IN THIS ISSUE:
• EDITORIAL: “When We Fight, We Win!”
• SoCal Nurses Beat Back Kaiser’s Two-Tier Proposal
• Support Needed for Stationary Engineers Local 39 on Strike at Kaiser!
• Student Researchers at University of California Wage Fight for Union Recognition
• OPEN FORUM: Ahmaud Arbery’s Murderers Would Be Free If It Weren’t for Black Lives Matter Protests
• INTERNATIONAL: A Single Working Class (France)
• Solidarity with the Workers and People of Guadeloupe!
• Guadeloupe: Who Is Lighting the Fuse?
• Contribution on the Indigenous Question in Canada
• Register Today for Dec.9 LCIP National Forum of “Citizenship for All!”
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“When We Fight, We Win!”
This chant has reverberated on picket lines across the country in the unprecedented strike wave known as “#Striketober.” Hundreds of thousands of workers have downed their tools — some in protracted strikes, others in one-day sympathy strikes – to demand better wages and working conditions, improved pensions and healthcare benefits, and, just as important, an end to a two-tier wage system (lower pay for new hires) aimed at eroding past gains. Their militant actions were spurred by anger at greedy corporations pleading poverty at the negotiating table while reaping record profits during the pandemic.
The 10,000 workers at John Deere fought hard and won in a five-week strike in which they sensed their real power. The result? A new agreement that includes a cost-of-living adjustment, a 10 percent wage increase, 5 percent raises in 2023 and 2025 and the preservation of a previous pension program that the company had originally planned on cutting for people hired after a certain date. The contract also includes a $8,500 signing bonus. “If we don’t get caught up on wages now, we’ll never be in this position again,” Brad Lake, a member of UAW Local 838 in Waterloo, Iowa, told Labor Notes. “We will always be playing catch-up, because these contracts are six years.” [See a more complete report in this issue.]
In Southern California, more than 50,000 nurses at Kaiser Permanente actively prepared to strike to fend off management’s proposal to cut by 26% the wages of all new hires. “It should be equal pay for equal work and seeing the true value of investing in nursing,” explained Liz Marlow, a striking nurse in Fontana, Calif. At the 11th hour, in the face of the workers’ determination to strike, management backed down and took the two-tier proposal off the table, a big victory. [See interview with Marlow in this issue.]
Not everywhere, however, has there been a “W.”
Since March 8, more than 700 nurses at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, Mass., have been on strike against Tenet Corp., a huge healthcare conglomerate based in Dallas, Texas. Their fightback sentiment and determination are unequalled — but they have been pretty much abandoned by the top leadership of the AFL-CIO, which only just recently even acknowledged the existence of this strike.
“The strike at St. Vincent’s is a PATCO moment,” strike supporter Sandy Eaton told a November 18 online healthcare forum sponsored by the Labor Fightback Network. “Labor should be pulling out all stops to support the St. Vincent strikers in their fight for a decent contract.” Another forum participant suggested that the AFL-CIO and Change to Win should organize a national day of action (sympathy strikes, protests at Tenet offices nationwide, etc.) in solidarity with the St. Vincent’s strikers and other strikers. Clearly, if Tenet is able to get away with smashing this valiant struggle at St. Vincent’s, it will make it far more difficult for workers at other Tenet hospitals to challenge this corporate behemoth.
One strike that could be helped by such a national day of action is the strike (since September 18) of Stationary Engineers Local 39 at Kaiser hospitals in Northern California. These 700 workers are demanding a very modest wage increase in a region with the highest cost of living in the country. And Kaiser is out to bust the union, with the age-old tactic of divide and rule. [See report on the Local 39 strike in this issue.]
Enact the PRO Act Now!
However heroic the struggles, and whatever victories have been obtained or attacks fended off on the picket lines in recent weeks, there is a stark reality facing every worker on the picket line: labor laws are all stacked in favor of the bosses.
What will it take to fix this broken system?
The answer is not difficult: Congress must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Under the PRO Act, all the anti-union attacks carried out by Tenet or Kaiser would be illegal. The playing field would be leveled in favor of the workers. To be specific, the PRO Act would:
• Introduce meaningful, enforceable penalties for companies and executives that violate workers’ rights;
• Enhance workers’ right to support boycotts, strikes, or other acts of solidarity. The bill would protect workers’ First Amendment Rights by removing prohibitions on workers acting in solidarity with workers at other companies;
• Streamline access to justice for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights. Rather than enduring a long period of unemployment waiting for their case to be heard, the bill requires the NLRB to immediately seek an injunction to reinstate the employee while their case is pending; and
• Prevent employers from interfering in union elections. The bill would prohibit employers from requiring workers to attend meetings designed to persuade them against voting in favor of a union. If a violation were to take place or the employer otherwise were to interfere with a union representation election, the NLRB would be empowered to issue an order that requires the employer to bargain with the union.
With the PRO Act, the striking workers would have a fighting chance to protect their interests.
What will it take to ensure passage of the PRO Act?
The PRO Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in decades. Passing it will require ending the Senate filibuster once and for all.
All it takes is 51 Senate votes to overturn the filibuster. The Democrats have those 51 votes. But the Democrats refuse to buck the system to ensure majority rule. Instead, they are sheltering behind Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema, with the argument that we don’t have the 51 votes anyhow. (In a similar vein, Obama explained that because of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, he could not deliver on his promised Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA.)
In the early 1960s, the Democrats pointed to the Dixiecrats to explain why they could not win passage of the Civil Rights Act. It took a mass movement, led by Black working-class organizations and their allies, to compel President Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1965.
Today, a similar movement needs to take shape in the ranks of the labor movement and among labor’s community allies. Ending the filibuster is within our reach. Securing the PRO Act is within our reach.
