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(en) Industrial Worker - Official Newspaper Of the Wrkers Of the World IV.

Date Sun, 18 Jun 2006 12:41:22 +0300

Si Se Puede to Si Se Pudo: Changing a Moment into a Movement By ADAM WELch, DEB Ug
In this profound moment of worldwide doubt in leaders and governments,
a wave of day laborers, cooks, janitors and high school students have
suddenly become a powerful force.
This past week of marches and walkouts in protest of HR 4437 was as
beautiful as it was significant. Optimism was high returning from the
March 25 journey across San Jose and back. The chant was no longer "Si
se puede," but "Si se pudo" or "Yes, we did it!" Over the next week
students made their own mark as they defied administrations, marching
from school to school to spread their walkouts as well.
May 1 will be the next day of protest,
boycotts and even worker strikes ­ a tradi-
tion called "paros civicos" in Mexico's social
movement. But as we ready for the next storm
of protest, could the fire of the movement
leave as quickly as the spark was lit?
Many are taken back seeing thousands of
ordinary people marching in the streets and
parents chuckle as they hear of high school
students organizing through myspace.com.
But being a labor organizer over the years,
I've had the chance to find myself standing
side by side in everyday people's movements
­ though never one with such attention or
Whether it was Vietnamese newspaper
delivery drivers in San Jose or Mexican and
Sikh Indian truck drivers who spread their
work stoppages across the West Coast using
Nextel walkie-talkies, all took brave
risks and were expressions of fleeting
moments of collective power. Some-
times they've known this taste in dis-
tant homelands, but often never on the
soil of their new home in America.
But as soon as that charged mo-
ment passed, and quicker than a vic-
tory could be celebrated, the powers
that be would begin working to whittle
the gains away. Leaders would not be
fired right after a successful strike, but
eventually pushed out once things re-
turned to what passes for normal.
As hundreds of thousands and maybe
more will be taking to the streets, right now
victory looks within reach. The result of the
battle could be the opening of the door to
millions gaining the rights of citizenship but
it could set the stage for even further anti-
immigrant reaction. Or maybe worse, though
the laws are changed, the movement comes
to an end and the people become a footnote
to the day when a politician signs a bill in
Washington, D.C.
The people have the spotlight now, but
will the movement be able to move beyond
this moment? What has been unleashed is
something new, powerful and which previ-
ously was just as invisible as the people who
make up the movement ­ but these actors
need to decide what is next.
May Day: International Workers' Day
May Day ­ Our Labor Day! May Day, when nature, herself in revolt against the trammels
of the ice and cold, with sun and earth in harmony, preaches the gospel of progress! .... True,
our masters have given one day a year as a day for Labor. We, the militants of labor, want no
day contaminated and disgraced by legal sanction.
Your Labor Day means the perpetuation of capitalism; ours means its overthrow. Your
Labor Day symbolizes the enslavement of the workers; ours their approaching liberation.
Your Labor Day .... means nationalism, division of the workers; ours means internationalism
­ the solidarity of the workers of the world. Your Labor Day shadows the past of tears and
blood; ours is the future. ...
The songs we sing ... sound the might of a class. We are confined to no country, no flag.
Our songs herald your overthrow. This is Our Day. We are the forgers of revolution ­ the
destroyers of the old and the outgrown. We are the nemesis of idlers ­ the doom of masters
­ the emancipators of slaves. We are revolt. We are progress. We are revolution.
(Industrial Worker, May 1, 1917)
May Day, originally a rural holiday to celebrate the coming of Spring..., is now a day of
internationalism. ... All the predominating characteristics of modern social systems are in-
ternational... The ruin of the American farmers is due to the competition of Canada, Russia,
Argentina and other countries, in the markets of the world. ...
Undoubtedly, no nation lives unto itself alone, especially the United States... Ideas lag
behind events. We still have the ideas of nationalism with us... But it won't be long before it
will be recognized as obsolete...
A recognition of modern world tendencies will do much to promote working-class in-
ternationalism. ... It is a noteworthy fact that workers in many nations must be suppressed
in order to prevent expressions of fraternity with one another. For instance, oppression is
planting its iron heel on the necks of the workers in many lands in order to prevent inter-
national organization against war. But, in view of the underlying tendencies of capitalism to
world unification, this is not likely to prevail long.
