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Obama, Democrats Losing Labor Union Support—Sam Hananel—4 September 2011—"Obama campaigned big, but he's governing small," said Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Labor remains a core Democratic constituency . . . But at the same time, unions have begun shifting money and resources out of Democratic congressional campaigns and back to the states in a furious effort to reverse or limit GOP measures that could wipe out union rolls. The AFL-CIO's president, Richard Trumka, says it's part of a new strategy for labor to build an independent voice separate from the Democratic Party. Union donations to federal candidates at the beginning of this year were down about 40 percent compared with the same period in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last month, a dozen trade unions said they would boycott next year's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., over frustration on the economy and to protest the event's location in a right-to-work state. . . . Union leaders grew more disappointed when the president's health care overhaul didn't include a government-run insurance option. Then Obama agreed to extend President George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. Obama came out in favor of trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that most unions say will cost American jobs. Despite campaigning in favor of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour, Obama hasn't touched the issue since taking office. It didn't help that Obama declined union invitations to go to Wisconsin, where thousands of protesters mobilized against the anti-union measure. Candidate Obama had promised to "put on sneakers" and walk a picket line himself when union rights were threatened. Obama has handed labor smaller victories that didn't have to go through Congress, like granting the nation's 44,000 airport screeners limited collective bargaining rights for the first  / Blacks and Labor in Print  /

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

Sheila Johnson

America’s First Black Woman Billionaire

Interviewed by Kam Williams 

Economist: One in Five Union Organizers Gets Canned One in five union activists gets illegally fired in the run-up to unionization elections, economist Dean Baker said at an event held at the National Press Club, Tuesday. Baker’s estimate is based on data compiled by the National Labor Relations Board and analyzed by Baker’s colleagues at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) — a liberal economic policy think tank in Washington. The statistic is central to the progressive case for the Employee Free Choice Act, proposed legislation that would allow workers to bypass formal unionization elections in favor of an informal signup process known as a card check. Big business lobby groups like the Chamber of Commerce oppose the EFCA because the law would make union organizing much easier. But instead of arguing that less unionization is better, EFCA opponents claim that card check is undemocratic because it could mean workers can unionize without a secret ballot. . . . Arguments like these are powerful ammunition for progressives in their impending fight over the EFCA. If NLRB elections are systematically plagued by intimidation and power imbalances between labor and management, it is difficult to argue that they are democratic. WashingtonIndependent

Clinton Strategist Lobbied for Trade Pact She Opposes—Mark Penn, the pollster and chief strategist for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, apologized on Friday for meeting with Colombian officials to discuss a free-trade agreement that Mrs. Clinton opposes. The Colombians hired Mr. Penn in his role as chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, one of the nation’s leading public relations firms, to help secure passage of the trade pact. . . . But leaders of two labor groups that have endorsed Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s opponent for the Democratic nomination, urged Mrs. Clinton to fire Mr. Penn. The two groups are Change to Win, a federation of unions including the service employees, Teamsters and carpenters, and Unite Here, which represents apparel, hotel and restaurant workers. Greg Tarpinian, executive director of Change to Win, said it was “outrageous” that Mr. Penn would do lobbying work for Colombia while advising Mrs. Clinton on trade and other matters.

Bruce S. Raynor, president of Unite Here, said, “That Clinton’s chief strategist would be working hand in hand with the government of Colombia and the Bush administration, while candidate Clinton says she opposes the agreement, is truly incredible, even by today’s crazy standards.” Burson-Marsteller signed a one-year, $300,000 contract with Colombia to help it win passage of the trade deal and handle bilateral drug-trafficking issues, according to Justice Department documents cited by The Journal. Mr. Penn’s continued association with Burson-Marsteller has caused heartburn for the campaign before. The firm represents the Countrywide Financial Corporation, the nation’s largest home mortgage lender, an industry that Mrs. Clinton has criticized. It has also provided public relations advice to Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm under investigation by numerous government agencies for the deaths of civilians in Iraq. NYTimes

The Crisis in Organized Labor

As Viewed from the Inside and Out

A Review by By Bill Fletcher and Fernando Gapasin  

Ten Days That Changed Capitalism—Officials Improvised To Rescue Markets; Will It Be Enough?—The past 10 days will be remembered as the time the U.S. government discarded a half-century of rules to save American financial capitalism from collapse. On the Richter scale of government activism, the government's recent actions don't (yet) register at FDR levels. They are shrouded in technicalities and buried in a pile of new acronyms. But something big just happened. It happened without an explicit vote by Congress. And, though the Treasury hasn't cut any checks for housing or Wall Street rescues, billions of dollars of taxpayer money were put at risk. A Republican administration, not eager to be viewed as the second coming of the Hoover administration, showed it no longer believes the market can sort out the mess. "The Government of Last Resort is working with the Lender of Last Resort to shore up the housing and credit markets to avoid Great Depression II," economist Ed Yardeni wrote to clients. First, over St. Patrick's Day weekend, the Fed (aka the Lender of Last Resort) and the Treasury forced the sale of Bear Stearns, the fifth-largest U.S. investment bank, to J.P. Morgan Chase at a price so low that a shareholder rebellion prompted J.P. Morgan to raise the price.

