Report on the Labor Notes Conference

by Guy Miller

“The beating heart of the labor movement.” That’s how the moderator of the Friday evening April 6th plenary session of the 2018 Labor Notes (LN) Conference introduced six West Virginia school teachers. The teachers were fresh from a historic victory in their unauthorized – and unexpected – strike. The same could be said about the conference itself: it represented the beating heart of American labor. The record 3,200 activists who attended the three-day Chicago conference were living, fighting proof of that.

https://rdln.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/the-beating-heart-of-the-labor-movement-report-on-the-2018-labor-notes-conference/

Advertisements

Trade and China

Testimony before the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness for a hearing on ‘Market Access Challenges in China’

Testimony • By Thea M. Lee • April 11, 2018

“This litany of unfair trade practices and currency manipulation has had a serious and pervasive negative impact on American jobs and wages. As my colleague, Rob Scott, demonstrated in a 2017 report, Growth in U.S.–China Trade Deficit between 2001 and 2015 Cost 3.4 Million Jobs [ https://www.epi.org/publication/growth-in-u-s-china-trade-deficit-between-2001-and-2015-cost-3-4-million-jobs-heres-how-to-rebalance-trade-and-rebuild-american-manufacturing ], the deficit cost jobs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Between 2001 and 2011, the growing trade deficit cost directly impacted workers $37 billion a year, while also putting downward pressure on the wages of all non-college graduates by $180 billion a year.”

Well informed analysis.

Read the testimony.

https://www.epi.org/publication/testimony-before-the-senate-finance-committee-subcommittee-on-international-trade-customs-and-global-competitiveness-for-a-hearing-on-market-access-challenges-in-china/

For an alternate viewpoint read;

http://www.dsausa.org/socialism_and_international_competition_a_response_to_daniel_adkins

Dolores Huerta – Labor, Feminist activist

Dolores
Join Dolores Delgado Campbell, Sacramento DSA, to discuss the film Dolores.  Here’s how PBS’s Independent Lens describes it: “With intimate and unpresented access, Peter Bratt’s Dolores tells the story of Dolores Huerta. . . . Co-founder of the first farmworkers union with Cesar Chavez, she tirelessly let the fight for racial and labor justice, becoming one of the most defiant feminists of the 20th century.” Delgado Campbell is a Chicana, feminist, labor union activist of 40 years, former co-chair of DSA’s Latino Commission (1983- 2004) and professor emeritus of Women’s History and Chicano History. She worked with Huerta as organizers with the United Farm Workers of America in the 1970s. The film will be shown on PBS TV channels March 27.  Check your local station’s schedule, or watch it online here after March 27. Here’s a review. 

What Now for Unions?

By Harold Meyerson, from The American Prospect

Excerpt:

For conservatives, the much-anticipated Supreme Court decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case may be coming eight years too late. If, as expected, the five Republican justices on the Court rule for the plaintiff, which would end public employee unions’ ability to collect dues from all the workers they represent, they will significantly weaken the nation’s largest unions, among them the two teachers unions, as well as AFSCME and SEIU. These are also among the most significant organizations in Democrats’ voter-mobilization programs and, more generally, in supporting progressive groups and causes. Even more fundamentally, the right plainly hopes such a ruling will also drive the final nail into the coffin of the American labor movement.

While a pro-Janus ruling could strengthen the Republicans electorally, when it comes to killing unions, the right is simply too late. The current configurations of the union movement may well shift, but the growing public support for labor suggests that in one form or another, worker organizations are not going away.

http://prospect.org/article/what-now-unions

Purple Bullying: SEIU trustees trample membership rights

by Steve Early

In Chicago this coming weekend, 2,500 rank-and-file activists, from the U.S. and abroad, will be meeting under the banner of Labor Notes to celebrate the revival of union militancy, including recent strike victories like the West Virginia teachers’ walk-out.

This conference—nineteenth of its sort since 1981—will be the largest gathering ever hosted by the now Brooklyn-based labor education project. Labor Notes staff train shop stewards and local officers, promote cross-union networks, and publish books and newsletters about union democracy and reform.

