Leonard Peltier’s statement
on Rio Grande Water Walk:
Greetings my Relatives,
I would like to offer my support for all of you, as you walk and pray for world peace and to protect the water spirits of the Rio Grande. I know when you walk you carry a torch of light and hope that the world will finally get it right in these two fundamental parts of life. And I thank the organizations who have organized these important events.
From my limited point of view here behind these high gray walls I often shake my head in disbelief at what is going on in the world. The brutal attack on the people of Ukraine has captured the attention of people all over the world, as it should, but there are indigenous peoples in every part of the world who continue to struggle to survive every day in the face of "progress." I join you praying for help and relief for them now.
As an indigenous person myself I honor all of you. The stronger ones who can walk, and the Native people who will run. But I do not forget all of you who offer your voices and your support in all the ways you do to support these honorable efforts. Those who gather the food and cook and those who drive and those who write the letters and make the phone calls to seek support and public awareness.
I am now old enough to understand that for us, who grew up traditional indigenous, it was simply a part of our original instructions that we should Honor the Earth and water always, and protect them every day in every way.
No one ever heard the term "Earth Day" when I was young. It did not exist. It was your elders who invented it. And now I know that was what drew so many people in the 60's to acknowledging our way of looking at the natural world. I think they understood on a deep level that it is everyone's duty to protect the water and the earth for those yet unborn.
I cannot forget to send love to our Buddhist relatives who will help to lead your walk. I send them my love and respect. And my profound Thanks for standing up for us, and for me, all these years.
I live in a place that knows little of peace ,but I have not forgotten that PEACE should be the natural order of things. It is the most beautiful of things. All faiths know and acknowledge this.
But you, my sisters and brothers are living it and I am deeply grateful to you for keeping such a sweet dream alive.
You are my heroes. Thank You, and know I will join you in my prayers each day as you walk and speak for those who have no voices.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse
Leonard Peltier 89637-132
USP Coleman 1
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521
Note: Letters, address and return address must be in writing—no stickers—and on plain white paper.
Outrage as Judge Approves Julian Assange’s Extradition to the U.S.
British judge on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, granted formal approval to the U.S. government’s request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who faces espionage charges for publishing classified material that exposed war crimes by American forces.
“The home secretary must act now to protect journalism.”
The judge’s new and widely expected procedural order, the culmination of a drawn-out legal battle, places the final decision on Assange’s extradition in the hands of U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, leaving the WikiLeaks publisher with dwindling options to fight his removal to the U.S.—where he could be hit with a 175-year prison sentence.
Patel is expected to make a final decision by May 18, after which Assange can attempt to appeal via judicial review, Reuters reported Wednesday. As Patel weighs the extradition order, Assange will remain jailed in a high-security London prison, where he has languished for years under conditions that experts have condemned as torture.
Human rights organizations wasted no time urging Patel to reject the extradition order. Allowing it to proceed, they warned, would endanger press freedoms around the world, given that the charges against Assange seek to punish a common journalistic practice.
The Espionage Act charges against Assange were originally brought by the Trump administration. Despite pressure from press freedom groups and progressive leaders across the globe, the Biden administration has opted to continue pushing for Assange’s extradition and prosecution.
“If Julian Assange is extradited to the U.S., journalists around the world will have to look over their shoulders if they are publishing information that is detrimental to U.S. interests,” said Simon Crowther of Amnesty International.
Rebecca Vincent, director of operations and campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, stressed in a statement that “the next four weeks will prove crucial in the fight to block extradition and secure the release of Julian Assange.”
“We are seeking to unite those who care about journalism and press freedom to hold the U.K. government to account,” Vincent added. “The home secretary must act now to protect journalism and adhere to the U.K.’s commitment to media freedom by rejecting the extradition order and releasing Assange.”
—SheerPost, April 20, 2022
Now on YouTube
Be sure to watch:
Stop the War in Ukraine, April 9 Online Rally
Is now on YouTube:
Alexey: Socialist Against War, Russia
Yuri: Ukraine Peace Activist
With Vijay Prashad, Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, Medea Benjamin, MP Clare Daly, Tariq Ali and many others
Bucha Massacre Evidence and Russia’s Propaganda
By Eric Draitser, April 8, 2022
Exploring the newly emerging evidence of a Russian atrocity in the village of Bucha and debunking the fraudulent narratives of the Kremlin disinformation army on the Left.
Eric Draitser is an independent political analyst and host of CounterPunch Radio. You can find his exclusive content including articles, podcasts, audio commentaries, poetry and more at patreon.com/ericdraitser. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
With our partners in Europe, we are organizing protests to stop the war in Ukraine, call for Russian troops to leave Ukraine, and oppose NATO expansion. Find an action in your city or organize one here.
Here's the full petition:
Open letter: Solidarity with Russian anti-war protestors
Dear Russian anti-war protestors,
We, women and other feminists (including men) of the world, express our solidarity with you as you protest the devastating invasion of Ukraine, and we join your call for Russian troops to immediately leave Ukraine. We are aware of the risks you face from police and civil authorities and thank you for your profound bravery and sacrifice. We are also moved by the tremendous courage of the Ukrainian people in the face of disaster, and our hearts ache as we bear witness to Ukrainian families huddling in bomb shelters and parking garages, or facing long lines at the border after being forced to flee their homes.
We have experience standing up to our own governments’ aggression. During the U.S./NATO invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, we took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands to oppose the horrific destruction of entire cities and the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Now, as Russian missiles mercilessly wipe out your neighbors’ homes, medical facilities, and schools in Ukraine, we see you take to the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities in peaceful protest, and we are so deeply inspired and grateful.
As we oppose this brutal war being waged in your name, we are also aware of the role the U.S. and NATO have played in stoking the geopolitical crisis that led to this war. We have opposed NATO’s expansion into Central and Eastern Europe, and we continue to oppose NATO expansion today. We steadfastly believe Ukraine should be a neutral country.
Today, as Putin has put your nuclear arsenal on high alert, we see the terrifying possibility of this conflict spinning out of control. The U.S. and Russia are guilty of stockpiling 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, putting the entire world at risk, and violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. As we organize today to stop this war, we must work together in the future to force our governments to join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons so we can rid the world of this existential threat to survival on our beautiful planet.
The imposition of sanctions aimed to damage the Russian economy also concerns us. We have no problem with taking yachts and private jets from oligarchs, but sanctions that hurt millions of ordinary Russians like you and impact the entire global economy are cruel and counterproductive. We have seen the devastating results of sanctions in countries from Cuba to Iran to North Korea–such sanctions harm the civilian population, particularly women, children, and the elderly, and fail to change government policies.
Instead of indiscriminate sanctions and fanning the flames by pouring more weapons into Ukraine, we demand that Russia and Ukraine engage in serious negotiations, with all the compromises this would entail.
As women and other feminists, we have had enough of senseless wars that destroy lives and communities while lining the coffers of weapons manufacturers. We’ve seen too many attacks on civilians from Yemen to Gaza to Ethiopia to Ukraine, and we’ve watched in horror as precious resources are poured into wars while families' basic needs for food, shelter, education, and healthcare go unmet and climate change threatens all life on our planet. A world of violence, hatred, and destruction is not the world we want for our children. With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we join with you — across borders — to demand an end to the bloodshed and the destruction.
Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!
No NATO expansion!
Peace Talks NOW!
This March 19th webinar for Ruchell “Cinque” Magee on his 83rd birthday was a terrific event full of information and plans for building the campaign to Free Ruchell Magee. Two of the featured speakers also spoke at the February 1 webinar for International workers’ action to free Mumia and all anti-racist, anti-imperialist Freedom Fighters—Jalil Muntaqim (who was serving time at San Quentin State Prison in a cell next to Ruchell!) and Angela Davis (who was a co-defendant of Ruchell’s!) A 50 year+ struggle!
Below are two ways to stream this historic webinar sent by the webinar organizers.
Here is the YouTube link to view Saturday's recording:
Here is the link to the Facebook upload:
After The Revolution
By David Rovics
It was a time I'll always remember
Because I could never forget
How reality fell down around us
Like some Western movie set
And once the dust all settled
The sun shone so bright
And a great calm took over us
Like it was all gonna be alright
That's how it felt to be alive
After the revolution
From Groton to Tacoma
On many a factory floor
The workers talked of solidarity
And refused to build weapons of war
No more will we make missiles
We're gonna do something different
And for the first time
Their children were proud of their parents
And somewhere in Gaza a little boy smiled and cried
After the revolution
Prison doors swung open
And mothers hugged their sons
The Liberty Bell was ringing
When the cops put down their guns
A million innocent people
Lit up in the springtime air
And Mumia and Leonard and Sarah Jane Olson
Took a walk in Tompkins Square
And they talked about what they'd do now
After the revolution
The debts were all forgiven
In all the neo-colonies
And the soldiers left their bases
Went back to their families
And a non-aggression treaty
Was signed with every sovereign state
And all the terrorist groups disbanded
With no empire left to hate
And they all started planting olive trees
After the revolution
George Bush and Henry Kissinger
Were sent off to the World Court
Their plans for global domination
Were pre-emptively cut short
Their weapons of mass destruction
Were inspected and destroyed
The battleships were dismantled
Never again to be deployed
And the world breathed a sigh of relief
After the revolution
Solar panels were on the rooftops
Trains upon the tracks
Organic food was in the markets
No GMO's upon the racks
And all the billionaires
Had to learn how to share
And Bill Gates was told to quit his whining
When he said it wasn't fair
And his mansion became a collective farm
After the revolution
And all the political poets
Couldn't think of what to say
So they all decided
To live life for today
I spent a few years catching up
With all my friends and lovers
Sleeping til eleven
Home beneath the covers
And I learned how to play the accordion
After the revolution
Free Em All—Mic Crenshaw and David Rovics featuring Opium Sabbah
“In His Defense” The People vs. Kevin Cooper
A film by Kenneth A. Carlson
Teaser is now streaming at:
Posted by: Death Penalty Focus Blog, January 10, 2022
“In his Defense,” a documentary on the Kevin Cooper case, is in the works right now, and California filmmaker Kenneth Carlson has released a teaser for it on CarlsonFilms.com
Just over seven months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered an independent investigation of Cooper’s death penalty case. At the time, he explained that, “In cases where the government seeks to impose the ultimate punishment of death, I need to be satisfied that all relevant evidence is carefully and fairly examined.”
That investigation is ongoing, with no word from any of the parties involved on its progress.
