The Spark

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

Issue no. 924 — October 1 - 15, 2012

Don’t Wait!
Prepare to Fight!

Oct 1, 2012

Even Business Week says it openly: “Whether it’s Barack Obama or Mitt Romney taking the presidential oath of office in January, [he will] oversee an economy that looks a lot like the one we have today: low growth, persistently high unemployment, and huge amounts of debt.” This was their conclusion: “Face It, 2013 is Gonna Be a Bummer.”

It was a puff piece, but its conclusion falls right in line with what most serious economic experts have been saying: there is no “engine” able and poised to revive the U.S. economy.

Of course not. For several decades now, the income going to most of the population has been cut, reducing the amount we have to spend, weighing down the whole economy.

Jobs have been cut by the millions, as companies pushed to get more work out of fewer workers, in the search for bigger profit.

Wages have been cut, directly and indirectly, as companies grabbed a bigger share of the value we produce by working.

But guess what – you can’t buy if you don’t have money! So the demand for goods and services drops.

Yes, for a period, credit card debt and mortgage refinancing covered up the problem. Just like sub-prime financing on cars and trucks today is creating a fake increase in sales – one that will blow right back on people who took out those sub-prime car loans, just as it did on those with sub-prime mortgages.

Cities, counties, school systems, states, the federal government all made the problem worse. They cut jobs; they cut spending on social programs that would have put money into people’s hands; they cut public services that could have created jobs.

So, of course, the economy isn’t going to right itself.

Yes, the two presidential candidates both promise to do something about the economy. Mitt Romney says, “Give me the job and I’ll turn things around.” Barack Obama, who said the same thing four years ago, now says he has “started” to turn things around, just wait.

In fact, the policies of both parties are nearly identical when it comes to the basic economics of the situation. They protect the interests of the banks, the big corporations and the wealthy who own them. That’s who got big tax breaks in a deal pushed through by Bush, and they got the same big tax breaks in a renewal pushed through by Obama. They got more of our tax money when social services, public services and public school education were cut.

Why wait on the elections? We have to prepare to face what comes next. After November, we will live through more of today’s grinding situation – if not worse.

The capitalists, the bankers, and their wealthy hangers-on are not waiting for the election. Defending themselves, they go on cutting jobs and wages in the search for profit.

Why should we wait? We need to defend ourselves. We need to prepare our fight. And we have to think now about the goals we should fight for.

First of all, jobs. The bosses say they can’t provide a job for everyone. Then let them reduce the hours everyone works, dividing up the jobs – BUT with no loss in pay for anyone. There’s money to pay for this – take it from the big companies’ profit accumulated over years from our labor.

What the bosses can’t provide in the way of jobs can be provided by government investment in public services. There’s more than enough money to pay for that. Just stop giving our tax money to the banks, the big companies and the wealthy.

We all need a decent wage, a wage that allows a family to live comfortably, a wage that keeps up with the increase in prices by being tied to the real increase in inflation.

Of course, no one’s going to give us those things just because we ask. But no one “gave” our great grandparents the 8-hour day. No one “gave” our grandparents Social Security. No one “gave” our parents jobs. Those who came before us imposed those things and more on an unwilling capitalist class, imposed them through their own struggles. Can we do less?

Pages 2-3

“Race to the Top” Grants:
An Attack on YOUR Children

Oct 1, 2012

Nearly 900 school districts across the U.S. have applied for the right to compete for federal education grants, known as “Race to the Top” (RTTT). These grants are nothing but an excuse to attack publicly funded education. And they’re a poor excuse at that.

Of the 900 districts in the contest, ONLY 15 to 25 will get any money. And no district will get more than 30 or 40 million dollars over four years – which is less than 1% of the budget of, say, Los Angeles Unified, which is one of the districts applying.

Even IF a district gets the grant, the money is not enough to make a difference in its budget.

But “Race to the Top” does give state and local officials an excuse to do what they have already been doing in these days of budget cuts – “cut spending” by firing better-paid teachers, that is, experienced teachers who know how to teach.

