Restructuring retail: Tens of thousands laid off — more to come

first_imgThe restructuring in retail is different in form from manufacturing but the same in essence, as far as the working class is concerned.As International Workers’ Day — May Day — approaches, a major crisis is underway for retail workers in the U.S. A process of profound restructuring of the retail industry is unfolding. Driven by internet technology and its utilization by Amazon, among others, it has been made possible by the capitalist scientific-technological revolution.In manufacturing, the struggle by big industry to increase profits drove automation and offshoring. In the retail industry, the giant monopoly Amazon has developed online shopping, which has already wiped out tens of thousands of retail jobs and is threatening hundreds of thousands more.Online shopping has brought about a transformation in the so-called brick-and-mortar retail industry.“This transformation is hollowing out suburban shopping malls, bankrupting long-time brands and leading to staggering job losses,” wrote the New York Times on April 15.“More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry, which President Trump championed during the campaign as a prime example of the workers who have been left behind in the economic recovery.“The job losses in retail could have unexpected social and political consequences, as huge numbers of low-wage retail employees become economically unhinged, just as manufacturing workers did in recent decades. About one out of every 10 Americans works in retail.” That’s around 15 million workers.Thousands of mall-based stores are shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.More than 3,500 stores are expected to close in the next couple of months.Department stores like JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Kmart are among the companies shutting down stores, along with middle-of-the-mall chains like Crocs, BCBG, Abercrombie & Fitch and Guess.As big retailers shut down in malls, there is collateral damage among the workers in small retail stores and fast food places that draw walk-by customers who shop in the big stores. Furthermore, window designers, lighting and maintenance workers, security guards, sanitation workers and many other mall workers are or will be thrown onto the unemployment lines.From housing bubble to retail bubbleOnline shopping is not the only thing responsible for the present crisis. Marxism teaches that in all industries, capitalist competition and the thirst for profit drive the retail and real estate bosses who rent to them to destroy their rivals by capturing market share. The result is capitalist overproduction. (Overproduction does not mean that capitalists produce more than people need, only more than the stores can sell at a profit.)“The number of malls in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the population between 1970 and 2015, according to Cowen Research. By one measure of consumerist plentitude [capitalist overproduction, F.G.] — shopping center “gross leasable area,” the U.S. has 40 percent more shopping space per capita than Canada, five times more than the U.K., and 10 times more than Germany.” (theatlantic.com, April 10)“The seeds of the industry’s current turmoil date back nearly three decades, when retailers … flush with easy money, rushed to open new stores. The land grab wasn’t unlike the housing boom that was also under way at that time.“Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared,” Richard Hayne, chief executive of Urban Outfitters Inc., told analysts last month. “This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst.” (wsj.com, April 21)Amazon won’t make up for jobs lostThe standard line of the apologists for capitalist restructuring is that technological advancement creates new and better-paying jobs that will make up for the job losses. This is complete hogwash.First of all, the workers who lose their jobs are out of a job NOW. They have the skills and training for retail. The capitalist class and the capitalist government do not swoop in to the rescue and give them jobs and training in new occupations they would feel suited for.But second of all, assuming that the laid-off workers in the thousands could apply for jobs at Amazon or other online retailers, they would be confronted by the highly automated Amazon warehouse system. This system has far fewer jobs to offer than the 90,000 who have already been laid off since last October and the many thousands more who are in danger of losing their jobs.Amazon’s automation is infamous among the workers as a speed-up device and a job-killer.“In 2012, Amazon bought the robotics company Kiva Systems for $775 million — and made it so Kiva’s technology could be used only in Amazon warehouses. These Kiva robots autonomously zoom around the warehouse using a series of barcodes on the floor to guide them, picking items and bringing them back to warehouse workers. These robots save these workers from the immense physical toll of walking as many as 20 miles per shift, sometimes in unbearable heat; but this also means that fewer human workers are needed. The jobs that remain will be less labor intensive, and more like those of a robot supervisor. Since Amazon bought Kiva, a host of other companies are trying to develop even more advanced warehouse robots and sell them to Amazon’s competitors.” (prospect.org, Sept. 27, 2016)It’s not likely that 90,000 robot supervisors will be needed at Amazon!Capitalist restructuring in another formRetail workers have already undergone the pressure of the scientific-technological revolution and the intensified exploitation that it brings. Retail salespeople and cashiers have been subjected to time studies and forced to adhere to a time standard for making sales. Cashiers have to ring up customers in a designated time tracked by the electronic cash register. And they have been subjected to many other profit-squeezing methods.Now thousands of them are being eliminated altogether by internet technology and online sales.This is comparable to when auto workers’ jobs were destroyed by robotization or steel workers’ jobs were destroyed by mini-mills and electronic mills. And coal miners’ jobs were destroyed by giant mining machines.The difference is that this automation is being instituted by an external employer, Amazon. The restructuring in retail is different in form from manufacturing but the same in essence, as far as the working class is concerned. Amazon has reduced the necessary labor time involved in the process of commercial retail sales. As such, it can sell at lower prices and increase convenience for the shopper.While automation reduces the walking time for workers in the warehouse and the burden of shopping for the consumer, the workers who are no longer needed by capital under the profit system suffer. Instead of the internet and robots being used to ease life for the working class, they are only making things more difficult and insecure.The masses of workers who lose their jobs will not be able to afford buying anything, either online or in a store. For the working class, the whole capitalist system is a trap the workers must break out of.Goldstein is the author of Low-Wage Capitalism and Capitalism at a Dead End, which can be obtained from online book sellers. FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

