T.O. Weekly 31 – Nurses Strike – Farmworkers – Palestine – MWM: Mobilizing in Our Own Name
Labor Must Mobilize in Support of the Striking Nurses at Tenet-Owned St. Vincent Hospital in Massachusetts!
On March 8, 2021, the 800 nurses at the Tenet-owned St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., went out on strike to demand “safer staffing for safer patient care.” Tenet Corp., a notorious healthcare profiteer, raised the fight to a new level when it threatened to replace the striking nurses permanently — a move that would both break the strike and smash the union. This action, Mark Dudzic and Rand Wilson write in their article below, “has transformed a hard-fought strike battle into a red line issue for the entire labor movement.” It has created another PATCO moment.
The St. Vincent Hospital strike also raises the urgent need for Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Under the PRO Act, employers would be banned from permanently replacing striking workers — which is what Tenet is threatening to do at St. Vincent.
Passing the PRO Act will require ending the Senate filibuster — a reactionary holdover from the slave-owning era. 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.
In the early 1960s, 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 — and putting an end to permanent striker replacement — is within our reach.
This three-part dossier on the St. Vincent Hospital strike discusses the challenges confronting the strike and what it will take to win it.
The first piece is by Sandy Eaton, a retired registered nurse and former chair of the Legislative Council of National Nurses United. He is an activist in the Labor Campaign for Single Payer. He is also a member of the Administrative Committee of the Labor Fightback Network and of the Advisory Committee of Labor and Community for an Independent Party. — The Editors
The Tenet Nurses’ Strike in Massachusetts and What It Will Take to Win
By SANDY EATON
Twenty-one years ago, the Worcester, Mass., nurses faced off against the Tenet Corporation. Newly organized, they struck for 49 days to win a first contract. Then, as now, money wasn’t the main issue. The safety of patients and staff in a profit-driven healthcare system was the nurses’ main goal, while Tenet executives demanded cruel working conditions that threatened patients’ safety and lives. It was all about control of the assembly line into which the delivery of care had been transformed.
Then, as now, a strategy of escalating pressure, finally threatening to go national and mobilizing not only the nurses directly involved but union members and community folks far beyond Worcester, is the winning formula. In 2000, it took 49 days for Tenet executives to realize they were beaten. Now this strike, which began on March 8, has gone on much longer than that.
The strikers have remained solid. Labor in the Worcester area and the community at large are supportive. Progressive groups and elected officials have come to the picket line and organized rallies. So, a few weeks ago Tenet escalated the fight, clearly pushing to break the strike and smash the union by threatening to replace the striking nurses permanently.
Alarm bells should have gone off throughout labor circles nationally.
But it took the activists and unions of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer to see the issues and recognize the threat [see article below by Mark Dudzic and Rand Wilson]. So now we are ramping up, starting with the National Town Hall on June 29, organized by the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, and the targeting of Tenet headquarters in Dallas on July 7.
The pressure on Tenet is mounting as it will try to justify its siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for pandemic relief to fatten its own coffers and those of its shareholders. But Tenet may not be afraid of elected officials and the threat of Congressional inquiries.
The logical and essential next step in Labor’s escalation in order to win this strike, beat back union busting, and push President Biden and Congress to enact the Medicare-for-All bill and fundamental labor-law reform is the full mobilization of the labor movement and our communities.
Labor leadership at all levels, but particularly at the national level, must use its resources to mobilize the force needed to turn back Tenet’s union-busting drive and reverse not only the 40 years of attacks since PATCO but the crippling provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO Executive Council and all union leadership bodies must see both the urgency of this moment and the opportunity. Tenet will not back down without it. The President and Congress will not act without it.
Like a mighty wave, we must roll over this 72-year pattern of being beaten down. Our new normal in this post-pandemic era must include solidarity strong enough to shift the balance of power in this country.
“We Cannot Let Another PATCO Moment Go Unchallenged!”
(excerpts from an article posted July 2 on Common Dreams by Mark Dudzic, chair of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, and Rand Wilson, former chief of staff at SEIU Local 888 in Boston)
On June 29, a National Solidarity Call was convened by the Labor Campaign for Single Payer to help mobilize national support for the 800 nurses at the Tenet Healthcare-owned St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Mass., who are now engaged in the longest nurses strike nationally in over a decade. Tenet has spent more than $75 million to date to prolong the strike. A fraction of those funds could have easily met the nurses demands for the staffing improvements that are the sole issue driving the strike.
Now Tenet is threatening to permanently replace the striking nurses who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). This action, by a notorious healthcare profiteer (Tenet leveraged federal bailout funds intended to provide urgent relief to employees and patients to triple its profits at the height of the pandemic last summer), has transformed a hard-fought strike battle into a red line issue for the entire labor movement.
For those of us old enough to remember, it evokes the rampage of union busting that followed the Reagan administration’s mass firing of striking air-traffic controllers in the notorious PATCO strike of 1981.
Busting the air-traffic controllers’ union sent a signal to employers everywhere that it was acceptable for management to break strikes and bust unions. In quick order, striking workers from copper miners in Arizona to newspaper workers in Detroit found themselves permanently replaced. Even more significantly, it changed the balance of power in labor/management relations as labor’s most powerful weapon was neutralized. This ushered in a devastating period of concessionary bargaining whose consequences are still being felt today.
