What Does the Revival of Socialism Mean for the U.S. Labor Movement?

Advertisements

Dolores Huerta – A New Film

 

An exciting  new film is in the theaters giving the life and struggle of Dolores Huerta.

Although often ignored by the Anglo media and Anglo centric histories, Dolores Huerta tirelessly led the fight for racial and labor justice alongside Cesar Chavez.  From the founding along with Cesar Chavez, Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz,   and others  of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, through her current work in supporting union democracy,   civic engagement and empowerment of women and youth in disadvantaged communities, Dolores Huerta’s influence has been profound. The creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the U.S.

Dolores, the film, serves labor history well to accurately describes the often overlooked role of Philipinos  who initiated a strike in Delano in 1965, which the nascent NFWA joined , to  create the great Grape Strike that changed labor history in the Southwest.

DSA Honorary Chairs:  Eliseo Medina, Gloria Steinem, along with activist Angela Davis provide historical records, commentary, insights, testimonies, and evaluations of Dolores’s life work.   Along with DSA Honorary Chair Dolores Huerta, the positions of Eliseo Medina and Gloria Steinem were eliminated by the decision of the DSA convention in 2017. Continue reading

Renegotiating NAFTA Would Be a Lot Easier, If We Knew What We Wanted

Stan Sorcher, Labor Rep. SPEEA/IFPTE

Updated Sep 06, 2017

  • The Trump administration just started the process of renegotiating NAFTA, the trade deal between the US, Canada, and Mexico that became the template for globalization in the 21st Century.
  • This would make more sense if we knew what we want to renegotiate.
  • In 2016, voters answered two simple questions,
  • “Who gets the gains from trade?” Not us.
  • “Who do you trust?” Not any politician who told us what a great idea NAFTA would be.

In the period following World War II, gains from productivity were shared broadly and our communities prospered. Not anymore. Since the mid-70’s gains from productivity and trade have gone almost entirely to the top 1%, while many communities declined dramatically.

NAFTA went into effect in 1994. It embodies our failed neoliberal approach to globalization. [“Neo” means new. In the language of economics, “liberal” means free-market.]

In the neoliberal vision, our economy is merged or integrated into the global economy. National identities are blurred, shareholder interests have top priority, legitimate public interests are devalued, and gains go almost entirely to investors. Boon will trickle down, as markets solve all our problems. Government is bad. Power and influence favor those who already have plenty of both. Continue reading

Dolores Huerta: Labor Hero

by Deborah Klugman

While Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez are ubiquitous in history textbooks, Huerta is most often sidelined. Many people, then and now, took her to be Chavez’s subordinate or assistant.


Labor activist and social justice crusader Dolores Huerta was participating in a 1988 protest in San Francisco when police descended on the demonstrators with tear gas and batons. Huerta, then 58, was among those brutally assaulted when an officer drove a baton with full force into her torso. Her internal injuries were extensive. She suffered three broken ribs, her spleen was shattered and had to be removed, and she spent months in recovery. But the indomitable Huerta recovered to again assume center stage in the ongoing battle for workers’ rights.

Footage of the assault on Huerta and other protesters is replayed in director Peter Bratt’s dynamic and informative film Dolores, a U.S. entry in the documentary category at Sundance, which will have special screenings September 8-14 at Los Angeles’ Nuart Theater. A mix of archival imagery and interviews with Huerta, her family and such prominent figures as Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis and Luis Valdez, the documentary portrays her as a pivotal yet relatively uncredited luminary in labor history.

While Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez are ubiquitous in history textbooks, Huerta is most often sidelined, her name even expunged from some high school curricula after she opined that “Republicans hate Latinos.” Many people, then and now, took her to be Chavez’s subordinate or assistant. Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction, Tom Horne, once called her Chavez’s “girlfriend.” In fact, she co-founded the United Farm Workers and was equally instrumental in positioning its cause, via legislation, on the political map. It was she, not Chavez, who coined the slogan “Sí se puede” — the rallying cry for striking farm workers, later adopted by Barack Obama’ s supporters in his 2008 campaign for the presidency.

Dolores Huerta, 1976. (Photo: George Ballis)Dolores Huerta, 1976. (Photo: George Ballis)

Co-written by Bratt and Jessica Congdon, the nimbly-paced Dolores begins by establishing a historical context for the farm workers’ movement as rooted in the same endemic racism that fostered slavery and Jim Crow. That narrative is then interwoven with the story of Huerta’s growing involvement. Continue reading

Historic Farmworker California Exhibit

 

HISTORIC STATE FAIR EXHIBIT RECOGNIZES FARMWORKERS
by David Bacon
Capital & Main, 7/25/17
https://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2017/07/historic-state-fair-exhibit-recognizes.html
https://capitalandmain.com/historic-state-fair-exhibit-recognizes-farmworkers-0725Cutting the ribbon at the farmworker exhibition (left to right): Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez, State Sen. Ben Hueso, Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty and Freddie Rodriguez, Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul F. Chavez, Assemblymember Anna Caballero, State Fair CEO Rick Pickering (partially obscured), Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guera, State Sen. Ed Hernandez (partially obscured), State Treasurer John Chiang and Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna.For over 160 years the California State Fair/Cal Expo has been run by growers to showcase the wonders and wealth of the state’s agriculture. And for over 160 years the fair did this without mentioning the people whose labor makes agriculture possible: farmworkers.This year that changed. Rick Pickering, chief executive officer of the California Exposition & State Fair, and Tom Martinez, the fair’s chief deputy general manager, asked the United Farm Workers to help put together an exhibit to remedy this historical omission. As a result, for the first time the fair, which runs through July 30, has an exhibition that not only pays tribute to field laborers, but also acknowledges the long history of their struggle to organize unions.

