Category Archives: Labor

The 1984 Bhopal Disaster also known as Bhopal Gas Tragedy

In a file picture taken on December 4, 1984 soldiers guard the entrance of Union Carbide factory in Bhopal after a deadly poison gas leak.

The Bhopal disaster was one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes. It occurred on the night of December 2–3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. A leak of methyl isocynate gas and other chemicals from the plant resulted in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Victims

Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release.  Others estimate 3,000-8000 {Greenpeace} died within weeks and another 8,000-20,000 {Greenpeace}have since died from gas-related diseases. According to the Indian Council for Medical Research, 25,000 people have died from exposure since the initial explosion. But this is not some quarter-century-old tragedy to shake one’s head over and move on. It’s estimated that 10 to 30 people continue to die from exposure every month. A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Continue reading

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The 1979 Greensboro Massacre

Nelson Johnson

Nelson Johnson at the body of Jim Waller

Late morning, November 3, 1979, at the corner of Carver and Everitt Streets in Greensboro, North Carolina, forty Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis handed each other shotguns and automatic weapons from the trunks of their cars and opened fire on black and white anti-Klan demonstrators and union organizers who had gathered at Morningside Homes, a black housing project.

ssmith
Sandi Smith

Sandi Smith, a nurse who’d been active in the black student movement and was at the time trying to unionize textile workers, was shot between the eyes. 

The KKK and Nazi members shot at anyone who wasn’t hiding while four television news teams and one police officer recorded the action.  They then got back into their cars and sped away after which the Greensboro police arrived and began arresting protestors.

In the aftermath five people were killed and 11 wounded in the attack.   All five were members of the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO), and four were rank-and-file union leaders and organizers.

*Murdered were:

Sandi Smith,  president of the student body and a founding member of the Student Organization for Black Unity (SOBU) at Greensboro’s Bennett College. She was a community organizer for the Greensboro Association of Poor People (GAPP) and became a worker at the textile mill where she and others formed the Revolution Organizing Committee (ROC) to unionize the plant. Sandi was a leader of a march of over 3,000 people in Raleigh to free the Wilmington 10, ten young activists jailed on false charges to stop them from organizing. In her work at a Cone Mills textile plant, she battled sexual harassment, low wages, and unhealthy working conditions.  

Jim Waller

Jim Waller

Dr. Jim Waller who received his medical degree from the University of Chicago and trained at the Lincoln Hospital Collective in New York City. In 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, Waller organized medical aid and set up a clinic to aid American Indian Movement activists under siege by the FBI. When he moved to North Carolina to teach at Duke University he coordinated Brown Lung screenings in textile mills, co-founding the Carolina Brown Lung Association. He later gave up his medical practice to organize workers becoming vice president of the AFL-CIO local textile workers union  Waller and went to work in a Cone Mills textile plant in Haw River. From inside he helped organize and eventually became president of the AFL-CIO union local after leading a strike in 1978 that helped the union grow from about 25 members to almost 200.

wsampson
Bill Sampson

William “Bill” Sampson was a student anti-war activist and president of his college student body. He studied at the Sorbonne in Paris during college, received his Masters degree in Divinity from Harvard in 1971, then studied medicine at the University of Virginia. As a medical student he organized health care workers to support the liberation struggles in southern Africa. Bill left medical school to work and organize in one of Cone Mills’ Greensboro textile plant, where he built the union and focused on training new leaders. The workers had chosen Bill to run for president of the local.

Cesar Cauce
Cesar Cauce

Cesar Cauce was a Cuban immigrant who graduated magna cum laude from Duke University, where he was a campus leader in the anti-war movement. He rejected a full scholarship to study history at the University of California at Berkeley and instead to help to unionize Duke Hospital workers. Cesar organized strike support for union struggles throughout NC and was a regular participant in the Goldkist strike, a campaign to organize poultry workers in Durham. He also traveled extensively throughout the South, writing about class struggles for the Workers Viewpoint.