To induce J.P. Morgan to do the deal, the Fed agreed to take losses or gains, if any, on up to $29 billion of securities in Bear Stearns's portfolio.  . . . The outcome will influence the sum the Fed turns over to the Treasury, so this is taxpayer money; that's why the Fed sought Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's OK.Then the Fed lent directly to Wall Street securities firms for the first time. Until now, the Fed has lent directly only to Main Street banks, those that take deposits from ordinary folks. That's because banks were viewed as playing a unique economic role and, supposedly, were more closely regulated than other types of lenders. In the first three days of this new era, securities firms borrowed an average of $31.3 billion a day from the Fed. That's not small change, and it's why Mr. Paulson, after the fact, is endorsing changes to give the Fed more access to these firms' books.  Wall Street Journal

Fed up with Wall Street—The politicians will try to do their best to obscure the first point. They say "we aren't giving them money - we're lending money and we're getting interest, so the government can make a profit."  . . . . No private bank would have lent money to JP Morgan Chase or Bear Stearns at the same interest rate and under the same terms as the Fed. . . . When the government makes a loan at below market interest rates, it is giving away money. . . . If they can't get away with the "no bailout" nonsense, the Wall Street welfare boys will then try the route of claiming that we have to bail them out in order to prevent the whole financial system from collapsing. Such a collapse could turn the recession into a depression, leaving millions unemployed for years. This is also nonsense. We know how to keep banks operating even as they go into bankruptcy. The UK just did this with Northern Rock, a major bank that managed to get itself into huge trouble because of its holding of bad mortgage debt. After it was clear that the bank was insolvent, the Bank of England stepped in and essentially took over the bank. It replaced the incompetent managers who had ruined the bank and brought in a new team to straighten out the books. The plan is to resell the bank to the private sector once the books are in order. In the mean time, the bank keeps operating. The depositors can continue to make deposits and withdrawals just as before. This prevents any chain reaction from bringing down the financial system. The difference between the Northern Rock route and what happened with Bears Stearns last week is that in the Northern Rock, the highly paid managers that ruined the bank are sent packing. Guardian.

Labor's Opening to China—The policy shift by the ITUC, the AFL-CIO, and other global unions is long overdue. Three decades of rapid economic growth have transformed China from an economic backwater into the world’s workshop.  Workers, trade unions, communities, and countries throughout the world are confronting the challenges posed by China’s growing role in the world. Today, about 25% of all the workers employed in the global economy are Chinese.  The “China price” sets the global norm for wages and working standards up and down the value chain, from inexpensive garments to sophisticated electronics.  As a result the hard-won gains of workers in the global North are being rapidly undermined, while the aspirations of workers in the developing world are being dashed, as China becomes the wage setting country in industry after industry.China’s export oriented development model has had a particular impact on trade unions everywhere. Multinational corporations—the very firms that employ millions of union members around the world—have flocked to China seeking to take advantage of its low wage workers and business friendly policies, reducing labor’s bargaining leverage and the number of union jobs. These firms have been central to China’s development. Roughly 66% of the increase in Chinese exports in the past 12 years can be attributed to foreign owned global companies and their joint ventures. (Stephen Roach, Business Times, Singapore, 8/8/06) These companies account for 60% of Chinese exports to the US. Despite all of the talk in the current presidential campaign, the “Chinese threat” is less about trade with China than it is about “trade” with US based companies like Wal-Mart, GE, or any of the other of the hundreds of Fortune 500 companies that have set up shop in China to cuts labor costs and avoid environmental regulations. Ways, however imperfect, must be found to reach out to Chinese workers to find mutually acceptable ways to halt a global race to the bottom, which in end, hurts all workers.Labor Strategies

Tentative Deal Is Reached in Writers’ StrikeAn end to Hollywood’s long and bitter writers’ strike appeared close on Saturday, as union leaders representing 12,000 movie and television writers said they had reached a tentative three-year deal with production companies. The strike, which began Nov. 5, remains in effect until the governing boards of the two writers’ guilds gauge the sense of their membership in mass meetings on both coasts this weekend and decide whether to end the walkout. The mood at the New York meeting on Saturday afternoon was one of supportive optimism, with a touch of wariness, and the Los Angeles gathering was set to take place late in the evening. The boards are expected to meet as early as Sunday, and the strike could be over by Monday morning.Summary of the Tentative 2008 WGA Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement

State of the Unions—Once upon a time, back when America had a strong middle class, it also had a strong union movement. These two facts were connected. Unions negotiated good wages and benefits for their workers, gains that often ended up being matched even by nonunion employers. They also provided an important counterbalance to the political influence of corporations and the economic elite. Today, however, the American union movement is a shadow of its former self, except among government workers. In 1973, almost a quarter of private-sector employees were union members, but last year the figure was down to a mere 7.4 percent. NYTimes

