UPSurge and the Rank-and-File Labor Rebellion of the 1970s

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BBQ, BEER & CONVERSATION ABOUT RADICAL LABOR HISTORY:

When: Sunday, August 17 at 1:00pm
Where: 1127 NW 63rd St. Apt. C, Seattle 98107

FEATURING ANNE MACKIE: a former UPS driver and Editor of the 1970s rank and file newspaper UPSurge, will share experiences as a revolutionary socialist building a movement within the Teamsters Union. As a member of Teamsters Local 407 in Cleveland and a founding member of Teamsters for a Decent Contract (1974) and Teamsters for a Democratic Union (1976) Anne was a leader in the national movement that took on the biggest company in the shipping industry and laid the foundations of solidarity and militancy necessary to take on the corrupt Teamsters Union.

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UPSurge Editor

Join us to hear a first hand account of this rich history: Since the height of the social movements of the 1960′s and early 1970′s, the U.S. labor movement has faced some 40 years of attacks. The ruling 1% aims to continue the mostly one-sided employers offensive and would like to bury once and for all the radical history of the U.S. working class.

However, our side, the 99%, has much to learn from labor’s radical past. One such period with abundant lessons is the struggle of trucking industry workers and their union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) in the 1970′s. In the face of trucking companies spurred by consolidation, implementing new technologies and later industry deregulation, workers rebelled.

One such rebellion unfolded at United Parcel Service. Led by members of the International Socialists — a small revolutionary socialist organization at the time — democratic, rank-and-file organizations like UPSurge at UPS and later the national Teamsters for a Democratic Union asserted the idea of building union power from the bottom up.

Contact Darrin at 206-550-1609 with any questions.


SUGGESTED READINGS:

*Unrest at Big Brown: In the fifth article in an occasional series on the history of United Parcel Service and workers’ resistance to Big Brown, Joe Allen describes how increasing bitterness toward management translated into rank-and-file protest directed at both UPS and the Teamsters union. LINK

*Roots of a rank-and-file revolt: Joe Allen uncovers an important document about developments in the working class movement half a century ago–with lessons activists can apply today. LINK

*A wake-up call for business: “Part-time America isn’t working” was the slogan of the 1997 Teamsters strike at UPS, and it reflected the mood of millions forced to make ends meet on part-time wages. The first major national strike of its kind in 25 years, the 15-day strike gained widespread public support and showed that one of the most profitable and mean-spirited companies in the country could be taken on–and beaten. This editorial originally appeared in the September 12, 1997 issue of Socialist Worker, after the strike had ended. LINK

*Toward a renewal of the labor movement: US labor after the Chicago teachers’ strike LINK

Our message is: Not one more

Brian Huseby reports on a protest at the Northwest Detention Center, where immigrants have staged a hunger strike in opposition to the conditions of their detention.

Protesters show their solidarity with hunger strikers inside Northwest Detention Center

Protesters show their solidarity with hunger strikers inside Northwest Detention Center

APRIL 5 was a national day of action to demand an end to deportations. Sometime in April, the Obama administration will pass a grim milestone: 2 million deportations since it has been in office.

As part of the national day of action, several hundred people rallied at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., accompanied by the “Artesian Rumble,” a makeshift band from nearby Olympia. The action consisted of making signs and writing letters to detainees, followed by workshops related to conditions detainees face.

Demonstrators then formed a picket line on the street in front of the center. Chants rang out during the march–the most frequent was: “No estan solos!” (You are not alone). Finally, a rally was held which featured former detainees and families of present detainees telling the stories of the problems they face under present detention and deportation policies.

The Northwest Detention Center is managed by the GEO Group, which bills itself as the largest provider of detention services in the world.

GEO profits off of detainees in several ways First, there is a guarantee that the center is kept full. If not, the government must pay a fine to GEO. Additionally, many detainees work at the facility, but are paid just $1 per day, saving GEO money it would have to pay to outside workers.

Detainees also must buy everything except regular meals from the center’s commissary, where prices are inflated far above the outside market. There are phones at the center, but detainees are not allowed to use their own phone cards for them–they have to buy cards from GEO with jacked-up prices.

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Running for respect in Seattle

Alexia Garcia and Marilena Marchetti report from Seattle on a challenge from rank-and-file activists in upcoming elections in the Seattle Education Association.

