Friday, May 19, 2017

Milwaukee Teachers on How to Survive "Right to Work"

For public-employee unions in Wisconsin, an open shop isn’t even the worst of it. The anti-union Act 10, which Governor Scott Walker forced through in 2011, mandated annual recertification votes and all but eliminated collective bargaining.

Some unions gave up on staying certified at all—but not the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. So far its 4,600 members include 69 percent of the district’s teachers and a narrow majority of educational assistants.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lessons and Myths About Domestic Violence from the Case of Graham Garfield

For the past few weeks, local activists in Superior, Wisconsin have worked together to challenge domestic violence in their community following the arrest of city councilor, Graham Garfield.  On April 4th, Graham Garfield was re-elected to represent the 6th district.  It was a very tight race wherein he won the election by a single vote.  Aside from serving as a city councilor, has served in other positions including Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Labor Caucus, President of the Superior Federation of Labor, Vice President of the National Association of Letter Carriers-337,  and Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission.  He was endorsed by the Superior Federation of Labor and viewed by local progressives as a labor candidate who stood up against Islamophobic statements from the previous mayor.  Only a few days after being sworn into office, he was arrested on charges related to domestic violence.

Counter-Mobilization: How to Effectively Fight Right-Wing Speech

As the effects of the Great Recession linger, the ruling rich are making every effort to ensure that the working class bears the brunt of the economic crunch. In this atmosphere, elements of the extreme right feel emboldened to promote their reactionary wares.

From the increasing visibility of right-wing websites like, to well-publicized speaking tours by conservative ideologues like Milo Yiannopoulos and others, to former Breitbart editor Steve Bannon’s attaining the status of presidential advisor, the message from the top is clear: racism, sexism, and xenophobia will all be used to divide and oppress the 99%. Meanwhile, these same poisonous sentiments are used to divert attention from those actually responsible for and benefiting from the current crisis.

Where's the Empathy for Black Poverty?

In the 1890s, sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois noticed something disturbing about how Americans viewed the plight of blacks in Philadelphia who had suffered through unsanitary living conditions, high rates of consumption and back-breaking labor.

May Day Marches: A Display of Unity

Millions of people around the world took part in demonstrations on May Day. Actions included a general strike and mass march, backed by the major unions, to protest government austerity measures in Puerto Rico. This followed a huge general strike in Brazil two days earlier. The May 1 international day of working-class protest is rooted in U.S. workers’ actions in the 1880s to demand better working conditions, including the eight-hour day.

For the last decade, the date has been reclaimed in the United States by organizations standing up for the rights of immigrants and low-wage workers. This May Day, in a broad show of solidarity, they were joined by marchers with signs highlighting scores of burning issues—such as affordable health care, racist police violence against Black people, the rights of women and LGBTQ people, and environmental justice.

Why Inequality in the Workforce Is Bad for Your Health

When Babul Khan lost two of his four sons in an inferno at Gadani shipbreaking yard on November 1, 2016, it was a tragedy but it wasn’t a surprise. Like all the 26 workers who were killed when an oil tanker was blasted apart at Pakistan’s largest shipbreaking yard, 18-year-old Ghulam Hyder and 32-year-old Alam Khan were insecure workers. Disposable workers. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

750 Protesters at Duluth Climate March

About 750 people participated in the Duluth People’s Climate March on April 29. The event was held in solidarity with a national climate protest in Washington D.C. Duluth’s protest was part of an estimated 250 local solidarity actions around the country calling for the government to adopt policies that seriously grapple with the threat of climate change.

The Duluth march and rally has endorses by a large number of local groups, but was spearheaded by the local Sierra Club, and the Minnesota Interfaith Light & Power. It began with a brief rally at Leif Erickson Park. From there protesters marched along the Lakewalk, alongside Lake Superior. The event culminated with a large rally at the Lakeplace Park, near Canal Park.

A special thank you to all of the organizers of this event, the speakers, marshals and volunteers who made this event possible.

This protest comes on the heels of last weekends March for Science in Duluth that drew 1500 people, and the local Woman’s march in January that had over 2000 people. This massive increase in protesting is part of a national campaign of resistance against the reactionary policies being pushed by our national government.

>> The photos above were taken by Heather Bradford. The article is by Adam Ritscher.

Friday, April 28, 2017

General Strike: How the Working Class Takes Control

Since the Women’s March brought millions into the streets the Saturday after inauguration, there has been a rising clamor on social media for a ‘general strike’ against the Trump administration. The call to stop work was picked up by the U.K. GuardianWashington Post and now by Cosmopolitan magazine. And the discussion took off so quickly, it gave us multiple proposals for when the strike should happen: February 17 (to counter President’s day), March 8 (International Women’s Day), May 1 (the international workers’ holiday and anniversary of the huge immigrant-led protests of 2006). And the proposals emphasize different kinds of demands, from general resistance to Trump, to defending the rights of women, Black Lives Matter, and immigrants through mutual action to enforce those rights.

