RAY O’ LIGHT NEWSLETTER
I. The Arab Masses Brighten May Day For Us All!
II. The Tax Man Cometh for you and me, but Not for GE! Let’s Make the Rich Pay!
III. Wisconsin Battleground Update: The Struggle Continues...
IV. The National Union of Healthcare Workers Union – Still Waging the Struggle for Democratic & Militant Trade Unionism in the USA
V. Oppose U.S. Imperialist Attacks – in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and the USA!
VI. Destroy Capitalism Before It Destroys the Earth! Shut Down All Nuclear Power
“May Day, the holiday of the international working class, brings
into sharp focus two cornerstones for the successful struggle for
workers’ power, for socialism leading to communism: (1) Our struggle is not primarily national but international in character. (2) The working class makes history.”
(“May Day 2008: The International Workers Holiday Finally Coming Back to the Land of Its Birth,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #49, August-September 2008)
May Day 2011 arrives with promising times for the world revolution. The Arab masses, inspired by the popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, continue their street protests in ever greater numbers from Yemen to Jordan, from Syria to Bahrain, demanding an end to corrupt and repressive regimes and demanding economic relief through decent and stable employment. This May Day, proletarian revolutionaries and freedom loving people the world over salute the militant working class of Tunisia and Egypt who were the decisive force in the popular uprisings that were successful in toppling the dictators Ben Ali and Mubarak.
Furthermore, the fact that many popular and proletarian forces in these two countries are now demanding a more thorough-going revolution than merely the successful removal of the corrupt heads of state and their closest cronies is a direct repudiation of the political maneuvering of the Obama Administration and U.S. imperialism by means of which they are trying to maintain U.S. domination of the Middle East. Tunisian and Egyptian proletarian-led struggle is influencing the masses throughout the Middle East to do the same; it is a very encouraging sign of the great potential for the more full development of national democratic revolutionary struggles in all these countries and for the forward march to socialism. “The working class makes history.”
Precisely for this reason, the Tunisian and Egyptian masses have met with violent resistance on the part of the so-called “reform” regimes still solidly in the hands of the military and comprador bourgeoisie under the aegis of U.S. imperialism. This is all the more true for the street protesters – the workers, the peasants, the students and the unemployed youth – in the other Arab countries where the monarchical and secular military dictatorships have not yet yielded any political power at all.
As the Arab revolution continues to unfold, U.S. imperialism is leading the charge, economically, politically and militarily to contain and push back revolutionary progress in order to maintain its hegemonic control of the oil rich Middle East. The U.S. imperialist-led brutal military assault on Libya behind a “humanitarian” disguise and with the connivance of the U.N. and NATO and the invaluable blessings of the Arab League is aimed at establishing an additional and more reliable imperialist military foothold, along with Iraq, with which to protect “its” oil and strategic economic interests as the Arab people rise up in revolt.*
* See flyer distributed at the April 9th and 10th anti-war demonstrations and published in this Newsletter on page 16: “Oppose U.S. Imperialist Attacks – in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and the USA.”
The fact that this imperialist intervention has nothing to do with a principled defense of Arab democratic protesters in general or special concern for the Libyan “protesters” is clear from the following: The U.S. backed Saudi-United Arab Emirates (UAE)-Qatari military intervention against the Bahraini protesters in Bahrain, the home of the U.S. 5th fleet and banking center of the oil rich region, is designed with the same aim as the joint U.S.-French-British imperialist intervention “in defense of” “the Libyan protesters,” i.e. on the side of the heavily armed rebel army waging a civil war against the Gadhafi regime in Libya. In Libya, U.S. imperialism is “with” the imperialist-armed protesters; in Bahrain, U.S. imperialism is with the monarchy against the unarmed protesters.*
* The role of the Arab monarchy of Qatar in Libya is very instructive in this regard. Qatar is the home base for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forward headquarters directing the U.S. imperialist wars against the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan. Qatar is also the home of Al Jazeera, which from the very first street protests in Libya had broadcast (with stirring background music) CIA-packaged interviews with “protesters” in Libya (and Egypt!) speaking in excellent English and begging for U.S. and western imperialist intervention in Libya. This is in marked contrast to the street protesters of all the other Arab countries who are struggling against the reactionary regimes in their countries. For example, the current Egyptian leadership has now admitted that 846 unarmed protesters were killed during the 18 days of protests that led to Mubarak’s ouster. With justifiable pride in dealing with “their own” despots, the Egyptian protesters and others have not been seeking imperialist support for their protests at all. Nevertheless, on the basis of the propaganda war waged by Al Jazeera and the western news media against Libya, British, French and U.S. imperialist aerial bombardment was launched against Libya. Qatar became the first Arab government to participate in the unprovoked attack on Libya. In record time, Qatar, along with French imperialism, was the first government to give official recognition to the Libyan “rebel government” based in Benghazi. Lo and behold, in almost the same record time, the French and Qatari governments, while bankrolling the new “rebel” government have signed major oil contracts with the new rebel government as well.
Imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, is the main enemy of the Arab people and the international working class. What is extremely disturbing and could become a fatal flaw in these most encouraging and inspiring popular rebellions throughout the Middle East is the apparent lack of focus on targeting U.S. imperialism, the main sponsor of the brutal reactionary Arab regimes. Without tackling U.S. imperialism in particular, the current ruling class, perhaps with some new faces, a few transitory concessions and modified forms of government rule, will continue to enslave the Arab people. And the people will remain under the heel of imperialist exploitation and its insatiable drive for maximum profit at their expense. The apparent silence of most street protests on U.S. imperialist responsibility for their own reactionary Arab regimes (from Egypt, to Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, etc.) as well as the U.S. intervention in Libya under the Obama baton, is remarkable, especially in light of the continued U.S. military occupation of Iraq. In addition the increased use of Arab soldiers against the rising Arab masses, from Qataris in Libya to Saudis, UAE and Qatari troops in Bahrain, all with the blessings of the Arab League, is also of great concern.*
* Likewise, the open French imperialist intervention in Ivory Coast which has met with little or no international protest seems to be another sign that direct colonial wars against oppressed peoples, involving colonial troops as well, are once again being accepted by virtually all the world’s states.
Clearly, the bankruptcy of the Chinese revisionist “theory of the three worlds” promulgated in the so-called Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution forty years ago has been utterly exposed in the Middle East uprisings of 2011. In the imperialist-led intervention in Libya in particular, not one member of the United Nations Security Council, from Workers Party-led Brazil to the “independent” Russian state to the so-called “Communist party-led Chinese government,” the latter two with veto power, voted against the naked imperialist aggression against Libya. Likewise, the Arab League was exposed as the U.S. imperialist/Saudi Arabian stooge organization that it is, giving its “blessing” to the unprovoked attack on Libya.
While the Soviet revisionists of that time openly repudiated the revolutionary essence of Leninism, pursued a pacifist path and encouraged neutral “nonalignment” of the oppressed nations in its bourgeois nationalist pursuit of rapprochement and collaboration with U.S. imperialism, the Chinese revisionists forty years back had to use a militant façade to cover up the bourgeois nationalist analysis at the heart of the pseudo Marxist, pseudo revolutionary “three worlds theory.”* According to this theory, countries or nation states were alleged to be the main actors in the achievement of world progress. Raw bourgeois nationalism replaced the revolutionary working class analysis of the contradictions facing international imperialism. Formerly, Leninism had taught that these imperialist contradictions would lead the world from the capitalist to the socialist stage of development, with the struggle between labor vs. capital as its linchpin, and the liberation movements of the oppressed nations and peoples against the imperialist oppressor countries, and the inter-imperialist rivalries as the other fundamental contradictions in this proletarian revolutionary context.
* In 1925 Comrade Stalin explained the basis for this bourgeois nationalist phenomenon as follows, “... the danger of nationalism must be regarded as springing from the growth of bourgeois influence on the Party in the sphere of foreign policy, in the sphere of the struggle that the capitalist states are waging against the state of the proletarian dictatorship. There can scarcely be any doubt that the pressure of the capitalist states on our state is enormous, that the people who are handling our foreign policy do not always succeed in resisting this pressure, that the danger of complications often gives rise to the temptation to take the path of least resistance, the path of nationalism. ... the path of least resistance and of nationalism in foreign policy is the path of the isolation and decay of the first country to be victorious.” (Stalin, Selected Works, Vol. 7, pages 170-171)
With the international communist movement dominated by the Russian revisionists in state power on the one side and the Chinese revisionists in state power on the other, the Arab communist proletarians and other revolutionary patriots were sold out, ostracized and marginalized, set up, and imprisoned and killed. Today, after forty years in the global revisionist desert, so clearly evident in the Sahara region, the great mass initiatives of the Arab people and especially the Arab working class in the first four months of 2011, have led us to this great new revolutionary opportunity as we celebrate May Day 2011.
It is up to the Arab working class, organized on a Marxist-Leninist Party basis and linked with its international working class brothers and sisters around the world, to educate and unite the politically aroused people of Arabia to overthrow the secular military dictatorships and brutal monarchies that remain in power in virtually every Arab country and to drive out U.S.-led imperialism in the process. This is the essence of the national democratic revolutionary stage of the struggle that will pave the way for the Arab working class to then lead the struggle for a socialist Arabia
Of course there are many other arenas of working class struggle in the world today. In the USA, the workers uprising in Wisconsin, centered around the basic union rights of public sector workers, was undoubtedly inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian masses coupled with the bold and blatant right-wing corporate assault on U.S. workers and their unions. This new found militant strength which hitherto arrogant U.S. workers, previously dismissive of the rest of the international working class, has drawn from our Arab brothers and sisters is indicative of the stake of the entire international proletariat in the outcome of the current struggle in the Middle East between the rising Arab working class and toiling masses, on the one hand, and imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism on the other. “Our struggle is not primarily national but international in character.”
The Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA extends militant May Day greetings to revolutionary comrades and fraternal organizations, working class fighters against monopoly capitalism, anti-imperialist protesters rising up throughout the Middle East, resistance fighters against U.S.-led imperialist wars of invasion and occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Libya, Honduras, Colombia and the Philippines, stalwarts in the struggle for freedom, national liberation and socialism – all those in every corner of the globe rising up to “build a new world from the ashes of the old.” We greet all those helping to bring about the Communist future when “the international working class shall be the human race.”
They caused the economic crisis through speculation and greed. Almost 10 million jobs lost. Millions of homes foreclosed. Retirement plans plundered. Austerity measures implemented at the Federal, State and Local levels gutting social programs from education to environmental protection. Now Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are squarely in the sites of the privatizers and “deficit-cutters” of the Republicrats, i.e. both the major political parties of U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism. Behind the smoke screen of the economic crisis and the need for “shared sacrifice,” workers and their unions are under accelerated attacks (particularly in the public sector) as politicians, and their rich benefactors like the billionaire Koch brothers, are pitting “taxpayers” against “workers,” whether teachers, firefighters, healthcare, transit or sanitation workers.
When film director and producer Charles Ferguson won the Academy Award for the best documentary, “The Inside Job,” he had enough gumption to state to the TV audience of millions, “... I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.” In fact, just the opposite is the case. Wall Street investment firms and banks have received massive government bailouts at taxpayer expense along with enrichment at the public trough through trillions of federal government no interest loans. Corporate America has gained and maintained extensive tax loopholes and tax breaks for the rich. During the “jobless recovery” while workers’ wages remain stagnant, productivity has increased, corporate profits set all-time records and CEO salaries and Wall Street bonuses have skyrocketed. The 25 largest Wall Street firms paid a record $135 billion in executive compensation in 2010. And just one hedge fund speculator, John Paulson, gained $5 billion in profit last year alone! The gap between the rich and poor in the USA is expanding. Astoundingly, the top 1% of households has about 43% of the financial wealth (net worth not including one’s home) while the bottom 80% has a mere 7%! (2007 figures)
Why aren’t the rich paying for their crisis?!? Recent exposure of the largest U.S. corporation – General Electric – helps provide the answer.
While the working class and working poor struggle day in and day out in this “jobless recovery,” GE had a very good year in 2010 with world-wide profits of $14.2 billion dollars. $5.1 billion of that total profit came directly from U.S. operations. After all the complaining from big business and their politicians that the U.S. corporate tax rate is just too darn high (35%), one would expect GE to have paid about $5 billion dollars into the U.S. treasury, money that could have been used for education, medical care, workplace safety and a cleaner environment.
GE’s tax bill for 2010? – ZERO! In fact, GE received a tax credit of $3.2 billion which makes it highly unlikely that they will pay any taxes in the foreseeable future. So, how do they do it when the workers and other regular folk pay taxes with every paycheck?
According to a New York Times article, GE’s tax department of 975 employees is headed up by a former U.S. Treasury official. “The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax writing committees in Congress. ... Over the last decade, GE has spent tens of millions of dollars to push for changes in tax law, from more generous depreciation schedules on jet engines to ‘green energy’ credits for its wind turbines. But the most lucrative of these measures allows GE to operate a vast leasing and lending business abroad with profits that face little foreign taxes and no American taxes as long as the money remains overseas.” (GE Turns the Tax Man Away Empty-Handed, New York Times, March 25, 2011)
This is not a phenomenon unique to GE nor is it a new development. The same Times article points out, “Such strategies ... have pushed down the corporate share of the nation’s tax receipts – from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950’s to 6.6 percent in 2009.” After conspiring with the Congressional Republicans to extend huge tax breaks for the wealthy last December, Democratic President Obama has now declared his “plan” to lower the corporate tax rate and close some “loopholes.” Obama has established the “President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness” which is expected to address the question of “reforming” corporate taxes.
Obama has recently appointed Jeffrey Immelt as Chairman of this Council and as the President’s liaison to the business community. Just who is Jeffrey Immelt? None other than the $15 million dollar a year CEO of the gigantic tax evader General Electric! Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.
“Make the Rich Pay” is on the order of the day!
In the face of massive, month long, just and angry worker protests, newly elected Wisconsin Governor Walker succeeded in passing a “budget plan,” with the main goal of destroying unions, a basic and vital self-defense organization of the working class.
The draconian Wisconsin legislation includes: a) an end to collective bargaining rights for public employees except over wages. Any agreed to wage increase is limited to the rate of inflation (firefighters and police are exempted); b) large increases in the employees’ contribution to health insurance and pensions. Workers will now have to contribute almost 6% of wages for pension benefits, equating to huge pay-cuts; c) the outlawing of union shops (where all workers in a specific bargaining unit must belong to the union); d) the all but total elimination of the right to strike; e) mandated annual union re-certification elections; f) outlawing voluntary union dues from payroll deduction; g) annulment of thousands of existing collective bargaining agreements containing negotiated provisions on job security, safety, seniority, wages, benefits and grievance procedures. University of Wisconsin labor historian William Powell observed, “This bill is designed to make it almost impossible to operate a union.”
