2 Workers Assassinated In Mexico: NAFTA Renegotiation More Important Now Than Ever

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By Celeste Drake for AFL-CIO – The need to fundamentally improve the labor provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement took on a new urgency over the weekend, as a group of armed civilians, calling themselves the “Tonalapa Community Police,” (Policía Comunitaria de Tonalapa) attacked striking workers, killing two, at the Media Luna mine in Guerrero, Mexico. The murders occurred just five hours south of Mexico City, where representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico are in the midst of their fifth round of talks about rewriting NAFTA. The aggressors, meanwhile, were released after being briefly detained by an army squadron. The striking workers, who want to be represented by the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros) and are demanding the removal of the employer-dominated “labor” federation CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México), identified local CTM leaders as among those responsible for the attack. The practice of false unions siding with the employer over workers is a common feature of Mexico’s failed labor relations model. Employer-dominated “labor” federations are antithetical to the idea of democratic worker-led unions whose goal is to help workers build better lives.

The Russian Revolution Is Still Relevant Today

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By Brinda Karat for Left World – On this most historic occasion of the centenary of the epoch-making Russian revolution, I extend my warm greetings to you and on behalf of my party the Communist Party of India (Marxist). For the last one year the one million plus members of the CPI(M) and through them the masses of working people, have observed in different ways the centenary of the Russian revolution, at factory gates, in village meetings, in university campuses, in seminars and public meetings. Much of what I speak today is what we collectively believe is the legacy of the Russian revolution under the revolutionary leadership of its most brilliant strategist and theorist V. I. Lenin. At a time when the world is facing the challenge of an offensive of imperialism, of right-wing forces, of xenophobia, of racism, of bigotry, of increased violence against women and marginalized social groups, the need for an alternative vision of human development cannot be overemphasised, In India we have the rule of an extreme right-wing Government wedded to neo-liberal policies and a framework of politics which is based on sectarian majoritarian ideologies termed Hindutva. They work to destroy the unity of the people on religious lines. They aim to replace the secular framework of India by a theocratic Hindu State.

Unpaid Labourers Are ‘Slipping Pleas For Help Into Zara Clothes’

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By Sarah Young for Independent – Shoppers at fashion retailer Zara have found unusual notes in their clothes from workers claiming they have not been paid for making the merchandise. Worth an estimated £8.6 billion and with more than 2,200 stores worldwide, Zara might be one of the world’s most successful fashion brands, but, once again, the retailer finds itself embroiled in controversy. According to customers in Istanbul, cries for help in the form of handwritten notes from Turkish workers have been found in the pockets of in-store garments asking shoppers to back their campaign for better labour standards and pressure Zara into paying them the wages they say they are owed, the Associated Press reports. The notes state the workers in question were employed by third-party manufacturer Bravo Tekstil, which reportedly closed down overnight, leaving workers owed several months wages. Bravo Tekstil also manufacturers garments for Mango and Next. “I made this item you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it,” the notes reportedly read. But, this isn’t the first time the fast-fashion retailer has come under fire. The Spanish chain has previously been taken to task for causing environmental damage, ripping off young designers, and overlooking poor factory conditions. It was even sued for dismal working conditions and accused of both slave and child labour, as well as exploiting Syrian refugees as young as 15.

Weinsteins In The Workplace

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By Steve Early for Counter Punch – The exploding national debate about workplace harassment of women by powerful bosses or male co-workers is a great opening for unions to demonstrate their importance as one form of protection against such abuse. Unfortunately, when unions are not pro-active on this front in their dealings with management or, worse yet, allow bullying or sexual harassment among staff or members, their credibility and appeal as a sword and shield for women (or anybody else) is greatly reduced. Unions don’t exist in a vacuum. They reflect the workplace or occupational cultures of their members, and the latter are a product of social conditioning often unsupportive of solidarity on the job, collective activity, or sensitivity toward women and minorities. So the task of forging a united front, for purposes of mutual aid and protection in the workplace, is easily hindered by union dysfunction and internal divisions based on race, gender, ethnicity, age, and other membership differences. It takes continuous organizational effort—in the form of training and recruitment, new leadership development, and structural change–to insure that the bullying, harassing, divide-and-conquer behavior of bosses, big and small, doesn’t infect and weaken the “house of labor” too.

U.S. Military Is The Largest Employer In The World

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By Sue Chang for Market Watch – Travel on Uncle Sam’s dime and have taxpayers pay for your education—these are some of the perks offered by the U.S. military, and it appears its recruiting strategy is effective. The U.S. Department of Defense has been named the largest employer in the world with 3.2 million employees on its payroll, according to the World Economic Forum. The second largest is China’s People’s Liberation Army with 2.3 million on its staff roster and third biggest is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT, +0.99% with 2.1 million employees. McDonald’s Corp. MCD, +0.33% came in fourth with 1.9 million workers but the World Economic Forum noted the fast-food chain would be eliminated from the list if employees at its franchise restaurants weren’t counted. “As the majority of its restaurants are franchises, this figure falls to 420,000 when they are excluded,” said the WEF.

