Amazon Workers Organize – Black Workers Lead the Way

Karyn Pomerantz, 4-8-2021; Updated on 4-21-2021

Update on 4-21-2021, Behind Union Defeat at Amazon Bessemer – CounterPunch.org. See also comment.

As this is being published, Amazon announced that it won the vote on unionizing the plant in Bessemer, Alabama. Workers at the warehouse launched a union campaign last year to improve working conditions and pay. As of April 9, 7:00PM EDT, the initial count is 1,798 opposed to 738 in favor (out of approximately 6,000 voters). Amazon and the union intend to challenge the validity of some votes.

The workers’ efforts could still spark an international movement at other Amazon centers and in other industries that deliver unlivable wages, poor benefits, and unsafe working conditions. Workers at Walmart, Target, and fast-food restaurants may also be inspired to form unions, threatening the owners with a rebellious workforce and a loss in profit. A disproportionate number of workers in these industries is black, immigrant, female, and Latin. Their role as essential workers and their poverty create disproportionate exposures to Covid 19. Over 20,000 out of 1.3 million (2%) Amazon employees have contracted Covid 19 as of October 2020.

Placing the fight for economic security at the jobsite sharpens antiracist and class struggle beyond the legislative approach in the Fight for 15 campaign. Unions may not win every campaign or contract demand, but they provide a structure for workers to engage in many struggles, such as housing reforms, anti-war movements, and other activist mobilizations. It is important for all of us to support the Amazon workers in all ways possible.

This post will present the issues behind the Amazon organizing, its significance to the working class, the ways we can help, the current and historical role of black workers in the labor movement, and how an egalitarian society could deal with consumerism.

Continue reading “Amazon Workers Organize – Black Workers Lead the Way”

International Women’s History Month: Women Holding Up Half the Sky

By Karyn Pomerantz, 3-21 -2021 

Women marching in 1917 in Russia

Background – The Roots of International Women’s Day 

March is Women’s History Month that is celebrated with marches and cultural programs around the world. International Women’s Day, observed in the US on March 8, was sparked in 1909 when 20,000 women waistmakers in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in New York City shut down the sweatshops to oppose disastrous working conditions, sexual harassment, and low wages. They inspired the German socialist, Clara Zetkin, to establish International Women’s Day with a march dedicated to universal suffrage, free childcare, and other reforms to improve women’s lives (The Socialist Origins of International Women’s Day (jacobinmag.com). Socialist parties in other countries adopted it with marches and demonstrations to create an international movement for justice for women.  

In 1917 in Petrograd, Russian working-class women held a militant march (pictured above) that launched strikes and revolutionary actions that established socialism in Russia. Lenin celebrated the role of working women in the Russian revolution as the Bolshevik Party endorsed International Women’s Day: 

“For under capitalism the female half of the human race is doubly oppressed. The working woman and the peasant woman are oppressed by capital, but over and above that—they remain in ‘household bondage,’ they continue to be ‘household slaves,’ for they are overburdened with the drudgery of the most squalid, backbreaking and stultifying toil in the kitchen and the family household.” 

Today, we see rote, performative recognition of Women’s International History Month by politicians, the media, and companies who advertise sales to commemorate it while maintaining conditions that oppress women workers. 

This article describes the role of capitalism in women’s oppression, the effects of Covid 19 on women, examples of women workers organizing against sexism and capitalism, and a class-based strategy to abolish sexism. 

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Protect Our Students – Promoting School Safety: RACIST COPS OUT OF THE SCHOOLS!

by Linda Green and Karyn Pomerantz

Capitalism uses police as agents of social control in our neighborhoods, jobs, and schools, using their power to put kids on a school-to-jail pipeline. In 2013-2014, school police in 8000 schools arrested 70,000 students with black children overly represented (Ed Week). Detentions and arrests of students can affect college admissions and future incarceration. Criminal justice reformers have been fighting for years to interrupt this pathway by freeing schools of police and punitive policies like the use of metal detectors. Such measures do not prevent violence or its causes, and create an antagonistic climate. Parents, politicians, and teachers take different positions, some claiming School Resource Officers, SROs, are necessary to ensure safety and others protesting the increased risk of arrest and brutality mostly directed to black and Latin students as well as those with disabilities.  

Alternate methods to deal with behavioral problems in the schools exist. Researchers have shown that students who face racial discrimination are more likely to feel alienated in schools, disengaging from them by dropping out or not trying academically. Supportive teachers who acknowledge and show interest in students’ cultural backgrounds help mitigate this alienation (Bottiani, Gottfredson). Abolitionists point out that SROs do nothing to prevent mass school shootings, and a simulation study verified this finding (Child Trends). 

Continue reading “Protect Our Students – Promoting School Safety: RACIST COPS OUT OF THE SCHOOLS!”