We can win the battle for the PRO Act. We must win this battle. But it will take more resolve and political weapons than those currently wielded by the labor movement.
* * * * *
SoCal Nurses Beat Back Kaiser’s Two-Tier Proposal
[Note: On Saturday, November 13, Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions reached a Tentative Agreement on a four-year contract, covering 52,000 Kaiser Permanente health-care employees in 21 local unions in Southern California. The Organizer editorial board member Connie White spoke to Liz Marlow, a Registered Nurse in Emergency Medicine in Fontana, California, about the significance of this November 13 agreement. Marlow is a member of United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP).]
The Organizer: What is your assessment of the Tentative Agreement with Kaiser? When we last spoke [see The Organizer Weekly Newsletter No. 43] your union had just given strike notice. What turned things around in favor of the union?
Liz Marlow: We scored a big victory with this Tentative Agreement. We beat back Kaiser’s two-tier proposal. We’re really excited and positive that Kaiser was able to come to the table and reach an agreement that benefits both our members and our patients.
We didn’t want it to come to a strike, but it was about validating our nurses and investing in our patients. The majority of our members voted to strike, if we had to. We were prepared to go out on strike on Monday, November 15.
The Organizer: What were your main goals at the negotiating table?
Liz Marlow: We were not in agreement with the two-tier system; this is what worried us the most. Kaiser wanted 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.
We stood firm; we were not about to budge our stance on the two-tier. And we prevailed. The two-tier was not in the agreement.
The Organizer: What were some other details of the Tentative Agreement?
Liz Marlow: Here are just a few: guaranteed across-the-board wage increases each year through 2025 in every region for all Alliance-represented employees; no reductions or takeaways to already low-cost family medical and dental coverage with the same low co-pays for prescriptions and office visits; and maintained generous retirement income benefits and employer-subsidized retiree medical.
The Organizer: When will the members vote to ratify the agreement?
Liz Marlow: The Tentative Agreement will be submitted to a vote by the members on December 7 and 8, with the results announced on the 9th.
* * * * *
Deere Strike Ends as Workers Win Higher Wages, Bonus and Better Pension
By Sharon Zhang
November 18 – Union workers for equipment manufacturer John Deere voted to approve a new contract on Wednesday, ending a strike sustained by over 10,000 workers at 14 locations for nearly five weeks.
The new agreement lasts six years, and includes a 10 percent wage increase, 5 percent raises in 2023 and 2025 and the preservation of a previous pension program that the company had originally planned on cutting for people hired after a certain date. The contract also includes a $8,500 signing bonus.
The contract was ratified with 61 percent of members voting in favor and 39 percent voting against. The strike was the largest in the country amid a wave of strikes and labor movements. One union member died during the strike after being struck and killed by a vehicle as he was walking to the picket line.
United Auto Workers (UAW) has described the agreement as “groundbreaking” and standard-setting.
“The sacrifice and solidarity displayed by our John Deere members combined with the determination of their negotiators made this accomplishment possible,” said Chuck Browning, UAW vice president. “They have started a movement for workers in this country by what was achieved here today, and they have earned the admiration and respect of all that strive for what is just and equitable in the workplace.”
Union members had rejected previous contracts offering lower pay hikes and nixing pensions for new hires — provisions that one worker called “a slap in the face,” according to Labor Notes. The workers began striking in October after the company offered several inadequate contracts. Workers said that long hours, along with increased demand, had created difficult working conditions. Meanwhile, the company was reporting record earnings.
John Deere had attempted to break the strike by cutting off health care benefits for workers at the end of October. That decision was panned by labor advocates and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who called the move “beyond outrageous.”
The company claimed last week that it had “economically exhausted” its offers, which some workers questioned. “Look at what they’re paying executives,” welder Chuck Smith told the Des Moines Register. “Look at what they’re giving their CEO. It’s corporate greed.”
Other workers expressed relief over the new agreement. “I’m exhausted and nervous, but I’m proud of what was accomplished,” Illinois John Deere worker Kristin Jordan told The Washington Post.
The new contract comes as thousands of workers across the country are either preparing for a strike or actively striking. About 40,000 Kaiser Permanente workers are striking beginning on Thursday, in solidarity with roughly 600 engineers who say they are not paid as much as workers in similar positions in the Northern California region. The company had reached an agreement with 32,000 employees who were set to strike over a tiered pay system that would pay employees hired after 2023 lower wages.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center workers are also striking on Thursday; Boston Museum of Fine Arts workers went on strike on Wednesday; and bus drivers in Minneapolis are saying that they’re prepared to strike over low pay and safety concerns. Meanwhile, Kellogg’s workers are on the seventh week of their strike, and the company has filed a lawsuit against the union claiming that strikers are blocking the entrance to the plant.
(article reprinted from November 18 issue of Truthout)
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Support Needed for Stationary Engineers Local 39 on Strike at Kaiser!
By Alan Benjamin
SAN FRANCISCO, December 1 – Local 39, the union representing Kaiser’s stationary engineers and biomedical engineers in Northern California, has been on strike for more than 80 days. Union members have been working without a contract since September 18. Kaiser, one of the major healthcare conglomerates in the country, has refused to negotiate in good faith, refusing the union’s demand for a cost-of-living wage increase.
I have participated in a number of S.F. Labor Council-organized picket lines in support of Local 39 over the course of the strike. On November 16 I had the opportunity to talk with Marc, a stationary engineer at Kaiser’s French Campus in San Francisco. We talked after Marc took me and other labor activists to see the whiteboard statement that he had placed close to the entrance to the Kaiser hospital on Geary Blvd.
