Volume 21, Number 7
Fannie Lou Hamer
Winter Soldier II
Behind the Scenes
Center for constitutional rights -- Ccr
CÃ©sar cuauhtÃ©moc GarcÃÂa hernÃ¡ndez
Pentagon's Toxic Legacy
Jeffrey st. Clair
Vietnam to Dude...
Body of War
Soldiers of Reason
Zinn's American Empire
Vision - Cooling Planet
Chomsky, Pappé Interview
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The writers strike and intellectual labor in the U.S.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike this winter against TV and movie producers was one of the longest successful white-collar worker strikes in
As important as the significant concessions won by the writers is the fact that their victory might ignite a new, more militant phase of white-collar labor organizing. It might embolden dissatisfied "knowledge" workers to more militancy in the face of corporate
This insurgency could be expressed in increased organizing among non-unionized workers and increased militancy among unionized workers. Equally important, intellectual workers may turn to a host of other actions to express their growing dissatisfaction with corporate capitalism. Some might have wildcat walkouts; others may resort to wage-and-hour lawsuits; still others might come up with more creative actions. All are aware that the once renowned "creative class" is being systematically turned into a new blue-collar workforce, with automation rendering creative labor, be it scriptwriting, software development, videogame programming, or engineering rendering, into just one more de-skilled, mechanized process of the intellectual factory system.
Estimates of the strike's impact on the entertainment business range from $1-$1.5 billion. The writers' victory set two critical precedents. The contract gave the WGA jurisdiction over web writers and it provided the union with auditable accountability to monitor new media markets. Under the three-year deal, after a "promotional" window of 17 to 24 days of web downloads, writers get a flat fee for the first 2 years (maximum flat fee of about $1,200) and 2 percent of gross sales in the third year of the electronic sell-through and ad-supported streaming of feature films, television programs, and web-isodes and mob-isodes (programming for web as well as cell phones and PDAs).
Michael Winship, president of Writers Guild East, summarized the results: "Not only does [the victory] establish Writers Guild jurisdiction in new media, it gives writers the same separated rights provisions in new media enjoyed by the creators of original TV and motion picture scripts, as well as residuals for the reuse of movies and television programs on the Internet and in new media."
The writers learned from the bitter experience of the 1988 strike that screwed them in terms of new media residuals. In the earlier strike, the Guild ceded control of home video. It settled for residuals of 0.3 percent on the first million of "reported" units sold and 0.36 percent thereafter. Over time, however, writers complained that without the ability to audit producers reports, they could never get an honest accounting and proper residuals. For those familiar with
For more than a quarter century writers and other white-collar workers have been assigned a critical role by sociologists speculating about the evolving structure of contemporary capitalism. Among the leading proponents of the central role of intellectual labor are Daniel Bell, The Coming of the Post-Industrial Society (1973) and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976); Alvin Toffler, The Cultural Consumer (1965); and, most recently, Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class (2002).
A different estimate is suggested by the U.S. Census Bureau. It defines the culture industry in a very revealing way: "Cultural products are those that directly express attitudes, opinions, ideas, values, and artistic creativity; provide entertainment; or offer information and analysis concerning the past and the present.... The intangible property aspect of information and cultural products make the processes involved in their production and distribution very different from goods and services. Only those possessing the rights of these works are authorized to reproduce, alter, improve, and distribute them."
It divides the culture industry into two sectors, "information services" and "art, entertainment and recreation." The former covers media production and distribution, including publishing, recorded entertainment and broadcasting; the latter covers the creative source themselves, be they individual artists, writers, or performers, or performing arts groups like theaters or dance companies. Based on census data, in 2001, just over 175,000 firms were operating in the arts and media part of the culture industry; these firms employed a total of 5.5 million people and generated payroll totaling over $250 billion.
The fundamental weakness of the
"To some degree, Karl Marx had it partly right when he foresaw that workers would someday control the means of production.... Rather, more workers than ever control the means of production because it is inside their heads; they are the means of production."
The writers' strike was a battle over the control of the product of intellectual labor as much as over the equitable remuneration for that product. Drawing out Marx for the second-half of the 20th century, Harry Braverman argued in Labor and Monopoly Capital (Monthly Review Press, 1981) that capitalism is merciless in its ceaseless effort to turn social relations into market relations, to colonize all aspects of human life and reduce them to commodities. Increasingly, this process of plunder has been applied to creativity, information, and knowledge. As Christopher May points out, capitalism does this by the "rendering of knowledge as property through patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other instruments transforming knowledge that might be regarded as commonly available to everyone into property owned by the few" ("Trouble in E-topia: Knowledge as Intellectual Property," Urban Studies, vol. 39, 2002).
Emboldened by the writers strike in December 2007, "permalancers" at MTV Networks wildcatted over planned benefit cuts. Hundreds of 20- and 30-something freelance contractors walked out. With handmade placards shouting "Shame on Viacom" and "Sick-elodeon," these permalancers paraded in front of MTV's corporate headquarters in
These workers rebelled after Viacom, MTV's parent company, arbitrarily revised their contracts, reducing health, dental, and pension benefits. Viacom owns MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central as well as innumerable websites and streaming services. It employs hundreds, if not thousands, of freelance contractors who, like the independent producers who create many of the original shows seen on the networks, work on a contract or project basis. Many receive no benefits.