Displaced Coal Miners Turn To Beekeeping

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By Marlene Cimons for Nexus Media – Mark Lilly, 59, grew up and still lives in West Virginia. He spent three decades as an insurance adjuster, often talking to people struggling through the decline of coal. At the end of some very long days, he would escape to his bee hives. “It was therapeutic,” he said. Life in coal country may no longer be what it once was, but “the bees haven’t changed,” he said. Lilly has since retired from the insurance business, but he still tends to his honeybees. He now is using what he learned from these insects to help out-of-work miners and others hurt by coal’s demise. He’s turning them into beekeepers. Lilly sees beekeeping as a way for longtime Appalachians to preserve their connection to the land and to earn extra money during lean times. Some might even be able to support themselves and their families on income from bees. “Most of the people in these coal towns are very open to anything that involves the outdoors and nature,” Lilly said. “Many of those who lost jobs in the mines are now working lower paid jobs because they don’t want to leave. They are tied to the land. We have an opportunity to go back to those communities and provide them with a new skill and some additional income, so they can stay where they want.”

NAFTA’s Neoliberal Foundations Need To Be Dismantled From The Left

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By Jeff Schuhrke for In These Times – Rejecting both economic nationalism and free-market fundamentalism, workers across North America are building transnational solidarity and demanding labor rights for all. Last week, nearly 60 representatives of unions and civil society organizations from Mexico, Canada and the United States gathered in Chicago for a two-day meeting to discuss strategies for collaboration as their governments renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The meeting was coordinated by the United Electrical Workers (UE), UCLA Labor Center and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, an international civic education institution affiliated with Germany’s Left Party. While many Mexican unions are dominated by the government, only the country’s more independent and democratically run labor organizations attended. “We’re discussing what kinds of relationships can be built, either bi-nationally or tri-nationally,” Benedicto Martínez, a national co-coordinator of Mexico’s Frente Auténtico del Trabajo, or Authentic Labor Front (FAT), told In These Times. “At the forefront of our vision would be the rights of people, including better wages, better education, better healthcare and immigration rights.” Critics argue that NAFTA has accelerated the global “race to the bottom,” where governments dismantle workplace and environmental protections in order to attract capital investment.

SCOTUS Is On The Verge Of Decimating Public-Sector Unions

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By Shaun Richman for In These Times – On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Janus vs. AFSCME, the case that will likely turn the entire public sector labor movement into a “right-to-work” zone. Like a lazy Hollywood remake, the case has all the big money behind it that last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA did, with none of the creativity. In Friedrichs, the plaintiffs argued that interactions between public sector unions and government employers are inherently political. Therefore, the argument went, mandatory agency fees to reimburse the union for the expenses of representation and bargaining were forced political speech, violating employees’ purported First Amendment right to not pay dues. The case ended in a 4-4 deadlock in March 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who had appeared poised to vote against the unions’ interests. Much like Friedrichs, the Janus case has rocketed through the federal courts. The National Right to Work Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case in early June. All briefs will likely be submitted by mid-January 2018, meaning SCOTUS could hold hearings almost exactly a year to the date that the Court last heard the same arguments. The defendants may argue for procedural delays, which could potentially kick the decision into the following court term in 2018-2019.

To Address Inequality, Let’s Take On Monopolies

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By Barry Lynn and Kevin Carty for Inequality – Most Americans know that our country has become extremely unequal. They may not know that the richest 0.1% of Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 90%, or that the richest one percent took more than half of all income growth since 1979. But they know that the rich benefit more and more nowadays, while middle and working class families take home less and less. Our team at the Open Markets Institute is dedicated to investigating and publicizing the radical concentrations of wealth — and of power — that are responsible for creating much of this extreme inequality. Through investigative journalism and historical and legal research we have shown that monopoly power is at the root of many of the most pressing injustices in America today—including degraded jobs, depressed entrepreneurship, financial instability, and the weakening of the economic and social fabric of communities all across the country. Last month, our team of ten people was forced to leave our long-time home at a well-known Washington think tank. We were pushed out for expressing support for an antitrust decision against Google, a tech monopoly that is also one of that think tank’s largest funders.

Federal Employees Ordered To Attend Anti-Leaking Classes

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By Michael Biesecker for Mint Press News – WASHINGTON (AP) — Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency are attending mandatory training sessions this week to reinforce their compliance with laws and rules against leaking classified or sensitive government information. It is part of a broader Trump administration order for anti-leaks training at all executive branch agencies. The Associated Press obtained training materials from the hourlong class. Government employees who hold security clearances undergo background checks and extensive training in safeguarding classified information. Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep “Controlled Unclassified Information” from unauthorized disclosure. The EPA occasionally creates, receives, handles and stores classified material because of its homeland security, emergency response and continuity missions. EPA employees also work closely with contractors and other federal agencies that more regularly handle classified information. President Donald Trump has expressed anger repeated leaks of potentially embarrassing information to media organizations in recent months. In a speech last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said those responsible for the “staggering number of leaks” coming out of the administration would be investigated and potentially prosecuted.

