Greece on edge of abyss: What will Jan. 25 elections bring?

first_imgStriking workers in Athens on Sept. 23, 2014.Every political and economic problem afflicting Europe has a worse case scenario in Greece. Whichever party wins the snap election called for Jan. 25 will either offer a small ray of hope or another five years of failed austerity.The Greek Constitution calls for elections when the parliament can’t elect a new president. This happened in late December 2014.The two major parties contesting the parliamentary elections are New Democracy, which is leading the current government headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and Syriza, the official opposition led by Alexis Tsipras.The European bourgeoisie, in particular the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeubel, has said that if New Democracy and Samaras win the upcoming vote, then the bailout will continue along with austerity. If Syriza wins, they say, then the resulting chaos will likely force Greece out of the European Union.Economic problems make disaster for workersDeflation, a general fall in prices, wages and economic output and profits, has been raging since 2008. From its high point in 2007 — when the Greek economy was still growing — to 2014, the Greek output of goods and services has fallen by 33 percent, based on official Greek economic statistics. (qz.com) This is a sharper fall than the United States experienced during the the Great Depression in the 1930s.In November 2014, Greece’s economy minister declared his country’s six-year recession over. The Guardian, a British newspaper that carefully covers Greece, then surveyed hundreds of Greek families. Only 12 percent said they saw any signs of improvement.The Guardian’s Greece correspondent summed up its findings in a Nov. 27 article:“The ‘success story’ peddled by the government differs wildly from what life is really like on the ground — with plummeting living standards, unprecedented unemployment and the inability of most to keep up with bills, including the barrage of new taxes that can change with lightning speed on any given day.“Five years down the road the crisis, to great degree, has been ‘normalized,’ but the disconnect is evident in the collateral damage … suicides, homelessness, a middle class pauperized by austerity.”The official unemployment rate is 27 percent. For youth under 30, at least 50 percent are out of work. Most jobless Greeks haven’t had a paycheck for two years. These figures don’t count the many workers whose pay is one to six months late. (New York Times, Dec. 29)Over 400,000 Greek families have no one in the family working, which means they have to depend on private food pantries to eat. (Newsweek, Oct. 14)The so-called economic troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission — demanded 800 separate measures of cuts and tax increases in Greece. They were designed to lower Greece’s foreign debt in relation to its output and thus make it easier for Greece to meet its bond obligations. Instead, the debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio has grown. This makes it abundantly clear that Greece’s debt cannot be paid off for decades under the current financial structure.The political struggle: general strikes and electionsGreek workers did not take these vicious attacks lying down. At least 40 general strikes and major strikes in transportation and steel have taken place, generally involving all three union confederations. The struggles were particularly intense from 2010 to 2012, but almost always the bourgeoisie was able to beat them back and avoid making any major concessions.While Syriza didn’t oppose these strikes, it did not have many members who were workers, so it did not have much influence. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) and the Greek Socialist Party (PASOK) were the political parties with the deepest connections to the labor movement, though PASOK was often a junior member of the governing coalition.Syriza got 16 percent of the vote in the 2012 election when its position on remaining in the eurozone and rescheduling Greece’s debt was ambiguous. After the vote, in the process of moving from an electoral coalition to a party, Syriza made its move to the center clearer: It adopted a position that Greece should remain in the EU and pay off what it owed out of its economic growth.Running on a platform of “a left government” and “unity of the left” in June 2014 — when the total bankruptcy of the troika’s austerity policy was clear to the Greek people — Syriza got 27 percent of the vote, second to New Democracy.Polls favor it to finish first in the Jan. 25 elections. Even finishing first, however, is no guarantee that Syriza will be able to form a government.According to Panagiotis Karystinos of Communist Revolutionary Action (KED), “The KKE claims that Syriza is just one more bourgeois party. Since Syriza does not proclaim to overthrow capitalism or break with the EU, it will do nothing more than an effort to manage the crisis within the capitalist framework. So, no support for Syriza.” Karystinos goes on to say that many organizations of the nonparliamentary left in Greece agree with the KKE’s criticism of Syriza. (personal correspondence)As conditions for the workers deteriorated, a fascist party called Golden Dawn became much more prominent, getting 7 percent of the vote in the 2012 election up from 0.3 percent in the prior election. It specialized in physically attacking isolated leftists and immigrants. Many Greek leftists suspected the cops played a big role in Golden Dawn. In 2013 the government brought 30 legal cases against Golden Dawn, but didn’t ban the party outright.The big question in the election is whether pressure from EU bankers and governments will coerce Greek voters into re-electing New Democracy and its platform of austerity on Jan. 25.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Madison, Wis.: Mass rally at Capitol hits cop killing of Black youth