Cooper has been on death row since 1985 for the murder of four people in San Bernardino County in June 1983. Prosecutors said Cooper, who had escaped from a minimum-security prison and had been hiding out near the scene of the murder, killed Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, and 10-year-old Chris Hughes, a friend who was spending the night at the Ryen’s. The lone survivor of the attack, eight-year-old Josh Ryen, was severely injured but survived.
For over 36 years, Cooper has insisted he is innocent, and there are serious questions about evidence that was missing, tampered with, destroyed, possibly planted, or hidden from the defense. There were multiple murder weapons, raising questions about how one man could use all of them, killing four people and seriously wounding one, in the amount of time the coroner estimated the murders took place.
The teaser alone gives a good overview of the case, and helps explain why so many believe Cooper was wrongfully convicted.
To: U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives
Sign Petition at:
Rashid just called with the news that he has been moved back to Virginia. His property is already there, and he will get to claim the most important items tomorrow. He is at a "medium security" level and is in general population. Basically, good news.
He asked me to convey his appreciation to everyone who wrote or called in his support during the time he was in Ohio.
His new address is:
Kevin Rashid Johnson #1007485
Nottoway Correctional Center
2892 Schutt Road
Burkeville, VA 23922
Freedom for Major Tillery! End his Life Imprisonment!
Wrongful Conviction podcast of Kevin Cooper's case, Jason Flom with Kevin and Norm Hile
Please listen and share!
Kevin Cooper: Important CBS news new report today, and article January 31, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, May 28, 2021
Governor Newsom Announces Clemency Actions, Signs Executive Order for Independent Investigation of Kevin Cooper Case
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he has granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order to launch an independent investigation of death row inmate Kevin Cooper’s case as part of the evaluation of Cooper’s application for clemency.
The investigation will review trial and appellate records in the case, the facts underlying the conviction and all available evidence, including the results of the recently conducted DNA tests previously ordered by the Governor to examine additional evidence in the case using the latest, most scientifically reliable forensic testing.
The text of the Governor’s executive order can be found here:
The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation or reprieve. These clemency grants recognize the applicants’ subsequent efforts in self-development or the existence of a medical exigency. They do not forgive or minimize the harm caused.
The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.
A pardon may remove counterproductive barriers to employment and public service, restore civic rights and responsibilities and prevent unjust collateral consequences of conviction, such as deportation and permanent family separation. A pardon does not expunge or erase a conviction.
A commutation modifies a sentence, making an incarcerated person eligible for an earlier release or allowing them to go before the Board of Parole Hearings for a hearing at which Parole Commissioners determine whether the individual is suitable for release.
A reprieve allows individuals classified by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as high medical risk to serve their sentences in appropriate alternative placements in the community consistent with public health and public safety.
The Governor weighs numerous factors in his review of clemency applications, including an applicant’s self-development and conduct since the offense, whether the grant is consistent with public safety and in the interest of justice, and the impact of a grant on the community, including crime victims and survivors.
While in office, Governor Newsom has granted a total of 86 pardons, 92 commutations and 28 reprieves.
The Governor’s Office encourages victims, survivors, and witnesses to register with CDCR’s Office of Victims and Survivors Rights and Services to receive information about an incarcerated person’s status. For general Information about victim services, to learn about victim-offender dialogues, or to register or update a registration confidentially, please visit:
www.cdcr.ca.gov/Victim_Services/ or call 1-877-256-6877 (toll free).
Copies of the gubernatorial clemency certificates announced today can be found here:
Additional information on executive clemency can be found here:
New Legal Filing in Mumia’s Case
The following statement was issued January 4, 2022, regarding new legal filings by attorneys for Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464)
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then-Prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill, prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding Black people from the jury, and letters and memoranda which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct, and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in 1982, during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history—the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latinx detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed.
Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in U.S. courts and prisons. They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. (lovenotphear.com/) Stay tuned.
—Workers World, January 4, 2022
Pa. Supreme Court denies widow’s appeal to remove Philly DA from Abu-Jamal case
Abu Jamal was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder of Faulkner in 1982. Over the past four decades, five of his appeals have been quashed.
In 1989, the state’s highest court affirmed Abu-Jamal’s death penalty conviction, and in 2012, he was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Abu-Jamal, 66, remains in prison. He can appeal to the state Supreme Court, or he can file a new appeal.
KYW Newsradio reached out to Abu-Jamal’s attorneys for comment. They shared this statement in full:
“Today, the Superior Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider issues raised by Mr. Abu-Jamal in prior appeals. Two years ago, the Court of Common Pleas ordered reconsideration of these appeals finding evidence of an appearance of judicial bias when the appeals were first decided. We are disappointed in the Superior Court’s decision and are considering our next steps.
“While this case was pending in the Superior Court, the Commonwealth revealed, for the first time, previously undisclosed evidence related to Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case. That evidence includes a letter indicating that the Commonwealth promised its principal witness against Mr. Abu-Jamal money in connection with his testimony. In today’s decision, the Superior Court made clear that it was not adjudicating the issues raised by this new evidence. This new evidence is critical to any fair determination of the issues raised in this case, and we look forward to presenting it in court.”
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.
Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603
How long will he still be with us? How long will the genocide continue?
By Michael Moore—VIA Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Indian Movement leader, Leonard Peltier, at 77 years of age, came down with Covid-19 this weekend. Upon hearing this, I broke down and cried. An innocent man, locked up behind bars for 44 years, Peltier is now America’s longest-held political prisoner. He suffers in prison tonight even though James Reynolds, one of the key federal prosecutors who sent Peltier off to life in prison in 1977, has written to President Biden and confessed to his role in the lies, deceit, racism and fake evidence that together resulted in locking up our country’s most well-known Native American civil rights leader. Just as South Africa imprisoned for more than 27 years its leading voice for freedom, Nelson Mandela, so too have we done the same to a leading voice and freedom fighter for the indigenous people of America. That’s not just me saying this. That’s Amnesty International saying it. They placed him on their political prisoner list years ago and continue to demand his release.
And it’s not just Amnesty leading the way. It’s the Pope who has demanded Leonard Peltier’s release. It’s the Dalai Lama, Jesse Jackson, and the President Pro-Tempore of the US Senate, Sen. Patrick Leahy. Before their deaths, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa and Bishop Desmond Tutu pleaded with the United States to free Leonard Peltier. A worldwide movement of millions have seen their demands fall on deaf ears.
And now the calls for Peltier to be granted clemency in DC have grown on Capitol Hill. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), the head of the Senate committee who oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has also demanded Peltier be given his freedom. Numerous House Democrats have also written to Biden.
The time has come for our President to act; the same President who appointed the first-ever Native American cabinet member last year and who halted the building of the Keystone pipeline across Native lands. Surely Mr. Biden is capable of an urgent act of compassion for Leonard Peltier — especially considering that the prosecutor who put him away in 1977 now says Peltier is innocent, and that his US Attorney’s office corrupted the evidence to make sure Peltier didn’t get a fair trial. Why is this victim of our judicial system still in prison? And now he is sick with Covid.
For months Peltier has begged to get a Covid booster shot. Prison officials refused. The fact that he now has COVID-19 is a form of torture. A shame hangs over all of us. Should he now die, are we all not complicit in taking his life?
President Biden, let Leonard Peltier go. This is a gross injustice. You can end it. Reach deep into your Catholic faith, read what the Pope has begged you to do, and then do the right thing.
For those of you reading this, will you join me right now in appealing to President Biden to free Leonard Peltier? His health is in deep decline, he is the voice of his people — a people we owe so much to for massacring and imprisoning them for hundreds of years.
The way we do mass incarceration in the US is abominable. And Leonard Peltier is not the only political prisoner we have locked up. We have millions of Black and brown and poor people tonight in prison or on parole and probation — in large part because they are Black and brown and poor. THAT is a political act on our part. Corporate criminals and Trump run free. The damage they have done to so many Americans and people around the world must be dealt with.
This larger issue is one we MUST take on. For today, please join me in contacting the following to show them how many millions of us demand that Leonard Peltier has suffered enough and should be free:
President Joe Biden
E-mail: At this link
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Attorney General Merrick Garland
E-mail: At this link
I’ll end with the final verse from the epic poem “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet:
I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
PS. Also — watch the brilliant 1992 documentary by Michael Apted and Robert Redford about the framing of Leonard Peltier— “Incident at Oglala”
Bureau of Labor Statistics
U.S. Department of Labor
For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, January 20, 2022
(202) 691-6378 • email@example.com • www.bls.gov/cps
(202) 691-5902 • PressOffice@bls.gov
In 2021, the number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions continued to decline (-241,000) to 14.0 million, and the percent who were members of unions—the union membership rate—was 10.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The rate is down from 10.8 percent in 2020—when the rate increased due to a disproportionately large decline in the total number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The 2021 unionization rate is the same as the 2019 rate of 10.3 percent. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent and there were 17.7 million union workers.
These data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over. For further information, see the Technical Note in this news release.
Highlights from the 2021 data:
• The union membership rate of public-sector workers (33.9 percent) continued to be more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers (6.1 percent). (See table 3.)
• The highest unionization rates were among workers in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). (See table 3.)
• Men continued to have a higher union membership rate (10.6 percent) than women (9.9 percent). The gap between union membership rates for men and women has narrowed considerably since 1983 (the earliest year for which comparable data are available), when rates for men and women were 24.7 percent and 14.6 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)
• Black workers remained more likely to be union members than White, Asian, or Hispanic workers. (See table 1.)
• Nonunion workers had median weekly earnings that were 83 percent of earnings for workers who were union members ($975 versus $1,169). (The comparisons of earnings in this news release are on a broad level and do not control for many factors that can be important in explaining earnings differences.) (See table 2.)
• Among states, Hawaii and New York continued to have the highest union membership rates (22.4 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively), while South Carolina and North Carolina continued to have the lowest (1.7 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively). (See table 5.)
Industry and Occupation of Union Members
In 2021, 7.0 million employees in the public sector belonged to unions, the same as in the private sector. (See table 3.)
Union membership decreased by 191,000 over the year in the public sector. The public-sector union membership rate declined by 0.9 percentage point in 2021 to 33.9 percent, following an increase of 1.2 percentage points in 2020. In 2021, the union membership rate continued to be highest in local government (40.2 percent), which employs many workers in heavily unionized occupations, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers.
The number of union workers employed in the private sector changed little over the year. However, the number of private-sector nonunion workers increased in 2021. The private-sector unionization rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in 2021 to 6.1 percent, slightly lower than its 2019 rate of 6.2 percent. Industries with high unionization rates included utilities (19.7 percent), motion pictures and sound recording industries (17.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (14.7 percent). Low unionization rates occurred in finance (1.2 percent), professional and technical services (1.2 percent), food services and drinking places (1.2 percent), and insurance (1.5 percent).
