Veteran Organizer Gives Inside Look At The First $15 Minimum Wage Campaign

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By Jonathan Timm for In These Times – Back in 2011, as the Occupy Wall Street movement was still spreading through the country, a smaller standoff was unfolding at Sea-Tac, the international airport in the small, eponymous town between Seattle and Tacoma that serves both cities. Along with some of her coworkers, Zainab Aweis, a Somali Muslim shuttle driver for Hertz car rental, was on her way to take a break for prayer, when her manager stepped in front of the doorway. “If you guys pray, you go home,” the manager said. As devout Muslims, Aweis and her fellow staff were dedicated to praying five times a day. Because it only takes a few minutes, their employer had previously treated the prayers like smoke breaks—nothing to worry about. Suddenly, the workers were forced to choose between their faith and their jobs. “I like the job,” Aweis thought, “but if I can’t pray, I don’t see the benefit.” As she and others continued to pray, managers started suspending each Muslim worker who prayed on the clock, totaling 34. The ensuing battle marked a flashpoint in what would eventually be the first successful $15 minimum wage campaign in the country. The story of these Hertz workers, and the many others who came together to improve their working conditions, is recounted in Beyond $15…

Unsung Black Heroines Launched Modern Domestic Workers Movement

African-American women training as household workers in the 1930s. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

By Premilla Nadasen for Yes! Magazine – In the late 1990s, household workers around the country began to organize to address the exploitation and abuse in their occupation. These domestic workers, immigrant nannies, housecleaners, and elder-care workers from all over the world—the Philippines, Barbados, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Nepal—used public shaming strategies to draw attention to particularly egregious employers, sued for back pay, developed support groups, organized training and certificate programs, and lobbied for statewide domestic workers’ bills of rights. In building a movement, domestic workers used storytelling to connect workers with one another. Barbara Young, for example, a former nanny and an organizer with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, joined Domestic Workers United in New York City in the early 2000s. Young was in a park one day with the child she cared for when another household worker, Erline Brown, invited her to a DWU meeting in Brooklyn. “People were telling the stories about the work that they were doing, not getting vacation, not getting paid for holidays.,” she explained. “It was the first time I was hearing stories from workers coming together.”

Reading Gramsci In Latin America

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Some 80 years after his death, Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci’s relevance for social movements and the Left in Latin America persists.

By Nicolas Allen and Hernán Ouviña for NACLA – Buenos Aires commemorated the 80th anniversary of Antonio Gramsci’s passing on April 27, 1937, with a week of lectures and cultural events paying homage to the Italian revolutionary. The proceedings, which will continue into the following months, had an air of veneration customarily reserved for independence leaders like Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. Indeed, few intellectual figures have proven as important as Gramsci in addressing questions of power and state formation in the Latin American context. To borrow the title of Peter Thomas’s 2013 study, Argentina and Latin America have been living their own “Gramscian moment” for the last half century. How, and why, has Gramsci’s thinking remained so relevant in Latin America? History provides several clues—among them the fact that the first non-Italian edition of his Quaderni del Carcere(Prison Notebooks) was published in Spanish in Buenos Aires in 1950. The Quaderni presented a reinvention of traditional Marxism, taking national history as its central point of reference. Before Gramsci, Latin American communist parties largely ignored the specificity of national and regional histories, deferring to the Communist International’s (Comintern) interpretation of history

Antonio Gramsci And The Battle Against Fascism

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – Antonio Gramsci wrote his “Prison Notebooks” at a time not dissimilar to our own. The political parties led by the liberal class, because they had detached themselves from the working class, were weak or irrelevant. The radical left had been neutered and had failed to articulate a coherent alternative vision to capitalism. There was a “crisis of authority.” Fascism was ascendant and state repression was becoming steadily more severe and totalitarian. Benito Mussolini’s regime claimed, like our corporate state, to be implementing a government based on efficiency, meritocracy, the management of society by experts and specialists and the elimination of class conflict through mediation. It too celebrated “heroic” military values, traditionalism and a mythical past that stretched back, in the case of fascist Italy, to ancient Rome. It also rewarded conformism and loyalty, denigrated the humanities and culture in favor of vocational and technical training, spectacle and patriotic kitsch. It preached a relentless positivism, ridiculed the concept of the public good by trumpeting a hyper-individualism and defanged the press. Dissent and criticism were condemned as treason. Gramsci when he was arrested in 1926 and imprisoned technically had parliamentary immunity, but by then the rule of law was meaningless.

