On Contact: ‘Foregone’ – The Power Of Fiction

Russell Banks in books such as ‘Continental Drift’, ‘Affliction’ and ‘The Sweet Hereafter’ has long chronicled the struggles and inner torment that come with being a member of our dispossessed working class. In his new novel, ‘Foregone’, he turns his lens on the inner life of artists, in this case a well-known documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife. Fife, who fled to Canada, supposedly to avoid the draft, is dying from the ravages of cancer. He is confined to a wheelchair, wracked by pain, pumped full of medications, and unable to eat solid food. His final desire, in front of a camera, is to expose to his wife of 40 years the lies and myths that he has spun to create a fictional persona, perhaps a curse of all who become public figures.

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Finland’s Public Childcare System Puts Britain To Shame

The autumn is a colourful time in Finland. The trees turn yellow and then red before the leaves fall. Neon pinks and yellows also appear—the reflective vests of toddlers and children venturing out to explore parks and cities with their day care teachers.

In Finland these sights are omnipresent. The country’s free or inexpensive public and private day care is, in many suburbs, so extensive that it seems every block might as well have one. This autumn, my eighteen-month-old daughter has started in hers—a city-run public day care quite close to our home.

There, for a part of the day, she will join a group of twelve equally small kids while her parents go to work or study. Among other activities, she plays with friends, goes on nature trips, and visits the library.

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Let’s Restore The Legal Right To Strike

Unions have the winds at their back because of the unique circumstances of the pandemic making so many workers less willing to work unpleasant jobs for lousy pay, but labor markets have a way of tightening that make striking a riskier proposition for workers. We must take this opportunity to win back our rights for when we’ll really need them again. In any workplace where workers are on strike — or just talking about it — if the boss starts to promise scabs permanent replacement jobs at the end of the labor dispute please file a damn Unfair Labor Practice charge!

Where does Jennifer Abruzzo’s NLRB have the discretion to punish an employer for hiring permanent scabs? Prompted by a union-filed Unfair Labor Practice charge, it can investigate an employer’s economic needs “to protect and continue his business” by hiring permanent replacements.

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Millions Of Workers Want A Union

We know the U.S. labor movement is too small. Our current union density, or membership rate, is very low, about 11% of the workforce, with only around 6% in the private sector, and it’s been falling nearly every year for decades. To put this crisis in perspective, the union membership rate hasn’t been this low in more than a century. Wages, benefits and working conditions for many workers are not improving, and in some ways have gotten worse in recent decades.

Furthermore, union membership is concentrated in too few states. Over half of the 14.3 million union members live in just seven states. And in many southern states, the union membership rate is less than 5%. That means there are too many elected officials that have no fear of voting against union and workers’ interests.

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Manifesto: Draft Proposal For The Founding Of The International Working Peoples Association, 1979

Lorenzo Kom’boa  Ervin is probably best known for Anarchism and the Black Revolution, a fifty-six page manifesto that was arguably the first work to systematically apply the principles and theories of anarchism to the history of Black struggle and the question of Black liberation. First published in 1979, Anarchism and the Black Revolution  was written while the Chattanooga-born Irvin was incarcerated in the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois serving a life sentence for hijacking . Ervin was first introduced to anarchism during an interim stint in the Federal Detention Center in…

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Lee Camp: It’s Time For Major Wealth Redistribution

It’s time for wealth redistribution. There, I said it. 

I know it’s the third rail of politics, but I’m not running for a damn thing, which makes me free to speak the truth. (Well, I am running for president of my neighborhood elementary school’s PTA, but I’m pretty sure I’ll win easily since my campaign slogan is “Extend the school day to 20 hours because we don’t want to deal with those little monsters. You take ‘em!” . . . Well, I’ll win as long as they don’t find out I don’t have a child.)

Anyway, we desperately need wealth redistribution. And before anyone starts yelling something about Joseph Stalin, here’s the part that’s going to blow your mind — in the United States we’ve already had wealth redistribution for decades.

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How To Keep On Keeping On

Even asking the questions is exhausting.

Who’s making the Covid decisions, and why do they change every day? How has the workload doubled? What about the new extremes of micro-management? Which of my co-workers, or their families, or my customers or patients or students are going to get sick?

And why can’t we seem to do anything to stop all this suffering?

The pull to give up, to withdraw, to hunker down and “just survive” is almost irresistible—even for a committed activist like you.

But here we are. We are connecting to one another at work, even if just through images on a screen.

