The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Issue no. 991 — July 20 - August 3, 2015

Restore and More!
Why Not?

Jul 20, 2015

Contract negotiations have begun in Detroit, between the UAW and the Detroit 3: General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Fiat Chrysler. With handshakes all around, the bargainers for both sides were all smiles.

Of course, auto execs were smiling – the three big auto companies are rolling in dough, because their “partners” on the union side helped them amass all that money.

In 2007, the auto bosses reduced the cost of their workers by approximately $15.00 an hour when the UAW agreed to accept a severely underfunded VEBA account for retiree health care, eliminating all further obligation by the auto companies. In the same contracts the UAW agreed to set up a two-tier system, with new hires getting wages roughly half of what then current wages were, along with severely reduced benefits.

Continuing on, the combination of company attacks and UAW give-backs under threats of bankruptcy at GM and Chrysler cut wages and benefits across the board.

Today, the companies pay out roughly half of what they paid seven years ago for the total cost of labor. In 2014, only 5.7% of total North American revenue of the three companies went for all UAW labor costs put together – wages, benefits and even joint programs – compared to 11.5% in 2007 and 11.4% in 1999.

To push these concessions, union leaders and politicians pretended the companies might collapse, go bankrupt and close down all jobs. Didn’t happen.

So what will their story be this time? What lie will they tell to reduce labor costs again? That’s what the companies intend to do.

Union bargainers are sensitive to the fact that First-Tier workers are demanding a raise, after 10 years of no raises, and that Second-Tier workers are vocal about the unfairness of being paid at lower rates for doing the same work. Together with the bosses, union leaders are hinting they will address these issues – even while warning these things can’t be done “overnight.”

Whatever small increase in wages they may agree to, the “bargainers” have already made it clear they intend to cut what the companies pay out in health care costs. In other words, not more money for workers, just rearranging where the old money goes.

Skilled at maneuvering, skilled at presenting a takeaway as a victory, International union leaders quickly reassured the workers that this can be done a number of ways that won’t be too painful.

Auto workers can get an advance look at what can happen to health care by noticing what top SEIU and other union leaders agreed to in recent negotiations for the 105,000 workers at Kaiser health system nationwide. Using the pretext of the government’s so-called “Cadillac Tax” on high benefit programs, they put a provision in the contract allowing union leaders and the company to cut medical benefits in the future. In other words, by voting for the contract, Kaiser workers signed a blank check TODAY for future cuts TOMORROW.

Auto workers can also get an idea of what might happen by looking at the VEBA account set up for auto retiree medical care. The VEBA has cost every retiree, when they reach Medicare age, a cut of over $100 in their total monthly benefits. It has cost them increased premiums, increased co-pays, and much higher costs for everything other than generic prescriptions.

Whatever will be proposed this time, one thing we can be sure of: what the bosses may give with one hand, they will try to take away with the other.

It’s not true that workers have to trade off one thing for another. Workers have fought in the past to improve their conditions and to increase their standard of living.

Why can’t it be done again? Are workers today less courageous than their parents and grandparents? We don’t believe that.

This very year, in addition to auto workers, tens of thousands more workers at the State of Michigan and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan have new contracts coming up. It would certainly make sense for all three groups of workers to stand together to fight concessions.

With over 70,000 auto workers in Michigan alone, joined by hundreds of thousands of auto retirees and by 30,000 state workers and several thousand Blue Cross workers, a real fight would be possible. There is no doubt that such a fight could attract workers from the City of Detroit and from Wayne County, along with teachers – all of whom have been recent victims of the bosses, Wall Street and the banks.

Most of them live and work in Southeast Michigan. What starts in Southeast Michigan doesn’t have to stay there! It could easily spread elsewhere. All over the country, workers have been under attack, losing what they once had won, watching their standard of living plummet, seeing no future for their kids.

“Restore and More” was the fighting slogan of auto workers in past fights. Don’t expect to hear it come out of the mouths of top UAW leaders. So proud of their “partnership” with the bosses, they think more about company profits than about workers’ standard of living.

That doesn’t prevent auto workers from making this their rallying cry – Restore and More! – a rallying cry for a broad fight that can bring workers back out onto a road that leads UP and not downhill.

