ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Portraits of Blacks & Labor


Contact  -- Mission -- Nathaniel Turner -- Marcus Bruce Christian -- Guest Poets -- Rudy's Place -- The Old South -- Black Labor -- 

 Film Review -- Books N Review -- Education & History -- Religion & Politics -- Literature & Arts -- Work, Labor & Business -- Music & Musicians

Baltimore Index Page

Educating Our Children

The African World

Editor's Page     Letters

Inside the Caribbean

Digital Links

Home    ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

online through PayPal

Or Send contributions to: ChickenBones: A Journal / 2005 Arabian Drive / Finksburg, MD 21048  Help Save ChickenBones

Blacks and Labor in Print

Ngugi wa Thiong'o Moving the Center: Language, Culture, and Globalization / Happy Birthday Miles - an interview + three performances

Obama to unions: See you later—His labor allies are undermined as the president signs a law that will discourage workers from organizing—15 February 2012—On Tuesday President Obama signed a bill that will make it harder for workers to form a union.  This bill, the FAA Reauthorization Act, passed Congress last week despite an outcry from major unions.  Dozens of House Democrats voted for it, as did most Democratic senators. To appreciate what that means, try to imagine a Republican president and Republican Senate majority leader signing off on a bill with pro-union language despite thundering objections from most big businesses.  Your imagination may not be good enough to picture that, which tells you everything you need to know about the asymmetry between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to labor. The signing of the FAA bill ends a long-running legislative fight.  It began with something President Obama did right: He appointed members to the National Mediation Board who, in 2010, adopted a new rule governing elections for railroad and airline workers seeking to unionize.  salon

Punishing the Poor

The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity

By Loïc Wacquant

The punitive turn of penal policy in the United States after the acme of the Civil Rights movement responds not to rising criminal insecurity but to the social insecurity spawned by the fragmentation of wage labor and the shakeup of the ethnoracial hierarchy. It partakes of a broader reconstruction of the state wedding restrictive “workfare” and expansive “prisonfare” under a philosophy of moral behaviorism. This paternalist program of penalization of poverty aims to curb the urban disorders wrought by economic deregulation and to impose precarious employment on the postindustrial proletariat. It also erects a garish theater of civic morality on whose stage political elites can orchestrate the public vituperation of deviant figures—the teenage “welfare mother,” the ghetto “street thug,” and the roaming “sex predator”—and close the legitimacy deficit they suffer when they discard the established government mission of social and economic protection. . . . Punishing the Poor shows that the prison is not a mere technical implement for law enforcement but a core political institution.

Richard Trumka declares labors independence—By Joan Walsh—The man who shamed Democrats for anti-Obama racism vows to put AFL-CIO cash into its own future, not the party's—In an interview last week [Richard] Trumka seemed unchastened by attacks over the Halter bid, and he pledged the AFL-CIO to a new independence from Democratic Party  organizations and candidates.  He didn't spell out exactly what that might mean, citing decisions to be made by the federation's governing Executive Council. "You'll see us giving less to party structure, and more to our own structure," Trumka promised. . . . Trumka recently launched an "Executive Pay Watch" project, to track the gulf between CEO salaries and the average worker's and hosted economist Joseph Stiglitz, in the wake of his widely read Vanity Fair piece "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%." As we talked, Trumka sketched out graphs showing the way the income gains tied to U.S. productivity increases have gone to the top 10 percent over the last 30 years, and pushed PowerPoints and pie charts across his desk, showing me the way Democrats have become almost as reliant as Republicans on corporate money (Republicans get 79 percent of campaign contributions from business; Democrats get 72 percent, and the share from unions has dropped in half in just the last decade.) Like other labor and progressive leaders, Trumka is trying to figure out how to compete in a war of ideas as well as campaign

Union Leader Retires Frustrated by the Movement’s Troubles

After 38 years as a gung ho trade unionist, Anna Burger is retiring—with unmistakable frustration—from her post as the highest-ranking woman in American labor movement history. . . . Ms. Burger, 59, is frustrated because she has dedicated her adult life to building the labor movement, but it has nonetheless grown smaller and weaker.Ms. Burger had campaigned to succeed Mr. Stern after he announced his retirement in April. Viewing Ms. Burger as too top-down, many S.E.I.U. officials rallied behind a union executive vice president and the eventual winner, Mary Kay Henry. Ms. Burger quit the race, but stayed on as No. 2, although it seemed only a matter of time before she stepped down. NYTimes

Working in the Shadows

A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do

By Gabriel Thompson

Thompson spent a year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. He stooped over lettuce fields in Arizona, and worked the graveyard shift at a chicken slaughterhouse in rural Alabama. . . . Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcement—while telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour. Gabriel Thompson has contributed to New York, The Nation, New York Times, Brooklyn Rail, In These Times and others. He is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award, the Studs Terkel Media Award, and a collective Sidney Hillman Award. His writings are collected at Where The Silence Is .


