2012: A Year of New Forms of Struggle

by Joe Burns

Joe Burns

Joe Burns

The end of the year labor summations are coming in and it is generally a mixed bag, with the perspectives dependent on how much weight one gives to the success of right wing political efforts. Those focusing more on the political efforts, see a 2012 as a bad year. Others focusing more on the fight back are more hopeful.

Indeed, if one only looks at the immediate wins and losses, the column for this year would clearly stack up on the side of the employers. Employers used the weak economy and low union density as means to aggressively press their advantage on the bargaining and political front. With the employer lockouts at record levels, labor continues to be on the bargaining defensive, even in remaining union strongholds, such as long shore.

The combativeness and courage of workers continued to be inspiring in 2012. Workers in a variety of industries endured lockouts or strikes to defend retiree health benefits and resist other concessions. In one particularly bitter struggle, locked out Crystal Sugar workers in Fargo North Dakota rejected for the fourth time their employer’s concessionary demand.

The tally of immediate gains and losses, however, should be only part of the measure of the year’s success. Another standard is whether we are any closer to developing an effective strategy to combat capital’s assault. By this measure, 2012 was a very good year.

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Workers and Occupy Wall Street Fight Shop Closure; 24-Hour Picket and Occupation of Hot and Crusty Bakery Begins

Laundry Workers Center

Hot and Crusty occupation starts–photo courtesy Bryan Sargent

New York, NY, August 31, 2012 – Following news of an impending store closure, workers at the 63rd street location of Hot and Crusty bakery have called for a 24-hour picket and store occupation, alleging the company has deliberately withheld rent payments following a hard-fought and successful unionization drive in May 2012. The company, owned by private equity partner Mark Samson, gave the Hot and Crusty Workers Association 11 days notice of eviction from the property, informing employees that August 31st would be their last day.

The union, led by grassroots labor organization Laundry Workers Center and a contingent from Occupy Wall Street, students, faith and community members are occupying the workplace and holding an around-the-clock picket demanding the company discontinue its union-busting tactics, pay its rent immediately, and continue to negotiate a fair contract with its workers. The company has used several bait-and-switch tactics during negotiations, threatening workers’ immigration status to deter their commitment to continuing the fight.

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