Horrifying story out of Iowa – Capitalist exploits mentally disabled workers

February 8, 2009

This horrifying story speaks for itself. Why did it take the state of Iowa so long to act?

And our libertarian Republican friends will say state regulation is unnecessary.


Company accused of exploiting disabled; state closes home

By CLARK KAUFFMAN • ckauffman@dmreg.com • © 2009,


Des Moines Register and Tribune Company • February 8, 2009


Atalissa, Ia. — Federal police, state health inspectors and county prosecutors descended on this eastern Iowa town over the weekend, launching a major investigation into the care and treatment of a group of mentally retarded men and ordering an emergency evacuation of the men’s living quarters.


The investigation focuses on Henry’s Turkey Service, a Texas-based company that for 34 years has employed dozens of mentally retarded men who work at the West Liberty Foods meat-processing plant in Muscatine County.



Can Obama Save Capitalism?

February 1, 2009

The whole house of cards seems to be crashing. The funny thing is, the capitalists, through their greed, did it to themselves. If they had left in place the safeguards and regulations established in New Deal welfare state capitalism, this depression – brought on by the housing bubble collapse – would not be happening. Instead we would have seen the continued slow grinding erosion of working class living standards we have had since the late 70’s. Which was working out pretty well for the capitalists – inequality had reached record levels in the 90’s and 2000’s. But no, they had to completely tear down all the stabilizers built into their own system. They thought, hey there’s no Soviet Union any more, communism and socialism are dead, so we can just go hogwild and take everything we want, let the average American citizen pay the price.

Well, now we are all screwed.

Obama has to do the work of rebuilding what FDR did, in the context of a global crisis. Can he do it?

So far Obama is being very cautious. For all the Republican blathering, his stimulus plan is only half what is really needed to get the economy off the ground. And Obama has not shown any real leadership on the banking crisis. The only solution is wholesale nationalization. To buy the toxic assets of the banks through a “bad bank” is a ripoff of the taxpayer and won’t solve the real problems.

My prediction is that Obama will be forced to come back later this year with a  stimulus part 2, and that eventually they will have to nationalize the failing financial institutions, and put a moratorium on foreclosures. It would be better to do it now, and stop all this bipartisan kumbaya sh*t – just ram it through Congress. The Republicans lost. Tell them to shut the f*ck up.

We’ll get to more drastic measures eventually. But millions will lose their jobs, their insurance, their homes in the meantime.

Capitalism will eventually re-stabilize itself (under left social-democratic or right wing authoritarian bourgeois leadership), unless the working class decides to challenge the logic of the system and present an alternative program. Working class consciousness in this country exists, but barely. We are just barely conscious of ourselves as a class, and there is very little consciousness of what we need to do, who are real friends and enemies are, and why we need our own political agenda. The labor union leadership is putting forward a very mild liberal agenda compared to what the times demand. It time to start thinking bolder. The Employee Free Choice Act should be a done deal by now. Singlepayer health care should be a done deal. We need to start thinking in terms of systemic reforms, not small half measures. The times have changed.

New health care union challenges SEIU cult

January 29, 2009

Welcome to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, NUHW

UHW leaders announced the formation of an independent union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and signaled their intention to decertify SEIU in hospitals and nursing homes, declaring that they would not permit appointed staffers to decide which union members belonged to.

