Sunday, December 30, 2007

UPS and Hoffa Don't Deliver for Workers...


Teamsters Trade Gains of 1997 UPS Strike for Deal to Organize Members at Freight Division
— Mark Brenner


In mid-November Teamsters (IBT) at United Parcel Service approved a controversial five-year agreement, more than eight months before the expiration of their current contract.

The new contract will pull 44,000 Teamsters out of the union’s multi-employer Central States pension plan, and end conversion of part-time into full-time jobs at UPS. It also widens the gap between full-time and part-time standards, freezing part-timers’ starting pay and forcing new part-timers to work for a year before they are eligible for health care coverage.

These givebacks were accepted in spite of the company’s healthy bottom line, UPS reported more than $4 billion in pre-tax net income last year...


READ THE REST AT THE LABOR NOTES WEBSITE...



Check out the opposition to this concessionary contract here...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Important new works on labor history, past and present...





As discussed on the Labor Express radio program, here are some important works of labor history and analysis released in the past few months.

Kim Moody has long been an insightful analyst of developments in the labor movement as a former union organizer and one of the founders of Labor Notes. His new work - U.S. Labor in Trouble and Transition: The Failure of Reform from Above, The Promise of Revival from Below – takes a look at the reasons for organized labor’s precipitous decline in membership and power over the past few decades, and provides solid advice on what is necessary to turn the situation around. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK…
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1844671542/ref=s9_asin_image_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1PRY0CX1MFXW8KT8N51D&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=320448701&pf_rd_i=507846


Kim Moody also has another important book out on the economy and labor in New York city since the mid-1970’s…
http://www.amazon.com/Welfare-State-Real-Estate-Present/dp/1595580883/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1198432133&sr=1-2




Historian Peter Cole has just published a new book on the IWW called - Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. The book not only discusses a fascinating period in the history of this most important and heroic of American labor unions, but alludes by example to some of the same proscriptions addressed by Moody in regards to how to empower today’s labor movement…
http://www.amazon.com/Wobblies-Waterfront-Interracial-Progressive-Era-Philadelphia/dp/0252031865/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1198433837&sr=1-1

Links to Labor Express Radio interviews with both authors will be posted in a few days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

1-888-DIGNIDAD & Making Chicago a No-Match Free Zone...


Some of the most innovative and essential work being accomplished by both the labor movement and the movement for immigrant rights is, once again, happening right here in Chicago. The Chicago Committee Against No-Match Letters and the Rapid Response Network, lead by the UE (United Electrical Workers Union), Chicago Workers Collaborative, UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) Local 881, Interfaith Worker Justice and other Chicago area workers centers, has organized a fight back against Social Security “no-match” letters and ICE workplace raids in an effort to make Chicago a no-match and ICE raid free zone. The goal is to make the economic, political and social costs of terrorzing immigrant workers through no-match letters and workplace raids so high for employers and their friends at DHS (Department of Homeland Security) that they will be forced to back off.

This is an extremely important effort, as no-match letters and ICE raids are a key strategy of the anti-immigrant forces who are pursuing what they call an "Attrition through Enforcement" strategy (for more on this see the last link on this page). Those who oppose rights for immigrants and working people have mobilized behind their strategy – we need to counter their attack with a strategy of our own, based on mobilizing our communities and hitting them were it hurts – their corporate bottom line. Unscrupulous employers have already used no-match letters, often illegally, to intimidate workers who are trying to organize or improve conditions in their workplace. But the Chicago Committee Against No-Match has successfully assisted hundreds of workers organize in their workplaces and beat back the employers assault. At the heart of the effort is UE’s innovative 1-888-DIGNIDAD hotline number, where immigrant workers can call for information and support.

Read the following article on the Labor Notes website for more…
http://labornotes.org/node/1446

Listen to the following Labor Express Radio programs with interviews from leading activists in the Chicago Committee Against No-Match Letters…
http://www.archive.org/details/LE12-9-07

http://www.archive.org/details/LE11-25-07

Here is an article with more info on how the anti-immigrant forces are planning out their strategy (note, I am not all that familiar with this organization, and many of their policy positions listed on their website, I am not in agreement with, but this is a very interestingly article)…
http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4816


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Video from Obama Visit...


Yesterday (12-15-07) the newly formed Chicago Trade With Justice Working Group, held their first public action - a visit to the Chicago campaign HQ for Sen. Barack Obama. On the campaign trail, Obama has criticized those who supported NAFTA and CAFTA and promised to take a different direction in regards to trade policy if elected President. Yet he expressed publicly that he supported the recently passes U.S./Peru Free Trade Agreement and did not show up to vote against it when it was voted on by the Senate on Dec. 4th. The Working Group delivered a letter to Obama stating our disappointment with his decision not to take a stand against this dangerous extension of NAFTA to yet another country, and calling on him to oppose an upcoming trade deal with Colombia.

Video of our visit to Obama campaign HQ can be viewed at the following links, thanks to the work of Larry Duncan from Labor Beat T.V…

http://blip.tv/file/544160/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBw3IVwd58w

You can view a copy of the letter to Obama here…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/Letter%20to%20ObamaFINAL.pdf

Monday, December 10, 2007

Peru Trade Agreement Action at Obama HQ Dec. 15th!


Where are our Senate and Congressional leaders when it is time to oppose unfair trade? Press conference to be held outside Obama for America HQ.

Labor activists, fair trade advocates, Latin American solidarity activists, environmentalists, immigrant rights organizers, people of faith, and others are concerned with the recent lack of interest of our U.S. Congressional and Senate leaders when it comes to stopping un-fair trade deals - as evidenced by the recent House and Senate votes on the US-Peru “Free Trade” Agreement. We find it very troubling that one of our Illinois Senators, Barack Obama, a current candidate for President of the United States, skipped the vote on the Peru trade pact, missing an important opportunity to stand up for working people and the environment both here and in Peru. We are even more concerned that Obama, along with Sen Hillary Clinton, made public statements supporting the Peru Trade deal and that our other Senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin voted in favor of the trade pact. At a time when Democratic candidates for president, including Sen. Obama, are making stump speeches about the disaster wrought by NAFTA, it is surprising and distributing that these same candidates are not ready to take a stand against future NAFTAs. The Chicago “Free Trade” Working Group, a recently formed network of activists from the labor, religious, immigrant rights, environmental, Latin American solidarity and peace movements is delivering a letter asking Sen. Obama for an explanation of his position on the U.S.-Peru “Free Trade” Agreement. A press conference will be held outside Obama’s campaign HQ at 300 W. Adams at 1:30 PM.


WHEN: Saturday, December 15th – 1:30 P.M.

WHERE: Obama for America - 300 W. Adams St., Chicago, IL.

WHO: Members of the recently formed Chicago "Free Trade" Working Group




















For more info on the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement, check out the following links...