Don't Let Them Destroy Our Union

 By Frank Hammer

Retired UAW Representative

The United Auto Workers Must fight Back!

Toyota Republicans Should Cut Their Own Pay—31 GOP Senators, mostly from Southern states, voted to avert their eyes and allow American auto companies to die. They opposed $14 billion in federal loans for GM and Chrysler, revealing that their loyalty lies not with America, not even with their own states, but with South Korea and Germany and Japan. They are Toyota Republicans. Toyota has non-union manufacturing plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas — states whose senators led the GOP quest to slay the Big Three American auto manufacturers — Richard Shelby, R-Ala.; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, and John Cornyn, R-Tx. . . . They voted against the interests of their own states as well. Consider what would happen in a few of those Southern States whose senators led the charge against preserving the Big Three. If just GM collapsed, Kentucky would lose 20,000 jobs; Alabama, 21,000; Georgia, 23,000, and Tennessee, 29,400, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute. . . . When those Toyota Republicans voted in favor of providing $700 billion for Wall Street — including both of Tennessee’s senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander; Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell; Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson; South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, and Texas’ Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn — none asked for high-paid white collar workers to take pay cuts or give up their million dollar bonuses.  OurFuture

Is Obama Backing Off a Crucial Pledge to Labor?—While running for office, Obama said he strongly backed the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a long overdue labor law reform measure that should be part of his promised economic stimulus plan. . . . Just as the NLRA did, as a centerpiece of the New Deal, EFCA would encourage collective bargaining to raise workers’ living standards and restore greater balance to labor-management relations. Beginning in the late 1930s, this federal labor policy helped create a vast new post-World War II American middle-class. Now, facing the worst financial crisis since the Depression, the Democrats have an unparalleled opportunity to link labor law reform to their broader economic recovery efforts. CounterPunch

Women Bringing New Strength to Unions

By Dick Meister

Idled workers occupy factory in Chicago— December 6, 2008—Workers who got three days' notice their factory was shutting its doors voted to occupy the building and say they won't go home without assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay they say they are owed. In the second day of a sit-in on the factory floor Saturday, about 200 union workers occupied the building in shifts while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind. About 50 workers sat on pallets and chairs inside the Republic Windows and Doors plant. Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.  ChicagoTribune / LaborExpress

Labor Victory in Chicago—The Bank of America agreed on Thursday to provide a $1.35 million loan to enable Republic Windows and Doors to meet the obligations the company has to its employees under the federal law that requires companies to provide 60 days' advance notice of closings or significant layoffs. Along with $400,000 from another creditor, JPMorgan Chase & Co., the payout to workers will be in the range of $1.75 million. Let's be clear that this is not a today victory. A total victory would have involved a decision to maintain operations on the plant, so that the union members would have been able to keep working. But the workers have gotten what was owed them—roughly $7,000 a piece. And, after so many years of so many stories of workers being denied their due, this result is worthy of note. Amid the cheers of the UE members, Lalo Munoz, who worked at the plant for 24 years, said, "We lost the jobs but we got something." The Nation   NYTimes

Cosatu warns of economic shutdown as South Africans strikers dig in

25 August 2010—“We call on all workers to intensify their action. Every Cosatu-affiliated union must tomorrow submit notice to their employers to embark on a secondary strike,” Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has given the government an ultimatum to agree to public sector unions’ wage demands or face a total shutdown next week. “We call on all workers to intensify their action. Every Cosatu-affiliated union must tomorrow submit notice to their employers to embark on a secondary strike,” Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said yesterday. “So by next Thursday if the current strike is not resolved, the entire economy of SA will be shut down,” he said. Business Day

Democrats Set to Offer Loans for Carmakers— Faced with staggering new unemployment figures, Democratic Congressional leaders said on Friday that they were ready to provide a short-term rescue plan for American automakers, and that they expected to hold a vote on the legislation in a special session next week. Seeking to end a weeks-long stalemate between the Bush administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, senior Congressional aides said that the money would most likely come from $25 billion in federally subsidized loans intended for developing fuel-efficient cars. . . . G.M. is seeking $18 billion in loans, but says it needs $4 billion immediately to survive past the year. Chrysler, which is also running out of cash, wants $7 billion. Ford, the healthiest of the three, is asking for a $9 billion line of credit. NYTimes

From left, Richard Wagoner, chief executive of General Motors, Robert L. Nardelli, chief executive of Chrysler, Alan R. Mulally, chief executive of Ford, and Ron Gettelfinger, head of the United Automobile Workers, during a House hearing on Friday.

