Anti-war activists report on Pakistan trip, attack drones

first_imgJudy GreenspanWW photo: Terri KayA standing-room-only crowd came out to the Berkeley Fellowship Hall on Dec. 2 to hear eyewitness reports of a visit to Pakistan in October by a delegation of 34 U.S. anti-war activists. They had met with anti-drone activists and relatives of the 760 civilians murdered by U.S. drones.Speaking at today’s meeting were Joe Lombardo, national co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition; Leah Bolger, national president of Veterans for Peace; and Toby Blome and Dianne Budd of CodePink, the group that initiated the Pakistan visit.All the speakers exposed the inhumane U.S. military policy of sending drone missiles to murder and maim the Pakistani people. Bolger talked about the frequent protests against drone attacks in Pakistan. “All military-aged males are considered enemy combatants and legitimate targets for drones,” the Vets for Peace activist noted. “The U.S. has no idea who is being killed.”Lombardo, the UNAC representative, talked about the domestic U.S. war against the Muslim community and recent government-inspired frame-ups of Muslim activists. He talked about the case of Aafia Siddiqui. “In Pakistan, this woman is a hero,” Lombardo explained. He explained that her case is tied together with the national campaign against U.S. drones. The slogan “Free Aafia — Stop Drones” was quite visible during a slide show of Pakistani anti-U.S.-war demonstrations.A national campaign against U.S. drone makers was announced. Activists from around the country have already been blockading and committing civil disobedience at the gates of these warmakers.The San Francisco Bay Area tour includes several speaking engagements in the East and South Bay. For more information about the campaign to stop the U.S. drone war, contact CodePink, Veterans for Peace or the UNAC. A special website called droneswatch.org is being set up to orchestrate this campaign.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Zimbabwe defies West

first_imgAfrica’s ZANU-PF wins in landslideRobert MugabeZimbabwe held national harmonized elections on July 31 that returned President Robert Mugabe to office for his seventh term since independence in 1980. The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party won more than two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly, giving the party the capacity to form its own government.ZANU-PF had worked in a coalition government with two factions of the Western-backed opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC-T and MDC-M. The coalition government came out of the crisis surrounding the 2008 elections, in which a dispute developed over the results of the polls.After five years of a regionally mediated Global Political Agreement, ZANU-PF is looking forward to forming its own revolutionary government without the constraints associated with portfolios held by the MDC parties. The party ran a campaign highlighting its legacy of the land redistribution program and its efforts aimed at transferring mining and manufacturing industry operations to Africans.The July 31 elections represented the culmination of a four-year political process that drafted and approved a new constitution. All relevant parties in the country participated in the debates and negotiations surrounding the adoption of the constitution, which was approved through a national referendum as well as resolutions within both houses of the National Assembly.Caesar Zvayi, deputy editor of the Zimbabwe Herald, stressed that the election results were consistent with political trends over the last 11 years. Zvayi wrote, “A look at voting trends since the 2002 presidential election shows that 1.2 million is consistent with Mr. [Morgan] Tsvangirai’s level of support as he amassed 1,258,401 (42 percent) votes to President Mugabe’s 1,685,212 (56.2 percent) in the 2002 poll; 1,195,562 (47.9 percent) to President Mugabe’s 1,079,730 (43.2 percent) votes in 2008; with his tally this year also hovering around the 1.2 million votes mark.” (Aug. 5)Zvayi notes, “This year, President Mugabe garnered 2,110,434 (61.09 percent) of the vote, Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai 1,172,349 (33.94 percent), Welshman Ncube 92,637 (2.68 percent), Dumiso Dabengwa 25,416 (0.74 percent), Kisinoti Mukwazhe 9,931 (0.29 percent).”Africans monitor Zimbabwe electionsTsvangirai, the leader of the MDC-T and former prime minister under the coalition government, cried foul even prior to the official announcement of the vote tallies. The Western-backed opposition figure has challenged President Mugabe unsuccessfully three times since 2002, claiming that his party had a program to revive the economy and improve relations with the West.Tsvangirai blamed his loss in the elections on vote rigging by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which had appointees from all major parties in the country. The MDC-T, along with the other political parties, approved the constitution, the electoral process and the terms of the new political dispensation.The MDC-T leader was following the lead of his imperialist backers, who have failed to recognize the results of the elections. This failure by the United States, Britain, some European Union states and Australia to accept the ZANU-PF victory is contradictory, since many leading publications and think tanks based in those countries had predicted a resounding defeat of the opposition for several months.According to another article in the Aug. 5 Zimbabwe Herald, “Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitator Comrade Jacob Zuma, Kenyan President Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and the Chinese government have congratulated President Mugabe and ZANU-PF on their landslide victory in the just-ended harmonized elections and urged all parties to accept the result. Comrade Zuma said the result should be respected as observers said it was an expression of the will of the people.”The Herald notes, “The United Nations (UN), AU [African Union], SADC [Southern African Development Community], the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and other observer groups from Africa have endorsed the elections while