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Tag Archives: workers rights

Fascists face assault charges for shooting, nearly killing, Wobbly

A member of the IWW was nearly killed in Seattle Jan. 20 by neo-fascist Elizabeth Hokoana, after she and her husband Marc infiltrated anti-inauguration and Milo Yiannopoulos protests at the University of Washington’s Red Square.

Video of the protests show Mark Hokoana warning his wife “don’t shoot anyone,” “they have to start it.” He then attacked protesters with pepper spray, sparking a confrontation which ended in the shooting of Industrial Workers of the World activist Joshua Dukes, who was trying to de-escalate the situation. The Wobbly, shot in the stomach, was hospitalized for a month, underwent emergency surgeries to save his life, and is now in physical therapy.

The day before the shooting, Marc Hokoana messaged a friend on Facebook, stating, “I’m going to wade through their ranks and start cracking skulls.”

Remarkably, police released the couple without charges just hours after they surrendered. They claimed to be investigating the shooting, searching Marc Hoakana’s cell phone in February. Media reports say he erased its memory before turning it over to police. “I would describe [Marc and Elizabeth] as being very polite and cooperative,” said University of Washington Police Department Major Steve Rittereiser.

One need not speculate as to how the Wobbly would have been treated had he shot one of the neo-fascists. Scores of protestors arrested the same day for demonstrating without a permit or allegedly breaking windows were held for days and are now facing felony charges.

Yet the “investigation” dragged on for more than three months before prosecutors filed assault charges against the Hokoanas April 24. They offered no explanation of why they were not bringing attempted murder charges. During the investigation, Seattle authorities – including “socialist” city councilor Kshama Sawant, a member of a Trotskyist party – kept mum, taking no action to defend the rights of Wobblies and other activists to assemble without being assaulted or killed.

Indeed, the shooting has been followed by a series of threats against University of Washington campus activists. A self-identified white supremacist told a graduate student instructor he was going to shoot her and her class; campus authorities refused to take action even after her car windows were smashed a few days later. She subsequently quit the graduate program, explaining that, “a PhD isn’t worth getting shot for.” On Feb. 15, the theater where a Shakespeare play was being performed by leading actors who were people of color was glued over with posters proclaiming, “Yellow, Black and Brown. Look out! The Nazis have come to town!”

Neo-fascists are openly organizing armed groups to carry out such attacks. In Portland, Oregon, the head of the local Republican Party called for such a force in the wake of the murder of two people who tried to stop a neo-Nazi draped in an American flag from harassing Muslim women.

In Berkeley, Kyle Chapman, charged with assault with a deadly weapon against local activists March 4, has joined other neo-fascists to organize the “Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights.” “Our emphasis will be on street activism, preparation, defense and confrontation,” Chapman told The Root.


Celebrating International Workers’ Day in Philadelphia

May 1 is International Workers’ Day, probably the most widely celebrated holiday in the world. It’s a day to remember workers’ struggles, to commemorate our martyrs, and to rededicate ourselves to building a world free of bosses and exploiters. It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate – a more urgent – time for this than today.

This year there will be many events across Philadelphia, including a large downtown rally focusing on immigrant workers rights and an evening rally in West Philadelphia. The Caucus of Working Educators (a reform caucus in the teachers’ union) is urging supporters of public schools and their workers (now almost 4 years without a contract or pay raise) to strike on May Day and join a day of protests demanding workers’ rights and support for our children and their schools.

These are the events that I know about:

  • 7:30-8:30 am: Pickets at schools with staff, parents & community in solidarity

  • Unite Here is organizing a rally at the Philadelphia International Airport in solidarity with airport workers fighting to receive what the city has designated as the minimum wage that can be paid to workers employed by government agencies and their contractors. 8:30 AM: gather at the UNITE HERE office (1415 N. Broad) to board the WE ARE HUMAN bus.
  • 9:30 am: Speak Out and Press Conference at PHL International Arrivals Hall, Terminal A West. At 10:30 am they will join Juntos at Dickinson Square Park at 4th and Tasker for an immigrant justice March to City Hall.
  • 10 am: Coalition of Working Educators demonstration, rally & press conference at 440 North Broad (School Reform Commission headquarters), followed by a March to City Hall, where CWE members will be meeting with City Council members and the mayor to demand action on education

  • 12 pm: Un Día Sin Immigrant, Black & Brown Bodies rally at City Hall, sponsored by the Black & Brown Workers Collective and Juntos.