see story at Labor Notes


SEIU imposes trusteeship on UHW to crush union democracy

January 28, 2009
Update – Today SEIU dictator and pro-corporate sell-out Andy Stern declared a trusteeship over the rebel local UHW, in order to crush democracy and dissent in SEIU against his anti-worker policies.  UHW members are still occupying their offices.
I expect the next steps will be California health care workers uniting behind a new union and decertifying the fake company union SEIU. This struggle deserves everyone’s support. And everyone should condemn the SEIU cult for its scabbing and union-busting.
Earlier, UHW started a web page for people to ask Pres. Obama to investigate SEIU for violations of members’ rights. Details below. If you care about democracy, go to the site and sign the letter.
With more than 150,000 members, SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West is the fastest-growing healthcare union in the United States with a mission to achieve high-quality healthcare for all.  But Andy Stern has attacked UHW because the members of UHW spoke out to oppose backroom deals with employers that were bad for patients and workers.  Last Thursday, Stern issued an ultimatum to UHW that would force 65,000 UHW nursing home and homecare members to be removed from UHW against their will or face a hostile takeover as soon as Tuesday.  SEIUvoice.org is calling on President Barack Obama and his nominee for Secretary of Labor, Rep. Hilda Solis, to protect UHW members by investigating SEIU for violations of our rights. Will add your name to the letter by clicking below?  It only takes a moment and will make a real difference.  Please click or copy and paste the link below:
Go to
for latest details of this important struggle.

Annoy Andy Stern, Sign this Petition

January 26, 2009

go to this site


It’s a petition started by California Nurses Association, a militant democratic union that is fighting with the corrupt pseudo-union SEIU international. I’m not sure the petition will actually do much other than get you on a CNA email list – which is a good thing in itself – but signing it will also annoy Andy Stern – which is another good thing.

CNA is building a national nurses union. In several states SEIU nurses are fighting to get out of their fake union and join CNA-National Nurses Organizing Committee.

CNA-NNOC is an AFL-CIO affiliate.

For more on CNA vs. SEIU, go to


UHW seeks contributions for anti-Stern union democracy fight

January 26, 2009

breaking news – if you can afford to give, please do


What You Can Do To Help UHW Members Resist SEIU’s
Current Take-Over Attempt

January 23, 2009

Dear Friend of Labor:

As you may have read in The New York Times last Sunday,
January 18, the dispute between SEIU-UHW is nearing a

As we write, SEIU international staff and board members
are setting up “war rooms” in the Oakland and in Los
Angeles. Several hundred staff recruits from pro-Stern
SEIU locals around the country are being sent in to
help seize control of UHW and evict its own elected
leaders, longtime reps, and organizers. SEIU is also
employing private security guards (apparently off duty
police officers) who last weekend placed UHW
headquarters in Oakland under surveillance.

At the same time, SEIU has released partial findings of
the UHW trusteeship hearing it convened last September,
with predictable results. The text of Ray Marshall’s
decision and his actual recommendations have yet to be
disclosed, however.

On January 9, the SEIU executive board (with a
surprising number of dissenting votes and abstentions)
gave President Andy Stern its backing for the removal
of 65,000 members from UHW. These nursing home and home
care workers are now being reassigned without their
consent to a massive new 240,000-member California
“local.” This entity has yet to be created but will
soon be run by international union staffers appointed
by Stern with no elected officers for as long as three
years. . We are writing to urge you–and all who have
expressed concern about this unwarranted trusteeship in
the past–to contact SEIU leaders in your area
immediately, particularly national executive board
members, and urge them to speak out against Stern’s
senseless organizational assault before it is too late.

Already, the leading Congressional backer of the
Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), U.S. Rep George Miller
(D-CA.), has been quoted in The Washington Post (on
Jan. 9) warning of the damage that UHW dismemberment
and trusteeship will do to labor’s already very
difficult campaign for EFCA.

As you can see from the UHW flyer below, the union
rank-and- file will be vigorously resisting the
destruction of their dynamic and democratic local.

We urge you to join us in supporting UHW members during
this difficult time by sending them a financial
contribution ASAP to the following address:

The Fund For Union Democracy
465 California Street, Ste. 1600
San Francisco, California 94104
Contact: donations@fundforuniondemocracy.org

This fund has been set up by labor and community
supporters of UHW to aid its members in their
continuing fight for union democracy and reform within

For more information, you can also continue to check:

Yours in Solidarity,

Cal Winslow, Steve Early, Suzanne Gordon


Text of UHW flyer calling for rank and file resistance





Alert! Andy Stern has flown in hundreds of SEIU staff from the East Coast to California using hundreds of thousands of our dues dollars to takeover our UHW through a phony trusteeship. Stern has done this before receiving the Hearing Officer’s report and before the International Executive Board has even voted on the Trusteeship—just another top-down decision without regard to member democracy.