When a Job Disappears, So Does the Health Care December 7, 2008— About 10.3 million Americans were unemployed in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of unemployed has increased by 2.8 million, or 36 percent, since January of this year, and by 4.3 million, or 71 percent, since January 2001. . . . . Some parts of the federal safety net are more responsive to economic distress. The number of people on food stamps set a record in September, with 31.6 million people receiving benefits, up by two million in one month. Nearly 4.4 million people are receiving unemployment insurance benefits, an increase of 60 percent in the past year. But more than half of unemployed workers are not receiving help because they do not qualify or have exhausted their benefits. About 1.7 million families receive cash under the main federal-state welfare program, little changed from a year earlier. Welfare serves about 4 of 10 eligible families and fewer than one in four poor children. NYTimes

Meatpacking Industry North Carolina—After an expensive and emotional 15-year organizing battle, workers at the world’s largest hog-killing plant, the Smithfield Packing slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, N.C., have voted to unionize. The United Food and Commercial Workers, which had lost unionization elections at the 5,000-worker plant in 1994 and 1997, announced late Thursday that it had finally won. The victory was significant in a region known for hostility toward organized labor. The vote was one of the biggest private-sector union successes in years, and officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers said it was the largest in that union’s history.The union won by 2,041 votes to 1,879 after two years of turmoil at the plant. As a result of a federal crackdown on illegal immigrants, more than 1,500 Hispanic workers have left the plant. Its work force is now 60 percent black, up from around 20 percent two years ago. . . . The victory may be tied to the political environment. The election of Barack Obama may have eased people’s concerns about speaking out and standing up for a union.” NYTimes

Single Payer Health Care and the Auto Industry

By Bruce Dixon

End of the Road

 If the Auto Industry is Dead What does that Mean for Workers?

By Mark Brenner and Jane Slaughter

Martin Luther King Jr. on Malcolm X  /  NGOs, an extension of US foreign policyBaby Doc Duvalier returns to Haiti  /  After Midnight—Coleman Hawkins

Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics

By Steven J. Ross

In Hollywood Left and Right, Steven J. Ross tells a story that has escaped public attention: the emergence of Hollywood as a vital center of political life and the important role that movie stars have played in shaping the course of American politics. Ever since the film industry relocated to Hollywood early in the twentieth century, it has had an outsized influence on American politics. Through compelling larger-than-life figures in American cinema—Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Edward G. Robinson, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan, Harry Belafonte, Jane Fonda, Charlton Heston, Warren Beatty, and Arnold Schwarzenegger—Hollywood Left and Right reveals how the film industry's engagement in politics has been longer, deeper, and more varied than most people would imagine. As shown in alternating chapters, the Left and the Right each gained ascendancy in Tinseltown at different times. From Chaplin, whose movies almost always displayed his leftist convictions, to Schwarzenegger's nearly seamless transition from action blockbusters to the California governor's mansion, Steven J. Ross traces the intersection of Hollywood and political activism from the early twentieth century to the present. Hollywood Left and Right challenges the commonly held belief that Hollywood has always been a bastion of liberalism.

AFL-CIO Head Says White Workers Need to Look Beyond RaceThe labor movement needs to educate its members that if they care about keeping their jobs, health care, pensions, and creating good jobs, they should support Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill), the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said July 1. . . . Trumka said that "a lot of white folks...a lot of them good union people, just can't get past this idea that there is something wrong with voting for a black man." Trumka received a standing ovation from the 3,000 delegates when he said, "those of us who know better can't afford to look the other way."

The labor movement has a responsibility to challenge "racism" because "we know, better than anyone else, how racism is used to divide working people," he said. Trumka [and the] AFL-CIO June 26 endorsed Obama and said it would launch its biggest ever grassroots mobilization effort to educate working families about Obama and the "anti-worker" polices of his opponent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). . . . Obama has always been on labor's side and has voted with labor 98 percent of the time, Trumka said.BNA


