Tag Archives: Contract

Organize School Strike; Don’t Pay for Bosses’ Crisis

LOS ANGELES, November 20 — The LA teachers’ union and the board of education are in endless negotiations. Superintendent Brewer has sent out a memo to all employees saying that “without substantial, systematic, responsible District-wide cuts and help from Sacramento, Los  Angeles United School District (LAUSD) will not be able to make payroll by the end of the school year.” They have instituted a freeze on field trips and purchases of school supplies. Brewer demands sacrifice from teachers: a sacrifice of our families’ health benefits, of the reduction in class size won last year, of a cost-of-living increase. He says, “Crises demand focus and unity of purpose” — while he’s making $300,000 a year, we should take these cuts lying down.

The bosses’ economy is in crisis, the inevitable result of the capitalist system, a crisis that leads inevitably to depression and world war among rival imperialists. (See article, page 8.)

Billions are spent on oil wars, and to bail out bankers while we face deeper attacks on clinics, libraries, schools and the community college, state college and University of California system.

A system that removes hard-working people from their homes and jobs and cuts back education and healthcare while increasing spending on cops, prisons and the military must be destroyed!

The sellout union leadership moans about the crisis and tells us not to expect too much! Their plan is “Faxing the Facts” of district waste to the Board of Education. They say nothing about mobilizing the members to join with students and parents to fight the district’s blatant attack on the working class to pay for the bosses’ crisis!

At local area meetings we said “organize for a strike: we shouldn’t have to pay for the bosses’ crisis” and received a lot of support. Many teachers were disgusted by the union leaders’ passivity, and spoke so strongly that a union leader at one meeting was forced to pretend to support a strike as well. We said that understanding the nature of the crisis and the failure of the capitalist system will give teachers and other workers the understanding and commitment to fight for their class. During this crisis we’ve increased CHALLENGE distribution to teachers, staff and students, and linked the need for a strike to the need to build the long-term struggle for workers’ power.

In organizing with students against these cutbacks, we’re building unity between students and teachers. The union plans a picket line on December 10 at the local district offices to expose the district’s waste. We’re encouraging students and teachers to go to these rallies to fight for a strike against the cutbacks and for a long-term struggle for communist revolution. The main victory is the unity and confidence to build a struggle against the whole capitalism system which means getting closer to putting an end to capitalism once and for all and building a new, communist world.

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Boeing Welcomes Back Workers With Layoffs

SEATTLE, November 23 — The ink has yet to dry on the new Boeing contract, but the bosses are already waging class war against aerospace workers. In the process, the bosses are making it clearer than ever that workers can win this war only with a revolution for communism.

Within days of returning to work, the company told Facilities Maintenance workers it planned to cut the workforce 10%, using outside contractors to do the work more cheaply. Commercial Chief Carson implied layoffs would start for the rest of us by the end of next year and now Boeing announced 800 layoffs at its Witchata plant. So much for job security! But the sharpest attacks were reserved for subcontractors.

As reported in CHALLENGE, 1,000 Vought subcontractor workers in Nashville, Tenn. struck a few weeks after we did. These Boeing subcontractors soon had to face busloads of scabs, escorted into the plants by local cops. Last week, the union got the Federal Mediator to resume talks with the company. They quickly fell apart when company negotiators arrived with armed guards.

In South Carolina’s Vought plant, which makes the 787 Dreamliner’s rear fuselage, 240 workers joined the International Association of Machinists (IAM) over a year ago. This was touted as a huge victory for unionism in the largely non-union southern aerospace corridor. But after a year the union had still not ratified a contract.

Not wanting negotiations to drag on past the first anniversary (when the company could call for a new certification vote), IAM Grand Lodge Representative Joe Greaser called an “emergency meeting” for 4 PM Friday, November 7. Few workers knew about it.

Later, Greaser announced 92% of the membership had accepted the new contract. He failed to mention that only 13 workers showed up, according to quality inspector Paul Gaudrault, who was the sole dissenting vote.
Vought was “surprised to learn that its employees apparently ratified a contract that was not its final offer.” The workers were furious.

