The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1067 — October 15 - 29, 2018

Editorial:
Verizon and Ford Job Cuts:
Steal Jobs for Profit

Oct 15, 2018

In early October, Verizon, the telecommunications and wireless giant, announced that it was laying off 44,000 employees, or more than a quarter of its workforce. A day later, Ford Motor Company announced that it was planning to cut a big part of its salaried workforce worldwide, although it had not yet decided how many.

Verizon spelled out its intentions. It is “encouraging” thousands of the workers it is laying off to get hired by outsourcing companies. So, these laid-off Verizon workers will continue to do the same work, but for much less money and much less stability. Undoubtedly, Ford will do the same thing.

To put it plainly, these companies are stealing the workers’ jobs and pay. And they are making the conditions of work increasingly more difficult and stressful.

All so these companies can increase their profits.

Ford and Verizon already have more money than they know what to do with. Ford sits on a cash hoard of 17 billion dollars. Verizon increases the dividend that it pays its wealthy stockholders every year, like clock work.

These companies are already enormous cash cows, bursting with ever more money.

But under capitalism, that is never enough. Companies compete with each other to make the highest profits. Wall Street financiers demand more. They demand higher dividends, higher stock prices. All so a few parasites, who do nothing useful, can sit back and accumulate ever more wealth.

The hunt for more profits never stops. To produce them, companies constantly try to squeeze more out of their workforce for less money. No job is safe, not in the private sector, nor the public sector. Capitalists have their hooks into everything: health care, education, retirement savings, public transportation – it makes no difference. The capitalists plunder everything.

It’s absolutely vicious.

The capitalists are driving the workers’ standard of living down. On the one hand, the capitalists create more joblessness than ever. For example, millions of workers who lost their jobs during the last recession never got back to work. On the other hand, low wages and irregular schedules are increasingly becoming the norm.

That’s why almost all of the 20 million jobs that were created over the last nine years of economic expansion were for temps, part-timers and independent contractors. The capitalists want it that way. They want an easily disposable workforce.

There is no reason that workers have to accept this. No company that makes a profit should be allowed to lay off a single worker, or cut wages by even a penny. And all workers should be paid a decent wage, with decent working conditions and reasonable hours of work.

Least of all should companies like Verizon and Ford, which are literally bursting with profits, be allowed to carry out devious schemes to farm work out, in order to slash wages, benefits and working conditions. There shouldn’t be a pecking order for wages and hours, depending on whether a worker is employed by a big company or a contractor.

Of course, to stop the capitalists from carrying out these attacks, the workers are going to have to organize to fight.

Pages 2-3

Los Angeles:
Port Truckers Strike to Protest Wage Theft

Oct 15, 2018

Truck drivers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports staged a three-day strike in early October, to protest blatant exploitation at the hands of the trucking companies they work for.

The drivers are demanding to be classified as employees of the companies. Under the pretext that drivers are “independent contractors,” companies refuse to pay drivers regular wages and benefits. In addition, by forcing drivers to lease the trucks, companies dump the trucks’ gas, maintenance and insurance expenses on the drivers. All this amounts to massive wage theft by these big corporations, often pushing drivers’ pay down to less than minimum wage. It is not even that unusual for a trucker to end a week’s work owing money to the company!

The truckers’ struggle against the companies’ robbery goes back for years. This month’s strike was the 16th such action by the drivers in the last five years alone. The strike was organized by the Teamsters union, which is trying to unionize the drivers, by first trying to help them gain “employee” status through legal means.

But the legal battlefield is rigged against the drivers. On the third day of the strike, drivers and their supporters held a protest against the federal government’s ending of the TPS (Temporary Protected Status) program, which had given immigrants fleeing the wars in Central America the right to stay in the U.S. Some of the port drivers are immigrants on TPS status, which not only limits their rights in their fight against the companies, but now also puts them under the direct threat of deportation!

Instead of appealing to politicians, the truckers could certainly try to rely on their own forces, as well as their fellow drivers and other port workers who, even if they have “employee” status, are exploited by the port companies as well. Los Angeles and Long Beach are the two largest ports in the U.S., together handling more than 40 percent of the country’s shipping container traffic – and that means port workers have a lot of power which, if organized, they could use to wage an effective fight against exploitation.