Stern’s Goal: Destroy UHW. Stern wants to take over our bargaining and cut sweetheart deals, oust our elected leaders, and run a smear campaign on our Union, with the goal of destroying the power of our Union.

Stern’s Thugs Will Be Coming to Our Facilities. SEIU’s plan which we recently received shows that in the first day of Trusteeship, which is very imminent, they will have their East Coast thugs leaflet at the change of shifts, come to patient floors and attempt to meet workers in lunch rooms saying, “They are here to help.” This is not true. They will be here not to help us but to destroy our Union all because we stood up to them to protect our Union, our contracts, our democratic Union.

They are calling and recruiting stewards to set up facility meetings. Stern has been notifying management that he is the one that they must deal with in the future, not our stewards, not our leaders, not our UHW-just Stern.

Throw Them Out. When they come into our facilities—and they will, throw them out!  Tell them to go back from where they came. Tell Stern’s henchmen that we will never bow to his dictatorship.

Leaders/Activists/Stewards. Come to our meeting on Saturday.
We WILL win!

The Truth About SEIU’s 21st Century Company Unionism – A View from the Inside

January 25, 2009

A friend of mine who is also a long time trade unionist drew my attention to a series of posts on Talking Union, the labor blog of the Democratic Socialists of America, to which we both belong.

Leaders of the rebel SEIU union local United Health Care Workers West – a good and militant democratic union – have been debating with fake-leftist posers who are cronies of the corrupt Andy Stern clique that runs the international SEIU. The dueling posts can be found here:


The two fake leftists responding from the Stern side are Eliseo Medina, who is unfortunately is an honorary chair of DSA, and Gerry Hudson. The honest trade unionist Paul Kumar (who also has a history with DSA) responds from the UHW side.

The debates were prompted by the Stern gang’s moves to put the rebels under trusteeship (with Stern puppet Ray Marshall pretending to offer a fair and balanced opinion after being put in place as the judge by Andy Stern).

DSA leader Paul Garver has also written some posts on the issues, attempting to take a mediating position between both sides.

My friend, Andy English, did a 2 and a half year stint working for the SEIU purple plague and he described his sojourn with the Stern cult in horrifying terms.

I left another union to work for SEIU international, in the South-Southwest region over which Medina presides. I was shocked and disillusioned by what I discovered.

What I discovered is an organization that has institutionalized (and centralized) hypocrisy, cynicism and dishonesty to a degree unprededented in the American labor movement. The closest comparison I can think of is to the old stalinist ruling parties of the Soviet bloc. And SEIU is run on the same “principle” of “democratic centralism.” The slightest deviation from the “party line” of Andy Stern leads to retaliation. There is an atmosphere throughout the organization that is intolerant of dissent, and a culture of fear and intimidation among the frontline staff. The personality cult of Stern is pervasive (and supplemented in the south-southwest region by the lesser personality cult of Medina).

SEIU poses to outsiders as the most progressive left-wing union in the USA. Internally what they tell staff is much different.

First of all, they dismiss all other unions as irrelevant, bad, out-dated, stuck in the past, and just horrible. They tell staff that nothing can be learned from other unions, that only Andy Stern and the leadership around him knows what to do. This includes the other Change to Win unions. They make fun especially of UFCW and the Teamsters.

They tell SEIU staff that “we don’t do representation”, that workers’ grievances are unimportant, that “disgruntled” workers with grievances are probably guilty of something and the union should “add value” by helping the boss get rid of them. They accuse other unions of being “needlessly adversarial” and “against partnership”. Shop floor stewards are not needed and can be replaced with call centers. We don’t want militant workers in the leadership, we want “happy, shiny” workers who love their bosses to be the leaders. (The first time I heard this from my SEIU manager I was completely nauseated, as someone who’s actually worked in blue collar jobs. Only an obnoxious yuppie could even think this, much less utter these words.)

