Monday, April 30, 2012

Today in Labor History—April 30

April 30, 1927 – 109 miners were killed by an explosion at the Everettville mine, in Everettville, West Virginia.  (From Workday Minnesota)

April 30 1871 –A mob massacred more than 100 Apaches who had placed themselves under U.S. protection at Camp Grant, Arizona. (From the Daily Bleed)
Haymarket Affair, Harpers Weekly
Convicted Anarchists
April 30 1886 50,000 workers in Chicago were on strike, with 30,000 more joining in the next day. The strike brought most of Chicago’s manufacturing to a standstill. On May 3rd, the Chicago cops killed four unionists. A mass meeting and demonstration was called for the 4th, in Haymarket Square, where a cop will be killed by an assailant who will never be identified. Ultimately, eight anarchists (many not even in attendance) will tried for murder & sentenced to death. This event, known as the Haymarket Tragedy or the Haymarket Affair, will be the inspiration for International Worrkers’ Day, celebrated on  May 1st in every country in the world except the U.S. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 30 1899 The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, miner's strike continued, with 1,200 workers getting arrested, and being placed into specially erected bullpens until the strikes were broken. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 30 1945 – Eva Braun and Adolph Hitler committed suicide, in Berlin. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 30 1965 – The TWU (Transport Workers Union) won $9.5 million in pensions for former Fifth Avenue Coach employees after long court battle. (From the Daily Bleed)
National Guard Patrolling Los Angeles (Public Domain
April 30 1992 –Following the Rodney King verdict in LA, there was rioting in cities throughout the U.S., including Las Vegas, San Francisco (where a state of emergency was declared), Oakland, Madison, Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Toronto and Pasadena. (From the Daily Bleed) In San Francisco, your humble blogger was shot at by an frightened shop owner (along with hundreds of others).

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Today in Labor History—April 29

Coxey's Army Leaving Camp (Library of Congress)
April 29, 1894Jacob Coxey led a group of 500 unemployed workers from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. His Army of the Poor was immediately arrested for trespassing on Capitol grounds.

The Return of Coxey's Army (By Eddie Starr)
When they busted all the unions,
You can't make no living wage.
And this working poor arrangement,
Gonna turn to public rage.
And then get ready . . .
We're gonna bring back Coxey's Army
And take his message to the street.
(From the Daily Bleed)

U.S. Marines With Captured Sandinista Flag, 1932
April 29, 1895Warships were sent to Nicaragua to "protect" US interests, the first of many military interventions in that small Central American country. President Taft ordered the overthrow of President Zelaya in 1909.The U.S. later invaded in 1910 and occupied the country in 1912, an occupation that was ultimately ended by the resistance of Augusto Sandino and the original Sandinistas in 1933. In 1934, Anastasio Somoza assassinated Sandino. (From the Daily Bleed and Wikipedia)
April 29, 1899Failing to achieve their demand that only union men be employed at the Bunker Hill Company at Wardner, Idaho, members of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) dynamited the $250,000 mill, completely destroying it. President McKinley responded by sending in black soldiers from Brownsville, Texas, with orders to round up the miners and imprison them in specially built "bullpens." From 1899 to 1901, the U.S. Army occupyied the Coeur d'Alene mining region in Idaho. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 29, 1915 –The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom was founded at The Hague, which works for world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice, an end to all forms of violence, and to establish the political, social, and psychological conditions which can assure peace, freedom, and justice for all. Its first president was Jane Addams, who founded and directed Hull House in Chicago for newly arrived immigrants. (From Workday Minnesota)

Captured Revolutionary, May 1919 (German Federal Archive)
April 29, 1919From April 29 to May 2, government forces in Munich violently crushed the Republic of the Councils of Bavaria. Workers, socialists, anarchists, and sympathizers bravely resisted. Over 700 were summarily executed. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 29, 1937 –The Friends of Durruti Group postered Barcelona with a list of their demands: "All power to the working class. All economic power to the unions." (From the Daily Bleed)

April 29, 1970 –The National Guard killed seven students at Ohio State University. (From the Daily Bleed)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Happy Workers Memorial Day

Don't Be Careless Like Lupo--The Boss Does Not Have Your Back

Today in Labor History—April 28

Fletcher Christian's Home (public domain)
April 28, 1789 – Fletcher Christian led a group of mutineers against Captain William Bligh’s brutal working conditions on the HMS Bounty. The story was later retold by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall in their trilogy. “Mutiny on the Bounty,” was, of course, the most famous of the trilogy. The descendents of Christian and the other mutineers live today on the South Pacific island of Pitcairn. (From the Daily Bleed)