*   *   *   *   *







The Crisis in Organized Labor

As Viewed from the Inside and Out

A Review by Steve Early

Union leader: Racism keeps Obama from building lead—A prominent union leader on Tuesday blamed racism for Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) failure to build a big lead over GOP rival Sen. John McCain.  Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said many workers are considering voting for McCain (R-Ariz.) because of his military service and status as a hero of the Vietnam War. . . . “There are some local union presidents that are afraid — yes, that’s the word, afraid — to hand out literature for Barack Obama,” said McEntee. . . . McEntee said McCain is not a friend of unions and members must campaign for Obama and spread the message of his support for labor. He said unions will be in deep trouble if Obama is defeated for the presidency. TheHill

James Edward Jackson Jr.—born in Richmond, Va., on 29 November 1914, the son of James and Clara Kersey Jackson—died 1 September 2007 in Brooklyn. His father was a pharmacist. The family lived in Jackson Ward, a segregated section for Richmond blacks. In 1931 (at 16), Jackson entered Virginia Union University. He graduated three years later with a degree in chemistry. In 1937 (at 22), Jackson received a degree in pharmacy from Howard University. But in his last year at Howard, he helped start the Southern Negro Youth Congress, which organized strikes by tobacco workers, mostly black women, who were paid $5 a week. A union representing 5,000 tobacco workers soon gained recognition. . . .  Jackson joined the Communist Party in 1947. He held important positions in the Party and was one of 21 Communist Party members who were indicted in 1951, at the height of the McCarthy era, for, among other things, teaching classes on violent revolution. The case was front-page news around the country. In 1952 Jackson became the Southern secretary for the Party and a staunch advocate of civil rights. NYTimes


Henry Nicholas on Social Justice in America 

A Black Commentator Interview

We Need Political Climate Change (Roger Toussaint, President Local 100)


Beth Shulman, author of The Betrayal of Work—this week's raise from $5.15 to $5.85. It was frozen in place by Congress for a decade. It will go to $6.55 next summer and to $7.25 the summer after that. But it will remain far short of the real value it had a half-century ago. In 1956, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the minimum wage was 56 percent of the national average wage. The value shriveled to 31 percent last year. But EPI analyst Liana Fox said that even with the increases, she projects the $7.25 will be only 41 percent of the national average wage of $17.86. The real value of the $7.25 an hour in 2009 will only be $6.42. Arloc Sherman, a senior researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, concurred with somewhat different numbers, projecting a drop in value down to $6.93. . . .[Joe] Biden is worried about his net worth being as low as $70,000. At $5.85 an hour, it would take nearly 12,000 hours, or nearly six years, to earn that amount. Even six rolls of toilet paper requires a half-hour of work at minimum wages.—Derrick Z. Jackson An unlivable minimum boston globe

 In-Dependence from Bondage  The ABCs of Class Struggle  Southern Needs  Race Struggle is Class Struggle 

The Crisis in Organized Labor (Steve Early)

Running to the Right: Barack Obama. . . . (Bruce Dixon )

*   *   *   *   *

I think Obama's candidacy is an extraordinary event, and I see it not mainly through the generational lens or even through the racial lens. I see it through the way that he frames conflict, political difference. He wants to transcend and not litigate some of these open questions from our culture wars and out past political wars. It's not as if he's saying we have to extirpate every remnant of the Reagan era, we have to go after every right-wing this or right-wing that. It's as if he wants to say, "It's a whole new day, let's redefine the questions and let's change the agenda." But the other thing that I wanted to say about Obama is with respect to blacks who are voting to Barack Obama in 90 percent levels in the primary season, and who constitute a very important element of his political coalition. I don't know that they recognize that they're voting for the end of race as we've known it in the country. I don't know that they recognize and I don't mean to belittle them. I'm just asking a question. I'm not sure they recognize that—Glenn Loury, PBS

Redressing Taft-Hartley—Sixty years ago this month, US labor law was dramatically altered in the interests of capital when the Republican-led 80th Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act over intense opposition from organized labor. The legislation survived a veto by President Harry Truman, who described the act as a "slave-labor bill “. . . Earlier this year, the new Democratic-led House passed the Employee Free Choice Act, designed to undo some of the worst aspects of Taft-Hartley. The Act would ensure that when a majority of employees in a workplace decide to form a union, they can do so without the debilitating obstacles employers now used to block their free choice. Union officials called it the most important piece of pro-labor legislation to pass a house of Congress in decades.  .  .  . You can help too by letting your senators know you expect them to vote in favor of the Act, by joining the AFL-CIO's Employee Free Choice Action Team, and by helping spread the word about this critical piece of legislation. Peter Rothberg The Nation

Tera W. Hunter. To 'Joy My Freedom Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War

To 'Joy My Freedom  /  Vanishing Washerwoman  /  Washerwomen  / Sons & Daughters  /  Amanda Smith Autobiography 

