The UAW’s Election Loss at Chattanooga VW Plant Will Not End the Southern Auto Organizing Drive

by Paul Garver

Attributing its narrow loss at the Chattanooga VW plant to outrageous outside interference by anti-union special interest groups and right-wing politicians, on 21st February the UAW formally filed objections to the election with the NLRB. This is new legal terrain, since the electoral misconduct stemmed not as customary from management but from misleading and coercive statements by right-wing politicians and wealthy anti-union organizations.

The success of the UAW’s novel legal appeal is far from certain, despite its evident justification. It is also uncertain, even if a new election is granted, whether the union would  prevail in an unchanged hostile external political environment and continuing opposition to the union by some workers. However a new combination of political mobilization in the community and renewed organizing efforts by pro-union VW workers and their families can succeed.

I went away from a workshop with renewed hope at the recent Labor Notes conference in Chicago addressed by Volkswagon workers  and by Chris Brooks, of Chattanooga Organized for Action.  The workers and Chris explained with passion and clear analytical thinking how the union came close to victory, only to be blindsided by a massive anti-union campaign fueled by hundreds of thousands of dollars from shadowy outside special interests.

Continue reading

Criticism of Cesar Chavez Film Misses Big Picture

OneStepataTimeWhen I saw a preview of the new Cesar Chavez film and wrote a positive review, I did not foresee that I would be the only author of a book on Chavez and the UFW that viewed it positively. And while I understand the critiques offered by Marshall Ganz, Matt Garcia and others, they missed the bigger picture.
Diego Luna’s new film, Cesar Chavez, has been criticized on two main grounds.

First, it failed to show that the farmworkers were a movement filled with key organizers and volunteers, not simply a showcase for a great man named Cesar Chavez. This is the chief criticism I made in my review. For those like Ganz whose own key roles in the movement the film excised from history, their anger is understandable.

Second, the film ends in 1970, ignoring how Chavez began dismantling the movement he launched by that decade’s end. I thought the film should have ended in 1975, when Governor Brown signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. But requiring the film to continue into the 1980’s would have required at least thirty minutes in additional running time, and its unlikely funds were available to create a two-hour film.

Continue reading

College Graduates Face a Permanent Income Loss

collegegradThe payoff of college isn’t what it used to be.

These days, many college-educated workers are struggling to get by with stagnating and falling wages.

This is not to suggest that an “education premium” no longer exists.

But the reality of the country’s educated workforce nevertheless is looking more and more like that of blue-collar workers, who have faced an attack on their living standards for decades.

Media reports abound about how liberal arts degrees—in English, philosophy, anthropology and sociology, to name some—don’t translate into solid jobs. That’s why you can talk to a barista at Starbucks about Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right.”

And sadly, students are graduating with substantial college loan debts, which society-wide amount to more than our collective credit-card debt. Continue reading

An Interview With Staughton Lynd About the Labor Movement

by Andy Piascik and Staughton Lynd

Staughton Lynd

Staughton Lynd

For more than 50 years, Staughton Lynd has been a leading radical in the United States. He was an engaged supporter of the Black Liberation Movement in the Deep South in the early 1960’s, most notably as coordinator of the Freedom Schools during Mississippi Summer in 1964. He was an active opponent of US aggression in Indochina, including as chairperson of the first national demonstration against the war in Vietnam in April 1965.[1] In recent decades, Lynd has been an attorney representing prisoners, particularly at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, and has written a book, a play and numerous articles about the 1993 uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.[2]

Since the late 1960’s, Lynd has also been deeply involved in the labor movement as an activist, attorney and prolific writer.[3] Inspired by Marty Glaberman, Stan Weir and Ed Mann,[4] Lynd has been a passionate and prolific proponent of decentralized, rank-and-file driven unionism. In November 2014, Haymarket Books will publish a book by Lynd entitled Doing History from the Bottom Up: On E.P. Thompson, Howard Zinn, and Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below and a new edition of his book Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below with an introduction by radical labor scholar and activist Immanuel Ness will be published by PM Press in Spring 2015.

Continue reading

Why Unions Matter

 by Leslie Tolf

Leslie Tolf Headshot

Leslie Tolf

As parents we tell our children that the key to success and prosperity lies in a good education. We feel we have to. Why? Thirty-five years of globalization and technological revolution have resulted in a rapid decline of the manufacturing and blue-collar jobs that were once the backbone of our economy. These were union jobs that offered good wages, superb health benefits and the security of a pension at retirement. But those jobs are vanishing. With that in mind, we needed our kids to get a college degree so they could find skilled work that paid well.

The state of organized labor in America is changing. And it’s not looking good.Now, millions of un- and underemployed graduates have discovered that a college degree doesn’t guarantee a good job. Coupled with the extraordinary spike in college tuition, the flagging economy that welcomed Millennials into the workforce means that not only are our young people graduating with far fewer opportunities for high paying jobs, but they are coming out of college with mountains of debt. The average college loan requires a $290-per-month payback, a figure that lands between seven to 10 percent of a 20 or 30 something’s average monthly salary. While the value of education for the sake of learning should never be under-estimated, the reality is that education simply isn’t the answer to shared prosperity that many once thought it was.

Read the rest at Huffington Post.

Leslie Tolf is the current President of Union Privilege, which provides credit cards and financial services to union members. She’s had an extensive career in both the public and private sectors. Her current project — Union Kid Power — is a graphic novel that seeks to teach power of activism to the next generation.

 

Moral Authority in Globalization

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

I took part in a “fair trade” study session at a synagogue recently, looking at moral authority in the global economy. We considered four historical examples.

In Exodus, Moses leads the children of Israel out of Egypt, creating a new nation in the midst of established tribes and nations. After finding food and water, Moses gets excellent advice from his father in-law, Jethro: Appoint judges.

“… thou shalt provide, out of all the people, able men such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain, and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all seasons.”

This judicial system was a foundational institution of civil society, giving legitimacy and credibility to Moses’ leadership. The Old Testament served as a moral, social and civil document. It determined how life would be organized for many generations.

Continue reading

Philadelphians Stage ‘Sip-In’ To Support Casino Workers

blumgart_sugarhouse_sip_in_850_593

On April 2, supporters of SugarHouse workers stage a ‘sip-in’ at one of the eateries in the massive casino. (Photo by Jini Kades)

Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino opened almost four years ago. Unite Here Local 54’s campaign to unionize workers there is almost as old. And at the end of the month, after a history of reported union-busting activity that includes alleged retaliatory firings, SugarHouse will face its first National Labor Relations Board hearing. According to the complaint filed with the NLRB, a manager stopped a few workers from handing out union literature, crumpled it up and threw it away, also known as “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of rights.”

On April 2, in response to the increasingly tense work environment, union members, staffers and a variety of concerned Philadelphians came together to organize a “sip-in” at SugarHouse. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,175 other followers