The Spark

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

Issue no. 999 — November 9 - 23, 2015

End the Bloody U.S. War for Middle East Domination

Nov 9, 2015

The Obama administration announced it is sending ground troops to Syria for the first time. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained this new war away by saying that the main focus of U.S. troops will be to “advise” Syrian and Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State, or ISIS. Earnest, however, did admit that the introduction of U.S. troops marks an intensification of the war in Syria. “Intensification” – no, it marks a further catastrophe to be rained down on the region. More war planes are going to bomb and launch rockets, bringing about more horrific death and destruction.

This latest U.S. invasion will further inflame the cycle of war and violence in Syria. It will “clear the way for further escalation,” remarked David Ignatius of the Washington Post.

The administration also announced that it is sending more Special Forces to northern Iraq. The U.S. military, along with its Iraqi puppets and Iranian military units, is preparing new offensives in Ramadi and Mosul.

To support these latest escalations, the Obama administration is sending more war planes to Turkey, which borders on Iraq and Syria. The U.S. government is also increasing military supplies going into neighboring Jordan and Lebanon.

For over a quarter of a century, the U.S. has been carrying out an unending chain of wars in the whole Middle East and Gulf region, seeking to impose its domination. During the1991Persian Gulf War, the U.S. and its allies destroyed much of Iraq’s infrastructure, following this up with a suffocating economic embargo of Iraq, accompanied by more U.S. bombing and further destruction. All this organized violence served as the prelude to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Faced with growing resistance, the U.S. worked to divide the Iraqi population against itself, fueling civil war, propping up local sheiks, warlords and religious fanatics. The U.S. also used repressive regimes in Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states to help impose U.S. rule on Iraq. All these regional powers have been competing ever since, backing competing armed groups and terrorists in Iraq, fanning the flames of civil war.

The U.S. excuse for invading Iraq was a terrible dictator, Saddam Hussein. But the U.S. installed a puppet dictatorship that was worse. The U.S. also claimed that it went into Afghanistan in 2001 to fight Al Qaeda. But it was the U.S. military and CIA that had created Al Qaeda decades before. Al Qaeda’s terrorist methods had been groomed and instilled by the CIA.

Al Qaeda has now been supplanted by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But it was the U.S. and its allies in Syria, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, that previously armed and supported ISIS also! Does ISIS employ brutal methods? Yes – the same ones the U.S. had earlier supported and encouraged.

The local populations in both countries are paying a horrendous price. After decades of unending war, big sections of Iraq remain a battleground, with regular car bombings and terrorist attacks.

As for Syria, more than 100,000 people have been killed, according to official estimates. And within the last year, six million out of 18 million people in the country have been driven from their homes. It is the fastest growing refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, according to the United Nations. Four million of the refugees are trapped in Syria. They are literally dodging bullets, shells and bombs, living on the side of roads or huddled in wreckage and bomb craters. Millions are cut off by the fighting from the aid of Red Cross relief workers. What food that is available is so expensive, most cannot afford it. As for the two million Syrians who have managed to flee the country, they are often being “welcomed” by the barbed wire and concentration camps of the European powers.

All this because domination of the Middle East is vital for the U.S. super power, not just for the oil, but also because of the region’s strategic location between Europe, Africa and Asia. The Middle East allows the U.S. to dominate and control the commerce of the world.

This is the product of 21st century capitalism: wars, conflicts and chaos, that is, growing barbarism.

Pages 2-3

Phony Settlement

Nov 9, 2015

RG Steel, the bankrupt former owner of the steel mill at Sparrows Point outside Baltimore, recently agreed to pay most of the water bill it owed Baltimore City – about 5.5 million out of 7.3 million dollars.

However, now this 5.5 million-dollar settlement will go to the bankruptcy court where it is certain that Baltimore will only get pennies on the dollar!

Of course while RG Steel went bankrupt, its owner did not. Ira Rennert could easily pay the whole water bill in a snap. He’s estimated to be worth 5.9 billion dollars.

He should be made to pay the WHOLE bill to the city!

Hedge Funds vs. Puerto Rican Children

Nov 9, 2015

The vulture hedge funds that sucked billions out of debt crises in Detroit, Argentina, and Greece hired economists to come up with a solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crises. The economists’ solution? Lay off teachers, close schools, cut health benefits and raise taxes.

