California Judge Throws Out Anti-Union Election

By David Bacon
Working In These Times, 9/25/15


A California farm worker picking peaches.

FRESNO, CA — The strategy by one of the nation’s largest growers to shed its obligation to sign a contract with the United Farm Workers was dealt a key setback last week.  An administrative law judge not only threw out one of the dirtiest decertification elections in recent labor history, but did so because California growers had given tens of thousands of dollars to set the union-busting scheme in motion.

That election, at Gerawan Farming, has a key role in an even broader grower strategy to invalidate the enforcement mechanism of the state’s farm worker labor law.  Last week’s ruling seriously undermines their case, now before the state’s Supreme Court, in which they claim to be protecting workers’ democratic rights.  Instead, they have been exposed using obviously illegal methods to deny workers union representation. Continue reading

Broad Plan : How To Take Over Public Schools in Los Angeles

Billionaire’s Secret Plan: A ‘Hostile Takeover’ of LA Public Schools

BroadDeirdre Fulton
September 23, 2015    Common Dreams

Last week the Los Angeles Times obtained a secret 44-page proposal drafted by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates, that according to one critic would “do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.” With the aid of a billionaires’ club of supporters, the plan is designed to charterize 50% of LA public schools.

More than 1,000 teachers, students, parents, and community members protested at the opening of the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles Sunday. , Mayra Gomez/UTLA Facebook photo,

A California billionaire is enlisting other wealthy backers in a $490 million scheme to place half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District into charter schools over the next eight years—a plan at least one critic says would “do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.”
The Los Angeles Times obtained a confidential 44-page proposal, “The Great Public Schools Now Initiative,” drafted by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates.
“Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to create the largest, highest-performing charter sector in the nation,” the executive summary reads. “Such an exemplar would serve as a model for all large cities to follow.”

The document outlines the following three objectives that would serve to overthrow the current public system:
to create 260 new high-quality charter schools;
to generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats;
to reach 50 percent charter market share.
The initiative seeks to accomplish these ambitious goals between by 2023. As the LA Times reports:
Organizers of the effort have declined to publicly release details of the plan. But the memo lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue. Continue reading

Internationalism ? International Working Class?

Shifting Work to Mexico Now Up for UAW Vote
Reposted from Portside
Alisa Priddle and Greg Gardner
Detroit Free Press

Building more cars in Mexico.

It’s a flash point for about 40,000 UAW workers preparing to vote on a tentative agreement with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, knowing the new four-year pact includes pay increases, profit sharing and bonuses but also shifts car production to plants south of the border.

It raises the question: Is Mexico to be feared as a low-cost producer that steals jobs? Or is it the low-cost producer best-suited to assemble lower-profit vehicles, freeing up money to pay U.S. workers higher wages to build trucks and utility vehicles in the U.S.? Continue reading

Boston Teachers Union Supports Pension Fund Divestment from Fossil Fuels

by Paul Garver

Boston Teachers

The Boston Teachers Union — which represents 10,000 current and retired teachers and other school professionals — voted this month to endorse divestment of the state pension fund from fossil fuels. Report in The Boston Globe at

Boston Teachers Union president Richard Stutman explains his union’s endorsement: “If you don’t do something about global warming, our pensions won’t matter.”

The Massachusetts public employee pension fund, PRIM, holds about $62 billion. Legislation is currently pending in the Massachusetts legislature that would require PRIM to identify and divest its fossil fuel holdings completely within five years.

In addition to the Boston Teachers Union [an affiliate of the Massachusetts Teachers Association/AFT] the fossil fuels divestment bill has been endorsed by public employee unions SEIU 888, SEIU 509 and and the Massachusetts Nurses Association [National Nurses United].

There is a strong movement on Boston area campuses, including Harvard, Tufts and MIT, demanding that their universities divest their portfolios from fossil fuels.

MIT could be on the brink of a historic win for divestment. The school’s own advisory committee has backed divestment from carbon-intensive fossil fuels and from climate denying corporations as part of a multi-faceted climate action plan.

MIT Fossil Free is planning a week of climate events leading up to the next MIT board meeting on October 2. The week will culminate in a massive rally from 12-2 pm on October 2 at Kresge Oval.

