Tag Archives: Strikes

Workers are Fighting Fascism in Greece and Bangladesh

The working class all over the world has been under severe attack.  The primary conflict of inter-imperialist rivalry has been intensifying, as can be seen in recent events in Syria and a warming between US and Iran.  Whether or not this is a tipping point in the balance of forces between the US, Russia, and their allies, client states, and proxies, there are examples of the working class fighting back against fascism and for better wages.

 

When a neo-Nazi member of Golden Dawn in Greece murdered an anti-racist, anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, running street battles have continued to ensue.  These street battles are against the backdrop of the Troika’s, representative of the major international capitalists, attack on the working class.  Thousands and thousands of workers have been fired and are in a desperate situation.  The unions, though organizing massive one-day strikes, will not threaten the capitalist class’ hold on state power.  The forces of fascism are growing in order to protect the capitalist state as it seeks to keep the working class oppressed and exploited under the boot of capital. 

 

Unfortunately, the revisionist Communist Party in Greece and other Marxist parties are not the ones leading the charge to smash the fascist Golden Dawn fascists.  The fightback is being led by Anarchists, a reactionary ideology parading as revolutionary and making a resurgence in Greece.   The Progressive Labor Party recognizes the contradiction of supporting the brave anti-fascists who are fighting both the organized force of the state, riot cops, and the forces of fascism.  We do not support Anarchism and recognize it to be a dead end for working class liberation.  We do support and are in solidarity with Anarchists smashing fascists.  PLP’s motto has been and always will be, “Death to the fascists! Power to the workers!”

 

Massive strikes are also occurring in Bangladesh as over 50,000 garment workers rallied in Dhaka.  The workers in Bangladesh provide $20 Billion dollars worth of production international capitalists, yet they make about half of what a Cambodian factory worker will make.  They were offered a raise of 20%, which they rightly called “inhuman and humiliating.”  They correctly replied with,“We are not the object of mercy, the economy moves with our toil,” pointing out that all value is produced by the working class and then stolen by the parasitical ruling class.  Thousands of workers in Bangladesh have been murdered in fires and building implosions this past year in the pursuit of profit.  Though all of these working class deaths were mostly women, there were men and children who died as well.  The families of those affected are also in desperate situations since capitalism doesn’t have to take care of the working class, only its own profit. 

 

As the working class fights back, PLP will continue to grow.  Our friends in Greece and Bangladesh will continue to spread our message of Communist Revolution.  Anybody who wants to help build a new world that meets our needs should also help to build the PLP.

      

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Stella Strikers’ Open Letter to Ohio Workers

The Stella D’oro strikers have asked CHALLENGE to print excerpts from an open letter from Stella D’oro Workers in the Bronx to Lance Workers in Ashland, Ohio:

Dear Workers at Lance:

We work at the Stella D’Oro bakery in the Bronx in NYC. Many of us have worked for the company for as many as 30 years.

In 2006, a private equity firm, Brynwood Partners, bought Stella D’Oro to squeeze out a higher rate of profit for its investors. In 2008, Brynwood’s demanded that the assembly line workers accept a 25% wage-cut, as well as a reduction in health benefits, sick days and vacation time. Our union offered to negotiate but Brynwood said, “Take it or leave it,” and imposed the new terms.

Lance managers will tell you that we were greedy. But how could we accept a 25% wage-cut? Our rents and mortgages weren’t going to be reduced, nor were food prices, or college tuition payments for our children! It was the greed of the multi-millionaires who run Brynwood Partners that forced us to strike.

For eleven months we existed on unemployment insurance, but not a single person crossed the picket line. Then word of our struggle began reaching people throughout the city. Transit workers, teachers and professors, postal workers, students and others came to our picket line. Thousands came to plant rallies, union members throughout the state donated money to support us, and thousands of customers refused to buy Stella D’Oro products during the strike.

At the end of June, the NLRB ruled that the company had to take us back and bargain in good faith. We thought we had won. But only a few days later, Brynwood announced that it planned to close the plant in October, in a city with 10% unemployment.

You know what happened: Brynwood sold the Stella D’Oro name and plant machinery to Lance, which plans to make some of its products in Ashland. We know that unemployment is high in Ohio, as companies have moved better-paying jobs to low-wage areas. That’s what Lance is doing here! It has no intention of giving you the same wages and benefits we had won through years of struggle. It will pay you a fraction of our hourly wage, give you an inferior health plan, and provide fewer sick days and vacation time. And we bet it won’t bring all 135 jobs to Ashland, just as it didn’t rehire all the unemployed Archway workers when it took over your bakery.