According to these economists, who claim they weren’t influenced by the hedge funds, Puerto Rico has been “massively overspending on education.” In reality, Puerto Rico spends $2,000 less per student than the U.S. average.

This sums up modern capitalist economics – destroy the futures of millions of children, so the billionaires can get more billions!

The Great American Health Insurance Scam

Nov 9, 2015

Tens of thousands of people currently receiving health insurance subsidies stand to lose those subsidies come January 1st. The federal insurance marketplace has a new question this enrollment period: “Did your household file a 2014 tax return and reconcile any premium tax credit you used?” If the answer is no, then no more subsidy.

Not only did you have to file a 2014 tax return, but taxpayers receiving subsidies also had to attach I.R.S. Form 8962 – a document comparing the subsidies paid with the amount they were entitled to receive. If they didn’t have the foresight to do this, they will not be eligible for subsidies in the future.

This was not a mistake or badly written law. If it were, the answer would have been simple. People could have been notified that they needed to file, or even asked a simple question on a postcard – that would have cut away the ridiculous red tape with one blow.

No. This was intentional. They want to cut the subsidies while pretending to provide health insurance!

What kind of society forces people to buy crappy insurance they cannot afford and then fines them when they can’t afford it? Apparently this society – where profit is king!

Los Angeles:
Crumbs for Affordable Housing

Nov 9, 2015

Los Angeles County supervisors voted in October to set up a fund to construct and maintain affordable housing. They will start funding this project with 20 million dollars next year. Supposedly they will be spending 100 million dollars in five years.

These officials must be joking. This is very little money to construct buildings – even if you believe their promises.

Rents are sky high in Los Angeles, increased by nearly 30 percent within the last 15 years, while the incomes of lower income households have declined by seven percent. The average rent in December 2014 was around $1,900 for a two bedroom apartment within 10 miles of the Los Angeles city center.

As a result, people move out of Los Angeles and some become homeless. A study released this August by the Economic Roundtable indicates that 13,000 more people are forced into the streets each month in Los Angeles because of housing costs. Los Angeles, with a population of more than 10 million people in 2014, has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the U.S.

According to one Los Angeles County Supervisor, Hilda Solis: “We know that we have a need to somehow deliver 500,000 more affordable homes here. That is amazing.” But, reserving only 20 million dollars for funding affordable housing is not amazing. It’s outrageous!

This city is one of the richest cities in the world. Los Angeles County has a total annual budget of 28 BILLION dollars. The city supervisors spend this money to satisfy the needs of the rich, through schemes like tax cuts, inflated contracts, and shoddy bond and loan deals. This is their priority – not housing for the population.

Chicago Cop Killing:
Suicide, not Murder

Nov 9, 2015

Fox Lake, Illinois police officer Joseph Gliniewicz was found dead on September 1. Immediately after, politicians like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and media outlets like Fox News jumped to blame his death on “anti-police” rhetoric and the “dangerous environment created by the Black Lives Matter movement.” The town launched a massive manhunt, and local officials and politicians called Gliniewicz a “hero cop” who “exemplified what it means to be a law enforcement officer.”

But it turns out Gliniewicz was a rotten cop who committed suicide because he was afraid his corruption would come to light. He had stolen money from the charity he ran, and had even explored ordering a hit on the village manager who was on the verge of finding out!

Gliniewicz set up the suicide to make it look like he was killed in the line of duty. He radioed dispatchers to say he was chasing three men, and later radioed for backup. But he was killed with his own gun, and no trace of the “three men” was ever found.

The authorities, the politicians and the media fell for an amateur set-up, an obvious lie from a cop already under suspicion. All because the story fit their reactionary propaganda.

It just goes to show what many people in prison already know: the authorities will believe any kind of BS story – if it comes from a cop.

Baltimore Housing:
Where Can Poor People Live?

Nov 9, 2015

After a water pump broke, residents of the public housing tower Lakeview Terrace had to leave their apartments, some for a week, since they had no water and no heat.