Jules Bonot, After the Cops Got Him
April 28, 1912 Jules Bonnot, French leader of the anarchist/illegalist Bonnot Gang, was killed in a police shootout. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1914 – 181-192 workers died in a coal mine collapse disaster at Eccles, West Virginia. The mine was owned by the Guggenheim family. (From the Daily Bleed and Wikipedia)

April 28, 1919 – A bomb plot was discovered in which over 30 dynamite bombs were to be sent people "on the anarchists' enemies list," including U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, who had been rounding up, imprisoning and deporting anarchists and union activists. Other targets included  J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1924 – 119 workers died in the Benwood, West Virginia coal mine disaster. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1945 – Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was hanged by partisans. (From the Daily Bleed, which also asked the question: Was he hung well??) 
Execution of Mussolini (Click here for newsreel footage)

April 28, 1953 – After overthrowing the democratically elected government Iran, the CIA installed the Shah, launching a 25-year reign of terror against the Persian people. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1965 – 20,000 U.S. Marines invaded the Dominican Republic to prevent democracy and to prop up the military junta. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1967 Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted to fight in Vietnam and was thus stripped of his boxing title within hours. His justification for refusing to go:  "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger.” (From the Daily Bleed)

April 28, 1970 – Congress approved the creation of OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (only to watch idly as it was gutted by Reagan, and again by his successors). The AFL-CIO declared April 28 “Workers Memorial Day” to honor the hundreds of thousands of working people killed and injured on the job every year. (From Workday Minnesota)

April 28, 1977 – The Mothers of the Disappeared held their first rally at Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires. Under the U.S.-supported military dictatorship, 20,000 to 30,000 people were murdered or disappeared in Argentina between 1976 and 1983. (From the Daily Bleed)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Stand for Children Lynch Mob Wants MA Teachers Blood

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Riding the wave of hysteria about our dysfunctional schools and incompetent teachers, Stand for Children (S4C) Massachusetts has acquired enough signatures to get an initiative on the November ballot that would make evaluations more important than seniority in layoff and transfer decisions.

S4C says that polls it commissioned in 2011 indicated 85% approval for their initiative, according to South Coast Today. "People inherently get it," said Jason Williams, director of the MA branch of S4C.

What they “get,” however, is not readily apparent. Williams thinks that his initiative will help increase involvement by skeptical or uninvolved parents at low income schools. This is delusional at best. Lack of involvement by low income parents has little to do with how teachers are evaluated, and a lot to do with parents’ social status. Many are working two or three jobs to make ends meet or are working during the afternoons and evenings and are thus unable to make after school meetings, fundraisers or open houses. Some do not feel comfortable or confident navigating middle class institutions like public schools. More importantly, while greater parental involvement is generally considered good for schools, it alone cannot turn low performing schools around or erase the effects of living in poverty.

Williams also evoked the oft-repeated mantra that seniority has caused the state's teacher of the year to be laid off because another teacher had more seniority. However, if Williams and other “reformers” really want to keep excellent teachers in the classrooms, they should be fighting for higher taxes, especially on the wealthy, so that districts could afford to hire and retain the best teachers and not have to lay off anyone. Furthermore, with sufficient funding, districts could offer more professional development to help all teachers become better at their craft, raising the quality of teaching for all students, not just those lucky enough to have teachers of the year.

It is also worth looking at what it takes to become a “teacher of the year”—a status typically not earned without going well beyond the call of duty and one’s contractual obligations. In other words, teachers of the year generally put in more unpaid volunteer time and labor than other teachers. Yet this is only necessary because it is impossible to accomplish all of our responsibilities within our contractual hours for which we are paid, let alone all the additional supports kids need. So why not fund schools sufficiently for teachers to be paid amply for their skill and commitment and to provide students with the services they need, rather than expecting bleeding heart martyrs to do it on a volunteer basis?

There is another significant problem with S4C’s initiative: Massachusetts is implementing a new evaluation system next year that has not yet been tested. The bugs have not been identified, let alone corrected. To base a teacher’s job and financial security on an untested system is premature and risky, particularly when there is no evidence that seniority has anything to do with the effectiveness of Massachusetts schools.

12 Workers are Killed Daily on the Job in America

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
It would come as no surprise if you were unaware that April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day. We do not get the day off work or school. Banks do not close. Government does not shut down. The media do not even mention it.

However, it might come as a surprise that a dozen or so U.S. workers die on the job each day, given the common belief that the country is the wealthiest and greatest in the world. After all, don’t we have modern medicine, safety devices on our machines, effective training and mandatory breaks for those who operate dangerous machinery?

While American workers are responsible for the vast wealth accumulated by the richest CEO’s, bankers and industrialists, their lives and wellbeing are hardly valued at all. They are easily replaced by the millions of unemployed and underemployed. Slowing down production to a safe speed, installing safety features, and properly training employees all cut into profits and are far more expensive than a bouquet and a condolence check.