The result can only be a worsening of education for the children of workers, who depend on public schools.

President Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, say that money will go only to officials who “reform” their schools. Public school systems must accept more charter schools, tie teachers’ evaluations to student scores on standardized tests, and weaken teacher tenure.

Each of these measures is an open attack on teachers, and on the children they educate.

Charter schools are funded with taxpayer money, but managed by private companies, many of them set up to make profit. Typically their teachers work still longer hours than the average 50-hour-week most teachers already have – for less money. The quality of education in most of these schools goes down, as shown by several recent studies.

Student test results are not any measure of how good a teacher is. But focusing on the very narrow standardized tests provides an excuse to get rid of everything not reflected in the tests – art, music, physical education, even much of science, history and languages – everything students need for a complete, well-rounded education.

Teacher tenure doesn’t prevent bad teachers from getting fired. It’s simply a basic protection of due process. But getting rid of teacher tenure makes it easier to get rid of the more experienced, and better-paid teachers – the teachers who know their subjects and how to teach them very well.

These are not “reforms” – they are open attacks on education for children of the working class.

For both parties, the point is to cut spending on education – to provide another source of taxpayer money for the banks, the Wall Street investment firms behind charter schools, and big business.

Who’s a Moocher?

Oct 1, 2012

Mitt Romney got in a lot of hot water recently for his comment about 47% of the population who pay no federal income tax, as if retirees and low-income workers are moochers living off the government teat.

Romney ought to be able to recognize moochers – he was talking to a room full of them when he made those remarks at his $50,000-a-plate fundraiser!

The wealthy pay a MUCH lowerpercentage of their income in taxes than do the rest of us – when they pay any taxes at all. They pay no FICA taxes on all income over $106,000. They open company offices offshore, where they need pay NO taxes – among lots of other ways they make sure to keep their taxes as low as possible. And they pay taxes on their investments at a much lower rate than the rest of us do on our wages.

And on top of that, many of them get lots of money from government grants and contracts.

These are the real moochers living off the government teat.

Barack Obama has been willing to point out how the tax system unfairly benefits the wealthy. But he certainly hasn’t done anything to change it. On the contrary, he pushed through again extending the Bush tax cuts.

After all, he’s got his own high-priced fundraisers to attend!

Civilian Casualties Ignite Outrage

Oct 1, 2012

Politicians and the news media keep posing the inane question: “why are the Muslim people so angry and rioting and attacking us?” Attacking us? Really?

A recent study, done at Stanford and New York University, found that 98% of drone strike casualties in Pakistan are civilians. Weddings, funerals and other large family gatherings have often come under attack by drones.

Is it any wonder that the study found that the large number of drone civilian casualties turns Pakistanis against the U.S.? Angrily against!

Replacement Refs Stepped on the Wrong Toes

Oct 1, 2012

Did you notice how quickly the NFL, which had been stalling for months, ended its lockout of unionized referees? All it took was the really bad call ending Monday night’s game, giving Seattle the win instead of Green Bay.

Was the NFL embarrassed that millions of people could see the ineptitude of its replacement refs over and over on instant replay? Maybe.

But more to the point, someone whispered in the NFL commissioner’s ear that 300 million dollars changed hands when the blown call prevented the Packers from covering the bookies’ betting line of 4½ points and instead gave the upset victory to the Seahawks.

And those gamblers don’t play!

Los Angeles:
Mad Tree Cutters

Oct 1, 2012

To provide a route for the retired space shuttle Endeavor from LAX to the California Science Center, 400 trees were cut down in South Los Angeles, Westchester and Inglewood – all working class neighborhoods.

These neighborhoods have very few very small parks already. So, even more greenery is being destroyed. Officials assure the public that they will replace the trees. But it will take decades for the small trees to grow.

If they were moving the shuttle through Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Pasadena, what would have happened?

Pages 4-5

Starving the Schools – to Feed the Banks and Profit

Oct 1, 2012

The following article was excerpted from presentations given in public meetings in both Detroit and Los Angeles in September.