Tucked away in the legislation is a provision that will privatize the 32 state power plants. This major shift is a boon to Walker’s corporate backers. These corporations received tax cuts of $117 million when Walker recently took office. Two-thirds of them paid no state taxes last year! At the same time, the governor demanded of public workers that they give huge concessions because the state is broke! Now the people of Wisconsin will end up paying higher costs for profitized energy.
At this moment the enforcement of this legislation in Wisconsin has temporarily been put on hold with a Judge’s ruling that the “public notice” rules were violated.
In the meantime, Ohio has enacted a similar bill stripping 360,000 public sector workers of their right to collective bargaining, aimed at completely decimating the public sector unions in what was once a union bastion. Other states governments, from Michigan to South Carolina, are aggressively working on enacting legislation aimed at eviscerating union and worker rights.
While the Wisconsin battle burned hot, we provided the following context to these accelerating attacks on the working class:
“The deep economic crisis has given new fuel to the bosses and their government to go for the jugular. The ‘Republicrats’ are united in their trillion dollar bail-outs of the Wall Street criminals and billions in tax breaks for the wealthiest. The stock market and corporate profits are soaring. Wall Street compensation is near record levels. The bipartisan imperialist wars of occupation for control of oil and energy resources escalate. The smoke-screen of ‘balancing budgets,’ ‘shared sacrifice’ and ‘deficit reduction’ are efforts to solve the crisis on the backs of the workers after a massive transfer of wealth to the banks, investment firms, etc.
“The U.S. Labor Movement has been in alarming decline due to labor bureaucrats’ reliance on the anti-union (but ‘lesser of two evils’) Democratic Party and refusal to ‘organize the unorganized.’ (In the 1950’s the U.S. unionization rate was about 35%. The current rate stands at 11.9%. The private sector rate is 6.9%; the public sector rate is 36%. Thus public sector workers are Corporate America’s prime target.) …
“The ‘Union Busters’ new divide and conquer ‘big lie’ is to blame state budget shortfalls on unionized government workers: the idea is that public sector workers (our teachers, sanitation and public health workers, etc.) are ‘fat-cats’ at public taxpayer’s expense. A study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that at every comparable level of education/experience, public sector workers in Wisconsin are compensated less than private sector workers. ...
“The political struggle in Wisconsin is not about balancing the budget. The governor has already gained Republican, Democratic (note well) and unfortunately even some union leadership support for his dictated deep cuts to workers’ benefits. No – this is a monopoly capitalist power struggle to break the unions and spread the assault state by state, including in former union bastions of Ohio and Michigan.”(“ It’s Time for Solidarity Day III – Wisconsin Workers Standing Up Strong To Save the Unions!,” Statement of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA, February 26, 2011)
There are a number of valuable lessons that the working class can draw from the rich experience of the battle in Wisconsin thus far:
Over the intermediate haul, we can take inspiration from the example and experience of the Wisconsin workers and rebuild our unions on democratic and militant bases (see companion article on NUHW), politically break with the Democrats and build a worker based political party accountable to the workers and other oppressed sectors of society, not to the corporations, bankers, Wall Street speculators and their Democratic Party henchmen. We can demand that our union officials “lead or get out of the way.”
In 2005 in Indiana, the state government abolished collective bargaining for public sector workers. The unions did not survive. Over 90% of state employees abandoned their organizations. Even if the Wisconsin anti-union legislation is eventually enacted, unions can survive and thrive if they are rebuilt on the militant foundation of worker involvement activism. It is precisely the great response of the Wisconsin working class to the assault on their democratic rights that lays a firm basis for such a rebirth of the unions in Wisconsin. For example, direct action around key demands can take place in workplaces where marches on the bosses can become a living grievance procedure. Strong alliances with the community, especially in the fields of education and healthcare, can be built and become a fighting force for workers’ rights. Union dues can be collected without dues check off and can actually strengthen the workers’ commitment to their unions. “Work to rule” campaigns and creative strikes and slow downs can be instituted to replace the “formal” negotiation and arbitration of issues.
In 1981, the air traffic controllers’ union (PATCO) went on strike to defend decent working conditions and the safety of the flying public. In response, President Reagan fired 12,000 air traffic controllers in the open attempt to break the union entirely. PATCO became a watershed event for the U.S. Labor Movement. AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland and the corrupt leadership of the labor movement shamefully failed to back PATCO; it was then crushed. Ever since then, the working class, especially in the private sector, has taken a beating. Private sector union membership has been in sharp decline, concessionary bargaining has become the norm and the powerful strike weapon has been all but wiped out of the hearts and minds of the U.S. working class.
Wisconsin is another such watershed. The outcome of the struggle to save the unions, will either lead to further impoverishment of the working class, both in the private and public sector, or lead to a resurgence of a militant, fighting labor movement in the U.S. capable of beating back the assaults and shifting the economic crisis back onto the capitalist class, onto those who caused it. Thus far, “the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class” have been taking us down the path of defeat despite the exemplary efforts of the Wisconsin workers, their families and supporters.
