The Spark

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

Issue no. 993 — August 17 - 31, 2015

Chicago Teachers:
Fight or Get Smashed

Aug 17, 2015

Chicago’s ruling class has laid down the gauntlet in front of the city’s teachers. The Chicago Public Schools announced 1,491 layoffs, and threatened “even deeper cuts.” The governor of Illinois claimed that the Chicago Teachers Union is “dictatorial” and needs to have its powers reduced. Every day the newspapers make a new argument about why the teachers must make huge sacrifices.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made his intentions clear when he appointed hatchet-man Forest Claypool as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Claypool has no education background. But he has a big background going after public workers, most recently when he was head of the Chicago Transit Authority and oversaw a massive attack on workers there.

Claypool came into this year’s contract negotiations aggressively, saying he wants to cut teachers’ pay by 7 percent. He says this would be a deduction that would go into teachers’ pensions – but the fact is this 7 percent cut in teachers’ paychecks wouldn’t improve pensions. It would go to make up a reduction in what the school system is supposed to pay. Pension contributions are part of teachers’ income. In 1981, the school system agreed to pay this 7 percent instead of giving teachers raises. Reducing teacher pay by 7 percent without one penny more going to their pensions would be an enormous give-back.

Three years ago, Mayor Emanuel came out just as aggressively in contract negotiations, but that was in the middle of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and because he was so linked to Obama, Emanuel’s hands were a bit tied. Chicago teachers called his bluff, carrying out an eight-day strike. Even though it might not have been the most militant strike, in this day and age when there are no strikes, the fact that teachers in a city like Chicago went out was important. Workers everywhere paid attention to it. The teachers ended the strike on their terms, while Emanuel had to back off.

Some people afterwards said the teachers didn’t get very much after the strike. But the reality is by fighting they kept Emanuel from taking from them what he wanted, which was much more than anyone could see at the time.

But today there is no election and Emanuel seems set to make an all-out assault. Teachers should have no illusions that the 7 percent pay cut is the only cut that Emanuel and the city’s ruling class want. All the propaganda about a budget crisis is only a way to justify much bigger attacks. They want to destroy the union, destroy the teachers’ standard of living, destroy the pensions. They say it openly. All this in order to have ever more money to hand over to the banks and big corporations.

Behind the attack on the teachers is a much broader attack on the public schools for the children of the working class. The ruling class of Chicago has already starved working class schools of resources – when they haven’t closed them. They intend to destroy the education of working class children by replacing public schools with charters and by closing schools in poor neighborhoods to clear them for gentrification. Emanuel made his stance clear when he closed 50 schools two years ago, most of them in black neighborhoods.

The politicians threaten teachers that if they don’t accept big cuts, Chicago schools will become like those in New Orleans and Detroit. Using the excuses of Hurricane Katrina and Detroit’s economic problems, the public school systems in those cities were gutted and turned over to private interests – in many cases, for-profit charter schools. What kind of education do students get in a school where the main goal is profit, rather than education? In some of these schools, there are no teachers, just one untrained Teach for America volunteer with 40 students in front of computers.

The schools in New Orleans and Detroit were not destroyed because teachers wouldn’t accept cuts – just the opposite. The politicians got away with destroying those school systems because in the aftermath of Katrina and the Detroit bankruptcy, teachers and working class parents couldn’t find a way to organize a fight. But Chicago has not been hit by a hurricane, and it’s a city that obviously has enormous resources.

There is no way out of this situation without a fight. Maybe if Chicago’s teachers fight, they could lose, especially if their fight is hesitant. But if they don’t fight, it’s a sure thing they will lose – and then Chicago’s public schools for working class children will go the way of New Orleans and Detroit. Someone will have to stand up to the capitalists and their crony politicians like Rahm Emanuel, or we will all keep moving backwards. Right now, the ball is in the Chicago teachers’ court.

