T.O. Weekly 24: One Key Lesson from Bessemer Defeat
The ORGANIZER WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Issue No. 24 – April 13, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE:
• EDITORIAL – One Key Lesson from Bessemer: Fight Like Hell to Win the PRO Act!
• Amazon’s Union-Busting Law Firms – by Bradley Wiedmaier
• Amazon’s Inside Track
• Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition: Community Statement and Demands in Response to Long Beach’s Temporary Facility for Unaccompanied Migrant Children
• U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden: Have Things Changed? — by the Editors
• Maintaining Trump’s Foreign Policy – excerpts from April 8 statement of Win Without War
• U.S. Out of Haiti! – March 29 statement by the Black Alliance for Peace
• New Attacks by the U.S. Against Venezuela – by Dominique Ferré
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One Key Lesson from Bessemer: Fight Like Hell to Win the PRO Act!
Amazon won this round. Taking advantage of the anti-union legislation that prevails across the country — particularly in the U.S. South — Amazon defeated the organizing drive by workers in Bessemer, Alabama.
While the reasons for this defeat are many (and we will explore them in greater detail in the next issue of The Organizer Weekly newsletter), one reason stands out above all others: “Current labor law,” an April 9 New York Times article reports, “gives employers sizable advantages. The law typically forces workers to win elections at individual work sites of a company like Amazon, which would mean hundreds of separate campaigns. It allows employers to campaign aggressively against unions and does little to punish employers that threaten or retaliate against workers who try to organize.”
Amazon brought in heavy-hitting union-busting firms [see sidebar article] to organize captive meetings where workers were told they’d lose their jobs if they voted to join the union. Drop boxes to deposit voting ballots were placed in front of the administration building, with cameras recording workers’ movements. This is just a partial list.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union announced that it would challenge the result and ask federal labor officials to investigate Amazon for creating an “atmosphere of confusion, coercion and/or fear of reprisals.”
“Our system is broken,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the union’s president. “Amazon took full advantage of that.”
Of course, everyone knows that this challenge will go nowhere.
What will it take to fix this broken system?
The answer is not difficult: Congress must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Under the PRO Act, all the anti-union attacks carried out by Amazon would be illegal. The playing field would be leveled in favor of the workers. To be specific, the PRO Act would:
• Introduce meaningful, enforceable penalties for companies and executives that violate workers’ rights;
• Enhance workers’ right to support boycotts, strikes, or other acts of solidarity. The bill would protect workers’ First Amendment Rights by removing prohibitions on workers acting in solidarity with workers at other companies.
• Prevent employers from interfering in union elections. The bill would prohibit employers from requiring workers to attend meetings designed to persuade them against voting in favor of a union. If a violation were to take place or the employer otherwise were to interfere with a union representation election, the NLRB would be empowered to issue an order that requires the employer to bargain with the union.
• Streamline access to justice for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights. Rather than enduring a long period of unemployment waiting for their case to be heard, the bill requires the NLRB to immediately seek an injunction to reinstate the employee while their case is pending.
With the PRO Act and a serious nationwide deep-organizing drive, the Bessemer workers would have had a fighting chance to organize a union to protect their interests.
What will it take to ensure passage of the PRO Act?
The PRO Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in decades. Passing it will require ending the Senate filibuster once and for all. The “talking filibuster” proposed by President Biden (a cruel joke) and the “small-steps approach” proposed by the Senate parliamentarian (enabling legislation through the budget reconciliation process) are no substitute for ending the filibuster, a holdover from the slave-owning era. If we’re dependent on the good graces of a parliamentarian, we are in deep trouble.
All it takes is 51 Senate votes to overturn the filibuster. The Democrats have those 51 votes. But the Democrats refuse to buck the system to ensure majority rule. Instead, they are sheltering behind Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema, with the argument that we don’t have the 51 votes anyhow.
In the early 1960s, the Democrats sheltered behind the Dixieacrats to explain why they could not win passage of the Civil Rights Act. It took a mass movement, led by Black working-class organizations and their allies, to compel President Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1965.
Today, a similar movement needs to take shape in the ranks of the labor movement and among labor’s community allies. Ending the filibuster is within our reach. Securing the PRO Act is within our reach.
