Taking Action Against Detention Prisons

by Karyn Pomerantz, August 2019

While the US ruling class clamps down on the freedom of migrants seeking asylum and survival in the US, ordinary people are mobilizing to liberate the incarcerated. These protests have taken many forms.  Immigrant rights organizations educate immigrants about their so-called legal rights to avoid detention, communities and religious institutions provide sanctuary, lawyers negotiate to stop the police from sharing arrest records with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of Homeland Security), and activists confront anti-immigration institutions with direct actions.

In recent weeks (Summer 2019), there have been more direct actions and civil disobedience to stop detentions. Direct action protests and civil disobedience can use illegal or legal disruptive tactics to change conditions and policies.  Instead of negotiations and voting, they include strikes, demonstrations (think Yellow Vests in France), mutinies, prison rebellions, attacks on right wing rallies, urban rebellions, and sit-ins. They are instrumental in securing reforms and making revolutions.  While individuals can use direct action, such as assassinations or suicide bombings, they are not effective and usually harm co-workers or the public. Successful, militant protests involve large numbers of participants, unity, collective outrage, and organization.  

Imagine if thousands of anti-racists operating in a planned cohesive manner opened the prisons and released the children and individuals held in these camps!  Are we headed for this? Would this strategy succeed?

This article explores the value of direct action and civil disobedience, and recent and historical examples of workers defending their brothers and sisters.  We welcome your examples.

Continue reading “Taking Action Against Detention Prisons”

International Solidarity Marks Amazon Strike

by Karyn Pomerantz, July 19, 2019

On July 15, 2019 during Amazon’s Prime Day sale, Amazon warehouse workers around the world walked off the job to protest grueling working conditions and poor wages. US workers also demanded that Amazon cut its collaboration with ICE and implement climate control practices. Strikers hit Amazon sites in the US and 50 locations in Europe, including France, Germany where 2000 participated, and the UK. French employees blocked trucks from leaving distribution centers, and European unions coordinated their efforts across borders. Unions in Spain and Poland also planned protests during the week.

Amazon represents the worst of modern day capitalism, extracting as much profit as it can by increasing productivity among its workforce, contracting out many delivery services, and automating many functions that reduce expenses. It has attacked the unions, claiming safe working conditions and adequate pay and benefits, and accusing unions of using strikes to recruit more members to increase revenue. Yet Amazon earned $5.8 billion over the two days. In 2018, Amazon made $232 billion in sales with CEO Jeff Bezos earning $110 billion, generating the strike slogan, No more discounts on our incomes!

Brutal working conditions include holding workers to the rate, the time it takes to retrieve, box, or process merchandise, an average of 6-8 seconds per task. Workers are docked time to use the bathroom and threatened with firing if they fall below the rate 4 times. Workers report that they limit drinking fluids to avoid bathroom times. While robots deliver products to workers, many report they walk 10 miles a day to retrieve them. Amazon invests heavily in robotics to reduce their payroll, threatening jobs. Constant surveillance of worker movements adds to the stress. Over a 5 year period, Amazon called emergency services in the US 189 times for workers experiencing severe mental health problems. While these problems may have occurred prior to their Amazon employment, the speed up, social isolation, and surveillance promote suicidal ideas. As one employee wrote, “It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence. It’s mentally taxing to do the same task super fast for 10-hour shifts, four or five days a week.”

Multiracial and Multiethnic Leadership

The Amazon strikes and organizing highlight the strengths and potential of collaboration with workers of various religions, nationalities, and racial categories. In the major Minnesota site in Shakopee, the Awood Center for East African Muslim workers, mostly from Somalia, organized the work actions. They also protested Amazon’s denial of their religious needs, such as time to pray during the work day. Unions and community organizations supported them, and workers of all backgrounds followed their leadership to strike.

While the number of strikers was low and the strike only lasted 6 hours, it demonstrated the potential for tech staff, Amazon airline pilots, warehouse workers from multiple countries to unite around common goals. It also appealed to the public to boycott the Prime Day sales. Demands included economic, safety, and political issues, such as climate change and opposition to anti-immigrant attacks by ICE. Employees showed that they could not be co-opted by Amazon’s recent $15 per hour minimum wage.

