Friday, February 24, 2006

Race, Hotels, and Crap

Picket Fences: From Dream to Fantasy
Hotel workers seek to beat poverty
LA Weekly

When Ana Mendez’s home was built 60 years ago, its serpentine flagstone walkway and sunken living room embodied the middle-class dream for white Los Angeles after World War II. Today, the Lennox house still represents middle-class membership for many immigrant workers — but getting there is a lot harder than it used to be, making home ownership a virtual fantasy for millions of low-income wage earners. Mendez and her family moved into their Felton Street home about a year ago, after living for 20 years in one of the hulking apartment complexes that sit across the street. Houses in Mendez’s crime-plagued neighborhood, three blocks from the San Diego Freeway and about 1,000 feet beneath planes landing at nearby LAX, sell for about $400,000 — nearly four times what they went for a decade ago.

Last week the Mendezes’ living room was crowded with employees of the big nonunionized airport hotels on Century Boulevard, and they had lots to say about obstacles to the American Dream. They had come, organized by the UNITE HERE union, to share stories of abuse and indifference with actor Danny Glover, who was in town as part of UNITE HERE’s Hotel Workers Rising campaign, a nationwide push to raise working and living standards in one of the few American industries whose work force cannot be offshored.

Glover was in the middle of a long day that wouldn’t end until that evening, when he spoke at a downtown rally in front of the Sheraton Hotel. He and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, along with UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm, had begun the morning by strolling into the LAX Hilton, where they exchanged unauthorized pleasantries with workers in the kitchen, reception desk and lobby areas — as stone-faced security staff looked on. Some workers wore union buttons and embraced Glover. Others were more guarded; one woman told Glover in a low voice that she was very afraid of management but grateful for his support.

After leaving the Hilton, the Lethal Weapon co-star joined former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards for a luncheon at Inglewood’s Forum Club. That event was chaired by embattled County Federation of Labor head Martin Ludlow, four days before he resigned amid an investigation into campaign violations. (City Attorney Delgadillo did not attend.) Union presidents Andy Stern, Bruce Raynor and Maria Elena Durazo were served chicken and rice, as were L.A. Councilman Herb Wesson, Los Angeles Sentinel owner Danny Bakewell and community activist Tony Muhammad.

The largely African-American audience heard from Wilhelm that, according to his union’s statistics, the hotel industry, once an employment haven for blacks, has all but stopped hiring them. They also heard that the average annual wage for a housekeeper is $17,340 when the federally computed poverty line for a family of four is $19,157, and that the medical insurance offered workers by hotel chains is an empty gesture because few can afford it.


Hoffa seems left of Labor Notes lately

Teamsters call death probe tainted
North Jersey News

U.S. Embassy officials in El Salvador insisted Wednesday that the right people were tried in the 2004 murder of a Cliffside Park labor leader, even though two of three were acquitted over the weekend.

The response came on the same day Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa blasted the Salvadoran government for what he said was a coverup in the shooting death of union official Gilberto Soto.

"We received assurances that the Salvadoran government would conduct an objective, open-ended inquiry," Hoffa said. "That never happened."

Teamsters have long claimed that Soto, 49, was shot dead on Nov. 5, 2004, because of his efforts to organize truck drivers as part of a trip through Central America.

A month later, his mother-in-law, Rosa Elba Zelaya de Ortiz, was charged with hiring hit men to kill Soto because of a dispute between him and his estranged third wife.

But Zelaya de Ortiz and alleged gunman Santos Sanchez Ayala were acquitted Saturday night. Herbert Joel Gomez, who was charged with supplying the murder weapon, was convicted.

Embassy officials maintained they did everything to ensure Salvadoran police investigated all angles of the killing and were pleased with the results of their work.

"We had confidence in the investigation and the police and thought the right people were on trial," said Rebecca Thompson, an embassy spokeswoman in San Salvador. "We're still awaiting the sentencing. But in the end you have to respect the results of the judicial process, even if you're disappointed with the outcome."


Good job Andy ya moron

Nurses from eight unions band together

WASHINGTON -- Nurses from eight AFL-CIO unions are banding together in hopes of increasing their political and organizing strength, leaders announced Thursday.

The move foreshadows more coalitions within specific industries as organized labor attempts to regain clout.

About 200,000 nurses, describing themselves as RNs Working Together, are bidding to become the first union members to form such a group - called an industry coordinating committee - within the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO executive council will vote on recognizing the nurses' group during its winter meeting in San Diego next week.

"This is valuable because nurses are represented all over the country by many different unions, there's so much we need to do collectively that we're doing individually," said Kathy Sackman, president of the United Nurses Association of California. "This gives us a more powerful voice, gives us more clout politically."