Pages 2-3

Detroit’s Population Decline:
The Result of Deliberate Policies

Jul 20, 2015

Several hundreds of thousands of Detroit residents have been pushed out of the city in just the last decade by home foreclosures, according to data from a series published by the Detroit News.

The city has experienced nearly 140,000 mortgages and tax foreclosures since 2005. That’s one out of every three city properties. Based on the average household size for the city in the latest Census, the foreclosed homes likely housed close to 400,000 residents. Almost 29,000 more homes, with probably another 80,000 residents, are set for foreclosure auction in the fall, not to mention 40,000 more whose owners recently temporarily staved off foreclosure by agreeing to payment plans on their back taxes.

This emptying out of the city is the result of policies employed not only by mortgage lenders but also Detroit’s city government.

Mortgage lenders did their part by pushing subprime loans designed to make it impossible for homeowners to pay them off. Close to 75% of mortgages sold in the city between 2004 and 2006 were subprime loans, loans which carry higher interest rates, by at least 3 percent, than other mortgage loans. Of these, about 80% were adjustable-rate mortgages designed to suck buyers in with low interest rates that later skyrocketed.

In many cases, mortgage lenders pushed these booby-trapped loans not just on people rated as bad credit risks, but also on people, especially black borrowers, who should have qualified for lower-interest loans.

Among the mortgage lenders that pushed the most failed mortgages in Detroit was Quicken Loans. Quicken is owned by none other than Dan Gilbert, the man often pushed by local media around Detroit as the city’s “savior,” leading Detroit’s “turnaround” by buying properties in downtown Detroit. In reality Gilbert and others like him use money handed to them by the city through generous tax breaks to make huge profits.

Detroit’s city government is actually responsible for many more foreclosures due to tax debts than those stemming from mortgage debt. Of the 139,699 properties foreclosed on since 2005, 110,000 or 79%, were due to unpaid taxes.

Actions of the city directly contributed to homeowners’ difficulties in paying their tax bills. An investigation by the Detroit News found the city’s assessments in 2013 were 65 per cent higher than actual property values. When people got behind in their taxes, they were hit with loan-shark level interest rates of 18 percent, which is mandated by the State of Michigan.

The foreclosures are clearly the result of a conscious policy being carried out by the wealthy, the banks, big corporations and their friends in City Hall to push people deemed “undesirable” out of the city of Detroit, in order to hand property over to big real estate developers.

The same thing taking place in Detroit is happening in large cities all around the country.

It’s what capitalism today has to offer, as wealthy investors and financial institutions no longer find investing in production profitable enough, and instead look for areas to speculate, like real estate bubbles and mortgage-backed securities that were at the heart of the economic crisis of 2008.

Murdered by Police in Texas

Jul 20, 2015

Twenty-eight-year-old Sandra Bland was stopped by the police on Friday, July 10th, for failing to use her turn signal while changing lanes. Three days later, she died in a Texas jail.

Bland was involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. She had posted a series of videos online speaking out against police brutality and racial injustice.

A cell phone video captures the police holding her down on the ground in a prone position while she yelled, “Hey! You just slammed my head on the ground! ...All of this for a turn signal! I can’t hear!” An eye witness says he saw the police pull Bland out of her car and throw her to the ground.

The police arrested her and charged her with “assault of a public servant.” The video and eye witness account obviously call into question who did the assaulting.

The police are claiming that Bland committed suicide in her cell using a trash bag. According to Bland’s family, suicide as the cause of death is ridiculous. “When you think through the circumstances that have been shared with us to this point, it is unimaginable and difficult for us to wrap our minds around the Sandy that we knew for this to be characteristic of her,” Bland’s sister said.

Sheriff Glenn Smith – the one who pronounced Bland’s death a suicide – had been removed from his previous post as chief of police of Hempstead, Texas, amidst accusations of racism. So why the hell is he still working as a sheriff? They didn’t fire him. No! They just changed his jurisdiction to continue police business as usual.

Bland was fighting against precisely this kind of injustice. There have also been protests outside the jail. People continuing to protest is the only way to get the police to answer to their crimes.

Gardena, California:
Video Exposes Police Murder
– and Lies

Jul 20, 2015

Police videos of a shooting in Gardena, California were released two years after the incident. Police and city authorities had called the shooting, which left one man dead and another wounded, “justified.” In fact, nothing the cops did was justified.