Clinton Lie Kills Her Credibility on Trade Policy—Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that former First Lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; now that we know she held at least five meetings to strategize about how to win congressional approval of the deal; now that we know she was in the thick of the maneuvring to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement. Now that we know all of this, how should we assess the claim that Hillary's heart has always beaten to a fair-trade rhythm? Now that we know from official records of her time as First Lady that Clinton was the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA;

now that we know from ABC News reporting on the session that "her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA" and that "there was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time;" now that we have these details confirmed, what should we make of Clinton's campaign claim that she was never comfortable with the militant free-trade agenda that has cost the United States hundreds of thousands of union jobs, that has idled entire industries, that has saddled this country with record trade deficits, undermined the security of working families in the US and abroad, and has forced Mexican farmers off their land into an economic refugee status that ultimately forces them to cross the Rio Grande River in search of work? As she campaigns now, Clinton says, "I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning."  But the White House records confirm that this is not true.  Her statement is, to be precise, a lie. The Nation

Living Wage Policies and Wal-Mart—The growth of big box retail is a mixed blessing to local communities. There is strong evidence that jobs created by Wal-Mart in metropolitan areas pay less and are less likely to offer benefits than those they replace. Controlling for differences in geographic location, Wal-Mart workers earn an estimated 12.4 percent less than retail workers as a whole, and 14.5 percent less than workers in large retail in general. Several recent studies have found that the entry of Wal-Mart into a county reduces both average and aggregate earnings of retail workers and reduces the share of retail workers with health coverage on the job. The impact is not only one of substitution of higher wage for lower wage retail jobs, but also a reduction in wages among competitors. As a result of lower compensation, Wal-Mart workers make greater use of public health and welfare programs compared to retail workers as a whole, transferring costs to taxpayers. Monthly Review

JUSTICE FOR ONLY A PENNY—The companies agreed to increase by a penny what they had been paying growers per pound of tomatoes, with the understanding that the extra penny would go directly to the pickers. . . . It nearly doubled their previous pay of just a little over one cent per pound picked, a piece rate that hadn't been raised since the 1970s. Most of the pickers are undocumented Latinos . . . . They work under the blazing sun in the Immokalee area of southern Florida, usually dawn to dusk, for up to seven days a week, rarely for more than $10,000 a year. They have no paid holidays or vacations, overtime pay, health insurance, sick leave, pensions or other benefits, no union rights. Most live in dilapidated trailers or other substandard rental housing.  Some workers are held in virtual slavery by the sometimes physically abusive labor contractors who hire them for the tomato growers. The contractors make deductions from the workers' wages for transportation, food, housing, and other services that can force them to turn over their entire paychecks and continue working against their will until the debts to the contractors are paid off. 

The UAW—Big Three Settlements: From Defeat to Rebellion—There is good reason for U.S. workers to be skeptical about the argument that concessions save jobs. At GM, there were some 450,000 UAW workers at the end of the 1970s when the concessions began. In every subsequent agreement, concessions were sold as a trade-off for 'job guarantees.' Yet, when 2007 bargaining began, GM had all of 73,000 UAW members - more than 4 of 5 jobs were gone. These job losses had many explanations, but not working hard enough or blocking productivity were not among them. Output per worker doubled in assembly between 1987 and 2005 and output per worker in the parts sector was only slightly behind, increasing by 85%). And worker compensation, even with the higher health care costs, didn't even match that productivity growth. [See U.S. BLS]. . . . The non-core jobs are estimated to run anywhere from 25%-40% of the workforce, depending on how much outsourcing has already been done. New hires brought into the non-core jobs will receive about half of the current wage rates and their benefits will be cut even more; new hires won't even be in the eroded VEBA (Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association) structure for retiree health care, and they will be excluded from the Big Three defined benefit plans.—Sam Gindin

Taking Unions Out of the Workplace—While de-industrialization and management hostility have slashed union membership during the last three decades, pro-union sentiment has actually increased in the American heartland. More than half of all wage earners have told pollsters that they would like to join a union. But since organization at the workplace has been blocked - none of Wal-Mart's 1.5 million US "associates" are covered by a union contract – the AFL-CIO has done the next best thing. Beginning in 2003 the labour group has begun quietly organizing hundreds of thousands of unaffiliated people into Working America, which the federation calls the "community affiliate" of the AFL-CIO. So when AFL-CIO organizers knock on a door in the working-class suburbs that ring old industrial cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, an astonishing two out of three respondents sign up. They get a membership card, a connection to other Working America people in their neighborhood and a stream of union letters, leaflets, phone calls and emails appraising them of organized labor's political and economic outlook  AlterNet