Barack Obama’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, said that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to the New Orleans public schools. New Orleans’ destruction gave “reformers” an excuse to privatize and charterize the entire school district in one fell swoop.

Duncan had previous experience in unleashing his own Katrina before he became Education Secretary. As head of the Chicago school district, he oversaw the closing of 100 public schools and the opening of 105 charter schools. Since Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former Chief of Staff, became mayor of Chicago a year ago, he’s carried out the same attacks on the schools that Duncan had, pushing to turn more public schools into charters.

That push to privatize public schools – that attack on public education for poor and working class children – was behind the recent Chicago teachers strike.

(And just to demonstrate that the attack on education is bi-partisan, Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan said of the Chicago teachers’ strike, “We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”)

Authorities have been unleashing a slow-moving Katrina in city after city, destroying districts so they can privatize the schools and loot them. More and more, so-called “reformers” of schools are blatantly ripping them apart and ripping them off.

In Los Angeles, the second-largest school district in the U.S., the budget has been cut by 1.5 billion dollars, from 8.5 billion dollars down to seven billion dollars in the past two years alone. That’s an 18% cut. This enormous cut has resulted in layoffs of teachers and other school workers, which in turn has pushed class sizes even higher, especially in high schools. There were also pay cuts for teachers, elimination of art and music classes, drastic cuts in classes offered in summer school, the elimination of the adult education program, etc.

Since 2002, the L.A. school district has built dozens of new schools, using 19.5 billion dollars of state and local bond money approved by voters. Then the L.A. Board of Education handed many of these new schools, built with taxpayer money, over to private companies that run charter schools. Today, there are about 230 charter schools in L.A. Unified School District.

Detroit: Consciously Created Chaos

The process in Detroit began in earnest in 2009. Then-Governor Jennifer Granholm (a Democrat) appointed Robert Bobb, trained by the pro-charter Broad Foundation, as the district’s emergency manager.

The Broad Superintendents Academy, set up by billionaire real estate speculator Eli Broad, trains mostly former corporate executives, financial consultants and military officers to become administrators in public school systems. Broad and his fellow billionaire Bill Gates are prominent sponsors of school “reform.” Through their foundations, both Broad and Gates fund charter schools directly – and so do the Waltons, the owners of Wal-Mart. Administrators connected to these foundations have fanned out across the country, pushing the privatization agenda in school district after school district.

Robert Bobb pushed that agenda in Detroit. In one summer, he closed 29 schools, sending those students to 36 other schools. In addition, he completely reorganized or “reconstituted” 35 more schools in the district. Principals were removed and replaced, and 1,000 teachers were made to reapply for their jobs.

All in all, two-thirds of the district’s then 84,000 students were affected by these moves, creating chaos for all involved.

The very next year, Bobb announced he was closing 41 MORE DPS schools – only to reopen them as charter schools.

Then came Roy Roberts, a former GM executive with absolutely no educational experience or training, appointed as the new Emergency Manager by Republican Rick Snyder.

Roberts crippled what was left of the schools, laying off teachers and other staff, increasing class size, leaving students even more vastly underserved. All 4,100 teachers in the district were laid off after last year, and no one was called back until two weeks before the beginning of the school year. Up until mid-August, teachers had absolutely no idea if they had a job, or where it would be, or what classes they would be teaching. How well-prepared do you think they were for the beginning of the school year? What kind of school year could students expect, in the midst of this chaos?

Officials SAY they HAD to close all these schools because students were leaving the district. In fact, the opposite is true: students left the district because officials were closing schools. Last year, in the 2011-12 school year, the DPS had 66,000 students enrolled. Charter schools in Detroit enrolled 56,000. So, if not for charter schools, the DPS would have 120,000 students!

They haven’t been trying to stem the tide of an exodus from the school district. They’ve been actively DRIVING kids OUT of the school district – and handing schools over to for-profit private companies as a gift!

This was even before Roberts and Governor Snyder took 15 schools out of the DPS to form an “Educational Achievement Authority” or “EAA.” Supposedly, these schools were chosen because they were among the 5% lowest-performing schools in the state. But they just happened to be newly renovated or rebuilt schools on taxpayer dime – and they went to charters or the EAA.