I was on one public sector campaign where we were directed to submit the text of a leaflet to the employer for his approval before we could print it, and not to agitate the workers over economic issues like pay and health insurance that they cared about, but to only talk about “partnership”. Behind the scenes they continued to beg the elected officials for recognition, but because of their weak-kneed brown-nosing approach, the organizing committee was tiny, and the employer just ignored the begging.

I saw SEIU continually seek to cut secret backroom deals with employers behind the backs of workers.

I saw them spin and exaggerate minor victories to the point of absurdity and try to steal credit for lobbying victories of other unions. I saw them blatantly lie to the press about membership figures.

I was in one meeting where they talked about positioning themselves to curry favor with local business leaders and the chamber of commerce by deliberately putting forward the most conservative state health care “reform” plan, and where they disparaged singlepayer advocates as “silly leftists.”

While Medina has an admirable history, its clear that long ago he sold his soul to Andy Stern. The majority of managers I met in SEIU international never worked a blue collar job or any kind of working class job, and had no interest in listening to workers (polls and focus groups were all they cared about). They were arrogant, conceited, obnoxious, convinced they were right about everything, and that they were the “cool kids” that everyone else had to bow down to. Anyone with experience in another union, and with working class experience outside of SEIU was considered suspect, and if they showed the slightest hesitation about drinking the purple kool-aid, they were marked for elimination. SEIU prefers to hire and promote people who know nothing about unionism besides the SEIU line and will drink the kool-aid because they don’t know any better.

So if anyone reading this is thinking about going to work for SEIU international, be prepared to conform and sell your soul too or they will find a way to get rid of you.

I am sure there are good locals of SEIU that still abide the traditional principles of trade unionism. But the locals in Colorado were completely under the thumb of the international union. And they would hold membership meetings once every 2 or 3 years. They are completely staff-driven, not worker-driven. The workers are only called upon to ratify what the “cool kids” have already decided. Everything is staged, scripted and faked.

With regard to Medina’s role in DSA – as a DSA member I think he should be disqualified from serving as an honorary chair or any other kind of officer in a democratic socialist organization. To me a union is not just an institution – the union is the unity of the workers in the shop, be it a factory, a hospital, a nursing home or whatever. UHW members are clearly united behind their leadership. By attacking UHW to crush dissent within the organization, SEIU international is attacking the workers and engaging in union-busting. By backing this union-busting as the top leader of SEIU in California, Medina is scabbing on the working class movement. His loyalty is to Stern, not to the working class.

If this is 21st century unionism, then leave me back in the 20th century when unions acted like unions. If old-fashioned militance was good enough for Walter Reuther, Harry Bridges, the original Jimmy Hoffa and Jerry Wurf, then it is good enough for me. Eliseo Medina, Gerry Hudson, Anna Burger and Andy Stern aren’t worthy of wiping the feet of those great unionists.

Back after long break

January 25, 2009

I started this blog last month, and then my home internet went down for a week, I was traveling for the holidays, and I’ve been extremely busy with work since I got back. So that’s why posting abruptly halted. I am going to try to get back into the routine of blogging, so bear with me.

Rather than try to be a news and analysis type of blog, I may take a more conversational approach, and just post current thoughts and musings. Hopefully this may be of interest to some folks. If not, then its just another random blog out of millions on the internet, which is fine with me. The next Billmon I’m not. (And I wish Billmon would go back to regular blogging, especially about the economy. That guy is sharp! Steve Gilliard was my 2nd favorite blogger and he’s gone now. The internet is just not as fun without them.)

So in no particular order – here’s some thoughts.