GABRIELA New York: A decade of defending Filipino women

first_imgOn April 29, 2017, 100 community members gathered to celebrate GABRIELA New York’s 10-year anniversary as a mass-based women’s organization committed to arousing, mobilizing and organizing local communities in New York and surrounding areas. Formerly known as Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), GABRIELA New York is a member organization of the national alliance GABRIELA USA, an overseas chapter of GABRIELA Philippines.The celebratory night highlighted the early formation of FiRE, including a video message from founding members Sandy Panopio and Valerie Francisco, former chairperson of GABRIELA USA. The night continued with a comprehensive presentation of 10 years of campaign work, cultural productions, struggles and victories recapped by Jennine Ventura of GABRIELA USA, who stated, “Conducting Personal Migration discussion allows us to help Filipino women in the U.S. understand the connection between their own migration or why their families migrated here in the U.S. to the issues and conditions in the Philippines.”Zarah Viñola of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) USA highlighted the contribution of GABRIELA New York in fighting against modern day slavery under NAFCON’s STOP Trafficking Our People campaign. Struggles of trafficked survivors have been the focus of the Diwang Pinay cultural program. From exposing the impact of U.S. militarization in the Philippines to canceling NBC’s “Mail Order Bride” show, GABRIELA New York upholds its commitment to defend women’s rights.Interspersed throughout the program were cultural performances and recognition of key organizations and early partners like Philippine Forum with the Kabalikat Domestic Workers Network, as well as honoring longstanding solidarity allies.Keynote speaker Monica Moorehead, 2016 U.S. presidential candidate on the Workers World Party ticket and International Women’s Alliance executive committee member, stated: “When I was preparing to visit the Philippines for the first time in 2011 as a representative of the Women’s Fightback Network for the First General Assembly of the International Women’s Alliance, the GABRIELA sisters invited me to attend a daylong educational session at Hunter College on the historical role that women have played in the Philippines dating back to the struggle against Spanish colonialism and up to the struggle against U.S. imperialism. Not only was this informative but also extremely interactive and engaging. It really deepened my political consciousness more than any book, which really helped to prepare me for what I was about to experience in the Philippines with the GABRIELA sisters there. … All the movements can take lessons from how GABRIELA organizes and we look forward to continuing to learn from your talents and skills to fight shoulder to shoulder with you until all forms of class rule are swept away into the dustbins of history.”As a militant women’s organization based in the U.S., GABRIELA New York continues its exposure program, designed to reveal the true current conditions and pressing issues of the Philippines through visits with different community organizations who are working to address those issues. Exposurists [as these visitors are called] have the opportunity to integrate with different sectors of Philippine society, such as the urban poor, LGBTQ people, Indigenous tribes, migrant workers and women.Raising almost $1,000 at the anniversary to support GABRIELA NY members’ 2017 exposure trips to the Philippines, monetary contributions are encouraged to promote future “expo” programs. Go on Venmo (@GabrielaNewYork) or contact Cole Carothers ([email protected]) for more information on how to donate.GABRIELA New York will continue to uphold the fighting legacy of Gabriela Silang, the first Filipino woman to lead a revolt against the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. In the spirit of being modern day freedom fighters, we must rise against all forms of violence, resist militarization and defend our sovereignty, and unite towards national and social liberation. Stay connected to us through social media or at www.gabrielanewyork.orgSulong Gabriela,Lumaban Makibaka!Abante Babae, Palaban Militante!Be Gabriela!The writer is the vice chair of GABRIELA NY.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

