Stand Up To Verizon

standuptoverizon_email-headerWe’re heading into month two of the Verizon Strike and we need your help. Please join us for a National Mobilization Call on Tuesday, May 10 at 1pm to find out more about what you and your organization can do in the coming weeks to help.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, CWA President Chris Shelton, and Martha Pultar, Director of the Telecommunications Department at IBEW will join us to give an update and tell you how you can join the fight.

The Details:

WHAT: National Verizon Strike Mobilization Call
WHEN: May 10th at 1pm ET
CALL IN NUMBER: 888-636-3807
CODE: 9555514

Please let us know if you can join us. RSVP here.

This fight is about protecting good, union jobs and your help is essential if we want to win. Please join us on Tuesday.

In solidarity,
Bob Master
Communications Workers of America

Kent State: Review of a New History by a Participant in the Struggle

by Paul Garver

grace on kent state

Thomas Grace.  Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties.  Univ. of Massachusetts Press, Amherst and Boston, 2016, 384pp.

Tom Grace was one of the nine Kent State University students seriously wounded by a fusillade of gunshots from the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, when he joined a student rally after leaving his university classroom.

Four other students were killed, two of whom were not even attending the protest rally.

In the aftermath of the shooting, numerous student leaders were prosecuted and imprisoned.  None of the officers who had issued order for the guardsmen to fire and even themselves joined in the shooting were ever prosecuted for their arguably criminal actions.

More than forty years later Tom Grace authored this temperate, well considered, and thoroughly researched history of the Kent State struggle.  It is  much more than a personal memoir.   A succinct account of how he came to be shot on that day is included in a prologue and in sidebars to the description of the day of the shootings, but this is not why he wrote this history.

Grace writes with commitment or passion, but with remarkable equanimity.  Neither he nor his fellow student activists appear as victims, but rather as combatants in a desperate struggle.  Their adversaries are not portrayed as villains, but as combatants on the other side with their own views and goals.

Tom Grace conducted interviews with some 47 Ohio student activists, meticulously scoured the campus and local newspapers, and placed their stories in the context of the national student antiwar movement.   He also compiled portraits of dozens of individual national guardsmen and officers involved in the shooting, drawing on records of their testimony before various investigative panels and tribunals.

Eighty pages of endnotes show how thoroughly Grace pored over the decades of local activist struggle and repression, while firmly situating it in the history of the national antiwar movement and its organizational structures.

The result of Grace’s study is a systematic deconstruction of many media-generated myths that were immediately projected onto the Kent State shootings and persist as a battle over the memory and meaning of May 4 that continues to the present day.  The events were not a tragic anomaly but were grounded in a tradition of student political activism that extended back to Ohio’s labor battles of the 1950s and to a decade of antiwar and black liberation struggles in the nation and on the campus itself.

As a public university in the American heartland, far from the coastal epicenters often associated with the 1960s movement,  Kent State proves in Grace’s account to be a microcosm of the national student antiwar movement of the “long sixties.”

The expansion of the university after World War II brought in growing numbers of working-class students from the industrial centers of northeast Ohio. Most of the Kent State activists  retained many of the core labor and New Deal values of their parents, despite disagreements about the Vietnam War.  They came from the same generational cohort as the American combat forces in Vietnam and the Ohio national guardsmen.

As the war’s rising costs came to be felt acutely in the home communities of Kent’s students, the growing antiwar movement on campus faced repression from the university administration and the political conservatives who dominated Portage County and the Ohio state government.

The deadly effort to suppress antiwar activism by gunfire on the campus was a logical stage of the cycle of radicalization and repression that began earlier in the 1960s and continued  well into the 1970s at Kent State. In the years that followed the shootings, contrary to myth, the antiwar movement continued to strengthen on campus, bolstered by an influx of returning Vietnam veterans.

One of the most original and useful features of this history  Grace provides us are updates on the life histories of the Kent State activists he studied. The vast majority of Kent State New Left activists remained actively committed to the social causes of their movement and incorporated these into their future life paths and careers.

Being somewhat older member of the same New Left generation as Thomas Grace, I appreciate how his detailed history focused on Kent State brings alive our shared history while demolishing many of the distortions perpetrated upon it.  It is no accident that many from our activist generation are helping to organize the Sanders democratic socialist candidacy that is proving attractive to  young people today.

Thomas M. Grace is adjunct professor of history at Erie Community College. A 1972 graduate of Kent State University, he earned a PhD in history from SUNY Buffalo after many years as a social worker and union representative.

 

 

Guatemala: Coke Union STECSA and Coke Bottler FEMSA sign new collective bargaining agreement

from the Coca-Cola Workers Alliance

IUF (Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers Worldwide)

Stecsa2016

[Ed. note – Paul Garver:  This may sound like a routine story abut a contract settlement between a local union and management.  Except for one thing.  The initial creation of the STECSA union in Guatemala City in the 1970s cost the lives of several assassinated Guatemalan union leaders, plus a large-scale protracted global labor solidarity campaign.  Nearly forty years later Coke unions around the world remain engaged in a global coordination through the IUF that has resulted in a flexible and evolving framework of contention and dialogue with the giant corporate Coca-Cola empire.  The Guatemala Coke union has always remained on the IUFs global labor solidarity agenda.  In this case therefore what seems on the surface to be a routine event is actually a further manifestation of a heroic history of workers’ struggle.]