 Washerwomen in Brooklyn   Washer-Woman Poem    Washerwomen in Baltimore   John Henrik Clarke  / A'lelia Walker    

Fifty Influential Figures

AFL-CIO Mobilizing for a Comprehensive Health Care PlanNearly forty-seven million U.S. citizens are uninsured. Tens of millions more worry about losing the coverage they have. Workers fear changing or losing jobs because they are at risk of losing their health care coverage. American businesses that provide adequate health benefits are at a significant disadvantage, competing in the global marketplace with foreign companies that do not carry health care costs on their balance sheets. The same is true for businesses in domestic competition against employers that provide little or no coverage. As a society, we all benefit from improvements in public health. We are a more creative, vibrant, productive and democratic nation because of it. We are all at risk of illness, injury or poor health, and we all suffer when individuals are denied needed care. The shortcomings of the American health care system-which ignores these fundamental realities-strain our nation's social and economic fabric. The time for talking about this crisis is past. All families deserve the security of a universal health care system that guarantees access based on need rather than income. Health care is a fundamental human right and an important measure of social justice. AFL-CIO Executive Council Statement on Health Care March 06, 2007  

Obituary of Joe Walker

Muhammad Speaks International Correspondent

Codification of a New World OrderThe working class has every right to be, to steal a line from Obama, bitter with liberal elites. I am bitter. I have seen what the loss of manufacturing jobs and the death of the labor movement did to my relatives in the former mill towns in Maine . Their story is the story of tens of millions of Americans who can no longer find a job that supports a family and provides basic benefits. Human beings are not commodities. They are not goods. They grieve and suffer and feel despair. They raise children and struggle to maintain communities. The growing class divide is not understood, despite the glibness of many in the media, by complicated sets of statistics or the absurd, utopian faith in unregulated globalization and complicated trade deals. It is understood in the eyes of a man or woman who is no longer making enough money to live with dignity and hope.—America's Democratic Collapse

Fred Punch & 1199 Workers

Hopkins Hospital Hit by Hour-Long Walkout


Latest Trend in Corporate AmericaOn March 28th  . . .3,400 workers at Circuit City stores across the country were greeted with the news that they had been fired . . . . Company spokesman Bob Cimino bluntly announced that the mass firings targeted the most experienced and highest paid in-store workers as part of a "wage management initiative" to replace them with low-wage new hires. "It had nothing to do with their skills or whether they were a good worker or not," Cimino said. Those who were fired made up roughly 8.5 percent of the 40,000 workers at the 650 retail outlets of the nation's second-largest electronics retailer, which trails only Best Buy. But these workers, the company explained, were being paid "well above the market-based salary range for their roles." According to Bloomberg News, however, Circuit City pay averages $10 to $11 an hour-precisely the market average. After twenty years, [Bobby] Young was earning $18.90 an hour, with healthcare benefits. His replacement will earn less than half that amount, without benefits. The company will graciously allow its allegedly overpaid former workers to reapply for their old jobs at starting wages after they endure 10 weeks of grueling unemployment. Fired Los Angeles worker Richard O'Neal was told he could eventually reapply for his job if he is willing to work for $7.50 per hour, California's minimum wage. Sharon Smith Circuit City's Guinea Pigs Counterpunch

Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)







Invention of the White Race  Allen begins Volume 1 by reviewing the many histories of American racism written in the 20th century. Dividing the arguments into the psycho-cultural school and the socio-economic school of thought, he teases out the strengths and flaws of their scholarship. Allen then posits racial oppression as a deliberate ruling-class decision (constantly undergoing renewal) to prevent property-less European Americans from allying themselves with enslaved and free African Americans by offering the European Americans privileges based on white skin. His solution is to study "racism" rather than "race" because studies of race always devolve onto discussions of the body--onto those who are perceived to possess race--and thus avoids the real issue. That issue is the institutionalization of racism, how it functions systemically. He argues that race(ism) should be treated like any other oppression such as those oppressions practiced on people of a certain class or gender. It is a strong, well researched, tightly argued work. He proves that the "white race" can be "gotten on a technicality" because it was and is indeed an invented rather than a natural category. Amazon Reviewer

William P. Quigley, Ending Poverty As We Know It: Guaranteeing a Right to a Job at a Living Wage. Temple University Press, 2003

In cities and counties across the country Americans are asserting their right to a job at a living wage. This campaign has been built around the idea that those who work full time are entitled to live above the real poverty line. Professor and public interest lawyer William Quigley, who helped lead the fight to give the workers of New Orleans a raise, presents the moral case for doing so, and argues that Americans should codify the right to a job at a living wage in the Constitution..—From the Publisher

Peter Rachleff,  Lynching And Racial Violence: Histories & Legacies Report From A Conference   / Black Labor in Richmond, Virginia, 1865-1890 ( 1989)

Hard-Pressed in the Heartland: The Hormel Strike and the Future of the Labor Movement (South End Press, 1993).

