New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


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…)

Remembering the Lawrence Strike

January 09, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Jerry Elmer, Politics

On the Centennial of a Nonviolent and Decisive Workers’ Victory

by Jerry Elmer

January 12, 2012 is the one hundredth anniversary of the commencement of one of the most important labor strikes in American history – the bloody 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile strike that lasted 63 days. The strike represented the organizing apogee of the radical, syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies); the strike has also become associated (albeit erroneously) in popular lore with the slogan “Bread and Roses” (the phrase originated in a poem by James Oppenheim published in 1911, but was apparently never used by the Lawrence strikers in 1912).

On January 1, 1912, a new Massachusetts law had gone into effect that cut the maximum work week to 54 hours. Mill workers’ pay was given out on Fridays, not for the week just ended but for the previous week; thus, on Friday afternoon, January 12, 1912, workers received their pay for the work week of Monday, January 1 through Saturday, January 6. Workers found their pay to be an average of 32¢ short, representing the fewer hours that the mill workers had toiled. (more…)

Right to Work

December 13, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Harry Targ, Politics

Anti-Worker Laws Violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

by Harry Targ

The massive atrocities of World War II led nations to commit themselves permanently to the protection of basic rights for all human beings. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of the wartime President, Franklin Roosevelt, worked diligently with leaders from around the world to develop a document, to articulate a set of principles, which would bind humankind to never carry out acts of mass murder again. In addition, the document also committed nations to work to end most forms of pain and suffering.

Over 60 years ago, on December 10, 1948, delegates from the United Nations General Assembly signed the document which they called “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” It consisted of a preamble proclaiming that all signatories recognize “the inherent dignity” and “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as the “foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” The preamble declared the commitment of the signatories to the creation of a world “in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want.” (more…)

From Planton to Occupy

December 07, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Bacon, Economy, Politics

Unions, Immigrants, and the Occupy Movement

by David Bacon

When Occupy Seattle called its tent camp “Planton Seattle,” camp organizers were laying a local claim to a set of tactics used for decades by social movements in Mexico, Central America and the Philippines.  And when immigrant janitors marched down to the detention center in San Diego and called their effort Occupy ICE (the initials of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency responsible for mass deportations), people from countries with that planton tradition were connecting it to the Occupy movement here.

This shared culture and history offer new possibilities to the Occupy movement for survival and growth at a time when the Federal law enforcement establishment, in cooperation with local police departments and municipal governments, has uprooted many tent encampments. (more…)

Fighting the Firings

August 31, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, David Bacon, Economy, Politics

Communities Push Back Against Workplace Audits and ‘Silent Raids’

by David Bacon

When the current wave of mass firings of immigrant workers started three years ago, they were called “silent raids” in the press.  The phrase sought to make firings seem more humane than the workplace raids of the Bush administration.  During Bush’s eight-year tenure, posses of black-uniformed immigration agents, waving submachine guns, invaded factories across the country and rounded up workers for deportations.

“Silent raids,” by contrast, have relied on cooperation between employers and immigration officials.  The Department of Homeland Security identifies workers it says have no legal immigration status.  Employers then fire them.  The silence, then, is the absence of the armed men in black.  Paraphrasing Woody Guthrie, they used to rob workers of their jobs with a gun.  Now they do it with a fountain pen. (more…)

Immigration and Solidarity

June 30, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Bacon, Economy, Politics

Charting the Growing Ties Between Mexican and U.S. Labor

by David Bacon

One indispensable part of education and solidarity is greater contact between Mexican union organizers and their U.S. counterparts.  The base for that contact already exists in the massive movement of people between the two countries.

Miners fired in Cananea, or electrical workers fired in Mexico City, become workers in Phoenix, Los Angeles and New York.  Twelve million Mexican workers in the U.S. are a natural base of support for Mexican unions.  They bring with them the experience of the battles waged by their unions.  They can raise money and support.  Their families are still living in Mexico, and many are active in political and labor campaigns.  As workers and union members in the U.S., they can help win support from U.S. unions for the battles taking place in Mexico.

This is not a new idea. (more…)

Time to Fight Back

June 28, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Politics, Robert Reich

The War on Workers Undermines Economic Justice

by Robert Reich

The battle has resumed in Wisconsin. The state supreme court has allowed Governor Scott Walker to strip bargaining rights from state workers.

Meanwhile, legislators in New Hampshire and officials in Missouri are attacking private unions, seeking to make the states so-called “open shop” where workers can get all the benefits of being union members without paying union dues. Needless to say this ploy undermines the capacity of unions to do much of anything. Other Republican governors and legislatures are following suit.

Republicans in Congress are taking aim at the National Labor Relations Board, which is likely to consider a relatively minor rule change allowing workers to vote on whether to unionize soon after a union has been proposed, rather than allowing employers to delay the vote for years. Many employers have used the delaying tactics to retaliate against workers who try to organize, and intimidate others into rejecting a union. (more…)