On the night of March 3, after 14 months of difficult negotiations and a suspension of nearly five months of negotiations, the Union of Workers of Embotelladora Central SA (STECSA) and Coca Cola FEMSA reached an agreement and signed the new collective bargaining agreement that will be valid for two years.

On March 2, the two negotiating committees signed an agreement that actually gave way to the completion of this difficult negotiation.

“Solving the conflict and finalizing the negotiation were the most important targets for the new Board of STECSA” Carlos Luch, the General Secretary of STECSA told the IUF Latin America region.

The agreement allowed us to ensure a retroactive wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2015 and provided a wage increase of 4 percent from 1 March 2016.

This percentage applies to all items that have economic impact, in that case also with retroactive effect from 1 March 2015.

“While we are not entirely satisfied with the salary adjustment reached, we believe that the agreement consolidates job stability in Central Bottling Company S.A. (Coca Cola FEMSA) and maintains the structure of our collective agreement unchanged guaranteeing the acquired rights” Luch added.

STECSA General Secretary thanked the members for their unconditional support given throughout the duration of the negotiations, and called on them “to continue with that commitment and conviction of struggle.”

He also urged all members to remain alerted “to defend the gains that were achieved through the struggle”.

Labor Movement’s May Day Promise

LOS ANGELES, CA - 1MAY06 -  Copyright David Bacon

LOS ANGELES, CA – 1MAY06 –
Copyright David Bacon

Erica Smiley May 1, 2016
The American Prospect

Some cast the labor movement as dying or even dead, but even amid attacks on collective bargaining workers are finding innovative ways to organize.

General view of the great crowds of organized and unorganized workers who took part in the May Day demonstration in Union Square, New York, May 1, 1929. , AP,

On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of railroad, mine, and factory workers in the United States put their livelihoods on the line and participated in a national strike to demand an eight-hour workday. They were attacked by strikebreakers and police, but their uprising led to the creation of a holiday to honor workers—May Day—now known as International Workers Memorial Day in many countries around the world. Continue reading

Stand Up to Verizon

Verizon rally lowellBy now you have likely heard about the almost 40,000 Verizon workers who are out on strike up and down the East Coast. They’re striking against corporate greed. Verizon wants to outsource jobs abroad instead of paying their workers here a fair share of the wealth they create with their own hands.

We want to focus on a small segment of Verizon workers, Verizon Wireless store workers, who are striking for the first time ever at six stores in Brooklyn, NY and one in Everett, MA. They’re still without a first contract, two years after they voted to join the Communications Workers of America. They make significantly less than their wireline counterparts and thus have less to fall back on during the strike – plus less experience and historical memory of the previous strikes. And they’ve received much less coverage in the media.

Anything that can be done to support them and strengthen their morale and resolve in this fight is huge, both for them as workers and for the entire struggle with Verizon, since the company would love nothing more than to prevent unions from getting a foothold in the Wireless side.

Contribute to the strike fund for Verizon Wireless workers set up by CWA members at AT&T Mobility.

As democratic socialists, we carry the values that all people, everywhere, should have the rights, recognition, and resources they need to thrive. In contrast to that vision, a non-union workplace is a unique location where we are told to accept that we are not entitled to the rights and privileges we normally enjoy as citizens, because free speech exists for bosses but not for workers, nor are we entitled to enjoy the full fruits of our labor, since our wages are less than the value of what we produce. Continue reading

United Electrical Workers Endorse Sanders

sanders_cwa

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday welcomed an endorsement by the 35,000-member United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Peter Knowlton, the union’s national president, called Sanders “the most pro-worker pro-union presidential candidate I have seen in my lifetime” and said electing Sanders “is a unique opportunity that workers and unions must not pass up.

“We are proud to endorse Bernie Sanders and support his campaign,” he added.

The endorsement was approved unanimously by rank-and-file local delegates from the union’s three regions over the past six weeks.

Knowlton said the labor organization and Sanders have longstanding ties in Vermont. “As more of our members around the country have seen and heard Bernie over the past few months,” he added, “they’ve seen that his policies and priorities match our own. So, there has been a groundswell of support for Bernie with members volunteering for the campaign.

Sanders welcomed the news while he was campaigning in Rhode Island ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primary elections here and in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.

“I thank the 35,000 members of the United Electrical Workers for their endorsement,” Sanders said. “During my 25 years in Congress, I have been proud to stand side by side with the UE fighting to increase the minimum wage to a living wage; to guarantee health care to every man, woman and child as a right; to make it easier for workers to join unions; to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure; to transform our nation’s energy system; and against disastrous trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and normalized trade with China which have destroyed millions of decent-paying jobs in America.”

