Chicago Unions Seek Better Ties After Clash Over Immigrants

Tiffany Ten Eyck
Labor Notes

Leaders of Chicago’s worker centers and unions have been meeting to soothe conflicts over the defense of unionized immigrant workers.

Tensions developed this summer after union members approached a worker center for help with no-match letters from the Social Security Administration. The letters tell employers which employees’ social security numbers don’t match their name and are often used as an excuse to fire immigrant workers.

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People’s Bailout: National Week of Action Dec 7-13

peoplesbailoutCall to Action: People’s Bailout Now!!
National Week of Action December 7-13
Visit for more information.

As many predicted, the Wall Street Bailout has proven to be the gross give-away to the same financial bigwigs that have been pocketing millions while wrecking the real economy. Little or no benefit has gone to the working people and the real economy, at a time that we face the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s. By the time Obama is sworn in, hundreds of thousands of additional people will lose their jobs, lose their homes and lose their health care.

It’s time for a “People’s Bailout” that fixes the real economy, restores a voice for working people in challenging corporate greed, provides emergency help to the victims of the crisis and begins building a fair economy that works for all, addressing crises in housing, health care, jobs, retirement security and the environment.
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Urgent Appeal: Save Iranian Union Leader from Hanging

Eric Lee

This morning I received news that jailed Iranian teacher union activist Farzad Kamangar may be hanged within the next few hours.

According to the Education International, he has been taken from his cell in Tehran’s Evin prison in preparation for execution. The guards have told him he is about to be executed and they are making fun of him, calling him a martyr.

We need your help and we need it right now.

Send off your message to the Iranian president:

Pass on the this message to everyone you know who might support this campaign.

We may only have a few hours left.

I know that I can count on your help.  Thank you.

Eric Lee

[Talking Union experienced difficulty accessing this LabourStart campaign Wednesday morning Hopefully that is due to an intense response to this appeal.  Keep trying or set an email to the Iranian authorities via the Education International website.]

Chinese Labor: Epic Struggle in the Pearl River Delta

By Paul Garver
Democratic Left Fall 2008

paul-portrait_editedWhile Americans were focused on their November presidential election, equally momentous decisions  were being made in the Pearl River Delta area of China’s  Guangdong Province. The industrial belt stretching from  Hong Kong north through the cities of Shenzhen and  Dongguan to the provincial capital city Guangzhou (formerly  Canton) has become a crucible for an epic struggle over the  future direction of Chinese society.

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Nike Human Rights Investigation Up for Human Rights Award

ehhr_145A TV  news report on the exploitation of Bengla Deshi, Burmese, and  Vietnamese workers in Malaysia and Nike’s hypocrisy is up for a prestigious “Every Human  Has Rights” Award.

There ]’s a public vote, but there only five days left to vote; the deadline is midnight November 30.

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Boston DSA post-Election Forum Obama’s Victory: What Happened? What Next?

7:00 P.M., Monday, Nov.24
The Democracy Center  45 Mt. Auburn St. Cambridge (Harvard Sq.)

Speakers: Frances Moore Lappe, Tim Costello & Frank Llewellyn

What does Obama’s historic victory mean for the progressive coalition that backed him? What will be the effect of the massive grassroots movement that brought him into office?  Are we in for four more years of neoliberalism with a Democratic face, or does the left have enough muscle to push for a “new New Deal”?

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What To Do With the Big Three? Bailout? Bankruptcy? Nationalization?

by Bill Onasch


A few weeks ago, 25 billion dollars of federal assistance was approved for the Big Three automakers to retool their product lines, shifting from gas guzzlers that are not selling at any price to more fuel efficient vehicles. But General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler say they are essentially broke, and cannot meet day-to-day expenses. With the support of the UAW, the companies are asking for additional emergency help, to the tune of another 25 billion, to keep them solvent until they can make the needed transition to less thirsty, presumably more marketable vehicles.