Let it be soon! Help along this consummation by promoting fraternal relations with the
labor organizations of the world. For, as capitalism is internationally organized, so also must
labor be. Labor can not stand alone, no more than the nation can, in these, the days of interna-
tional dependence and unification. (Industrial Solidarity, April 22, 1923)
2006 SweatFree Communities Conference
At the 2006 International SweatFree
Communities Conference in Minneapolis,
organizers and workers drove the discussion
with descriptions of the incredible obstacles
faced by workers struggling to organize.
Celeste Taylor and I represented the Pitts-
burgh Anti Sweatshop Community Alliance,
joining 140 individuals representing diverse
organizations with long-term commitments
to workers in the global apparel industry and,
in some cases, starkly different approaches
to international solidarity work. While col-
legiate codes of conduct and government
sweatfree procurement policies offer some
hope, huge steps are needed to support work-
ers struggling to organize.
Yannick Etienne of Batay Ouvriye in Haiti
spoke about a number of organizing drives.
Factories continue to close in Haiti ­ without
the tax incentives of the Multi Fiber Arrange-
ment, workers in Haiti who make 21 cents an
hour cannot compete with workers in China
who make 8 cents.
While there have been precedent-setting
victories, winning contracts and resolving
large grievances, few of the victories are
sticking because of unrelenting threat of plant
closings and the lack of consistency on the
part of international solitary activists needed
stop the union busting. Only sustained
relationships, a civil rights bridge between
"SweatFree Communities" and the people of
Haiti, can provide the consistent critical mass
required to tip the scales.
There are at least six Gildan Activewear
plants in Haiti and despite targeting this com-
pany in Honduras and the fact that nearly all
of our schools and governments source from
Gildan, the anti-sweatshop movement has not
been able to provide any union organizing
leverage. Gildan remains the number one
option for a regional organizing drive in Latin
America and the Caribbean.
Barbara Briggs, director of the National
Labor Committee, represented members of
the National Garment Workers Federation of
Bangladesh and Kimi Lee represented the Los
Angeles Garment Worker Center Organizer.
Both groups have come to understand that
traditional union and contract relationships
between garment workers and their employ-
ers are not the next step for most organizing
campaigns. Both build organizations that in-
volve workers in many different factories and
process grievances on a case-by-case basis.
Chinese workers from the Los Angeles
Garment Workers Center traveled back to
China to connect with sweatshop workers
in their home county. Workers in China were
shocked to learn that the streets of the USA
are not paved with gold. We have to struggle
with the fact that there are thousands of
worker protests in China every year that we
are almost completely disconnected from
them. Students and Scholars Against Corpo-
rate Misbehavior, based in Hong Kong, seems
to be a credible developing link.
It was very discouraging to hear some of
these tremendous organizers say they think
it will take 20 to 30 more years for garment
workers to organize labor unions. That means
that despite their best efforts and the apparent
policy victories of the anti sweatshop move-
ment, the rubber is not hitting the road. We
are not effectively using our solidarity to ex-
pand the space workers have to organize labor
unions on the floor of the global sweatshop.
Jessica Rutter of United Students Against
Sweatshops described the new "Designated
Supplier Program" that university affiliates
of the Workers Rights Consortium are trying
to implement. The DSP aims to shift work
through designating some licensing agree-
ments into the fist full of factories that have
a union or have responded to international
pressure to improve working conditions.
These factories are no longer able to compete
in the market where they struggle against fac-
tories next door that pay less. One factory in
Haiti where workers had a victory is down to
500 workers from 2,500 before unionizing.
It is unclear how the sweatshop procure-
ment policies being enacted by cities, state
and school boards will impact the industry.
As we implement disclosure requirements,
we have to expect companies to lie about
factory conditions. Then we'll begin a process
of inspection and verification. Will the result
be that factories are barred from bidding on
contracts or that we find new ways to sup-
port worker organizing in these facilities?
What will change the dynamics
are organizing drives that we re-
spond to workers instead of factory
monitoring initiated as a result of
the policies. It is so important that
principled internationalists who
believe that workers can organize
be intimately involved with imple-
mentation of these policies.
The Wage Disclosure recently won by ac-
tivists in the San Francisco sweatshop law is a
very hopeful development. Wage Disclosure,
more specifically a requirement that they
disclose payroll records, gives us something
to verify directly with workers on the ground.
