DSA Launches National Boycott Against B&H

by Maria Svart, National Director DSA

For 16 weeks, DSA members in New York City have been picketing every Friday and Sunday in support of hundreds of unionized warehouse workers fighting to save their jobs and win a contract at B&H Photo and Video. They’ve engaged in direct action, contacted city politicians, pressured the company on social media, produced flyers and videos and organized fundraisers for the campaign.

But B&H is a national retailer, with $2.65 billion in sales revenue – and so the campaign against them must be national too. That’s why today DSA is launching a new national boycott effort and website, www.boycottbnh.com, to tell the company: Settle a contract with your workers! End the exploitation!

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B&H is the largest non-chain distributor of media production equipment in the U.S. It’s also a notorious violator of workers’ rights with a long track record of inhumane working conditions and rampant discrimination. The company is currently being sued by the Department of Labor for racial disparities in hiring and forcing Hispanic workers to use segregated bathrooms, among other abuses.

Please visit www.boycottbnh.com today and sign on to the boycott of B&H Photo and Video to tell the company that you won’t stand by while it exploits its warehouse workers. Share the website on social media and tell all your friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances to sign on too. Remember to tag your social media posts #BoycottBnH.

The conditions under which B&H warehouse workers work are deplorable. These include

  • 5.5-day work weeks with frequent demands for 16-hour days but only a 45-minute break;
  • denial of ambulances when seriously injured;
  • exposure to asbestos, benzene, and fiberglass dust resulting in chronic nosebleeds and other complications;
  • lack of training on operating dangerous equipment like forklifts, powerjacks, and pickers, and on handling of hazardous chemicals like sodium selenite and ammonium bromide;
  • lack of basic safety equipment; and
  • coercion to sign away workers’ comp benefits after injuries.

During a 2014 fire at one warehouse, workers were denied access to fire exits so management could run them through metal detectors to check for potential theft.

The warehouse workers are fighting back against these abuses – but they need your help. Please visit www.boycottbnh.com now, sign on to the boycott and share the website widely. Use the hashtag #BoycottBnH. Tell B&H: End the exploitation!

After the 2014 fire, workers contacted the Laundry Workers’ Center (LWC) to help them organize and address their grievances. In November 2015, the workers voted to join the United Steelworkers to secure a union contract. Management has fought them every step of the way and now intends to close the warehouses where they work and relocate production to Florence, NJ, 75 miles away rather than settle a union contract.

On July 10, the workers delivered their response to B&H’s demand that they accept the move: No! Let the workers know you stand with them – and against union-busting – by signing on to the boycott of B&H Photo and Video at www.boycottbnh.com today. Then share the website with everyone you know using the hashtag #BoycottBnH.

While DSA has coordinated nationally on many labor campaigns in the past, it has historically played a supporting role. This boycott marks the first time in recent memory that it has launched its own coordinated national labor initiative. DSA is the driving force behind this boycott – and so it is critical that each of us do our part to see that it succeeds.

If you would like to get more involved in the campaign, please write to nyc.strike.solidarity@gmail.com, especially if you work for or are otherwise affiliated with an organization that does business with B&H. And remember to visit www.boycottbnh.com today!

In Solidarity,

Maria Svart, DSA National Director
http://www.dsausa.org/

boycott b & H

Facing Deportation for Showing Up to Work

Jobs with Justice

FreeRodrigo_hugo

Instead of celebrating Father’s Day with their children and family, beloved fathers and longtime U.S. residents Hugo Mejia and Rodrigo Nunez spent the special day in a detention center near Oakland, California.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has held Hugo and Rodrigo in immigration custody since May 3. That morning, their employer sent them to work on a new construction project at a hospital on the Travis Air Force Base. At the base, a military official detained and reported them to immigration officers. Now they fear the worst: that the federal government will deport them at any point and tear them away from their families and communities.

The devoted family men call California home and have lived in the United States for more than 15 years. Hugo is a foreman at S&R Drywall and a member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and Rodrigo is a member of the Carpenter Union Local 713. The construction workers are local volunteers with deep community ties. Hugo lives in San Rafael with his wife, Yadira and his three young kids. His eldest children have been granted protection from deportation through DACA, and his youngest is a U.S. citizen.  He volunteers at his children’s school. Rodrigo lives in Hayward with his wife and his three young kids, all of whom are U.S. citizens. He is an assistant coach for his son Sebastian’s baseball team who also volunteers at his church.

Argued Hugo, “We don’t take anything from this country. On the contrary, we give to this country. It’s not fair to deport us.”

None of these facts have compelled the local ICE field office director to stop their expedited deportation cases or release Hugo and Rodrigo. ICE has full discretion to discharge them from custody so they can reunite with their families while reviewing their cases.

