Unite Here Local 23 Protests Private Prisons

Members of Unite Here Local 23, representing workers at the Convention Center, protest the proposed Omni hotel project because the “project manager” is involved in the private prison industry.

Members of Unite Here Local 23, a union representing 1,700 hospitality workers in New Orleans protest the Omni hotel project which is proposed to be built south of the main hall of the Convention Center. The proposed project would be managed by the Baton Rouge-based Provident Resources Group, a company with a record of ownership in private prisons.

Gabby Bolden-Shaw, vice president of the Unite Here Local 23 explained union members’ opposition to the project: “It feels like a slap in the face to know this board might work with an organization that has a history of acquiring, financing, owning, leasing and contracting for the operation of correctional facilities,” said Bolden-Shaw. “New Orleans has long had one of the highest incarceration rates per capita among U.S. cities (and) this disproportionately impacts communities of color and working class families.”

To the trans troops coming home

Why did you join up? To protect America? To defeat terrorists? To serve the ideals of freedom you were taught in school?

Was it long-term benefits and pensions? Healthcare? Because no other job was available? Pressure from your family?

Or was it because there was no other way you could feel strong? Was it because there was no other way to prove that the way you feel about your gender isn’t a weakness?

Was it because someone told you you could be yourself there? Was it because you wanted to hide from yourself there?

Was it something you never before questioned?

It might not feel like it right now, but I promise you, the transgender ban is a process of liberation. Despite the fact that this is fueled by hatred and that 13,700 people have been left jobless, you are now free.

You’ve been lied to. You’ve been betrayed. Now it’s time to come home and stand up for what’s right.

You were not defending the ideals you imagined.

You were used.

The military you were tricked into joining was not the organization you thought it was. Their actions have proven this. The military serves not the people of the United States, but the rich. They serve the select few who have the money and power to command the plunder you were tricked into taking part in (even if all you did was repair trucks).

Every promise they made has been taken away from you through callous transphobia.

You were always strong. You were always better than this world has told you you were. Being trans is not a mental illness, a weakness, or a lie. It’s a way of being that was once rightfully honored, and you should have been celebrated when you came out.

Your siblings still in uniform might still support you. But there’s only so much they can do while you’re back here, so let me tell you, trans soldier, that you have a community here.

You can fight for what’s right. You can fight for freedom. The fight is here in the United States.

The fight is not for inclusion in the U.S. military. It’s for the end of the U.S. military. It’s to end the power of those who betrayed you.

Take an honest look at the lies you were told. Ask yourself who you served. Ask yourself how you brought freedom or justice anywhere. Witness Iraq and Afghanistan. Witness Libya and elsewhere. Ask yourself if that is what you signed up for.

And then look at what is going on here at home.

You’ve been betrayed, and so have all of your trans siblings who no longer have any legal protections or recognition. Reproductive rights are being taken away state by state. People of color live in fear of unjust incarceration and worse. People are forced from their homelands only to endure torment at our borders.

If you want to fight, if you want to stand up for something, if you want to live your truth, you have to fight back against them.

And that’s what we’re doing. Agitate, educate, and organize with us. Take all that pain and use it in the struggle with us.

With love,

Sally Jane Black

1,800 Farmworkers Strike in California

Jan 11: Fruit pickers in Bakersfield, CA took to the streets when the bosses at “The Wonderful Company” cut their pay. “Wonderful Company.”
Back in January, nearly 1,800 citrus pickers went on strike outside Bakersfield, California. Now some of the workers involved in the protests are pushing to form a union.

The workers are primarily undocumented immigrants working under harsh conditions. Although some are employed directly by the Wonderful Company (which markets “Halos” mandarins), most are subcontracted. They are hired by third party staffing corporations, then do piece work for the so-called Wonderful Co. Piece work is any type of employment in which a worker is paid a fixed piece rate for each unit produced or action performed. This type of employment was common in the early industrial revolution, but it’s making a comeback. (Uber and Lyft are good ex-amples.) In the fruit pickers case, the workers hired out to pick mandarins and clementines get paid per bin of fruit picked.

On January 11, the Wonderful Co. announced that it was reducing its rates up to 10 percent, going from paying $53 per bin to $48. According to United Farm Workers Secretary-Treasurer, Armando Elenes, “Workers showed up and they were told the price was $5 less than the day before.” He add-ed that during an eight-hour shift, most workers are only able to harvest 1 1/2 to 2 bins of fruit. This is back-breaking work for low pay, while the company bosses raked in $4.2 billion in profits in 2018.