Wages are a universal language ­ is the com-
pany lying or telling the truth, is this enough
money to live on? In the near future we will
be able to empower union organizers and
international travelers with lists of factories
and the payroll records that the companies
provide though the anti-sweatshop policies
for worker-to-worker verification.
The capacity that anti-sweatshop activists
have to work with is still so small, a small
portion of garment procurement dollars, a
small portion of university licensing agree-
ments. We are still trying to do so much with
so little and the rate that we are increasing
this capacity is not very impressive.
If we are going to use these tools at all
we have to have two tracks: on one track we
have to use the tools that we have agressively
and set new precedents by collaborating with
union organizers all over the world and on the
other track we have to radically increase the
total capacity the anti-sweatshop movement
has in procurement dollars and licensing
agreements. That's why we are targeting the
Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club and through
them all of the major league teams and
leagues at the 2006 All Star Game. Notes from
the All Star Sweatshop workshop are available
on the IU410 section of www.iww.org.
The Pittsburgh Anti Sweatshop Com-
munity Alliance is pleased to invite anti
sweatshop activists from all over to the All
Star Game here on July 11 to confront a
concentration of Major League Sweatshop
bosses with the testimony of workers in
Haiti and Bangladesh. We are asking other
communities to begin leveraging and mak-
ing demands on their own home teams. It
is not that hard ­ you just demonstrate that
baseball fans do care about the people who
sew their clothing.
Some people worry that international
solidarity actions like this are a distraction
from union organizing on the ground in our
own communities. SweatFree Baseballers say,
"If we could win here without reaching out
to workers in China we would have already.
We're losing here, we need to concretely en-
gage workers all over the world." Our collabo-
ration with the United Workers Association
of Baltimore, the workers who clean Camden
Yards, and other initiatives here during May
and June will attempt to demonstrate what
international solidarity looks like alongside
our struggles to organize at home.
Members of the Pittsburgh Anti Sweat-
shop Community Alliance are grateful for the
efforts of Bjorn Claeson and Liana Foxvog of
SweatFree Communities. They work hard to
build an inclusive movement and create situ-
ations where organizers and activists can ask
the tough questions of one another.
Garment workers protest
As part of International Action Day, the
National Garment Workers Federation or-
ganized a "Garment Workers & Mass Token
Hunger Strike" on 11 April at Central Sha-
heed Minar in capital city Dhaka. This started
at 4 p.m. and was finished at 5:45. This was
a working day and the time was also work-
ing time but more than a thousand garment
workers took part in the program. Seriously
injured workers from Spectrum and some
family members of the dead also participated.
The demand was "Safe workplace for the gar-
ment workers in Bangladesh."
Why "Buy American" won't work
A s s O c I A T I O N O f B A LT I M O r E
The UWA is a human rights organization.
We seek to secure the human rights of all,
including the right to freedom from poverty.
Human rights, as articulated in the Univer-
sal Declaration of Human Rights and other
human rights vision statements, are by their
nature, "universal." This is important. Things
universal can transcend traditional barriers,
such as barriers between races, between lan-
guage groups and between national and reli-
gious divisions. But human rights are not the
UWA's only organizing framework. The UWA
is also, at our core, an organization led by
the poor themselves. While all are welcome
to work with the UWA, priority is placed on
developing leaders from the ranks of the poor.
And this requires class identity.
This combination of focusing on univer-
sal rights for all and building a leadership base
of the poor themselves makes it possible for
us to tackle some of the most divisive issues
related to immigrant rights. This is no small
achievement, as poor-on-poor attacks over
immigration act as an important division used
by the advocates of oppressive immigration
The UWA is an historically African-
American organization. Our leadership is
currently comprised of English-speaking
black and white day laborers. As a human
rights organization working to unite the poor
across color lines, we are currently working
hard to break down our internal language
and cultural barriers. We do this to become a
truly multi-racial human rights organization.
But becoming such an organization requires
more than just translation, multi-lingual
outreach and working with immigrant rights
allies. We must overcome our own divisive
beliefs, such as "America First," and some of
the traditional divisions and cultural tensions
that exist within the urban black and urban
Latino communities.
Ignoring these differences will not work.