The fake news about unemployment

first_imgFew workers are cheering the Labor Department’s report that the unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in April.Why should they? While the jobless rate now matches the level of May 2007 — just before the latest capitalist economic crisis — it still leaves 7.1 million people “officially” unemployed.Even the Labor Department admits that 5.3 million people who are counted as employed are forced to work part-time, even though they want and need full-time jobs. Another 1.5 million people “were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Many people with disabilities are not included among the jobless. The 2.2 million members of the working class who are incarcerated are not even considered. Neither are the thousands who collect cans and bottles for a small deposit fee in New York and a few other states.While the latest jobless rate for whites is 3.8 percent, the figure for Black workers is more than double that, at 7.9 percent. ”Last hired, first fired” is still the racist standard for African Americans.At the height of capitalist “prosperity,” Black workers and their families are still stuck in a recession. It’s a depression for Black teenagers, whose latest jobless rate is 29.3 percent.Usually a drop in unemployment is accompanied by a rise in wages. Workers feel more confident in taking better-paying jobs or demanding raises.Not this time. The average wage increase of 2.5 percent over the past 12 months was almost wiped out by inflation, which rose by 2.4 percent. For workers being paid the miserable federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, inflation meant a pay cut.All the union-busting attacks, including those against public workers, have had their effect. Over the last 40 years, thousands of union strongholds have been shut down by capitalists taking advantage of automation.Having millions of unemployed people is a necessity for capitalist profits. Frederick Engels, the co-worker of Karl Marx, called the jobless an “industrial reserve army.”Capitalists know this well. Samuel Insull — whose Enron-like Midwest utilities empire collapsed during the Great Depression — bragged that “the greatest aid to the efficiency of labor is a long line of men waiting at the gate.” That means women and men desperately seeking a job.Workers put up with so much abuse because they know the boss can usually hire someone else to replace them.While millions need a job, millions of employed are forced to work two or more jobs in order to pay the rent. “The condemnation of one part of the working class to enforced idleness by the overwork of the other part, and the converse, becomes a means of enriching the individual capitalists,” wrote Marx in “Capital.”The labor movement needs to fight for a 30-hour workweek with no cut in pay.The Soviet Union’s first five-year plan abolished unemployment by 1930. Socialist economic planning made holding a job a right of all Soviet workers.We need to fight for a socialist revolution that will abolish unemployment and poverty forever.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