This is what Marc had written:
“I have carpal tunnel in both hands, damaged elbow joints in both arms from 17 years working for Kaiser Permanente. I deal with harmful chemicals, asbestos, mechanical and electrical hazard on a daily basis. My colleagues and I have been risking our lives for the past 20 months working with Covid 19.
“I work at French campus all by myself. We are SO understaffed and Kaiser is making record profits. We have been striking for the past 8 weeks for a cost-of-living raise. We are not greedy.
“Hi, I’m Marc, French campus stationary engineer, at your service.”
Marc told me that he would welcome a 3 percent wage increase over the next three years. Kaiser is rolling in money, he said, they could easily increase the engineers’ wages by $1.80 per hour over the life of the contract. “With an inflation increase of 6.1 percent in 2021, we are not even keeping up with the cost of living,” he said. He went on to note that this is especially outrageous in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Marc also said that Kaiser negotiators announced that they would be willing to increase their wage proposal with a one-time bonus. “But this is unacceptable,” Marc said. “We are insisting that any increase must be built into the salary schedule for us and also for workers who come after us.”
I asked Marc who is doing the work of the stationary engineers during the strike. “It’s the scabs, brought in from Texas and Louisiana, and housed at hotels. They don’t have a clue about what they’re doing. When the strike is over and we go back to work, it’s going to take at least a year for us to clean up their mess. The boiler [at the French campus], for one, is severely damaged.”
Marc was monitoring his cell phone as we spoke because Kaiser and union representatives had returned to the bargaining table. He was receiving regular reports on the progress of the talks for the strikers on the picket lines. “I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, though, but I hope Kaiser does the right thing and accepts all the union’s economic proposals.”
But as of this writing, there has been no progress at the negotiating table, despite the November 18-19 sympathy strikes organized by SEIU UHW and then by NUHW.
The San Francisco Labor Council sent out a call to mobilize in support of Local 39. It reads as follows:
“Stationary Engineers at Kaiser have been striking for more than TWO MONTHS and Kaiser still isn’t moving. Kaiser’s largest unions will be joining the picket lines across the state to tell Kaiser it needs to give its workers a fair contract.
“We want to make our Solidarity Actions as large and loud as possible to send Kaiser a strong message that all of Labor stands with Local 39. Come out and join us on the picket lines. Let’s demand that Kaiser treat its workers well. — In Solidarity, SF Labor Council Team”
We call on labor and community activists across Northern California to join us in sending a signal to Kaiser that it’s time to meet the strikers’ just demands.
All Out to show our solidarity with the Stationary Engineers Local 39 on Strike at Kaiser! Let’s turn out in large numbers; these embattled workers need our support!
* * * * *
Student Researchers at University of California Wage Fight for Union Recognition
By Fernando David Márquez Duarte
UAW 2865, the union that represents all 19,000+ Academic Student Employees – (ASEs) Teaching Assistants, Graduate Student Instructors, Tutors, and Readers – across the University of California system, formed in 1999 as a part of the United Auto Workers International Union. At the time, only student teaching positions were included in the collective-bargaining agreement due to a strict interpretation of CA labor law (HEERA). In 2017, the law was amended to include student researchers as university employees.
In May 2021, over 10,000 UC student researchers (SRs) out of a total of 17,000 (a supermajority) submitted signed cards to the California Public Employment Relations Board to form a union: the SRU. On September 2, UC decided to exclude a total of 6,000 SRs from the union based on the argument that they were not student researchers (referring to fellows and trainees), even though these SRs conduct the same work as every SRs.
Since then, SRs have been fighting for recognition, organizing rallies, townhalls, forums, and online campaigns to press the UC to recognize SRU. However, the UC still refuses to allow 6,000 out of the total 17,000 current SRs to be in the union, denying workers to have rights – a position that goes against the essence of the UC. It is incoherent that UC preaches to support social justice and advancement of marginalized communities and groups at the same time that it is discriminating their own workers, which is an action of social injustice.
This anti-union position, actually, is nothing new for the UC, which has opposed every attempt to unionize its academic employees. During the unionizing efforts of ASEs in the ‘90s, the successful organizing of postdocs (PDs) into UAW 5810 in 2009, other Academic Researchers a few years later, and the finally the SRs currently, the UC maintained the same transparently contradictory position – respecting the rights of its employees to unionize in principle, while denying that same right in practice – insisting each time that, for this particular group of employees, it just doesn’t make sense.
As a further demonstration of the twists of logic used by this academic institution to attempt to deny rights to its employees, consider the reason for the current refusal to deny recognition to the 6,000 SRs. The UC claims that because these positions are fellowships, paid by external institutions, they are not technically UC employees, but trainees.
However, in 2009, the UC used the exact opposite argument –demanding that postdoctoral researchers paid in this exact same way should be considered employees. At the time, the UC thought that this would weaken the majority of PDs who had signed cards, and so would defeat the union. Luckily, UAW organizers had planned for this and immediately agreed with the UC position; the UC’s strategy backfired, leading to the immediate inclusion of these researchers in the union. The complete reversal of the UC’s argument in this case is nothing short of cynical.
Furthermore, the argument used by the UC to refuse the full recognition of all SRs to form a union is a clear attack against labor rights and labor organizing. Fellows and trainees are SRs and have the right to have labor rights, as any other worker. Moreover, UC prefers to use their legal force and public position to break and block the organizing actions and tasks of the SRU and their partner organizations.
The SRs movement has gathered an important support from undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty across all campuses of the UC. Moreover, local members of Congress, as well as state senators, have signed letters supporting SRs right to unionize and demanding that the UC administration recognize the full union.
Despite all this widespread support for the union, the UC admins, especially UC President Michael Drake, refuse to recognize SRs and to give the labor rights that these workers deserve. Due to UC’s position, SRU is conducting a massive strike authorization vote campaign, which if approved by a majority, will represent a very strong tool for the SRU to press the UC to finally recognize SRU.