Reagan’s decision to fire the striking PATCO members was not some isolated act of pique by an outraged president. In fact, his administration jumped at the opportunity to give teeth to its explicit policy to weaken and undermine the considerable power of the U.S. labor movement. And it was very successful.
The U.S. labor movement was slow to respond to this provocation. Both of us can remember standing on the National Mall on Solidarity Day in 1981 with half a million other union workers. It had taken the AFL-CIO more than six weeks after the initial firings to call the rally, and they chose to hold it on a Saturday when Washington was shut down tight for the weekend. As we dozed in the sun listening to endless speeches, we could see the planes taking off and landing unimpeded just across the Potomac at National Airport. What should have been a forceful exhibition of labor power had been turned into a demonstration of our impotence. Like many others who were there that day, we vowed to never let another PATCO moment go unchallenged.
Tenet is a key player in a major strategic sector of the economy. If it is able to make the threat of permanent replacement an acceptable management tool in healthcare bargaining, it will weaken the entire labor movement for decades to come.
That’s why the Labor Campaign for Single Payer and other labor groups are stepping up to support the nurses and their union. They will be joining the MNA at a rally on July 7 in front of Tenet Headquarters in Dallas. They are also circulating a petition urging members of Congress to join Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLaura (D-Conn.) in requesting an investigation into the use of taxpayer-financed COVID-19 relief funds by Tenet and other large hospital systems.
This strike could be a watershed moment for the Medicare for All movement by exposing the corrupt and anti-worker underpinnings of our for-profit healthcare system. “The simple fact is that, if we had Medicare for All, we wouldn’t even be in this fight,” said LCSP National Coordinator Rhiannon Duryea. “Nurse-to-patient ratios would be set by law, ensuring safe and effective staffing ratios across the country that protect nurses, patients, and the community. Hospitals would not be able to exploit nurses and patients to line shareholder pockets.”
Press Statement by the Massachusetts Nurses Association — Excerpts
“We are firmly resolved to maintain our strike until Tenet comes to the table and agrees to a contract that provides the necessary staffing improvements to ensure the safety of our patients” — Conclusion of MNA petition
WORCESTER, Mass., July 1, 2021 – Next week, a delegation of striking nurses from Tenet Healthcare-owned St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Mass., will travel to the corporation’s headquarters in Dallas to make a direct appeal to the corporate executives to finally respond to the nurses’ call for safer staffing for safer patient care, and end what is now the longest nurse strike nationally in more than a decade.
“After months of fruitless efforts trying to convince St. Vincent Hospital’s administration to provide us with the resources we need to protect our patients and our community, we have decided to travel to Dallas, Texas and speak directly to the corporate executives who have the ultimate control over the safety and quality of care at our hospital,” said Marlena Pellegrino, RN, longtime nurse at St. Vincent Hospital and co-chair of the nurses local bargaining unit with the Massachusetts Nurses Association.
“Prior to and during the pandemic, our nurses, patients and community suffered greatly as a result of Tenet Healthcare’s failure to provide the staffing and resources we needed to keep our patients safe,” Pellegrino continued. “Tenet failed to safely staff St. Vincent Hospital while exposing nurses and other caregivers to higher risk of COVID-19 due to lack of proper personal protective equipment. While Tenet pocketed more than $500 million in profits using pandemic relief money, our patients suffered preventable falls and bedsores, dangerous delays in receiving medications and other treatments.”
The nurses, members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, along with other caregivers from Tenet facilities in California, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, as well as healthcare and labor activists from across the country, will hold a press conference on July 7 at noon, which will mark the 122nd day nurses will be on strike against Tenet.
Nurses are bringing a giant, 16-foot-long petition signed by more than 700 striking nurses and will attempt to deliver the petition to Tenet’s CEO Ron Rittenmeyer. They will also call out Tenet for its blatant misuse of more than $2.6 billion in taxpayer-supported pandemic funding from the CARES Act stimulus package – funding that was supposed to be used by hospitals to provide PPE, staffing and other resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet in Tenet’s hands was used to fund corporate expansion, pay down debt, buy back stock for executives and, in the words of CEO Rittenmyer as reported in the Dallas Morning News in April of 2020, “to maximize our cash position.”
The nurses’ petition drive and decision to go to Dallas was launched last month, after Tenet took the extreme step of threatening to permanently replace the nurses, a move that outraged the St. Vincent nurses, as well as other nursing organizations, social justice, and labor organizations across the nation. The nurses remain undaunted. The conclusion of their petition states what is really behind this strike and why so many support the nurses’ efforts:
“We are irreplaceable and are firmly resolved to maintain our strike until Tenet comes to the table and agrees to a contract that provides the necessary staffing improvements to ensure the safety of our patients. For nurses, this strike has nothing to do with profit and loss, for us, our patients are our friends and neighbors and any mistakes we make due to understaffing have names attached to them, with real life and death consequences. We will not let them down.”
