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Philippines: BWI condemns murder of Trade Union Organizer

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: BWI
Categories: Labor News

Book Review: A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis, The New Press (2018)

ILWU - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:23

The assault on American workers by employers, government and the courts has increased recently, making it more difficult to organize and negotiate contracts, At the same time, sympathy toward unions from the general public has also increased – along with growing support for some strikes. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME makes it harder for public sector unions to collect dues. The court decision marked a 70-year effort by the National Right to Work Foundation to weaken unions, funded by billionaires who hate unions.

Their victory contrasts with the recent wave of teacher strikes earlier this year in West Virginia, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Kentucky. These strikes occurred in so-called “right to work” states, where workers in the private-sector have few rights and strikes by public workers, are illegal. These are the same conditions that existed 100 years ago, prior to the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

A new book by historian Erik Loomis, A History of America in Ten Strikes, gives historical context to the current labor movement. The book is one-part introduction to labor history and one-part introduction to the history of America as made and experienced by the working class.

“The workplace is a site where people struggle for power,” Loomis writes, and his book places that conflict at the center for an understanding of American history. Loomis notes that work is one of the few experiences that tie people together. “Fighting for better wages and conditions unites workers across industries and generations,” he says.

Each of the ten chapters are framed around one major strike. The strikes are laid out chronologically, starting with the organizing by workers in the mills of Lowell, MA in the 1830s and 1840’s, that was led by women when America was beginning to industrialize—and ending with the immigrant-led Justice for Janitors campaign of the 1980s and 1990s. In between, Loomis discusses many of the country’s most famous strikes, including the Flint Sit-Down of 1936-1937 and the most successful strike in American history—the self-emancipation of the millions of enslaved people during the Civil War.

One could argue about which strikes are spotlighted and which are not—the 1934 West Coast longshore strike gets only a few pages. But these “ten strikes” are only a window that Loomis used to view the historical and economic context surrounding each strike. It is here that Loomis really shines by giving readers a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing workers and the complex political and social landscape that workers were organizing in.

For Loomis, workers are not mere spectators to history who are shaped by forces beyond their control. He sees workers as political and economic actors who shape the world around them, and Loomis does it without romanticizing the history of working class struggle.

Working class movements have long struggled with their own internal divisions based on racial, ethnic, gender and craft differences – which is a recurring theme in the book. While many of these divisions have been exploited by employers to weaken labor movements, Loomis notes that many workers and unions have willingly embraced and maintained these divisions. While exceptions exist, such as the ILWU’s push of racial integration in the 1930s, other unions openly supported Jim Crow segregation in their locals and promoted anti-immigrant legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Racist and nativist sentiments, lack of democratic practices and corruption have all worked to undermine the strength of the labor movement. Loomis doesn’t avoid this dark history, but shows how rank-and-file movements have risen to fight discrimination and promote democratic reforms.

Another theme that emerges in A History of America in Ten Strikes, is the importance of political action by workers in order to neutralize government-employer alliances. From the beginning of industrialization, employers have used the courts, legislature, police, military and private security and mercenary forces to crush strikes and unions.

“There is simply no evidence from American history that unions can succeed if the government and employers combine to crush them,” Loomis writes. The chance of success for labor struggle increases dramatically if the state remains neutral and doesn’t put its finger on the scale in favor or the employer. Loomis continues, “After decades of struggle, in the 1930s, a new era of government passed labor legislation that gave workers the right to organize, the minimum wage, and other pillars of dignified work for the first time. While employers’ power never waned in the halls of government, the growing power of unions neutralized the worst corporate attacks until the 1980s.”

Members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) would learn this lesson in dramatic fashion when Ronald Reagan fired over 12,000 air traffic controllers during an illegal strike in 1981. The crushing of that strike ushered in a new era of attacks on organized labor.

Ironically, PATCO had endorsed Reagan during the 1980 election, despite his anti-union record. Their faulty assessment ended in a catastrophe. Loomis is clear that politicians won’t lead the charge to protect workers. That’s up to the working class, who must take collective action to challenge employer power. Now we’re living in times like the 1920s with extreme inequalities of wealth and corporate power at the expense of workers. Loomis’s book argues that our only hope is to challenge this new “Gilded Age” by building inclusive, democratic unions that understand how the government can be leveraged to benefit the working class.

