Guatemala’s Killing Fields

Another Banana Union Leader Assassinated in Guatemala

by Paul Garver

This year Guatemala is overtaking Colombia in the contest for killing the most advocates of rights for workers and peasants.

On May 26, Joel Hernandez Godoy, finance secretary of the banana workers union SITRABI, was shot dead by a gunman on motorcycle while driving to the union headquarters in the town of Morales.

This brutal assassination follows the April 10 murder of SITRABI officer Oscar  Humberto Vasquez, killed by two men on a motorcycle in Nueva Chiriqui, Morales.

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NDP surge gives Canada’s unions a new opportunity to organize

by Fred Wilson

Jack Layton addresses CLC

For as long as I can remember, progressives have argued that one of the basic political roles of the trade union movement was to engage in extra parliamentary action and to “make space” for a social democratic political party to move into. What a strange occurrence that it is the party that has now created space for labour to play its role.

The opportunity is large and possibly a turning point for a beleaguered labour movement that for two decades has lost political influence and core union density in the private sector economy. The question now is whether Canadian labour is ready and willing to move forward and capture the ground that was carved out by the Orange Wave. Like all opportunity, this one also will pass unless it is seized.

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The Hidden History of U.S.- Mexico labor solidarity

U.S. Mexican Migration

By< href= David Bacon

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. This article and subsequent installments were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change’s report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, visit the Americas Program website.  These are excerpts.

Introduction

In the period since the North American Free Trade Agreement has come into effect, the economies of the United States and Mexico have become more integrated than ever.  Through Plan Merida and partnerships on security, the military and the drug war, the political and economic policies pursued by the U.S. and Mexican governments are more coordinated than they’ve ever been.

Working people on both sides of the border are not only affected by this integration.  Workers and their unions in many ways are its object.  These policies seek to maximize profits and push wages and benefits to the bottom, manage the flow of people displaced as a result, roll back rights and social benefits achieved over decades, and weaken working class movements in both countries.

All this makes cooperation and solidarity across the U.S./Mexico border more important than ever.  After a quarter century in which the development of solidarity relationships was interrupted during the cold war, unions and workers are once again searching out their counterparts and finding effective and appropriate ways to support each other. Continue reading

SEIU’s Medina: “Business Death Penalty” Wrongly Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court

Eliseo Medina

WASHINGTON, D.C. – SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina made the following statement today following the United States Supreme Court’s narrow ruling in favor of Arizona’s so-called “Business Death Penalty” law that strips business licenses away from employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

“Today’s United States Supreme Court decision upholding a narrow part of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration agenda is deeply disappointing. For its part, the Supreme Court placed a stamp of approval on legislation that unfairly and unjustly targets working people and honest employers who contribute to local economies and help to make this nation great.

“We must emphasize that this ruling is limited in scope and does not address the broader legal issues contained in Arizona’s SB 1070 law passed last year. In SB 1070, Arizona tried to usurp federal authority on immigration, and lower courts already have found that states cannot violate the federal supremacy principles that govern our nation.
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Unions: G8 Summit Must Deliver on Jobs

ITUC

International Trade Union Confederation

This week’s G8 Summit of World Leaders must deliver leadership to end the global jobs crisis, according to the world’s trade unions. Over 30 million people who lost their jobs due to the crisis are still unemployed.

“Worldwide, employment has still not recovered from the 2008 financial fiasco, and too few governments are taking the jobs crisis seriously,” said ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation)General Secretary Sharan Burrow, adding “the G8 and the G20 must lead the way to a surge in employment rather than the narrow and destructive focus on spending cuts which some countries are now following.”
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Chicago DSA In Praise of Public Service

by Bob Roman

William McNary in one of his fiercer moments at the Dinner. Photo by John Scott.

It was a really good time. The 53rd Debs — Thomas — Harrington Dinner was one of our better Dinners: fun, educational, inspirational, convivial. Chicago Democratic Socialists of America held it this year at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro on what should have been an inauspicious day, Friday the 13th of May.
William McNary of Citizen Action/ Illinois was our Master of Ceremonies. McNary is someone who makes a differ­ence, in politics and at the podium. At the podium, he combines a rare eloquence with an infectious sense of fun. In welcoming the attendees, McNary observed that public service should not be the same thing as slavery.

