Labor Day 2011, The War Against Working People Continues!
TODAY IS called Labor Day in the US. It was established by the trade unions in 1882 by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor and also founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. It also came after the national Pullman strike and a national railway strike in 1877. The American Federation of Labor was a business type union. While it’s first leader Samuel Gompers was originally a socialist he later became a supporter of US imperialism in Puerto Rico and for a labor management partnership with the bosses. This continues today with most US unions who believe in capitalism and support a partnership with the bosses instead of a workers party to represent working people. Most workers around the world celebrate May Day after the struggle of workers in Chicago fought for the 8 hour day in a mass struggle in 1886. The Chicago police attacked a labor demonstration mostly organized by anarchists and immigrants and then framed the leaders and hung them. These labor martyrs from our historic struggle are celebrated throughout the world on May 1.
This was recently revived in 2006 when over a million mostly immigrant workers marched in the streets for justice. This was met with a massive terror attack and raids by the INS now ICE and Homeland Security which arrested and deported over 800,000 workers. Today in California over 40,000 families have been broken up by Obama’s ICE operations. These raids and funding by ICE by the way are supported by Senator Feinstein and former Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi.
There always seems to be money for attacking working people.
Real income for workers in the US has declined over the last 30 years through deregulation, privatization and outsourcing first to the south creating the rust bowl and then to Mexico and now China and India. Yesterday, the president of the Teamsters James Hoffa Jr. declared that Apple was un-American because it had 76 billion in the bank and would only invest in China and other countries.
This is a strange idea. Capitalists go where they make the most profit in the global economy. This is business. The people who own and run the world have one goal and that is making more profit whether it is in Haiti, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Cambodia or India.
Robert Reich, the economist at UCB has also questioned in a recent column why there are no marches today on Labor Day against unemployment in a recent column? This is a good question.
With more than 14 million workers unemployed in the US and 12% and that means 2,257,000 Californians counted as unemployed in California with real unemployment of 20 to 25%. In the Black community they say there is 16.7% unemployment but the head of the San Francisco NAACP says it is 46% in San Francisco. This is an emergency situation. Our unions are still waiting for the politicians to solve our problems. Workers and trade unionists should remember the Employee Free Choice Act or EFCA. This was supposed to be passed by the Democratic President and Democratic Congress. It was abandoned as soon as Obama took office. Now the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka wants Obama to go back to school to become a better negotiator but what is there to negotiate about when millions of workers are sitting at home or on the streets waiting for the politicians to solve our problems. Richard Trumka has also banned the mention of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya by the AFL-CIO. It is not mentioned by Trumka or Hoffa on Labor Day 2011 yet a trillion dollars are being spent to fund these wars for empire and oil. Over $1 billion of our budget was just spent in Libya to supposedly defend freedom while doctors and trade unionists are being tortured and murder in Bahrain but then that country has a US base and is next to Saudi Arabia, our “ally” in the region. The support for US imperialism and the costs of imperialist war is not part of the debate by US trade unions but that is where our resources are going choking off funds for education, healthcare and social services. Even when they return veterans have to fight for their benefits as the privatizers try to destroy the Veterans Administration.
Yesterday in Sacramento, a thousand farmworkers of the United Farmworkers of America, their supporters and trade unionists protested and demanded that the Governor they elected Jerry Brown sign a bill allowing them to sign cards to join a union. This was similar to the EFCA bill and this California bill for farmworkers was vetoed by the Democratic governor they and the California AFL-CIO supported with millions of dollars and a major mobilizaton. They got a Democrat and stopped Meg Whitman but what did they get for the working people of this state?
In California, there are 84 billionaires and many more including the owners of Apple, Oracle Google yet the Democratic governor does not know where to get money for the state budget as we cut education, public services and furlough thousands of state employees including the CA-OSHA inspectors who are not even paid with State Funds from the general budget. Many executives are paid more than their companies pay in taxes so is it any wonder there is no money for schools and public services?
Jerry Brown has also attacked the state employees and many have lost their homes as a result of these fourloughs. In San Francisco, two ballot initiatives are on the ballot that attack public workers and retirees. Both are supported by dueling billionaires to supposedly solve the budget crisis. One of these proposition C is even supported by the San Francisco Labor Council and the union officials as the “better of the two” in an alliance with the Chamber of Commerce. Where is this going as our retirements and healthcare benefits are cut to pieces?
At the very same time a state ballot initiative in California has been initiated and supported by Peter Mathews and other students and educators to establish a oil depletion tax to fund education or prop 1481. California is one of the few states in the country that does not tax oil coming out of the our state and this would raise $3 billion. This initiative needs 504,000 signatures and if it reached the ballot it probably would pass but surprisingly the California Teachers Association CTA, California Federation Of Teachers CFT, the SEIU and the California AFL-CIO have refused to endorse and support it or even publicize it on their web sites. They say they are waiting for Jerry Brown to put something on the ballot in November of 2012. This means that 200,000 more students will be forced out of a community college education as classes are cut.
Others, including former Clinton Secretary Of labor Robert Reich call for a WPA program similar to what Roosevelt put in place but that only took place when millions of workers were in motion with general strikes in Minneapolis, San Francisco along with worker occupations throughout the country. The fear of revolution brought reforms in the US and right now the bosses and the owners of this country and the world have no fear of US workers.
Today President Obama has told us he is willing to put Social Security and Medicare on the table for negotiation with the Republicans? He is also pushing more payroll tax cuts further hurting the viability of the social security system. Is this someone we want to have negotiating for us?
Our unions also tell us that US workers are not in an international class struggle but need to be more competitive with workers in other countries for us to be successful.
The 45,000 Verizon CWA IBEW workers were very successful in making profits for the company yet they as well were forced out on strike when the union busting owners demanded concessions attacking their healthcare and benefits. They were sent back to work without a vote of the rank and file when they were starting to win the strike which was expanding with picket lines throughout the country. Does it ever end?
Our unions have spent billions of dollars over the last decade electing one Democrat after another and they have very little to show for it except NAFTA and other free trade agreements along with attacks on our pensions and benefits. The deregulation of the airlines and other industries took place with the support of the Democrats including Carter and Clinton in alliance with the Republicans and today president Obama is proposing more deregulation and free trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia where thousands of trade unionists and journalist have been assassinated.
It is time the unions use their resources for labor education and the development of a labor channel and media telling the real story of working people in 2011.
Working people have no choice to wake up and organize. It is not going to get better and the struggle for labor and working people is to organize their collective power for action. This is what workers around the world are doing and they ask when are American workers going to use their collective power?
Without working people the airports, the trains and the docks will not work. That is what forces change in this country and the world. It is time that all working people unite to let the bosses and the politicians know that enough is enough.
This is Steve Zeltzer with WorkWeek Radio.
[View the list]