After three days of picketing and other labor actions that garnered much media attention, an embarrassed Viacom/MTV capitulated to some of the workers' demands. It agreed to allow some contract workers to keep their health and dental plans and to convert some of the contract jobs into full-time staff positions.
Earlier, in 2000, members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) struck Boeing. The association, which represented some 22,000 engineers, scientists, manual writers, software designers, and technicians, walked out in a 38-day successful strike that affected plants in Washington, Kansas, Florida, California, Oregon, Texas, and Utah (though the International Association of Machinists, the largest union at Boeing, refused to honor the SPEEA picket lines.) As another tactic, a growing number of creative and technical workers are turning to wage-and-hour lawsuits to address workplace inequities. In 2004 game developers at Electronic Arts (EA), the largest videogame company, sued over wage-and-hour violations of the California Labor Code. In two court judgments, the first in October 2005 and a second in April 2006, EA agreed to pay $15.6 million to the graphic artists and $14.9 million to the software engineers to end the cases.
EA was not alone in facing challenges from disgruntled game employees. Also in 2004, Neil Aitken, a programmer at Vivendi Universal Games, charged the company with violating
Other high-tech workers have successfully used wage claims to address workplace disputes. Over the last couple of years, IBM was forced to pay over $65 million to technical and customer-support workers and Siebel Systems agreed to pay $27.5 million to about 800 software engineers. Two huge financial services firms, Citigroup's Smith Barney and UBS Financial Services Inc., have also accepted hefty judgments, $98 million and $87 million, respectively.
The collective impact of labor-violation lawsuits is considerable. Michael Orey, writing in Business Week last year, estimated that "$1 billion annually [is paid] to resolve these claims, which are usually brought on behalf of large groups of employees" ("Wage Wars," September 24, 2007). However, while companies agree to pay the settlements, they nearly always refuse to admit liability.
Other intellectual and technical workers are involved in unionizing campaigns. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) is battling two of the world's leading technology conglomerates, Microsoft and IBM. WashTech was formed in 1998 by disgruntled Microsoft contract employees and quickly affiliated with the union. It actively campaigns against Microsoft's Byzantine pay-grade system and performance-review ranking system. The CWA formed Alliance@IBM with a mission to support temp workers after IBM lost its wage-and-hour lawsuit. The company is reported to have recently altered compensation plans for 7,600 technical-support employees who often work at home and, the union says, imposed pay cuts. The
Other organizing efforts include the Freelancers Union in
University and community-college part- and full-time adjunct instructors are also organizing to address workplace inequities. Many university adjuncts refer to themselves as the "academic proletariat." According to the New York Times, three decades ago they constituted only 43 percent of the academic faculty, whereas in 2007 they made up nearly 70 percent of teachers at colleges and universities, both public and private. At the City University of New York, for example, there are 10,000 part-time instructors, constituting approximately 60 percent of the teaching faculty, and they teach about half of the classes.
Different organizing efforts are being pursued. For example, last year, the National Education Association joined with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to deal with the growth of adjunct faculty positions. More aggressively, in 2002, the United Auto Workers defeated the AFT in an election to represent part-time adjunct professors at
All the hype generated by the strike often left out that the number of white-collar workers is expanding while the relative proportion who do not hold staff positions (with attendant rights and benefits) is similarly increasing.
The makeup of the Writers Guild West is illustrative of this problem. The West Coast guild has approximately 8,000 dues-paying members. According to Chuck Slocum, director of WGA-West special projects, there are "around 3,850 writers employed in a given year." He estimates that about 2,500 to 2,600 writers are employed in television and about 1,600 work in feature film (the statistical difference represents those who write for both media). He points out that employed writers secure "about 50 percent employment in a given calendar year." Slocum also admits that the guild is dominated by white men in their 40s and 50s, so the relative employment rates for women and "minorities" (i.e., people of color) are considerably less.
High-end creative work—whether done by a Hollywood writer, Silicon Valley software developer,
Many of the pundits who covered the writers strike share
Today's intellectual labor force is marked by a unique combination of the hippest creativity with the most blatant commercialism, the most progressive politics and selfish opportunism. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is that you have to commercialize your creative efforts, marketing your spirit as a profitable commodity. This is required merely to survive financially—forget about being a success or a celebrity.
During the writers strike,
This differentiation between craft-workers and industrial-workers is important, representing the growing polarities splitting workers within the cultural industry and the unionizing options likely to define further organizing.
This split represents the twin impulses of today's creative workers. On one side are the craftspeople, meticulous in their practice, like illuminators of the past or writers of the present. On the other side are laborers, like the preachers and teachers of both the past and the present and, increasingly, academic adjuncts. The effectiveness of American unions and professional associations (like the engineers who struck Boeing) to organize these two sectors of intellectual labor and to promote more assertive labor demands will define the mounting struggle against conglomerate capital.
The line between the poor, working, and middle classes is disappearing. And so, too, the ideological illusions that, since the end of World War II, ground so much of America's social relations. Hopefully, this will reinvigorate a creative workers' movement (aligned with popular groups) that will seriously challenge corporate
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: email@example.com; 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; 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; email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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; email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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; email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com; 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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/; email@example.com.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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; email@example.com; 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: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; 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.