Good riddance to George Bush! Not an original thought, of course. In fact, it seems to be the mainstream concensus these days. Now we can finally have some progressive discourse in the national debate, since conservatism is completely discredited. Which comes at the cost of a worldwide economic meltdown. Hey maybe that Karl Marx guy was right about some things – like capitalism is inherently unstable, and the more free reign we give the bloodsuckers, the wilder, crazier and stupider it gets. FDR saved capitalism – George W Bush almost did it in. Now Obama is no socialist. He’s clearly a centrist who leans just a little to the left, as left is defined in America. I think his economic recovery package needs to be doubled at least – and liberal economist Paul Krugmann says the same thing. But at least its a start and far more than what McCain would have done. McCain would have let the economy drown while he bombed Iran. That guy clearly cares nothing about the average American and gets his hard-ons from war.

But lets move on. Hopefully the economic recovery package will be just the first deposit on what we need, which is a lot more public sector in our economy. If it was up to me, I’d say nationalize all the banks (they are busted and on the federal tit already, why not own them collectively), nationalize the auto companies, and take a look at public ownership of energy sectors on top of that.

The big test of Obama will be on the Employee Free Choice Act. Nothing drives American capitalists crazier than the idea of having to let workers have any kind of voice at work – they are already fighting this tooth and nail. Will Obama cave in? Stay tuned. If Obama sticks to his guns, and they ram it through the Congress and sign it, there may be some hope for American liberalism after all. EFCA won’t solve all the unions’ problems. We also need to repeal Taft-Hartley, repeal “right-to-work-for-less”, ban permanent striker replacement (scabbing), and engage in a little thing called class struggle. But EFCA’s a good start.

Speaking of class struggle vs. class snuggle, folks should pay attention to the latest news from the purple plague – SEIU. It’s long been clear to any decent trade unionist that SEIU Pres. Andy Stern is the sleaziest lying hypocrite the American labor movement has ever produced. His “21st century” “we-love-our-bosses” approach to unionism, which means secret back room sweetheart deals with employers is the opposite of real unionism. More and more SEIU members are sick of his bullsh*t, and are in full rebellion against his dictatorial rule of SEIU. The seiu-sh*t is now hitting the fan, and Stern is attempting to put the 150,000 member United Healthcare Workers West in California under trusteeship – sending in hundreds of kool-aid drinking staffer-scabs to take the over the rebel union and do occupation duty. UHW rank and file leaders are saying they will throw the scabs out of the workplaces when they see them. Let’s hope this becomes Andy Stern’s Vietnam and the end of his personality cult for once and for all. Sternism is basically modeled on stalinism without the ideology. To see him disappear would be a good thing. And take his kool-aid drinking corrupt cronies and hacks with him.

And lastly, what about Iowa?

Well, we have a couple of issues. The budget crisis threatens to severely hurt public services that people need and laying off public employees is not going to help the economy. We need to start taxing the rich and closing corporate loopholes to fix the budget shortfall. Culver’s bonding plan is a good thing – borrowing money when interest rates are almost zero is smart. Culver screwed up badly last year when he vetoed open-scope collective bargaining. He’s got a chance this year to redeem himself by helping with fair share agency shop (where everyone who’s in a union workplace helps pay for bargaining and representation, greatly strengthening the power of workers and their ability to engage in collective action by making free-riding a non-option). Will Culver wimp out again? The GOP tried to run against “big labor” in last falls elections and they got nowhere. That dog just doesn’t hunt. It time to tell the Republicans to shove their free market crap where it belongs, and tell them that its a new day in Iowa and the nation. F*ck bipartisanship.

And that’s the word from the frontlines of the class war in Iowa.

Hopefully I’ll be back next week with another rant.

Happy class struggle everyone!


P.S. – Iowa blogs I recommend are

Bleeding Heartland

Iowa Independent

Iowa Politics


The Des Moines Register is pretty clueless, and seems to be laying off so many reporters that they are becoming a 3rd rate rag. Dead tree journalism is in pretty deep sh*t these days and thats a shame.