But so won't dwelling on them. Instead, we
confront the differences by focusing on what
the poor have in common. First, the poor
share a common opponent and face common
struggles. Second, most people share the be-
lief in the universal dignity and sanctity of all
persons. Through class identity and human
rights values we create a space to talk about
why it is just, moral and pragmatic for our
historically African-American membership
base to work with other low-wage workers,
including undocumented immigrants in the
U.S. and low-wage workers in the world's
poorest countries.
When the UWA started organizing the
cleaners at Camden Yards, Baltimore's largest
employer of day labor, our opponents' first
tactic was to shift from primarily African-
American day labor agencies to agencies that
primarily hired Latino day laborers. This tac-
tic not only required an immediate expansion
of our language resources, but also challenged
our members to consider the rights of Latinos
as no different (and no less worth fighting for)
than those of other workers.
The bulk of American labor organizing
has relied on "us first" organizing. The "us"
have been the workers at one factory, or in
one trade, or in one industry, or in a single
region or nation. Popular expressions of this
kind of organizing are "Buy American" and
the fight to stop "off-shoring." Rather than
focus on the human rights and working
conditions of all workers, labor has worked to
keep jobs with those currently hired at union
factories in the U.S.
"Buy American" will not work. That's
because capital will go, if left on its own, to
where profits will be maximized. So long as
labor can't move as freely as can capital, prod-
ucts, profits and production, capital will move
to where labor is cheapest. This race to the
bottom produces unjust wages for everyone,
everywhere. Appeals to nationalism won't
work to save jobs or to keep wages just. These
appeals will only work to divide workers.
For workers to secure just wages and
their other economic human rights, including
the right to freedom from poverty, workers
must start by fighting for the rights of all
workers. The fight for workers at a U.S.-based
textile factory is no different from the fight for
workers at a factory in any other country.
This is true because what happens to
workers at one factory, no matter where in
the world, can happen to workers at any
other factory. And it is also true because all
workers are persons. All deserve just wages,
to be treated with dignity and to have their
human rights respected.
Pitting workers against workers will
only weaken the movement to end poverty.
It plays into the hands of those who seek
to exploit other human beings by extract-
ing labor for the tiniest amount of payment
possible. If we are to secure the human right
to freedom from poverty, we must unite all
persons behind the just cause based on the
inherent dignity of human life. We cannot
fight amongst each other, working to hold
onto our own small piece of the pie.
The UWA knows that this approach
works. It is what allows us to unite with
other workers when jobs are shifted from
African-African cleaners to Latino cleaners.
Since we are all in the same boat, such a shift
requires us to reach out to more cultural and
language groups, to expand who we directly
work with. It forces us to stand with workers
once believed to be our opponents, or our
We know it works to organize around
shared human rights values because our
belief in the inherent worth of all persons
is why we consider the recent immigration
struggles as being no different from our own
struggles. And that's why the mostly U.S.-
citizen membership base of the UWA goes
to rallies and marches for immigrants, why
we speak out to our fellow black and white
Baltimoreans on behalf of workers' centers
for mostly undocumented Latino immigrants,
and why we have made it a priority for our
leadership and membership to communicate
in both English and Spanish. The only way
to end poverty is by working together for the
rights of all, without exception.
Fight For Shorter Hours
Opera workers strike
against longer hours
Striking theater workers are
forcing German opera houses
to cancel performances or stage
them without sets, as stage-
hands, technicians, mechanics
and workshop employees join protests
against a longer workweek.
Public employees from hospital staff to
street cleaners have been protesting regional
governments' plans to increase the working
week to 40 hours from 38.5 hours and to re-
duce or abolish holiday bonus payments.
"We are not the responsible party," says
Klaus zehelein, Intendant of the Stuttgart
State Opera and president of Germany's
Buhnenverein. "The workers are employed
by the state government. They refuse to
negotiate, and that isn't fair.''
Hans Kraft of the Bavarian branch of
trade union Ver.di, says theater workers have
no alternative. "If the politicians had their
way, outdoor swimming pool workers would
strike in winter and snow removal workers
would strike in midsummer.''
"It is all very well to say that they should
work out of love for the art form,'' says Kraft.
"Our members do identify with the theaters
where they work very strongly. But ... their
main interest is to support their families and
maintain at least basic standards of living.
Art cannot replace unpaid rent or the future
of one's children. It's a matter of survival.''