The videos show the cops pointing their guns at three men, ordering them to put their hands up. The cops later said they had suspected the men of stealing a bicycle. In reality the men, co-workers at a restaurant, were looking for the stolen bicycle, which belonged to the brother of one of them.

The cops just never asked, apparently. One of the men, 35-year-old Ricardo Diaz Zeferino, looks confused, perhaps even scared, in the videos – which would not be a surprise under the circumstances. He seems to be trying to say something to the cops. Later, his friends said he was trying to explain to the cops that they stopped the wrong people.

But the cops were not in a listening mood. Three of them opened fire, hitting Diaz Zeferino eight times and killing him. The cops said they thought Diaz Zeferino might be reaching for a weapon. But the videos show that, when they opened fire, Diaz Zeferino was standing with his arms spread and palms open, as if, perhaps, asking, “What’s going on?”

One of the other men, Eutiquio Acevedo Mendez, also took a bullet, near his spine. He was “inadvertently struck with a bullet,” the City of Gardena said in court – nice way to describe the cops’ reckless shooting of two unarmed men, murdering one and seriously wounding the other!

The videos expose not only the murder but also the cops’ and their higher-ups’ lies about it. No wonder the authorities tried to hide the videos from the public – until a judge ordered them released. And the only reason the judge did that was that the victims’ families fought for the release of the videos. They weren’t about to be bought off with the blood money the city paid them.

Another Police Misconduct Settlement

Jul 20, 2015

In early July, the City of Baltimore paid $200,000 as a settlement to a Defense Department employee. This man brought suit against a police officer for false arrest.

This settlement is just the latest to resolve charges of police misconduct, physical threats, beatings and murder brought against Baltimore police officers.

In 2014, Baltimore Sun reporters followed a paper trail to try to put together all the suits brought against Baltimore police since 2011. It wasn’t easy to find the information: The data on cases brought against police is not even kept in one central location. And the details of what happened in each case are shielded from public disclosure. But from what the reporters could piece together, it’s clear the city paid out close to six million dollars during this time to settle about 100 cases brought against the police. In addition, the city spent another six million on legal fees. More than 300 suits were filed against the police, many of them still pending.

This is only a fraction of the police misconduct and brutality during this time. Most people don’t have the means to sue the cops, or they don’t want to out of fear of retaliation. So there were surely thousands of incidents of brutality and misconduct during the years the Sun reporters researched.

The city never admits that the cops did anything wrong in settling these suits, even though they would never agree to settle them unless they knew the cops had done something wrong. The officers involved are not punished, and some of them go on to be charged again at a later date with misconduct or brutality.

In reality, these settlements are designed to make it possible for the city to continue encouraging the cops to use threats and brutality against hundreds of thousands of poor, mostly black, exploited and oppressed people – to try to force them to accept their situation.

No appeals to city officials to rein in the cops will change this. As the Freddy Gray case showed, nothing short of an uprising is necessary to even get some murdering cops indicted.

Pages 4-5

The Creditors’ Savagery

Jul 20, 2015

Paul Krugman, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, said, “this Eurogroup list of demands is madness.” Even those who ordinarily support the creditors could only say, “the reform plans that Greece agreed to will push the economy down,” as the French newspaper Les Echos wrote.

In fact, even before any discussion on the possibility of having access to new credit, the Greek government had to have its Parliament vote between July 15th and July 22nd on a series of austerity measures. The national sales tax will rise to 23% on most goods. A lower rate of 13% applies to water, grocery staples and energy. The normal age for Social Security retirement is now 67 and by the end of 2019 the government has to stop paying a supplement to those receiving low benefits. In the event the government runs a budget deficit, automatic freezes kick in to prevent a new deficit.

The Greek government agrees to “undertake a rigorous reexamination and modernization of collective bargaining agreements, union action and ... mass layoff procedures.” Sunday work must be allowed. The plan pushes the Greek government to go back on certain measures it took recently; in particular, it requires the layoff of certain newly hired public employees. And for any new law connected to the adjustment plan, the government will first “have to consult creditor institutions before any public discussion or in Parliament,” which means nothing less than putting the Greek government under a control which intends to refuse it.