Working to Live, Not Dying to Work
Legislators routinely mischaracterize safety regulations as “job killers.” However, weak safety regulations are, in reality, people killers. In 1970, the year that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was passed, there were more than 14,000 deaths on the job nationally. By 2010, the number of occupational deaths was down to 4,574, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Despite this progress, there are still too many deaths occurring on the job and job deaths are increasing in some regions. The Sacramento Bee notes that workplace fatalities increased by roughly 25% in Pennsylvania between 2009 and 2010, despite a decline in the number of people actually working. There have also been many notable preventable workplace fatalities recently, like the Deep Water Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers, and the Massey Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion, which killed 29 workers.

It is also worth noting that close to 3 million workers are injured or made sick at work each year.

No one should have to die or suffer serious injuries just to put food on the table.

Today in Labor History—April 27

April 27, 1521 Philippine Natives ambushed and killed Ferdinand Magellan. (From the Daily Bleed)

Death of General Pike, Battle of York
April 27, 1813The U.S. burned down Toronto in an unsuccessful attempt to gain control of Lake Ontario during the battle of York. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 27, 1825The first strike for the 10-hour workday was started by carpenters in Boston. (From Workday Minnesota and the Daily Bleed)

Robert Owen, by John Cranch, 18

April 27, 1825Robert Owen set up his Utopian Socialist Colony at New Harmony, Indiana. (From the Daily Bleed)

SS Sultana on Fire, from Harpers Weekly
April 27, 18651,450 paroled Union POWs died when the steamer "Sultana" blew up in the worst shipping disaster in American history. The river steamer Sultana was overloaded. It was equipped with tubular boilers which were not well-suited for use in the muddy waters of the lower Mississippi. The boat blew up & sank near Memphis, Tennessee. Over 2,300 perished in all, many of them emaciated Union soldiers returning north after being released from a Confederate prison camp. (From the Daily Bleed)

April 27, 1904Congress extended the Chinese Exclusion Act indefinitely (first passed in 1882; again in 1902), making it unlawful for Chinese laborers to enter the U.S. and denying citizenship to those already here. (From the Daily Bleed)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Buffalo Teachers Refuse to Buckle to State Blackmail

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
Buffalo Public Schools teachers voted overwhelmingly last week to reject evaluation reform at six of its low performing schools, according to Buffalo Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore said that if the state withheld funding for such “arbitrary and capricious” reasons they would hold the state accountable and sue.

Education “reformers” have been taking advantage of the severe budget cuts districts have suffered over the past three years to blackmail teachers’ unions into accepting “reforms” that undermine their job security, collective bargaining rights and working conditions. In this case, New York had offered BPS $5.6 million in additional funding if they ripped up contractual rights, something that could only happen with approval of the new evaluations by the BTF.

When the union refused, the superintendent tried to blame them for the district’s financial woes and insinuate that it did not care about children’s wellbeing:
"The state has given us clear guidelines as to what we have to do . . . to restore these much needed funds to our schools. . . all that is needed for approval of this document is Mr. Rumore's signature. . . I continue to appeal to him to do what is best for the children of the Buffalo Public Schools . . .”

Never mind that the union had nothing to do with the budget cuts or that the teachers would have to sign away their job security in order to get the funds. The new evaluation plan would base teachers’ evaluations partly on student test scores, a metric that has virtually no correlation to teachers’ skill or performance in the classroom. More significantly, the test scores are most strongly correlated with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. Thus, under the new plan, teachers would be evaluated on the affluence of their students, rather than their merits as professionals. This is not only unfair and unreasonable for the teachers, but it could undermine the wellbeing of low income students by driving excellent teachers out of low income schools.

U.S. Government Study Confirms That Death Penalty is Useless Deterrent

The U.S. government is one of only a handful of countries that still executes its own citizens and it is fifth on the list of the most executions worldwide (see Axis of Evil). Politicians and advocates continue to insist that it is a deterrent against violent crime, yet the U.S. continues to have one of the highest homicide rates of any of the world’s most affluent nations. In fact, aside from Russia, no wealthy country comes close.

Thus it should be no surprise that a new government-backed study has found no evidence that the death penalty acts as an effective deterrent. The National Research Council was unable to find a link between the death penalty and the prevention of murder. (Democracy Now)

California to Abolish Death Penalty?
More than 500,000 signatures have been collected to get a referendum on the death penalty onto California’s November ballot, according to Democracy Now. If it passes, California would become the 18th state in the nation without a death penalty. California currently has over 700 people on death row. As of April, 2012, the death penalty had been abolished in Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.