Statement of Lori M. Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Division, following the Senate’s passage of the U.S.-Peru “Free Trade” Agreement. Wallach has been one of the most knowledge and consistent critics of the neo-liberal “free trade” agenda…
http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=2558

Here is an excellent analysis of the U.S.-Peru “Free Trade” Agreement from United for a Fair Economy (UFE). Note the fact that this analysis points out the weakness of the much touted improvements in labor and environmental protections that many Democrats used as political cover when they voted yes on the deal. Also note the broad range of organizations that signed on to this statement…
http://www.faireconomy.org/activist/fair_trade/vote_on_peru_open_letter.html

Excellent article on the dangers of the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement...
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/11/05/the_hidden_costs_of_free_trade/

Article in the The Nation about the Democrats unprincipaled about face on the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement and the reasons for it...
http://www.thenation.com/blogs/notion?bid=15&pid=250042

Article from Peruvian newspaper about protest organized by the CGTP, Peru's largest union federation, opposing the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement. Unions in Peru have been vehment in their rejection of the trade pact...
http://www1.elcomercio.com.pe/ediciononline/HTML/2007-12-05/la-cgtp-anuncia-protestas-contra-tlc-estados-unidos.html

International Trade Union Confederation (ITCU) statement on the poor state of labor law in Peru...
http://www.ituc-csi.org/spip.php?article1499

10 Reasons to oppose the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement from Peruvian civil society leading the fight against the trade deal in Peru...
http://www.perufrentealtlc.com/10razones

OXFAM America's statement opposing the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement. Note OXFAM's concerns over the effect of the trade deal on poor farmers in Peru is not resolved by the supposed improvements in the labor and environmental protections in the agreement...
http://www.oxfamamerica.org/newsandpublications/press_releases/archive2006/press_release.2006-07-27.6089858017

Change to Win, the U.S. trade union federation's statement opposing the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement...
http://www.changetowin.org/no_cache/issues/trade-and-globalization/change-to-win-letter-to-the-us-senate-opposing-the-oman-and-peru-free-trade-agreements.html?sword_list%5B%5D=peru

AFL-CIO statement on the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement. Note that even though the AFL-CIO recognized some improvements in the agreement's labor and environmental protections in October, these relatively minor changes did not change the agreement's central character. In particular, note that the investor-to-state dispute resolution mechanisms in the agreement continue to be a real threat to democracy in the U.S. and Peru...
http://www.aflcio.org/issues/legislativealert/alerts/upload/us_peruftaSenate1007.pdf

Statement from the President of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney. Though much was made by the Democrats and others in regards to the AFL-CIO's lack of effort to defeat the U.S.-Peru "Free Trade" Agreement, the following statement makes it clear that the union federation still opposed the neo-liberal principals upon which the agreement is based...
http://www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/prsptm/pr11082007b.cfm

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Labor Educators Helena Worthen and Joe Berry report on Peruvian Attitudes Toward the Proposed Peru/U.S. Free Trade Agreement…


After massive public pressure both here in the U.S. and around the hemisphere derailed the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), the Bush administration and its corporate masters shifted gears, focusing on bilateral (or one country) trade agreements. Proposed agreements are pending with Colombia & South Korea that have received some attention by the press and opposition by organized labor and human rights groups. However, the proposed U.S./Peru Free Trade Agreement passed the U.S. house on Nov. 8th. Despite all the mea culpas from the Democrats this election year about their support of trade agreements in the past, and new promises that they will fight for fair trade over free trade, 109 Democrats voted in favor of the Peru trade pact. The rather anemic opposition to this trade agreement now shifts to the Senate. You can read more here…

http://www.workdayminnesota.org/index.php?news_6_3370

Professors Helena Worthen and Joe Berry with the Chicago Labor Education Program, will offer a report back from their recent visit with trade unionists and labor department officials in Peru. Come hear about the new US/Peru Free Trade Agreement from the perspective of the Peruvian working class…

Monday, Dec. 10th - HUMAN RIGHTS DAY– 6:00 P.M.
Chicago Labor Education Program (CLEP) Office in Chicago
815 West Van Buren St., Chicago

Monday, November 19, 2007

David Bacon's suggestion for a "No-Match" Solidarity Campaign - Making the slogan "an injury to one is an injury to all" real!

David Bacon is one of the most insightful and forward thinking advocates for immigrant rights in the U.S. labor movement. His analysis of the relationship between trade and migration is essential to understanding the importance of the immigrant worker's struggles to the overall revitalization of the organized labor in the U.S. He has also consistently called for the most militant and thoroughgoing strategies to care the immigrant workers struggle forward. David circulated the following statement among immigrant rights groups in California last month. The type of working class solidarity, David calls for here is not only vital if we are to win the fight for migrants rights, but could lead to a radical transformation of union locals away from the type of business unionism that has dominated for decades toward a return to unions as vital organs of social change in the broadest sense…

A Solidarity Campaign in Response to No-Match Letters:

In the late 1980s, when anti-immigrant racism began to rise in Europe, the French labor movement and leftwing political activists responded with a campaign called "touch pas mon pot" (pardon my terrible French), which means "dont touch my pal." We can use this idea as an inspiration for getting our own members involved in solidarity and mutual support, and strengthen our unions and organizations. The problem with the way we've dealt with the threat of no-match letters and immigration raids in our workplaces and unions so far is that we've concentrated on a "know your rights" approach. There's no question that it's important for workers to know their rights, but limiting our activity to this has two big problems:

1. We don't have a lot of rights. This isn't a very effective way for our members to protect themselves and each other.

2. We're saying, by implication, that the threat of firings and raids is the problem of those people who would be directly affected -- immigrants themselves. We're not looking at how they affect the whole workplace and union, or asking members to stick up for each other. That is, after all, why we have a union in the first place.

I suggest instead that we begin by trying to find ways that our members and workers can stick up for each other. While our primary goal here is to help defend immigrant workers, this kind of campaign will encourage members to defend each other on other issues as well. That will help strengthen our unions and workers centers.

This campaign could involve, as a series of steps in which each builds on the one before:

1. A pledge, like the Jobs with Justice pledge, that says if any of us is fired unfairly or threatened with a raid, that we will treat it as an action against all of us. We could have cards like the JwJ pledge cards that say "an injury to one is an injury to all." The idea here is to get our members thinking about the danger, and how we should respond, before something actually happens.

2. We could have a ribbon or button campaign, that makes that support visible in the workplace. That would have a very good effect on the morale of immigrants, and make everyone feel like we have a real union.

3. We could organize a delegation to the employer, saying that we will oppose any firings based on no-match letters, and demanding that they consult with us immediately if they're approached by ICE demanding records. In the case of workplaces like those in Local 2 where the contract already offers this kind of protection, these delegations could make that contract language well-known among workers, and warn employers that we intend to enforce it. For unions without that language, this could inspire including it in future negotiations, especially if we have model language.

4. We can ask our members to take action outside their workplaces. At the minimum level, this can be the circulation of postcards by stewards, asking members to sign, that demand that the no-match regulation be rescinded, and that elected officials support that demand. As members become more educated and active around this issue, it can involve coming out to rallies and marches.

5. Unions can organize their own public demonstrations of opposition to the no-match letters and immigrant bashing. For example, unions with a lot of Filipino healthcare workers, like CNA or SEIU-UHW, could organize public protest over the racist and anti-immigrant "joke" on Desperate Housewives, denigrating the degrees received by health care professionals at Philippine universities. That's a real hot issue right now in the Filipino community.

To make this campaign work, we'd need an education program to go with it. We need printed materials, written in the language our members feel comfortable with, that explains what no-match letters and immigration raids are, and how they're used to harm all workers.

We need to train workers themselves to speak about this. If we have a core of active, educated workers, they can go with union staff to worksite meetings at lunchtime, for instance, to explain the campaign. As it begins to gather momentum, they can also talk about success stories in differnt workplaces. These workers can speak in public events, from rallies to hearings before city councils or supervisors.

I have not included worksite actions, like stoppages in the event of raids or firings, not because I don't think they're possible or desireable, but to concentrate on a campaign that gets members active where they are, and that starts from the education and commitment level that actually exists. If our members and workers can do most of the things outlined above, they're certainly capable of carrying out worksite actions if required.