Mother Jones, the legendary mine worker organizer, shared these prophetic words many decades ago,
"Many of our modern leaders of labor have wandered far from the thorny path of these early crusaders. Never in the early days of the labor struggle would you find leaders dining and wining with the aristocracy. ... In those days labor's representatives did not sit on velvet chairs in conference with labor's oppressors, they did not dine in fashionable hotels with the representatives of top capitalists, such as the Civic Federation. .... The rank and file have let their servants become their masters and dictators. The workers have now to fight not alone their exploiters but likewise their own leaders, who often betray them, sell them out, who put their own advancement ahead of that of the working masses." (As quoted in American Trade Unionism by William Z. Foster.)
We concluded our previous statement on the Wisconsin struggle with the following:
“The Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA supports the just struggle of the Wisconsin workers. No more cutbacks or concessions – make the rich pay. Let’s tax the corporations, speculators and Wall Street finance capital. As part of the struggle to “Save Our Unions” an immediate Labor Movement-led nation-wide “Solidarity Day III” should be held in the streets of Wisconsin. Workers, fighting for democratic rights, can defend and improve the standard of living for the working class today. Through this process we’ll see the need for real workers’ power, socialism, and develop our ability to win!”
For a massive Solidarity Day in Wisconsin —
To the Streets, Not Just the Courts!
Militant Actions to Save Our Unions!
Defend the ILWU workers in California!
Stop the Republicrat “two-party” Hoax —
Build a Labor Party!
Let the Fighting Spirit of the Working Class and People of
Tunisia, Egypt and Wisconsin Spread through the land!
Births are painful and joyous. The new democratic and rank and file-led National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) was born in 2009 in the bitter struggle against the bureaucratic, dictatorial and class collaborationist Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and their takeover of the democratically run 150,000 member SEIU United Healthcare West Local Union then led by Sal Rosselli and other progressive leaders. NUHW entered 2011 smaller than had been envisioned, but standing and viable.
This is an important accomplishment for as we pointed out last year, “The NUHW faces tremendous obstacles on the path to democratic and militant rank and file unionism. These obstacles take the form, in particular, of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest union in the USA today, its bureaucratic leadership under the baton of Andy Stern and the SEIU’s powerful corporate and national Democratic Party connections.” (“A Crusade to ‘Organize the Unorganized’ is on the Order of the Day in the USA! California Healthcare Workers and Appalachian Coal Miners Are Key,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #60, May-June 2010)
The NUHW now has over 8,000 members (the vast majority comprising workers formerly in the SEIU) and represents over 15 bargaining units. In numerous elections the workers voted overwhelmingly for a union they could be proud to call their own. With a few more significant elections scheduled soon, the NUHW is currently consolidating, with a focus on obtaining strong union contracts in the existing bargaining units, as a basis for expanding in the near future on a strong foundation.
The Kaiser “Services and Technical” Campaign
Most instructive regarding the obstacles faced by the fledgling NUHW was the union election of the “Services and Technical” California-wide unit of 44,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente, the behemoth of the medical-industrial complex. (This Services and Technical unit is separate from the Kaiser “Professional” units in southern and northern California) It is the single largest bargaining unit in the hospital industry.
In October 2010, NUHW lost this critical election, 18,290 votes for the SEIU to 11,364 votes for the NUHW. The results of this election are still rightfully being contested by the NUHW due to widespread labor law violations on the part of the company and the SEIU. What happened?
First, and foremost, SEIU succeeded in using their political power to gain a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) delay in the election for almost 18 months from when the workers first filed petitions to join the NUHW. Had a timely election been held, it would have been a resounding victory for NUHW. The more time that passed, the more workers began to believe they would have “to learn to live with” the SEIU. Furthermore, during those 18 months, the SEIU controlled the stewards’ system and harassed NUHW activists, many of the best fighters against the bosses over the years, thus intimidating the entire workforce. During this extensive delay the SEIU ran a non-stop disinformation campaign against the NUHW.
Second, the Kaiser Permanente corporation (illegally) backed the SEIU. For example, NUHW organizers were denied access to hospitals while outside SEIU staffers were allowed access to off-limit areas of the workplaces and SEIU representatives were paid by the company to campaign against NUHW.
Third, the SEIU had far greater resources in terms of money and people. Even with outstanding and principled support from UNITE-HERE and its President John Wilhelm, NUHW was vastly out-resourced across the board – on organizers, on mailings, on phone calls, on house visits.
Fourth, the SEIU maneuvered for an early settlement of a new union contract with Kaiser, so it would be ratified and in place prior to the election. (The contract was ratified with concessions on healthcare and other issues.) SEIU then used fear tactics (“workers will lose what they have”) and futility (“these are tough economic times so we can’t do any better”) to disorient the Kaiser workers. These are tactics similar to the union busting efforts of many corporations, but how much more effective for the corporation when coming from the union!