The city has failed dismally to maintain these 11,000 units: residents have publicized fallen ceilings, roach and rodent infestation, broken electrical and water systems. A landlord who maintained such bad conditions would be fined, but the Baltimore Housing Authority is certainly not fining itself! A few residents have continued protests.

To “solve” this problem, a proposal was made by the city last year to sell 40 percent of Baltimore’s 11,000 low-income units to private developers. These developers will get grants from the federal government, pay the city millions of dollars to take ownership, and do the renovations needed. Then, supposedly, some low-income residents will have decent housing.

Even if the plan works as proposed – and nowhere else has it been tried and worked – Baltimore still lacks housing at a price many people can afford.

This past spring, Baltimore city opened a waiting list for what used to be called Section 8 housing. That voucher arrangement collects rent according to people’s income, and the government reimburses the landlord for the rest. So many people signed up to be on the waiting list that it was closed at 38,000 names! Yet one quarter of Baltimore’s residents would qualify if there were sufficient low-income housing.

Where are they supposed to live?!

Health Insurance for the Low Paid

Nov 9, 2015

The Affordable Care Act requires companies employing 100 or more workers to offer employer-paid health care. But the law allows companies to set the workers’ premium as high as 9.5 percent of workers’ pay. Most companies that didn’t offer insurance before are setting the workers’ premium at the maximum, discouraging workers from enrolling.

An example is the Golden Corral restaurant franchise, which offers health insurance to 600 workers in several states. The workers’ monthly premium is $140. Only two workers signed up! According to insurance companies, less than 10 percent of low paid workers are buying the insurance, and at many companies, only 2 percent are buying it. Not surprisingly, the total number of workers with employer-offered insurance hasn’t risen at all under this healthcare law!

Blue Cross Threatens Seniors on Medigap

Nov 9, 2015

A total of 205,000 seniors are about to lose protections against costs that Medicare won’t cover. Medicare covers around 80 percent of medical costs for hospitalization and physician care while 20 percent is not covered. These seniors have Medigap programs that were designed to offset these charges. These old Medigap programs are now being subjected to rate increases.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan was prevented several times from eliminating subsidies on Medigap, but finally made a deal in 2011 with State of Michigan officials to eliminate the rate protections by 2016. These programs, which were offered to seniors decades ago, cost seniors as low as $40 per month.

Now that price is about to go up - by a lot. By December 7, seniors will have to pick between two bad choices: stay with the revised Medigap program and take a chance on unknown price increases, or buy equally expensive insurance in the market place. Either way, they are saddled with unaffordable health care!

No one should be denied real, affordable, health care, least of all seniors.

Pages 4-5

Pentagon Throws Billions in the Wind

Nov 9, 2015

On November 4th the Pentagon shut down a “flying blimp” program due to an embarrassing accident. On October 29 one of a pair of football-field-long blimps and its mile-long cable had come loose and drifted in the wind for hours, 160 miles into Pennsylvania. The cable tore through enough power lines to cut off electricity to 27,000 people.

Supposedly the blimps watched for missiles – which is a joke, considering all the technology they already employ doing the same thing. In fact, if there is any practical purpose, the blimps are used to spy on the population.

Of course, another purpose was to pay out big bucks to the manufacturer. Raytheon has been paid 2.7 billion dollars. A former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was paid a million dollars to sit on Raytheon’s board of directors.

The blimp might have gone down, but we can be sure the money trains and the spying will ride on!

Catholic Church Protects Its Image

Nov 9, 2015

The Vatican, the city-state controlled by the Catholic Church, has its own jail and it arrests people. And like any other state, the Vatican uses these powers to protect its secrets.

Last month, it arrested a high-ranking Church official and a public relations expert it had hired – because they allegedly leaked documents about the Vatican’s shady finances. This follows the 2012 arrest of the Pope’s butler, also for leaking documents.

Pope Francis poses as a friend of the poor. But after all the scandals of the recent years, he is really focused on protecting the Church’s image. And he’s not above using cops and jails to do it.

Ivory Coast:
A Militant Strike

Nov 9, 2015

While a campaign was going on for the October 25th elections in Ivory Coast, the government harshly crushed a construction workers strike. The African Union of Internationalist Communist Workers wrote this in their paper Power to the Workers:

The Ivory Coast government proved that when workers struggle for dignity and demand an improvement in their living conditions, the government is always on the side of the exploiters.

