T.O. Weekly 43: Editorial – Demise of Reconciliation Bill – Strike Wave – Democrats Get Ass Kicked – NUMSA Strike in S. Africa
The Organizer Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 43 – November 8, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE (No. 43):
The Time Is Ripe for Independent Political Action! – Editorial by E.J. Esperanza
LAST MINUTE: The Likely Death of the Budget Reconciliation Bill – by Jack Rasmus
SoCal Nurses Prepare to Strike: Interview with Liz Marlow
Pandemic Underscores Urgent Need for Medicare for All – by Sandy Eaton (LFN)
List of Some of the Current Strikes in the U.S. – by Adrian Eaton (The Tempest)
OPEN FORUM: Who Is Really Surprised the Democrats Got their Ass Kicked? – by Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen
“Pack and Crack”: Restoring “Jim Crow” – by Bradley Wiedmaier
South Africa/Azania: NUMSA Strike Marks Step Toward Workers’ Unity – by Mandlenkosi ka Phangwa
France: Why Not a Real Job and a Real Wage? – Editorial of Workers Tribune
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The Time Is Ripe for Independent Political Action!
Editorial by E.J. Esperanza
November 4, 2021 — The negotiations in Congress around the Budget Reconciliation bill – aka the Build Back Better bill – have exposed yet again the Democratic Party’s subservience to the U.S. capitalist class and placed front and center the need for an independent working-class party that truly represents the interests of workers and all the oppressed.
The latest version is a compromise bill that was reduced from a $6 trillion investment in social services and climate justice over the course of 10 years to $3.6 trillion over the same period … only to be reduced again to its current $1.75 trillion. And there may be more “compromises” in the coming weeks.
Gone is the Pro Act, which would have allowed workers to organize massively into unions of their choice. Gone are some of the initial provisions concerning workers’ rights, wages, and conditions. Gone are expanded and improved Medicare and Medicaid, free community college, paid family medical leave, and a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. Senators Sinema (AZ) and Manchin (WV), in particular, are demanding more cuts in social services and more tax breaks for billionaires.
The Democrats can’t complain about the lack of funding for the Budget Reconciliation bill. They can’t complain, as Manchin has done, that the bill will fuel inflation and the national debt. After all, as they were gutting the Reconciliation bill, all of them were voting to allocate $800 billion to the war budget for the coming fiscal year, which will total at least $8 trillion over the next 10 years. Also, over the past 21 years, the Democrats joined with the Republicans in implementing more than $15 trillion in tax cuts to the corporate elite — totaling $23 trillion that could have been available to fund a genuine social policy and climate bill.
With regard to the fight for climate justice, which Biden promised would be a centerpiece of the Reconciliation bill, the bulk of the woefully inadequate $550 billion (over 10 years) for climate funding is aimed at shoring up Big Business. The main concern of the Democrats and their capitalist sponsors — as Biden noted after the Glasgow Climate Summit — are the “new openings for private investment” in the “green” industries.
Nowhere in the halls of Congress, not even among the Green New Deal proponents, was there any mention of nationalizing the entire energy industry – that is, expropriating the giant corporate fossil-fuel conglomerates – and operating it under the control of working people, with retraining and guaranteed jobs for all displaced workers at top union wages. This is the only real solution to the impending environmental catastrophe.
Betrayal of Immigrant Community
With regard to the immigrant community, it is now or never. There have been mobilizations across the United States by undocumented families demanding that Biden and the Democrats deliver on their promises to provide a path to citizenship. This is not a new promise; it was a promise made under the Obama administration – a promise betrayed.
During Obama’s first administration [from 2008 to 2012], nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants were deported. Immigrant detention was expanded. The border was further militarized. All this happened under Obama’s watch. It’s a situation that needs resolution for 11 million undocumented immigrants who remain excluded from the Reconciliation bill and who lack status, despite paying over $120 billion every year in federal, state, and local taxes.
At the same time, we saw Trump and Biden – not just Trump – exclude immigrants from the stimulus relief … while at the same time lauding immigrants as essential workers.
The Reconciliation bill does not include a pathway to citizenship. The latest excuse has been the Senate parliamentarian. The Democrats have been able to hide behind a filibuster on issue after issue, but the Budget Reconciliation process allows for a simple majority vote; that’s all that’s needed to gain a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented workers. Instead, the Democrats are hiding behind the unelected Senate parliamentarian, who has been a roadblock on this issue. This is someone that Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants, can overrule and even fire.
Instead of moving forward to defend immigrant rights, the Democrats are watering down the demands of the immigrant community and betraying their promise to provide a road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The Time Is Now for an Independent, Working-Class Party!
The consequences of the Democrats’ failure to deliver on their promises were felt politically on November 2 with the Republican victories in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. What happened in 2010 in the midterm with the Republican victories is bound to happen next year in the 2022 midterm elections.