Categories: Unions

John Fisher, Jr. is still diggin’ the downbeat

ILWU - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 15:37

Thirty-five years ago, Fisher was still working on the docks as a Local 34 Clerk while playing at San Francisco jazz clubs, including three nights a week at Pasand’s on Union street that featured music in front and Indian food in the back. He recalls columnist
Herb Caen being a regular customer who sat by the window with a cocktail and listened to their band, called “Classax.”

Thanks to the ILWU, I’ve been able to pursue my passion as a jazz musician with performances in the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world.

Learning from jazz giants

My love for music – especially jazz – began at a young age. My Dad was a Local 34 Ship’s Clerk who drew cargo plans mostly at the Oakland Army Base in the 1950’s and 60’s. He would go down to Melrose Records in San Francisco’s Fillmore District and buy Jazz and Blues records. He loved Lionel Hampton’s Band. I remember learning to play jazz brushes to those old 78’s. The musicians who inspired me back then included Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Gene Krupa and Cozy Cole. I took lessons with some of the great musicians and studied music theory. I still practice on my drums every day. I remember how nervous I was when I first performed on stage, singing with the St. Dominic’s Boy’s Choir when I was 7 years old.

Unions helped musicians

In 1969, I became a registered member of Ship Clerks Local 34. I put a second union card in my wallet a year later when I joined Local 6 of the American Federation of Musicians. The good pay and flexible work schedule on the docks allowed me to perform and tour with bands in the U.S. and Europe. When we played Bay Area clubs in the 1970’s, most of those venues had union contracts with good wages. There were so many clubs then in San Francisco with great jazz, including The Blackhawk, Both And, the The Jazz Workshop, El Matador and Keystone Korner, just to name a few. My band was at the Starlight Roof of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel for over 2 years. One especially memorable performance was a gig with the legendary trumpeter, Chet Baker.

Change in wrong direction

When I retired from the ILWU in 2007, I couldn’t wait to get back into the music full-time and play in my favorite clubs again. What I found on the scene was far different from what I left behind a few decades before. A “race to the bottom” had turned the local music scene upside down for performers.

Collective Bargaining Agreements for musicians in nightclubs had mostly disappeared. I learned that members of the Musicians Union found themselves struggling on hard times, just like other union beginning in the 1980’s – when President Ronald Reagan declared war on unions by crushing a strike led by PATCO – the Professional Air Traffic Controller’s Union. Unlike steel factories and auto plants, our music clubs didn’t move to Mexico or China, but musicians faced working conditions that were sub-standard and non-union.

Musicians barely scrape by

Jazz is still being played today in San Francisco for audiences in bars, restaurants, and coffee houses. But instead of getting paid union scale, musicians have to beg with tip jars. You’re lucky today to get a free sandwich or an occasional meal and a beer.

It’s not unusual for good jazz musicians to leave a gig with $40 or $60 in their pocket – and on an exceptional night, it might be $100 bucks. The Musician’s Union is still maintaining good contracts at large city symphonies and opera houses, but most of the smaller clubs and venues no longer have union contracts. Even the famed S.F. Jazz Center in San Francisco is not yet a union house – despite spending $41 million on a new building and raising an impressive annual budget from many large and small donors.

New tech benefits big biz

Another difference today is the way new technology is impacting the music industry. We have the ability to share our music and interact with loyal fans through live-streaming, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media platforms. We also have to contend with apps like Spotify that give away our music for free to the public with little or no compensation for musicians. Just like the rest of society, big corporations and Wall Street seem to be the ones who profit most from new technology.

Cool union project

One of the real bright spots that I’m excited about is an organization called “Jazz in the Neighborhood.” This group is lining-up local venues who promise to pay fair wages for musicians who perform there. The organization also raises funds to help underwrite those venues and ensure musicians will be paid fairly. It’s important to note that this project is endorsed and supported by the Musicians Union, because they recognize how important it is to help the larger group of unorganized musicians who extend beyond the narrow ranks of union members in the symphony and opera.