Book Review: The Sum of Us- What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee.

By Karyn Pomerantz, 3-4-2021

In The Sum of Us (2021), Heather McGhee refutes the pervasive idea that racism, specifically white supremacy, benefits white workers. She contradicts the paradigm of a “zero-sum game” in which gains for black workers diminish the economic and social status of white workers. Instead, she advocates for “social solidarity” that would create a “solidarity dividend” that enriches the lives of all workers.

McGhee is another liberal capitalist author who has stong antiracist arguments but a weak analysis of the role of capitalism that requires racism to create profit and enforce divisions among workers. Liberal reformers, such as Sanders, the Ford Foundation, and unions, try to preserve capitalism by making it more equitable. McGhee was president of Demos, a liberal think tank for economic reforms. Her book reflects the insights she gained there.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Sum of Us- What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee.”

I’ve Been Working in the Hospital: Racist Medical Care Before and During Covid-19

By Maurice Chikiar, February 4, 2021 

Introduction 

Racist healthcare rationing is nothing new under capitalism. Enabling enough people to work and produce profit is the major imperative. There is no need for universal health care unless the economy is threatened as we see with the Covid-19 pandemic. Wealthy people can always buy themselves the care they need, whether it’s meds for Covid-19 or HIV drugs. As Cuba, China, the USSR, and Partners in Health in Peru and Haiti (Netflix’s Bending the Arc) proved, public health workers can take health promotion and treatment to millions of poor people through prioritizing health as a social good and organizing community members to deliver care and prevention. Unfortunately, without workers holding power, these improvements can be defunded and eliminated. 

The article below describes the life-threatening situation when hospital administrators ration vital supplies and staff in a respiratory therapy unit in Chicago and how workers opposed these practices. It is part of our series on organizing at work and in the community. 

Continue reading “I’ve Been Working in the Hospital: Racist Medical Care Before and During Covid-19”

Attacking the Capitol: Building Fascism, It’s Not Just Trump

by Karyn Pomerantz, 1-7-2021, revised 1-9-2021

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to stop Congress from validating Biden’s and Harris’ win, and to warn people fighting to reform or overthrow capitalism that they would face violent retaliation. This was an action to terrorize activists demanding antiracist equity and related changes. The response highlighted the extreme differences between the violent attack by Trump supporters and the uprisings against police murders, the ongoing hunger strike by 140 immigrants held in New Jersey detention centers, the union campaign by Google workers, demands for Covid-19 protections and universal healthcare, and demonstrations for jobs, housing, and debt relief. The likely collusion between the police and the Trump mob, the ease with which the mob entered the Capitol, and the ability to recruit thousands will embolden right wing groups, leading to their growth and confidence. 

On the other side, the medical and economic repercussions of the pandemic, the wider visibility of police violence, and the acknowledgement of centuries of racist oppression have inspired large uprisings across the US and other countries of multi-generational, and multiracial and multiethnic groups of workers and students. The movement against police murders of black men and women sparked by the killing of Trayvon Martin expanded with the execution of George Floyd with thousands taking to the streets. The diversity of the rebels alarms the people who control the economy and government (the ruling class).  At this point, antiracist leaders call for abolition of the police, prisons, and other oppressive conditions, trusting that abolition is possible when we have no power. Their hesitancy to call for and build revolutionary change weakens our fight and obstructs the possibility of a better future. 

The potential of a growing, more militant movement threatens US capitalism, which leads to the ruling class building and supporting fascist organizations to terrorize and repress us. We have a tremendous opportunity to unite millions of black, white, Asian, indigenous, and immigrant workers over these common problems around the world. We can build a movement to demand radical changes and to seize power. We have a long way to go but must prepare now

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Abolition Politics Gain Support Nationally and Locally

  by Karyn Pomerantz, 11-17-2020

Public attention to issues of incarceration and policing have grown in recent years. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow revealed stark inequities in US prisons and jails, building on the long-time work of abolitionists, such as Angela Davis and Ruth Gilmore Wilson of Critical Resistance, Mariame Kaba of Project Nia, and many others. The horrifying murders of black people, the impact of Covid-19 in jails and prisons, and the persistent organizing by public health activists pushed the American Public Health Association (APHA) in October 2020 to approve a policy to abolish prisons, release imprisoned people for health and humane reasons, and reallocate funds for community mental health, jobs, and housing. To surprised supporters, the governing body passed Advancing Public Health Interventions to Address the Harms of the Carceral System with a 92% vote after a hearing where more than 50 people lined up virtually to speak on it. This vote followed the 2018 policy affirming law enforcement violence as a public health crisis that took three years to overcome opposition.  The persistent and dedicated authors of the End Police Violence Collective wrote and steered both resolutions to passage (see https://endingpoliceviolence.org). Many national and local organizations have applied its action steps in campaigns across the US.