-David Bacon, Photographs and Stories http://dbacon.igc.org

Friday, November 16, 2007

Native Americans Outraged by Border Wall...



MOHAWKS INFLAMED OVER TOHONO O’ODHAM
TRIBAL COUNCIL COMPLICITY IN “BORDER”
OPPRESSION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE.
Mohawks disgusted by border barrier and arrests on Indian land...

Read the full report here...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ford Workers, Take a Stand - VOTE NO!

36% of GM workers voted “No”

45% of Chrysler workers voted “No”

Ford workers can vote it down!

The “No” vote at Chrysler was the biggest ever “No” vote against any contract that was ratified at the Big 3. And since then, many Chrysler workers who voted “Yes” have been quoted as saying that they would have voted “No” if they knew about the layoffs that were kept secret until after the contract was ratified. They want to sell us a contract based on false promises of “job security”. They want us to forget that this contract has concessions that will lead to a devastating drop in the standard of living for current autoworkers, future autoworkers, retirees, and workers across the country...

TO READ MORE CLICK HERE...
http://www.xpdnc.com/files/relatednewsandreports07/zpfile000zpfile001.pdf

Ford 2007 Contract Info...
http://www.xpdnc.com/files/relatednewsandreports07/SOS-FordContractInfo.htm

Chrysler 2007 Contract Info...
http://www.xpdnc.com/files/relatednewsandreports07/SOS-ChryslerContractInfo.htm

GM 2007 Contract Info...
http://www.xpdnc.com/files/relatednewsandreports07/SOS-GMContractInfo.htm

Working Under The Gun: It’s Not Just an Expression


"I have been working for Starrh and Starrh for five years", Alejandro Gil told us. "The working conditions are awful. We are exposed to a lot of dust and we do not have any protection. In the last two or three days, I have been feeling a pain in my chest and my back when I breathe...The owner's brother-in-law always puts pressure on workers. He wants more production. The brother-in-law always carries a gun on his waist to scare workers."

"We never had bathrooms, fresh water or water to wash our hands. Sometimes we do not get any breaks. They put a lot of pressure on us to work faster. When I helped them packing hay, I worked up to 16 hours without breaks." said Gerardo Negrete. "I am a sprayer and they do not give us what we need to protect ourselves from the chemicals. I have sprayed [pesticide] without gloves, masks or overalls. They only give those to us when we are close to roads where maybe some inspectors can see us...The foremen make fun of us for not having the protection we need."

Workers of Starrh and Starrh Cotton Growers--a large cotton, hay, and almond producer in California—need your help. They need you to e-mail Cal OSHA immediately and tell them to investigate the violations at the ranch right away and prosecute the company to the fullest extent of the law. When you hear what the workers’ lives are like, you will be horrified...and furious. Please take a moment to help these workers by sending your e-mail today!
(from United Farm Workers email alert) - http://www.ufwaction.org/campaign/gun

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Victory for Reform at Teamster Local 743!!!...


It may have taken them years, but all the hard work of Richard Berg and the other members of the reform slate at Teamsters Local 743 has finally resulted in a long over due and well earned victory. The 743 New Leadership Slate swept the elections, winining 6 of the 7 contested positions, including President, Vice-President & Secretary-Treasurer. This is not only a victory for the members of Local 743, but also a victory for the reform movement in the Teamsters and a major plus for the democratic, progressive labor movement in Chicago.


Find out more here...

And look for more about this landmark victory on an upcoming episode of Labor Express Radio.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Shotwell & Tucker on the New UAW Contracts...



Last night on Labor Express Radio, I focused on analysis of the new contract between the UAW and GM, the tentative agreement between the UAW and Chrysler, and the contract negotiations between the UAW and Ford. I aired an interview conducted on Oct. 11th with Greg Shotwell and another recorded on Oct. 13th with Jerry Tucker. The audio of those interviews can be found below.

Greg Shotwell is a GM worker, a member of Local 1753 of the UAW, and a leader in the Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) organization within the UAW. SOS opposes the cooperative relationship between the UAW leadership & the auto industry management that has developed in the past few decades, blaming this cozy relationship for concessionary contract after concessionary contract in which workers wages, working conditions and benefits have continually declined. They argue that a militant fight back strategy against the boss is essential if the industrial working class in this country is not going to be reduced to 19th century like conditions. In this interview, I talk with Shotwell about the 2007 contracts between the UAW, GM, Ford & Chrysler. The version I aired on the Oct. 14th episode of Labor Express Radio was heavily edited. Here is the full version. I start the conversation by asking Shotwell if he was surprised that 66% of the UAW membership at GM voted in favor of the contract (because this was a phone interview, the audio quality is not perfect)…

http://www.archive.org/details/GreggShotwellUawContracts07

Jerry Tucker is a former director of Region 5 of the United Auto Workers union (UAW), former International Executive Board member, and was one of the leaders of the New Directions reform movement in the UAW. He is the co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal. In this interview, I talk with Tucker about the 2007 contract negotiations between the UAW, GM, Chrysler & Ford. Tucker is very critical of the concessionary contracts negotiated by the current UAW leadership. The interview starts with Tucker talking about the Center for Labor Renewal (this is another phone interview, but with slightly better sound quality)...

http://www.archive.org/details/JerryTuckerOnUawContracts07

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Concessions, concessions, and more concessions…


As goes GM, so goes the U.S. auto industry – On the heels of a 66% in favor contract ratification vote of UAW members at GM, it looks like the UAW is pushing another concessionary contract at Chrysler, with Ford negotiations next on the agenda….

Chrysler Workers Wary of New Contract
By DEE-ANN DURBIN and TOM KRISHER – DETROIT (AP) —
As they assembled cars Thursday, workers at Chrysler's Sterling Heights assembly plant were talking about their new labor contract, wondering if Wednesday's six-hour strike was enough to get a good deal from the company. Even as they waited to hear the details, industry analysts were predicting crosstown rival Ford will try to get more concessions than Chrysler.

Some workers were skeptical about job security promises, one worker said.
"A lot of people are sort of surprised that we only stayed out that long," said Brett Ward, a forklift operator at the Sterling Heights plant and a member of a group that's often critical of the union. "They're thinking that it might have really not gotten us that much."…

Read the rest here…http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iGb3e554ZIoaHipJevFbe6vQ85jAD8S7AJGO0

Listen to Labor Express Radio this Sunday night for interviews with Gregg Shotwell (UAW Local 1753 member and one of the founders of Soldiers of Solidarity) and Jerry Tucker (Former Director, Region 5 - UAW and Co-founder - Center For Labor Renewal) about what this all means for the UAW and the labor movement in general.

On the Radio in Chicago - 88.7 FM - 7:00 P.M.
Everywhere else - http://www.wluw.org/ - live streaming audio

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rally to Support Fired Ballco Workers...

Join Ballco Workers as they call on FMC Technologies to support justice and fairness!

When: Tuesday, October 9th at 12 noon
Where: FMC Offices at 200 E. Randolph in Chicago (Aon Center)
Join us as we call on FMC Technologies to cease doing business with Ballco Manufacturing. Ballco employees have suffered for years under abusive and discriminatory conditions. When eight of their coworkers were unfairly targeted and fired on September 19, workers said “enough is enough” and walked out on a one-day protest strike. Ballco responded by firing 25 more employees. Employees have filed charges for unlawful discrimination and retaliation, and have remained on the picket line for the past two weeks. FMC Technologies is a major Ballco customer. We are calling on FMC to cease doing business with Ballco until this dispute is resolved.

