The Houston Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (I.W.O.C.) would like to dedicate this pamphlet to the memory of Jesus Manuel Galindo, a detainee at the Reeves County Detention Complex in Pecos, Texas. His death was not in vain.
The following summary was completed on the heels of the Texas work stoppage, a mass strike taking place in April of this year, but the idea for it came out of discussions two years prior after a series of hunger and labor strikes spread across the US. These strikes occurred in both private and public facilities – in prisons that housed primarily US-born workers and also detention centers responsible for the incarceration of undocumented workers and even families. Continue reading Incarcerated Workers Take the Lead: Prison Struggles in the United States 2008-2016→
In the Spring of 2014 a hunger strike started inside an immigrant detention center in Conroe, Texas at the Joe Corley Detention Facility one hour north of Houston. Joe Corley is one of several detention centers and prisons run by The GEO Group, INC which is a private company making millions off of incarcerating prisoners, immigrant detainees, the mentally ill, and those with addictions. Several weeks before the hunger strike started in Conroe, there was a hunger strike in Tacoma, Washington at the Northwest Detention Center which is also run by The GEO Group. The strike in Tacoma went on for over a month and at its height was carried out by around 1,200 inmates. These strikers developed a demand letter as they were on strike. The demands were centered around the conditions of the facility itself and included better food, better treatment, better pay, lower commissary, and “fairness.”
Inspired by the Tacoma strike, inmates at the Joe Corley Facility decided to carry out their own hunger strike in Conroe. Initial reports were that a larger group had started the strike but that the group had become smaller by the time they released a demand letter through a lawyer. Similar to the strikers in Tacoma, Joe Corley inmates demanded improved conditions of the detention center, better quality of food, outdoor privileges, and better visitation arrangements. But unlike Tacoma, they demanded something quite different: the abolition of deportation and detention.
Unions’ power is in decay and lately have been resorting to more creative methods in order to remain relevant. We’ve seen the Democrats putting their money behind the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight For $15 in Houston at the same time attempting to “turn Texas blue.” But this dependency of unions like SEIU and the United Steel Workers (USW) on the Democratic Party means they are severely limited in what they are willing to do in the realm of tactics. This along with union density being sharply in decline, as well as union power being undermined by Right-to-Work spreading to states like Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, means the unions are not up for waging anything close to a class struggle. Instead unions like the USW maintain their position as representing only certain interests and timidly bargaining around them. Continue reading A Houston Wob’s Reflection on the USW Strike→
As detainees escalate their struggle at Joe Corley Detention Center north of Houston with a full blackout (work stoppage, no leaving cells), and we await word any minute now about the strikes spreading to other facilities, all out in solidarity with the hunger strikers on April 5th for the National Day of Action Against Deportations!
The uprising in Egypt is escalating. Imperialists who have said that ‘stability’ is what makes for good democracy, racists who have said that Arabs do not want their freedom, patriarchs who have said that women do not attend, much less lead, protests, and the Western middle classes who have wanted to paint the Egyptian uprising as a Twitter and Facebook-happy ‘Cedar Revolution’ of doctors and lawyers, have all in the last two weeks seen their pseudo-sociological assumptions about the Egyptian people collapse.
On Tuesday, one of the largest pro-democracy demonstrations yet went down in Cairo – this after days of the US media reporting, and the Mubarak regime requesting, a return to “normalcy” in Egypt – and perhaps even more significantly, new and militant strikes are now emerging throughout Egypt: six thousand Suez Canal workers have gone on strike in Suez, Port-Said, and Ismailia. They are being joined by railway technicians and oil workers, by government, sanitation, and court employees, and by factory workers both in Suez and historic, militant Mahalla. Independent trade unions are forming, and calls are being circulated for both single-day and more sustained General Strikes. The working class is moving in Egypt.
