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Walmart Workers Arrested in Peaceful Protest August 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
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BREAKING: Ten current or recently fired Walmart workers were just arrested in Washington, DC for peaceful civil disobedience near Walmart’s downtown office. This action comes after the company fired or disciplined more than 70 workers for going on strike. Now workers say that if Walmart does not reinstate the illegally fired workers and publicly commit pay a decent wage by Labor Day, the company will face some of the most intense actions it has seen to date. Below is a letter from one of the arrested workers.

http://action.changewalmart.org/page/m/86f1ab2/3529af95/17464875/9cb5f48/3020380531/VEsH/

 

I was arrested today for standing up to Walmart. Can you sign my petition to call on Walmart to respect workers’ rights and pay a living wage?

I was raised by a strong single mother. I owe everything to her. She taught me how to work hard and stand up for what is right.

I did well in high school and loved sports. In college, I became a collegiate athlete and my future looked bright. That’s when my mom got sick. She wasn’t able to support herself, so I made a tough choice. I moved home and got a job at Walmart to help support my mom.

I soon found that Walmart didn’t pay me enough to get by. We were constantly understaffed and stretched thin. Worst of all, we were treated with such a lack of respect they made you feel like you weren’t even a human being.

That’s why I decided to stand up. I went on a legally protected strike in June and travelled all the way to Walmart’s headquarters in Arkansas to defend my coworkers’ right to stand up.

But when I got home, Walmart fired me. I’m not the only one. Since June, Walmart has fired or disciplined more than 70 of us for standing up. The company has written us up, cut our hours, bullied us, called the cops on us and even fired us for going on strike.

We’re not backing down. Today, we peacefully demonstrated in front of Walmart’s office in Washington, DC calling on the company to reinstate the illegally fired workers.

Instead of listening, Walmart had me and 11 other people arrested (19 of us workers and 2 activists).

It’s time to draw a line in the sand. Let’s send Walmart a clear message: If you fail to act by Labor Day, actions will intensify around the country.

Can you please send them this message by signing my petition today?

www.action.changewalmart.org/ARealWage

Thanks,

Brandon

Brandon Garrett
Baker, Louisiana

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees

Walmart: “Not Financially Feasible” To Take Minimal, Legally Required Steps to Save Workers’ Lives December 6, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Bangladesh, Labor.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far
Roger’s note: Marx wrote that one of the essential flaws of capitalism is that it is inherently incapable of protecting living human beings.  It is all about competition, profit, and the expansion of capital.  In our lifetime we are witnessing the coming to fruition of the logical consequences of capitalist economic relations, and this is truly frightening.  Government was forced to intervene in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to mitigate the barbarism of unfettered industrial capitalism; in our time nothing less that the kinds of popular uprisings we see today in Europe and the Middle East and last year in the Occupy movements can save us from the consequences of twenty-first century capitalism with its massive resources directed at militarization and total control of governments.
12.06.12 – 10:54 AM, www.commondreams.org

by Abby Zimet

_walmart_fire

In the wake of last month’s fire in a Bangladesh garment factory that killed over 100 workers, Bloomberg has gained access to notes from a 2011 meeting where Walmart officials decided against paying suppliers high enough prices to cover costs of needed safety improvements because they deemed it “not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.” The meeting was attended by more than a dozen retailers, including Gap, Target and JC Penney. Over 300 Bangladeshi garment factory workers have died since 2006. Walmart reported a 9% increase in third-quarter net income, bringing their earnings for that quarter to $3.63 billion. An estimated half of Bangladesh’s garment factories don’t meet legally required work safety standards. At a fire in a nearby warehouse two days after the Tazreen factory fire, workers had to climb down a bamboo pole because they couldn’t get to the stairs; graffiti on a restroom wall there read: “Work here and your life is a living hell.”

“Specifically to the issue of any corrections on electrical and fire safety, we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories,” they said in the document. “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”

bangladesh-fire-mourner-horizontal-gallery

COMMENTS

  • gardenernorcal

     

    “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.”

     

    Guess what if that is their firm position, then mine is: It’s no longer morally feasible for me to purchase your goods.  I am thinking if fewer people buy their goods they may change their way of thinking.

  • sLiM_mC_sHaDy

    Yes, please do not shop there. I never have; they sicken me.

  • Catherine Carre

    People forget that it is precisely this type of immoral exploitation that led Marx and Engels to develop their communist philosophy…Engels’ “The condition of the working class in England” describes very similar conditions as suffered by those workers in developing countries employed by behemoths such as Walmart…communism is the child of capitalism..

  • nveric

    Show me how Communism works?

  • Tom Carberry

    Communism works fine in Cuba, despite over 60 years of a crushing blockade.  Communism worked fine in the Soviet Union if you consider general equality and the absence of crime a good life.  Muhammad Ali said he felt safer in Moscow than any other city in the world, because it had no crime.

    Communism had its horrors, like Stalin’s gulags.  But the American slavery system, followed by 160 years of Jim Crow, and the largest prison system in the history of the world (dwarfing Stalin’s gulags at their largest point), makes those horrors look like minor glitches.

    And don’t forget the many tens of millions of people America has slaughtered in its wars for profit.

    American capitalism works for the top 20% of the people, but not for the rest.

  • Gubdeb

    I dunno…which is worse?: 1: Walmart, or, 2: the MIC/American Capitalism that makes a “Walmart”possible? How many wars did we wage to get to this point. How many “Deals” were cut to have these products sold here? (see NAFTA & Robert Reich) The POINT is, until we face who we really are, things will never change. Walmart is just a symptom, not the problem.

  • AmonVerite

    Here is the problem: http://www.stateofnature.org/d…

  • giovannalepore

    Remember Bhopal India and now Bangladesh: Symbols of why they hate the USA. Your “democracy” and “freedom” are nothing but smoke screens for crimes against humanity.

  • Gubdeb

    I thought Indians loved the USA(?) Why, the MSM in recent years has woven Indians into the very fabric of American life. In network programming, ads, and they seem to all love Walmart. Yes, Walmart.

  • giovannalepore

    I doubt that this is the case with the overwhelming numbers of Indians IN India especially those who were the US victims. At the rate the US is going it will have the entire world despise it.

  • Matthew Grebenc

    Money is power, and corporations pursue it at any cost. They are psychopathic.

  • wildcarrots

    Well yes there is a sick mentality.  Once a factory burns down it will have to been re-built or replaced.  You either re-build it before or after the employees are there working.  that is the sick really stupid part.

  • theoldgoat

    This is where we are, its emblematic of the massive shift that must be brought about in order to restore balance.