first_imgMadison, Wis., March 7. The Capitol has been the site for labor and Black Lives Matter protests.Photo: Heath TschetterMadison, Wis. — Protests continue here over the March 6 police killing of Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old Black man who was shot five times in the chest while unarmed.Almost immediately after police officer Matt Kenny killed Robinson, hundreds came out to protest near the scene where the murder took place in Robinson’s residence near Willy Street and Few Street.A March 6 media release by the Young, Gifted and Black coalition read, “Given the racial disparities in Madison, we have known our city is no different. Young, Gifted and Black will continue to fight against this state violence against Black people and for justice for Anthony Robinson.” YGB, which formed in the wake of the Ferguson protests, has been leading demonstrations for months against police terror, mass incarceration and other forms of state violence against people of color.Killer cop Kenny has a history of violence in the Madison Police Department. He shot to death another unarmed individual in 2007. Nevertheless, Kenny has received a commendation by the MPD, which clearly defends his actions.Robinson’s grandmother, Sharon Irwin, and aunt, Lorien Carter, spoke to the gathering crowd March 6.Referring to police killings of young Black men such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others, Irwin said: “This can’t go on anymore. It’s going on across the United States and it’s ridiculous. You [police] don’t have a license to kill.”Carter said family members were not allowed to see Robinson after he was pronounced dead. “We were told he was evidence,” Carter said. “He wasn’t referred to as ‘his son’ or ‘your son,’ just ‘evidence.’”Robinson’s family said that Anthony had just graduated early from Sun Prairie High School and was planning on studying business at Madison College. The capitalist media have already begun to attempt to assassinate Robinson’s character.The police killing of Robinson is not unusual in recent history. From Ferguson, Mo., to Wisconsin, incidents like this happen every day in the United States. Dozens of Black and Brown people have been killed by police in Milwaukee, Madison and elsewhere over just the past two decades in Wisconsin, all ultimately killed for the color of their skin and being poor.In Milwaukee, the struggle for justice for Dontre Hamilton rages on. Hamilton was shot 14 times and killed instantly by killer cop Christopher Manney last April 30 at Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee. Manney was fired late last year but has an appeal hearing March 19, which the Coalition for Justice is mobilizing for.Under the banner of Black Lives Matter, activists have resisted in Wisconsin and nationwide, telling the racist cops and politicians that modern lynching will not be tolerated. These ongoing actions include street demonstrations, direct action and civil disobedience inspired by the revolutionary resistance of the people of Ferguson.Stop police-state terror!On March 7, hundreds at a YGB organizing meeting in Madison decided the next actions in response to Robinson’s killing. Following the meeting, a protest took to the streets with a lead YGB banner declaring, “Black Lives Matter.”Members of the Coalition for Justice, including Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre Hamilton and Occupy The Hood members from Milwaukee, participated in these actions. Many working-class white youth are also demanding justice for the Robinson and Hamilton families and others whom Wisconsin police have killed. On March 8, hundreds participated in Madison in a Kid Action and Candlelight Vigil for Robinson.The YGB and Coalition for Justice aim to call actions to inspire people to resist the system that criminalizes and kills people of color.On March 11 at 3 p.m. in Madison, poor and working people will rally against the New Jim Crow and demand justice for Tony Robinson, meeting at Worthington Park at the corner of Darbo Drive and Rosemary Street in the Darbo neighborhood. A student walkout at Edgewood High School is also scheduled. All protesters will converge at a protest location of the 1%.A statement from Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) says the youth group stands “firmly opposed to racist killings whether in Ferguson, Gaza or Madison. Down with the racist police state! Justice for Tony Robinson and all others who have been harmed or killed by police terror!”Heath Tschetter is a member of Janesville, Wis., FIST. For more information, go to wibailoutpeople.org.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Punishment for profit: The economics of mass incarceration

first_img“Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today — perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850.” (“The Caging of America” by Adam Gopnik)The excessive arrests and unjustified long-term imprisonments of mostly people of color, and the devastating effects these measures have on whole communities, have been exposed and denounced by community, religious, human rights, legal and advocacy organizations, and individual researchers.Then why is it so hard to stop?Because for a very powerful few, mass incarceration is not a bad thing at all.  It is the source of fabulous profits.  For them, prison equals profits.The total cost to government of incarceration is $70 billion a year. The privately run prison industry, which feeds on mass incarceration, is one of the fastest growing and widest reaching of U.S. industries. In 2009 alone, when most industries were in a slump, the prison industry brought in $34.4 billion in revenues. (“Prison Labor and Crime in the U.S. — Inmate Facts and Stats,” a report to the Black Congressional Caucus at www.phewacommunity.org)The rate of profits from prison industries is comparable to what U.S. companies extract from exploiting labor markets in the global South, without the need to pay the added transportation costs. There is virtually no overhead for these corporations, because the prisons are paid for and prisoners are housed at tax dollar expense.Secret corporate cheerleaders of mass incarcerationThis is why some of the world’s most powerful financial institutions — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and others — are the primary investors in the prison-industrial complex and the secret cheerleaders of mass incarceration.That’s why virtually every major company and employer — from the U.S. military to Exxon, to McDonalds, to Victoria’s Secret — and a great many minor ones, profit directly or indirectly from low-cost prison labor.  