About 1,800 workers walked out of the fields the very day that the pay cuts were announced. They carried out protests around the edges of the farms for four days, with the United Farm Workers coming in to provide support. The company gave in, restoring the original bin rate.

In the months afterward, some workers are carrying on agitation to form a union with United Farm Workers, which would bring the possibility of health care benefits, pensions, sick time, and more. The UFW and the newly-emerging grassroots organizers among the pickers are considering staging a vote to unionize. In the meantime, the UFW has connected the workers with a law firm. The firm is currently helping them to fight for more concessions, like forcing the Wonderful Co. to provide workers with tools so they do not have to buy and clean their own.

Chattanooga Auto Workers Organize for a Union

As early as April 29 or 30th, Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, could vote to unionize. The United Auto Workers (UAW) has filed to have an election representing all 1,709 of the Chattanooga plant’s hourly employees. If they succeed, this would be a big advance for the UAW, giving them a foothold in the south—a region undergoing a boom in manufacturing and other sec-tors, but where union member-ship rates (and wages) lag behind other areas of the country.

The UAW attempted to organize Chattanooga auto workers in both 2013 and 2015. In both cases, right-wing politicians in the state carried out lying anti-union campaigns, and when the election finally went before Trump appointees in the National Labor Review Board, it got struck down. This shows how the politicians representing the ultra rich conspire with companies, rig political institutions, and do whatever it takes to undermine the struggles of working people.

This time around the Volkswagen bosses have instituted a disinformation campaign which re-quires workers to attend meetings while supervisors read off anti-union talking points from the company’s newsletter. They are trying to sow division by advocating for merit-based bonuses that depend on competition among the workers. Some workers reported receiving bonuses between $500 and $1000 last year but they were quick to point out that VW reported an operating profit of $15.8 billion in the same time. By that account, there’s plenty of wealth to be shared among the workers!

Despite the billions of dollars that the capitalist class spends spreading misinformation to keep us down, the popularity of unions is at a 15-year high. A recent Gallup poll found that 62% of U.S. respondents support unions, including 60 percent in the South. Unions are even more popular among people aged 18-35, with 65 percent seeing unions as a good thing. All this suggests that the prospects of worker organizing are getting better.

Union Workers Are Winning Gains

Working people fed up with low wages, high rent, and other injustices take note: You are not alone in your frustration. As the crisis of the global capitalist system continues, workers and op-pressed communities suffer. The upside is that more workers are fighting back by joining unions and going on strike.
This was becoming evident as even mainstream news outlets like CNN had to cover the incredible teacher strike wave of 2018, which has spilled over into 2019. Labor organizing among Amazon, USPS, and other workers also broke through into mass consciousness.

But now the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (the official federal agency that studies these things) has confirmed that the increase in labor activity is real.

According to a bureau news release on Feb. 8, there were at least 20 major work stoppages involving 485,000 workers in 2018. This is the biggest increase in the number of U.S. workers involved in work stoppages since 1986, when 533,000 workers engaged in strikes or walkouts. And this is the largest increase in the number of major work stoppages since 2007, a year that saw 21 such stop-pages, according to the bureau.

Ninety percent of striking workers in 2018 are in education, healthcare, or social assistance (e.g., childcare), fields not usually associated with militant labor activity. Strikes also occurred in many states often described as “conservative,” such as West Virginia and Kentucky. The longest major stoppage in 2018 involved the National Grid and United Steelworkers, began on June 25 and was on-going through 2018.

One aspect not covered by the bureau’s news release is the degree to which the strikes have been effective. The strike upturn is notable not only because of the number of workers involved, or the number of stoppages. It is also impressive that striking workers in 2018 tended to stick to their guns to the end, bosses to make concessions. Most of the big strikes that made the news resulted into new contracts, higher wages, and other gains.

Buses Should Be Free, Come Every 15 Minutes, 24/7

Return tourist taxes to RTA

There is one-third the number of buses now than before Katrina. The city and RTA have spent millions on streetcars for tourists but not to provide proper transportation for residents. The big hoopla about RTA plans reveals one major fact: once again, the city has prioritized the rich, not the workers.

There is nothing in the Strategic Mobility Plan that aims to address the needs of working class New Orleanians. Gentrification—with its rising rents and home costs—has driven residents, especially Black residents, further away from jobs and shopping areas.