the United States, Britain and its dominion Australia — who were not invited to observe — have joined MDC-T in condemning the election.” Zimbabwe refused to allow the Western states to send observers for the elections, saying that Africa could provide adequate monitoring to ensure a credible poll.The chairperson of the regional SADC Peace and Security Council, President Jakaya Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania, sent a letter of congratulations to Mugabe. Kikwete’s party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, and ZANU-PF have enjoyed decades of fraternal relations extending back to the days of the armed struggle against the white settler-colonial rule of Ian Smith.This letter read in part: “I have received with great pleasure, the news of your re-election for another term to lead the people of Zimbabwe. On behalf of the Government and people of the United Republic of Tanzania and indeed on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate Your Excellency for this resounding victory.”Kikwete stated: “Indeed your re-election is a clear testimony of the confidence and trust the people of Zimbabwe bestowed upon you. Under your able leadership, Zimbabwe has recorded tremendous socio-economic developments, despite some challenges. Thus we look forward for greater progress and prosperity for the people of Zimbabwe as well as your continued invaluable contribution to our region and the continent through SADC and the AU.”Will imperialist states escalate attacks?Since the leading imperialist states, the U.S. and Britain, have refused so far to accept their defeat in Zimbabwe, will they continue or escalate hostility toward the Southern African state? Indications are that efforts to undermine the independence and sovereignty of Zimbabwe will continue.The rejection of the election reports from the AU, SADC, COMESA and even the U.N. represents the height of arrogance and racism on the part of these Western governments. By refusing to acknowledge the continental acceptance of the results, the imperialists are seeking a rationale for renewed interference in the internal affairs of not only Zimbabwe but indeed Africa as a whole.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “In light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people.” (The Independent, Aug. 4) Such a statement, which blatantly ignores the work of African governments through their regional organizations, illustrates clearly the Obama administration’s total disregard for the political judgment and will of the entire African continent.In an editorial published Aug. 5, the Zimbabwe Herald responds to the State Department comment: “We wonder which Zimbabweans Kerry was referring to, when the very same people made their choices known to the world on July 31. Not to be outdone, Germany had the temerity to remark that the election ‘casts a big shadow on the political and economic future of Zimbabwe.’ ”Anti-imperialist forces inside the Western states must accept and salute the people of Zimbabwe for their political decision to return ZANU-PF, the party of national liberation, to office with an overwhelming victory. The struggle of the people of Zimbabwe backed up by the African continent should serve as an inspiration to all who are fighting against the hegemony of imperialism throughout the world.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

The lynching of Miriam Carey

first_imgMiriam CareyOct. 7 — Valarie Carey and Amy Carey-Jones are publicly asking why deadly force was used against their sister, Miriam Carey. Appearing on CNN’s New Day program today along with attorney Eric Sanders, Valarie Carey stated: “It actually doesn’t make any sense. And the question really isn’t why was she in Washington; the question is why was she killed in Washington. And all I can see, when I look at that video, is my sister’s afraid and she’s frightened and she’s trying to get out of there. She’s confused. She doesn’t know which way to go. And I just can’t imagine what she was thinking as she’s trying to get away from bullet shots.”She went on to say: “My sister didn’t have a gun. She was not shooting a weapon from her vehicle, so deadly physical force of a weapon being fired upon her car — I don’t believe was justified.”Beginning at 2 p.m. on Oct. 3, all the ruling-class media ran nonstop coverage about a car chase that took place in the heavy security area of Washington, D.C. The chase involved a driver who crashed gates in front of the White House and on Capitol Hill. Cameras focused on a full mobilization of D.C. Metropolitan and Capitol Hill police, along with the FBI and other armed federal agencies.There was endless commentary on how the lives of the police, who had their guns and automatic rifles drawn the entire time, were being threatened by the lone driver using the car as “a weapon.” After the car crashed with the driver still in the car, several police shot multiple times, killing the driver.That driver turned out to be a 34-year-old dental hygienist named Miriam Carey, from Stamford, Conn. She was shot so many times that it took longer than usual to identify her. This African-American woman and mother of a 13-month-old toddler — who was also in the car but reportedly not hurt — had lost her job in 2012. Her family and boyfriend reported that she had a history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, head trauma and postpartum depression.For all the talk about the police being threatened, only two police officers were hurt, and those with only minor injuries. This was a lynching, pure and simple.Throughout the day, the press was speculating that maybe this was a terrorist attack. One question that the media have not asked: Why didn’t the police shoot at the car’s tires, instead of at Carey?After Carey was shot to death these same media, quoting the police, stated that the incident was “isolated.”But was it really an isolated incident? Not really. There are many current cases and many more to come of people suffering from mental illness who, instead of receiving the adequate treatment they deserve as fellow members of humanity, are locked up in prisons. One National Public Radio report estimated this number at 350,000.This lack of treatment is