Pages 2-3

Strip-Searched in a D.C. Suburb

Aug 17, 2015

A cop strip-searched a 50-year- old black man in a suburb of Washington, D.C. Laurel police officer Alfie Acol stopped Allen Sergeant in his car in a CVS parking lot. The cop ordered Sergeant out of his car, frisked and searched him, unbuckled his belt, and pulled down his pants and underwear. A forced strip search in public view. This description was revealed in a Federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the Laurel police.

The lawsuit further states that this was done because Sergeant is black and was “driving with dreadlocks.” He was never arrested or charged with a crime. In fact, after the cop pulled down his pants and underpants and found nothing, Sergeant was told he could go.

Sergeant complained to the police the next day about the incident. The police department found that the officer had violated some departmental procedures and guidelines and they “disciplined” officer Acol.

Did they fire him? Or bring him up on charges? No. They say, “an internal investigation was conducted and appropriate action was taken.” What this really shows is that officer Acol’s actions were acceptable police procedures.

They are not, however, acceptable to reasonable human beings!

Drug Companies Buy Their Rivals to Jack up Drug Prices

Aug 17, 2015

Drug companies drive up drug prices by buying their rivals’ drugs and then jacking up the drug prices, according to the Wall Street Journal. The phrase “very shocking” is not enough to describe what these companies are doing. For example, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. bought two important life-saving drugs, Nitropress and Isuprel. The SAME DAY, the prices of these drugs skyrocketed by 525% and 212% respectively.

The company did not mince words to cover up for these price hikes. Valeant said, “Our duty is to our shareholders and to maximize the value.”

So, for these greedy lowlifes, our health is a way to inflate their pockets!

Book Review:
The Sixth Extinction

Aug 17, 2015

The Sixth Extinction is an eloquent look at our world, now out in paperback.

Science writer Elizabeth Kolbert won a Pulitzer Prize for this book’s fine explanation of what extinction is and how we are participating in it. “Right now,” she writes, “we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will be forever closed.”

She explains how humans began to understand that some animals that had once existed no longer did so. Extinction became a scientific concept only in the late 18th and early 19th century, thanks to the work of French naturalist Georges Cuvier. He recognized a fossil as a tooth – large as a brick, but still a tooth. It was the remains of an animal no longer seen on earth. This period also saw new understanding of earth’s layers and age, thanks to the work of scientists like Charles Lyell, and it is also the period when Charles Darwin took his voyage to South America and the Pacific Ocean, after which he formulated his theory of change by natural selection. An extinction well-known to scientists was that of the great auk, a large flightless bird eaten in many colder countries. It was hunted to extinction by 1844.

In recent decades scientists have found the proof that there were five mass extinctions in which thousands of species of plants and animals died. The most important for us was the loss of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, after a catastrophic collision between an asteroid and the earth. Extinction usually takes place at a slow pace, as one paleontologist put it, so that “long periods of boredom [are] interrupted occasionally by panic.” Very little could live on parts of the earth after that collision, thanks to a lack of sunlight, extreme cold, and the loss of about 50% of the plants and animals that provided food.

Kolbert discusses whether we are living in the age of the sixth mass extinction. The problems we face include rising temperatures, loss of trees in urban areas, carbon dioxide from use of fossil fuels, acidification of the ocean, evaporation of fresh water, erosion of soil. She asks, can the earth provide food for seven or eight billion people, and still remain home to millions of other species?

She visits Central America, where the last of its frogs reside in sterile containers. She visits Vermont, where a fungus has killed off the bats. She visits the coral reefs off the eastern shore of Australia, which have declined by 50% over the last 30 years.

Her explanation of the loss of large mammals is clear and interesting: their rate of reproduction is quite slow, thanks to a lack of predators they have had to avoid. So hunters can wipe out their numbers quickly. Hunters in North America killed off the buffalo (bison). In the past few decades, the numbers of chimps, and other great apes, are down by half. There are fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos still in existence. African elephants have declined by 50%. Six of the eight species of bears in the world are “endangered.” Tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars - all are declining more rapidly than they can be replaced by their offspring.

Insect species number in the millions, and not all have been identified. So we don’t know how rapidly some of them are dying out. In the plant world, the American chestnut, now gone, once dominated half the continent. In 50 years a fungus killed off four billion trees.