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Jesse Hagopian rallying with fellow Seattle educators (Social Equality Educators)

“WE HAVE a bold vision for educating Seattle’s children.” So said Jesse Hagopian, a history teacher at Seattle’s Garfield High School, as he and the Respect slate kicked off their campaign for elections in the 5,000-strong Seattle Education Association (SEA). Voting begins on April 27 and takes place over a period of 11 days.

The campaign launch brought out fellow SEA members, community leaders and parents who want a change in Seattle public schools. The mood was electric. Hagopian, who is running for president, went on to say:

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the announcement by my colleagues at Garfield that they would defend students by refusing to administer the deeply flawed MAP test. That movement galvanized parents, students and education advocates across the city and around the nation. Today, educators throughout Seattle–many of whom were inspired by our stand for authentic assessment–are organizing to bring this movement for an equitable, high-quality education into our union election.

Marian Wagner, a fifth-grade teacher at Salmon Bay K-8, shared why she was running as the Respect candidate for SEA vice president:

It was an extremely difficult decision to run for vice president of the SEA because I don’t want to leave the classroom. I love the challenge of improving our world through teaching the next generation, but the education of our youth is not being supported systematically. I can’t ignore the thunderous cry of phenomenal educators who are not being heard. I am agreeing to step up and run on their behalf.

James Bible, former head of the Seattle/King County NAACP, made a statement of support that rallied the crowd:

We have to take stands such as this. We have to embrace educators who are prepared to embrace our children. And I’m not just talking about the child in the front row that raises his hand every time he goes to answer, who has two parents who both make over $100,000 a year. I’m talking about the child in the back row, back corner who may have had a rough experience that morning, and it’s amazing that he or she made it to school on that day…

We need to move towards a place where we achieve a different sort of balance, where our resources are actually allocated in such a way where those higher up don’t have their foot on the neck of those that are providing direct services.

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THE RESPECT slate is comprised of teachers from Social Equality Educators (SEE), a rank-and-file caucus within the SEA, and its allies.

SEE was born among educators who were part of a struggle to prevent school closures in 2008, which connected them with fellow teachers, parents and community members. They were able to prevent the closure of six buildings after Seattle Public Schools sought to shutter 16.

Later, SEE mobilized to put pressure on public officials to fully fund public education at state budget hearings. SEE also partnered with Occupy Seattle to coordinate a direct action against banking giant Chase, with the aim of exposing the inherent inequity in a system that allows Chase to exploit tax loopholes and reap billions in profits, while public schools face budget cuts.

SEE is best known, however, for the MAP test boycott in January 2013. Teachers at Garfield voted unanimously to boycott the district-mandated MAP test on account of it being out of sync with the academic curriculum, a disruption to students’ learning, and a drain on limited resources.

The boycott was enthusiastically supported by the student government and the Parent, Teacher and Student Association. It spread to other schools in Seattle, including Orca K-8, Chief Sealth International High School, Ballard High School, Center School, and Thornton Creek Elementary. Solidarity with the boycott spread from Seattle around the country, and then around the world. As important as the solidarity for Seattle teachers was the role the boycott played in galvanizing and advancing the growing opposition to standardized testing around the U.S.

At first, Seattle school officials threatened to suspend boycotting teachers without pay for 10 days. But the scale of support for the boycott forced them to climb down–and ulitmately, the school district dropped its requirement to use the MAP at the high school level.

Now, some of the same teachers who participated in the MAP boycott are participating in the Respect challenge. Marian Wagner explained the urgency of the campaign:

As educators, we are annually faced with budget cuts, increased class sizes and more top-down mandates surrounding curriculum and standardized testing. When we take a stand against evaluation based on standardized test scores, we’re told we “fear accountability.” When we ask for fair compensation, we’re told we’re selfish. Enough is enough! It’s time we as educators stand up and demand RESPECT.

The Respect campaign platform stands for a fair contract for teachers, a member-driven union, fully funded schools for all students, and a system that listens to students, parents and educators over corporations when making decisions regarding our schools.