Transcript Of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s Address On Confederate Monuments

People marching in Austin, Texas on Saturday were among the millions nationwide who mobilized to express their dismay at the reality of President Donald Trump. "There are millions of people in this country who currently feel lost and alone and would like to contribute to movements that envision a more just society," writes Lobel. But in addition to organizing this new wave of energy, he adds, there must also be "a coherent strategy and vision" if transformative change is to be achieved. (Photo: Steve Rainwater/flickr/cc)

By Derek Cosson for The Pulse – Just hours before workers removed a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee — the fourth Confederate monument to be dismantled in New Orleans in recent weeks — Mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a special address at historic Gallier Hall. Here’s a full transcript of Landrieu’s remarks: Thank you for coming. The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way – for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans: the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Color, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of Francexii and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more. You see: New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures.

Which Way To The Barricades?

1933 Dressmakers' Union strike demonstrators take a break in a diner. Kheel Center / Flickr

By Steve Fraser and Nelson Lichtenstein for Jacobin Magazine – Shelly’s “Masque of Anarchy” has been a spectral presence for nearly two hundred years, summoned at climactic moments of civil warfare. Composed to memorialize the 1819 Peterloo massacre, the poem commemorates the sixty thousand people who gathered at the very dawn of the industrial revolution to demand a radical expansion of suffrage, especially to those laboring in England’s dark satanic mills. Dozens died, hundreds were wounded. The poem wasn’t published for over a decade, until the Chartist movement took it up in 1832. Another ten years after that, it became the anthem of an almost nationwide general strike. Participants referred to the time leading up to that moment and the strikes that preceded it as “holy days.” Since then “Ye are many—they are few” has inspired rebellion, resistance, and liberation again and again. The New York garment worker strikes of 1911, the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, May 1968 in Paris, and, most recently, the pro-democracy congregations during the Arab Spring and the Occupy uprisings of 2011 are all etched in our collective memory. There are also largely unknown, but hardly less remarkable, general strikes: not just those that shut down Winnipeg and Seattle in 1919…

The Costa Rica Lesson

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By John Andrews for Dissident Voices – I recently returned from a holiday in Costa Rica, a country I’d wanted to visit for some years. I bought two T-shirts there. One has an image of an automatic rifle with a flower sticking out its barrel and the words “NO ARMY” written across it in the colour of blood. The other T-shirt has an image of an artillery piece, with the words “No army since 1948” on it. Just after Costa Rica had its revolution in 1948, one of the first things its new visionary leader Jose Figueres Ferrer did was scrap its army. Contrary to what one might think, this immediately increased Costa Rica’s security, rather than weakening it, and it’s the only country in an otherwise war-torn part of the world to have had sustained peace and prosperity ever since. Ferrer’s action suggests that he realised that, counterintuitively, armies are more of a threat to freedom and national security than providers of it. Costa Rica has a lightly armed police force which is quite enough for its security needs. Scrapping their army has allowed Costa Rica to spend billions of dollars providing standards of health, education and pensions for all its citizens that are unknown in that part of the world.

Who Really Started The Korean War?

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By Justin Raimondo for Anti War – The sixtieth anniversary of the “end” of the Korean war saw President Obama attempt to rescue that classic example of interventionist failure from history’s dustbin. Addressing veterans of that conflict, he declared: “That war was no tie. Korea was a victory. When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom, a vibrant democracy…a stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North, that is a victory and that is your legacy.” This is a fairytale: it wasn’t a victory, or even a tie: the US public was disenchanted with the war long before the armistice, and Truman was under considerable pressure at home to conclude an increasingly unpopular conflict. As for this guff about “democracy”: whatever the US was fighting for, from 1950, when the war broke out, to 1953, when it ground to a halt, democracy hardly described the American cause. We were fighting on behalf of Syngman Rhee, the US-educated-and-sponsored dictator of South Korea, whose vibrancy was demonstrated by the large-scale slaughter of his leftist political opponents. For 22 years, Rhee’s word was law, and many thousands of his political opponents were murdered: tens of thousands were jailed or driven into exile.