We want you to know that we don’t blame you for what’s happening. We also want you to know that we’re not going down without a fight. We can’t afford to lose our jobs. There will be rallies throughout NYC demanding that Stella D’Oro stay in the Bronx.

The owners want to keep us separate, pit the Ashland and Bronx workers against each other. But every gain for labor has come when working people united and fought together for things they needed: a shorter work-week, pensions, health care, social security. In these rough times, our unity is more important than ever. We ask you to understand our position and offer whatever solidarity you can.

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France: Thousands Strike Against Job Cuts

UZES, FRANCE, Sept. 11—The summer holiday season is over and the first strikes and demonstrations against job cuts and worsening conditions are breaking out. A case in point: high school teachers struck the whole first week of classes in this small town in Southern France (pop. 7,800, 2004 unemployment rate: 19%, average weekly household income: 275 euros), occupying the principal’s office on Sept. 1. The strikers were mobilizing against obligatory overtime and over-crowded classes. The local board of education refused even to receive a parent-teacher delegation on Sept. 4.

The French banks have lost nearly 20 billion euros since the beginning of the subprime crisis, practically throwing the economy into recession. According to UNEDIC (the French unemployment agency), 35,000 workers lost their jobs in the second quarter of 2008. And the real income of the average French household fell over the past year, according to the National Consumption Institute. But workers are fighting back:
Hospital workers struck at the public hospital in Strasbourg yesterday to protest the administration policy of placing profits over patient lives and the resulting multi-tasking of hospital workers.

Over 2,000 auto workers struck Renault plants across France today against the planned axing of 4,000 jobs, which comes on top of 10,000 job losses over the past three years.

And thousands of teachers demonstrated today in over half of France’s 100 départements (the equivalent of a county), with strikes in five départements (Ardennes, Champagne, Essonne, Guadeloupe and Marne) to protest job cuts: 11,200 this year, 13,500 planned next year, and 40,000 over the next three years.
Five postal workers’ unions are calling for a 24-hour national strike and demonstrations throughout France on Sept. 23 to protest government plans to privatize the postal service.

Finally, six trade union federations are calling for a national protest on Oct. 7, the “world day for decent work” organized by the reformist International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
But all this indicates is that the reformist and reactionary trade union leaders, with the radical unions in tow, are pursuing their usual strategy of launching isolated local protests and 24-hour strikes in the hope of “building momentum” for a big national demonstration, and possibly a nation-wide 24-hour strike. This piecemeal strategy has failed to obtain any gains for workers since 1995.

As a result, Education Minister Xavier Darcos felt safe heaping scorn on the protesting teachers when he appeared on national television today, proclaiming “I love teachers” while denouncing teachers unions as promoting a “strike first, negotiate later culture,” and denying that job cuts are resulting in larger class sizes and poorer education.

Leftist trade unionists here are trying to overcome the piecemeal strategy by pushing for an unlimited general strike, like the one that shut down France for two months in 1968. But that experience shows that even an unlimited general strike, if it leaves the capitalist system intact, falls short of what the working class needs— particularly in this age of worldwide capitalist crisis, more racism and endless wars. Workers here need to turn these struggles into schools for communism, and build a revolutionary internationalist movement to fight for the only real solution to the bosses’ attacks: communism.

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Pacifism Hindered Calif. Mass Farmworkers’ Strikes

My experiences of many decades of organizing among farmworkers have shown me that pacifism causes despair for  workers engaged in struggles, and even for pacifists themselves when reality hits them in the face.

In general, pacifists are religious believers, they hate violence particularly when it comes to labor conflicts.

According to their religious dogmas, humans shouldn’t be the ones   to decide about their lives. This is up to a divine being. In this way, they look good in front of their god and with the bosses, but not in front of their fellow workers in struggle. They believe that through sacrifices and suffering, even with hunger strikes, the bosses will get a conscience and will stop exploiting workers. Cesar Chávez, who was the leader of the United Farmworkers’ Union (UFWU), became famous with his hunger strikes and urged others to do the same during the strikes in the California fields from 1965-70. These mass struggles were almost lost because of Chávez’s pacifist philosophy.  His pacifism didn’t only put a break in the the advance of the struggle, but also castrated it, taking away all its strength that could lead to victory in a shorter time. Thanks to the militancy of many strikers who didn’t think like Chávez, the strike wasn’t lost.