  • 2 pm: Unite Here will send a delegation at LSG Skychefs, 8401 Escort Ave., demanding that they pay the city minimum wage.
  • 4 pm: Picket at the Hilton Penn’s Landing in solidarity with Hilton workers
  • 4 pm: Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Educator Exit Rally Lea Elementary, 4700 Locust St (West Philly)

  • March to Clark Park

  • 5 pm: May Day Rally at Clark Park, 43rd and Baltimore. Speakers, Poets, Drill Teams, Live Music, BBQ, Recognition Awards, Kids Activities and More. Sponsored by PhilaPOSH and the PA Labor History Society, and supported by over 55 area Labor and Allied Organizations.

AFL-sponsored company unions

The current BusinessWeek reports yet another example of the “innovative” thinking that has led the American labor movement to its present, sorry, state: company unionism. The International Association of Machinists has signed a five-year deal with Uber to operate a company union called the Independent Drivers Guild. The operation’s website claims it’s a joint project of “independent drivers” and the IAM which will represent drivers in (mandatory – drivers are forced to sign away their rights to sue, and Uber prohibits them from unionizing) arbitration hearings, sell them low-cost insurance plans and other “benefits” (much like the Union Privilege credit cards and other scams the AFL was peddling under Lane Kirkland), and lobby government and regulators on the drivers’ behalf.

Uber pays for the entire operation, chooses its “union” partners, selects the arbitrators (in consultation with its hired union), and dictates the issues around which the “union” will “advocate” for its “members.”

The IAM-sponsored Independent Drivers Guild has been granted “representation” of Uber drivers in New York City, and has pledged to lobby the state for lower taxes on Uber rides. Uber says that if they win, it will share the savings with drivers in the form of a IDG-managed benefits scheme. Earlier, the IDG fronted for Uber in fighting regulators’ efforts to impose a 12-hour cap on drivers’ shifts. They lost that fight in July, but implementation of the 12-hour day (presently Uber drivers can work shifts that never end) has been delayed.

Uber hatched this scheme to fend off bona fide labor organizing efforts. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance has been pursuing a class action lawsuit on behalf of Uber drivers seeking labor rights, while the Amalgamated Transit Union has gathered union authorization cards from thousands of Uber drivers, and has been pressing for a union representation election.

The Machinists are trying to expand the IDG into Pennsylvania, and Uber is seeking similar deals around the country. In California, the Teamsters are launching a similar company union scheme. “Unlike some other unions that have to continue putting up a fight just to look relevant to their members, we don’t necessarily have to,” Teamsters vice president Rome Aloise told BusinessWeek.


Obama admin. insists on right to discriminate against gays

After keeping quiet about the issue during two presidential elections, President Obama finally saw the light last year — deciding that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry if they chose to do so.

Let’s leave aside the question of whether the government has any business getting involved in people’s personal relationships, or whether the existing marriage institution is the way most people would choose to structure their romantic and familial lives in a free society. So gays and lesbians may marry, and can bear arms, kill and be killed in behalf of their capitalist masters.

But when it comes to rights in the workplace, the Obama administration is in the federal courts defending its right to discriminate. They recently lost a ruling seeking to dismiss a lawsuit by a Library of Congress worker who was subjected to punitive evaluations and a campaign of harassment (ending in his termination) by supervisors after they learned he was gay. The Obama administration had argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed for failing to state a cause of action — that is, that gay workers had no legal right to be free from abuse and discrimination.

It’s not clear if the government will appeal, but either way this case shows that even “liberal” bosses believe they should have unfettered dominance over their workers. So long as their are bosses and rulers, no one can be free.

Union Scabbing at Philadelphia Convention Center

The long, pathetic spectacle of union scabbing has hit a new low in Philadelphia, where construction union officials are crossing picket lines set up by workers who have been locked-out by their employer because they did not capitulate quickly enough.

The Philadelphia Convention Center locked out members of the Carpenters and Teamsters unions May 5, after they sought to negotiate over new work rules the Center’s new management was determined to shove down their throats. (There is some dispute over whether the  unions had a week to capitulate, or just a day.) Four other construction unions (Laborers, Electricians, Stagehands and Iron Workers) accepted the terms, which overturn decades of jurisdictional rules and allow exhibitors to do much of the work that formerly had to be done by union workers. As a reward, management is assigning the locked-out unions’ work to them.

The Carpenters and Teamsters did agree to the unilaterally imposed rules after the lock-out was announced, but management said their surrender came too late. And so they are “picketing,” caged behind metal barricades, and surrounded by hordes of police.

Officials of the Electricians, Laborers and Stagehand “unions” promenaded past the locked-out workers (including politically connected Local 98 leader John Dougherty), and have been openly cheering the bosses’ refusal to negotiate working conditions and their lock-out of those workers who, however briefly, attempted to stand up for their rights and so are now thrown out on the streets.