These 15 Detroit schools have been removed from district control and given to a special “district” out of anyone’s control. Appointed by Snyder, Roberts is head of the Board for the EAA, too. Others on the Board are business people – all of them – appointed by Snyder, like Roberts. “Chancellor” John Covington, another Broad Foundation alum, was brought in from Kansas City – where he’d wrecked schools there.

Just as in Chicago, the EAA has hired “Teach For America” young people, with little to no actual teaching training. These TFA staffers will watch over large numbers of students sitting in front of computers. They will be gone after two years, contributing to the chaos and disruption in children’s lives.

The EAA’s talk of “individualized lesson plans” means students will receive their material from computers, with no actual instruction at all from teachers. And that, of course, means that computer companies and software companies will clean up, while money spent on teachers is cut. (The claim to put more resources into the classroom has already been shown to be false – a biggerpercentage is spent on administrative costs than in the public schools. The Chancellor is being paid $400,000 this year – for only fifteen schools.) And the latest news is that the high school classes will be taught through the Michigan Virtual High School – a private, profit-making company, set up about 10 years ago with public funds.

The EAA has been touting its long school hours and long school year – 11 months out of the year. That might be fine – if kids were getting a real education for all that time. That’s NOT what will happen. They’re selling parents on the idea of a babysitting service, not education. Of course, in a society where no decent, affordable daycare service is readily available on a social level, many parents are desperate for daycare options – single parents, or families where both parents are working. It’s tragic that this is all that’s being offered here, not education.

Some of these schools are already charters run by for-profit companies. In ALL of them, profits are made by the computer and software companies.

Business people with zero education experience are hijacking our kids!

They Say It’s About Money

The State of Michigan, like other states, has been cutting back on its revenue sharing with local governments and education funding for districts for quite a while. This has been hurting poorer cities and school districts especially; wealthier districts can make up the difference with local taxes.

On top of that, all sorts of schemes like Renaissance and Enterprise Zones have been set up over the years, supposedly to help foster development in poverty-stricken areas. Big chunks of the city are paying little to no taxes: industrial areas; gentrifying areas. Detroit is getting less and less money for schools from its most valuable properties.

More and more districts like Detroit are pushed further into debt to pay the bills and keep operating. And this is great news for the banks. This is one way the banks get hold of all that public money.

Across the country, banks have created loans and sold bonds to cities and school districts that looked like the subprime ARMs (Adjustable-Rate Mortgages) homeowners got: ballooning interest rates and payments that saddled these entities with increasing debt impossible to pay.

The school districts ended up floating more loans, more bonds to pay old loans – a vicious cycle. The new bonds mask for a time the shift of money, pushing the debt into the future. We just saw a very stark example of this in Detroit: When Robert Bobb came in as the “Financial Manager,” the DPS debt grew by 50% under him (from 200 to 300 million dollars). Roy Roberts just announced that Detroit Public Schools debt is down to 75 million dollars from more than 300 million dollars in just over a year. Wow, Roberts must be a financial genius! No, this was because of another 200 million dollars in bond sales. That just takes this debt off the books for THIS year, and dumps it back twenty years from now when those bonds come due. These new bonds will end up costing the DPS 500 million dollars to repay. The debt is increasing under Roberts, just like under Bobb.

The debt these “financial managers” ran up is now the excuse they give for closing schools, laying off teachers and other employees, and demanding wage and benefit cuts from those remaining employees.

It’s also the excuse for emergency managers to stuff more kids into charter schools, with the fraudulent idea that private companies will be more efficient and responsive than public bureaucracies, because they compete, and they want to produce a profit. The reality has been very different. Charter schools have been MORE expensive, with fewer resources going to the classroom than in public schools. Today, 75% of Michigan charters are for-profit. Their aim is to produce a profit, and any extra money spent on actual education is money off of their profit margin.

