The Unintended Education of a Union Member

by Angel Picón
Labor unions in California must play an active role more than ever in the 2016 Presidential elections. It wasn’t long ago that unions were created because of local disputes with their employers. This year as each presidential candidate is sharing their political ideologies they shape their presidential campaigns as they travel the all over the country and their support, or lack of support of progressive issues are being highlighted at the union halls all over the country. Many of their inconsistencies are gravely evident to the union members that are now trained “BS” spotters.
According to political reports, the delegate-rich state of California may hold the key in deciding who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. This year California has a distinct opportunity to confidently elect someone that has had the privilege of working for progressive issues; unions issues he has fought for for years. The two front Democratic candidates have participated and supported many union issues in the past. Why are California unions important this year as opposed to other presidential races? In part because the Financial Crisis in 2008 hit the state very hard with a shortfall of almost $40 billion dollars.
The Financial Crisis gave birth to the Occupy Movement thereby giving labor unions and their members an opportunity to participate in grassroots movements across the country. This movement also gives union members a place to vent their frustrations and in turn they got educated. They were involved in direct actions, they challenged the financial institutions to be accountable. They are informed union members now and they know how to connect the dots. They now have questions; they now know how we got into this mess in the first place. In short, it was greed where only the corporate financial institutions (i.e. Wall Street) won and our local economies lost -again. Union members became educated on the issues that mattered to them by directly involving themselves on the issues that affected them.
We, the taxpayer got stuck with the bill Continue reading

Spring Awakens in the Boston Area: Climate Justice Joins Movements for Social and Racial Justice

by Paul Garver

Divestement and People of Color

As the piles of snow finally melted and spring blossomed in the Boston area, the movements for climate, economic, social and racial justice burgeoned and filled the assemblies and the streets with voices demanding genuine changes.

The reawakened Boston movements seems more numerous, more diverse, and more youthful than in previous years. The banners and chants are livelier, and the demands both more radical and more inclusive than before. The bravado and defiance of the Occupy Movement persists, but with greater direction, purpose and a sense that breakthrough victories are inevitable, even though to be achieved painfully and incrementally.

I spent much of Harvard Heat Week on the campus, in the assemblies and at the occupation. What struck me was the positive energy and patient eloquence of the students and their community and alumni supporters, along with their conviction that while Harvard University was not about to accede to the demand for divestment from fossil fuels, it would sooner or later be forced to do so. Tufts University students organized their own substantial protest action the following week. And as of May 17, Harvard students demanding divestment have again occupied the administration building.

Supporters of the campus divestment movement with their banners joined the massive and spirited march of the Fight for $15 the same week. For a number of years it has seemed that there been insufficient convergence between the campaigns for higher wages, for worker rights, for jobs for youth and against police brutality with those of the climate justice movement. Though these equally legitimate and parallel movements are all gaining traction in the Boston area streets, they are only now beginning to join together in mutual support.

But the silos that serve to isolate activists from each other are beginning to break down. Coalitions like Jobs for Justice are bringing together very diverse persons and organizations for mutual support and solidarity. And the effective climate justice organization Better Future Project/350Mass is not only building its own grassroots “nodes” to campaign for fossil fuel divestment and related climate issues – it is urging its members to join wholeheartedly in solidarity campaigns for economic, social and racial justice.

Following is a May Day statement from Emily Kirkland, Alissa Zimmer, and Craig Altemose of the Better Future Project {Cambridge, MA). Visit its web-site at http://www.betterfutureproject.org/ for information on all Massachusetts events related to climate justice.
Standing in Solidarity, from Baltimore to Boston and beyond
MAY 01, 2015 BETTER FUTURE PROJECT/350 MASS

Many of us are part of this movement because we see climate change as a social justice issue. We’re fighting for a clean energy economy because we know that the use of fossil fuels has devastating consequences for people already facing economic and racial injustice — especially communities of color here in the US and around the world. From poisoned air to polluted water, from droughts to flooding to extreme storms, communities of color are hit first and hit hardest.

But to truly stand in solidarity with the communities most impacted by fossil fuel use and global warming, we need to do more than demand action on climate change: we need to confront the other types of oppression and injustice that affect communities of color. When people of color are beaten or killed by the police, we have an obligation to speak out.

At the 350 Mass campaign summit a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to share our core values with one another, and compassion and solidarity came up again and again. Putting those values into practice means fighting to end structural racism and state-sanctioned violence against Black people and other people of color.