    “Work here and your life is a living hell.”

    … the system, owned by interests that value profit over life, scorn those who see from other perspectives – an absolutely essential aspect of life – yet do so brutally, without compunction, on the backs of BILLIONS OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD>

    Boycott any brand you cannot identify and source to ethical satisfaction.

  • itsthethird

    Corporations and workers  can take the heat while the stockholders, capitalists, consumers, and  management, can take the profits.  However the costs of profit are spread disproportionate to benefits if any exist the benefits are captured immediately while costs are avoided by all.  The whole system is dysfunctional because cost avoidance or shifting is acceptable and or encouraged.

  • greatbear215

    Walmurder: Were they value profits over people!

  • Shantiananda

    Not just Walmart, but the whole American Empire, “value profits over people”!   Walmart is just the paradigm of the American corportocracy.

  • AmonVerite

  • Gubdeb

    Thank you, Shan.

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    Zellers employees walk away empty-handed in $1.825-billion deal August 18, 2012

    Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Labor.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    Roger’s note: Capitalism 1A.  In the capitalist world those who own and control capital (great wealth) have virtually unfettered and tyrannical power over those who produce wealth for them, their workers.  We call it a system because the laws of the state affirm and enforce this unequal relationship.  Capitalism is in the long run unsustainable because you cannot get blood from a stone.  Competition forces capital to continually search for new sources of cheap labor and to downgrade the living standards of existing labor.  We see this happening on a world-wide basis, and we see the global economic crisis this has engendered.  In the past, due to labor organization and pressures from below, governments have been forced to mitigate the excesses of capital and enact laws to partially protect labor.  As monopoly capital gains greater control over governments around the world, we see less and less of this.  This is certainly the case in the US and Canada.

    Published on Friday August 17, 2012

     
     
     

    fi-target

    Colin McConnell/Toronto Star Angela Rankin was laid off from Zellers after 13 years. At age 50 she’s wondering what’s next for her.

     
    Francine Kopun
    Business Reporter
     

    Angela Rankin knows exactly how much Target paid Zellers for the leases to 220 stores across Canada.

    It wasn’t a billion. It was $1.8-billion — $1.825-billion to be more precise.

    Rankin was let go on July 28 from the Zellers at Dufferin and Dupont in Toronto after 13 years working the cash, the sales floor and as a pharmacy technician, with nothing more than the legally mandated severance pay her employers were required to give.

    “It’s selfishness. It’s sad,” says Rankin, 50, a mother of one who helps support cousins in Jamaica.

    “I don’t know what they’re thinking. I don’t know where their mind is. It’s greediness.”

    Rankin will speak at a demonstration led by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 11 a.m., in front of Target’s Canadian headquarters in Mississauga.

    “Target needs to do the right thing – keep the workers and respect their wages and benefits,” says Kevin Shimmin, national representative of the UFCW Canada,

    Target posted earnings Wednesday of $704 million (U.S.), or $1.06 per share, in the period ended July 30. Overall revenue rose 3.5 per cent to $16.45 million in the quarter. Revenue at stores opened at least a year rose 3.1 per cent.

    The chain will open its first stores in Canada in 2013.

    On the day she spoke to the Star, Rankin was hauling home a fat, round container, almost as tall as she is, for which she paid $70, to send her family in Jamaica dried cod, rice, cooking oil and toothpaste.

    Some of what Rankin is sending was purchased at Zellers: A Sunbeam MixMaster, bearing a red wrap with Zellers stamped on it, sits on the floor of her tiny apartment, waiting to be packed.

    Rankin worked 28 hours a week at Zellers and when she left she was earning $11.97 an hour. She kept a second job to make ends meet. She worked in security for eight years. She works part-time for the UFCW.

    Now, at 50, she’s wondering what’s next. Should she apply for another retail job? Should she go back to school? She knows she loves helping people any way she can.

    “It doesn’t have to be this way,” says Kendra Coulter, a professor at the Centre for Labour Studies at Brock University. “This is a decision that has been made at the corporate level by Target and Zellers and HBC.”

    She blames Stephen Harper’s Conservative government for failing to protect workers.

    “If a very profitable foreign company is going to come into our country to rebrand stores, our citizens deserve respect and some criteria have to be met. They’re not building infrastructure from scratch, they’re not creating an enterprise that didn’t exist, they are rebranding stores,” said Coulter.

    Walmart did it differently in 1994. When the Arkansas-based chain bought the ailing Woolco stores, it took on all 16,000 employees in 122 locations.

    “Even though Woolco had seen better days and was struggling, there was still an enormous amount of talent in that company,” said Andrew Pelletier, vice-president of corporate affairs and sustainability at Walmart Canada.

    Mario Pilozzi, a senior vice-president at Woolco at the time of the takeover, went on to become CEO of Walmart Canada.

    Woolco sales associates were given extensive retraining. They were given a five per cent raise.

    “I think that is one of the reasons Walmart has succeeded in Canada, is because we started with a fantastic team that we re-motivated,” said Pelletier.

    Walmart now has more than 300 locations in Canada.

    Interestingly, Walmart did not apply the same approach this time around when it picked up 39 former Zellers stores from Target.

    “We didn’t automatically hire all of the Zellers employees as we needed to determine the staffing needs for each of these additional stores first, which vary in size and layout. We also needed to determine what merchandise would be carried in each store (food, etc) which varies by store and which affects staffing requirements.

    However, we have been reaching out to the Zellers employees all year and have already hired hundreds of the Zellers employees to work in these stores, including pharmacy associates. Since our hiring for these stores is still underway, we expect the number of Zellers hires will continue to grow,” said Pelletier.

    Of the 220 Zellers leaseholds originally purchased in 2011, Target kept 189. It transferred 45 of the 189 to other retailers, including 39 to Walmart. In July, HBC announced that it would be closing its remaining 85 stores.

    There were 273 Zellers locations in Canada before the deals were made, each location employing between 100 and 150 people. About 15 Zellers stores were unionized.

    That means at least 27,300 people across Canada lost their jobs as a result of the transactions.

    “The simple fact is that Target did not buy the Zellers business and as such there was no transfer of merchandise, systems or employees,” Target Canada spokesperson Lisa Gibson said.

    “Target wants to deliver the best guest service possible. To accomplish that goal, we need the flexibility to interview all interested candidates so we can select the best, guest-service focused team members.

    “Target has already hired a number of former Zellers/HBC employees and is guaranteeing an interview to all Zellers employees who apply for a position for the 2013 store opening cycle.”