The Democratic Party is a corporate party beholden to corporate interests that will continue to betray the interests of workers and the oppressed. They have demonstrated this time and again. They make promises during elections, but they soon forget them when it comes time to act. They always find excuses for their failures to deliver. Today they are sheltering behind Senators Manchin and Sinema, the filibuster and the Senate parliamentarian, among others. Tomorrow it will be something else.
The time is now to lay the groundwork for an independent working-class party. The time is ripe to seize the momentum of Striketober to organize for independent political action. We call on readers and supporters of The Organizer Weekly Newsletter to support and get involved actively with Labor and Community for an Independent Party. Go to their website: www.lcipcommittee.org. Help organize labor-community coalitions and assemblies in your cities around the burning issues of the day, and work toward running independent candidates accountable to these coalitions at the local level to get the ball rolling. There is no time to lose.
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LAST MINUTE: The Likely Death of the Budget Reconciliation Bill
By Jack Rasmus
(excerpted and reprinted from Counterpunch magazine on November 8)
On Friday, November 5, the Democratic Party leadership – Pelosi, Biden, Manchin – forced progressives to abandon their long-held position insisting that both bills [Infrastructure and Reconciliation] be voted up in the House together. With the help of 13 Republicans in the House, Speaker Pelosi broke her pledge and passed the Infrastructure bill separately by a vote of 228 to 206.
That last point is worth repeating: Pelosi solicited 13 Republicans to vote for the breakout vote on Infrastructure, and she used their vote to defeat the progressive wing in her own party. Corporate “birds of a feather, flock together,” whether of the Democrat species or the Republican!
Why the abrupt change of strategy last Friday to just vote up the Infrastructure bill? What changed was that Biden intervened on Thursday, November 4, contacted Pelosi and demanded that she immediately break out and vote on the Infrastructure bill. Biden reportedly also called some of the progressives and convinced some of them to break rank as well.
Why his action? The Democrats’ loss of governor in Virginia and in local races in New Jersey and Texas clearly panicked Biden, leading him to ask Pelosi to vote up the Infrastructure bill first. Biden’s hand is thus all over the decision for Pelosi to block with 13 Republicans against her own progressive wing and push through the Infrastructure bill.
Progressives caved.  And with them collapsed the Reconciliation bill and its $1.75 trillion in safety net and climate spending. The sop thrown to the progressives was the commitment by Pelosi to hold a vote on the now “orphan” Reconciliation bill by November 15. But that vote will be meaningless. So-called moderates in the House, already emboldened, have publicly said they’ll vote for the Reconciliation bill if it is totally paid for. That means it will have to include tax hikes on corporations and wealthy investors. But if it does include taxes, when it’s sent over to the Senate it will almost certainly be rejected by that body.
Of course, Pelosi and others know full well that’s the coming fate of the Reconciliation bill. Instead of an immediate DOA, the bill’s death will be delayed a couple more weeks. But dead is dead, now or then.
 While Rep. Pramila Jayapal, ostensibly the leader of the Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, voted with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, six House Democrats broke from their party to vote against the bill:
· Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York
· Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri
· Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York
· Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota
· Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts
· Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
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SoCal Nurses Prepare to Strike
[Note: Following is an interview with Liz Marlow, a Registered Nurse in Emergency Medicine in Fontana, California. Marlow is a member of United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP), which is part of the Alliance of Healthcare Unions, representing 21 locals with 52,000 workers. The interview was conducted by The Organizer editorial board member Connie White on October 29, 2021.]
The Organizer: My first question is this: Are you on strike against Kaiser Permanente? What happened to the October 11th 10-Day Notice to Strike?
Liz Marlow: Right now, we’re still in negotiations with the Kaiser management. Unfortunately, it has come to this – we didn’t want it to come to a strike, but the true value of nurses has to be seen and validated. As of right now, it’s not just about the money  – it’s about encompassing the true value of nurses and investing in our patients. That’s the most important thing. The Alliance is on board with these objectives. The majority have voted, and the majority are in agreement to strike.
The Organizer: Are you still at the negotiating table?
Liz Marlow: Yes.
The Organizer: What are your goals, and what is the main thing that is stalling the negotiations?
Liz Marlow: There are a couple of issues. One is the two-tier wage proposal.
We are not in agreement with the two-tier system because it would cause a divide and animosity over the years among the employees. Kaiser wants to create regional wage scales for everyone hired after 2022‚ meaning a cut in pay of 26% for newly hired nurses. It should be equal pay for equal work and seeing the true value of investing in nursing.
