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Submitted on Fri, 06/24/2005 - 11:02pm
By Elly Leary - Monthly Review, June 2005
There is no disputing that these are tough times for the working class and its allies (all those oppressed by capitalism). The working class lacks a political party; social services to assist us with the inevitable problems we face have been eroded; and even our few precious institutions, especially unions, seem overwhelmed by the relentless attacks.
Consider these few facts: The federal minimum wage of $5.15 has not changed in seven years; it is now 61 percent of poverty level. Forty-five million people lack health insurance; for those who have it, premiums have risen 33 percent and out-of-pocket expenses 49 percent, more than eating up most pay raises. Twenty-two of the thirty-one “red states” (those which voted for George Bush in the 2004 election) have right-to-work laws. Manufacturing jobs have declined 12 percent in the last several years, but unionized manufacturing jobs in the same period have declined 66 percent. Union membership is barely 13 percent. In the private sector it accounts for a smaller percentage of the workforce than in the 1920s, the period that has usually been identified as the low-water mark.
Submitted on Thu, 06/02/2005 - 5:01pm
By Michael K. Smith
One hundred years ago Big Bill Haywood lumbered onto the platform at Brand’s Hall in Chicago, gaveled the podium with a piece of loose board, and called the assembly to order. Flanked by Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, and Lucy Parsons, he announced the birth of the Industrial Workers of the World, a union of native-born radicals whose capacity for militant solidarity was and remains unmatched in U.S. history.
Haywood told the two hundred plus delegates crammed into the hot, overcrowded hall that they were “the Continental Congress of the working class,” adding that, “The aims and objects of this organization should be to put the working class in possession of the economic power, the means of life, in control of production and distribution, without regard to capitalist masters.” This ambition was to be fulfilled, not by violent seizure of state power, but by paralyzing big business with a series of general strikes, culminating in direct workers’ control of all industries.
Submitted on Wed, 05/11/2005 - 3:52pm
By Jon Bekken - Industrial Worker, April 2005.
The IWW-affiliated South Street Workers Union is organizing retail and
food service workers along Philadelphia's South Street corridor,
implementing a model of solidarity unionism focused on helping workers
create their own shop floor and district-wide organizations to confront
low wages, poor working conditions, and the lack of workplace rights.
Since the union began organizing in August 2003, the South Street Workers
Union has organized health, tax and workers' rights clinics; social
events; a district-wide grievance committee that has helped workers claim
unpaid wages and develop strategies to improve working conditions; and
organized a campaign against proposed mass transit fare increases and