Such fightbacks can reinvigorate a docile labor movement and increase class consciousness around the world. It can turn workers against the capitalist system and not just one of its worst examples. It will take militant organizers who refuse to rely on politicians and union leaders but instead fight for an equitable society.

Read more:

No Bargain for Workers. https://www.france24.com/en/20190716-amazon-workers-strike-prime-day-france-germany-usa

https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/15/business/german-amazon-workers-strike-prime-day-scli-intl/index.html

Video on Amazon’s delivery processes and safety issues from company reps and workers at https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/15/amazon-workers-prime-day-strike-begins-in-minnesota.html

TURN the Guns Around! GI Resistance to War

By Karyn Pomerantz, July 2019

As I write this, actual and potential wars threaten the lives and stability of millions, instigating massive migrations to seek peace.  The United Nations reports that over 70 million people fled from wars and conflicts in 2018 (www.unhcr.org/576408cd7) while 258 million people migrated for political and economic reasons in 2017 (UN. International Migration Report, 2017).  Armed conflicts continue in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria as Pakistan and India clash over control of Kashmir, and long term conflicts simmer in Gaza, Venezuela, the South China Sea and other places. Any one of these limited wars may trigger a world war, even a nuclear one.  Continue reading “TURN the Guns Around! GI Resistance to War”

Life as a Communist Organizer in the Farm Fields of California: the Autobiography of Epifonia Camacho

By Karyn Pomerantz, June 11, 2019

This autobiography of a revolutionary farmworker offers insights into the lives of the workers who plant and harvest our food under brutal working and living conditions. It highlights the need for militancy, revolutionary ideas, and total opposition to capitalism. Told in accessible language with clear explanations of complex political ideas and organizing strategies, it has much to teach us. Continue reading “Life as a Communist Organizer in the Farm Fields of California: the Autobiography of Epifonia Camacho”

No Private Police – No ICE Collaboration- Justice for Tyrone West

CELEBRATE MAY DAY

johns hopkins private police ice sit-inStudents at Johns Hopkins University 

by Karyn Pomerantz, April 30, 2019

The movement against private police at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is expanding.  New organizations and collaborations have joined the efforts to prevent JHU from hiring armed police to patrol neighborhoods where JHU has property.  Considering the role of the police to protect wealth and suppress dissent, this poses an additional threat to Hopkins neighbors and students. (See blog piece at https://multiracialunity.org/2019/03/25/stop-hopkins-private-police-action-alert/) Continue reading “No Private Police – No ICE Collaboration- Justice for Tyrone West”

STOP HOPKINS PRIVATE POLICE : ACTION ALERT

Karyn Pomerantz, March 25, 2019

The Johns Hopkins University plans to hire its own armed private police force to patrol the campus and residential streets around its properties in Baltimore, MD. The Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore has expanded into surrounding neighborhoods for years displacing hundreds of people and allowing developers to move in with their expensive real estate. Universities have become large real estate companies with education on the side, gobbling up working class homes and destroying community bonds. Police forces serve the wealthy, protecting property and profit. Continue reading “STOP HOPKINS PRIVATE POLICE : ACTION ALERT”

THE LOS ANGELES TEACHERS’ STRIKE AND OTHER TEACHER ACTIONS AROUND THE NATION

by Al Simpson

February 12, 2019

The Racist Nature of Education in the United States

According to the Center for American Progress report Unequal Education of 2012 (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-k-12/news/2012/08/22/32862/students-of-color-still-receiving-unequal-education/), schools are just as segregated in unequal now as they were in 1954 when Brown versus Board of Education was decided.  The average white student attends a school where 77% of students are white, and fully 40% of black and Latin students attend schools where over 90% or students are non-white. Especially in the big cities, racist segregation and differences in school funding have led to a dual education system, good in the suburbs and white upper income areas — where the students are prepared for college and professional, technical or managerial jobs — and poor elsewhere, especially in neighborhoods where there are people of color. Let’s look more deeply into this.

Continue reading “THE LOS ANGELES TEACHERS’ STRIKE AND OTHER TEACHER ACTIONS AROUND THE NATION”