After a difficult year that saw several large unions break away from the AFL-CIO, the labor federation is taking numerous steps to reinvigorate the labor movement.

On a separate front, leaders of the independent National Education Association, with 2.7 million members, and the AFL-CIO are discussing an arrangement that would allow local affiliates to join the labor federation, officials confirmed. The NEA would remain separate from the AFL-CIO at the national level, but local unions could apply for membership in central labor councils, which are active in local politics and organizing. Officials with the NEA and AFL-CIO plan to formally announce their plans early next week.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

P-CRAC Was On The Roof

Dear Comrade-Enemies,

Loyal readers have whined and complained that we didn't update the last few days. P-CRAC was ill. Get over it.



Spare the Rod, spoil the...

S.D. grand jury indicts Earth Liberation Front leader

A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in San Diego charges a recognized national leader of the Earth Liberation Front with teaching others how to make a bomb with the intent that it be used to commit arson.

Rodney Adam Coronado, who was arrested today in Arizona, is charged with teaching and demonstrating the making of a destructive device before dozens of people in Hillcrest on Aug. 1, 2003.

Coronado is not charged with setting a fire 15 hours earlier that caused $50 million in damages and destroyed a large apartment complex under construction in the University Towne Center area of San Diego, prosecutors said.

"America will not tolerate terrorists," said Daniel R. Dzwilewski, special agent in charge of the San Diego division of the FBI. "Whether you were born here or abroad, we will not stand back and allow you to terrorize our communities under the guise of free speech."

Coronado, 39, is scheduled to be arraigned in Tucson on Thursday and could be brought to San Diego within the next couple of weeks, said Shane Harrigan, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego.

He faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison if convicted, according to Harrigan, who said a federal grand jury in San Diego returned the one-count indictment last week.


This guy should be beaten to death with a shoe

Is it time for unions to go?
By Richard Berman
Washington Examiner

Publicity is a lot like warfare-it is always sound strategy to occupy and hold the high ground at any cost. Union leaders have been doing just that for decades now. By rhetorically positioning themselves at the forefront of struggles for economic justice and equality, they have effectively inoculated themselves against criticism. To criticize labor leaders, even from a pro-labor standpoint, is to side against the angels. Worse-in a democracy like ours-it is to side against the people. It is to back big business, often depicted in this case as a rapacious, plutocratic caricature straight out of Upton Sinclair's worst nightmares.

By consistently claiming the moral high ground for themselves, union leaders have acquired a kind of diplomatic immunity in the public eye. According to Gallup, the public favors unions over businesses 52 percent to 34 percent in labor disputes and a majority of people still believe that unions help the businesses they organize.

The facts tell a different story. Union leaders have fallen prey to what might be called the "Godfather syndrome." Almost everyone knows the story of Michael Corleone's rise to power (and fall from grace). But most significant was the fact that he began as an idealist using increasingly unsavory methods to do what he considered good and necessary. Eventually those ideals vanished, leaving only the pursuit of power and little trace of the man he once was.

This is hardly an uncommon story in public life; indeed, it is almost expected of politicians in this cynical day and age. But we assume for some reason that union leaders are exempt from the rule that power corrupts.

Their profligacy, however, should not come as a surprise. For, union leaders have greater power than most comparable figures. Politicians and lawmakers are held accountable by voters. Major companies and their managers are responsible to shareholders. To whom do union leaders answer? In theory, the democratic process should make them accountable to their membership. But that process is under serious attack.

Where once a secret ballot vote was used to establish and determine the direction of unions, organizers have now resorted to card checks, which essentially amounts to collecting names on a petition. This method is public and leaves participants open to harassment and intimidation, not to mention the room it creates for false signatures and fraudulent voting outcomes.


All out offensive

Hub radio stations to air anti-union ads
By Diane E. Lewis
Boston Globe

An anti-union group says it will start airing ads this week on three Boston radio stations as part of a media blitz against the US labor movement and its push to change the way most workers are organized.

''Union members are tired of the corruption and huge salary packages for union chiefs . . . and sick of being forced to pay union dues that end up in the pockets of politicians they don't agree with," according to the ads, which the Center for Union Facts says will begin airing as early as today on three Boston radio stations.

The campaign started earlier this month with full-page newspaper ads in the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times. The organization also launched an Internet website,, and erected a large dinosaur outside the headquarters of the AFL-CIO.

Richard Berman, 62, director of the Center for Union Facts in Washington, D.C., said he launched the site himself, and then sought financial support from firms for the media effort. Berman declined to identify his backers. He said the media campaign will cost about $5 million.