Most pacifists are not enemies of workers, but because of their fear of god and the bosses they think it is better to be a pacifist in the the struggle. But, when honest pacifists participate in labor conflicts and reality hits them in the face, they begin to change their attitude and end up joining the non-pacifists.

It happened in 1973 when the Calif. growers refused to renew the UFWU labor contracts and another strike erupted. And this one was rather violent. Then those who opted for pacifism (even preachers and priests) joined the rest of the workers, forgetting about non-violent strategies and took part in the struggle as if they had never been pacifist.

I think it is important to wage ideological struggle with workers involved in class struggle. We must bring to them the workers’ philosophy to distinguish between who are our friends and our enemies. We mustn’t fall in the anti-working class trap put up by politicians, bosses and even the same leaders which trust in the “justice” of the corrupt capitalist system.

A Veteran of the Fight-backs in Calif.

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Axle Strikers Holding Fast Despite UAW Sabotage

DETROIT, MI, April 18 — Workers and students from Chicago drove here to picket in solidarity with the American Axle (AAM) strikers. Originally we planned to join a giant solidarity rally, but the UAW leadership cancelled it, angering the workers. But when we said we’d come to meet the strikers anyway, the  workers made us feel right at home.

On strike for seven weeks, the 3,600 workers are fighting company demands to cut wages from an average $25/hr to $14/hr, convert company pensions into 401(K)s and eliminate 1,000 jobs. The strike has mainly affected production of GM pick-up trucks and SUVs. One worker told us, “AAM has diversified and we supply other car giants like Toyota.” But scabbing supervisors have maintained some level of production of Toyota axles. Chrysler is unaffected since their parts come from Saltillo, Mexico, where workers make 70 cents an hour!

The strike has caused layoffs of 25,000 GM workers and thousands more in the parts-supplier plants. One worker told a story about the bosses bringing charts to a meeting to show workers who they were competing against. Of the nine names listed, seven were AAM-owned factories in other countries. He left the meeting saying, “We’re in competition with ourselves!” AAM is a global corporation with plants from Mexico to China. This worldwide battle among the bosses for markets, resources and cheap labor (imperialism) is behind the AAM strike.

While talking to the workers, distributing water and CHALLENGE, every car driving by honked their horns in support of the picketing black, Latin and white workers. They’re not hopeful of any agreement coming soon. Many said they would vote against any concession contract. “We’ve already been out here this long, there’s no point in caving in now,” said one.

Meanwhile, the UAW international leadership has taken the negotiations away from the local, attempting to force the same sell-out contract they’ve signed with the entire auto industry.

With Detroit facing decades of racist cutbacks and decay caused by the retreating U.S. auto bosses, it’s easy to see the source of the anger in the eyes of these workers. They speculate about how big a buy-out will be offered and how management will try to eliminate the most senior, highest-paid workers.

Several years ago AAM tried to implement a 2-tier wage system. Detroit workers rejected it but the contract passed after the company threatened to close the Buffalo, NY plant if they didn’t approve it. When they voted “yes” the plant was closed anyway. Some of the laid-off Buffalo workers ended up at the Detroit plant and are now standing among the strikers as living reminders of how AAM lied.

When we asked workers whether they’d take the buy-out, some immediately said, “No.” Some were undecided. Younger workers said they’d take it, and either look for work, open a business or go back to school.

Now that GM’s supply of unsold cars is dwindling, there may be pressure on AAM to settle, but GM wants this wage-cut as much as AAM. The major assemblers have been pressuring the parts suppliers to slash wages and cut costs so they can buy cheaper parts. That’s why they created this system of outsourcing decades ago.

All the workers thanked us for our solidarity. We invited them to May Day and obtained contact information.
The struggle against wage slavery lasts many lifetimes. The system cannot be fixed. As one worker said, “You cannot reform evil!”

Workers, and work itself, should not be a commodity with a price tag. We should contribute what we can and receive what we need. But it will take communist revolution to build that world. Let the AAM strike remind us why we fight for communism, and strengthen our will to fight!

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