Finally, the government has to set up funds which will raise 55 billion dollars by privatizing government enterprises. This is an incredible amount given the size of the Greek economy. That means in addition to the already planned privatization of regional airports, the most important ports of the country and the electrical network, many other sectors will be privatized. Out of the proceeds from the sale of these enterprises, at least 25% must go immediately to pay off creditors.

In exchange for all this, the Greek government has only obtained a vague promise of discussion over a rescheduling of its payment on public debt.

While since 2008 the Greek economy has continued to collapse, strangled by a debt which never shrunk, today finance capital seeks to pump still more profit out of it, which will inevitably worsen the situation still more. But the Heads of State who play the role of managers for the financial institutions don’t want and never wanted to “aid Greece.” They want to make an example out of it and show all the exploited of Europe what it will cost them to fight them, even through the ballot box.

Reformism’s Dead End

Jul 20, 2015

A number of people who are in solidarity with the Greek working people have been surprised and disappointed by the way in which Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, betrayed the large No vote on the austerity demands by capitulating to them. Tsipras was elected while denouncing austerity plans and by promising to protect the poorest people by raising the minimum wage and preserving Social Security pensions. But that never made him a representative of the interests of the exploited. Moreover, he never pretended to be so.

Tsipras always stood within the framework of the capitalist order. He never contested the domination of the bourgeoisie or even the payment of the debt, that is to say, the right of the financiers to take their cut from his country. He sought to grab a margin of maneuver to restore the “sovereignty” and “dignity” of his country. He demanded, as he did in his speech of July 8th before the European Parliament, “the right to choose, as a sovereign government, to decide where we concentrate and increase the fiscal burden.”

Did he count on forcing the hand of the European representatives of the bourgeoisie through electoral pressure? But the big bourgeoisie scorns being disavowed by the popular will! It doesn’t keep its power through the ballot box, but maintains it by its hold over the banks, factories, the big retail chains and the entire economy.

No doubt Tsipras hoped to be able to reason with the creditors. In fact, the austerity plans imposed on Greece are absurd, because they plunge the economy into depression, reducing its ability to pay them back. Alas, the representatives of the bourgeoisie made use of these plans to administer a political lesson and to show people that it’s impossible to disobey them.

Tsipras, who respects the bourgeoisie, never sought to create a true relation of force between the international bourgeoisie and Greece. One doesn’t have to be a revolutionary to make the bourgeoisie of his country pay even a little. Tsipras didn’t even do that. For example, he didn’t get rid of the tax exemption of the Greek shipping companies or the Orthodox Church. For months, he refused to decree the control of capital and let the rich take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country, driving the Greek banks to bankruptcy.

Tsipras belongs to that category of leaders of poor countries who try to loosen the stranglehold of the big powers. The most determined of this type of leader was Fidel Castro. He went the furthest in his resistance to imperialism because he held his power due to a peasant uprising and because he was able to lean on the support of his mobilized population and on the Soviet Union. But the fundamental choice that Castro made to accept the capitalist order didn’t permit the Cuban people to free itself from imperialism, as we can see today. The attempt of Tsipras, which was purely electoralist, led to a lamentable capitulation.

Oppose the Social Force of the Workers to the Power of Capital

What is happening in Greece proves once more that it is an illusion to try to reconcile the interest of the exploited with those of the bourgeoisie. By making people believe that it’s possible to make the domination of capital over the world less cruel, the reformist and nationalist leaders deceive the exploited. Class war is ferocious and implacable. And with the crisis, the bourgeoisie won’t give up a crumb without being forced to by a mass mobilization and a relation of forces that makes it fear losing its power.

The Greek working classes have just learned that the most moderate demands, such as the maintenance of Social Security retirement for the poorest, won’t be agreed to from above. The preservation of their vital interests depends on their capacity to fight. What we can hope for is that the exploited people of Greece don’t abandon their demands over their living conditions and that they won’t accept the new retreats that the Tsipras government wants to impose on them.

But beyond this vital necessity, the workers in Greece as elsewhere need to give birth to a political force ready to defend the interests of the exploited class, beginning with the necessity of having a job and decent retirement. A political force which doesn’t deceive the oppressed by raising slogans pretending to be radical, but which don’t advance an inch the material situation of the exploited. An example of this are the slogans for the cancellation of debt and giving up the euro currency, which the French reformist left increasingly preaches.