Mechanic Pam DeGarmo said the 1½% annual guaranteed wage increase wouldn’t even cover the new union dues and inflation. About 200 workers will be laid off temporarily because of the two-month strike at the Puget Sound plants. Gaudrault said some of his fellow workers are thinking about not returning “because the contract is so horrible.”

The union leadership here refuses to talk about these outbreaks of class struggle — and these workers are in the same union! “They [the union misleaders] are more than willing to complain about the poor fate of 751 [our District Lodge],” declared a member of our CHALLENGE readers group, “but they won’t talk about others. We’re all part of the working class!” CHALLENGE readers here plan to fight for a more class-conscious response in the union and among workers on the floor.

Had there been CHALLENGE readers groups in South Carolina, like those being consolidated in Seattle, they could have mobilized workers nationwide to back this “watershed” organizing effort; led solidarity rallies and picketing; and organized illegal strikes to fight the company’s terms.

Most importantly, these fight-backs could have been turned into schools for communism with large sales of our paper and a struggle to bring communist ideas to life. Such fight-backs alone can’t solve capitalism’s crises of overproduction. The attacks, like those on autoworkers, can only sharpen. Ultimately, the rivalry among the world’s imperialists will lead to world war. CHALLENGE readers groups can advance the struggle to help turn this into class war, with communist revolution.

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This was a pre-strike vote rally that the IAM put on. There were about a thousand people there and we handed out all of our 500 communist leaflets in 30-45 minutes. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive and we had no attacks or smart ass comments.

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Puget Sound, WA,  August 30 —“Strike, Strike” reverberated down the Auburn plant aisles. Thousands or Boeing Workers marched outside negotiations near the airport chanting, “Out the Gate, in ’08.” Seven thousand emptied the Everett complex for three days running taunting the company to  “Paint the Lines,” a reference to the green lines security traditionally paints around the factories to mark where picketers shouldn’t cross. These marches followed a month of Rolling Thunder: workers banging their tools making a deafening sound like thunder rolling through the plants, every hour on the hour. Boeing workers have taken matters into their own hands, forcing the union mis-leadership to recommend a strike Sept. 4.

This militancy did not arise spontaneously. For years, PLP helped lead mass rebellions in Boeing plants building Rolling Thunder, organizing mass marches and protest rallies as part of class struggle against the bosses and their imperialist plans for the aerospace industry. The union misleaders have tried to appropriate the tactics, but it got away from them. As IAM District President Tom Wroblewski lamented,  “Once you get these guys up the mountain, it hard to get them back down again.”

Workers should harbor no illusions that this militant activity alone can reverse the sharpening attacks on our class. Millions must be guided by communist, class-conscious ideas, organized by the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party (PLP), in order to truly change society.

Global capitalist competition causes the general trend to attack industrial workers, particularly younger, newer workers. The rising industrial and military prowess of Russia and China, the U.S. bosses’ main imperialist competitors, gives new urgency to the U.S. bosses’ need to retool and cut costs. In addition, the racist super-exploitation of subcontract workers, those working in a rapidly growing number of non-union, low-wage sweatshops, is changing the face of the aerospace industry.

Reject the “Kick Your Kids to the Kurb (KKK)” Contract! Strike!

Boeing is flush with cash at the moment, having made more that $13 billion in profit in recent years. The bosses, however, feel pressed to hold every penny as they look to the sharpening fight against their imperialist rivals. The union misleaders, meanwhile, are bickering over how much of this cash they can get to bribe older union workers to sell out the next generation.

Between 2006 and 2008, average Boeing wages have dropped $6/hour because of lower rates for new hires agreed to in prior contracts. This contract will lock in the trend of increasing exploitation, as nearly 50% of the Boeing workforce, those currently earning the highest wages, will retire in the next few years.

The tactics may differ, but in the end, aerospace workers will suffer the same fate as their class brothers and sisters in auto and other industries. More work will be subcontracted to the non-union shops; union workers will face lay-offs or lower pay in the current plants. We must not accept this contract. Workers must strike!