due to the systematic closing of hospitals coupled with unemployment, low-wage jobs, homelessness, deadly cuts in food stamps, etc. These problems bring many to the point of committing anti-social behavior, because all positive outlets for leading healthy lives have been eliminated under a profit-driven system now in crisis. For all the talk about “Obamacare,” there are millions of people, especially African Americans, the undocumented and the poor in general, who as of now will continue to go uninsured.There are also others, like Miriam Carey, who because of erratic behavior — even if not threatening — have wound up at the mercy of the shoot-to-kill mentality of the police and other repressive forces on a local, state and federal level. These victims and those imprisoned far outnumber the tiny handful of mentally ill people who actually have been a threat. And those threats — think of the recent massacres — might have been prevented if the individuals had received adequate mental health care.Miriam Carey does not deserve to be demonized. She did not exhibit criminal behavior. Any erratic behavior that she may have displayed did not warrant her slaughter.The criminal behavior belongs to the police and the big-business media that defend the cops’ actions when it comes to protecting the status quo of private property and its puppet politicians.In the meantime, another child loses its mother in a split second of senseless state violence. Justice for Miriam Carey!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Fighting for reproductive justice in a sea of reaction

first_imgA pro-choice law was proposed in Congress in 2013 with by-partisan support, the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013. As Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote in a Nov. 13 op-ed posted on the Huffington Post blog, the law is needed “to stop states from subjecting reproductive health care providers to meet burdensome requirements that are not applied to medical professionals providing similar services.” Its purpose — “to protect a woman’s right to determine whether and when to bear a child or end a pregnancy by limiting restrictions on the provision of abortion services” — is based on the due process and equal protection clauses in the 14th Amendment.Though the national organizations that traditionally defend and promote reproductive rights oppose all attacks on abortion rights and support the WHPA, they offer few other concrete solutions. They do mount pro-choice demonstrations in states against specific attacks, as they did in North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan last year. They also rely on social media to activate a strong pro-choice response to hostile legislation throughout the country.There has not been a national mobilization in Washington, D.C., in defense of choice since 2004 largely because groups that have organized them depend on voluntary contributions and demonstrations cost millions of dollars. Nowadays groups are pouring funding into filing lawsuits in various states and promoting activism in local areas, as they did in Albuquerque, N.M., last year where they helped overturn a 20-week abortion ban.But that’s not enough to turn back the reactionary onslaught, which is showing its ugly, racist, sexist, anti-lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer, anti-labor, anti-poor, pro-rich, pro-austerity, undemocratic face throughout the land. What’s needed is to draw lessons from successful movements in the past, like the massive Civil Rights Movement led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.During this King holiday, it’s timely to remember that women protesting in the streets for legal abortion propelled the Republican-majority court to decide in favor of Roe in 1973. So it’s time for women rights’ activists to join with all groups under attack — all low-wage workers in fast food restaurant and retail jobs as well as bank tellers and airport workers, all workers fighting for unemployment and union rights, and all those in low-income and oppressed communities fighting for their very survival —  in a massive people’s power movement.Only a united movement can make power to the people — and reproductive justice — a global reality.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this Michigan residents march in Detroit to defend women’s rights, 2007. WW photo: Cheryl LaBashWhat is the state of abortion rights in the United States on Jan. 22, the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion?Not good. NARAL Pro-Choice America’s national report card for reproductive rights in 2014 gave the U.S. a grade of D. Last year, 52 laws restricting abortion rights were passed in 24 states, and a Supreme Court case, introduced Jan. 15, threatens safe access to women’s health clinics.A total of 807 anti-choice laws have been passed by states since 1995, with more than 200 since 2011. In its Jan. 14 “State of the States” report,  the Center for Reproductive Rights divides restrictions into four categories: limits on insurance coverage, bans on abortion care, targeted regulations on abortion providers, and restrictions on medical (prescription) abortions.NARAL’s 102-page report, “Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States,” details each state’s status. While 10 states enacted 16 pro-choice measures last year, 14 states have total bans on abortion rights, 12 of which were enacted before the Roe decision in 1973. These laws would immediately take effect if Roe is overturned.Twelve states already had bans on abortions after 20 weeks without an adequate health exception; they were joined by Texas and North Dakota in 2013. Arkansas passed a ban after 12 weeks. All bans defy standards set by the Roe ruling.Congress debated 87 anti-choice bills in 2013, many related to gutting abortion and contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, all were defeated. (For details, see CRR’s study, “Under Attack: Reproductive Rights in the 112th Congress.”)However, two congressional actions severely limited reproductive rights: food stamps cut by the sequester and long-term unemployment insurance ending in 2013. Reproductive justice is based on the premise that all women, regardless of