"Black Richmond and the Knights of Labor," in Jerry Lembcke, ed., Race, Class and Urban Change  (JAI Press, 1989).


2006, 44 million workers were employed in low-wage jobs: A new report from The Mobility Agenda finds that over 40 million jobs in the United States - about 1 in 3  - pay low wages ($11.11 per hour or less) and often do not offer employment benefits like health insurance, retirement savings accounts, paid sick days, or family leave. Moreover, these jobs tend to have inflexible or unpredictable scheduling requirements and provide little opportunity for career advancement. . . . The authors define a low-wage job as one paying substantially less than the job held by a typical male worker. The trend since 2001 has been a sharp decline in wages for these jobs. Worse, reviewing the evidence on economic mobility, the authors conclude, "In the U.S. labor market, it is not possible for everyone to be middle class, no matter how hard they work. Moreover, it has been getting harder to do over time." March 2007, Heather Boushey, Shawn Fremstad, Rachel Gragg, Margy Waller, Understanding Low Wage Work in the United States



Fourth Constitutional Convention (1961)


Compiled by Rudolph Lewis

“The Shape Of Unions To Come” -- Do you have your dream job? If the answer is "yes," you are probably in a union. That's the finding of a nationwide marketing survey of over 37,000 workers released on January 25. The respondents most likely to report that they were in their dream jobs were police and firefighters (35 percent) followed by teachers (32 percent.) By coincidence, on that same date, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing yet another severe drop in U.S. union membership - from a steady 12.5 percent in 2004 and 2005 to 12 percent in 2006. The remaining stronghold of unionism, with a 41.9 percent membership rate, is local government workers. As the BLS points out, "This group includes several heavily unionized occupations, such as teachers, police officers and firefighters."

Anya Kamenetz January 30, 2007  From Monsignor Sweeney to Reverend Andy  Labor’s“New” Agenda  Book Reviews by  Steve Early

 Labor's Problem: Real Wages

 Walter Reuther

By Carroll Thompson

A pact with the devil -- Carmen Cecilia Santana Romaña, a 28-year-old mother of three and a national trade union officer, was shot dead in her home in Antioquia, Colombia, on Feb. 7. Her murder came as little surprise; the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists is Colombia, which will become Washington's newest free trade partner unless Congress stops the deal. Some Democrats may be eager to show that they are not obstructionists on trade by cutting a deal with the Bush administration to "fix" the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and passing the revised accord. But that's the wrong approach with Colombia. Congress should reject the pact outright. In Colombia, trade unionists who are not murdered are often threatened, attacked or kidnapped. The overwhelming majority of cases are unsolved; many are never investigated, and the perpetrators go unpunished, ready to strike again. The government says 58 unionists were murdered in Colombia in 2006, up from 40 the year before. Labor groups report even higher totals: 77 murdered in 2006, up from 70 in 2005. Carol Pier Baltimore Sun April 2, 2007

 Labor's Problem: Real Wages

Samuel Gompers

By Carroll Thompson

The country has changed – It's more difficult to build a mass movement for social and economic change, to find large numbers of Americans who care about social solidarity. If popular entertainment is, by definition, mass entertainment, what happens when no mass exists, when an insufficient number of people occupy cultural common ground? In that case, for whom would you make Norma Rae? . . .  The American labor movement is arguably in more trouble now than it was then. Where is the next movie that might hope to change the course of history? Of movies about ideas and social justice, Sam Goldwyn famously said, "If you want to send a message, call Western Union." In other words, moviemakers are in the movie business, not the social change business. . . .If we are to find a Roseanne or a Norma Rae again in popular entertainment, if we are to make movies that can affect the course of history, we need to find something else first, something difficult to see on the horizon. We need to find a belief in an ideal disappearing not only from our movies but also from our lives—the notion that we do, in fact, share common ground, and that if we ignore the lives of the least fortunate in our society we may well be ignoring the future of our society itself.