The Real Target in the Supreme Court’s ‘Cedar Point’ Decision
By DAVID BACON
(excerpted, with the author’s permission, from an article posted on the website of The Nation magazine on July 2, 2021)
The court and the press talked about “property rights.” But the real impact will be on organizing, and workers’ rights.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Most of the media coverage of the recent Supreme Court decision about the farmworker access rule took for granted the way growers, and the court, defined this regulation. Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal called it “a regulation giving union organizers the right to visit farmworkers.” The first line of the right-wing majority’s opinion called it “[a] California regulation [that] grants labor organizations a ‘right to take access’ to an agricultural employer’s property.”
The court, and the growers, deliberately confuse the mechanism of the rule with rights, calling it a right of organizers or organizations. It is not. The right that the rule implements is simple. When workers are protesting and organizing a union in the fields, they have a right to talk to union representatives at work. It’s a right of workers, rather than a right of union representatives.
Rolling back this right, and the ability of farmworkers to organize against their endemic poverty, is the main target of the Supreme Court’s attack.
The access rule provides a way for workers to understand the organizing process and get help with it. Farmworkers need this because of the nature of the work. They are often migrants, working in a harvest in one area of California although they live in another. … Large distances make it hard — and sometimes impossible — for people to meet with union organizers at home. …
But the most important thing about the access rule is that it demonstrates that the grower doesn’t have absolute power at work. As an organizer for the UFW in the 1970s, and now as a journalist, I’ve seen what normally happens in the fields when workers start to organize. The crew foreman usually begins talking all day about how terrible the union is. He makes threats: If people join the union, they’re going to be fired or the company is going to move its crop production elsewhere.
Supervisors buzz around the field in their pickup trucks, watching everyone and making sure the workers know they’re being watched. Very often the company hires union busters. They talk to workers, while they’re working, as long as workers are in that field.
When union organizers come into the field at lunchtime, it shows that the union has power too, and can actually change things. That’s really why growers hate the rule — because it’s a limitation on their power. …
Workers in the industry today are organizing rapidly, and unions use access to go into the greenhouses to talk with them. Losing the access rule is not going to stop farmworkers from organizing in California and elsewhere — or stop unions from helping them. That is the key to raising their wages and fighting this country’s epidemic of rural poverty.
Farmworkers were not helped, however, by the relative silence of the labor movement in the face of this attack on their rights. And because other workers need these same rights desperately — to access and mandatory mediation — the labor movement’s silence hurts their efforts as well.
The Supreme Court may have made a predictable decision in the Cedar Point case. But a much more vocal and militant response can and should push hard to force its right-wing majority to retreat.
U.S. Tax Dollars Are Soaked in Palestinian Blood
Excerpts from Statement by Labor Fightback Network
If Gaza was declared unlivable in 2020, how can one describe it today? The sea is filled with sewage due to water filtration systems having been decimated by repeated Israeli bombings. Hospitals and schools are barely operating for lack of clean water, electricity, infrastructure and funding. The recent Israeli attacks on Gaza have targeted the entire population of 2 million Palestinians confined to a 140 square mile land area.
The Occupied West Bank is continually being divided and annexed by Apartheid laws and an Apartheid wall, enforced by Israeli Occupation Forces with multiple checkpoints, raids, and house demolitions. It has been reduced to isolated cities, farms, and villages with the intention to eradicate the Palestinian presence and make way for more Jewish-only settlements. In East Jerusalem, Israel’s forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem’s Palestinian (Muslim) Quarter, further demonstrate the State of Israel’s mission to drive Palestinians from their homeland.
The Labor Fightback Network calls for an immediate halt to U.S. military support for the Israeli State. Israel’s multiple and sustained attacks on Palestinians from Al-Aqsa Mosque to Sheikh Jarrah to Gaza are a continuation of a devastating campaign that began decades ago. The worldwide condemnations of Israel’s attacks on Palestine have finally begun to awaken the U.S. electorate and Congress. A recent request for additional military aid is the first time that an allocation of arms to Israel has even been questioned by the U.S. Congress. The aid, nevertheless, was approved.
Now, Sen. Lindsay Graham is asking for an additional $1 billion on top of an already approved $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel in 2021. It is outrageous that the U.S. Congress would continue to fund Israel and overlook Israel’s blatant disregard for international law and human rights for Palestinians on a daily basis — for decades.
A Sordid History
Ethnic cleansing of Arab villages, with the murder of civilians and mass killings, was part and parcel of the formation of the State of Israel. Between the U.N partition of Palestine in November 1947 and the formation of the State of Israel in May 1948, more than 700 Arab villages were destroyed and more than 750,000 Palestinians displaced. Many Palestinians now live in refugee camps or have been dispersed in a diaspora throughout the world, their homes, farms and factories either confiscated by the Israeli government or turned over to Israeli families.
Seizure of land and ethnic cleansing in one form or another continues to the present day. In 2014, Israel bombed Gaza for seven weeks resulting in the deaths of 2,300 people, including 600 children. The assault destroyed key infrastructure and other important aspects of civil society in Gaza. Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked posted a statement on Facebook in 2014 claiming that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy.” She also called for the destruction of Palestine, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” Ms. Shaked’s FB post also called for the killing of Palestinian mothers, “who give birth to little snakes.” The deputy speaker of the Knesset at the time, Moshe Feiglan, called for concentration camps in Gaza.