Altogether, more than 100 national and local unions, representing over 1.5 million workers, have endorsed Sanders. They include the Communications Workers of America, the American Postal Workers Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, National Nurses United, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the United Electrical Workers.

University of Colorado Should Give Nike a Swift Kick

by Dave Anderson

Buffs Nike.jpg

USAS Activists at UC Boulder

A university should be a critic and conscience of society, according
to an old-fashioned view. There are lofty goals on campus plaques and
universities should certainly provide a unique space for dissident
views.

Nevertheless, if you scratch the surface, you realize that
universities are increasingly knowledge factories subordinate to
corporate America.

Progressive student activists challenge universities to live up to
their ideals. United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a
nationwide, grassroots group organizing solidarity with workers who
face grievous conditions locally and abroad.

They have focused their activism on the reckless business practices of
university-branded sports apparel brands. As students attending
colleges and universities with multimillion-dollar apparel programs,
USAS has conducted campaigns to force apparel brands like Nike to
respect workers rights. University of Colorado has a huge contract
with Nike.

On April 5, the CU Boulder chapter of USAS hosted a talk by Noi
Supalai, former union president and Nike factory worker from Thailand.
She described her struggles while working for a sub-contracting
company in Thailand called Eagle Speed, which produced clothing for
brands such as Nike, Northface, Columbia and Puma.

Accompanied by a volunteer translator, Supalai explained that after
the 2008 world economic meltdown, these brands began to order less
clothing from Eagle Speed.

Supalai said that, “it was at that point that Nike took advantage of
the situation and made a deal with the factory trying to order in
higher quantity, and they pressured for greatest quality, and we had
to produce it within a shorter time frame and in lower costs.”

Supalai said that Nike threatened to terminate Eagle Speed’s contract
if they didn’t agree to the new conditions. The 2,000 Eagle Speed
workers were unable to keep up with the high demand. As a result, Nike
placed a fine on the factory and refused to pay for any of the
clothing produced.

The workday was elongated from 8 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. Management
placed devices on their bodies to track their working pace to ensure
consistency. The workers didn’t get paid for two months and couldn’t
even go home.

In desperation, the workers went on strike. When Supalai and 24 of her
fellow co-workers attempted to meet with Eagle Speed management, they
were directed to a room where they were immediately locked up.

She said Eagle Speed’s response when questioned about the detention
was, “You are too radical, stirring up workers.”

The Eagle Speed workers contacted the Thai government’s Department of
Labor Protection who refused to help them. The workers directly
contacted Nike and got the run-around.

Finally, they reached out to the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), an
independent labor rights monitoring organization.

Within one week, the WRC was able to reach an arrangement with Eagle
Speed that successfully allowed former workers to go back to work with
a promise that they wouldn’t be discriminated against and that those
who wished to resign would be granted full compensation.

The WRC attempts to combat sweatshops around the globe and protect the
rights of workers who make apparel and other products. It was founded
in 2000 by university administrators, labor rights experts and student
activists. The group’s primary focus is the labor practices of
factories that make university-related apparel.

The WRC conducts independent, in-depth investigations; issues public
reports on factories producing for major brands; and aids workers at
these factories in their efforts to end labor abuses and defend their
workplace rights.

Nearly 200 schools are WRC affiliates. CU is one of them. For many
years, WRC and Nike have had a reasonably cooperative relationship.
However, the situation changed recently. Late last year, workers at a
Nike supplier’s factory in Vietnam held a pair of strikes over working
conditions. The WRC wanted to inspect the factory but Nike stopped
them.

WRC director Scott Nova was “surprised and concerned” by this change.
He said, “What it boils down to is Nike prefers not to be accountable
to an independent investigative body. They want to police the working
conditions themselves. The reason there are mandatory standards is
it’s not prudent to allow companies to police themselves.”

Nike has a lengthy history dealing with labor watchdogs and student
activists. In the 1990s, the company was embarrassed over a number of
sweatshop scandals. Since then, Nike has polished its pubic image and
has changed its behavior.

The USAS is leading a national campaign to force Nike to go back to
allowing WRC to inspect factories producing Nike shoes, clothes and
athletic equipment. The company is violating codes of conduct in
contracts with many schools.

Recently, hundreds of college faculty members around the country
signed onto a letter criticizing Nike for not assisting the WRC in
investigating the situation at the Vietnamese factory.

The president of Rutgers University, Robert Barchi, said that if Nike
didn’t help the WRC access the Vietnamese factory, the company would
be taking “a step backward” on its labor rights record. “Rutgers feels
that it is essential that all companies producing Rutgers-branded
products not only adhere to all applicable labor codes of conduct but
also be perceived as maintaining the highest standards of labor
rights,” Barchi wrote.

Parker Haile, an undergraduate in economics and chemical engineering,
says the CU Boulder chapter of USAS is asking the CU administration to
be as assertive as Rutgers. The student activists need our help. Check
out their Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/hbywglr.

This opinion piece originally appeared in the April 21 edition of Boulder Weekly.

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