Among occupational groups, the highest unionization rates in 2021 were in education, training, and library occupations (34.6 percent) and protective service occupations (33.3 percent). Unionization rates were lowest in food preparation and serving related occupations (3.1 percent); sales and related occupations (3.3 percent); computer and mathematical occupations (3.7 percent); personal care and service occupations (3.9 percent); and farming, fishing, and forestry occupations (4.0 percent).
Selected Characteristics of Union Members
In 2021, the number of men who were union members, at 7.5 million, changed little, while the number of women who were union members declined by 182,000 to 6.5 million. The unionization rate for men decreased by 0.4 percentage point over the year to 10.6 percent. In 2021, women’s union membership rate declined by 0.6 percentage point to 9.9 percent. The 2021 decreases in union membership rates for men and women reflect increases in the total number of nonunion workers. The rate for men is below the 2019 rate (10.8 percent), while the rate for women is above the 2019 rate (9.7 percent). (See table 1.)
Among major race and ethnicity groups, Black workers continued to have a higher union membership rate in 2021 (11.5 percent) than White workers (10.3 percent), Asian workers (7.7 percent), and Hispanic workers (9.0 percent). The union membership rate declined by 0.4 percentage point for White workers, by 0.8 percentage point for Black workers, by 1.2 percentage points for Asian workers, and by 0.8 percentage point for Hispanic workers. The 2021 rates for Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics are little or no different from 2019, while the rate for Asians is lower.
By age, workers ages 45 to 54 had the highest union membership rate in 2021, at 13.1 percent. Younger workers—those ages 16 to 24—had the lowest union membership rate, at 4.2 percent.
In 2021, the union membership rate for full-time workers (11.1 percent) continued to be considerably higher than that for part-time workers (6.1 percent).
In 2021, 15.8 million wage and salary workers were represented by a union, 137,000 less than in 2020. The percentage of workers represented by a union was 11.6 percent, down by 0.5 percentage point from 2020 but the same as in 2019. Workers represented by a union include both union members (14.0 million) and workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract (1.8 million). (See table 1.)
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2021, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, these earnings differences reflect a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, age, firm size, or geographic region. (See tables 2 and 4.)
Union Membership by State
In 2021, 30 states and the District of Columbia had union membership rates below that of the U.S. average, 10.3 percent, while 20 states had rates above it. All states in both the East South Central and West South Central divisions had union membership rates below the national average, while all states in both the Middle Atlantic and Pacific divisions had rates above it. (See table 5 and chart 1.)
Ten states had union membership rates below 5.0 percent in 2021. South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.7 percent), followed by North Carolina (2.6 percent) and Utah (3.5 percent). Two states had union membership rates over 20.0 percent in 2021: Hawaii (22.4 percent) and New York (22.2 percent).
In 2021, about 30 percent of the 14.0 million union members lived in just two states (California at 2.5 million and New York at 1.7 million). However, these states accounted for about 17 percent of wage and salary employment nationally.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on 2021 Union Members Data
Union membership data for 2021 continue to reflect the impact on the labor market of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Comparisons with union membership measures for 2020, including metrics such as the union membership rate and median usual weekly earnings, should be interpreted with caution. The onset of the pandemic in 2020 led to an increase in the unionization rate due to a disproportionately large decline in the number of nonunion workers compared with the decline in the number of union members. The decrease in the rate in 2021 reflects a large gain in the number of nonunion workers and a decrease in the number of union workers. More information on labor market developments in recent months is available at:
Resources for Resisting Federal Repression
Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests.
The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page.
If you are contacted by federal law enforcement you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities.
State and Local Hotlines
If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for:
If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:
Know Your Rights Materials
The NLG maintains a library of basic Know-Your-Rights guides.
WEBINAR: Federal Repression of Activists & Their Lawyers: Legal & Ethical Strategies to Defend Our Movements: presented by NLG-NYC and NLG National Office
We also recommend the following resources:
Movement for Black Lives Legal Resources
At least 40 children and teenagers have been shot this year, taking a toll on young people whose lives have already been disrupted by the pandemic.
By Troy Closson, April 25, 2022
Classmates of Kade Lewin, 12, who was killed in a case of mistaken identity, hold a memorial event for him at the K763 Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy on April 13. Credit...Mostafa Bassim for The New York Times
When the thick pall of a gunman’s smoke bombs cleared on the 36th Street subway platform on April 12, at least four of the people struck by bullets or injured in the ensuing panic were revealed to be children or teenagers.
Above ground, young people nearby and across Brooklyn rushed to take cover behind school walls, or anxiously waited as their parents hurried to retrieve them from street corners. Classrooms went on lockdown, shutting doors to visitors as students posted on windows messages of hope — and fear.
For many New York City children, the Sunset Park shooting was just the latest in a troubling series of violent acts in which young people have been wounded or killed. Two years of the pandemic worsened a mental-health crisis among the young; over the same period, shootings have risen sharply. Students, parents and teachers say that has exacted a deep toll on young people, both those who have taken bullets and those in their orbit who have watched the aftermath.
On April 12, as details of the Brooklyn shooting that injured 30 people were still emerging, a Bronx community 16 miles away was reeling from tragedy: a sunset memorial was planned for a 16-year-old who had been killed in a shooting after class.
The following afternoon, even as the police made an arrest in the subway attack, dozens of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, teenagers wept outside their middle school, K763 Brooklyn Science and Engineering, for a beloved friend recently killed.
“I find it really hard to admit that I’m in pain,” said Tatiana Barrett, 14, a student at the school and friend of the teenager who was killed. “As the days go by, I get angrier and angrier.”
The pandemic’s disruption and the upheaval it has inflicted on young people are well documented, from the classroom to home life. Medical groups declared an emergency in child and adolescent mental health last winter, a crisis exacerbated by isolation, uncertainty and grief. In New York City, more than one in every 200 children have lost a parent or caregiver to the virus, almost double the nationwide rate, a recent analysis found.
Some of the harm has been direct, physical and deadly: When shootings in New York rose after the virus struck, doubling from historic lows in 2018 and 2019, so did the number of young people caught in the violence.
At least 40 children and teenagers have been shot in 2022, making up about one in every 10 victims. The number is on track to match or exceed the number of youth victims last year, when 138 were struck by bullets.
The tallies remain significantly below those of decades ago: At least 530 children under 16 were shot in 1991 alone, for example, and 54 died. Still, the figures represent a significant rise from prepandemic years. Fewer than 65 minors were shot in both 2018 and 2019.
City officials have tried to quell the violence in several ways, including by targeting guns on city streets and expanding the youth summer jobs program to 100,000 positions. Some residents, meanwhile, have argued that the city needs a more intense focus on poverty and on scant resources in their neighborhoods.
This year, some of the highest-profile killings have had children as their victims. Some have been casualties of street disputes or long-running feuds. Others were hit by stray rounds in cars, parks or on sidewalks.
For Kyla-Simone Sobers Batties, 17, a calm senior year was interrupted on Oct. 1 when a stray bullet struck her in the head while she hung out with friends in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. She spent two weeks in an induced coma and found a frustrating world awaiting, said her mother, Nadine Sobers.
The bullet missed Kyla-Simone’s brain, but she became forgetful, often asking the same questions three or four times. Her vision was so blurred she needed help walking to the restroom at night. She experienced near-constant pain. Meanwhile, classmates were celebrating the milestones of their final year.
“She had nightmares,” her mother said. “I would walk into her room and find her crying in her bed. This was a child who didn’t like having arguments — and now she would get angry easily, she was always upset.”
“She has tried to be resilient. But it will never be easy for her,” her mother added.
The trauma of some shootings has rippled beyond the young people who have cried over their classmates even to those who have watched the tragedies from afar — including the attack in Sunset Park, which unspooled as many students were passing through on their way to school.
Shahana Ghosh, a teacher at P.S. 24 in the neighborhood, said that in the days after, her first graders knew “someone had hurt a lot of people,” but they wrestled with why, and what they should do if in a similar situation.
“There was fear and anxiousness there. I could see it on their faces,” Ms. Ghosh said. “They were talking about the helicopters overhead, how that scared them through the night.”
Two blocks away, some teenagers at Sunset Park High School — whose doors are about 250 feet from the subway station — had “low-level panic attacks” that morning, said Dan Wever, an art teacher. He tried to keep them busy, leading them in a hands-on activity — and coaxing them away from the news on their phones, he said.
Many seemed to search for any sense of normality, he said, and “cut their brains off” from the scene outside the windows.
“The past two years have been just full of trauma,” Mr. Wever said. “With Covid and now this happening to our school, the students are put in a situation where I think years from now, this is going to keep affecting them.”
Experts have long warned of long-term setbacks in schooling and health for students exposed to gun violence. Aditi Vasan, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where gun violence reached all-time highs last year, said the ramifications could arrive much sooner.
Dr. Vasan and other researchers found that in the two weeks after a shooting, children living nearby were nearly twice as likely to visit emergency rooms for problems like anxiety, depression and self-harm.
“It has been striking to see how quickly these symptoms can arise,” she said. “A lot of these children are experiencing them really immediately and very frequently.”
The breadth of the challenges are evident across New York. Twenty-one children and teenagers were killed last year, more than double that number in 2020, leaving empty seats behind in their classrooms. A 3-year-old girl was hit in the shoulder in March while leaving a Brownsville, Brooklyn, day care center.
The following month, Angellyh Yambo, a 16-year-old in the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx who aspired to become a model, was killed when she was struck by a stray bullet while walking home from school. Two other teenagers were shot but survived, including Isaiah Duncan, 17, who has told reporters that he has struggled to sleep since, having nightmares over the violence.
One week after the Bronx shootings, more than 150 students in East Flatbush — mostly young Black children between 12 and 14 years old — lifted candles to mourn another loss. Their seventh-grade classmate, Kade Lewin, 12, had been shot in the head in a case of mistaken identity.
At one point during the memorial, three girls in the back row rested their heads on one another’s right shoulders, taking deep breaths. Two boys in black hooded sweatshirts shared a 10-second embrace, wiping away tears.
Tatiana Barrett, the 14-year-old student at K763 Brooklyn Science and Engineering Academy, said in an interview that she has struggled to move forward after the shooting, taking several trips to the street where Kade’s family car had been parked, and to his mother’s house.
She has had trouble concentrating, describing herself as often “blurry-minded.” Her mother said that she has withdrawn, asking to spend more time alone.
Tatiana mourned Kade, whom she had known for four years, at his funeral on Wednesday. As for his burial the following day, she told her mother that “she couldn’t bear it.”