The main causes that the SRU is fighting for are equity: 86% of over 1700 SRs that were surveyed do not consider that the UC handles discrimination fairly, and 59% of SRs declared that they have been discriminated and/or harassed at the UC.
Housing: It is no secret that housing for students in California is one of the most expensive in the U.S. and around the world; the salary of SRs is not nearly enough to afford a decent living place.
SRU fights for an adjustment of COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) that is fair for every student-worker.
Finally, international students that work as SRs are more discriminated and at risk of facing unfair firing and working conditions, since they do not have any worker rights, and most international students are part of the 6,000 SRs that the UC doesn’t want to recognize. International student-workers have been suffering more than domestic ones the consequences of the COVID pandemic, since the US government established racist and xenophobic visa changes for foreign people in the US. Moreover, several UC international SRs and ASEs were denied jobs that were offered to them due to government restrictions on jobs for non-citizens during COVID.
All SRs deserve labor rights. All SRs deserve to have their union recognized. All workers deserve rights and justice. Support the SRU for all!
More information at: https://studentresearchersunited.org/
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Ahmaud Arbery’s Murderers Would Be Free If It Weren’t for Black Lives Matter Protests
By Cat Brooks
(excerpted from an opinion piece published in the November 29, 2021 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle)
Yay, America. You got it right on Wednesday [Nov. 24]. An almost all-white jury told Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan that is not, in fact, self-defense to hunt, corner and execute Black people because you don’t want them breathing in your neighborhood.
All three of them, guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
While we (well, a lot of we) are collectively exhaling, we (all of we) should be scratching our heads that it took a whole court, trial, judge and jury to tell these three (and certain parts of white America) that it is illegal in 2021 to kill Black people for sport.
I know. I know. Many of you wish I could just take the “W” (slang for win). I should just be happy and shut up. You’ll undoubtedly say as much in the comments and letters to the editor.
But I can’t.
While we should certainly celebrate that “justice” prevailed today (admittedly, the abolitionist in me remains conflicted), there are a few things we shouldn’t forget.
First, the “threat” these men claimed to be defending themselves from was literally just a Black man in their neighborhood. Jogging. Arbery’s mere presence was perceived as a criminal threat. Yes, he explored an unfinished and vacant home, but he neither stole nor threatened anyone.
The racial profiling of Arbery is not unique to him or this tragic incident. Across America, every day, white folks call the police on Black people or confront Black bodies for simply being in places white folks don’t think we belong. The consequences range from annoying to deadly.
Before Arbery’s murder, Janelle Bynam, a Democratic politician in Oregon, had the police called on her while she was door knocking for re-election. Elijah McClain was buying iced tea in 2019 when police were called on him for looking “suspicious.” He was ultimately arrested and given a fatal dose of ketamine by responding paramedics. More recently, Salehe Bembury, who was vice president of sneakers and men’s footwear for Versace, was stopped and frisked by police on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and questioned about an expensive pair of shoes he himself designed.
Meanwhile, the defense made the assertion that if Arbery had just complied, he would still be alive. After all, that’s what Gregory McMichael, a former cop, had been trained to force “suspects” to do.
But Arbery wasn’t a suspect. And McMichael’s law enforcement background told him as much.
Since the time of chattel slavery white folks have thought Black people should submit to their demands and refusal to do so should be met with punishment. During slavery, defiance that could be as simple as not working as fast as your owner thought you should would be met with a whip.
Today, Black people not complying with the whims of white folks results in public outbursts of outrage now captured on social media, severe physical assaults, threats of or actual calls to police, and, in the worst-case scenario, murder.
Rise in power, Mr. Arbery.
There are large swaths of white America who believe these three murderers should have walked free. I’m pretty sure those folks would line up squarely with the 70 million people who voted to re-elect a racist to the White House just a little over a year ago. America is not a post-racial country. Plenty folks who say they’re not racist are. White supremacy is deadly and, boy, do we have a long way to go.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, though, is a good thing. It’s the thing we should hold on to the tightest because it’s the only way we will ever build a world that works for all of us. And that is “organizing gets the goods.”
If it wasn’t for community organizing and pressure, the McMichaels and Bryan would almost certainly never have been charged — let alone convicted. For 10 weeks after the murder of Arbery, the police did nothing, the district attorney did nothing.
No one who was supposed to hold these men accountable did anything they were supposed to.
It was Arbery’s former football coach, Jason Vaughn, who began ringing the alarm bell that built a movement loud enough to push hard enough that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation stepped in and levied charges.
Brunswick County will never be the same.
The residents of Brunswick County not only organized their way to charges being brought against white vigilantes, they organized a national cry to demand justice for Arbery. They organized their district attorney out of office and organized themselves into a force for Black liberatory struggle. They ignited a local movement and inspired national outrage and support.
So I’ll take that “W” today as I continue to exhale with the rest of the Black folks in America — grateful our trauma wasn’t compounded by the not guilty verdict many of us thought was coming.
Stay tuned. Stay engaged. Stay organized.
When we organize, we win. Just ask Charlottesville.
We’ve got a long way to go, America. But we’re going.
(Cat Brooks is an award-winning actress, playwright, executive director of the Justice Teams Network, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and co-host of “UpFront” on KPFA.)
* * * * *
A Single Working Class
(editorial of La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue No.315 – November 17, 2021)
By Daniel Gluckstein
It is sickening to see the current [presidential] electoral campaign marked by a limitless outbidding on the right and the far right against immigrants, who are accused of all kinds of evil. It is sickening to see this campaign which is even seeing some “on the left” going down this road.