The origins of May Day
May Day's origins in the 1886 general
strike for the 8-hour day are almost forgot-
ten today. So frightened were the bosses that
they framed several of our fellow workers,
sentencing the Haymarket Martyrs of Chi-
cago to death. It was that legacy which led
the labor movement to commemorate May
1 as International Workers' Day in 1890.
Since then, international solidarity and
the struggle for shorter working hours have
been inextricable intertwined. But even
as our productivity and inventiveness has
created the means for abundance for all,
the employers have seized this wealth to
support an ever-growing caste of parasites,
to throw millions of our fellow workers onto
the industrial scrap heap and to force the
survivors to work ever-longer hours lest we
be consigned to the same fate.
The IWW has long been on record for a
six-hour or even shorter day. But today, the
pressing issue for many workers ­ in the
United States and around the world ­ is to
cut work hours back to 8 (or 10).
This is the result of 100 years of leaving
control of industry to the bosses.
Organizing the education industry
The Pittsburgh Education Workers In-
dustrial Organizing Committee has issued
a second issue of their Education Worker, a
36-page newsletter. This issue focuses on
strikes and other direct action tactics. "La-
bor peace is what many unions prefer," the
introduction notes; "after all, it's polite, safe
and professional. ...
"Across the board, the big education
unions are very willing to mind the labor
peace, preferring to deal with issues through
polite and professional labor relations, despite
the fact that the entire education industry fac-
es perennial issues such as federal oppression
from the NCLB Act; the racist, classist and
immoral political priorities that underfund
schools in our poorest minority communi-
ties; the slashing of liberal arts and fine arts
curricula; the corporatization and `for profit'
privatization of all aspects of education...; the
hyper-certification racket...; the right-wing
assault on academic freedom, tenure and criti-
cal pedagogy; and the massive casualization
of academic labor in higher education. And
still the labor peace continues."
This "peace" does not serve the interests
of education workers or of our students, the
Education Worker notes. "We must advocate
for the return of workers' direct action within
the industry and a more aggressive use of the
education strike."
Other articles discuss the strike wave of
the 1960s and 1970s that forced school dis-
tricts to recognize teachers' unions and won
the dramatic improvements in pay and work-
ing conditions that are now under attack.
However, the benefits of unionization
never reached many education workers
­ those at the bottom of the education hi-
erarchy, in states that outlaw public sector
unions or restrict the right to strike, and the
increasingly large contingent labor force.
These exclusions have undermined education
workers' power as workers fight bargaining
unit by bargaining unit against industry-wide
forces that are national in scope.
Pennsylvania is one of only nine states
that "allow" teachers the right to strike, but
under severe restrictions (passed in 1992,
after a wave of bitter teachers' strikes) that
require advance notice and mandatory arbi-
tration and limit strikes to a couple of weeks.
These restrictions have emboldened school
districts to demand givebacks on health
benefits, increased administrative control, etc.
And yet, conservatives are fighting to outlaw
strikes (and even the wearing of union but-
tons) in the state altogether.
Other articles discuss direct action tactics
in the industry, and the need to build toward
a general strike. Copies are available from PO
Box 90315, Pittsburgh PA 15224.

Hawaii owes subs $22 million
A Hawaiian Circuit Court has ruled on
behalf of thousands of substitute teachers in
Maui. As a result of a class-action lawsuit by
substitute David Garner, the state owes these
teachers $22 million dollars in back pay.
When Garner reported the pay discrep-
ancy in January 2002 in accordance with a
1996 law to bring substitute salaries up to the
rate of entry-level full-time teachers, the local
department of education made an adjustment
to the teacher classification system moving all
substitutes to a lower pay level. Garner then
filed the class-action asking for back pay to
the day the 1996 legislation passed.
Dowling College adjuncts
demand job security

Dowling College adjuncts are asking
for the right to reassignment guarantees
after reaching sufficient seniority. The 115-
member Association of Dowling Adjuncts
is confronting administrators at the small,
private Suffolk County, NY, college that didn't
rehire 79 adjuncts last year, while hiring 90
more at a lower salary. After affiliating with
New York State United Teachers in 2003, the
ADA got agreements for office space, meeting
space, telephone lines, and computers.
The low pay at Dowling, a meager $2,100
to $2,700 for a three credit course, has not
gone unchallenged as the ADA has attempted
to get an accurate assessment of Dowling's
finances. Anticipating an NLRB ruling of
unfair labor practices filed for adjunct and
union vice president Kathy Levine, who
claims that she was not rehired as a result of
union activism, the adjunct association has
asked for retention rights for all adjuncts.