Soroubat is a public works construction company. Like other exploiters in the Vridi and Yopougon industrial zones, the company believes it can get away with anything when it’s a question of exploiting its workers. It employs workers under the table and pays under the industry’s legal minimum wage. It doesn’t give workers a pay slip or pay government deductions. It violates safety standards on its construction sites. And it forces the workers to work unpaid overtime.

This company can be so arrogant because it knows it has the support of the authorities. It gets rid of workers whenever it wants. But the firing of one worker too many on a bridge construction job at Angré was the final straw. It unleashed the workers’ long pent-up anger, just when they were about to finish the bridge. They went on strike and blocked the building site. They then chose representatives to tell the boss that they wouldn’t go back to work until their co-worker was brought back.

Soroubat’s management was not at all used to workers standing up to them, and it immediately fired these representatives. The company undoubtedly thought the workers would calm down, but it seriously misjudged the workers’ anger. One hundred and fifty workers organized to put up around-the-clock pickets to stop all activity, including the movement of construction equipment. They demanded the reinstatement of their co-workers. They seized on the occasion to add a list of demands about working conditions, and unpaid wages and benefits.

To reinforce their movement, the workers spread the strike to other Soroubat work sites where the workers faced the same problems. This involved the PK 24 job site at Yopougon employing 200 workers, and at Bassam, Koumassi, Taabo and Yamoussoukro. Workers at all these construction sites joined the movement, leading to 500 workers on strike.

The state, both civil and military, supported the company. It ordered workers’ delegates to come to local police stations, and then forced them to stay an entire day. The police’s goal was to pressure the delegates to call on their co-workers to go back to work, under the pretext that their strike was “illegal.” But this threat didn’t impress the strikers. They were determined.

The police then raised the pressure a notch, by locking up five workers taken from three different job sites.

Faced with this situation, the workers met all together and decided to conditionally go back to work, hoping this would free their arrested co-workers. But at the moment, they are still in prison without being tried.

Nonetheless, the workers don’t feel defeated. On the contrary, they are proud of their success in building a solid and efficient organization and of being able to stand up. They took up collections to aid the families of their imprisoned brothers and to bring food to those in jail. They found a lawyer to defend them. They haven’t yet had their final say in this struggle to defend their rights.

Israel Responds to Palestinians with Massive Violence

Nov 9, 2015

Palestinians are carrying out a new Intifada against Israeli occupation, and Israel responded in October with the worst month of violence since 2005. More than 2,600 Palestinians were shot, some with live bullets, others with rubber bullets or plastic coated steel ones. Seventy-two Palestinians were killed, and thousands more injured.

Another 5,400 people required treatment for tear gas inhalation. One infant suffocated to death from breathing the gas.

The news media promote the idea that this massive terror campaign by the Israeli state is a response to some mythical widespread pattern of stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians being encouraged to carry them out through social media. It’s a lie!

Eight Israelis were killed in October; only two were stabbed.

An Israeli officer can be heard in a video of an Israeli raid on a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem saying, “You throw stones, and we hit you with gas, until you all die. The children, the youth, and the old people, you will all die. We won’t leave any of you alive. We have arrested one of you. He’s with us now. We took him from his home and we will butcher and kill him while you’re watching, as long as you throw stones. Go home, or we gas you. We will gas you until you all die – all your families, children and everyone. We will kill you.”

This officer was suspended after the video became public, but his brutal honesty exposes the attitudes of the Israeli military. In their view, young people responding to horrible conditions of life by throwing stones in desperation justifies every kind of brutality a state armed to the teeth can deliver.

It’s not hard to see who are the real terrorists – it’s the Israeli government.

Economy Improving ... for Pro-Business Propaganda

Nov 9, 2015

If you only watched TV and read the newspapers, you’d think the U.S. economy was doing great. CNBC’s report on jobs ran: “BOOM! Nonfarm payrolls up 271,000." The stodgier New York Times reported “Strong Growth in Jobs.”