The Trump administration’s ramped up immigration policies could result in more of our friends and neighbors getting separated from their families as a result of reporting to work. Hugo and Rodrigo deserve to watch their children grow up and thrive.

If ICE deports Hugo and Rodrigo, everything that have worked to achieve to sustain their families could be taken away. And the loved ones they leave behind will experience an emotional and economic toll. The Urban Institute and Migration Policy Institute study found that a father’s deportation causes a family’s income to drop an average of 73 percent.

Hugo’s and Rodrigo’s detainment has caused a widespread outcry among labor, faith, and community groups, and elected officials. Jobs With Justice and our network of coalitions are supporting a #FreeHugo&Rodrigo week of action currently underway urging ICE to free both men and halt their deportations.

You can help keep up the pressure to reunite Hugo and Rodrigo with their families with two simple gestures:

1) Make a call to the San Francisco ICE field office to demand that Director David Jennings use his prosecutorial dissertation and release Hugo and Rodrigo now.

2) Encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Call ICE Director David Jennings at 415-844-5503

 

Exploitation of Workers Making Ivanka Trump Shoes in China

by Paul Garver

ivanka trump shoes

These Ivanka Trump shoes retail for about $80 in the USA.

Many of them are manufactured at giant Huajian factories in Dongguan and Jiangxi, China.  There hundreds of shoe workers are paid about $1 an hour for work days often extending to 15 hours, with one or two days off per month.  No overtime is paid.  Wage slips are routinely altered by management to indicate higher pay than actually received.  Wages are docked and fines imposed on any worker taking a leave day.

Huajian produces shoes for other USA brands as well, but the Ivanka Trump label stands out because her dad has attacked China for stealing American jobs.

The China Labor Watch, a highly respected NGO that monitors labor conditions in China and whose reports are widely used to investigate violations in global supply chains, routinely assigns undercover investigators to work in Chinese factories and report back.  For 17 years Chinese authorities did not intervene.  Now three young Chinese investigators (Su Heng, Li Zhao and Hua Haifeng) are being prosecuted by the Chinese authorities for working in the Huajian factory in Jiangxi and reporting on labor conditions there.   They are currently out on bail, but have suffered from abusive conditions in prison and been forbidden to leave the country.

China Labor Watch has asked the brand retailers, including Ivanka Trump, to respond to and attempt to correct, the abusive labor conditions at their Huajian supplier factories.  None has responded at all (This is rare in the 17 year experience of China Labor Watch).

Ivanka Trump could at least ask the Chinese authorities to give the three China Labor Watch investigators a fair trial.

Keith Bradsher covered this story in an excellent article for the New York Times Business section on 11th July.  For further developments, consult the informative and reliable website of China Labor Watch at http://www.chinalaborwatch.org

 

 

 

Defend Right of North Carolina Farm Workers to Organize

International Union and Foodworkers (IUF)

 Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)

farm workers nc

Following a series of recent farm worker wins in the Southern United States, farmers elected to the North Carolina State Legislature are trying to use their legislative power to stop workers on their own farms from organizing for better wages and working conditions.

On June 28, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Farm Bill S615 with no debate. The bill aims to stop the progress that farmworkers are achieving by making it illegal for farmers to deduct dues from union members as well as making it more difficult for farmworkers to win union contracts.

US farmworkers are excluded from the National Labor Relations Act and other worker protections like minimum wage, child labor, and workers compensation laws, among others. However, through the efforts of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), farmworkers have won union contracts that include wage increases, job security, and improved working conditions. This bill aims to roll back this progress.

CLICK HERE to join FLOC and the IUF in calling on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to veto the bill. Your message will be sent by email to the Governor and delivered as part of a signed petition.

A New Farm Worker Union is Born

LuchamosIndigenous Oaxacan farm workers win themselves a union in the Pacific Northwest.

David Bacon

Bob’s Burgers and Brew, a hamburger joint at the Cook Road freeway exit on Interstate 5, about two hours north of Seattle, doesn’t look like a place where Pacific Northwest farm workers can change their lives, much less make some history. But on June 16, a half-dozen men in work clothes pulled tables together in Bob’s outdoor seating area. Danny Weeden, general manager of Sakuma Brothers Farms, then joined them.

After exchanging polite greetings, Weeden opened four folders and handed around copies of a labor contract that had taken 16 sessions of negotiations to hammer out. As the signature pages were passed down the tables, each person signed. Weeden collected his copy and drove off; the workers remained long enough to cheer and take pictures with their fists in the air. Then they too left.

It was a quiet end to four years of strikes and boycotts, in which these workers had organized the first new farm-worker union in the United States in a quarter-century—Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ).