Kaiser is the Goliath of health care. We provide services that other hospitals don’t have. Ten years ago, when I joined Kaiser, labor-management partnership was strong. We were very communicative. Nurses’ opinions were valued. The gradual decline [in the labor-management partnership] has come over the years, leading to the situation we have today.
The Organizer: How would you describe the mood of the UNAC/UHCP members?
Liz Marlow: Across the board, nurses are overwhelmed. We have great responsibilities, and we should be compensated properly. In addition to our basic tasks, nurses are cleaning the beds, we’re mopping the floors, we’re getting the room ready, we’re making sure that we have all the emergency equipment that we need or that’s in stock. Nurses are upset.
And it’s not just about the nurses. The rest of the staff, the rest of the Alliance members, need to be supported, so that we can provide the best possible care to our patients, so that we can save lives. Environmental services, housekeeping, ER techs need to be valued. Every single discipline needs to be valued and validated. As far as the Alliance is concerned, we are standing firm; we just want what is fair. We are definitely not going to budge in our stance on the two-tier system. That is not up for negotiation; we want that off the table.
The Organizer: Do you think that there is any give by management on their two-tier proposal?
Liz Marlow: This is a conglomerate that made over $2.2 billion at the height of the pandemic. We were the fourth hospital in the nation in terms of numbers of patients. Nurses now have PTSD. Mental health issues have gone up exponentially, not just for nurses, but for every single front-line worker. We are hurting. We are not machines. We don’t want a fight or a war. What we want is what is fair, and what is just, and what is right at the end of the day.
 Kaiser is offering current employees a 1 percent pay increase, which the Kaiser nurses have denounced as “insulting.” Kaiser is not hurting financially. Labor Notes reports (November 2021 issue) that last year Kaiser netted $6.4 billion and even returned $500 million in CARES Act funding to the federal government.
 Labor Notes (November 2021) explains this partnership as follows: “The Labor-Management Partnership is a formal organization — union-bargained, Kaiser-funded — where representatives of the unions and management meet routinely in each work area to hash out operational decisions. Two feisty unions at Kaiser have stood outside the partnership: the California Nurses Association (CNA) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). In 2015, they struck together and staved off a two-tier pension – arguably for all the unions. In the run-up to a strike, Alliance unions have formally ‘paused’ the partnership, and a UNAC/UHCP press release claims that the partnership is ‘in peril’.”
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Pandemic Underscores Urgent Need for Medicare for All
Presentation by the Labor Fightback Network
Essential workers everywhere were hit hard by the pandemic, so we’re seeing across-the-board refusal to go back into danger for suboptimal wages and benefits. The same dynamic applies to healthcare workers, maybe more so. Lack of personal protective equipment and realistic enforceable staffing and safety standards made working in pathogen-rich places undesirable. From New England to California and beyond, strikes are spreading against the medical-industrial complex in tandem with strikes in many other industries. Following is a statement by Sandy Eaton, a retired Registered Nurse, on the growing fightback of healthcare workers. Eaton is the convener of the South Shore (Massachusetts) Medicare for All committee. — LFN
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Statement by Sandy Eaton on the Pandemic and the Fight for Medicare for All
I’m a retired registered nurse, having labored in the vineyards of Massachusetts health care for nearly 50 years in a variety of positions. I’ve witnessed the growing inequality in health care in Massachusetts.
The survival of our healthcare infrastructure has been left to the vagaries of the marketplace. The corporate impulse to deregulate and privatize has led us to an extreme divergence between the haves and the have-nots. Some of the most profitable enterprises in this state and in this country are in health care and exist side-by-side with needed facilities and services teetering on the edge, or which have already fallen. Forty years of austerity have severely weakened our public health infrastructure, contributing to the swamping of our healthcare system, itself weakened by decades of marketplace medicine, leaving us in Massachusetts with no surge capacity during this and future pandemics.
Our bipartisan Massachusetts leadership in 1991 deregulated hospital finance and allowed this inequality and disparity to flourish. The healthcare marketplace has brought us the loss of scores of community hospitals.
The fight against healthcare disparities requires a universal, single-payer financing mechanism. That alone will not bring equality in access and quality in such an unequal society, but it will remove one major barrier. The financialization of health care has placed a price tag on each resident’s life. Equalizing the dollar-value of each person will remove the marketplace incentive to abandon poorer communities, which are typically more diverse or communities of color.
Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center was allowed to fail in the Spring of 2013, with one official quipping that Boston had 22 such centers so it wasn’t such a big deal. It was a big deal for those in that central Roxbury neighborhood. North Adams Regional Hospital was allowed to succumb to the financial malfeasance of its CEO and board in March 2014, leaving impoverished Northern Berkshire County drastically underserved. Quincy Medical Center fell to this irrational system in December 2014, significantly reducing the region’s surge capacity in case of disaster or epidemic, and harming Quincy’s elderly and diverse population. Later, its emergency department closed. A similar fate has befallen Lynn. Communities of color and other working-class communities are the first to suffer under this regime of marketplace medicine.