A political party that doesn’t seek to compromise with the bourgeoisie but gives itself the goal of overthrowing it, by having the perspective of the suppression of private property in the means of production and of exploitation of the workers, will know how to lead the fights, including partial ones, which are before them.

Puerto Rico Debt Crisis

Jul 20, 2015

At the end of June, Puerto Rico’s governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced that Puerto Rico was bankrupt; that it could no longer meet its payments on a debt of 72 billion dollars, the largest public debt in the U.S. when compared to the population. Of course, since Puerto Rico is a “territory,” that is in reality, a colony of the U.S., it doesn’t even have the option that other state and local governments have to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy and get a court to reduce the debt.

In some ways, the Puerto Rico debt crisis looks like the one that Detroit recently went through – but worse. Like Detroit, for many decades, Puerto Rico was a corporate mecca, one which attracted big manufacturers. In Puerto Rico’s case, what attracted the U.S. manufacturers was a huge tax break that Congress enacted in the mid-1970s, exempting them from all federal taxes. Textile and shoe manufacturers rushed into Puerto Rico to take advantage of this. The biggest pharmaceutical companies put in factories that produced their blockbuster drugs – paying the workers much, much less than they paid in the U.S. By the 1980s, Puerto Rico had become the most profitable single entity in the world for U.S. companies.

But when Congress reversed course in 1996, and began to phase out this federal tax exemption over the next decade, companies pulled much of their manufacturing out, leaving devastation and misery in their wake – just like Detroit was hit by the departure of many of the manufacturing plants.

But in Puerto Rico the supposed social safety net is even smaller and has more holes than in the U.S. The U.S. federal government funds Medicaid and Medicare programs at much lower levels for people in Puerto Rico than it does on the mainland – even though workers in Puerto Rico pay the same payroll taxes. The federal government also shortchanges Puerto Rico of block grants, as well as federal nutrition programs. And in Puerto Rico there is no Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI) benefits for the most indigent.

The lack of even these minimal benefits has created more insecurity, and has put more pressure on workers to accept lower wages ... when there are any jobs at all. Over the last decade of crisis, unemployment and poverty have been consistently higher in Puerto Rico than almost anywhere else in the U.S. Today, almost half the population lives below the poverty line. Is it any wonder that more than 50,000 Puerto Ricans every year are moving to the U.S. mainland?

After the manufacturers left, the big banks, hedge funds and other speculators smelled blood, and looked to profit from the debt and crisis.

For decades preceding the crisis, the Puerto Rican government had been building up debt, as it bent over backwards to subsidize the profits of the big companies that flocked to the small island. Once the companies left and unemployment grew, the size of the government debt began to grow faster. Pretty soon, the government was borrowing money to make its debt payments, and 40% of the Puerto Rico government’s budget was going to pay for its debt! By 2014, the banks rated Puerto Rico’s debt “junk,” which made it a target for speculators and hedge funds that quietly scooped it up at fire sale prices in hopes of making a financial killing.

Preparing to attack the Puerto Rican working class and poor even more, Governor Padilla brought in Steven W. Rhodes, the retired federal judge who oversaw Detroit’s bankruptcy case and famously did the banks’ bidding, imposing cuts in pension benefits to retired city workers. After Rhodes retired, he told Detroit newspapers that he was in favor of junking traditional pension benefits for municipal workers all together. Padilla also hired as financial advisors the same Citigroup team that had worked on the Detroit bankruptcy, and even used their offices on Park Avenue in New York City to meet with the big banks and hedge funds that are trying to squeeze ever more profits out of the small island.

Working people and poor didn’t cause the debt crisis in Puerto Rico. Just like in Detroit, not to speak of Greece, let the capitalists pay for their own crisis!

Wayne County Employees under Attack

Jul 20, 2015

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans is asking the State of Michigan to declare a financial emergency in the county, which includes Detroit. Even before Evans made his request, he reached a settlement with the union representing county employees for 20 million dollars in cuts to retiree health care.