    Elizabeth Foley, 47, worked at Zellers for 14 years, down to the last days.

    “They sold everything that wasn’t nailed down and I helped them,” says Foley, a single mother of two teenagers.

    This week, Foley received notice that the owners of the house she rents in Windsor want her to leave so they can occupy it themselves.

    Her hope is that she will qualify for job retraining under an employment insurance program so she can work in a payroll department somewhere.

    Representatives for HBC declined to discuss how the Zellers employees were dealt with.

    “Zellers Associates are receiving a greater amount of notice (or pay in lieu) than the provincial employment standards legislation. Zellers is also providing the affected Associates with career training and transition support services to assist them in finding employment opportunities. Zellers is committed to treating our Associates fairly throughout this transition,” HBC spokesperson Tiffany Bourré wrote in response to questions from the Star.

    Foley says the only career training and transition support she got from HBC was access to a website focused on how to write a resumé.

    “That was their retraining program,” she said.

    Foley and Rankin said Zellers employees with 20 years of service and more received an extra 20 per cent in severance and those with 25 years or more received an extra 25 per cent.

    Mike Moffat, an assistant professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business, says HBC could have negotiated a better deal for Zellers employees.

    “Target’s argument is logically sound. It is, from a legal point of view, absolutely correct. Do they have some additional ethical obligations? I think that there was an opportunity here for Target to go above and beyond their legal responsibility.”

    Moffat says corporations act in this fashion because they can.

    “At the end of the day most of us do our shopping based on price and convenience. We don’t take the time to think: How does this particular retailer treat employees compared to another retailer? Corporations know that, which gives then a great deal of flexibility to make these moves.”

    The Ratio of CEO Pay to Workers’ Pay October 8, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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    4 comments

    The Democrats Attack Unions Nationwide May 16, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Labor.
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    By shamus cooke
    (about the author)

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    opednews.com

    Obvious political truths are sometimes smothered by special interests. The cover-up of the Democrats’ national anti-union agenda is possible because the truth would cause enormous disturbances for the Democratic Party, some labor leaders, liberal organizations and, consequently, the larger political system.
    Here is the short list of states that have Democratic governors where labor unions are undergoing severe attacks:   Massachusetts  , Connecticut, Oregon, California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Hawaii, Minnesota, Maryland and New Hampshire. Other states with Democratic governors are attacking unions to a lesser degree.
    The Democrats in these states have sought to distance themselves from the Republican governors of Wisconsin and Ohio, who have specifically attacked the collective bargaining rights of unions. The above Democrats all hide their anti-union attacks behind a “deep respect for collective bargaining;” akin to a thief who will steal your car but, out of respect, will not target your deceased Grandma’s diamond earrings.
    For example, the anti-union Democratic governor of Connecticut is demanding $1.6 billion in cuts from state workers! The contract has not been ratified yet, but Governor Malloy referred to the agreement as: “historic because of the way we achieved it – we respected the collective bargaining process and we respected each other, negotiating in good faith, without fireworks and without anger.”
    The anti-union Democratic governor of the state of Washington uses similar language:
    “They [labor unions] contributed [to fixing the state budget deficit] with a salary cut; they contributed by paying more in health care. They have stepped up and said we want to be a part of the solution. I did it by going to the table, respecting their collective bargaining rights and we got the job done.”
    The anti-union Democratic governor of Oregon is demanding 20 to 25 percent pay cut for state workers:
    “But [says the Governor] those concessions will be made across a bargaining table through our collective bargaining process and with mutual respect.”
    This garbage normally wouldn’t fool a 4th grader, but some labor leaders are playing dumb, in the hopes that the above attacks will not ruin the long-standing friendship between unions and Democrats. Of course, such hopes are founded on illusion: workers are not so blind as to not notice that the governors they campaigned for are now demanding their wages and benefits be destroyed in an unprecedented attack.
    But by minimizing the Democrats role in targeting unions, some labor leaders are disarming the labor movement. On the one hand, labor leaders of both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations have drawn some correct conclusions from the events in Wisconsin, especially when they say that “labor is in the fight of its life” and “the corporations are out to bust unions.” On the other hand, both union federations have made excuses for the anti-union Democratic Party, enabling labor to be vulnerable on its “left” flank to the anti-union attack.
    The fight against massive cuts in wages and benefits cannot be separated from the attack on collective bargaining; they are two sides of the same coin. Workers only care about collective bargaining because it enables them to improve their wages and benefits. A union that agrees to massive cuts in wages will not remain a union for long, since workers will not want to pay dues to an organization that cannot protect them. Concessionary bargaining destroys the power of a union in the same way that cancer destroys the body; pulling the plug [ending collective bargaining] comes after losing a battle with cancer.
    Fighting the concessionary cancer is the essence of the problem. This is the real lesson of Wisconsin: workers want to fight back against the nationwide attack against their livelihoods, whether it be wages and benefits or collective bargaining. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win realize this to a certain degree; they are separately creating campaigns to deal with the attack, with SEIU jumping out in front with its Fight for a Fair Economy.
    These union campaigns are doomed to fail if the energy generated by them is funneled into the 2012 campaign for Barack Obama.
    Any successful union campaign will require that massive resources and energy be used, since the attack workers are facing is colossal. If workers are told to halt their campaigns to door knock and make phone calls for Obama, the campaign will lose all legitimacy, since Obama has established himself as a friend of Wall Street and thus no friend to workers. Voting for Democrats has a demoralizing effect on workers when the inevitable “betrayal” happens; and demoralized union members will not fight as effectively for their own pro-union campaign.
    A successful union campaign will require that workers are energized about it. SEIU’s campaign focuses largely on making more connections with other labor and community groups, which is very positive. However, without waging an energetic battle to prevent state workers from making massive concessions, the campaign will fail, because workers who make massive concessions will be demoralized and not take the union campaign seriously, since it failed to address their most pressing needs. The fight to defend state workers has the potential — as Wisconsin proved — to unleash tremendous fighting energy among workers, while also uniting those in the broader community, who are eager for working people to fight back.
    If labor unions continue down their current path of making huge concessions in wages and benefits while making excuses for the Democrats attacking them, the movement will wither and die.
    If, on the contrary, labor unions demand that state budget deficits be fixed by taxing the rich and corporations, workers would respond enthusiastically; if public-sector unions demanded No Cuts, No Concessions, workers would energetically join the union’s cause; if unions banded together to demand that a national jobs campaign be created by taxing the top 1 percent, a flood of energy would erupt from working people in general; if, during election time, unions joined together to run their own independent candidates with these demands, an unstoppable movement would quickly emerge.
    Without using aggressive demands aimed at solving the immediate problems facing working people, a social movement cannot be created to deal with the crisis facing labor unions and working people in general.    ONLY a national social movement with Wisconsin-like energy has the potential to shift the direction in which the country is going, away from the rich and corporations towards working people. Such a social movement cannot be born from soft demands, half-fought battles, or campaigning for Democrats.

    Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for  Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)

    1) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/nyregion/connecticut-reaches-deal-with-unions-to-close-budget-shortfall.html?_r=2&hp

    2) http://www.npr.org/2011/02/27/134103416/Governors-Meet-As-Pro-Union-Protests-Spread

    3) http://www.katu.com/news/local/117565323.html

    How the McEconomy Bombed the American Worker May 9, 2011

    Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Labor.
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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    www.tomdispatch.com, May 8, 2011

    While President Obama has seen a sizeable jump in his approval ratings in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, scratch beneath the surface of those polls and you’ll find another story entirely.  Check out his figures when it comes to the economy, and there, Osama bin Laden and all those “USA! USA!” chanting crowds aside, his approval rating just hit a new low.

    Killing bin Laden, Libya’s Gaddafi, and Iran’s Ahmedinejad, for that matter, isn’t likely to win an election for an American president these days. As in Bill Clinton’s famed 1992 election campaign against George H.W. Bush (who also garnered headlines for foreign policy “successes”), the mantra is still: “It’s the economy, stupid.”  The job market (or lack of it), rising food and gas prices, a housing market that remains in a state of collapse — you know the story.  Right now, it looks as if someone had flown a hijacked plane directly into the economy. For example, among young people, a key Obama demographic, more than four million Americans ages 16 to 24 are out of work

    And if you think that the usual numbers are dismal, just wait until you dig under them with TomDispatch Associate Editor Andy Kroll and consider the way the American economy and its workers are being Third-World-ized.  This remains a wealthy country with significant resources, which makes it all the eerier that it’s beginning to feel as if the phrase “banana republic” might one of these days apply.  (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Kroll discusses what grim news lurks under the monthly unemployment figures, click here, or download it to your iPod here.)  Tom

    How the McEconomy Bombed the American Worker
    The Hollowing Out of the Middle Class

    By Andy Kroll

    Think of it as a parable for these grim economic times. On April 19th, McDonald’s launched its first-ever national hiring day, signing up 62,000 new workers at stores throughout the country. For some context, that’s more jobs created by one company in a single day than the net job creation of the entire U.S. economy in 2009. And if that boggles the mind, consider how many workers applied to local McDonald’s franchises that day and left empty-handed: 938,000 of them. With a 6.2% acceptance rate in its spring hiring blitz, McDonald’s was more selective than the Princeton, Stanford, or Yale University admission offices.

    It shouldn’t be surprising that a million souls flocked to McDonald’s hoping for a steady paycheck, when nearly 14 million Americans are out of work and nearly a million more are too discouraged even to look for a job. At this point, it apparently made no difference to them that the fast-food industry pays some of the lowest wages around: on average, $8.89 an hour, or barely half the $15.95 hourly average across all American industries.

    On an annual basis, the average fast-food worker takes home $20,800, less than half the national average of $43,400. McDonald’s appears to pay even worse, at least with its newest hires. In the press release for its national hiring day, the multi-billion-dollar company said it would spend $518 million on the newest round of hires, or $8,354 a head. Hence the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of “McJob” as “a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement.”

    Of course, if you read only the headlines, you might think that the jobs picture was improving. The economy added 1.3 million private-sector jobs between February 2010 and January 2011, and the headline unemployment rate edged downward, from 9.8% to 8.8%, between November of last year and March. It inched upward in April, to 9%, but tempering that increase was the news that the economy added 244,000 jobs last month (not including those 62,000 McJobs), beating economists’ expectations.

    Under this somewhat sunnier news, however, runs a far darker undercurrent. Yes, jobs are being created, but what kinds of jobs paying what kinds of wages?  Can those jobs sustain a modest lifestyle and pay the bills? Or are we living through a McJobs recovery?

    The Rise of the McWorker

    The evidence points to the latter. According to a recent analysis by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the biggest growth in private-sector job creation in the past year occurred in positions in the low-wage retail, administrative, and food service sectors of the economy. While 23% of the jobs lost in the Great Recession that followed the economic meltdown of 2008 were “low-wage” (those paying $9-$13 an hour), 49% of new jobs added in the sluggish “recovery” are in those same low-wage industries. On the other end of the spectrum, 40% of the jobs lost paid high wages ($19-$31 an hour), while a mere 14% of new jobs pay similarly high wages.

    As a point of comparison, that’s much worse than in the recession of 2001 after the high-tech bubble burst.  Then, higher wage jobs made up almost a third of all new jobs in the first year after the crisis.

    The hardest hit industries in terms of employment now are finance, manufacturing, and especially construction, which was decimated when the housing bubble burst in 2007 and has yet to recover. Meanwhile, NELP found that hiring for temporary administrative and waste-management jobs, health-care jobs, and of course those fast-food restaurants has surged.

    Indeed in 2010, one in four jobs added by private employers was a temporary job, which usually provides workers with few benefits and even less job security. It’s not surprising that employers would first rely on temporary hires as they regained their footing after a colossal financial crisis. But this time around, companies have taken on temp workers in far greater numbers than after previous downturns.  Where 26% of hires in 2010 were temporary, the figure was 11% after the early-1990s recession and only 7% after the downturn of 2001.

    As many labor economists have begun to point out, we’re witnessing an increasing polarization of the U.S. economy over the past three decades. More and more, we’re seeing labor growth largely at opposite ends of the skills-and-wages spectrum — among, that is, the best and the worst kinds of jobs.

    At one end of job growth, you have increasing numbers of people flipping burgers, answering telephones, engaged in child care, mopping hallways, and in other low-wage lines of work. At the other end, you have increasing numbers of engineers, doctors, lawyers, and people in high-wage “creative” careers. What’s disappearing is the middle, the decent-paying jobs that helped expand the American middle class in the mid-twentieth century and that, if the present lopsided recovery is any indication, are now going the way of typewriters and landline telephones.

    Because the shape of the workforce increasingly looks fat on both ends and thin in the middle, economists have begun to speak of “the barbell effect,” which for those clinging to a middle-class existence in bad times means a nightmare life.  For one thing, the shape of the workforce now hinders America’s once vaunted upward mobility.  It’s the downhill slope that’s largely available these days.

