Unions and the Fight Against the White Revolt

Response to Peter Olney and Ruth Needleman
http://www.portside.org.  January 9, 2017
Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Bob Wing

We appreciate the comradely tone and content of the responses of Peter Olney and Ruth Needleman to our essay, “Fighting Back Against the White Backlash.” Both of them are longtime colleagues, and our agreements are far stronger than our disagreements. In this discussion we find ourselves quite aligned with Ruth on the composition and racial politics of the working class and will not repeat some of her cogent points, but will instead focus on Peter’s observations about white worker voters and proposals for trade union action.

Peter believes we missed the critical role of white worker voters in Trump’s victories in the battleground rust belt states. It’s true that the 77,000 vote victory by Trump in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania was so narrow that it can, in fact, be ascribed to any number of factors, though certainly Trump’s gains with white workers was one of the strongest.

Underscoring this point, a piece published subsequent to our essay argued that Trump received 335,000 more votes from whites with incomes less than $50,000 in the five Rust Belt states than did Romney. (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/12/the_myth_of_the_rust_belt_revolt.html [1]) That is a big swing and if it continues into the future, we are all in big trouble. Continue reading

Strangers Among Us

by Paul Garver

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Some 200 million workers across the globe migrate across national borders searching for work.

At least 40 million migrants do not have documents allowing them to live or work in their host countries, while millions of others are “guest workers” bound to their employers and subject to expulsion if they are fired.

In the neoliberal global economic order, capital flows freely across the borders that constrain workers.   Whether “guest workers” or undocumented, migrants are among the most vulnerable and exploited people who do the indispensable tasks of feeding and caring for other people.

Like refugees, migrants are often blamed for a host of economic and social ills in the countries that depend on their agricultural, construction or domestic labor.  Politicians looking to score political points from their own xenophobic domestic constituencies find migrants and refugees tempting prey for vicious slanders. Donald Trump is a notorious perpetrator but is far from being the first chauvinist demagogue in the world.

Mexican native Diego Reyes, Sr. works the tobacco and vegetable fields in Sanford, NC.  He is a member of a relatively successful migrant worker organization, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee [FLOC].  As translated by his son Diego Reyes, Jr., a seminarian working for FLOC, he describes a reality all too often experienced by migrant workers in the USA and around the world.

It’s not only in Sanford [N.C.} but everywhere, all this propaganda against immigrants. People feel they’re stealing their jobs, that immigrants are bad people, drug mules, and criminals. It dehumanizes people. It’s not the stealing of jobs. The people came here because of the policies the U.S. implemented in the world.”

The Strangers Among Us: Tales from a Global Migrant Worker Movement documents the harsh conditions faced by migrant workers in Asia, Europe and North America.  Editor Joseph Atkins, a professor at the University of Mississippi, traveled with his wife to such far-flung locales as Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Buenos Aires, where he interviewed key activists supporting migrant worker organizing.  He also solicited contributing chapters from activists and scholars in the UK, Israel, China, Japan and India.  The result is a moving and kaleidoscopic survey of the social justice movements that are helping migrant workers organize throughout the world.

Here are a few examples of the innovative approaches taken by migrant workers and their supporters in various world regions illustrated in this compact and compelling book.
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Dining Hall Workers at Harvard Win Strike

by Paul Garver

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Harvard University Dining Hall workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 26, will return to work in two days following the successful resolution of a 3-week-long strike.and an expected member ratification vote.

The new contract will include a guaranteed annual salary of $35,000 and no increase in health insurance payments.

The workers enjoyed considerable support from Harvard students, from the local community and from other labor unions.   More than a thousand rallied and marched in support on 22nd October.   As a participant, I found the lively and racially diverse support march from Cambridge Common to the Cambridge City Hall to be a most spirited and upbeat labor demonstration.

Members of other UNITE HERE locals from as far away as Philadelphia and Atlantic City took part, as did Boston-area SEIU locals.   Young Democratic Socialist (YDS) members like Tom Dinardo from Philadelphia accompanied UNITE HERE delegations.

Spencer Brown,  a member of the Young Democratic Socialists at Wesleyan University, stated that he was also there to support food service workers organizing at Connecticut universities.

The Harvard-based Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) played a leading role in strike support, organizing large-scale student walkouts from classes and a 250 student occupation of the lobby of the Harvard administration building where contract negotiations were in their final phase.

As a long-term labor organizer, with whom the concept of an alliance between students and campus workers was first discussed during the Harvard strike of 1969, I observe that the strength and depth of alliances between students, even at elite universities, with campus workers of many types (even contingent faculty members!), is becoming more natural and organic as many students expect to be also subjected to precarious employment.