And while the Mubarak regime unleashes both direct and extra-parliamentary repression against the pro-democracy forces, while Torturer-in-Chief Omar Suleiman issues a mixture of pleas, threats, and mild economic ‘reforms’, and while both the Obama administration and the Egyptian opposition itself cannot coherently say whether they are for dictatorship or democracy, cannot unequivocally call for the Mubarak regime to be dismantled and for Mubarak and Suleiman to step down, the Egyptian people are showing no signs of giving up, and are continuing to call for the entire government’s dismissal. Continue reading The Egyptian Uprising→
Mouvement Communiste has written up a brief report and analysis of the strikes that have broken out over the last month in response to the attempts by the Sarkozy government
An attempt to report on the situation in France
by Mouvement Communiste
We have seen a growing number of demonstrators in many towns and cities of France in demonstrations called by the unions and supported by official left-wing parties. But on the side of working class strikes the figure is not so bright.
First of all, strikes have not hit “private” sector industry (with some exceptions detailed later). Our two Paris area big automotive assembly plants, Renault in Flins and Citroën in Aulnay saw only 100 strikers among a workforce of roughly 4000 (i.e. even not all the union delegates went on strike); as some workers said, “the mood is not there”. Even in demonstrations there were very few banners relating to private companies….
They finish with some conclusions:
…..On the content
We can say that confusion is deeply rooted in the movement. If everybody understands that the government “reform” is an attack on the working class, there was no expression of the view that pensions are wages. On the contrary, the ideology of defending the “French social system” is still very strong, not to mention talking about “solidarity among generations”…..
….On the unions
Contrary to what many leftists thought, unions were not opposed to the “movement” and not ready to “betray” it. Their “offer” was very broad. From the SUD completely unrealistically calling for a “General Strike”, to the CFDT being more “realistic” and waiting for a government response, through the CGT being more realistic according to the weak balance of power in the strikes, and divided by some extremist rank and file-ists, the usual limited scheme of “betrayal” does not apply up to now…..
….To remain optimistic
In many places very tiny groups of people tried to organize themselves on a rank and file basis to do something, for instance blocking the economy. However unrealistic it is, it certainly allows people to create horizontal links that could be useful for the future. We have participated in Paris in an “Inter-category assembly” (however foolish may be the name of such a gathering, regarding reality) organized around engineers of SNCF in Paris Est and other workers. This could be a chance for the future if links are maintained….
While the Chinese government has invested as much as $58 billions to stage the Shanghai Expo, Chinese workers at Foxconn Technology, a Taiwanese-owned electronic manufacturer which assembles products for corporates such as Apple, Dell, HP, Motorola, and Nokia are jumping out of their sweatshop factories. Foxconn employees nearly 600,000 workers all over China, and its total network is worth 54 million dollars. The boss, Terry Guo, is the richest man in Taiwan, but the workers are only paid $132 a month, which is the legal minimum wage in China, and work over time to boost the salary. There have been 12 suicides in the Shenzhen factory this year alone and most of them were 18 -24 year old second generation farmers who migrated to the urban factories from the South because there were simply no work opportunities back at home. They sign off their rights to the labor laws and work as much as 36 hour over time to compensate for the high living cost in the city. The Foxconn workplace is extremely oppressive—military like security control (also because companies such as Apple demanded so), crowded dormitories and long work hours. To prevent workers from the same hometowns to mobilize, they are separated into different sectors of the factory as well different dormitories. While the Foxconn workers clearly face severe workplace alienation, the Shenzhen government expressed that they haven’t found any direct relationships between the suicides and the workplace issues, but purely personal “psychological stress.”
Analysis of March 4 is slowly appearing, but it will be some time before a fuller picture emerges. Until then we are collecting here a small number of writings that are relevant to the March 4 walk-out and protests. We will post more as it appears. If you find anything you think is important for discussion, please send it to us.