For more information call Mark Meinster at (312) 829-8300, United Electrical Workers (UE)

(from Oct. 5th Chicago Jobs with Justice E-Update)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

More on UAW contract...

Perhaps I am spending too much time on this story, but it is likely that the outcome of this contract fight will have an impact on the working class movement, far beyond the 73,000 workers at GM or the 640,000 members of the UAW. Just as the UAW plant occupations of the 30's were a key element of the working class fight back that gained so much for the class in those years - so too the concessions of the past couple decades have played a significant role in the declining power and living standards of the industrial working class in the United States. And perhaps as a member of UAW Local 1981 (the National Writers Union), I feel a special obligation to covering this story.

In any case, here is an excellent summary of the tentative contract from Labor Notes. It is actually worse than what I said in my R.I.P UAW entry. Only 3,000 temporary workers will be made full time employees (I know I read 6-7,000 somewhere earlier, but I can't remember where at this point). And rather than solid guarantees of job security (supposedly the strength of the agreement), it looks as if there are 15 more plant closings coming down the pike...
http://labornotes.org/node/1347

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Malcolm Suber runs for New Orleans City Council...

A former Labor Express Radio interviewee is running for a City Council seat in New Orleans. I interviewed Malcolm shortly after the Katrina disaster about the race & class dimension of this “natural” disaster. You can hear that program here…
http://laborexpress.org/page7.html

Here is a link to Malcolm’s website…
http://malcolmforcitycouncil.com/

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More on UAW, GM, & Health Care...

Here is a really good article from journalist David Moberg about GM, the UAW, and the health care crisis in the United States. I think his comments on the VEBA, prove once again, that it is a big mistake. But of course the bigger mistake is that we still don't have a mass movement mobilized behind single payer national health care. It is the number one domestic issue in this election cycle, but all the "top tier" democratic candidates are offering mickey mouse proposals that seek to save the asses of the HMOs rather than establish real universal coverage, where the profit motive is removed. Even the labor movement is partly to blame for this, as over the years they have avioded supporting specific single payer legislation. That is changing. The NNOC (National Nurses Organizing Committee) has launched a serious campaign behind HR 676, the Conyers Bill, in conjunction with Michael Moore's film Sicko...

http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_labor_lessons_gm_never_learned

Thank you to Carlos at Chicago JWJ for calling my attention to this article!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

R.I.P. UAW…


OK, I realize those are harsh words, but I can’t help feeling real sadness today as I read reports of what the UAW agreed to in its settlement with GM. As I am sure you have all heard already, the strike was ended today (after just two days), with the announcement by Gettelfinger that a tentative agreement had been reached. The exact details of the agreement won’t be known till at least late this week, when the members vote to ratify (or not) the contract.

You can listen to audio of Gettelfinger’s announcement here…
http://www.uaw.org/

Now I am not saying we should relish the idea of a long strike. Strikes are always much harder on the individual worker than they are on their corporate bosses. No one wants a long drawn out strike that leads to workers losing their homes, pulling kids out of college, sinking deeper into debt, etc., etc., etc. Let me say right of the bat, even though I have been a labor activist for 15 years, I have never myself had to endure the pain of a strike. But I have seen what it can do to working families who are forced to endure them. And I have suffered through my own bouts of unemployment. I know what it is like to eat Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days on end. I know what it is like to live with cold showers and cold food because the gas was cut off when I couldn’t pay the bill. I know what it is like to move out of an apartment and into small room in someone else’s home, because that is all I could afford. Hell, with my current meager income and mountain of debt, I am still only one or two paychecks away from disaster. I have no desire to see other workers in the same situation. But from what we know so far about the deal struck between the UAW leadership & GM, it seems hardly even worth the two days pay the members gave up.

Again, the full details of the agreement are yet to be revealed, but most reports are pretty consistent. The best article I have read so far, detailing the wins and losses for the UAW & GM can be found here…
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=5503

Here is a summary of the situation…

Loses for the UAW & it’s Members:
1. Acceptance of an under funded VEBA (Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association) for retiree health care.

2. A two-tier wage structure where new workers receive lower wages.

3. Lower wages for "non-core" jobs.

4. No actually wage increases for current workers.

Gains for the UAW & it’s Members:
1. Some 6-7,000 temporary workers will be made permanent (but will fall into the lower wage, new worker category).

2. Lump sum payments equaling around $4-5,000 (or bribes as some have called them).

3. Vague promises of job security for the current workforce.

VEBA (Vandalizing Employee Benefits Again):
I confess. That line is stolen from the Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) website. But I think it sums up the situation pretty well. Gettelfinger is upholding the VEBA agreement as a victory. Some analysts are arguing that some retiree health care funds under union control is better than no retiree health care funds if GM eventually goes bankrupt. But the truth of the matter is the UAW has accepted an under funded retiree health care package that will be a boon for GM and its investors, but might very well spell disaster for retirees in the future. GM has been let of the hook, and the union has taken on a tremendous burden. Increased co-pays and benefit reductions are a practical financial certainty. As Greg Shotwell of SOS points out, at least there are legal and contractual obligations with the retirees and GM under the current arrangement. It is a very dangerous gamble, with market forces, and talents and trustworthiness of UAW money managers playing a huge role in the success or failure of the plan. And if it fails, the workers will have the UAW to blame, and not GM. As former UAW executive board member Jerry Tucker suggested in his interview with Building Bridges in May, at least the UAW could have demanded that GM agree to use its political muscle and financial resources to push for universal health care legislation.

Two-Tier Wage Structure – Selling Out the Next Generation:
The death knell of worker solidarity, there is nothing worse than two tier wage structures. No union can accept such conditions and remain health. New workers will inevitable feel stabbed in the back. The inequality will be felt on the shop floor. And future retirees will have less credibility when they look to the future workforce to defend their pensions and benefits.

Of course, many will say GM’s workers can’t ask for more from a company with such a bleak financial outlook. They will argue that Gettelfinger and the UAW leadership have gotten the best deal they can without jeopardizing the future of the U.S. auto industry. But I’m sorry, that is really just a load of B.S.! The bastards running GM aren’t going to arrest the race the bottom because of the goodwill of the UAW bosses. To whatever extent they can, and at every opportunity, they will keep outsourcing jobs to labor markets where workers are as close to slavery as our diminished governmental institutions will allow. They will take this round of concessions the same way they have taken every other concessionary contract in the past – as a sign of the weakness of the U.S. labor movement.

This country is in such desperate need of a real working class victory. After decades of being beaten down by declining real wages and benefits cuts – longer work days and less control over conditions of work– de-industrialization and corporate globalization – the U.S. working class is demoralized, degraded and disempowered. We need a break, a turning point, a line in the sand. We need a battle of Gettysburg & Vicksburg, of Midway & Stalingrad, in the class war that we are so badly losing right now. We need the UAW of the 1930’s sit-down strikes which checked the power of capital for decades. Or at least the UAW of the 1960’s with it’s commitment to social movements and civil rights. Instead what we got is the UAW of the 80’s and the 90’s, and one more in a long line of concessionary contracts. One more nail in the coffin of the U.S. industrial working class.

OK, my hyperbole is exhausted. UAW rank & file, it is up to you now to turn defeat into victory - VOTE NO!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Support Striking UAW Members!!!