Prairie State adjuncts union
In February, 115 out of 183 adjuncts
at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights
voted to affiliate with Prairie State Adjunct
Instructors United, IEA-NEA. Both credit and
non-credit instructors teaching at least three
hours are in the bargaining unit. The IEA
has been successful in organizing Columbia
College, Roosevelt University and, last winter,
Chicago City College where the vote came
down to 87 for IEA and 63 for IFT.

San Fran schools seek scabs
The Board of Education of the San Fran-
cisco Unified School District has voted 4-3 to
hire replacement workers in case of a teach-
ers' strike. The scabs won't need substitute
teacher credentials, the California Basic Skills
Test, or any other licenses to be hired.
Members of the 6,000-strong United
Educators of San Francisco held placards
against scabs, sang labor songs, and protested
while the vote was cast. The union voted to
strike at the end of March, and a couple of
days later ads appeared on the school district
web site for special strike substitutes to be
paid twice the rate of regular subs.
Teachers have been working without a
contract since July 2004 and had their last
raise in 2002. UESF wants a 10 percent raise,
the district is offering 7.5 percent. San Fran-
cisco teachers are also asking for health and
safety improvements.

NY court blocks privatizing
substitute teaching services
The New York state Supreme Court
has ruled that educational employers, such
as the Board of Cooperative Educational
Services of New York state, can not contract
out work with a private company in order to
hire substitute teachers. A per diem substi-
tute contract between Erie 2 BOCES, which
include upstate New York counties, and Kelly
Services was annulled.
The ruling is an important victory in the
fight against privatization, keeping educa-
tional services out of the hands of profiteering
temp agencies, such as Kelly Services. Kelly
Educational Staffing got into the substitute
teaching service business in 1999, and claims
its substitute temp services have been used
by hundreds of school districts.
The Southern Adirondack Substitute
Teachers Alliance and the Kingston Fed-
eration of Substitute Teachers are pressuring
school districts to offer salaries and basic
benefits that attract qualified workers who
will no longer have to be temps.

No strike at Western Oregon
The faculty union and administrators
seem relieved that a strike was called off and
contract terms agreed at Western Oregon
University. In March, before the strike threat,
WOU president John Minahan maintained
the college was having financial difficulties.
Now the administration has agreed that
raises teachers lost during a statewide salary
freeze will be paid. The settlement includes
an agreement that should enrollment levels
increase, so will salaries.
Western Oregon is one of seven colleges
in the Oregon system; 238 full-timers, associ-
ates and adjuncts teach 3,917 students.
The price of our future
B y TO D D J O r DA N
[General Motors and its former subsidiary
Delphi, now the U.S.'s largest auto parts maker,
have reached an agreement with the United
Automobile Workers to offer buyouts and early-
retirement packages of $35,000 or more to all
of their 137,000 UAW workers.
[Delphi's U.S. operations are in bankruptcy
court; its 115,000-worker foreign factories are
not. The company is trying to slash its U.S.
workforce from 32,000 to 7, 000 workers. Other
auto parts companies, several already in bank-
ruptcy court, are expected to follow suit.]
Enough is enough. We should refuse to
accept an offer that will impair the person
working next to us and that could eventually
endanger our own security in retirement.
The membership as a whole should have
been allowed to vote before this "buy-out"
agreement was brought to the membership
to accept or refuse on an individual basis.
We are being denied democracy by our
union officials when an agreement is made
without our input, especially when it is an
agreement vital to our future and seriously
undermines our future. Negotiations in dark
boardrooms are destroying the United Auto
Workers union.
UAW Local 292 officials have been all
over the factory trying to push people out
the front door. Fear is the driving force for
Local 292 leaders and the union bureaucracy
as a whole that works with corporations to
pit older workers against younger workers to
get whatever they need.
We should refuse these buyouts, defend
our jobs and fight for our future ­ not sell
out. We can stand together now in solidar-
ity before it is too late for all of us or we can
walk away, betraying 70 years of struggle and
our futures.
The president of United Auto Workers
Local 292 was quoted in the Indianapolis Star
saying, "There's a very good reason to do this.