Fifth, a Labor-Management Partnership (LMP) between Kaiser and the SEIU was established in the mid-1990’s while the Local SEIU was still led by Sal Rosselli and others who became the core leadership of NUHW. Whether it was initially correct to establish the “partnership” is open for debate, but it was a tactical error to leave this partnership agreement in place for an extended period of time. The LMP helped disarm and disorient the workers by creating illusions about how much corporate cooperation was possible, blurring the lines between the working class and the capitalists. It diluted unity, struggle and direct action of the workers in relation to the boss and fed right into the “strength” of the class collaborationist practices and culture of the SEIU.Sixth, given their limited resources, NUHW did not concentrate early enough on the Kaiser campaign. While Kaiser workers were left in the grasp of the SEIU for well over a year, the NUHW was making serious organizing efforts among other hospital and home care workers. The resources of NUHW may have been better spent focused on building the base in the large Kaiser unit, especially once resounding NUHW victories with the Southern California Professional Kaiser workers were achieved over SEIU in January 2010, victories which had great potential for igniting the struggle of all Kaiser workers to “take their union back.”
The 2% Struggle: Collaboration of Kaiser, SEIU and the Government
In January 2010, 2300 Kaiser workers in three Southern California “Professional” units voted overwhelmingly for the NUHW. (For example the Los Angeles nurses voted 746 for the NUHW vs 36 for the SEIU!) These stunning NUHW victories sent shock waves through Kaiser management and the SEIU bureaucrats. Their joint goal became how to hold the huge 44,000 worker “Services and Technical” unit for the SEIU, the union of class collaboration. (The SEIU had already proven its worth to Kaiser with mid-contract concessions on retirement benefits, staffing, job classifications and lay-off protections.) Their main weapon was the “2% plan.”
All Kaiser workers (including the three “Professional” units in Southern California which had already voted to move to the NUHW) were due a 2% raise in the Spring of 2010, either under existing Collective Bargaining Agreements or due to the legal mandate to maintain the “status quo” regarding wages and benefits while negotiating a new union contract. Kaiser refused to implement the raise (and also withheld a tuition reimbursement benefit) for the three Southern California “Professional” NUHW units. At the same time, Kaiser implemented the 2% raise for everyone else including the 44,000 “Services and Technical” workers. This was a clear violation of the law. But Kaiser’s (illegal) message to the workers was clear: change to the NUHW and you will lose!
Behind the bosses’ violations came the coordinated propaganda campaign of the SEIU. Flyer after flyer, phone call after phone call, parroted the company line: “If you vote for the NUHW, you will lose!”
Now enter the government and its National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) under a Democratic Party administration. Charges were filed by the NUHW based on Kaiser’s blatant violation of the law. The NLRB took no action for over six months. Only after the 44,000 Kaiser workers had already voted in the election did the NLRB declare that Kaiser did owe the 2% raise (as well as the other withheld benefits) to the Southern California professionals!
This collaboration between Kaiser, the SEIU and the monopoly capitalist state apparatus overwhelmed the workers and the NUHW.
A “Knock-Out” Blow or Does the Struggle Continue?
One might have thought NUHW’s loss among the 44,000 “Services and Technical” Kaiser workers would have been a “knock-out” blow. But just one month after the defeat, two Northern California Kaiser Professional units of nearly 1500 mental health professionals and optical workers voted to leave SEIU and join NUHW! This victory breathed new life into the NUHW and bodes well for its future potential.
Since that time, the dedicated workers and core of leaders and organizers of the NUHW are waging determined struggles to win good union contracts, without the SEIU concessions given to the various healthcare corporations. At Salinas Valley Memorial and USC hospitals, informational pickets have been held demanding quality patient care, safe staffing levels and good faith bargaining in negotiations with the union. Similar protests have been waged at nursing homes and retirement centers. At the Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center, NUHW nurses have had two single day strikes demanding Kaiser negotiate a fair contract that includes enforcement mechanisms for needed staffing levels. Kaiser has now been forced by the NUHW to pay the 2% withheld raises and other benefits to the southern California “Professional” workers, not only enforcing these workers’ rights but exposing the “big lie” of Kaiser and the SEIU that workers will lose wages and benefits if they vote to join the NUHW. At Doctors Hospital, the 300 caregivers who represented the very first group of workers to leave the SEIU for the NUHW, finally succeeded in wading through SEIU’s delay tactics of frivolous appeals. They have received union recognition and have begun collective bargaining of a union contract.
The NUHW has united with the workers and community groups to fight against the large Sutter Hospital corporation’s plans to build a “high end” hospital and close down some Sutter owned CPMC community located hospitals that serve a high percentage of low-income patients. (SEIU, currently the bargaining representative at CPMC, endorsed the company’s plans.) With high hopes of reclaiming their union, the 900 caregivers at CPMC will be voting in their union election in early May. This vote is coming on the heels of two recent lopsided victories at the Cottonwood and Woodland nursing homes, where workers left the SEIU and joined NUHW by over a 10-1 margin. And all the way from the state of Michigan, workers at two nursing homes currently represented by the SEIU have petitioned to join the NUHW. (While it shows the country-wide potential of NUHW, the currently California-based NUHW should be careful to avoid overextending its still fragile infrastructure.)So the struggle for democratic, militant, rank and file based trade unionism continues. Whatever the “rough and rocky road,” whatever the NUHW’s current limitations, the success of the National Union of Healthcare Workers is vital to rebuilding the U.S. labor movement.
