Tag Archives: labor

Turning the Tide: 1st Issue of Bay Area Port Workers’ Newsletter

Cover of Port Workers Newsletter

Click on this image to view or download the newsletter.

We published Occupy, ILWU EGT and the Coming Class Battles to point out the limits of a militant alliance between Occupy and ILWU rank-and-file.  As the former came into being as a radical force with its own wild contradictions, and the militancy of the latter carried a tradition of struggle from 1934  to the present, there still needs to be a framework for port class struggle.

Occupy, ILWU EGT and the Coming Class Battles offers a critique of 1) social movement unionism, 2) surplus population insurgency, and proposes to form class-wide committees, which we also call multi-sector committees.  A rank-and-file newsletter that contains articles written by port workers is a first step towards bridging the craft divides in the port. It breaks jurisdictional logic ingrained by existing unionism, orienting towards the whole space of the port. The idea is to lay the basis for a multi-sector unity that offers serious leverage against the employers and a potential model for workers in struggle throughout the US.

This newsletter is a product of combined work between different tendencies of revolutionaries, the Occupy Oakland Labor Solidarity Committee, and workers from different parts of the port.

Enjoy, and bring it down to the docks in your city!

Health Care Workers on Strike for the Whole Class

A striking public health worker at a demonstration outside the Ministry of Health headquarters in Kenya’s capital Nairobi (REUTERS)

On September 12th of this year, 3,000 Kenyan public doctors and health workers voted to strike in solidarity with medical students demanding to be paid for their volunteer hospital work.  This is the second time in one year health workers have staged a strike.  On Friday the health workers called off the strike, with some initial indications that it’s a serious victory for the Kenyan working class, health workers and consumers both.  (We’re also hesitant to crow victory too quickly in these complex situations.)

From allAfrica.com:

After talks with the union officials, Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o announced that he had revoked all disciplinary measures that the government had taken on the medics for taking part in the strike.

At a joint press conference with union officials at Afya House on Thursday evening, Nyong’o said the government would also release the salaries that had been withheld from the striking doctors.

The meeting agreed to set up a committee that would address the doctors’ grievances, which included demands for fastracking of a return-to-work formula that had been signed to end a similar strike late last year.

Kenya is a country in which politicians make about $130,000 a year, while doctors receive a $36,000 a year salary that doesn’t even let them visit private clinics. Health workers in Kenya struggle to meet the needs of their poor and working-class patients with a dire lack of basic resources like drugs and surgery tools. In the meantime, Kenyan legislators hop on flights to America or Europe to kick it with their imperialist puppet masters and get their surgeries and check ups.

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The bourgeois media says Egypt is ‘back in business’, but the people say strike!

While the world had its eyes on an inflammatory film made to mock the Prophet Muhammad, The US Chamber of Commerce was brokering a midday Cairo brunch in the Four Seasons between American and Egyptian businessmen.

The US Consulate in Cairo has been the target for many actions before this moment – in response to the Iraq War, in protest of the Mubarak regime’s relationship to the US, etc. This time the trigger might have been the film, but concurrent actions happening across the country prove that Egyptians have a much broader agenda.
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De costa a costa, los trabajadores inmigrantes latinos luchan contra la explotación demandando dignidad

(English version here.)

Ellos nos espiaban e intimidado nosotros, todo porque estamos luchando por la dignidad.

Limber Herrera

-Almacén trabajador

Image

Trabajadores de almacén en un centro de distribución de Walmart marcho 50 millas de Los Angeles

La administración Obama publico estadísticas en enero de 2011, diciendo que hay 11,5 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados en los EE.UU. 59% de este grupo son mexicanos, que es de 6,8 millones de personas. Inmigrantes salvadoreños se encuentran en una posición distante de segundo lugar, con 660.000 indocumentados que residen en este país. En California, hay 2,83 millones de inmigrantes indocumentados, en Texas, casi hay 1,8 millones, 740.000 hay en Florida, y Georgia hay 440.000, doble el populación desde 2000. Dentro de la economía capitalista, algunos trabajadores se encuentran en un posición de trabajo que no es esencial para la formación del valor económico. Otros trabajadores se encuentran en los lugares de trabajo que son fundamentales para la producción de valor económico. Otros trabajadores están en trabajas que son centrales al valor de la producción. si los trabajadores en una librería independiente salen en huelga, amenazan al capitalista. si nos fijamos en la industria de la constuccion sin sindicatos, vinculados con el capital financiero, y dependiente en el trabajo indocumentada. Continue reading

“That’s Why I’m a Communist” – Trade Unions, Social Struggle and the State in South Africa


My mother was a kitchen girl//My father was a garden boy//That’s why I’m a communist//I’m a communist//I’m a communist! – Popular apartheid-era song still sung today

The recent armed conflicts between miners and police in South Africa are part of a long legacy of class struggle against the capitalist state.  Recently we in AS along with our comrades in La Pena 2nd Gen organized a forum to tap some of our comrades’ knowledge on the incredible history of South African working-class resistance, both against apartheid and against the neoliberal African National Congress.

