by Briosha Sanders


I’d be lying if I told you that it never occurred to me to question the beauty of the countryside that I loved to explore as a young person of color in the South. Many people, like me, can’t help but admire stretches of crisp green plants that interchange with golden fields and eventually give way to pristine farm homes with freshly trimmed lawns. However, there is a deeply entrenched legacy of injustice and inequality that no amount of romanticizing or denial could remove from the reality of life in the country.  But people like to forget and forgetting is costly.

I’d seen third world poverty before when I worked with a nonprofit organization in Honduras in the summer of 2012, but I still felt shocked when I went out to the camps of the trabajadores with whom FLOC organizers work to build community power. It was shocking, I think, because for the first time I was faced with the harsh realization that there is a widespread human trafficking operation of cheap labor thriving in my back yard.

One of the ugliest things I’ve seen in the fields confronted me this past Tuesday night when my companeros y yo visited a worker camp in North Carolina that was surrounded by barbwire fence. For me, it looked like a prison.  It made me think of a cage where the workers are contained until they are needed to work in the fields. There were approximately 60 people living in 5-6 trailers with worn out mattresses backed into a small space, allowing hardly enough room for people to move around.

I realized that the poverty I witnessed in Honduras and the exploitation that the workers here in North Carolina experience are connected. Although, abstractly, I understood that they stem from the same roots of capitalism, imperialism, and racism, it was another thing altogether to witness the blatant disregard for even the most basic human rights that farmworkers are forced to endure every day. Wage theft, physical and verbal abuse, scorching heat, and denial of water and/or lunch breaks, and on and on.

FLOC is an organization of activists and advocates, some of whom have experienced these very same violations themselves, fighting to expose the ugliness of the conditions that farmworkers often feel they have to “put up with” in order to feed their families and care for their loved ones. The fact is that the plantation was never abolished in the South and there is nothing beautiful or endearing about the struggles that farmworkers are forced to experience for fear of losing their jobs or even being deported. As an intern for FLOC, I am even more motivated by and have an ever growing appreciation for la lucha to unionize and demand the Respect, the Recognition, and the Raises that farmworkers deserve.

Briosha Sanders is working for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC) as an intern.  This post originally appeared on FLOC’s blog, and is reposted here with the permission of FLOC and of Briosha Sanders.




San Francisco Giants Concession Workers Swing for the Fences

by Carl Finamore

SF Giants Park picketing (photo: Carl Finamore)

SF Giants Park picketing (photo: Carl Finamore)

Hey Baseball Fans, a big win was pulled out recently by the home team at beautiful San Francisco Giants stadium. The Giants are one of the oldest and most successful sports franchises in the country with more Hall of Fame enrollees and more total games won than any other club.

In fact, they have more W’s than any other professional sports team in the entire nation.

But this latest come from behind victory didn’t happen on the field where the Giants are (temporarily) experiencing a steep slump of sorts.

Instead, it took place in the stands where 800 seasonal concession workers organized by UNITE HERE Local 2 just ratified by 98% a contract with Centerplate, the subcontracted concessionaire at Giants Park and one of the largest hospitality companies in North America.

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What’s wrong with America’s tipping system?

The Economic Policy Institute has produced a series of informative videos on tipped wage workers. We will continue to share them haring them over the coming week or so. In this video, Economic analyst and former tipped worker David Cooper explains that, even though there are laws protecting tipped workers, the system doesn’t work well. Laws are hard to enforce and frequently violated.

Union Campaign Wins Big Raise At Rocky Mount Engine Plant

UE News

[Eds. note: Because of the relevance to the topic of how minority unions can function in the South, Talking Union is departing from its usual practice of not reposting organizational press releases. We applaud the patience and persistence of the UE's long term organizing strategy, and hope that other unions will emulate it.]
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The Precariat and the Global Erosion of Job Security

by Wade Rathke

9781849664561_p0_v2_s260x420 London        When I first saw the term “precariat,” it was used by a labor relations professor in the United Kingdom referring to my advocacy of the need to aggressively organize lower waged workers into unions. Though I wasn’t sure I had heard the term used before I was pretty clear we were talking about families whose lives and work were precarious meaning  uncertain, unstable, and without income security or what I’ve called “citizen wealth.”  All of which led me to a recent book by a British economist named Guy Standing, called, The Precariat:  The New Dangerous Class, which I finished reading before boarding a plane to London.

