Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UFT Censors Opposition to Obama Endorsement

On October 17, the Delegate Assembly of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in New York City was scheduled to vote on election endorsements. The leadership had a motion calling to vote for Democrat Barack Obama for president. Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) came in for the occasion and spoke at length to explain why teachers should vote for a candidate who has been at the forefront of the attacks on teachers unions, mainly arguing that Republican Mitt Romney would be worse. 

Marjorie Stamberg, a delegate from District 79 and a supporter of Class Struggle Education Workers (CSEW), distributed a resolution (see below) calling to repudiate the national AFT endorsement of Obama and for “no vote for Democrats, Republicans or any party or politician representing the interests of capital against the working class, poor and oppressed.” It was important that this resolution come before the union, which regularly provides the troops for phone-banking and canvassing for the Democrats.

However, when Stamberg sought to present the resolution for a vote under the point “Motions directed to the agenda,” the chair refused to let her read the motion or even to summarize it, claiming this censorship was according to Robert’s Rules of Order. When she responded, “I understand from this that there will be no criticism of Obama allowed at this meeting,” UFT vice president Michael Mendel became irate and the bureaucracy’s Unity Caucus voted to prevent the motion from coming to the floor. 

Then when the leadership's pro-Obama motion was presented, Stamberg attempted to speak against it. Again she was refused the right to speak, leading to further exchanges over the rules, with the UFT leadership arguing that it was not necessary to hear speakers for and against a motion. A Unity hack called the question, debate was cut off without hearing any opposition, and the motion was voted up.

Not only did the union leadership ram through an endorsement of a president who has aggressively pushed the agenda of corporate education “reform” and privatization of schools, none of the union reform groups in the UFT even attempted to oppose this capitalist politician, indicating that on basic issues their policies do not fundamentally differ from those of the leadership. The labor bureaucracy chains workers politically to the bosses’ parties, and union reformers go along, underlining the need for a class-struggle opposition.

The CSEW motion is reproduced here:

And Einstein’s Definition of Insanity*
WHEREAS, it is self-destructive to continually endorse Democratic Party politicians (and Republicans) who are attacking teachers and seeking to gut our unions; and
WHEREAS, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared war on the Chicago Teacher Union even before taking office; and
WHEREAS, the Democratic mayor has sought to  institute “merit pay,” teacher evaluation based on student test scores, the closure of over a hundred schools and their replacement by privately run non-union charter schools, which Chicago teachers valiantly resisted in their recent strike; and
WHEREAS, these policies would lead to the layoff of hundreds if not thousands of teachers and deprive our students, particularly those from poor, African American, Latino and Asian families of a quality public education; and
WHEREAS, in his vendetta against teachers unions, Mayor Emanuel was carrying out the policies of Democratic president Barack Obama and his education “czar” Arne Duncan; and
WHEREAS, the Democratic Obama administration’s program of “Race to the Top” is the continuation of the destructive “No Child Left Behind” policies of the Republican Bush administration; and
WHEREAS, in 2010 President Obama praised the firing of the entire teaching staff of Central Falls, Rhode Island by a vindictive and corrupt school board, as well as the firing of hundreds of teachers in Kansas City, Missouri; and
WHEREAS, Democrat Obama had and has no significant differences on education policy with Republican teacher-basher McCain in 2008 or with Republican labor-hater Romney in 2012, backing the corporate “reform” agenda to regiment education in the interests of big business; and
WHEREAS, Democrats and Republicans have joined in wars for global imperial domination against Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, while waging class war on working people here, deporting 400,000 immigrants a year, presiding over racist police violence, racial profiling of African-American and Latino youth (“stop and frisk”) and wholesale dismantling of civil liberties; and
WHEREAS, the Working Families Party is nothing but a shill for the Democrats; and
WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association have  called for the reelection of President Obama, the man who bailed out Wall Street and seeks to privatize public education;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that in defense of union rights, public education and the political independence of labor the United Federation of Teachers hereby repudiates the national AFT endorsement of Obama and calls for no vote for Democrats, Republicans or any party or politician representing the interests of capital against the working class, poor and oppressed.
*Not E=MC2  but “Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

“Hot and Crusty Workers’ Fight Is Every New York Worker’s Fight!”

NYC Unions Back Hot and Crusty Workers at Labor/Immigrant Rights Solidarity Rally

More than 15 unions were represented among the 100 labor, student, community and immigrant rights activists who joined in a rousing solidarity rally with Hot and Crusty workers, October 18.                                 (Internationalist photo) 

NEW YORK, October 19 – On Thursday, October 18, one hundred union, immigrant rights, student and community activists came out to the “Labor/Immigrant Rights Rally in Solidarity with the Hot and Crusty Workers.” Midtown Manhattan’s rush hour was the backdrop to a boisterous outpouring of support to the immigrant restaurant workers who have been on the picket line for 50 days after the old owner closed the 63rd Street restaurant on August 31st in reprisal for the workers organizing their union, the Hot and Crusty Workers Association. (See Internationalist Group article “‘Hot and Crusty’ Workers Show the Way” for background.) In line with an agreement signed with a prospective new owner early last month, the workers are fighting to win their jobs back with union recognition and a union hiring hall, crucial to their job security.

