Apr 15, 2019
In the industrial heartland, the Governor of Ohio just signed a law that bans abortion at 6 weeks – before most women know they are pregnant! Ohio is the most recent state, but a total of 20 states are in the process of passing laws to outlaw abortion at roughly 6 weeks.
These laws are being strategically passed at the state level, knowing they are illegal, with the goal of having them contested in court. The Republican Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, stated that the law’s purpose is to reverse the legal precedent of Roe v. Wade, noting, “The United States Supreme Court will ultimately make a decision.”
The 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling made abortion legal in the U.S. The right to an abortion was won, along with other gains for the population, by the social movements that culminated in the early 1970s. The women’s movement, the black movement, and the anti-war movement forced the government to create new social programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and to open up new rights.
As the social movements peaked in the early 1970s, publicized deaths from illegal abortion put pressure on the Supreme Court. The Roe v. Wade decision was written by a judge appointed by Republican President Nixon!
Ever since nation-wide social movements disappeared from the political scene, well-funded right-wing groups have been chipping away at women’s rights. The Democratic Party courted these groups to pick up votes. In 1977, Democratic President Jimmy Carter signed a law passed by a Democratic Congress, outlawing federal money for abortion. The Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on what Medicaid can cover meant abortion remained accessible if you had money, but much less accessible for the working poor.
Since 1973, over 1000 restrictions on abortion have passed. The right-wing’s strategy was to create ridiculous rules to drive abortion providers out of business and bureaucratic hurdles to undermine access. Restrictions have accumulated to where huge areas of the U.S. have no access to abortion. According to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, about 90 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider.
There are currently 20 lawsuits at various stages that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Since January 1, 2019, more than 300 new abortion restrictions have been introduced in state legislatures.
The election of Donald Trump and his promotion of reactionary ideas, along with the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, has opened the flood gates. A new level of danger has just been introduced at the state level. The Abolition of Abortion in Texas act makes it possible for women to get the death penalty for having an abortion, even in cases of rape and incest! This is nothing but terrorism aimed at women and the population!
There can be no doubt that a minority of vicious extremists wants to push women out of their reproductive healthcare rights. This pack of hyenas has long nibbled away at the body of women’s rights. Now they want to go in for the kill. It will take a mobilization that represents a real fight to stop them.
This movement to the right will not be stopped by who gets elected. It will not be stopped by hoping courts do the right thing. It will only be stopped by a social movement that is willing to fight, no matter what it takes.
Statistically, women make up half of the working class in the U.S. Women, with the help of men, raise the next generation of children with valuable social labor that is unpaid. This move to take away women’s control over their bodies and hinder women’s participation in society is outrageous! And working class women are the most threatened.
Women will need to organize and aim for something as powerful as the 1930s sit-down strikes that took over workplaces and shook the control of the bosses. A fight could start anywhere. But in places like Ohio, the history of the industrial fights of past generations, still in family memory, could be reignited today. Angry women workers could start a fight; initiating a movement to go beyond the limits of today’s society.
The rulers of this society want a world where profit is more important than human life. Women – the producers of human life – are in a unique position to fight for the primacy of human life over profit – for all women, children, and men.
Apr 15, 2019
California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, has signed a law that is supposed to subject charter schools to some of the legal requirements traditional public schools are subject to.
The fact that state authorities have held charter schools to lower legal standards than traditional public schools is certainly not unique to California – other states have been doing the same thing. But if the same politicians who have given charter schools their privileges and allowed them to enjoy those privileges for decades are now talking about holding charters accountable, it’s because there is increasing skepticism in the population about charter schools.
According to California’s 1992 charter school law, any of the hundreds of school districts in California, no matter how small, can authorize and oversee a charter school – that is, a school run privately but funded by the state – including charter schools outside of their own boundaries. So when one district rejects an application by a charter company, the company can simply apply to other districts until it finds a district that will take it.
And no matter how little educational experience and expertise they show, charters have typically found a district that will take them simply because charter schools bring extra money to the district – at a time when the state has been systematically cutting down the funding for school districts!
If it sounds like a scam, well, it is. Charter schools are a way for politicians to direct tax money into the coffers of private interests. And that can only mean a worse, not better, education for children who go to these schools.