 Labor's Problem: Real Wages

Samuel Gompers 

By Carroll Thompson

Georgia State AFL-CIO Endorses H.R. 676,Universal Health Care BillThe Georgia AFL-CIO is the 26th state AFL-CIO federation to endorse HR 676, single-payer health care legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich). The Georgia AFL-CIO represents more than 100,000 in over 350 affiliated local unions. The resolution passed Oct. 17th at the convention held in Augusta celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Georgia AFL and the 50th Anniversary of the merged Georgia AFL-CIO. When the resolution passed, Charlie F. Key, Financial Secretary-Treasurer of the state federation, said, “How can anyone in good conscience not know that healthcare is a basic necessity of life and is enshrined in those three tenets of the Declaration of Independence ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. We currently see the results of having too many uninsured. Grady Hospital in Atlanta and Memorial Hospital in Savannah are facing serious budget shortfalls because the number of uninsured patients is increasing rapidly.”  PA Editors Blog

Awakening  the Conscience of America

Speech  on Atlantic Slave Trade

By George Bush

Despite Economic Growth, Share of Good Jobs Falls—The report, "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Job Quality in the United States over the Three Most Recent Business Cycles," found that the economy has created fewer good jobs in the 2000s than was the case over comparable periods in the 1980s and 1990s. The research defined a good job as one that pays $17 an hour, or $34,000 annually, has employer-provided health care and offers a pension. The $17 per hour figure is equal to the inflation-adjusted earnings of the typical male worker in 1979, the first year of data analyzed in the report. Using this definition, the share of good jobs fell 2.6 percentage points, or about 3.5 million jobs, between 2000 and 2006. This decline was much sharper than what the economy experienced over comparable periods in the two preceding business cycles. Between 1979 and 1985, for example, the share of good jobs fell 0.5 percentage points. Between 1989 and 1995, the drop was just 0.l percentage points.CEPR

Freedom Aint come Yet

By Aduku Addae

The Future of Global Unions: Is Solidarity Still Forever?—The founding of this new organization, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 168 million workers in 153 countries, was hailed as historic by the few dozen people who follow these things, which it may well be, though you probably missed the coverage in your local newspaper. . . . Unions need a more sophisticated approach to working with these allies, particularly around issues dealing with the Global South. Union strength is concentrated in the developed economies of the Global North, and the alliances described in this article tend to be concentrated in that geographical area. There are exceptions, and the resource-starved global union federations do what they can to bridge the North-South gap. But organized labor does not have a coherent strategy or the semblance of a practical program for organizing and raising the living standards of the additional 1.5 billion workers, mostly in the Global South, who have entered the global economy over the past two decades. Until this reality is addressed, unions will face a constant and powerful pressure on the wages and living standards of their members—not to mention the inhumanity of a system that keeps more than half the population of the world living on less than two dollars a day.Alan Howard  Dissent Magazine

Victories in the New Labor Movement—In economic terms, the service sector of the economy produces intangible goods. It includes jobs such as waiting tables, food preparation, retail sales and hospitality. During the 1990s, the service sector increased by 19 million jobs, radically changing the U.S. economy. In cities such as San Francisco, where 73,152 of 427,823 working adults are employed in sales and food service alone, it is a huge part of the economy. Devising new tactics to organize low-wage and service workers has been a point of contention within labor circles. It added to the crisis that split the AFL-CIO in 2005, when the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters boycotted the AFL-CIO's 50th anniversary convention and announced the creation of a rival labor federation, Change to Win. Now, two years after the split, Change to Win represents seven international unions and is a viable rival for the AFL-CIO. Changes in the economy, decline of union representation and turmoil within organized labor have allowed new groups with radical organizing strategies to develop and take the place of traditional labor organizing in some areas.  San Francisco Gate

Chinese workers lose their lives producing goods for AmericaGUANGZHOU, China -- The patients arrive every day in Chinese hospitals with disabling and fatal diseases, acquired while making products for America. On the sixth floor of the Guangzhou Occupational Disease and Prevention Hospital, Wei Chaihua, 44, sits on his iron-rail bed, tethered to an oxygen tank. He is dying of the lung disease silicosis, a result of making Char-Broil gas stoves sold in Utah and throughout the U.S. Down the hall, He Yuyun, 36, who for years brushed America's furniture with paint containing benzene and other solvents, receives treatment for myelodysplastic anemia, a precursor to leukemia.In another room rests Xiang Zhiqing, 39, her hair falling out and her kidneys beginning to fail from prolonged exposure to cadmium that she placed in batteries sent to the U.S. . .  . 'Big problem for Americans' With each new report of lead detected on a made-in-China toy, Americans express outrage: These toys could poison children. But Chinese workers making the toys -- and countless other products for America -- touch and inhale carcinogenic materials every day, all day long: Benzene. Lead. Cadmium. Toluene. Nickel. Mercury. Many are dying. They have fatal occupational diseases. Loretta Tofani. Salt Lake Tribune Special Report