Workers Debate Dismal Future Under Capitalism

Progressive Labor Party called for a “United Aerospace Strike” in our well-received flyer at the airport demonstration. We included solidarity statements from Mississippi shipyard workers, Long Beach Boeing workers and L.A. subcontractor workers. Every statement warned of “losing higher-paid jobs to lower paid, non-union employees at an alarming rate.”

The battle for the hearts and minds of the Boeing workers is as sharp as the sound of Rolling Thunder. The pro-capitalist union leaders offer ideas that will not challenge the bosses’ system. They blame the bad contract offer and the loss of union jobs on “this blatant example of corporate greed.” That’s why they tried, and failed, to start the chant “Boeing’s offer is unfair, all we want is our fair share.”

Workers debated the unions’ ideas for hours on the shop floor, with many rejecting the misleaders’ analysis. We built this factory with our labor, and our class, the working class, should control it!

As the bosses fled Rolling Thunder, we organized meetings of CHALLENGE readers in the plants. Riffing on the debates initiated during the Party’s July Summer Project, we discussed how bad ideas undermined the Chinese Revolution. We learned how Chinese revisionists –– misleaders who revised revolutionary ideas to take power back from the working class –– defeated the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, and consolidated capitalism’s hold on China. They busted up the communal farms, sending the equivalent of the U.S. population into the new Chinese factories at dirt-cheap wages. The imperialist rivalry has never been the same.

Kick Capitalism To The Curb

We also discussed how capitalism reinforces racism, sexism and imperialism. We discussed how the dog-eat-dog capitalist economic base makes it impossible to mitigate, let alone eliminate, these divisions in the working class. “How can communism succeed when we are so divided against each other?” asked our friend.

We examined the different economic base in a communist system, based on the collective strength of the international working class and the slogan “from each according to their commitment, to each according to their need.”  We debated whether a movement guided by communist politics that smashed the ruling class and revolutionized the economic base could indeed change how workers interact with each other. The road to workers’ power is built on  fighting these evils of capitalism right now in this contract battle. But many agreed that the final defeat of racism, sexism and imperialism requires a communist revolution.

Everybody agreed this was a long, hard fight, made doubly difficult by the defeat of the old communist movement. One friend said, “A light bulb turned on” when PLP members explained how concessions to the wage system made by the old movement doomed it from the start.

In the end, the choice was made clear: we could kick our kids to the curb or kick capitalism to the curb. We left these discussions resolving to sell more CHALLENGES, distribute PLP basic documents Road to Revolution III and IV, organize two PLP study groups and build our revolutionary forces. As we go to print it looks like we’ll strike on Sept. 4. Either way, the future is ours if we build these revolutionary communist forces in our industry and throughout the working class.

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Bosses’ Imperialist Dogfight Sets Stage for Boeing Contract Fight

The July 16 strike sanction vote means the Boeing contract battle is in full swing. For nearly a year, the International Association of Machinists (IAM) leadership has been pushing the slogan, “It’s Our Time, This Time.” They say that if workers in union plants stick together, they can negotiate a contract to increase our wages, benefits and job security. Workers on the shop floor are not so sure. As one machinist puts it: “What part of capitalism don’t they understand?!”

In this struggle, illusions won’t serve us. Currently, Chinese, Russian and European capitalists are economically challenging the U.S. bosses, undermining U.S. rulers’ political clout. War to maintain the empire is pushed to the forefront, with both presidential candidates offering plans for a “better” war. In this climate, the U.S. bosses are rebuilding their industrial military base on the backs of the working class, particularly those of us in basic industry. Racism and sexism lead the attack. Black and Latin workers — women and men — in the subcontractor plants were the first and most brutally attacked. (The subcontractors are non-union, low-wage plants to which outfits like Boeing farm out work formerly produced by higher-wage union plants — domestic outsourcing.)

The bosses use racist super-exploitation as a wedge to attack all industrial workers: 140,000 unionized senior autoworkers will be replaced by 77,000 new workers at half the wage. The UAW carefully isolated American Axle strikers for 83 days this spring, and then railroaded a contract through that cut 2,000 jobs and wages by a third to a half. The Nucor company is building the first integrated steel plant in the U.S. in four decades right outside Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to take advantage of some of the country’s lowest, non-union labor. No matter what eventually happens with the tanker contract, the bosses, with the Pentagon’s blessing, are determined to erect a “southern aerospace corridor” in non-union, low-wage Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. The system depends on this kind of racist exploitation to build profits.