So charter schools have thrived and multiplied in California (California now has 1300 charter schools, more than any other state), especially in working-class districts where it’s easier for charters to get support from parents who see their children being deprived of an education. And California law has allowed charter schools to take away resources such as buildings from public schools, while charters are able to pick and choose their students.
And all this under little or no supervision from school boards. Not surprisingly, stories of corruption have multiplied along with the number of charter schools, as scam artists have found themselves a place in this scheme – a place to fill their pockets: by hiring themselves on big salaries and giving big contracts to companies owned by themselves (often without even providing the service they are getting paid for); by cutting down on staffing and maintenance of facilities, or even by taking the money and getting out of the “education business” altogether, leaving their students without a school.
Today, California politicians may be promising to crack down on charters. After all, it’s not unusual for a new governor to promise to fix problems. But don’t expect the politicians to fix the charter school problem they themselves created and allowed to grow for decades.
Apr 15, 2019
Since Nipsey Hussle, the 33-year-old Los Angeles rapper, was murdered in front of his clothing store on March 31, there have been countless vigils in Hussle’s neighborhood in South L.A., as well as several memorials and marches. Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in them. These tributes are one indication of just how much the 33-year-old musician had touched people’s lives, especially young people from the most oppressed layers of the population.
The music of Nipsey Hussle, whose legal name was Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was filled with direct, unromanticized lyrics about navigating life on the streets of Los Angeles for black youth – that is, of trying to survive and overcome the racism and violence of this society. But Hussle’s activities took him beyond hip-hop. Once a success, he rejected the luxury fantasy life of superstardom. Instead, Hussle remained in Crenshaw, and did what he could to help those around him.
In many ways, Hussle’s early life was typical of so many of his generation. As a teenager in South LA in the 1990s, Hussle dropped out of high school and became involved in street life. For a while he joined a gang, the notorious Rollin’ 60s Crips. “It was like living in a war zone, where people die on these blocks and everybody is a little immune to it. I guess they call it post-traumatic stress,” Hussle told the L.A. Times in 2018.
Hussle began releasing music in the mid-2000s. In 2004, when he was 19 years old, Hussle spent three months with his father’s family in the small African country of Eritrea, which was only just emerging from 30 years of brutal war, a war that his father, along with hundreds of thousands of others, had fled. But as Hussle explained in a 2010 interview with Complex magazine, in Eritrea for the first time in his life, he lived in a place where people like himself did not suffer from racism. That was the turning point of his life. It allowed him to see that something else was possible.
Once back home, Hussle tried to do something about it. As Hussle’s music began to make more money, he plowed the money back into South Los Angeles. He opened a few local businesses, like a clothing store and a fast food restaurant, and made it a point to employ those, like ex-felons, who couldn’t get a job anywhere else. He reopened the local roller skating rink. And last year he opened a neighborhood center to encourage young people to study math and science, as well as to help them get jobs with technology companies.
Of course, those actions, set firmly within the capitalist system, could not truly address the causes of the poverty created by it. But they helped buoy a neighborhood, and the people there appreciated him for it.
Hussle often discussed with friends the risks that he was taking by remaining in his old neighborhood. He understood that he put himself in the line of fire in a place where disputes are sometimes settled violently. And since he was considered a wealthy and influential person, these risks were magnified. But he refused to do things that would separate himself from others, like surround himself with bodyguards.
When someone shot Hussle for what the police called a “personal dispute,” Hussle’s violent death was only one of many. That same week, 11 people were murdered in Los Angeles. About half the killings occurred in South L.A.
South L.A. remains a war zone.
“When I was growing up as a kid, I was looking for somebody – not to give me anything – but somebody that cared.... Someone who had an agenda outside their own self interests,” said Hussle. That’s how Hussle lived his life.
Apr 15, 2019
NASA said in March that it would not clean up a test site in Santa Susana, California as it had promised in 2010, because it would be “too expensive” to do so. Earlier, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which had also signed the 2010 agreement, had said that it could clean up only a small part of the contamination on the site.