St. Louis protests expose brutal police force

first_imgFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this Police attacks on protesters continue, Sept. 23.Fiery St. Louis protests continue nonstop despite brutal police violence against demonstrators that is drawing criticism from city officials, reporters and the community.Protests first erupted on Sept. 15, immediately after the acquittal of a white cop, Jason Stockley, accused of murdering a young Black man, Anthony Lamar Smith. Stockley was released despite damning evidence against him.During several days of protest, on Sept. 17, the following Sunday evening, police surrounded demonstrators in a move called kettling. Without warning they closed in, using excessive force and chemical weapons to arrest everyone, over 120 people.The American Civil Liberties Union is suing St. Louis police for “unacceptable, unlawful and unconstitutional” behavior and for dispersing a crowd engaged in constitutionally protected assembly. The suit accuses police of ramming a police car into a dispersing crowd, the use of kettling, excessive force, chemical sprays, illegal arrests and destroying people’s video footage of the cops’ actions.Mayor Lyda Krewson criticized police for derisively shouting “These streets are our streets,” mocking a political slogan used by demonstrators: “Whose streets? Our streets!” However, protesters say that the mayor continues to take the side of the police. They are demanding that Krewson and the city address the racist behavior and escalating repression by city police.Many protesters caught in last Sunday’s “kettle” were knocked down and cuffed. Cops removed their goggles and sprayed them directly in their face.  Several people who were not demonstrating were arrested and complained that they could not escape.The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that an undercover police officer, unrecognized by other cops, was knocked down, cuffed and hit several times. The mayor is asking for an investigation into how cops treated that officer. (Sept. 23)Drew Burbridge, a visiting filmmaker, didn’t hear cops telling the crowd to disperse. He was caught in the kettle, pushed to the ground, grabbed and dragged away. He reported being sprayed with chemicals, knocked unconscious for 10 to 30 seconds and pepper-sprayed again when he came to. The mayor has not so far asked for an investigation into his case.U.S. Air Force Lt. Alex Nelson, who lives in the neighborhood, was trapped in the kettle, kicked in the face and blinded by pepper spray before being dragged away and arrested. The Associated Press reports that Nelson said, “I hear the police say it was their street, but it’s literally my street. I have coffee on that street, and I own property on that street.” (Sept. 23)Prosecutors claimed that minutes before fatally shooting Smith five times on December 12, 2011, Stockley announced his intent “kill this motherf**ker, don’t you know it.” They say Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car which was covered with DNA from Stockley, but none from Smith.The St. Louis demonstrations echo the 2011 Ferguson protests that helped give rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. In Ferguson, just 15 miles from St. Louis, protests erupted after the acquittal of another white cop, Darren Wilson, for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.last_img read more

Close Guantanamo naval base– U.S. OUT!

first_imgThe U.S. has occupied part of Cuba for over 115 years. On Feb. 23, 1903, the U.S. coerced Cuba into signing a lease agreement ceding land in eastern Cuba for the U.S. Guantanamo naval base called GTMO.The naval base still sits astride, dominates and restricts entry to ­Cuba’s Guantánamo Bay.Now the Coalition to Close U.S. Foreign Bases has unanimously called for the U.S. to return that land to Cuba. At its Jan. 12-14 Baltimore conference, CCUSFB adopted a resolution for days of action on or around Feb. 23 to end the U.S. occupation.This important call is the first time in recent memory that an organization outside the Cuba solidarity movement has called for a united action defending Cuban sovereignty.The 1903 agreement, renewed in 1934, granted U.S. domination over the area of the Guantanamo naval base without an end date. The agreement requires both parties to agree to end the lease agreement, according to material produced by MOVPAZ (the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of Peoples).Since the 1959 revolution established Cuban sovereignty and self-determination, the Cuban government has demanded that the U.S. vacate its illegally held naval base and return control of that land to Cuba. The U.S. has issued lease payments — now $4,085 per year — but these pile up, uncashed by Cuba, except for the first one before the revolutionary government was fully consolidated. The Cuban position is clear: “All Guantánamo is ours.”Seventeen years ago, on Jan. 11, 2001, a notorious special torture prison for U.S. detainees was placed in the U.S. Guantanamo naval base. Since that time, an outcry has exposed the inhuman and illegal conditions, including force feedings dramatized by well-known rap recording artist and actor Mos Def, now Yasiin Bey, who endured such torture on video to inform the world.But this movement against the GTMO prison has failed to make a demand that would prevent the imperialist monster from desecrating Cuban territory with anti-human actions that would never be allowed on territory under Cuban sovereignty. The demand should be to return Guantanamo to the Cuban people, the rightful owners, where it can never again be used for such a purpose.According to the 2018 State of the Union address, the current U.S. president seeks to expand the U.S. use of GTMO. Everyone concerned about U.S. crimes should demand: U.S. out of Guantánamo, now!Guantanamo, more than a prisonThe 45 square miles occupied by U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (the base’s official name) is less than 0.2 percent of Cuba’s 2,389-square-mile Guantánamo province. The bay itself is 12 miles long and six miles across.But more than these numbers is what a 1927 U.S. Navy museum photo captures of the vastness of Guantánamo Bay. The photo shows a U.S. fleet at anchor where the U.S. naval base sits, astride the entrance to the huge bay, blocking Cuban access to the sea and to the best fishing areas in the bay itself.More than 200,000 people live in Guantánamo, the capital city of Guantánamo province. Since 1959, the Cuban revolution has protected the Cuban people living close to the base from the predation and exploitation feared and experienced by communities near U.S. foreign bases in countries still allied with U.S. imperialism. In a 37-minute documentary, “All Guantánamo Is Ours,” filmmaker Hernando Calvo Ospina uses historical photos and testimony to demonstrate the conditions before the socialist revolution. (youtube.com/watch?v=XKEs4mE7INs) Yet the corporate U.S. news media ignore the people of Guantánamo.U.S. interrupts Cuba’s fight for independenceIn June 1898, U.S. troops landed at Guantánamo Bay. Although the U.S. naval base was leased in 1903, according to Cuban historians, the U.S. has maintained an ongoing presence since 1898. The U.S. intervened militarily after the Cuban people already had been fighting for independence from Spain for 30 years and were near victory.Then Cubans were excluded from the Dec. 10, 1898, Treaty of Paris, in which Spain relinquished Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the U.S.Cuban independence was finally won on Jan. 1, 1959, when the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship fled Havana and the July 26 Movement triumphed. Led by Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, Vilma Espín, Celia Sánchez, Haydee Santamaría and a host of other revolutionary heroes, they birthed a Cuba on the path to the better socialist world we know is possible.The U.S. military and capitalist ruling class continue their attempt to dominate the Caribbean, Latin America and the world through blockades, sanctions and threats of nuclear war. Cuba continues to show the way forward through unity and solidarity with the workers and oppressed of the world.U.S. out of Guantánamo!End the genocidal U.S. blockade of Cuba!End all U.S. travel restrictions and regime change programs!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Disability Pride rocks Philadelphia for 8th consecutive annual parade