David Walcott Jr., a 12-year-old schoolmate, asked to stay home from memorials and the funeral, his father said. He has become anxious, worrying who could be the next victim. On one recent morning around 2 a.m., David was shaken up when a loud car passed by their home as he watched television and emitted a gunfire-like noise.
“Why do we live here?” his father, David Walcott, recalled his asking. “He said he’s starting to understand racism. He’s like, ‘It only happens in our neighborhoods that innocent people are dying.’”
The teenagers in East Flatbush released three turquoise balloons into the sky at the end of their memorial for Kade, filled with poems and writings. The wind carried one into a tree’s branches, where it lingered, a reminder of the persistent grief in the school nearby.
Kirsten Noyes contributed research.
Melissa Lucio had long maintained her innocence. New evidence and expert testimony emerged casting strong doubt on her guilt.
By J. David Goodman, April 25, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/25/us/melissa-lucio-execution-texas.html
HOUSTON — The highest criminal court in Texas on Monday ordered a halt to the execution of a Hispanic mother of 14 convicted of killing her 2-year-old child more than a decade ago in a case that has drawn bipartisan outrage.
The mother, Melissa Lucio, has long maintained her innocence, and calls for leniency have become widespread in Texas, including among dozens of Democratic and Republican state legislators, as new evidence and expert testimony emerged that cast strong doubt on her guilt.
In a three-page decision ordering a stay to the execution that had been set for Wednesday, the Court of Criminal Appeals found that several of the claims raised by her lawyers needed to be considered by a trial court, including that prosecutors may have used false testimony, that previously unavailable scientific evidence could preclude her conviction and that prosecutors suppressed other evidence that would have been favorable to her.
The case now returns to a lower court to resolve those issues, postponing the execution indefinitely. Ms. Lucio would have been the first Hispanic woman executed in Texas.
The case had drawn national attention, including a documentary film, as lawyers for Ms. Lucio argued that evidence presented at trial undercut the case for murder in the death of her daughter, Mariah.
“I thank God for my life,” Ms. Lucio said in a statement released by her lawyers. “I am grateful the court has given me the chance to live and prove my innocence. Mariah is in my heart today and always.”
Mariah died at home two days after what Ms. Lucio and her children have said was a fall down a flight of stairs as they were moving between apartments. An autopsy said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
Ms. Lucio was convicted of beating her daughter to death in part based on her own statements during a five-hour interrogation just after Mariah died in 2007.
Ms. Lucio’s lawyers challenged those statements, arguing that the apparent confession had been coerced, and presented expert testimony showing that the type of bruising seen on Mariah’s body, and the type of trauma that caused her death, could have been caused by the fall.
Under the court’s ruling on Monday, a lower court will now hold a hearing to consider the new evidence and determine whether a new trial is warranted.
“Melissa is entitled to a new, fair trial,” said one of her lawyers, Tivon Schardl. “Texans should be grateful and proud that the Court of Criminal Appeals has given Melissa’s legal team the opportunity to present the new evidence of Melissa’s innocence to the Cameron County District Court.”
Ms. Lucio’s case was also before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which could grant clemency. But the board said on Monday that because of the stay it would not be making a clemency recommendation “at this time.”
At the time of Mariah’s death, Ms. Lucio had been living with Mariah’s father, Roberto Alvarez, and nine children. Her lawyers had argued that Mr. Alvarez was treated differently than Ms. Lucio by the police, who questioned him more as a witness than as a suspect during interrogations. Mr. Alvarez was convicted of a lesser charge of failing to provide medical help to Mariah and sentenced to four years in prison.
But the court on Monday dismissed claims brought by her lawyers that gender bias had affected the investigation and prosecution of Ms. Lucio.
During her original trial, prosecutors said that bruising on Mariah’s body and the head trauma she suffered could only have come from beatings. Ms. Lucio’s appellate lawyers argued that other medical evidence should have been presented at trial but was not, demonstrating that the fall could have caused the bruising seen on the child’s body and ultimately led to her death.
“Medical evidence shows that Mariah’s death was consistent with an accident,” said another of her lawyers, Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at the Innocence Project.
By John Kiriakou, April 21, 2022
It’s not at all unusual to feed prisoners animal-grade food to save money. It happens all across the country every single day.
Arizona State Prison Complex -Lewis. (Prison Insight, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)
We’ve all been reading about inflation over the past several months. Food prices are up dramatically this year, and it’s putting the squeeze on a lot of American families. Many people are cutting back, eating less meat, and trying to conserve. But what happens when you’re in prison when food prices are spiking?
On my first day in prison in 2013, one of the other inmates said to me, “It’s Friday. Fish day.” I responded, “Oh. Ok. I like fish.” “Not this fish,” he said. “We call it sewer trout. Stay away from it.” When I got to the cafeteria, I saw boxes stacked up behind the serving line. They were all clearly marked: “Alaskan Cod. Product of China. Not for Human Consumption. Feed Use Only.” I never ate the fish.
There are two ways that prisons are able to save money. They cut food costs and they cut medication costs. In many prisons and jails at the state and local level, any budget surplus goes into the warden’s or sheriff’s pocket.
Check out this article , which documents how an Alabama sheriff legally took home as personal profit more than $750,000 that had been budgeted to feed prisoners and used it to pay cash for a beach house. The prisoners ended up eating scraps not meant for human beings.
It’s not at all unusual to feed prisoners animal-grade food to save money. It happens all across the country every single day.
In one Arizona women’s prison, current and former prisoners complained that they saw the “Not for Human Consumption” label on boxes of chicken legs and thighs and on lunch meat.
One former prisoner, who spent 12 years in the facility, said that she asked multiple times why animal-grade food was being served to prisoners, but she “never got a straight answer.” Eventually, the prison stopped serving the chicken — the lunch meat is still being served — but not until enough prisoners complained about it. The food service company, Trinity Services Group, also served prisoners maggot-infested food and “potatoes laced with crunchy dirt.” Trinity was also accused of serving prisoners rotten meat that caused dozens of H. pylori infections. Trinity’s response? “That happened in the past.”
To give you an idea of how seriously, or not, “corrections professionals” take the allegations, one must only look at what they say to each other when they think nobody else can hear them. The Phoenix New Times reported that a private Facebook group of Arizona prison guards mocked the animal-grade food and the prisoners who had to eat it. One guard wrote, “That was true haha working in the kitchen I read it.” Another said, “As a kitchen officer, I plead the fifth.” Still another wrote, “This isn’t news lol.”
‘It’s All Bad’
One Minnesota prisoner said that he tells new prisoners upon arrival, “Don’t eat no chili, no burritos, no types of sausage or the sausage gravy, no meatloaf, or no Salisbury steak. It’s all bad. It’s all made from that meat marked ‘Not for Human Consumption.’”
Aramark, the big food service company, says that it is dedicated to “culinary excellence” in prisons. But after winning a contract to provide food in the Colorado prison system, their quest for culinary excellence didn’t stop them from serving prisoners “rotten food crawling with maggots or food that had been thrown in the trash, and (Aramark) gave inmates cake that had been partially eaten by rodents.” The same thing happened at prisons Aramark supplied in Mississippi, in Oregon, Alabama and elsewhere.
If these details don’t make you angry, maybe this will: According to a lawsuit filed against Oregon prison officials, prison administrators — in anticipation of state health inspections — directed inmates to clean up kitchens and remove “not for human consumption” food and to move green and moldy, spoiled food to the a mobile refrigerator and freezer trucks, only to return the spoiled food to the kitchen after the inspection was completed. One of the prisoners filing the suit said she was ordered to serve “not for human consumption bait fish and spoiled meats, milk and produce” to fellow inmates.
The fix here is easy: STOP DOING IT. Where is the humanity? I understand that when you run a prison, you want to balance a budget. But the budget can’t be balanced while ignoring basic human rights. I have no idea if it’s even illegal to serve people animal-grade food. It wouldn’t even occur to me that such a thing would need to be legislated. But if it is legal, it needs to be made illegal. And people who do it should be prosecuted. Maybe one of the reasons that we have some of the societal problems that we do is that we don’t treat the less fortunate among us with respect and dignity.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.
Since the Great Recession, the college-educated have taken more frontline jobs at companies like Starbucks and Amazon. Now they’re helping to unionize them.
By Noam Scheiber, April 28, 2022
Claire Chang, a leader of the effort to unionize the REI store in Manhattan, graduated from college in 2014. Credit...DeSean McClinton-Holland for The New York Times
Christian Smalls, center, a founder of the Amazon Labor Union, attended community college. Credit...DeSean McClinton-Holland for The New York Times
Over the past decade-and-a-half, many young, college-educated workers have faced a disturbing reality: that it was harder for them to reach the middle class than for previous generations. The change has had profound effects — driving shifts in the country’s politics and mobilizing employees to demand fairer treatment at work. It may also be giving the labor movement its biggest lift in decades.
Members of this college-educated working class typically earn less money than they envisioned when they went off to school. “It’s not like anyone is expecting to make six figures,” said Tyler Mulholland, who earns about $23 an hour as a sales lead at REI, the outdoor equipment retailer, and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. “But when it’s snow storming at 11:30 at night, I don’t want to have to think, ‘Is the Uber home going to make a difference in my weekly budget?’”
In many cases, the workers have endured bouts of unemployment. After Clint Shiflett, who holds an associate degree in computer science, lost his job installing satellite dishes in early 2020, he found a cheaper place to live and survived on unemployment insurance for months. He was eventually hired at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, where he initially made about $17.50 an hour working the overnight shift.
And they complain of being trapped in jobs that don’t make good use of their skills. Liz Alanna, who holds a bachelor’s in music education and a master’s in opera performance, began working at Starbucks while auditioning for music productions in the early 2010s. She stayed with the company to preserve her health insurance after getting married and having children.
“I don’t think I should have to have a certain job just so I can have health care,” Ms. Alanna said. “I could be doing other types of jobs that might fall better in my wheelhouse.”
These experiences, which economic research shows became more common after the Great Recession, appear to have united many young college-educated workers around two core beliefs: They have a sense that the economic grand bargain available to their parents — go to college, work hard, enjoy a comfortable lifestyle — has broken down. And they see unionizing as a way to resurrect it.
Support for labor unions among college graduates has increased from 55 percent in the late 1990s to around 70 percent in the last few years, and is even higher among younger college graduates, according to data provided by Gallup. “I think a union was really kind of my only option to make this a viable choice for myself and other people,” said Mr. Mulholland, 32, who helped lead the campaign to unionize his Manhattan REI store in March. Mr. Shiflett and Ms. Alanna have also been active in the campaigns to unionize their workplaces.