The new regional plan only links RTA with JET but still makes the trip expensive. So, you are forced to move further away only to pay more for transportation. The RTA survey done recently and at great expense was designed by highly paid professionals who are clueless. There seems to be no end to money available conduct to such studies.

Many neighborhoods are discriminated against in new regional plan.

Here’s a survey question to ask: If buses were free, ran every fifteen minutes 24/7 and stopped near your house, would you ride the bus?

Everyone knows that when you can’t count on transportation or wait in the rain with your kids after walking 10 blocks to the bus stop you’ll do anything but ride the bus. But when buses run often, conveniently, and bus stops are sheltered, when fares are free, people ride the bus.

It was also revealed that $31 million dollars in tourist tax money was given illegally to the Convention Center for tourist company profits that should have gone to RTA. The RTA is rightfully demanding it back and we support that. But if the money is returned what will be done with it?

A new 14 passenger mini bus costs about $65,000 after fitting for wheelchairs and bike racks. (Not every bus needs to be big) You can buy 100 for only $6.5 million dollars. Add 100 drivers to the payroll at the cost of $6.5 million a year, 20 mechanics cost $1.5 million a year, 20 cleaners, $1.5 million, plus gas and permits. And you still have money left from the $31 million.

The city should prioritize hiring local people and having great bus service instead of giving 63% of the city budget to cops and jails. The community, together with the bus drivers’ union, can run the system better and serve the needs of both.

You can barely find a job, the wages are too low, you can’t afford car insurance or there is no place to park and the bus is unreliable. This amounts to illegal racist economic segregation.

Does it sound unreasonable to demand free buses? The Los Angeles Bus Riders Union organized and won free fares for lower income folks. Time to get organized.

Members of the Transit Riders Union in Seattle won the largest low-income fare program in the country in March 2015.

Yemenis Demand End to U.S./Saudi War!

An effigy of Donald Trump with the words “Yemeni child murderer”in Hodeida, Yemen.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis held demonstrations throughout the country to condemn Trump’s veto of a U.S. congressional resolution directing “the removal of United States Armed Forc-es from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” Protesters denounced the United States for continuing to support the Saudi-led war and blockade against their country.

Advocacy for the Yemen War Powers resolution—which has been led by Yemeni-American groups—has spread awareness of the criminal war on the people of Yemen. The U.S./Saudi military campaign has resulted in the deaths of 15,250 civilians, including 3,527 children and 2,277 women, according to the Legal Center for Rights and Development in Yemen, a non-governmental organiza-tion monitoring human-rights violations. Many more have been wounded and suffer from a short-age of medical supplies and treatment due to the Saudi land, air, and sea blockade. Millions of Yeme-nis are on the brink of starvation.

On April 8, at least 14 schoolchildren were killed when a Saudi coalition air strike targeted resi-dential areas in Yemen’s west-central province of Sana’a.
When Yemeni journalist Ahmed Abdulkareem asked one of the protesters in Sana’a to give a statement to the English speaking press, he replied, “My message is only to the American people: is spilling more Yemeni blood acceptable to you?”

More than ever, progressive people in the U.S. must stand with our Yemeni siblings to demand an end to the U.S./Saudi war on Yemen.

Millions Rise Up in Sudan- Women Lead the Way

Protestors demonstrate in front of the Defense Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan on April 22.

“Freedom, Peace and Revolution is the People’s Choice.” This is the phrase that has become the morning greeting of the Sudanese people.

Without stop for the past five months, millions of people across the country have mounted demonstrations in opposition to the government of Omar Al Bashir who was forced out of office on April 11.

Last October protests broke out over an austerity program imposed by Bashir which slashed government services and cut basic subsidies on commodities such as bread.

The demonstrators include many young people, among whom nearly 30 percent suffer from unemployment.

Women have also played a leading role in the mass uprising. Apart from the extreme economic hardships that have been born by the working masses of Sudan, women are doubly oppressed by public order laws which limit women’s access to travel, education, and association. Many have also protested the sexual violence that the Sudanese state upholds (marital rape is legal in Sudan).

Attempting a “palace coup”, a military junta has assumed the place of the ruling government, but the demonstrators have pressed on, demanding a full transfer of power to the civilian representatives of the Forces for Freedom and Change, a mass coalition which has been at the forefront of the protests. They are calling for continued mass action, demand the removal of all of Bashir’s associates and deputies, the freeing of political prisoners, and the lifting of the national state of emergency.