The remedies are evident. We demand healthcare justice, a system guaranteeing access, affordability, quality and equality: safe staffing, hospital profit transparency and fairness, a Department of Public Health (DPH) empowered to preserve needed services, receivership power to save failing facilities, a richly funded distressed hospital fund, brakes on for-profit care, single payer finances and an expanded public sector.
Addendum on Employment: Marketplace Medicine doesn’t care about patients or its workers. For example, the 1991 deregulation of hospital financing in Massachusetts led to a cascade of disruptions. Mergers, closures, job re-engineering and managed care penetration dislodged tens of thousands of Massachusetts healthcare workers, reduced care delivery to assembly-line discipline and provoked campaigns by nurses, doctors and activists-at-large, campaigns with ramification a quarter-century later.
Any single-payer bill at the state or federal level worth its salt must allocate significant resources to job training and career counseling, something nobody cared to offer the victims of the nineties. In the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, we’ve discussed the need for something akin to the GI Bill (without its racist application) to enable the transition to a new healthcare system. I would add our need for massive reallocation of national (and global) resources as we “build back better” or create the “new normal.”
Enacting expanded and improved Medicare for All is essential to real recovery, but driving money changers out of the temple of health care cannot be conceived without fundamental society-wide transformation.
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List of Some of the Current Strikes in the U.S.
By Adrian Eaton (The Tempest)
The longest strike wave in U.S. history is happening right now!
Over a dozen separate unions in the United States have decided that “enough is enough.” This list of 16 active strikes – and there are undoubtedly others – is in no particular order.
A record 4.3 million US Americans quit their job in August, 2021. Now the remaining workers are pushing even harder for their voices to be heard.
10,000 John Deere workers across 14 separate manufacturing plants went on strike demanding better pay and healthcare options:
“The tentative agreement reached by the UAW and John Deere was rejected this evening by a majority of 90% of the membership,” UAW Vice President Chuck Browning said in a statement Sunday night…The contract talks come as strong sales this year helped Deere report $4.68 billion net income for the first nine months of its fiscal year, which was more than double the $1.993 billion it reported a year ago. The company is expecting to earn between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion this fiscal year.” — Associated Press (emphasis Eaton)
With nearly $6 billion in revenue this year (compared to $2 billion last year), John Deere should certainly be able to afford a raise for its workers who fueled the turnaround.
2. Kaiser Permanente (UNAC/UHCP)
Over 34,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser in the Pacific North West (PNW) authorized a strike earlier this week. There are over 24,000 from California, 3,400 from Oregon, and 7,400 from Washington. (Another 700 building engineers for Kaiser in San Francisco were already on strike).
Protestors rejected an initial plan from the company to offer a two-tiered compensation system that was more show than substance. Workers want a 4% raise for each of the next 3 years and a commitment to hire more nurses and healthcare workers to help with staff shortages. Several Kaiser workers were afflicted with mental health issues after a full year of over-working in the COVID chaos. An estimated 3,600 health workers were “lost on the front line”, which led to surviving workers developing PTSD. The pay-raises and extra support, they feel, are the least that Kaiser can do as a ‘Thank You’.
Kaiser says it must lower wages to remain competitive. But healthcare workers recognize that human lives are on the line — both their own and their patients’.
Roughly 1,400 Kellogg’s employees went on strike, forcing cereal manufacturing in the U.S. to a standstill. These workers are a part of the the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union (BCTGM).
These 1,400 employees are just a small slice of Kellogg’s estimated 31,000 employees around the world. But they’re drawing attention to this important issue on behalf of everyone.
4. Spectrum Workers (IBEW Local #3)
Some 1,800 people in New York went on strike to protest Charter Communications subsidiary, Spectrum Cable, back in March 2017. They’ve been striking for over 4 years, making it the longest strike in US history! No other strikes, including the famous Pullman Strike of 1894, lasted more than a year.
This strike has certainly taken a toll on the workers and their families:
“It is hard to be on strike for a week. It is hard to be on strike for a month. To be on strike for three years is superhuman.” — TruthOut , (emphasis Eaton)
“While some have been forced to go back to Spectrum, about 1,200 of the 1,800 strikers are still holding the line and making ends meet with odd jobs. Walcott said that people are still losing homes, and the strain has broken up families, while media attention has dissipated. “Everybody kind of looks past it,” he said. “We’re kind of a ghost in the city.” — Gizmodo, (emphasis Eaton)
These workers are taking history into their own hands. They’ve developed their own public ISP to oppose Charter, called People’s Choice Communications.