    The barbell effect has also created staggering levels of income inequality of a sort not known since the decades before the Great Depression. From 1979 to 2007, for the middle class, average household income (after taxes) nudged upward from $44,100 to $55,300; by contrast, for the top 1%, average household income soared from $346,600 in 1979 to nearly $1.3 million in 2007. That is, super-rich families saw their earnings increase 11 times faster than middle-class families.

    What’s causing this polarization? An obvious culprit is technology. As MIT economist David Autor notes, the tasks of “organizing, storing, retrieving, and manipulating information” that humans once performed are now computerized. And when computers can’t handle more basic clerical work, employers ship those jobs overseas where labor is cheaper and benefits nonexistent.

    Another factor is education. In today’s barbell economy, degrees and diplomas have never mattered more, which means that those with just a high school education increasingly find themselves locked into the low-wage end of the labor market with little hope for better. Worse yet, the pay gap between the well-educated and not-so-educated continues to widen: in 1979, the hourly wage of a typical college graduate was 1.5 times higher than that of a typical high-school graduate; by 2009, it was almost two times higher.

    Considering, then, that the percentage of men ages 25 to 34 who have gone to college is actually decreasing, it’s not surprising that wage inequality has gotten worse in the U.S. As Autor writes, advanced economies like ours “depend on their best-educated workers to develop and commercialize the innovative ideas that drive economic growth.”

    The distorting effects of the barbell economy aren’t lost on ordinary Americans. In a recent Gallup poll, a majority of people agreed that the country was still in either a depression (29%) or a recession (26%).  When sorted out by income, however, those making $75,000 or more a year are, not surprisingly, most likely to believe the economy is in neither a recession nor a depression, but growing.  After all, they’re the ones most likely to have benefited from a soaring stock market and the return to profitability of both corporate America and Wall Street. In Gallup’s middle-income group, by contrast, 55% of respondents claim the economy is in trouble. They’re still waiting for their recovery to arrive.

    The Slow Fade of Big Labor

    The big-picture economic changes described by Autor and others, however, don’t tell the entire story. There’s a significant political component to the hollowing out of the American labor force and the impoverishment of the middle class: the slow fade of organized labor. Since the 1950s, the clout of unions in the public and private sectors has waned, their membership has dwindled, and their political influence has weakened considerably. Long gone are the days when powerful union bosses — the AFL-CIO’s George Meany or the UAW’s Walter Reuther — had the ear of just about any president.

    As Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum has written, in the 1960s and 1970s a rift developed between big labor and the Democratic Party. Unions recoiled in disgust at what they perceived to be the “motley collection of shaggy kids, newly assertive women, and goo-goo academics” who had begun to supplant organized labor in the Party. In 1972, the influential AFL-CIO symbolically distanced itself from the Democrats by refusing to endorse their nominee for president, George McGovern.

    All the while, big business was mobilizing, banding together to form massive advocacy groups such as the Business Roundtable and shaping the staid U.S. Chamber of Commerce into a ferocious lobbying machine. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Democratic Party drifted rightward and toward an increasingly powerful and financially focused business community, creating the Democratic Leadership Council, an olive branch of sorts to corporate America. “It’s not that the working class [had] abandoned Democrats,” Drum wrote. “It’s just the opposite: The Democratic Party [had] largely abandoned the working class.”

    The GOP, of course, has a long history of battling organized labor, and nowhere has that been clearer than in the party’s recent assault on workers’ rights. Swept in by a tide of Republican support in 2010, new GOP majorities in state legislatures from Wisconsin to Tennessee to New Hampshire have introduced bills meant to roll back decades’ worth of collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions, the last bastion of organized labor still standing (somewhat) strong.

    The political calculus behind the war on public-sector unions is obvious: kneecap them and you knock out a major pillar of support for the Democratic Party.  In the 2010 midterm elections, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) spent nearly $90 million on TV ads, phone banking, mailings, and other support for Democratic candidates. The anti-union legislation being pushed by Republicans would inflict serious damage on AFSCME and other public-sector unions by making it harder for them to retain members and weakening their clout at the bargaining table.

    And as shown by the latest state to join the anti-union fray, it’s not just Republicans chipping away at workers’ rights anymore. In Massachusetts, a staunchly liberal state, the Democratic-led State Assembly recently voted to curb collective bargaining rights on heath-care benefits for teachers, firefighters, and a host of other public-sector employees.

    Bargaining-table clout is crucial for unions, since it directly affects the wages their members take home every month. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers pocket on average $200 more per week than their non-union counterparts, a 28% percent difference. The benefits of union representation are even greater for women and people of color: women in unions make 34% more than their non-unionized counterparts, and Latino workers nearly 51% more.

    In other words, at precisely the moment when middle-class workers need strong bargaining rights so they can fight to preserve a living wage in a barbell economy, unions around the country face the grim prospect of losing those rights.

    All of which raises the questions: Is there any way to revive the American middle class and reshape income distribution in our barbell nation?  Or will this warped recovery of ours pave the way for an even more warped McEconomy, with the have-nots at one end, the have-it-alls at the other end, and increasingly less of us in between?

    Andy Kroll is a reporter in the D.C. bureau of Mother Jones magazine and an associate editor at TomDispatch. The son of two teachers, he grew up in a firmly — and happily — middle-class household. His email is andykroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Kroll discusses what grim news lurks under the monthly unemployment figures, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

    Copyright 2011 Andy Kroll

    Hundreds of Union Janitors Fired Under Pressure From Feds May 7, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in California, Economic Crisis, Immigration, Labor, Racism.
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    Friday 07 May 2010

    by: David Bacon, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

    photo
    (Photo: © David Bacon)

    San Francisco, California – Federal immigration authorities have pressured one of San Francisco’s major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers. Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future.

    ABM has been a union company for decades, and many of the workers have been there for years. “They’ve been working in the buildings downtown for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years,” said Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees Local 87. “They’ve built homes. They’ve provided for their families. They’ve sent their kids to college. They’re not new workers. They didn’t just get here a year ago.”

    Nevertheless, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security has told ABM that they have flagged the personnel records of those workers. Weeks ago, ICE agents sifted through Social Security records and the I-9 immigration forms all workers have to fill out when they apply for jobs. They then told ABM that the company had to fire 475 workers who were accused of lacking legal immigration status.

    ABM is one of the largest building service companies in the country, and it appears that union janitorial companies are the targets of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement program. “Homeland Security is going after employers that are union,” Miranda charged. “They’re going after employers that give benefits and are paying above the average.”

