Lucy Gonzales Parsons – International Women’s Day

Profile of Lucy Gonzales Parsons (1853–1942). By William Loren Katz.
Labor organizer and orator.

Lucy Parsons as she appeared in 1886.

Image via Wikipedia

In honor of International Women’s Day, here are lessons, books, websites, and films to fill the gaps in our own knowledge, in the textbooks, and in the curriculum.

“Workers shouldn’t “strike and go out and starve, but strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production.” So believed Lucy Gonzales Parsons, who died 70 years ago this week. In light of all the meanings the word “occupy” has come to gather in these times, William Katz’…

On March 7, 1942, fire engulfed the simple home of 89-year-old Lucy Gonzales Parsons on Chicago’s North Troy Street, and ended a life dedicated to liberating working women and men of the world from capitalism and racial oppression. A dynamic, militant, self-educated public speaker and writer, she became the first American woman of color to carry her crusade for socialism across the country and overseas. Lucy Gonzales started life in Texas. She was of Mexican American, African American, and Native American descent and born into slavery. The path she chose after emancipation led to conflict with the Ku Klux Klan, hard work, painful personal losses, and many nights in jail. In Albert Parsons, a white man whose Waco Spectator fought the Klan and demanded social and political equality for African Americans, she found a handsome, committed soul mate. The white supremacy forces in Texas considered the couple dangerous and their marriage illegal, and soon drove them from the state.

Lucy and Albert reached Chicago, where they began a family and threw themselves into two new militant movements, one to build strong industrial unions and the other to agitate for socialism. Lucy concentrated on organizing working women and Albert became a famous radical organizer and speaker, one of the few important union leaders in Chicago who was not an immigrant. Continue reading

Labor and Occupied Wall Street

 Michael Levitin

Let’s get something straight: this movement has issued no demands. It is not a protest. It’s an occupation. Rebellions don’t have demands.

As we wrote in the editorial that appeared in the second edition of The Occupied Wall Street Journal on Saturday: “We are speaking to each other, and listening. This occupation is first about participation.”

That said, take a look at the largest support base that has thrown its muscle behind Occupy Wall Street during the past week—organized labor—and the direction of this movement becomes somewhat clearer.

America’s unions have been so sidelined and mismanaged in recent years that Tea Partiers last winter thought they could run them off the cliff altogether. The workers’ revolt in Wisconsin showed that wasn’t about to happen—and what we’re seeing now in Manhattan is further proof that labor is retooling, its ambitions sharpened and emboldened by the participatory assembly in Liberty Park.

“The occupation movement [in America] was started by labor in Madison when they occupied the capital, and that has given labor the go-ahead to do more, to become more active, more militant, and to support things like this,” said Jackie Di Salvo, who teaches English at Baruch College and is a member of the Professional Staff Congress, a union of faculty and staff representing 18 colleges in the CUNY system. Continue reading

The Hidden History of U.S.- Mexico labor solidarity

U.S. Mexican Migration

By< href= David Bacon

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a series on border solidarity by journalist and immigration activist David Bacon. This article and subsequent installments were originally published in the Institute for Transnational Social Change’s report Building a Culture of Cross-Border Solidarity. To download a PDF of the entire report, visit the Americas Program website.  These are excerpts.

Introduction

In the period since the North American Free Trade Agreement has come into effect, the economies of the United States and Mexico have become more integrated than ever.  Through Plan Merida and partnerships on security, the military and the drug war, the political and economic policies pursued by the U.S. and Mexican governments are more coordinated than they’ve ever been.

Working people on both sides of the border are not only affected by this integration.  Workers and their unions in many ways are its object.  These policies seek to maximize profits and push wages and benefits to the bottom, manage the flow of people displaced as a result, roll back rights and social benefits achieved over decades, and weaken working class movements in both countries.

All this makes cooperation and solidarity across the U.S./Mexico border more important than ever.  After a quarter century in which the development of solidarity relationships was interrupted during the cold war, unions and workers are once again searching out their counterparts and finding effective and appropriate ways to support each other. Continue reading