5. Warrior Met Coal Mine Workers (UMWA)
In April of this year, approximately 1,100 miners went on strike against Warrior Met Coal Mine. They took their protests all the way from Alabama to Wall St., where they leafleted employees of BlackRock, the largest investor in the mining company. One particular picketer is a veteran coal-miner and organizer:
“‘Since 1890, when we [coal miners] first started, nobody’s ever handed us anything. So we’re not about to lay our tools down now.’[ — 90 year old Ohioan, Jay Kolenc]
The longest that miners ever went on strike was for 10 months in 1989 against the Pittston Coal Company in West Virginia, defending hard-won health care benefits and pension rights. Some 3,000 miners got arrested in that strike.” — Labor Notes
6. McDonald’s — Michigan (Detroit 15)
McDonald’s workers in Flint, Michigan went on strike for a $15 minimum wage.
McDonald’s stirred some public fanfare when they announced they’d be raising minimum wages for their employees. But in the fine print, this only applied to corporate-owned locations, which account for just 5% of the world’s McDonald’s locations. Most restaurants are franchisees, unaffected by these changes. Workers in Flint, Michigan decided to continue the “Fight for $15” to get what they deserve and help workers across the country do the same:
“The Fight for $15 movement says doubling the minimum wage would benefit 32 million workers across the United States.” — ABC12
7. Steel Workers (United Steelworkers)
450 steelworkers in West Virginia started striking for better contracts. They are employees of two major companies called “Special Metals” and “Sulzer Pumps.”
8. St. Vincent’s Hospital Nurses (MNA)
March 8, 2021: Over 800 nurses in Massachusetts went on strike for better working conditions. They are severely underpaid and understaffed for the work that St. Vincent’s Hospital requires. St. Vincent’s and the MNA couldn’t agree on new contract terms. In the meantime, Tenet Corp., which owns St. Vincent’s, has brought in scabs to do the work. The strike continues…
9. Catholic Health Workers (CWA Local 1133)
Mercy Hospital saw 2,000 healthcare workers go on strike for better pay in the wake of the COVID pandemic.
10. Sunrise Northeast Inc. Caregivers (SEIU1199 NE)
Nearly 150 workers started striking in Connecticut, crippling the home-care services that Sunrise provides.
Workers laid out their demands, and 100 employees decided to settle before the strike began. But 150 other employees weren’t appeased and decided to launch the strike. They’re demanding a 20% raise in wages and a 90% reduction in healthcare premiums.
11. Reno Bus Drivers (Teamsters Union 533)
Bus drivers in Reno, Nevada went on strike for better working conditions.
They previously held a 10-day strike in August for better healthcare protection, then re-formed their picket lines in September when the Regional Transportation Commission started changing the way drivers’ schedules and routes are created.
12. Heaven Hill Distillery Workers (UFCW Local 23)
Kicking off on Labor Day, 420 workers in Kentucky went on strike for better pay and scheduling.
13. Redbank Valley Teachers (RVEA)
Teachers went on strike in Redbank Valley after the school district refused to make any concessions in their contract negotiations.
14. Erie Strayer Ironworkers (Local 851)
Workers in Pennsylvania went on strike after their employer, Erie Strayer, cut their health benefits.
15. El Milagro (Arise Chicago)
Workers at El Milagro in Chicago, Illinois, began protesting unfair working conditions. The tortilla company forces workers into close contact with each other, completely ignoring the public health requirements.
An estimated 85 employees contracted COVID-19 last year, and 5 died from the disease. Picketers are demanding a $16 minimum wage along with healthier working conditions.
16. Musicians of San Antonio (Musicians of SAS)
Musicians in San Antonio organized a strike after their management declared intentions to cut the number of full-time musicians in half. This comes after musicians “accepted what amounts to an 80% pay cut overall for the abbreviated 2021 performance season” and hoped to return to normal salary and staffing levels for this year’s concert season.
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Who Is Really Surprised the Democrats Got their Ass Kicked?
By the Editors of The Organizer
The statement below by Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen marks an important step forward, as he is calling on the labor movement to break with the Democratic Party and redirect COPE funding to organize the working class to defend its interests against the bosses.
Van Deusen is also posing the question of an independent working-class party when he writes: “We must consider taking steps towards establishing a pro-Union, working class-left party of our own on a national scale. And we must STOP funneling tens of millions of dollars into the efforts to elect more Democrats who, when push comes to shove, will not support us.”
We are at a moment when many people are finally recognizing just how awful the Democrats are and are looking for an answer. Van Deusen’s statement points them in the right direction.
Things are changing rapidly. As we stated in our editorial in this issue: “Clearly, the time is ripe, once again, to seize the momentum of Striketober to further organize toward independent political action.”