    Last October, 1,200 janitors working for ABM were fired in similar circumstances in Minneapolis. In November, over 100 janitors working for Seattle Building Maintenance lost their jobs. Minneapolis janitors belong to SEIU Local 26, Seattle janitors to Local 6 and San Francisco janitors to Local 87.

    President Obama said sanctions enforcement targets employers “who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages – and oftentimes mistreat those workers.” An ICE Worksite Enforcement Advisory claimed, “unscrupulous employers are likely to pay illegal workers substandard wages or force them to endure intolerable working conditions.”

    Curing intolerable conditions by firing or deporting workers who endure them doesn’t help the workers or change the conditions, however. And despite Obama’s contention that sanctions enforcement will punish those employers who exploit immigrants, employers are rewarded for cooperating with ICE by being immunized from prosecution. Javier Murillo, president of SEIU Local 26, said, “The promise made during the audit is that if the company cooperates and complies, they won’t be fined. So this kind of enforcement really only hurts workers.”

    ICE Director John Morton said the agency is auditing the records of 1,654 companies nationwide. “What kind of economic recovery goes with firing thousands of workers?” Miranda asked. “Why don’t they target employers who are not paying taxes, who are not obeying safety or labor laws?”

    The San Francisco janitors are now faced with an agonizing dilemma. Should they turn themselves in to Homeland Security, which might charge them with providing a bad Social Security number to their employer, and even hold them for deportation? For workers with families, homes and deep roots in a community, it’s not possible to just walk away and disappear. “I have a lot of members who are single mothers whose children were born here,” Miranda said. “I have a member whose child has leukemia. What are they supposed to do? Leave their children here and go back to Mexico and wait? And wait for what?”

    Miranda’s question reflects not just the dilemma facing individual workers, but of 12 million undocumented people living in the United States. Since 2005, successive congress members, senators and administrations have dangled the prospect of gaining legal status in front of those who lack it. In exchange, their various schemes for immigration reform have proposed huge new guest worker programs, and a big increase in exactly the kind of enforcement now directed at 475 San Francisco janitors.

    While the potential criminalization of undocumented people in Arizona continues to draw headlines, the actual punishment of workers because of their immigration status has become an increasingly bitter fact of life across the country.

    President Obama, condemning Arizona’s law that would make being undocumented a state crime, said it would “undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.” But then he announced his support for legislation with guest worker programs and increased enforcement.

    The country is no closer to legalization of the undocumented than it was ten years ago. But the enforcement provisions of the comprehensive immigration reform bills debated in Congress over the last five years have already been implemented on the ground. The Bush administration conducted a high-profile series of raids in which it sent heavily-armed agents into meatpacking plants and factories, held workers for deportation and sent hundreds to federal prison for using bad Social Security numbers.

    After Barack Obama was elected president, immigration authorities said they’d follow a softer policy, using an electronic system to find undocumented people in workplaces. People working with bad Social Security numbers would be fired.

    Ironically the Bush administration proposed a regulation that would have required employers to fire any worker who provided an employer with a Social Security number that didn’t match the SSA database. That regulation was then stopped in court by unions, the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center. The Obama administration, however, is implementing what amounts to the same requirement, with the same consequence of thousands of fired workers.

    Union leaders like Miranda see a conflict between the rhetoric used by the president and other Washington, DC, politicians and lobbyists in condemning the Arizona law, and the immigration proposals they make in Congress. “There’s a huge contradiction here,” she said. “You can’t tell one state that what they’re doing is criminalizing people, and at the same time go after employers paying more than a living wage and the workers who have fought for that wage.”

    Renee Saucedo, attorney for La Raza Centro Legal and former director of the San Francisco Day Labor Program, is even more critical. “Those bills in Congress, which are presented as ones that will help some people get legal status, will actually make things much worse,” she charged. “We’ll see many more firings like the janitors here, and more punishments for people who are just working and trying to support their families.”

    Increasingly, however, the Washington proposals have even less promise of legalization, and more emphasis on punishment. The newest Democratic Party scheme virtually abandons the legalization program promised by the “bipartisan” Schumer/Graham proposal, saying that heavy enforcement at the border and in the workplace must come before any consideration of giving 12 million people legal status.

    “We have to look at the whole picture,” Saucedo urged. “So long as we have trade agreements like NAFTA that create poverty in countries like Mexico, people will continue to come here, no matter how many walls we build. Instead of turning people into guest workers, as these bills in Washington would do, while firing and even jailing those who don’t have papers, we need to help people get legal status, and repeal the laws that are making work a crime.” 

    Unions Bash Democrats, Warn of Political Fallout February 14, 2010

    Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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    (Roger’s note:  this article illustrates the farce of the two party system or our so-called democracy.  Trade unionists who poured money and labor into the election of Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress are no seeing themselves betrayed by the President and the Congress.  They are therefore threatening to sit out the midterm elections as a way of punishing the Democrats.  But, as happened in Massachusetts, this will only benefit the Republicans, who are virulently anti-labor.  Question: are we forever to be faced with choosing between the “lesser of evils, which is no more in reality than a Hobson’s choice?  My way or the highway.

     

    I learned my lesson in 1964 when I worked my butt off to elect Lyndon Johnson to the presidency only to see him escalate the War in Vietnam.  I had a relapse in 2004 and 2008 when faced with the re-election of Bush and the candidacy of John McCain; I panicked and voted for Kerry and Obama.  

     

    Obama is demonstrating what I already should have known, that the Democratic Party is twiddle dee to the Republican’s twiddle dum.  Of course there are marginal differences, but when it comes to the fundamental issues of war and peace and the economy, they are identical twins.)

    Published on Thursday, February 11, 2010 by Politico.comby James Hohmann

    Labor groups are furious with the Democrats they helped put in office – and are threatening to stay home this fall when Democratic incumbents will need their help fending off Republican challengers. 

    [Labor groups furious at Democrats such as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) are threatening to stay home during this fall's midterm elections.  (Photo: AP photo composite by POLITICO) ]
    Labor groups furious at Democrats such as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) are threatening to stay home during this fall’s midterm elections. (Photo: AP photo composite by POLITICO)

    The Senate’s failure to confirm labor lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board was just the latest blow, but the frustrations have been building for months.  

    “Here’s labor getting thrown under the bus again,” said John Gage, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 600,000 workers. “It’s really frustrating for labor, and a lot of union people are thinking: We put out big time in money and volunteers and support. And it seems like the little things that could have been aren’t being done.” 

    The 52-33 vote on Becker – who needed 60 to be confirmed – really set labor unions on edge, but the list of setbacks is growing. 

