labor

Tribute for Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013, Mabuhay!

PLM salutes Nelson Mandela, the great freedom fighter, who led the struggle to smash apartheid in South Africa. The dismantling of the political institutions of the apartheid state is a historic contribution of Nelson Mandela to the struggle of the international working class movement.

Here in the Philippines, during the height of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s, we were inspired by our South African comrades-in-arms and Nelson Mandela. We understood then, that our struggles were interlinked and that the stakes were high internationally, for the outcome of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The defeat of the apartheid government, and the victory of the liberation movement in South Africa, was also our victory.

The Super Rich Reinvent U.S. Capitalism

As U.S. corporate profits soar to record highs, food stamps for the neediest were quietly cut. The politicians who are demanding endless cuts to social programs — Democrats and Republicans alike — insist that the U.S. is broke, all the while conveniently ignoring the mountains of tax-free wealth piling up in the pockets of the super rich.

This newest flood of cash for the nation’s wealthiest 1% is a blatant government subsidy: the Federal Reserve continues to pump out an extra $75 billion a month, the vast majority of which fattens the already bursting overseas bank accounts of the rich. Since Obama has been president this pro-corporate policy has helped funnel 95 percent of the nation’s new income to the wealth-soaked rich.

And while it’s true that the global super rich have an estimated $32 trillion [!] stashed away abroad in off shore tax havens, an even newer way to avoid taxes has gripped the endlessly-greedy minds of U.S.-based billionaires.

The Time Has Come For $15 Minimum Wage

In one of comedian Chris Rock’s routines, he observes: “You know what that means when someone pays you a minimum wage? You know what your boss is trying to say? ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.’”

The humor works because, like the boy who cried “the king has no clothes,” Rock is stating something obvious which mostly goes unspoken: that if it wasn’t for such laws as the minimum wage, established to appease the militant mass workers’ struggles in the 1930s, bosses would reduce workers’ wages and benefits to near zero.

This is because workers’ wages come, naturally, at the expense of their bosses’ profits. Since bosses are in business to make as much profit as possible, they are compelled to cheat their workers out of every dime their labor creates, within the limits of the law.

The UAW Takes One Step Forward, and One Backward

Trying to rebound off the ropes, where it has been pummeled for the past several decades, The United Auto Workers (UAW) has launched an aggressive organizing campaign in the South, in line with an AFL-CIO resolution emphasizing organizing there, where unionization rates are weak across the board.

As reported in The New York Times, the UAW has taken an international approach where union members in Brazil are picketing Nissan dealerships, a U.S. UAW contingent is traveling to South Africa to embarrass Nissan over its antiunion policies, and a similar campaign is underway in Tokyo and Paris.
Actor Danny Glover, has been persuaded to visit college campuses to recruit students to help in the union drive, and community groups are being organized, which include the NAACP, to help as well.

Fast Food Workers Win a Union…through Zoolidarity

Union members have watched in awe as fast food workers struck over the last year, calling for “$15 and a union.” Despite the slogan, however, the prevailing wisdom has been that union recognition isn’t really the goal; that’s too hard against giant employers insulated by a layer of franchises, with a part-time and transient workforce.

Last month 142 mostly part-time food service workers, public employees at the Oregon Zoo, showed it could be done, winning a landslide election to join Laborers Local 483 in Portland. They join 137 already-union admissions and custodial employees at the zoo—about half of these are temps—doubling the size and power of the bargaining unit just in time for contract negotiations.

Wage Slavery in the American Auto Industry: Obama’s Shame

The American auto industry is back in business in a big way. The carmakers are making enormous profits, direct from the blood, sweat and tears of autoworkers.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted with glee, “Ford’s North American auto operations racked up $4.77 billion in pretax profit during the first half of this year, while GM North America reported $3.4 billion in earnings before interest and taxes.”

What’s the secret of these enormous profits? The WSJ explains:

…A newly hired Big Three [GM, Ford, Chrysler] factory worker now earns about $15 an hour versus $28 dollars an hour for veteran workers.

But lower wages are just one example of the “new” tactics that the automakers are using to make huge profits, sucked directly from the lifeblood of autoworkers.

The AFL-CIO’s New Strategy: Inspiration or Hype?

After years of embarrassing denial, the AFL-CIO recently took its first baby step in addressing the crisis that has engulfed organized labor: it recognized there was a problem. In the run up to its national convention in early September in Los Angles, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently admitted that “what we’ve been doing isn’t working,” and consequently announced a new strategy that was, supposedly, a revolutionary break from the previously-failed strategy of organized labor.

Unfortunately, Trumka hasn’t mentioned exactly what failed, or how the new strategy plans to fix it. The threadbare details released thus far seem more hype than substance, such as working closer with community partners like the NAACP and the Sierra Club, with the possibility that these and other groups may become official “solidarity” members of the AFL-CIO or affiliated groups. More information — and a more detailed plan — will hopefully be unveiled at the AFL-CIO national convention.

A Big Victory For Oregon’s Biggest Union

After years of painful backsliding, the state workers of Oregon’s largest union, SEIU 503, recently stood firm and scored a big win in their contract negotiations against the state’s anti-union Democratic governor, John Kitzhaber.

After again demanding many anti-union concessions, Oregon’s Democratic governor backed down when the union proved organized and ready to wage a statewide strike, which would have shut down many state-run agencies, including highway repair, Department of Motor Vehicles, Parks and Recreation, food stamps, the Employment Department, Child Welfare, Department of Revenue, and others.

SEIU 503 is a union of 50,000 plus members, the core of which consists of Oregon public employees. On paper the union looked impressive after having expanded its membership in mostly non-public areas, including private home-health care.

The August 24 March on Washington: Why We Need a New Civil Rights and Labor Movement

It could have been left as a relatively small event that would make little impact, but plans for the 50th anniversary of 1963′s March on Washington appear to have taken another course.

The Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin have served as bitter reminders of not only how far we still are from realizing the vision for jobs and freedom that brought over 250,000 to Washington, DC, in 1963. They have also underlined how ephemeral the gains made by the Civil Rights Movement currently are.

In this context, no 50th anniversary event can remain a celebration of days gone by. It will inevitably be seen as a test of commitment towards regenerating a movement that can steer this country in a direction towards economic justice and equality.

An Unfinished Path

SF Labor: Calls on Labor Movement to Mobilize in Washington, D.C. August 24

Approved May 13, 2013

In Support of the SCLC and King Center call for a March and Rally in Washington, DC on August 24, 2013 and in Support of the July 2 Northern California Demonstration to Demand a Massive Federally Funded Jobs-Creation Program and No Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid

Whereas, President Obama announced his support for cuts to Social Security by switching to a chained CPI inflation index that will reduce cost-of-living adjustments; and

Whereas, President Obama announced his support for cuts to Medicare; and

Whereas, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and The King Center have called for a march and rally in Washington, DC on August 24, 2013 to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream speech; and

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