We must speak clearly: a delinquent is a delinquent, a thug is a thug, a terrorist is a terrorist, a fascist is a fascist. This is true regardless of their nationality, the color of their skin or their religion. Those are just details.
The kind of details that capitalists don’t bother with when no-one else is looking. We learn in [financial daily newspaper] Les Echos that this year, a new record was set for dividends paid to shareholders worldwide: US$1.46 trillion paid to those who put their capital to work while billions of human beings work themselves to death and starve! Those shareholders who are being paid US$1.46 trillion are not asked for their identity cards, nor are their skin colours checked, nor is their religion questioned. They are all brothers, members of the same class: the class of parasites, exploiters and speculators.
Facing them, the workers constitute a single class, all of them – immigrants or not – confronted with capitalist exploitation. If today in France, hospitals are being closed, precipitating a dramatic health situation; if children cannot find a place in school; if factories are closing down and unemployment spreading; the fault does not lie with the immigrants, but with the capitalists who speculate and misappropriate the public funds that have been allocated to them with the aim of making ever more profit.
The immigrants driven out of their country by war, by pillage, by famine, by poverty, products of the policies imposed by “our” supposedly “civilized” governments (in particular the French government) and the international institutions; the immigrants who, risking their lives, come to our country to be superexploited, in some cases working 250 or 300 hours a month without being granted papers, allowing genuine slavers to take advantage of the situation; they are our class brothers and sisters.
The capitalists know how to stand together to defend their interests; the working class must stand together to defend their own. It is not a question of race, religion or identity card: it is a question of social relations.
A single working class! To all those who claim that France is being threatened by the “Great Replacement” of the “French race” by “foreign races” that by definition are “impure,” we reply: “Yes, let the great replacement come, the great replacement of private ownership of the means of production by social ownership. Let there come the great replacement of the government of the exploiting minority with the government of the united working class, the government of the majority who live by their labour!”
* * * * *
Statement by the Independent and Democratic Workers Party of France (POID)
Solidarity with the Workers and People of Guadeloupe!
(Montreuil, France – November 22, 2021)
The Parti Ouvrier Indépendant Démocratique (POID, the Independent and Democratic Workers Party) alerts workers, activists and young people in France to the situation in Guadeloupe.
More than two-and-a-half months ago, on September 2, the main workers’ and democratic organizations of Guadeloupe submitted to the prefecture  a precise list of thirty-two demands expressing the legitimate aspirations of the Guadeloupean workers and people, which go far beyond the legitimate demand for the repeal of the Law of 5 August and the so-called “health” pass. On September 23 again, the organizations went to the prefecture to demand that they be heard.
On September 29, the prefect rejected all the proposals and put an end to all negotiations, according to the organizations concerned. Faced with the French authorities’ refusal to negotiate on their demands, the main trade union organizations decided to call for an unlimited general strike beginning November 15. The strike has been widely followed by workers in many professional sectors and massively supported by the population.
Once again, as Maïté Hubert M’Toumo, general secretary of the General Union of Guadeloupe Workers (UGTG), summed up on the television channel Guadeloupe-La 1re: “The only response (from the State) to the demands is always repression, as in May 1967” . On November 19, the prefect declared a state of emergency. On November 20, the Minister of the Interior sent in RAID and GIGN units, which are used for terrorist acts and hostage-taking. On November 222, around 30 arrested demonstrators were tried in an immediate appearance, threatened with heavy sentences.
The Guadeloupean workers’ and democratic organizations were right to state that “the deterioration of the social climate is only the result of the deterioration deliberately orchestrated by the State” (communiqué of November 19).
No worker, no activist, no young person in France can accept the attitude of the Macron government and its representatives in Guadeloupe who stubbornly refuse the call reiterated again by Eli Domota on behalf of the organizations involved in the strike, to “the opening of negotiations on the basis of the demands.”. No worker, no activist, no young person in France can accept that the RAID and the GIGN be sent in against workers, young people and mothers who are demanding their legitimate rights.
Every worker, every activist, every young person in France cannot but recognize their own demands, in the 32-point platform, from “a halt to layoffs and job cuts” and “a generalized increase in salaries, minimum social benefits, unemployment benefits and retirement pensions”, to the demand for “the recruitment of healthcare workers and staff in hospitals”, or again for “the recruitment of technical and supervisory staff, for the doubling of classes and the respect of healthcare measures in schools.”
It is therefore the duty of the workers’ and democratic movement, of any organization claiming to be a workers’ organization, in France:
– to demand an end to the repression, the withdrawal of the RAID and the GIGN, and the release of the imprisoned unionists and activists;
– to support the call of the Guadeloupean organizations for the opening of real negotiations, on the basis of the platform of 32 demands.
The POID expresses its unconditional solidarity with the workers and people of Guadeloupe, as well as with their organizations. It will respond to any call to demonstrate this solidarity.
 Translator’s Note: Guadeloupe is one of five Overseas Departments of France. The prefecture refers to the French DOM Department authorities.
 In May 1967, the mobile gendarmes bloodily repressed a construction workers’ strike, killing over 80 people.
* * * * *
Guadeloupe: Who Is Lighting the Fuse?
(editorial of La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue No. 316 – November 24, 2021 )
By Daniel Gluckstein
As far as Macron is concerned, the situation in Guadeloupe (1) is “very explosive”.
As far as the President of Guadeloupe’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry is concerned, it is “pretty insurrectional”. This is why he is refusing to “negotiate with people who have stormed the streets, who are bringing the economy and traffic to a stop, but who have no real demands.” Of course, he justifies the police intervention: “When you light a fuse, order must be restored.”
It is easy to sit several thousand kilometres away and reduce the issue in Guadeloupe to looting and night-time fires. It is easy…but the truth is different.