Important struggle for union democracy

December 7, 2008

Here’s a link to the latest update in the California press about the fight in SEIU. The struggle in SEIU pits the corrupt authoritarian machine of Andy Stern (the corporate CEOs favorite sell-out union leader) against the rank and file of SEIU’s largest health care workers union in California, United Healthcare Workers West (UHW) and other dissidents nationwide. 

Stern is a believer in “partnership” with the employer, by which he means giving up on all effort to represent workers — SEIU staff are told that workers with grievances are bad, lazy workers and that the union should “add value” to the employer by throwing them under the bus. The model they follow is this — first SEIU international organizes a unit, and then if the local union follows the Stern-approved model, most of the staff disappears once the dues are coming in, because “we don’t do representation.”  The newest wrinkle in Stern-town is pretending to provide representation through a 1-800 number that goes to a call center. Dial-a-union, in other words.

SEIU is moving away from shop floor stewards and merging union locals into giant mega-unions with Stern-appointed leaders. Anyone who doesn’t drink the purple kool-aid and blindly worship Stern is driven off the international union staff. SEIU calls this “21st century unionism” and disparages all other unions as “stuck in the past” especially those that still have autonomous local unions rather than Stern-style top-down control.

Here’s a link to today’s San Francisco Chronicle story


For more information, go to

Video on the Chicago Republic Windows workers factory occupation

December 7, 2008

UE video one

UE video two

The Return of the Socialists in Europe

December 6, 2008

Interesting article from the “New Statesman”

Socialism’s comeback
By Neil Clark

Published 04 December 2008

At the beginning of the century, the chances of socialism making a return looked close to zero. Yet now, all around Europe, the red flag is flying again.

Read the rest at

Postville and The Shame of Iowa

December 6, 2008

The Des Moines Register reported yesterday on Lt. Gov. Patty Judge’s visit to Postville, where the shutdown of the Agriprocessors plant has thrown the community into turmoil.

Postville, Ia. – Lt. Gov. Patty Judge came here Thursday to face dozens of questions, some of them testy, from former meatpacking plant workers and others left adrift in the near-collapse of the town’s main employer.

“We’re to the point now where we can’t even feed our children,” Ginger Worthen, a former Agriprocessors plant worker, told Judge. “Christmas is coming up. How am I going to explain to my 5-year-old and my 2-year-old that Santa didn’t come this year?”

The lieutenant governor stood behind a folding table, looking concerned. “I hear you,” she said.

Postville has been struggling since last May, when federal immigration agents raided the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant and arrested half its workers on charges of being in the country illegally. The town has spiraled down in recent months, as the plant’s former leader was jailed, the company went into bankruptcy and the production line stopped for nearly three weeks.



The treatment of immigrant workers in Iowa’s meatpacking industry brings shame to our state (and all of the other states that are home to this vicious industry too, for that matter). The saddest part is that this industry used to provide good-paying union jobs and much safer working conditions in many places until the Reagan-era attack on unions destroyed union conditions in this industy (as those of us old enough to remember the Hormel strike and P-9 can testify … boy I’m dating myself here … OK, I’m an old fart, I admit it).

This tragedy illustrates several things –

1) the need for unions and the priority of making it possible for workers to form them again – passing Employee Free Choice Act is the immediate priority. Banning striker replacement and renegotiating the “free trade” deals (which have nothing to do with trade and everything to do with giving goodies to job-shifting union-busting multinational corporations) to include basic workers’ rights is second.

