The ORGANIZER WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
- Issue No. 16
- December 16, 2020
IN THIS ISSUE OF THE ORGANIZER WEEKLY:
(1) New Stimulus Package Tentative Agreement: Dems Throw States, Cities and Counties Under the Bus!; Public-Sector Workers Under Attack! – by Mya Shone
(2) Stop the State Murders by Execution! — Editorial
(3) Dossier: Free Mumia! (statement from APTUF / Pakistan, excerpts from statement by Colin Kaepernick, Resolution by Adult School Teachers United / Richmond, Calif.)
(4) University of California Academic Student Employees Demand COLA 4 All! – by Coral Wheeler
(5) Call for an International Day of Action on Jan. 21, 2021: For the Reinstatement of All Fired Auto Workers in Mexico! For Free Trade Union Association and Democracy! For Wage Increases!
(6) OCRFI Alarm Manifesto: Our Position on China
* * * * * * * * * *
(1) New Stimulus Package Tentative Agreement: Dems Throw States, Cities and Counties Under the Bus!
Public-Sector Workers Under Attack!
By MYA SHONE
December 15 @ 8 p.m. — Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already had drawn his line in the sand when the Democratic Party-controlled House passed its much heralded $3.4 trillion HEROES Act in May, which included nearly $1 trillion in aid to state, local, territorial and tribal governments that bore the cost of first responders, health workers, teachers and transit workers. McConnell was vocal about his opposition to public employees — particularly those represented by unions. He attacked their pensions and stated that he would “certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route.” (Hugh Hewitt radio show, 04/22/20)
Knowing that he had control of the Senate, McConnell stood his ground counting on the Democrats to make concessions that bend to his will. Never mind that millions across the country, including in his home state of Kentucky, had lost their jobs; had become dependent upon public food programs set up by their local cities, towns, and states as well as pantries and food banks organized by private charities; or that millions were unable to pay their rent or home mortgages, utility payments, or interest on student and other loans; or that almost 8 million workers (7.7 million) had lost their employment-based healthcare coverage and as a consequence so had their 6.9 million dependent family members.
Workers were and remain angry as well as terrified about what may happen to themselves and their families, but no mass opposition was prepared. Union leaders instead placed their hopes in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s skills as a negotiator as they turned their efforts to electing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
The HEROES Act languished as McConnell never let it reach the Senate floor. By October 1, one month before the November elections, House Democrats revised their expectations with passage of a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, dropping by more than half the allocation for state and local governments. The $436 billion was substantially less than the $500 billion that the National Governors Association calculated was the minimum federal aid that states and municipalities required — even before the country was plunged into the second and third wave of the pandemic — to compensate for lost tax revenues and still be able to provide services essential to address the COVID-19 crisis.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, with whom Pelosi also had been negotiating, countered with a proposal that further reduced state and local relief aid to $300 billion. State and local workers took heart as Pelosi stated that this “remains sadly inadequate.”
Back to the drawing boards went a bipartisan group of “moderate legislators” as 12 million unemployed workers will face a “benefits cliff” on December 26 when their unemployment insurance checks stop and a federal mandate against evictions runs out on December 31.
However, the team of “moderate legislators” slashed the proposal even more. They unveiled a $908 billion “economic relief” package in the beginning of December. It included a paltry $160 billion to state, local and tribal governments. Paltry when you consider that New York City (8.4 million population and hub of the 18.35 million New York metropolitan area) alone faces a $4 billion budget gap projected for next year and San Francisco (882,000 population and hub of the 7.75 million Bay Area region) a $411.1 million hole for its next fiscal year, both of which must be met by service cuts and layoffs since city as well as state governments, unlike the federal government, must balance their budgets and cannot run a deficit.
The new Congressional proposal also assigns only $45 billion for the transportation sector to be spread among airlines, airports, buses, Amtrak (train), as well as public transit nationally. Yet, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (M.T.A.), the largest public transit agency in North America, has for months been lobbying for $12 billion in federal aid for the M.T.A. Without such aid, the M.T.A. concluded, it would have to slash costs which could eliminate 450,000 jobs throughout the metropolitan New York region, as bus and subway services are cut by 40%, service on commuter rails are reduced in half, and much needed infrastructure work is delayed. (New York Times 10/29/20)
San Francisco, too, is facing drastic cuts in public transit upon which the working class depends. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which lost 95% of its Muni fares, has a deficit of at least $68 million this fiscal year and potentially $168 million in its next fiscal year. Services will be reduced even further, and the agency projects laying off 20% of its unionized workers. (San Francisco Chronicle 12/15/20)
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) didn’t wait for opposition to the drastically limited proposed legislation to surface. On Sunday, December 13, Hoyer signaled on CNN’s Inside Politics that he would be willing to soften the Democratic Party stance and accept legislation without state and local aid in order to “get the essential done.”
