"Serving our Life Sentence in the Shacks" Abahlali baseMjondolo People all over South Africa have been asking the leaders of Abahlali baseMjondolo as to why the government continues to ignore the demands of the shack dwellers. They have been asking why after all the marches, statements, reports and meetings the Kennedy Road settlement continues to get burnt down through the endless shack fires. They have been referring in particular to the recent Kennedy Road shack fire on Sunday, 4 July 2010 that took four lives, leaving more than three thousand people displaced and homeless.
Politics at Work Mario Tronti Institute for Conjunctural Research It is time to engage in a new research project. Our theme is: work and politics. Yes, because it is a novelty to concern ourselves with this theme. It says a lot about the condition we find ourselves in. What until some time ago was an old conviction has today become an entirely new realization: either the workers constitute a political force or they do not exist. And the political inexistence of the workers is of course the problem of the Left, but it is also the problem of society and the state, it is the real theme behind the crisis of civilization. If we don’t put it in these terms, we will not find the compass that we seek in order to orient ourselves in the open seas of world capitalism, once again thrown into turmoil by affairs that are entirely its own. This is what it hurts to see today: that the class adversary is not in good shape, that it is unable to provide for the majority of its subalterns, and that nevertheless its problems are entirely relative to the relationships between its internal parts. At its base, labor power too was an internal part of capital, but when it took off the uniform of the producer of surplus value and donned the outfit of the realizer of political value, it threatened, as we used to say, the constituted order, hinting at something other and beyond. Now instead capitalist contradictions are only ever settlings of accounts between sections of the dominant forces: financialization against real economy, liberalization versus regulation and vice versa, market and/or state, world distribution of energy resources and therefore pieces of the world against other pieces of the world, but still within a single thought of social relations: the bosses – whether private or public – rule, and the workers comply.
Can the New Global Labour Studies Stimulate a New Global Labour Movement? Two Drafts for Discussion Peter Waterman Global Labor Charter Project
Workers Creating Hope: Factory Occupations and Self-Management Shawn Hattingh Monthly Review Zine In most countries, political leaders and bosses are using the global economic crisis to once again unleash an attack on workers and the poor. As part of this, we have seen corporations around the world trying to make workers pay for the crisis by retrenching tens of millions of people. In the most extreme cases, workers arrive at their companies in the morning and are told they no longer have a job. With all these retrenchments, corporations are not just taking away jobs but they are also attacking people's dignity. They are literally throwing people into a very uncertain world where it is getting harder and harder to even get the basics of life such as food and shelter. Of course, the corporate elite are not worried if people starve or live in misery, what they care about is their profit margins and bottom lines. Through retrenchments, therefore, the elite are waging a war on workers and the poor in the name of corporate survival and profit prospects. Fortunately, workers around the world have started resisting. Strikes against retrenchments have occurred from France to China and from Greece to South Korea. In some cases, workers have even kidnapped their bosses and occupied factories and offices to stop being made 'redundant.'1 It is through this type of direct action that the workers involved are winning concessions from the elite. Indeed, workplace occupations seem to be one of the most effective ways for people to win their demands and reclaim their dignity back from the elite.
Film: Visteon Workers Fight for a Better Deal The UK education charity and its alternative news channel WORLDbytes has released a filmed report covering the Visteon protests in Enfield. The report draws out the situation workers faced upon being made redundant and what prompted them to take matters into their own hands and occupy the car part factory. Interviews conducted directly after the workers left the occupation capture the mood at the time: a great uncertainty about what the future holds yet hope and defiance that ultimately led Visteon bosses to meet their demands.
Workers Without Borders Jenifer Gordon New York Times Americans are hardly in the mood to welcome new immigrants. The last thing we need, the reasoning goes, is more competition for increasingly scarce jobs. But the need for immigration reform is more urgent than ever. The current system hurts wages and working conditions — for everyone. Today, millions of undocumented immigrants accept whatever wage is offered. They don’t protest out of fear of being fired or deported. A few hundred thousand guest workers, brought in for seasonal and agricultural jobs, know that asserting their rights could result in a swift flight home. This system traps migrants in bad jobs and ends up lowering wages all around. The solution lies in greater mobility for migrants and a new emphasis on workers’ rights. If migrants could move between jobs, they would be free to expose abusive employers. They would flow to regions with a shortage of workers, and would also be able to return to their home countries when the outlook there brightened, or if jobs dried up here.
