The perils of ingesting food that has any contact with a Monsanto-produced product are in the news on nearly a weekly basis. As Dr. Jeff Ritterman has documented, Monstanto’s herbicide, Roundup, has beenlinked to a fatal kidney disease epidemic, and has also been repeatedly linked to cancer. Recently, a senior research scientist at MIT predicted that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, will cause half of all children to have autism by 2025. Farmers in El Salvador are acutely aware of the importance of producing their own seeds, and avoiding those from the bioengineering giant.
A strike that has brought activity to a halt since January on three major banana plantations on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast, along the border with Panama, has highlighted the abuses in a sector in the hands of transnational corporations and has forced the governments of both countries to intervene. More than 300 labourers, almost all of them indigenous Panamanians working on plantations for a branch of the U.S. corporation Del Monte Foods, have been on strike since Jan. 16 to protest harassment of trade unionists, changes in schedules and working conditions, delayed payment of wages and dismissals considered illegal.
It took eight days of walking for 80-year-old Dhanmatya Mumat to reach New Delhi. Like thousands of other farmers from rural India, Mumat – from the state of Bihar – made the 1,000km-long trip to the Indian capital to protest proposed changes to a little known land law that he said would destroy his life. “We came with the hope that our land will be saved, if the government takes away our land, we will die of poverty,” Mumat told Al Jazeera. “I request the politicians of the country to kill me rather than taking away my bread and butter.” Organisers say some 7,000 people arrived by foot to demonstrate in New Delhi to coincide with a parliamentary session on Wednesday that will decide on proposed changes to the land act – revisions that have raised the ire of many rural Indians.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that his office has obtained a judgment against New Majority Holdings, LLC (New Majority) a Papa John’s pizza franchisee, and its owner and operator Ronald Johnson for underpaying hundreds of delivery workers at five Harlem pizza restaurants. “Within the last two months, courts have found that two Papa John’s franchisees owe almost $3 million to their workers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will continue to investigate wage and hour violations in the fast food industry. More broadly, franchisors need to step up to the plate. I call on all fast food franchisors, including Papa John’s, to take steps necessary to ensure that their workers — the backbone of their business — are treated fairly and paid the wages the law requires.”
She called for the use of nonviolence that would have broad meaning for the world’s protest movements. She told delegates workers shouldn’t “strike and go out and starve, but to strike and remain in and take possession of the necessary property of production.” A year later Mahatma Gandhi, speaking to fellow Indians at the Johannesburg Empire Theater, advocated nonviolence to fight colonialism, but he was still 25 years away from leading fellow Indians in nonviolent marches against India’s British rulers. Eventually Lucy Parsons’ principle traveled to the U.S. sit-down strikers of the 1930s, Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the antiwar movements that followed, and finally to today’s Arab Spring and the Occupy movements.
The survival of the labor movement as an effective social force is today in serious jeopardy and needs to be addressed without delay. We urge that union meetings at the local, state and regional levels be organized to take a hard look at where we’re at and what we need to do to counteract the corporate class’s offensive. To be sure, the best course would be for the major unions on the national level to join together to convene an emergency Congress of Labor to get the ball rolling on an alternative strategy and an alternative program, one that recognizes the enormous power the labor movement still has at its command — especially when allied with community partners with complementary interests — if only it would use that power to mobilize millions to defend our rights, wages, benefits and working conditions, and rescind the repressive measures that have so severely weakened our movement.
About 5,000 people gathered at the state capitol on Saturday, despite the frigid temperature of 16 degrees F (-9 C). The protesters waved U.S. flags, rang cow bells and chanted “This is what Democracy looks like.” Many held signs denouncing the bill. William Carroll, a Teamsters business representative from West Bend, called on workers to become more active in their unions. “If we don’t do this, we will die a death of a thousand cuts,” he told the crowd. Union members chanted “shame” as senators voted narrowly to approve a right to work law on Wednesday and moved it to the state Assembly, also controlled by Republicans, where a public hearing is scheduled for Monday.
Revolutionary changes are taking place in the global labor process, creating new labor relations while expanding the ranks of the precariat. Informed observers predict that within the next decade, one in every three labor transactions will be done online as part of the “on-demand,” “sharing,” “gig,” or “crowd labor” economy. On-demand taskers must be available at most times of day and night or risk losing income or future opportunities. Unlike the classic proletarian employee, they own the means of production, in the form of a car, apartment, bicycle, machine tools, or whatever. And they do not have fixed or even known hours of labor. They must do a lot of work-for-labor, work neither compensated nor even recognized as work. They must wait around, unable to devote themselves to other activities in case the iPhone calls them to do a task. On-demand taskers are usually isolated, without bargaining power. They are in a buyer’s market, having to accept a price set by the buyer. While many may feel “grateful” for the opportunity to earn a little, they must bear all the risks – accidents, ill-health from stress, loss of friendships, non-payment, repairs to vehicles or tools, replacement of stained carpets, health insurance, and so on.
