Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's Anti-Union Bill, was signed into law on March 1, despite the objections and actions of the masses who took over Madison, staging the largest continual protest in Wisconsin history. Starting in mid-February, teaching assistants, teachers, nurses, other public sector workers and their supporters flooded the city, took over the capitol building, and rallied around the clock, in a resistance that grew and grew, garnering support in solidarity demos across the country. A report in The Guardian “US left finds its voice over Wisconsin attacks on union rights”(3) described “the atmosphere [as] part Glastonbury, part commune, part polite midwest. Drummers beat out rhythms all day long to chants of Union Power...there are sleeping bags piled in corners for the hundreds staying overnight, and piles of pizza cartons and water bottles donated by local businesses or paid for by supporters round the US and the world.”
Joel Beinin's analysis of the contribution of workers to the anti-Mubarak uprising and the possible consequences for both the social movement generally and the Egyptian working class specifically.
“Egyptian Workers Join the Revolution,” proclaimed the headline of Al-Ahram, the government-owned daily, the day before ex-President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Tens of thousands of workers—in textiles, military production, transportation, petroleum, cement, iron and steel, hospitals, universities, telecommunications and the Suez Canal—participated in strikes or protests in the three days before Mubarak’s departure. Although it is too soon to render a definitive judgment, the demographic and economic weight of workers in the popular uprising was likely one of the factors that persuaded Egypt’s military chiefs to ask Mubarak to step aside.
Since last year, the state governments of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, along with Del Monte, a fruit and vegetable company, have tried to break the International Longshoremen's Association. In a move of blatant union busting, Fresh Del Monte Produce, which is owned by business tycoon Leo Holt, moved their business of unloading fruit from the port of Philadelphia to the “less costly” LLC Gloucester port downriver in Gloucester, N.J., which is privately owned by the Holt Family with a low-wage company union Dockworkers Local 1 (this fake union has its offices in a building owned by the Holt family). The workers receive less pay than they do at the plant in Philadelphia, which is publicly owned and unionized with the ILA. Before the company moved, Del Monte demanded that ILA Local 1291 take a 25%+ wage and benefit cut and that the State of New Jersey give it $25 million to improve its Camden, N.J. pier or else they would move operations. Del Monte gave the state and the union four days to make a decision. Apparently, both the state and the union agreed to the cuts. Despite this agreement Del Monte moved anyway, resulting in the loss of 200+ ILA jobs.
It's finally happened. In September, SugarHouse Casino opened its doors in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia to the dismay and continuing protests of community activists.
Last year, 14 demonstrators from Casino-Free Philadelphia were arrested for blocking access to the construction site. The group has continued to hold vigils up until the casino's opening day. Though it has now been open just three months, there have already been reports of violent casino-related crimes. In November, three women were robbed as they left the SugarHouse parking lot. One of them was treated at the hospital for injuries from being pistol-whipped in the head.
On December 8, 2010, James Kennedy was fired from Comegys Elementary School afterschool program, part of the University of Pennsylvania's CSSP program. Kennedy is a dedicated teacher who had earned accolades for his work, but was fired for federally-protected union activity protected under section 7 of the NLRA. Penn had attempted to dock hours from his and his coworker's paychecks, and Kennedy stood up for his coworkers and said that that could not be done. He was told that he should not speak up for others, in violation of the law, and then Penn proceeded to find pretexts to fire him. James' coworkers were harassed and intimidated in order to break solidarity. After being fired for no stated reason over the phone, James' employer had a meeting with his coworkers to explain that he'd been fired for saying critical things of the program and his boss on Facebook, which is federally-protected speech under labor law. Please call the University of Pennsylvania at 215 898 7221 and his direct supervisor, Alexis Walker, at 215 913 0599, to demand that they restore James to his position.
The Philadelphia security guards that defied company pressure and formed their own independent union last year are now pushing to grow further. In late August guards working for the Scotland Yard security company said they filed a petition to vote on union representation with the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU).
The nurses, instead of remaining demoralized, began to organize immediately. Tired of the low militancy and poor representation of their parent union, the Temple nurses left and formed the independent Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners (PASNAP). Three years later and much better organized ,the nurses were able to mount a credible strike threat and won a contract that not only erased the losses of 1999 but also made substantial gains in wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Three years following the 2003 contract victory, the leadership of the professional and technical employees union (also dissatisfied with the low militancy and poor representation of their parent union) approached the leadership of PASNAP to affiliate. They made their affiliation formal in a landslide election.
With a population just shy of 2.4 million and a labor force of 640,000, the West Bank exists in perpetual economic depression. This reality, according to a 2009 United Nations report on trade and development, is “rooted in the relentless Israeli internal and external closure policy, the attrition of the Palestinian productive base and the loss of Palestinian land and natural resources” that has occurred since 1967 under the Israeli occupation. In reality, these policies result in crippling unemployment and generations of unrealized economic potential.
On January 1, 1994, the now-infamous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. That same day, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), rose up and launched a military offensive that occupied towns throughout the state of Chiapas, in Mexico. The EZLN, or “Zapatistas” had been covertly organizing for many years, but they specifically chose the day of NAFTA’s implementation for their public rebellion.
Many components of NAFTA favored US corporate interests at the expense of Mexico’s general population, but the Zapatistas were particularly opposed to NAFTA’s rewriting of the Mexican Constitution, in order to eliminate the population’s biggest victory won during the Mexican Revolution fought 90 years before, at the time of World War One. “The Mexican Revolution wrote into the national constitution the opportunity for a village to hold its land communally, in an ejido, so that no individual could alienate any portion of it,” writes Staughton Lynd, co-author of the new book Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History.
In 1992 security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art had their union busted by Mayor Rendell who privatized what were once decent city jobs amidst the Philly budget crisis of the early 90’s. Art Museum guards made $14/hr back in 1992, in 2009 dollars that would amount to somewhere in between $20-22/hr.
Security guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art now work not for the city, but for AlliedBarton, a national firm that provides security services to many major institutions in the region and nationwide. Today they are paid a wage of $10.03/ hr, which is hardly enough to scrape by on.
But for two years guards at the Philadelphia Museum of Art have been doing something and it’s starting to pay off. They’ve been organizing their own union in coalition with the Philadelphia Officers and Workers Rising campaign (POWR), a joint effort of rank and file security officers and Philadelphia Jobs With Justice.