The Boeing bosses have no illusions about the times — or their ruling-class needs. In late June, they eliminated defined pensions (ones with guaranteed specific benefits) for all non-union new hires, demanding the same of union workers when the old contract expires on September 3. They’re pushing healthcare cuts disguised as a “wellness-based healthcare system.” They’ve said our wages are “above the market rate” after they slashed the “market rate” through racist outsourcing — which they’re accelerating. In order to afford to attack the world’s workers, the bosses must attack us here at home — and Boeing bosses are doing their (very profitable) part!

Fight The Bosses’ Ideas  Within Our Ranks

Relying on deals with the company bosses — never wise — and believing their lie that “what’s good for the company is good for the workers” is increasingly delusional in these times. The bosses’ imperialist plans call for more war, nationalism, racism, sexism and attacks on our standard of living. The only viable answer is to smash the capitalist system with communist revolution — no easy, short-term task. We’ll never succeed without waging a long-term fight against the bosses’ ideas.

When union members struggled for our locals to participate in the immigrant rights May Day marches to fight anti-immigrant racism, they were building the class-consciousness we’ll need this fall. When workers raised money for the Jena 6 on the shop floor and fought the union misleadership to protest this racist outrage, we were laying the anti-racist groundwork for the class struggle ahead. When we exposed the Pentagon’s role in promoting aerospace wage-cuts, we took aim at the dead-end flag-waving of the union sellouts.

In this vein, PLP is sponsoring Summer Projects in the Seattle area and among L.A. aerospace subcontractors. Building anti-racist, international solidarity between union workers and non-union super-exploited subcontractor workers takes aim at the bosses’ divide-and-conquer strategy.

We face a tough battle, and may not win this round, but we can build our offense with strike preparations. We can struggle for the kind of class-consciousness and solidarity that teach us about workers’ power. We can build forces among those already in basic industry and young revolutionary workers just entering the factories in order to eventually destroy this bosses’ nightmare.

Support the Seattle and Los Angeles Summer Projects

The Progressive Labor Party is organizing Summer Projects in Seattle and Los Angeles to both learn from workers’ experiences and bring revolutionary ideas to workers, soldiers and students.  We urge you to join us in going to factories, military bases, visiting with workers, and studying the science of revolution — Dialectical Materialism — as well as hearing from the experience of revolutionary workers themselves.  Volunteers will learn first-hand from their class sisters and brothers and share experiences, which can lead to a lifetime of serving their class and fighting for a communist revolution. Please join us for a great revolutionary time! Make a donation and support a Summer Project volunteer.

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Opportunities to Build PLP After Navistar Union Hacks Sold Out

LOS ANGELES, December 30 — The UAW ended a seven-week strike against International Truck and Engine Corp. (ITEC), betraying the company’s 3,700 workers. ITEC, a unit of Navistar International, based in Warrenville, Illinois, imposed increases in workers’ out-of-pocket healthcare costs, as well as a new-hire package lowering wages and benefits.

When the Navistar contract expired October 1, the union refused to call a strike, even though workers were ready to go. The UAW leaders postponed the walkout until October 23, enabling the company to send the work to non-union plants in Mississippi, Texas and Mexico. This helped the company and its imperialist masters build the armored vehicles they needed to send immediately to the war in Iraq. In delaying the strike, the union leaders continued their role as junior partners of the bosses and their contempt for the workers’ conditions. Their failure to reach out to workers in the non-union plants in the U.S. and Mexico exposes their pro-boss outlook as well.

However, PLP built strike support from Chicago to Southern California. We walked the picket lines. We passed out thousands of leaflets to workers calling for support for the strikers and for unity between workers in the U.S., Mexico and Iraq, between union and non-union, citizen and immigrant, black, Latin and white. Our leaflets explained that a revolutionary party is needed to answer the bosses’ growing attacks on workers, which are part of widening imperialist war and deepening attacks on war-production workers. Workers need one international revolutionary communist party fighting to destroy the rule of profit and to establish the rule of workers.

