Organizers Say Quaint Baltimore Seafood Business Masks Shocking Labor Abuses

Demonstration at the labor department offices in Lampung, Indonesia in 2015. (IUF)

By Bruce Vail for In These Times – Phillips Seafood is a Baltimore-based company that trades on its historic connections to the Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery. The signature dish at its restaurants is the famed Maryland-style crab cake, and its dining rooms feature models of antique fishing boats and romanticized images of the bay watermen culture that is fading fast. But organizers say it’s mostly fake—a cover story for a rapacious, globalized business that preys on poor Indonesian women to extract rich profits for its U.S. owners. That’s the story being told by a multinational federation of labor organizations committed to helping those Indonesian workers, according to Hidayat Greenfield, the Asia-Pacific regional secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF). A loose alliance of unions in 129 countries around the world, the IUF is spreading the word to Phillips’ U.S. customers about the company’s human rights abuses in Indonesia. Last month, representatives of the IUF’s U.S. affiliate, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, were in Ocean City, Md. handing out informational pamphlets at a Phillips restaurant where the company is currently enjoying its seasonal bonanza of business from beachgoers at the resort town.

Reviving The Strike

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By Jane McAlevey for The Bullet – Barb Tiller is a mother of four boys, a wife, and a highly skilled operating-room nurse who has been working at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for 27 years. On July 12, for the first time in her life, she walked off the job along with 1,200 other nurses – almost all women – in the largest nurses’ strike in Massachusetts’s history, and the first in Boston for 31 years. “Nurses don’t stand up for ourselves,” says Tiller. “We stand up for our patients; we stand up for our families when we go home. We stand up for everyone else. But we can’t work under these conditions anymore – like being locked in the operating room with no water, no bathroom break, no meal break, for 12 hours at a time.” Alyssa Gold, a cardiology nurse whose 16 months at Tufts mirrors the duration of the contract negotiations between the nurses and hospital management, says, “I was excited to start working at Tufts because the best learning for nurses happens in Boston hospitals.” Five years into nursing, which she refers to as her calling, Gold agrees with Tiller about the dire need for change. In the days leading up to the strike, Gold faced some of the fears and self-doubt that hospital managers count on.

I Am Not A Hero Teacher

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By Staff for Gad Fly On The Wall Blog – I’ll tell you one thing I don’t need. I don’t need the state, federal or local government telling me how to do my job. When I plan my lessons, I need the freedom to teach children in the way that seems most effective to me – the professional in the room. I also don’t need some bureaucrat telling me how to assess my students. I don’t need some standardized test to tell me what kids have learned, if they can read or write. I’ve spent an average of 80 minutes a day with these children for five days a week. If I can’t tell, I don’t deserve to be in the classroom. And I don’t need my principal or superintendent setting my colleagues and me against each other. We’re not competing to see who can do a better job. We should be collaborating to make sure everyone succeeds. What do I need? My union, for one. I need my right to collective bargaining. I need the power to gather with my colleagues and co-workers so we can create the best possible work environment for myself and my students. I need due process, tenure, so I can’t be fired at the whim of the school board or administrators without having them prove my inequities.

Charleston Workers Renew Region’s Ties To Highlander Center

Fight for $15 activists from Charleston, South Carolina, and other communities around the South recently gathered for an organizing workshop at the Highlander Center in Tennessee. (Photo by Kerry Taylor.)

By Kerry Taylor for Facing South – Seventy years ago, a group of cigar factory workers from Charleston, South Carolina, traveled almost 500 miles to the Highlander Folk School, a leadership training school founded in East Tennessee in 1932. There, the workers introduced the school’s musical director to a gospel song that had boosted their spirits during a protracted strike the previous year. Highlander staff taught the song to thousands of labor and civil rights movement activists over the years and, as its popularity spread, “We Shall Overcome” became an anthem for human rights causes worldwide. It has been sung by left-wing college students in India, anti-apartheid protesters in South Africa, and civil rights supporters from Birmingham, Alabama, to Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the footsteps of the tobacco workers, three Charleston food and hospitality industry workers attended an educational and organizing workshop at Highlander earlier this month sponsored by Raise Up for $15. Since the summer of 2013, Raise Up has been the Southern expression of the national “Fight for $15″ — the Service Employees International Union-backed movement for a livable wage and union rights for low-wage workers.