As a result of years of corporate attacks on organized labor, and the refusal of the corrupt labor leadership, with its deadly embrace of the Democratic party, to organize the vast mass of unorganized workers and to empower workers in militant fight-backs, the union movement is in sharp decline. And it is under sharp attack as the Wisconsin crisis has demonstrated.
From a unionization rate of some 35% of the U.S. workforce in the early 1950’s, the percent of wage and salary workers in the U.S. in labor unions has declined to 11.9% in 2010. In the private sector the unionization rate fell to 6.9% from 7.2% just a year earlier. This represented a one year decline of 612,000 union members with just 14.7 million workers currently in unions.
In defense of its basic economic and political interests in the battle against capital, the U.S. working class needs to rebuild the union movement on new foundations along the “old” principles of the CIO – organize the unorganized, militant struggle against the bosses, democratic worker-controlled unions and “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
As we observed in 2009: “... for the entire U.S. labor movement, saddled with a leadership corrupted and ossified by sixty years of collaboration with the bulwark of world capitalism, the U.S. monopoly capitalist class of the hegemonic imperialist power, ... [NUHW] helps raise up the banner of union democracy and militant struggle against capital. In this time of capitalist economic crisis, in the absence of militant class struggle by the working class in its own defense, the current epidemic of unemployment can only lead to drastic reduction of wages and intensification of exploitation for those ‘fortunate’ to still have a job. NUHW success, based on militant and democratic union principles, points the way forward; it helps to illuminate the working class path of escape from the stranglehold of U.S. finance capital and its government.” (“The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) – A New Union for Workers in Hard Times,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #55, July-August 2009)
* Our Leaflet Distributed at Anti-War Demonstrations in New York and San Francisco on April 9th and April 10th, 2011
Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA – April 9/10, 2011
The Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA joins together with anti-war demonstrators in New York City April 9 and San Francisco April 10 in response to and in support of the United National Antiwar Committee’s (UNAC) call to March and Rally against the U.S. imperialist war on working and oppressed peoples at home and abroad. We officially endorsed the UNAC call.
We also support the March 1st “UNAC Statement on U.S. Non-Intervention in Libya and Other Countries,” including the following: “We recognize that the U.S. has been directly involved in supplying weapons and other forms of support to regimes that have committed atrocious human rights abuses against civilians. ...We have seen the horrific consequences of U.S./U.N. operation of ‘no-fly zones’ over northern and southern Iraq, prior to the U.S. Shock and Awe attacks and invasion. We therefore oppose any form of U.S. military or economic intervention in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and other countries where movements are rising in opposition to dictatorships and military rule.”
The following are excerpts from the March-April Ray O’ Light Newsletter (written prior to the actual U.S./NATO military attack on Libya) regarding the mounting U.S. imperialist-led military campaign against Libya and the situation in Arabia:
“For revolutionaries, freedom fighters and justice loving people all over the world, the popular struggles being waged by the Arab masses against their autocratic rulers ... beginning in Tunisia and rapidly breaking out and spreading throughout the entire Middle East, have been a tremendous source of inspiration. Quite dramatic has been the popular uprising and workers’ strike wave, spreading across to the European side of the Mediterranean – to Italy, Greece, Albania, shaking these reactionary regimes, and even spreading across the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the USA, where U.S. workers have consciously taken a more militant stance against the reactionary state governments of Wisconsin, Indiana and other states in the Midwest.”
“The U.S. imperialist government is responsible for virtually all of the secular military dictatorships and Muslim monarchies in the Middle East that have kept their people repressed with the most barbaric police state methods and are currently in danger of being overthrown by the aroused Arab masses. The U.S. imperialist-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in over one million civilian deaths. Yet this same shameless U.S. imperialist state apparatus now claims to be ‘concerned’ about the killings of people in Libya by the Gadhafi government only. And the Libyan military situation is marked by the fact that a number of military units have joined the Libyan rebels and that the rebels are using powerful modern weapons of war against the Gadhafi regime in what has become a civil war based on tribal loyalties and U.S. imperialist machinations.
“And now, a Democratic U.S. president, elected in no small measure on the basis of his opposition to the U.S. military attack on Iraq (as an Illinois state senator in 2003) is threatening to invade Libya, after ordering the head of the Libyan government to leave the country and confiscating (stealing) Libyan national assets.
“In almost a carbon copy of the actions of the brutal and arrogant George W. Bush toward Saddam Hussein and Iraq in 2002 and 2003, U.S. President Obama is busy trying to dictate the conditions under which the Arab people will live.
“U.S. imperialism has taken these drastic actions on the basis of
the flimsiest of pretexts. It is using media ‘reports’ from Libya,
Egypt and elsewhere packaged by the National Front for the Salvation of
Libya (NFSL), established in 1981 and trained and financed by the U.S.
CIA ever since. The NFSL and other such organizations are being used to
‘document’ that the Gadhafi government is killing Libyan protesters,
allegedly in greater numbers than the U.S. client governments all over
the rest of the Middle East are doing.