U.S. Bankrolls Wars and Occupation
The U.S. government arms Israel with high-grade weaponry while the State of Israel intensifies its gross violations of the human rights of millions of Palestinians in Occupied Palestine and Gaza, while relegating Palestinians within the State of Israel (20% of the population) to degraded status, denying them basic rights and jailing those in the “mixed cities” who stand up for liberation, side by side with their sisters and brothers in the rest of the Occupied Territories and diaspora.
Israel serves as a U.S. surrogate in the Middle East. U.S. weapons proliferation and other forms of aid to the Israeli State, as well as joint strategic military planning, sustain war across the region, enabling both U.S. and Israeli military campaigns in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. International agreements and U.S. so-called commitment to democracy are worthless while U.S. weapons maintain one of the oldest and most brutal military occupations of modern time. The sweat of U.S. taxpayers for the blood of Palestinian people is oppression on all sides.
The recent public outcry in support of the Palestinian people that filled the streets all over the world in numbers unseen in recent history has brought Israel to a cease-fire, for now. New alliances — with Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement, among others — have been forged with the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people for liberation and self-determination. The new coalitions with labor and community formations are questioning the special U.S.-Israeli partnership.
The U.S. has vetoed 53 United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions critical of Israel since 1972. This includes resolutions condemning violence against protesters, illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and investigations into the deaths of at least 58 Palestinians along the Israeli-Gaza-Israel border in 2018, and the 1990 killing of seven Palestinian workers by a former Israeli soldier. The U.S. encourages Israel to continue use of disproportionate force against Palestinians.
Labor Solidarity with Palestine
Labor is key in the resistance to Israeli Apartheid. Palestinian trade unions have always been in the forefront of the Palestinian struggle against Israel’s settler-colonialism and Apartheid.
Trade unions and trade union federations around the world have organized boycott campaigns, including a boycott of Histadrut, the Israeli government-controlled “trade union” federation that supported early colonization of Palestine and continues to endorse the State of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
Dockworkers in the United States, South Africa, Sweden and elsewhere have refused to unload Israeli ships and exports. Norwegian union Fagforbundet has led effective campaigns against the private security corporation G4S and SodaStream for their ties to Israel. A French farmers’ union mobilized thousands to stop the construction of a port in the south of France that would have been used to import Israeli fruit and vegetables. In Brazil, trade union federations played a key role in the campaign for a military embargo and helped to bring the state of Rio Grande do Sul to cancel a major collaboration deal with Israeli military company Elbit Systems.
Palestinian unions are also calling on trade unions the world over to divest from purchase of Israel Bonds. Purchase of Israel Bonds funds Apartheid Israel and its seizure and absorption of the West Bank and Gaza thus funding the apparatus that tortures, jails, kills pro-democracy demonstrators, imprisons children, and oppresses millions.
The Palestinian people have risen up time and again as one united people to demand their freedom and their right to self-determination. They have displayed tremendous courage and determination in this struggle. But to prevail against the U.S. war machine and its military outpost in the region, it will be necessary to expand the concrete and visible solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, especially here in the United States.
– End U.S. Aid to Apartheid Israel!
– Support BDS!
– Divest from Israel Bonds!
– Free Palestine!
PALESTINE: Uprising Against the Leaders of the Palestinian Authority
By DOMINIQUE FERRE
On June 24, at half past three in the morning near Hebron in the West Bank, some 20 Palestinian security officers burst into the house where Nizar Al‑Banat was staying, sprayed him with tear gas and beat him severely. The Palestinian security officers then dragged Al‑Banat unconscious into a military vehicle. His death was announced in the early morning.
Nizar Al‑Banat was a politician with an atypical profile, known for his sharp criticism of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. According to the Times of Israel, “In one of his last videos before his death, Al‑Banat criticized a recent agreement between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel to transfer 1.4 million soon-to-be-expired Pfizer vaccines from Israeli hands to the PA. In exchange, Ramallah [the seat of the Palestinian Authority] would send its future shipment of new vaccines to Israel.” Caught red-handed, the Palestinian Authority had to back out and cancel the deal.
Attorney Muhannad Karajah said that a few days before he was murdered, Al‑Banat told him that he had been threatened by the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, for the Palestinian people, there is no doubt about who ordered this assassination. Since June 24, rallies, often spontaneous, have been held in Ramallah as well as throughout Palestine – from Gaza to Haifa (a city located within the current State of Israel), passing through Jerusalem (where the Israeli policy of evicting the inhabitants of the Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods is intensifying). Holding up portraits of Al‑Banat, the demonstrators chanted “Abbas, get out!” – “The people want an end to the PA regime!” – “Out with the collaborators!”
, in particular, the demonstrators were brutally repressed by the Palestinian Authority, reinforced by Fatah armed troops. According to France Inter (June 28), this was the “beginning of an Intifada against the leaders of the Palestinian Authority.”