After years of concessions and job cuts, GM, despite it’s enormous profits (and don’t be fooled – they are enormous) still wants to extract more wealth from the sweat and tears of its workers. IT IS TIME TO SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! No more concessions to multi-billon dollar multi-national corporations. Stop this race to the bottom. Defend the hard won gains of manufacturing workers in the United States and around the world. Its corporate mis-management that is the ultimate source of U.S. automakers woes, so why do the workers always pay the price, while the bosses are offered golden parachutes. Its time the bosses got a lead boot in the ass instead!

As a proud member myself of UAW Local 1980 – the National Writers Union, I call on all working people to aid and assist in whatever ways possible our brothers and sisters at GM.

Here is audio of UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, explaining the reasons for the strike at a Press conference on Monday (the original audio and a transcript can be found on the UAW website - http://www.uaw.org/…
http://www.archive.org/details/RonGettelfingerUAWStrikePressConference

For More info check out the UAW website…
http://www.uaw.org/

I interviewed Gregg Shotwell of Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) earlier today, to get his take on the strike. Gregg is an auto worker, a member of UAW Local 1753, and one of the founders of Soldiers of Solidarity, an activist group in the UAW which opposes the union leaderships lack of militancy and concessionary bargaining. The interview started with Gregg providing a little background on SOS (this was a phone interview - please excuse the poor quality audio)…
http://www.archive.org/details/GreggShotwellUAWStrike

You can read more about Shotwell’s critique of the UAW leadership at…
http://www.soldiersofsolidarity.com/

Another great website by a UAW activist…
http://futureoftheunion.com/

Friday, September 21, 2007

Domestic Worker Organizing



The following is an article I wrote on domestic worker organizing for Labor Notes, based on my interviews over the Summer with organizers in this emerging social movement. An edited version of this piece will appear in next months Labor Notes...

http://labornotes.org/magazine


Domestic Worker Organizing: New Front in the emerging “Non-Traditional” Labor Movement by Jerry Mead-Lucero


For over two years, Marian, a Colombian immigrant and a housekeeper in Roslyn, New York, worked 18 hours a day, six days a week for about two dollars an hour. The family that employed her fired her without notice, kicking her out of the home and leaving her with nowhere to turn for support. After enduring months of verbal and physical abuse by her employer, “Vivian”, an Indian immigrant and nanny in Manhattan, refused the orders of her boss. Her boss’s response was to strike her with a sandal and kick her out the house without her pay or her passport. “Judy” a Malaysian immigrant and housekeeper on one occasion found herself locked in the basement of the home where she worked, by the son of her employer. In desperation to escape from her confinement she injured herself, and had to be taken to the hospital with the assistance of the household’s nanny. When Judy’s frustrated employer came to the hospital to retrieve her housekeeper, she stated…”I should have left you for dead, no one knows you are here anyway.” Judy realized at that moment that her employer was right…”If something more terrible happened to me, who would know? Who would help?”

These stories of exploitation and abuse may sound extreme, but according to research conducted by Domestic Workers United (DWU) in New York, and similar organizations around the country, these experiences are all to common among the hundreds of thousands of domestic workers in the United States who live and work largely in the shadows, far from the public eye. A study conducted by DWU entitled “Home is Where the Work Is” found that 41% of domestics in New York earn low wages, with a quarter of them earning below the minimum wage. Another study found that 79% of Latina domestic workers in Los Angeles earn below minimum wage. Two-thirds of these workers are not paid overtime and the vast majority have no health benefits. Worst of all, 33% of all domestics and 48% of live-ins report experiencing some form of verbal, physical or sexual abuse in their workplace. Perhaps no other workforce is more isolated and hidden than domestics, whose workplaces are for many also their homes. This isolation is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of domestic workers are immigrants, either undocumented or residing in the U.S. via special domestic labor visas that make them especially vulnerable to exploitation by their employers. Much like agricultural labor, domestic work is closely tied to the legacy of slavery and a history of racial exclusion dating back to New Deal and the early days of American labor law. The result being that domestics have been denied the most basic legal protections, including the right to organize, the right to bargain collectively and the right to an 8 hour work day. Indeed, domestics continually struggle just to be recognized as employees, in a patriarchal culture in which women’s labor is de-valued and the employers argue, that their housekeepers, maids, nannies, and elder care givers are not workers, but are instead “members of the family.”

Despite such formidable obstacles, across the nation in the past decade, increasing numbers of domestic workers have begun to organize themselves and challenge their status as a hidden and easy to exploit workforce. Domestic worker organizations are an important emerging form of “non-traditional” labor organization, similar in many ways to other more high profile forms of creative, non-traditional organizing such as worker’s centers and regional or local worker’s associations like the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Much like their day labor and agricultural labor counterparts, domestics, until recently, have been largely ignored by the mainstream labor movement. Such neglect is both a cause and the effect of domestic’s exclusion from all or part of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). As a result, domestic worker organizing has arisen, not out of the union movement but from the efforts of community and immigrant rights group, and has developed unique methods and approaches to labor organizing.

CASA de Maryland offers a prime example of domestic worker organizing emerging from within the immigrant rights community. CASA formed in the 1980’s to defend the rights of the growing number or Central American migrants in the D.C. area who were forced by war and political persecution to flee their countries of origin. According to CASA staff member Alexis de Simone, about 6 years ago, in an effort to build a women’s empowerment program within CASA, members -- a large number of whom are domestic workers -- began to share with one another their experiences of exploitation in their workplaces. “Among themselves when they would come to sign-up for employment, or sign up for classes, they would start talking, and they’d see that they had a lot of the same problems. A lot of the people were denied wages, were denied overtime, almost nobody had health insurance, and a lot of the women who were live-ins, or used to work as live-ins, reported cases of employers stealing their passports, not being allowed to leave…From realizing they had so many common problems it seemed to make sense that we form a women’s committee around domestic work.” In a similar fashion, organizations like Mujeres Unidas Y Activas in San Francisco, Pilipino Workers Center in Los Angeles, and DWU in New York, have arisen from within community organizations and immigrant advocacy groups and have only very recently come to the attention of the traditional labor movement.

Denied collective bargaining rights by law, domestic workers have been forced to pursue creative strategies to win concessions from their employers and changes in their working conditions; much like their counter-parts in the CIW, who have utilized their status as a workers association or community organization to pursue campaigns against Taco Bell and McDonald’s that would have been declared illegal secondary boycotts under the Taft-Hartely Act if the CIW was legally recognized as a labor union. In the case of domestic workers, the most often employed tactics have been direct actions of domestics and their community allies such as rallies outside the homes and workplaces of employers, and legislative strategies such as the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights, which is working its way through the New York state legislature. This proposed legislation would dramatically alter the status of Domestic Workers at the state level, including such improvements as a the right to a living wage, the right to overtime pay, family and medical leave provisions, paid vacations, health care coverage, termination notice and mandated severance pay. Perhaps most importantly, the bill would alter language in current state law that legally excludes domestics from being defined as employees, opening up access for domestics to a whole range of labor protections already afforded other working people. Founded in 2000, DWU has already succeeded in establishing New York City Local Law 33, which requires employment agencies to obtain signed codes of conduct from prospective employers and the organization claims to have won over $300,000 in back wages for domestics in New York. Ai-Jen Poo of DWU feels confident that the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights will be passed by the state legislature soon. A year ago it was approved by the New York State Assembly’s Labor Committee and just this past June it was passed on for a vote of the full state Senate by the Senate’s Labor Committee. Poo attributes the bill’s success so far to the strong support of persons of color caucuses in both levels of the state legislature, even in the republican dominated senate. Similar bill of rights type legislation is being pursued by CASA de Maryland at the county level.