DOE, NASA and a military contractor, Rocketdyne, used the 2900-acre Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) for tens of thousands of nuclear reactor and rocket engine tests from 1948 to 2006. Ignoring pollution and safety standards, they poisoned the soil, water and air at SSFL with very high levels of radioactive and toxic substances, even though the site is in the middle of an urban area: half a million people live within 10 miles of the SSFL. There was even a nuclear meltdown on the site in 1959, which came to light only when some university students accidentally found documents about it 20 years later!
For decades, residents who live near the SSFL have been trying to push authorities to act, as the contamination has continued to sicken and kill people. Through their own inquiries, families living in the area have found that within the last six years alone, at least 54 children in the community have been diagnosed with different types of cancer. But to this day, DOE, NASA and Boeing, which bought Rocketdyne in the 1990s, have done no clean-up. And California regulators have not only stood by, but tried to help cover it up. Last November, for example, when the massive Woolsey fire burned down 80 percent of the SSFL site, state agencies declared that no toxic materials from the site were made airborne and spread by the fire!
Outraged once again, residents have been trying to get the word out. An online petition demanding a complete clean-up of the SSFL, started by Melissa Bumstead, whose daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia at age four, has been signed by more than 600,000 people. These families have no choice but to push forward with their activism, because the only thing they can expect from the government and company officials is for them to allow the SSFL to continue to poison the population in the area and try to cover it up.
Apr 15, 2019
The following was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name. Since that article was written, the Sudanese army carried out a coup against long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir. The army says it plans to stay in power for two more years, before it will organize elections. So far, this has not appeased the protestors, and the demonstrations continue.
Thousands of demonstrating women and men have gathered day and night since April 6 in the big cities of Sudan in East Africa. Demonstrators say, “Down with the regime.”
Marshal Omar al-Bashir has imposed his dictatorship over the 40 million citizens of this huge country since 1989. His rule has become unbearable, and he has lost almost all support. Corruption, special privileges for the presidential clique, and the presence of armed repressive forces everywhere were outrageous enough, before the price of bread tripled in December. The high cost of living is one of the main causes of the population’s anger.
While Sudan produces gold, it was hit by an economic crisis after South Sudan seceded in 2011 – along with its oil. The country struggles to import wheat or flour because it doesn’t have any way to get foreign currency, since Sudan doesn’t have oil to export anymore. A U.S. embargo had already dried up the country’s access to dollars. The best farmland is sold to investors from the Persian Gulf, and Sudan’s farms only have alfalfa to export. For some years, the government has regularly repressed protests by small farmers against being forced from their land.
But since December, rallies in the cities have erupted, and this time, repression has failed to stop the movement against al-Bashir. The demonstrators have faced dozens of deaths, the daily violence of the NISS (the security service), more than a thousand arrests in a few days, the torture of detainees, and many shootings. Yet men and women of all ages have not been discouraged, and continue to protest. The state of emergency introduced in February seems to have even increased their number.
Today, women are “everywhere, in the street, in prisons”, as a doctor representing the movement said. In addition to all the other reasons they have for being in the forefront of the movement, women are also subject for the most part to “sharia”, the so-called Islamic law. Sudan established this law in 1983, and after al-Bashir’s coup it was made permanent. Women can be sentenced to flogging—15,000 women suffered this punishment just in 2016—or even stoning to death.
The huge rallies with shouts of “Freedom, Peace and Justice” met in the center of Khartoum, in front of the army headquarters, to demand support for the protests from soldiers. While the military hierarchy still supports al-Bashir, the troops begin to side with the demonstrators, including by shooting in the air to drive away the “security” forces who continued to threaten the protests.
There is no doubt what the opposition leaders want. Many of them are former colleagues of the dictator who have been dismissed from power, and want nothing more than to change the face of this brutal dictatorship. But that is also the hope of the imperialist powers who are anxiously watching the popular uprisings multiply south of the Mediterranean. First and foremost come the European Union and France, whose big corporations and banks have long cooperated with the power of al-Bashir.
The population will have to stay mobilized to get their demands met in the face of these maneuvers.
Apr 15, 2019
On March 25, Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel annexed this 700-square-mile plateau and its 50,000 inhabitants after the 1967 Six Day War.
By recognizing this theft, after recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December, 2017, Trump is supporting the Israeli state’s policy of appropriating Arab territory.
Trump also gave Netanyahu another talking point leading up to the Israeli elections that took place on April 9. Even while implicated in a number of corruption scandals, Netanyahu crowed about his relations with the U.S. state as an argument in his campaign – which he subsequently won.