We must also keep in mind that this effort requires close collaboration between unions and organizations of the oppressed communities. Prior to Striketober, there were several months of communities protesting and marching against State violence, as well as demanding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Linking the labor movement to these struggles, along with linking these struggles to labor, is the key to forming labor-community coalitions that become the base of an independent working-class political party.
This strategy of organizing and connecting the various struggles of the U.S. working-class will go a long way to mending the divide between labor and communities of the oppressed.
Van Deusen’s statement provides a huge opening for Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) to advocate and begin laying the groundwork for an independent working-class party. Let’s seize the moment!
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A Message from Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen
Yesterday [11/02/21], the reliably Democratic State of Virginia (“reliable” in Presidential elections) saw Republicans sweep to victory, including a Republican winning for Governor. Further, deep blue New Jersey also nearly saw a Republican upset (although it looks like the incumbent Democratic Governor will hold on). In short, it was a very, very bad night for the Democratic Party. But does this surprise anyone? Really?
The Democrats took the U.S. Presidency, Senate, and House in 2020 (with HUGE support from the National AFL-CIO) largely promising to move forward an expansive, progressive, pro-Union agenda. They, as a Party, claimed to support the PRO Act, livable wages, paid family medical leave, free public college, student loan forgiveness, protection of voting rights, tax increases on the rich (not working people), and major environmental action. And now, a year later, what have we achieved? The answer, beyond the temporary child tax credit, is VERY LITTLE.
And here, let’s be honest… The PRO Act (which is a transformational pro-Labor bill that seeks to right the power imbalance between the workers and the bosses) is DEAD. Comprehensive voting rights looks dead. The $6 trillion social spending bill has been eviscerated down to under two trillion and now amounts to a universal pre-K bill (with a few good but limited other priorities tucked in), and even this modest bill’s fate still seems in question.
And while the infrastructure bill (also greatly reduced from its original scope) will likely pass (eventually), in isolation it is far too little too late. And if this infrastructure bill is all that passes, it will be impossible to argue that the first year of Democratic Party rule has been anything other than an abject failure and disappointment for Unions, working class people, progressives, and those National AFL-CIO officers who put all our eggs in the basket of the Democratic Party.
The Vermont AFL-CIO from the start has vocally supported the PRO Act, the larger social spending bill, the infrastructure bill, and major voting rights reform. Together we view successful passage of these efforts as a start towards the implementation of a Union led Green New Deal. And (like our democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders) we will continue to vocally support these efforts, and we will even support passage of diminished bills which make progress towards these priorities.
But as much of these efforts become increasingly scaled down (to the point where they are no longer recognizable), and as the progressive promises of the 2020 election die on the watch of Democratic Party rule, the Labor Movement should not be afraid to call a spade a spade: The national Democratic Party, if they fail on these fronts, will have once again betrayed us (as they have over and over again throughout so many decades of false promises post FDR). In short, failure here will again indicate that they are not our friend and are unwilling or incapable of delivering meaningful wins for Organized Labor and the working class.
With this reality plain for all to see, and reinforced by too many letdowns to count, can one even pretend to be surprised that the Democrats got their ass kicked last night? If you are, you are not paying attention.
But the real tragedy here is not that a majority in Virginia turned their backs on a Democratic Party that continues to not represent us, but rather that folks again fell for the shell game that is the two-party political system; they voted for the Republicans. And when it comes to the national Republican Party let’s also be clear… This party, unlike the Democrats, does not even pretend to care about us. Rather they demonstrate an open disdain for Organized Labor, and through them our Union rights have been eroded at an alarming rate when they are in power. The national Republican Party is also increasingly a neo-fascist party hell bent on undermining what democracy we have in the United States. A pox on both their houses.
These political realities, when and if the Democrats finally fail to pass the PRO Act and other transformative pro-working-class bills in 2021, must result in the Labor Movement making moves to build working class power beyond the Democrats (and obviously beyond the Republicans). We must consider taking steps towards establishing a pro-Union, working class-left party of our own on a national scale. And we must STOP funneling tens of millions of dollars into the efforts to elect more Democrats who, when push comes to shove, will not support us.
Instead, we must put the lion’s share of our money and resources into organizing new shops, and internally organizing those shops we already have. The National AFL-CIO would be wise to take money from our failed election and lobbying efforts, and instead send Union organizers to every State Labor Council and CLC in the country to help us build up our membership and grassroots organizing capacity. And through such organizing we must build our own class power that relies on no political party to give expression to our desires, dreams, and demands. And where we build real Union power, the politicians will follow (if for no other reason than fear). Otherwise, all we are left with is to pretend to act surprised, again, the next time we vote in the Democrats, they fail to deliver, and then they lose the next election thereafter. It’s time for Organized Labor to wake up and become the change we need. Enough is enough!
