting Gives Working People a Place at the Table

by Duane Campbell

vote-graphic-smElections are one of the important tools in labor’s arsenal and organized labor is the organized expression of the working class. We should act like it.   Labor has its problems that have been analyzed by many (see the excellent new piece by Harold Meyerson http://prospect.org/article/seeds-new-labor-movement

But, organized labor is still 6 % of the private sector work force and 13 % of the public sector work force. It is the most organized electoral machine on the democratic left. And we need to join in and make this machine work.

When the Waltons (Walmart) and other out of state super rich such as the pension fund thief John Roberts invest almost 12 million $ in the race to defeat teaches’ unions in election for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, there must be a reason . This is one of the current battle against neoliberal power.

See Talking Union below and http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/10/28/3585128/arnold-pensions-retirement-manufactured-crisis/

As we know, the U.S. political system is overrun by money. Economic power at the top is used to produce political results in Congress and in elections. The rich get richer while the middle stagnates and the poor get screwed.

Our response must be encouraging more voting, not less. The lack of interest in electoral participation expressed in many places is not progressive, rather it reveals a lack of interest in defending democracy. Not voting is giving up on what democracy we have. Yes, our democracy is truncated, exploited, and distorted by economic power, but we need to grow and expand democracy, not abandon it. And, that is why we organize politically in labor.

Political activity – elections- is a an important tool in the arsenal of labor. Election victories are one of the key elements of union power, particularly for public sector unions and often even for the building trades. Continue reading

Statement by the Nurses of the Texas Hospital

1014_StopBlamingNurses_ebola_BANNERThis is an inside story from some registered nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who have familiarity with what occurred at the hospital following the positive Ebola infection of first the late Thomas Eric Duncan and then a registered nurse who cared for him Nina Pham.

The RNs contacted National Nurses United out of frustration with a lack of training and preparation. They are choosing to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.

The RNs who have spoken to us from Texas Health Presbyterian are listening in on this call and this is their report based on their experiences and what other nurses are sharing with them. When we have finished with our statement, we will have time for several questions. The nurses will have the opportunity to respond to your questions via email that they will send to us, that we will read to you.

We are not identifying the nurses for their protection, but they work at Texas Health Presbyterian and have knowledge of what occurred at the hospital.

They feel a duty to speak out about the concerns that they say are shared by many in the hospital who are concerned about the protocols that were followed and what they view were confusion and frequently changing policies and protocols that are of concern to them, and to our organization as well. Continue reading

Cornel West Arrested in Ferguson

West-en-ferguson-7_642x428DSA Honorary Chair Cornel West was arrested with protestors in Ferguson, Missouri on Monday, Oct 13. Read the report on the weekend campaign here

 

 

 

 

http://www.dsausa.org/yds_report_from_ferguson_obeh3rdztsc4e4sb8jhllcuxkde

Walmart to Cut off 30,000 Workers from Health Insurance

Amid Soaring Profits, Walmart to Cut Off 30,000 Workers From Health Insurance

Largest private employer in U.S. announces elimination of insurance for part-time workers and across-the-board hikes in premium costs

by  Sarah Lazare, staff writer, Common Dreams

English: Walmart Supercenter front end in Hage...

Walmart, the largest retailer in the world and the biggest private employer in the United States, announced Tuesday it is eliminating health insurance for 30,000 of its workers and hiking the costs of premiums across the board.

The cutbacks to coverage, which many charge was insufficient to begin with, were met with immediate criticism.

“Our schedules and hours are all over the place, and I often find less than I expected and less than my family needs when I see my paycheck,” said Nancy Reynolds, a member of OUR Walmart and worker at a Merrit Island, Florida Walmart store. “Taking away access to healthcare, even though many of my co-workers couldn’t afford it anyway, is just another example of Walmart manipulating the system to keep workers like me in a state of financial crisis.” Continue reading

Silicon Valley funds anti teacher union efforts in California

ROCKETSHIP TO PROFITS  Silicon Valley breeds corporate reformers with national reach

By David Bacon

Rethinking Schools, Fall 2014

http://www.rethinkingschools.org/restrict.asp?path=archive/29_01/29_01_bacon.shtml

Nearly every metropolitan area these days has its own wealthy promoters of education reform. Little Rock has the Waltons, Seattle has Bill and Melinda Gates, Newark has Mark Zuckerberg, and Buffalo has John Oishei, who made his millions selling windshield wipers.

Few areas, however, have as concentrated and active a group of wealthy reformers as California’s Silicon Valley. One of the country’s fastest-growing charter school operators, Rocketship Education, started here. A big reason for its stellar ascent is the support it gets from high tech’s deep pockets, and the political influence that money can buy.