Berman said he was inspired to speak out against unions after he noticed that labor had stepped up its promotion of card-check recognition as a way of organizing new members. The strategy allows unions to circumvent the time-consuming process of a National Labor Relations Board election. In a card-check campaign, the union seeks a pledge of neutrality from the employer and a promise to recognize a bargaining unit after more than 50 percent of a workforce signs union cards.

''They want to force people to join unions," Berman said in a telephone interview. ''They are going to corporations and intimidating them into being neutral."


Government oversight screws workers? Shocking!

Unions seek end to Act 47 oversight of city
By Rich Lord
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Labor leaders launched a multipronged assault on state oversight of the city of Pittsburgh yesterday, asking City Council to call for its end, backing a state bill to curb its effects and attacking its key privatization initiative.

But council postponed for three weeks a vote on a union-backed bill asking to end oversight under state Act 47. Its sponsor, Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle, said she wanted to give Mayor Bob O'Connor "the benefit of the doubt" while he rewrites the 2006 budget.

Only the state secretary of community and economic development can end oversight, though city officials can request that action.

Mr. O'Connor has been lukewarm to ending oversight, which started in 2003 and gives the city a means of limiting union contracts.

Ms. Carlisle said her bill was "not just for one group of people, but to make the city whole," and pledged to work with the mayor to modify it.

International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1 President Joe King told council that the city no longer needs oversight, since it announced last week that it brought in $15 million more than it spent in 2005. Some officials have questioned that figure, but Mr. King said they have not presented an alternative number.

"My group, especially, has taken a tremendous amount, the bulk, of the hit," he said. The Fire Bureau budget has been cut from $60.4 million in 2004 to $43 million this year.

The firefighters' contract runs through 2009, but can be changed next year.

"We want the right to bargain with our employers on a level playing field," he said.


Students are boring

Student labor group renews call for higher wages at unions
Andrew Peck
The Daily Cardinal

A proposed referendum by the Student Labor Action Coalition would require Memorial Union and several other UW-Madison organizations to either pay employees a higher wage or lose funding.

The Union also provided a plan last week to deal with the issue of compensation for limited-term employees, who do not receive benefits, but it may not do enough, according to SLAC representative Josh Healey.

“The Union’s policy is about giving limited-term employees full-term employment, which is very important, but it doesn’t necessarily say anything about all workers having a living wage, so it doesn’t affect students,” Healey said.

However, he acknowledged that “what the Union is doing doesn’t contradict what we’re doing; our initiative should compliment, not add to what they’re doing.”

But Michael Imbrogno, a representative of Local Union 171 and employee of Memorial Union, remains skeptical of the Union’s plan. “We’ve heard this song and dance before,” he said, “and I don’t believe it until it actually happens.”

Shayna Hetzel, vice president of external relations for the Wisconsin Union said the Union is neither for, nor against the proposal.

“If it passes, we’d work with the University and other auxiliaries to find a way to implement it,” Hetzel said.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Love the WSM, but rhetoric is moronic... as is debating with Marxists

What type of society do anarchists want to live in?

Text of a WSM part of Marxism v Anarchism debate organised by the (Irish) Socialist Party / CWI

Anarchism essentially sees a free society where everybody has the opportunity to live as they want as achievable. But what does that mean in practice, and how do we get there.

The first thing about a revolution is that it must result in an expansion of freedom and not a new set of rulers.

Popular revolt got rid of the dictatorships in Stalinist Europe, recently in Georgia, Serbia, and Indonesia. All these states were police states and yet they fell, which goes to show the power that workers have when they get going.

While in these cases workers knew perfectly well what they didn't want, i.e. the old rulers, but putting something new in their place was a different story. They put in different rulers instead of a different political system with the result that the same old patterns of exploitation continued.

We have got to try the road of freedom.

And being bossed about isn't something that people are willing to fight for. This discussion is based on the premise of a post-revolutionary society, one that is under threat, presumably, of counter-revolution. Well, if the people don't think the new life is better than the old one, they won't lift a finger to defend it. And that will be the end of that.

So that means freedom in the most general sense is an absolute necessity; no secret police, political courts, to the freedom to participate in making decisions that affect you. And of course, as socialists, for this freedom to have any meaning, people need to have enough food in their bellies.

Freedom in Revolution
Freedom of speech & organisation
It is vital in a revolutionary situation that freedom of organisation is available to all political strands.