The first United States Social Forum (USSF) held in Atlanta in late June, provided the space for domestic worker organizations from around the country to meet for the first time. As if to highlight their efforts to break the silence that surrounds domestic labor, perhaps no other group of workers at the USSF was more visible and vocal. Whether it be through frequent renditions of the Domestic Worker’s Calypso (a song written by a number of New York domestics which seemed to become an anthem of sorts for domestics at the USSF) or their boisterous and enthusiastic participation in sessions at the Forum, domestic workers were proud to make their presence known. As de Simone from CASA puts it…”I think a lot of these women are tired of having been shut up for so long, of always hearing well you’re just a domestic worker…you need to be quiet…this is my house, please do as I tell you, and so this is their chance to take charge…the chance to give visibility…because it is such invisible work…Its work that a lot of people never even recognize as work, so to say were here, were workers and we are demanding the same rights that everyone else has.” Through a series of both public and private workshops, plenary sessions and meetings at the USSF, domestics from the east coast, west coast and even a few places in between, compared notes and discussed common challenges. The result was the announcement at the Worker’s Rights Plenary on the last evening of the USSF, of the formation of a national alliance of domestic worker groups. The use of the space created by the forum, by domestics and farm worker groups to develop and advance national organizing strategies was one of the more promising successes to come out of the USSF. According to Ai-Jen Poo, the new national organization of domestics remains in its formative stages at this point. She expects more details on organization and strategy to be released around labor day weekend. However, one clear outcome of the discussions has been a national effort of domestic worker groups to support the efforts of DWU to win passage of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights in New York. In an interview I conducted with her at the USSF, de Simone stated that CASA is also interested in pursuing some sort of national retirement program for domestics.

Despite such success and excitement in the domestic worker community, organizers are very aware of the substantial obstacles that stand in the way of efforts to organize domestics; the isolation of workers from one another and their lack of geographic centrality being the most obvious. Organizations like DWU seek out domestics in such places as city parks, mass transit stations, and outside the private schools attended by children of the households in which domestic workers labor. As Poo explained to me in a recent phone interview, the challenge of organizing is compounded by the commitment of DWU to utilize a member driven rather than staff driven organizing model in which domestics themselves are responsible for most of the outreach efforts. This can be quite difficult for women who frequently work much longer than the typical 40 hour work week. My experience in meeting with domestics at the USSF has lead me to conclude that one area in which domestics need little improvement is in their level of consciousness about their place within the wider world of labor and global economics. As Joycelyn Campbell, a nanny, an immigrant from Barbados, and a member of DWU put it in at one of the public workshops at the USSF…“Our workplace conditions are tied both to the nation’s history of slavery and our nation’s current role in the global economy. Pushing people to migrate away from their home countries and pulling people into service work here. Neo-liberal globalization has put into place policies that are destroying peoples livelihoods in their home countries and pushing people to migrate to places like New York…As New York continues to develop as a global capital, it must also lead the way in innovative protection and rights for those who work and enable that development.” Perhaps the most powerful words uttered by a member of the labor movement at the USSF came from Ai-Jen Poo at the Worker’s Rights Plenary when she argued…”We hope to build our labor movement, to a place where, when we call for a strike as domestic workers it will be for domestic workers rights and for global justice, legalization for undocumented workers, and an end to the war in Iraq. Or maybe, maybe it will be a strike of all informal sector workers or better yet a strike of all workers, union and non-union, the entire working-class.” It is this energy, inclusiveness and forward thinking that is typical of most non-traditional organizing. Driven by changes in the global economy that have lead to an increase in the number of low wage workers taking jobs in sectors of the economy historically ignored by most unions, these new forms of labor organization are breathing much needed new life into what has been a largely moribund labor movement in the United States while also challenging traditional organized labor to return to its own roots as a social movement.

The Domestic Workers United study, “Home is Where the Work Is”, can be found on their website…
http://www.domesticworkersunited.org/

Sunday, September 9, 2007

MIRA! and the Struggles of Guest Workers in Pascagoula, MS.

















One of my first stops on my Summer travels in the South was Pascagoula MS., were I meet with members of MIRA! (The Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance). MIRA! Organizer Socorro Leos was kind enough to spend a day talking with me about the struggles of workers in Pascagoula, post-Hurricane Katrina. Socorro is herself an immigrant worker who was displaced by the storm and has been struggling with city officials to allow her to continue to live in this bustling industrial city. Pascagoula was the site of a major successful strike by members of IBEW at the Northrop Grumman Shipyards this past Spring. But the port city has also become famous for producing some of the most egregious cases of the exploitation of guest workers (H2B program workers) in recent years. The numbers of guest workers in the shipyards and docks of the Gulf Coast has dramatically increased post-Katrina, and so has the level of disregard for these worker's basic human rights. A recent attempt by Indian guest workers at Signal international, a subcontractor of Northrop Grumman, to protest their retched living conditions resulted in the attempted firing and forced deportation of a number of these workers and the attempted suicide of one of the fired workers. These workers had basically been tricked by recruiters with promises that they would be placed in high skilled, high paying jobs, and have the opportunity to become permanent residents in the U.S. Instead they received wages below industry standards and were forced to level in metal sheds, packed in like sardines – as many as 20 to a room the size of a small trailer. They were allowed only limited access to the world outside company grounds and were detained by armed guards of the company when they complained about their living conditions. Luckily, through the efforts of MIRA! and other organizations, these workers were allowed to leave Signal, without facing deportation.

Above you can see the small windowless metal boxes, "tool sheds" as Socorro calls them, that guest workers at Signal International are forced to live. You can also see a photo of Socorro and one of the injured guest workers who is currently fighting for compensation for his workplace injury. His case is procedding very slowly as the company refuses to take any responsibilty.

In this following audio, you will here Socorro describe to me her own struggles to survive in Pascagoula, as well as the struggles faced by H2B workers, as she drives me around town to see the various facilities at which these workers work and live. You will also hear in the background the steady sound of falling rain on Socorro's car window and the distant sound of Mexican music emanating from her car stereo…

Monday, September 3, 2007

Katrina survivor and Common Ground Collective activist Albert Bass











During my recent travels in the South to meet with workers and gather their stories for broadcast on Labor Express Radio, I returned once again to New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward - the historic black working class neighborhood that bore the brunt of the flood waters following the levee breach durng the Huricane Katrina disaster. Members of the Lower 9th are now fighting for the neighborhoods survival in face of efforts to snatch up the land by developers. There I meet Katrina survivor, long time Lower 9th resident, and Common Ground Collective activist Albert Bass. In this interview, he talks about living through the levee breach and the ongoing struggle for a right of return for Lower 9th Ward residents...

The IWW Organizes Warehouse Workers in NYC


The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), is viewed by many as a relic of organized labor’s past. A heroic attempt by militant trade unionists in the early part of the 20th century to build radically inclusive industrial unions – a shining moment in the history of the U.S. labor movement – that long ago was eclipsed by other organizations of labor. The truth is that the IWW is a living breathing organization that is currently involved in some of the most exciting worker organizing going on anywhere. Their efforts in the last two years to organize immigrant Latino & Asian warehouse workers in New York City is a case in point. It was the worker’s themselves who began to organize two years ago and sought ought the IWW’s help. Since that time, IWW organizers and members have been tireless in their efforts to win these workers millions of dollars in unpaid wages, improved wages and working conditions, and a shop floor organization that can further challenge the boss.