This was all the bipartisan group of legislators had to hear. On Monday, they announced their latest compromise: $748 billion, which is their original $908 billion proposal with the $160 billion to state and local governments noticeably absent. A second proposed bill that has no possibility for passing would combine, they said, both funding for state and local governments as well as Mitch McConnell’s priority legislation that would protect employers from workers’ COVID-19 claims such as the lawsuits that have been filed already against the meatpacking industry.
The agreement was sufficient for yet another top Democrat, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat to announce on Monday (12/14) his support for the latest compromise. “ I want to get it done this week,” Durbin said.
With key Democratic Party leaders now throwing cities, states and their public sector workers to the wind, it is up to workers ourselves — now as always — to fight for our interests.
Immediately, before the new proposal could find its way to the floor of Congress, the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) sent a pointed message with its resolution adopted unanimously Monday, December 14:
- “Whereas, now more than ever our communities need services from our Cities, Counties, and States and these services are critically underfunded; and
- “Whereas, we are in danger of further damaging our communities by cutting services and laying off hundreds of thousands of working Americans,
- “Therefore Be it Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls on all political leaders, especially the Democrats, to ensure that the stimulus package has maximum funding for our Cities, Counties, and States; and
- “Therefore Be it Finally Resolved the San Francisco Labor Council calls on the Democrats to vote against any package that does not have direct aid to our Post Offices, Cities, Counties, and States.”
Now, it is for labor to show its commitment and strength by organizing the actions that must flow inevitably from the first-step resolutions.
* * * * * * * * * * *
(2) Stop the State Murders by Execution!
In an apparent effort to satisfy supporters of State-sanctioned murder and to show that President Trump is “tough on crime,” the misnamed U.S. Department of Justice ordered the renewal of federal executions earlier this year.
According to Death Penalty Action:
“After a 17-year hiatus, the U.S. Department of Justice has carried out 10 executions since July 2020 — an unprecedented pace — with more on the way. To resume federal executions once again, especially at this time and at this rate, is an affront to the progress this country has made in eliminating the death penalty state-by-state and bringing us in-line with international human rights standards.”
Three federal executions are scheduled in January before Trump presumably leaves office: Lisa Montgomery (Jan. 12), the first woman to be federally executed in over 60 years, Cory Johnson (Jan. 14), and Dustin Higgs (Jan. 15).
Socialist Organizer opposes all executions for the following reasons:
• We recognize that there is no way to avoid the execution of innocent people, estimated by several studies to be approximately 4% of those on death row in the U.S. Dustin Higgs is almost certainly among them. His co-defendant, currently serving a life sentence, and all witnesses now claim that Higgs had nothing to do with the murders for which he was convicted. While the exonerated may be set free, nothing can undo State murder.
• In practice, the death penalty is used to discriminate against people of color, especially Black men, and working class persons of all races. Out of the 10 already executed and the three scheduled in January, six are Black men. Of all currently on death rows throughout the U.S., around 46% are Black men. There is no way to eliminate this unfairness, much of which is based in implicit bias, as well as more open racism and classism. Not only are people of color arrested and convicted at much higher rates than whites, but whites or those whose victims are people of color often receive lesser sentences.
• Capital punishment may be used as a means to suppress political dissent. Activists, most famously Mumia Abu-Jamal, have been framed for capital offenses. (After coming within hours of execution more than once, the movement for his defense was able to get Abu-Jamal off death row, and he is now serving a life sentence. [See related dossier in this issue.]
• In the U.S., the death penalty is administered primarily by states. At this time, 22 states have abolished the capital punishment, and 13 of these states have a moratorium on its use and have not executed anyone in the past 10 years. Thus, whether or not people are executed depends on what state convicted them or if they were convicted of a capital federal offense. This is inequitable on its face.
• While it is now illegal to execute juveniles, this is not retroactive. Many currently facing execution were convicted of murders committed before they turned 18 or very shortly thereafter. Those under 18 were often tried as adults. It is well recognized today that teens’ brains have not developed sufficiently to have strong impulse control.
• Many, if not most, people sentenced to death grew up under conditions of great abuse and neglect. Lisa Montgomery is a classic example; a woman sex trafficked as young as 9 years old by her own mother and frequently gang-raped. When society refuses to intervene in such horrendous circumstances – and Montgomery’s were known or suspected by teachers, police, and social workers – what right has that society to murder that person after they become mentally ill as the result of extreme trauma and murder someone during a psychotic break?
• Almost all death-row inmates received inadequate legal defense before conviction and sentencing. In many cases they are convicted on the basis of testimony provided by accomplices who have been given a deal to reduce their own sentences if they testify against another. This is what happened to Brandon Bernard, who, though pulled into being an accomplice in a murder, was not the person who actually committed it. Jury selection procedures and instructions to juries often allow blatant racial discrimination. Exculpatory or mitigating evidence is often withheld.
