This Labor Day, Remember That Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign Was for Workers’ Rights

Most Americans today know that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, but few know why he was there. King went to Memphis to support African American garbage workers, who were on strike to protest unsafe conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages — and to gain recognition for their union. Their picket signs relayed a simple but profound message: “I Am A Man.”

Today we view King as something of a saint, his birthday a national holiday, and his name adorning schools and street signs. But in his day, the establishment considered King a dangerous troublemaker. He was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media. He began his activism in Montgomery, Alabama, as a crusader against the nation’s racial caste system, but the struggle for civil rights radicalized him into a fighter for broader economic and social justice.

As we celebrate Labor Day on Monday, let’s remember that King was committed to building bridges between the civil rights and labor movements.

— source | Peter Dreier | Sep 4, 2017

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50 Years of Defending and Chronicling America’s Workers

Good afternoon, everyone. My deepest thanks to the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Affairs, and to its dean, Greg Mantsios, and to Paula Finn, who came down with the flu, and so she couldn’t be here, the editor of New Labor Forum — which, by the way, is a wonderful publication, that, as Greg mentioned, I’ve been affiliated with since its inception — for organizing this event. Thanks, as well, to the Newmark School of Journalism and the Sidney Hillman Foundation for agreeing to co-sponsor; to Henry Garrido for that terrific introduction and who I’ve known, obviously, for many years; and to Alexandra Lescaze of the Hillman Foundation for agreeing to moderate the discussion that follows.

As many of you have heard, I’ll be leaving the New York area in just a few days, on Tuesday, abandoning the city I have called home for most of my life, where I grew up, the place where I was shaped professionally and politically, and will instead be relocating to Chicago, the hometown of my wife, who’s taken the new job as a professor of history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

At my age — and I just turned 75 a few weeks ago — that’s called a major change. It’s also the age when some of us start to try and make sense of things, to ascertain in the few years left to us whether we’ve managed to achieve some greater purpose and meaning to our lives beyond just progress for ourselves and our loved ones, or whether we’ve drifted

— source | Dec 23, 2022

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Role of Hawke, Labor and unions in suppressing workers’ opposition after 1975 “Canberra Coup”

Declassified US State Department documents shed fresh light on the November 11, 1975 dismissal of the elected Labor Party government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by Governor-General John Kerr, the constitutional representative of the British monarch, Australia’s head of state, using the anti-democratic royal “reserve powers” vested in his position.

In particular, the cables sent from the US Embassy in Canberra show Washington’s appreciation of the pivotal role of Whitlam himself, along with the then Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Bob Hawke, assisted by the Stalinist leaders of key unions, in blocking workers’ demands for a general strike.

The “Canberra Coup” tore open the façade of the parliamentary system, and revealed that standing behind it is a ruling class prepared to resort to outright dictatorship when it considers that its interests require such methods.

It was part of the response in the ruling classes internationally to the global upsurge of the working class and potentially revolutionary struggles that initially erupted with May–June 1968 general strike in France. That was followed by the “Hot Autumn” in Italy in 1969, a general strike in Australia in May 1969, a wave of struggles in Britain,

— source | Mike Head | 8 Aug 2021

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Washington involvement in the lead up to the 1975 Canberra Coup

Today, the population of Australia is being subjected to a constant barrage of totally unsubstantiated claims by the media, intelligence agencies and politicians of Chinese “interference” in Australian politics. This is in line with the drive by US governments to confront Beijing and reassert Washington’s global hegemony.

But the almost daily reports from the Canberra embassy in 1974–75 on the unprecedented political crisis that developed during that time demonstrate that the main source of “foreign interference” in Australia since World War II has been US imperialism.

Washington’s active intervention culminated in the veneer of parliamentary democracy being torn aside to remove an elected government in November 1975, provoking massive opposition throughout the working class.

The embassy’s secret consultations with Labor and union leaders, notably Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Labor Party president Bob Hawke, throughout this period

— source | Mike Head | 2 Aug 2021

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Reliance on trade unions to suppress working-class unrest in Australia

Declassified US diplomatic cables from the 1970s have revealed the intense, daily preoccupation by the American State Department—and its many informants throughout the Labor Party and trade union leadership—with how to contain and quash the eruption of potentially revolutionary working-class rebellions in Australia and internationally.

The extremely limited media coverage of a recently-published study of the documents has focused on the revelation that Bob Hawke, who later became a Labor Party prime minister, was a highly-valued and constant “informer” to the US government while the head of the Australian trade union movement and president of the Labor Party during the 1970s.