first_imgIn a highlight of the rally before the parade, Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Resources Independence for Everyone Thomas H. Earle led the crowd in a song. Like the Raging Grannies, who rewrite lyrics of popular songs in protest against war, racism and injustice, Earle changed Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat lyrics to “Olmstead, Olmstead, daylight come, and I want to go home!”Olmstead v. L.C. was the most significant civil rights decision for people with disabilities. Based on the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999 upheld Omstead’s provisions of the qualified right of people with disabilities to receive state-funded supports and services in the community rather than being forced to live in institutions or nursing homes — if there is appropriate support in the community; if the disabled person chooses to live in the community; and if such accommodation is deemed “reasonable” when considering the overall needs of the entire disability community. The Olmstead decision was based in part on a successful disability civil rights precedent in Philadelphia argued by the Disabilities Law Project in 1995. The parade featured many colorful costumes and puppets, and a festival followed the parade. Several New Yorkers travelled to Philadelphia and told everyone about the Disability Pride Parade coming up next month in New York City for the fifth consecutive year. New York’s disability community will gather in Madison Square Park July 14 at 10 a.m. Then we will roll, ride, scooter and walk from Madison Square Park down Broadway for a Disability Rights Festival from noon to 3 p.m. at Union Square Park.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare this Many hundreds of people with disabilities and their allies commemorated Disability Pride Week by attending Philadelphia’s 8th annual Disability Pride Parade June 15. last_img read more