Michael Nathan
Michael Nathan

Dr. Michael Nathan, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, a clinic that helped children from low-income families. Nathan had been an anti-war and civil rights student activist at Duke University. He organized and led a chapter of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR), an organization that fought for improved health care for poor people. Mike studied child health and treated sick children in a mountain clinic in Guatemala in 1972 and 1973, and was a leader in a movement to send aid to liberation fighters who eventually toppled the apartheid system is what’s now Zimbabwe.

The permitted march and rally, declaring “Death to the Klan” was organized by the WVO, which was active in the poor neighborhoods and textile mills in the area. It advocated antiracism, unionism, and communist revolution. The group had previously clashed with Ku Klux Klan members prior to the deadly November encounter.  In July 1979 anti-racism protesters disrupted a screening of a pro-white supremacist film, “Birth Of A Nation” in China Grove, North Carolina. Continue reading

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A Global Week of Solidarity with the Unemployed | September 20- 25

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"G20 flyers" by Bail Out The People Movement
“G20 flyers” by Bail Out The People Movement

 A Global Week of Solidarity with the Unemployed
September 20- 25

(During the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA)

Yes to Jobs & Human Needs; No to War & Wall Street Greed

 Sunday, September 20 – Rally & March for a Real Jobs Program

  • Building a Tent City in Pittsburgh for the Unemployed & Supporters the weekend before the G-20 Summit
  • Organizing Caravans of Unemployed People and Supporters to Converge on Pittsburgh during the week of September 19-26
  • Marches, Protests and Events Before and During the G20 Summit addressing demands such as: Bring the Troops Home from Iraq & Afghanistan Now! &  Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, World-Renown Political Prisoner, Journalist, Activists and ‘Voice of the Voiceless!”

http://bailoutpeople.org/

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March on Wall Street & AIG on APRIL 3 | Bail Out People, Not Banks!

Endorse April 3 & 4 | Become a Local Organizer for April 3 & 4 | Find an Apr 3-4 Organizing Center Near You
Donate | Download BOPM Working Paper


WE NEED JOBS NOW!
MORATORIUM ON FORECLOSURES!

For march details, assembly points, etc., see: http://bailoutpeople.org/logistics.shtml


Why We Need a Bail Out the People Movement

The workers and poor are in the biggest economic crisis since the Depression of the 1930s.

Corporations are laying off while demanding deep concessions from those still employed. State and local governments are cutting jobs and slashing services. Health, schools, libraries, parks, mass transit—all are on the chopping block. Tuition and transit fares are being raised.

More than half a million jobs are being lost every month. Unemployment is the worst in more than 25 years. As bad as that is, joblessness for African Americans, especially the youth, is twice as high.

Millions of families have already lost their homes because of predatory lending and high unemployment. Millions more face foreclosure or eviction. Depression-style tent cities are growing.

On every front, working people are facing an unprecedented attack.

Since March 2008, one year ago, the federal government has committed almost $10 TRILLION of the people’s money to bailouts for Wall Street and the banks, hoping to restore their profits and start them lending money again. It hasn’t worked.

Bailing out the rich doesn’t help the people. Putting profits before the needs of the workers, employed and unemployed, is just deepening the suffering and the economic crisis. It is capitalist greed that brought this crisis on in the first place.

We demand that the government, instead of bailing out the banks, put up the money to guarantee everyone a job or income and that it stop the foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs that are devastating the people.

DO THE MATH: Just $1 trillion out of the $10 trillion Washington has committed to the banks could pay for 20 million jobs with salaries of $50,000 a year! That would wipe out unemployment and underemployment in this country.

It’s time to organize and fight back

The Bail Out the People Movement has launched a national campaign to organize and fight for jobs or an income–and for a national moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

In January, many groups and individuals from different cities came together at conferences in New York and Los Angeles to launch this fightback. We said then that our objective must be to make the struggle proportional in size, scope, organization and militancy to the threat this crisis poses to the social conditions of the working class. That requires a perspective and plan for the mass organization of working and poor people on a scale unprecedented since the defining labor battles of the 1930s.

