In This Moment, Labor Must Become A Movement

Low Wage Protest

By Moshe Z. Marvit for On Labor. Labor has the existential imperative to reform itself, harness the existing energy, and lead a movement. There is no doubt that Donald Trump—through the use of Executive Orders, executive and judicial appointments, and legislative priorities—will likely usher in an environment that is hostile to labor. However, unlike Ronald Reagan, Trump ran a campaign that provided the ground for labor to reform itself. First, he will be the first president in modern history that ran a campaign that was centered around worker issues. All presidential candidates talk about middle and working class issues, but successful campaigns are rarely centered on improving the lot of workers. Second, Trump’s calls for mass deportations, exclusion of Muslims, dismantling of the regulatory state, limits to access for abortion, and a litany of xenophobic actions and policies, have united large swaths of Americans in opposition. Under these conditions, labor can transform itself from what has increasingly become a membership-based services organization into a movement.

“We Can Turn This Thing Around More Quickly Than Most People Think”

As pundits and progressive groups alike struggle to understand what happened on Election Day, McAlevey makes a relatively straightforward argument: listen. (Hospital Employees' Union/ Facebook)

By Kate Aronoff for In These Times – If one mantra seems to have dominated the progressive response to this year’s presidential election, it’s an apocryphal one cribbed from a long-dead Swedish Wobbly: “Don’t mourn, organize!” Exactly what that organizing looks like, however, remains up for debate. Jane McAlevey’s latest book, No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, sets out to shed light on that question, drawing on case studies from recent history and McAlevey’s three decades of experience in the labor and environmental movements.

Why Campaigns, Not Protests, Get The Goods

Student Protest US History

By George Lakey for Waging Nonviolence. In order to build the kind of power that creates change you need a direct action campaign that harnesses a series of actions into an escalating sequence. Millions of Americans have participated in the past half-century in such campaigns: bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins, the Fight for $15, farmworkers, campus divestment campaigns on South African apartheid and fossil fuels, strikes against corporations, impeding mountaintop removal coal mining, blocking the U.S. plan to invade Nicaragua, preventing the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite this, most Americans don’t understand the difference between a protest and a campaign. Campaigns are very different from protests because they are built for sustainability and escalation. The United States has its own legacy of powerful campaigns and a pool of hard-won skills in our population. It’s time to retire one-off protests, and step up to wins that can lay the foundation of a living revolution.

An Open Letter To Labor Movement: Stand In Solidarity With #NoDAPL

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By Staff of IWW – Right now, several thousand indigenous tribal members (supported by over 160 tribes), land owners, environmentalists, climate justice activists, and supporters of #BlackLivesMatter have gathered together into two camps in rural North Dakota to organize nonviolent resistance to this massive project which will parallel and match the length of the infamous (but rejected by Presidential order) Keystone XL pipeline. Several others have been protesting all along the pipeline’s route over the past couple of weeks. These 1000s strong intrepid folks are supported nationally and internationally by 100,000s.

Witnessing New Age Of Social Justice Movements—Including Labor

Now our movement has a slew of journalists who dig deep and follow campaigns and movements over the long haul. The result is not just that good campaigns get press attention, but that movements grow and expand as people read about them and get inspired to join or do something similar. (Michael Kappel/ Flickr)

By Shaun Richman for In These Times – Something is happening. Socialism is no longer a dirty word (the “S-word”), but something a sizeable portion of Americans tell pollsters is their preferred vision for society. It’s no longer an anachronism to speak of “the Left.” A brave and quickly organized movement for black lives has not only sparked a new civil rights movement but has gotten many of us to see the criminal justice system for what it is: the evolution of Jim Crow. Oh, and a hell of a lot more workers are striking than before.

Protests Intensify, Spread Across France As Workers Refuse Submission

Riot police stand guard behind a fire as refinery workers hold a blockade of the oil depot of Douchy-Les-Mines to protest against the government's proposed labour reforms, on May 25. Photographer: Francois Lo Presti/AFP via Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos for Common Dreams. Amid ongoing blockades and intensifying clashes with police, protests against President François Hollande’s controversial set of labor reforms deepened on Thursday as workers in France’s nuclear plants joined the hundreds of thousands of people taking part in a nationwide strike. Fueled by “a groundswell of public anger,” as the Associated Press put it, the strikes have already shut down France’s gas stations forced the country to dip into reserve petrol supplies. “After oil refinery shutdowns, ” Euronews reports, “Thursday’s strikes at nuclear sites have taken the stand-off one stage further. Power cuts are not expected but tension is growing as France prepares to host the Euro 2016 football tournament in two weeks time.” Sixteen out of the countries 19 nuclear plants voted to join the strike, AP reports. In addition to clashes in Paris, where police fired tear gas at demonstrators, the Guardian reports “that street marches took place in towns and cities across France.

Little-Known Farmworkers Who Sparked Biggest Labor Movement In U.S. History

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By Alexa Strabuk for Yes! Magazine – On a dusty Thursday evening, a couple hundred yards across the railroad tracks from old town Delano, California, Roger Gadiano ambles out of his one-story house to conduct his usual tour. The gray-haired Filipino man grew up in Delano and can tell you not only his own story but also the story of a small, seemingly prosaic agricultural town. He hops into his aging pickup and points out passing landmarks that any outsider might consider bleak and forgotten: a rundown grocery store, a vacant lot, the second story of an old motel.