Fisher is now a veteran jazz drummer with five decades of performing under his belt. Flexible work on the docks allowed him and other artists to pursue multiple careers.

Jazz in the Neighborhood

In the Bay Area, you can support “fair wages for musicians” by patronizing clubs such as Bird and Becket in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights, the Marin Outdoor Market, and Boutiki in San Jose. The Jazz School in Berkeley also has performances that pay fair wages by cooperating with “Jazz in the Neighborhood.” Check out their website and go out to see some live music in your neighborhood that also provides fair wages to the performers.

Health care & pensions for all

Over the years, I can’t tell you how many fundraising concerts I’ve attended or performed at to help great jazz musicians who are facing serious illnesses and crushing medical bills without any health insurance. As an ILWU Longshore Division pensioner, I share the same medical benefits that the active ILWU members do, and give thanks every day for the rank-and-file struggles and sacrifices that made it possible. I’m also proud to belong to a union that believes everyone in America– the richest nation in the history of the world – has a right to good health care and a decent retirement.

Groovin’ high

Because I belonged to two unions, I sometimes joked that “my pocketbook was in Local 34, and my heart was in Musicians’ Local 6.” Now, more than ever, I appreciate how the ILWU made it possible for me to continue my lifelong passion for music. So next time you see me playing on the bandstand with my fellow musicians, you’ll know why I’m smiling when we hit a heavy groove.

Categories: Unions

ILWU honorary member Paul Robeson memorialized at Rutgers University

ILWU - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 11:26

New friends: Kendall Hall is head of the Rutgers African American Alumni Alliance.
She contacted the ILWU to support the initiative. The ILWU contributed to the
Paul Robeson Plaza memorial and International President Willie Adams sent Local
10 Pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux to attend the dedication. “I’m so grateful for the
chance to meet Lawrence and learn more about the ILWU,” she says.

One hundred years ago, a remarkable young man graduated from Rutgers University in the spring of 1919. At the time, Paul Leroy Robeson was only the third African-American allowed to enroll in the New Jersey campus during its 150-year existence. Robeson entered with an academic scholarship and left the university as class valedictorian. He went on to become one of America’s most celebrated and controversial public figures of the 20th Century.

Man of many gifts

Robeson achieved extraordinary success as a scholar. He was fluent in Greek and Latin, and had a command of classic literature. He was a two-time All-American athlete and gifted operatic and popular singer. He graduated from Columbia University Law School while simultaneously playing for the NFL. He astonished audiences with his knowledge of 20 languages and was a gifted Shakespearean actor. A devoted social activist, he was also an honorary lifetime member of the ILWU.

Despite all these and other astounding accomplishments, Robeson died in relative obscurity – due to the color of his skin and his unwavering devotion to unions, the working class and dreams of a more just society – causes that made him a target for vicious attacks during most of his life.

Honors & praise

A century after graduating, Robeson’s accomplishments and struggles were finally honored on April 12, 2019, with the dedication of “Paul Robeson Plaza” at the Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick, NJ. The ILWU joined other organizations and individuals who donated funds for the project that features panels of black granite, etched with descriptions of Robeson’s achievements – along with details of the many barriers that he encountered.

“We want a new generation of young people to understand this great man who was unfairly pushed to the margins of history,” said ILWU Local 10 Pensioner Lawrence Thibeaux, the ILWU’s official representative who attended the dedication at the request of International President Willie Adams.

“Paul Robeson is among the greatest of the hundreds of thousands of Rutgers alumni – simply one of the greatest,” said Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who added that the University is now undertaking a painful but necessary examination of the many ways that centuries of racism have impacted New Jersey’s leading public university. Robeson’s granddaughter, Susan, also spoke at the dedication, noting that her grandfather surprised many by becoming more passionate about unions, social justice, and civil rights as he grew more famous, wealthy and accomplished as a singer and actor.

New generation steps-up

Seven-year-old Kristopher Dabrowski from Woodbridge, NJ views Paul Robeson Plaza on Voorhees Mall.

Perhaps the most important attendees were Rutgers students from the class of 1971, along with members of the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance. The groups pushed hard for the Robeson memorial, overcoming occasional resistance, and raising money for the effort. Former student leader Jim Savage, who Chairs the Class of 1971 Paul Robeson Milestone Project, played a key role, as did former student Claude White, who serves as the 1971 Class President.