Hundreds of workers showed their support by buying CHALLENGE and revealing the similarity of their own conditions with the Navistar workers. These discussions included some sharp struggle about racism. A few citizen workers wanted to blame immigrants for worsening conditions in the war-production plants, but PL’ers made it clear that it’s capitalism’s need to force workers to shoulder the bosses’ drive for super-profits and for war, not immigrant workers, that is to blame.

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For a Better Contract, for a Better World:Fight Capitalism and Join Progressive Labor Party!

Negotiating within the vise of capitalism

Once again our union is fighting for a contract that meets the needs of faculty and staff, and once again the other side – CUNY managers, City Hall and Albany – has a tremendous advantage in negotiations. This advantage derives not from management’s negotiating skills, but ultimately from the fact that NYC is dominated by a business elite (Wall Street financiers, real estate tycoons, and the CEOs of scores of Fortune 500 companies, whose headquarters dominate the skyline of lower Manhattan). This elite has successfully pushed its pro-business agenda for decades, which includes keeping business taxes and commercial real estate taxes at a minimum, spending hundreds of millions on tax exemptions and abatements for office and luxury buildings, reducing the cost of social programs (including CUNY), and lowering the real wages and benefits of municipal workers. The decline in the real salaries of CUNY professors and staff and the increased use of adjuncts (whose miserable salaries are shameful) are two manifestations of the business elite’s success in realizing its agenda.

The process of negotiations is rigged in the following manner for the purpose of keeping both labor costs and taxes on business as low as possible.

(1) Pattern bargaining: The Mayor and the Governor pick the weakest city and state union with which to sign a contracts that grants wage increases no higher than the rate of inflation. These contracts are then said to “determine the pattern” for every other union. In NYC, the union selected to “set the pattern” has been D.C. 37, a fragmented coalition of locals, whose top leadership is renowned for its corruption and willingness to make deals with City Hall that sacrifice the interests of its members.

(2) Paying for our own contract: This concept states that any salary improvements beyond the inflation rate must be paid with concessions. So the UFT was able to “win” higher salary increases but only by making terrible concessions, including a longer workday and year, extra workload and assignments for teachers, and the surrender of due process rights.

(3) Taylor Law: Although we’re repeatedly assured by politicians that we live in a “free society,” city and state workers are forbidden from exercising one of our basic rights, the ability to withdraw our labor in order to press our demands. Even advocating a strike is illegal under the Taylor Law, and any union that’s courageous enough to strike – as the TWU was in 2005 – faces penalties intended to bankrupt it. The only way that workers can bargain from a position of strength is by breaking down the artificial barriers between unions, ignoring the Taylor Law and waging a general strike.

Another feature of labor contracts under capitalism is across-the-board salary increases, which only widen the gap between the highest paid employees and the lowest paid. This divides our ranks, and we believe that solidarity demands that we support higher increases for the lowest paid, including adjuncts. It also demands that we fight for lower class size for our students and more full-time jobs.

Business groups like the Citizens Budget Commission, the City Club, the Real Estate Board of New York, the Rockefeller-led Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, and the Partnership for New York (founded in 1979 by billionaire David Rockefeller) have aggressively lobbied for their pro-business agenda, which includes reducing the redistributive function of government. So has the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank that was founded and funded in the late 1970’s by denizens of Wall Street, and which found an enthusiastic advocate for its policies in former Mayor and now presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.

For years following the fiscal crisis of 1975, unelected committees like the Emergency Financial Control Board and the Municipal Assistance Corporation controlled NYC spending and borrowing, and were headed by bankers like Felix Rohatyn and corporate executives like David Margolis of Colt Industries, who forced through mass layoffs, wage freezes and reduced pension benefits. Moreover, every Mayor in recent decades (Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani) has won office by procuring millions in campaign contributions from the investment bankers, real estate developers and corporate executives who form NYC’s “permanent government,” and who expect their interests to be advanced by City Hall. Bloomberg, who claims to be independent of special interests, is actually a leading member of the business elite and fully committed to its agenda. The Mayor, whose Bloomberg LP is the largest financial news and data company in the world, is a billionaire who spent $74 million of his own money on his 2001 campaign. Finally, when necessary, big business can always use its ultimate weapon – the threat to leave NYC and throw thousands out of work.

strong>Capitalism Works – But Only for the Rich!