“Why is the Obama Regime mobilizing and organizing for an unprovoked attack on Libya, for an expansion of its imperialist war in the Middle East?! In brief, the once unchallenged hegemonic imperialist power is now the biggest debtor country in the world. Its economic clout has been diminished at a rapid rate under the impetus of the U.S. economy-initiated world capitalist economic crisis of the past several years. So it has to keep China and its other creditors at bay. For now it still has the most powerful military machine on earth, with more annual military spending than the rest of the world combined, as well as its long standing global diplomatic, political and intelligence operations.
“And it continues to control the vast majority of the world oil supply and reserves, still the very lifeblood of the global capitalist economy. But the Arab masses are threatening to liberate their countries and seize control of the oil in their own national territory. This in turn would render U.S. imperialism a second or third rate power. Thus the need for U.S. imperialism to establish a military beachhead in Libya and a smokescreen behind which to increase its military protection for U.S. possession of the Middle East’s vast oil wealth....
“As Comrade Fidel Castro asserts: ‘The fundamental concern of the
United States and NATO is not Libya, but the revolutionary wave
unleashed in the Arab world, which they wish to prevent at all costs.’”
Let’s work together to:
Stop the Wall Street Republicrat Attack on Unions! –
Money for Jobs and Education Not War!
Support the Resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan!
U.S. Imperialism – Hands Off Libya!
No More Blood for Oil!
Victory to the Arab Revolution!
Shut Down All Nuclear Power
The ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan is not the product of a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.
Nuclear power is promoted by the industry as a great source of “clean and safe energy.” The Obama administration has now embraced it with enthusiasm. New nuclear power plants are on the drawing board in the United States for the first time since the Three Mile Island major nuclear accident in Pennsylvania decades ago.
Nuclear energy, whether run by private or public utilities in a world dominated by global capitalism, is dirty and dangerous from start to finish. There is no safe way to deal with the millions of tons of highly dangerous radioactive left-over waste. Major accidents, such as at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima, have been catastrophic. Their deadly consequences include increased cancer and other human health problems and environmental destruction to the air, soil, water, plant and animal life.
The nuclear power plant complex in Japan was manufactured by none other than General Electric, the largest U.S. company, and a major producer of nuclear power reactors.* It was built on an earthquake fault, had many safety problems covered up over the years, and faced lax government enforcement, featuring a cozy relationship between Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) corporate management and the Japanese government nuclear regulatory agencies.
When the massive earthquake and Tsunami hit with its terrible death and destruction, the nuclear power plant was severely damaged. The Wall Street Journal admitted, “Crucial efforts to tame Japan’s crippled plant were delayed by concerns over damaging valuable power assets and by initial passivity on the part of the government. ... Tepco was reluctant to use seawater because it worried about hurting its long term investment in the complex ... Seawater, which can render a nuclear reactor permanently inoperable, now is at the center of efforts to keep the plant under control.” (“Bid to ‘Protect Assets’ Slowed Reactor Fight,” Wall Street Journal, 3/19/11)* In other words, instead of immediately shutting down the plant and pouring in salt water to avoid a meltdown of the reactors, the owners chose to protect their private assets, their profits.
* This subordination of the Japanese government to its corporate masters is reminiscent of the subordination of the U.S. government to British Petroleum in the midst of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year. At that time, the Obama regime left BP in charge of the stopping of the oil spill, establishing the extent of the spill and leading the effort to clean it up.
What followed were explosions, meltdown of reactors and the massive release of radioactive poisons. Hundreds of square miles have become uninhabitable, food from the land and sea uneatable, water, the sustenance of life, toxic. The people of Japan and around the globe have been systematically lied to about the extent of the damage to the nuclear plant and of radiation poisoning. Nuclear accidents know no borders. Chernobyl (built and run long after socialism had been overthrown in the former Soviet Union) poisoned large parts of Europe. Radiation increases from the current nuclear accident in Japan have found their way into milk and water in the United States, on the other side of the world. Damage to human health is long term.
The United States produces more nuclear power than any other country. The USA is responsible for some 30% of all nuclear power in the world with 104 reactors in service at 64 sites. A number of them sit on major earthquake faults. Some are close to major metropolitan areas with millions of inhabitants. (For example, the Indian Point Nuclear power plant is 38 miles from New York City and according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the highest risk of earthquake damage of any nuclear power plant in the country!) Many have had unreported serious accidents over the years. Worldwide there are 442 nuclear plants, with 65 new reactors under construction and 344 more in the planning stages. All are catastrophic accidents waiting to happen.
Let’s shut them all down! Let’s protect life and protect the environment. Let’s fight for clean and renewable energy. Most importantly, let’s fight for workers’ power and socialism, the only system that can and will put people before profit!
– Mike S., Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
For the proletariat needs the truth and there is nothing so harmful to its cause as plausible, respectable petty-bourgeois lies.”
Selected Works, Vol. X, p. 41
Additional materials are available from the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA (formerly the Ray O. Light Group) at the address below — including Newsletters, pamphlets, bulk materials, a publication list and books. These include materials exposing the global capitalist economic crisis, rallying the world’s workers and oppressed to resist monopoly capitalist and imperialist exploitation and oppression, and opposing the U.S. imperialist-led war of terror on the world’s peoples. Please direct requests for such materials, as well as all correspondence, comments, etc. to:
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