Eugene Debs And The Kingdom Of Evil

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – Debs burst onto the national stage when he organized a railroad strike in 1894 after the Pullman Co. cut wages by up to one-third but did not lower rents in company housing or reduce dividend payments to its stockholders. Over a hundred thousand workers staged what became the biggest strike in U.S. history on trains carrying Pullman cars. The response was swift and brutal. “Mobilizing all the powers of capital, the owners, representing twenty-four railroads with combined capital of $818,000,00, fought back with the courts and the armed forces of the Federal government behind them,” Barbara W. Tuchman writes in “The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914.” “Three thousand police in the Chicago area were mobilized against the strikers, five thousand professional strikebreakers were sworn in as Federal deputy marshals and given firearms; ultimately six thousand Federal and State troops were brought in, less for the protection of property and the public than to break the strike and crush the union.” Attorney General Richard Olney, who as Tuchman writes “had been a lawyer for railroads before entering the Cabinet and was still a director of several lines involved in the strike,” issued an injunction rendering the strike illegal.

Indonesia: 4,220 Striking Miners Fired

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By Staff of Act Now! – In partnership with IndustriALL which represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world. Over 4,220 Indonesian workers have been fired for striking, and the Indonesian government must ensure the workers are reinstated. US company Freeport-McMoRan has fired 3,000 workers over the last month at the massive Grasberg copper and gold mine in West Papua. The firing violates the workers fundamental rights, the collective bargaining agreement and Indonesian law. The workers had struck in protest against the company’s unilateral decision to put them on long-term leave of absence related to a dispute between Freeport and the Indonesian government. The conflict has spread to Java, where over 300 workers have been fired at a joint venture between Freeport and Mitsubishi known as PT Smelting, which processes copper from Grasberg. The Indonesian government cannot allow Freeport and Mitsubishi to abuse workers in this way. The volatile situation could result in an outbreak of violence that would be difficult to contain.

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.”

Build And Fight: The Program And Strategy Of Cooperation Jackson

From atlantablackstar.com

By Staff of Atlanta Black Star – The fundamental program and strategy of Cooperation Jackson is anchored in the vision and macro-strategy of the Jackson-Kush Plan. The Jackson-Kush Plan, as you will read later in this book, was formulated by the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO) and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) between 2004 and 2010, to advance the development of the New Afrikan Independence Movement and hasten the socialist transformation of the territories currently claimed by the United States settler-colonial state. And as noted in several articles throughout the book, Cooperation Jackson is a vehicle specifically created to advance a key component of the Jackson-Kush Plan, namely the development of the solidarity economy in Jackson, Mississippi to advance the struggle for economic democracy as a prelude towards the democratic transition to eco-socialism. Although Cooperation Jackson is rooted in an ideological framework, vision and macro-strategy, it is not a static organization. Like any dynamic organization we do our best to center our practice on addressing the concrete conditions of our space, time and conditions and to align our theory with our practice.

Prepare Now: Artificial Intelligence To Take Jobs Defeat Human Intelligence

Image Credit: Katja Grace/University of Oxford

By Karla Lant for Futurism – Researcher Katja Grace at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and a team surveyed 1,634 of the leading artificial intelligence researchers from all over the world about when they believe intelligent machines and the AI that powers them will surpass human intelligence in a variety of contexts. 352 of the experts responded, and the team then calculated median responses. The results of the probe were presented this month. The experts predicted that within the next decade, AI will outperform humans in tasks like driving trucks (by 2027), translating languages (by 2024), and writing high school essays (by 2026). The consensus was that other tasks such as writing a bestseller (2049) or carrying out surgeries (2053) wouldn’t be quite so imminent. Interestingly, the experts (who answered in 2015) predicted that AI would not surpass humans at Go until 2027 — yet that’s already happened. This suggests the sobering thought that in general their predictions may have been far too conservative against AI. Still, even if we go with the estimates the experts provided — and these were attendees of two of the most significant AI events in 2015…

Labour’s Manifesto Is A Template For The Struggling Left Worldwide

Jeremy Corbyn launches the Labour party election manifesto. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