When the dinosaurs were wiped out, a scrawny species of mammal with very little strength and low numbers managed to grow and spread all over the earth. This mammal eventually evolved into Homo sapiens. Time will tell how it survives as the seas rise, other species decline and the air, water and land are poisoned by its activities.

Gas Prices Soar ... Because They Can

Aug 17, 2015

In just four days, the price of regular gas in Chicago shot up by 65 cents a gallon. The excuse was “emergency repairs” at one BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana. Higher prices spread from Michigan to Kansas.

Out in Los Angeles, the price is $3.89 a gallon, and the excuse ... a refinery fire – in February!

Meanwhile, the price of crude oil continues to drop. Doesn’t stop the gas companies from charging whatever they can get away with!

Euro Zone or Not:
What Is the Real Problem?

Aug 17, 2015

After the Greek population voted “no” to the conditions demanded by the Euro zone, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras stepped back, turning his back on the voters’ decision. Without that, Greece would have exited from the Euro zone? Maybe, maybe not.

In reality, from the perspective of ordinary people, the issue in Greece is not whether the country stays in or breaks with the Euro. But the path chosen by Tsipras to accept the demands, to aggravate the measures that have weighed for years on ordinary people, is a dramatic step back.

After the about-face of Tsipras, his Economic Minister Yanis Varoufakis denounced the blackmail exercised by the European leaders, and chose to resign. He said that there was a path other than staying in the Euro Zone. He joined a position defended by political currents who, in France, Spain, Portugal, and other countries, denounce the policies of the European leaders. They claim that their solution would allow them to escape from the dictates of the bankers and the imperialist leaders. It is an illusion.

In reality, what weighs on the working population of Europe is the pillage of their wealth: it is the exploitation imposed by the financiers and industrialists. This situation does not require the existence of European institutions. Financiers and industrialists impose their law on every economy, those within the Euro zone and without.

Even if Greece leaves the Euro zone, it will continue to be pillaged by the most powerful capitalists. That is why the nationalist answer is a mirage, if not a mystification. The Greek economy will not be stronger or more independent from the dominant financial companies if it is no longer a member of the Euro zone.

The European institutions are not at the service of the people they group together. They give a framework for economic and commercial exchange. But the law of the strong really governs. The strongest rule within Europe, but also outside the borders of the European Union. It is this law that crushes people all over the planet.

So yes, it is necessary to find a path other than that of giving in which Tsipras proposes. Another path also than the nationalist reply proposed by Varoufakis of Greece, Melanchon or Montebourg in France, Pablo Iglesias in Spain.

The problem is not whether to be or not be part of the Euro zone, but to work so that the exploited can decide to take on the capitalist system.

Washington, D.C.:
Mass Transit Derailed

Aug 17, 2015

After a subway train derailed on August 6th, thousands of workers either had to miss a day of work or were very late or had to find other means altogether to get to their jobs. This is not the first time Metro has had problems.

This particular example shows the problems clearly. A train derails or stalls or breaks down and the platforms become swamped and overwhelmed with masses of people struggling to get to work and not fall onto the tracks.

Metro knew about this particular defect that caused the derailment for a month and did NOTHING. Just like they know about the exhaust fans and coverings for the electric cables and 40 year old Metro cars.

People have to get to work. Public transportation is a necessity in this society. Metro has an obligation to make the system run and run safely. This incident is the result of a conscious policy to not use the public funds allocated to Metro for proper maintenance and repair of the system. It’s a choice. And Metro has chosen to risk people’s lives and livelihoods.

Pages 4-5

We Need a New Detroit for the Working Class, Not for Wall Street

Aug 17, 2015

The following was taken from remarks presented at the Spark Summer Festival in Detroit, Michigan on August 9, 2015.