And those efforts, in turn, may help explain an upsurge for organized labor, with filings for union elections up more than 50 percent over a similar period one year ago.
Though a minority at most nonprofessional workplaces, college-educated workers are playing a key role in propelling them toward unionization, experts say, because the college-educated often feel empowered in ways that others don’t. “There’s a class confidence, I would call it,” said Ruth Milkman, a sociologist of labor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “A broader worldview that encompasses more than getting through the day.”
While other workers at companies like Starbucks and Amazon are also supportive of unions and sometimes take the initiative in forming them, the presence of the college-educated in these jobs means there is a “layer of people who particularly have their antennae up,” Ms. Milkman added. “There is an additional layer of leadership.”
That workers who attended college would be attracted to nonprofessional jobs at REI, Starbucks and Amazon is not entirely surprising. Over the past decade, the companies’ appetite for workers has grown substantially. Starbucks increased its global work force to nearly 385,000 last year from about 135,000 in 2010. Amazon’s work force swelled to 1.6 million from 35,000 during that period.
The companies appeal to affluent and well-educated consumers. And they offer solid wages and benefits for their industries — even, for that matter, compared with some other industries that employ the college-educated.
More than three years after he earned a political science degree from Siena College in 2017, Brian Murray was making about $14 an hour as a youth counselor at a group home for middle-school-age children.
He quit in late 2020 and was hired a few months later at a Starbucks in the Buffalo area, where his wage increased to $15.50 an hour. “The starting wage was higher than anything I’d ever made,” said Mr. Murray, who has helped organize Starbucks workers in the city.
Such examples appear to reflect broader economic forces. Data from the past 30 years collected by the economists Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that unemployment for recent college graduates shot up to over 7 percent in 2009 and was above 5.3 percent — the highest previously recorded — as late as 2015.
Jesse Rothstein, a former chief economist of the U.S. Labor Department, found in a 2021 paper that the job prospects for recent college graduates began to weaken around 2005, then suffered a significant blow during the Great Recession and had not fully recovered a decade later.
The recession depressed their employment rates “above what is consistent with normal recession effects,” wrote Mr. Rothstein, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “Moreover, this change has persisted into the most recent entrants, who were in middle school during the Great Recession.”
While there is no simple explanation for the trend, many economists contend that automation and outsourcing reduced the need for certain “middle skilled” jobs that college-educated workers performed. Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, said consolidation in industries that employ the college-educated also appears to have softened demand for those workers, though he emphasized that those with a college degree still typically earn far more than those without one.
Whatever the case, the gap between the expectations of college graduates and their employability has led to years of political ferment. A study of participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which highlighted income inequality and grew out of the 2011 occupation of Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, found that more than three-quarters were college graduates, versus about 30 percent of adults at the time. Many had been laid off during the previous five years and “were carrying substantial debt,” the report noted.
In the decade that followed, members of this same demographic group helped lead other activist campaigns, like the Black Lives Matter movement, and supported the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders. At least one member — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had worked as a waitress and a bartender during her postcollege years — successfully ran for Congress.
The college-educated began flexing their muscles at work, too. Employees at digital media outlets like Gawker and Buzzfeed unionized in the 2010s, complaining of low pay and unclear paths to promotion, as did employees of think tanks and other nonprofit groups.
Public school teachers across the country walked off the job in 2018 to protest low pay and dwindling resources, while union campaigns proliferated at private colleges among graduate students and nontenure-track faculty.
Ms. Milkman pointed to several reasons that college-educated workers had succeeded at organizing even in the face of employer opposition: They often know their rights under labor law, and feel entitled to change their workplace. They believe there is another gig out there if they lose their current one.
“More education does two things — it inoculates you to some extent against employer scare tactics,” Ms. Milkman said. “And it’s not that big a deal to get fired. You know, ‘Who cares? I can get some other crummy job.’”
The pandemic reinforced the trend, disrupting the labor market just as it finally appeared to be stabilizing for recent college graduates. It made service sector jobs dangerous in addition to modestly compensated. Amid labor shortages, workers grew bolder in challenging their bosses.
No less important, the college-educated were mobilizing a larger range of workers. When their awakening was confined to white-collar workplaces and hipster coffee shops, said Barry Eidlin, a sociologist who studies labor at McGill University in Montreal, its reach was limited. But at a bigger company like Starbucks, the activism of such workers “has the potential to have much greater reverberations,” he said. “It bleeds into this broader palette of the working class.”
College-educated union supporters began forming alliances with those who did not attend college, some of whom were also budding leaders.
RJ Rebmann, who has not attended college, was hired at a Starbucks store near Buffalo last summer, but soon had trouble getting scheduled. Union supporters, including one studying biotechnology at a local community college, went to a meeting the company was holding and urged company officials to address the situation.
“The union partners were sticking up for me,” said Mx. Rebmann, who uses gender-neutral pronouns and courtesy titles and was already leaning toward supporting the union. “That was a tipping point for me in deciding how I’m going to vote.” More than 25 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since then.
A similar diversity of workers carried the union to an 88-14 win at the REI store in Manhattan. “We have a lot of students, we have a lot of folks who have had previous careers and changed it up,” said Claire Chang, a union supporter who graduated from college in 2014.
And then there’s the victory at Amazon, where union supporters say their multiracial coalition was a source of strength, as was a diversity of political views. “We had straight-up Communists and hard-line Trump supporters,” said Cassio Mendoza, a worker involved in the organizing. “It was really important to us.”
But the mix of educational backgrounds also played a role. Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer, the two friends who helped found the union, had attended community college. Connor Spence, its vice president of membership, studied aviation while earning an associate degree. He had read popular labor studies books and helped oversee the union’s strategy for undermining the consultants Amazon hired to fight unionization.
Other workers at the warehouse had even more extensive credentials, like Brima Sylla, originally from Liberia, who holds a Ph.D. in public policy. Dr. Sylla speaks several languages and translated the union’s text messages into French and Arabic.
Asked how the union brought together so many people across the lines of class and education, Mr. Spence said it was simple: Most Amazon workers struggle with pay, safety concerns and productivity targets, and few get promoted, regardless of education. (The company said that about two-thirds of its 30,000 noncorporate promotions last year involved hourly employees, and that it has made extensive investments in safety.)
“Amazon doesn’t allow people of differing education levels to become separated,” Mr. Spence said. “It was the way we were able to unite people — the idea that we’re all getting screwed.”
By Jessica Grose, April 27, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/27/opinion/abortion-laws-miscarriage.html
In December, I wrote a newsletter with the headline, “Overturning Roe Will Make Miscarriage Care Worse.” I pointed out that because the options that doctors have to end a miscarriage that doesn’t happen on its own — medication or surgery — are the same ones involved in an abortion, outlawing abortion would have a chilling effect on medical providers, as evidenced by cases in countries such as Malta and Poland where abortion is severely restricted.
Doctors wind up being afraid to conduct any procedure that may be misconstrued as an illegal abortion, even when they’re treating patients who miscarry. Women can then wind up with little choice about how their miscarriages end, sometimes simply having to wait to miscarry “naturally,” which may take weeks and risk their health in the process.
But Roe v. Wade didn’t have to fall for a slew of anti-abortion bills to make their way through state legislatures: Texas’ ban on abortion after six weeks was the first to become law, in September. As my Times colleagues Kate Zernike and Adam Liptak explained a few weeks ago, “The Texas law, which several states are attempting to copy, puts enforcement in the hands of civilians. It offers the prospect of $10,000 rewards for successful lawsuits against anyone — from an Uber driver to a doctor — who ‘aids or abets’ a woman who gets an abortion once fetal cardiac activity can be detected.”
There are situations where fetal cardiac activity is detected, but the fetus would not survive outside the womb, or a continued pregnancy would put a woman’s life at risk. As I wrote last year, women in Ireland, Italy and Poland have died of sepsis in such situations. In the past few months, legislators in Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri and Wyoming have either introduced or passed laws severely restricting abortion. As Zernike points out in a March report about these laws, “Most bills have provisions to allow abortion to save the life of the mother. But even on that, states are cracking down.”
An early draft of a Missouri bill seemed to outlaw treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, which happens when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus; it read:
The offense of trafficking abortion-inducing devices or drugs is a class A felony if: (1) The abortion was performed or induced or was attempted to be performed or induced on a woman carrying an unborn child of more than ten weeks gestational age; (2) The abortion was performed or induced or was attempted to be performed or induced on a woman who has an ectopic pregnancy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “An ectopic pregnancy can’t proceed normally. The fertilized egg can’t survive, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding, if left untreated.” The Missouri bill has since been amended, and though the bill’s author told The Columbia Missourian that the original text was misinterpreted, the “muddy” nature of the language in some of these documents is part of what concerns women’s health advocates.
“Make no mistake, these laws have a chilling effect on the ability to practice safe obstetrics,” said Dr. Courtney A. Schreiber, the chief of the division of family planning in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “These laws put physicians in an impossible position of having to balance regulations that don’t take into account the complexity of pregnancy and an actual person’s urgent need to sustain their health,” she told me. When these laws must be applied “in real life to real doctors taking care of real women, the language doesn’t translate, the sentiment doesn’t translate. The level of confusion and fear is intense for physicians practicing obstetrics in states with these restrictions,” she added.
As The Associated Press’s Lindsay Tanner noted, medical students are already being affected by anti-abortion legislation. Abortion training is not available at medical schools in Oklahoma, and “bills or laws seeking to limit abortion education have been proposed or enacted in at least eight states,” Tanner reports. Since the surgical procedure that’s performed to end a missed miscarriage is the same as the one that’s performed in an abortion, fewer doctors trained to do this procedure, known colloquially as a D. and C., will mean fewer options for miscarrying women.
The Texas law and laws like it set up a situation where “anybody who experiences a pregnancy loss that they can’t explain to the satisfaction of law enforcement becomes suspicious,” Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director at If/When/How, a legal organization that works for reproductive justice, told me.
“This is a lawyerly point, but the idea that if it is a crime to have done something to have ended that pregnancy, that becomes a jury question. You have to put a person through a trial to determine whether a loss was ‘innocent,’” she added.
Diaz-Tello mentioned the confusing case of Lizelle Herrera, a Texan who recently “was arrested and charged with murder — over what local authorities alleged was a ‘self-induced abortion,’” according to The Washington Post. Texas’s law “explicitly exempts a woman from a criminal homicide charge for aborting her pregnancy,” as The Post notes. The charges were ultimately dropped and the county district attorney apologized, The Post reports, but what is clear is this woman was put through a painful and terrifying situation because of this new law.