The defeat of the organizing drive at Bessemer shows that unless the labor movement mobilizes its members and allies in the fight of the century to win the PRO Act, workers and all oppressed peoples will suffer one defeat after the other.
We can win the battle for the PRO Act. We must win this battle. But it will take more resolve and political weapons than those currently wielded by the labor movement.
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Amazon’s Union-Busting Law Firms
By Bradley Wiedmaier
The vote by Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, has an important component story regarding the role of union-busting law firms, such as the international firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius.
In the Spring of 2019, when Joe Biden’s presidential campaign was stalling, six Morgan Lewis executives were involved in a critical Biden fundraiser. Each, including Morgan Lewis & Bockius chair Jami McKeon, made the maximum individual donation permitted to a presidential campaign.
Morgan Lewis & Bockius also has a close connection to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which has been overseeing the union election at Amazon Bessemer. In 2017, President Donald Trump appointed a Morgan Lewis partner, Philip A. Miscimarra, chair of the NLRB. Miscimarra is one of four Morgan Lewis partners who has served on the labor board. Another is John F. Ring, who later served as the NLRB Chair up to January 20, 2021. Yet another Morgan Lewis partner, Harry I. Johnson, served on the NLRB for five years during the Obama administration, and is currently Morgan Lewis’ lead attorney for Amazon at Bessemer.
Morgan Lewis & Bockius promotes its union-busting activity in its promotional materials. The firm offers its clients the ability to “avoid union penetration and strategically shape bargaining units to minimize potential union organizing victories.” Even as it joins other union-busting outfits working for Amazon at Bessemer, Morgan Lewis & Bockius stands out among them:
Morgan Lewis represented the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1981, when President Reagan fired all 11,000 striking air traffic controllers represented by PATCO, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union. It represented Major League Baseball during the 1990 spring lockout and 1994-95 baseball strike. The USPS as well used the law firm when contract talks with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) ended in arbitration.
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Amazon’s Inside Track
Amazon has an inside track in the Biden administration. According to The New York Times, business section on April 10:
“In December, the company hired the lobbyist Jeff Ricchetti, whose brother, Steve Ricchetti, is a longtime aide to Mr. Biden and now a counselor to the president. … The company’s top lobbying and communications executive, Jay Carney, was a communications director for Mr. Biden during the Obama administration. President Barack Obama later named Mr. Carney the White House press secretary. He has deep relationships with Mr. Biden’s inner circle and has played in a garage band with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.”
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Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition:
Community Statement and Demands in Response to Long Beach’s Temporary Facility for Unaccompanied Migrant Children
[Note: Below is a statement by the Long Beach (CA) Immigrant Rights Coalition (LBIRC) opposing the unanimous approval by the Long Beach City Council on April 6 to utilize the Long Beach Convention Center as an influx facility for immigrant children arriving at the border.]
On the evening of April 6, the Long Beach City Council voted to contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and allow the opening of a facility for unaccompanied immigrant children at the Long Beach Convention Center.
The undersigned organizations do not support the expansion of detention facilities, the incarceration of children, and the continued criminalization of immigrants.
We must remember that the Biden administration and those who have preceded them have failed to address the root causes of children arriving unaccompanied. Among these causes is the Biden administration’s continued implementation of the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which allows border officials to immediately expel migrant families and adults without any chance to seek asylum or other relief. This is a continuation of imperialist policies that drive people away from their country of origin and treat them inhumanly once they arrive. Continuing to expel adults and families while accepting unaccompanied minors forces many migrant families to make an impossible decision when seeking safety in the United States.
We must also acknowledge the intersectionality that exists in this issue, that immigration is the overarching issue, and that Black immigrants and Afro-Latino immigrants face additional barriers of anti-Blackness in the navigation of these systems and once they arrive in this country. We also must acknowledge the current increase of violence against our API community members. Additional barriers exist along class lines. All of this stems from white supremacy as a root cause. We stand firmly against this in all of its forms.
As the City of Long Beach enters into the contract, we demand the following from local and federal elected officials:
We demand transparency. The Long Beach community should know the terms, conditions, and expiration dates of the contracts made between the City of Long Beach and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. We should also know the names of the agencies (non-profit, public, and private) who will be responsible for providing resources and services to the children.