The Palestinian Authority was established by the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – of which Yasser Arafat’s Fatah was then the majority party – and the State of Israel, under the auspices of the then President of the United States. This “Authority,” in reality, has never controlled its territory, its borders, its air and sea space, or its economy. Riddled with corruption, its role has been reduced to that of ensuring “security cooperation” between its security services and the state of Israel, under the close supervision of the U.S. General Keith Dayton who, from 2005 to 2010, trained the Palestinian “autonomous” security services.
The ongoing demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority are a continuation of the uprising of the Palestinian people who, last May, reaffirmed their unity from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and their desire to free themselves from Apartheid rule.
[Note: The following is a statement issued by the One Democratic State Campaign following the killing of Nizar Al-Banat by Palestinian Authority forces.]
Statement of the One Democratic State Campaign on the Assassination of Nizar Banat: “Down with the Ignominious Authority!”
“There is no liberation without freedom, no liberation with tyranny, corruption, and cooperation with the colonizer.”
Our people are in a state of shock, astonishment and bereavement at the horrific crime committed by the Oslo authorities against the opposition activist Nizar Al-Banat. It has become almost certain that things can’t continue as they were, and that the countdown on the ignominious authority has begun.
These repressive agencies, trained by CIA General Keith Dayton, deliberately and brutally assassinated Nizar Al-Banat, after they stormed his relatives’ home in al-Khalil (Hebron) and transferred him to their headquarters in the city. This crime has poured gas on the fire that was already burning in the hearts of the sons and daughters of our people. It adds to the accumulated anger towards the Palestinian regime due to the rampant corruption, oppression, and cooperation with the colonizer. This regime is completely isolated from the aspirations of our people and our hopes for liberation, freedom, and justice. This regime has no role in the liberation struggle, as demonstrated in the glorious popular uprising and the continuous mass movements.
This corrupt and criminal behavior – a structural behavior that constantly reproduces a social political class whose existence and continuity depends on external support – confirms that the situation has reached its peak. It is no longer possible to remain silent on this hypocritical regime, which is alienated from the people. It has become a heavy burden that the people can no longer bear and a serious obstacle to the march of liberation and the achievement of human dignity.
This crime, which is added to the accumulated crimes of oppression, corruption, and cooperation with the colonizer, poses a great challenge to all advocates of change, liberation and freedom. How to put an end to the rule of this incurable political class, and how the forces of change can create an alternative path around which everyone coalesces? This new path should capture the imagination of the people and draw them towards organized and coordinated action. It should not separate resisting the colonizer from resisting the regime of tyranny and corruption.
The One Democratic State campaign presents its vision for the future Palestine as a democratic country based on the ruins of the colonial system, apartheid, and internal tyranny; A free homeland and a free human being. Our vision is a pluralistic society, in which citizens are equal, freedom of expression is preserved, human dignity is preserved and women’s freedom is preserved. This is because freedom is indivisible, and it does not accept any violation of the rights of an opponent, or the freedom of citizens in general, under any of the obsolete pretexts and slogans such as “national security”, “warding off strife” or “no voice is louder than the sound of battle,” which are still being used by most Arab regimes.
The rebellious Palestinian refuses to establish a system similar to the regimes of oppression and brutality in his homeland, as is the case with the regimes of the Arab world. These regimes turned their countries into prisons and slaughterhouses, treated their countries as their private farms and subjected them to external forces. As a result, the people revolted and broke the barrier of fear.
It has become clear, especially in the light of the popular uprising and the battle of al-Quds, that the new generation and its emerging vanguards, and all veteran, democratic revolutionaries, who are rid of the remnants of the past and its double standards, and the slogans of the outdated Arab regimes, are the qualified force to lead a national, democratic and liberation movement based on the values of freedom, human dignity and social justice. For this qualified force, the murder of Nizar Banat will only add motivation to continue fighting colonialism and confronting its agent, the Palestinian tyrannical regime, and linking this struggle with the struggle of the Arab peoples to recover their homelands from the brutal regimes.
This crime has put a defining moment before our people. Our people deserve life, dignity, security and a decent living.
Shame for the murderers, the corrupt and the collaborators with the colonizer!
Down with the ignominious authority!
Freedom for our people!
Glory to the martyrs of liberation and of free speech!
Palestine, June 24, 2021
Translated by Yoav Haifawi
“Mobilizing in Our Own Name”: Statement by Clarence Thomas to the Socialist Organizer 30th Anniversary Celebration
[Clarence Thomas is the past secretary-treasurer of ILWU Local 10 and a co-convener of the Million Worker March (October 17, 2004). He presented this statement to the Socialist Organizer 30th Anniversary Celebration on May 21, 2021.]
Solidarity greetings to all. It’s great to see some faces that I have not seen in a number of years. I am referring specifically to Marc Rich, a rank-and-file leader of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), who played such an important role in securing his union’s endorsement of the Million Worker March (MWM). I also see Sister Donna Dewitt, who was the highest-ranking officer of an AFL-CIO state body to endorse the MWM, having gone up against the labor officialdom in supporting the march.
And, of course, greetings to Alan Benjamin, Mya Shone, and Ralph Schoenman – all long-time comrades in the struggle.
