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Voluntary Movements

November 04, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: David Bacon, Economy, Politics

All Over the World, Migrants Demand the Right to Stay Home

by David Bacon

Immigrants, workers, union members and community activists marched on May Day in San Jose. Marchers protested attacks on immigrants, unions and the rights of workers, and called on Congress to pass a just immigration reform.

The United States has become home to a large number of people born outside its borders — there were some 40 million as of 2010, according to various estimates. That was up from approximately 20 million in 1990.

The immigration debate in the United States usually treats the migration of people into this country as something unique. But it is not. The United Nations estimates that 232 million people worldwide live outside the countries where they were born — 3.2 percent of the world’s population. In 2000 it was 175 million, and in 1990, 154 million. The number of cross-border migrants has grown by 78 million people in just over 20 years — enough to fill 20 cities the size of Los Angeles.

U.S. exceptionalism — the idea that this country is somehow unique and different — has no basis in fact when it comes to migration, which is a global phenomenon. And the big questions are why are the number of migrants increasing so rapidly and what should be done about it. (more…)

A Meaningful Future

July 31, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: David Bacon, Economy, Politics

What Real Immigration Reform Would Look Like

by David Bacon

Oralia Maceda, an immigrant mother from Oaxaca, asked the obvious last weekend in Fresno.  At a meeting, talking about the Senate immigration reform bill, she wanted to know why Senators would spend almost $50 billion on more border walls, yet show no interest in why people leave home to cross them.

This Congressional blindness will get worse as immigration reform moves to the House.  It condemns U.S. immigration policy to a kind of punitive venality, making rational political decisions virtually impossible.  Yet alternatives are often proposed by migrant communities themselves, and reflect a better understanding of global economics and human rights. (more…)

A Foundation of Decency

May 06, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Building a Society that Protects Everyone

by Robert C. Koehler

“Everywhere near the building, the stench of death was overpowering. Men in surgical masks sprayed disinfectant in the air.” We move from tragedy to tragedy with hellish regularity.

“The scope of injuries,” Jim Yardley writes in the New York Times, “was horrifying: fractured skulls, crushed rib cages, severed livers, ruptured spleens. One survivor lost both legs. . . . A teenage girl named Sania lost her right leg. Another teenager, Anna, lost her right hand.”

This wasn’t from a bomb in Boston. It was from a collapsed building outside Dhaka, Bangladesh — another shocking sweatshop disaster, this one claiming the lives, according to the most recent count, of 385 people, with many more missing and at least 1,000 injured. Eight people, including the owner of the building, which housed five separate garment operations employing more than 3,000 people, were arrested. Workers, the Times reported, saw cracks in the walls of the building the day before it collapsed. They were told to go to work anyway. (more…)

Soul of the Longshore

January 31, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: David Bacon, Economy, Politics

‘We Have the Right to Decide What Kind of World It’s Going to Be’

by David Bacon

Leo Robinson was a Black leader of the longshore union in San Francisco. He died this week.  For many of us, he was a lifelong companion, an example of what being an internationalist and a working class activist was all about.

Leo Robinson came into the International Longshore and Warehouse Union because of a deal made by Harry Bridges and the Communists who led the waterfront strike of 1934.  That strike metastasized and became a three-day general strike after cops shot and killed three strikers.  It was the birth of the ILWU, and changed the political history of the west coast.

The radical leaders on the docks were both black and white. But the bosses who controlled the jobs on the waterfront always showed preference for the white gangs.  Black crews got the worst jobs, when they were hired to unload ships at all.  All workers on the docks were hungry, poor and desperate for work.  But Black dockers were the hungriest of all. (more…)

Economic Indifference

December 04, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

On Brand Names and Mass Graves…

by Robert C. Koehler

Cheap clothes! Their cost, as it turns out, is beyond calculation.

“Babul Mia said he identified his wife Mariam Begum, 25, who was apparently burnt beyond recognition, but he could identify her bangles and her small teeth,” reported Bangladesh’s main English-language newspaper, The Daily Star.

“Zahera Begum, who worked on the fifth floor of Tazreen Fashions, too, was identified by her husband Iqramul from her nose ring, bangles and necklace.”

So a fire swept through a sweatshop in Bangladesh on Nov. 24, killing at least 112 people, nearly half of whom were unidentifiable and buried in a mass grave. (more…)

Memorial Day Redux

May 01, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Diane Lefer, Economy, Family, Politics

Working Smarter to Save Workers’ Lives

by Diane Lefer

According to US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, more people die in the American workplace in a single year than have been lost in nine years of war in Iraq. “Each day in America, twelve people go to work and never go home,” she told the audience at the Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health held at East Los Angeles Community College on April 26, one of many events leading up to Workers Memorial Day, April 28, an annual date of remembrance for those killed, injured, or sickened on the job.

María Elena Durazo, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, reported there were 500 work-related deaths in 2011 in California and “Workers are still being fired for speaking out in order to avoid death.”

This loss of life and countless serious injuries, continue to occur although the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), intended to protect workers, was signed by Richard Nixon 41 years ago. (more…)

Martyrs for Justice

April 27, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Jerry Elmer, Politics

The Haymarket Affair and the Origins of May Day

by Jerry Elmer 

May 1st is May Day, the international workers’ holiday honoring the labor movement. May Day is celebrated in at least 80 countries worldwide, from Argentina to Vietnam, but not in the United States. Here, our “Labor Day” was carefully put into September – by President Grover Cleveland in 1894 – specifically so that we would not observe May Day, with all of its radical roots in syndicalist labor history. This is deeply ironic, for the event that gave rise to May Day observances the world over occurred right here in the United States: the bombing at Haymarket Square, Chicago, on May 4, 1886, during a labor rally.

The context for the Haymarket riot in 1886 was the movement for the eight-hour work day. The movement had started at least as early as 1877, when the Workingmen’s Party in Chicago called a general strike beginning July 25 in support of the eight-hour movement. The next day, on July 26, 1877, thousands of strikers were attacked and beaten into submission by police and U.S. Army infantrymen with fixed bayonets. Thirty strikers, including a number of children, were murdered by the police and federal troops. During that strike, typesetter Albert Parsons, later one of the Haymarket martyrs, was fired from his job because of a speech he had given during the strike. The bloody suppression of the 1877 strike caused another of the Haymarket martyrs, upholsterer August Spies, to join an armed worker’s self-defense organization. (more…)


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