A Disposable Workforce in New Orleans After Katrina—Robert “Tiger” Hammond . . .  president of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, says: Parts of this town look like a nuclear bomb hit two days ago, not like it was two years ago. Hammond kicked off a panel of five New Orleans activists who told the International Labor Communications Association (ILCA) convention in New Orleans what has (and has not) happened to the city’s workers since the hurricane. . . .The bottom line is that reactionary ideologues from the Bush administration, and some business and civic leaders in New Orleans, took the damage and dislocation caused by the hurricane as an opportunity to conduct a mass experiment  in privatization and union busting, panelists said. Tracie Washington, CEO of the Louisiana Justice Institute, a civil rights law group, says that after Katrina, there was an  absolute assault on civil rights and social justice guarantees that we thought we had. There was a blatant assault on workers’ rights. Blog AFL-CIO

In quick succession . . . the working people—mainly African Americans:—who were making a decent living were the first to go: All 4,900 teachers and thousands of bus drivers were laid off. That was followed by a decision not to rebuild much of the public housing destroyed by the storm and the slow reopening of the schools and the decimation of the public transportation system. Blog AFL-CIO

Dropkick Murphys: Friends to the Working Class—Smart. Aggressive. In your face. Committed to economic justice. These words describe an effective union organizer; they also describe the no-nonsense punk rock band Dropkick Murphys, a true friend of organized labor. The band's annual St. Patrick's Day partnership with Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) combines breakfast, beer, and bagpipes into an innovative example of how labor and the arts can work together to benefit the local community, while building their respective images. So, who are the Dropkick Murphys, what is their connection to organized labor, and why should unions looking for new tactics in the battle for hearts and minds be turning up their speakers?

The Worker's Song: This one's for the workers who toil night and day / By hand and by brain to earn your pay / For centuries long past for no more than your bread / Have bled for your countries and counted your dead   Dollars and Sense

Union Activity Moving to North Carolina?—North Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country, but unions nationally and internationally are beginning to organize .  . . With the decline of union memberships in other states, union leaders are seeking to increase . . . by renewing the fight in union-free states, such as North Carolina. . . . The North Carolina Chamber [wants to keep] North Carolina as the second least unionized state, (South Carolina being the first). [North Carolina's nonunion] ranking serves as an economic development tool as it keeps labor costs down . . . The lack of unions undoubtedly is a major factor in the numerous business studies ranking {North Carolina] as having some of the lowest labor costs . . .  in the nation and as one of the best places in the U.S. to do business. The loss of this status would serve to discourage [some]  employers from relocating  . . . The Service Employees International Union launched a website and handed out materials in Charlotte just last month targeting Bank of America. . . . The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers began organizing in North Carolina last year, targeting Progress Energy workers. Harvest Host

Ford never made him -- Cadillac wouldn't;

Nor General Motors -- the Austin folks couldn't.

Plug-ugly mountain of black meat and bone,

Yet something the Present could label its own.


"Twas the Harmony Street wharf, at eight in the night,

With thirty five of us expecting a fight;

For thirty-three hours we'd worked on a stretch --

Worked at unloading -- at carry and fetch.

Scabs by Marcus B. Christian

Dying for Growth

Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor 

Edited by Jim Yong Kim, Joyce V. Millen, Alec Irwin, and John Gershman

One Sided Class War: The UAW-GM 2007 Negotiations—In 1978, then United Auto Worker (UAW) President Douglas Fraser, frustrated with corporate America's new aggressiveness, accused U.S. business of waging a 'one-sided class war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society.' In response, he warned, 'we in the UAW intend to reforge the links with those who believe in struggle: the kind of people who sat-down in the factories in the 1930s and who marched in Selma in the 1960s.' The threat was, sadly, not serious and the promised identification with the movement gave way to a deeper identification with the companies. Auto workers, and American workers more generally, have been paying the price since. The UAW negotiations over the last few months might have been a chance to make up for that generation-long period of working-class defeat. But once again, only one class was fighting. As a result, the union which once pioneered new benefits for working people now contributed to dismembering them. The union whose great sit-down strikes demonstrated the power of solidarity is now shabbily negotiating lower wages for workers not-yet hired and not-yet voting. With this agreement, it is – as the Wall Street Journal noted (September 27, 2007) – no longer the UAW that sets the bar in the industry, but Toyota. Sam Gindin. Socialist Project

Working America, the AFL-CIO’s 1.8 million-member community affiliate for people who don’t have a union on the job but want a voice in shaping the national agenda, has just launched a new blog—[3] Word on the Street—where you can read the latest doorstop news from the group’s canvassers who are talking to working families every night across America. These activist men and women are going into neighborhoods and communities and talking to people face to face about the issues vital to working families—[4] health care, [5] good jobs, [6] education, [7] retirement security.