I am also pleased to be on the same speakers’ panel with Daniel Gluckstein, my dear comrade and brother, who has played such an important role in supporting the ILWU on an international level over the years. I want to thank the labor solidarity efforts over the years of all you comrades — especially The Organizer newspaper, which played a very important role in promoting the Million Worker March, providing the kind of information and analysis that was necessary to put into context the importance of that struggle. [See the article below by Ralph Schoenman titled, “Why We Need a Million Worker March.”]
The MWM was initiated by African American longshore workers of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in San Francisco. It’s the only predominantly Black local in the entire West Coast longshore division, with a long and glorious radical history that is well documented. It is in the vanguard in the fight for economic and social justice in the labor movement.
The MWM represented a tendency within the trade union movement that has manifested itself for several decades. That tendency is a Black rank-and-file militancy that is unafraid to express an independent movement that challenges the more passive traditions of the officialdom of labor and its master, the Democratic Party.
The MWM had the active support and endorsement of Black and Latino worker organizations – from the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Teamsters National Black Caucus, Black Workers for Justice, the Immigrant Rights Association, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee – bringing to the fore of the Million Worker March the most oppressed sectors of the working class. It was endorsed by the ILWU’s Longshore Coastwide Caucus.
The idea that a local could make the call for a national mobilization without the support of its International was, in fact, historic. But there were roadblocks at every step of the way.
In July 2004, the top ILWU officers attended the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Upon returning from Boston, a meeting was scheduled between the MWM leadership and ILWU President James Spinosa. Spinosa shared with yours truly that Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy had invited him and other international labor leaders to meet at his home in Hyannis Port prior to the start of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. They discussed how the MWM was “a great idea, but it was the wrong time.”
For these people, it’s never the right time for the working class to mobilize and organize.
But the MWM mobilization was not to be denied due to the national election, lack of resources, the undeniable opposition of the AFL-CIO, or the Democratic Party.
“Union members from across the country gathered yesterday at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington for a rally dubbed the Million Worker March … making a passionate plea for workers’ rights. … Thousands stood at the foot of the memorial and along the sides of the Reflecting Pool on a chilly October 17 afternoon, calling for more jobs, universal health care, and an end to the war in Iraq.” So began the report in the Washington Post on October 18 under the headline “Unionists Mobilize for Work, Benefits – Thousands Drawn to Rally at Lincoln Memorial.”
All the roadblocks could not derail the MWM and its aims and issues. Supporters across the country immediately understood the relevancy of the message: The working class cannot depend on elections and voting to solve our problems. We the people can solve our problems by organizing and mobilizing in our own name, as we did with the MWM, and breaking from the two parties of the bosses.
I’m saying all of this to put into context the importance of that Million Worker March movement.
I would like to conclude by inviting everyone to read a book that has just been published under the title, “Mobilizing in Our Own Name: Million Worker March — An Anthology by Clarence Thomas.” I wrote it for the purpose of documenting this important struggle so that others may learn from it as a tool for future independent struggles.
This is a very important book, brothers and sisters and comrades. It’s not because I’m the author. It’s because this is the first time in the history of the great ILWU that a rank-and-filer has authored a book of this scope. It tells the story of activists engaged in these struggles, describing them in real time. It’s over 300 pages long, with over 600 images — and it was done independently of any corporate publishing.
So thank you for listening to me. The struggle continues, and I wish you all the best. We’ve got many more battles to fight.
Why We Need a Million Worker March
By RALPH SCHOENMAN
[Note: The following speech was presented by Ralph Schoenman to the May 22, 2004, Million Worker March Kickoff Rally at the ILWU Local 10 hall in San Francisco. It is reprinted here from the May-June 2004 issue of The Organizer newspaper. Schoenman was a co-chair of the MWM rally in Washington, DC, on October 17, 2004.]
Working people – the vast and overwhelming majority of the population – confront an unprecedented crisis. The government and the State itself have been captured by a tiny oligarchy of the corporate rich. They have hijacked our political process in a class war of the privileged few against the exploited many.
Business Week described this reality in a feature article titled “Waking Up from the American Dream”: “There has been much talk of the Wal-Martization” of America. … But for years, much of Corporate America had already embraced stratagems to control labor costs – hiring temps and part-timers, fighting unions, dismantling career ladders, and outsourcing to lower-paying contractors at home and abroad.”
Under the cover of “free trade,” the corporate and banking oligarchy pitted workers against each other in every part of the planet. In Haiti, K-Mart, J. C. Penny, Disney and corporate giants are paying slave-labor wages of 8 cents to 21 cents an hour. Workers in the United States are pitted against workers in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America in a mad race to the bottom.
Full-time jobs have been replaced by temporary work. Union jobs with a living wage have been outsourced to the sweatshops of the world. Health benefits have been stripped from workers. Schools and libraries are closed and public busing suspended.
Budget surpluses have been converted into deficits that will escalate to trillions of dollars as profits soar. Hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated to the Pentagon for crony contracts that benefit a corrupt handful of corporate directors who switch hats and enter the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Agencies to hand out billions of profits to their former companies.
The drive for permanent war benefits the Pentagon, the oil companies, the corporations, and the banks at our expense.
Working people are the cannon fodder for these wars, sent to wage war against the working poor of other countries. The vast majority of Americans have no interest in invading and occupying other nations so the Pentagon can steal trillions of dollars and the corporate masters can seize the oil and natural resources of other nations.