nationality, class, gender or sexual identity, and various abilities, must have the right to have and raise healthy children as well as to control all aspects of their own lives. Being able to feed and provide for themselves and their children is essential to ensure those rights.More of the same in 2014On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a federal court ruling rejecting Arizona’s 20-week ban on abortions. It’s not clear how this will affect bans in other states, though it might encourage new lawsuits opposing them.On Jan. 15, the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against a Massachusetts law that established a 35-foot buffer zone around women’s health care clinics. Marty Walz, of Massachusetts Planned Partenthood, told NPR Jan. 15 that “nothing else in our 30-year history has worked” to keep anti-choice protesters from harassing clients and staff when entering or leaving clinics.It must be remembered that two clinic workers were murdered and five injured in 1994 at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Mass. Walz noted buffer zones are around all polling places as well as the Supreme Court. The court approved a clinic zone in 2000, though its composition is now more anti-choice.On Jan. 17, a federal court blocked a demeaning, medically unnecessary ultrasound law in North Carolina. The law required that doctors show women seeking an abortion an ultrasound picture  and describe the fetus in detail to shame women into canceling their abortion.Congress initiated its first 2014 anti-choice measure on Jan. 15 when the House Judiciary Committee passed HR7, which would ensure abortions are not directly funded by any federal program or department. Since 1977, the Hyde Amendment has denied Medicaid coverage for abortions for poor women, who are disproportionately women of color, rural and young. By imposing new requirements in the tax code and on the private insurance market — that eliminate deductions for abortion services — it would impose sweeping restrictions that make abortions less affordable for all.But the law’s most controversial provision — the most vicious, invasive attack of women — would require the Internal Revenue Service to conduct audits of rape and incest victims who have abortions and women who have abortions for life-threatening complications to ensure they’re not committing tax fraud. That means the IRS would have the final say over what “counts” as a sexual assault or a life-threatening situation, forcing women to prove their case. Only the most profoundly misogynous, reactionary minds could dream up such a draconian anti-woman law.What is to be done?last_img read more

1934: When low-wage workers fought back

first_imgUnion Square, 1934, some 60,000 communists gather in New York City to protest unemployment and capitalism.As 2014 begins, workers and oppressed people in the United States are looking at the fight ahead. Low-wage workers are on the move, demanding higher wages, union rights and dignity.Eighty years ago, workers were also fighting back and organizing for justice. The year 1934 was a turning point in the class struggle, and a great year for the working class. It was a year when low-paid workers shook the foundations of the U.S.The low-wage workers of the 1930s were often recent immigrants from Italy, Eastern Europe or Ireland who worked in industries. Some African-American workers, who had moved north trying to escape Jim Crow, also worked in the industries, receiving even lower wages. The steel mills, textile plants, packing houses and other urban industrial centers were known for their low wages, lengthy hours and unsafe working conditions.Beginning in 1929, the U.S. was experiencing the infamous Great Depression. Laid-off workers were poorly clothed, hungry and homeless across the country. Starting in 1931, there were huge uprisings of unemployed workers. The Hunger Marches, led by the Unemployed Councils, brought out thousands of workers to demand “Work or wages now!” “Don’t starve, fight!” was the slogan as veterans held the famous Bonus March of 1931, demanding benefits and occupying Washington, D.C.Many radical organizers looked for inspiration to the Soviet Union at the time, which was having an economic boom while the rest of the world was in a depression. Workers were inspired to fight back by communist leaders, who agitated about how unemployment, homelessness and poverty would be eliminated in a “Soviet America.”With unemployed workers and veterans already in motion, it was in 1934 that low-paid industrial workers took action on the job.The general strike waveIn San Francisco, the dockworkers shut the city down. They refused to unload the ships until their union was recognized and the humiliating “shape up” practices were ended. The union also demanded that Black workers be hired to work on the docks. When the longshore workers went on strike, workers all throughout the city joined them. President Franklin D. Roosevelt begged the strikers to return to work, as businesses throughout the country could not receive imported goods. Four longshore workers were killed by the National Guard, who opened fire on the striking workers.When the strike was finally over, the longshore workers had won many of their demands. They had union representation, much higher pay and better working conditions. Black workers were hired to work alongside white workers on the docks. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union still represents the dockworkers on the West Coast to this day.In Minneapolis, the drivers who delivered coal so people could heat their homes organized into the Teamsters union. Leaders of the local wanted to expand the union from simply representing the coal drivers to representing workers throughout the entire city. With the demand “Make Minneapolis a union town!” the coal drivers shut down the city.The rule was “no scab trucks.” No car could travel the streets of Minneapolis without a pass from the union. Activists from the union and community with baseball bats made sure of this. Soon, the National Guard was sent in, but the workers fought back.When the Minneapolis Teamsters strike ended, the workers were victorious. With Minneapolis as a base area, the Teamsters were able to expand to Kansas, Nebraska and other parts of the country, winning contracts and improving working conditions.In Toledo, Ohio, the workers at the Auto-Lite auto parts factory also shut the city down in a general strike. Workers across the city walked off the job in solidarity. The National Guard was sent in, and the workers fought back.In addition to the three municipal general strikes, 1934 was also the year of a national textile workers strike. Workers across the South in the National Textile Union went on strike to demand union representation. South Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency in response to this uprising, and called out the National Guard and vigilante squads to battle the strikers.Then and nowThe American Federation of Labor was at first opposed to organizing industrial workers, instead focusing on “skilled trades.” In Minneapolis, San Francisco and Toledo, as well as in the textile mills of the South, it was communists, armed with the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, who led the struggle. To do it, they had to push back the right-wing labor bureaucrats.Communists like Samuel Darcy, Farrell Dobbs and William Z. Foster said all workers — “skilled” or “unskilled” — had the right to be unionized. They also said that racism had no place in the labor movement, and that Black workers and white workers should stand together against the bosses. They knew that successful strikes involved the support of the community, especially the unemployed and oppressed workers.Following the strike wave of 1934, Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act. The right of workers to organize unions became federal law. By the early 1940s, workers all across the country in steel mills, packing houses, rubber plants and auto plants had won union representation and better wages.In modern times, the Democratic Party often talks of bringing “good paying industrial jobs back to America.” They ignore the fact that industrial jobs only became good paying because of militant organizing and working-class struggle.Instead of trying to reimport industrial labor to the U.S., it is time for low-paid workers in fast-food restaurants, airports, hotels and everywhere to do what industrial workers did in 1934. It is time for them to fight back. Eighty years after 1934, we must raise the call for working-class power — and fight against capitalism!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Akai Gurley’s aunt: ‘Time to dismantle this system’

first_imgTalk given by Hertencia Petersen at March 5 International Working Women’s Day rally in Harlem, N.Y.Nelson Mandela once said, “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.” It takes a very wise man to understand the role a woman plays in society.My name is Hertencia Petersen and I am the aunt of Akai Gurley, who was murdered by NYPD [New York Police Department] rookie officer Peter Liang on November 20th, 2014.My sister Sylvia will never get to hold or see her son again. She wants Peter Liang to be held accountable for murdering her son. “Where is the justice for Akai Gurley?” she continues to ask. Whether you’re white, Black, Chinese or Latino, you must be held accountable for taking an innocent human life. We must remember genocide is not an accident. Akai Gurley being murdered is not an accident.It’s an honor to be here, surrounded with some strong sisters. As we know, women have always been labeled as the weaker ones. Physically that might be true to an extent, but otherwise I disagree. We only think differently than our male counterparts.We are here today to say we are sick and tired of our loved ones being murdered by police brutality. We are tired of the racist system that has been criminalizing our communities, dehumanizing our sisters and mothers. We have been fighting a system that is corrupted, racist against people of color and [against] women as well.What we have been struggling to get is equal pay; decent, affordable housing; and health insurance, not only for ourselves but for our children; and programs and safe houses for domestic violence victims; etc.The system has put such a strain on our state of mind with oppression, trying to keep us oppressed. Look around and ask yourself, why are we hated so much? Why do we have to fight for everything we need in this world?We must celebrate diversity and embrace unity to fight for our rights as human beings. Shirley Chisholm said that in the end, anti-Black, anti-female and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.As women we would do anything to protect our family. If that means fighting against a system that doesn’t respect women, then I say we dismantle this system! Just imagine if we were to unite and stand in solidarity with all people of color, male and female, and fight this system as opposed to fighting each other. We would be a force to be reckoned with.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

On the picket line

first_imgPaid sick leave in Vermont, minimum wage increase in OregonOn Feb. 18, Vermont passed a law granting paid sick leave to most full-time workers in the state. The bill, signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, mandates that employers provide a minimum of one hour paid time off for 52 hours worked, or 24 hours/3 days a year. Some 60,000 workers are currently denied any paid leave, a large proportion of them women in fast food and other low-wage industries.Gov. Shumlin praised the bill: “With 90 percent of food workers nationwide reporting that they go to work sick — and 65 percent of food-borne illnesses resulting from the handling of food by someone who is sick — this is as much a public health issue as it is one that reflects our values as Vermonters.” The law goes into effect on Jan. 1. Vermont is the fifth state to legislate paid sick leave. (Huffington Business, Feb. 18)In another legislative victory for workers, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill March 2 raising the state minimum wage to the highest in the country. Currently set at $9.25 an hour statewide, the minimum will increase over six years, capping off at $14.75 for workers in Portland, $13.50 in smaller cities and $12.50 in rural areas. (koin.com, March 2)Trump