This reach is so vast that the products of prison labor touch virtually every part of life, from the food we eat, the jeans we wear, the phones we use, to how our pensions are invested.That’s why the judiciary, the courts, the police, the legislatures and even whole federal agencies have become apologists for, encouragers of and accomplices in punishment for profit, having had their palms amply greased by its main corporate players.Legislation that enables financial gain from prisons, such as mandated harsh sentences for nonviolent crime, were actually written by the prison profiteers, then passed by legislatures in their pay.Prison labor has taken the place of many jobs. So punishment for profit contributes to unemployment, undermines workers’ demands for living wages and creates obstacles to trade union organizing.How did this happen?Emergence of the prison-industrial complexThe term “prison-industrial complex” was coined in 1997 by activist and former political prisoner Angela Davis to describe the high rate of profit made by the corporations running prisons, the merger of these companies with the biggest banks and businesses, and the devastating effect this phenomenon has had upon the working class, communities of color and the socially vulnerable.Before 1980, there were no private adult prisons in the U.S.  Private companies began to run state and federal prisons in the 1980s, under President Ronald Reagan. These corporations were given a huge boost in the 1990s by President William Clinton, whose cut to government jobs provided a golden opportunity for private firms seeking to run prisons.   “Punishment for profit” was off and running.Since then, there has been an explosion in private companies providing goods and services to government agencies involved in punishment.  This includes contract prison labor, construction of prisons, surveillance, tech vendors, prison food providers, medical services, phone service for prisoners, private probation companies, investors in these companies, and the lobbyists that represent the businesses seeking to expand the prison system.Revenues increased 500 timesTwo of the largest private companies now running prisons are the Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group.  There were no private prisons before 1984. From then until 2009, these two corporations increased their role to running 264 prisons with more than 100,000 prisoners. (“Prison Labor and Crime in the U.S.”) The CCA’s revenues increased 500 times in the last two decades. (Mother Jones, Sept. 19, 2013)Then there’s the work that inmates do inside the institutions. Prisoners toiling often for pennies an hour and sometimes without any pay at all, totaled at least $2.4 billion in sales, and maybe as much as $5 billion. (www.phewacommunity.com)The private companies get a cheap, easy labor market, where they don’t have to provide benefits or sick days, there is no union organizing, and if a person refuses to work they can be locked in solitary confinement.We pay the overhead!These businesses have virtually no overhead costs in the prisons because the cost of incarceration and the source of their cash-cow profits are tax dollars.While money is steadily cut from social programs, tax subsidizing of prison profiteers does not come cheap.  The Vera Institute for Justice states in its report, “The Price of Prisons,” that the cost to taxpayers of incarcerating one inmate in fiscal 2010 was $31,307 per year, and in  Connecticut, Washington state and New York,” It’s anywhere from $50,000 to $60,000.”The American Civil Liberties Union reveals that the national yearly figure for incarcerating people with mental illness, a vulnerable population jailed at disproportionately high rates and suffering greatly in jail, is more than $63,000 a year. (ACLU report, July 2014, tinyurl.com/mng4ya2) All of this is paid for by U.S. workers.Some 600,000 to 1 million of the 2.4 million U.S. prisoners toil in 300 factories in a 21st century form of slavery. (www.phewacommunity.com) El Diario-La Prensa of March 10, 2008, writes that the companies contracting private prison labor contain “the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores and many more.” The whole capitalist establishment is in on it.A system ‘too vast to boycott’Bob Sloan, who wrote the “Prison Labor and Crime in the U.S.” report, unearths and exposes businesses involved in prison labor.  He found that McDonald’s uniforms are made in jail. Kmart and J.C. Penny sell jeans sewn by inmates in Tennessee.  (www.dailykos.com, Dec. 13, 2010).And then there’s food production. In July/August 2008, Mother Jones magazine reported that in California alone, prisoners were processing “more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs.” Signature Packaging Solutions, a Starbucks subcontractor, was using prisoners to package holiday coffees.Inmates are producing airplane parts, medical supplies and much more. They are even raising seeing-eye dogs.Investors in prison labor and the prison-industrial complex include the oil giants ExxonMobil Corp. and Chevron, Koch Industries, a host of utility companies, and insurance companies such as GEICO, State Farm and Fidelity Investments, which holds the 401(k) and retirement counts of millions of people, according to Sloan.Involved in punishment for profit are a host of giant pharmaceutical companies, including Bayer, Glaxo Wellcome, Merck & Co. and Pfizer.  