Chávez: 'Galbraithiano'—Galbraith is celebrated not just by Chávez but by a wide range of reformers, including Ecuador's new president, Rafael Correa, himself an economist. This popularity reflects a growing enthusiasm for the state regulation of the economy that Galbraith prescribed. As Latin America struggles to remedy the damage caused by two decades of failed free-market orthodoxy—which has produced dismal growth rates and widespread social turmoil and misery--politicians are rehabilitating key macroeconomic principles unthinkable a decade ago. Argentina, for example, has generated the region's most impressive growth by lowering interest rates, maintaining a competitive currency exchange rate, enacting price controls to stem inflation and driving a hard bargain with international creditors, thus wiping out two-thirds of the country's external debt and freeing up state revenue for social spending and investment. Galbraith has attracted admirers in Latin America not just for his macroeconomics but for his critique of corporate monopolies. His belief that corporations are political instruments with the incentive and ability to corrupt democracy resonates today in a region where much of the economy is controlled by foreign firms and where corporate TV (which Galbraith believed had little to do with free speech and everything to do with manufacturing consumer demand) has become a bulwark of elite privilege. Galbraith's solution was to use the state to set up a system of what he called "countervailing power," enacting aggressive union protection, unemployment insurance, subsidies, welfare and minimum wage guarantees to counter monopolies and force a more just distribution of national wealth. Greg Grandin. The Nation

Unions Accepting a Two-Tier Pay System Are Giving a Major Concession to Bosses

Harry Kelber, founder and editor, has devoted his entire adult life to the labor movement as an organizer, strike leader, union printer, labor editor, pamphleteer, professor of labor studies and author of several books and booklets.

CEO Lust by Harry Kelber

Another take on the GM/UAW settlement—It has been demonstrated time and again that two-tier systems have a demoralizing impact on the workforce. In the case of the UAW, the Washington Post notes that some entry level jobs that paid $28/hour will now drop to $14. That is one hell of a drop! The impact on the union cannot be overstated. The new workers, even if they are now making more than they previously did, will see themselves as having been sacrificed by the longer-term workers, which also means sacrificed by the union. . . . A second piece of the puzzle has to do with the ideological orientation of the UAW going back at least to the early 1980s. The notion of "jointness" which emerged in the early 1980s in the midst of the automobile manufacturing crisis (ignited by the Chrysler near collapse) brought with it the idea that the principal role of the union was not to defend the interests of the members (let along the larger working class) but to promote the competitiveness of the particular company.— Bill Fletcher .ZMag

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

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

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

Workplaces aren’t democracies -- Employer groups are up in arms. They prefer the long, drawn out process that gives employers time to use threats and coercion to prevent unionization. Such strong-arm tactics are illegal, but the penalty for getting caught is a slap on the wrist. Charges of illegal dismissals take years to wind their way through the National Labor Relations Board and even when the Board finds that an employer acted illegally, the worst that can happen is the worker has to be rehired and given back pay that was lost. In 2005 alone, over 30,000 American workers were awarded back pay because their employers were found to have illegally fired or otherwise discriminated against them for their union activities.  A half century ago, most employers obeyed the law and allowed workers to organize. In the 1950s, the National Labor Relations Board found illegal dismissals in only one of every 20 union elections. But in subsequent decades, competition heated up, investors demanded higher returns, employers felt increasing pressure to cut wages, and union-busting became the name of the game. By the early 1990s, according to government data, illegal dismissals occurred in one out of every four union elections. Nowadays, even though polls show most workers would organize a union if they could, the process is so complicated that it’s rare they even get to choose.  Robert Reich, Time to Join a Union (Or At Least Have the Right to). Common Dreams March 1, 2007

 Transit Workers' Union Announce Settlement 

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

We Need Political Climate Change by Roger Toussaint Local 100 /  Putting Baltimore's People First / Dominance of Johns Hopkins   

A Brief Economic History of Modern Baltimore   /   A Political Portrait of Robert Moore  /  Black Labor  /  Walter Lively 



Remembering Reggie

By Clarence (Tiger) Davis


Wolfowitz Must Go! -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called for the resignation of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz ". . . .  because of his consistently anti-working class and anti-poor policies", Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said on Tuesday.  .  .  . South Africa's biggest labour federation noted that it had said at the time of Wolfowitz's appointment in June 2005 that he "embodies all the worst features of the international financial institutions -- the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Like them, he has been dedicated to entrenching the power of big business and multinational corporations, at the expense of the workers and the poor. WorldPress  17 April 2007

From Monsignor Sweeney to Reverend Andy  

Labor’s“New” Agenda For America Hasn’t Improved With Age

Book Reviews by  Steve Early

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

The State of the Dream

Black-White Gaps Still Wid

Some Even Widening -- Since Dr. King's Death

Press Release from United for a Fair Economy

White Privilege Shapes the U.S.