The Gentrification of Detroit

Today’s Free Press headlines described the Ilitch Olympia Development Project here in Detroit in glowing terms. Mike Ilitch is redeveloping 50 blocks and five neighborhoods surrounding a proposed $450 million arena. This redevelopment area is bounded on the south by I-75, on the west by 3rd and Grand River, and on the east by Gratiot and Mack. The area is currently inhabited by primarily lower income workers, including homeless men & women. It is also home to the charity organizations that give many support, including Salvation Army and Harbor Light.

The upper class has a plan for Detroit, and no, it is not about “cleaning up the city.” It is about converting a certain area of Detroit into THEIR CITY: Downtown, the “Entertainment District” – Ford Field (the Lions), Comerica Park (the Tigers), the Ilitch stadium (the Red Wings). Bars, restaurants, high-rise condos....

Their new Detroit will include, as well, a section of the city running east and west along the riverfront, and another section that runs up Woodward to Grand Boulevard. This adds the Riverfront Parks and also the Cultural District to the “Entertainment District”; the Wayne State University area has been renamed “Midtown.” It includes museums, stores, restaurants and the main library for the city. They are even installing light rail up Woodward Avenue so they can have a shuttle.

So, they have decided that current residents will have to go. And not just the poor, but everyone and anyone who is in their way. Already, rents in the Wayne State area have shot up, pushing middle class and working class people out.

Yes, the wealthy have a plan, and it doesn’t include us, the working class. They have millions, they have planners, they have politicians in their pockets. Where did the Ilitches, Morouns, and Gilberts get their money? From us, of course – tax breaks, and giveaways of public property.

Leaving the Working Class Neighborhoods in Ruins

What the planners are NOT DOING is including the working class in their improvement plans. They are not creating real jobs in the city. Of course they will shout about how building a stadium and neighborhoods will bring jobs. They open a few high-end specialty stores and it makes the six o’clock news. But we need real jobs; manufacturing jobs that pay real money that allow us to pay medical, education and other bills as well as basic housing. We cannot pay the bills on service jobs.

Detroit covers 150 square miles. The wealthy are not going to fix up the urban neighborhoods, east side, west side, north or south side. Wall Street earned tremendous profits on the mortgage scam that forced 100,000 families to leave Detroit. In addition to abandoned homes, those in power have allowed the centers of working class neighborhoods to rot, and then closed down schools that serve as the core of communities. This trend is extending to Dearborn and Southfield, one-time bedroom communities of Detroit. Look at the closure of Northland Mall that has served as the anchor for Southfield and Oak Park for years.

And without real transportation to the suburbs, workers are fenced in. Even the jobs women have traditionally done in the suburbs, like home health aides for the sick and elderly, are impossible to get to.

Incarcerating Our Youth

Incarcerating the younger generations is the system’s proposed solution to unemployment. Both Democrats and Republicans changed laws radically, following the urban rebellions, to do “containment” on this population. The War on Drugs was and is a War on Us.

Prisons are taking our best hope, our young black men and women who are the most politically conscious, and locking them away on trumped up charges; taking our vanguard, those most motivated and not afraid to fight. Without hope, poverty turns our young inward on their own communities. So how can we break out of this urban detention center?

We Need a Workers’ Party

If we want a future, we need a strategy. And to have a strategy that addresses working class interests, we need a political party.

A working class political party has existed before, and in other countries when the trade unions split, with more radical union members forming their own organizations.

Today, after the many betrayals of the unions, it can look impossible for workers to fight. The bosses can seem too strong, and they are strong. But when the working class unites, and when fights begin and spread, the workers are stronger. We need a party to coordinate those fights.

Today, the upper class is using US against US; using workers to protect THEM and THEIR WEALTH. The police, the Army, the National Guard, they are all workers who should be protecting us, the working class, and our interests.

We are the working class, and we make everything run and we can make it stop. The upper class is cutting back on jobs and wages, and closing schools and leaving our new generations with LESS than what we had. It doesn’t make any sense. We could have EVERYTHING if we organize and fight for it.

We have to fight. The Democrats and Republicans won’t do anything for us. Obama can’t change it – he has the same policy as the upper class. He defends their interests.

We should use our forces to take back what they took from us and stop going backward. We need to organize and fight for a new policy, a workers’ fight; and to do that, we need our own party.