If the company doesn't survive, none of us has
jobs." She has accepted defeat and refuses to
fight to save our jobs, our wages, our benefits
and our future.
Auto workers around the world deserve a
raise, not concessions, not to be pitted against
each other and not to be bought off. Millions
of dollars have been vested into training and
skills for American workers who are now
being sold out by an Attrition Agreement
that the bureaucratic officials of the UAW
support. Instead of defending these jobs they
are working with management to cut them.
Meanwhile, our factories are being robbed of
investment and our profits sent overseas to
build billion-dollar factories so the company
can pit us against workers overseas to drive
everyone's wages down. Remember their slo-
gan "Buy American"? That has worked real
well for the membership, hasn't it? Wrong. It
has only destroyed our ability to build solidar-
ity with other workers across the world.
These "buyouts" are simply a way to
mitigate membership resistance to conces-
sions and lost jobs. How much is your future
worth? Will retirement really mean security
for anyone? Not everyone is willing to be
bought off and not everyone is eligible to
retire. What happens to those left behind?
The UAW has accepted defeat and is ne-
gotiating a peace agreement that will further
degrade younger workers.
The only way to halt this corporate offen-
sive is through mass direct action. The model
must be built in the spirit of the great gen-
eral strikes and direct action of Minneapolis,
Toledo and San Francisco in 1934, the great
sit-down movement in 1936/37 and the great
civil rights movement of the 1960s.
This is not an end of an era as the cor-
porate mouthpieces like to claim. We must
work to rule in the plants, hold mass dem-
onstrations in the streets, engage in mass
occupations of the plants.
These are the roots of the UAW and what
the entire labor movement was built on. It
was not built by cooperation, selling out or by
giving up. Working people should resist and
refuse to go back to the poverty of the past.
We should fight for what is ours and for what
is justly right. http://futureoftheunion.com
A rebellious historian's challenge
David Roediger, History Against Misery.
Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co., Chicago,
2006, 184 pages, $17. Available from IWW
Literature Department.
History Against Misery is not the usual
left-wing or radical treatise from the halls of
academia. It is a challenging book precisely
because it challenges slavish obedience to
rationalist thought, everyday logic and so-
called "common sense." David Roediger
counts himself amongst those who desire to
"create a new common sense."
He does just that in a series of 38 articles
of different proportion and strength on sub-
jects ranging from country music, sports, the
practice of the IWW, the role of revolutionary
thinkers, activists, poets, artists and events
to his subversion of the concept of race and
Roediger is clearly influenced by, draws
upon and acknowledges a Marxist tradition
of critical thought which includes Antonio
Gramsci, C.L.R. James, W.E.B DuBois and
utilises the concept of "miserabilism" first
coined by the surrealist Andre Breton. Mi-
serabilism sums up in one word the dull
greyness of Statism, the glorification of wage
labour and work (as against creative labour),
the hypocrisies and mystifications surround-
ing Religion, Property, Law and Order and
how human beings are seduced to produce
and reproduce their own misery through
the repression of real desires. The result is
a partisan spirit that sets it apart from other
academic radical studies which, despite initial
rhetoric, often end up in the rut of the reform-
ist politics they were meant to criticize.
David Roediger himself is an academic,
an historian teaching African Studies at the
University of Illinois. He is known for his
work editing the papers of Black abolitionist
Frederick Douglass and has written several
books including Our Own Time: A History of
American Labor and the Working Day, Towards
the Abolition of Whiteness, and The Wages of
The articles are laid out in three main
sections. The first is a thoughtful and original
reconsideration of modern sports, consumer-
ism, art, country music, HipHop. The depth
of his analysis and the critique he presents
on various aspects of capitalism in our daily
lives goes beyond the formalistic and often
formulaic approach often given by those who
consider themselves part of "the Left."
Music is not simply entertainment.
Country music is not simply the cry of a de-
feated white working class. It can be also be
a barometer of political protest. HipHop can
be both subversive and commercial. Major
league sports is not simply a commercialised
bread and circuses for the masses, it too
contains an art and beauty in the work and
mind of the player.
The second chapter reviews notable his-
torical and intellectual individuals, writings,
music and events often forgotten and perhaps
deliberately "disappeared" not only by of-
ficial history books, mainstream education,
but by "the Left" itself. The most extensive
is his commentary and analysis of anarchist
Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons in Parsons'
meaningful and sophisticated role as activist
and revolutionary in the then existing trade
union movement. He reintroduces us to Paul
Lafargue's classic biting critique of the bour-
geoisie and his table-turning, entertaining
Marxist argument in favour of laziness.