The Nights of Labor Revisited Jacques Ranciere Preface to the Hindi edition of The Nights of Labor: the workers’ dream in 19th century France. Trans. Abhay Dube. English Trans. Rana Dasgupta . To be published by Sarai The Indian reader who opens this book in 2009 will no doubt think it is a strange thing. How can these stories of nineteenth-century French lockmakers, tailors, cobblers and typesetters be relevant to the information revolution, the reign of immaterial production or the global market? This question, it should be said, was already present for the French reader who opened this book twenty-seven years ago. We did not speak yet of globalization, nor of the end of the proletariat, of history or of utopia. Quite the contrary: France had recently elected a combined socialist and communist government, which proudly laid claim to the traditions of Marxism and of working class politics. And it is in this context that the book seemed to run counter to its own time, and became difficult to classify. The author was a professional philosopher who had struck his first blows, in the 1960s, by participating in the theoretical enterprise of Louis Althusser, who wished to rebuild Marxist theory. Now, instead of offering philosophical theses, he was telling stories about the French working class of the nineteenth century. And he offered nothing by way of Marxism – no analysis of the forms of industrial production, of capitalist exploitation, of social theories or of class struggles or worker movements. His workers, moreover, were not “real” workers; they were artisans from olden times, dreamers who dabbled in poetry and philosophy, who got together in the evening to found ephemeral newspapers, who became intoxicated by socialist and communist utopias but for the most part avoided doing anything about them. And the book seemed to lose itself in the aimless wanderings of these people, following the dreams of one, or the little stories others recounted in their diaries; the letters they wrote about their Sunday walks in the Paris suburbs, or the everyday concerns of those who had left for the United States to try out their dream of fraternal communalism. What on earth were readers to do with these stories in 1980? The question is not, therefore, one of geographical or temporal distance. This book may seem untimely in an era that proclaims the disappearance of the proletariat, but it also seemed so in the previous era, which claimed to represent the class that had been united by the condition of the factory and the science of capitalist production. Let me put it simply: this book is out of place in a postmodern vision for the same reasons that it was already out of place in a classical modernist vision. It runs counter to the belief, shared by modernism and postmodernism alike, in a straight line of history where cracks in the path of time are thought to be the work of time itself – the outcome of a global temporal process that both creates and destroys forms of life, consciousness and action. This book rejects this because, despite its apparent objectivity, such an idea of time always places a hierarchy upon beings and objects. The belief in historical evolution, said Walter Benjamin, legitimizes the victors. For me, this belief legitimizes the knowledge that decrees what is important and what is not, what makes or does not make history. It is thus that the social sciences have declared that these little stories of workers taking an afternoon walk, or straying far from the solid realities of the factory and the organized struggle, have no historical importance. In doing so they confirm the social order, which has always been built on the simple idea that the vocation of workers is to work – and to struggle – good progressive souls add – and that they have no time to lose in wandering, writing or thinking.
Faced With Snowballing Legal Woes, Starbucks Settles Case Over Lawyer's Illegal Interrogations of Union Workers Just days after Starbucks suffered a decisive defeat in a lengthy Labor Board trial in New York, the embattled coffee giant has settled a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board here over the unlawful interrogation of baristas by a company lawyer. The Board investigation was triggered by charges from the IWW Starbucks Workers Union that alleged one of the company's anti-union law firms, Varnum, Riddering, Schimdt, and Howlett, illegally interrogated baristas set to give testimony in a Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration hearing. In addition to revealing law-breaking from Starbucks' counsel, the settlement is significant as the first where the Labor Board did not allow Starbucks to deny guilt - - a sanction for repeatedly violating the rights of baristas seeking secure work hours, a living wage, and respect on the job. The company is still set to stand trial on Wednesday in Grand Rapids on a separate count of illegally firing outspoken union barista, Cole Dorsey. "The union is very pleased the Labor Board agreed that Starbucks' repeated violation of workers' rights precluded it from obtaining a non-admissions clause," said Dorsey. "As the economy continues to tank because of corporate wrongdoing, it's all the more critical that companies like Starbucks respect the right of working people to stand together and make their voice heard." In three previous settlements over conduct in Grand Rapids, the Twin Cities, and New York, the company pledged not to interfere with the organizing rights of its employees. Last week, a judge in New York found Starbucks guilty of extensive violations of workers' rights including firing pro-union workers, interfering with union communications, and discriminating against union supporters.
Worker Occupations and the Domino Effect Marie Trigona For many the worker occupation of the Chicago Republic Windows and Doors plant on December 5 may have come as a surprise. But for US workers who are facing a very bleak economic horizon - the Chicago sit-down strike has ignited a spark amongst workers fed up with corporate bailouts and job losses. In the midst of an overwhelming financial crisis, massive layoffs and a deepening economic recession workers are left with little other option that to take direct action in order to defend their rights. In Chicago, a group of workers decided to occupy their plant - to demand severance pay and benefits after being abruptly fired. Inside the plant, 50 workers rotated during the occupation - sitting firmly on fold out chairs and taking care of the now quiet machinery. Outside, supporters and fellow unionists carried banners in solidarity with the Chicago sit-down strike stating "Bank of...America gets bail out, workers get sold out." The workers at the Chicago Republic Windows and Doors plant are setting an example for the millions of people who are set to lose their jobs in the US recession. They are the voice of workers who see the emergency bailout plans for Wall Street as unfair and ultimately hurt working America. One of the winners on Wall Street, Bank of America, the second largest bank in the US and major beneficiary to the government's bailout plan for banks, refused to loan the company, Republic Windows and Doors, 1.5 million dollars the company owed to the 200 workers in severance and vacation pay.
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