Trump’s Wall is (Almost) Already Completed

Todd Miller
August 23, 2016 TomDispatch

Although wall construction began during Bill Clinton’s administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) built most of the approximately 700 miles of fencing after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed. The 2006 wall-building project was expected to be so environmentally destructive that homeland security chief Michael Chertoff waived 37 environmental and cultural laws in the name of national security.

Migrants walk toward the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico, Tuesday, April 1, 2008. U.S. officials say the Bush administration will bypass more than 30 laws and regulations in an effort to complete 670 miles (1,050 kilometers) of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico by the end of this year. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

Migrants walk toward the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico, Tuesday, April 1, 2008. U.S. officials say the Bush administration will bypass more than 30 laws and regulations in an effort to complete 670 miles (1,050 kilometers) of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico by the end of this year. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

Migrants walk toward the U.S.-Mexico border wall on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico, Tuesday, April 1, 2008., ,

At the federal courthouse, Ignacio Sarabia asks the magistrate judge, Jacqueline Rateau, if he can explain why he crossed the international boundary between the two countries without authorization. He has already pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor commonly known as “illegal entry” and is about to receive a prison sentence. On either side of him are eight men in the same predicament, all still sunburned, all in the same ripped, soiled clothes they were wearing when arrested in the Arizona desert by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Once again, the zero tolerance border enforcement program known as Operation Streamline has unfolded just as it always does here in Tucson, Arizona. Close to 60 people have already approached the judge in groups of seven or eight, their heads bowed submissively, their bodies weighed down by shackles and chains around wrists, waists, and ankles. The judge has handed out the requisite prison sentences in quick succession — 180 days, 60 days, 90 days, 30 days.

On and on it goes, day-in, day-out. Like so many meals served in fast-food restaurants, 750,000 prison sentences of this sort have been handed down since Operation Streamline was launched in 2005. This mass prosecution of undocumented border crossers has become so much the norm that one report concluded it is now a “driving force in mass incarceration” in the United States. Yet it is but a single program among many overseen by the massive U.S. border enforcement and incarceration regime that has developed during the last two decades, particularly in the post-9/11 era. Continue reading

Korean Union Leader May be Sentenced to Eight years for Blocking Traffic

by Yi San

Han Sang Gyun

Last week South Korean prosecutors called for an eight-year jail term for Han Sang-gyun, leader of the country’s 800,000-strong independent union federation. The request is outlandish even in a country that was once moving toward democracy but is now rapidly eroding back to authoritarianism.

All eight charges against Han center on traffic and public-safety violations in connection with unauthorized rallies the Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU) called between April and November 2015. The government was forced to use a technicality—traffic violations—to interfere with the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly.

Nevertheless, the prosecution is seeking a heavy jail term. It claims Han attempted to incite violence at a November 14 rally in central Seoul when he yelled, “Let’s advance towards the Presidential Palace.”

The rally indeed turned violent, not because of the tens of thousands of workers and citizens who were protesting two-tier-wage legislation and government austerity measures, but because riot police cordoned off the streets and water-cannoned the otherwise peaceful protesters.

A high-pressure streak of capsaicin solution from a water cannon felled Baek Nam-ki, a 69-year-old farmer activist. Baek remains comatose with irreversible brain damage.

After the rally Han, already wanted on an arrest warrant, took sanctuary at Jogye Buddhist temple, in central Seoul, where he stayed for 24 days before turning himself in to the police. The government summoned about 1,500 other rally participants for investigation.

Elected on a Pledge to Fight

In December 2014 Han was elected KCTU president in the first-ever non-delegate, direct vote in the federation’s 19-year history. He was also the first president elected on a pledge to organize a general strike. “They [the government and business owners] were aiming to annihilate the KCTU, and we had little option but to fight back,” Han said in court June 13, explaining why he had run.

Under Han’s leadership, the KCTU twice called for a general strike. But both calls ended in only symbolic stoppages, adding to a grim picture for South Korean labor.

