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Edward S. Herman
F. Ivan Goldberg
Fighting for Peace
Lawrence S. Wittner
Occupy the Food Prize
War on Wages
U.S War on Drugs
FIELD NOTES FROM AFGHANISTAN
Books and Music
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The War On Wages
Mitt Romney, who helped build his massive fortune by serving as a “pioneer” in offshoring family-sustaining jobs to low-wage sweatshops in
Of course, the key tenets of the Romney-Ryan campaign were aimed precisely at destroying any support for wages in the $25 range. Romney’s pledge of higher pay for U.S. workers collided directly with his support for a national “right-to-work” law designed to virtually eradicate unionism, his support for running-mate Paul Ryan’s proposal for eliminating taxes on the profits from overseas plants operated by major U.S. firms would heighten the incentives for moving highly-paid jobs outside the U.S., and his call for “making America the most favorable and competitive.”
This push for “improving” competitiveness in the global economy translates into deteriorating conditions in the lives of working families. While unions and their members have been a primary target, the result has been a flattening of earnings across the middle class.
Amid a general push to drive down pay for American workers, there are mounting signs that major
Formal democracy in the U.S. and other advanced societies is now focused on “responding to the global market forces as advantageously as possible and apportioning the resulting gains and losses—while trying to manage public opinion...in accordance with the electoral cycle,” as Martin Leys described the state of governance in Market-Driven Politics. As a result, “Society is being shaped in ways that served the needs of capital accumulation rather than the other way around.”
The careful circumvention of critical issues like declining living standards by the major parties and the inability of voters to hold elected officials to fundamental commitments was sharply depicted by Kevin Baker writing in Harper’s. Baker pointed to Obama’s willingness to consider a “grand bargain” with Republicans under which Social Security and Medicare benefits would be cut, in spite of overwhelming opposition from the public, especially Democratic voters and Obama’s own pledges in the past. “Just as Western capitalism deindustrializes, offshoring industry, cutting wages and benefits, eliminating workers’ rights and protections—so Western democracy depoliticizes, its major parties expelling or silencing entire constituencies, scorning the participation of groups that once sustained them,” observed Baker.
The Obama administration’s defense of its policies as “saving Wall Street in order to rescue Main Street” was increasingly seen as a veiled form of trickle- down economics, as the Administration consistently consulted and courted Wall Street while allowing CEOs and bankers to set the terms of policy of critical issues like unemployment and home foreclosure. In contrast, the poor and working-class victims of shattering economic dislocations in their lives were effectively excluded from helping to shape programs to reconstruct their lives. No wonder, then, that Democracy Corps pollsters Michael Bocian and Andrew Baumann found in the spring of 2010 that, “Just 3 percent agreed that government’s policies helped ‘the average working person’ or ‘you and your family’” and “a 48 percent plurality of voters think Obama and Democrats put bailing out Wall Street ahead of creating jobs for ordinary Americans.”
President Obama’s campaign glided over the all-out attack on workers’ living standards—in terms of wages, healthcare benefits, pensions, job security, and public safety-net programs—being waged by corporate leaders. Obama devoted much of his campaign to touting his success in stimulating 31 straight months of “private-sector” job creation. But with this emphasis, Obama failed to address the sharp deterioration in the quality of jobs in the private sector as major corporations launched a war on decent wages and failed to defend the vital role of public-sector jobs in both providing needed services and stimulating the economy during economic slowdowns. Obama’s electoral strategy of stressing his successes in getting the U.S. out of its deepest crisis in 80 years—while giving limited recognition to the continuing suffering of the under-employed and jobless and poor—surely left millions of Americans feeling shut out from his vision of America, just as Romney derisively dismissed 47 percent of Americans as “dependent” wards of government.
Repudiation Of Social Compact
The assault on wages and middle-class living standards represents a radical u-turn from the unwritten “social compact” followed by leading corporations from roughly 1940 to the mid-1970s, during which corporate leaders reluctantly accepted the unionization of their workforces and paid out substantially higher wages in exchange for shop-floor peace and a vastly-expanded domestic consumer market. Unions in the
However, U.S. employers were determined to escape any sharing of power with unionized workers, even though U.S. labor law provides none of the relatively expansive democratic features in Western European labor law (e.g., in Germany, workers must have representation on corporate boards of directors). After a post-WWII strike wave, the spread of “right-to-work” laws that enabled bosses to shape docile non-union workforces—set up by the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947—gradually made the old Confederacy increasingly attractive to employers seeking to escape unionized workers and pro-union communities in the North. The low unionization rates once common only in the South have become the national norm: just 7.9 percent of American private-sector workers are now in unions. Ironically, non-union Southern communities are being de-industrialized by employers seeking even lower wages and moving on to
A trend that has been labeled “Caterpillar Capitalism” has begun to emerge. Corporations flush with record profits nonetheless exercise their leverage to extract wage concessions. The exemplar, Caterpillar, with profits of $4.8 billion in 2011 and CEO Douglas Oberhelman enjoying a 60 percent increase in his compensation to $16.9 million, chose to target machinists in Joliet, Illinois to impose massive concessions—including a 6-year wage freeze, a doubling of health care premiums and cuts to pensions. Caterpillar had previously been a leader in forcing the acceptance of 2-tier wage structures, under which new workers receive 50 to 60 percent of veteran workers, along with far more limited health and retirement benefits. The 2-tier trend has spread to GM, Chrysler, and Ford, with new hires beginning the brutally-paced work at around $14 an hour. In
Between 2004 and 2010, GE cut the number of
The wage-slashing is about to become more widespread at GE’s non-union plants, based on GE memos obtained by the UE’s Townsend. In last year’s negotiations with a coalition of unions, GE repeatedly informed labor that it viewed $13 per hour a competitive wage in manufacturing, recalled Townsend. Alert to trends among U.S.-based firms, foreign-owned firms are emulating the downward spike in wages. “
According to Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. The new super-rich are “less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.” The
Global Consumers, Impoverished Amercians
The secession from domestic concerns extends to issues like healthcare, education, and global warming. Referring to the need for massive investments in healthcare, energy, and technology to ensure continuing U.S. competitiveness, even globalization cheerleader Thomas Friedman of the New York Times was uncharacteristically critical of the nation’s CEOs: “When I look around for the group that has both the power and interest in seeing America remain globally focused and competitive—America’s business leaders—they seem to be missing in action.”
At the same time as the bubble of “plutonomy” has emerged for the super-rich,
A substantial part of the income loss can be explained by employers engaging in what the NY Times’ Louis Uchitelle called the largest wave of wage-slashing since the Great Depression. The almost non-existent level of job creation—under 1 percent from 1999 to 2009, the worst decade since World War II when job growth had ranged from 22 percent to 38 percent—strengthened the hand of employers in holding down pay and trimming benefits. The panic created by the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 and the ensuing loss of 8.5 million jobs added to management leverage, already strong because of labor unions’ weakened bargaining power, to push wages down further.
But the level of
Roger Bybee is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.