Issac Asimov quote
Renewed my DSA membership a bit ago. #Socialist and proud, because there is another way. #democracy #socialism #economicdemocracy #peoplebeforeprofits (Taken with Instagram)
Over the weekend of May 4-6, 1500 union members, workers’ center activists and working class rebels gathered at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont IL for the biennial Labor Notes Conference. Labor Notes is the monthly magazine for labor activists who “want to put the movement back into the labor movement.” The publication grew out of the rank and file labor revolts of the 1970’s and for the past 33 years has reported on key labor struggles and issues. Not satisfied with just writing about labor insurgencies, Labor Notes also convenes special organizing workshops in addition to their regular national conferences.
Labor Notes readers proudly think of themselves as part of the “International Troublemakers and Boat-Rockers Union”. Their symbol is the slingshot, a weapon associated with David bringing down the mighty Goliath. It’s not an actual union of course, but a state of mind. Their brand of aggressive organizing is hated by global corporations. It is also unwelcome among those union leaders who cling to the tattered status quo of their big salaries with little effective action to show for it. Workers from 20 nations, including the USA attended the 2012 meeting.
Chicagoland was well represented on Friday’s opening night session. Uylonda Dickerson of Warehouse Workers for Justice(WWJ) opened the conference on Friday night with an impassioned welcome speech. Warehouse Workers for Justice is centered in Joliet IL. The big box stores like Target and Walmart rely on these workers to route shipments across the USA, but reward them with poverty wages, unsafe working conditions and sexual harassment from the labor contractors they hide behind. WWJ has challenged their practices with rallies, one-to-one organizing and court actions. Groups in California and New Jersey are doing similar work.
Partnering with community groups was also the theme of the workshop on how transit workers and transit riders are creating alliances to save and improve public transit. Transit workers from Louisiana, Massachusetts, Florida and New York talked about the successful coalitions they have built with community groups. Both the Amalgamated Transit Workers(ATU) and the Transport Workers Union(TWU) were present.
Chicago bus and train operators listened to their stories and discussed Rahm Emanuel (aka “Mayor 1%”) and his recent efforts toward privatization of public services, including transit. The bus operators represented by Chicago’s Amalgamated Transit Union 241 were especially concerned. They are in a local which is under trusteeship because of poor financial management by the previous union leadership. They reported confusion and demoralization among Local 241 members which make it difficult to create and maintain strong ties with riders and community groups.
That afternoon, Jesse Sharkey, vice-president of the Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 took the microphone in a workshop so packed that hotel staff had to bring extra chairs into the meeting. Sharkey is part of CORE (Coalition of Rank-and-File Educators) which swept into union office dedicated to union reform and grassroots activism with parent and community groups. Sharkey spoke of the immense challenges ahead as Mayor Emanuel (whose name elicited a chorus of boos) continues his union bashing and privatization efforts. Union activists from LA, NYC and other cities were clearly looking to Chicago as Ground Zero in the fight to defend teachers and public education.
Occupy Wall Street got glowing endorsements in both speeches and informal discussions. You could see the influence everywhere from the transit workers’ orange “Occupy Transit” t-shirts to the many references to the 1% and the 99%. In fact the official theme of the conference was “Solidarity for the 99%.” Occupy Chicago was represented by Jan Rudolfo of National Nurses United and Andy Manos. At a labor education workshop, Steve Ashby of Occupy Chicago’s Labor Outreach spoke of the cordial relationship between Occupy Chicago and labor that helped create a number of solidarity actions including a march of thousands against the Mortgage Bankers Association who met at the Art Institute last fall.
Overall there was a spirit of optimism throughout the conference, but no one was underestimating the challenges ahead. The wave of legislation against public employees led to huge demonstrations in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, but they have also resulted in layoffs and a full frontal attack on the very existence of unions. Private sector workers like Longview Washington’s longshore workers from Local 21 of the IWLU who sat down in front of trains to protest job losses and Verizon CWA and IBEW employees who hit the picket lines last summer were defending not just themselves, but workers everywhere who want to end the “race to the bottom” that the dominates the global economy today.
Troublemakers know how to party and laugh too. There was music and dancing to the sounds of Mwelwa and Quinto Imperio Rebel Diaz delivered some scorching political hiphop. Anne Feeney and Elise Bryant led the acoustic music crowd in two song sharing sessions. There was even a special workshop on making labor mischief to spark organizing with humor, skits and songwriting.
You can be sure that the 1500 “troublemakers” who met in Rosemont IL will be in the front lines of resistance. During the Saturday noon break, hundreds of Labor Notes conferees skipped lunch to march over to the nearby Hyatt Hotel to support the hospitality workers who are confronting the powerful Pritzker family(owners of the Hyatt chain. The Pritzker family is hellbent on turning hospitality work into a hellish nightmare of injuries and rock bottom wages. Did I mention that the Pritzkers are close allies of both Mayor Emanuel and President Obama?
But of course Labor Notes readers are not really the “troublemakers.” That role falls to powerful global corporations and their hired politicians like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker(Republican) and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel(Democrat). Labor Notes is really a journal for “The Troubleshooters”, the first responders who will take on the toughest labor conflicts. They thrive on difficulty and meet obstacles with creativity and courage. In today’s ongoing class war, they carry on the tradition that was expressed in the most desperate days of World War II,”The difficult we do right now; the impossible will take a little longer.”
From: Daily Kos
I voted, and you should too! #MIprimary #democracy (Taken with instagram)
A great article comparing US and German automakers. In Germany union density is higher, wages are higher, production is higher, and profits are higher. In Germany, companies are mandated to deal with workers (union or not) in “works councils” over various issues related to work life. The article also goes on to talk about how Germany automakers act completely different when operating in the “right to work” (for less) South, and take advantage of the US ideals on labor law by completely ignoring it.
The article also talks about how German automakers would probably not be as cooperative in Germany if the government allowed them to run all over workers.
This is a clear distinction between a big business country, and a country that has some aspects of democratic socialism. The government has a constitutional amendment that creates workers councils where workers and management work out issues in the workplace. The law also backs up unions from being busted by big companies. Because of these workers councils, strikes are rare.
Ich liebe Deutschland!
Click the title link for the article.