As Labor Notes co-founder socialist Kim Moody explained to Jacobin readers two years ago, “the emphasis has always been on building power in the workplace” and “undermining the conservative consciousness produced by bureaucratic unionism” (“The Rank and File’s Paper of Record,” August 11, 2016).

One particular conference focus this year is how public employee unions can transform themselves to insure that the Supreme Court’s impending decision in the Janus case doesn’t lead to a worker exodus, once payment of union dues or agency fees becomes voluntary.

Among the many Chicago-area trade unionists planning to attend their first Labor Notes conference are members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, which represents 29,000 government employees in Illinois and Indiana. At a time when public sector labor organizations need to be on their best behavior—and increasingly responsive to the rank-and-file—Local 73 members have been experiencing “bureaucratic unionism” at its most frustrating and dysfunctional worst.

SEIU officials, from out of town, have run the local by fiat, since its elected officers were ousted in August, 2016 due to their “incessant infighting.” Under federal law, such headquarters-imposed trusteeships enjoy the presumption of legitimacy—regardless of their grounds—for a minimum of eighteen months. Time is up on that calendar in Local 73. So two thousand of its dues-payers have signed petitions demanding that their union be returned to membership control via democratic elections for seven officers and 100 executive board members.

Fired For Their Candidacy

To accelerate this process, a group of longtime Local 73 activists formed “Members Leading Members,” a reform caucus with its own slate of candidates. When their names were announced, ten contenders for office were summarily dismissed from their union staff jobs by appointees of SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. Their work is now being done by eight International union staffers, whose higher salaries will be absorbed by the local. Remzi Joas, a member of SEIU since 1986, former head of Local 73’s higher education division and now a candidate for local president, was among those fired. Local 73 members are pursuing a federal court challenge to the trusteeship and the related retaliatory firings.

When Henry recently made a worksite visit in Local 73, workers confronted her directly, presented their petitions calling for an election, and demanded to know when “self-governance” would be restored. Henry claimed that SEIU’s current focus on preparing for the fall-out of the Janus decision and electing a labor-friendly governor took precedence over local union voting in the meantime. But she did promise to refer the matter to her lawyers.

At a restive membership meeting in late February, Eliseo Medina, a Local 73 co-trustee, former SEIU Executive Board member, and long ago hero of United Farm Workers organizing, spent nearly three hours sparring with an equally unhappy crowd of 100. Those who turned up were angry about having no say about the day-to-day operations of their union, staff assignments or salaries, or the conduct of contract negotiations. To divert their attention, Medina showed a film about Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Jaos, “members were so disgusted with the trustees that they just finally left the union hall.”

A former SEIU-represented janitor and doorman in Chicago, Jaos worries that some workers in his current local will stop paying union dues or agency fees if the Supreme Court imposes open shop conditions on the public sector, and they still have no voice in union decision- making. If Local 73 is merged, by Washington, DC headquarters dictate, into a neighboring SEIU affiliate, the rank-and-file reaction could be similar (although some of its diverse bargaining units might prefer, after their recent mistreatment, to be part of SEIU’s mid-western Health Care Workers local instead, AFSCME’s Illinois District Council, or the Chicago Teachers Union).

Purple Déjà vu

SEIU does not approach this Chicago dispute with what lawyers call “clean hands.” Its past use of trusteeships, forced mergers, and top-down restructuring has been costly, counter-productive, and highly political—a way to reward friends of the leadership and punish internal critics. SEIU’s organizational culture of staff domination has led to repeated trampling of membership rights and, recently, embarrassing disclosures about sexual harassment of female members by male union officials in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, and California.

In the run-up to SEIU’s largest and most disastrous local union take-over—involving United Healthcare Workers (UHW)—some of the first punches where thrown at a Labor Notes conference in Dearborn, Michigan ten years ago this month. Volunteer marshals at that gathering of 1,000 had to fend off several hundred gate-crashers wearing purple-colored T-shirts and bandanas to conceal their faces, who were bussed, in, from two mid-western SEIU affiliates.