We demand that this facility be temporary and be closed within 90 days. These types of facilities are a band-aid solution to a bigger problem. We cannot allow for this facility to house children indefinitely and to continue the pattern of family separation and trauma.
We demand all children to be reunited with their families in an expeditious manner.
All the children and youth must be reunited in a timely manner with their families or sponsors in the U.S. The longer a child is kept away from loved ones, their mental and physical health is gravely impacted. Pia Rebello Britto, the chief of early childhood development for UNICEF, said children without a responsive caregiver rarely have anyone to comfort them. These children lose out on stimulating activities to promote how they think and learn, their health and happiness. Out of fear and anxiety, their stress hormone cortisol surges, obstructs new neural connections and breaks down old ones, “causing long-term psychological and physical damage. It’s incredibly hard to bring a child back from that,” Britto said. “There are no second chances.”
We demand that this facility does not increase ICE or police presence in our communities.
We demand that this facility ensure the safety of all unaccompanied immigrant children. We must ensure that children are cared for, that COVID protocols are strictly adhered to, and that safeguards against abuse, exploitation, and trafficking are created with the consultation of experts and strictly followed by personnel.
We demand that our elected city leaders act in a manner consistent with that of a declared sanctuary city and unapologetically condemn the U.S. policies that have led to the arrival of unaccompanied minors at our nation’s border.
In alignment with national partners and allies, we demand the following from local and federal elected officials:
– End the practice of holding children in large scale influx facilities, including military bases.
– Rescind the Title 42 border closure and fully restore access to asylum at our borders, including at ports of entry and ensuring unaccompanied children have immediate and consistent access to legal counsel, child advocates and interpretation services.
– In situations where children arrive without a parent or legal guardian, establish a process with the Department of Health and Human Services at the border to more quickly identify and vet family or sponsors to whom children can be released without the use of influx facilities.
– In cases where a sponsor cannot be quickly identified within 72 hours, prioritize small scale, non-restrictive settings for unaccompanied children in facilities licensed for childcare and run by trusted community-based non-profits.
These types of facilities should not be seen as a model to be replicated by other cities because they are being used to make detention centers more palatable. Welcoming asylum seekers and immigrants should mean removing anti-immigrant policies that have exacerbated an already unjust immigration system and prevented family reunification for millions of immigrants in this country. Welcoming asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants should also mean addressing the political, social, and economic conditions that created and exacerbated these crises in the first place, imperialist policies are undeniably the root cause of these issues.
The undersigned organizations will continue to advocate for the release of all immigrants under the custody of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We absolutely do not support this center and we will make sure that all children are safe and are being released to their families in a timely manner. We will also connect the children who stay in Long Beach to the Long Beach Justice Fund and ensure they have access to free legal representation.
We will continue to advocate for the abolition of detention centers as a part of the larger carceral system that harms all of us. We will continue to fight for the reunification of all immigrant families.
American Indian Movement So Cal
Anakbayan Long Beach
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
Asians 4 Black Lives
Bend The Arc: Jewish Action, Bay Area
Bend The Arc: Jewish Action, Southern California
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Black Lives Matter Long Beach
California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice
California Immigrant Policy Center
California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants
Central American Resource Center of California
Child Leader Project
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
Detention Watch Network
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Freedom for Immigrants
Filipino Migrant Center
GABRIELA South Bay
Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Khmer Girls in Action
Koreatown Popular Assembly
Law Students for Immigrant Justice at UCLA
Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community
Long Beach Forward
Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition
Long Beach Sacred Resistance
Long Beach Southeast Asian Anti-Deportation Collective
Long Beach Tenants Union
Me Too Survivors’ March International
Mujeres Unidas y Activas
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala
Occupy ICE LA
Orange County Equality Coalition
Orange County Justice Fund
Orange County Rapid Response Network
Puente Latino Association
Resilience Orange County
Santa Barbara County Immigrant Legal Defense Center
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U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden: Have Things Changed?
By The Editors
Donald Trump’s foreign policy was based on the concept of “unilateralism”: All countries in the world, both allies and foes alike, had to march to the U.S. drumbeat; no multilateral summits or consultations needed.
Trump unilaterally brought the planet to the brink of war with his various provocations against North Korea (before his reconciliation with Kim Jong-un), Iran, and China. His unwavering support for Benjamin Netanyahu added fuel to the Israeli State’s permanent war against the Palestinian people and fanned tensions throughout the region. U.S. imperialism’s drive to further open up the Chinese market to U.S. investments proceeded steadily.