Though it is illegal to execute those deemed mentally incompetent, the mentally ill and developmentally disabled are still receiving the death penalty. (Cory Johnson is developmentally disabled, more so than a co-defendant who received life imprisonment, as were several of those already executed. Montgomery is severely mentally ill.) Misconduct during trial or later evidence of innocence — or even proof of innocence — does not automatically result in stopping an execution. Sometimes defense attorneys assigned to a case had never handled a death-penalty case — as was the situation with Mumia Abu-Jamal.
• The legal process involved in capital cases is very expensive. Like most other money spent on incarceration and law enforcement, much of this could be spent on social services that actually prevent violent crime.
• Capital punishment does not solve any problem: it is not an effective deterrent to murder and it very rarely provides psychological closure to the families of victims.
• Most countries have legally abolished capital punishment. They, and even U.S. states that no longer engage in state murder, typically have lower rates of violent crime.
We urge our readers to participate in actions to stop the upcoming executions of Montgomery, Johnson, and Higgs, and to oppose capital punishment altogether. See Death Penalty Action, Death Penalty Focus, and the “Next to Die” page on the Marshall Project website for more information.
* * * * * * * * * *
(3) DOSSIER: FREE MUMIA!
• Letter from APTUF (Pakistan) to PA Governor
• Excerpts from Statement by Colin Kaepernick
• Resolution adopted by Adult School Teachers United, Richmond, Calif.
* * *
(a) All Pakistan Trade Union Federation Letter to PA Governor: Release Mumia Abu-Jamal Immediately!
- Governor Tom Wolf
- Office of the governor
- 508 Main Capital Building
- Harrisbourg, PA 17120
- United States
- Subject: Release Mumia Abu-Jamal Immediately!
Dear Governor Tom Wolf,
Let me briefly introduce the All Pakistan Trade Union Federation; it is a national trade union center, struggling to defend the rights of the working class in Pakistan.
Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black man, an activist, a journalist, was arrested in year 1982. The allegation leveled was that he killed a white policeman, thus facing a death Penalty. His age is now 66 and his liver is damaged. He is very weak and the wave of Covid 19 may cause him to suffer more. His detention is unlawful and against the International Charter of Human Rights.
On the behalf of All Pakistan Trade Union Federation/All Pakistan Workers Confederation we request you to immediately release Mumia Abu-Jamal.
- Rubina Jamil,
- General Secretary
- All Pakistan Trade Union Federation
- All Pakistan Workers Confederation
- 14-N, Industrial Area, Gulberg II, Lahore
- Pakistan Tel: 92-42-5755078/9
- Anwer Gujjar
- Railway Workers Union, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation
- Muhammad Ilyas
- Joint Secretary All Pakistan Trade Union Federation
- Workers Union Nisar Press
- Junaid Awan,
- President Railway Workers Union Sind
- President, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation
- Muhammad Ashraf
- Secretary Workers Union Long Man
* * *
(b) Excerpts from Colin Kaepernick Statement Demanding Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal: Updated Materials on Mumia’s Case
Found in December 2018 in an inaccessible storage room of the DA’s office, six boxes of documents for Mumia’s case reveal previously undisclosed and highly significant evidence showing that Mumia’s trial was tainted by a failure to disclose material evidence in violation of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. In November 2019, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) filed a King’s Bench Petition asking the court to allow the state attorney general, not the Philadelphia DA’s office, to handle the upcoming appeals.
As the FOP president, John McNesby, said just last year, “Mumia should remain in prison for the rest of his life.” And a King’s Bench order provides the legal angle for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to uphold Judge Sabo’s original wish, which was for Mumia ultimately to die in prison.
Today we’re living through a moment where it’s acceptable to paint “end racism now” in front of the Philadelphia Police Department’s 26th district headquarters, and yet a political prisoner who has since the age of 14 dedicated his life to fighting against racism, continues to be caged and lives his life on a slow death row. We’re in the midst of a movement that says Black Lives Matter. And if that’s truly the case, then it means that Mumia’s life and legacy must matter. And the causes that he sacrifices life and freedom for must matter as well.
Through all of the torture Mumia has suffered over the past 38 years, his principles have never wavered. These principles have manifested themselves in his writing countless books while incarcerated, in his successful radio show, and the time and energy he has poured into his mentorship of younger incarcerated folks and the continued concern for the people suffering outside of the walls.
Even while living in the hells of the prison system, Mumia still fights for our human rights. We must continue to fight for him and his human rights.
Well, Mumia is 66 years old. He is a grandfather. He is an elder with ailments. He is a human being that deserves to be free.
* * *
(c) Motion passed December 12 by Adult School Teachers United (ASTU) in Richmond, Calif.