The union itself will not be like most others. At the ratification meeting held the previous night, many of the people packed into the hall of Mt. Vernon’s Unitarian Church spoke with each other in Mixteco. Members of Familias Unidas por la Justicia come originally from towns in Oaxaca and southern Mexico where people speak indigenous languages that were centuries old when the Spanish colonized the Americas.

“We are part of a movement of indigenous people,” says Felimon Pineda, FUJ vice president. An immigrant from Jicaral Cocoyan de las Flores in Oaxaca, he says organizing the union is part of a fight against the discrimination indigenous people face in both Mexico and the United States: “Sometimes people see us as being very low. They think we have no rights. They’re wrong. The right to be human is the same.” Continue reading

The Senate Health Care Bill Must Be Defeated

DSAStatement of the DSA National Political Committee, June 28, 2017

The Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that the Republican leadership hopes to ram through without any hearings or substantive debate poses a grave threat to the well-being of all but the wealthy few. The bill is nothing less than an effort to take coverage away from tens of millions of low-to-moderate income families in order to provide a massive tax cut of $400 billion over the next ten years to the top five percent of income tax payers and to medical instrument and prescription drug companies. DSA urges its members to mobilize and press their Senators (of both parties) to vote against the Senate bill. The fight to defeat a Senate bill will continue through the summer, as the Republicans failed to pass the bill before the July 4th recess. (Longer term, DSA is committed to working on state and federal “Medicare for all” legislation; see below.)

This resistance can best be done through militant constituent visits to Senators’ home or DC offices alone or with other coalition partners, particularly when Senators return to their home districts during the July 4th recess.  At a minimum, constituent phone calls to Senators, especially those who have said the bill is too harsh and/or have hundreds of thousands of people in their states added to Medicaid are important. The key Republican swing votes are Ron Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Dean Heller (R-NV). The list of Senate phone numbers and email addresses can be found here: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

The Senate bill should be militantly opposed because it will gut Medicaid, a single-payer system that covers 74 million low-income, disabled and elderly Americans. The bill would cut $880 billion over 10 years from Medicaid, over one-quarter of the previous allocation. The 13 million working adults and children added by the 31 states that accepted the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) federal funding of Medicaid coverage for working families earning $22 to $34,000 dollars will lose their coverage by 2023 (with major rollbacks in extent of coverage from 2020 on). In addition, given the large cuts to federal funding of the basic Medicaid program, an estimated additional 14 million more recipients will likely lose Medicaid coverage as states trim their rolls to deal with the lost federal revenue. States unwilling to radically increase their own contributions to Medicaid will be denying nursing home coverage and disability rehabilitation services to millions.

The bill also cuts $300 billion over ten years for premium subsidies for people who do not get insurance through employers and who must buy their own policies. And it eliminates federal subsidies for low-income families out-of-pocket expenses. Doing so would radically increase the already excessive premiums, co-pays and deductibles faced by many ACA beneficiaries. And by eliminating the individual mandate (which incentivizes younger and healthier individuals to buy insurance), insurance pools would increasingly be dominated by the elderly and sick.

But the above are not even the most inhumane parts of the legislation. States will now be free to deny mental health, reproductive services and other crucial medical services from minimal plan requirements. They also will be able to shift individuals with prior health problems into unaffordable “high risk” insurance pools. High risk pools were tried by 35 states before the ACA and almost all failed because of state underfunding.

DSA consistently argued that the ACA inefficiently expanded health insurance coverage by providing a huge federal subsidy to the private health care industry. We did support expanding Medicaid coverage to nearly 13 million working people and their children (another ten million would be added if the remaining 19 Republican states took the federal funds for Medicaid expansion). The Republican bill will begin to cut that program immediately after the 2020 presidential election (the date is not accidental) and eliminate it entirely by 2023.

DSA has always recognized that the Affordable Care Act would prove an inefficient, flawed and politically vulnerable means for expanding health care coverage, because it did so only by providing huge subsidies to an inefficient and profit-seeking private insurance system. Despite the federal subsidies, many moderate-to-low income families have insufficient coverage characterized by outrageously high deductibles and limited access to providers. Thus given the inefficiency and vulnerability of the ACA, DSA will also redouble our efforts to create state single-payer systems (that is, state-level  versions of “Medicare for All”) wherever possible, particularly in blue states such as California, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, etc. We will also continue to join with other coalition partners to build a mass national movement for “Medicare for All,” a movement capable of electing to state legislatures and Congress those truly committed to “healthcare for all.”

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NAFTA: Don’t Make A Bad Deal Worse

Don’t Make a Bad Deal Worse: UE Statement on Renegotiating NAFTA

UE General Executive Board

 

Three years ago, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA’s passage, North American labor, environmental groups, human rights organizations, and other citizen watchdogs—united to call out the terrible impact of this trade agreement on working people and our communities. As attention returns to NAFTA, now that President Trump has notified Congress officially of his intention to renegotiate, we caution against any belief that his administration will seek a deal benefitting people and the planet. NAFTA benefits corporations and those who have an interest in the free flow of capital, rather than improving the lives of workers, our communities, or the environment. Past attempts to appease concerns from labor and environmentalists have not been meaningful. .