The last chapter is a rigorous critique of
"whiteness" and how the identification of
being "white" has debilitated, divided and
become a dead weight on the working class
ideologically masking issues of social class
and power. Here he lays bare the poverty of
thought in the deliberate mystifications by
media, politicians, preachers and academics
and in the accepted daily arguments of an
uncritical "common sense" from his own
students. This is not just a consideration in
terms of thought or theory. Roediger reminds
us of the active fight to unite all workers and
the anti-racist direct actions of the IWW in
the Southern states.
Roediger doesn't have much use for
modern "rationalist" thought. Following the
dictum of the philosopher Hegel that "The
truth is in the whole," he gives a penetrat-
ing look at the intertwining all aspects of
life, of individuals, and power to reveal the
insanities of capitalism in order to consider
those moments of rebellion and subversion
against it. This is a work that engages us to
rethink our ways of thinking. In a tone and
style that is almost conversational Roediger
has the reader critically question all aspects
of modern capitalism.
Workers, especially young workers,
should lay their hands upon this book pre-
cisely because the reading of it is a challenge
by making one use one's critical faculties to
reveal the possibilities of fundamentally radi-
cal thought and action.
Disunited Brotherhoods
Rank-and-file union carpenter Gregory
Butler has published Disunited Brotherhoods:
Race, Racketeering and the Fall of the New York
Construction Unions ($22.95, www.iUniverse.
com). Butler is founder of the Gangbox
construction listserv, and a vocal critic of
the myopic vision that has long crippled the
construction unions.
"The power our unions had at one time
could have been used to make this city a
better place for working class people," Butler
writes in Disunited Brotherhoods.
"Instead, the construction unions wal-
lowed in a pit of nepotism, organized crime
and bigotry. This led to the situation con-
struction workers face today, where the indus-
try has finally become integrated ­ but at the
price of deunionization and the low wages,
off-the-books employment and horrendous
safety conditions that went along with the
collapse of the building trades unions."

A just minimum wage
Holly Sklar and Paul Sherry, A Just Mini-
mum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and
Our Future. American Friends Service Com-
mittee and National Council of Churches,
2005, 72 pages, $5 (www.letjusticeroll.org).
This report is part of a religious-led cam-
paign to increase the U.S. minimum wage,
which has been losing ground to inflation for
many years. Since 1968, its buying power has
fallen 41 percent, even as retail profits rose by
159 percent. It would take more than $9 an
hour (instead of the current $5.15) to match
the buying power of 1968's minimum wage.
This condemns millions to dire poverty, and
holds down wages for everyone.
Earning $10,712 a year for full-time work
(before taxes) presents workers with choices:
if paid under the table so taxes aren't taken
out, there's just about enough to rent a small
apartment with utilities in most cities; after
taxes, there'd be about enough for food and
clothes and bus fare (perhaps there's a bridge
handy for shelter); or one could panhandle
for a few more bucks and use the entire sum
to buy health insurance.
The report quotes Ecclesiasticus 34, "The
bread of the needy is the life of the poor;
whoever deprives them of it is a murderer."
Sklar and Sherry are more tactful, trying to
persuade the bosses that paying higher wages
is actually good for them (clearly false) and
for the economy as a whole (probably true).
The evidence is clear that past increases in
the minimum wage have not had the dire
effects on employment that capitalist econo-
mists predicted. Nor can a low-wage strategy
succeed in today's global economy. The U.S.
economy, they argue, is headed toward a cliff,
and we urgently need to increase wages in or-
der to shore up our economic foundation.
Since 1997, when the minimum wage
was last increased, Congress has raised its
pay by $28,500 a year. But is it reasonable
to ask the politicians ­ so busy cutting taxes
on the rich and social programs for the rest
of us ­ to act in behalf of the working poor?
The authors' conclusion that low wages
and poverty are immoral and unChristian
seems irrefutable. But one might do better
to look to the social upheavals of the 1960s,
rather than the consciences of our rulers, to
understand why wages were higher in 1968.
There is much useful information in this re-
port, but readers will have to look elsewhere
for practical solutions.
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