“We hope Robeson Plaza will inspire future generations to take a stand against all forms of injustice,” said Savage, who is credited with conceiving the memorial and involving others to join the effort.

The power of Robeson’s legacy to inspire new generations was confirmed earlier this year when Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi told a Rutgers audience that today’s civil rights movement wouldn’t be possible without Paul Robeson and Martin Luther King Jr. “Robeson is so important because he paved the way for us to have a global perspective on our movements,” she said.

The man and his times

Robeson’s mother, Maria, was blind and died in a house fire when he was six-years-old. His father, William, was born a slave in 1845 and escaped from a plantation as a teenager. Armed with a fierce hunger for knowledge, the father secured two advanced degrees after the Civil War, studied and mastered ancient Greek and Latin, plus classical literature and philosophy – knowledge that he shared with his five children, including Paul, who was born in 1898.

Revolution and repression

When Robeson graduated from Rutgers in 1919, the world had just been turned-upside by the Russian Revolution in 1917 and First World War that ended the following year. The overthrow of an aristocratic regime by a new working class inspired Robeson and many Americans – along with millions around the world – to embrace the promise of a democratic state run by and for workers that would end racism, hunger, and war. The Russian Revolution also fueled a bitter backlash by conservatives and anti-union business leaders who feared something similar could spread to America. They launched a vicious crackdown on unions, civil rights leaders and socialists. The FBI’s J.Edgar Hoover rose quickly through the rank while attacking “the red menace.” During the same time, membership in the Ku Klux Klan exploded, along with lynchings and other horrors that the organization promoted.

Bridges and Robeson

Robeson recognized: ILWU International Union President Harry Bridges presented an honorary ILWU membership to Paul Roberson in 1944, recognizing his service to humanity and the working class.

Across the globe in Australia, the Russian Revolution inspired Harry Bridges who was just 16 in 1917. He left home that year to work at sea before entering America in 1920. Both men lived their entire lives believing that the Soviet Union was a beacon of hope for workers – and both paid heavily for their views during the Cold War. Bridges and Robeson were charged separately with being Communists, which was a crime until courts overturned the laws decades later. Bridges overcame three decades of government efforts to jail and deport him. Robeson was “blacklisted” from working on film, radio, television or theaters. His recordings were removed from store shelves and movies weren’t shown. The government revoked his passport and banned him from traveling abroad. When his travel ban was finally lifted, the FBI and State Department orchestrated a smear campaign to ruin his reputation at home and abroad.

Honored by the ILWU

In 1943, Harry Bridges led International Convention delegates and Executive Board members to unanimously grant Robeson a lifetime honorary ILWU membership for his “steadfast devotion and service to the cause of democracy and to the economic and cultural advancement of all peoples.”

Robeson was especially honored for his support of sugar cane workers in Hawaii who were organizing and joining the ILWU to improve conditions. Another ILWU honorary membership was granted at the same time to the famous artist and activist Rockwell Kent, who illustrated the first issue of The Dispatcher, in December 1942, and remained an ILWU supporter his entire life. Like Robeson, Kent was also persecuted by the government for his political views and had his foreign travel rights revoked. Kent later won a 1958 case before the Supreme Court that overturned the travel bans.

Persecution takes a toll

Decades of persecution, beginning before WWII, took a heavy toll on Robeson. In 1961 he attempted suicide by cutting his wrists while traveling abroad. His recovery took several months and was plagued by severe depression that was treated in Europe with heavy drugs and electroconvulsive “shock” therapy. He returned to the U.S. in 1963 where he lived in seclusion. He briefly considered joining the Civil Rights movement but refused because it would have required him to renounce his political support for the Soviet Union. A Carnegie Hall tribute was held on his 75th birthday that he was unable to attend, sending a taped message instead: “I want you to know that I am the same Paul, dedicated as ever to the worldwide causes of humanity for freedom, peace, and brotherhood.” He died in 1976.