The fightback movement must be prepared to utilize a wide range of tactics in the struggle, including mass mobilizations, demonstrations, direct actions, sit-ins, occupations, strikes, boycotts, encampments and most importantly, organizing.

An essential part of our work must be to forge solidarity in the large, complex, multi-national working class in the U.S. This means grappling with and overcoming divisions caused by oppression based on race and nationality, immigration status, gender and sexual orientation.

Racism must be pushed back. Unionists and communities must come to the defense of immigrant workers who are being dragged out of their workplaces in chains and locked up in jails—often with their families.

This crisis is worldwide. Corporations are running to wherever they can pay the least and profit the most. Solidarity needs to transcend all geographical boundaries, local and international. That is key to the success of the fightback.

Who We Are

The Bail Out the People Movement is a growing national coalition of community organizers, youth and student activists, labor unionists and grassroots activists united around the demand: “Bail Out the People–Not the Banks!”

Since last October, coalition affiliates have been organizing demonstrations, press conferences and speak-outs, packing City Council meetings, and helping stop evictions and foreclosures in Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Lansing, Los Angeles and New York.

  • In New York, the Bail Out the People Movement lists hundreds of endorsers and 35 groups as organizing centers for the April 3 Wall Street demonstration. BOPM started last October with a rally on the steps of Wall Street’s Federal Hall where Black leaders, youth organizers, labor militants, Katrina survivors and immigrant rights activists pledged a united struggle against the capitalist banks oppressing the people. It organized a regional fightback conference on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. Since then, the coalition made national news with a protest against a foreclosure auction at the Javits Center and was a major force at the International Women’s Day mobilization.
  • The Michigan-based Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions has held countless demonstrations in Detroit and at the State Capitol in Lansing to demand a moratorium. It has also helped stop evictions by mobilizing supporters in solidarity with people about to lose their homes and providing them legal help.
  • In Los Angeles, the Labor-Community Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions has mobilized unions and grassroots organizations to demand a moratorium on foreclosures.
  • In Baltimore, the Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions has been leading a mass campaign to get the City Council to pass Bill 09-0289, which would require a 365-day notice before any foreclosure eviction could occur in that city.
  • In Boston, the Women’s Fightback Network and the Heat and Light Campaign have gone to the streets to demand the governor declare an economic state of emergency and implement a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs.
  • In Buffalo, N.Y., the struggle began last October with a “Bail Out the People, Not the Banks” rally in the financial district. The coalition has gone on to march against fare increases and, on the campuses, to protest tuition hikes and cuts in financial aid.


While the politicians, bankers and corporate media keep the masses out of the decision-making process, the coalition’s priority is to plan activities and strategies for a people-first fightback.

Here’s what we are working on:

May Day Mobilizations across the Country

Establishing as broad a coalition as possible for mass mobilizations on International Workers’ Day, May 1. The program for May 1 is centered on the struggle for immigrant workers’ rights; it was immigrant workers who in 2006 revived the spirit of workers’ struggle on May Day with massive demonstrations and walkouts across the country. This year the Bail Out the People Movement is participating in the mobilizing for May Day and immigrant rights. We will also include the demand for jobs or income and other demands that reflect the needs of the workers and the poor, including opposition to the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

March on Washington for Jobs/Convening a People’s Assembly

With worsening social conditions, the summer is not likely to be quiet. The combination of the economic crisis and police repression–which is epidemic and deadly all year round but tends to peak during the summer–could spark rebellions of workers, unemployed and oppressed people. The late spring and summer could be a time of intensive organizing. It’s time to start planning for a mass march on Washington, D.C., for jobs and other demands.