But numerous leftists also came forward to announce concerns about the feasibility of a general strike, especially if labor unions are not involved in organizing it. Among the first was Alex Gourevitch, writing in Jacobin, who gives an informative history of militant strikes in the U.S. that faced repression by the state and (sometimes) won. The implication of this and similar pieces is that a general strike call is irresponsible for this spring because organized labor is simply not in a position to carry out the work stoppage and protect striking workers:

How Can We Fight Climate Change?

The working class faces challenges on many fronts today. But one crisis is overarching. On both land and sea, Northern and Southern Hemispheres alike, our planet is getting hotter. The scale and pace of this global warming is unprecedented in human history. The last three years have been the hottest since precise measurements began in the 1880s.

This heat is expanding the volume of oceans. Along with melting sea and glacial ice in the Arctic, Antarctic, and Greenland, this is raising sea levels. If not stopped soon it will eventually inundate coastal areas that are home to hundreds of millions. The New York City penthouse at Trump Tower would remain dry—but by 2050 the tip of Manhattan, including Southport, Battery Park, and much of the World Trade Center would be submerged.

Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom

On Mumia Abu-Jamal’s birthday, April 24, about 125 demonstrators mobilized outside Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas in solidarity with Mumia’s effort to reverse his 1982 frame-up murder conviction and win a new trial that could lead to his freedom.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is perhaps the world’s best known political prisoner. He has been imprisoned for 36 years, and was on death row for 30 of those years. His fight for a new trial and freedom has been supported by organizations ranging from Amnesty International and the NAACP to the European Parliament and scores of national and local trade unions and city governments in the U.S. and abroad.

Can we Survive the Epidemics That Big Agriculture Produces?

Rob Wallace is an evolutionary biologist and the author of “Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science” (Monthly Review Press). Through a dialectical process he shows us how Big Agriculture and its organization and methodology conflict with the epidemiological controls needed to stop flu epidemics from emerging and killing millions of people. Socialist Action's John Schraufnagel and Bud Schulte sat down with Rob Wallace in late November 2016 at May Day Books in Minneapolis.

Bud Schulte: I’m curious about how you came to your Marxist approach to science.

Rob Wallace: My parents were radical scientists. My father is trained as a physicist, my mother as a marine biologist. They met on a picket protesting my father’s professors in the Physics Department [at Columbia University] who were working with the JASON group at the time. The JASON group were physicists helping the DOD come up with various weapons systems, including Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles.

The Tragedy of American Science

The Earth Day 2017 March for Science signals resistance to Donald Trump’s sharp infusion of irrationality into the national discourse.  Official support for climate-change denial and other anti-science agendas has suddenly become much more explicit. At the same time, many protesters recognize a continuity linking Trump’s bizarre bluster with a pre-existing condition sometimes referred to as the “Republican war on science.”

But the problems at the root of the tragedy of contemporary American science—its corporatization and militarization—are not ones for which either the Democratic or Republican parties can offer solutions.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pressure Grows for $15 in the Twin Cities

As Minneapolis appears poised to institute a $15 minimum wage, 15Now Minnesota and other advocates are keeping up the pressure to make sure it happens.

Supporters will rally Monday, April 17, at noon outside the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, 2001 SE University Ave., near the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus. They will protest efforts by the Minnesota Restaurant Association to “carve out” the minimum wage with a “tip penalty” that would allow restaurants to pay tipped workers less.

Consuming Feminism: The Abusive Touch of the Invisible Hand

In full disclosure of my consumerist hypocrisy,  I have a few t-shirts with feminist themes on them and a pair of Karl Marx sneakers.  The shirts were free leftovers from political events, but I probably would have bought them anyway.   All of these items were probably made in a sweatshop with the hyper exploited labor of mostly female garment workers.  Thus, what I write is not from some high and holy place.  It is meant to provide some sort of framework for understanding feminism and consumerism.   This understanding is meant to be tactical for social movement building rather than a personal attack or call for confessions of consumerist sins.  I sin.  We all sin.  Personal mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable.  Social movement mistakes have more weight as it represents a collective error.  Of course, social movements also make mistakes.  One mistake is the embrace of feminist consumerism.  While this was not part of the official organizing suggestions of the International Women’s Strike USA, some feminists promoted the tactic of patronizing women owned businesses on March 8th.  Some feminists believe that by buying certain products, they are promoting a better society.   I don’t wish to shame those feminists, but I do want to make an argument against that tactic.  The following is why I am against feminist consumerism:

Union Declares Itself a “Sanctuary,” Promises to Protect All Members

I had no money and spoke no English when I illegally crossed the border into California 23 years ago, but I worked hard and fought for the right to stay here.

Had I made that harrowing journey this year, I’m sure I’d be deported right back into the crosshairs of the Honduran government’s death squads that had targeted me and many other community organizers.

Instead I quickly won a grant of political asylum—and later received full American citizenship.