    The so-called “card check” bill that would make it easier to unionize employees has gone nowhere. A pro-union Transportation Security Administration nominee quit before he even got a confirmation vote. And even though unions got a sweetheart deal to keep their health plans tax-free under the Senate health care bill, that bill has collapsed, leaving unions exposed again. 

    Union leaders warn that the Democrats’ lackluster performance in power is sapping the morale of activists going into the midterm elections. 

    “Right now if we don’t get positive changes to the agenda, we’re going to have a hard time getting members out to work,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, in an interview. 

    “There’s no use pretending any longer.” 

    The biggest threat, of course, is apathy from a Democratic constituency that has a history of mobilizing for elections. 

    “You’re just not going to be able to go to our membership in the November elections and say, ‘Come on, let’s do it again. Look at what the Democratic administration has done for us!'” Gage said. “People are going to say, ‘Huh? What have the Democrats done for us?'” 

    Kim Freeman Brown, the executive director of a D.C.-based nonprofit called American Rights at Work, acknowledged “frustration” with the lack of movement. 

    “I implore Congress to listen to the voice of their constituents who want change, and so far we haven’t delivered good enough on that promise,” she said. “To the degree that we don’t address these real bread-and-butter issues, we will have failed America’s workers.” 

    Gage warned that Democrats will struggle to energize blue-collar voters if they don’t score a few victories soon. Union leaders say they will closely watch as a new “jobs bill” emerges to see if it includes more labor-friendly provisions or tax cuts for small businesses. 

    When you talk to labor officials these days, much of their animus is directed at Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who helped filibuster Becker’s confirmation

    “Ben Nelson has got principles until you buy him off,” Gerard said. 

    A group affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, called Change That Works, had defended Nelson’s support for an unpopular health care reform bill in his home state.

    But the Nebraska director of that group, Jane Kleeb, now criticizes Nelson for not allowing the Becker nomination to come to the floor for an up-or-down vote. And Bill Samuel, legislative director for the AFL-CIO, accused Nelson of following a “double standard” since he had argued that the nominees of then-President George W. Bush should get up-or-down votes.

    Another AFL-CIO spokesman, Eddie Vale, pinpointed Nelson, saying he had “let down” working families. Nelson said Becker’s stance on labor issues made him worry whether he would be “impartial” in making NLRB decisions.

    But labor unions can’t pin all their blame on Nelson. The failure of a wide range of union priorities has been deflating for the labor movement, which seemed destined to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Barack Obama’s presidency.

    And with unemployment hovering around 10 percent, special treatment for unions has only served to harm the movement.

    On health care, unions found themselves in a defensive posture. They worked in early January to carve out an exception from an excise tax on so-called Cadillac insurance policies, only to see the package fall apart, with recriminations about just the kind of back-room deal making they had engaged in.

    Obama said he would push for greater unionization at the Transportation Security Administration, but it hasn’t happened. Obama has pushed for education programs that have long been unpopular with teachers’ unions. And then, in his State of the Union address, the president called for Congress to strengthen trade relationships with South Korea, Panama and Columbia.

    The support for those trade agreements irked Gerard, the leader of the steelworkers union, who praises Speaker Nancy Pelosi but blames the upper chamber.

    “Our problem is the Senate,” Gerard said. “The only thing they can pass is the washroom. I don’t want to tar Democrats. Not all Democrats in the Senate are problems.”

    The situation in the Senate became more frustrating when Democrats lost their 60-seat supermajority with the election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown.

    Brown’s first significant vote was a “no” on Becker.

    “I think you see how working people feel by how they voted in Massachusetts,” Gerard said. “In Massachusetts, it wasn’t an anger that the government had done too much. It was an anger that there hadn’t been enough change.”

    Democrats are now scrambling to shore up support for labor unions, but they don’t seem to have a game plan for more union-friendly legislation in advance of the midterm elections.

    But Katie Packer, executive director of the anti-card-check Workforce Fairness Institute, said labor groups would have achieved a lot more if they hadn’t overreached.

    “I’m from Detroit, so the concept of labor overreach is not lost on me,” she said. “What we’ve seen more than anything is an attempt by big labor is to be especially greedy and grab for things that weren’t achievable.”

    Manu Raju contributed to this report.

    © 2010 Politico.com

    The Man Who Wouldn’t Die November 19, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in History, Labor, Uncategorized.
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    Today marks the 94th anniversary of labor hero Joe Hill’s death by firing squad. (Photo: david_axe / flickr)

    http://www.truthout.org

    Thursday 19 November 2009

    by: Dick Meister, t r u t h o u t | Report
    It’s November 19, 1915, in a courtyard of the Utah State Penitentiary in Salt Lake City. Five riflemen take careful aim at a condemned organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Joe Hill, who stands before them straight and stiff and proud.

    “Fire!” he shouts defiantly.

    The firing squad didn’t miss. But Joe Hill, as the folk ballad says, “ain’t never died.” On this 94th anniversary, he lives on as one of the most enduring and influential of American symbols.

    Joe Hill’s story is that of a labor martyr framed for murder by viciously anti-labor employer and government forces, a man who never faltered in fighting for the rights of the oppressed, who never faltered in his attempts to bring them together for the collective action essential if they were to overcome their wealthy and powerful oppressors.

    His is the story of a man and an organization destroyed by government opposition, yet immensely successful. As historian Joyce Kornbluh noted, the IWW made “an indelible mark on the American labor movement and American society,” laying the groundwork for mass unionization, inspiring the formation of groups to protect the civil liberties of dissidents, prompting prison and farm labor reforms, and leaving behind “a genuine heritage … industrial democracy.”

    Joe Hill’s story is the story of, perhaps, the greatest of all folk poets, whose simple, satirical rhymes set to simple, familiar melodies did so much to focus working people on the common body of ideals needed to forge them into a collective force.

    Remember? “You will eat, bye and bye/In that glorious land above the sky/Work and Pray, live on hay/You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”

    Ralph Chaplain, the IWW bard who wrote “Solidarity Forever,” found Hill’s songs “as coarse as homespun and as fine as silk; full of laughter and keen-edged satire; full of fine rage and finer tenderness; songs of and for the worker, written in the only language he can understand.”

    Joe Hill’s story is the story of a man who saw with unusual clarity the unjust effects of the political, social and economic system on working people and whose own widely publicized trial and execution alerted people worldwide to the injustices and spurred them into corrective action.

    It’s the story of a man who told his IWW comrades, just before stepping in front of the firing squad: “Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize!”