So, the workers and youth of Guadeloupe supposedly don’t have any demands? On September 2, the alliance of trade unions and grassroots organizations of Guadeloupe submitted a long list of 32 demands, which are reproduced in full in this issue of La Tribune des Travailleurs. Specific demands in which many workers in “mainland France” will recognise their own demands. Demands that have been sitting for four months on the desk of a Prefect who isn’t bothering to give the slightest response, let alone open the slightest negotiation.
So then, who is provoking an explosive situation? Who is lighting the fuse? Who is sparking things off?
There is, of course, a specific aspect to Guadeloupe: a colonial-type situation. The population has a legitimate distrust of a French state that is the heir to a long history of slavery prolonged by colonial oppression and repression. Everyone remembers the special treatment reserved in recent decades for the Guadeloupean people, who were poisoned by chlordecone, a pesticide that was banned in the United States in 1977, but only in 1993 in Guadeloupe and Martinique!
But, beyond this specificity, it is the same government that – in both Paris and Pointe-à-Pitre (2) – is refusing any negotiation on the demands and is using the weapon of repression instead of dialogue. It is the government that is responsible for the situation. It is Macron who is lighting the fuse, sparking things off and setting the fires.
To which the workers and people of Guadeloupe, acting in self-defence, have responded with a general strike. This is now also on the agenda in Martinique. Since the policy of the French government is fundamentally the same on both sides of the Atlantic, would it not be legitimate, normal and logical for all the organizations claiming to be part of the labour and democratic movement to unite their efforts and emphasise the indispensable duty of solidarity with the working class, youth and people of Guadeloupe?
Furthermore, the general strike declared there against the Macron government puts this question on the agenda here. Sooner or later, the united mobilisation of the workers and their organizations to win the urgent demands of working people will drive from power this Fifth Republic of arsonists that only serves the interests of the capitalist class.
(1) Translator’s note: Guadeloupe, like Martinique, is one of France’s five “overseas departments and regions”, which have the same status as mainland France’s 18 regions and 96 départements, the two administrative levels above the local communes.
(2) Translator’s note: Although not Guadeloupe’s administrative capital, Pointe-à-Pitre is the region’s largest city and economic capital, as well as the location of Guadeloupe’s main international airport.
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Contribution on the Indigenous Question in Canada
(Reprinted from Bulletin No. 16 — Fall 2021 – of the Liaison Committee of Trotskyists in Canada – OCRFI)
Beginning this year, September 30 has been celebrated as a “Day of Truth and Reconciliation,” a public holiday in Canada, following the “discovery” of thousands of secret graves of indigenous students in the grounds of former residential schools.
The indigenous question is directly linked to the implantation of the settlers in this country during the period of the rise of capitalism which sank into imperialist barbarism since the end of the 19th century and in which all current world developments take place. Under the Constitution Act of 1982, the First Nations (Amerindian communities), Métis, and Inuit constitute the Indigenous peoples of Canada. According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, there are 634 First Nations (977,230 people) in this country using more than 50 distinct languages.
The Early History
The Inuit are a group of people with a common ethnic origin living in the arctic regions of North America: Greenland, Canada (65,025, Statistics Canada, 2016) and the United States. It should be noted that the French and British settlers came from patriarchal societies, and their unions with indigenous women gave birth to a third category of indigenous populations, the Métis. There are 587,545 Metis, according to the same census. These peoples (1,673,785 people, or 4.9% of the national population) are spread across the entire Canadian territory with a relatively large concentration in the provinces of Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba.
The Amerindian and Inuit peoples are established throughout Canada with their own languages, cultures, religious practices. and traditions. These communities implement their own productive techniques and their own means of exchange using a vast network of rivers and paths. They practice whaling, fishing and hunting, produce furs, manufacture and distribute pottery, especially among the Iroquoian and Algonquin tribes.
The first contacts with Europeans in North America at the end of the 16th century began with the exchange of furs carried out with coastal tribes and the French and the English for European products such as metal objects, knives, weapons, axes, pots, jewelry, etc. Jacques Cartier, French navigator and explorer on a mission in the service of the King of France, François Ier, approached the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1534, explored and traded furs with the Iroquois in this territory he named Canada.
Colonization therefore occurs with the end of the 16th century on the east coast; trade intensifies and penetrates the interior. And very quickly, the settlers began to claim land, which led to violent conflicts with the Amerindian communities. Consequently, on vast territories, the conquerors, in this war of expropriation of the Amerindians, pushed back the latter towards sites unsuitable for the colonists and, often, regrouped them in reserves, which upset the way of life of these peoples, driven from their natural setting with their specific mode of existence.
During this time, rivalries were generated by the fur trade, in particular in the Great Lakes, where the colonists distributed weapons to tribes to enjoy the support of these against others. For example, the Iroquois were the enemies of the Wendat and the Algonquins, who were allied with the French. Between 1640 and 1701, tribes of the Iroquois League crushed the Wendat, Tionontati, and Erie with weapons they obtained from Dutch fur traders. Also, wars of resistance against the colonists developed; in 1701, the English, the French and 39 tribal chiefs signed a peace treaty.
Many European capitalist powers came into conflict in search of sharing the American booty with their own Amerindian policies: Spain (from 1789 to 1810, on the west coast), France (from 1604 to 1763), the United Kingdom (from 1607 to 1867/1931) and Russia (from 1741 to 1867, in Alaska), and secondarily the Netherlands (1624-1664 in New York, formerly New Amsterdam), Sweden (1638-55 in Delaware) and Denmark (Greenland, since 1721). The capitalist powers in conflict often found in various Amerindian tribes direct allies and sometimes enemies linked to the other camp. For example, a few tribal chiefs succeeded in building a veritable business empire on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The Kwakwaka’wakw and Haida tribes further north made many slaves in their rapine raids.