U.S. Recognition of Castro’s Cuba

Aug 17, 2015

On August 14, the U.S. flag was raised over its embassy in Havana with Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance. Of course, the diplomatic opening means the U.S. will slowly bring Cuba closer into the U.S. orbit and under growing U.S. imperial domination. This can only be a defeat for the Cuban masses.

But the fact that the U.S. government formally recognized the same Cuban government that it had tried to crush for more than half a century also spells a kind of defeat for U.S. imperialism, as well.

As President Obama admitted in his speech announcing the U.S. policy change on December 14: “Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective....”

The U.S. did much more than just try to “isolate” Cuba, as Obama said. The U.S. carried out a real war, both economic and military. It imposed a suffocating economic embargo that caused deprivation and suffering for more than half a century! The U.S. also sponsored a military invasion in 1962. When that failed, the U.S. kept the military pressure up by sponsoring terrorist attacks, bombings, sabotage, aircraft hijackings and assassinations.

Why? First, because a big part of the population in Cuba had dared to rise up and overthrow a dictator who had protected U.S. interests on the island. He protected not just the U.S.-owned plantations, mines, oil refineries and utilities – but also the big U.S.-owned resorts and casinos that had made Cuba into the playground and whorehouse of the U.S. wealthy and elite.

Second, the Castro government that rode this mass revolt to power refused to buckle under to demands and threats of the U.S. government and corporations. On the contrary, Castro actually dared to order Standard Oil and United Fruit to pay taxes! And when they refused, the Castro government nationalized their property.

These measures made Cuba a symbol of defiance around the world. A small, relatively poor country, barely 90 miles from U.S. shores, stood up to the U.S. This defiance threatened to spread and encourage more revolts and greater opposition to U.S. domination right in its own “backyard” – that is, Central and Latin America.

“Putting the hammer” to Cuba became a real priority for U.S. foreign policy.

The U.S. tried to make propaganda hay out of all the people who fled Cuba, those who today are still most concentrated in Miami. But most of those who fled the country in the first period were mainly the wealthy, the big Cuban property owners and those who gained their wealth and privileges from U.S. domination.

Certainly, the Castro government was a bourgeois government. It was not a government of the Cuban working class and poor, but a dictatorship over them. But in order to gain even a small measure of independence and survive the confrontation with the U.S., the Castro government still needed the support of the Cuban working class and poor. So it gave them a material stake in the new regime, especially by carrying out sweeping educational and health programs that went well beyond anything that existed in other Latin American countries. In fact, the Cuban government was able to raise some literacy and health care levels above the U.S. itself. And they did this despite the threats and deprivations that the U.S. imposed through its economic and military might.

In its first decades, the Castro government also benefitted from the economic and military support of the Soviet Union which, in its own rivalry with the U.S., gained in Cuba an important ally. Of course, when the Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s, Cuba became more isolated than ever – and this caused much greater hardship, inequality and injustice. But it still was able to survive.

For decades, Cuba stood as a kind of example that U.S. imperialism, as dominant and powerful as it is, cannot control everything. But the gradual opening of Cuba to trade and investment, especially from the U.S., can only mean that whatever gains that the Cuban people made, especially in education and health care, are in the process of being destroyed.

What is happening in Cuba shows once again that there is no half-way solution for the poor and working classes in the underdeveloped countries. Simply getting out from under the worst forms of imperial domination is impossible in the long term.

Imperialism must be destroyed. The billions of poor and working masses in the underdeveloped countries must take power themselves, and spread their revolution to the workers and poor in the imperialist countries.

Pages 6-7

Unpaid Work in Immigrant Prisons

Aug 17, 2015

Federal law says it’s illegal to work in the U.S. if you are an undocumented immigrant – except if you are imprisoned by the federal government for being undocumented. In which case, it’s also legal for your boss to pay you a dollar a day!