Massachusetts unions and student groups are engaged in the fight for climate justice state that they are in the fight against the fossil fuel industry for the long haul.

The Supreme Court and “Friedrichs”

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lessons from Wisconsin

by Donald Cohen

Next spring, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case that could threaten the economy and American democracy. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association asks the justices to consider overturning a 1977 Supreme Court unanimous ruling (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education) that protected the right of teachers, nurses, librarians, firefighters and other public workers to form unions. The Abood case emphasized that these workers act as the middle class’ backbone by providing quality public services and ensuring healthy communities.
In Abood, the Court ruled that every public worker who benefits from collective bargaining could be required to pay their fair share for those efforts. It’s a basic democratic principle.
For a preview of what will happen if the Court sides with the plaintiffs in Friedrichs, we should look at Wisconsin. In 2011, Governor Scott Walker stripped collective bargaining rights for most public workers. The result? Vital public functions and assets were privatized, public services were undermined and the state economy suffered:
While an estimated $1.1 billion will be spent by 2017 on the state’s private school voucher program since Walker first expanded it in 2011, Wisconsin classrooms have fewer and less-experienced teachers than before the program, resulting in crowded classrooms and less individualized attention for students. Continue reading

Pushing Unions to Back Bernie

Labor for Bernie Pushing Unions To Back Bernie Sanders, Prevent Early Hillary Clinton Endorsements

Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Senator Bernie Sanders hosted a national phone call Wednesday night focused on the labor movement in which organizers say 17,000 people participated. The campaign hopes to drum up support from union members as Sanders inches his way to front-runner status in the early Presidential primary and caucus elections of New Hampshire and Iowa.

Organized by Labor for Bernie, the network for union members aiming to secure endorsements for Sanders, the call featured remarks by Sanders outlining his economic platform.

“How does it happen that we continue to be in a situation where millions of American worker want to join unions, want to be involved in collective bargaining, they want to stand up for their rights, but they can’t join the union because their employers use unfair, illegal tactics to deny them their constitutional rights to form a union?” Sanders asked before announcing that he will be introducing the Workplace Democracy Act into legislation this fall in order to significantly ease up union drive efforts and subsequent first contract implementation. Continue reading

Sanders Campaign Can Help Revitalize the US Labor Movement

This year the left must use the ideological opening created by the most anti-corporate political campaign in recent history to build political capacity that lasts well beyond this electoral cycle.
Joseph M. Schwartz
September 7, 2015 Posted on Labor Day

The Democratic primary candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for president of the United States provides progressive labor activists with a unique opportunity to enhance the independent political capacity of a besieged labor movement. Reflecting his political roots in the American socialist movement, Sanders is the most consistently pro-labor member of the United States Congress. Just this Friday he walked the picket line in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where workers are protesting the anti-union practices of the new owners of Penford Products, a potato starch manufacturer.

Backing a radical pro-labor candidate like Bernie Sanders in a Democratic primary would enable the labor movement to express its disgruntlement with the pro-corporate national Democratic Party.

This Labor Day tens of thousands of labor activists and their allies will participate in labor marches and picnics across the country in favor of Sanders’ candidacy. But except for endorsements from several progressive local trade unions, the South Carolina Central Labor Council, and the militant 200,000 member National Nurses Union, most established labor leaders have been silent about the Sanders candidacy or have endorsed his establishment opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This despite Clinton’s roots in the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party which is financially backed by Wall Street and has long fought to diminish labor’s influence in the Democratic coalition.

The Sanders effort is the most explicit pro-working class major campaign for president since Jessie Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition 1988 presidential run. His campaign insists that working people must fight back against the unceasing class war waged by corporate elites over the past 40 years. (Sanders is so focused on class injustice that he had to be pushed by #Black Lives Matter activists to explicitly address racial justice issues, such as mass incarceration and police brutality. He has now done so in a recent major addition to his campaign platform.)

Sanders’ platform differentiates him clearly from the centrist, pro-corporate candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Sanders supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; he opposes “free trade” agreements that empower corporations and weaken labor rights and state regulation of corporate behavior; and he supports a “Medicare for All” health care system that would abolish the private health insurance sector. In contrast, Hillary Clinton has refused to unambiguously embrace any of these positions. Continue reading


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