The country’s unions, once one of the best organized and militant segments of the global labor movement, have suffered a series of setbacks since the late 1990s, when the government made it easier for employers to lay off workers and hire casuals. Fewer than one in 10 workers is now unionized, the country’s lowest level ever, including in the 1970-80s when Korea was under a harsh military dictatorship.

One in seven workers in effect takes home less than the legal minimum wage of about $5.15 an hour, because they are casual workers and thus not fully protected by law.

These defeats, coupled with the ongoing economic recession, have divided union leaders and demoralized members.

Much of the religious establishment, once shelter for political dissidents, has turned a blind eye to labor’s agony. Han initially planned to organize a general strike while in sanctuary at Jogye temple, home to the Buddhist sect that is the country’s largest.

But from day one of Han’s sanctuary, the leadership of the sect, implicated in a series of corruption scandals, quietly mobilized a group of loyalists to evict him. During his 24-day sanctuary, Han often scuffled with these henchmen who, on one occasion, stripped him almost naked.

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Bernie Sanders, Labor, Ideology, and the Future of U.S. Politics

  • by Bob Master
    Legislative and Political Director for CWA District One of the Communications Workers of America and a co-chair of the New York State Working Families Party.
    sanders_cwa
    The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, contrary to all expectation, has become the most important left insurgency in the United States in nearly half a century. A year ago, even his most optimistic supporters might have hoped that Sanders would enliven the presidential debates by challenging Hillary Clinton on issues of Wall Street power and big money corruption, and perhaps garner a quarter to a third of the primary vote.

Instead, Sanders won primaries and caucuses in 23 states, and amassed over 12 million votes and nearly 43% of the pledged delegates. And all this while unapologetically and unabashedly proclaiming himself a “democratic socialist,” re-legitimizing a systemic critique of US capitalism for the first time since the one-two punch of Cold War reaction and neoliberal triumphalism froze the left out of mainstream American discourse two generations ago. The power of Big Banks, job-killing trade deals, ending the corrosive influence of big money in elections, eliminating private insurance companies from the health care system, and the merits of a “political revolution” became staples of prime-time presidential debates. Once stunning poll numbers now seem commonplace: 43% of Iowa caucus goers, including roughly a third of Clinton supporters, describing themselves as “socialists”; a New York Times poll late last year which said that 56% of Democratic primary voters had a “positive view of socialism;” and Sanders’ overwhelming support among young voters, by margins as high as 84% in Iowa and New Hampshire, but even reaching the low 60s in states like South Carolina, where he was otherwise crushed. Indeed, Sanders’ remarkable popularity among “millennials” prompted John Della Volpe, the director of a long-running Harvard University poll of young people, to tell the Washington Post that Sanders is “not moving a party to the left. He’s moving…the largest generation in the history of America…to the left.”[1] Something significant is definitely going on….
Today’s labor movement has been largely shaped by its experiences of defeat, on multiple battlefronts over the last 30 years—at the bargaining table, in State Houses, in the courts. In recent years, this prolonged existential crisis has bred some innovation and success, most dramatically in SEIU’s four-year old “Fight for $15 and a Union,” which has sharpened and politicized the discourse about income inequality and stagnant wages that erupted in Occupy Wall Street (not to mention delivering billions of dollars in raises to tens of millions of low-wage workers across the country).
The broad acceptance of $15 an hour as the new standard for the minimum wage – a notion that was ridiculed by many of its current proponents just two years ago—illuminates the critical power of ideas in opening up space for organizing and political and legislative advancement. When fast food workers and their supporters won the ideological battle about what constitutes an adequate minimum subsistence level of compensation, change came with surprising suddenness.
Historian Nelson Lichtenstein has written that “trade unionism requires a compelling set of ideas and institutions, both self-made and governmental, to give labor’s cause power and legitimacy. It is a political project whose success enables the unions to transcend the ethnic and economic divisions always present in the working population.”[3] But labor’s ideological breakthrough in the “Fight for $15” is an exception that proves the rule. By the time the Corporate Right fashioned its relentless and well-planned ideological and practical attack on the labor movement, starting in the mid-70s, decades of complacency and anti-communism had stripped the labor movement of its capacity to respond on an ideological plane. In his famous letter in 1978 resigning from the “Labor—Management Group” after the Business Roundtable-sponsored filibuster buried “Labor Law Reform” in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, UAW President Doug Fraser lamented the outbreak of a “one-sided class war” waged by a politically resurgent corporate elite. The unspoken and probably unintended implication was that class war was an alien concept to a labor movement that had come to see itself as the junior, but accepted and well-established, partner in a long term “social compact.”