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A Critique Of The Rank-And-File Strategy

Kim Moody first gave a systematic statement of the “rank-file strategy” in a working paper for the socialist organization Solidarity in 2000. Since then he has kept on refining it, such as in 2017’s On New Terrain and in more recent essays. The DSA adopted a version of it as its official position on labor organizing, and Jacobin constantly discusses it. Labor Notes, influential among union militants, is built around some of its basic ideas. And it has been a regular point of debate for leftists. Most recently, Kate Doyle Griffiths wrote an important set of articles in Spectre about its strengths and limitations.

Moody formulated the strategy during a time of defeat and decline for the struggles of the working class and the oppressed.

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The Year That Labor Hung On By Its Fingertips

Broad­ly speak­ing, there have been two very large labor sto­ries this year. The first is, ​“I have been forced into unem­ploy­ment due to the pan­dem­ic, and I am scared.” And the sec­ond is, ​“I have been forced to con­tin­ue work­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, and I am scared.” America’s labor reporters spent most of our year writ­ing vari­a­tions of these sto­ries, in each com­pa­ny and in each indus­try and in each city. Those sto­ries con­tin­ue to this day. 

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment left work­ing peo­ple utter­ly for­sak­en. They did not cre­ate a nation­al wage replace­ment sys­tem to pay peo­ple to stay home, as many Euro­pean nations did. OSHA was asleep on the job, unin­ter­est­ed in work­place safe­ty relat­ed to coro­n­avirus.

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New Organizing Model Helps Build Worker Power

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdowns started in March, a new class of “essential workers” continued to go to work across the United States under new dangerous conditions. As stories came out about workers lacking personal protective equipment, or PPE, and working in crowded workplaces, union workers began to take action. They stopped work, organized sick-outs, won hazard pay, protested employer COVID-19 policies that left them unsafe and negotiated for improvements.

Unions have made workplaces safer, as research has shown that unionized essential workers have had better COVID-19 workplace practices during the pandemic.

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1,158 Strikes Since March First

Back in 2019, Payday was one of the few national outlets in the country to cover the first-ever statewide teachers strike in South Carolina. Now, teachers in school districts throughout South Carolina are increasingly calling “sickout” strikes to protest unsafe COVID conditions. 

A growing sickout strike in the suburbs of the state capitol Columbia is now entering its second week. Our friends at The State have the story:  

“Our main thing is to go back to the hybrid model,” said an Airport High School teacher, who asked to remain anonymous. Schools in the district previously operated on a rotating two-day in-person schedule, with students spending part of the week on campus and the other three days learning remotely.

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Workers Suffer As US Pandemic Relief Bill Goes Nowhere In Congress

Not only has the coronavirus pandemic taken a staggering toll in terms of loss of life in the United States but has also caused social and economic dislocation for the working class on a massive scale. The impact of this crisis is likely to last far beyond the distribution of a vaccine.

When the pandemic began to spiral out of control in March, Will Harris was one of the millions of retail workers who lost their income. Harris, who worked two part-time jobs, said that as the months of unemployment dragged on, “I couldn’t afford all my groceries when I needed them… I felt bad for spending on anything even if it was absolutely essential,” and he had to start rationing medical treatments like testosterone.

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Workers Should Run The World

We chat with Erek Slater, a bus oper­a­tor for the Chica­go Tran­sit Author­i­ty, where he’s been work­ing for the past 15 years. Erek is a fam­i­ly man, a father, and a three-term elect­ed shop stew­ard and exec­u­tive board mem­ber of the Amal­ga­mat­ed Tran­sit Union, Local 241. We talk about his work­ing life and all that goes into being a bus oper­a­tor, all the things that pas­sen­gers nev­er see — even though we depend on work­ers like Erek every day to live our lives. We also talk about Erek’s expe­ri­ence as a shop stew­ard and about his unshake­able com­mit­ment to hon­or, jus­tice, and empow­er­ing the work­ing class. In fact, it was because he stood up for these things that he was unjust­ly dis­missed from his job in May. 

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Austerity Is Still A Political Choice

When Rishi Sunak delivered the spending review earlier this week, the coverage focused predictably on levels of government borrowing. With GDP set to contract by more than 11% in 2020 – the largest fall in three centuries – and unemployment expected to reach 7.5%, government spending is the only thing standing between the UK economy and complete economic meltdown. As a result, we’re forecast to see the highest levels of public borrowing since the Second World War.

In this context, Sunak felt the need to balance some new spending pledges…

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