The Union’s Policies Limit the L.A. Truckers Fight

Oct 15, 2018

The main strategy of the Teamsters’ leadership is to wage a legal battle on behalf of the drivers in the L.A. and Long Beach ports. This latest walkout, for example, was limited to protests against only two companies, even though the overwhelming majority of the trucking companies use the same patterns of exploitation.

The union has pushed to pass laws against the companies’ labor practices, and such laws have been passed in recent years at federal, state and city levels. But it’s easy to see the limits of a legal battle against big companies. In more than 400 cases since 2011, the State of California has ordered trucking companies to pay drivers more than 45 million dollars, for illegally classifying the drivers as “independent contractors.” But companies have been able to avoid payments through legal maneuvers, such as declaring bankruptcy, or closing the company and opening it under another name.

50 Years Ago in Mexico City:
The Tlatelolco Massacre

Oct 15, 2018

On October 2, 1968, above the Square of the Three Cultures in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City, a helicopter launched a green flare. It was the signal for the army and federal police to begin their attack against a meeting of 10,000 striking students.

The square was blockaded by tanks. Soldiers marched toward the assembly firing pistols, rifles, machine guns, and even bazookas. They killed hundreds of students, and also children and local residents. Thousands were wounded, arrested and imprisoned that night, and for many days after.

The student movement had started at the end of June and attracted the sympathy of the workers and the residents of the poor neighborhoods. The students’ slogan was: “We don’t want the Olympic Games, we want the revolution!” But for the government, the Olympic Games which were set to start a few days later had to be held at all costs.

The Mexican state was led by a unique party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. This state, supported by the official union bureaucracy, had the habit of responding to any opposition of workers, peasants, or students, with military force.

Since 1950, the law had criminalized all opposition. The government had violently repressed movements and strikes by miners, teachers, railway workers, nurses, doctors, peasants, and students. Opponents of the regime were jailed.

The student movement was politicized, influenced by Castroism, Maoism, and Trotskyism. On June 30, 1968, soldiers had blown up the door of a religious school with a bazooka. On August 1, the rector led a demonstration of 50,000 students against this police repression. Students occupied the big universities. Brigades of students went into the streets demanding the abolition of the anti-riot police and the end of the 1950 law banning political opposition.

Then the students organized a series of marches of as many as 600,000 people. A growing part of the population turned toward the students who expressed their desire for a more free and equal society, against what Mexico was under the PRI government.

That government decided to retake control with ferocious repression. Those arrested filled the prisons. The soldiers made prisoners strip naked and beat them for no reason. Doctors and nurses recorded the consequences of the military fury: old women disemboweled by explosive shells and children killed by bayonets.

After the massacre of October 2, the Mexican government imposed a black-out on any news about the repression. We don’t know even today how many were killed, wounded, and disappeared. This massacre, backed by Washington, was just one of many then beginning against political opponents throughout Latin America.

The Olympic Games in Mexico in October of 1968 are remembered not only for the athletic performances, but also for the massacre of students which made them possible. A few days later, two black U.S. athletes raised their fists on the podium in solidarity with the exploited of their country. Their gesture also showed their solidarity with those who suffered under repression in Mexico.

Athletes Take a Stand

Oct 15, 2018

On October 16, 1968, two black U.S. athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, mounted the podium at the Olympic Games. They had come in first and third in the 200 meter dash. In front of the cameras of the entire world, they each raised a gloved fist and lowered their head while the national anthem played.

They announced by this act their solidarity with the black struggle against racist oppression in the United States. In 1968, this vast movement was entering a new, more radical phase in demanding power, Black Power.

The U.S. sports establishment did not appreciate this defiance: Tommie Smith and John Carlos were kicked out of the Olympic village and their high-level athletic careers were stopped in their tracks. They were also hassled by the FBI. Their courage, because they knew the U.S. authorities would not cut them any breaks, recalled that of boxer Muhammad Ali. Two years earlier, he had refused to step forward for the draft and participate in the Vietnam War. As a result, he had lost his title as world champion.