These maneuvers have provoked a reaction. At the border with Gaza, there have been a number of incidents and two Palestinians were killed on March 22. In the Israeli prisons, the number of incidents has also gone up as the authorities crack down on the use of cell phones, the main way detainees stay in contact with their families. On the night of March 25-26, Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, after rockets were launched from Gaza toward Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians are increasingly crushed by the state of Israel. Those in the West Bank find their territories taken over by settlers a little more each day, while those in Gaza live in an open-air prison. In every Israeli election campaign, politicians look to outdo each other in threatening repression against what they call the “terrorist threat” from the Palestinians.
The ingredients for an explosion of anger are accumulating. Such an explosion is bound to happen sooner or later against this devious Trump-Netanyahu team.
Apr 15, 2019
The following was taken from several articles in Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers group of that name.
For more than six weeks, Algerians have been engaging in a massive mobilization of protests and strikes. Never before have so many Algerians, including many women, expressed their anger in the streets. They could no longer stand the farce of keeping an ill, disabled man at the head of the state (former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika) while, behind the scenes, the ruling clique of businessmen continued to take the country’s resources.
Many social categories are involved, and different, even opposing, interests are expressed. Each category – lawyers, journalists, students, Islamist militants – has interests of its own. Businessmen defend their businesses and politicians play their usual little game, claiming their agreement with the protestors after being initially hostile to the movement.
Yet the demonstrations have attracted mostly workers – young and old, with or without work – as well as students, who are all outraged by what they call “bad life” and the worsening of their living conditions. The minimum wage is less than 150 dollars a month, and many workers don’t even earn that much. Algeria boasts a majority of young people, but a third of them are unemployed. As a consequence, more and more youths aspiring to better living conditions put their lives at stake by trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
Algeria is oil rich. But the country’s public services are deteriorating, schools are overcrowded, and hospitals have been abandoned. Last summer, there was an outbreak of cholera, a disease caused by poverty. At the same time, rich businessmen continue to suck money out of sectors like oil, gas, construction, and import-export. The country’s resources and cheap labor have attracted foreign capitalists – who are quite well-treated by Algerian officials.
Strikes have broken out in many public and private companies. Railways, the oil industry, construction sites, and other economic sectors have been hit hard. In addition to their political demands, and their demands for wage increases, workers have begun putting forward a new slogan: “Show us all the accounting books!”
These demonstrations have already forced out the long-time president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. But so far, the layer of politicians just below him, including the old Prime Minister, have appointed themselves as the interim government. As one human rights activist put it, expecting change from these men “is like asking a pyromaniac to put out a house fire.”
So far, many demonstrators are not satisfied. They want to get rid of everyone linked to this system, as their slogans make clear. And despite the increasing threat of repression, the demonstrations continue.
The demonstrators have good reason to remain vigilant because the transition now being prepared is anything but democratic. Behind the political maneuvers, there is the army. And despite the oft-repeated slogans of the demonstrators, “Army, People, Brother, Brother!” the head of the army, Gaid Salah, assures the continuity of the system, and he seems ready to launch serious repression. In the past, the army showed more than once that it could unhesitatingly shoot protestors. In 1988, the army killed hundreds of young demonstrators. During the 1990s, its reaction to the Islamists’ massacres was even more massacres. In 2001, it killed at least 125 people.
Today, faced with the power of the movement, no one can say what choice army-chief Salah will make. This fast-friend of the old president Bouteflika, who supported his continuation in office before the demonstrations began, now poses as an agent of change. While he is rejected by a section of the demonstrators, he benefits from the support of the liberal press and many of the opposition parties who would also like to see the end of the movement.
In this situation, the interests of the exploited can only be defended by the workers themselves. That’s true in Algeria as well as in France.
The rebellious people of Algeria are our brothers and sisters. We are bound together by a multitude of family or friendship ties. France’s working class includes millions of workers of North African descent (just as the U.S. working class includes millions of workers of Latin American descent). And Algeria, with her century-old history as a colony of imperialist France, continues to enrich big French corporations. This is why the fact that Algeria has an authoritarian regime never posed any problem to successive French governments.