Myths of Low-Wage Workers -- 30 million Voters 


African Americans’ Status Is 73% Of Whites 

Says New “State Of Black America” 2004 Report

National Urban League’s Report Shows Black Progress Is On Shaky Ground

Equality Gaps Remain In Jobs, Wealth, Education, Health And Social Justice

Work, Labor & Business    State of Black America 2005

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


Voices of Iraqi Workers Solidarity Tour, June 2007— Iraqi Labor Leaders to tour the US in June of 2007  Their message: "Troops out now.  Iraq’s oil belongs to the Iraqi people!" Two leaders of Iraq’s labor movement, Sister Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, President of the Electrical Utility Workers Union, and Brother Faleh Abood Umara, General Secretary of the Federation of Oil Unions, will tour a dozen U.S. cities between June 4 and June 29, 2007. During their visit, they will address members of Congress, labor audiences and the general public about the impact the U.S. occupation has had on the labor movement and daily lives of working people in Iraq. They will speak about reconstruction and will explain why the labor movement is opposed to the proposed hydrocarbon law favored by the Bush administration and oil corporations which would put foreign oil corporations in effective control of 2/3 of Iraq’s undeveloped oil reserves. They will also describe the likely consequences if the occupation abruptly ends and prospects for a stable, democratic, non-sectarian future for Iraq. Please visit to find out when they are coming to your city.  Contact Thomas Bacon with any questions at 512-524-5170 or


IU Labor Studies Under Attack

Ruth Needleman 

Professor Labor Studies

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

Socialism in the United States

By Harry W. Laidler

Executive Director, League for Industrial Democracy

“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 


 The Negro and Industrial Unionism  Labor Fights All Injustice ( George Meany)

Labor's Problem: Real Wages

Samuel Gompers    John Mitchell    John L. Lewis   Walter Reuther

By Carrol L. Thompson

Adaptation of Labor to the Globalization of Capital—The United Steelworkers -- that venerable, Depression-era creation of John L. Lewis and New Deal labor policy -- entered into merger negotiations with two of Britain's largest unions (which are merging with each other next month) to create not only the first transatlantic but the first genuinely multinational trade union. Mergers among unions are nothing new, of course, and as manufacturing employment in the United States has declined, some unions -- the Steelworkers in particular -- have expanded into other industries and sectors. Today, just 130,000 of the union's 850,000 members are employed in basic steel, with the remainder in paper and rubber manufacturing and a range of service industries. British unions have gone down a similar path; of the two British unions with which the Steelworkers wish to merge, Amicus is a multi-sectoral outgrowth of that nation's autoworkers, while the other, the Transport and General Workers, has long been what its name suggests. All three unions are among their nations' largest; the combined membership, should the merger go through, will total roughly 3 million, making it the planet's largest union.  The story here, however, isn't the number of members but the adaptation of labor to the globalization of capital. Harold Meyerson, "Unions Gone Global."   Prospect (27 April 2007)

Big Tom the Red by Manning Johnson

  I Tried to Be a Communist by Richard Wright

Outside Capital Urged on South

David Rockefeller Stresses Transition From a Rural to industrial Economy

By John C. Delvin

Eliminating Overtime Pay—Our mind-boggling and staggering trade deficit for 2006 was $763 billion dollars, the fifth consecutive year of record-breaking deficits.  Be clear about what this means: it means that on the whole our country imported goods and services valued at $763 billion dollars more than everything we sold and exported abroad -- just in 2006!  It doesn't take a scientist to realize that this is no way to run things and that it can't go on for very much longer without a colossal day of reckoning. Corporate America still has exports in mind however -- just not the kind of exports that any of us here can be proud of.  Take for instance the recent attempts by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) to pressure the Japanese government into "modernizing" their overtime pay system.  This is really nothing more than a plan to deform and weaken the already weak Japanese overtime laws further, enabling companies to compel workers to labor for free.  This in a country that actually has a word to describe the phenomenon of death from overwork, or "karoshi."  The ACCJ assault on overtime pay is a continuation of their brazen interference in Japan's internal political system, and merely another manifestation of the extensive subordination of Japan to U.S. economic, political, and military interests. Chris Townsend “Trade Unions Respond to U.S. Attack on Japanese Workers.”Monthly Review

A Shattered Dream 

"The ANC bought into a very one-sided Faustian pact.”


By Paul Kingsnorth

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)                     

All Out for May Day Marches—We invite you to join us in the May 1st, MAY DAY, marches and actions to raise our collective voices to Stop immigration raids and deportations, stop the forced separation of our families, legalization for all, and no bracero-type contract programs. Lastly, we adamantly oppose the Gutierrez-Flake Immigration Bill, known as the STRIVE ACT, introduced last month by Congressmen Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Our next eNewsletter will provide much more information about the STRIVE ACT by various sources which critique the legislation as deficient and dangerous to immigrants and working people. We encourage you to download the letters we have posted for your convenience, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and circulate amongst your family, friends, and work-mates and forward these to the Democratic Party leadership. No to the Gutierrez-Flake Bill  MAPA