We see the consequences of this failed treaty vividly: Across the continent, workers and families have been hit hard, as evidenced by persistent unemployment, wage stagnation, and record wealth and income inequality. There continues to be a decline in good-paying, union manufacturing jobs, as well as a loss of high-paying jobs in smaller businesses.  In those pockets where manufacturing has expanded, the jobs created have been mostly low wage with little attention to worker health and safety. In Mexico, the jobs that have emerged have been at such low rates of pay that poverty rates have risen—not fallen—since 1994. Mexico has experienced a loss of jobs in agriculture, where heavily-subsidized US corn, sugar, and other commodities led to the collapse of the Mexican farm economy.  Since the implementation of NAFTA, workers in the three countries have suffered, while wealthy investors and big corporations have seen their profits balloon.

 

Communities of North America continue to suffer under NAFTA as corporations continue to exploit our shared environment for profit and pollute our land, air, and water as governments are unable or unwilling to force corporations to clean up hazardous mistakes created by negligence. This is evident from the St. Lawrence River in Québec, which is threatened by fracking from Lone Pine Resources, to the Midwestern plains, where oil leaks from the TransCanada-owned Keystone Pipeline, to the hills of Guadalcázar, where residents pray they have seen the last child born with birth defects from the toxic waste MetalClad has refused to clean up. Corporate profits continue to grow while the health of our communities and environment suffers.

NAFTA enables the unrestricted flow of capital causing misery for working people, including: the forced migration of people looking for jobs; increased rates of homelessness; mental health problems associated with dislocation; higher rates of diabetes and other ailments linked to cheap high fructose corn syrup; and rising violence, particularly against women. NAFTA devastated the Mexican economy, particularly agriculture and family farms by allowing US corporations to dump cheap corn and other staples into Mexico. It is a key reason why millions upon millions of Mexican workers have been forced to migrate north to the US looking for better work.

President Trump says he wants to renegotiate this “bad deal,” but his vague plans are anchored in building a wall for workers and tearing down walls for capital. He makes a xenophobic argument for renegotiation, and we reject its racist and nationalistic orientation. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have stated that the rejected and discredited Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be the starting point for a renegotiated NAFTA. Unionists and environmentalists rejected TPP for good reasons and to have that as the administration’s starting point is very troubling.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in NAFTA infringes on sovereignty and citizens’ rights to self-governance by allowing corporations to sue governments who restrain profit-making opportunities. This would have been made more powerful under TPP. TPP would have weakened US health and safety standards, including those that ensure safe pharmaceuticals and food. TPP attacked net neutrality and a free and open Internet. NAFTA was negotiated in the early 1990’s and the internet was not included in the original NAFTA. We expect this to be a major target of the administration’s renegotiation.

We reject the corporate-led vision for a renegotiation of NAFTA and call for a new set of trade policies that prioritize workers common interests and relies on international solidarity as its cornerstone. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must be oriented around the improvement of workers’ lives and protection of the environment focused on those regions of the continent where conditions are the most desperate.

We call for the end of the ISDS protections NAFTA offers to  corporations to exploit working people and the environment.  As we said three years ago, 20 years after the passage of NAFTA, any new treaty must “strengthen governments’ ability to protect social, environmental and labor rights, particularly for migrants.”

We demand, as required by the UN International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions 87 and 98, an end to laws that allow employers to prevent workers from choosing their own unions or from exercising their rights to assemble, organize, and represent workers without any employer interference. This includes an end to attacks in the U.S against unions seeking to negotiate union security clauses with employers.

We demand government investment to create good-paying jobs in our communities, to build affordable housing, accessible public transportation, and green energy production, with quality food, education, and healthcare for all, and with improved access to clean air and water, public parks, and green recreation spaces. All trade negotiations must be opened to civil society participation, which includes prior publication of the texts and the construction of mechanisms for information sharing, social participation and deliberation, while avoiding the imposition of any “fast track”. A renegotiated NAFTA treaty must include effective mechanisms to protect human, labor, and environmental rights with meaningful sanctions and enforcement provisions to assure the supremacy of human rights over corporate privilege.

We support the “Political Declaration of the Encounter of the Social Organizations of Canada, United States, and Mexico” which came out of meetings held in Mexico City on May 26 and 27, 2017. We unite in international solidarity with these goals in mind and are prepared to fight back against any and all attempts to divide or devalue our work, our communities, and our environment.

Reposted from our friends at Portside.

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