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Verizon Workers Win Strike

verizon victory cwa

Friday, May 27, 2016

CWA Press Release

Striking Verizon Workers Win Big Gains

UNION TO TAKE DOWN PICKETS; COMPANY AGREES TO ADD GOOD UNION JOBS ON THE EAST COAST; FIRST CONTRACT FOR RETAIL WIRELESS WORKERS; IMPROVES WORKERS’ OVERALL STANDARD OF LIVING

Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers who have been on strike since April 13 are celebrating big gains after coming to an agreement in principle with the company. After 44 days of the largest strike in recent history, striking CWA members have achieved our major goals of improving working families’ standard of living, creating good union jobs in our communities and achieving a first contract for wireless retail store workers.

“CWA appreciates the persistence and dedication of Secretary Perez, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director Allison Beck and their entire teams. The addition of new, middle-class jobs at Verizon is a huge win not just for striking workers, but for our communities and our country as a whole. The agreement in principle at Verizon is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “This proves that when we stand together we can raise up working families, improve our communities and protect the American middle class.”

 

US Labor Against the War

by USLAW

US Labor Against the War (USLAW) held its 2016 National Assembly at ATU’s Tommy Douglas Center in Silver Spring, MD from April 15-17. Unlike the labor movements of most countries in the world, with the exception of trade and immigration, most of the American labor leadership still is uncomfortable or has yet to see the importance of talking about foreign policy and the need for international labor solidarity in practice rather than just in rhetoric.

Organizations present included OPEIU Local 2, DC Young Trade Unionists, Bay Area Labor Committee for Peace and Justice, UFCW 1776, AFT 2121, Philadelphia Labor Council, USW Local 3657, AFSCME DC47, Philadelphia CLUW, UE, AFSCME Council 32 WI, CWA-UPTE 9119, UAW-National Writers Union, UAW Local 2320, CWA-PHEW, Coalition to End the Saudi Alliance, Professional Staff Congress, Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, ATU, AAUP-AFT, Iraq Veterans Against the War, #blacklivesmatterdmv, and the Washington Peace Center.

In addition to being gathered at a time of large scale protest against big money in our political system (Democracy Spring), April 17 was the anniversary of the day in 1965 when the student activist group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held its first anti-Vietnam War protest rally in Washington, DC. It was co-sponsored by Women’s Strike for Peace. 25,000 attended, including Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Phil Ochs.

History brought us together in more ways than one. USLAW led the campaign to get the AFL-CIO to take a stand against the Iraq war in 2005 (renewed in 2009). It sent the first labor delegation to Iraq and brought Iraqi union leaders to the U.S. in 2005, 2007 and 2009, when it also sent another delegation to Iraq to participate in the first international labor conference ever held there.

The labor movement may have shed its Cold War policies but it has not yet shed the organizational and political culture that accompanied those policies. Unlike the labor movements of most countries in the world, with the exception of trade and immigration, most of the American labor leadership still is uncomfortable or has yet to see the importance of talking about foreign policy and the need for international labor solidarity in practice rather than just in rhetoric. This shift in thinking remained a major theme of the weekend and played out in each of the speakers and workshops arranged.