Also making gain from the misery of those behind bars are Caterpillar Inc., International Game Technology, virtually all the telecommunications companies, and transportation companies such as American Airlines, Boeing and United Parcel Service, says Sloan.  So the hotel and airline reservations we make for vacations are often handled by prisoners. And this is just a sampling.Sloan concludes, “The Prison-Industrial Complex is simply too vast to avoid or boycott — in a manner typically used by consumers and concerned citizens.”To get your job back ‘go to prison’Factories are closing and workers being laid off because it’s cheaper for the bosses to get prisoners to do the work.In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the service of prison-workers from the private Lockhart Correctional Facility in that state, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.The federal government is in on this, too. It owns Federal Prison Industries, operating in 83 federal prisons and employing more than 13,000 inmates at from $0.23 to $1.15 an hour. FPI collected more than $900 million in revenue in 2011. It produced more than $100 million in military uniforms in 2012. (“More Jobs Lost as the Government Decides to Have Military Uniforms Made by Convicts,” Business Insider, Sept. 7, 2012)In 2012, Tennier Industries fired more than 100 employees after losing its military uniform contract to FPI. That year, American Apparel closed an Alabama plant employing 175 for the same reason. The workers there had made $9 an hour, and had benefits.A disgruntled Kurt Courtney, director of government relations at American Apparel, told CNN on Aug. 14, 2012, “The only way for workers to get jobs back is to go to prison.”U.S. prison labor is even replacing labor markets in poor and oppressed countries. A company that operated a maquiladora (the Spanish term used for a foreign-owned assembly plant on the Mexican side of the U.S./Mexico border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. “[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that ‘there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here),” according to the El Diario article.Prisoners replacing farmworkersFruits and vegetables are often picked by immigrants, many of them undocumented. The Obama administration, however, has deported undocumented workers in record numbers, while it slowed the legal flow of contracted agricultural workers into the country. At the same time, more states are issuing fines to farmers and agricultural businesses who hire undocumented workers.With fewer workers available to pick crops at the going wage, the prison-industrial complex has happily stepped in to fill the gap.  Today, prisoners pick onions in Georgia, watermelons in Arizona, apples in Washington and potatoes in Idaho.For a capitalist, what’s not to like?Profiting from people in jail is undeniably a horrible form of exploitation, destructive to all working people and to society as a whole.  This is the raw face of capitalism in the 21st century, without the ideological touch ups provided by Wall Street public relations firms or the corporate media.The drive for ever greater profits is built into the capitalist system. Money gravitates to where the rate of profit is the highest, regardless of the social cost. This is why virtually all the corporate establishment sharks are in a feeding frenzy over the profits to be made off of punishment.For a capitalist, what’s not to like?Next: The terrible human toll. How do the prison profiteers get away with it?FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Verizon workers ready to strike

A sea of red T-shirts flooded the streets, while those wearing them roared with anger in front of Verizon’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan on July 25. Some of the shirts read “I can’t calm down, I need a contract,” “Will strike if provoked” and “We walked before, we’ll walk again,” referring to a 2011 strike.The estimated crowd of 12,000 union members and allies, representing 39,000 fixed-line and FIOS workers in nine states from Maine to Virginia, were rallying to tell the giant telecommunications company that they’re ready to strike if they don’t get a better contract offer by the time the current one expires at midnight on Aug. 1.Why strike? The contract Verizon brought to the bargaining table June 22 contained significant, deal-breaking cuts: decreases in pension benefits, huge increases in workers’ medical costs, unlimited reassignment of job locations, elimination of job security and expanded outsourcing of jobs — on top of an existing two-tier wage system for new hires.No wonder that 96 percent of members of the New England Council of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers voted on July 17 to strike, while the Verizon East district of the Communication Workers voted by 86 percent to strike during the week of July 20.Speakers at the rally included CWA President Chris Shelton, who blasted management for trying to rob workers of their retirement. He ended a rousing speech with the chant: “Ready to fight and ready to win!” Barbara Bowen of the Professional Staff Congress at City University of New York and Secretary-Treasurer Earl Phillips of Transit Workers Union Local 100 gave solidarity messages and offered their support for a strike.Caesse Villegar, a Black sister representing Cablevision workers, talked about how CWA and IBEW had stood with them during the three-year battle they eventually won and now Cablevision workers would stand by Verizon workers.Verigreedy lives up to the workers’ nickname for Verizon. Listed 15th in this year’s Forbes Fortune 500, the company raked in $29 billion in net income in the last five years and $4 billion in just the last quarter. The five top executives have been rewarded handsomely, with a total of $44 million in annual salary and bonuses in 2014. They will never have to worry about their retirement.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this read more

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Milwaukee community supports youth uprising against cops