Robert Nathan and Jo-Ann Mort,  Hollywood Flicks Stiff the Working Class. The Nation

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)








AFL-CIO Report of Convention Proceedings (1956)


Compiled by Rudolph Lewis

South African Union Site selected as Labour Website of the Year -- London, UK: LabourStart, the news and campaigning website of the international trade union movement, today announced the results of the 10th annual competition for the Labour Website of the Year. The winning site belongs to the South African trade union Solidarity.  In second place was Britain's largest union, UNISON. Among the top ten websites in the competition were three British unions, three from developing countries (two from South Africa and one from the Philippines), and sites from Australia, the USA, and Canada. . . . For full details . . .  go here: LabourStart

Black Male Oppression in USA Deepens --The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000. Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school.

Erik Eckholm, Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn. NYTimes

New Deal / Raw Deal

Affirmative Action for Whites (Roosevelt's "White Socialism") 

Unrealized for All -- the Poor, the Unemployed, the Uprooted, and the  Dispossessed

By Ira Katznelson

In today's labor movement, it's hard to find a leader who doesn't stress the need to organize new members. Judging by the size of their paychecks, however, some of labor's top brass aren't ready to put their money where their mouth is. According to data filed under the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), the number of union officials and staff earning high salaries has skyrocketed in recent years. For example, the number of individuals earning over $100,000 a year more than doubled between 2000 and 2004—the latest year with complete data. Over the same period the number of officers and staff earning more than $150,000 increased 84 percent.  Mark Brenner Bloated Salaries Limit Organizing


The Negro and Industrial Unionism

By Reginald T. Kennedy

William Green

Send contributions to: ChickenBones: A Journal /  13219 Kientz Road / Jarratt, VA 23867  -- I became aware of Rudy Lewis’ labor of love a few short months ago during a visit to Kalamu ya Salaam’s e-drum listserv. As soon as I saw the title of the journal I knew it was about Black folks, and the power of the written word.  A quick click took me into a journal that’s long on creativity, highlighting well-known, little known, and a little known writers, and commitment to the empowerment of Black folks. I contacted Rudy to ask if he’d consider publishing some of my work. His response was immediate, and a couple of days after I’d forwarded some poems to him—they were part of ChickenBones. What I didn’t know was that this journal has been surviving for the last five years with very little outside financial support. . .  If we want journals like this to “thrive” we need to support them with more than our website hits, praise, and submissions for publication consideration.

—Peace, Mary E. Weems (January 2007)                     

Profiteering From Crime -- "Today we are changing the course of our country," said Nanci Pelosi, the new speaker of the US House of Representatives at her swearing-in ceremony. The Democrats are committed to act against a commercial sector that specializes in prisons with assets estimated at nine billion dollars. US Private prisons take advantage of the labor force of convicts. The industry leader in private prisons is the Correction Corporation of America (CCA) that has become a genuine empire. It holds half of the market and is one of the top five companies on the rise at the New York Stock Exchange. -- In the United States there are some two million inmates, the largest prison population in the world. Although the crime rate has not increased, the number of prisoners is ten times greater than in 1970. Many of the prisoners are held in one of the 120 private centers that are part of the Prison Industrial Complex, which takes advantage of a correctional policy outlined by "the war on drugs" started by Ronald Reagan in 1981 that is founded on repression and minimizes education and efforts at reinsertion.

Jose A. Fernandez Carrasco Radio Habana Cuba


IU Labor Studies Under Attack

Ruth Needleman 

Professor Labor Studies

Forming a union is portrayed as an act of betrayal and there are consequences to betrayals.This is not simply a matter of whether an employer is conservative, liberal or even progressive. It is really about class politics and class struggle. In the 1980s I helped to organize a non-profit agency in Boston. The employer, who at first glance seemed like a good-natured liberal, was VEHEMENTLY against a union forming. This individual, who saw himself as, at least a liberal, if not a progressive, was in favor of unions forming anywhere…except in his workplace. He pulled out all the stops, conveying to the workforce that a union was unnecessary; would be an impediment to a good workplace environment; and, ultimately, was a betrayal. It was a credit to the workers that they rejected his views and felt confident enough to vote overwhelmingly for a union. That said, it was never certain that they vote would go pro-union. The implied intimidation was quite real. In other settings, the vote can go exactly the opposite direction. Thus, the issue cannot be left to stand as one of whether workers should exercise their right to a NLRB-supervised election or not. Whether there is an election or whether there is voluntary recognition is completely secondary to THE fundamental question: can workers exercise their right to self-organization free of ANY employer involvement (not just interference)? Insofar as employers have any ability to involve themselves in what should be off-limits, worker-only activity, the reality is that they introduce a significant power dynamic. Bill Fletcher Why should employers have a role in deciding whether workers have unions? Z Mag

What must it feel like?

To carry the hopes and dreams of an entire race of people on your shoulders?