Hotel workers still fighting for contractAlthough a majority of workers at billionaire demagogue Donald Trump’s Las Vegas hotel voted to join UNITE HERE’s Culinary Workers and Bartenders unions last December, management has still refused to recognize the unions or take a seat at the bargaining table.As a result, the workers, many of them Latino/a immigrants, have joined the growing movement of anti-Trump protests sweeping the country. Hundreds of workers gathered outside the Trump Las Vegas Hotel on Feb. 23 for an informational picket line, chanting “No contract, no peace!” (motherjones.com, Feb. 23) On March 3, the workers traveled to New York to protest outside of Trump Tower Manhattan, where they delivered a petition to a Trump Organization representative. The workers plan to follow Trump along the campaign trail, organizing protests to coincide with presidential primaries in Michigan and Louisiana. (ibtimes.com, March 6) Stay tuned for updates on this struggle.CIW promotes Fair Food ProgramFrom March 2 to 12, farmworkers and consumer allies are mobilizing to bring Wendy’s — the lone holdout among the big five fast food companies of Yum Brands, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway and Wendy’s — into the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program. Workers and consumers are taking the Fair Food message directly to Wendy’s corporate leadership in Columbus, Ohio, on March 2; New York on March 3; and Palm Beach, Fla., on March 12 — with other stops along the way in Immokalee, Fla., on March 2; Louisville on March 9; and Gainesville, Fla., on March 11. During the Columbus march, CIW announced its national boycott of Wendy’s, which switched from buying tomatoes from Florida growers to Mexico farmers after CIW’s initial appeal.In 2011, CIW launched the FFP, a model for “Worker-driven Social Responsibility” based on a partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers and participating retail buyers like Subway, Whole Foods and Walmart. In 2015, the FFP expanded to cover tomato growing in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, as well as Florida strawberries and peppers. (ciw-online.org)NY City Council holds hearing on Freelance Isn’t Free ActA hearing on the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act,” sponsored by the Freelancers Union and supported by a wide range of unions and workers’ groups in independent business and technology sectors, was held on Feb. 29 by the New York City Council. The union initiated the legislation, the first of its kind in the country, to counter widespread wage theft experienced by 70 percent of freelance workers, who account for 1.3 million workers in the city. A union survey showed that, on average, its members are robbed of $6,390 every year. One of the fastest growing segments of the workforce — one out of three workers are temps, moonlighters, solopreneurs, gig and self-employed workers — freelancers have none of the protections and benefits of 9-to-5 employees. The act would require written contracts with a job description, the rate and method of payment and the date when payment is due. Follow-up hearings are planned.Davis is a longtime member and officer of the National Writers Union, United Auto Workers Local 1981, whose members testified at the hearing.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Attack on Women’s, African-American studies

first_imgAt the conclusion of the spring semester, the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees announced that degree programs in African American and Women’s Studies would be eliminated. Programs dealing with these important areas of academic research will continue only on a downgraded level. Degrees in philosophy and religious studies were also cut. The trustees emphasized the decision could result in employees being retrenched.Providing a rationale for the nixing of the degree programs, the WIU registrar’s office said no degree in African-American studies, only two degrees in philosophy and women’s studies, and one degree in religious studies were earned by students in the current graduating class.The decision to remove the programs prompted opposition from both faculty and students. An online petition opposing the abolition of the philosophy program collected 1,656 supporters. Brian Powell, an associate professor of philosophy, said this sent a message that a lot of people “recognize the value of philosophy to the university.” (Chicago Tribune, June 11)The Peoria Journal Star pointed out: “The Board also voted to modify bilingual/bicultural education, public health, geography and musical theater degree programs. Trustees also approved the university’s fiscal year 2017 preliminary spending plan of $221.3 million. The spending plan is a decrease of $24.6 million from fiscal year 2016 All Funds Budget.” (June 10)Although the university trustees claimed their decision was not based on financial considerations but on lack of enrollment, the two areas of governance cannot be separated. The overall slashing of assistance programs from both the state and federal governments is a major contributing factor to cutbacks in higher education institutions across the U.S.In Illinois, the Republican governor and the Democratic leaders of the Legislature have waged pitched battle over the fiscal budget. Until a June 30 stopgap agreement, the state had gone for an entire year without an agreement on spending that impacts education, municipal and social services. WGN-TV emphasized the severity of the crisis, saying renewed absence of an agreement could mean catastrophic results for public and private sectors of the economy, such as hampering investment in the state.Nationwide decline in public fundingThe situation in Illinois involving education and other public expenditures follows a pattern over the last several years of increased attacks on programs that challenge dominant Eurocentric and male-oriented approaches to scholarship.These cuts in academic programs are not only occurring in higher education but also in public schools. In Chicago during the last four years, the teachers’ union has engaged in strikes and mass demonstrations against the elimination of programs, closing of school buildings and reduction