From the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, updates, information, news, analysis, and organizing materials in solidarity with workers of the world.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Card Check and Gut Check

Thursday, May 14, 2009

If our nation was governed by business's version of democratic choice, we would hold elections to determine the winner, but nearly half the time the incumbent would remain in power even if he lost.

In its campaign to derail the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), business has fearlessly depicted itself as the defender of elections and the secret ballot as well as the foe of the dread "card check" -- the process, championed by unions and included within EFCA, that would allow workers to sign union affiliation cards rather than compelling them to go through a ratification election in which harassment and firings of workers are all too common.


But the kind of democratic choice that business favors is choice without consequence -- a position made clear by its opposition to the other key component of EFCA: binding arbitration between company and union if they've been unable to agree on a contract within 120 days of a union winning the election. A study of first-contract negotiations by John-Paul Ferguson and Thomas A. Kochan of MIT's Sloan School of Management makes clear why such arbitration is needed. After surveying 22,000 unionization campaigns between 1999 and 2004, the authors found that even after a majority of workers voted for a union, they actually reached a contractual agreement with management (which is currently under no legal obligation to come to an agreement) only 56 percent of the time.

Heads, management wins. Tails, the employees lose.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Merrillville Indiana USW Rally "Keep it Made in America"

On May 11 hundreds of Steelworkers rallied in Merrillville Indiana demanding that manufacturing jobs be maintained in America.

Lonnie Randolf, Indiana State Representative and Tom Conway, United Steelworkers Vice President speaking:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Falling Wage Syndrome

The New York Times
Published: May 3, 2009

Paul Krugman

Wages are falling all across America.

Some of the wage cuts, like the givebacks by Chrysler workers, are the price of federal aid. Others, like the tentative agreement on a salary cut here at The Times, are the result of discussions between employers and their union employees. Still others reflect the brute fact of a weak labor market: workers don’t dare protest when their wages are cut, because they don’t think they can find other jobs.

Whatever the specifics, however, falling wages are a symptom of a sick economy. And they’re a symptom that can make the economy even sicker.

First things first: anecdotes about falling wages are proliferating, but how broad is the phenomenon? The answer is, very.

It’s true that many workers are still getting pay increases. But there are enough pay cuts out there that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of employing workers in the private sector rose only two-tenths of a percent in the first quarter of this year — the lowest increase on record. Since the job market is still getting worse, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if overall wages started falling later this year.

But why is that a bad thing? After all, many workers are accepting pay cuts in order to save jobs. What’s wrong with that?

The answer lies in one of those paradoxes that plague our economy right now. We’re suffering from the paradox of thrift: saving is a virtue, but when everyone tries to sharply increase saving at the same time, the effect is a depressed economy. We’re suffering from the paradox of deleveraging: reducing debt and cleaning up balance sheets is good, but when everyone tries to sell off assets and pay down debt at the same time, the result is a financial crisis.

And soon we may be facing the paradox of wages: workers at any one company can help save their jobs by accepting lower wages, but when employers across the economy cut wages at the same time, the result is higher unemployment.

Here’s how the paradox works. Suppose that workers at the XYZ Corporation accept a pay cut. That lets XYZ management cut prices, making its products more competitive. Sales rise, and more workers can keep their jobs. So you might think that wage cuts raise employment — which they do at the level of the individual employer.

But if everyone takes a pay cut, nobody gains a competitive advantage. So there’s no benefit to the economy from lower wages. Meanwhile, the fall in wages can worsen the economy’s problems on other fronts.

In particular, falling wages, and hence falling incomes, worsen the problem of excessive debt: your monthly mortgage payments don’t go down with your paycheck. America came into this crisis with household debt as a percentage of income at its highest level since the 1930s. Families are trying to work that debt down by saving more than they have in a decade — but as wages fall, they’re chasing a moving target. And the rising burden of debt will put downward pressure on consumer spending, keeping the economy depressed.