In this context, France lost its hold over North America in 1758 in the Ohio Valley and in 1761 in Quebec. Moreover, the conflict between the French and the British was resolved at the end of the Seven Years’ War, while possible conflicts on the west coast were smoothed out by the sale of Fort Ross to the British in 1841 and the purchase of Alaska by the Americans in 1867. In these conflicts between the capitalist powers for the conquest of markets, the United States, independent since July 4, 1776 following the Revolutionary War against the British, bought Louisiana from France and, moreover, waged a war against the British and their Native American allies in Canada from 1812 to 1814, which led to new border demarcations between the two North American entities. In these areas, the great powers have implemented very different Indian policies.
With regard to Canada, the British Crown took administrative control of the indigenous peoples through the monopoly of the Hudson’s Bay Company, founded in 1670 and whose commercial interests were built on the basis of agreements with and between Indian tribes.
Under Governor James Douglas, the Hudson’s Bay Company established and maintained British authority in the north and 14 treaties were made with tribes on Vancouver Island which are still valid today. But, from 1857, the province of Canada abandoned its recognition of the Indian communities as partners with equal rights. This was formalized by the Act to Encourage Gradual Civilization, which aimed to promote cultural assimilation of Indian peoples.
Under this law, a 21-year-old French- or English-speaking Indian with elementary education, deemed to be of good character and without debt, could be declared emancipated or ceased to be considered an Indian. The constitutional law of 1867 gave the Canadian government the exclusive authority to legislate on “Indians and lands reserved for the Indians,” this to facilitate access to mineral wealth, the construction of roads, industrial plants, electric power lines, dam lakes, etc.
Thus, the Canadian government continued the installation of settlers and the exploitation of resources present in regions of Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba. Ontario, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, etc.
By the Act of 1876, the Indian Act, prohibited First Nations members and communities from expressing their cultural identity and replaced traditional structures of governance with the election of band councils. In 1982, the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) was created, aiming to “protect the rights of the First Nations and, in particular, to assert aboriginal and treaty rights” (Charter of the Assembly of First Nations, 1985).
In reality, these structures and their leaders are transmission belts of the federal government through the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, which has been split, since 2017 into two, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).
The Recent History
The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century were marked by amendments relating to the schools and religion of the First Nations.
The law forced the children of these communities to attend Native residential schools, the last establishment of which closed in 1996! Recall that this boarding school system was created and extended to the whole country by the Canadian government under the leadership of Duncan Campbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent at the Department of Indian Affairs, the very one who gave the content and the aim of this policy. In 1918, he declared: “I want to free ourselves from the Indian problem. In fact, I do not believe that the country should protect a social class which can act in a distinct way … . Our aim is to continue our efforts until there are no Indians left in Canada who have not been absorbed into the political system and there is no longer an Indian question or Indian ministry.” (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Amendments to the law after World War II (1939-1945) and often in the form of treaties allowed First Nations peoples to practice their religion and present their land claims in court. They give women the right to vote in band council elections. But women could lose their Indian status if they married a non-Indian man.
In 1969, the government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau argued that all First Nations people should lose their Indian status and assimilate completely into Canadian society; but the anger and the strong opposition of the First Nations push backed Trudeau. Later, in the 1980s, under pressure from various currents and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the same government introduced new amendments to the Indian Act and granted Indian status to those to whom it had been refused. Remember that the Indian status card grants its holder rights and benefits such as housing, education and exemption from federal, provincial and territorial taxes under special conditions.
It is a fact that indigenous peoples as a whole live a very difficult socioeconomic situation, linked moreover to the conditions of discrimination and racism compared to non-indigenous populations. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, “the socio-economic conditions of First Nations (as well as Indigenous peoples in general) are affected by the forced disruption of their cultural traditions, social inequality, prejudice and discrimination.” This is moreover recognized and established by various studies and surveys (Canadian Center for Justice Statistics, Canadian Native Women’s Association, Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Upstream Institute, etc.).
Also, the Directory of the Department of Public Information of October 12, (2021) indicates:
“Rooted in social and economic problems for centuries, legal discrimination against indigenous communities is a serious problem that requires innovative solutions.” For example, in terms of health, these populations are more exposed than others to disease. According to a Radio Canada survey (August 4, 2021), in Manitoba, the median age of COVID-19-related deaths is 80 years for non-natives, but 63 for Indigenous people. In this sense also, the Minister of Indigenous Services, Marc Miller, emphasizes that “Indigenous people are three to five times more likely to contract COVID- 19 due to their living conditions, overcrowding of housing and other determinants of socioeconomic health ...” Moreover, in the field of labor, the ILO conventions relating to indigenous and tribal populations, the first of 1957 and the second of 1989 have not been ratified by Canada. All this is happening in spite of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms!
Resistance on the Rise
During all these processes related to the exploitation and oppression of this sector of the working class and indigenous peoples, resistance has grown across the country. Organizations, many of which have extensions in the United States and vice versa, have been created to defend the rights of indigenous peoples: Allied Tribes of British Columbia (ATBC), Indian Rights Association, Interior Tribes of British Columbia, Indian Rights Association, Indian Defence League of America, National Indian Brotherhood, Indigenous Council of Canada- Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), Dakota Ojibway and Nisga’a Council, among others.
Today, as in the past, mass uprisings for the self-defense of indigenous peoples and for their rights are recurrent and often even lead to clashes with the police forces and the Canadian army, including arrests and deaths.
Here are some current examples.