What about Joe Biden — have things changed?
In a little over two months of his presidency, he has shattered his promise to restore a “multipolar” world and ease tensions. It began with Syria. The Labor Fightback Network issued a statement titled, “U.S. Out of Syria and Iraq” that reads, in part:
“It’s no coincidence that the U.S. air strikes in Syria in late February [targeting an Iraqi Shiite militia camp allied with Iran – Ed. note] occurred the same day as the Senate parliamentarian advised that the $15 per-hour minimum wage did not belong in the COVID-19 relief package, with the White House willing to go along. The ‘first hundred days’ … is witnessing the unfolding of the same old corporate-imperialist agenda.”
In early March, after rockets were fired at one of the U.S. military bases in Iraq, the Biden administration warned: “Expect us to do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves.” Biden and Iraq have a long history. In 2002, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden was active in authorizing George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, an invasion that plunged the country into the chaos that still plagues it today.
The LFN statement continued:
“Hostility to China signals a continuation of the bellicose Trump narrative and Western Pacific agenda. With U.S. troops still spread across the African continent and embargoes in place against Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, the Biden administration seems committed to interference in other countries that don’t conform to its pre-set agenda, no matter the cost in human resources, prosperity and peace.”
China remains the number one target for the Biden administration. “With China, Joe Biden is following in the footsteps of Donald Trump, except for the method,” noted the France 24 News Hour (March 18). True, Biden, unlike Trump, has not engaged in a racist campaign against the so-called “China virus.” But by sending the U.S. fleet to the South China Sea, he is raising the tension many notches.
On April 2, Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of the United States’ “unwavering” support for Ukraine in the face of “Russian aggression.”
Biden, a longtime partisan of the U.S. military-industrial complex, knows that his administration needs to raise tensions the world over to justify the huge sums of money in the U.S. military budget and to dictate the law of Wall Street to everyone the world over. [See articles below on the Biden war budget and U.S. imperialist policy toward Haiti and Venezuela.]
The LFN statement concluded as follows:
“Guns or butter? Current policies and actions belie the aspirations of our working class. Only Labor and the working-class oppressed communities have the power to enforce the peace and rebuild our shattered communities, still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and all its destructive consequences.”
• Stop the Endless U.S. Wars Across the Globe!
• End the U.S. Sanctions Against China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua!
• U.S. Out of Africa, Shut Down AFRICOM!
• Slash the War Budget; Money for Jobs and Social Justice, Not War!
• Bring All U.S. Troops Home from Afghanistan and Beyond!
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“Maintaining Trump’s Foreign Policy”
(excerpts from April 8 statement of Win Without War)
As President Biden approaches his 100th day in office, we’re seeing an alarming trend toward maintaining Trump’s hawkish foreign policy.
Biden just announced a $753 BILLION Pentagon budget — more than Trump’s spending spree.
When Trump entered office, we expected his priorities to increase the Pentagon budget. Now, President Biden has the audacity to raise it further despite the turmoil we have faced in the last year.
What we know is that we are spending a whopping three-quarters of a trillion dollars on wars, weapons, and militarism. In the last year, we have faced horrendous forest fires on our West Coast, storms that have demonstrated to us how fragile our infrastructure is in the South, millions of people across the country losing their jobs and all sense of security, and the passing of 560,000 people in the United States due to COVID-19.
Three-quarters of a TRILLION dollars would save lives.
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U.S. Out of Haiti!
(March 29 statement by the Black Alliance for Peace)
On Wednesday, March 25, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti tweeted, in Haitian Kreyol, the statement:
“Mwen ka di sa byen klè: pa vini.”
— Prezidan, Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The tweet, accompanied by a photo of the U.S. president, was followed with an English translation of Biden’s words: “I can say quite clearly: Don’t come over.”
Without having to reprise the vulgar pronouncements by his predecessor about Haiti as a “shit-hole country,” Biden’s policy on Haiti is clear: Haitians are not welcome in the U.S. and they should not, under any circumstance, attempt to immigrate to the U.S.