He then got approval from the County Commission to eliminate the so-called “13th check” county retirees receive as part of their pensions. The bosses’ media commonly refer to the “13th check” as if it is some kind of outrageously extravagant benefit to retirees, but it is simply a supplement that the unions had negotiated in place of a cost-of-living adjustment. This supplement was taken from surpluses to pension fund payments, which in some years might have amounted to a few thousand dollars, but in more recent years often came to less than $100. Many county retirees receive pensions of less than $100 per month.

County workers have already taken big cuts, including a 20 per cent wage cut while receiving no raises in six years.

Evans is carrying out one more attack on public workers in the Detroit area, making workers the scapegoat for the county’s budget deficit. Evans neglects to mention huge corporate tax breaks handed out by the county or the decrease in property tax revenues due to home foreclosure resulting from the 2008 mortgage crisis created by the big banks and financial institutions.

Evans is simply carrying out his job as a hired gun for the wealthy, the banks and the big corporations – just like all the professional politicians!

Pages 6-7

Fighting Back at Work Is Good for Your Health!

Jul 20, 2015

The stress brought on by bosses can elevate levels of hormones called glucocorticoids. These hormones can lead to a myriad of health issues: obesity, cardiovascular problems, ulcers, even the common cold. This came from a study from Georgetown University.

Of course, workers don’t need a study to tell them what they already know and live. But another study offers a way to NOT get stressed out and sick because of the boss and the job. This study out of Ohio demonstrated that workers who stand up for themselves when they are treated badly at work beat the stress. While workers who stayed quiet succumbed to stress and were less heathy.

So doctors’ orders: Fight back ... it’s healthy!

The Working Class Raises its Voice

Jul 20, 2015

From the June 2015 issue of Workers Fight, the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in Great Britain

There was a wave of illegal strikes in the car industry in June. These strikes had far more political importance than Turkey’s general elections.

Growing Discontent

Discontent had been brewing for a long time. With inflation at 25%, workers’ living standards were falling fast. On an average wage of just over $540 a month, production line workers just could not manage. Adding to this was the repressive anti-working-class legislation inherited from the days of dictatorship in the 1980s, whereby strikes could be declared illegal at the drop of a hat and companies could impose their own puppet “unions”!

In the car and metal industries, one of these “yellow” unions was Türk-Metal-Is, a pro-bosses outfit whose leaders are close to the political far-right. At the end of 2014, it signed a 3-year deal for a miserly 3% wage increase – causing great anger among these workers. But a first attempt by the reformist confederation, Disk, to call a general strike against it in January failed. After 41 factories stopped work, the strike was declared illegal.

From a Spark to a Fire

But after a breakthrough by Bosch parts workers, who won increases ranging from 12 to 60%, following a strike in April, new strikes broke out right across Bursa province, where much of the car industry is located.

On May 13th, 5,700 workers occupied the Oyak Renault plant, one of the biggest. Within days, the strike spread to FIAT, Ford, Case New Holland, Valeo, Delphi. Many local component factories were also hit. By May 18th, 15,000 workers were on indefinite strike, with the numbers still rising.

Renault bosses caved in on May 27th, agreeing to wide-ranging benefits which included all workers, not just union members. New pay rates will be negotiated with the strikers’ elected representatives within a month. Workers are to receive new bonuses and full compensation for wages lost during the strike. They gain the right to join and be represented by the union of their choice, as well as to elect their shop stewards. And all threats of criminal charges and disciplinary action against any striker are to be dropped.

Since then, similar agreements have been made in order to settle the other strikes. The last workers to go back in the car industry were at Ford’s plants on June 3rd. But now workers in other industries have been encouraged to make similar demands – like at the giant Petkim petrochemical complex in Izmir province and Arçelik LG factory, the country's largest appliance manufacturer. In other words the strikes are not over.

Another Way of Striking

Of course, these strikes were and are illegal. But this has not stopped the workers, despite police using force to try to evict them from occupied plants and despite the threat of criminal prosecution. Against the strikers’ determination, the repressive machinery of the bosses has proved useless.

Another feature of this strike wave has been the role played by so many workers in organizing it. Right from the beginning thousands of strikers tore up their union cards. They set up their own elected commissions to run their strikes in each factory, to talk to management under their collective control and to coordinate the action between different factories – for instance, in order to show up in force where the police tried to remove strikers. It was this democratic, militant organization which strengthened the strikers’ determination.