Rocketship currently operates nine schools in San Jose, in the heart of Silicon Valley. It opened its first school in Milwaukee last year and one in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall. Its first two schools in Washington, D.C., where almost half the students already attend charters, open next year.

Vergara v. California: Buying a Judgment Against Teacher Tenure

The valley’s most far-reaching intervention took place this year – a successful legal attack on teacher tenure with chilling national implications. In 2012 David Welch, president of Infinera, a Silicon Valley fiber-optic communications corporation, set up another education reform advocacy group, Students Matter. He then filed a class action suit, representing nine children purportedly harmed by “ineffective teachers” to overturn teacher tenure in California. This past June, L.A. Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled against teachers and in favor of Welch and the students in Vergara v. California.

Welch, whose company has revenue of more than half a billion dollars annually, gave half a million in seed money to Students Matter, and then lent it another million. The Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation kicked in more. In 2012 alone, Students Matter spent more than $1.1 million on one of the state’s most powerful corporate law firms, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which fought the Vergara case. Continue reading

The Umbrella Movement in its Second Week

by Paul Garver

28 year old man brings daughter to occupation

28 year old man brings daughter to occupation

“I am bringing my daughter here so she can see what we are doing for her future.”

I have been following the excellent hour-by-hour live coverage of the events in Hong Kong through the superb international English-language blog edition of the South China Morning Post.

Update (October 9): The Hong Kong Government cancelled Friday’s scheduled talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students, denouncing the Federation’s call for a mass rally at Harcourt Road (“Umbrella Square”) while the talks were taking place. Protest leaders said that the government’s cancellation of the talks demonstrated the government’s lack of sincerity, and are planning for new non-cooperation actions.

Admiralty rally 1010

Update (October 10): It is Friday evening in Hong Kong, and over 10,000 citizens turned out for a mass rally to demand that the Hong Kong government negotiate with the Federation of Students over political reforms. Others rejoined the smaller occupation sites at Causeway Bay and Mong Kok to reinforce their numbers and show that support for the protests remained strong.

What strikes me as an outsider most about the movement in Hong Kong is the extraordinary patience and long-term perspective of the mainly young protesters. Even as their barricades and banners are slowly coming down, and as the leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students are preparing for the formal opening of discussions with the government over political reforms, the protesters are maintaining a creative and self-disciplined stance.

Some examples stand out. On Monday, as government workers left for the day, protesters handed them flowers and soup. Disruptive counter-demonstrators were surrounded by nonviolent protesters singing Happy Birthday! And protest art is blossoming – see the collection at

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1607587/illustrate-your-opinion-artists-draw-support-hong-kong-protesters

Each evening the remaining occupation sites are flooded with students who were resuming classes and adult supporters returning from work. The smaller number of protesters who remain behind the barricades day and night are becoming exhausted, but have vowed to maintain their protest until the talks with the government yield at least some kind of progress.

The university student leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students will be the direct spokespeople for the movement, but they are consulting with the high school students of Scholarism and the democratic politicians and leaders of Occupy Central. No one expects many of the core political and economic demands of the umbrella movement to be met, since the Hong Kong government and the corporate elite, staunchly based by the Chinese Communist Party and the mainland Chinese government, remain adamantly opposed to any real concessions.

Nonetheless I believe that the Hong Kong movement can be provisionally regarded as successful. It has been perhaps the first global Occupy movement to formulate a clear set of demands and to rally behind spokespeople for those demands. It has dramatically called attention to the failure of the central government to honor its promises to move towards fuller democracy, while simultaneously asserting the need to reverse growing economic inequality in Hong Kong. Its mixture of audacity and pragmatic commonsense has helped build the institutions of civil society in the city-state and reinforced the popular sentiment of the Hong Kong population that they have something precious to preserve and to contribute eventually to China as a whole.

This video captures the spirit of the Umbrella Movement in song and images.

For a century, student movements have played key roles in signalling major changes in Chinese society. Hopefully this generation of Hong Kong students, with its key leaders ranging from 17 to 24 years old now, will be able to survive and gain more traction with other societal classes. From the comments of protesters that I have read in the press and social media this week, increasingly focused on inequality and economic injustice, I believe that a next positive step could involve greater and deeper interaction with young workers and with the independent unions of Hong Kong.

Which Way for the Democratic Movement in Hong Kong?

by Au Loong Yu

  • Hong Kong poster

I. The Current Situation
The general public has come out to support the students, and with their own bodies have resisted the tear gas to defeat the offensive of the regime of C.Y. Leung, the Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Hong-Kong, sparking a new generation of people’s democracy activists.