In this interview conducted for Labor Express Radio, IWW organizers Alex van Schaick & Daniel Gross discuss the IWW’s efforts to organize these warehouse workers…

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

UPDATED - Insurgent Oaxaca: La Lucha Continúa

The struggle of the Teacher's Union and APPO (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca) to oust the corrupt governor of Oaxaca State, and to construct a new, more justice social order, continues, despite serious repression.

In the summer of 2006, members of Section 22 of the Teacher's Union, other members of the working class, students, indigenous people, peasants and others, took control of much of Ciudad Oaxaca, and other parts of Oaxaca State, in an effort to oust the corrupt and brutal governor - Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. What had started as a teacher’s strike for better wages and improved funding for schools turned into a community wide rebellion and lead to the formation of APPO. As the working class of Oaxaca, in the face of government neglect and incompetence, took power into their own hands, a new future for the people of this long improvised part of Mexico seemed a real possibility. But by the fall of 2006, backed a federal government under the control of a illegitimate president, Ruiz and his thugs resumed control of the state by killing dozens and jailing many more. This past summer, the teacher’s and members of APPO returned to the streets to remind the governor they have not gone away.

During my visit in July, APPO was calling for a boycott of the "official Guelaguetza”. The Guelaguetza, a ancient tradition of the indigenous communities of Oaxaca, has been turned into a commercial, tourist orientated celebration by the state government – a celebration that few indigenous people can actually afford to attend. Last year, when the city was in the hands of the popular movement, a free peoples Guelaguetza was organized. This July, APPO organized the second peoples Guelaguetza, and called for a boycott of the commercial, government sponsored version.

During my visit, I interviewed documentary filmmaker and community radio activist, Jill Friedberg – producer of Granito de Arena, a film about the teacher’s movement in Oaxaca - about the current state of the popular struggle. You can listen to that interview here…
http://www.archive.org/details/JillFriedbergOaxaca

The photos you see here are mostly related to the Guelaguetza boycott campaign, including two marches and the political graffiti that covered almost every wall of central Ciudad Oaxaca...



Photobucket Album

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cygnus Strikers WIN on Chicago’s far South Side…

UPDATE: VIEW THE LABOR BEAT VIDEO ON THE CYGNUS STRIKE VICTORY AT... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8bW-6kIIts


After a two week strike, the immigrant workers at the Cygnus soap factory in the Chicago suburb of Riverdale, have convinced the management not to fire workers because of Social Security “no match” letters. Cygnus management had threatened workers who had asked for a wage increase, with dismissal, using Social Security “no match” letters as an excuse. As a result, the vast majority of the factory’s over 120 workers walked off the job on July 30th, demanding that all employees keep their jobs. The Cygnus workers were not union, but strong organizing by worker leaders in the plant ensured few crossed the picket line. They have since joined the IAM (International Association of Machinists).

Today it was announced that management had conceded to the workers demands and the workers agreed to return to work next Monday. Proving what immigrant workers can accomplish when the fight back.

For more tune into this Sunday’s Labor Express Radio program – 7:00 P.M. on 88.7 FM – WLUW.

NABET 41 Takes On Disney/ABC


After working without a contract since April 1, 2007, NABET Local 41 newsgathering crews, editors and some producers held a protest in front of ABC Channel 7 studios in Chicago on August 15. Disney, which owns ABC, is trying to freeze the pension plan, dismantle the seniority system, offer wages less than COL, and other anti-worker measures.
View the Labor Beat video on the protest here...
Video produced by Labor Beat. Labor Beat is affiliated with IBEW 1220.Views are those of the producer, not necessarily of IBEW. Labor Beat is a CAN TV Community Partner. For info: mail@laborbeat.org, http://www.laborbeat.org/. 312-226-3330. For more videos, go to Google Video or YouTube, search "Labor Beat".

Friday, August 10, 2007

FLOC - Making Cross Border Solidarity Real:

-- FLOC Organizer - Cástulo Benavides Rodríguez - Outside FLOC's Monterrey Office, recently renamed the Santiago Rafael Cruz Justice Center (top) and Santiago Rafael Cruz (bottom) FLOC organizer who was murdered last April.


In this era of increased globalization and growing migrant labor, most unions are talking about organizing internationally. But making cross border organizing something real and concrete is a whole other story. FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) is putting rhetoric into practice. FLOC has setup an office in Monterrey Mexico, from which they can organize, educate and reach out to farm workers in their hometowns in Mexico. Their efforts to protect guest workers from exploitative labor recruitment agencies, has earned them the respect of many Mexican migrant laborers, and the ire of those that prey on migrants. FLOC organizers believe labor recruiters were behind the brutal murder of FLOC organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz in their Monterrey office last April.

I visited with FLOC organizers in Monterrey this past July. On upcoming epidodes of the Labor Express Radio program, you will be able to hear interviews I conducted while there. I will also be publishing some print stories based on my visit in coming weeks.

For now, feel free to browse through these photos from my trip...


Free Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi




The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and labor activists around the world are demanding the release Mansour Osanloo, President of the Tehran Bus Workers’ Union, and Mahmoud Salehi, a founding member of the Saqez Bakery Workers’ Association and of the Coordinating Committee to Form Workers’ Organisations. Salehi was arrested last April and Osanloo in July in a major effort by the Iranian government to squelch the labor movement in Iran. Reports indicate that both men are in ill health.

On Thursday August 9th, trade union activists in Algeria, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Iran, Finland, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Trinidad, the USA (including Chicago) and Yemen, held rally's demanding the release of Osanloo & Salehi. The response of the Iranian government so far has been to arrest 5 more members of the Executive Board of the bus drivers’ union.

You can find out more about there case and how to support the campaign for their release at the following websites...
http://www.itfglobal.org/solidarity/osanloo2.cfm

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Labor at the USSF - Summation

Hi All,
Updates on my visits with workers in Mexico should be coming in a week or so. I the mean time I wanted to sum up my experience at the USSF. I will try to post some more audio and info from some of the sessions I attended at the forum, particular those organized by the UE, AFSCME and Domestic Workers United at a later time. The following is a short summation piece I wrote for the Industrial Worker, newspaper of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). An edited version will be published in next months Industrial Worker, which you can find at...
www.iww.org/projects/iw/

Labor Participates in a Big Way at the First United States Social Forum:

“What is happening in America to workers today is the result of a thirty year sustained, intentional, strategic, assault on workers, unions, our quality of life and our standard of living. It has been a class war against workers and it is time we engage that class war and fought back… (a standing ovation from the crowd and loud applause).” It might surprise you to hear that these words were spoken by Stewart Acuff, Organizing Director for the AFL-CIO, at the Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy plenary of the first United States Social Forum (USSF). I don’t expect that Acuff’s speech was meant to announce the Federation’s decision to call for the abolition of the wage system, or that it will lead to any plans for a nationwide general strike. But it is symbolic of mainstream labor’s continued and deepening interest in connecting with other social movements and less “traditional” forms of organizing. “Big labor’s” involvement in the social forum process, since the first few World Social Forums in Porto Alegre Brazil , has served as a way for the AFL-CIO and many of the union internationals to mix and mingle with activists from a broad range of social struggles. They same can be said of the relatively impressive support given to the first USSF by organized labor.