In reality, the proportion of people in the labor market in this country is still at a 38-year low: just 62.4 percent. This means that the unemployment rate has only gone down because so many people have given up looking for work. In fact, the total number of jobs in the economy has just now gotten back to where it was before the 2008 crisis. But the total population is much higher. The same number of jobs for more workers means we are still way behind where we were seven and a half years ago!

And this is the longest it has ever taken for the total number of jobs to recover from a recession. And it gets longer each time – in 1980, it took less than a year. In 1990, 2 years. In 2001, 3 years.

These numbers show what anyone actually looking for work already knows: for ordinary people, the economy sucks, it has sucked for a long time, and there is no sign of improvement.

When the World’s Barbarism Catches Up with Us

Nov 9, 2015

The following editorial appeared in the October 30th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Bombing, devastated neighborhoods, terrorist attacks, killings, torture, people terrorized by bloody regimes, refugees surviving in revolting conditions: each day television and the press bring us these barbarous images.

This is going on in Syria, Turkey, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. It’s also happening in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria and Afghanistan. It occurs thousands of miles from here. But even those who don’t want to see can’t pretend it doesn’t exist.

This is because hundreds of thousands of the victims of these wars have fled and now are knocking on our doors.

This isn’t an accident: our government is among those responsible for this hell. Because it bombs Iraq and Syria; because it supports the Israeli state, the Turkish government and the Gulf dictatorships. And because it maneuvers in Africa so the French bourgeoisie can continue to exploit the riches of that continent. This barbarism can only be reflected back onto us.

For years now this barbarism has aggravated the reactionary direction in which Europe is going. Throughout Europe, the economic crisis, mass unemployment, and anti-worker policies are carried out by all governments, of the Left and the Right. All this weakens the governmental parties to the benefit of the nationalist, anti-immigrant parties.

These Far Right parties, with all their differences, still all support themselves on fear and prejudice and stir them up. They are profoundly reactionary and anti-worker.

But the Far Right isn’t the only political force pushing us to retreat behind our borders. All the leaders of Europe say they want to reinforce the borders of Europe, deport those who aren’t “true refugees,” and even reestablish national borders within the Shengen zone (an area within which Europeans can travel and work freely across borders). Here in France, on top of the National Front, which plays on the worst prejudices, how do the mainstream Right and the Socialist Party present the migrants? Not as victims, but as undesirables! Not as women and men who resemble us, but as burdens! We must express a spirit of solidarity, kick the lying and shameful propaganda to the curb, and make solidarity real, not just hot air.

Everything is done to silence our sentiments of fraternity. Everything is done to convince us that migrants represent a threat to us and our children. Everything to openly or hypocritically push the idea that salvation comes from protectionism, mistrust of foreigners, borders, even barbed wire.

France and Great Britain, two rich countries that could easily absorb tens of thousands of migrants, are blaming one another for developments in Calais (the town in France at the entrance to the tunnel under the English Channel, where thousands of migrants have flocked). In Germany and Sweden, Far Right minorities are organizing to burn down refugee housing. How many other racists, carried away by the current climate, will feel authorized to attack immigrants?

In the 1990s, in Yugoslavia, anti-foreigner demagogy led to the construction of militias, and then to civil war. Two years ago, in the east of Ukraine, we saw how the same reflexes degenerated into a warlike escalation.

If we aren’t careful, world barbarism, anti-foreign sentiment and wars will catch up with us. Nationalism and generalized mistrust are already here. Conscious workers need to speak out against this destructive evolution.

We won’t protect ourselves from the scourges of unemployment, competition and world poverty by barricading ourselves behind borders. These ravages don’t come from abroad but from inside our own society. They are due to capitalism, and we can only get rid of them by overthrowing this system.

Bombs there, and exploitation and unemployment here, go together. They have a common source: the race for profit and the domination of a capitalist minority over society. The only force capable of overthrowing this domination is the working class, conscious of its interests and organized on an international level. That consciousness begins by understanding that all the victims of capitalism have the same fundamental interest in putting an end to this unjust and inhuman system.

Pages 6-7

CEO Pay = 200 Workers’ Pay

Nov 9, 2015

On average, bosses make 200 times the pay of average workers.

Five years ago, Congress passed a law to force companies to report the CEO-to-average-worker pay ratio in their annual SEC filings. But lobbyists for big business completely defeated its implementation, leaving the SEC proposal in legal limbo.