Among those drawn into the fray were low-wage home care workers, told by their union, that the progressive labor conference in Dearborn was actually a conclave of “union-busters.” (An African-American SEIU member named David Smith collapsed and died of a heart attack before the heavily policed brawl was over; for a first person account of that senseless tragedy my article, “The Purple Punch-Out in Dearborn,” Counterpunch, April 15, 2008.)

In reality, SEIU’s target was Rose Ann DeMoro of the California Nurses Association, a prominent female union leader and then organizational rival of SEIU, who was scheduled to speak at Labor Notes’ 2008 fund-raising dinner. Protest organizers also hoped to intimidate fellow SEIU members from California who were attending the conference because they opposed the leadership of SEIU president Andy Stern and wanted to reform their national union.

Media coverage of the dust-up in Dearborn was so unfavorable that the AFL-CIO, then headed by former SEIU President John Sweeney, issued a statement declaring there was “no justification for the violent attack orchestrated by SEIU. Violence in attacking freedom of speech must be strongly condemned.”

Sweeney’s successor, Andy Stern, now SEIU President Emeritus, never apologized for or expressed any regrets over this PR debacle. Since leaving the union eight years ago, Stern has served as a corporate-funded Columbia Business School research fellow, drug company director, and paid consultant for gig economy firms like Airbnb and Handy, giving him even more to apologize for. (For all the sordid details, see: “Andy Stern’s Newest Gig: High-Paid Consultant for Billion-Dollar Tech Companies,” Stern Burger with Fries, January 12, 2017.)

A Toxic Culture

In early 2009, before he retired, Stern rewarded Dave Regan, the architect of SEIU’s 2008 Labor Notes protest with a plum assignment in California. Regan and fellow Stern appointee Eliseo Medina were sent to Oakland to seize control of UHW, a well-functioning and widely respected state-wide affiliate of SEIU, whose elected leaders had become critical of Stern’s approach to organizing and bargaining.

To impose that “mother of all trusteeships” on 150,000 workers, the Stern Administration spent tens of millions of dollars. It also dispatched an occupying army of union staffers to block ousted UHW officers, shop stewards, and rank-and-file members from forming a new union, after they were put under trusteeship. As I described in a 2011 book called The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor (Haymarket) the result was many months—and now years—of harassment, intimidation, and bullying of UHW dissenters, whether they are trying to leave SEIU, via decertification votes, or just get post-trusteeship UHW staff to represent them properly.

Regan turned his trusteeship duty into a sinecure, as UHW president, that now pays $250,000 a year, even though his local has one third fewer members than a decade ago. Other higher level Stern operatives involved in the dismantling of UHW include Mary Kay Henry herself, who once, famously called the Walnut Creek, CA. police to help bar Kaiser Permanente shop steward, Lover Joyce, from a post-trusteeship meeting in his own workplace.

After health care organizer Scott Courtney, a right hand man of Dave Regan, helped plan the assault on Labor Notes and, then, UHW members in California, Henry promoted his SEIU career. As president after Stern, she made Courtney Executive Vice President of SEIU and coordinator of its national “Fight for 15” campaign among fast food workers. Others of lesser stature on the SEIU national staff and from various locals also got their ticket punched—and their careers boosted—by running roughshod over UHW members at Kaiser and other California hospital chains, in 2009-11.

Where Are They Today?

The results were not pretty when some SEIU operatives took similar or worse liberties elsewhere, later on. Last October, Henry suspended Courtney from his $250,000 a year position because, as Bloomberg News reported, “people working for him had been rewarded or reassigned based on romantic relationships with him.” Courtney soon quit, before he could be fired, as demanded by the feminist advocacy group, UltraViolet, which deemed his conduct “wholly unacceptable.”

As BuzzFeed News then disclosed, two male SEIU staffers who reported to Courtney were fired or forced to resign in Chicago, based on allegations that he protected them, despite complaints from co-workers about their bullying behavior involving women. (Kendall Fells, “The Organizing Director Of The Fight For 15 Has Resigned Amid Harassment Investigation” Buzzfeed, November 2, 2017.)