But the partly-released secret cables from 1973 to 1979 point to much more than that. It was not just Hawke scheming with US ambassadors and labour attachés. A roll call of Labor and union leaders were secretly consulting with US officials throughout this convulsive period of mass working-class upsurges. They included future Labor leader, foreign minister

— source | Mike Head | 20 Jul 2021

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Working people need political representation

The U.S. labor movement has gained traction in the past year with successful organizing drives at the first Amazon warehouse and Apple store, along with some 250 Starbucks stores and many others. Polls show more than 70% of Americans support labor unions. Democrats in Congress have proposed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, known as the PRO Act, to make it easier for workers to unionize. The bill faces defeat if Republicans take control of the Senate.

Because working people everywhere have had it. Enough is enough. They are joining together to use their power, to take low-wage poverty jobs at Amazon warehouses and Starbucks stores and all the places you just mentioned, and joining together and demanding a union from their employer and demanding elected officials support them in the demand to tackle the worst economic and racial inequality in our time. And that’s why I was proud to be with Mandela Barnes at that roundtable and then march all of the nonunion workers that are organizing in Milwaukee with our members to the early vote site at the Fiserv Forum so that people could kick off the early voting that’s happening now in Milwaukee.

— source | Nov 02, 2022

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Vineyard owner Governor Threatens to Veto Farmworker Union Bill

Hundreds of farmworkers concluded a 24-day march to Sacramento spanning 335 miles to demand California Governor Gavin Newsom support legislation that would make it easier for farmworkers to cast their ballots in union elections by mail. Newsom has threatened to veto the bill, which would keep farmworkers safe from employer retaliation, explains Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers, the labor union that helped organize the march. We also speak with Irene de Barraicua, operations director of Líderes Campesinas, who describes the ongoing threats women agricultural workers and others face on the ground, including sexual harrassment, wage theft and exposure to toxic chemicals.

And definitely, after the past two years of this pandemic — right? — where farmworkers were deemed essential, many of the issues that farmworkers have faced for many years have been brought to light at a global level. And so, many of the farmworkers also understand that their voice means so much, they need to lift their voices.

And so, this march, what it represents is sort of this ongoing fight to obtain the rights that they’ve never had. I mean, they are some of the most at-risk workers. They risk injury more than any other labor sector. They are exposed to pesticides, to sexual assault, to wage theft, all sorts of abuses that one cannot imagine. And so, what this march

— source | Aug 29, 2022

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Teachers Union in Ohio Went on Strike for Students—and Won

Students, teachers, and support staff in Ohio’s largest school district returned to the classroom on Monday after the Columbus Education Association won a new contract and ended its weeklong strike. Gathered at the local minor league ballpark on Sunday, CEA members voted 71% to 29% to approve a three-year contract with Columbus City Schools that satisfies most of the union’s demands, which revolved around improving students’ learning environments and opportunities. In addition to much-needed improvements to learning and working conditions, the roughly 4,500-member union—representing teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors, and other education professionals—was able to secure better pay and benefits.

— source | Aug 29, 2022

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U.S. Approval of Labor Unions at Highest Point Since 1965

Seventy-one percent of Americans now approve of labor unions. Although statistically similar to last year’s 68%, it is up from 64% before the pandemic and is the highest Gallup has recorded on this measure since 1965. The latest approval figure comes amid a burst of 2022 union victories across the country, with high-profile successes at major American corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks. The National Labor Relations Board reported a 57% increase in union election petitions filed during the first six months of fiscal year 2021. Support for labor unions was highest in the 1950s, when three in four Americans said they approved. Support only dipped below the 50% mark once, in 2009, but has improved in the 13 years since and now sits at a level last seen nearly 60 years ago.

— source | Sep 2, 2022

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Strike, Strike, Strike

The ruling oligarchs are terrified that, for tens of millions of people, the economic dislocation caused by inflation, stagnant wages, austerity, the pandemic and the energy crisis is becoming unendurable. They warn, as Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and NATO Secretary GeneraJens Stoltenberg, have done, about the potential for social unrest, especially as we head towards winter.

Social unrest is a code word for strikes — the one weapon workers possess that can cripple and destroy the billionaire class’s economic and political power. Strikes are what the global oligarchs fear most. Through the courts and police intervention, they will seek to prevent workers from shutting down the economy. This looming battle is crucial. If we begin to chip away at corporate power through strikes, most of which will probably be wildcat strikes that defy union leadership and anti-union laws, we can begin to regain agency over our lives.

The oligarchs have spent decades abolishing or domesticating unions, turning the few unions that remain — only 10.7 percent of the workforce is unionized — into obsequious junior

— source | Chris Hedges | Sep 18, 2022

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