At the wider level, Hagopian sees the Respect campaign as a challenge to federally mandated privatization and overemphasis on standardized testing under No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top:

I was compelled to run for union office by the desperate need to defend public education from the corporate education reform onslaught–and help transform it into a force for social justice. The SEE Respect slate of candidates believes we need courageous union leaders who will listen to the members, stand up for their rights in the workplace, and work hard to achieve the members’ vision for public education.

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Is the Fight for 15 strangling small business?

Opponents of the Fight for 15 in Seattle are counter-attacking with the claim that small businesses would suffer. Leela Yellesetty and Chris Mobley debunk their arguments.

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ALL EYES are on Seattle as the biggest local battleground in the fight to raise the minimum wage–and now, the city is embroiled in a confrontation pitting low-wage workers against business interests.

The Fight for 15 movement in Seattle was spearheaded by the actions of low-wage workers and unions taking a stand at local fast food restaurants, among other businesses, followed bythe election of socialist Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council. Now, activists are looking forward to a ballot-box showdown in November, with various initiatives underway to put a $15 an hour minimum wage referendum on the ballot. New Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council have each convened committees on raising the minimum.

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The Secret of Socialism – Steve Leigh Speaks at the Common Good Cafe

Talk by Steve Leigh with the International Socialist Organization on “The Secret of Socialism” given March 6, 2014 at the Common Good Cafe at University Temple United Methodist Church in Seattle.

“Socialism has become hot. When the economy crashed, Newsweek proclaimed “We are all Socialists now!” Even Barack Obama, with his bailouts of banks and insurance companies is called a Socialist by the Tea Party. In Seattle 100,000 people voted for Socialist Kshama Sawant and elected her to the City Council.

But what is Socialism? Is it just government ownership, or is it the more radical vision that Karl Marx called for? What economic class has the power to bring it about? Will it require a revolution—or do we just need to elect better people? What is the relation of Democracy to Socialism? Did Stalin have anything to do with Marx?

This presentation will look at these questions from the angle of the history of the Socialist movement. Non-Socialists often ask ” Why Don’t all you Socialists get together?” We will look at why different socialist parties and political approaches actually cover a wide variety of goals and methods—-and a wide variety of economic class interests. This will explain why the differences among groups really do make a difference.”

We need a rank-and-file opposition at Boeing

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Boeing machinists march to their union hall to vote on the company’s final contract offer (Robert Sorbo | Reuters)

Reform candidates challenging the incumbent leadership of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) have won enough endorsements from IAM lodges to force the first contested election for International officers in more than 50 years. This comes on the heels of a bitter blow for IAM members at Boeing in the Puget Sound region, after the International forced a vote on a company proposal for a concessionary contract extension, and the deal passed by a very slim margin in early January.

Last year, the Labor Department investigated the IAM and determined that the International had violated election procedures in ways that stifled any challenge to the International leadership. In the re-run that began last month, a group of opposition candidates, led by Jay Cronk running for IAM president against incumbent R. Thomas Buffenbarger, had to win the endorsement of 25 IAM lodges to be nominated. The opposition got part of the way to that total last month, and voting in some 85 lodges in early February put them over the top. The re-run general election will take place in April.

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After we scrapped the MAP

A year after teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School boycotted the MAP test, the movement against standardized testing has spread, writes teacher Jesse Hagopian.

Seattle teachers gathered at a protest against high-stakes standardized testing

Seattle teachers gathered at a protest against high-stakes standardized testing

ONE YEAR ago, my colleagues and I at Seattle’s Garfield High School set off on a bold journey: we called a press conference to announce our unanimous vote to refuse to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

That announcement led to what became known as the “MAP test boycott.” The boycott quickly spread to several other schools in Seattle, including Orca K-8, Chief Sealth High School, Ballard High School, Center School and Thornton Creek Elementary–while solidarity with the boycott spread around the nation and then around the world.

We had no idea when we took that first step where our actions would lead. Would we be ignored? Would we be vilified as bad teachers? Would the math and language arts teachers in the tested subjects be reprimanded, suspended or fired?

In fact, throughout the last school year, our struggle against the MAP test reached such a magnitude that the Seattle School District retracted its threat of suspending the boycotting teachers for 10 days without pay, and ultimately dropped its requirement to use MAP at the high school level.

I can now tell you with confidence, one year later, that I know where our actions will lead: to the formation of a truly mass civil rights movement composed of parents, teachers, educational support staff, students, administrators and community members who want to end high-stakes standardized testing and reclaim public education from corporate reformers.