We  urge members of the Better Future Project / 350 Mass community to show solidarity with those protesting the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, at the hands of the Baltimore Police Department. 
Our commitment to solidarity should not be limited to a single event or a single crisis. As a community, we need to continue to find ways to stand with other movements and integrate social, racial, and economic justice into everything we do

There are multiple events happening over the next few weeks, including:
• Our Jobs. Our Truths. Our Lives. Wednesday, May 20, 3:00pm, Park Street Station, Tremont Street, Boston.

Funeral for Youth Jobs and People Lost to Police Violence

Youth Justice

Organized Labor Should Spend 2015 Training Workers How to Fight

BY David Goodner
While the labor movement is in some of its more dire straits in over a century, 2015 is also shaping up to be a big year for unions. The “Fight for $15” strikes held in over 200 cities on April 15 indicate that a mass movement for worker justice may be on the verge of exploding, one that blends the best of organized labor, community organizing, Occupy Wall Street and #BlackLivesMatter. Oil workers, truck drivers, and dockworkers also went on widely publicized, confrontational strikes this year, and LA teachers at both public and charter schools are preparing to take action on the job, as are graduate students at the University of Washington and several other campuses.

Today, May 1, a Bay Area local of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union shut down its ports to protest the racism and police brutality against black and brown people, providing a classic example of what “social movement unionism” looks like in practice.

Unions are also fighting hard to block looming pension cuts and derail fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But labor’s “Right to Work” defeat in Wisconsin in March was a huge setback, while the results of the April 7 Chicago mayor’s race were mixed, at best. Taken as a whole, the small upsurge in labor unrest in recent months has not been enough to slow down, much less stop and reverse, the steep historical decline of the trade union movement.   Continue reading

Boston Demonstration Launches Global Wage Action A Day Early

by Paul Garver

Boston wage demo 14th April

Boston launched the April 15 global day of action for higher wages a day early. Not out of competitive fervor, but because April 15 is reserved in Massachusetts to celebrate Patriot’s Day. As I write this today, drums are drumming, pipers piping and muskets firing in the towns around me as suburban Minutemen assemble and march towards the Old North Bridge in Concord to reenact a confrontation with the Redcoats.

In Boston yesterday, a diverse throng of several thousand people of all ages and colors assembled and marched past numerous institutions that underpay their workers, whether cleaners in office buildings and theaters, burger fryers at fast food joints, or adjunct faculty at universities. The unifying demand was the fight for $15 an hour. But the speeches, banners and chants expressed a hunger for a movement that goes far beyond reenactment. Even if some of these same marchers had previously participated in the equally spirited, though smaller and less diverse marches of Occupy Boston, they were not merely reenacting Occupy. Here is what democracy looks like.

Yesterday’s action in Boston was all about improving the real present conditions of the 99%, and building a future that includes all of us and our children and grandchildren. We are not Minutemen fighting Redcoats or a distant monarch, but struggling for the more difficult task of achieving greater economic and social justice in a sustainable world. This is not the work of Minutemen, but of long distance runners. Yesterday showed that the movement in Boston is advancing in that direction.

Aliens and Humans

by Gene Grabiner

genegrabiner

Capitalism grows and sows alienation as it accumulates and expands accumulation. The capitalists, of course, accumulate and accumulate, (not only for personal gain—they are not hoarders or misers, but to expansively accumulate capital, itself). This is what economists term, ‘growth.’ But it is growth with a vengeance, growth like a cancer; and it has metastasized, globally. Capital reproduces itself through expanded reproduction on an ever-grander, ever-extended scale until it is the global occupant instead of humanity.
Yes, of course people are all over the globe, but they have not yet emerged into the true measure of their own humanity. And that cannot happen unless and until they win themselves back from capital and, in so doing, save the world. As accumulation grows, so grows alienation. Workers are alienated or separated from their product, from each other, and from themselves. So, the capitalists then come to embody the tumor of alienation, which on its other pole is the daily life experience of wage-labor.
While wage-labor may be alienated, the capitalists are aliens. It is true as science fiction has so long warned us: “they are here,” “they walk among us.” They are the well-documented aliens. As the privacy, the true insularity, the gated and garrisoned world of the capitalists grows, the privacy of the rest of the ever-more-alienated people diminishes. Likewise, the immiseration of the people grows—a psychic immiseration if not a material one.
Among other struggles over contested ground, the struggle to preserve, protect and expand privacy for all is also a struggle against, e.g., the NSA and corporate spying on us all. Still, this is only a sort of holding action, given how ruling social forces use, are using, and will use communication and expression/repression. But the true reclamation of privacy is also actually the true and fullest expansion of publicity.
To fully win back the sphere of the private, we must fully inhabit or occupy the sphere of the public through mass restoration of the Commons at a higher level. As the Commons is restored both off and on-line, the private more and more will be reclaimed by those to whom it is denied. The restoration of Fourth Amendment privacy is at the same time the achievement of total public existence—what has been called the Public Opinion State that is enshrined in the First Amendment.
The Occupy Movement contained this insight, whether explicitly or implicitly. The Occupy Movement asked the proper questions and, in many respects, provided among its demands, the appropriate answers. The issue is this: how, effectively, to move from posing those questions to the full attainment of those answers? How to build the bridge to the future; and in so doing, how to build the future itself? For Occupy, the difficulty lay in the very anarchic character of that movement which, on the one hand was its romantic beauty and attractiveness but, on the other, its lack of a program, a way to move forward.
For this substantive forward motion to occur, the centrality of labor is key. When a mass global popular front/united front movement is crystallized, and all begin to understand and act on the fact that “Workers Create the Wealth,” we humans will no longer be kidnapped by those aliens. In fact, this is the only salvation for the aliens themselves. It is the only way to set them on the path toward becoming human.