 “Hot and Crusty workers’ fight is every New York worker’s fight,” chanted the crowd as bus drivers, trucks and taxis passing on Second Avenue honked in solidarity and neighbors leaned out their windows to wave and take photos. The workers and solidarity activists worked to bring out a cross-section of the city's labor and immigrant-rights movement – and they succeeded. The result was a rousing, exciting event that sent a clear message in support of the Hot and Crusty workers whose fight has inspired us all. Key to the appeal of this struggle to labor activists is that these workers are fighting for the principle of workers solidarity, embodied notably in their undaunted fight for a union hiring hall. The rally gave a taste of what a real fighting labor movement could look like.

 Initiated by the Hot and Crusty Workers Association, Laundry Workers Center and Hot and Crusty Workers Solidarity Committee, the event featured speakers and delegations from some of the city’s largest and most powerful unions, among them: Transport Workers Union Local 100 (which shut the city down in its 2005 strike); Utility Workers Local 1-2 (thousands of whose members were locked out by Con Ed this past summer); Communications Workers of America Local 1101 (representing Verizon workers who struck the phone giant last year); members of three locals of AFSCME DC 37 (health workers, day care workers and college assistants), together with a delegation from the DC 37 Retirees Association; supermarket and greengrocer workers from UFCW Local 1500; the Hunter College chapter of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY faculty/staff union; Laborers from LIUNA Local 78. Participating as well were delegates, organizers and activists from the United Federation of Teachers, two United Auto Workers locals, Mail Handlers, UNITE HERE, Workers United, ROC-NY, Queens Day Laborers and other labor groups.  

Some of the locked-out Hot and Crusty workers who have been on the picket line for more than 50 days, fighting for their jobs and a union hiring hall. (Internationalist photo)

An early endorser was International Longshore and Warehouse Union activist Jack Heyman; the central organizer of the 2008 longshore strike that shut down all 29 West Coast ports against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Heyman noted that the fight for a union hiring hall harked back to the 1934 San Francisco general strike that won this key advance for the dockworkers. One of popular chants at the rally was “Union, union, union hiring hall!” Others included “Arriba la unión, abajo la explotación” (Up with the union, down with exploitation) and “La lucha obrera no tiene fronteras” (The workers’ struggle has no borders).

Activists from community, immigrant rights and left groups made up a key part of the rally, among them Batay Ouvriye (Haiti) Solidarity Network, Class Struggle Education Workers, CUNY Contingents Unite, the Immigrant Worker Justice working group and Labor Outreach Committee of Occupy Wall Street, International Action Center, Internationalist Group and CUNY Internationalist Clubs, League for the Revolutionary Party, May 1st Coalition, Movimiento Independiente de Trabajadores, Movimiento Socialista de Trabajadores (Puerto Rico), 99 Pickets, Students United for a Free CUNY, Take Back the Bronx, and Workers Power. Many other groups and individuals endorsed the rally.

Several speakers noted that broad backing for the event reflects a recognition that has emerged over the past period that the Hot and Crusty workers’ struggle is a key battle for New York City labor. Inspired and energized by the determination, courage and persistence of these immigrant workers, participants vowed to build increasing support for the next steps in an effort that is a source of encouragement and solidarity to organizing efforts among the hundreds of thousands of  immigrant workers who are key to life in NYC.

Nazario Guzmán, a young pizza maker who has worked at Hot and Crusty for six years, summed up the event like this: “What’s important about the rally is that people came to support those of us who have been here [on the picket line] every day, and this shows we are not alone, in fact it gives more strength to this struggle, which is growing. The support from unions is very important. The struggle requires power, strength and strategy, and is an example for everyone to see what is needed to organize and win.”

 ¡La lucha continúa! Forward to a solid union victory!

 The above article was posted to the Hot and Crusty Solidarity Committee listserv. To find out how you can help support this effort, write handcsolidarity@gmail.com

Protesters gathered at the rally, vowing to do what it takes to win. (Photo by Calzero)

Labor/Immigrant Rights Rally
Solidarity with the Hot & Crusty Workers!

Endorsers of the rally included: AELLA (Association of Latino and Latin American Students, CUNY Graduate Center); Batay Ouvriye Solidarity Network; Marimer Berberena; Brandworkers International; Class Struggle Education Workers; DC 37 Retirees Asso
ciation; Prof. Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College*; Food Chain Workers Alliance; Jessica Hernandez-Speer, UFT teacher; Jack Heyman (ILWU Local 10 [retired]*, chairman, Transport Workers Solidarity Committee*); Hunter College chapter executive committee, Professional Staff Congress-CUNY; Internationalist Group/CUNY Internationalist Clubs; La Fuente; Labor for Palestine; Fekkak Mamdouh; May 1st Coalition for Labor and Immigration Rights; Nosotr@s l@s Pobres; New York City Labor Against the War; New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE); Occupy Wall Street Immigrant Justice Working Group; Occupy Wall Street Labor Outreach Committee; Organization of Staff Analysts; Marjorie Stamberg (UFT delegate*, CSEW); Restaurant Opportunity Center-New York; Strand Bookstore Rank-and-File; Students United for a Free CUNY; The Newspaper Guild of New York-CWA Local 31003; Víctor Toro; Transport Workers Union Local 100; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500; Christine Williams (executive board member, TWU Local 100*); Workers Power

*organizational affiliation for identification purposes only