On the local level, public health and education activists in Prince George’s County, MD organized a campaign to abolish police presence in the schools by removing School Resource Officers (SROs), armed police funded by the Police Department, from the schools to prevent physical and psychological abuse, arrests, and contact with police.

These policies are labeled as abolitionist, a strategy to eliminate repressive and typically racist practices, like policing, to create a more just and equitable world. Citing abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the APHA resolution defines abolition as “a process of changing the social and economic conditions that lead to harm and of ensuring that people have what they need to thrive and be well, thereby eliminating the need for jails, prisons, detention centers, and policing.”

This article discusses the APHA policy and SRO removal campaign to fight racist carceral policies at the national and local levels, the potential for abolition under capitalism, and the replacement of punishment with restorative justice.

Continue reading “Abolition Politics Gain Support Nationally and Locally”

The Fight for Women’s Suffrage: the Role of Racism and Multiracial Unity

Updated introduction by Karyn Pomerantz, August 2020. Original article by Al Simpson, April 2019

This month, August 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the vote for women’s suffrage in 1920. However, the government delayed voting for white women until 1924 and for black women until 1965! The struggle for women’s suffrage is suffused with sexism and racism. Some white leaders, like Elizabeth Stanton, appeased the South’s opposition to the black people’s vote. They sacrificed the voting rights of black women, and forced black suffragists to march in the back lines in their massive 1913 demonstration.

The article, How Racism Weakens the Fight for Women’s Suffrage: Multiracial Unity Is Crucial to Stopping Sexism was published in April 2019 at:

https://multiracialunity.org/2019/04/12/how-racism-weakens-the-fight-for-womens-suffrage-multiracial-unity-is-crucial-to-stopping-sexism/

It covers:

the intersection of racism and anti-sexist politics

the alleged importance of voting

the social and economic status of black and white women

the role of abolitionists in suffrage struggles

Excerpts:

The only genuine path to liberation is through a multi-racial, multi-cultural, anti-capitalist movement of both men and women. This movement has to be class-based in nature, not at all like the amorphous marches of recent years. The movement must take as its central and guiding focus the needs and aspirations of the entire working class. To achieve this, there cannot be any divisions based on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, immigration status, and whatever else the bosses will come up with to divide us. This is our way forward.

On voting, by Rosa Luxembourg:

“It is sheer insanity to believe that capitalists would good humoredly obey the socialist verdict of a parliament or of a national assembly, that they would calmly renounce property, profit, the right to exploit. All ruling classes fought to the end, with tenacious energy, to preserve their privileges. The Roman patricians and the medieval feudal barons alike, the English cavaliers and the American slaveowners, the Walachian boyars and the Lyonnais silk manufacturers – all shed rivers of blood, they all marched over corpses, committed murder, and arson, instigated civil war and treason, in order to defend their privileges and their power.”

Book Review: “White Fragility” versus Anti Racist Agility

By Karyn Pomerantz, June 29, 2020

“White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo ranks as the number one best selling book on many publisher lists and has a months long waiting list at public libraries.  It clearly has an important message to garner such attention. What does this message mean for a multiracial fight against racism as we’ve witnessed in the protests around the world? What kinds of strategies does it encourage to overcome the racist nature of capitalism?

Dr. DiAngelo is a white woman educator who helps companies and organizations diversify their workforces and develop more harmony between workers of different “racial” and ethnic backgrounds. She creates and delivers an antiracist curriculum to the employees, mostly white, in order to expose white people’s racism and, as she states, to encourage them to recognize their privilege so they can stop oppressing black people. (The book focuses on black and white people). 

Continue reading “Book Review: “White Fragility” versus Anti Racist Agility”

Antiracist Book Reviews: Working-Class Unity versus “White Privilege”

by Bill Sacks, retired physician, REVISED June 27, 2020

Black authors have written many nonfiction books on racism over the last decade. Mark Whitaker listed and commented on several in the Washington Post’s Outlook section (June 14, 2020). He pointed out that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (2015) opened up a market for such books, and that Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010) was an earlier bestseller that had a huge impact on public thought about incarceration.

The various authors’ analyses of racism differ. Coates claims that there is a caste system, in which all white people oppress all black people, regardless of class. The category of caste draws strict lines between members of different castes, in this case between all white people and all black people. Caste is proposed by Coates as the significant social categorization, as opposed to class, which is defined in relation to exploitation and consists of exploiters and exploited. However, it is class that defines the main interests of each group, not caste. Black exploiters have little in common with black victims of exploitation, who in turn have more in common with white victims of exploitation. Similarly, white victims of exploitation have little in common with white exploiters. The interests of exploiters and exploited are opposed to one another.

Continue reading “Antiracist Book Reviews: Working-Class Unity versus “White Privilege””