Whereas Colin Kaepernick has been in the forefront of the struggle against systemic racist police violence since he took a knee as a SF 49er,(*)
Whereas Kaepernick has now called for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, documenting his frame-up almost 40 years ago in the killing of a Philadelphia police officer in retaliation for Abu-Jamal’s relentless reporting on police violence,
Whereas the mainstream Bay Area media have yet to even report on Kaepernick’s courageous statement despite his deep ties to the area, both as the 49er quarterback and in his extensive work with Oakland high school youth,
Resolved: We urge local media to carry Kaepernick’s statement in full and will issue a Press Release to that effect.
(*) Kaepernick took a knee in 2016 during the anthem. During a post-game interview that year, Kaepernick explained his position stating, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”
* * * * * * * * * *
(4) University of California Academic Student Employees Demand COLA 4 All!
By CORAL WHEELER
As the world began to reel from the coronavirus disaster, teaching assistants (TAs), graders and tutors at the University of California (UC) — represented by UAW Local 2865 — were fully engaged in a bitter fight for a living wage. Joining the massive wave of strikes and labor actions occurring throughout the world, the student workers ramped up the struggle to win a cost of living adjustment (COLA).
This fight, which began with a wildcat strike on December 9, 2019, at the UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) campus, made national news, gaining not only student and faculty support, but the backing of other unions at the UC. Even then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted in defense of the strikers. Most importantly, the wildcat strikes and the UC’s response pushed the UAW 2865 leadership to demand that the university bargain over COLA and file unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against the UC administration.
This joining of rank-and-file activism with broad union support had the potential to result in a full, UC-wide, sanctioned ULP strike.
But just as the COLA movement at UC was escalating and the wildcat strikes were spreading to other UC campuses, the crisis of the global pandemic hit the world and changed everything. After a stay-at-home order was issued on March 19, 2020, for the entire state of California, picket lines became impossible, and even solidarity among stressed-out students and faculty waned as they were faced with the impossible task of completing their entire course load online.
On August 11. one year and eight months after the wildcat strike first began on the UCSC campus, the UAW and the UC reached a settlement agreement that registered some gains and victories, but also some difficult compromises.
Below is an account of the “COLA 4 All!” battle in the UC system. A more complete update on the struggle, with lessons for the struggles ahead, is included at the conclusion of the article. — C.W.
* * * * *
Academic Student Employees Are Severely Rent Burdened
The cost of living in California is notoriously bad, and ranks third highest in the nation behind only Hawaii and the District of Columbia. Student housing, when even available to graduate students (who represent the largest group in UAW 2865), can cost the same or even more than other units in the area, and often costs more than 30% of their salary. This condition, defined as “rent burden,” is the unifying grievance against the administration that drove the wildcat strikers.
Furthermore, the UC has raised grad housing rent so fast that many students are forced to pay even 50% to 60% of their salary in rent, which placed many students in extreme hardship even before the global pandemic began.
UAW 2865 made COLA one of its bargaining demands many times during contract negotiations in the past, but usually only in the early contract bargaining phase with the UC, who treated it as a nonstarter every time. Each contract campaign, the bargaining teams traded the demand away for fixed yearly pay increases or increases that were tied to faculty pay raises.
One of the first academic student worker unions in the country and the largest to date, UAW 2865 has made appreciable gains in pay since its recognition in 2000, raising average pay over 60% total since the first contract, and winning other major victories such as full coverage of in-state tuition, healthcare premiums paid in full, workload and sexual harassment protections, and even a modest childcare subsidy for most academic workers.
However, while pay has increased over 3% on average every year since 2000, the cost of living in California has risen nearly as much or more in some places, leading to less of an increase or even a decrease in purchasing power for academic student employees.
Being a part of the UAW as well as the higher education system, Local 2865 has long been caught between the natural militancy of student workers and the bureaucratic apparatus of top union officials. This has manifested over the last decade primarily as a struggle between two main factions, each with their own internal contradictions.
The first, which held power until 2011, harbors a decidedly bureaucratic wing and pushes its organizers to actively support the Democratic Party. However, they also emphasize supermajority membership, one-on-one organizing, and working towards a union that represents all members, regardless of their academic department.
The second faction, which took power in the union’s 2011 statewide election, claims the mantle of rank-and-file unionism and, although it has refocused Local 2865 on social justice unionism and direct member participation, they also largely ignored organizing in the hard science departments (believing them to be less radical), and replaced one-on-one conversations with emails and small symbolic actions. Hiring many more staff without the resulting increase in member-to-member organizing, they spent down the Local’s financial reserves in just a few years while membership numbers plummeted.
Neither of these factions was able to win a COLA in any of the contract negotiations they ran, speaking both to their internal contradictions, as well as to the difficulty in winning this issue.
This is why the fight for COLA 4 ALL! is so crucial. For the first time, the more radical wing of the union was able to organize a mass action with enough participation and support to have gained the backing of the union leadership, which was taken over again by the more traditional faction in 2018.