Delmi Cruz, a 36-year-old mother from Honduras, and her 11-year-old son were caught crossing the border about a year ago. They were put in a detention center in Karnes City, Texas, and kept there for about nine months. While behind bars, Cruz agreed to do cleaning work in the facility so that she could buy food and treats for her son. She was paid $3 a day – while the prison store charged her $4 for a bag of chips and $2 for bottled water. The prison is run by Geo Group, the second-largest private prison company in the U.S.

There are more than 80 such detention centers in the U.S., many of them run by private companies. These prisons house more than 30,000 immigrants on any given day, and the inmates do a lot of the work around these facilities – they in fact keep these facilities running. In return, these workers get paid between $1 and $3 a day, based on a law passed in 1950. In 1990, an appellate court upheld the $1 per day wage, cynically stating that “alien detainees are not government ‘employees.” That’s a bosses’ court speaking!

Bosses and government agencies serving them criminalize and attack poor immigrants, so that they can squeeze more work out of these workers without even paying for it!

Los Angeles:
Utility Bill Hikes Support Business Tax Cuts

Aug 17, 2015

Los Angeles City officials recently proposed to hike Department of Water and Power (DWP) bills. They say that they need money to improve the city's crumbling water pipes and aging utility poles.

Yes, the infrastructure of Los Angeles, including its roads, is in dire need of upgrading, maintenance, and repairs. This is nothing new. Considerable sections of the water pipe system are more than 100 years old. In the past, the same officials many times increased city taxes and utility bills by beating the same drum of “we need repairs.” But they did not have these repairs done.

As for the recent DWP bill hike proposals, the scheming of these officials is crystal clear. DWP usually has a budget surplus every year. For example, last year’s budget surplus was 266 million dollars.

That is, DWP actually always has money for repairs. But this surplus is not spent on the urgently needed repairs. Instead, the city officials transfer this surplus to the general budget of the city, using the budgetary rules they created. If the utility rate hikes go into effect, this surplus money transfer could grow to $327 million by 2020.

At the same time, the city officials also want to cut “business taxes.” So, the city officials will rob us through utility hikes to enrich the already very rich!

Los Angeles’s War on Homeless People

Aug 17, 2015

In late June, the Los Angeles City Council passed two laws that make it easier for cops to confiscate belongings of homeless people. Cops can now legally remove people’s personal items with a 24-hour notice instead of 72. And no notice is needed in parks where leaving behind items after closing hours is prohibited. Cops also don’t have to notify owners about the removal of large items, such as tents – which are banned from sidewalks between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

In fact, cops had been doing all that, and more, on L.A.’s skid row for a long time already. They have been harassing homeless people, roughing them up, arresting them, destroying their belongings. Last March they even shot and killed one person, Charly Keunang, for refusing to remove his tent.

This military-style occupation of L.A.’s skid row is driven by the gentrification of parts of downtown L.A., and the LAPD even has an ironic name for it: “Safer Cities Initiative.” So what the civilian city politicians have done is, at most, to express their official agreement with this open war on homeless people – and the expansion of it to other parts of the city.

The politicians say they are responding to the sharp increase in the number of homeless people and encampments in the city. They don’t hide their scorn for the homeless. One city councilman, who voted for the new laws, complained that the “City of Angels” had become a “City of Encampments.”

This mass impoverishment in the working class – forcing entire families to live in the streets – is caused by the workings of the capitalist system: the high unemployment, the low wages for those who have jobs, and the extremely high rent in and around L.A.

But public officials are not concerned with these real-world problems affecting the working class. They are too busy bending over backwards to accommodate every wish of the residents in affluent, gentrified neighborhoods and the businesses that cater to that crowd – including very generous handouts of public money to those businesses.

So the only answer to homelessness that these officials can think of is to physically push homeless people, who have nowhere to stay, from one park to another, from one neighborhood to another. There is not nearly enough shelter space available for L.A.’s 26,000 homeless people.

Poverty and homelessness are social problems caused by capitalism – a system in which profit and wealth are created for a small minority, from the exploitation of the labor of the working class. Capitalism does not have an answer to poverty and homelessness – it only criminalizes and attacks the poor, the homeless.