I asked both Schreiber and Diaz-Tello what women who live in Texas and other states with restrictive abortion laws can do to protect themselves should they suffer a miscarriage. If you are fortunate enough to have a choice of obstetric providers, Schreiber recommended interviewing clinicians about how they handle miscarriages, and making sure to choose someone you feel could help you navigate the process in a way that respects your autonomy. Though no one wants to think about a wanted pregnancy ending in a loss, having as much information as possible, in advance, about what your treatment options might be is another important step.
But many women don’t have these resources — according to the March of Dimes, about 38 percent of rural counties and 58 percent of urban counties are considered “maternity care deserts,” which means they have no access to hospital-based obstetric services. Black women in rural areas are particularly vulnerable.
Diaz-Tello said that being informed about your rights is key. If you have, for example, taken pills to end a pregnancy when that is not legal, you are not required to tell a doctor that you have done so. If/When/How also has a free, confidential legal help line if you have questions about your rights.
It’s appalling to me that the onus should be on a woman who is experiencing a miscarriage to avoid potential prosecution, but that’s where we are. Politico recently published an article suggesting that many Americans are under-informed about the scope and speed of the changes already happening. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2022 legislative sessions, 33 abortion restrictions have been enacted in nine states, and a stunning 536 restrictions have been introduced in 42 states. A Democratic operative told Politico, “Most voters still haven’t connected the dots to the looming federal change and mistakenly think Roe is almost untouchable.” This misconception needs to be corrected right now.
Texas obstetricians told NPR in October that the anti-abortion law, known as S.B. 8, was already complicating medical care for women with unviable pregnancies. “We don’t want a patient to get sick for a pregnancy that is not going to progress, it’s not going to continue,” said Dr. Theresa Patton of Dallas. “Now, am I going to be in legal trouble for offering that termination now? Do I need to wait until she’s septic and imminently in danger herself before I offer that termination? These are all of the things that we have been struggling with what we should do.”
The Times’s DealBook reports that private companies such as Yelp, Uber and Salesforce say they will pay travel costs for employees to seek abortions out of state.
“Medication abortions — the most common method of ending a pregnancy — are growing significantly more expensive,” reports Shefali Luthra in The 19th. It’s unclear how this cost may affect miscarrying women, but in 2015 in Slate I reported on the cost of miscarriage, which isn’t always fully covered by insurance.
The Indian subcontinent has recorded above-average temperatures for weeks. Heat-related weather watches or alerts are now in effect for hundreds of millions of people.
By Hari Kumar and Mike Ives, April 28, 2022https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/28/world/asia/india-extreme-heat-wave.html
People taking a bath from a municipal tanker on a hot day in Kolkata, India, earlier this month. Credit...Debarchan Chatterjee/NurPhoto via Getty Images
NEW DELHI — Across a wide swath of the Indian subcontinent, scorching temperatures have damaged harvests. People are suffering from heat stroke. And the lights are flickering in some cities amid surging demand for air-conditioning.
Now, the heat wave that has been pummeling India and Pakistan for weeks is expected to intensify over the weekend. In some hard-hit areas, it may be weeks before the region's annual monsoon sweeps in to provide relief.
Heat-related watches were in effect on Thursday afternoon for all but a few of India’s 28 states, encompassing hundreds of millions of people and most of the country’s major cities. An alert — one notch up in severity — was in effect for the northwestern state of Rajasthan on Thursday, and would come into effect for other central and western states starting Saturday.
The heat wave poses health and logistical challenges for manual laborers, farmers, firefighters, power engineers, government officials and others, particularly in areas where air-conditioning is scarce.
“Our condition is not good,” said Sawadaram Bose, 48, a cumin and wheat farmer in Rajasthan, where temperatures climbed to 112 degrees Fahrenheit this week. He and his family are only leaving the house before 11 a.m. or after 5 p.m., he said, and never without a water bottle or head and face coverings.
The temperatures are well above normal.
The subcontinent’s scorching weather is a reminder of what lies in store for other countries in an era of climate change. Climate scientists say that heat waves around the world are growing more frequent, more dangerous and lasting longer. They are certain that global warming has made heat waves worse because the baseline temperatures from which they begin are higher than they were decades ago.
“Extreme heat is obviously one of the hallmarks of our changing climate,” said Clare Nullis, an official at the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations agency that certifies weather records at the international level.
It is too early to say whether the current temperatures in India or Pakistan will lead to any new national-level weather records, she added.
In India, where forecasters said that March was the hottest month the country has witnessed in over a century, the National Weather Forecasting Center said this week that temperatures in some states were 10 degrees Fahrenheit or more above normal in some areas.
The heat-related watches in parts of southern and eastern India, where rain was in the forecast, were expected to end within a day or two, the authorities said. But in a diagonal band stretching from Rajasthan in the northwest to Andhra Pradesh in the southeast, the watches were expected to persist or be elevated into heat alerts through Monday.
The forecast looked similar in most of neighboring Pakistan, where government forecasters said this week that a high pressure system would likely keep temperatures above normal through Monday.
Pakistan’s Meteorological Department also warned that in regions dotted with glaciers, the heat could lead to so-called outburst floods, in which water spills from glacial lakes into populated areas. In 2013, an outburst flood in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand led to flooding that destroyed villages and killed several thousand people.
In both countries, the forecasts cited only temperature, not the heat index — a measure that combines temperature and humidity and tends to give a more accurate portrait of what extreme weather feels like.
Fusaram Bishnoi, a doctor in Barmer, an area of Rajasthan that has recorded some of India’s highest temperatures this week, said he had seen a surge of patients arriving with heat-related illnesses in recent days. That includes not only heat stroke, he said, but also food-borne illnesses linked to the consumption of food that spoiled in the heat.
“We tell people not to venture out during the day and to drink more, and more water,” Dr. Bishnoi said.
‘Everything is ready to burn.’
The extreme heat poses a problem for agriculture, a primary source of income for hundreds of millions of people across the subcontinent. In India, wheat farmers have been saying for weeks that high temperatures were damaging their yields. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip garden closed a week early this spring because many bulbs had flowered and then died before an annual monthlong exhibition had run its course.
Mr. Bose, the farmer, who lives in the Barmer district of Rajasthan, said that about 15 to 20 percent of the local wheat crop, as well as half the cumin crop, had already been lost because of unseasonably hot weather and changes in wind flow. It does not help, he added, that the current heat wave has made it harder to work outdoors.
“No work during the day in the fields,” he said.
The heat wave is also straining basic municipal services. In India, more than 10 states, including the one that includes the city of Mumbai, have faced power shortages in recent days. That is partly a function of the heat, but also of a national shortage of coal, a fuel that accounts for about three-quarters of the country’s power supply.
In New Delhi this week, there has been a rash of landfill fires that officials said were caused by spontaneous combustion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said on Wednesday that the extreme heat was raising the risk that more fires would occur in the capital, and beyond.
Calls to fire departments in New Delhi typically rise at this time of year, but an increase in recent months — from 60 to 70 calls per day to more than 150 per day — has been larger than usual, said Atul Garg, the director of fire services in New Delhi.
“Everything is ready to burn,” he said.
Prosecutors said Thomas Raynard James had the same name as a suspect, leading to his wrongful conviction for murder in 1991. His conviction was overturned.
By Michael Levenson, April 27, 2022
Thomas Raynard James, seen at Florida’s Okeechobee Correctional Institution, was “always hopeful that one day someone would see the truth and the facts and would come to his defense,” his lawyer said. Credit...Octavio Jones
Prosecutors said it appeared to be a “chance coincidence.”
After two men entered an apartment in the Coconut Grove section of Miami on Jan. 17, 1990, and one of them fatally shot a man during a robbery, witnesses and tipsters said the gunman was named Thomas James or Tommy James.
That led the police to put a photo of Thomas Raynard James in a lineup, setting in motion a case of mistaken identification that led Mr. James, then 23, to be convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery on Jan. 11, 1991. He was sentenced to life in prison.
But Mr. James never gave up trying to prove his innocence. He investigated his case while in prison, and his mother, Doris Strong, knocked on doors, looking for answers, according to Mr. James’s lawyer, Natlie G. Figgers.
On Wednesday, their efforts were finally validated when a judge approved a motion by prosecutors to vacate Mr. James’s conviction and sentence, setting him free after he had spent more than half of his life — over 31 years — in prison.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said an investigation that it conducted in cooperation with Ms. Figgers determined that not only did reasonable doubt exist in the conviction, but also that “Thomas Raynard James is actually innocent of the charges.”
“In brief, what appears to be a chance coincidence that the defendant, Thomas Raynard James, had the same name as a suspect named by witnesses and anonymous tipsters as ‘Thomas James,’ or ‘Tommy James’” led to his “mistaken identification” as the gunman who fatally shot Francis McKinnon, prosecutors wrote in court papers asking for the conviction to be thrown out.
Just before he was released on Wednesday, Mr. James, 55, still handcuffed and dressed in a red prison uniform, appeared at a news conference with his mother and prosecutors. He did not speak, but Ms. Figgers said he was “eager to start his life” and hoped to start a nonprofit to help others who have been wrongfully convicted.
Ms. Figgers credited Tristram Korten, whose investigation of Mr. James’s conviction was published in GQ in July 2021, with helping to bring the case to the attention of the prosecutors after years of unsuccessful efforts by Mr. James and his family.
“He was always hopeful that one day someone would see the truth and the facts and would come to his defense,” Ms. Figgers said. “As of today, he’s grateful that people listened to his cries, and he’s just grateful to have the opportunity to live his life.”
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the Miami-Dade state attorney, said the case pointed to the vulnerability of eyewitness identification. Mr. James’s conviction rested primarily on the testimony of Dorothy Walton, Mr. McKinnon’s stepdaughter, who had been in the apartment and had identified Mr. James as the gunman after the police put his photo in a lineup.
“I'm positive of it,” she testified during the trial, according to court papers. “I will never forget his face. I will never forget his eyes.”
No physical evidence tied Mr. James or anyone else to the crime, prosecutors said.
Over the years, Ms. Walton began to waver in her certainty about Mr. James, prosecutors said. Although reluctant to rehash the case and fearful that Mr. James could take revenge on her if he were released, she eventually “voiced concerns that maybe she had made a mistake,” and said she “wouldn’t want to go to her grave with the possibility that she may have made a mistake,” court papers said. She told investigators that, as a “good Christian woman,” she would pray on it.
On April 12, after prosecutors subpoenaed her to testify under oath, Ms. Walton told investigators that she “now believes she made a mistake” in her identification of Mr. James, and that she did not attribute her change to any “outside influence,” prosecutors said.