Turning Schools into Profit Machines

This push is national. There’s a national group called “Democrats for Education Reform,” or DFER. Financial interests are overwhelmingly represented in the group. On their Board of seven members, only ONE has any educational training. The rest are all representatives of one or another capital management group. What is their interest in “education reform”? One member, a hedge fund operator named Whitney Tilson, put it this way: he called charter schools “the perfect philanthropy for results-oriented business executives.... Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

Notice, nothing is said in there about education. At all. Their interest in education is all about money. And this group is playing a major role in making policy at a national level.

In a nutshell, school employees, and workers’ children, are made to pay, are tossed away so that the banks and private education companies can continue to be paid. Every dollar of profits is that much less going to the kids, with programs cut left and right.

But something else is possible. If we use the resources we have for the benefit of the population instead of to feed the banks, we can build truly great schools!

Imagine what that could mean for our society, and for the world, if EVERY child could have the benefit of a top-notch education: small class size, for individual attention; state-of-the-art buildings, including fully-outfitted science labs and computer labs, theater, pools, not to mention libraries and bathrooms that WORK, and ceilings that don’t leak. Full sets of RECENT textbooks for all students, not to mention all sorts of supplementary materials. Art classes, music classes, physical education…. If EVERY child were given the opportunity to truly engage their natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge and understanding, if every child were given a truly thorough scientific understanding of the world, if every child were allowed the chance to engage their creativity – think of how fast society would progress: all the things we could do, all the advances we could see!

That’s in our interest; it’s in workers’ interest; but it’s not in the interest of the for-profit education companies, or the banks, or all those officials who represent them. If we want a better life for our kids, it WILL take a major fight against those interests – to pry that wealth out of their grubby little fingers.

Pages 6-7

South Africa:
Marikana Miners Make Big International Companies Retreat

Oct 1, 2012

On September 18th, after a six-week strike which cost the lives of 40 of their comrades, the 38,000 platinum miners in Marikana, South Africa, forced the giant mining company Lonmin to give ground.

They won the $1,600 a month increase they demanded. There was an immediate 11% to 22% increase and another 12% to be negotiated the next month. Already, this is three times more than coal, diamond, gold and metal miners won in their four big strikes of 2011.

The Marikana strike was remarkable in several respects. First, because it developed outside the control and despite the opposition of the miners union’s bureaucratic apparatus. Then, beyond the impact of the Marikana miners’ strike and their determination, they knew how to reach out to other miners of the region.

After the August 16th massacre in which 34 strikers were killed, work stoppages occurred in many mines. But it was the Marikana strikers’ mass marches, which went from mine to mine, that wound up transforming brief stoppages into a strike.

On September 11th, Anglo Platinum, the world’s biggest platinum producer, locked out workers at the Rustenburg district. On the following days, other platinum and chromium companies did the same.

The mining companies had been caught unprepared by the rapid extension of the movement and tried to stop the unrest by closing the mines to put pressure on the workers through layoffs. They also appealed to the regime’s repressive forces for them to go after movement leaders. On September 15th, the police and army’s light armored vehicles, supported by helicopters, surrounded Nikaneng, the most important shantytown where Marikana strikers live, wounding a good number. At the same time, the army took control of the Rustenburg area.

But nothing happened. The Marikana strikers didn’t give in, as they were strengthened by the mobilization of the miners of the region. Finally, the Lonmin corporation, faced with a movement which it seemed nothing could stop, ended up giving in.

But despite all that, the movement isn’t over. In the Rustenburg area in particular, 26,000 miners remain on strike at the Anglo Platinum complex. There are also strikes in other important mines, like at Acquarius and Xstrata. And, above all, the strike wave has spread for some time now to gold mines in several districts. On August 29th, the majority of the 46,000 miners of the KDC GoldFields complex near Johannesburg went on strike. Since then, miners at several big mines joined them, including those at the biggest South African gold company, AngloGold Ashanti.

Today, the regime and the mining companies are worried about the strike spreading, due to the effect of Lonmin giving in. Martial law was decreed in the Rustenburg district, which remains the key point of the movement.