The first presentation “The Birth of the Modern Trade Union Movement in South Africa”, by former Black Panther Gerald Smith, is a very useful initial overview of South African history from a class struggle perspective; it’s also a more specific history and analysis of Black labor militancy in the 1980s under apartheid.  Learn something from his dynamic speaking style!

The second presentation, “Social Struggles and the Capitalist State in South Africa since 1994”, by UC Berkeley PHD student Zachary Levenson, focuses on post-apartheid history.  Levenson recently returned from 6 months in South Africa and describes the terrain of struggle and nature of the capitalist state after apartheid.

Check it out and tell us what you think!

From Coast to Coast, Latino Immigrant Workers Fight Exploitation and Demand Dignity.

(La versión en español está aquí.)

They spied on us and bullied us, all because we are fighting for dignity.

Limber Herrera

-Warehouse worker

Warehouse workers at a Walmart distribution center march 50 miles to LA

The Obama administration issues statistics that in January 2011, there was 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the US. 59 percent of this group is Mexican, which is 6.8 million people. El Salvadoran immigrants are in a distant second position, with 660,000 undocumented residing in this country.In California, there are 2.83 million undocumented immigrants, in Texas, almost 1.8 million, in Florida 740,000, and Georgia 440,000 (doubling in numbers since 2000). Within the capitalist economy, some workers are located in position of work that is not central to the formation of value. Other workers are in workplaces that are central to value production. If workers at an independent bookstore would to go on strike, it would exactly threaten the capitalist. If we look at the non-union housing construction industry, it’s both linked with finance capital as well as dependent on undocumented cheap dispensable labor. A strike in this industry would have serious meaning. The independent truckers at the ports are majority immigrant drivers, mostly with some type of permission to work. US capitalism has adapted itself to immigrant labor because it is cheap and disposable. This labor dependency is linked with industries that are central to important components of capitalist production. In order for American capitalism to squeeze all the unpaid labor it can from the immigrant working class, it must vilify, criminalize, oppress, and control the work process. Xenophobic laws (anti-immigrant laws), racism, nationalism all feed into this process.

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Workers’ Inquiry: SF Bus Driver

This is the text of some literature that AS militants made from interviews with a bus driver in the San Francisco public transit system, MUNI.  We’re posting both as an example of the method we use for investigating conditions and turning the results into agitation, and to ask for thoughts from our comrades on the information/intervention here.  

Inter v iew w ith a M U N I o p e r a tor : W o r k e r s ’ H e a lth A n d

Safety  

This interview from a brother who’s worked as a MUNI operator for more than ten years is one powerful and particular expression of how bosses exploit workers for profit, leaving us physically and psychologically maimed. It reveals how at the same time that passengers have seen fares double in recent years and the elimination of bus lines, the men and women behind the wheel are also feeling the effects of austerity. This operator’s experience reflects the daily lives of millions of other workers around the world who also face cuts to social services, racist police brutality, attacks on basic political freedoms under the scapegoat of “terrorism,” and an overall capitalist assault on the minds and bodies of working people. Nevertheless, where there is oppression, there is also resistance. We must take pride in and study the current militant struggles Palestinian and Egyptian transport workers wage with other workers in their countries to topple hated

pro-imperialist regimes and achieve genuine independence and liberation. In the Middle East and in San Francisco, the common relationship working-class people of all religions and nationalities share in the act of riding public transportation provides a needed space and platform to organize around our common class interests. One issue that stands out is what seems to be a vicious cycle between a speedup of the pace of work, a lack of break time, excessive disciplining of workers that take sick days, expensive medical coverage, and obstacles to getting medical clearance. What issues do you see? What issues affect you as a MUNI passenger, or as a worker in San Francisco, that might be resolved through a united struggle of workers from many different workplaces that face common problems? Send us an email and let us know.

Question: We heard from some MUNI operators that management has cut down the number of sick days to only 3 days per year, with operators facing discipline including suspension if they take more than 3 days in a 12 month period. What is going on here?