in salaries and benefits for educators.In the city of Detroit, the periodic imposition of emergency management in the public school system since 1999 has not only brought the district into near insolvency. The elimination of music, art, sports and other programs has severely reduced the quality of the education given to mainly African-American and Latino/a youth.At Wayne State University in Detroit, that center of higher education for working-class and nationally oppressed peoples has experienced huge budget cuts, prompting the raising of tuition and housing costs. Enrollment is down substantially while the largest corporations in Michigan continue to be given huge tax breaks, which threaten to send the state into monumental budget deficits and consequently more austerity measures.The attacks on education parallel worsening problems of declining municipal services and infrastructure related to water, public transportation, environmental quality and assistance to low-income families and their children.Academic programs aimed at the recruitment and quality education of oppressed groups are being rapidly eviscerated under the guise of deficits and budget tightening. Academic programs and curricula designed to correct racist and sexist approaches to instruction and research — programs introduced to the educational arena as a result of protests and debate — are again becoming the subject of ridicule and liquidation.The need for renewed fightbackStates like Arizona and Texas have placed restrictions on what can be taught about nationally oppressed groups in the public education system. Arizona House Bill 2281, passed in 2010, threatened districts with loss of funding if they did not eliminate courses in Mexican-American studies. The actions sparked a movement that insisted those programs be reintroduced into the school system. Teachers and students held classes outside the schools, igniting demonstrations that gained some results in Arizona, Texas and California.The Atlantic magazine reported: “As the Tucson Unified School District’s governing board prepared to discuss removing Mexican-American studies from a list of classes that would count toward core requirements (seen by many as another move to demean it), nine students rushed the boardroom. They pulled chains from around their waists. Behind a curved wood desk with microphones, they sat in the board’s rolling chairs and locked themselves in place. They pounded the table and chanted, ‘When education is under attack, what do we do? Fight back!’” (July 19, 2015)These types of academic programs serve African Americans, Latino/as, women and other groups subjected to national and gender discrimination. The only way for the maintenance and reintroduction of the programs is through a process similar to that which originated them between the 1960s and 1990s. Students, backed by their communities, took over buildings and shut down campuses, creating a crisis that school administrations and the broader political establishment could not ignore.With the growth of people-of-color communities throughout the U.S. and the rapid transformation of so-called “minorities” into majorities, militant action will be required to make public education relevant to these constituencies. The struggle must be combined with the fight against austerity, which is a direct result of the crisis in modern-day capitalism and imperialism globally.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Turkey bombs villages in northern Syria — again

first_imgAs many people expected, the Turkish regime led by Tayyip Erdogan has resumed its offensive against the Kurds in Syria, with an apparent go-ahead from U.S. imperialism. In recent years, Washington had given military aid to the “Syrian Democratic Forces,” in which the Kurdish People’s Defense Forces (YPG) played a major role in the fighting.  The U.S. goal has been to use the YPG to weaken the Damascus government, under the pretext of fighting the Islamic State forces. Since the U.S. has no permanent allies — only permanent interests — it surprised few people that, when the Assad government regained control of most of Syria’s territory, Washington would abandon its temporary ally in Syria’s Kurdish region and leave the Kurds as a target of the oppressive Turkish regime. The following article appeared in the German daily newspaper Junge Welt on Nov. 1.On the morning of Oct. 31, the Turkish army shelled the villages of Korel, Selim and Ashma in northern Syria, west of the town of Kobani (Ain Al-Arab), which is mainly inhabited by Kurds. The day before, the military from the neighboring country of Turkey had attacked the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad.Anha, a news agency, reported that civilians had been injured. Four fighters from the Kurdish People’s Defense Forces (YPG) were killed and six others were injured in fighting in the Syrian-Turkish border area on Oct. 31.The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDK) military alliance issued a statement which said it had “the right to retaliate for any attack on our territories.” The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), an umbrella organization of the SDK, condemned Turkey’s aggression in a statement on Oct. 30, and called on the U.S.-led “international coalition against the Islamic State” to “live up to its responsibility.”The SDC alliance also called on the Syrian government “not to remain silent and to take action within the framework of international legislation.”Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had equated the Syrian-Kurdish party of the Democratic Union (PYD) with the terrorist organization “Islamic State” at a summit meeting attended by Turkey, France, Russia and Germany on Oct. 27. He pledged that the PYD would be exterminated.Turkey seeks to extend its presence in northern Syria further to the east. Officially, Erdogan justifies this goal as necessary in “the fight against terror” carried out by IS and PYD.  However, it could also serve to expand Turkish control over oil and gas resources in northern and eastern Syria, with Washington’s tacit consent.Germany Federal Economics Minister Peter Altmaier stated in Ankara on Oct. 26 that the city sees itself as “a regional hub for oil and gas supplies.” Berlin aims to support Turkey in this.Riza Altun, member of the Executive Council of the Community of Societies of Kurdistan (KCK), told Mediya TV that the U.S. “wants to create a new order in the Middle East.” According to Altun, co-founder of the Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK), this is “in the context of a reorganization of global relations.” This type of endeavor is always associated with new crises.Leukefeld has been covering news in Syria and the region for over a decade. Translation by Workers World managing editor John Catalinotto.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