The Algerian rebels are also our brothers and sisters because they are working people. They were no doubt prompted to fight by Algeria’s specific political problems, but the struggle they now have to wage to guarantee their living conditions is the same as in every other country.
In Algeria, the domination of a clique of army top-brass and bourgeois people is based on the preservation, by the state, of the monopoly of oil money. In France, the wealth of those who make up the big bourgeoisie is based on the economic domination of major industrial and financial corporations. In other words, on both sides of the Mediterranean, the wealthy thrive on the exploitation of workers.
That is why the struggle of the Algerian people could open up bright new prospects for all working people!
Apr 15, 2019
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested in London, and will be sent to the U.S. to face trial. A Virginia prosecutor is charging him with conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010.
While the media focuses primarily on the election interference of 2016 and while Assange is no doubt of questionable character, the reaction of the state apparatus has little to do with these irritations and much more to do with disclosures relative to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2010, WikiLeaks published secret U.S. military logs from the Iraq War. They revealed some of the brutality of that war. Over 100,000 civilians had been killed outright – many more than the U.S had admitted. U.S. authorities tolerated abuse, torture, rape, and murder by the Iraqi police and soldiers who worked for them. Military officials classified murdered civilians as “enemy combatants.” Mercenaries hired by the U.S., called “contractors,” had also abused and killed many civilians.
WikiLeaks then published a similar log of abuse from the war in Afghanistan. And it posted a video taken from a U.S. attack helicopter in Iraq, showing U.S. helicopters murdering two Reuters journalists. It is called “collateral murder” and you can still see it on the internet.
Ever since this information was released, the U.S. government has been going after the people who revealed the truth about the U.S. wars. Chelsea Manning, the Army analyst who leaked the information, was sentenced to 35 years in prison and served seven – the longest of any leaker in U.S. history. Now she is back in jail for refusing to testify against Assange.
Assange and Manning are prosecuted – but the generals and politicians who carried out these murderous wars go free. When it comes to defending the interests of U.S. imperialism, murder, torture, and rape are not considered crimes – but revealing the truth about them is.
Apr 15, 2019
The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of April 8, 2019.
People focus on Trump. But, really, what is he? Nothing but a clown in the political circus. Those circuses have been around as long as this capitalist system we live under, distractions from the reality of our lives.
We need to consider our lives, not a smirking buffoon with sleight-of-hand tricks.
Our lives are fenced in by the lack of decent jobs, and wages that fall further behind our weekly bills. Our children’s lives are defined by schools that don’t give them an adequate education. Our well-being is threatened by public services that long ago stopped serving the public – leaving behind tainted water in Flint Michigan, unrepaired levees in the Missouri flood plain, or burnt out towns in California.
Our lives are blocked because the capitalist class, a tiny minority, controls and hoards society’s wealth. That’s reality. The state apparatus funnels public money to the corporations and banks. That’s also reality. The political circus is just a diversion.
Wealth floods through all the channels of this society – more than enough wealth to provide real education to every child; more than enough to let every person work a decent job, with decent pay; more than enough to guarantee our wages keep up with inflation.
But here is the problem: the wealth that exists is not used for the population today. Instead it drains into the hands of a few people whose lives are stuffed with luxury. It fuels speculation in crazy new financial instruments – like Bitcoin. It chases after a flash return from a 30-second “investment” in fluctuating currencies. It finances the drug trade and sex trafficking – trades in which some of the largest banks have an indirect stake.
Unimaginable amounts of wealth are stolen from labor around the globe, pushing more of the world’s people into misery. Money chases after more money, threatening to bring down the whole global economy – as it almost did in 2008, and absolutely did in 1929.
Even if the capitalist economy hasn’t yet collapsed again, it already is pushing us backwards, driving down our standard of living.
This is reality today. None of the political clowns will fix it for us. They all make it worse.
Working people have the power to transform the situation by struggling. But struggle isn’t enough. We have to know what to struggle for. We have to put our hands on the wealth that exists. We have to fight to take it back from the ones who stole it from our labor: the capitalist class. We have to fight to get rid of capitalism itself, this system that impoverishes labor for the benefit of capital.
Capitalism is a worn out system. It already was dying in the 1930s. It survived only by taking the whole world to war, killing off many tens of millions of people, destroying whole countries, leveling the productive apparatus in many countries.