Ms. Fernandez Rundle called it “an unfortunate mistaken-identity case.”
“Around the country, eyewitness testimony, absent any forensic evidence, is always vulnerable,” she said.
Ms. Fernandez Rundle added that a different man named Tommy James told investigators that he had been eyeing Mr. McKinnon’s apartment with his cousin, Vincent Williams, for a possible robbery in the days before the murder.
That Tommy James, however, was behind bars when Mr. McKinnon was killed, she said. Mr. Williams later told Tommy James that he and another man had committed the robbery and murder. Mr. Williams has since died. The other man has denied any involvement.
While Ms. Fernandez Rundle called Mr. James’s release from prison a “joyous” occasion for his family, she said it was frustrating for Mr. McKinnon’s relatives “because what they believed was a just result for the loss of their loved one has been stolen from them.”
“We believe one of the two men who did this will never be held accountable for the loss of their loved one,” Ms. Fernandez Rundle said, referring to Mr. Williams. “The second, we’re just not sure. We will continue to look at it as a cold case.”
By Mark Satinoff and Barbara Mutnick
By La Izquierda Diario Costa Rica, April 29, 2022
Announcing that Amazon workers at JFK8 in Staten Island had won their vote to form the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States, Chris Smalls, president of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), sarcastically sent his gratitude to Amazon’s founder: “We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space, because when he was up there, we were signing people up.”
In an interview for The Daily Show, Smalls said that the workers organized outside of the Democratic and Republican parties because “We want to make sure that it’s all inclusive and put workers in the driver’s seat. That’s the ultimate power…Having the workers in the driver’s seat, and having them at the negotiating table, putting together a contract that protects them…that’s the best thing ever.”
The ALU also organized separately from traditional and bureaucratic union leaderships which benefit from the membership of their workers without defending their interests.
The rebellion and power in Smalls’ words resonate in each person who knows firsthand the methods of exploitation and precarization used against workers in Amazon facilities, not just in the United States, but across the world. More than 1 million people work for Amazon and so are exploited by the same boss.
All Amazon workers stand to gain from the ALU’s fight for better working conditions. Workers around the world are watching what is happening in the United States and sending their support. What follows is a series of texts sent by Amazon workers in Costa Rica to Left Voice in solidarity with their fellow Amazon workers in the United States.
Victoria, Heavy-Bulky Services:
The whole world has heard the news of your victory. You showed that it can be done, without millions of dollars, without the means of the rich. Our work in the call center is different, but we understand precarization, the pressure of unattainable metrics, and all that is required of you in the warehouse. Your fight is also ours. We send you strength for the struggles to come!
You have so much guts and courage, it is very hard to have achieved what you have done. Amazon is always going to try to play dirty and do all it can to prevent workers from meeting, discussing with each other, and organizing for their rights. We are eager to see you win better conditions; luckily there is a movement in the United States that seems like it isn’t going to stop. Amazon has to listen and understand that things have to change, because the conditions in the fulfillment center are very precarious. They say they respect their workers, but they don’t do it for the good of the people, but to avoid bad publicity. Hopefully the movement continues to advance. There are already unions in Europe. I hope this will be a global movement.
Juan, Vendor Support:
Seeing what you have done there makes us consider the possibilities of what can be done here in Costa Rica. Taking into account the precarious situation we are in, and without a means to defend ourselves, Amazon can get away with a lot. Much has happened at Amazon, it has systematized and organized the precarization of its workers. Consequently, the only way to fight back is to do the same – organize to unite, to form a union. Organize to meet people and give voice to their dissatisfaction with precarity and mistreatment. We have to fight back.
You are already going down a good path. This is how change and revolutions begin. Do not be intimidated or back down – you have the support of the entire working class. You represent us all, we are all proud of what you have done in the United States, against a giant such as Amazon. We have to follow in your footsteps. This process extends across the world.
Originally published in Spanish on April 25 in La Izquierda Diario Costa Rica.
Translation by Madeleine Freeman
By Joe Allen, April 29, 2022
The newly-elected top officers of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Photo from Twitter
Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman—respectively the newly-elected General President and General Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters—have raised expectations across the political spectrum. Throughout their campaign, and at the recent swearing-in-ceremony on March 22, coverage has focused on the possibility of greater labor militancy. Typical was CNN Business with their headline story, “This new union boss could start the biggest strike in decades.”
The primary target of this potential militancy is United Parcel Service (UPS), the largest Teamster employer in the United States. The O’Brien-Zuckerman Teamsters United slate won a landslide victory over the Steve Vairma’s Teamster Power slate last year largely because of their opposition to the hated 2018 national UPS contract. Vairma was the anointed successor to long time Teamster leader Jim Hoffa, whose two decades in office witnessed stagnation and across the board concessions in booming industries, especially logistics, and most notably at UPS. The O’Brien-Zuckerman leadership are expected to produce a different outcome in the upcoming 2023 contract negotiations with UPS.
O’Brien and Zuckerman’s victory, however, was tempered by the lowest turnout in rank-and-file voters since 1991, an example of how two decades of stagnation under Hoffa has impacted the membership. Cynicism is widespread in the union but there is also an eagerness for vitality to return to the union, some of which is born out of desperation. There is a widespread feeling that the Teamsters have to change or face increasing marginalization as a national union in the logistics and transportation industries.
Yet, how much change can be expected from a new leadership team that only a few years ago were some of Hoffa’s most vigorous supporters, and largely jumped ship to the opposition to preserve their leadership positions in the union?
The long four-month transition period—from O’Brien and Zuckerman’s victory to formally taking office—saw a flurry of activity at the normally staid Teamster headquarters. Sean O’Brien resigned as president of Local 25 in Boston and Teamsters Joint Council 10, covering all Teamsters in New England, to concentrate fulltime on the duties as General President. O’Brien held regular zoom calls to announce his appointments to lead the many craft and industry divisions of the vast Teamster bureaucracy.
Compared to the Hoffa years, when members were kept in the dark about developments in the union and contract negotiations, O’Brien and Zuckerman have struck a pose of openness and transparency. Since being sworn into office, O’Brien has hit the road visiting local unions and meeting with striking workers and shop stewards. O’Brien and Zuckerman also moved quickly to deal with two issues left hanging by Hoffa.
They authorized a one-million-dollar donation to the Teamsters Local 174 strike fund in Seattle for concrete delivery drivers. Local 174 had been on strike for the past five months halting major construction projects in the booming city. O’Brien also announced that he was moving to withdraw Local 117’s support for the disastrous gig worker bill in the Washington state legislature. The Seattle local is led by Vairma/Hoffa supporter John Searcy. Hoffa had taken a hands-off approach to both the cement strike and the gig worker bill despite each having national implications for the union.
Despite these interventions by the new O’Brien leadership, both gambits appear to have failed. The surrender of Local 174, despite the infusion of funds from O’Brien, is not the best advertisement for the Teamsters’ Amazon organizing project, by losing an important strike in Amazon’s front yard. O’Brien’s intervention also came too late on the gig worker bill as it was signed into law on April 1.
Continuity or change?
At the same time, O’Brien appointments to lead the union’s many craft and industry divisions reveal that the new leadership is almost entirely drawn, with few exceptions, from current full-time Teamster staffers and officers. All of the picks were predictable. These are safe, in-house choices, not something that will shake up the sclerotic Teamster bureaucracy.
Some are direct holdovers from the Hoffa-era, like John Murphy and Bill Hamilton. Murphy was UPS Freight director under Hoffa. He was appointed by O’Brien to lead the long-suffering national freight division, where he largely failed. He was on the negotiating team for the 2018 UPS Freight contract that was rejected on the first round of voting by 62 percent of the members.
Under Hoffa, Bill Hamilton was director of the Express Division—whose largest component is DHL— and he will keep his job in the new administration. Hamilton campaigned to pass the 2018 UPS contract that was rejected by the members but imposed undemocratically by Hoffa. In many ways, Hamilton personifies a section of conservative Teamster old-guard that defected to O’Brien without changing their spots.
Another similarly suited Hoffa supporter who defected to O’Brien is Tom Erickson, the Blaine, Minnesota-based leader of Teamster Local 120. He was appointed Director of the Warehouse division, the job formerly held by Steve Vairma. The choice is disturbing because of Erickson’s sympathy for the Trumpian right and hostility to Black Lives Matter.
Under Erickson’s leadership, Local 120 endorsed Pete Stauber, a former cop union leader and Trump supporter, for Congress in 2020. Local 120 also offered to host the National Guard in their union hall, who deployed to contain protests following the verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial. Labor activists expelled the Guard from federation’s property.
O’Brien talked about putting more resources into the pipeline division. Hoffa supported the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from the Canadian Tar Sands to the U.S. The project produced widespread opposition and violent repression from the state governments. Biden canceled the permit for the project. Will O’Brien continue Hoffa’s support for destructive environmental policies? There’s no indication he will break from Hoffa’s policies, right now.
Rocco Calo, president of Local 1150 in Connecticut, was appointed the director of the Teamsters Industrial trades division. Calo was an early pick for O’Brien’s slate. His local union represents workers at the Sikorsky aircraft corporation, the manufacturers of utility and attack helicopters for the U.S. military. Sikorsky has plundered Connecticut for billions over the years in tax breaks and subsidies. Calo’s appointment likely means that the Teamsters will not break from its long record of supporting bloated defense budgets.
Chuck Whobrey, president of Teamsters 215, was appointed Director of the Teamsters Public Services division that includes police, and deputy sheriffs, and prison guards. Greg Floyd, president of Local 237 in New York, was appointed deputy director. Where do they stand on issues of police reform or the defund campaigns? Floyd began his career as a cop and later captain in the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation police force. He opposed efforts to remove school safety agents, represented by his local union, from supervision by the notoriously racist and violent NYPD.
The murder of Teamster members Philando Castile in 2016 and Frank Ordoñez in 2019 by police officers and a sheriff’s deputy became national news. Despite calls to expels cops, deputies, and prison guards from the major industrial unions and labor federations since the national uprising against racism police George Floyd’s murder in 2020, no major union has done it. We are unlikely to see a change in Teamster policy towards the cops under O’Brien.
O’Brien most disappointing decision has been holding over Randy Korgan, who was appointed the Teamsters National Director for Amazon by outgoing General President Jim Hoffa last year. Korgan is Secretary-Treasurer of Local 1932 in San Bernardino, California. Despite claims of a plan to organize Amazon, ten months following the much-hyped Teamster convention resolutions to organize Amazon, there is little sign of movement.