A Brief Timeline
On November 7, 2019, 200 UCSC grad students marched to deliver the COLA demand to the Chancellor. The demand was for an additional $1,412 to be paid to every UCSC grad student, regardless of residence, visa status, documentation, or funding status. The amount is enough to bring UCSC students out of rent burden, but is also framed as necessary to bring UCSC students into wage parity with UC Riverside students, who the marchers claim have more purchasing power than UCSC grads at the same salary.
Then, on December 5, 2019, the UCSC Chancellor made a critical mistake by hitting reply-all to an email from a graduate student asking for immediate action on the COLA demand. The reply, which was received by all UCSC grad students, was seen by many as dismissive and intimidating, prompting many angry emails from students and the first calls for a strike.
An emergency meeting of 250 grads was held on December 8, and a large majority voted to initiate a grading strike immediately.
The grading strike officially began on December 9, 2019, two days after a support petition circulating among the UCSC faculty had garnered 150 signatures in just two days. Several rallies with hundreds of UCSC students and a press conference were held in the following weeks, with one nearing 400 students and attended by AFSCME workers as well. Grades for many classes were withheld for the Fall semester.
On January 22, 2020, following the statewide union’s first demand to bargain on January 15 and the UC’s refusal, UCSC graduate students participated in a sick-out, and instead protested at the UC’s Regents Day activities in San Francisco. This also marked the first participation of another UC campus, with a solidarity sick-out at UC Santa Barbara.
Just over a week later, 270 UCSC grads attended a general assembly and made the decision to organize for a full strike beginning February 10.
After several instances of the University engaging in more intimidation against the strikers, including making the false claim that students would lose financial aid if grades were not submitted, the full strike began on February 10. Although the strikers pledged that any student who personally emailed their TA could have their grades submitted, many undergrads stood in solidarity with the strikers and refused to request their grades.
To launch the full strike, hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as faculty and lecturers and staff, picketed the UCSC main entrance, and solidarity actions were held at five different UCs. After most of the faculty left the picket, the strikers were met by campus police, which arrested one student and beat several with batons. One student was admitted to the campus health center suffering a concussion.
The wave of police brutality, which went on for several days, resulted in an additional 16 arrests and cost the University $300,000/day. This got widely reported in the news, and strongly condemned, garnering additional support from academic workers, including students, postdocs and faculty from a variety of institutions through a petition calling for a halt to the campus police’s brutality.
On February 14, UC President Janet Napolitano threatened discipline and dismissal of strikers if grades were not submitted by February 21. Then, on February 19, the full UC faculty senate voted to support the strikers by refusing to fill out the surveillance document distributed by the administration, supporting higher wages for graduate students, and calling for an end to intimidation and violence against striking workers.
In the following two weeks before Napolitano’s deadline, the strike spread to three additional UC campuses (UCSB, UC Davis and UC San Diego), with UC Berkeley gaining rapid support for a strike. UC Irvine held a mass solidarity rally that also was met with police violence and the arrest of a Black student who was only trying to get a copy of their transcript.
Then, on February 28, 82 UCSC grad students were either fired or told they would not be considered for positions in the Spring quarter. This was just days after UAW Local 2865 filed the first unfair labor practice (ULP) charge against the UC. More followed, and they charged the UC with refusing to bargain with the union over COLA, as well as for attempting to subvert the contract by meeting with the UC Graduate and Professional Council (UCGPC) behind the union’s back, and for firing striking workers without due process. This marked a crucial moment, as the union now had the power to call a ULP strike, an action that would come with the full protection of the law behind the strikers.
The Effect of the COVID19 Pandemic
In a tragedy of timing, just as the COLA movement at UC was escalating and the wildcat strikes were spreading, the crisis of the global pandemic hit the world and changed everything.
The first day of Berkeley’s full teaching strike coincided with the first day of online instruction. Students, TAs and faculty were forced to move everything online within a matter of days, and a stay-at-home order was issued on March 19 for the entire state of California. Picket lines became impossible, and even solidarity among stressed-out students and faculty waned as they were faced with the impossible task of completing their entire course load online.
After the University decided to convert all unreported grades to a P (pass) grades if not reported by May 1, and the UC promised to reinstate workers who submitted all withheld grades, the wildcat strike was called off by the strikers at UC Davis and UCSB on April 12, then at UCSC on April 27. According to the payusmoreucsc.org newsletter, “repression and pandemic have both been truly significant dampers on the wildcat strike reaching and maintaining a critical mass of workers.”
While the decision to call off the strike can be understood (if not fully supported) in light of these drastic changes to the situation on the ground, particularly since student workers’ health coverage is tied to their employment, it is crucial that mobilization continue. Therefore it was initially heartening that COLA supporters at some UC campuses were still engaging in some form of strike behavior into April and, most important, that every UC campus at some point was involved in organizing for a full ULP strike, with a strike pledge having been circulated among academic student employees.
