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
http://www.newstatesman.com/europe/2008/12/socialist-party-socialism

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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.

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20081205/NEWS/812050366/0/archive

 

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-

http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3744/ice_cold_to_kids/

http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/2741/processing_pain_at_smithfield_foods/

http://www.monthlyreview.org/mrzine/wilson200708.html

http://www.ufcw.org/your_industry/meatpacking_and_poultry/industry_news/agriprocessors.cfm

http://www.alternet.org/story/97842/?page=entire

http://labornotes.org/node/1975
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

http://iowaindependent.com/9156/postville-author-rips-culver-and-judge-on-agriprocessors

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

http://socialistworker.org/2008/12/06/republic-window-occupation

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 
http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/bankofamerica/

 

Another report from CBS 2 in Chicago (link found on Labourstart web page)
http://cbs2chicago.com/local/republic.windows.sitin.2.880850.html

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
http://tinyurl.com/5hzxkr

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.