After Friedrichs Victory, Labor Has A Lot Of Work To Build Their Movement

Demonstrators supporting unions hold up signs outside the US Supreme Court on the day it heard arguments in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, January 11, 2016. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)

By Cedric de Leon for Truthout – The US labor movement should celebrate narrowly escaping a US Supreme Court ruling that would have enforced “right to work” rules across the entire public sector and badly weakened unions financially. But come April, organized labor should end their victory lap and work to fill the political vacuum left by the American two-party system. Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced a 4-4 tie in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

Labor Unrest On The Uprise In The United States

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By Sam Knight for The District Sentinel – Industrial unrest in the United States was more frequent and widespread last year, according to annual data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were twelve “major work stoppages” measured by BLS, up from eleven the year before. The disputes involved about 47,000 workers—a year-over-year increase of 13,000. It was the first year since 2011 that saw the number of major work stoppages increased in the US, and the first year since 2012 to see the number of workers involved in industrial disputes go up.

Fast Fashion Is Second Dirtiest Industry In World, Next To Big Oil

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By Glynis Sweeny in EcoWatch – “The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world … second only to oil,” the recipient of an environmental award told a stunned Manhattan audience earlier this year. “It’s a really nasty business … it’s a mess.” While you’d never hear an oil tycoon malign his bonanza in such a way, the woman who stood at the podium, Eileen Fisher, is a clothing industry magnate. On a warm spring night at a Chelsea Piers ballroom on the Hudson River, Fisher was honored by Riverkeeper for her commitment to environmental causes. She was self-deprecating and even apologetic when speaking about the ecological impact of clothing, including garments tagged with her own name. Fisher’s critique may have seemed hyperbolic, but she was spot-on.

Lack Of Political Org. & Violent History Key Factors In Police Violence

Police, riot control, brutality, militarism

By Carl Finamore in Counterpunch – Essentially, I argue there is more extreme repression in the U.S. primarily because of our extremely racist and genocidal historical record, because of the high residual level of racial division and because of the low level of political organization of the working class. The very formation of this country was rooted in genocide against indigenous people and the enslavement of millions of African peoples. Our heralded pioneer expansion westward and into the southwest in the 19th century also involved the very violent forced land expropriation of Mexican residents, some of whom were settled on the lands for centuries. After the Civil War, extreme cruelty continued to suppress the former slaves and this, as we know, lasted until appalling Jim Crow segregationist laws were torn down through the work of the massive civil rights movement only some 50 years ago.

Ukrainian Trade Unionists Call For Unity Against Facism

The Trade Union building of Odessa in flames (ITAR-TASS)

The Kiev regime wants to forcibly impose on the entire population of Ukraine its system of values which totally rejects the Soviet period in the history of Ukraine. It is based on the traditions of Ukrainian integral nationalism, which is the local Ukrainian variant of fascist ideology. These ideas of integral nationalism inspired such figures as Stepan Bandera. For a significant part of Ukrainian society, such attitudes are unacceptable. That is why opposition appeared. Despite all the repression, people have been fighting against the reactionaries and actively looking for an alternative. But the forces of resistance in Ukraine are split, and some of them are not guided by consistently democratic principles. Some of them receive help from Russian nationalists and therefore think that the alternative to Ukrainian fascism is Russian nationalism. But this is wrong and a dead end road. Therefore, the solidarity of international left forces with the liberation struggle against the Kiev regime will help the people of see they have friends and strengthen the democratic tendencies in the camp of resistance.

At Home & Abroad, The Labor Movement Comes Roaring Back

Photo provided by Elizabeth Cooke. Bleu Rainer, a McDonald’s worker from Tampa, joined low wage workers gathered in NYC at he Fight for $15 march on April 15.

On April 15, 2015, low-wage workers across the U.S. and around the world once again waged a flash strike intended to capture the attention of employers and policy-makers who control their wages. Protesters didn’t spend their limited monies to ride buses, trains or planes to Washington, D.C. where their actions might or might not have attracted much media attention. Instead, they took to the streets where they live and labor — in 200 U.S. cities and across the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, Italy, Bangladesh, Japan, and 30 other countries. At a time when multi-national corporations are 50 of the world’s largest 100 economies, this movement has had to be both intensely local and expansively global. Less than three years ago, the grassroots campaign for a living wage began in scattered Thanksgiving protests by New York City fast food workers and Los Angeles Walmart associates.

In Defense Of A New Kind Of Labor Movement

Workers of the world unite

Geoghegan’s argument, based on his 2014 book Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement, is that a revived—but different—labor movement is the only way to stabilize the economy, solve the problems of hierarchy in the workplace and inequality in the larger society, and save the middle-class. In particular, he developed a compelling case against the idea, shared by mainstream economists and politicians alike, that all we need is more education. Without a stronger union movement, higher levels of education simply won’t solve those pressing economic and social problems.

What Lessons Labor Can Learn From Wisconsin Defeats

Wisconsin protesters march around capitol in right to work protest by Jenna Pope

The survival of the labor movement as an effective social force is today in serious jeopardy and needs to be addressed without delay. We urge that union meetings at the local, state and regional levels be organized to take a hard look at where we’re at and what we need to do to counteract the corporate class’s offensive. To be sure, the best course would be for the major unions on the national level to join together to convene an emergency Congress of Labor to get the ball rolling on an alternative strategy and an alternative program, one that recognizes the enormous power the labor movement still has at its command — especially when allied with community partners with complementary interests — if only it would use that power to mobilize millions to defend our rights, wages, benefits and working conditions, and rescind the repressive measures that have so severely weakened our movement.