The United Steelworkers aren’t just on strike because of wages. They’re concerned about safe practices, because workers are in constant danger from a corporate culture that does not care for their safety. In Deer Park and Pasadena, Texas, refineries line the ship channel, processing everything from sweet crude to diluted bitumen from tar sands oil. The area makes up the largest network of petrochemical plants in the world. Plant operators act as the last line of defense against industrial disasters, and they are fearful of the results of company decisions to cut costs at the expense of safety. “It’s like working around a bomb,” said one LyondellBasell employee while sitting outside of the Pasadena plant’s gates. The plant itself has not been inspected since 2010, when OSHA found sufficient violations to justify a fine.
At the heart of this struggle is the reality that we’re no longer working in traditional, family-sustaining careers. As the way we work continues to change in this country, isn’t it time that the rules and standards governing our workplaces do too? If we’re going to rewrite those rules, we need to give everyone a seat at the table. When the powerful few get to decide which wages, benefits, and workplace standards the rest of us deserve, the economic picture goes wildly off-kilter. But what if we all had a stronger voice at work? What if we all had the ability to share our ideas, negotiate on behalf of the collective good, and stand up for issues that really matter? Isn’t that voice a critical piece of helping us restore the good, family-supporting jobs that seem to keep disappearing?
Thousands of oil workers walked out, for the first time in 35 years, over issues and demands that Tony Mazzocchi helped publicize and build coalitions around for much of his career. About 30,000 refinery employees are still covered by the USW agreement that expired last weekend. Nearly 4,000 of them are on strike at nine plants already, including Teosaro refineries in Martinez and Carson, CA. Other USW members, including those employed at Chevron in Richmond, CA. may join the walkout if industry negotiators fail to address non-wage issues summarized by USW vice-president Gary Beevers as follows: “Onerous overtime, unsafe staffing levels, dangerous conditions the industry continues to ignore; the daily occurrences of fires, emissions, leaks and explosions that threaten local communities without the industry doing much about it and the flagrant contracting out that impacts health and safety on the job.”
The attacks on labor and workers cannot be sugar coated. It is a crisis of the highest order. This is no time for complacency or an attitude of resignation to additional defeats. The employers’ campaign has been a record of relatively easy victories, and it is high time for changes in labor’s strategy in order to bring the corporate class to heel. We have to say “No to Austerity Measures!” imposed on the working class while the high rollers laugh all the way to the bank. The alternative strategy, which we in the Labor Fightback Network have urged since our inception, is for labor and our community allies to run our own candidates for pubic office, based on a program that reflects the needs of the great majority of the population, with candidates we put forward accountable to their base. So long as we continue to depend on either of the two corporate parties to overcome the crisis that the labor movement is up against, more defeats loom in our future. It’s time for a change!
The corporate media is reporting that since the Republican leadership and President Obama support Fast Track trade authority, it is a done deal. And that message, also heard by countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is driving the race to finalize that agreement. The truth is: Fast Track is not a done deal. There is bi-partisan opposition in Congress and a large movement of movements organized to stop it. Members of both parties know that Obama will be out of office when the negative impacts of these trade agreements are felt. Congress will be alone facing an angry electorate while Obama is raising money for his post-presidential career from the transnational corporations who get rich off these agreements at the expense of everyone else. Members of both parties know that Obama will be out of office when the negative impacts of these trade agreements are felt. Congress will be alone facing an angry electorate while Obama is raising money for his post-presidential career from the transnational corporations who get rich off these agreements at the expense of everyone else.
Freeway Fliers documents the growth of part-time (adjunct, contingent, associate, non-tenure track) faculty in America’s colleges and universities, and the circumstances under which they work and contribute to the their students, our economy, and our society. Part-time faculty currently make up the majority of the faculty, instruct the majority of the courses, and the majority of the students at America’s higher education institutions. Part-time faculty are paid significantly less than full-time (tenured, or tenure-track) faculty, generally do not have access to health insurance, do not participate in college governance, do not have access to the academic protection of tenure, and can be denied employment for any, or no, reason. This film is the story of the unknown outsiders of higher education, and the prospects for change.