Former wildcat strikers pushed the official union leadership towards a ULP strike authorization vote by phone-banking to sign the pledge and urging members to prepare for a ULP strike. However, while the union leadership had initially stated that they would hold a strike vote in early April, they limited their action to building support through the strike pledge and focusing on the demand to bargain.
One possible reason for the delay was that the leaders of UAW 2865 believed they would not get the votes or turnout needed to build a credible strike threat. While it is indeed crucial that any strike action be a mass action as opposed to a small symbolic one, the hold-up in calling the vote highlights the importance of independent organizing from the rank-and-file to effectively build support for a successful strike vote and strike.
After the last global financial crisis in 2008, the UC forced waves of lay-offs, furloughs, pay freezes and benefit-reduction onto many of its workers. There is every indication that this will occur again. And so, while traditional one-on-one organizing from the current leadership may be sufficient to hold off any direct cuts, as it was a decade ago, it is likely that only a massive, statewide strike will have the power to win the demand for COLA for academic student employees, particularly during the upcoming period of austerity.
When that time comes, the strikers must not give in to intimidation, nor buy into the lie that these actions are harmful to their students. The UCSC strikers’ official statement ending the strike claimed that in threatening to change the grades to Pass, “the administration has shifted the burden of missing grades from themselves and onto the undergraduates it purports to care for and educate.”
But this is always the employer’s tactic in any strike action. If strikers insist on shielding students from the effects of a strike, the strike will not be disruptive and therefore will fail. Strikers must make the case that it is the UC’s actions that harm both its students and its workers. The slogan of teachers’ unions throughout the country, “our working conditions are students’ learning conditions” rings true more now than ever.
Academic student employees living in poverty cannot provide the quality education that students deserve. Only with persistent member mobilization, combined with long-term organizing for a future strike action, will UAW 2865 be able to win a wage that allows them to survive during these difficult times and to educate their students effectively.
COLA 4 ALL! Update
On August 11, the UAW and the UC reached a settlement agreement, with the UC reinstating the 53 fired academic student employees at UC Santa Cruz in an apparent exchange for the union dropping the unfair labor practice charges. The UCSC campus administration also promised an annual $2,500 housing stipend to graduate students, retroactive to the 2019-2020 academic year, and initiated a program to guarantee five years of funding PhD and MFA students.
The reinstatement of the fired striking workers is definitely a victory for the union, as the strikes were not protected by the union’s collective bargaining agreement. And while the housing stipend barely covers a month’s rent, and exists only at one campus, it is a precedent that could potentially be expanded in the future. However, because it was not enshrined in the contract, it is highly at risk of being taken away in the upcoming period of austerity. The five years of guaranteed funding is a program that has recently been enacted at other UC campuses and was likely something that was already in the works at UCSC, but it is possible that the settlement brought this important improvement sooner.
Since April, the UAW has not mentioned the strike vote on their website and, with the unfair labor practice charges dropped in the settlement, it seems likely the strike threat has waned for now. It remains to be seen if the wave of wildcat strikes that rocked UCSC and several other campuses will result in a permanent improvement to academic student employee working conditions. It has increased awareness of the COLA issue and led to at least a temporary increase in participation in the union statewide — both of which are needed to eventually win this and other issues.
Ultimately, a fully sanctioned statewide strike may be necessary to win COLA. But even if the leadership can be pushed to call such a strike, the student workers themselves must be ready en masse to carry it out. Only a true majority action — supported by overwhelming numbers of student workers — will be able to fight off the impending cuts, as well as make these much-needed gains in such difficult times.
* * * * * * * * * *
(5) CALL FOR A NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION ON JANUARY 20, 2021
For the Reinstatement of All Fired Auto Workers in Mexico!
For Free Trade Union Association and Democracy! For Wage Increases!
We — workers who came together on December 3, 2020, in the online Forum titled “Trade Union Democracy in the Auto Industry in the Framework of the NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA) Free Trade Agreement” — heard testimonies from workers in the automotive industry which show that six months after the NAFTA 2.0 agreement went into effect, and a year and a half after the adoption of Mexico’s Labor Law Reform, the workers in the auto industry in Mexico are not allowed to freely exercise their right to union freedom and democracy, a promise that was made by to them by the current government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The workers in the auto industry represent one of the most numerous sectors of the organized Mexican working class, but compared to their counterparts in other parts of the world they do not enjoy the same wages, rights and, work conditions.
The automotive sector is key to the Mexican economy. During 2019, this sector represented 3% of Mexico’s GDP, 18% of manufacturing production, and 32% of total exports.
Approximately 900,000 workers are employed in the assembly of vehicles, the manufacture of bodywork, and the production of auto parts. This industry also generates around one million more indirect jobs.
