As working class sections and low income households in the UK are suffering from the ongoing cost of living crisis, rail workers are organizing a massive mobilization against proposed austerity measures and job cuts. Over 50,000 rail workers of 13 train operating companies and the London Tube began a strike action on Tuesday, June 21, under the leadership of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) demanding higher wages at par with the soaring inflation and protesting against the job cuts that will result from the austerity policies proposed by the authorities. The strike continued on Thursday, June 23, and the workers will again go on strike on Saturday, June 25.
Valentín, the man next to us in line as we made our way across the international border, asked what we had been doing in Tijuana. We had been at the Workers Summit of the Americas, organized as an alternative to Biden’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Our summit was as a place where countries besieged by and barred from the US could participate and was held in cooperation with a kindred counter-summit in Los Angeles. Valentín, who had been born in Mexico and spent most of his working life in the United States, had seen the border from both perspectives. He commented about Biden’s summit that although the US is rich in resources, industry, and agriculture, “it wants it all,” which pretty much sums up what imperialism is about.
We, representatives of Trade Union, Peasant, Political and Social organizations, gathered in Tijuana – Mexico, June 10-12, 2022, on the occasion of the realization of the Summit of the Americas of the Working Men and Women Workers, in immediate response to the exclusion of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua imposed by the Government of the United States. There is a systemic and structural crisis of capitalism in its imperialist phase. It is in itself a civilizational crisis. The capitalist economic model and its political arm neoliberalism, as well as its modern cultural foundation, have put the planet’s life in crisis. If not eliminated, imperialism’s necropolitics leads us to the planetary collective suicide, which is more lacerating in the sectors less favored by the current world system.
Workers at TrainOSE, a Greek railroad company, have been refusing to transport U.S. tanks destined for Ukraine from Alexandroupoli, a port in the northern part of the country. After workers there refused, bosses tried to force railroad workers from elsewhere to take on the work. “For about two weeks now,” the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a statement, “there has been pressure on the employees of the engine room in Thessaloniki to go to Alexandroupoli.” The bosses’ desperate effort to find workers who would move the transport forward was unsuccessful. The argument from employers that they should have no specific interest in what they are transporting came to nothing, even with a threat regarding the workers’ contract, which states, “An employee can be deployed according to the needs of the company.” Further threats of dismissal also proved fruitless.
The Troika Kollective stands in solidarity with the people of Donetsk and Luhansk. We stand firmly against all wars of plunder, against NATO’s repeated military interventions, and against U.S. intervention. We recognize that the working-class of these two republics want peace and self-determination. We are in solidarity with the anti-war faction in Ukraine. The U.S. ruling class is only interested in maintaining post-2014 Ukraine as an economic and geopolitical pawn in it’s outdated attempt to hang on to a unipolar world (U.S. hegemony). Russia is one of many nations of the world today who, through their refusal to bend to U.S. imperialism, represent the deterioration of U.S. hegemony.
Just over 20 years ago, Michael Zweig published The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret. At that year’s How Class Works conference at SUNY Stony Brook, academics from history, political science, labor and industrial relations, and other fields debated Zweig’s use of the term “working class.” Some thought it was a throwback to the 1930s or a tip-off that someone was a Marxist. But even at a conference attended by many academics from working-class backgrounds, no one pointed out that academics are working class. Twenty years ago, academia still seemed like a middle-class or even an upper-class job, even though that had started to change in the mid 1970s.Young academics expected that if they did “all the right things,” they would get tenure and live happily ever after.
One hundred years ago this week, Sylvia Beach, who ran the bookstore Shakespeare and Company on 12 rue de l’Odéon in Paris, placed a copy of a book she had published, ‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce, in the window. Ulysses, with white letters on a blue book cover, had been rejected by publishers in English-speaking countries. The story takes place during a single day in Dublin, June 16, 1904. It would swiftly become one of the most important novels of the 20th century, at once ancient and modern, drawing its inspiration from Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. Ulysses is the Latin name for Homer’s hero Odysseus. The mythical figures in Homer’s epic are reincarnated in the lives of the Irish working-class.