Answer: “That’s not really accurate – here management has not adhered to their own sick day Chapter

12W. They had an article in the examiner about it last week. San Francisco is one of the cities that allows for employees to take sick leave and be paid. All employees have that right. Here we can accumulate the hours and we are supposed to be able to take them without penalty. This ordinance is on the books but the city itself isn’t adhering to it. Operators are increasing harassed and threatened for using their accumulated sick time. There is no rule that covers anything other than what 12W covers which is for paid sick time. Sick leave is the only way to get time off. When they make threats against operators for using their sick time, well there is no other way for operators to rest their body to recover from fatigue, except for using the available sick hours… There are also laws and rules that say we are not supposed to drive if we are sick…. The other thing is Absence rule 420, which requires that you bring a doctor’s note. Neither one of those spell-out any type of discipline….There is no pie in the sky to look forward to. Every other transit system, AC, SAMTRANS, GG transit, has miss out days where operators can call in for a day to rest and recuperate. MUNI doesn’t have that. There is no way for operators to get time off to rest and recuperate. There is no relief in sight for an operator with extra stressed going on in his life.”

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Dying for a Raise: Mumia on the Marikana Massacre

March on 9/5/12 against the murder of 34 strikers – copyright Alexander Joe AFP/Getty Images

(Audio at Prison Radio).

The Massacre in Marikina, South Africa, of striking mine workers has caused dismay and disbelief the world over.

Thirty four miners were slaughtered, and 78 others wounded by a hail of police gunfire.

How could this be in today’s South Africa?

How could this happen in a post- apartheid South Africa?

How could this happen in a predominantly Black government, led by the African National Congress (ANC)?

 

The spectacle tells the tale: black police, clad in blue overall uniforms, were called by the Lonmin Mine Co. officials, to stand against Black miners holding a wildcat strike demanding better wages and improved working conditions.

 

Miners at Lonmin Platinum are paid on average R4, 000 (=$480 U.S.), and were demanding a raise to R12, 500 (=$1,500) per month.  These strikers, several thousand rock-drill operators, were trying to live and raise families on $120 –per week!

 

When they refused police orders to disperse from a nearby hill, the cops attacked them with automatic weapons fire.

Who do you think they worked for: their people – or the mine operators and owners?

Whom did they serve and protect?

 

In Marikana, in South Africa’s North West Province, lies a mine boasting one of the world’s richest veins of platinum.  Indeed, South Africa is home to some 80% of the world supply of platinum, one of the world’s most precious and strategic metals.

 

And striking miners are dying for a pittance, while owners and investors are making billions!

 

The cops of capitalism serve those who can afford their services.

 

Period.

 

Marikana, North West Province, South Africa joins Sharpville for police and state massacres of Africans.

 

Just as Sharpeville sparked resistance, let Marikana now do the same!

 

–© ’12 maj

Windy City Fights Back: Chicago Teachers on Strike

Chicago Teachers On the Street, photo credit Debra Lane

On Monday Chicago teachers went on strike, notably under the influence of two US Trotskyist groups: the International Socialist Organization and Solidarity.  This is an inspiring large-scale working-class action, and a modern test of many different things: the traditional Trotskyist approach of gaining the formal leadership of big unions, the viability of public sector strikes in the current climate, the question of whether workers will break the legal limits imposed by Taft-Hartley and other US Labor Law, as well as the relationship between the workers

 

withdrawing their labor and the people they serve.

Get it Chicago educators and supporters!

Check out Solida

rity’s live blog coverage of the strike.

 

If anyone gets new reportbacks / analysis, drop em in comments we’d love to see em.

Once More on Unions . . . Steveo’s reply

Editor’s Note:  Just to clarify:  Steve-O’s position on unions does not represent Advance the Struggle’s official line.  The process of developing programmatic approaches towards concrete realities of capitalism such as unions is something which is not cut and dry, and which needs to be continually clarified through struggle.  We’re posting Steve-O’s reply to Hieronymous on here in order to clarify the terms of the debate and acknowledge the reciprocal process of learning we’re all involved in here.  No fixed dogmas here – rather, we’re seeking to interrogate our positions and learning from debate is a crucial part of this process.  