When it comes to advancing one's political ideas on how society should be organised this freedom needs to be available to all. And not just because it is a nice thing but also because it is useful. Anarchists believe that the best decisions are made after a debate that has the opportunity to hear all sides. If one political faction institutes itself as the thought police of the population then the population won't be able to hear all the arguments for particular policies. Useful options will inevitably become excluded from the mix.

What do anarchists mean by revolution?
Forerunner to the revolution
We don't see a libertarian revolution coming out of nowhere. The example of Spain is instructive. There was a long build up to the revolution, probably the high point of workers' self-management in history. It was was preceded by 70 years of militant activity. Workers learned how to run society through self-organisation and direct action.

Obvious things that come with revolution

Overthrow of the capitalist regime: mass occupations, militias, dismantling of the state apparatus.
Mass involvement in running society
Take the wealth of the rich and redistribute it.
Start producing things with need in mind.
Start thinking about our impact on Earth and factoring this in to the cost of production.
Getting rid of the system of leaders and led in work and in society. That is, changing the social relationship involved in production.
An end to invading and pillaging weaker nation


IWW uses innovative organizing tactic by announcing Summit without also announcing when it will be. Brilliant!

IWW Organizing Summit 2006

"By building organizations based on solidarity, rather than on bureaucratic chain-of-command, we build organizations that by their very existence help to bring a new kind of society into being." --Staughton Lynd, Solidarity Unionism

For the first time in recent memory wobblies from all over will be meeting with the primary objective of discussing organizing. The Organizing Summit is what many wobs have been wanting for years. It is a chance to focus on organizing in the union and what it means to say, "Every member is an organizer."

The weekend will be hosted by the Austin GMB and was proposed at General Assembly 2005 in the hopes of supporting the work of the Organizing Department Formation Committee (ODFC). The assembly endorsed the Summit and the ODFC has also endorsed the meeting.

As proposed by the Austin GMB, the weekend will have four goals:

* organizing workshops
* organizing discussions and presentations
* the state of organizing in the union
* discussion of the preliminary report of the ODFC

Attendees must be in good standing in the IWW. Presenters in some cases will not be required to be IWWs.

For some reason P-CRAC blames Fedaykin for this, we aren't sure why

Vancouver: Anarchist/Surrealist Jamboree

Friday March 3 to Sunday March 5

Carnegie Centre
401 Main Street
Vancouver, Canada

Anarchism: No Bosses, No Leaders
Surrealism: Convulsive Beauty
Jamboree: A noisy revel

More info: check the Carnegie Newsletter or at the front desk

An Anarcho-Surrealist Manifesto *

I is an other. So what if a piece of wood discovers it is a violin…
If brass wakes as a bugle, it is not its fault at all.
-Arthur Rimbaud (1871)

By demanding the impossible, we become impossible in our demands. Make no mistake about it, we demand an end to all forms of domination and insist on the realization of poetry in everyday life. Only by erasing the artificial dichotomy between dream and reality can we sever the ties that bind revolutionary demands to a miserabilist search for the best of all possible rulers. What is more humiliating than to be ruled? What is more beautiful to a surrealist than the shattered glass of reality? All power to the insurgent imagination!

The unfurling of the black flag of anarchy augers all the wonders that can be created when subservience dies and the impossible is unleashed. What is more debilitating than to follow orders? What is more inspiring to an anarchist than the refusal to obey? Mutiny is a collective form of refusal in which the intensity of the fevered desire for liberty breaks the authoritarian chains of duty and coercion in the convulsive heat of mutual aid. Impatient to emancipate ourselves, as soon as the uncharted land of our dreams is in sight, we don't petition the captain to take us ashore, we simply jump ship.

Swimming to shore, we are swiftly carried along by the billowing waves of the social revolution. The splendid winds of change, blowing at gale force as if in harmony with the intensity of our desires, even cause the brass ornaments on deck to reverberate wildly in a jamboree bugle call of Marvelous Freedom. Looking back, we see the floundering ship of state, from which we have only narrowly escaped with our lives, suddenly hit a hidden reef and explode into a shower of debris. In awe, we watch the flying splinters of wood transform themselves as if by alchemy into a thousand screaming violins. In spontaneous freedom, they improvise with the aolian harpsound of the wind, the ocean's leonine roar and the seagulls' incessant cries; all vibrating together in the surreal key of anarchy.

Reality is no obstacle now as the impossible looms up before us on the horizon like the purple aura that circles the moon in a subversive halo of Mad Love. We dance all night in sweaty abandon on the beach, swim naked in the coolness of the moonlight, then fall asleep in each other's arms dreaming of anarchy and surrealism—-the impossible compass points of a world turned upside down.