Pre-elections indicate defeat for pro-imperialist Macri

first_imgIt is rare that primary elections hit the news cycle like a thunderclap. Yet political observers across Latin America see the Aug. 11 primary in Argentina as indicating a continental shift, reversing the right-wing wave in that region. Some even call it a setback for Donald Trump.Mauricio Macri had won the 2015 elections in the second round by a narrow margin against the opposition, a continuation of the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner government but moving rightward. Its candidate, Daniel Scioli, aroused no enthusiasm among the left.Macri’s regime has been lined up internationally with U.S. President Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Colombia’s Iván Duque against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba. He turned the Argentine economy over to the International Monetary Fund. In turn, the IMF tried to guarantee Macri’s reelection, with a $57 billion loan that it hoped would avoid a default on Argentina’s debt. Under Macri’s government during the last three years, the number of people living in poverty has expanded, jumping to 35 percent in the last few months, while the purchasing power of workers has plunged. His regime has closed schools, cut health services and allowed homeless people to freeze.This year Macri’s main opponent, The Front for All, is running Alberto Fernández for president and Kirchner, who was president from 2007 to 2015, for vice president.Because most parties had only one set of candidates for the upcoming presidential elections in October, the Aug. 11 primary took the form of a popular poll of the parties. Observers expected Macri’s party, Together for Change, to come in a close second to the moderate opposition party, the Front for All, maybe losing by 4 points but still in a position to contend. Vote crushes MacriInstead, the opposition trounced Macri’s party by 48 percent to 32 percent (percentages were rounded off). While nothing is guaranteed, the 16-point spread indicates an electoral victory for the opposition in the first round, even if most of the remaining 20 percent were to shift to Macri. A more left-wing, pro-working class and anti-imperialist coalition called the Left and Workers’ Front got 3 percent of the vote, enough to play a political role.Analyzing this election, Argentine Marxist Claudio Katz wrote, “Macri promoted resentment against the poor, but triggered massive rejection of the ruling elite. He tried to rebuke the past decade [of Kirchnerism] and consolidated the people’s indignation with the overwhelming current role of his administration.” (lahaine.org/katz, Aug. 19)Macri’s own reaction to the vote indicates a certain panic. Macri said on Aug. 14 that he will cut income taxes for workers and increase subsidies for social services. Given the turmoil in the economy, this is too little, too late. Brazil’s ultra-rightist Bolsonaro,  in his usual exaggeration, also warned of massive Argentine migration to Brazil should Kirchner’s party win, calling her a Bolivarian — a form of red-baiting.A mere electoral change is insufficient to bring a real reversal of right-wing policies as long as imperialist and capitalist wealth controls the economy. However, such a change can encourage mass actions in Argentina, especially in the period between now and the Oct. 27 election. A day of protest is set for Aug. 22, which will give an indication of the struggle’s direction.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

McDonald’s workers take on sexual harassment with class action lawsuits

first_imgWhile hundreds of McDonald’s workers walked off the job in Michigan on Nov. 12 to demand a $15 per hour minimum wage, the right to unionize and an end to workplace sexual abuse, a class-action lawsuit was being filed in state court against the multibillion-dollar company. Workers in Chicago protested sexual abuse at McDonald’s, Sept. 18, 2018.Michigan McDonald’s workers and the American Civil Liberties Union charged the corporation with enabling a “systemic problem of sexual harassment” in its restaurants across the U.S. For years, employees have filed complaints against bosses who physically assaulted, verbally abused and demeaned them — and then retaliated if they resisted — with reduced work hours, unfair transfers and firings, or forced them to quit. Company officials ignored these grievances. Jenna Ries, the named plaintiff and former McDonald’s employee, says a manager verbally and physically attacked her for two years at an eatery in Mason, Mich. When she resisted, he threatened to fire her. She constantly feared she would lose her job. Out of solidarity with “countless survivors” of sexual harassment at McDonald’s workplaces, Ries took legal action. The lawsuit charges that Mason restaurant’s managers ignored heinous harassment and assault, which represents a pervasive “toxic work culture” emanating from the “very top.” It cites McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook’s ouster a week earlier for violating company policy by having an inappropriate relationship with a “subordinate.” No surprise: Easterbrook got a multimillion-dollar exit payment.The ACLU press release quotes Gillian Thomas, senior staff attorney at the organization’s Women’s Rights Project: “McDonald’s says it is powerless to stop the sexual harassment occurring in its franchise restaurants. That would be laughable if it weren’t so destructive to tens of thousands of workers being left to fend for themselves. We are taking McDonald’s to court to demand it use its immense power to address [this] pervasive abuse.” (Nov. 12)Eve Cervantez, an attorney for McDonald’s workers, added: “McDonald’s is among fast food’s worse offenders when it comes to protecting the workers who make the company’s success possible. Employees should not have to endure violations of their humanity and bodily autonomy, as the price of a paycheck.” Let the workers lead!The lawsuit seeks $5 million to compensate workers at the Mason eatery, implementation of “worker-centered anti-harassment policies, worker-led mandatory training,” and “a safe system of reporting [abuse], investigation, discipline and protections against retaliation.” (laborpress.org, Nov. 13) These policies would be implemented in all its franchises — 93 percent of McDonald’s restaurants.Jamelis Fairley, a Fight for $15 movement leader and McDonald’s worker in Sanford, Fla., insists that new McDonald’s CEO, Chris Kempezinski, hear worker-survivors’ stories and let them and their advocates direct the solutions. She stresses that nothing can change for the workers without their involvement.Lois Jones experienced six months of relentless sexual misconduct at a Durham, N.C., restaurant. After reporting it, managers accused her of lying and contemptuously called her “stupid.” Jones strongly advocates unionization to protect fast food workers from abuse. The effort to combat workplace sexual harassment has intensified since the #MeToo upsurge began two years ago, inspired by the movement’s African-American founder and organizer, Tarana Burke. Fight for $15 joined the workers in this struggle. Courageously, Black, Latinx and im/migrant McDonald’s workers led a 10-city walkout in the first multicity strike in the U.S. against workplace sexual harassment on Sept. 18, 2018. Lacking union membership, they took great risks. Their bold action inspired many workers. McDonald’s workers continue to fight the scourge of sexual abuse, taking on the world’s second-largest employer. Whether in the streets or in the courts, they keep the struggle going. Their message: No one should have to face sexual assault to earn a living!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, disabled activists, allies demand elevators, not more subway cops