I’ll need to ask around and get a better feel for how widespread the sense of the precariat is in England, though my small sample indicates it’s in somewhat common usage among those people interested in some of the more disconcerting manifestations of globalization not only in Britain, but around the world.  Certainly Standing ramps it up a notch by linking this emerging precariat with street riots in London and other English cities in recent years reflecting the alienation and anger of young people who are increasingly futureless without long term and certain job prospects.

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How Can We Save Our Unions? Thursday in Boston

SOUFind out at a book talk and discussion of progressive labor initiatives in Massachusetts and other states.

Thursday, June 12 at 7:00pm8:30pm in EDT at Porter Square Books 5 White St, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140

(Or join after-party, 8:30 to 10 pm at Christopher’s Bar, 1920 Mass Ave, just across the street)

Meet labor journalist and former CWA organizer Steve Early, author of Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress.

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Beyond Occupy

by Martin Kich

Martin Kich

Martin Kich

The Occupy Movement has been the first major grassroots progressive movement in the United States in decades. But, at its core, the appeal of the Occupy Wall Street movement has been that it is politically unaffiliated, and that lack of structure, or, more precisely, that lack of structural purpose, has also been its undoing. Occupy Wall Street has been more successfully expressive of political discontent than persuasive about progressive remedies to that discontent mainly because persuasion requires objectives that can be targeted, if not always achieved.

Many Millennials seem to have an aversion to conventional politics, but if they ultimately want to build a third political party that is more truly progressive than the Democratic party has become, the quickest route to accomplishing that goal may be to build a movement within the Democratic party that can either re-assume control of the party or that can draw away enough resources, candidates, and voters that it renders what remains of the Democratic party inconsequential.

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Charter Schools’ False Promise

by David Kaib

Amidst all the debate about charter schools, one thing has often been left out. They are not delivering on what their advocates claimed they would do, as the New York Times reports:

Fund Our SchoolsA primary rationale for the creation of charter schools, which are publicly financed and privately run, was to develop test kitchens for practices that could be exported into the traditional schools. President Obama, in recently proclaiming “National Charter Schools Week,” said they “can provide effective approaches for the broader public education system.”

But two decades since the schools began to appear, educators from both systems concede that very little of what has worked for charter schools has found its way into regular classrooms. Testy political battles over space and money, including one that became glaringly public in New York State this spring, have inhibited attempts at collaboration. The sharing of school buildings, which in theory should foster communication, has more frequently led to conflict.

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In Upset, Reform Candidate Wins Massachusetts Teachers Association Presidency

by Sarah Jaffe

Barbara Madeloni (right) will try to harness the anger and frustration Massachusetts teachers feel into the creation of a more organized, proactive union. (Dan Clawson)

Barbara Madeloni (right) will try to harness the anger and frustration Massachusetts teachers feel into the creation of a more organized, proactive union. (Dan Clawson)

On Friday, May 9, Barbara Madeloni stood onstage at the Massachusetts Teachers Association convention in Boston and made her case to some 1,450 assembled delegates as to why they should elect her president of the union.

Calling for a union that actively fights for its members and that challenges the corporate-backed education reform machine, she told the crowd: “What would a union built on the experience of solidarity look like? A call for a moratorium on high-stakes testing, field testing, and teacher evaluations!”

Over riotous applause, she continued, “Taking the lead in the fight for a truly progressive income tax …  and organizing across locals and within communities to name and fight for a richer, more humane and democratic regime of public education than that being foisted on us!”

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Pilots Win Union and Break Barrier at JetBlue

by Bruce Vail

A union organizing campaign among some 2,500 pilots at JetBlue Airways won a big victory last week after the votes were counted in an election that will bring in the Air Line Pilots Association union (ALPA) to represent the JetBlue aviation workers.

The final vote was 1,734 in favor of ALPA, 56 write-ins for other unions and 639 opposed to unionization, for a pro-union total of 74 percent, according to the union. Turnout was unusually high, says one union organizer, with more than 95 percent of the 2,543 eligible pilots taking part in the National Mediation Board-supervised election.

But the vote also represented a broader victory for organized labor, because it is the first time a union has won an election at JetBlue since the growing company began operations in 2000. Continue reading


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