But the miners have hardly let themselves be intimidated. On September 15th, after the announcement of the death of a city councilman who was wounded during a police raid, there was a riot at Anglo Platinum complex. Then on September 19th there was a riot in Nikaneng. In both cases, the repressive forces’ armed cars were overturned and burnt, forcing the army to retreat.

In this movement, the miners are showing their determination and organizational capacity and also the effect of their numbers, their economic weight, and a considerable political prestige, due to their past struggles under Apartheid. In short, they have caused the bourgeoisie to fear an uncontrolled social crisis and they have the means to get more still.

Detroit Strike

Oct 1, 2012

Picket lines were set up outside Detroit’s largest sewage treatment plant at 9300 W. Jefferson Ave. on Sunday, September 30.

Workers at AFSCME Local 207 voted to strike last week, expecting to go out on Monday. But when management asked workers to empty tanks to increase waste water storage capacity – a move seen as preparing for a long strike – about 40 Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) workers walked off the job.

The strike began after attacks on all City of Detroit workers have escalated for months.

All departments face 10% wage cuts and horrific increases in healthcare costs. Public safety workers – EMS, fire, and police – have been protesting mandatory 12-hour shifts without overtime pay for police officers.

Earlier in September, Detroit’s Board of Water Commissioners authorized a contract with Minneapolis-based consulting firm EMA to begin implementing cuts to the workforce. EMA’s study recommends cutting 81% of jobs from the water department.

DWSD workers had been informed they would be training contractors to do their jobs as of October 1, which probably pushed people to focus on a strike for that day.

In a dangerous plant where workers shovel fecal matter and where too many have died on the job, workers know the only way to protect themselves and the public is to fight back. They understand job cuts proposed by the mayor will mean the drinking water system for 40% of Michigan will be put in danger.

Union leaders expect the Bing administration to seek a back-to-work court injunction. Union leaders plan to fight to continue the strike.

In the words of union president John Riehl, “This strike gives the people of Detroit a much needed and long-awaited opportunity to change the balance of power.... If our strike becomes Detroit’s strike, we can win....

iPhone’s Foxconn:
Workers Fought for their Rights

Oct 1, 2012

Last week, Foxconn was forced to temporarily shut down one of its huge electronics plants due to a labor dispute. After the company guards beat up workers in the plant, about 2,000 assembly line workers fought a pitched battle with the guards. Then, 5,000 police officers were mobilized to the plant, which employs more than 79,000 workers in Taiyuan, China.

Foxconn manufactures more than 40% of the world’s electronics for Apple, Samsung, Dell, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and many others. It is the largest private company in China, with 1.2 million workers.

In Foxconn plants, modern electronic gadgets like smartphones are manufactured under very oppressive conditions. Workers unanimously complain that they suffer "verbal and physical abuse" by guards. In 2010, thirteen workers committed suicide at Foxconn plants. Instead of addressing workers’ actual needs, the company installed fish nets around the buildings to prevent workers jumping from buildings. In the same year, Foxconn had to temporarily shut down a plant in India when 250 workers fell sick. And in May 2011, two people were killed after an explosion at a Foxconn plant in Chengdu, China.

Work intensity is also intolerable. Workers describe workdays that routinely extend three hours into overtime, and more than 60 hours per week, leaving no time for the workers to have life beyond work and sleep. And there is no overtime pay. When a new electronic gadget is pushed to the market, the workload of Foxconn workers suddenly surges. For example, before the launch of the iPhone 5, the workers at the Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant did not have a day off in the previous 30 days.

Facing battling workers, Foxconn declared that employee welfare will be improved and over-time payments will be made as promised.

But Foxconn made promises in the past, almost immediately breaking them. Only the workers own combativity will hold them to respect the promises they make.

What Does an iPhone 5 Cost?

Oct 1, 2012

Apple’s new smartphone iPhone 5 is manufactured by Foxconn. According to electronics industry analysts, the components of this device cost around $180.

The retail price of this phone is around $650. Thus, Apple makes a huge profit on each sale.