Things get even worse if businesses and consumers expect wages to fall further in the future. John Maynard Keynes put it clearly, more than 70 years ago: “The effect of an expectation that wages are going to sag by, say, 2 percent in the coming year will be roughly equivalent to the effect of a rise of 2 percent in the amount of interest payable for the same period.” And a rise in the effective interest rate is the last thing this economy needs.

Concern about falling wages isn’t just theory. Japan — where private-sector wages fell an average of more than 1 percent a year from 1997 to 2003 — is an object lesson in how wage deflation can contribute to economic stagnation.

So what should we conclude from the growing evidence of sagging wages in America? Mainly that stabilizing the economy isn’t enough: we need a real recovery.

There has been a lot of talk lately about green shoots and all that, and there are indeed indications that the economic plunge that began last fall may be leveling off. The National Bureau of Economic Research might even declare the recession over later this year.

But the unemployment rate is almost certainly still rising. And all signs point to a terrible job market for many months if not years to come — which is a recipe for continuing wage cuts, which will in turn keep the economy weak.

To break that vicious circle, we basically need more: more stimulus, more decisive action on the banks, more job creation.

Credit where credit is due: President Obama and his economic advisers seem to have steered the economy away from the abyss. But the risk that America will turn into Japan — that we’ll face years of deflation and stagnation — seems, if anything, to be rising.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ilinois Steelworkers protest Plant Closing

Photos by Scott Marshall

Hundreds of Steelworkers and retirees from USW Local 7367 and District 7 held a protest demonstration at the Federal Building in the Chicago Loop April 30th to demand that ArcelorMittal, the largest steel company in the world, "Use It or Sell It." ArcelorMittal is closing it's Hennepin, Illinois plant and destroying 300 good steelmaking jobs. The company is the largest employer in the area and the economic impact of the closing will be devastating to the entire community.

MayDay: Born in the USA

From Bruce Bostick

Dear Friends---

Happy May Day

May 1st is May Day, the International Workers Holiday. In every nation on earth working people gather together to celebrate a holiday dedicated to the folks that labor and produce all wealth. As well, it is a day to protest against bad conditions for working people and to join together to fight for a better and more just world.

However, a great many people here in the United States don't know that May Day originated here in the U.S.A. as a day of remembrance of those leaders of the great eight hour day movement who were arrested, imprisoned and judicially murdered in Chicago, 1886. Ever since May Day was declared an International Worker's Holiday, 122 years ago, authorities in our nation have tried and tried and tried to suppress all memory of May Day. It was re-named Flag Day and Law Day, and on Haymarket Square in Chicago, the site of murders of demonstrating workers in 1886 by Chicago cops, a number of statues of policemen were erected.

But 122 years later, working people all across the earth are again rising up, celebrating the solidarity of all working people. Flag Day and Law Day are forgotten and the numerous police statues were blown up, torn down, until it was finally moved to the Police Museum in Chicago. In 2004 the Chicago Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO paid to erect a beautiful monument to the heroic, embattled workers that demonstrated there on that May afternoon in 1886, and where many laid down their lives, in the hope that the eight hour day, and better conditions for workers, could come to be. If you visit the former Haymarket site in Chicago today, you will find that the memorial to the martyrs of that first May Day is surrounded with flowers, notes and remembrances from visitors from our nation and from nearly every nation on earth.

As well, while those of great wealth and power have done their best to erase the memory of May Day as a Worker's Holiday born in our own nation, unionists and working folks across the U.S.A. are rediscovering our own tough and bloody history, the history of those who fought to win whatever rights we have today. That inspiration is spurring new generations on to fight for right to organize, health care for all. rights for foreign and native born workers, peace and justice for all peoples!


MAY DAY---1886

The eight hour day movement began, in earnest, in 1884 at the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. That union passed a resolution to "establish eight hours work as the legal day's labor for all workers," and called for a "universal strike for the establishment of the working day of 8 hours, to take place no later that May 1, 1886."