The role of labor in the planning and organizing of the forum was apparent at the opening march and rally on June 27th. Though clearly out numbered by anti-war, racial justice and environmental activists, union members were abundant among the thousand or so marchers who made their way through the streets of downtown Atlanta . The original march route was meant to take participants past a number of sites in the city at which workers are engaged in struggles with their employers or local government. According the AFSCME Local 1644 Deputy Director Nancy Lenk, march organizers were forced to compromise with police on a much less confrontational route due to the opposition of much of Atlanta ’s business community. A destination in the original plan was Grady Hospital , were the green shirted members of Local 1644 had planned to express their opposition to a recent decision by the Chamber of Commerce that Grady, a public hospital, be privatized. The march passed near Grady hospital, and the AFSCME contingent encouraged rally participants to join them in chants of “We are the key to saving Grady” and “the community has got the key to saving Grady”.

Struggles of public sector workers were a major theme of labor focused workshops at the conference. A number of panels featured public employees from North Carolina, one of only two states (Virginia being the other) where collectively bargaining for public sector workers is explicitly outlawed. The UE (United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America) Local 150 recently partnered with unions in Canada and Mexico to encourage an investigation of the situation in North Carolina by the ILO (International Labour Organization). In April the ILO declared the North Carolina ban on public sector collective bargaining a violation of international labor standards and called for repeal of North Carolina General Statute § 95-98, the basis of the ban.

Traditionally, social forum planners and participants will engage in a number of public protests to provide some level of direct action to the content of the forum. In the case of the USSF, a number of these actions focused on union or labor campaigns. UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) organized a picket outside of a nearby Publix grocery store to demand the removal of Smithfield products from store shelves. Supporters of trade unionists in Colombia took part in an action at Coca-Cola headquarters. And the National Day Laborer Organizing Network held a rally protesting the position of Republican Senator Johnny Isakson who is advocating for legislation in the U.S. Congress, which would bar local governments from requiring Home Depots and other big box retailers to provide shelters for day laborers.

The most impressive labor related workshops and planning sessions at the USSF were organized by “non-traditional” worker’s organizations. Within the space provide by the forum, domestic workers and farm laborers meet together with their fellow workers from around the country. The domestic workers, through their private meetings at the USSF, agreed to form a national coalition of domestic worker organizations. Domestic worker organizing has been developing in major urban centers around the country in recent years. Largely independently - immigrant social service agencies and organizing centers such as Casa of Maryland and Andolan, a South Asian workers center in New York , started to become aware of hundreds of thousands of domestic workers who were facing extreme situations of exploitation and often, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Isolated by their place of employment and often by their status as immigrants, domestics have largely been ignored by the mainstream labor movement. Labor law in the United States, due in part to racist compromises made in the years of the Roosevelt administration, does not extend to domestics (or to farm workers) – denying them such flawed but important rights as the right to collectively bargain. The domestics who came to Atlanta for the USSF to meet and learn from each others efforts to organize were certainly not content to remain unheard or unnoticed. It was quite impossible to miss the domestics whether because of their boisterous renditions of their anthem, the “Domestic Workers Calypso”, or because of their exuberant, enthusiastic responses to the speakers in the workshops and plenary sessions.

At the worker’s rights plenary, just before Acuff spoke, Ai-Jen Poo of Domestic Workers United in New York, explained…”We hope to build our labor movement, to a place where, when we call for a strike as domestic workers it will be for domestic workers rights and for global justice, legalization for undocumented workers, and an end to the war in Iraq…(standing ovation and enthusiastic applause)…or maybe, maybe it will be a strike of all informal sector workers or better yet a strike of all workers, union and non-union, the entire working-class…(another standing ovation and widely enthusiastic applause).” Following such powerful language, how could anyone in the labor movement call for less than open class warfare.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Quick apology for update delay...

I wanted to make a quick entry to apologize to readers of pilsenprole for the lack of recent entries. In particular I want to apologize to the members of MIRA! (The Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance) for not having had time to add any of the audio or photos I took on my visit last week. My return to Chicago was very brief and I do not have regular access to a computer during my travels in Mexico.

I will be posting new stories to this blog in the coming weeks related to...

Visits with workers on the Gulf Coast.
Visits with FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) members in Monterrey Mexico.
Visits with APPO and Teachers union members in Oaxaca Mexico.
General travel observations.

as time and technology permit. Please check back often. The site will be more fully updated in August.

In Solidarity,
Jerry Mead-Lucero

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Alexis De Simone with Casa of Maryland at the USSF

Alexis De Simone with Casa of Maryland, one of the organizations involved in organizing domestic workers, talks about their work and the decision at the USSF to form a national coalition of domestic worker organizations. The national gathering of domestic workers organizations at the USSF was one of the highlights of the forum, and perhaps the most important labor movement development at the forum.

http://www.archive.org/details/AlexisDeSimonUSSF

Ai-Jen Poo of Domestic Workers United at the USSF

Ai-Jen Poo of Domestic Workers United (DWU) announces the creation of a national coalition of domestic worker’s organizations at the USSF. This is one of the most powerful labor speeches I have ever heard. Ai-Jen talks about the domestic workers movement as providing new spirit and direction to the entire working class movement. DWU and the other domestic worker organizations represent some of the best labor organizing going on today...

http://www.archive.org/details/Ai-JenPooUSSF

Stewart Acuff at the USSF

Stewart Acuff, Organizing Director for the AFL-CIO, speaks at the Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy Plenary at the USSF. Always a powerful speaker, Acuff talks about a re-invigorated labor movement in terms rarely heard from officials of such high rank in the AFL-CIO. Acuff continues to be one of the best leaders in the organization. In particular, Acuff calls for the AFL to develop closer relationships with “non-traditional” forms of organizing workers. A really exciting speech...

http://www.archive.org/details/AcuffUSSF

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Materials for - Globalization & Migrant Rights: Connecting Struggles - Workshop

Print Handouts for Globalization & Migrant Rights: Connecting Struggles Workshop:

Presentation given in 2002 by Teofilo Reyes of the Transnationals Information Exchange and contributor to Labor Notes (and a member of the Global Justice Committee of Chicago Jobs with Justice), about linking immigrants with militant labor organizing…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/ImmigrantsTroublemakers.pdf

Statement issued by many of the leading Latino immigrant organizations in Sept. 2006, blaming trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA for forcing workers to migrate and calling for a new economic model…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/LatinoTradeResolutionRelease.pdf

Declaration issued from the historic 1st Latin American Migrant Community Summit (Cumbre) held in Morelia, Michoacán last May, which blames NeoLiberal economics for creating the conditions that force people to migrate…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/Morelia_Declaration.pdf

Article by Oscar Chacon & Amy Shannon of NALACC on the role of Free Trade Agreements in creating new migrant flows and the need to build transnational alliances…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/AlternativesWall.pdf

Economic Policy Institutes analysis of the effects of NAFTA for working people in all three countries, issued in 2006…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/EPINAFTA2006.pdf

2003 article by David Bacon on NAFTA and it’s devastating impact on Mexican workers…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/NAFTAATTEN.pdf

AFSC’s statement on the WTO and Mode 4 (possibility of global guest worker program)…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/AFSCWTO.pdf

Mennonite Central Committee’s primer on immigration and globalization…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/immigration_globalization-guide.pdf

Top 10 reasons to oppose the WTO from Global Exchange…
http://www.laborexpress.org/PDFs/TopTenWTO.pdf

Audio File:

David Bacon speaking in Chicago in April 2007 on the connections between “free trade agreements” and increased migration (this is a 26 minute long MP3 file)…
http://www.laborexpress.org/AudioFiles/DavidBacon.mp3

Domestic Workers United at the USSF






Joycelyn Campbell, a Nanny from Manhattan, an immigrant from Barbados, and a leader in the Domestic Workers United organization discuss the lack of legal protections for domestic workers in the United States and the roots of this reality in racism as well as U.S. economic and foreign policy…