U.S. life expectancy under capitalism continues to drop

first_imgThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its latest numbers for life expectancy in the U.S. on Nov. 28, and the news reveals a disturbing pattern. Few researchers were surprised that U.S. average life expectancy slipped another tenth of a year to reach 78.6 years. This indicates that drug overdoses, suicides and other preventable or treatable conditions have continued to grow. (tinyurl.com/y9g3kawy)Indeed, if not for scientific and technological advancements in treating heart disease, cancer and cigarette addiction, life expectancy would be even lower. As the economic situation in the United States continues to deteriorate, so will people’s prospects for living happy, healthy and long lives, no matter the advanced treatments offered in private hospitals with the best health care services. It’s worth noting where these numbers emerge from and how they are used. In certain parts of the United States, life expectancy is quite high. Wealthier, mainly white families can afford access to both quality health care and healthy environments. They have access to better food, cleaner water, gyms, yoga studios and personal trainers. They can afford access to psychiatrists and detox facilities. They can afford good lawyers to make sure their children get detox and rehab and not jail time. In other parts of the country, such as rural areas, non-white-majority urban areas, Indigenous reservations, prisons and generally impoverished areas, the situation is the opposite. Racism and class war have resulted in a disproportionate body count in these parts of the country. People struggle for access to everything that keeps them healthy and happy. Their jobs are more dangerous, more scarce and paid with poverty wages. Because of their race, gender or class, they do not have access to health care or healthy environments. Life expectancy doesn’t necessarily mean that people will start dying at 78.6 years of age. Rather, it’s an assessment of how likely a person is able to survive events such as infancy and childhood, giving birth, illness, crime and accidents. Some older people will live into their second century thanks to advances in medical science and health care, but most of them will survive so long because they can afford to. The poor and oppressed are left to die from preventable conditions. This is why Black women are more than twice as likely to die from childbirth in the United States. This is why life expectancy for Black men is 71.5 years (tinyurl.com/ybto9ax8), and for Indigenous Lakota people on the Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River reservations it’s a staggering 50 years! (tinyurl.com/y9dyp6gl)The U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other country globally, but this money mainly circulates among insurance companies, big pharma and lobbying firms to increase their profits. The same amount of money spent on the poor or on universal health care would bankrupt Wall Street, but increase life expectancy across all sectors. In countries that have universal, free health care, life expectancy rates are much higher, such as in Canada (82.3 years) and the United Kingdom (80.9 years), but even they are stalling. In the UK, life expectancy has stopped growing altogether. (tinyurl.com/y9asft2u) This is a result of austerity eating away at working-class gains. Housing has become increasingly tenuous, and rough sleepers are filling doorways, decreasing their quality of life. Socialist planning extends, saves livesWhile people in capitalist countries continue to suffer and decline, in socialist countries like Cuba, life expectancy not only grows, but grows evenly across all communities. Recent innovations there in cancer vaccines mean hope for people suffering from lung and skin cancers. Cuban treatment for gender dysphoria for trans and gender nonconforming people is both groundbreaking and lifesaving. Cuba sends its doctors to work in underserved communities around the world and trains doctors free of charge from all over the world, including the U.S., if they are willing to use those skills back home in poor communities. It’s no surprise that Cuban life expectancy is higher than in the U.S. Despite the U.S. blockade and constant attacks on their sovereignty, Cubans born in 2018 can expect to live 79 years. (tinyurl.com/7q49mpl)After the collapse of the Soviet Union and during the era of arch-clown and puppet Boris Yeltsin, life expectancy for formerly Soviet men fell an astonishing 9 years over the course of about a decade. (tinyurl.com/yamxveug) Mass privatization, widespread unemployment and the harrowing reality of what life is like in the “free” capitalist world drove millions to an early death by alcohol and suicide. But despite the restoration of capitalism in Russia, there is a rising life expectancy rate of Russia under Vladimir Putin. Global warming and the increasing inability for capital to find the profit it needs to sustain itself are time bombs that will need to be defused before they explode. Racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia are the tools used to control and terrorize the people, but they cannot save capitalism. The CDC’s report isn’t widespread news to most people suffering under capitalism and U.S. imperialism. It’s just a somber affirmation of what a growing number of workers and oppressed peoples, especially young people, already know — we must abolish a for-profit system which seeks to kill us and emulate that which gives life.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more