* Written by Ron Sakolsky for the Anarchist/Surrealist Jamboree (Vancouver, March 3 - 5, 2006)

Stop fucking around Andy

Q&A: Leader of breakaway labor movement sees global change ahead
Brian Tumulty
The Statesman Journal

Whether you call it credit or blame, Andrew Stern is the one person most often mentioned as the key player in the decision by several labor unions to break away from the AFL-CIO last summer.

Stern is president of the fast growing Service Employees International Union, which has 1.8 million members ranging from janitors to nurses to security guards.

Despite his own union’s success, Stern said in a recent interview that he doesn’t expect a significant turnaround in the decline of the American labor movement until the end of the decade.

But his union and six others involved in the new Change to Win Federation that will hold their organizing convention March 19-22 in Las Vegas have big plans for this year and the future.

Question: What have been the benefits of creating the Change to Win Federation?
Answer: I think we’ll brand Change to Win as an organization for the 50 million service workers whose jobs aren’t going to leave this country, to raise the question about what are we going to do to make sure that the service jobs today are like the manufacturing jobs of yesterday where you could own a home, raise a family and live the American dream.

Q: On the topic of organizing, the big news last year was home day-care workers?
A: Child-care workers in Illinois, Oregon and Washington. And workers in the South. We won a victory in Houston. I was down in Miami on Martin Luther King’s birthday and the entire religious community came out in support of living wages. I think a lot of what we are seeing now in our union is an attempt to take our success in the North and bring it where the population and where workers need it the most in the South.

Q: How much did your union grow last year?
A: We have 200,000 new potential members. Now we have to bargain contracts in some of the right-to-work states. But we gained recognition for 200,000 gross. We’re at 1.8 million now. We should go over 2 million in the next couple of years.

Q: Are you working with the United Food and Commercial Workers in trying to organize Wal-Mart workers?
A: We are trying to change Wal-Mart’s business model. We founded an organization called Wal-Mart Watch, which has been active exposing their reliance on Medicaid. The Wal-Mart business model is exactly what’s wrong with America. Everybody goes to work. People work hard. And five members of the family have a hundred billion dollars together. And everybody else is going to state government asking for your and my tax dollars to pay for the Wal-Mart workers’ health care.

Q: What are you doing on the international scene?
A: First of all — which I never thought I would say — we have staff now stationed in London, Geneva, Paris, Australia and South America. We have been in discussions for a long time with a company called Securitas, which is the largest security company in the world that owns Burns, Wells Fargo and Pinkerton in our country, about a global relationship.


A fat bald Friend of P-CRACs favorite new book

Activist argues that unions are corrupt
Reviewed by John Brady
San Francisco Chronicle

Solidarity for Sale
How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America's Promise
By Robert Fitch

Should friends of labor devote their time and energy to exposing union corruption?

In his new book, "Solidarity for Sale," writer and union activist Robert Fitch makes the case for answering this question with a resounding yes. Fitch is a lifelong union supporter. He joined the Laborer's Union, Local 5, in Chicago Heights, Ill., as a teenager. He has been a union organizer, and he has written extensively about unions and union organizing for a wide range of newspaper and magazines. He remains a union member.

But since he's such a union supporter, is corruption really the most pressing issue to engage? It's hardly earth-shattering to say that the house of labor sits on a shaky foundation. With a few exceptions, unions have been losing members for decades. The controversy over how to best reverse the decline recently led to a major split within the union movement, with five major unions leaving the AFL-CIO in June to form their own coalition, the Change to Win Coalition. And although unions have poured millions of dollars into national electoral politics (an estimated $250 million in 2004), they have little to show for it in terms of labor-friendly legislation.

Given such a situation, wouldn't it be more helpful to focus on better organizing techniques or more imaginative political strategies instead of on union corruption? Only if one believes, Fitch answers, that corruption is an anomaly in the union movement, the result of a few bad, and in some cases very bad, apples who have managed to tarnish what is basically a sound institution.

In his book's opening chapters Fitch argues that corruption is systemic and has sapped the ability of unions to fight on behalf of their members. From there, he goes on to survey union history and traces corruption back to the union movement's origins. He revisits key moments in union history, including the 1905 Chicago Teamsters strike, which some labor historians have interpreted as an example of union solidarity in action, to highlight the baleful effects of labor racketeering.

The final parts of the book survey the contemporary scene. Concentrating on the case of New York, Fitch tells the story of corrupt locals from the Laborers International Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees. In the closing chapters, he examines efforts at union reform, including what he considers to be the failure of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union to achieve a clean union.

Running through the book is Fitch's core argument: Corruption is rooted in the very structure of how American unions are organized.