A Few Quick Thoughts on the November 4th Election

By Bill Fletcher, Jr

http://billfletcherjr.com

(1) There is almost always a low turnout during a midterm election and the party which controls the White House tends to lose.  This is definitely true but should not let us off the hook.

(2) The Democratic base largely stayed home except in certain important races, such as in North Carolina.  I think that we have to face the reality that the base that would be expected to vote Democratic was dis-spirited.  It is not just the ads that the Republicans ran.  The Obama administration has not led in a progressive direction.  There are certainly some major accomplishments, but there had been great expectations by many that after the 2012 election he would come out swinging.  I never had such expectations, but many people did.  Instead the administration continued to be stuck in various crises but also was not articulating a clear direction.  The Republicans were able to make Obama out to be the problem despite certain important facts, e.g., the economy has improved; troops had been pulled out of Iraq.

(3) Though the economy has improved, the condition for the average working person has not.  Yes, unemployment is down but we are still dealing with structural unemployment that is weighing on everyone.  The damage from the foreclosure crisis is far from over.  And the rich are the ones who are benefiting from the improved economy.   To turn any of this around masses of working people need to be organized to fight for a division of the wealth.  Yes, that means building and supporting labor unions.  But when the President does not make that a clarion call–except when speaking with union members–he has no answer to the public that is asking for their share.

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NYC Workers Target Walmart in $15 Hourly Wage Fight

By Pat Fry

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

Oct 18, 2014 – The fight for a $15 minimum hourly wage escalated in the streets of New York City Oct 17 with several hundred union and community allies demanding the right to organize and a living wage.

The two largest retail workers’ unions joined forces in support of organizing drives at Walmart, a campaign supported by the UFCW and Zara’s, a national women’s clothing store chain, where workers are organizing a union of the RWDSU.

The march in midtown Manhattan stopped at Zara’s across from Bloomingdale’s Dept Store whose workers are represented by RWDSU and delivered petitions to management in support of the union campaign.

The protesters then marched to the Park Avenue address of Alice Walton, heiress to the Walmart fortune – worth an estimated $35 billion. In front of Walton’s posh penthouse building, protesters chanted, “Alice, Alice, You Can’t Hide – We Can See Your Greedy Side.”

A delegation attempted to deliver 1,600 signatures on a petition in support of Walmart workers. Then in planned civil disobedience several workers and supporters sat in the street until they were taken away by police.

The campaign now is gearing up for another Black Friday protest at Walmart stores around the country on Nov. 28, the biggest shopping day of the year “to hold Walmart and the Walton family publicly accountable for their poor treatment of Walmart workers!”

Organized Labor Takes on Race and Michael Brown’s Cause

By Carla Murphy

Colorlines via Portside Labor

Oct 2, 2014 – Back in 1999, Victor Narro co-organized* up to 100 Los Angeles-based day laborers—mainly Latino and many undocumented—to attend the AFL-CIO convention, the nation’s largest labor gathering. Now, he admits, they were all a little naïve. Without affiliate status, the group learned at the entrance that they could not share the hall with the representatives of 12 million union workers. “We felt like, ‘Why would [certain] workers not be allowed into the AFL-CIO convention?’,” Narro says.

What Narro, who is now a project director at the UCLA Labor Center, recalls more vividly though, is the unofficial greeting: A grip of ironworkers and others in the construction trade formed and, “basically told us we had no business being there. We’re not a union. We take away union jobs.” Echoing a sentiment shared by many working people of color today, Narro says, “We felt that we were not part of the labor movement.” The last decade has given Narro hope however that an unprecedented all-workers movement, not just a union member-only movement, could one day become a reality.

There are signs that traditional labor leadership, if not its dwindling white male rank and file, is taking steps to better include workers of color. Not only has it recognized the growing strength of alt-labor [1] models like those built over the last 15 years by veteran organizer Narro. It’s slowly beginning to address the racial justice concerns of workers of color, too.

The latest indicator, labor observers say, was provoked by Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson. It came three weeks ago in the form of a little-publicized but powerful speech [2] by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. During his remarks Trumka—a former mine worker from western Pennsylvania—urged the mostly white audience attending their St. Louis convention to honestly tackle racism. “We cannot wash our hands of these issues,” he said, before recounting how local labor had instigated a 1917 pogrom against African-American migrants in St. Louis. “Racism is part of our inheritance as Americans. Every city, every state and every region of this country has its own deep history with racism. And so does the labor movement.”

After watching Trumka’s speech on YouTube (his second on race [3]), Atlanta-based organizer Tamieka Atkins says she is more inclined to count herself as part of the labor movement. “I generally say that I belong to the domestic workers movement—or the workers rights movement because I haven’t felt represented by labor,” says Atkins, director of the first and largely African-American chapter [4] of the Latina and immigrant National Domestic Workers Alliance. As a sign of their growing strength, the 10,000-member alliance boasts a newly announced MacArthur “genius” grant winner in Ai-Jen Poo and domestic workers’ bills of rights wins in four states.

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