Apple pays Foxconn $12.50 as a labor cost for every iPhone it makes, which represents just 2%, a very tiny fraction of the iPhone's sale price. But Foxconn also profits since the production volumes are huge.

Foxconn workers in China get a mere $1.78 per hour, work long hours with no overtime pay and are cramped into dorm rooms with 8 to 10 people in a single room, living under military like conditions. That is why and how Apple and Foxconn prosper.

In human terms, this miserable wage level and horrible work conditions are the actual costs of a miracle electronic device produced under capitalist conditions.

Wormy Apple for Workers

Oct 1, 2012

The following article is from the September 28th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers organization of that name active in France.

Apple has recently been in the news due to the release of its new iPhone. A strike called for the release date wasn’t a success, but it publicized the working conditions of the 2,500 workers at the 13 Apple stores in France.

If the working conditions at these stores are not as scandalous as those under which Apple’s contract workers suffer in China, they are still nowhere near Apple’s shiny image. Apple pretends to its employees that it is a company seeking to always be better. It says, “Our collaborators [workers] are an inestimable resource.”

Undoubtedly, this means “an inestimable source of profits,” for the wages are not at all fabulous like this multinational’s profits. They range from $1,600 a month for the average worker to $3,000 for the best paid. Apart from health insurance, the Apple workers get none of the ordinary benefits, such as various bonuses or discounts at nearby restaurants. A lot of the jobs are part time, lowering the pay still more.

Workers are pushed hard to keep their pay secret. There are differences between different workers’ pay, but they are hidden. Management gives some raises – secretly. But everyone’s pay depends on the sales per employee as well as the profits of all Apple Stores in France. This is the pretext the French Apple stores use for not hiring enough and for not replacing workers who leave. Meanwhile, there are more and more customers in the stores, leading to longer work days and reductions in breaktime.

The first strike call may not have been a success, but that doesn’t mean that there is no discontent. Some day Apple will have to postpone the debut of its new technological toys, since on that day its employees won’t be welcoming the customers but instead setting up a picket line.

Page 8

A Plot to Steal Welfare Money from the Poor

Oct 1, 2012

The Michigan Department of Human Services is implementing a policy to deprive parents of welfare benefits if any child has 10 “unexcused” absences in a school year.

The state even admits this could affect the majority of its more than 160,000 recipients. What the state takes as an “excuse” is entirely up to them.

To the DHS, it matters not if children are scared for their lives because the city cut the bus lines and they have to walk to school through dangerous neighborhoods with many abandoned buildings. It’s not their concern if an older child has to stay home to take care of a sibling who is sick or take them to a doctor.

How is a woman who works and is getting some supplementary welfare assistance supposed to make sure her teenager goes to school? Teenagers who, incidentally, don’t want to go to school because they never received the help they needed in earlier grades.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder calls this outrageous policy a way to “end the cycle of crime.” All it is really doing is creating a much worse situation in the streets, increasing the already enormous desperation, using the truancy of one child as an excuse to make an entire family homeless.

The politicians are making it clear: no matter what they cut, there are more cuts to come. They’re looking for more money to rob from poor and working people to give to the billionaires! Now, they’ve even stooped so low as to take it from the poorest of the poor, welfare recipients who receive only $463 a month per household on average.

No Back to School Clothes

Oct 1, 2012

Remember how poor kids got bullied for ragged clothes? This year, help with the cost of school clothes was quietly eliminated by DHS for most clients. Upset phone calls poured in from customers who were harmed without being given any notice.

Instead of taking candy from babies, Lansing is taking the clothes off their back.

DCFS Workers Protest

Oct 1, 2012

Hundreds of case-workers for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services protested in downtown Chicago last week. These workers keep track of children at risk of abuse or neglect. They are already extremely short staffed, and now the state wants to lay off 400 more case-workers in its new budget. The demonstrators denounced these cuts saying they will result in more abused and even killed children.

The State has plenty of tax cuts for corporations, but nothing to protect vulnerable children? These are the priorities of a broken system.