Since Garfield High School’s faculty became conscientious objectors against the MAP test, the debate in the U.S. around education has been radically remade.

Where there was once an echo chamber of billionaire voices, endlessly reverberating through newspapers and corporate media outlet across the country and calling for more test-and-punish education policy–No Child Left Behind Act, then Race to the Top, and now the Common Core State Standards–there are now the beginnings of a social movement of students, parents and teachers who refuse to allow the intellectual process of teaching and learning to be reduced to a single score: a score that is too often used to close schools, deny students graduation, fire teachers and bust their unions.

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Setback for living-wage measure in Sea-Tac

Steve Leigh reports on a court ruling that blunts a victory for low-wage organizing.

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IN A late Christmas present to corporations that didn’t need it, King County Judge Andrea Darvas ruled at the end of December that a ballot measure mandating a $15-an-hour minimum wage in a town just south of Seattle won’t apply to most of its low-wage employers: businesses at the Sea-Tac International Airport.

Voters in the town of Sea-Tac passed the referendum for a living wage last November by a very close margin. The measure only won by 77 votes–though the “yes” vote would certainly have been bigger if the town’s non-citizen workers could vote.

Unions, including the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters, and community groups, including Working Washington and Puget Sound Sage, were instrumental in this victory. They engaged in an extended campaign–involving churches, neighborhood groups and others, with volunteers going door to door–to win the measure.

Meanwhile, employers, including major national and international corporations, pulled out all the stops to defeat this initiative. They claimed the referendum would be a job killer–that poor multibillion-dollar corporations would have to lay off workers if forced to pay the princely sum of $15 per hour. Businesses also objected to other important provisions of the measure requiring paid sick leave and a cost-of-living adjustment for the minimum wage.

After the bosses lost at the ballot box, they took their fight to the courts.

In her decision announced December 27, Judge Darvas declared that cities “may not exercise any jurisdiction or control over Sea-Tac airport operations”–since the airport is owned by the Port of Seattle, which joined employers in filing the lawsuit.

As a result of the ruling, of the 6,300 low-wage workers in Sea-Tac, only 1,600 of them–mostly at airport hotels–will be covered by the ordinance.

Proponents of the initiative said they would appeal. “National corporations are making huge profits at Sea-Tac when thousands of people work hard every day can’t support their families, said Sergio Salinas, president of SEIU Local 6. Salinas said the issue now is “whether the airport is a legal island.”

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Beaten by blackmail and betrayal at Boeing

Workers at Boeing facilities in Washington state narrowly ratified drastic concessions demanded by a highly profitable company. Darrin Hoop explains what happened.

Boeing workers in line to vote on their contract in November

Boeing workers in line to vote on their contract in November


IN A devastating blow to not just the machinists’ union but the entire labor movement, workers at Boeing’s main production facilities in the Puget Sound region approved–by a razor-thin margin of 51 percent to 49 percent–approved an eight-year contract extension with historic concessions in exchange for uncertain promises that thousands of jobs will remain in Washington state to build the new 777X airliner.

The current contract which was set to expire in 2016, will now run until 2024, potentially ensuring a decade of labor peace for Boeing.

The vote was a stunning reversal of the overwhelming rejection of a very similar proposal in a November vote by members of International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers District 751.

In the month and a half that followed, Boeing escalated its naked blackmail, threatening the jobs of IAM members if they didn’t accept concessions. The giant aircraft maker had help in its extortion campaign–from the political elite of Washington state, dominated by the Democratic Party; a compliant mainstream media; and top leaders of the IAM, who were determined to shove the concessions contract down the machinists’ throats.

Make no mistake about it–with this vote, Boeing management is hoping to destroy the union over time. Whether this happens or not will depend on the lessons learned by the more than 30,000 Boeing workers in District 751 and their sisters and brothers throughout the IAM.

As David Clay, a 36-year veteran at the Everett, Wash., plant said: “I felt cheated by the union leadership at the local level and the International; disrespected by Democratic Party leaders in local, state and federal office who we helped elect; and kicked in the teeth by the company after saving their bacon on the 787 Dreamliner and making the stock price reach historic highs.”

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