This movement has the following characteristics:
1. The students and the public have shown that they have the ability to think for themselves, to take bottom-up direct action, without relying on the leaders. It is within a context where the movement displays deep distrust of not only the Pan-Democracy parties, but also of the Trio of three leading liberal academics and clergymen who suggested the occupation a year earlier. Even the Hong-Kong Federation of Students, which was for a while the vanguard of the movement, saw its proposal to withdraw on September 28 in view of escalation of crackdown was rejected by the masses.
2. The students and young people, whose actions have led to the upsurge in the movement, are now the driving force of the movement, rather than the middle-aged and middle-class Pan-Democracy supporters whom the Trio relied on as their constituency for their occupation plan, a fact which reflects the deep distrust towards young people and working people toward the Trio.
3. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has called for a workers’ strike and there are some responses; in addition to this there is strong sympathy for the movement among working people. And the occupation of main streets also makes possible a slowdown in workplaces, which in turn allows lots of discussion among colleagues.
4. A desire for social equality has also become part of the movement. In his speech to the student boycott on September 22, student leader Alex Chow already mentioned the issue of economic inequality. A few days ago twenty-five trade unions and civil society groups also issued a joint statement not only demanding genuine universal suffrage but also regulations on working hours and a universal pension. The occupation of the last two days has also given the general public the chance to discuss their opinions, and amongst these one frequently hears discussions of the extreme inequality.
Because of this strong movement from below the C.Y. Leung government has now been forced to stop its offensive, permitting space for the movement to grow even larger. The issue now is how to take advantage of the situation fully and to seek the biggest victory.

It means that we have to overcome the movement’s weaknesses:
1. The old democracy movement’s former leaders are no longer able to lead, however the new leaderships of the new democracy movement is still in formation. This is a danger. Although spontaneity has been a great factor in advancing the movement, now—with all the sabotage taking place and a crackdown quite possible sometime in the future by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Leung government—the movement will soon require more organising and leaderships, and I use plural here deliberately.
2. Although the students’ organization is comparatively better, the general public lacks the organization and networks to support each other. This is especially so for the strike call. Although there were some early responses to the strike call, a broad strike wave has yet to happen. The HKCTU is not yet strong enough to fully implement the strike call, let alone to organize the solidarity alliance now in preparation. Strengthening movement will require great effort and also new initiatives
II. Aims and slogans
1. The Leung Chun-ying regime must surrender Civic Plaza and Tamar Garden to the people and to withdraw all police from there, so that these two places can be a focal point for the movement. If the government does not promise this then the movement should certainly not withdraw from the streets, and, if they do promise, then the decision to withdraw or stay on will depend on the circumstances and the wishes of the people.
2. The Leung Chun-ying regime and its officials must apologise.
3. The Leung Chun-ying regime must step down.
4. The National People’s Congress (NPC) resolution must be withdrawn; genuine universal suffrage and civic nominations must be implemented.
5. Regulations on working hours, a universal pension and collective bargaining rights must be implemented.
6. We must win regime change and the self-determination over political reform.

3. The Way Forward
1. Working people need more encouragement to strike. One way is to encourage each company or unit to organise and set up a small group for solidarity with the movement and to establish a strike committee. Only with this foundation, is it possible to discuss the issue seriously.
Slogan: Students and workers unite together to achieve regime change. For self-determination over political reform!
2. Adhere to nonviolence.
3. Proposing self-determination over political reform is appropriate. However if anyone proposes Hong Kong independence then we (the democratic left/progressives) can respond that we cannot agree to this, although we respect the right to express this opinion. Also it is an issue worthy of discussion later, but not for now, or it may be harmful to the movement.

Updated on the early morning of 30th September
Last night when I went to the scene, I found that the movement had again expanded in scale and it was very moving. However this also increases the risk of direct intervention by the CCP—although this does not necessarily mean dispatching the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) from the outset. Nevertheless it is necessary to avoid provocations and excesses. In the case of escalation of the crackdown from tear gas to shooting—or even worse the mobilization of the PLA—there is no way we can fight that, given the present level of organisation.Therefore we should retreat from the streets when this moment comes, but keep the strike going – no one can force working people to work normally even with guns. In addition to this we will need a deepening of the non-cooperation movement in all areas.

________________________________________
* Au Loong Yu is a Hong Kong activist. He is currently editor of China Labor Net. This essay is reposted from New Politics with the permission of the author.

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