David Van Deusen,
Vermont AFL-CIO President
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“Pack and Crack”: Restoring “Jim Crow”
By Bradley Wiedmaier
States over the next several months are drawing the lines of their state and federal electoral districts for the next ten years — creating divisions that affect the working class and oppressed communities. This is the first redistricting since the 2013 US Supreme Court ruling Selby v Holder in which the Court gutted the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. Specifically, the Court declared that the key federal enforcement provision was unconstitutional. Section 5 had authorized “pre-clearance” for jurisdictions which had demonstrated race-based voter discrimination, of which gerrymandering* has been one example.
Texas is a case in point, especially since its population growth with respect to the rest of the country meant that it had two additional Congressional districts to create. [The 435 voting seats in the House of Representatives are reapportioned every 10 years among the 50 states according to the decennial U.S. Census.]
The new state redistricting plan is such that the results for 35 of Texas’ 38 US House of Representative seats are essentially guaranteed for the next 10 years (five election cycles). While the districts of the 2010 map resulted in 11 competitive elections (between the Republican and Democratic Parties) only three are possibly contested seats in the newly drawn district map. Those challenges are eliminated, as well as the Democratic Party’s reliance upon suburban district votes. In Texas, as well as in other Republican-dominated states, districts have been redrawn to combine rural areas with the suburban area surrounding major cities.
The bizarre geographical shapes of gerrymandered districts in Texas as elsewhere have been created with surgical precision to create patterns of the most densely partisan-propensity voters. This is the “packing” aspect of gerrymandered districting.
The Dallas Fort Worth region displays both packing as well as illustrating the division (cracking) of districts. More than half the population growth in Texas has been among those of Latino heritage (11 out of 20 new Texas residents). Yet, neither of the two new districts have Latino majorities. In addition, several of the Latino-majority districts — as had been required previously by the VRA — were eliminated. This reduction was created by dividing the Latino majority district in the suburbs between the neighboring metropolitan areas of Fort Worth and Dallas, “cracking” these areas into two separate districts wherein the Latino population is a minority instead of the majority.
Another formerly Latino-majority district stretching from San Antonio to the Rio Grande River border was redrawn with boundary lines including non-Latino communities. In Houston, a Republican district has been carved out of what had been previously an overwhelming Democratic Party city. Democrats still will garner votes to win but in far fewer state and congressional districts.
It is only our organization that can ever change this undemocratic form of governing. That is why we devote our efforts to creating a working-class party rooted in labor and communities of the oppressed.
[*Gerrymandering is named after Elbridge Gerry who as Governor of Massachusetts in 1812 signed a bill that created a partisan district in the shape of a salamander.]
In May 2019, the Center for American Progress published a report that found that gerrymandered congressional districts shifted 59 seats on average in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections, leading to an average gain of 19 Republican seats per election (“The Impact of Partisan Gerrymandering,” Center for American Progress, Oct. 1, 2019). This occurred even though those who identify as Democrats far outnumber Republicans nationwide (31% versus 25% while 41% identify themselves as Independent).
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SOUTH AFRICA/AZANIA: NUMSA Strike Marks Step Toward Workers’ Unity
By Mandlenkosi ka Phangwa
[Note: From October 5 to 21, tens of thousands of metalworkers in South Africa / Azania went on strike for higher wages, responding to the call by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). Our correspondent in Johannesburg provides below an initial assessment of the strike.]
Metalworkers, especially those in the engineering sector, went on strike to demand an 8% wage increase. This reasonable demand for a living wage was championed by NUMSA, one of the largest unions in the country (300,000 members), and the Federation of South African Trade Unions (SAFTU), to which it is affiliated.
Far from being the so-called “disruptive action” that the media reported, this strike displayed the muscle of the workers united in support of their demands. For two weeks, what the strike disrupted was the profits of the steel employers. In the negotiations, NUMSA representatives heeded the mandate given to them by the workers, opposing the takebacks demanded by the steel employers’ federation: the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA).
The strike ended with the signing of an agreement on a 6% wage increase, which was achieved after a hard struggle. NUMSA was forced to accept this compromise at a time when workers were just recovering from the long period of lockdowns and decrease of working hours, and a time when increased unemployment in the Black working class communities has become a heavy burden on the shoulders of the workers.
The strike sparked a powerful surge of solidarity by the labor movement in Azania, which could represent a giant step toward achieving unity. Even the National Union of Miners (NUM)  publicly supported the strike and called for fighting side by side with NUMSA against the capitalists. Such expressions of solidarity had already taken place during the strike against the privatization of the state-owned energy company ESKOM.
Many Black political parties across the country – despite being involved in the November 1 municipal elections – expressed support on the picket line. This was the case, for example, of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP), many of whose members are NUMSA members.