After Generations Working In Coal, Young West Virginians Are Finding Jobs In Solar

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By Jason Margolis for PRI – Nobody from his graduating class is working in coal, says Swiger. “[They’re] honestly working in fast food, or not working at all.” Not Swiger. He has a job installing rooftop solar panels. He says his family is delighted with it. “They’re excited that I’m actually doing something different,” says Swiger. “A lot of people ain’t doing this in West Virginia, a lot of people are against it actually. A lot of people want to go back to coal. “I ain’t against it, I love solar. It’s way better than coal, I think.” Solar panels can save people money on their electricity bills and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, which fuel climate change. With battery storage, found in some home set-ups, solar can also allow people to continue to power their homes off the grid during power outages. Swiger is working as an apprentice with Solar Holler, which was founded four years ago by 32-year-old Dan Conant. Conant doesn’t see solar energy and coal at odds with each other. “The way I think about it, as a West Virginian, is that West Virginia has always been an energy state, and this is just the next step. It’s the next iteration,” says Conant. West Virginia’s economy has long been reliant on coal. Metallurgical coal, which is found in the state, is used in the steel-making process.

Radical White Workers During The Last Revolution

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By Richard Moser for Counter Punch – During the 1960s and 1970s, radical activists set out to organize the white working class. They linked the pursuit of working class interest and economic democracy with anti-racist organizing. They discovered, and helped others realize, that white supremacy and racism are not a friend to white people but one of the main obstacles to fulfilling our own destiny as a free people. The context was the last revolution. The civil rights, black power, feminist, student movements and community organizing set the stage for working class whites to make important contributions to the democracy movements of the time. While these efforts were initiated by various groups, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), radicalized working class youth, and the Black Panthers, they all eventually depended on the leadership of working class communities. The organizers had been deeply radicalized by the social upheavals of the time. Yet, their own working class backgrounds often placed them on the margins of the New Left. But the activists knew the white working class had enormous untapped potential. The movement to stop the War in Vietnam, fight the bosses, and win the battle against racism needed the hard work and political vision that everyday working people could help provide.

The Cure Worse Than The Disease: Expelling Freeloaders In An Open-Shop State

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By Chris Brooks for New Labor Forum – The United States is likely to be an entirely open- shop country in the near future. Republicans dominate over two-thirds of state legislatures, over half of all governorships, both houses of Congress, the White House, and a majority of seats on the Supreme Court. As the GOP proliferates, so does anti-union legislation. Twenty-eight states have already passed open-shop—so-called “right-to-work”—laws, which allow workers to receive the benefits of unionization without being a union member or paying fees for union representation. Over the next couple of years, the Supreme Court is likely to make right-to-work the law of the land in the public sector and it is possible Congress will pass federal legislation to do the same in the private sector. Right-to-work laws create two interlocking problems for labor unions. First, unions are legally required to represent all workers in a bar- gaining unit that the union has been certified to represent. In open shops, the “duty of fair representation” requires unions to expend resources on nonmembers who are covered by the union contract. This is known as the free-rider problem. Union activists often refer to workers who opt out of paying for the benefits of unionization as “freeloaders.”

Living Paycheck To Paycheck Is A Way Of Life For Majority Of U.S. Workers

"We all know that our economy is broken. We have seen that elected officials are just failing to do anything about it," said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project. (Photo: Wisconsin Jobs Now/cc/flickr)

By Staff of Career Builder – Having a higher salary doesn’t necessarily mean money woes are behind you, with nearly one in 10 workers making $100,000 or more (9 percent) saying they usually or always live paycheck-to-paycheck and 59 percent in that income bracket in debt. Twenty-eight percent of workers making $50,000-$99,999 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, 70 percent are in debt; and 51 percent of those making less than $50,000 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, 73 percent are in debt. “As an employer, your employees’ financial problems become your financial problems,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder. “If workers are constantly thinking about their financial struggles, their quality of work can decrease, and it can take a hit on their morale and productivity. If you do what you can to help people keep their finances under control — by doing things such as matching 401(k) contributions or hosting financial planning seminars — you’ll ease some of their financial worries and it will be less likely to have a negative impact on your business.”

Chris Hedges Visits Former Car Manufacturing City To See Impact Of Job Flight

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – In a special edition of “On Contact,” Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges visits Anderson, Ind., formerly a center of car production. He witnesses the economic and psychological impact on workers caused by the flight of General Motors jobs overseas. The city has changed dramatically since the 1970s when, at the peak of American automobile manufacturing, a third of Anderson’s 70,000 residents worked at General Motors. Over the past 30 years, Anderson’s population has decreased as thousands upon thousands of well-paid union jobs have been lost. Watch the video above in which Hedges interviews people in what used to be “big car country” and documents what’s become of Anderson now.