Workers everywhere have the same interest – to control their own resources to improve their lives. While countless trillions of dollars have been vested with the military and the corporations to wage war and make profits, social services were slashed everywhere.
Martin Luther King, Jr. summoned a historic Poor Peoples’ March on Washington to declare that the vast arsenal of death unleashed by the Pentagon was in reality a war on working people at home and abroad. The time has come to re-ignite a vast movement of working people for fundamental social change in the United States.
We call upon working people and their allies from every walk of life to join us in the launching of a vast movement to awaken the sleeping giant – the mass of our people.
Join us in a great gathering in Washington, D.C. on October 17  to launch an ongoing struggle for social justice in the United States: On behalf of working people in the U.S. we seek to secure:
– Universal health care from cradle to grave that ends the stranglehold of rapacious insurance companies and secures free health care as a birthright of every person living in this country.
– A national living wage that lifts people permanently out of poverty.
– Guaranteed pensions that sustain a decent life for all working people.
– Protection of Social Security immune to the piracy of private speculators.
– An end to privatization, contracting out, deregulation and the pitting of workers against each other across national boundaries in a mad race to the bottom.
– The repeal of Taft-Hartley and all anti-labor legislation.
– The cancellation of corporate trade agreements such as NAFTA, MAI and FTAA.
– The repeal of the Patriot Act, Anti-Terrorism Act and all such repressive legislation.
– Slashing the military budget and recovering the trillions of dollars stolen from our labor to enrich the merchants of death.
– Opening the books on the black budgets of the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies in the service of corporations and banks and the pursuit of imperialist war on the poor everywhere.
– Rebuilding our decaying inner cities with clean, modern and affordable housing for all.
– A crash program to restore our decaying and abandoned schools with state-of-the-art facilities in every working community.
– Funding a vast army of teachers that will end functional illiteracy in America and unleash the talent and potential of our abandoned children.
– Eliminating homelessness in America and securing decent housing for every inhabitant of our country.
– Using the trillions of dollars in waste production for a vast reconfiguration of the infrastructure of America.
– Creating efficient, modern and free mass transit in every city and town.
– Launching a national training program in skills and capacities that will enlist our people in the rebuilding of our country.
– Extending democracy to our economic structure so that all decisions affecting the lives of our citizens are made by working people who produce all value through their labor.
– An end to the poisoning of the atmosphere, soil, water and food supply with a national emergency program to restore the environment, end global warming and preserve our endangered eco-system.
Only our own independent mobilization of working people nationwide can open the way to addressing our needs and our agenda. Join us, brothers and sisters, in a historic movement to restore our democracy, secure power for the overwhelming majority of working people, and transform our country!
Voices in Support of the Million Worker March
* Henry Graham, President, ILWU Local 10:
[Note: Following are brief excerpts from some of the presentations and greetings to the May 22, 2004, Million Worker March Kickoff Rally at the ILWU Local 10 hall in San Francisco.]
Labor today is losing its way. We are facing the most determined assault upon working people in living memory.
We are not on our knees holding out cupped hands to the politicians bought by our exploiters. ILWU Local 10 is a union that knows that power concedes nothing without resistance and that everything we have ever gained was taken by us through struggle.
We have a battle cry by which we live: An injury to one is an injury to all!
The Million Worker March is the first step in a long march.
* Donna Dewitt, President, South Carolina State AFL-CIO
Congratulations to International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 10 for their tireless efforts toward the achievement of justice and equality! They have recognized the struggles of America’s working people and extended a call to unite and mobilize our organizations and communities to demand an end to the assault on the working class of America.
In an era when many working people have succumbed to the overwhelming abuse of corporate greed, few leaders have emerged to take on the corporate bosses in their continuing war of corruption and control.
We, the working people of this country, are the only hope for a struggling nation to restore a sense of pride to their workplaces and communities. We must not fail in this opportunity to change the course of history for America’s working people.
We must not fail them! We must not fail in this historic challenge to organize, mobilize and capture the moment to restore democracy to our nation!
Let us all join the great leaders of the past and summon America’s working people to our call for the Million Worker March on Washington, Sunday, October 17th.
* Saladin Muhammad, Chairperson, Black Workers For Justice, North Carolina
We are honored to endorse this call for a massive mobilization of workers to promote a workers’ agenda and to say no to war, racism, repression and corporate greed.
This call for a Million Workers March continues in the spirit of the African American Freedom Movement which mobilized the Million Man, Million Women, Million Youth and Millions for Reparations Marches as an expression of the struggle against racism, national oppression and for self-determination. Millions of Black workers participated in those marches, impacting public transportation and industries in major cities, but their working class concerns were not crystallized as major demands.
The Million Worker March must carry forward the special demands of Black workers, Workers of Color, Women workers and Southern workers as it raises demands important to all workers.
The call for a Million Worker March must be a call to organize the power of workers on the job, in the communities and in all of the institutions that impact the lives of working people.
It will be workers’ organized power that will defeat the oppressive policies, direction and rule of corporate greed. The Bush-led U.S. government and both parties of big business must be challenged and defeated by workers power.