There is ongoing discussion among the groups in the BOPM coalition and others about the convening of a National People’s Assembly in Washington in the fall. Such a gathering could help consolidate the base and work of the fightback and set the direction and course of action for the next phase of this gigantic struggle.

Join us!

This period presents us with both crises and opportunities of historic magnitudes.

The fightback must recruit an army of volunteer organizers–both veteran activists with experience and skills as well as people new to the movement but with the time and willingness to help.

Most importantly, the fightback needs volunteers who are able to work collectively, who are respectful of others and who are committed to interacting with working and poor people of all nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, abilities and ages in a manner that is patient, dignified and devoid of negative presumptions.

Please contact the coalition at 212-633-6646 or www.BailOutPeople.org to find out how you can become part of this army of organizers.

Most importantly, join us in the streets – Friday, April 3, at 1 pm while Wall Street is open for business – continuing on to April 4 – and beyond!

Bail Out the People Movement
Solidarity Center
55 W. 17th St. #5C
New York, NY 10011
212.633.6646
www.BailOutPeople.org
bailoutpeople.org/cmnt.shtml

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Joe Hill

  
Joe Hill

Joe Hill

October 7, 1879 – November 19, 1915

(Born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, and also known as Joseph Hillström)

Swedish- American labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as the Wobblies). He was unjustly executed for murder after a controversial trial.

Hill rose in the IWW organization and traveled widely, organizing workers under the IWW banner, writing political songs and satirical poems, and making speeches. His songs frequently appropriated familiar melodies from songs of his time. He coined the phrase “pie in the sky”, which appeared in his song “The Preacher and the Slave” ( A parody of the hymm “In the Sweet Bye and Bye”). Other notable songs written by Hill include “The Tramp”, “There is Power in the Union”, “Rebel Girl”, and “Casey Jones:  Union Scab”.

Hill was executed by firing squad on November 19, 1915, and his last word was “Fire!”  Just prior to his execution, he had written to Bill Haywood, an IWW leader, saying, “Goodbye Bill.  I die like a true blue rebel.  Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

His will, which was eventually set to music by Ethel Raim, read:

 My will is easy to decide

 For there is nothing to divide

My kin don’t need to fuss and moan

“Moss does not cling to a rolling stone.”

My body? – Oh. – If I could choose

I would to ashes it reduce

And let the merry breezes blow

My dust to where some flowers grow

Perhaps some fading flower then

Would come to life and bloom again

This is my Last and final Will

Good Luck to All of you

 – Joe Hill –

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Labor rights are civil rights | By Julian Bond

The following is excerpted from a speech to the AFL-CIO 25th Constitutional Convention in July, 2007.

I know the mutual benefits that grew from the historic alliance between organized labor and the movement for civil rights–benefits we all must work to strengthen and extend today.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, most labor unions excluded blacks.  Unorganized blacks were used as scabs when white unionists went on strike.  The old divide-and-conquer strategy was put to good use by corporate bosses.  The labor movement’s racism was used against it to great effect.

Things began to change when A. Philip Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in the 1920s.  Blacks scored a major breakthrough in the struggle for admission to the ranks of organized labor in 1930 when the AFL recognized the Brotherhood.

In 1924, the NAACP helped create the Interracial Labor Commission.  Its goal was to bring more blacks into the labor movement.  It worked.  Thousands of black workers joined the ranks of the organized rank-and-file in the ensuing years as widespread discrimination began to fall, and they quickly became some of labor’s most disciplined and dedicated foot soldiers, infusing the movement with renewed energy and vigor.

In many organizing campaigns in the 1930s and 1940s, especially in the South, black workers were the first to join, were the most steadfast and the most militant.  This was true of campaigns to organize longshoremen along the Mississippi River, in ports of the Gulf of Mexico and on the Eastern Atlantic Coast and in largely black mining regions in Alabama and West Virginia.

Given our common interests, minority Americans and organized labor are both better off when we cooperate.  Most of us are working people. Our interests and your interests are the same.

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