And the more poverty and homelessness grow and spread, the more vicious the henchmen of capitalism become in attacking the poor.

Page 8

Chicago Editor Expresses the Bosses’ Twisted Fantasy

Aug 17, 2015

Kristen McQueary, a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board, ACTUALLY SAID she wishes for a storm like Hurricane Katrina to do “for” Chicago what Katrina did “for” New Orleans. In her words, she’d like to see “an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city forced onto rooftops.”

For the more honest mouthpieces of the ruling class like McQueary, this is what a massive human catastrophe stands for. Never mind the more than 1800 people dead and upwards of 70,000 people, most of them black, removed from New Orleans. McQueary simply gave voice to the sick and twisted views of the bourgeoisie, who used Katrina as an “opportunity” to turn the public schools over to private, profit-generating charters and to rebuild the New Orleans tourist industry as they wished.

The wealthy class, the banks and the corporations have already found other ways to accomplish similar things in cities like Detroit, New York, and yes, even Chicago. It’s clear this is what they wish for. It’s up to the working class to show them we’re willing to fight for a different vision – one where the people who produce for society don’t have to sacrifice their lives and their children’s futures so that a tiny few can live in splendor.

Detroit Teachers Union President Removed by Board

Aug 17, 2015

Steve Conn, the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, was removed from his position and expelled from the union by its executive committee. It is a blow against the teachers, and another attack on the public schools in Detroit – this time from within the teachers’ union itself.

Conn, a longtime activist in the district, was narrowly elected as president just this past January. He beat out a candidate endorsed by the outgoing president, Keith Johnson. Johnson had never mobilized teachers and students to resist attacks. He had presided over huge cuts to teachers’ pay, layoffs, and school closings, all with very little protest.

The State of Michigan took over the Detroit Public Schools in the late 1990s. In two stretches of state control, the district has lost more than 100,000 students. While the state controlled the purse strings, the district plunged 483 million dollars in debt.

More than 60 schools were closed, and most services in the schools were privatized. Over half the schools in the city are charters, with the vast majority of those being for-profits. Public school money has been drained into private, corporate hands, devastating the schools. All of this was accepted by the previous union administration.

Conn is someone who represented something very different for that majority of teachers who voted for him in January: a break with the policies of the past administration, not a continuation of them. As a teacher in the district, Conn had taken part in fights – and strikes – against these attacks in the past. These past fights had involved not only teachers but some high school students – who were outraged over what was happening to their education!

Conn was accused by the executive board of “misdeeds” like failing to hold or preside over enough union meetings, and failing to pay the local’s dues to the national American Federation of Teachers apparatus. A “trial” was “judged” by those same bureaucrats who were prosecuting him! These other members of the executive board are opposed to mobilizing a fight against state-led attacks. This was the first time in DFT history that such a trial was carried out.

Conn is asking for support from the teachers at the next union meeting on September 10. Teachers must vote on the executive board’s actions, and can overturn the removal with a two-thirds vote.

Whatever Conn did or didn’t do, he was not removed from office because of meetings that weren’t held or even dues that weren’t paid. He was removed BECAUSE of the fight he represented.

As such, Conn’s removal is a real attack on EVERY militant, everyone who wants to make a fight against these attacks on education and the quality of life for working people – in Detroit and beyond. It’s in all workers’ interest to turn back this attack.

Trump on Runaway Auto Jobs

Aug 17, 2015

Donald Trump made headlines with his “new idea” on how to increase auto company profits by strong-arming union workers into accepting lower wages.

He said U.S. automakers should whipsaw one group of workers against workers in another state.

You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle — you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less,” Trump said. “We can do the rotation in the United States — it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.”

Hello! Has Trump been asleep for YEARS? Auto companies have been doing exactly this for decades. Here is a quote from a 1950 Ford Union Newspaper where an auto worker describes Ford beginning the process of moving 30,000 union jobs out of the Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan. It was “part of a pattern that calls for taking these jobs to new unorganized sections of the country to be manned by green workers at higher speeds and less pay.”

Only if you take a time machine back to 1950, are Donald Trump’s ideas new!