first_imgMilwaukeeSolidarity with youth fighting police terror was strong at an informal gathering in Sherman Park here on Aug. 21. The park was the location of a youth uprising in protest of the killing of Sylville Smith, an African-American man, by Milwaukee police on Aug. 13.The Wisconsin Bailout the People Movement initiated the community picnic to support the courageous youth being vilified by both corporate media and city officials for demonstrating anger against Smith’s death. The Milwaukee protesters were met with an aggressive police force, like the police reaction to protests in Baltimore after the police killing of Freddie Grey in 2015 or in Ferguson, Mo., against that of Michael Brown in 2014. As in the those cities, instead of dispersing, youth decided to act in self-defense, allegedly answering police aggression by throwing objects at the cops and setting fire to a BP gas station next to the park.Homes were also burned. However, Babbette Grunow, who co-hosts a radio program in Milwaukee and lives near the park, voiced on-the-air skepticism about placing responsibility on youth protesters. She noted that one landlord had previously spoken of the benefits of collecting insurance money instead of continuing ownership of the homes.Those gathered at the community cook-out all agreed that the anger of the youth was justified. Meeting at the park were activists from Bail Out the People Movement, union members, an NAACP member, youth from the Industrial Workers of the World, as well as neighborhood families. Members of Workers World Party came in support from Durham, N.C.; Rockford, Ill.; and Los Angeles and from Detroit FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together).People were in agreement that the best way to change the youths’ reaction was to get the police to stop killing Black people, and instead of budgeting more money for cops, use money to provide jobs and opportunities for youth.The event was also a speak-out for the community, as people shared the microphone to denounce injustice they had personally experienced from police. One Black youth, who appeared to be around 11 years old, told this writer, “The police came up to me while I was just sitting in the park and put a gun to my head.”Many people spoke about the need to reopen Sherman Park for the youth. After the rebellion, the police enforced a 6 p.m. curfew. They surrounded the park with an orange plastic fence, a constant reminder of yet another resource denied to the Milwaukee community, which already suffers from one of the highest unemployment and incarceration rates in the U.S.A Black man in his twenties, who is a volunteer at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee located in Sherman Park, said, “We bought all of these materials, videos and things for the kids that we can’t use now because of the curfew. We used to have movie nights and activities for the kids and would make sure that everyone was out of the park by 10 p.m. There were no fights or problems, and it provided something for them to do.”He described how he found out how strict the curfew was: “My daughter had an asthma attack and I needed to get home quick, so I had to walk through the park. A cop told me to walk all the way around, but I refused to listen to that bulls–t and kept on walking.” Luckily, he wasn’t arrested for trying to save his daughter’s life.Gilbert Johnson, former president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 82, talked about how ironic it was that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he wanted to improve Milwaukee, but then closed down a rail manufacturing plant providing local jobs and keeping community businesses functioning. After that, Walker went after public sector unions. “The only union that should be abolished is the police union,” Johnson said, stressing the need to organize and support the youth to defeat police terror in the community.Caesar Crayton, a Black gay youth and member of IWW’s Milwaukee Chapter, said, “I’m here standing in solidarity with our youth and letting them know that we have a voice and we should not be afraid to use it. We are gonna stand up and fight back when we are under attack. This is our park and we are taking it back!”In the spirit of those words, the last activity of the picnic was to symbolically reclaim the park by placing placards on thosevery same orange fences meant to deter the community. The signs stated: “Disarm and Abolish Cops and National Guard,” “Resistance Is Justified from Milwaukee to Palestine,” “Parks Are for the Youth, Not Cops,” and more. The community was continuing its steadfast “No!” to violent police aggression aimed at the Black and Brown youth of Milwaukee.Parker, a leader of the Los Angeles Branch of WWP, is the Peace & Freedom candidate for senator in California. FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Tech workers show growing class consciousness

first_imgWorkers at Microsoft used an internal question-and-answer session in late July to present CEO Satya Nadella with a petition signed by over 300,000 people.  The petition demanded an end to the tech company’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.The petition points to Microsoft’s $19.4 million contract with ICE as part of a broader trend in the tech industry. It notes that Dell, Thomson Reuters, Motorola, Salesforce and Hewlett Packard all have ongoing contracts with ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.Microsoft insists that its Azure software, a cloud-based computing program that performs functions ranging from facial recognition to data collection, is not specifically being used to separate families. It’s obvious, however, that the tech giant has been caught in the act. Last January Microsoft bragged on its own blog that its software had become integral to ICE operations.Broad struggle for immigrant rightsThe recent confrontation between Microsoft workers and the company’s CEO is part of the broader struggle for immigrant rights. It involves a