We won’t defend ourselves by fighting against other working people – not in this country, nor in other countries. We will defend ourselves when we fight to get rid of the class that hoards all the wealth our labor has produced: the capitalist class. It is an international class, but a major part of it is in this country.
Today, when few people are fighting, to talk about a struggle seems like wishful thinking. But sometimes when people begin to move, they move faster than anyone believed possible. And that can include us.
The power to get rid of capitalism resides in us, the working class. We produce all the goods and services necessary for modern life. Organized together as a class, we have the power to shut down capitalism. Working in the heart of production, we can reorganize it to provide what the population needs. Working in offices and warehouses, we can reorganize the distribution of goods and services so all people get what they need. Together, we have power. This is reality also.
Apr 15, 2019
A Maryland law from 2017 fined companies selling generic drugs for raising the prices 50 percent or more. In February the Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional. But generics’ price spikes are a problem.
Even as most generic drug prices slowly fall, one in five generics leaps in price in five years’ time on average, often for a year or longer. Daraprim spiked from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill a few years ago, and EpiPens went from $50 to $600 last summer – two examples among thousands.
After all, generic drugs are sold for profit by private companies just like patented, name-brand drugs, and higher prices mean higher profits.
Federal patenting began over a century ago. Under the current system, patented drug prices have risen 10 percent or more per year. A federal office issues a 20-year patent allowing one company to give a particular name brand to a drug and sell it – at any price it wants. After the patent expires, any company may apply to the FDA for approval to sell the drug using the FDA’s name for it, the “generic” name – at any price.
Customers switch to generics to try to pay less. So do government health programs, which pay nearly half of the 360 billion dollars spent on prescription drugs. Generics went from one in 10 drug prescriptions in the late 1950s to nine in 10 today.
Companies try to keep generic prices high after name brand patents expire. Competitors selling the same drug choose between robbing each other’s sales by selling for less, or colluding to spike the price. Collusion is easy for two or three companies to do. When drug companies merge, price hikes become more likely.
Maryland officials tried to stop some of these excesses of capitalist health care. But it’s like trying stop the tide.
Apr 15, 2019
The California State Assembly is currently negotiating a measure, called The Safe Lots bill, requiring community colleges to grant overnight access to campus parking lots for homeless students to sleep in their vehicles. This is another admission that one of the richest places on earth, California, has a huge homelessness problem.
In California, 19 percent of college students experienced homelessness in 2018, according to a survey conducted by the colleges. Considering that California’s community college population is around 2.1 million students attending classes on 114 campuses, this means that nearly 400,000 students have experienced homelessness in the last year. The homelessness varies from region to region, hitting the low income areas harder. A survey found that 84 percent of students in the Bay Area’s Peralta Community College District were either homeless or facing housing insecurity.
“I spent about two years homeless, as a full-time worker and full-time student, with my car as my only consistent place to sleep in,” said Matthew Bodo, a student at Foothill College, according to the news.
The main reasons for the homelessness are low wages and very high housing costs. As for the young people, high unemployment and poverty are additional reasons further deepening the homelessness. The unemployment, as measured by the labor participation rate for the age group of 16 to 24 years, increased by 13 percent in 2019. The poverty rate for those 18 to 24 years of age reached 16 percent in 2017.
Homelessness is caused by how this capitalist system operates. So, these politicians are only pretending to address this dire social issue by issuing this or that worthless bill. They support these bills with empty talk that only admits what is already occurring in practice on campus parking lots, instead of coming up with a real solution.
Apr 15, 2019
Translated from a revolutionary workers journal in Italy, called L’Internazionale.
Drivers for Amazon in Italy’s region of Lombardy protested in late February outside the company’s headquarters in Milan. They protested unacceptable scheduling.
The drivers work directly for contractors or even sub-contractors. Some are so-called independent contractors who pay sales tax on their own work. Like Deliveroo and Uber drivers, they theoretically can set their own hours. But in reality, to get orders from Amazon, they have to be available to work anytime. The protestors made it clear that the situation is oppressive, whatever their formal work arrangements may be.