Two years ago, quarterback Colin Kaepernick was inspired by these athletes of the 1960s to kneel and lower his head while the national anthem was played before football games. With this gesture, he expressed protest against the racist murders and police violence that black people in this country face. Kaepernick in turn inspired other athletes to participate in making this protest. He has also paid for his stance, as he remains unsigned with any team.

Hotel Workers Take On a Giant

Oct 15, 2018

At 5:00 AM on Sunday, October 7, about 160 workers at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit walked out on strike. They are part of the Marriott hotel group and joined thousands of other Marriott hotel workers in going on strike. These members of the union UNITE HERE are striking in seven other cities spread across the continental U.S. and Hawaii—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Maui, and Oahu—in addition to Detroit. Another strike against Marriott in Chicago was settled a short time ago.

Marriot—headquartered in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.—is the largest hotel chain in the world. It operates under many names including Starwood Hotels, the Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton and Renaissance Hotels, as well as the Westin. All told, Marriott operates 6,700 hotels with 1.2 million rooms in at least 125 countries.

Despite the huge resources of Marriott, it pays most of its workers poorly, with poverty level wages going to the lowest paid. UNITE HERE officials say the main demands of the strikers are higher pay, a guaranteed number of work hours per pay period, no last minute changes in work schedules, better sexual harassment protections for housekeepers on their jobs and more accommodation of women workers when they become pregnant.

The Marriott workers are taking on a financial giant. But their willingness to fight can be an encouragement to other workers who face situations much like theirs.

Good for them!

Pages 4-5

Vote Working Class Party!

Oct 15, 2018

The following is the editorial that appeared in Spark workplace newsletters the week of October 7. It is both an explanation of the need for a working class party, as well as a call for workers to vote for the Working Class Party in Michigan.

For more than a century, the working class has not had its own political party. We haven’t even had someone like Eugene Debs who went throughout the country, speaking to and for the working class about its own needs and interests. Nor have we had militants like those in the IWW who tried, within the framework of a single union, to bring the whole working class together.

Of course, if working people had found the way to build a party, this doesn’t mean we would necessarily find ourselves running the country today. Nor does it even mean we could have prevented many of the attacks launched against us. Nothing is guaranteed. But a party could let us begin to act as a single class – a class that has interests and aims in common, different than the aims of the capitalist class that runs society today.

A working class party would open an arena where we could talk to each other, learn to solve problems together, test out our forces, come to understand each other, overcome what divides us, discover how much more we could do when we are organized together. Fighting to build that party could turn the working class into a force.

Eighty-some years ago, workers did fight in order to build their own organizations: the industrial unions. Doing so, they turned themselves into a force. That’s what built unions – that force.

But those fights went only so far – far enough to organize some unions, far enough so workers challenged the rule of the capitalists inside the workplaces, if only for a while.

But the working class never organized politically, never contended with the capitalist class over who would run the whole society. They let the capitalists come back and impose themselves even over the unions the workers themselves had built.

The working class has to fight against the capitalist class over who will run society, which class will set the aims and the goals for how all of us will be able to live.

We know what the capitalist class wants to do. Its goal is to make as much profit as possible. It aims to do that using whatever means will let it put its foul hands on more profit. Capitalism uses up human beings, then throws them away.

The goal of the working class is exactly the opposite. Our goal is the full flowering of every person in every generation. Our aim is to let everyone work, let everyone contribute to society – use the wealth we produce to let everyone enjoy leisure, feed their curiosity and their own creativity.

So what does this mean in 2018, another election year?

It means, first, we should look reality in the face. Look at this disgusting, worn-out political system for what it is – a trap.

We have to get rid of the poisonous idea that we throw our vote away when we don’t vote for a party that can “win.” In 2016, some workers voted Democrat, some voted Republican – just as workers have been doing for over 150 years. And how has this turned out for us?

We don’t have to turn our back on politics just because the capitalist class has dominated political life through its two big parties.

We do have to find a way to express ourselves, to say what we think: not only that we are fed up, but that we want to see the working class lead society.

That’s why it’s important when candidates are on the ballot who call for the construction of a working class party. In Michigan this year, there are such candidates: the eleven candidates of the Working Class Party.

