Tag Archives: NY

500 Marchers Back Stella D’Oro Strikers ‘NO CONTRACT, NO COOKIES!’

stella-march

BRONX, NY, January 31 — Braving freezing temperatures, 500 Stella D’Oro strikers and supporters marched down Broadway chanting, “No Contract, No Cookies!”

As CHALLENGE readers know, the 135 Stella strikers are 100% solid on the line. They’ve been out for nearly six months but are determined not to let the Brynwood bosses (who own Stella D’Oro) bust their union and take away holidays, healthcare benefits and sick days, while demanding annual wage-cuts for the next five years.

While the strike involves a limited number of workers, it is significant on two counts: (1) it not only sets an example of militant workers fighting back against the bosses’ attempts to make workers take the losses resulting from the bosses’ crisis; and (2) it involves predominantly black and Latino workers — who, because of racism, suffer disproportionately from the bosses’ attacks — giving leadership to the whole working class.

This march and rally was larger and more spirited than previous ones. Supporters came from the PSC (Professional Staff Congress-CUNY), the teachers union, District Council 37, RWDSU (supermarket employees), nurses from the NYS Nurses Association, other unions and the community. But critically important, most speeches at the closing rally were by the strikers, not politicians who had dominated earlier rallies.

PSC’s president vowed continuing support for the struggle, telling Stella strikers that, “You must win; we cannot allow you to lose.” A George Washington H.S. student took the mic and showed the crowd support letters from his fellow students and funds collected at their school.

In sharp contrast to this genuine display of solidarity from working-class youth was the shameful performance of Ed Ott, NYC Central Labor Council director. He appeared for only a few minutes at the pre-march rally. When someone in the crowd called out, “Ed, Ed, tell us how much money the Central Labor Council has given to support the struggle,” his pathetic answer was, “We haven’t been asked yet.”

PLP members have played an active role throughout the strike. At the closing rally, a PL speaker explained how the Stella workers inspired all workers and how communist revolution is necessary to eliminate the bosses and their system. During the rallies and march, 555 people bought CHALLENGES.

When some phony leftists chanted, “People’s power,” PL’ers overrode it with “Workers’ Power!” And when they said, “People, united, will never be defeated,” PL’ers responded with, “Workers, united…” In both cases, the great majority of the crowd joined PL’s most class-conscious chants. PLP opposes the slogan of “people’s power” because it means an alliance of workers with bosses and politicians.

One weakness in the strike is scabs working in the plant. It’s estimated that production in 30% of normal. With mass support at the picket line, stopping scabs becomes possible. While workers try to build a successful city-wide boycott of Stella products, the bosses’ strategy may be to take losses until August when the strikers’ benefits run out.

PL organizers are encouraging greater militancy. The Stella workers can reach out to other members of Local 50 in other bakeries and to other locals of the bakers’ international union.stella_challenge

In picket line conversations we have found that the workers are interested in discussing political questions, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the collapse of Wall Street, and how these events will affect the working class. One worker e-mailed us a set of pictures showing the horrors resulting from the Israeli invasion and massacre in Gaza.

Many strikers are reading CHALLENGE. We plan to organize a contingent of Stella workers and their families and friends to attend this year’s

May Day dinner. Fight the bosses! Build the Party!

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PLP Youth Lead Anti-Racist Campaign At Brooklyn H.S.

BROOKLYN, NY — Students, mainly black and Latino, and teachers at a local high school here — located in a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood — have been battling racist attacks inside and outside the school. Every day after school the racist NYPD quickly herds students out of the neighborhood.

Before Thanksgiving, when an underage female student and her friends tried to leave a subway car because they feared a fight was about to erupt, a cop in that car yanked her back in. Her friends defended her, saying she’d done nothing wrong, that the cop’s action was illegal. They wrote down his name and badge number. Seeing students stand up for each other angered this racist cop. When the train pulled into the next station, he ordered the young student out of the subway car.

Her friends, and passengers on the train, told her she didn’t have to go because she’d done nothing wrong. But she went, fearing arrest and further abuse. About a dozen of her friends followed her, which angered the cop even more. He called for back-up; almost immediately a dozen racist cops came running down the stairs. They maced and beat the students, arresting six.

Four were underage and taken to the precinct and then to a juvenile detention center for the night, where they were further harassed and verbally brutalized with racist remarks. Three are CHALLENGE readers, which partially influenced their will to fight back.