Finally, it should be noted that the COSATU trade union federation was compelled to express its support — support that was viewed largely as empty, as COSATU forms part of the governmental Tripartite Alliance, established in 1994 with the ANC and the South African Communist Party. The ANC-led government, which was formed under the 1994 Kempton Park Agreements signed with the former racist Apartheid regime, has systematically sided with the employers for the past 27 years.
Once again, as occurred during the Marikana miners’ strike in 2012 and other strikes, the repressive apparatus of the State inherited from Apartheid, and now under the control of the ANC, was wielded to unleash brutal force against the strikers. The signing of the end-of-strike agreement cannot be allowed to write off the fate of strikers injured by the police. Black majority unions and community organizations must unite to demand that the ANC government prohibit the involvement of the police and their brutality whenever there is a labor dispute — which is not a crime but a demand for a decent living wage.
Our position as the Azanian Section of the OCRFI has been consistent in support of the struggle for a decent living wage. We have called for solidarity in action by all unions against the implementation of austerity policies, where workers are being pushed to the corner of submission through threats of job losses. We have called for joint action and the broadest unity of all trade union organizations in a national strike around the following demands:
– Nationalization of the steel industry, the mines, and the key sectors of the economy.
– Stop job cuts in the public and private sectors.
– Decent wages for all.
– Application of the agreements signed with the unions.
– Stop the confinement and police violence.
– Stop all attempts by the ANC government to steal workers’ pension funds.
 The NUM, which is affiliated to the government-linked COSATU confederation, condemned the Marikana miners’ strike in August 2012 and supported the repression.
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FRANCE: Why Not a Real Job and a Real Wage?
(La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue No.313 – 3 November 2021 – EDITORIAL)
By Daniel Gluckstein
On 2 November, [French President] Macron launched the “Youth Commitment Contract”, which is applicable from 1 March 2022. A government “strategist” quoted in [daily newspaper] Le Parisien commented that young people “are an important target in the presidential election”.
For 40 years, all governments have applied the same recipe: TUC, SIVP, internships in companies, NSEJ , civic services and other gimmicks. … The names change, but the principle remains: young people do not have the right to a real job or a real wage. At most, they are given small jobs, a few hours of work, unclear compensation; they have to be shaped for any task at any price on short-time and insecure employment, without the rights of employees.
So, thanks to Macron, between 500,000 and 600,000 young people under 26 who have not been on a training course and have been out of work for several months “will be able to benefit from 15 to 20 hours of support per week in order to discover a trade, to train, to find an apprenticeship or a job, with an allowance of up to 500 euros per month”. Carefully chosen phrasing: young people “will be able” to benefit from “support” in order to “discover” and even try to “find an apprenticeship or a job”. They “will be able to” and yet … it is not certain.
The Secretary of State for Youth, Sarah El Haïry, is not short of enthusiasm: “However much it costs, this is an investment in what is most precious in our country … . These are huge amounts, we’re talking about more than 1 billion euros.” According to Ms. El Haïry, this will “allow everyone to find their place in society” and, for example, to overcome “major hardships: no driving licence, no housing”…with a maximum of 500 euros per month!
Shame on this government that despises young people to the point of wanting to buy their vote by giving them handouts! The cynical demagogy of a government that closes university restaurants, condemns thousands of students to food insecurity and excludes thousands of others from the Master’s degrees they are entitled to, and – with Parcoursup  and the reform of the baccalaureate – that expels high school students from the right to a real qualification and real studies!
A real job and a real wage (1,800 euros net per month with all contributions paid, for example) for 600,000 young people would represent 25 billion euros per year. Compared to the 594 billion euros gifted by the government to the capitalists over the last two years, this drop in the ocean would allow those young people to enter fully into working life, to train for a real job and to gain the beginnings of effective independence. And we need those young people, in hospitals, in schools, in the car industry and elsewhere!
There is nothing unrealistic about such a perspective. On one condition: we must not be afraid to take on capitalist interests. A government that commits to this path of breaking with the existing order will guarantee every young person a real job and a real wage. This demand is modest in itself. But in the current context of widespread social and political decay, it has a genuinely revolutionary flavour.
- (1) Translator’s note: The TUC was a set of community work schemes introduced in 1983; the SIVP (“Initiation into the World of Work”) scheme, which ran from 1984 to 1988, allowed employers to employ young job-seekers for a maximum of six months, paying them between one-third and one-half of the official minimum wage (Smic) while being exempt from employer social contributions; the NSEJ (“New Services, Youth Jobs”) programme, introduced in 1997, allowed employers to employ people under the age of 26 on fixed-term contracts that were subsidised by the state.
- (2) Translator’s note: “Parcoursup” is the new system for public university admissions from the 2018-19 academic year onwards, which introduced measures for academic selection
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