I just read the labor classic, “Teamster Rebellion” by Farrell Dobbs. It is a very exciting book because Dobbs goes into the nitty gritty of organizing 3 major strikes that faced retaliation not only from management, Minneapolis cops, but also from the National Guard. These strikes happened in 1934, a crucial time for the labor movement during the Depression Era. The spirit of resistance and struggle spread like wildfire and in that year alone, 3 major strikes took place in the US — in San Francisco, in Toledo, and in Minneapolis, reminding the world over and over, that the US is a majority working class country. And these workers had a bone to pick with their bosses.
There are of course, some problems with learning about organizing through the narratives of grand strikes. One major one is that not all endeavors taken on by the working class are victories. The Minneapolis strike came in 1934, five years after the Great Depression began, arguably after people lived through the worst of their economic ordeals, and after many less successful attempts. The courage of countless workers who stuck their heads out first, their unrelenting resilience that kept them organizing despite the real threat of retaliation are easily forgotten in light of the grand victories. In reality, how people persevered though their losses, continuing to build organizations and infrastructure to keep resisting are often times more realistic for movement builders who have to live through the highs and lows of struggles.
Nonetheless, there are many precious lessons to be taken from “Teamster Rebellion.” For one, it brings alive what “class struggle” is. Class struggle, as one finds through the pages of the book, is nothing short of class warfare. There are friends, there are enemies and there is a battle that needs to be won. Today, the euphemism for class oppression is “classism,” and a popular way of addressing it is through richer people recognizing their class privilege. What this translates into is rich people being nice to their poorer brethren. Great, but not quite enough. Reading “Teamster Rebellion,” following Dobbs’s recollection of Bloody Friday in Minneapolis, where workers armed themselves to defend the picket line against police-escorted scabs, reminds one that the way to change the dire economic oppression that workers encounter is through workers coming together, ready to fight and take risks. It is only through these collective actions that workers have a shot at winning. The bosses, capitalists and union bureaucracies don’t give, and even though some are smarter than others in deciding when to cut their losses, its never out of benevolence. Working people have had to FIGHT for their gains, through warfare, wading through tear gas, no less. Continue reading Some thoughts on Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs→
One of the most militant strikes in the current crisis has been the occupation of Ssangyong Motors in South Korea.
The strike failed to win its main demand of no lay-offs, however, it blazed a light in a murky time of reactionary offensives by the rulers and defensiveness by the oppressed that characterizes much of the current moment. There is a lot that we can learn from these heroic auto-workers.
Loren Goldner, who was in South Korea during the occupation, has a comprehensive interview here about the strike.
Also, here is a summary of Goldner’s conclusions taken from the Libcom archive.
Ssangyong motors strike in South Korea ends in defeat and heavy repression
by Loren Goldner
The Ssangyong Motor Company strike and plant occupation in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, ended after 77 days on Aug. 5. For the 976 workers who seized the small auto plant on May 22 and held it against repeated quasi-military assault, the settlement signed by Ssangyong court receivership manager Park Young-tae and local union president Han Sang-kyun represented a near-total defeat. Worse still, the surrender was followed by detention and interrogation of dozens of strikers by police, possibly to be followed by felony charges, as well by a massive ($45 million) lawsuit against the Korean Metal Workers’ Union and probable further lawsuits against individual strikers for damages incurred during the strike. The hard-right Korean government of Lee Myong Bak is signaling with these measures—its latest and most dramatic “take no prisoners” victory over popular protest in the past year and a half– its intention to steamroller any potential future resistance to its unabashed rule on behalf of big capital.
The Ssangyong strike echoed in many ways the dynamic seen in the recent Visteon struggle in the UK and in battles over auto industry restructuring around the world. Involving, on the other hand, an outright factory seizure and occupation, and subsequent violent defense of the plant against the police, thugs and scabs, it was the first struggle of its kind in South Korea for years. Its defeat—one in a long series of defeats extending over years—does not bode well for future resistance. Continue reading What can the Ssangyong strike in South Korea teach us?→