One economic research group took 64 of the largest corporations in the U.S. and found median pay for CEOs at these companies was 11 million dollars a year. At Walt Disney Corporation, the chief executive made almost 44 million last year; the median Disney worker got $19,500. At Qualcomm the chief executive’s 60 million dollar pay puts him at more than a thousand times the pay of the average worker. The head of Starbucks also made more than a thousand times the pay of the average Starbucks worker last year.

Another research group went back 50 years to look at the gap between CEOs and their median worker’s pay. In 1965, average CEO pay was 20 times average worker pay.

The economy isn’t better than it was 50 years ago.

Only for CEOs!

White Workers Are Dying Young

Nov 9, 2015

The national media reported on a study showing that middle-aged white people have been dying at increasing rates since 1999, after many decades of decreases in death rates.

The study linked the increasing death rates to increases in suicides, drug and alcohol overdoses, and alcohol related liver diseases. The study’s authors said they didn’t know why this was happening.

The media make it an issue of “whites” in general – without mentioning the white working class and what’s been happening to it.

Newsflash! The white working class has been suffering through an economic crisis that, despite some ups and downs in the stock market, has been going on for a couple of decades. Their mortality rates are increasing because they’re starting to experience some of the same problems and illnesses that black workers have been exposed to for much longer due to high unemployment, poverty, and inequality.

The way the media talk about “whites” in general hides the fact that the white working class is being pushed back rapidly. The attack on them is part of the attack on the whole working class.

What kind of society is it where one class has all this wealth in their hands, then puts this kind of information in their papers, and then acts like no one knows why it happened?

Guess what? Workers know!

20 Years Ago – Detroit Newspaper Strike

Nov 9, 2015

With the exception of a commemoration organized by supporters and some of the remaining strikers, a twenty-year anniversary of an important strike in the Detroit metropolitan area came and went, without a mention in the Detroit media.

Nonetheless, it was a big event, the outcome of which has weighed on working class morale for 20 years – including on newer workers who know nothing about the strike.

In July of 1995, more than 2700 workers with six newspaper unions in Detroit began a strike against that media. The Detroit Newspaper Agency (DNA), publisher of the two major Detroit newspapers, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, forced the strike by demanding that workers accept hundreds of job eliminations and drastic cuts in wages, benefits and working conditions, or else.

From the beginning, the strikers, who included janitors, pressmen, drivers, printers, mailers, typographers, carriers, engravers and reporters, had the advantage of their own militancy. Picket lines were larger. Strikers took longer tours on them. Strikers set up roving squads to carry out a range of different activities: some aimed at interfering with the distribution of the newspapers; some aimed at getting the support of other workers to boycott the papers and cancel subs; some aimed at reaching the public at shopping centers, plant gates, other union meetings, some in the neighborhood of newspaper executives, embarrassing them!

The newspaper strikers came out by the hundreds, barricaded News and Free Press plants and offices, stopped newspaper trucks. They “got creative” in many ways to stop scab papers, and put their strike in front of other workers and showed their strike’s vitality. The Detroit area began to recall its fighting union heritage. Workers from all over paid attention to this strike and became active in different ways.

At the beginning, other unions responded with the usual financial support and statements of encouragement that unions give to each other in difficult strikes. But when the newspapers began to threaten the strikers with firing and to demand they give up union membership as a precondition for returning to work, other unions began to organize a series of actions, in some cases calling on their memberships, and not just the union apparatus, to participate in strike activities.

On Labor Day weekend, the other unions began to intervene more widely in the strike. On the Saturday afternoon of that weekend, they organized a march to the Detroit News printing plant in suburban Sterling Heights, where the Sunday joint edition of the paper was being printed. Several thousand unionists, led by leaders of the most important unions in the region, finished the march by staying overnight at the plant to prevent the Sunday edition from being trucked out. The Sterling Heights police, who in earlier weeks had viciously attacked the strikers, were forced to retreat, along with police from area cities who had been called in as reinforcements.

On Monday, the Labor Day parade, fifty thousand strong, demonstrated through the streets of downtown Detroit, with large contingents ending up at the headquarters of the two papers. The Detroit newspaper strike had the potential to become a general anti-concessions movement.

