Friday, September 30, 2011

Global Student Protests Continue

Over the past year, students have been protesting throughout the world against cuts to public education and privatization schemes. Here’s a roundup for September, from the International Student Movement website:
  • Greek students have occupied more than 224 facilities since September 1st. They also occupied the state television network this week and succeeded in getting a public statement read over the air. They have been protesting increasing tuition and attacks on their student organizations.
  • In Chile, students have been demonstrating in the streets for months against the privatization of the education system and increased student fees.
  • On September 6, student protesters confronted Cabinet Ministers in Galway, Ireland, over the closure of Roscommon hospital’s emergency department and increasing tuition.
  • 100 students occupied a grammar school overnight in Bremen, Germany, this month to protest budget cuts.
  • Students and teachers in Colombia went on strike this month over a new law that increases the privatization of the universities.
  • In Kenya teachers blocked the Nairobi-Naivasha highway to demand that they be hired as permanent employees rather than contract workers.
  • Students and staff went on strike at the American University of Cairo to protest increasing tuition and to demand higher wages for university employees.
  • Thousands of people protested in front of the parliament in Rome against a new austerity package that includes education cuts.
  • Hundreds of students protested at the University of the Philippines, in Diliman, against education cuts, while 8,000 students, faculty and employees at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Sta.Mesa marched against education cuts.
  • Students at Dhaka University in Bangladesh demonstrated against a newly introduced fine for students who don't attend class often enough. At least ten students at Rajshahi University (RU) were injured as members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) allegedly attacked them while staging a sit-in in protest of fee hikes.
  • Students occupied the George Square Lecture Theatre of Edinburgh University, Scotland, over the £36,000 in tuition fees charged to British students coming from outside Scotland.
  • Tens of thousands of students and teachers marched throughout Spain against cuts to public education and attacks on teachers’ pay and benefits.
  • Ongoing protests have been occurring at numerous campuses of the University of California and the Cal State University systems against tuition hikes and cuts in services.

Today in Labor History—September 30

September 30, 1885 – The Knights of Labor won their strike on the Wabash Railroad. (from the Daily Bleed)
Public Enemy #1 in 1892, Henry Clay Frick, Responsible for the Homestead Massacre

September 30, 1892
– Strike leaders were prosecuted for the crime of treason for the first time in U.S. history. Henry C. Frick, chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, convinced the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to issue warrants for the arrests of every member of the advisory board of the striking steel union for treason against the state. The 29 strike leaders were ultimately charged with plotting "to incite insurrection, rebellion & war against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." (from the Daily Bleed)
Illustration from the Industrial Worker, 1911
 September 30, 1909 -- The "Industrial Worker," mouthpiece of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), issued its first call for footloose hoboes and Wobblies to hop the freights for Missoula, to join in the free speech fight taking place there. From 1907-1917 the IWW carried out more than 30 Free Speech fights across the US, generally to demand the right to organize workers in public places and to agitate from street corners. As police arrested one Wobbly for public speaking, another would take his or her place, resulting in thousands of arrests, as well as mass beatings by vigilantes. However, their civil disobedience often succeeded in clogging the jails and court systems to the point that cities were forced to back down and allow public speaking and agitation.  (from the Daily Bleed)
Militiamen Surround Peaceful Textile Strikers, Lawrence, 1912
 September 30, 1912 – The Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” textile strike was in full swing. On this date, 12,000 textile workers walked out of mills to protest the arrests of two leaders of the strike. Police clubbed strikers and arrested many, while the bosses fired 1,500. IWW co-founder Big Bill Haywood threatened another general strike to get the workers reinstated. Strike leaders Arturo Giovannitti and Joe Ettor were eventually acquitted 58 days later. (From Workday Minnesota)

September 30, 1916 – IWW headquarters were raided in Australia and union leaders were arrested because of their opposition to World War I. In December, seven Wobblies were sentenced to 15 years in prison for anti-war activism. Others received five and ten year sentences. In August, 1917, the IWW was made illegal. Nevertheless, the IWW still helped lead the General Strike of 1917. (from the Daily Bleed)

September 30, 1962 -- The National Farm Workers Association (predecessor to the United Farm Workers) was created during a convention called by Cesar Chavez in Fresno, California. (from the Daily Bleed)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Strike Wave 2011 Continues: Cal State Faculty Seek Strike Authorization

A California State University faculty union asked its members this week to authorize a strike after the university rejected a compromise proposal to pay previously negotiated raises, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. If no deal with the university is reached, there could be strikes at the Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay campuses starting on November 17.

The California Faculty Association, which represents 24,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches at 23 Cal State campuses, was angered by Chancellor Charles Reed’s decision to withhold raises that had already been negotiated for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years.

Cal State officials have argued that the system has lost nearly $1 billion in state funding since 2008 and has no money for raises. However, they have found the money to give raises to many of their presidents and executives. Additionally, the raises had already been agreed to and employees have already earned them, so reneging on them now, regardless of state budget cuts, should be unacceptable to employees and they would be crazy not to strike.

Michigan to Ease Charter Restrictions, Professor Says They Are “Corporate” Schools

Michigan is preparing to ease rules on charter schools even further. Supporters have argued that charter schools have been very successful in Michigan. Many claim they are better than traditional public schools and increasing them would improve educational outcomes for the state.

In reality, charter schools perform the same or worse than traditional public schools. However, they have been very successful is in making profits, so successful that a Western Michigan professor says they should more accurately be called “corporate” or “franchise” schools. According to the Grand Rapids Press, Western Michigan professor Gary Miron made this statement during testimony before a state Senate Committee that was weighing whether to make it easier for charter schools to open in Michigan. (Miron, it should be noted, is an advocate of charter schools, at least conceptually).

Of course investors and other education profiteers are the ones crying the loudest for an easing of restrictions on charters. What do they care about quality of effectiveness? A profit is a profit.

Michigan’s plan for increasing the number of charters includes lifting the cap on the number of charter schools that colleges and universities can run, increasing the number of cyber charters, and making it easier for parents to petition districts to convert their traditional schools into charters.

Over 35% of Black and Latino Children Living in Poverty

39% of black children and 35% of Hispanic children are currently living in poverty, while 12% of white children are living in poverty according to a report on Democracy Now. In terms of total numbers, there are 6.1 million Hispanic children living in poverty, compared with 5 million white children and 4.4 million black children.

If anyone really gives a damn about improving schools and educational outcomes (not to mention alleviating a great deal of human suffering), then ending poverty ought to be the overwhelming focus. Improving teachers, curricula and school structure may help some students do better, but it cannot end the achievement gap, bring all students up to NCLB standards, or make all children successful.

The primary cause of the achievement gap and poor educational outcomes is poverty. As long as kids come to school hungry, sick, homeless, stressed out from material insecurity, and well behind their affluent peers in academic readiness, no reform will ensure that they are reading at grade level, graduating on time or ready for college.

Of course ending poverty cannot occur by simply increasing social programs, charity or the efforts of community based volunteer organizations. Poverty cannot end without also ending wealth, which necessarily involves social conflict and, in all likelihood, violent resistance by the wealthy. But a good start might be if those who work for wages started to align themselves with each other instead of the bosses and started to recognize that their own wellbeing is intricately linked to that of other wage workers.