A third offender, also fired for the same reason, had spent time in California during the UHW trusteeship. SEIU’s own version of the Harvey Weinstein scandal gathered further momentum, when media outlets, like the Boston Globe, chronicled examples of unwanted sexual advances by long protected officials like Massachusetts SEIU1199 leader Tyrek Lee, or staffers who moved from one SEIU local to another, despite allegations of misconduct trailing behind them. (Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, “Suspended head of health care workers union reportedly engaged in lewd behavior,” Boston Globe, February 14, 2018.)

To Sal Rosselli, the former UHW president and SEIU board member, who dared to criticize the direction of SEIU under Stern, this is clearly a case of chickens coming home to roost. “If you want to understand SEIU’s toxic macho culture, one of the worst expressions was the way its staff and leadership behaved before and during the UHW trusteeship,” he says. “In an environment where dissent must be crushed at all costs, leaders will be emboldened to prey on subordinates—and subordinates will feel intimidated about blowing the whistle.”

Now president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), the more democratic, independent union created from the ashes of Stern’s scorched earth campaign a decade ago, Rosselli is also coming to Labor Notes in Chicago, with a rank-and-file delegation of fifteen. While UHW, under the installed leadership of Dave Regan, has steadily shrunk, 14,000-member NUHW is growing and thriving. Its members backed Bernie Sanders two years ago, while Henry pushed SEIU into the Clinton camp, despite Sanders’ far superior labor record.

The Kaiser Partnership Frays

NUHW members at Kaiser and other employers have waged creative contract campaigns and militant anti-concession strikes. Kaiser mental health clinicians and other healthcare professionals are preparing for bargaining that begins in July. Like the CNA, NUHW operates outside the SEIU-dominated Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions (CKPU), because the coalition’s embrace of labor-management partnering can inhibit much-needed public advocacy of patient safety and quality care.

Meanwhile, UHW’s Kaiser Division is in disarray. That’s because Regan appointee Marcus Hatcher had to be fired for—guess what?—alleged sexual misconduct with three members of the union’s Executive Board! Regan’s own mounting leadership failures just triggered a more significant departure. Twenty-one unions representing 45,000 out of the 121,000 workers affected by CKPU’s joint bargaining have just quit the Coalition.

As Denise Duncan, leader of the AFSCME-affiliated United Nurses Associations of California explained: “we cannot be derailed by the leader of a single local,” referring to Regan. According to Duncan, at a pre-bargaining meeting in March, SEIU-UHW “once again engaged in disruptive tactics designed to assert [its] control over the coalition, making it clear to us that this behavior will never stop.” Under Regan, she charged, SEIU-UHW has “continually fractured our unity and our ability to focus on bargaining.”

Bullying, disruption, capitulation to management, and no accountability to members or union allies—that pretty much sums up the post-trusteeship MO of SEIU-UHW, thanks to Andy Stern and Mary Kay Henry. Is it any wonder that, halfway across the country from California, SEIU Local 73 members want to choose their own local leaders? The alternative is continued domination by a national union with a history of hiring people later in need of discipline because their personal behavior not only harmed SEIU members, but also damaged the reputation of all unions at a moment of great political peril.


Steve Early is former national staffer for the Communications Workers of America and a longtime supporter of Labor Notes and the National Union of Healthcare Workers. In two books for Monthly Review Press—Embedded with Organized Labor and Save Our UnionsEarly reported on SEIU-related conflicts that weakened and divided the progressive wing of labor. Early can be reached at Lsupport [at] aol.com

This article is reposted from MR Online with the permission of the author.

Solidarity with Striking Oklahoma Teachers

Austin Democratic Socialists of America Statement of Solidarity

With Striking Oklahoma Teachers

As history has taught us, collective action is imperative in the fight to win a better world for working class people. For the last four decades, labor power has been on the decline as its strength has been continually eroded by capitalist interests. The current wave of teacher strikes is a reminder that even with unions weakened under Right To Work laws and a multitude of other attacks, we can win when we organize and fight in solidarity.

In light of this, Austin DSA fully supports the Oklahoma teacher and school staff shutdown of public schools. Teachers and education employees are standing together in unprecedented numbers to demand improvements in worker pay. They are also demanding additional investments for public education for their students.