Workers across the USA were inspired, as this movement spread. Workers ate "8 hour lunch," wore "8 hour shoes." & smoked "8 hour tobacco." The "8 hour song" swept across the nation;

"We mean to make things over, We're tired of work for naught
But bare enough to live on, ' Nere an hour for thought
We want to feel the sunshine, We want to smell the flowers
We're sure that God has willed it, We mean to have 8 hours
We're summoning our forces, From shipyard, shop & mill
Eight hours for work, 8 hours for rest, Eight hours for want we will!"

When May 1, 1886 arrived, the movement had become huge. Over 350,000 workers, from 12,000 shops struck for the eight hour day. In Chicago, over 40,000 workers walked out. Demonstrations occurred in not only in Chicago, but also New York, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Columbus, Milwaukee, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St Louis, Washington, Philadelphia and many other cities.

The wealthy were terrified and attacks on the workers were organized. In Chicago, a police force of over a thousand cops brutally attacked the demonstration, killing many workers. The numbers killed at this and other rallies isn't known, since many families took their wounded and dead home to avoid persecution.

In Chicago, a rally was called for May 4 at Haymarket square to protest these murders. But again police attacked and murdered an estimated 20-25 workers, with over 300 wounded. At this demo, a bomb was thrown, killing one cop. The papers called for blood and eight leaders of that rally were arrested and charged with murder, even though none were present at the time of the violence.

Those radical union leaders; Albert Parsons, Oscar Neebe, Samuel Fielden, August Spies, August Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg & Micheal Schawb never had any chance. The establishment papers called for their death, and were sure to get it. Seven of the eight were foreign born, but most were U.S. citizens, from Germany, England & Ireland. Parsons was a former Confederate officer, who'd hated slavery & deserted, later marrying the beautiful former slave, Lucy Parsons, who became a Union/Worker's leader in her own right. After they were convicted, August Spies, a great orator and union leader stood and told the court;

"If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement, that movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in want and misery, expect salvation, if this is your opinion, then by all means hang us! But you cannot stamp this movement of humanity out! Here you will tread upon a spark, there and there, behind you and in front of you, everywhere flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire! You can never put it out!"

On November 11, 1887, the hangings were carried out, inspite of a massive worldwide movement for their freedom.

Soon thereafter, the International Workingmen's Association, an early labor movement that had representatives from many nations, issued a call to "observe May 1st as a day of remembrance of the martyrs of May Day, and in solidarity with workers in struggles throughout the world!" The American Federation of Labor and the Knights of Labor, the union organizations in our nation, also adopted this call.

On June, 26, 1893, Illinois Governor Peter Altgeld, issued a full pardon for all the May Day defendents. He stated that "The defendents, leaders of labor, were not guilty of any crime!" They were he said, "completely innocent, victims of a packed jury, public hysteria and a biased judge!"

From that time until the present, working people throughout the world have celebrated May 1st as the Holiday for Workers. In our own nation, labor history, like that of African Americans, women, Hispanics gays and others marginalized by our society, is being rediscovered. Try as they might, the wealthy and those controlling the media cannot erase history!

In closing, it brings to mind an interview with the great American folk singer, Pete Seeker, shortly after he had finally broken the blacklist put on him during the McCarthy period and had appeared on the Smothers Brothers Show. The interviewer asked Pete, "Isn't folk music dead now Pete? Haven't people just moved on from that kind of old fashioned music?"

When Pete stopped laughing, he exclaimed; "Folk music dead? Hardly, no, never! Folk music is just what it says it is, music of the folks, people's music. Sometimes, like the people who make it, it is driven underground, covered up, forgotten for a time. But, like the people, it comes back! When the people stand up and speak out for justice, folks will make folk music! Like the people, folk music will never die!"

Like the history our people have made. We will always look back, then forward again, discovering the truth!

with love----

Bruce Bostick
(proud Steelworker)