Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lessons from Chicago Movers’ Six-Month Strike

After nearly two years of organizing and a grueling six-month strike, in February workers at Golan’s Moving and Storage in Skokie, Illinois, ratified their first contract.

The movers organized with support from the worker center Arise Chicago, and voted in December 2013 to unionize with Teamsters Local 705. They were fed up with daily abuses, stagnant pay, and rampant wage theft.

Workers were forced to show up before 6:30 a.m. to load the company’s trucks—but only got paid for the hours they worked after reaching the customer’s house. The company regularly deducted $500 for “training costs” from workers promoted to foreman or driver positions. Fines for small infractions siphoned even more money out of paychecks.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Bringing Back The Fight Against 'Right to Work'

Wisconsin workers knew Right to Work legislation was on its way, we just didn’t know when.  Sweeping the country state-by-state, creeping out of the south and into union strongholds Michigan and Ohio in recent years, this anti-worker bill loomed over the Badger state as soon as a Republican majority was sworn in this year.

What is Right to Work?

So-called Right to Work allows individuals in unionized businesses to opt out of paying any union dues while enjoying the benefit of a union contract. Wall Street bankers might want you to believe this is about individual freedom. But really what they care about is weakening our collective bargaining agreements to lower wages. Anyone with a brain who works knows the boss wants a dictatorship. This bill is more accurately called “Right to Work for Less.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

How Shorter Work Hours Can Help the Climate and Women’s Equality

Tom Malleson: Our economy and environment are on a collision course. Right now, the only way our economy is able to provide decent jobs is through constant, perpetual growth. So the fundamental challenge is thinking how we can rearrange the economy to provide both economic security and ecological sustainability. 
One element of that is a shift from dirty jobs to green jobs. That’s right as far as it goes. But I also think that, by itself, a shift to green jobs won’t be nearly enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Obama on Cuba and North Korea--A Lesson in US Politics

President Obama's recent actions regarding Cuba and North Korea provide insight not only into his presidency but also the nature of US politics.   Like any calculating national politician, he plays to his base as he tries to minimize flack from the loyal opposition.  These recent actions reflect some important lessons about the nature of the US political psyche.  

Obama's basic operating principle is to thread his way through issues balancing his priority to serve the financial and security state elites with the need throw bones to the liberal establishment, which indirectly contributes to the first purpose as well.  The North Korea-Cuba episode is a case in point.

Support the BDS Movement!

The ironclad US-Israel alliance is the stuff of legend.  And no wonder.  For the US, Israel is a military platform in the Mid-East.  In exchange, Israel uses US money, weapons and political cover to continue its occupation and colonization activities with impunity.

Undeterred, Palestinians requested that the UN Security Council support a one-year deadline for a two-state settlement.  US representative Samantha Power claims that the US, too, yearns for a two-state solution but nevertheless orchestrated a defeat of the proposal in favor of more negotiations, during which time ever more Jewish only settlements will be built and ever more Palestinian homes will be demolished.

Following the UN vote, the Palestinian Authority immediately moved to join the International Criminal Court, which will allow them to sue Israel for war crimes and violation of international law.  One might wonder why the US-Israel would be so adamantly opposing this move too if they had nothing to fear.

Some Historic Perspective on Cuba

American involvement in Cuba begins long before Castro and the current socialist government. To understand the harm our government's actions have brought to the people of Cuba  requires looking at this history. To understand the present, we must look at the past.  

All through the 1800s many Americans advocated annexing, buying, or otherwise expanding U.S. influence in Cuba. Commercial gain, increasing trade, and expanding slave territory were the primary motivations. By the 1890s, the U.S. was a dominant trading partner with Spanish Cuba. When Cuban revolutionaries began fighting Spanish rule in 1895, these commercial interests were hurt financially by the disruption of war. To help protect these commercial interests, we went to war against Spain, using Cuban independence to  justify American intervention.

Friday, March 6, 2015

What's Next After "Right to Work"?

In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker introduced the innocuously named “Budget Repair Bill.” The sweeping legislation contained both fiscal measures — reduced support for public education, state Medicaid programs, and regulatory agencies, as well as lower property and capital taxes — and a labor law amendment that all but outlawed collective bargaining for public sector employees and created new barriers to union organizing.

After decades of neoliberal advance and the emergence of the Tea Party, none of this — even in a state with a progressive history — was especially surprising. But this time it sparked dogged resistance: a two-and-a-half-week occupation of the State Capitol, demonstrations topping one hundred thousand people, and “sick out” work stoppages by teachers across the state.

When the capitol was cleared, however, the mobilization that began with the demand to “kill the bill” was funneled into the effort to electorally oust Walker. In the 2012 recall, in a replay of the 2010 gubernatorial election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett lost to Walker — by an even greater margin than before.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Say "NO!" to "Right to Work" in Wisconsin!

Reactionary legislators have announced that they have the votes to fast track a "Right to Work" bill and have it ready for the Governor to sign within a few weeks. And it doesn't sound like they're bluffing. This would devastate our state's labor movement.

Right to Work is nothing more than an attempt by Big Business to drive down wages. Despite its progressive sounding name, "Right to Work" legislation is an anti-working class proposal that would make it illegal to require all workers at a unionized workplace to join the union. This will mean smaller, weaker unions that will have a much harder time negotiating with the bosses. It will mean lower wages and benefits. 