By voting for Working Class candidates, we can say what most of us know to be true: that the working class has to organize politically. With our vote, we will show that part of the working class is conscious of the power we could have if we organized politically as one class.

It’s important for workers not to leave the elections only in the hands of the capitalist class. But we should remember, election day is only one day. There are 364 more days in the year – days for the working class to organize its forces and fight.

Sam Johnson’s Speech

Oct 15, 2018

The following was the wrap-up speech for the Working Class Party “Meet the Candidates” meeting on September 23, 2018. It first appeared on the workingclassfight.com website.

How’s everyone? I’m a Chrysler retiree, I have a few things to say about why I’m running for a Working Class Party. Other people already said most of what I need to say, but I have a few more words to say.

Right now, we’ll have to get the bigger picture, how we can come up to and get past the problems we have. We need to explain it to our families around us, to friends around us, and get them to spread it to family and others, help get them to spread it. That’ll take us further.

When you get a bigger picture, you begin to understand all the problems we’re facing today, you know where they’re coming from, who is causing this. You know who to fight against.

When working people began to fight to build the unions, they pushed the bosses back. They had a fighting leadership at that time, but right now, you don’t have that fighting leadership any more.

I was fighting against that union leadership back in the 1970s, because the unions were going backwards then. They were going along with what the companies wanted. I saw that back in the 1970s, that’s when I got the bigger picture.

I was able, on a small level, to go against the divisions the bosses had created among working people. In the old Chrysler Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck, we were able to bring people in the plant together, different groups, black and white, Arab, Yugoslav, Polish – all these different groups of working people came together. That hadn’t happened before. The company and the union were surprised. “What’s that?” We stood up and we fought. That’s why I already got a sense of what it means, what you can do.

People say there ain’t nothing we can do? I’ve been there, just with those people – we did it, we backed them up. We stood up and fought together. We changed things.

This is what we have to understand. Once you get the bigger picture, you can talk to people around you about what we can do. And stop waiting on these politicians to fix it. They’re not going to fix it. It’s going to take US to fix it. And we have the power to do that when we come together. Our power right now runs this whole country. But our power right now runs it for what that one percent, the capitalists, what THEY want. We run it for what THEY need.

We run it for what they need, but we’re the ones having problems with their policy – we have to stop that. (Applause)

There ain’t nothing we can do? If we can make this whole country run for them and protect them, but we can’t have something better for our lives? Something’s wrong with that. If we bring our forces together, we can make this whole country run for what we need. (Applause) We have the forces to do that.

We have the forces to protect us. The forces that protect them are US, the working people in the armed services in the National Guard and the police forces – all that’s to protect THEM, the one percent. If we can protect that one percent for what THEY want, we can protect us for what we need. We can take back every thing they took from us. We can have all the things we worry about now and need, we can have all that. And we have the forces we need to protect the fights we make to get it.

But we have to understand we have to fight for what we need. That’s what most people have to find out.

Myself, now, I’ve been a fighter all my life, since when I was growing up. As a kid I was fighting back.

I learned a lot from my mother – my mother, because she was a fighter back in the South, in Alabama. I learned a lot from her. But most people could come to be fighters once they get involved in the struggles.

When you read some history you see how the working class came forward, how working people did things. They were fighters. They did a lot way back a hundred and some years ago. If they did that, way back then, what’s the problem with us now? We have to take those ideas and use them today.

The problems got worse. In the 1960s and ‘70s, people fought and we changed things for the better. But the problems are worse today. When people stopped fighting, we lost a lot. Like jobs. Today these big corporations pay the workers half, less than half. The cost of living is skyrocketing, everything’s costing more. That doesn’t make any sense, and then they’re going to pay people half what they paid before. People are three generations behind. Half? Less than half? That don’t make no sense.

I’ll tell you one thing, you all got to get the bigger picture, and come on. (Applause)

If we have a problem, then when we come together, THEY are going to have a problem. Talk about a working class party now. The bigger the numbers, the bigger the message we send. People not voting Democrat, not voting Republican, people voting Working Class Party – that one per cent will know they have a problem. I know that from the ‘60s. THEY ain’t forgot about the ‘60s. But a lot of you don’t know about what we can do.