But if the workers were mobilized and ready to fight, the union leaderships were not ready to risk having the strike surge beyond legal bounds, which included the possibility of these leaderships and their policies being left in the wake. When the inevitable court injunctions ruled against mass picketing, union leaders advised workers to obey. Instead of continuing the workers’ mobilization in an out-and-out contest of strength, where workers had their best advantage, the union leaders gradually channeled workers’ hope into the legal wilderness of the courts and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings, where the workers were at a great disadvantage.

There are many lessons gained from this strike. The Detroit Newspaper Agency, which was in fact part of a broader media monopoly, used this attack against the Detroit newspaper workers as the opening salvo to attack newspaper workers across the country. When union leaders here gave up the fight, they doomed newspaper workers elsewhere. In the short run, these newspapers took a big hit, so in the long run major newspapers could use the length of this strike to scare other workers and impose draconian concessions against newspaper workers throughout the country.

The decision by top union leadership to depend on the courts rather than the collective power of workers derailed the strike. A core of worker militants sustained a kind of guerilla fight against the DNA for nearly three years after the union leaderships accepted defeat and ordered a return to work under the company’s conditions. These strikers were not organized enough in advance of this strike; they had too much confidence in union leaders at the beginning. By the time they realized, it was too late to pull the rest of the strikers beyond the unions’ policy.

Nevertheless, the newspaper strike brought to the fore a large number of worker militants and gave them a rich experience which many of them carried into other workplaces. There has been nothing on that level since then. It is an experience that needs to be part of every worker’s heritage.

For a comprehensive look at the Detroit Newspaper strike, go to to access Class Struggle Magazine, Volume 10, November-December, 1995.

How Amazon Got Huge

Nov 9, 2015

Amazon’s on-demand workers sued the company in Los Angeles in October, seeking back wages and compensation for on the job expenses.

This lawsuit is related to Amazon’s Prime Now service, which promises to deliver goods within one hour for around $8.

Amazon treats the workers responsible for such service as on-demand contractors to avoid benefits and cut labor costs, paying less than minimum wage. However, according to these workers, Amazon treats them like employees, including requiring them to wear uniforms and work within set hours. These workers are sometimes scheduled to work six or seven consecutive days in a week.

Recently, Amazon posted a big profit, causing its shares to skyrocket in the stock market. Amazon’s market value has reached about 264 billion dollars, passing that of Walmart. This makes Amazon one of the largest and richest companies in the world.

This lawsuit shows how Amazon got this big – by squeezing every drop of wealth they could from the people who do the work.

Page 8

Ford Contract Up for a Vote

Nov 9, 2015

“Ford Deal includes 10K bonus” – “bigger bonuses than GM or FCA, “shouted the headlines in Detroit papers when Ford Motor Company and the UAW announced a tentative agreement.

After weeks of hinting that Ford workers would get more – BAM! The UAW said they did!

Unfortunately, the $10,000 ratification bonus is really $8,500 – just $500 more than GM – and, oh yeah, $1,500 BORROWED from a future profit-sharing bonus to make it LOOK LIKE 10,000 because, after all, $10,000 sounds so much better!

This sleight-of-hand, these tricks and outright lies, told by the International Union, have contributed to the high “NO” votes that have marked both the Chrysler and GM contract voting process. Clearly, auto workers across the Detroit 3 are not happy with this pattern agreement that fails to restore lost wages to senior workers after 10 years of wage freezes, and fails as well to eliminate Two-Tier.

Tens of thousands of workers at GM and Chrysler clearly had no confidence to follow the leadership of this International Union into a fight with the bosses – a leadership that threatens to get less, not more, if the workers fight.

Will Ford workers find a way past this problem? They are last to vote precisely because both the company and the Union recognized the potential for Ford workers to demand more and be fooled less. No one has forgotten the organized opposition of Ford workers to the 2009 contract. The “no” vote was so high and determined that the International didn’t even try to bring it back out for a second vote!

As a result of their determination, the Ford workers held the line on the hiring of new workers at lower wages and made the company move more than 800 workers to the higher pay rates.

Reprinted here are the most recent remarks of one of the organizers of the “No” vote at Ford, Gary Walkowicz.