From July 11 to September 20, 1990, mobilization of Mohawks in Kahnawake (Montreal), one of the Hodenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations, for the defense of their territorial rights;
In 1995, the Secwepemc uprising in British Columbia over the Gustafsen Lake land claim;
From 1999 to 2002, clashes in New Brunswick, at Burnt Church, between natives and non-natives on the issue of the lobster fishery;
Uprising of the Wet’suwet’en in February 2020 against the construction, in their traditional territory, of a gas pipeline in northeastern British Columbia by the Coastal GasLink, which resulted in blockades of Via Rail trains (Montreal-Ottawa -Toronto) by the Mohwaks of the Tyendinaga reserve in solidarity with this movement;
In 2013, 2017, 2020 and 2021: Pacheedaht, Wet’suwet’en Indigenous peoples and environmental activists built dams and camps in Fairy Creek, British Columbia. This movement stood firm against the logging of forests by multinational forestry companies (including Teal Jones) and fought for the defense of the cultural rights of indigenous peoples, sovereignty over their lands, and the defense of the environment.
As of September 18, 2021, the police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have arrested 1,020 people. Radio- Canada (September 10, 2021) reported that this is the largest peaceful civil disobedience movement in Canadian history.
The Indigenous Peoples and the Fight for Working-Class Unity and Independence
The Liberal Party and the Conservative Party are the two historically dominant bourgeois parties in Canada. It is these parties that directly ensure the class domination of the bourgeoisie in Canada which accesses the world market through U.S. imperialism with the political blessing of the British Crown. It is these parties which, directly again, lead policies of denial or even destruction of the democratic, territorial, cultural, economic and social rights of indigenous peoples.
By way of “denouncing” the so-called assimilation policy, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the government in 2008 in this way: “Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation has caused great harm. and has no place in our country. “
Let us recall that in the residential schools for indigenous children torn from their parents, a system set up by the federal government and executed by the Christian churches, these children suffered physical, sexual and psychological violence and various deprivations. Several thousand of them perished, some of tuberculosis and others were outright murdered and buried in mass graves and in absolute secrecy.
In the face of the commotion over the beginnings of the “discovery” of some of these graves in 2021, the Catholic Church was prompted to apologize as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed acknowledgement of the “guilt of the nation.” In the process, the government announced (June 21, 2021) that 100 Wellington Street in Ottawa will become a space for indigenous peoples. It also instituted the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, now celebrated on September 30 of each year. And on July 26, 2021, it appointed as Governor General of Canada, the first person of Indigenous descent to hold this position, Mary Simon, of Inuit descent (The Governor General is the representative of the British Crown in Canada and Commander-in-Chief of Canadian armed forces. The King or Queen of Great Britain is the Head of State of Canada.)
The problems facing indigenous peoples cannot be solved by expressing “sorrow or” “apologies” – or by establishing a date or place of remembrance or by these appointments! It is true that the indigenous peoples of Canada live under specific conditions of exploitation and oppression by Capital during the era of imperialism, of decaying capitalism.
In this country, a political party called the First Peoples National Party of Canada (FPNPC), was formed. The proclaimed objective of this party was the achievement and fulfillment of the rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada. In its program, we can read this: “The FPNPC believes that the future of Canada depends on the recognition and respectability of the place of First Nations peoples in the governance of this country” (party website).
For that, the party nominated candidates for election in constituencies with large concentrations of indigenous populations, and in the 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections its list won 0.01%, 0.01% and 0.002% of the vote, respectively. FPNPC was founded in 2004 and was strick off the ballot on July 5, 2013.
The conditions of the Indigenous peoples in Canada are the result of the crisis of imperialism destroying the conquests, the democratic gains, the cultural identity of these peoples, expropriating them and stripping them of all sovereignty over their lands in the name of capitalist profit. Imperialism can only survive through the massive destruction of the productive forces and in this effort it enjoys the support from the traditional leadership of the working class.
The fact is that the demands and aspirations of Indigenous peoples cannot be dissociated from those of workers. In this country there are two traditional parties of the working class which speak on behalf of the working class. The first, the Communist Party of Canada, does not have a mass base ; it only appears during federal elections and its electoral platform does not contain any reference to the Indigenous question. The second, the New Democratic Party (NDP) founded by and rooted in the labor unions and claiming to be social-democratic, is, for the time being, the only mass workers’ party in North America.
Occupying the fourth position in the House of Commons at the end of the federal elections of September 2021, the NDP, as a bourgeois workers’ party, campaigns in Indigenous communities as in any other place to obtain their votes. Since 1961, the year of its creation (succeeding the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation founded in 1932), the NDP controlled until 2019, provincial and territorial governments 17 times; it has led at least once the governments of the following entities: British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Yukon Territory. But it has not solved a single one of the problems of Indigenous people or the working class.
The claims and aspirations of the Indigenous peoples of Canada are linked to the demands of the working class. This contribution has attempted to show that these peoples constitute one of the most exploited and oppressed layers of this country; they suffered historical trauma linked to British and French colonization during the period of the rise of capitalism and the current era of imperialism, the expropriation of their lands and territorial sovereignty, cultural oppression, the genocides, mistreatment and discrimination of all kinds, and socio-economic deprivation.
All these questions cannot be solved within the framework of capitalism. On the agenda arises the need for the expropriation of the expropriators and to put an end to the “order” imposed by U.S. imperialism through NAFTA 2.0. It requires putting an end to the rotten regime of private property in the means of production and satisfying the cultural, political and socio-economic aspirations and rights of indigenous peoples, the demands of all oppressed and exploited strata of society, and the working class. This raises the urgency of the Sovereign Constituent Assembly in every province and territory to meet the needs of the working masses and the youth. This in turn raises the need for the struggle for the class independence of workers’ organizations (parties, unions), a task that falls within the objective of reconstituting the Fourth International for the proletarian revolution.
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