first_imgDec. 3, inside Macy’s.The United Nations established the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3, 1992, in a victory for the worldwide struggle of people with disabilities. IDPD has been celebrated around the planet to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disabilities.For the fifth consecutive year, People’s Power Assemblies/NYC marked the IDPD with a Dec. 3 protest inside of Macy’s, which linked struggles for accessibility and against police repression in New York’s mass transit system.In 2016, a U.S. Federal Transit Administration report card on accessibility in subway stations in major U.S. cities showed New York last at 22 percent (with Miami at 100 percent), far below San Francisco, Atlanta and Los Angeles. (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 29, 2016) The situation has not improved; with frequent elevator breakdowns, this city’s subway accessibility is probably less than 20 percent. The PPA flyer declared: “We demand fully accessible transportation for all New Yorkers and real affordable housing and health care. We fight, each to their ability, against the murder, mass incarceration, warehousing and institutionalization of people with disabilities, especially Black and Brown folks.”Speakers at Herald Square — New York’s busiest holiday shopping center — included disabled activists from Disabled in Action, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Communications Workers Local 1180 Committee on People with Disabilities, People’s Power Assemblies/NYC, People’s MTA and Workers World Party. A veteran of the transit accessibility struggle in Canada joined the protest and shared common experiences and strategies in the fight for access.Then activists streamed through Macy’s department store on ramps between the floors, holding impromptu indoor rallies to make people aware that disabled people are not invisible and that disabled people are not disposable. Workers and shoppers cheered and encouraged the protesters on, as they proceeded to the last stop during rush hour Penn Station, where they chanted and held street meetings. Travelers waiting for trains stood around to listen, building small crowds.One rally speaker quoted from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which has been used in the disability community’s fight for elevators against the MTA in both the courts and the streets: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. … Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” (See tinyurl.com/wamv4or for a video of the protest.)   Yudelovich is a person with emotional and hearing loss disabilities and an organizer for the WWP People with Disabilities Caucus.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

‘We don’t accept their apology, we want action!’