    Hill’s comrades aimed at nothing less than organizing all workers into One Big Union regardless of their race, nationality, craft or work skills, calling a general strike and wresting control of the economy from its capitalist masters. The revolutionary message was presented in the simple language of the workplace, in the songs of Hill, Chaplain, and others, in the street corner oratory and in a tremendous outpouring of publications, including a dozen foreign-language newspapers, which were distributed among the many unskilled immigrants from European nations where unions had similar goals.

    Workers were told again and again that they all had the same problems, the same needs and faced the same enemy. It was they who did the work, while others got the profit; they were members, all of them, of the working class. To aspire to middle-class status, as the established labor movement advocated, would mean competing against their fellow workers and chaining themselves to a system that enslaved them.

    Organized religion also was a tool of enslavement, to keep the worker’s eye on that “pie in the sky” while he was being exploited in this world. Patriotism was a ruse to set the workers of one nation against those of another for the profit of capitalist manipulators.

    IWW organizers carried the message to factories, mines, mills and lumber camps throughout the country, and to farms in the Midwest and California.

    The cause of radical unionism to which Joe Hill devoted his life was lost a long time ago. The call to revolution is scarcely heard in today’s clamorously capitalist society. Labor organizations seek not to seize control of the means of production, but rather to share in the fruits of an economic system controlled by others. Yet, Joe Hill’s fiery words and fiery deeds, his courage and his sacrifices continue to inspire political, labor, civil rights and civil liberties activists.

    They still sing his songs, striking workers, dissident students, and others, on picket lines, in demonstrations, at rallies, on the streets and in auditoriums. They echo his spirit of protest and militancy, his demand for true equality, share his fervent belief in solidarity, even use tactics first employed by Hill and his comrades.

    Hill emigrated to the United States from his native Sweden in 1902, changing his name from Joel Haaglund, working as a seaman and as an itinerant wheat harvester, pipe layer, copper miner, and at other jobs as he made his way across the country to San Diego, translating into compelling lyrics the hopes and desires, the frustrations and discontents of his fellow workers.

    In San Diego, Hill joined in one of the first of the many “free speech fights” waged by the Industrial Workers of the World against attempts by municipal authorities around the country to silence the street corner oratory that was a key part of the IWW’s organizing strategy.

    Not long afterward, Hill hopped a freight for Salt Lake City where he helped lead a successful construction workers’ strike and began helping organize another free speech fight. But within a month, he was arrested on charges of shooting to death a grocer and his son and was immediately branded guilty by the local newspapers and authorities alike. Ultimately, Hill was convicted on only the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence.

    Hill had staggered into a doctor’s office within an hour after the shootings, bleeding from a chest wound that he said had stemmed from a quarrel over a woman. The prosecutor argued that the wound was inflicted by the grocer in response to an attack by Hill, although he did not introduce into evidence either the grocer’s gun or the bullet that allegedly was fired from it. He did not introduce the gun that Hill allegedly used and did not call a single witness who could positively identify Hill as the killer. But he easily convinced the jury that the murders were an example of IWW terrorism and that since Hill was an IWW leader and had been arrested and charged with the crime, he was guilty.

    As Hill’s futile appeals made their way through the courts, Gov. William Spry of Utah was swamped with thousands of petitions and letters from all over the world asking for a pardon or commutation. But he would not even be swayed by the pleas for mercy from the Swedish ambassador. Not even by the pleas of US President Woodrow Wilson.

    The governor paid much greater attention to the views of Utah’s powerful Mormon Church leaders and powerful employer interests, particularly those who controlled the state’s dominant copper mining industry. They insisted that the man they considered one of the most dangerous radicals in the country be put to death.

    Joe Hill’s body was shipped to Chicago, where it was cremated after a hero’s funeral, the ashes divided up and sent to IWW locals for scattering on the winds in every state except Utah. Hill, with typical grim humor, had declared, “I don’t want to be caught dead in Utah.”

    Even in death, Hill was not safe from the government. One packet of his ashes, sent belatedly to an IWW organizer in 1917 for scattering in Chicago, was seized by postal inspectors. They acted under the Espionage Act, passed after the United States entered World War I that year, which made it illegal to mail any material that advocated “treason, insurrection. or forcible resistance to any law of the United States.”

    The envelope, containing about a tablespoon of Hill’s ashes, was sent to the National Archives in Washington, DC. It remained hidden there until 1988, when it was discovered and turned over in Chicago to the men who presided over what little remained of the Industrial Workers of the World, shrunken to only a few hundred members.

    The post office apparently had objected to the caption beneath a photo of Hill on the front of the envelope. “Joe Hill,” it said – “murdered by the capitalist class, November 19, 1915.”

    Worker Solidarity, the Toronto City Workers Strike, and Words to Remember July 18, 2009

    Posted by rogerhollander in A: Roger's Original Essays, About Workers, Labor.
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    Every once in a while (not often enough) a statement is made that is so succinct and to the point that it merits being carved in stone.

    First some background.  Locals 79 (inside workers) and 461 (outside workers) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (C.U.P.E.), which represents nearly 25,000 municipal workers at the City of Toronto, are on strike.  The City has provoked the strike by offering substantially lower cost of living increases than have been approved recently for other civic workers (fire, police, library, etc.) and by demanding concessions of previously gained benefits.  The City and the uncritical media have made much of a benefit gained many contracts ago whereby workers can bank unused sick leave and collect a lump sum on retirement (a benefit for which the workers would have made concessions in other areas to achieve).

    Since the City workers collect garbage, run day care centers, approve permits and licences, etc., the strike has had an impact on the daily lives of most residents and is generally held to be unpopular.  Interestingly, it is both the City (mainly its Mayor, David Miller) and the Union that are being held responsible by many.  But the workers have taken the brunt of the hostility.

    The recently elected President of C.U.P.E. Local 416, Mark Ferguson, a veteran paramedic and student of Eastern religion, has received mountains of e-mails ranging from critical to outright hateful (along with some supportive ones).  In response to one of the critics, he wrote the following memorable lines (which are so important that I will put them bold in caps):

    YOUR SENSE OF CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE SERIOUSLY FLAWED.  PERHAPS YOU MIGHT REDIRECT YOUR ANGER TOWARDS THE BANKS, FINANCIERS AND WALL STREET RATHERTHAN CANNIBALIZING GAINS MADE BY OTHER WORKING PEOPLE.  REFRAME YOUR QUESTION FROM “I DON’T HAVE IT SO THEY SHOULDN’T EITHER,” TO “THEY HAVE IT — WHY DONT I?”  IT’S NOT A RACE TO THE BOTTOM, SIR.

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