Russell Banks in books such as ‘Continental Drift’, ‘Affliction’ and ‘The Sweet Hereafter’ has long chronicled the struggles and inner torment that come with being a member of our dispossessed working class. In his new novel, ‘Foregone’, he turns his lens on the inner life of artists, in this case a well-known documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife. Fife, who fled to Canada, supposedly to avoid the draft, is dying from the ravages of cancer. He is confined to a wheelchair, wracked by pain, pumped full of medications, and unable to eat solid food. His final desire, in front of a camera, is to expose to his wife of 40 years the lies and myths that he has spun to create a fictional persona, perhaps a curse of all who become public figures.
The autumn is a colourful time in Finland. The trees turn yellow and then red before the leaves fall. Neon pinks and yellows also appear—the reflective vests of toddlers and children venturing out to explore parks and cities with their day care teachers. In Finland these sights are omnipresent. The country’s free or inexpensive public and private day care is, in many suburbs, so extensive that it seems every block might as well have one. This autumn, my eighteen-month-old daughter has started in hers—a city-run public day care quite close to our home. There, for a part of the day, she will join a group of twelve equally small kids while her parents go to work or study. Among other activities, she plays with friends, goes on nature trips, and visits the library.
Unions have the winds at their back because of the unique circumstances of the pandemic making so many workers less willing to work unpleasant jobs for lousy pay, but labor markets have a way of tightening that make striking a riskier proposition for workers. We must take this opportunity to win back our rights for when we’ll really need them again. In any workplace where workers are on strike — or just talking about it — if the boss starts to promise scabs permanent replacement jobs at the end of the labor dispute please file a damn Unfair Labor Practice charge! Where does Jennifer Abruzzo’s NLRB have the discretion to punish an employer for hiring permanent scabs? Prompted by a union-filed Unfair Labor Practice charge, it can investigate an employer’s economic needs “to protect and continue his business” by hiring permanent replacements.
We know the U.S. labor movement is too small. Our current union density, or membership rate, is very low, about 11% of the workforce, with only around 6% in the private sector, and it’s been falling nearly every year for decades. To put this crisis in perspective, the union membership rate hasn’t been this low in more than a century. Wages, benefits and working conditions for many workers are not improving, and in some ways have gotten worse in recent decades. Furthermore, union membership is concentrated in too few states. Over half of the 14.3 million union members live in just seven states. And in many southern states, the union membership rate is less than 5%. That means there are too many elected officials that have no fear of voting against union and workers’ interests.
Long working hours led to 745,000 deaths worldwide in 2016. As we emerge from the pandemic, we urgently need to reclaim our free time – but the only way to do it is through worker organising.
Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin is probably best known for Anarchism and the Black Revolution, a fifty-six page manifesto that was arguably the first work to systematically apply the principles and theories of anarchism to the history of Black struggle and the question of Black liberation. First published in 1979, Anarchism and the Black Revolution was written while the Chattanooga-born Irvin was incarcerated in the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois serving a life sentence for hijacking . Ervin was first introduced to anarchism during an interim stint in the Federal Detention Center in...
It’s time for wealth redistribution. There, I said it. I know it’s the third rail of politics, but I’m not running for a damn thing, which makes me free to speak the truth. (Well, I am running for president of my neighborhood elementary school’s PTA, but I’m pretty sure I’ll win easily since my campaign slogan is “Extend the school day to 20 hours because we don’t want to deal with those little monsters. You take ‘em!” . . . Well, I’ll win as long as they don’t find out I don’t have a child.) Anyway, we desperately need wealth redistribution. And before anyone starts yelling something about Joseph Stalin, here’s the part that’s going to blow your mind — in the United States we’ve already had wealth redistribution for decades.
Even asking the questions is exhausting. Who’s making the Covid decisions, and why do they change every day? How has the workload doubled? What about the new extremes of micro-management? Which of my co-workers, or their families, or my customers or patients or students are going to get sick? And why can’t we seem to do anything to stop all this suffering? The pull to give up, to withdraw, to hunker down and “just survive” is almost irresistible—even for a committed activist like you. But here we are. We are connecting to one another at work, even if just through images on a screen.