2) the need for a humane and just solution to the plight of immigrant workers. And building a wall isn’t it. If our ancestors could get across the Atlantic ocean to come here for a better life, what kind of idiot thinks a fence is going to stop the oppressed and exploited and starving workers of Latin America from getting here? Well, GOP bigots, for one. But they think Sarah Palin is a genius, so let’s forget about them. These workers are coming here, whether we like it not (although the depression will probably cut down on immigration, since we have fewer good jobs – or jobs that look good compared to rural Mexico, for that matter – to draw hardworking people here). What we need to focus on is, what are the conditions they encounter when they get here. Are we going to let greedy employers pit them against us and drive everyone’s wages down? Or we going to stand together as workers? I seem to recall our grandfathers and grandmothers saying saying something about “an injury to one is an injury to all.” They didn’t let the employers divide them as squareheads and bohunks and dagos and paddies and polacks and all the other ethnic groups. They united and said we are going to fight together for better wages and conditions.

Bottom line – We need immigration law reform that allows workers to come here with labor rights and a path to citizenship. Just like our grandparents and great-grandparents did.

3) the state of Iowa can and should regulate the safety conditions of these meatpacking factories – and make sure the food comes out healthy to eat too. 

A couple of links about Postville and meatpacking generally-






and from the Iowa Independent:

Postville author rips Culver and Judge on Agriprocessors
‘This is akin to foxes guarding the chicken coop’
 By Lynda Waddington 12/3/08 6:44 AM


Chicago workers occupy factory

December 6, 2008

Breaking news – Hat tip to Lee Sustar at SocialistWorker.org.

WORKERS OCCUPYING the Republic Windows & Doors factory slated for closure are vowing to remain in the Chicago plant until they win the $1.5 million in severance and vacation pay owed them by management.

In a tactic rarely used in the U.S. since the labor struggles of the 1930s, the workers, members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, refused to leave the plant on December 5, its last scheduled day of operation.

“We decided to do it because this is money that belongs to us,” said Maria Roman, who’s worked at the plant for eight years. “These are our rights.”

rest of story at


Jobs With Justice has launched an email campaign for these workers, aimed at Bank of America, which is behind management’s actions.

Hold Bank of America Accountable
Only weeks after taking $25 Billion in bailout money, Bank of America is turning its back on hundreds of workers making energy efficient doors and windows in Chicago by refusing to continue credit to Republic Windows and Doors.  To make matters even worse than putting 300 people out of work, Bank of America has instructed Republic to refuse to pay workers compensation they are legally entitled to, either earned vacation pay or the severance pay legally required under the WARN Act, in lieu of proper notice of plant closing.

Go to 


Another report from CBS 2 in Chicago (link found on Labourstart web page)

Update from Associated Press-

Angry laid-off workers occupy factory in Chicago
By RUPA SHENOY – 2 hours ago

CHICAGO (AP) — Workers who got three days’ notice that their factory was shutting its doors have occupied the building and say they won’t go home without assurances they’ll get severance and vacation pay.

About 250 union workers occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in shifts Saturday while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind.

Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days’ notice required by law before shutting down.

During the two-day peaceful takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.

“We’re doing something we haven’t done since the 1930s, so we’re trying to make it work,” she said, referring to a tactic most famously used in 1936-37 by General Motors factory workers in Flint, Mich., to help unionize the U.S. auto industry.

read rest at

Listen to Mother

December 3, 2008
Mother Jones, the angel of the miners.

Mother Jones, the angel of the miners.