Each of them must keep running all day long. The time for loading is very short and they must immediately speed away to deliver more and more packages. A driver might deliver 160 packages a day, which means an average of three minutes per package in an eight hour shift. They have protested before about management’s pressure. The shifts are set so they have no time to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. The dispatching software does not account for accidents, traffic jams, or waiting for customers at their homes. The software reinforces speed-up. As soon as GPS shows a van stops moving, the driver is called.
Home deliveries entail walking up and down staircases. Many drivers are young, but how long can they keep rushing up to the fifth floor? And the employers pinch pennies on maintenance. The vans have bald tires, burned-out blinkers, and doors that don’t stay closed. Fines pile up. When the employers see a scratch on the paint, they dock the pay over 200 dollars.
The workers made themselves heard speaking out against these working conditions, the pressure, and the very low wages. Considering Amazon is owned by the richest man in the world, whose fortune tripled last year, their fight has only begun.
Apr 15, 2019
In February, when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced the planned creation of nearly 6,500 new jobs in Michigan, the media and politicians cheered. But even if new jobs are created, it would still do little to nothing to address the problems of unemployment. In the Detroit metro area, at least 80,000 people cannot find any work, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. For the working class, more jobs – at decent pay – are a necessity. What is being announced here, is not that.
“New job creation” is essentially a technical term that helps FCA qualify for a new kind of tax break in Michigan. The Good Jobs program, created in 2017 by Governor Snyder and the Republican-led legislature, allows corporations to keep a portion of state income taxes they withhold from new hires’ paychecks.
As part of the “new jobs” announcement, CEO Mike Manley said FCA will convert its Detroit Mack Avenue factory into an assembly plant for a new Jeep product and it will also add production at 4 other factories in the Detroit metro area. FCA explained they expect to get government help with acquiring land, as well as tax breaks and grants. FCA said it expects help from the State of Michigan as well as the cities of Detroit, Sterling Heights, Warren and Dundee.
Regarding that “help,” in a reassuring tone, acting as if nothing shady is going on, current Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said that FCA tax incentives will remain a secret until after they are approved.
The same day FCA announced 6,500 “new jobs” in Michigan, FCA told workers in Illinois that a whole shift of Jeep production workers will be laid off – 1,371 workers – at its Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois.
And a month later, on March 28, in a further attack on workers’ lives, FCA announced it is cutting a shift at its assembly plant in Windsor in Canada, just 12 miles from the Mack Avenue plant in Detroit.
To better examine FCA’s job creation claims, a Wall Street Journal article offers insight. A detailed study of Michigan tax breaks and grants given to corporations between 1995 and 2009 uncovers a huge difference between jobs promised and jobs delivered. For every 100 jobs promised in Michigan, only 29 jobs were created! That means that if FCA delivers the average, it will be only 1,885 jobs!
But look at the bigger picture. For the working class as a whole, FCA creating new jobs is an illusion. FCA will cut 2,871 jobs in Illinois and Canada. IF FCA adds 1,885 jobs in Michigan, the workers would still suffer a net loss.
Whether FCA delivers on its promise or not, the actual number is like nothing compared to the area’s need for jobs. And no one is pointing out that these jobs will mostly be lower-tier jobs, around $17 an hour with few benefits.
In Canada, in the U.S., and in Mexico, companies like FCA exploit the workers and try to pit one group against another. FCA made 8 billion dollars in profit in 2018. As an international company, their sole purpose is to boost profits any place in the world.
Apr 15, 2019
Amazon had profits of 11 BILLION dollars in 2018. How much did it pay in taxes? Nothing at the federal level. Instead, the company ended with a tax credit of more than 100 million dollars to use against taxes owed in future years.
Amazon was hardly the only beneficiary of the corporate tax changes passed last year. Sixty of the top corporations in the U.S., like General Motors, Delta Airlines, Netflix, and Chevron, also ended up paying no federal taxes.
Last year’s new tax policies lowered what corporations were supposedly paying, from 21% down to 7%. And a bunch of corporations had already figured out how to pay nothing in federal taxes before the new tax policy.
Tax refunds would be a lot higher on average than $1,900 if all taxpayers were paying at a rate of 7% for federal taxes. Instead, the news just confirms who, or what, is served by government policies, whether from the president, the Congress, or the judiciary: U.S. corporations.