Gene Grabiner, PhD, is SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, has been Vice-President, Grievance Chairperson, and a Contract Negotiator for the Faculty Federation of Erie Community College, (FFECC/NYSUT), AFL-CIO.

Hong Kong Construction Workers Rebuild Barricades

by Paul Garver

HK Construction workers

Volunteer construction workers rebuilt barricades that had been dismantled by police in Hong Kong.

The workers used a method that uses bamboo stalks similar to those used to erect sturdy scaffolding on construction sites around Asia.

bamboo

Support the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong

by Paul Garver

Umbrella Movement

The Umbrella Movement in support of democracy and against growing inequality in Hong Kong persists despite savage attacks on peaceful protesters by thugs that are condoned or even in some cases organized by the police.

Responding with force to this extreme provocation, which includes right-wing thugs groping the female demonstrators, might provide a pretext for the Hong Kong government to violently crack down on the demonstrations. The protesters, mainly university and high school students supported by independent labor unions, civic groups and ordinary citizens of Hong Kong, have been able to maintain a steadfast nonviolent discipline, as illustrated in this photo from Causeway Bay.
Causeway Bay

After consultation between Hong Kong activists and some of their supporters, a consensus was reached on some measures that could be taken to support the Umbrella Movement. These are summarized in an excellent article in Labor Notes by Alexandra Bradbury at http://labornotes.org/blogs/2014/10/students-and-workers-strike-democratic-reforms-hong-kong.

Ways to Support the Hong Kong Democracy Movement

Join or organize a local rally or vigil. A number of international actions have targeted Chinese consulate offices, though key organizers inside Hong Kong have clearly decided to focus their pressure on the Hong Kong government rather than on Beijing. Another possible target: the local Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

Hold a teach-in or speak-out on your campus or at your organization. Some are also distributing yellow ribbons to show solidarity.

Get your union or organization to send a statement of solidarity. Unions around the world, including Canada’s national union federation, have issued statements of support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also made a statement.

Sign support petitions, either the one sponsored by HKCTU at http://www.hkctu.org.hk/web/en/online_petition.html?id=6
or the other by the IUF at http://www.iuf.org/w/?q=node/3675.

Follow the latest developments and appeals via the Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Calling-for-international-support-for-democracy-in-Hong-Kong/275123362684837?ref=hl

10 things you need to know about the protests in Hong Kong

Which Way for the Democratic Movement in Hong Kong?

by Au Loong Yu

  • Hong Kong poster

I. The Current Situation
The general public has come out to support the students, and with their own bodies have resisted the tear gas to defeat the offensive of the regime of C.Y. Leung, the Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Hong-Kong, sparking a new generation of people’s democracy activists.

This movement has the following characteristics:
1. The students and the public have shown that they have the ability to think for themselves, to take bottom-up direct action, without relying on the leaders. It is within a context where the movement displays deep distrust of not only the Pan-Democracy parties, but also of the Trio of three leading liberal academics and clergymen who suggested the occupation a year earlier. Even the Hong-Kong Federation of Students, which was for a while the vanguard of the movement, saw its proposal to withdraw on September 28 in view of escalation of crackdown was rejected by the masses.
2. The students and young people, whose actions have led to the upsurge in the movement, are now the driving force of the movement, rather than the middle-aged and middle-class Pan-Democracy supporters whom the Trio relied on as their constituency for their occupation plan, a fact which reflects the deep distrust towards young people and working people toward the Trio.
3. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has called for a workers’ strike and there are some responses; in addition to this there is strong sympathy for the movement among working people. And the occupation of main streets also makes possible a slowdown in workplaces, which in turn allows lots of discussion among colleagues.
4. A desire for social equality has also become part of the movement. In his speech to the student boycott on September 22, student leader Alex Chow already mentioned the issue of economic inequality. A few days ago twenty-five trade unions and civil society groups also issued a joint statement not only demanding genuine universal suffrage but also regulations on working hours and a universal pension. The occupation of the last two days has also given the general public the chance to discuss their opinions, and amongst these one frequently hears discussions of the extreme inequality.
Because of this strong movement from below the C.Y. Leung government has now been forced to stop its offensive, permitting space for the movement to grow even larger. The issue now is how to take advantage of the situation fully and to seek the biggest victory.