Most of the older people who lived it are going to be gone soon. If you all get the bigger picture, you’ll take a stand. That’s what’s going to happen.

Pages 6-7

What Is the Supreme Court?

Oct 15, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court, despite accusations of sexual assault.

This court is portrayed as standing above politics, representing neutral justice. But in reality, the Supreme Court has always been a tool of the ruling class, designed to make sure no law can be passed that challenges their basic interests.

First, it defended slavery: In 1857, the Supreme Court declared that black people had “no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”

Then, the Supreme Court defended segregation with a legal lie covering Jim Crow: it ruled that segregation was legal, as long as facilities were “separate but equal.” But “separate” schools, trains, and neighborhoods were never equal, as everyone on the Supreme Court knew.

And the Supreme Court legalized the use of police, the army, and the National Guard to break strikes, and to imprison workers’ leaders. It even ruled in 1904 that any restriction of working hours was unconstitutional!

The Supreme Court has only ruled in favor of the rights of ordinary people when the ruling class was faced with a serious social movement that threatened its power. The Supreme Court, which had up to that point always ruled that industrial unions were in one way or another illegal, was forced to reverse itself in the 1930s in the face of a gigantic mobilization of the working class that had already in fact created its own unions.

It ruled that segregation of schools was illegal in 1954, in the face of the early Civil Rights movement – though this did not desegregate the schools, since the southern states refused to obey until the black movement forced them to. In 1973, after more than 20 years of social movements in which women had played a big role, the Supreme Court legalized abortion.

Since the end of the movements, the Supreme Court has helped roll back the gains those movements won.

It legalized expanded police surveillance, long prison sentences for minor crimes, the bail bond system, and obviously racist policing practices, contributing to the mass incarceration of black men in particular. It has also allowed one restriction after another on abortion rights. And in the last few years, the Supreme Court has restricted workers’ right to form unions.

Some Democrats and political commentators say that the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation has discredited the Supreme Court. But from the perspective of the working class, the Supreme Court has already completely discredited itself by its entire history.

Small-time Schemers on Wall Street

Oct 15, 2018

With Wall Street rocking and rolling, it is good to remember that the bankers manipulate stocks and bonds in their own interests, to a certain degree. Ergo ... a story.

A financial journalist, John Authers, recently came clean about what really happened 10 years ago in the financial crisis. According to the Financial Times, he said:

It is time to admit that I once deliberately withheld important information from readers. September 17, 2008 was ‘the scariest day of the crisis,’ when world finance came closest to all-out collapse.

“As it happened, I had a lot of cash in my bank account, at Citibank. I was above the limit covered by U.S. deposit insurance, so if Citi went bust, a once inconceivable event that I could now imagine, I would lose money for good.

“At lunch hour I headed to Citi, planning to take out half my money and put it into an account at the Chase branch next door. That would double the money that I had insured. At Citi, I found a long queue, all well-dressed Wall Streeters. They were doing the same as me. Next door, Chase was also full of anxious-looking bankers.” A Citi officer then told him that she and her opposite number at Chase had agreed on a plan of action and that he would not need to open an account at another bank, to protect his money.

In 2008, only the first $100,000 deposited in any bank account was insured by the federal government. After the 2008 economic crisis, the deposit insurance limit was increased to $250,000 – protecting the rich even more!

When a crisis hits, ardent defenders of honesty, transparency, and democracy, like this scheming journalist, are out to save their own butts!

But more importantly, this convenient confession reveals that these schemers don’t much trust their own system, capitalism. Contrary to what they advocate, this system can very easily collapse.

Page 8

Jason Van Dyke Convicted in Murder of Laquan McDonald

Oct 15, 2018

Friday, October 5th, Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for the murder of Laquan McDonald. Much of Chicago, particularly black Chicago, objected that Van Dyke ought to have gotten first degree murder. Still, many Chicagoans are gratified to see a cop found guilty for callously taking the life of a young black man.

This was the first time in decades that a Chicago police officer has been convicted of an on-duty shooting. And what did it take to get this one, single conviction? First, it took a clear video of the shooting - one that gave the lie to Van Dyke and the other cops' account of that night. It took witnesses who stepped forward: a man and his son who saw the shooting, afraid, but deciding to give their testimony. It took a team: a dedicated reporter, a civil rights lawyer, a community activist, months of legal work to get that video to see the light of day.