* Brenda Stokely, President, AFSCME Local 215 (New York)
I am proud that AFSCME District Council 1707, representing 23,000 members, voted unanimously to endorse the Million Worker March.
Now we have to get to work, organizing from the ground up, rock by rock, workplace by workplace, union by union.
It’s about building the strength to make sure we control the government. We’ve had enough of seeing labor beg on its knees. We should be mad as hell. Our sisters and brothers are dying in Iraq. And we are taking it on the chin here at home.
We’ve gotten to this point because we failed to organize and mobilize.
* Chris Silvera, Chair, National Black Caucus, Teamsters’ Union
When they signed NAFTA, let us not forget it was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who signed this bill on behalf of Corporate America. I am never going to forget Bill Clinton, who never did anything positive for the working class.
A number of years ago, I approached [AFL-CIO President] John Sweeney and told him, “Hell, if Farrakhan can put a million people in the streets, why can’t we in the labor movement do the same?” I never got a response.
Well, now it is time for the Million Worker March. People might tell us along the way that this March will detract from this or that. I say no, it won’t.
Take Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush. What have they done for us? It was under Carter that deregulation began, and deregulation has destroyed our trade union movement! Clinton gave us “Free Trade.” How the hell are we supposed to survive competing with prison labor in China or sweatshop labor in Mexico?
It is time to march to Washington to take back what is ours.
We have been waiting for the last 25 years for a call to action from Kirkland, Sweeney and Trumka. We can wait no more. We’re beginning this struggle from the grassroots. We’ve got to shake these folks in the labor movement and move them out into the streets. We are the working people of this country!
We can’t just sit around and think Kerry will do something for us. Power only makes concessions when we mobilize in unity, with strength!
We are going to Washington, to shake the House. We’re going to take back our rights, rip up the Patriot Act, and end the war!
Partial List of Endorsers of the Million Worker March
ILWU Local 10; ILWU Local 34; ILWU (Longshore Division); National Education Association (NEA); Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU); American Postal Workers Union; San Francisco Labor Council; Teamsters Local 808 (Long Island City, N.Y.); Northern California Chapter, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; AFSCME District Council 1707 (N.Y.); Teamsters Black Caucus; South Carolina State AFL-CIO; Farm Labor Organizing Committee (AFL-CIO); International ANSWER Coalition; Northern California Convention of Plumbers & Steamfitters; Charleston (South Carolina) Labor Council; Troy (New York) Labor Council; Albany (New York) Labor Council; South Bay Central Labor Council; Monterey Bay Central Labor Council; United Teachers Los Angeles, UTLA; Commercial Printing Div., GCIU; AFSCME Local 3506; Letter Carriers, Local 214; GCIU Local 4-N; S.F. Chapter, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA); UAW 1981 Chapter 3; AFSCME Local 1072; Black Workers For Justice; the Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates, KIWA; International Action Center, La Raza Centro Legal (S.F.); Solano County Peace and Justice Coalition; S.F. Day Laborers Program; Open World Conference Continuations Committee; No. Calif. Committees of Correspondence; KPFA Radio; Union Producers and Programming Network (UPPNET); CWA Local 9410; American Federation of Musicians Local 6; National Immigrant Solidarity Network; IWW; ActionLA; Plumbers Local 393; Amalgamated Transit Union 1555; Justice 4 Homeless San Francisco; Harlem Unemployment League; Center for Independent Communication; Labor Action Coalition; Global Women’s Strike; Labor Tech; Labor Net; Rutgers Council of the American Association University Professors; Peace and Freedom Party of California; International Socialist Organization (ISO); SNAFU; Socialist Organizer; All People’s Congress, Baltimore, Md.
Jim Houghton, Director, Harlem Fight Back; Dick Gregory; Danny Glover; Casey Kasem, Radio personality; Steve Weiner, Executive Sec.-Treas., Santa Barbara & San Luis Obispo Building Trades Council; Jerome Otis, No. California Teamsters Black Caucus; Donna Dewitt, Pres., South Carolina State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; Frank Martin Del Campo, President, S.F. Chapter, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement; Maria Guillen, Vice President, SEIU 790; Jon Flanders, Troy Labor Council; Arlene Rodriguez, Staff Rep. AAUP (American Association of University Professors, Rutgers University); Ron Dicks, Vice Pres. for Legislative & Political Affairs, IFPTE Local 21; Father Lawrence Lucas, Our Lady of Lourdes, Harlem; Al Avants, Sec.-Treasurer, UFCW Local 373R; Michael Lewis, IBEW Local 617 (San Mateo); Ted Glick, National Coordinator, Independent Progressive Politics Network; Phil Hutchings; Chris Willmeng, Local 1; Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman, co-producers, TAKING AIM; Bonnie Faulkner, KPFA; Alan Benjamin and Ed Rosario, Co-Coordinators, OWC Continuations Committee; Howard Wallace, co-founder, Pride at Work; Ken Lerch, Pres., National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 3825,Rockland, MD.; Andre Powell, Exec. Bd., AFSCME Council 92, Maryland; Reza Namdar, Unit Chair, Newspaper Guild-CWA, Local 32035, Washington, D.C.; Steve Gillis, Pres., United Steel Workers of America, Local 8751.