Mexico is the sixth largest automobile producer in the world, the fourth largest exporter only behind Germany, Japan and the United States. It is the fifth largest producer of auto parts (behind China, the United States, Japan and Germany).
Since the original NAFTA treaty went into effect 25 years ago, the automotive industry has grown. All major automakers (Volkswagen, Nissan, General Motors, Honda, Audi, Toyota, ands BMW) have plants in Mexico, taking advantage of the proximity to the United States and access to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. But their main incentive is the exploitative labor conditions facilitated by this treaty, primarily the guarantee of qualified labor at a lower cost than in their countries of origin.
According to studies by the Center for Labor Research and Union Assistance (CILAS), in 2017 a U.S. auto worker earned US$3,900 per month on average, while in Mexico the average wage of an auto worker is US$510 per month — that is, roughly one-eighth what an auto worker in the United States makes every month!
This situation has been fostered by all Mexican governments. They have put wage caps and allowed the continued violation of labor rights, for which they count on the collaboration of the corporate unions, who control the workers by and large.
This situation has created the need to organize in an independent manner. Mexican workers are demanding wage increases, employment stability, improved working conditions, and a halt to abuses of all kinds on the shop floor.
But the collusion between the auto companies and the charros — that is, the leaders of the corporatist, company unions — has resulted in the repression and firing of workers.
The much-touted new labor regulations in Mexico and the promises of wage increases in the auto industry have remained paper promises. The labor authorities have basically ignored the demands of workers in the auto sector, particularly those who seek new trade union organization or affiliation, or who have been fired unjustly for no other reason than they insisted that their rights must be respected. The December 3 auto workers’ forum heard these workers speak out about these broken promises.
The COVID-19 pandemic only has made the situation worse. According to the National Auto Parts Industry (INA), 80,000 auto workers in recent months have seen their wages cut by as much as 45% as a result of “technical stoppages” — wage cuts carried out with the approval of the charro (company) unions.
At the start of the pandemic, the automotive industry did everything possible to ignore the presidential decrees requiring the closure of non-essential companies and factories as part of the drive to protect workers in high-risk sectors. Under pressure from the U.S. parent companies, however, in the matter of just a few weeks the bosses managed to get the Mexican government to authorize the auto factories to return to work by reclassifying them as an “essential industry.”
The constant complaints and testimonials from rank-and-file auto workers have revealed that the return to work has been carried in conditions of extremely high risk to workers’ health and safety. The spread of the pandemic has not stopped because the PPE, disinfectant, social distancing, and other COVID-19 protocols have not been implemented. Dozens of auto workers have died from complications arising from COVID-19. The number of deaths is no doubt much higher as deaths are most often reported due to “general illness.”
Given this situation, we the undersigned call on the workers’ organizations and the social organizations in Mexican and internationally to join us in organizing a national and international day of solidarity — a day of action — for the right to free trade union association and democracy in the automotive industry of Mexico.
We call for letters to be sent to Mexico’s Secretary of Labor and to the federal government, combined with rallies and forums, to demand respect for freedom of association in the automotive industry.
We call particularly on you to demand the immediate reinstatement of the following workers fired solely because of their trade union activity:
- Workers fired at the General Motors Plant in Silao, Guanajuato:
- Israel Cervantes Córdova
- Sergio Contreras Ortega
- Martín Alejandro Cuellar Rivera
- Workers fired at the Audi Puebla plant:
- Jaime Abel González Sánchez
- Juan Aarón Carmona Sánchez
We call upon the federal government, the Secretary of Labor, the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board, and the National Commission on Human Rights to intervene and act post haste to provide redress of grievances to these workers.
Letters should be sent to:
- Luisa Maria Alcalde Luján
- Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare
- Av. Paseo de la Reforma, Del. Cuauhtémoc 93,
- Col. Tabacalera, Mexico City, C.P. 06030
- Telephone: (55) 2000 5300
- Juan Armando Hernández Maldonado
- Executive Director
- Assembly Plant General Motors de Mexico
- Avenida Ejército Nacional 843-B,
- Colonia Granada, Delegación Miguel Hidalgo, C.P.
- 11520, Mexico City,
- Edgar Casal Álvarez
- General Director of Audi de Mexico
- Please send copies of your letters to email@example.com.
- Thank you in advance for your support,
Generando Movimiento (Generating Movement)
Workers at General Motors plant, Silao, Guanajuato
Audi Puebla Laid-Off Workers Committee
Continuations Committee of the Binational Conference Against NAFTA 2.0 (or USMCA)
* * * * * * * * * *
(6) OCRFI Alarm Manifesto: Our Position on China
(excerpts from the Alarm Manifesto adopted Nov. 9, 2020, by the Alarm Conference of the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International / OCRFI)
Relations between China and the United States have been marked by an increasing escalation in the period preceding the emergence of the pandemic. The roots of this escalation have to do with the very nature of the Chinese State. The People’s Republic of China was born out of a revolutionary process that in 1949 saw the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie. Its peculiarity is that from the moment the bourgeoisie was overthrown, political power was confiscated by a social stratum removed from the control of working people: the bureaucracy that emerged from the apparatus of Stalinism.