Drummond Coal of Alabama, a family owned corporation worth billions, is going on trial in Birmingham, AL May 14, 2007 in federal court, for the murder of union organizers. . . . Drummond closed most of its mines in Alabama, abandoning its union workers here, to move its primary operations to Colombia, where they have two strip mines they value at $2 Billion dollars.  They have a private army protecting them from the Colombian people and from union organizers.  Colombian witnesses say they have witnessed Drummond Execs pay right-wing paramilitaries, connected with the Colombian armed forces and right-wing government of President Uribe, to murder union organizers. . . . Colombia is the third highest recipient of US aid, after Israel and Egypt. The nation is deeply repressive and is the primary source of cocaine coming to the US . . . . Colombia is, of course, a potential launching ground for an invasion of Venezuela, something being planned by the Bush/Cheney/Rove cabal. . . . Below is a B'ham News article in today's business section. .  . .  Please focus on this trial.  Drummond is, in my opinion, a terrorist corporation, one of the US terrorist organizations.  Rev. Jack Zylman 1321 16th Avenue South Birmingham, AL 35205-6020 phone: 205-933-7678 cell:  205-821-0650 Birmingham News

 HyderBad: A Third World Cyber-City

Filled with High-Tech  American Corporate Logos 

By Amin Sharif

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. Understanding Low Wage Work in the United States

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Can Capitalist Organizations Be More than Self-Serving? 

Santiago Rafael Cruz, an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) based in Toledo, Ohio, was murdered in Monterrey, Mexico on April 9. Cruz was found bound and beaten to death in the union offices; there had been no forced entry and there was no robbery. Baldemar Velásquez, president of FLOC, believes that he may have been murdered because the union had disturbed the operations of corrupt individuals involved in labor contracting operations in Mexico. Cruz, originally from Oaxaca, had gone to the United States in search of work to help support his family in Mexico. He became involved as a volunteer with FLOC working on immigrant rights issues. “We recognized his talent,” said Velásquez, “and hired him to work for the union.” Cruz worked both in Ohio and in North Carolina organizing agricultural workers for four years. Earlier this year Cruz found himself in need of more money to help his family and took a factory job. During an immigration raid he was arrested and detained for some time and then deported to Mexico. Back in Mexico he learned that FLOC was looking for someone to work in its office in Monterrey, and the union hired him for the job. Still short on money to rent an apartment, Cruz was staying in the union office at the time he was attacked and killed. Who Would Want Cruz Killed? . . . While the Mexican police have yet to arrest or charge any suspects, the labor contractors had a motive and may well have been responsible. "It was a purely political attack," said FLOC president Baldemar Velásquez. "We think the motivation was that the union contract was adversely affecting the labor contractors, the recruiters. Dan La Botz Santiago Rafael Cruz, Labor Oranizer For U.S. Union, Killed In Mexico UE International


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

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

Amin Sharif  Amin Sharif Table

HyderBad: A Third World Cyber-City Filled with High-Tech  American Corporate Logos 

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


Clarence (Tiger) Davis 


Remembering Reggie


Dying for Growth Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor 


Gates Foundation Can Capitalist Organizations Be More than Self-Serving?


George Bush


Awakening  the Conscience of America Speech  on Atlantic Slave Trade


Joan Martin




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


Julius Kambarage Nyerere


Julius Kambarage Nyerere (1922-1999) Bio of a Statesman & Pan-African Leader

Ujamaa The Basis of African Socialism


Junious Ricardo Stanton Positively Black Table  Stanton Bio 

International Locks Conference  Blends Natural Hair, Health, and Beauty

Kenny and Fatima Gamble Promote Wellness



Labor and Socialism

The ABCs of Class Struggle by Aduku Addae

Choosing Sides  Zimbabwe Peasant Land Expropriations by Lil Joe 

Comments on Addae's "ABCs"  by Lil Joe  Lil Joe Bio  Lil Joe Index   

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  

Sanctions on Zimbabwe -- Africa Under Attack by Connie White

Socialism in the United States by Harry W. Laidler

Varieties of Socialism  by David Schweickart

Lester Lewis

Reporting South Africa 

Reporting Zimbabwe  


Outside Capital Urged on South by John C. Delvin The New York Times (May 9, 1956)


Paul Kingsnorth


A Shattered Dream  "The ANC bought into a very one-sided Faustian pact.”

One No, Many Yeses  A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement


Related Files

America Beyond the Color Line  

Myths of Low-Wage Workers

Press Release from United for a Fair Economy

Responses to Skip Gates

Skip Gates and the Talented Fifth 

Social Role of Black Journalism 

State Of Black America  

 The State of Black Journalism  

state of black nation 2005

State of the Dream    

The State of the Dream 2005

The State of HBCUs

 What Would "Dr. Kang" Say?

White Privilege Shapes the U.S. 

The South Is Fishing Hard  by Simmons Fentress The Charlotte Observer  (12/17/56)

Women of Color Now an Impoverished  Majority in New York City


Yambo Ouologuem on Violence, Truth and Black History  The African World