growing movement of tech workers as well as an emerging workers’ consciousness across various sectors of the working class.While the movement for immigrant rights has been ongoing for decades, widely circulated reports of the Trump regime’s brutal policy of family separation have produced mass outrage. This has shown itself in large-scale rallies and marches across the country as well as in ongoing occupations at ICE detention centers, many of which have been met with police violence and repression.What has become increasingly clear to broad sections of the working class is that politicians have neither the will nor the know-how to solve this crisis.According to most reports, the U.S. government separated at least 2,500 children from their parents, and now deems 700 children “ineligible” for reunification. Popular disapproval of the government’s tactics may have forced Trump to make concessions and reunite some families, yet the government’s refusal to fully comply with the court order for reunification highlights the monstrous U.S. system.Tech workers take actionSince bourgeois politicians can’t provide viable solutions to the problems they themselves have made, the people have begun to take matters into their own hands.Last week’s actions came a little over a month after more than 100 Microsoft workers published an open letter addressed to the CEO, calling for an end to any and all collaboration with ICE. Along with providing a list of grievances and demands, the letter stated:“As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit. We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.”This welcome development comes in an industry that has been famously devoid of organized labor. Many have written off Microsoft employees as decidedly not working class. But segments of contracted tech workers have been organizing, including tech cafeteria workers through UNITE HERE and janitors and bus drivers at Dell and Google through Silicon Valley Rising.Now there are more signs of an emerging workers’ consciousness and bold displays of solidarity. The “growing movement” in the open letter to Microsoft refers to a string of worker-led campaigns inside some of the largest tech companies based in the United States.In June Amazon workers published an open letter, “Dear Jeff,” to company owner Jeff Bezos, demanding that the company cancel contracts not only with ICE, but with all law enforcement agencies, including the police. The letter went so far as to compare Amazon’s actions to that of IBM, which collaborated with Nazi Germany to develop systems used to carry out genocide in the 1940s.The Amazon letter follows the successful worker-led campaign within Google against the company’s involvement in Project Maven, which sought to develop artificial intelligence for use in drone warfare. After months of internal unrest, multiple petitions and over a dozen resignations of highly skilled workers, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced in June that it would not be renewing its contract with the Department of Defense.Worker power in tech sectorMarxist political activists should welcome and support these growing displays of worker power in the technology sector. Even if these actions aren’t representative of the entire workforce of these companies, they indicate a sea change in workers’ political awareness. They also reveal the changing dynamics of who actually constitutes the working class.The dynamics of class struggle are neither fixed nor immutable. They are relative to workers’ relationship to the means of production. If workers have to sell their labor to capitalists in order to survive, and capitalists in turn need to exploit workers in order to make profits, the workers can also be organized to apply pressure to those capitalists.Marxists are correct, for example, to celebrate the recent string of teachers’ strikes from West Virginia to Arizona. Remember there was a time when teachers weren’t considered to be workers. The same economy that’s producing conditions that lead teachers to strike is producing conditions for tech workers to stand up against the criminalization of immigrants.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Charter school teachers strike and win

first_imgAfter nine days on the picket line, teachers and specialists at Ohio’s first unionized charter school have their first contract. Management at Summit Academy in Parma, a suburb of Cleveland, agreed to the Ohio Federation of Teachers’ key demand: language limiting class size and requiring two adults to be present in every classroom. (tinyurl.com/y4w63odv)These amendments will make it possible to give the school’s 200 special needs children a quality education. Ranging from first graders up to high school seniors, their challenges include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and severe learning disabilities. When the school opened, class sizes were held to 18 students and there were two teachers or other education professionals in every room. But as workers who quit were not replaced, the for-profit school failed to maintain those standards.While strikers were not demanding a pay increase, the contract includes language to reopen discussions on pay later in the year. Salaries range from $31,000 to $40,000 a year, which makes it difficult to retain staff and prevent turnover. Strikers recognize that this affects the quality of education they can provide.Poor sanitation and building maintenance were also strike issues, and the union won a commitment to address them. In the days leading up to the contract vote March 1, teachers maintained high spirits on all-day picket lines. There was plenty of chanting and regular “airing of grievances.” Honks of support were constant. Parma is home to many autoworkers and other union members. Parents supported the strikers.Now workers at a second Summit Academy location, this time in Painesville, have voted to unionize.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Trump administration takes war on women to the U.N.