And the dining hall workers have are crediting the success of their struggle in part to the support they received from students, community members and other labor unions. But, of course, the workers themselves, their families, and their UNITE HERE local remain the bedrock.

Pennsylvania Faculty on Strike

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the union that represents 5500 faculty and coaches at Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities took to the picket lines this morning, Oct. 19.

APSCUF President Kenneth Mash wrote to reporters, “At 11:35 p.m., we made a last attempt to negotiate through back channels. We waited until 5 a.m. We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students.”

He added, “They’ll know where to find me at 5:30 a.m. I’ll be outside the chancellor’s office at the Dixon Center on the picket line.” Continue reading

The Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor

by Jeremy Brecher

Labor Network for Sustainability

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As United States Energy Transfers Partners began building the Dakota Access Pipeline through territory sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the tribe began an escalating campaign against the pipeline. By this summer nearly 200 tribes around the country had passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and many hundreds of their members joined nonviolent direct action to halt it. Amidst wide public sympathy for the Native American cause, environmental, climate protection, human rights, and many other groups joined the campaign. On September 9, the Obama administration intervened to temporarily halt the pipeline and open government-to-government consultations with the tribes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has become an issue of contention within organized labor. When a small group of unions supported the Standing Rock Sioux and opposed the pipeline, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka issued a statement discounting Native American claims and urging that work on the pipeline resume. Other constituencies within labor quickly cracked back. Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?

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Dining Hall Workers Strike at Harvard

by Brandon J. Dixon and Hannah Natanson

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Hundreds of Harvard’s dining service workers began picketing early Wednesday morning, commencing a historic strike precipitated by months of tense—and thus far fruitless—negotiations with the University.

The workers’ strike marks the first time they have walked off the job during the academic year, according to Brian Lang, president of UNITE HERE Local 26, the Boston-based labor union that represents HUDS. The strike is the first walk out Harvard has seen since 1983, according to Lang.

HUDS workers picketed outside of dining halls and stationed four RVs in the Harvard area as “mobile strike centers.” At 9 a.m., roughly 600 workers rallied in the Science Center Plaza, according to Local 26 spokesperson Tiffany Ten Eyck, eventually marching to Massachusetts Hall, where University President Drew G. Faust’s office is located.

According to Lang, around 500 dining service employees checked into picket lines across the campus as of about 8 a.m. using strike identification cards. There are about 750 total HUDS workers.

Lang and Ten Eyck also confirmed that as of about 8 a.m. they were not aware of any dining services workers that had reported for work.

Local 26 negotiator Michael Kramer gave opening remarks at the rally, calling for an increase in HUDS employees’ wages. “At this, the richest university in the world, no worker that is here and that is ready work should be making less than $35,000 a year,” he said.

Anabela A. Pappas, a HUDS worker stationed in Pforzheimer and Cabot Houses, followed Kramer. She said that HUDS employees would rather be “in the dining hall feeding the students” than outside rallying, and that Harvard had forced workers into striking.

“All the money they have, and they still want to squeeze every bit out of us,” she said. “You greedy people. This is what you caused, not us. We didn’t want to be here.”

Over the course of the months-long bargaining—which began mid-June—Harvard and union negotiators have faced a stalemate over wages and health benefits.

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Dump the Racist Trump

Continue the Political Revolution Down Ballot: Build Multiracial Coalitions
DSA’s Electoral Position for 2016

DSADemocratic Socialists of America believes that the Left must balance two crucial tasks in the November 2016 elections. On the one hand, the progressive movement must roundly defeat Donald Trump’s racist, nativist, Islamophobic and misogynist presidential campaign, as well as isolate and delegitimize the far-right hate groups that his campaign has strengthened. On the other hand, the Left must sustain and expand the independent electoral and social movement capacity built by the insurgent Sanders campaign, while broadening it out in an explicitly antiracist and multiracial direction. Thus, through November, DSA will prioritize two goals:

Building an independent “Dump Trump” movement, primarily in swing states where we have the capacity to make an impact, and
Developing local multiracial coalitions and campaigns that can build independent socialist organizing capacity and challenge neoliberal, pro-corporate Democrats in November
As an organization primarily oriented towards social movement building, DSA does not normally endorse presidential candidates. We decided to encourage Bernie Sanders to run for President — and then proudly participated in his movement — because he offered a political program that genuinely advances the democratic socialist vision. Hillary Clinton’s politics are quite different, and therefore DSA will not offer her our endorsement. Continue reading