“Everyone here knows that Robeson was a ‘renaissance man’ in the truest sense of the word,” said Lawrence Thibeaux. “He is remembered for many things, but we in the ILWU remember him for his elegant outspokenness on the rights of working people. Robeson may have achieved fame on many fronts, but for us, he is most famous for being a Union Brother.”

Categories: Unions

Workers win organizing victory at Pier 80 in San Francisco

ILWU - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 10:34

Proof in hand: Austin Vann, who
works at Pier 80 in San Francisco, holds
the official NLRB document showing
a majority of co-workers voted to join
the ILWU.

Workers who prepare and process Tesla vehicles on San Francisco’s Pier 80 for shipment to Asia voted to join the ILWU in an election held on May 29 and certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in June.
The effort dates back to a more ambitious plan envisioned by terminal operator Pasha in 2016, when
Ford planned to import Mexican-built cars for sale to the U.S. – an effort that would have employed
80-100 workers. Poor vehicle sales killed the project after just a few deliveries.

That left Tesla as the remaining customer with enough business to employ 16 workers, including Austin
Vann, who served as an election observer for his new union. Workers have elected Vann and Henry Ormeno to serve on the Bargaining Committee, and they will now prepare for negotiating their first contract.

An effort by the Teamsters union to represent the same group of workers fell short when the votes were counted, as did an earlier effort by Teamster officials who arranged for Pasha workers from San Diego to
pose as San Francisco employees. The Teamsters backed-down from that strategy after the ILWU filed charges with the NLRB.

Categories: Unions

ILWU Canada longshore workers reach tentative contract agreement

ILWU - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 09:55

Tentative Agreement: ILWU Canada longshore workers reached a tentative agreement with the British Columbia Maritime Employers’ Association after a brief lockout on May 30. The agreement will be now be sent to the ILWU Canada longshore locals for discussion and a ratification vote.

Eighteen months of difficult negotiations concluded on May 30 with a tentative agreement between ILWU Canada longshore workers and the British Columbia Maritime Employers’ Association (BCMEA).

The proposed contract covers almost 7,000 dockworkers employed at Vancouver, Prince Rupert and other ports.

The settlement followed an all-night negotiating session and early morning employer lockout that was imposed by the BCMEA. Employers closed the nation’s west coast ports for the day shift, but operations resumed that night. ILWU picket lines lasted between five minutes to three hours, depending on the location.

“Reaching this agreement required discipline and unity from the membership, and they delivered on both,” said ILWU Canada President Rob Ashton, who also thanked the Negotiating Committee for their hard work and determination.

Details of the agreement won’t be released until a ratification vote later this month, but Ashton said the package included what he described as, “fair language in the collective bargaining agreement around automation.” Ashton thanked the ILWU International and International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) for their expressions of solidarity, along with support from a range of Canadian unions.

As The Dispatcher was going to press, “stop-work” membership meetings were being organized atLongshore locals to discuss the tentative agreement and answer questions prior to the ratification vote that will be announced by the end of June.

Categories: Unions

Korea (South): KCTU leader Kim Myeong-hwan arrested in probe on violent rallies

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/20/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Yonhap
Categories: Labor News

Australia: Government steps up attacks on working people and their unions

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/20/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ACTU
Categories: Labor News

Global: ITUC Global Rights Index 2019: Democracy in crisis

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 06/18/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

USA: AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka laughs at Trump's suggestion unions love new trade deal

Labourstart.org News - Mon, 06/17/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Politico
Categories: Labor News

Congo-Brazzaville: Ebola Outbreak Spreads: Need for Further Action

Labourstart.org News - Sat, 06/15/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: PSI
Categories: Labor News

Middle East: ITF and JNG respond to potential attacks on two tankers in Gulf of Oman

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/14/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITF
Categories: Labor News

Hong Kong: ITUC condemns brutal suppression of protests in Hong Kong

Labourstart.org News - Fri, 06/14/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUF
Categories: Labor News

Switzerland: Time to fix the world of work as women take to the streets in Switzerland

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 06/13/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: ITUC
Categories: Labor News

Colombia: Colombia: increasing violence against union leaders

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 06/12/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL
Categories: Labor News

Iran: Female labor activists remain in jail after 40 days

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 06/12/2019 - 17:00
LabourStart headline - Source: NCRI
Categories: Labor News


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