Anti-Apartheid Leader Ahmed Kathrada, Jailed Alongside Nelson Mandela, Dead

Anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada listens to a speech at the 10th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates at the Rotes Rathaus (City Hall) in Berlin. (AFP File Photo)

By Staff of Polity – Sad as the passing of Ahmed Kathrada is, we need to use these occasions to draw lessons from his life. Kathrada is one of the last of a generation of political figures who built the Congress Movement, consisting of the ANC, Indian Congresses, South African Congress of Trade Unions, Congress of Democrats and the South African Coloured People’s Organisation. It was a mighty force that stressed the need to unite all the people of South Africa experiencing oppression or, as whites, willing to combat oppression and build a united democratic South Africa. Initially the alliance that was built was referred to as multi-racial, but gradually the term non-racial came into existence, envisaging that the basis for unity would not be separately organised people, though this separate organisation did persist.

Activism Then & Now: Organizing In The Pre-Twitter Era

Today's protests bring about memories of student activism in the 60s. Photo by AP

By John Eklund for Portside – There’s no question that social and digital media are transforming the way movements are built and organized. But technology by itself has never overthrown a tyrant nor seized state power. Self-expression is a potent thing, but as a plan of action it’s just a start. Progress demands that the contemporary social media-based resistance overcome its fear and loathing of leadership, organization and ideology. Recently a contemporary member of the new resistance asked me- a veteran of the 1960s resistance- how we managed to organize a movement without social media. How indeed? I came of political age in the late 1960s, when my Milwaukee high school was consumed by movements for change…

Not Your Grandma’s Civil Rights Strategy

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By Jon Else for Tom Dispatch – On a glorious afternoon in August 1963, after the massive March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom wrapped up on the national mall, President John F. Kennedy, prodded by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, welcomed John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, and other march organizers to the White House for a discussion of proposed civil rights legislation. Fifty-four years later, on an afternoon in January 2017, when the even more massive Women’s March on Washington wrapped up, President Donald Trump responded with a sarcastic tweet. Just the day before, Trump’s team had removed the “civil rights” page from the issues section…

Gandhi’s Strategy For Success — Use More Than One Strategy

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By Mark Engler and Paul Engler for Waging Nonviolence – At the end of 1930, India was experiencing disruption on a scale not seen in nearly three quarters of a century — and it was witnessing a level of social movement participation that organizers who challenge undemocratic regimes usually only dream of achieving. A campaign of mass non-cooperation against imperial rule had spread throughout the country, initiated earlier that year when Mohandas Gandhi and approximately 80 followers from his religious community set out on a Salt March protesting the British monopoly on the mineral. Before the campaign was through, more than 60,000 people would be arrested, with as many as 29,000 proudly filling the jails at one time.

A Constitution Corrupted

A military band in Puebla commemorates Constitution Day on February 6 of this year. (Timothy Neesam/ Flickr)

By Gavin O’Toole for NACLA – It is easy to understand scholarly and progressive interest in this year’s centennial of the Russian revolution, but harder to explain why there is little apparent enthusiasm for an anniversary that is arguably more important – that of Mexico’s 1917 constitution, signed on February 5, 1917. In fact, Mexico’s constitution provided the model for the first Soviet constitution. Its failure to inspire global interest may reside in an uncomfortable question facing the country: whether it should be celebrating or mourning. The Constitution has been revered by constitutional scholars for being the first to enshrine social rights.

History Shows Trump Will Face Legal Challenges To​ Detaining Immigrants

Protests after death of a 36-year-old woman in custody at immigration detention facility in Arizona. AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo, File

By Kevin Johnson for The Conversation – President Donald Trump has followed through on his promise to ramp up immigrant detention as part of immigration enforcement. His executive order on border security and immigration describes a “new normal” that will include the detention of immigrants while they await removal hearings and removal. Trump’s order expressly announces the end of “catch and release” of undocumented immigrants after their apprehension, which allowed them to post a bond and be released from detention while their removal proceedings moved forward. Rather than doing something new, President Trump is simply expanding the use of immigrant detention.

Amilcar Cabral’s Revolutionary Anti-Colonialist Ideas

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By Firoze Manji for ROAR Magazine – Amilcar Cabral and Frantz Fanon are among the most important thinkers from Africa on the politics of liberation and emancipation. While the relevance of Fanon’s thinking has re-emerged, with popular movements such as Abahlali baseMjondolo in South Africa proclaiming his ideas as the inspiration for their mobilizations, as well as works by Sekyi-Otu, Alice Cherki, Nigel Gibson, Lewis Gordon and others, Cabral’s ideas have not received as much attention. Cabral was the founder and leader of the Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde liberation movement, Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC).