Tag Archives: unions

Somerville Mass Restaurant Owner Won’t Pay His Help

As detailed in the Boston Occupier, members of various groups such as the Boston I.W.W. and Centro Presente have continued to picket and make noise at a local restaurant, Diva because the owners, One World Cuisine have refused  have refused to pay their laborer’s due wages.

The picket goes on and those interested in joining to help fight for the cause should contact the Boston I.W.W. for more information.  The picket goes on everyday.


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British Unions Shut Down London With Strikes – Over 700,000 March

Image from Washington Post online slideshow

Nearly 800,000 union workers in Britain converged in London on yesterday to demand that the government end its austerity measures.  Similar to other unrest in Spain, Portugal and Greece and across the Atlantic in the US last year, Britian’s workers demand an end to the distribution re arrangement policies dubbed “austerity measures” by the press and politicians.

In favor of the conglomeration of capital among elite global finance and banking interests worldwide, government worldwide have proposed cutting public social safety nets.  The obvious effort to turn the world’s workers into pools of low-wage labor has met with resistance across America and Europe and now Brit workers take their turn to be heard.  In the rally labor leaders call for a general strike.  In addition, as Real News reports, London and other EU countries have November 14th in their sights for a continent wide day of action against austerity.

The Real News has posted a video and report:

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Workers Continue to Defy the EU’s Oppressive ‘Austerity’ Demands

More news that gets little to no air play in the American corporate media: Greece continues, along with other southern countries of the EU, to resist the “austerity” methods of the finance/capitalist sectors in the EU.  Flexing their muscle through the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leaders of the major finance and banking interests attempt to keep the lid on the boiling pot.  No doubt, to much consternation of the powerful elites, workers in the southern tiers demonstrate that they will not be cowed, demonstrating that an educated workforce will not accept reduction to the role of capital commodities for the benefit of plutocrats.

From Socialist World:

German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in Greece on Tuesday, 9 October. She will be greeted by an increasing bitterness and anger against the ongoing destruction of the Greek economy and living conditions of working people. An escalation of the struggle against the latest Troika-imposed austerity is developing from below. It has the potential to bring down the Samaras government and challenge capitalist austerity. We publish here an article by Xekinima (CWI in Greece) on the latest developments and the steps which need to be taken by the workers’ movement.

Greek society is in uproar. Everybody knows that the situation cannot continue. The so-called Troika (European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) have led the Greek economy into a collapse, and are now demanding another round of savage austerity cuts.

The Samaras government of New Democracy with the participation of its fake “left” allies (DIMAR and PASOK) are preparing cuts that will lead to untold misery for millions of workers, pensioners, the poor and the unemployed.

Here are the key statistics that themselves explain the type of war that has been launched against working people:

Official unemployment stands at 23.6% (real unemployment is more like 30%) and among young people is 55%. According to the European statistical agency Eurostat (July 2012), 68% live at or under the official poverty line. Gross Domestic Product has fallen by 22% since the beginning of the crisis. The “national” debt is estimated to be 179% of GDP in 2013, according to the government’s new projected budget, while it was 109% of GDP in 2008 (’Imerisia’ newspaper, 2 October 2012).

In reality, the Greek people have no choice but to try to stop the criminal plans of the Troika leraders and that can only mean trying to bring down the government that collaborates with these criminals. The government (which at the moment faces a serious crisis as scandals are exploding) can be brought down with mass strike action, mass occupations across the country and an indefinite general strike.

Read more: Trade Unions Pushed to Escalate the Struggle

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The Poor and Low Wage Workers Pay More in Taxes than Romney

cartoon by David Horsey, LA Times



Article by John Funiciello published in Issue 487 of Blackcommentator.com

Once again, the Republican candidate for president has expressed his contempt for a large percentage of the American people, by claiming that they are “dependent” on government for their very lives and, therefore, will automatically vote for President Obama.

The real wealth of the nation is in its people.

Comments by the GOP standard bearer, Mitt Romney, were caught on tape in Florida last spring and released last week by Mother Jones magazine. In a matter of hours, the comments were seen by tens of millions and caused Romney to call a press conference to explain himself.

What he had said at a private fund-raising dinner was that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax and that they are Obama’s supporters. USA Today his explanatory statement: “The president believes in what I’ve described as a government-centered society, where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of the individuals,” Romney said in Orange County, Calif. “I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world.”

By now, it is clear to virtually everyone that Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’ lives are like. He certainly doesn’t know what it is like to try to stretch a $15,000 annual income and keep a family from starvation. And, he never will. In fact, living on low wages or a low fixed income is one of those weekly miracles that happen and the plight of those millions of families goes unnoticed. Out of sight, out of mind and Romney wants to keep it that way.

The rich are going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole thing collapses

The GOP, as expressed by Romney in constant campaign rhetoric, wants to reduce the government, so that it never will be able to provide for that 47 percent of the electorate, which likely would never vote Republican. Only the irrational would vote for a party, the main philosophy of which is to cut taxes for the rich and corporations and cut social programs and most functions of government, except for the military and defense. But, books have been written, speculating on why average Americans, who are only one or two paychecks away from needing government assistance, continue to support the GOP platform and its philosophy. They’re out there and they do, indeed, vote Republican.

Democrats are on the horns of a dilemma. They have been subject to the same propaganda from the right wing think tanks and Corporate America for decades and have weakly fought the GOP’s efforts to diminish every function of government at every level. At the same time, they have presided from time to time over a country headed in the same direction, no matter which major party is in charge. The difference is that they don’t sing the same no-taxes-no-social-programs song that the Republicans sing.

For that alone, they have a leg up on the coming election, but this does not leave them in the clear, by any means. Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much the same as those of the Republicans. These issues include, but are not limited to: global trade, the continuing growth of militarism, the magical vanishing manufacturing base (except for those things that are made by robots), the lack of sustainable and low-cost housing, the food system that is damaging the people’s health, the lack of an affordable universal health system, the staggering cost to students of higher education, endless war, diminishing civil rights, and the continuing assault on virtually every vital aspect of the environment. Other than that, Obama is doing better than the party of Romney.

Many of their policies on the important issues of our time are much the same as those of the Republicans.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, over-the-road big trucks had painted on them something like, “This truck pays $4,467 in road use taxes every year.” That was supposed to show everyone driving a car or pick-up that the truck bearing the sign and weighing some 80,000 pounds was paying more than its fair share to use the roads. A quick check of the “road use” taxes that a car or pick-up truck paid at the time showed that, pound for pound, the car paid about four times what those trucks paid in road use taxes and they didn’t crumble the roads to dust.

So it is with the Republicans and their insistence that the behemoths (wealthy) pay all the taxes, and that there are so many poor and low-wage Americans who pay no income taxes. (We’ll leave aside for a moment that there are giant transnational corporations that pay no taxes and lots of rich folks who pay no taxes, but that’s a subject for another discussion.) The fact is that the poor and low-income wage earners pay plenty of taxes: sales taxes, payroll taxes, gasoline taxes, excise taxes, and endlessly increasing fees for everything from driver’s licenses, to fishing licenses. Low-income Americans pay a much greater percentage of their income than the wealthy or even the middle-income earners.

Somehow, this fact of life has escaped Mitt Romney and people like him, George W. Bush and virtually his entire administration, for example. These are people who are so alienated from the lives of most Americans that they don’t know that the country’s emergency rooms are not universal health care and they are not free.

Thinkprogress.org recently noted: “For example, if you look at state and local taxes, the working poor actually pay a higher percentage of their income in these taxes (all of the other taxes and fees) in every state except for Vermont. (In) Alabama, for example, low-income families (which make less than $13,000) pay 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those making more than $229,000 pay just 4 percent.”

And, Wealth for the Common Good also noted recently that the top 400 taxpayers (those who have more wealth than half of all Americans) pay lower taxes today than they have in about two decades. Their tax responsibilities have declined sharply in 70 years and, during that time, wage-working men and women have been asked to pay more. There was a time when lawmakers discerned a difference between those who could afford to pay taxes and those who were not able to pay taxes and occasionally, they adjusted the tax code to lighten the burden on the poor. This is not one of those times.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and most of the Republicans and many Democrats seem to have forgotten that the Democrats once stood for the New Deal (putting people back to work and giving them the means to maintain their living standards, through union organizing), the War on Poverty, and the Great Society.

Instead, at this time, in the midst of a presidential election campaign, the word poverty is barely mentioned. And, if the word “poor” is used, it is to call them lazy, parasites, and a drag on the economy and the national budget. There is no apparent plan from either party to deal with the severe problem of poverty in the U.S. Certainly, there is no plan for the two parties to come up with a plan, and that’s what it takes to solve the problems of a nation that owes its soul to the company store, that is China, Europe, Japan, and several other countries.

Romney doesn’t have a clue about what real Americans’ lives are like.
The right wing (in politics and Corporate America) in this country would do well to hold its tongue when criticizing any of those creditors, because it is people who look and act just like them who have removed the manufacturing base from the country to seek ever lower wages and lower “labor costs.” They are the ones, along with the people they employ in the Congress, who have caused the economic problems, with their constant push for lower taxes for the rich and corporations and the push for rewards for taking their plants out of the country. They have received all of that.

As we have seen, the working class and the middle class, however it is defined, are the ones who pay (remember, they somehow have morphed from citizens into consumers). When they lose their jobs, there’s no one left to pay. How hard is that for the politicians to understand? We’ve had a steady decline of jobs for decades, we have people in mid-life living off their retirement savings, and we have college graduates who might be able to pay off their student loans by the time they are 50 years old.

Like or not, the rich are going to be swimming in the same pool as the rest of the country if the whole thing collapses. Then, they will be seeking out people who have real skills for living, to show them how to do it. Generally, the rich are engaged in enterprises that produce nothing but money and we are beginning to realize that this money is worth about as much as the paper used for printing it.

The real wealth of the nation is in its people. When they are healthy, the nation is healthy. When the people are weakened or sick, the nation is sick. Poverty weakens and sickens a nation and the disparity in wealth in the U.S., at a level not seen in 80 years, has weakened the nation. No one in government at any level seems to be willing to proclaim the danger out loud and, so, the problem is not addressed and the nation is in deep trouble.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist,John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he works with family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. To contact Mr. Funiciello, please go to BlackCommentator.com.

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O’Brien of Worcester City Council Gets It

“When someone tosses out venom and inaccurate statements, they must be answered,” he said. “This will pass legal muster, I am confident of that. The doomsday scenario that the city will have to pay legal costs is a red herring. The statement that is based on politics is also a red herring. I could care less whether this hurts me politically; I’m more concerned about whether this hurts my moral compass. To me, this is an important first step for this council and this city.” [bold ours]

This said by a city councilman at a meeting of the Worcester city council on which a new Responsible Employer ordinance was voted on this week.  The ordinance will specifically focus on contractor bid jobs for the municipality.  The words reflect a moral courage that we need to see more often.  As Mr O’Brien states, doing the right thing often has nothing to do with getting another vote, opinion polls or the endless chatter of the media.  Instead when one sits in a position of government, with the power to decide on their city’s future, they must consider the residents of that city.  Mr. O’Brien did.

Those who voted against the measure threatened that it wouldn’t stand up to the courts and of course end the world as we know it.

“Before the vote was taken, Mrs. Lukes spoke against it, saying the council would in effect be managing competition for city construction projects by limiting the companies eligible to bid on them to union shops.

She contended that the ordinance will increase the costs of city construction project by 20 percent to 30 percent.

“To what extent does free enterprise exist?” Mrs. Lukes asked. “This is bad for taxpayers, it’s bad for business and it’s bad for this country. This is more of a political decision than anything else.

“We are taking a vote that is going to lose in the courts,” she added. “I expect the courts to throw this out. The taxpayers seem to lose all around in this process.”

Ms. Laken has a point.  As construction company’s practices now do not resemble anything like the union’s and do not favor worker’s interests, yes, they might have some catching up to do.  But, that has to do with prioritizing business strategies.  Unions demand that companies, in exchange for stable, trained and well managed workers, agree to certain sets of standards in their operational priorities.  Sure cost adjustments will be required, but large companies fit to bid on commercial projects generally aren’t going to suffer the small monetary gains in order to possibly reap advantage.

The model that Ms. Laken draws upon as calling unions uncompetitive — which she does when one considers her claim that now that the tables are shifted, the non-union shops no longer have the competitive edge; that edge is based on priorities.  As a municipality that represents all people and must have within its logical interest, the financial welfare of all, then worrying about the bottom lines of businesses is not her business, especially when protecting wealth accumulation of the few over the benefit of the many — the residents she supposedly represents.

Ms. Laken uses the tired and worn-out claim that somehow looking out for the workers will not benefit employers.  Threatening that companies could suffer a 20 -30% loss of business.  While one can certainly dispute the figures,  when Ms. Laken cries about a “free market” to whom shall it be free?  Then one wonders, what interest would a representative of workers in a city have above that of the workers that make up the majority of their electorate?  This begs the question on all levels of the public interest.  Why would any civil servant believe that policies that benefit the few, especially at the expense of the many constitute worthy policies?

When this country has suffered nearly a quarter century under deregulation and now has started to reap its results, how can anyone of reasonable mind continue to support such “free market” ideology, the very ideology that has soiled this democracy.

The issue at dispute in this city council meeting encapsulates the attack on all working people that has caused the erosion of the value of a workday for all from waitresses to teachers, to mechanics to office workers.  Workers have taken on the chin the stagnation of their wages and the simultaneous rises in the cost of living.  Strangled by the false prophet of supply-side, Laffer Curve driven economics that intentionally benefited the chosen few, workers have had enough.

Attempting to claw through by leveraging their lives and hopes of bank offered credit, continuing to have faith in the educational system, taking on debt sometimes larger than a first house mortgage, suffering a pock-marked safety net and an increasingly unavailable healthcare system, workers have had enough.

Then along comes someone in a city council to belly-ache about the businesses.  Along comes a presidential candidate that sneers at the masses like so many ignorant peasants.  Workers have watched and sat quietly at home, thrown out, removed, disposed of, laid waste and left to rot on unemployment checks, as their source of sustenance moves off the continent or into oblivion; a shell of flaking bricks and crumbling mortar.

Workers have struggled alone, in silence, like champs, like martyrs from the most extreme religious sect, long hoping for redemption from something, even if it has no relation to the hell of earth.  Struggled with the pain of cancer eating their bodies, struggled with their bodies screaming in pain, rotting away with no relief.  Turned away by blind bureaucratic bodies designed for profit and not for care, they suffer alone and do not blame the system they grew up to believe in; the system of free enterprise.

They never blame the businesses, protected by petty politicians and plundering plutocrats.  Plutocrats who with the politicians as their soldiers, point the finger back at the worker and tell them, “Find your enemy within, it is not us.”  while they have their hand on the noose on every worker’s neck.  Plutocrats hire those who will work for less so they can profit more and when those not hired express anger, the plutocrats point their finger, “Find your enemy within, its not us.”

And so it is, the man from another country, the weak, the hungry, the jobless, the ones less able to fight back.

Now that has finished as well.  Finally workers have begun to figure out, to learn that all of us together are workers, whether born here, whether a woman or a man. Workers know that the sick were workers too, could be workers in the future.  Workers know the hungry is a worker without a job, the family has workers that need jobs, that need sustenance and when all workers fight together, in unison, against the forces of the plutocrat, the worker wins.

Read the entire article in the News Telegram.

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September 19, 2006

When the Country is Broke  – Tom Glazer

Today in Labor History


Joe Glazer, known as “Labor’s Troubadour,” dies at the age of 88.  In 1979, Glazer invited fourteen other labor musicians to the George Meany Center for Labor Studies in Silver Spring, Maryland.  The event became an annual one:  the Great Labor Arts Exchange, which is still going strong today, under the auspices of the Labor Heritage Foundation.

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England IWW Cleaner’s Strike Successful

From The Third Estate Blog: (link below)

Striking Cleaners Win Victory Against John Lewis

Cleaners at the flag ship John Lewis store on Oxford Street have won a fantastic victory against job cuts and low pay. The management have now agreed to withdraw, totally, plans for mass compulsory redundancy, and to give cleaners 10% pay rise, backdated to March – following a strike by staff who had organised themselves within the IWW.

Back in late July I went down to the John Lewis store to support the strike. I must confess that I was initially unsure as to whether the workers could win: at this point only a section of cleaning staff were actually organised in the union. What impressed though was the militancy and sheer presence of the picket line. Everybody who went in – whether they were colleagues, bosses, or delivery drivers  – was compelled to properly engage with the fact that their was a strike on. Meanwhile a very deliberate effort. was made to inform the shopping public of the dispute – both at the flagship store and at John Lewis’ sister store Peter Jones. (At one point the police were called to prevent a few of us leafletting outside the latter. To their credit, the police seemed rather amused that they had been called down and explained to the manager that it was not within their remit to stop people giving out leaflets).

More here.

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