When PLP members at the school, heard this story, we responded immediately, first calling the parents of those arrested. Consequently, we were able to accompany the students and their parents to a court hearing. The students, never offered legal aid, were instead offered a “deal”: community service and a sealed conviction! Such is capitalist justice: get harassed, maced, beaten and locked up by racist cops — the “crime” being black or Latino.

PLP members encouraged and supported the parents to fight the case and demand a lawyer. Despite the DA’s scare tactics, and because the parents had a prior relationship with the teacher/debate coach of their children, the parents resisted the “deal” and await a trial date.

Back at school, a PLP youth club took an anti-racist petition to the Student Government Association. It linked the racist attacks on the Jena 6, the NYPD’s brutal murder of Kiel Coppin, the cops’ racist attacks on students to the racist pizzeria owner across the street. Hundreds of signatures were collected the first day!

During the petition campaign, a debate on metal detectors in the school occurred before the entire student body. One side argued safety required having such detectors. The other side exposed the racist nature of these detectors.

They eloquently explained that besides metal detectors being ineffective at catching many metal objects, the main reason to eliminate them was their use to teach control and obedience to authority.

One debater argued, “Although we all won’t get 95’s in all our classes or pass all the Regents exams needed for graduation, we will all leave this school knowing how to “assume the position.” This shows that the main reason school exists is to train us to follow orders, like prisoners.” (This fits in with the bosses’ need for obedient cannon fodder in imperialist wars and for cheap labor.) Another debater used statistics from the NYC Lawyers’ Union website revealing that 82% of students attending high schools containing metal detectors are black and Latino. Hundreds of students and many teachers wore stickers distributed at the debate, stating: “Students not Suspects! Fight Racism!”

This modest increase of class struggle has helped expand our CHALLENGE distribution, though inconsistent, to 75 per issue. Two new students have joined a study group. Since one student’s arrest and our response, she began meeting with a PLP study group again. She will attend the next PLP club meeting and has her mother’s full support. Four PL student members have led the campaign.

Still, we must strengthen our organizing. The anti-racism campaign must include the Apartheid pizzeria owner across the street from the school; he refuses to allow our students to eat there. We’re planning to more vigorously approach the building’s other two schools; the petition is being passed around in one. We’ve also taken the petitions to mass organizations, provoking political discussion that’s changed some of their thinking, increasing our experience in doing this.

The anti-racist campaign has not yet blossomed, but 2008 promises more opportunity to win these youths to the Party while advancing the class struggle within their schools.

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Student Anti-Racist Assembly Sparks Fight-back

BROOKLYN, NY, December 19 — “Asian, Latin, black and white; to fight racism, we must unite!” was a chant among 800 high school students attending our second annual anti-racist assembly. It centered on the theme of the “Jena 6” and students fighting back. Members of Progressive Labor Party — understanding that racism is a crucial weapon in the capitalist arsenal against the working class — see one way of building the anti-racist fight is organizing mass assemblies in the school to spread our ideas.

The assembly was exciting from start to finish, with original poetry, a skit about battling racism, some great speeches linking past struggles to today and lively routines by cheerleaders and steppers. It called on students not only to wear the Jena 6 button (see insert) but to become active in the fight against racism. The high point was a slam poet’s poem opposing the criminalization of students in the schools. It really hit home as students are increasingly treated like suspects and criminals.

The main lesson: always rely on the students and staff, especially the students. Everyone came through in a big way. Students had been meeting daily for over a month to plan every aspect of the assembly, from the program, the lighting, the music and the ushers to, most importantly, the message. We had lively discussions about the nature of racism, its history and what to do every day to challenge it.

A few teachers lent their support and attended all the discussions and planning meetings. Others were very enthusiastic about the program, thanking us for doing it.

But clearly, the students led this activity, armed with much determination and understanding. It was followed a week later by a debate in the cafeteria based on the Lerone Bennett article, “The Road Not Taken.”

We’ve taken some important steps, especially to make racism a mass issue. Our sharp assembly was even better received than last year’s program. Nationalism was minimal in organizing the assembly, but the administration’s fear was evident. One weakness was the failure to link racism here to the U.S. rulers’ imperialist wars which use racism to win GI’s to kill their class brothers and sisters in Iraq and Afghanistan

Those who run the school are afraid of our students and of PLP’s communist ideas. They understand their power and know that we can be a spark to lead rebellion. Our job is to continue this fight, explain the class nature of racism and our solution — and always rely on the working class!

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