Mayor Emanuel and state's attorney Anita Alvarez suppressed the video for more than a year after the shooting, which took place in October of 2014. Alvarez did not file charges against Van Dyke until the video was released to the whole world. Many pointed out that the cover-up allowed Emanuel to get re-elected before having to deal with the scandal.

Van Dyke's defense tried to smear McDonald as a "monster out of a horror movie." But the jury believed the video – the video that showed Van Dyke stepping toward McDonald as he fired. The video that showed McDonald veering away from Van Dyke.

Hurricane Michael:
It’s Business as Usual

Oct 15, 2018

In rural towns, villages and trailer camps along Florida’s Gulf Coast and inland, word went out as Hurricane Michael approached: “Get out! Get out now!”

These were mandatory emergency evacuation orders. Most of the residents complied: They packed up their cars with what they could on short notice and left for temporary shelter with family or friends or in hotels outside the expected path of the hurricane’s worst destruction. Some had to travel hundreds of miles.

But for thousands of those in harm’s way – many poor people – it wasn’t so simple. Many didn’t live near bus or train routes and didn’t have cars to get them out. Many with cars didn’t have the money they needed for gas and food on the road. Some didn’t have any place to go – no family or friends to take them in – and they couldn’t afford a room. Some just didn’t want to leave their belongings and pets unprotected behind.

Most of these people managed to survive – though not all – and some suffered serious injuries. But now they face the impossible task of repairing damaged homes and trailers – if they still exist.

In this richest country on this planet, with fabulously wealthy people fattened off the hard labor of workers and so rich they don’t even know what else to blow their money on, you might think in this situation, that a relatively few bucks would be made available to help the poorest, most vulnerable people survive a disaster like Hurricane Michael.

But no, it is business as usual. Working people have no one we can really count on for help, but ourselves, our friends and others of our class.

Indonesia Tsunami:
Setting the Population up for Disaster

Oct 15, 2018

The tsunami that hit the Indonesian city of Palu on September 28 killed at least 2,000 people, with more than 600 still missing. 2,500 people were severely wounded. More than 80,000 were made homeless and are now living in refugee camps.

This city is in a region regularly hit by tsunamis caused by earthquakes under the ocean. In fact, Indonesia was hit by a gigantic, deadly tsunami in 2004. After that disaster, the country installed an early warning system. But it was not maintained and went defunct in 2012, according to Indonesia’s own Disaster Management Agency.

The situation was made much worse by the development of capitalism and colonialism in the country. The coastal city of Palu was first built by Dutch colonists to make it easier to take resources out of the country. And in recent decades, millions more Indonesians have moved from villages inland to coastal cities like Palu looking for work. These cities, and especially their slums, are especially vulnerable to the inevitable earthquakes and tsunamis.

Development in poor countries like Indonesia could be organized to minimize the risk from disasters like this. But instead, it’s organized to maximize profits, mostly for the international companies that loot Indonesia’s natural resources and the wealth produced by its people’s labor. Their attitude? “Safety of the population be damned!”

Maryland:
Prescription Drug Politics

Oct 15, 2018

Under pressure of a rising wave of anger from tens of thousands of Maryland State retirees and active state workers, conservative Republican governor Larry Hogan recently announced that he would maintain the current retirees’ prescription program until the end of 2019. It had been scheduled for termination at the end of this year.

The state planned to require retirees to enroll in the Medicare Part D prescription program starting this coming January in place of having coverage under the current state insurance program. In desperation, four retirees had gone to court against the planned termination, though they were not expected to win the lawsuit. Their out-of-pocket costs for their prescription drugs would have gone up thousands of dollars per year, because co-pays under the Part D plans are MUCH higher than under the current state program.

Normally the governor would not have backed off on a change like this – particularly since the change was supported by the Democrats who control both houses of the state legislature. But Hogan is up for re-election in November and clearly understands how to get state workers’ votes.

However, once the election is over, no matter who wins, state workers are going to have to make a very big fight if they want to escape paying an arm and a leg for their prescription drugs.