first_imgAfter 27 days of nonstop protests against police brutality in Philadelphia, city officials finally apologized for their decision to let police and SWAT units use tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters June 1. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw held a joint press conference June 25, where they admitted the use of force against people demonstrating on I-676 was “unjustifiable.” Both claimed they changed their minds about the police attacks on protesters based on videos that surfaced since the June 1 demonstration.Philly REAL Justice at protest against police May 30.Most likely the video that forced their hand was a 10-minute clip posted earlier in the day by the New York Times, in which Philadelphia police are clearly shown attacking protesters. By late afternoon June 1, around 1,000 protesters had peacefully entered the highway. With no warning, SWAT teams moved in from both sides, trapping the protesters between the two units. SWAT, state and local police fired tear gas and pepper spray toward the crowd, even as people tried to escape, but they were trapped on the steep embankment.Officers repeatedly pepper-sprayed demonstrators, in some cases pulling down people’s face masks before spraying their faces. Many people were injured during the police attack and dozens were arrested. Workers World photographer Joe Piette was injured and his camera destroyed when police fired a rubber bullet directly at him from 20 feet away. Police in tanks later pepper-sprayed him and other demonstrators who were walking home, blocks away from the highway.A key unanswered question is whether Kenney and Outlaw would have issued an apology had the Times not covered the police attack. Incidentally it took place the same day that Washington, D.C., police, reinforced by local National Guard troops, at the behest of Trump pushed peaceful demonstrators with tear gas, pepper balls and munitions from in front of the White House before Trump’s notorious photo op.Kenney and Outlaw also failed to address an outrageous 14-3 vote by the City Council on June 26 that approved Philadelphia’s fiscal budget for  2021, but took no action to decrease police funding — a key demand of multiple protests. Many see this action by a Democratic mayor and Democratic city council as a betrayal of Black Philadelphians and the entire working class of the city.Police:  Occupying force in Black communitiesOn June 26, members of the Black Philly Radical Collective held their own press conference across from the Liberty Bell. The group includes Philly REAL Justice, the Human Rights Coalition, Mobilization 4 Mumia, MOVE, the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement and Reclaim Philadelphia.Speakers denounced Kenney and Outlaw for their refusal to apologize for a police attack on May 31 against peaceful protesters in the predominantly African-American area in West Philadelphia around 52 and Market Streets.  Ant Smith, with REAL Justice, stated,  “There were about 15 of us demonstrating.  Police, SWAT teams and National Guard units quickly moved in, firing tear gas and pepper spray at random people just standing on 52 Street. Police went down the streets in the hood as an army — an occupying force. “They had a tank, and as it rolled down the streets, a man in the turret just fired pepper spray and tear gas back and forth. At the end of the day we got shot at by the National Guard using rubber bullets. Several people were injured, including one woman hit in the eye and a man hit in his chest. They didn’t use this kind of force against Center City protesters the day before.”After Smith was arrested by police later in the evening of May 31, he was driven around in a police van until 3 a.m., then dropped off miles from his neighborhood in the middle of a city curfew. He called for “police out of our communities.”Kamau Mshale denounced Kenney’s and Outlaw’s press conference, noting, “Kenney is not being honest. Outlaw is not being honest. Kenney says that police were justified when they attacked protesters in the Black community. We don’t accept their apology. We want action!”YahNé Ndgo challenged those who attack Black residents because of “looting,” which  took place following the police attack. “People who went into stores to take things wouldn’t be doing this if their needs were being met. They also distributed items to community residents in need. This was not capitalist hoarding.“We call for funding of communities — not cops.  We want a decrease in funding for the Philadelphia Police Department over a five-year period until it is completely defunded.”Many Black Lives Matter activists and supporters across the city also denounced the PPD for their openly biased coddling of violent, white right-wing protesters who were allowed, on several occasions, to punch, kick, shove and threaten counterdemonstrators as police stood by, some even laughing at the attacks. The first instance of this fascist mob violence took place on June 1 in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia, with white men carrying bats, axes and even guns, threatening Black residents. Reporters who tried to cover the scene were beaten by the pro-Trump demonstrators.  In a similar scene on June 23, when 50 Black Lives Matter protesters marched to the statue of Christopher Columbus, they were confronted by 100 people with baseball bats, golf clubs and hammers. After repeatedly hurling racist slurs at a Black photographer covering the protest, one white man punched him in the face as police did nothing. Attorney Kevin Mincey, who represents some of the BLM protesters who were pepper-sprayed on June 1, stated, “If there was a Black Lives Matter protest where all the participants were carrying baseball bats, hammers and other makeshift weapons, that protest wouldn’t make it 10 feet down the street before police stopped them.” (Philly.com, June 26)FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more