first_imgPresident Donald Trump took his war on the rights of women and gender-nonconforming people to the U.N. the week of April 22. It’s bitterly ironic that the Trump administration threatened to veto the U.N. resolution on ending sexual violence during wars and hostile conflicts if the U.N. did not go along with its anti-women, anti-gender-oppressed agenda.Reproductive rights protesters chant, “Get up! Get down! New York is a pro-choice town” on May 4.The initial draft of the resolution read: “United Nations entities and donors to provide non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health, psychosocial, legal and livelihood support and other multi-sectoral services for survivors of sexual violence, taking into account the specific needs of persons with disabilities.”The Trump administration demanded that the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” be deleted because it could be interpreted as supporting the right to abortion. Even after the German representative who introduced the resolution agreed to take out that phrase, the U.S. then objected to the original phrase, “comprehensive health services,” in the original 2008 resolution.After all reference to health care was deleted from the final resolution — as well as “comprehensive sexuality education,” which would protect the rights of gay, transgender and gender nonconforming people — it was passed by a vote of 13 members of the Security Council, including the U.S., no votes against, with Russia and China abstaining.But there was immediate worldwide push back. Not only did representatives of Germany, Belgium, Britain and France speak forcefully against U.S. bullying, but so did many representatives of the 90 countries participating in the meeting. Calling the U.S. position “intolerable and incomprehensible,” France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre stated, “Women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict, and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant, should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”In addition to diplomats, other prominent people spoke out against the U.S. policy, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass and actor Angelina Jolie in an April 22 Washington Post op-ed.The two people awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia Murad, a survivor of the Islamic State group’s enslavement of Yazidi women and girls in Iraq, and Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, issued a statement: “There is simply no excuse for continuing to fail those who have already been victimized, as well as those who continue to be at risk of devastating levels of sexual violence in conflict.” Although the aim of the resolution was to end “the heinous, barbaric and all-too-often silent phenomenon of sexual violence during conflict” and adopt a survivor-centric approach, all references to expanding U.N. monitoring to track violations of the resolution were expunged from the final text. Russia, China and the U.S. opposed such language. English barrister Amal Clooney urged the Security Council to prosecute members of the Islamic State group for war crimes, just as high-level officials in the Nazi party were prosecuted after World War II. “This is your Nuremberg moment,” she stressed. The National Organization for Women issued a strong statement on April 23 reminding readers of Trump’s first act in 2017: reinstating the so-called “global gag rule,” which bars all federal funding for international organizations that provide abortion counseling — even if they also provide nutrition and hygiene; treatment for malaria, tuberculosis and tropical diseases; and maternal and children’s health care. Aid groups condemn this rule, which reflects the far-right, religious conservatism of Trump appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services, saying it is already undermining overall global health care and results in more abortions and increased maternal and child mortality.  It is reprehensible that the U.S. is able to bully the rest of the world to fall into lockstep behind its totally misogynous, insensitive policies that do irreparable harm to women, girls, men, their families and communities worldwide. The ball is in the court of all who oppose the racist, sexist, anti-LGBTQ2S, capitalist patriarchy of the 1% who control this country. On with the struggle to wipe out Trump and all his bourgeois ruling-class perpetrators of war and rape.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Workers march to end climate crisis

first_imgThat climate crisis is a workers’ issue was emphatically affirmed by the IndustriALL Global Union when it called on all affiliates to take part in the September worldwide Climate Strike actions. IndustriALL represents 50 million workers in 140 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors, giving it the power to challenge multinational companies on a global level.Environmental activist Darryl E. Jordan (Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council) on the left and FCA UAW worker, Erin Kennedy, on the right. demonstrating demonstrating outside GM world headquarters September 27.Founded in 2012, the organization brought together former worldwide union federations and affiliates of the International Metalworkers’ Federation; the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions; and the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation.In issuing a global call on Sept. 19, IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, stated: “The climate crisis is real, it