Steve-O’s reply –

Heironymous said:

“All of us agree that it’s great that the rank-and-file longshore militants have done solidarity actions with Salvadorians, South Africans, Liverpool longshore workers, Palestinians, and in the struggle around Oscar Grant. So is the lack of solidarity with troqueros, workers they interact with on a daily basis, based on a lack of class consciousness? If so, how can they be internationalists and anti-imperialists, but not be in class solidarity with a workforce comprised mostly of Spanish-speakers, but also with many Chinese, Filipinos and even a few Sikhs (with many Sikh troqueros at the deepwater inland ports of Lathrop and Stockton) ? Or am I wrong and is the ILWU a narrowly self-interested sectoral craft union that is truly a “labor aristocracy”?”

ouch… you know what? that really hurts, Hieronymous. it hurts a lot to get blown up like that. You sure are a worthy debate partner. You know you are losing a debate when you start rooting for your opponent because you want to LEARN more! Maybe losing debates should be something more Marxists try to do.

Before I continue further, I do want to apologize for calling Heironymous’ politics racist. That was, as he said “so absurd…” Sorry.

But I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel yet.

In defeating my argument, I forced you to differentiate between radical unionists like Jack Heyman and the bureaucrats they butt up against. If I was defending the bureaucracy in my argumentation, I didn’t know it and maybe got so blinded by  the desire to win the argument that I didn’t even know what I was saying. So as a rejoinder of sorts, I’ll take one last crack at accurately stating my position. Continue reading

Forgotten Classic: Workers’ Movements in the United States Confront Imperialism

The Progressive Era Experience

by David Montgomery.

 

This was the subject of one of Advance the Struggle’s first posts, which was reported to be viewed by only one person. How is that possible? It demands a re-release! As a new working class struggle simmers under the surface, we should educate ourselves by learning our labor history and seeking out the best traditions and authors in that discipline. David Montgomery was a machinist before he was a professor. He wrote Workers Control in America about how the Taylorized method of production was more than just a method for economic efficiency; it was a mode of control and domination over the labor process which undercut workers’ power and autonomy at the point of production.

US Special Forces with Iraqi Prisoners

US Occupation forces in Iraq: Does organized US labor benefit from imperialism?

Most view the organized labor movement as being a static, conservative body that was often hierarchical and racist. Much of it was. David Montgomery investigates the opposition and internationalism that nonetheless persisted in the bodies of organized labor at the turn of the century, illuminating a powerful counter movement with internationalist principals. The American Federation of Labor from 1886 to 1955 and the AFL-CIO from 1955 to the present have worked and do work with the CIA and US foreign policy, from the pragmatic view that helping maintain the US’s share in the world will produce jobs for US workers. This essay shows on the one hand that the Pan-American Federation of Labor was more a product of diplomatic imperialist maneuvering than of class solidarity, and on the other, that there was still a militant internationalist movement that cross-fertilized in US, Mexico, Cuba , Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Specifically in Mexico, where major US investments shaped the economy, Montgomery states, “anarcho-syndicalists enjoyed strong support on both sides of the border, and the path to union growth was opened by revolution.” Continue reading

Start Building for 10/23 – Work Stoppage Against Police Brutality

Recently the ILWU called for a rally on October 23 and expressed interest in a work stoppage to ensure that Johannes Meserle receive the maximum sentence for the murder of Oscar Grant. The ILWU have a long history of taking a leading role in periods of mass struggle and of engaging in political strikes. The San Francisco General Strike started when state and private police killed 2 longshoremen as they tried to break picketlines that had closed not only SF ports but all of the ports on the west coast for 2 and a half months. In 1973 the ILWU refused to ship munitions headed for Chile following the military coup and suppression of the Cordones (workers councils). In 1984 the ILWU shut down the ports for 11 days in a political strike against aparthied in South Africa.

ILWU Local 10

The ILWU is able to take such militant action without being destroyed by the ruling class because the longshoremen occupy such a strategically strong position in the production of profit – the unloading of the majority of commodities headed for consumption. Harry Bridges, along with a rank-file committee organized and led a strike in 1934, quickly growing into a general strike through all of San Francisco and even Oakland, it continues this militant historical legacy into an array of other struggles long after. The ILWU is now throwing their weight into the struggle for justice during a period of racist state murder and mass incarceration marked by the deepest economic crisis in capitalist history. On May 1, 2008, International Labor Day, they shut down all of the west coast ports in a one day political strike against the war. On June 20 of this year the Longshoremen refused to cross a picketline blocking the entrances to the port to stop an Israeli ship from docking in the wake of the Freedom Flotilla Massacre. Now they are calling for a rally on the 23rd of October at Oakland City hall and may shut down the ports.