By Owen Jones for The Guardian – Wanted: a compelling vision for a left-of-centre party. Must invest in economy, modernise essential services, get the well-off to pay more tax. Free wifi on trains a bonus. Someone answered my personal ad! Labour’s manifesto – unveiled today – is a moderate, commonsense set of antidotes to the big problems holding back one of the wealthiest countries on earth. And – intriguingly – here is an attempt to confront the crisis of identity and vision afflicting social democracy not just in Britain, but across the western world. The manifesto sketches out an answer to Britain’s broken model. The current model is bankrupt: it’s not just unjust, it’s irrational. It concentrates wealth in very few hands – the richest 1,000 British people enjoyed a 14% jump in their fortunes over the past year – while wages have suffered the longest squeeze in generations. It fails to build the housing the country needs. It robs many communities of secure, properly paid, skilled jobs. It leaves most people in poverty in work, earning their poverty. It allows multinational corporations to pay little or no tax while small businesses struggle.

May Day In The Hood

Flickr/ Gigi Ibrahim

By John Reimann for North Star – So, I was walking down the street in my neighborhood, posting these leaflets (English and Spanish) for a May Day event in the neighborhood park. Got my backpack on, my cap to shield the sun, my stapler in hand. I’m starting to think, “what am I doing this for?”, feeling like Don Quixote. Then two young brothers come walking towards me, smoking a joint. I stop them and give them a leaflet. “You know about May Day – international workers’ day?” I ask. After a few words, the one young guy gets going. “We’re the original people, the Hebrews, brought over here. You can call us whatever – Africans, n____s, slaves. We’re the ones who built this country ourselves. Built it from scratch and never got nothing. We’re disrespected…” He talked a bit more on this subject. “As long as nothing is done about it, as long as we don’t get no reparations, nothing is going to change.” I agreed. “Yeah, you know the Three Musketeers?” I said. “Yeah. One for all and all for one,” he said.

Corporate Siege and Trade in the 2018 Elections

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Trade policy is amounting to be an increasinly contentious topic as the Trump administration has clearly showed its intentions to keep major TPP provisions in NAFTA. Corporations are working with the Department of Commerce to eliminate the few but significant labor and environmental protections the government enforces while members of Congress begin to campaign around trade. 2018 promises to put trade policy at the forefront as presidential elections in Mexico and mid-terms in the United States could determine the fate of North American trade agreements to come.

Political Strikes: What Can Workers Do To Protect Themselves?

Workers’ strike in Milwaukee in January of 2014. (Photo: Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association/flickr/cc)

By Leora Smith for On Labor – On January 28, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called an hour-long work stoppage as a way to express their opposition to President Trump’s Executive Order banning immigration from seven Muslim majority countries and suspending refugee intake. A week later, Yemeni-American bodega owners in New York City protested the Order by closing their businesses and holding a thousands-strong protest in Brooklyn. On February 16, as part of an action called A Day Without Immigrants, thousands went on strike to highlight the contributions of immigrant workers. Each of these demonstrations employed the tactic of work stoppages to send a message. Each was labeled a “strike” in the media.

What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In?

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By Mike MIller for Counterpunch. We need to build it. That will require talking with people who now don’t think the way present movement activists do; it will mean listening to them, and gaining their trust; developing relationships with them; engaging them in not only protesting but in becoming co-creators of the movement and organizations required to turn around the ship of empire that the U.S. has become. To imagine what this might look like, add a “0” to the numbers of people participating in what are now considered “mass actions”. And imagine them being sustained over a long period of time. And imagine already existing civic organizations (unions, congregations and others) growing in membership because of their involvement in the cause. And imagine new organizations being formed by people who now don’t have a continuing voice in civic affairs. And stretch your mind a little further to imagine permanent organizations being built that unite all these forces. That’s what “big organizing” would look like.

Labor Leaders Given World Peace Awards In D.C. Ceremony

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By Bill Hughes for Baltimore Post-Examiner – On Capitol Hill, on Tuesday afternoon two stalwarts of the cause of Organized Labor, John Sweeney and Elizabeth Powell, were awarded with the “Roving Ambassador for Peace” award. Sweeney is the President-Emeritus of the AFL-CIO and Ms. Powell is the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). The ceremony was held in the headquarters of the AFL-CIO, on the eighth floor, with a splendid view of the White House and Washington Monument in the background. Friends and family members of the honorees were in attendance. They were joined by officials of the AFL-CIO, such as Ms. Elizabeth Shuler, its Secretary-Treasurer, and Mark Dimondstein, a member of its Executive Council, also the President of the APWU.