Vote at UAW Auto Plant in Saline, Michigan

Jul 20, 2015

On June 18, 2015, workers at UAW Local 892 in Saline, Michigan, voted NO! on a proposed new contract. Workers in skilled trades voted 81% NO! and production voted 63.9% NO!

Workers are fed up that their employer, Faurecia, cut wages by $3 to $4 an hour when it bought the company in 2012. Workers had in mind to get their money back. This contract failed to do that.

Workers say they are tired of working mandatory 7 days a week and 12 hours a day for meager pay and lousy conditions.

This tentative contract negotiated by the UAW International at Faurecia gives a preview of 2015 Big 3 auto talks.

The Saline “deal” bumped starting pay from $11.50 an hour to $12.50 an hour. Workers would top out at $17.50 – up about $2 from the current top rate.

Skilled trades workers, starting at $26.00 an hour, would top out after 4 years at $30.00 an hour.

A sore point was workers losing their $900 Annual Christmas Bonus in 2015. They would get only $400 in future years. In other words, workers were told to give up $2,400 in Christmas bonuses to “get” a $2,500 signing bonus being dangled with the contract!

When it came time to vote, workers demanded and got the actual contract language – not the usual “highlights.” Looking it over at the union hall, they saw that “improvements in healthcare” was a scam! While the premiums went down, the co-pays and out-of-pocket costs went up!

Workers snapped pictures of their NO! ballots with their cell phones to ensure an accurate vote.

The local union recommended a yes vote. Workers pointed out that many “gains” were offset by “losses” in other areas.

After the no vote, a union official said to Faurecia workers: “You are not Ford.... You are supposed to be paid less.”

Seeing the mind set of this union “negotiator,” it is clear that the best hope for a better contract lies in the workers’ own hands.

Los Angeles:
A Witch Hunt against Teachers

Jul 20, 2015

In March, Los Angeles school district officials removed Rafe Esquith, a fifth-grade teacher at Hobart Elementary, from the classroom. They sent him to the notorious “teacher jail” – a room in the district where teachers “under investigation” are “housed” for each school day, as the district officially calls the process.

District officials said Esquith made an inappropriate comment about nudity in class. It turned out they were referring to a joke Esquith had made, quoting from Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn about a naked king. Esquith told his students that if they couldn’t raise enough money for their annual Shakespeare play, “we will all have to play the role of the king in Huckleberry Finn.”

Not surprisingly, no student or parent ever complained. Officials said the complaint had come from another teacher, a technology coordinator who witnessed the joke.

Is that why Esquith was suspended? Really? What’s more likely is that Esquith’s bosses themselves didn’t like his joke about the district’s cuts!

When Esquith kept fighting to go back to the classroom, the district revealed “other issues.” Someone was accusing Esquith of molesting him as a child at a camp 40 years ago, district officials said. And they launched yet another “investigation,” this time targeting the finances of Hobart Shakespeareans, a theater group Esquith founded in 1989 – because of the district’s cuts to art programs!

Over the years, L.A. school district bosses have sent thousands of teachers to “teacher jail.” Most of them were eventually exonerated, but after months, and even years. Many never went back to their jobs.

Esquith’s lawyers said that the district has a pattern of targeting older, experienced teachers who typically have higher pay. Esquith certainly fits this profile, but there is something else Esquith did. He publicly criticized the district’s budget cuts.

This “teacher jail,” where teachers are sent for months without being even told why, is the district bosses’ terror regime against teachers. It can be, and is, used to attack teachers who try to organize and fight against the district’s endless cuts.

Page 8

The Watts Rebellion - 50 Years Later

Jul 20, 2015

On August 11, 1965, a white California Highway Patrolman stopped a car driven by Marquette Frye. It was just another supposed “traffic stop” like so many others in black Los Angeles neighborhoods. But this time, when cops pushed Frye and his family around, arresting him, his brother and his mother, onlookers opposed the cops. One witness, Lacine Holland later told the Los Angeles Times: “I went to the corner to see what was going on and saw a large crowd. The police were there. They were making an arrest of a young man. I remember that they took him and threw him in the car like a bag of laundry and kicked his feet in and slammed the door.”