If we determine the success or failure of an economic system by the well being of the majority of the population, capitalism would have to be considered a colossal failure. From Nigeria to South Africa, from Mexico to Argentina, from Russia to China, all over the world, the majority of people have trouble making ends meet. Most work in low-wage, boring jobs that sap their health and their intelligence. Many have no work at all and no access to health care or decent schools. Tens of millions die each year of hunger or preventable diseases.

What about NYC, the wealthiest city in the world? Consider:

• Despite the ‘90’s being a period of economic growth, four-fifths of NYC families saw their real incomes (adjusted for inflation) drop from 1989 to 1999. The poorest fifth of these families saw their incomes drop by 13 %, while the next poorest fifth lost 16%, the middle fifth lost 12% of their income, and the fourth fifth lost 5%. The fact that the wealthiest fifth gained 18% in income, while the wealthiest 5% gained 31% over the decade, led the NY Times to observe, “the rich are getting richer and the poor are growing in number.” Increasing inequality is one of the essential features of capitalism. By 2005, the top 20% of Manhattan earners made fifty-two times what the bottom 20% earned.

• The wealthy financial and corporate sector of NYC’s economy depends upon a large low-wage service sector, staffed by mainly black, Latino and immigrant workers, a contrast of wealth that reveals the racist heart of capitalism. In 2001, 20% of the city’s workforce earned $8 an hour or less, and 80% of these low-wage workers were black or Latino.

• With the wealthy sending their children to private schools, NYC’s public education system – which feeds CUNY – is a disgraceful failure. Overwhelmingly segregated, overcrowded and under funded, with class size considerably larger than the state average, NYC schools provide a quality education to only a select few. Most students, by the city’s own statistics, either drop out before graduating or are unprepared for college level work. Black and Latino communities have the worst performing schools, often with the most inexperienced teachers, and most students in those schools score poorly on state reading and math tests. Only a shocking 1% of black students in NYC pass a single Advanced Placement exam.

This failure to educate is deliberate, and reproduces the social hierarchy of capitalism. Spending on education fell from 29% of city expenditures in the early 70’s to 24% in 2005. Since large numbers of students are destined for dead-end jobs in the low-wage service sector, there is little motivation on the part of political and business elites to improve the school system, despite much rhetoric to the contrary.

Capitalism Has Failed and Should be Left Behind

It should be obvious that capitalism is a failed social system. It provides immense wealth for a privileged few and heart-wrenching poverty and insecurity for billions. A sixth of humanity, over a billion people, live in slums, without many of the basic necessities of life. U.S. capitalism, a dominant power for most of the 20th century, now faces increased competition from rivals in the EU, Russia and China. As these regional rivals grow in economic and military power, U.S. imperialism has decided to use its superior military might to secure control over much of the world’s energy resources, a control that it hopes will give it an advantage in future conflicts. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have perished for this reason, and there is little doubt that more wars and more death and destruction are on the horizon. With more and more money diverted from social programs in order to pay for military expenditures, federal, state and city workers are being pressured to accept inferior “war contracts.”

Why continue to support a system that produces poverty, inequality, racism, environmental ruin, and endless imperialist war? We’re told that the failures of Soviet and Chinese socialism “prove” that there’s no alternative to capitalism, and many believe it. But people didn’t stop building bridges when the first ones they constructed fell down. People all over the world are looking for ways to get “beyond capital,” to build an egalitarian society worthy of humanity.

The capitalists have their organizations. The working class needs its own, one that fights for its class interests. The communist Progressive Labor Party is trying to be that organization. Professors can play an important role by letting their students know the truth about capitalism, by exposing the tracking and ideological functions of schools under bourgeois rule, and by recruiting a new generation of revolutionary communist fighters. Join us!

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