Join us for a rally against this union-busting piece of legislation.  We'll be protesting on Feb. 26 from 5:30-6:30pm at the City Center Park at the corner of Belknap St. and Tower Ave. in front of the Superior Public Library.  Bring a friend; in fact bring ALL your friends!

Below is a link for a PDF flier for the protest.  Please print it out and distribute!

And please sign the online petition that has been set up by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.  Here is the link for it:

Now is the time to raise our voice against this reactionary legislation. Lets stand together and show the power that solidarity still has!

Friday, February 6, 2015

More Than 1 Million Minnesotans Lack Paid Sick Leave

Forty-one percent of Minnesota workers lack access to even a single day off to care for themselves, a sick child or loved one, according to a statewide analysis.

At the news conference announcing the campaign for paid sick time, Jessica Milli, Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, reviewed the results of a studyreleased last September.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Activism vs. Charity

I have not encountered it that much, but enough to write a blog post.  The thing I am referring to is the idealization of charity and the demonization of activism.  Now, I recall on incident while standing on the corner for an anti-war picket.  During this encounter, a tourist asked us why we bothered picketing.  In her opinion, it was a waste of time.  Our time would better be spent volunteering.  This notion that activism is a waste of time is also expressed through the common remark, “Get a job.”  Of course, beyond the idea that charity is superior and activism is inferior to work, is the closely related idea that activism somehow hurts people.  Perhaps it hurts pedestrians, drivers, or anyone else who simply wants to live their life in quiet denial that social problems exist.   One thing appears certain: activism is not respected.

Friday, January 16, 2015

UWS Shamefully Fires 27 Grounds Crew & Janitors

January 11 was the last day of work for 27 janitors and grounds keepers at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.  They lost their jobs after a dramatic nine month battle with university administrators.

Like many colleges across the state of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Superior is facing a major budget crisis.  This is largely due to massive cuts to higher education funding by the Republican Governor Scot Walker, and his Democratic predecessor, Jim Doyle.  But the budget crisis was also caused by the construction of a slew of new buildings over the last several years, including an expensive new student center, despite opposition from students.

UWS administrators choose to try to balance their budget on the backs of the lowest paid, and most vulnerable workers on campus.  In the Spring of 2014 they announced that they were going to explore outsourcing the university's entire custodian and grounds keeping department to the lowest bidder.  This, despite the fact that the over-worked campus janitors only made $11-$14/hour to begin with.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

SMI Workers on Strike at Sappi Paper Mill

At midnight of New Year's Day, the 5 workers of Speciality Minerals Inc. at the Sappi paper mill went out on strike.  The root cause of the strike is SMI's attempt to cut the workers' health benefits, freeze their pensions, not guarantee them full time hours, and offering an inadequate pay package. 

The workers are represented by United Steelworkers Local 11-63, the same local that represents the other workers at the Sappi plant in Cloquet.

The SMI workers run a small chemical plant within the Sappi mill that makes filler and coating for high end, glossy paper products.

Initially SMI kept the plant with management, but they have since brought in out of state scabs from other SMI plants to run the plant.  SMI is paying the scabs their regular wages, plus overtime, plus $20 an hour on top of that.

SMI has a number of plants around the country, but the one at the Sappi plant in Cloquet is the only one that is unionized.  It's suspected that is part of the reason the company is taking such a hard line - they want to crush the Cloquet strikers to dissaude workers at other SMI plants from unionizing.

This is shaping up to be a tough fight.  The company is refusing to even meet with the union.  But the striking workers are determined to fight back.  

Despite bitter cold, the workers and their allies have been holding daily picket starting at 5am and running until 6pm.  One of the five workers is in the hospital battling terminal cancer.  The other four have been out there picketing every day, even when wind temperatures dropped to -36 degress.  This brave bunch of workers could use all the solidarity they can get.  A number of local Cloquet businesses have already offered the striking workers free coffee and meals, and a lot of folks honk and offer other sings of support when they drive by, but there is always a need for bodies on the picket line.  So stop by whenever you can and grab a sign.  Lets show these courageous workers that the motto "an injury to one is an injury to all!" is alive and well in the Northland!

> The article above was written by Adam Ritscher of the United Steelworkers Local 9460.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Demilitarize the Police!

The military weapons we saw on display in Ferguson, Mo., are part of the militarization of police forces across the U.S.

Its roots began with the SWAT teams under Democrat Lyndon Johnson, whose war of extermination against the Black Panther Party was continued under Republican Richard Nixon. As Michelle Alexander explains in “The New Jim Crow,” the drive received massive funding in the 1980s under the Reagan administration’s “War on Drugs.”

Thursday, December 25, 2014

UWS Chancellor's actions speak louder than her words

Below is a letter to the editor that the union that represents the UWS custodians and grounds crew sent to the BusinessNorth newspaper.

Dear Editor,

“We believe that when we partner with our communities, it’s a win-win situation.”  If only UWS Chancellor Renee Wachter’s words in a Dec. 18 BusinessNorth article could be believed.  

Sadly, her actions speak louder than words.  Outsourcing the jobs of 27 front-line employees to an out-of-state contractor paying poverty wages has nothing to do with local partnerships.  Her actions ignore public pleas from the Superior community and its elected officials to find a better way to deal with budget problems caused by declining state support for higher education.