As much as I hate to say it, I know beyond a doubt that the next four weeks are going to be nasty. He's leading, and there are people who simply cannot stomach the idea of his beautiful family living in the White House. There will be smears, all sorts of slander and lies, the likes of which you've probably rarely seen. So y'all, we got to pray for this man. And please . . . make sure you VOTE!!! Vote early if you can!

 Transit Workers' Union Announce Settlement 

Seventy percent of the employees of New York City Transit are black, Latino or Asian-American.


The Negro and Industrial Unionism  Labor Fights All Injustice

Labor's Problem: Real Wages

Samuel Gompers    John Mitchell    John L. Lewis   Walter Reuther

By Carrol L. Thompson

Black American males inhabit a universe in which joblessness is frequently the norm: 'Seventy-two percent jobless!' said Senator Charles Schumer, chairman of Congress's Joint Economic Committee, which held a hearing last week on joblessness among black men. 'This compares to 29 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts.' Senator Schumer described the problem of black male unemployment as 'profound, persistent and perplexing.' Jobless rates at such sky-high levels don't just destroy lives, they destroy entire communities. They breed all manner of antisocial behavior, including violent crime. One of the main reasons there are so few black marriages is that there are so many black men who are financially incapable of supporting a family. 'These numbers should generate a sense of national alarm,' said Senator Schumer. . . . Robert Carmona, president of Strive, an organization that helps build job skills, told Senator Schumer's committee, 'What we've seen over the last several years is a deliberate disinvestment in programs that do work. Bob Herbert. The Danger Zone March 15, 2007

 Labor's Problem: Real Wages

John Mitchell

By Carroll Thompson

Work, Labor & Business    State of Black America 2005

National Urban League's "State of Black America 2005"  offers Prescriptions For Change


Labor Fights All Injustice

By George Meany


I Tried to Be a Communist 

William Paterson Bio 

Benjamin J. Davis Bio 

 Big Tom the Red


*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *






Related Files 

African Americans’ Status Is 73% Of Whites  “State Of Black America” 2004 Report

Fred Mason

Baltimore, Back-Sliding, & Budgets An Interview with Fred D. Mason

A Report from the Maryland State Federation of Labor


Industrial Change


BLACK FREEDOM FIGHTERS IN STEEL The Struggle For Democratic Unionism by Ruth Needleman

A Post Industrial Blues "Sittin’on the dock of the bay, wastin’ time" by Amin Sharif

A Review by Steve Early  

Joan Martin




     More Than Chains and Toil A Christian Work Ethic of Enslaved Women



Land Reform

Choosing Sides Zimbabwe Peasant Land Expropriations by Lil Joe 

Reporting South Africa  by Lester Lewis

Reporting Zimbabwe  By Lester Lewis

Sanctions on Zimbabwe -- Africa Under Attack by Connie White

A Shattered Dream by Paul Kingsnorth

One No, Many Yeses  Global Resistance Movement by Paul Kingsnorth


Labor's Problem: Real Wages -- John L. Lewis


Marxism -- Race & Class


The ABCs of Class Struggle by Aduku Addae

Comments on Addae's "ABCs"  by Lil Joe

Freedom Ain't Come Yet!   by Aduku Addae

Marxism as Humanism By L. J. Lebret

Marxism Irrelevant? by Aduku Addae

Priority of Labor By John Paul II

Sharif Interviews Lil Joe on the Dilemma of Class and Race in Political Struggles

Varieties of Socialism by David Schweickart


Trade Unions


Baltimore, Back-Sliding, & Budgets An Interview with Fred D. Mason

A Brief Economic History of Modern Baltimore

Dominance of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore Economy

Forty Years of Determined Struggle Portrait of Robert Moore by Rudolph Lewis

Putting Baltimore's People First 

A Report from the Maryland State Federation of Labor

Walter Hall Lively (1942-1976) Civil Rights Activist & Black Liberationist



     Amanda Smith Autobiography 

     The Negro Washerwoman, A Vanishing Figure  by Carter G. Woodson

     Sons & Daughters


     Washerwomen in Baltimore 

     Washerwomen in Brooklyn   

     Washer-Woman Poem  

     To 'Joy My Freedom  



African Diaspora in the 21st Century An Address by Thabo Mbeki,

Awakening  the Conscience of America (Bush)


Support ChickenBones: A Journal

We need your help. Any level of support would be greatly appreciated

--$10, $15, $25, or more. Supporters send contributions to:

ChickenBones: A Journal

2005 Arabian Drive / Finksburg, MD 21048

Home  The Old South