Mother Jones was one of the greatest heroines ever produced by the American working class. Completely fearless, she fought to organize workers, especially miners, from the 1870s to the 1920s. She lived at a time when forming a union could mean losing your life.
Excerpts from Mother Jones speech to striking coal miners, on levee at Charleston, West Viriginia, August 1, 1912. “Mother Jones Speaks” pages 163-165
Now you have gathered here today for a purpose, Every movement made in civilization has had an underlying purpose. You have reached the century in human civilization when the charge of human slavery must forever disappear…. This industrial warfare is on. It can’t be stopped, it can’t be put back, it is breaking out over all the nation…
When we had a fight in 1900, the Governor was going to clean us up, and four thousand women went down at three o’clock in the morning. There weren’t ladies, they were women. A lady, you know was created by the parasitical class, women, God Almighty made them. The crack thirteenth were sent down by that govenor to meet those four thousand women. Their sleeves were rolled up on their arms, they walked fifteen miles over mountains. What did those women do? They licked the crack thirteenth of Pennsylvania, the “two-by-four” lawyers, the bank crooks and corporation rats — they don’t know how to fight. So the militia begged for mercy. The Colonel says “Move back, we are going forward in civilization. I will charge bayonets on you people.” Not on your life, you don’t charge bayonets on us, because if you do — I will tell you now, we are fighting the robbers who take our bread and butter, if you go to shoot us we will clean up the high-way with the whole bunch of you. You ought to see them run! Their mustache wasn’t curled that day. They went up amnd hit the pike and didn’t bother us any more. The sheriff said to me, “Take these people away.” No, I didn’t come here to take them away, I came to meet them. He said, “I will have you arrested, I will call on the Governor for the militia.” I said, “We will lick the militia.”
It is the fighting of the classes. You have today in this country two warring forces, the one the lying oligarchy, the other the crush pin, the breath is taken from them.”

The Immortal Eugene V. Debs

December 2, 2008
Eugene V Debs

Eugene V Debs

Legendary American socialist and union leader, imprisoned for speaking out against World War I, who won a million votes from his jail cell in 1920.

When I Shall Fight, Appeal to Reason (11th September, 1915)

I am not opposed to all war, nor am I opposed to fighting under all circumstances, and any declaration to the contrary would disqualify me as a revolutionist. When I say I am opposed to war I mean ruling class war, for the ruling class is the only class that makes war. It matters not to me whether this war be offensive or defensive, or what other lying excuse may be invented for it, I am opposed to it, and I would be shot for treason before I would enter such a war.

Capitalists wars for capitalist conquest and capitalist plunder must be fought by the capitalists themselves so far as I am concerned, and upon that question there can be no compromise and no misunderstanding as to my position. I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth; I am a citizen of the world. I would not violate my principles for God, much less for a crazy kaiser, a savage czar, a degenerate king, or a gang of pot-bellied parasites.

I am opposed to every war but one; I am for the war with heart and soul, and that is the world-wide war of social revolution. In that war I am prepared to fight in any way the ruling class may make necessary, even to the barricades.

There is where I stand and where I believe the Socialist Party stands, or ought to stand, on the question of war.

Time for the Democrats to deliver

December 2, 2008

Goodbye to the Bushies. Good riddance!

Now we have a president-elect who at least pays lip service to the aspirations of the working class. And who also owes a large campaign debt to the organizations of the American working class for his election. At a minimum, we should see a substantial economic stimulus package (aid to states and cities, plus extensive jobs programs), passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, and universal health care (hopefully something that approaches singlepayer, not a health insurance industry scam). Plus an industrial policy to rebuild the auto industry (and American manufacturing in general) and achieve energy independence with renewable fuels. A tall order.

Here in Iowa, workers should also have high expectations of our elected officials. Governor Chet Culver, unfortunately acted like the usual gutless centrist Democrat earlier this year, and caved into the howls of big business over the expansion of public sector collective bargaining rights, vetoing the bill. Despite this setback, Iowa labor worked hard and delivered a stronger Democratic majority in both chambers of the state legislature. It’s time for Chet to redeem himself, and sign into law both an expansion of public sector collective bargaining and fair share/agency shop legislation, once those bills reach his desk. It’s time to show once and for all – is Chet on the side of Iowa working families or on the side of the bosses?

The past few weeks show to anyone who is not blind, deaf and dumb (or bought and paid for) that unregulated laissez-faire capitalism is a disaster. Three decades of privatization, deregulation, “free trade” deals and union-bashing have led to economic collapse. It’s time for the working class to wake up and put America on a new course.

As the P-9 strikers used to say in the 1980s — If not now, when? If not us, who?

Time to fight back.