Continue reading

20 Years of Cross Border Solidarity

A History in Photographs
By David Bacon
NACLA Report on the Americas, May 2016
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10714839.2016.1170301

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO - 1993 - Workers vote in a union election outside the Tijuana maquiladora of Plasticos Bajacal.  Voting is public, and workers have to declare aloud whether they're voting for the company union or their own independent union.  Sr. Mandujano, head of the labor board in Tijuana and an ally of the companies and the company unions, points to a worker and demands that he say which union he's voting for.  Company  and company union officials look on, along with Carmen Valadez, representative of the independent union.  The election was called off halfway through.

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1993 – Workers vote in a union election outside the Tijuana maquiladora of Plasticos Bajacal. Voting is public, and workers have to declare aloud whether they’re voting for the company union or their own independent union. Sr. Mandujano, head of the labor board in Tijuana and an ally of the companies and the company unions, points to a worker and demands that he say which union he’s voting for. Company and company union officials look on, along with Carmen Valadez, representative of the independent union. The election was called off halfway through.

Unions and social movements face a basic question on both sides of the Mexico/U.S. border – can they win the battles they face today, especially political ones, without joining their efforts together? Fortunately, this is not an abstract question. Struggles have taken place in maquiladoras for two decades all along the border. Many centers and collectives of workers have come together over those years. Walkouts over unpaid wages, or indemnización, as well as terrible working conditions are still common.

What’s more, local activists still find ways to support these actions through groups like the Collective Ollin Calli in Tijuana and its network of allies across the border in Tijuana, the San Diego Maquiladora Workers Solidarity Network. Other forms of solidarity have been developed through groups the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras and the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras. And long-term relations have been created between unions like the United Electrical Workers and the Authentic Labor Front, and the United Steel Workers and the Mexican Mineros. More recently, binational support networks have formed for farm workers in Baja California, and workers are actively forming new networks of resistance and solidarity in the plantons outside factories in Ciudad Juárez.

Over the years, support from many U.S. unions and churches, and from unions and labor institutions in Mexico City, has often been critical in helping these collectives survive, especially during the pitched battles to win legal status for independent unions. At other moments, however, the worker groups in the maquiladoras and the cities of the border have had to survive on their own, or with extremely limited resources.

These photographs show both the conditions people on the border are trying to change, and some of the efforts they’ve made to change them, in cooperation with groups in the U.S. There have been many such efforts – this is just a look at some.

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO - 1995 - Women workrers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women's rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana.  Their factory was closed, and the women laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer in courts in Tijuana and Los Angeles.Copyright David Bacon

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1995 – Women workrers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women’s rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana. Their factory was closed, and the women laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer in courts in Tijuana and Los Angeles.Copyright David Bacon

TIJUANA BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE, MEXICO – 1995 – Women workers from the National O-Ring maquiladora demonstrate for women’s rights during the May Day parade in Tijuana. Their factory was closed, and the women were laid off and blacklisted, after they filed charges of sexual harassment against their employer. The plant manager had organized a “beauty contest” at a company picnic, and ordered women workers to parade in bikinis. Supported by the San Diego Support Committee for Maquiladora Workers, women filed suit in a U.S. Federal court, which surprisingly accepted jurisdiction. The company then gave women severance pay for the loss of their jobs.
See the entire essay and the impressive photos. http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2016/05/twenty-years-of-cross-border-solidarity.html

Fatal Employment?

By SETH SANDRONSKY
Go to work and die in the US? The answer is yes for 4,821 workers who
lost their lives on the job in 2014 versus 4,582 in 2013, a 5.1% jump,
according to a new report, “Preventable Deaths 2016,” from the
National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH), a
20-group federation, citing federal Labor Dept. data.

One-third of workplace fatalities in 2014 occurred among folks 55
years and older. Further, 802 contract, or temporary workers, died on
the job in 2014, 16.7% of the overall total, and a 7% increase versus
the 749 contracted workers who lost their lives while employed in
2013.

“Contract and temporary workers are frequently assigned to the most
hazardous jobs on many worksites,” according to the NCOSH report.
Jamie Hoyt was a 58-year-old contract worker who died on a day labor
job in Hackensack, New Jersey on Nov. 30, 2012. Continue reading

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