These arrests started the Watts Rebellion, one of the biggest in U.S. history. The rebellion covered a 46.5 square mile zone (larger than Manhattan or San Francisco).

Most participants in the rebellion were the working class people living in South Central, the large black ghetto of Los Angeles. Employment and residence data, based on arrest records, showed that the great majority of the participants had lived in Los Angeles for at least five years and were currently employed.

After the rebellion was over, CBS radio correctly stated what had happened: “This was not a riot. It was an insurrection against all authority …. If it had gone much further, it would have become civil war.

This was not the first rebellion of the 1960s. In the summer of 1964, black communities in seven eastern cities had been hit by rebellions, the most important being in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York City. As the McCone commission formed after the Watts Rebellion noted, the main causes of these rebellions were largely the same: “Not enough jobs to go around .... Not enough schooling…. A resentment, even hatred, of the police, as the symbol of authority.” All these rebellions, added the commission, “…started over a police incident…. In each of the 1964 riots, ‘police brutality’ was an issue, as it was here.”

High unemployment, inadequate schools, nonexistent healthcare, high prices for shoddy or bad quality products in stores, and above all, abject racial discrimination, in addition to police brutality formed the grievances, frustrations and discontent of the black community.

The Ghetto: Product of White Society

These conditions were produced in part by restricted housing available to the black population. During the 1940s, in the Second Great Migration, black people moved from the South to the West Coast in large numbers in response to defense industry recruitment at the start of World War II. The black population in Los Angeles increased almost tenfold from 75,000 in 1940 to 650,000 in 1965. Close to 90 percent of this population resided in the 46.5 square miles of South Central Los Angeles that included the Watts neighborhood.

This cramming of the black population into one area was not accidental. Los Angeles – like the rest of the Northern cities – had restrictive racial covenants that prevented blacks from renting and buying in certain areas, even long after the courts ruled them illegal in 1948. Black people found themselves excluded from the suburbs and restricted to housing in East or South Los Angeles.

Police Forces Protect this Racist System

LAPD “proactively” policed this area. That is, the police harassed thousands of young black men in the street or beat them at the South Central police stations. One South Central activist, Ted Watkins observed: “Many times, I’d see a white policeman drop-kick a guy and laugh and say ‘Well, this is the first nigger I’ve kicked today.’ I’ve seen that with my own eyes.” In the two-year period from 1963 to 1965, the police killed sixty black people, twenty-seven of whom were shot in the back.

Chief William Parker, a blatant racist, ran the LAPD. Parker explained poverty the following way: “You cannot ignore the genes in the behavior pattern of people.”

That’s why the people of Watts exploded collectively. And when they did, the police, so ready to batter individuals, couldn’t contain them. LAPD Chief Parker announced during the rebellion, “This situation is very much like fighting the Viet Cong…. We haven’t the slightest idea when this can be brought under control.” Parker was forced to call the California Army National Guard. Starting from August 13, California sent close to 16,000 guards to South Central to quell the rebellion. Bob Hipolito, one of those Guardsmen, later told the Los Angeles Times how they were picked up: “They sent us in first ‘cause we were the only all-white unit. There were other units closer but they decided they didn’t know what the reaction would be to interracial troops - at least that was what we heard.” So, the State treated this uprising as a racial warfare.

Eventually the rebellion died down starting on the sixth day.

For a short period, jobs began to open up and social programs flooded money into the ghetto. But these were only temporary. The real gain of the Watts Rebellion was the sense of power people got. Tommy Jacquette, 40 years later, summed up to the Los Angeles Times what this rebellion was about: “I actually participated in the revolt of ‘65, not as an onlooker but as a participant. People keep calling it a riot, but we call it a revolt because it had a legitimate purpose. It was a response to police brutality and social exploitation of a community and of a people, and we would no more call this a riot than Jewish people would call the extermination of the Jewish people ‘relocation.’ A riot is a drunken brawl at USC because they lost a football game. People said that we burned down our community. No, we didn’t. We had a revolt in our community against those people who were in here trying to exploit and oppress us. We did not own this community. We did not own the businesses in this community. We did not own the majority of the housing in this community. Some people want to know if I think it was really worth it. I think any time people stand up for their rights, it’s worth it.

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