The Oklahoma Legislature has failed to invest in teachers and in student learning. This disinvestment has created a crisis in the public schools in Oklahoma.  Due to lack of funds,schools in 91 districts are only open 4 days a week—a 20% reduction in classroom learning every week. Administrators from superintendents to principals have joined teachers and school employees in over 100 school districts to shut down the schools and head to the Capitol to demand change.

Oklahoma teachers have not had a raise in 20 years.  Oklahoma is ranked 50th in teacher pay. The abandonment of the public schools has been led by Republican majorities in the Legislature and the Governor’s mansion. But it is not just a Republican problem.  Democrats have failed to exercise leadership on progressive tax plans and haven’t been up to the task of addressing the growing education funding crisis in Oklahoma.

This disinvestment is similar to the conditions that led to the historic teacher strike in West Virginia in February.  Oklahomans are inspired by the lessons of the massive uprising, uniting teachers, school employees, parents,and the broader Oklahoma community. West Virginia teachers and their allies  demanded and won badly needed investments in public education in teacher/staff salary and in relief from skyrocketing healthcare costs. But it wasn’t just teachers out for themselves; West Virginia teachers demanded, and won, raises for every state worker in West Virginia

We support the OK teachers’ just demands for decent raises, not just for the current year, but the coming 3 years as well. The legislature needs to do more to invest in student learning, technology, and school facilities. To address critical levels of teacher turnover, teachers deserve a long-term commitment to fair pay.  A one year raise does not make up for 20 years of neglect. To pay for this investment we urge Democrats to work with unions and the rank and file teacher movement to raise revenue not through regressive taxation but through progressive taxes on the wealthy, increased taxes on the oil and gas industry, and the closing of business tax loopholes as well.

Finally, we believe that this is an important battle in the fight for labor rights, equitable quality education, and health justice more broadly.  This is a crisis in West Virginia and Oklahoma, but it’s also a crisis in Texas as well. In fact, it’s a crisis in the entire United States, and only by standing together in the face of capitalist disinvestment can we overcome the broader assault on workers.. DSA believes that pay raises aren’t enough, and pledge to work towards a broader solution including broad union rights, expanded access to quality public education, and a Medicare For All system in which everyone is provided the highest quality healthcare, free at the point of service.

– Austin DSA Co-Chairs Glenn Scott and Dave Pinkham

Continue reading

Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, the UFW, and Strategic Racism

(Reposted from 2016)

cesar-and-duane-1

Cesar Chavez & Duane Campbell, 1972.

Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.  You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read.  You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.  Cesar Chávez., November 9, 1984.

by Duane Campbell

On March 31, 2018,  eleven states  and numerous cities will hold holidays celebrating  labor and Latino Leader Cesar Chavez. Conferences, marches and celebrations will occur in numerous cities this weekend and particularly in rural farm areas  of the nation.  A recent film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña  as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta presents important parts of this story.

Meanwhile,  in March of 2015  hundreds of farmworkers have walked off their jobs in Baja California, Mexico, from the agricultural fields just a few miles from the U.S. border, fields developed to provide a harvest to the U.S. markets.  Farm labor strikes and violence against strikers remains a volatile issue.  Farm workers deserve dignity, respect, and fair wages.  Achieving these goals will require a union.

The current UFW leadership, as well as former UFW leaders and former DSA Honorary Chairs Eliseo Medina and Dolores Huerta  are recognized leaders in the ongoing efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in the nation.

On immigration, UFW President Arturo Rodriquez says, “We urge Republicans to abandon their political games that hurt millions of hard-working, taxpaying immigrants and their families, and help us finish the job by passing legislation such as the comprehensive reform bill that was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote in June 2013,” Rodriguez said.  Similar compromise proposals, negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s major agricultural employer associations, have passed the U.S. Senate multiple times over the last decade. The same proposal has won majority support in the House of Representatives, even though House GOP leaders have refused to permit a vote on the measure. “The UFW will not rest until the President’s deferred relief is enacted and a permanent immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, is signed into law.”  http://www.UFW.org

What Chavez and Huerta 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. Continue reading