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Between a Trot and a Hard Place: The Debate Within Our Movement

As we get further from March 4th and various groups put out their analysis, we see emerging differences in political line. Some of the primary differences we’ve seen emerge [discussed in our Post-March 4th analysis] stem from our criticisms of the Trotskyist tradition. Recently, Unity & Struggle (U&S), a group we consider to be aligned with our general political orientation wrote a response to two of the Trotskyist responses to our piece put out by Labor’s Militant Voice – LMV and Socialist Organizer – SO. We think U&S’s response piece very clearly illustrates some of the emerging differences that distinguish us from the existing Trotskyist groups. These differences center on the following questions:

How should marxist militants understand the political character of unions? How should militants relate to unions, their leadership and their rank and file? Many Marxists agree that union bureaucrats have been bought off, but there are often disagreements as to why.

How should disciplined revolutionaries relate to, and work within coalitional spaces? How important are general assemblies as organizational forms for the working-class’ political self-activity?

Is there a need for revolutionaries to have independent spaces and organizations outside of both coalitions/united fronts and general assemblies? Or are general assemblies and united fronts the only true legitimate spaces for working-class self activity? If not, what should independent political organizations look like?

How should a marxist ‘cadre’ type organization relate to such a space or organization? Should we help build them to the exclusion of participating in united fronts? Are these forms of organization mutually exclusive?

Furthermore, can the problem facing the working class today be summed up by Leon Trotsky’s assertion in the opening line of his famous work, ‘The Transitional Program’, which states that:  “the world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of leadership of the proletariat”? And, if so, does this mean that the problem facing revolutionaries today is primarily the task of substituting ‘bad leadership’ [read: union bureaucrats] for ‘good leadership’ [read: correct-line trotskyist revolutionaries], or do revolutionaries need to orient in radically different ways that consciously avoid reproducing the same hierarchical structures of authority present in capitalism?

These are all questions that we were thinking about when we wrote our Crisis and Consciousness piece, which analyzed March 4th and the movement that lead up to it.

Unfortunately all of us in AtS are not merely armchair intellectuals [we got jobs and other political work ya’ll!] and thus it has taken us a lil’ while to engage with all the responses that have been put out.

We are also taking time to respond to the Trotskyist responses in a way that moves beyond March 4th, and which moves us in the direction of a more fleshed out articulation of our position on many of the above issues, as political questions in general.

In the meantime, we think people should seriously engage with the piece written by our Seattle comrade from the group  Unity and Struggle.

We were psyched to read U&S’s response to the responses to our piece, because we have been heavily influenced and inspired by the work they do. U&S is a great example of the class-struggle left we describe in Crisis and Consciousness, and we had them in mind when we wrote it. We believe their response to the two Trotskyist responses to our piece (one by Labor’s Militant Voice – LMV and the other by Socialist Organizer – SO), is a very straightforward and accurate, cursory overview of the debate thus far. As we’ve mentioned,  U&S shares many of our critical disagreements with the Trotskyist tradition and its current incarnations.

We look forward to continuing these debates, as they help us develop our own understanding of ourselves and the existing left. We are a new formation and we are trying to develop a fresh analysis of the current conditions, while trying to avoid many of the political mistakes made by revolutionary militants in the past.

We plan to put out more in-depth and detailed analysis on the questions raised above, for which we are studying, reading and discussing with our political milieus. We welcome you to become part of this debate as it unfolds.

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The Debate on Strategy in the Anti-Budget Cuts Movement

As an anti-budget cuts organizer in Seattle, I am excited by the important debates Advance the Struggle (AS) has raised with their piece Crisis and Contradictions: Reflections and Lessons from March 4th. I basically agree with the perspective that AS is putting forward;  it confirms and advances a lot of the perspectives that my comrades in Unity and Struggle have been developing, especially with our anti-budget cuts work with Democracy Insurgent in Seattle, with ella pelea! in Austin, and our comrade’s work at Berkley.  For those who don’t know, Unity and Struggle is a revolutionary organization animated by a belief in the self-emancipation of oppressed people; for more info, check out the “About US” section of the Gathering Forces blog.

I would consider Unity and Struggle and a lot of the milleiu around Gathering Forces to be part of  the “class struggle Left” tendency that AS outlines and calls for; like AS we are attempting to chart a third path that is independent from both the centrists (the “we need to meet people where they are at” folks) and the adventurists (the “Occupy Everything Demand Nothing” folks).  We appreciate the chance to dialogue with AS and other  like-minded activists around the country and we also appreciate the chance to have principled debate with comrades from the other two tendencies.

The response pieces written by Socialist Organizer (SO) and Labors Militant Voice (LMV), raise some important challenges to this third tendency and highlight some key differences between us and the centrist tendency.  It is important to note that LMV’s piece raises important critiques of SO’s piece and I engage with those here  – I have no intention of lumping them together.   I offer my notes on these responses  in the hope of furthering the debate.

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