There is precedent for bailout in the American auto industry. When Chrysler was on the brink in 1979, congress passed the Chrysler Corp. Loan Guarantee Act. It included loans of 1.5 billion dollars, and helped extract concessions from suppliers and the UAW. The government had an oversight shadow board of directors to monitor a “realistic and feasible” recovery plan. Chrysler’s new “K” cars were a success, and the company repaid its loans early, with the government actually earning over 300 million dollars from its investment.

But the present economic crisis, and the growth of the Japanese, Korean, and German owned “transplant” market share, makes it hard to inspire the same confidence in such a Big Three realistic and favorable recovery today.

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The State of U.S. Labor & Building Union Power

By Elaine Bernard
Democratic Left Fall 2008

The State of Organized Labor in the U.S.


It is sobering to note that U.S. unions have been in decline for the entire worklife of the vast majority of today’s workers. It was long ago, in 1955, when unions reached their highest density (that is, the proportion of the total workforce which are union members). Back then, one out of every three workers was a union member. Leaders of the autoworkers, steelworkers and other industrial unions were nationally recognized spokespersons for the majority of working people. At this level of representation, unions set the standard for wages and working conditions not only for their members but also for the non-union sector as well.

Today, unions have been in steady decline for over a full 50 years. In 2007, only one in eight workers was a union member nationally and less than one in 12 is a union member in the private sector. Whole regions of the country and sectors of the economy are virtually without unions. With unionized establishments only a tiny minority in many industries and services, employers have a free hand in setting wages, benefits, and working conditions. And increasingly, the non-union majority is chipping away at the standards of the shrinking union minority.

Unions, it seems, grow by leaps, such as the last great organizing explosion in the late 1930s and 1940s when the U.S. labor movement grew from a small, exclusive club of skilled craft workers to a more inclusive movement of millions of industrial, manufacturing, and service workers. This historic upsurge not only transformed labor but also transformed American society.

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Atlanta Douglass-Debs Dinner Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

by Milton Tambor and Barbara Joye

Milton Tambor, Atlanta DSA,and Bill Lucy, AFSCME

Milton Tambor, Atlanta DSA,and William Lucy, AFSCME

On November 8, Metro Atlanta DSA celebrated its second annual Douglass-Debs awards dinner at the IBEW hall. About 200 people were in attendance. The diverse crowd’s joyful, high-energy mood was enhanced by elation over the recent election. Songs and music by Elise Witt and the Cafe Mezclao band further added to the evening’s strong spirit of solidarity.

Local unions from CWA, AFSCME, UAW, UNITE-HERE, ATU and UFCW played a major role in the event by purchasing tables and ads for the program book, which included a warm message from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney about DSA. Rev Tim McDonald opened the program with a passionate appeal for a continued commitment to the struggle for economic and social justice. William Lucy, AFSCME’s international secretary-treasurer and president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, gave the keynote speech.

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Cane Cutters Win Strike Victory in Colombia


18,000 Colombian sugar cane workers have ended a 56-day strike after sugar mills employing 75% of the workers agreed to some major demands of their new union SINALCORTEROS. The remaining employers are expected to sign on to the pattern agreement that includes a 15% wage increase, a limitation on excessive hours of work, paid sick leave and employer contributions to housing, education, and social security.

The striking workers were unable to win the demand that would compel the employers to provide direct employment contracts. Therefore the system of phony workers’ “cooperatives” that under Colombia law permit employers to evade legal responsibility for collective bargaining and providing health and pension benefits continues. However the strike did compel sugar mill operators into de facto collective bargaining with SINALCORTEROS. By agreeing to pay into the national employee health and retirement system, the owners in effect are recognizing the employee status of the cane cutters. During the strike the union increased its voluntary membership from 900 to more than 3000 members, making it one of the largest private sector unions in Colombia.

International solidarity played a major role by forcing the Uribé government to back down from its initial stance of labeling the strike “guerrilla inspired.” It is also likely that the Uribé government restrained paramilitary attacks on the strikers because of its ongoing campaign to win U.S. Congressional ratification of the Free Trade Agreement. Sugar production in Colombia is increasingly dedicated to producing ethanol for the U.S. market.


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