It is indisputable that this bureaucracy, especially in recent decades, has worked systematically to open up the Chinese economy, which has been founded since 1949 on the monopoly of State property, to imperialist penetration, especially by the U.S. multinationals.
The specific character of State property has been expressed in the very way the Chinese leadership has dealt with the pandemic. Forced to mobilize the immense resources of State property, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party has, as a matter of fact, got people out of hospitals in a matter of days (which has not been the case in any of the capitalist powers of Europe and North America). But after mobilizing these gigantic means (which was made possible by the fact that the bureaucracy centralizes State power and the State itself still centralizes ownership of large sectors of the productive forces), the Chinese bureaucracy hastened to make the working class pay for the consequences.
The workers, according to the ruling Chinese bureaucracy, should above all not be allowed to see this as an encouragement to act independently on their own terrain. In no way should the Chinese working class be allowed to seize the opportunity to intervene in its own name. Hence the particularly brutal measures taken by the bureaucracy against the workers and youth in Hong Kong, aimed at terrorizing not only this component of the Chinese population, but through it, all sectors of the proletariat.
This is especially the case because, contrary to all the self-serving propaganda rhetoric that for years presented China as a new El Dorado of capitalism, the brutality of the crisis has caused the destruction of 200 million jobs in China. Hence the entirely contradictory aspect of this situation:
The Chinese bureaucracy, which has provided cheap labor with no rights to multinational corporations around the world, has created the conditions for a rapid and massive concentration of productive forces (at the cost of destroying productive forces in other countries). As a result, it has increased its dependence on the world market and, more precisely, on U.S. finance capital. When the crisis arrived, the mass destruction of productive forces was projected directly onto China, whose goods (unlike during the previous phase) were no longer welcome in the entire world and whose labor was no longer needed. China was impacted directly by the dislocation of the global economy.
This settles the question raised periodically by the capitalist press: Can U.S. leadership in the world economy be jeopardized by “Chinese competition”? The answer is No, not in any way. Since capitalism reached its highest stage, imperialist powers have no longer tolerated the development of autonomous industrialization in “emerging” countries whose economies should henceforth be only a part of the world division of labor controlled by international imperialism.
The violence of Trump and his administration against China for years testifies to the fact that it is not acceptable to U.S. imperialism that any economic development should be able to take place in any country, especially in a country whose economy, resulting from the 1949 revolution, rests on the social basis of the expropriation of capital.
The fact is that today China, with its 350 million to 400 million proletarians, is directly affected by the world crisis. In the previous phase China played an essential stabilizing role for imperialism by providing it with an over-exploitable labor force controlled by the bureaucratic apparatus and its arsenal of repression. Nevertheless, this complex interdependence between China and the U.S. has not at this stage destroyed the social base concentrated in State ownership.
China’s crisis stimulus packages are confronted with the fact that the increase in production would require a call-up from the world market. The Chinese economy is too dependent on the world market for a stimulus plan to be based primarily or even mainly on boosting domestic consumption. The export sector is an indispensable and major driving force for the functioning of the economy as a whole.
In this context, imperialism has been and is led to multiply threats, including military threats, against China, aimed at destroying obstacles to the free movement of goods and capital, which, for the moment, keep preventing the definitive collapse of State ownership. It is not tolerable for U.S. imperialism that this economy of considerable dimensions should be controlled by anything other than the quest for profit and therefore the needs of U.S. imperialism itself.
For the Fourth International, it is clear that the offensive of U.S. imperialism is aimed at the complete dismantling of State property in China, as it did in the past with regard to the Soviet Union. If it succeeds, it will be a major blow not only to the Chinese proletariat, but also to the world proletariat. That is why the Fourth International stands for the unconditional defense of China against U.S. imperialism. Unconditional means without any “conditions” addressed to the bureaucracy. In this support there is no illusion that the bureaucracy will be somehow bestowed with a historically progressive mission.
The resistance of the Chinese working class puts the demand for democracy at its center. This is why the Fourth International, which is unconditionally in favor of the defense of State property in China, does not entrust any historical mission to the bureaucracy and considers that the surest way to preserve the conquests of the 1949 revolution is the struggle by which the Chinese working class in all its components seeks to impose its right to self-organization, to build its independent organizations. It is on the terrain of its independence (including from the bureaucratic State apparatus) that the Chinese working class will preserve its conquests.
For the Fourth International, the fate of the Chinese people cannot be dissociated from the international class struggle.
* * * * * * * * *