is urgent, and it is a threat to working people and communities. The crisis has social and economic dimensions, not just environmental ones. The bridge to a sustainable future and a stable climate is a Just Transition that protects workers, their families, and the communities that depend on them.” (tinyurl.com/y3vcbt3c)Beyond participation in Climate Strike week, IndustriALL recommended actions affiliates can take, like putting pressure on companies responsible for global warming to pay for remediation and a sustainable transition for workers and communities.Other unions, trades councils and federations from around the world declared their support for the climate actions, including those in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the U.S. The South African Federation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Unions of South Africa, together representing 1.3 million workers, signed on.Eight U.S.-based unions endorsed local participation in the Climate Strike, including the Service Employees union (SEIU), representing nearly 1.9 million members; the Massachusetts Teachers Association; and United Electrical Workers (UE). The UE members joined Warehouse Workers For Justice in Chicago at a Sept. 20 rally to support Amazon tech workers who walked out to protest the company’s giant carbon footprint.Labor participated in force in New York City’s Sept. 20 march of a quarter of a million people, including 1199 SEIU, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Communication Workers, the New York State Nurses Association and the Professional Staff Congress of the City University of New York.Amazon workers, SeattleOn Sept. 27, rank-and-file autoworkers joined with Detroit environmental activists to rally outside General Motors’ world headquarters and express solidarity with the worldwide climate strike and with GM workers striking in the U.S.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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STEM workers join call to ‘Strike for Black Lives’

first_imgOn June 10, thousands of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educators and workers around the U.S. and worldwide organized the #ShutDownSTEM and #ShutDownAcademia one-day work stoppage in solidarity with the ongoing Black uprising. Grassroots Black gender-oppressed STEM organizers galvanized their co-workers to join in the nationwide call for #AStrikeForBlackLives. Panelists from VanguardSTEM event.STEM has been a uniquely privileged field for years, exhibiting many of the most anti-Black exclusionary practices, while commanding many of the highest salaries and creating profoundly dangerous technologies. Much of the STEM industry operates in direct or implicit relationships with the U.S. Department of Defense to support the U.S. empire — developing bombs, missiles, chemical and biological weapons. More recently, STEM has shifted to developing technology for surveillance and social control. Increasingly, STEM fields exercise more economic control, too, as Wall Street turns to computational methods of reallocating resources into the pockets of the ruling class.Enough is enough! After years of organizing with the people in the streets, STEM workers said, “No more!” on June 10. They took a day away from their normal activities to reassess their relationships with powerful groups. They trained in combating anti-Blackness within their field and took up their impact on society.  The workers began the process of developing a restorative relationship with the people and the communities they have harmed.The one-day strike was conceived of as a collaboration between two groups, Particles for Justice and VanguardSTEM. Particles for Justice organizes the STEM sector as a multiracial collective of STEM educators and workers that is explicitly centered on its Black members. VanguardSTEM is a majority Black collective of nonbinary people and women of color that hosts a web series of panelists who share techniques and practice to use STEM as a tool for social justice.The organizers recognized the profound power that workers, specifically workers in fields valued by U.S. imperialists, exercise with respect to ruling-class anti-Blackness. Using their many organizational connections, organizers reached millions of workers who took part in the effort and have begun to take action in the pursuit of Black Liberation.  Researchers deeply embedded in the cult of white supremacy have begun efforts to educate themselves about the true nature of U.S. imperialism, and they are incorporating this information into their decisions about funding, research directions and workplace relationships.  An immediate step the researchers took was to organize community and workplace fundraisers to aid those struggling in the streets. Donations go into bail and bond funds, COVID-relief funds or help with the distribution of essential goods by groups such as Food Not Bombs. It is refreshing that so many workers show a preference for providing food aid to communities, when they work for an industry that has historically produced weapons of destruction. While it remains to be seen what the full impact of the #ShutdownSTEM effort will be, it definitely was a powerful display of solidarity. The action may lead to some meaningful change in material conditions, and it will serve as a preview of the power of a united working class as the uprisings continue.Shut down STEM! Shut down academia! Strike for Black lives! FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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