Sandra Shimon, a Greater Oak Park DSA member and an Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICADP) board member, presented the Dinner award to ICADP’s Jeremy Schroeder. In accepting the award, Schroeder made reference to the politics and values represented by Eugene V. Debs. Despite the victory in abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, the work of Illinois Abolitionists is not over. Not only is there the Federal death penalty, but propo­nents of the death penalty in Illinois are already attempting to bring it back.

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Labor’s Hail Mary Pass

By Harold Meyerson

This is a maddening time for anyone concerned about the lives of working-class Americans. The frustration and anger that suffused AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s declaration last week that labor would distance itself from the Democratic Party was both clear and widely noted. Not so widely noted has been a shift in the organizing strategy of two of labor’s leading institutions — Trumka’s AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union — that reflects a belief that the American labor movement may be on the verge of extinction and must radically change its game.

It took a multitude of Democratic sins and failures to push Trumka to denounce, if not exactly renounce,the political party that has been labor’s home at least since the New Deal. In a speech at the National Press Club last Friday, Trumka said that Republicans were wielding a “wrecking ball” against the rights and interests of working Americans. But Democrats, he added, were “simply standing aside” as the Republicans moved in for the kill.

The primary source of labor’s frustration has been the consistent inability of the Democrats to strengthen the legislation that once allowed workers to join unions without fear of employer reprisals. American business has poked so many holes in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act that it now affords workers no protections at all. Beginning with Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, every time the Democrats have held the White House and strong majorities in both houses of Congress, bills that strengthened workers’ rights to unionize have commanded substantial Democratic support — but never quite enough to win a Senate supermajority. And during that time, the unionized share of the private-sector workforce has dwindled from roughly 30 percent to less than 7 percent.
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New Evidence on Public Pensions and States’ Budgets

by Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus

A new study released May 18 by a pro-business source, Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC, confirms what this writer and others have been pointing out about current State budget crises: namely, state employees’ pensions and retirement health benefits are not the cause of States’ current budget deficits. Moreover, the underfunding gap in state employee pensions that does exist has been due primarily to state politicians and pension fund managers having failed to make necessary contributions to state pension funds for more than a decade.

The Whitney report estimates “that about $1,000 billion of (states’) spending over the past decade came from not adequately funding pensions”, according to the business newspaper, The Financial Times. The Times further notes that “the research concludes that state debt has surged over the past decade as states have subsidized budgets by not adequately funding retirement pledges”.

In other words, the states diverted contributions to pension funds on a massive scale—$1 trillion—creating the current pension funding gap and then used the money to finance spending excesses elsewhere. They also used the diverted funds to offset billions in revenue loss due to widespread reduction in business taxes, in an escalating ‘state vs. state’ race to the bottom aimed at competitively lowering business taxes in order to lure companies to their own state. The ‘race to the bottom’ in state corporate taxes continues to this day, and is in fact accelerating

So public workers have been, in effect, subsidizing State budgets for years, not draining them. And not only have they been subsidizing state budgets, but the diversion of contributions to their pensions has enabled states to cut business taxes as well.

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Boston DSA Awards Reception to Honor Rocio Saenz and Matt Taibbi

Boston DSA’s annual awards reception will honor a long-time advocate for low wage workers and community empowerment along with a best-selling author — Rocio Sáenz and Matt Taibbi.  Co-Chairs for the June 11 reception are Lisa Clauson, Co-Director of  Community Labor United  and Chuck Collins of the  Institute for Policy Studies.

Date: Saturday, June 11
Time: Social 3 PM; Program 4 PM
Place: 56 Perkins Street, Jamaica Plain
Directions: www.dsaboston.org

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KPFA Union Workers Fight Management… By Raising More Money for KPFA

by KPFA Worker

Union activists everywhere know that the surest way to win a campaign to hit the boss where it hurts — in the pocketbook. But not at noncommercial broadcaster KPFA, where CWA-affiliated workers are involved in a protracted struggle with the management of their corporate parent, Pacifica.

In November 2010, Pacifica, which usually stays out of station programming decisions, took the unusual step of canceling KPFA’s “The Morning Show” — the station’s most popular locally-produced program, also its biggest fundraiser, and home to KPFA’s only regular labor-themed segment. Since then, Pacifica’s been forced to reverse the layoff of one of the program’s hosts, Brian Edwards-Tiekert. Union members expect an arbitrator’s decision about reinstating the other host, Aimee Allison, by late June. But unless the station’s Spring Fund drive succeeds, workers fear, their victories will be for naught.

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