Growers are not happy, and fair organizers got some pushback. But at the ceremony inaugurating the exhibition, State Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), the head of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, explained why they no longer have veto power. “We wouldn’t be here without the work of farmworkers,” he said. “The legislature now includes members who worked in the fields themselves, or have family who did, who know what it’s like to work in 100 degree heat, to suffer the hardest conditions and work the longest hours. We want our families to work in better conditions and earn more money.”

Some of the farmworkers who came as guests of the fair were veterans of that long struggle. Efren Fraide worked at one of the state’s largest vegetable growers, D’Arrigo Brothers Produce, when the original union election was held in 1975. However, it was only after the legislature passed the mandatory mediation law, forcing growers to sign contracts once workers voted for a union, that the first union agreement went into force at the company in 2007, covering 1,500 people.

D’Arrigo workers maintained their union committee through all the years between 1975 and 2007, organizing strikes and work stoppages to raise conditions and wages. “I’m very proud to see that we’re included here,” Fraide said, gesturing toward the photographs on the walls in the cavernous exhibition hall. “It shows who we are and what we went through. Si se puede!”

As the workers were introduced by UFW President Arturo Rodriguez, they stood up from their seats to applause. Rodriguez noted that some farmworkers, like those working at Monterey Mushrooms’ sheds near Morgan Hill and Watsonville, now make a living wage of between $38,000 and $42,000 in year-round jobs with benefits. “This exhibition recognizes that farm labor is important work, and that it can be a decent job if it includes labor and environmental standards. It can come with job security, and can be professional work,” he emphasized.

“What’s been lacking is an acknowledgment of the people who do the work,” charged Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, son of the capital city’s late mayor, Joe Serna, and nephew of former UFW organizer Ruben Serna. “This exhibition documents their political activism. We wouldn’t be here if it were not for the farmworkers movement.”


In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte
Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte

302 photographs, 450pp, 9”x9”
paperback, $34.95

 

Rough Waters: European Trade Unions In A Time Of Crises

by Paul Garver

ETUIJul17

This book analyses the development of trade unions in eleven countries (Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK) since the early 2000s. The individual chapters focus on unions’ structural, organisational, institutional and discursive power resources. One feature in particular emerges from the turbulent European trade union landscape, namely the challenge of becoming politically more autonomous while long-standing institutional power resources are at increasing risk of being dismanteled or of losing their effectiveness. The book also includes a chapter on the changes and challenges of European trade union federations in times of crisis.

One of the co-editors of this anthology, Thorsten Schulten, occasionally collaborated with the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) when I worked for that global labor union in Europe.  He is a reliable scholar of the European labor movement. In the ten years since I retired and returned to the USA,  As Rough Waters elaborates in well-documented and exhaustive detail, European labor unions have not fared much better than U.S. unions during that decade.

Unless you are a graduate student in international labor, you probably will not want to read this book cover to cover.  But it is well worth dipping into if you are interested in specific national union organizations in Europe.  And the introductory and concluding chapters by the co-editors are judicious and useful.

And the price is right.  The European Trade Union Institute encourages free downloads of the research studies it commissions.   Go to https://www.etui.org/Publications2/Books/Rough-waters-European-trade-unions-in-a-time-of-crises

The Right to Strike

Will-Strike

For half a century, the loss of the right to strike has moved in lock step with the increase in income inequality. According to an International Monetary Fund study of twenty advanced economies, union decline accounted for about half of the increase in net income inequality from 1980 to 2012. The following is the start of a Boston Review discussion on US workers’ right to strike.

James Gray Pope, Ed Bruno, Peter Kellman

Boston Review

May 22, 2017

In December 2005 more than 30,000 New York City transit workers walked out over economic issues despite the state of New York’s Taylor Law, which prohibits all public sector strikes. Not only did the workers face the loss of two days’ pay for each day on strike, but a court ordered that the union be fined $1 million per day. Union president Roger Toussaint held firm, likening the strikers to Rosa Parks. “There is a higher calling than the law,” he declared. “That is justice and equality.”

The transit strike exemplified labor civil disobedience at its most effective. The workers were not staging a symbolic event; they brought the city’s transit system to a halt. They claimed their fundamental right to collective action despite a statute that outlawed it. For a precious moment, public attention was riveted on the drama of workers defying a draconian strike ban.

How did national labor leaders react?

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney issued a routine statement of support, while most others did nothing at all. To anybody watching the drama unfold, the message was clear: there is no right to strike, even in the House of Labor.

About a decade earlier in 1996, Stephen Lerner, fresh from a successful campaign to organize Los Angeles janitors, had warned in Boston Review that private sector unions faced an existential crisis: density could soon drop from 10.3 percent to 5 percent if unions did not expand their activity beyond the limits imposed by American law. He called for unions to develop broad organizing strategies—industry-wide and regional—and to engage in civil disobedience. Few embraced these radical strategies. Today private sector union density is about 6.5 percent, not quite as low as Lerner predicted, but down from a high of over 30 percent in the mid-1950s. Continue reading