South African Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party Founded

04 April 2019: Members of the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg during the launch of the party. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee
On April 4-6, the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party (SRWP) held its Launch Congress in Boksburg, South Africa. Over a thousand worker delegates from provinces across the country and international guests met to announce their party’s intention to participate in upcoming national elections under the slogan “equality, work, and land.”

The party draws its strong base from the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), which has over 800,000 members throughout South Africa. Last year SAFTU organized a nationwide strike—one of the largest in recent history—to demand reforms to the country’s labor laws and an increase in the national minimum wage. More generally, SAFTU organizes for the “creation of JOBS for all, a living minimum wage, return of LAND, good housing for all and free quality education.”

SAFTU was formed as an initiative of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) who broke the ruling African National Congress (ANC)-led ruling alliance after the Mari-kana Massacre of 2012, during which 34 striking miners were killed by police.

The ANC once led the heroic struggle to bring an end to apartheid (the Jim Crow system of white political rule) but has since betrayed the poor and working masses. The ANC’s Cyril Ramaphosa, a billionaire and current South African president, was found to have egged on the police responsible for the massacre. The ANC has pursued anti-worker labor laws and has implemented widespread privatization of public resources which have worsened the conditions for the working class of South Africa.

The Workers Party stresses that history has shown that human dignity and rights for workers cannot be guaranteed by the ANC or any other capitalist government. In a party statement, the SWRP declared “for all the world to know that we as Socialists are committed to building the organ-ization of a revolutionary working class. A class aware of its own interests. A class that will over-throw the capitalist parasites. A working class that will seize power for the project of building So-cialism, in which no human will be exploited by another.”

Cancel Puerto Rico’s Bank Debt

By Ashlee Pintos

The United States has had its imperialist boot on the neck of Puerto Rico for well over 100 years. Both on the island and throughout the diaspora, all Puerto Ricans have been treated as second class citizens under colonial rule. As we look through the windows of the past, we see clearly how the is-land and the blood of Puerto Ricans have meant nothing but a dollar sign to U.S. Capitalists (both Democrats and Republicans).

Donald Trump’s recent racist comments on Puerto Rico’s “debt” crisis is nothing out of character for a U.S. capitalist. The U.S. Congress passed the Promesa Act under the Obama Administration which aims to force Boricuas to pay an illegitimate debt (accrued by massive tax breaks and corpo-rate ventures) of $74 billion. Since the U.S. illegally invaded and seized the island as a colony in 1898, the island’s veins have been open to the bloodthirsty U.S. capitalists. This illegitimate debt is a disas-ter that the U.S. created to keep air out of Puerto Rico’s lungs.

Let us not forget that in the early 1900s Puerto Rico suffered a hurricane similar to Maria. Then as now the US response was horrific: they deemed the Puerto Rican peso to be worth 60% of a US dollar. In the blink of an eye every Puerto Rican’s holdings dropped 40% in value.

Moreover, Puerto Rico is restricted in its ability to trade with any country other than the US while simultaneously being forced to pay one of the highest sales taxes (20%).

We know that the U.S. government is a government by and for the Wall Street banks. So—by no choice of the Puerto Rican people—it’s Wall Street banks that Boricuas are beholden to (with ever increasing interest) to cover basic expenses. To top it all off, the U.S. has made it illegal for Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy.

Now, almost two years since hurricane Maria killed over 4,000 and left thousands without elec-tricity or basic necessities for months, Trump and U.S. officials are demanding that the island pay its debt. This seemingly hopeless situation is exactly how U.S. capitalists want it. They would prefer that Puerto Ricans cease to exist so that they can continue to build their corporate tourist play-ground. Both the debt and the United States rule are illegitimate.
Despite all that Puerto Ricans have been subjected to, we have never stopped resisting and fighting for our liberation. Most recently, many university students have been organizing against austerity measures put in place by Obama’s PROMESA board. Since Maria, there have been massive demonstrations in San Juan and other regions of the island to militantly protest austerity measures such as a 50% hike in tuition prices, privatization of the electrical grid and schools, and job and pen-sion cuts. Militant pro-independence groups such as the Ejército Popular Boricua (EPB-Macheteros) have been calling all Boricuas out into the streets to demand justice. Through hundreds of years of colonial rule Boricuas know one thing to be true: La Vida es Lucha Toda (all life is struggle).