Yet the intended audience of the tweet was not only Haitians. Biden’s public admonishment of Haitians also sends a message to U.S. citizens that he will be tough on immigration, doing whatever he can to prevent Black migrants from entering the country. Already, he has come through on this count. In his short time in office, Biden has broken records for the scope, speed, and scale of the deportation of Haitian immigrants currently detained in the U.S.
But there’s more to Biden’s message. The tweet, while utterly paternalistic, also fuels a long-standing and deeply racist U.S. vision of Haiti: a vision of Haiti’s dark and restless masses ready to burst the country’s borders, traverse the Caribbean Sea, and invade the peaceable sanctuary of the white Republic.
Remember: Biden’s statement comes at a moment of increased protest against the corrupt, dictatorial, and U.S.-supported regime of Haiti’s Jovenel Moïse, and a growing Haiti solidarity movement in the U.S. Instead of acceding to the demands of the Haitian people, the U.S. – through the Core Group, the UN, and the OAS – have doubled-down on their support of Moïse. It is a sign of the effectiveness of protests inside and out of the country against Moïse that the U.S. State Department would, somewhat pathetically, take to social media to try to change the emerging public discourse surrounding U.S. imperialism in Haiti.
Moreover, we cannot forget that while Biden is telling Haitians “Don’t come over,” Haiti and its allies have been saying “U.S. Out of Haiti.” If the U.S. had not consistently meddled in Haiti’s affairs, undermining Haitian democracy and undercutting the Haitian economy, there would be no need for Haitian immigration to the U.S.
Back in 1994, Biden stated, “If Haiti, a god-awful thing to say, if Haiti just quietly sank into the Caribbean or rose up 300 feet, it wouldn’t matter a lot to our interests.” To suggest that the first Black Republic in the world is expendable is profoundly racist, but Biden also shows his profound ignorance of the history of U.S.-Haitian relations.
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New Attacks by the U.S. Against Venezuela
By Dominique Ferré
(reprinted from issue No. 284 of Tribune des Travailleurs / Workers Tribune, France)
Since March 21, incursions by Colombian armed groups into Venezuela have increased in the jungle along the border between the two countries. These armed groups, equipped with artillery, have been targeting the Venezuelan army and laying minefields, to the point that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro appealed on April 4 to the Secretary General of the United Nations to request immediate emergency assistance “to defuse the minefields left by these irregular groups of murderers and drug traffickers from Colombia.” Maduro accused them of being linked to the army and the government of Colombia.
The Colombian government claims that these groups are dissidents from the former leftist guerrilla movements who have converted into assisting the narco-traffickers. The implication, therefore, is that the Colombian government has nothing to do with them. But this is not the first time that an attack on Venezuela, teleguided by Washington, has come from Colombia. Barely a year ago, in May 2020, mercenaries from Colombia attempted an armed action to overthrow Maduro — and failed.
Colombia’s oligarchic and corrupt regime has been one of the most loyal to U.S. interests in Latin America for the past 60 years. The intertwining of the oligarchic regime, its military, paramilitary groups and the narcotics trade is such that it is hardly credible that groups linked to the cartels would have decided to attack a neighboring country without being incited by the Colombian government.
The Colombian government acted, as usual, on the orders of the U.S. administration.
Biden Continues the Assault Against the National Sovereignty of Venezuela
On January 19, the day before Biden’s inauguration, his appointed Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, declared that the U.S. administration would recognize Juan Guaido as “the legitimate president of Venezuela” and would do everything to “target more effectively” U.S. actions against the Maduro government. Juan Guaido is a coup leader who proclaimed himself “president of Venezuela” on January 23, 2019, before leading an aborted coup attempt supported by Washington in April 2019.
On March 3, Biden added another layer, meeting with Guaido and stating, “Today, the interim Venezuelan president and I discussed our unwavering support for democracy in Venezuela.” On March 19, tensions escalated with an official statement by Colombian President Duque calling Maduro a “murderer” and accusing him of having “persecuted, murdered, tortured and kidnapped tens of thousands of people” and threatening to take him to the International Criminal Court.
Twenty-four hours after this verbal provocation, Colombian paramilitary armed groups launched their attacks on Venezuela. Whatever one’s views on the policies of the Maduro government, workers around the world need to stand with Venezuela and its right to defend its national sovereignty against the mercenary attacks of U.S. imperialism.