It means that we have to overcome the movement’s weaknesses:
1. The old democracy movement’s former leaders are no longer able to lead, however the new leaderships of the new democracy movement is still in formation. This is a danger. Although spontaneity has been a great factor in advancing the movement, now—with all the sabotage taking place and a crackdown quite possible sometime in the future by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Leung government—the movement will soon require more organising and leaderships, and I use plural here deliberately.
2. Although the students’ organization is comparatively better, the general public lacks the organization and networks to support each other. This is especially so for the strike call. Although there were some early responses to the strike call, a broad strike wave has yet to happen. The HKCTU is not yet strong enough to fully implement the strike call, let alone to organize the solidarity alliance now in preparation. Strengthening movement will require great effort and also new initiatives
II. Aims and slogans
1. The Leung Chun-ying regime must surrender Civic Plaza and Tamar Garden to the people and to withdraw all police from there, so that these two places can be a focal point for the movement. If the government does not promise this then the movement should certainly not withdraw from the streets, and, if they do promise, then the decision to withdraw or stay on will depend on the circumstances and the wishes of the people.
2. The Leung Chun-ying regime and its officials must apologise.
3. The Leung Chun-ying regime must step down.
4. The National People’s Congress (NPC) resolution must be withdrawn; genuine universal suffrage and civic nominations must be implemented.
5. Regulations on working hours, a universal pension and collective bargaining rights must be implemented.
6. We must win regime change and the self-determination over political reform.

3. The Way Forward
1. Working people need more encouragement to strike. One way is to encourage each company or unit to organise and set up a small group for solidarity with the movement and to establish a strike committee. Only with this foundation, is it possible to discuss the issue seriously.
Slogan: Students and workers unite together to achieve regime change. For self-determination over political reform!
2. Adhere to nonviolence.
3. Proposing self-determination over political reform is appropriate. However if anyone proposes Hong Kong independence then we (the democratic left/progressives) can respond that we cannot agree to this, although we respect the right to express this opinion. Also it is an issue worthy of discussion later, but not for now, or it may be harmful to the movement.

Updated on the early morning of 30th September
Last night when I went to the scene, I found that the movement had again expanded in scale and it was very moving. However this also increases the risk of direct intervention by the CCP—although this does not necessarily mean dispatching the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) from the outset. Nevertheless it is necessary to avoid provocations and excesses. In the case of escalation of the crackdown from tear gas to shooting—or even worse the mobilization of the PLA—there is no way we can fight that, given the present level of organisation.Therefore we should retreat from the streets when this moment comes, but keep the strike going – no one can force working people to work normally even with guns. In addition to this we will need a deepening of the non-cooperation movement in all areas.

________________________________________
* Au Loong Yu is a Hong Kong activist. He is currently editor of China Labor Net. This essay is reposted from New Politics with the permission of the author.

What Occupy Wall Street did in real time @ForRespect is going to do for real lives.

by Jim Nichols

(Nov 24) So I’ve got final papers for class to write so I don’t really have time to do the kind of in-depth structured/well-edited blog post I want to write on yesterday’s historic Walmart strike and the solidarity picket lines held all across the country.

Instead I’m going to throw out some of my thoughts and some of the pictures I shot from yesterday’s action here in Atlanta. Hopefully it’ll come out clear and coherent enough for you.

Pardon my ramble…

As someone who was watching the Occupy Wall Street movement quite closely from right out of the gate I can say that I’m feeling the same level of excitement with what transpired all across the nation yesterday that I felt with Occupy.

I remember sitting at the Occupy Atlanta General Assembly the weekend before OA voted to occupy the park being simply overwhelmed with enthusiasm.

I also remember quite clearly driving back into the suburbs that evening to meet up for dinner with the wife and some friends and being struck with internal confusion about the fact that neither my wife nor friends could really care less, nor quite catch on from my slight pokes and prods about the reasons for my jovial excitement in regards to what was about to blow up here in Atlanta.

I feel a similar sense of excitement about the efforts by employees at Walmart @ForRespect.

Continue reading