Meanwhile, the bombshell win in Staten Island by the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) has upended many of the long and largely failed organizing methods of the major industrial unions. While O’Brien extended a friendly hand to ALU’s Interim-President Chris Smalls, the ALU’s victory does not appear to have produced the deep reflection on past organizing practices or personnel needed to take on such a global behemoth as Amazon.
Reformers on the margins
During the election campaign, O’Brien said he would transform the education and organizing departments. John Palmer and Paul Trujillo, two members of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), the longstanding reform group in the union with roots in the 1970s rank and file rebellion, have been given prominent positions within this work.
Paul Trujillo (Local 822) was appointed Director of Education. And John Palmer—elected as an International Vice-President in 2016 and 2021—will serve as the deputy to Chris Rosell (Local 856) who was appointed Director of Organizing.
Another long-standing TDU member Matt Taibi, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 251 based in Providence, Rhode Island, was elected Eastern Region Vice-President in 2021 and appointed Director of the Passenger Transportation Division. Juan Campos, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 705 based in Chicago and one of the largest UPS locals in the country, was elected a Vice-President at Large in 2021 and appointed Director of the Tankhaul Divison.
It’s hard not to notice that despite TDU’s insistence that it was part of an election “coalition” with O’Brien, reformers are marginal in the leadership of the Teamsters. It’s a coalition on the terms of O’Brien, once a notorious opponent of TDU and reform, and considered one of Hoffa’s most thuggish supporters.
TDU has enormous prestige inside and outside of the Teamsters. To many Teamster employers and old guard Hoffa supporters it still represents a radical menace to the otherwise cozy relationships that have existed between the union and bosses for decades. But, how effective can it be when currently four members of TDU’s International Steering Committee are paid employees of the O’Brien administration?
While there is a great craving for change among the Teamsters membership—the enthusiastic turnout mostly recently for O’Brien in Minnesota is another example of this—the union leadership is still dominated by figures from the past. Barry Eidlin, writing in Jacobin, celebrates the “opportunity for change” and the possibility of building fighting coalitions within the union, such as those that led successful strikes in the 1990s and even the 1930s.
This is a tall order for a union where the socialist Left is very weak and strong pull for reformers to take paid staff positions. Ultimately, it will be upon the membership to push for the change in the direction of the Teamsters that they desperately want.
By Sonali Kolhatkar
—LA Progressive, April 4, 2022
At only 19 years old, Joe Thompson is one of the youngest lead organizers with Starbucks Workers United (SWU), the umbrella organization at the forefront of one of the most exciting labor successes of the last few years. Thompson, who started working at the coffee chain at age 16, told me in a recent interview, “Starbucks likes to claim it’s super-progressive, and a lot of workers there are, but we’re the ones actually holding Starbucks accountable to that standard.”
The very first Starbucks location to successfully unionize was in Buffalo, New York, where a vote was held only last December. Since then, dozens more locations have voted to join SWU—whose parent company is Workers United, an affiliate of SEIU—and more than 200 other locations have filed for union elections.
Thompson, who uses they/them pronouns, and who describes their background as “working-class Hispanic,” lives in Santa Cruz, California, and works there as a shift supervisor at the first Starbucks in the state to petition for a union. That vote is expected to take place in May, and it will be a bellwether for union organizing at Starbucks cafés across California.
The nation’s most populous state has lagged behind New York, Virginia, Massachusetts and Arizona on unionizing efforts at Starbucks primarily because, as per Thompson, California “does have better working conditions than a lot of other states.” The statewide minimum wage in California is $15 an hour, which is more than twice the federal minimum wage. Thompson also cites “better workplace protections” in California compared to other states.
The lesson here for anti-union forces is that poor wages and working conditions can prompt union activity. Unions are needed precisely because pro-corporate politicians have resisted raising the minimum wage and have weakened labor rights for decades.
Additionally, workers at California’s Starbucks locations “wanted to see what Buffalo could accomplish” before petitioning for a union, said Thompson. “After watching them win their vote, then we really started to organize.”
It’s no wonder that Starbucks worked so hard to stop organizers from successfully unionizing in Buffalo, flying in external managers and holding captive-audience meetings with CEO and founder Howard Schultz. The company was rightfully worried about the domino effect of a successful union vote triggering similar efforts elsewhere.
It seems as though the standard anti-union corporate playbook may have reached its limit as workers across the United States are seeing the benefits of labor organizing in the face of undignified work, meager pay, unpredictable hours, little to no benefits and few rights.
One of the most effective corporate anti-union tactics has been to disparage unions for charging fees (monthly or annual dues) to finance their protection of workers. Indeed, union dues were the entire basis of the Republican-led effort to pass so-called “right-to-work” laws in states around the country. It was also the central theme around which the online retail giant Amazon discouraged workers from organizing, saying instead that they could “do it without dues.”
But this tactic failed in the face of SWU’s organizing. “Before a union goes public, we’re inoculating our organizers,” said Thompson. “We’re telling them, ‘here’s exactly what Starbucks is going to say; here’s why it’s wrong.’” The union uses creative graphics via social media to explain how union dues are a perfectly reasonable price for collective bargaining rights that yield better working conditions. “We’re using Discord and other technology really to get workers engaged and to keep them there,” said Thompson.
The union’s overall messaging is savvy and effective, and it remains one step ahead of the company. For example, Starbucks refers to its employees not as workers but as “partners,” a slick PR term that implies a level playing field with the boss. But, weaponizing this wordplay against the company, SWU counters that only through the power of a union can workers truly be partners with their employer. “Partners becoming partners” has become a central theme of its organizing strategy.
Another aspect of the successful unionizing streak that may have caught Starbucks off guard is that most workers are relatively young and extremely cognizant of the social and political conditions under which they have come of age. “They’re all young people who are growing up during the Bernie Sanders era,” said Thompson. The same fearmongering against unions that may have worked with older Americans appears not to be working against these younger workers.
“We’re recognizing that we have power together, and young people are so fed up with not only their workplaces… but with a lot of other things too,” said Thompson. Among those things is the existential threat of climate change. “Being young right now, we don’t have a solid future ahead of us,” said Thompson, who volunteered for Sanders’ presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020, and said that their fellow Starbucks workers are “asking ourselves, what are we going to do to stand up and fight back against these corporations that are not only polluting the earth but also not paying us a living wage?”
“The simplest answer is to unionize,” said Thompson.
It is simple. And that elegant idea is a countervailing force to corporate power that businesses like Starbucks have been dreading since their inception. The company is already facing a lawsuit from the National Labor Relations Board for illegally retaliating against workers over their union organizing activity.
So overt is the company’s anti-union position that CEO Schultz recently announced that he was considering new benefits for workers, but only for those who did not join the union.
Thompson said, “that is clear union-related retaliation against organizing; it’s unlawful.” If Schultz goes through with such a step, Thompson promises that SWU will sue the company for unfair labor practices. “He is a bully… disconnected from his workers,” said Thompson of Schultz.
Although the Starbucks unionizing efforts have been wildly successful over a short period of time, voting to join a union is only the first—and easiest—step. The hard part comes during contract talks where the nuts and bolts of workers’ demands will be negotiated.
For example, Starbucks’ baristas are tipped workers and those whose wages do not have to meet minimum wage standards because they are expected to earn tips to compensate, resulting in the possibility of taking home appallingly low paychecks. But the company still refuses to allow customers to pay tips via credit card—a major issue that workers plan on raising during contract negotiations.
Given the geographic diversity of the company’s locations, contract negotiations could be unique to each state and even café. Thompson explained that in California where they are based, the union’s statewide organizing committee is currently putting together “an action plan” of the sort of contract that workers in the state want to negotiate, including the specific type of benefits they need.
That plan will form the floor of a contract that each unionized store in California will start from in their negotiations with Starbucks, adding on demands specific to each store as needed. Thompson’s Santa Cruz-based café, for example, will be including a demand for a security guard on its premises.
Not content with helping to lead a historic union organizing movement, Thompson is also running for office for a seat on the California State Assembly representing District 28 and is the youngest person to do so. Their campaign website says, “Joe knows what it’s like to not know when you’re gonna be able to eat your next meal and how it feels to be left behind by a system that allows for the rich to get vastly richer while the rest of us continue hard work for starvation wages.”
Anyone can unionize,” said Thompson, who remains optimistic even in the face of multiple dire crises facing young people like them. “Young workers are recognizing that we need to do something to protect ourselves and to fight for our values… The world we are living in is falling apart. And we can change that.”
By Conor Kostick
— Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, April 26, 2022
Flag of Russia on military uniform. (Shutterstock)
Wars are not light topics that can be dispensed of with simple formulas. I, for one, cannot imagine how the success of Russia would further the cause of democracy and socialism around the world. If you do, then say so, openly, so it can be debated in public. But don’t falsify tradition and history and hide behind pathetic slogans. To paraphrase Marx, we Marxists disdain to conceal our views and aims. —John Ganz, Ben Burgis’s “Bad History: Jacobin’s anti-Jacobins.”
There is a type of left argument around the war in Ukraine which has arisen in the West. It is one that condemns Putin’s invasion, but refuses to offer practical support to the people of Ukraine in resisting that invasion. It is the position one can read in Jacobin, or in statements by Chomsky, Corbyn, and the Stop the War Coalition in the UK. In Ireland we have the same type of response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine from People Before Profit and the Socialist Party of Ireland.
I will use the label Evasionist Left for this approach. It’s not clear how representative this trend is internationally, as many on the left do pro-actively support the resistance in Ukraine, e.g., parties such Razem in Poland; those associated with the Fourth International like Left Bloc and the Danish Red Green Alliance; and the main left party in Japan, the Japanese Communist Party.
Of course, there are pro-Russian figures around too, who claim to be on the left: although why anyone would want to be associated with Putin makes no sense. Russia is not in any way a socialist society. In fact, as Russian socialist Ilya Budraitskis puts it, Putin can be understood to be developing a new form of fascism. Explicitly pro-Putin figures are relatively rare on the left, and while they are busy sharing Russian propaganda, are not hugely influential. The left arguments I want to address here are those of the groups and their supporters who express opposition to Putin, but who refuse to take any steps towards bringing about a military defeat for the Russian invasion and in particular, are strongly opposed to the people of Ukraine obtaining arms from the West.
The groups supporting the Evasionist Left position seem to be basing their approach on two ideas: 1) Support for the resistance in Ukraine is support for NATO and 2) The war in Ukraine is an “inter-imperialist war.” My goal is to argue that these ideas are wrong and that if you take them seriously, you will find yourself on Putin’s side in the war. Often, when I try to discuss these points with their supporters, I hear only silence when I ask them to really think through the consequences of their formulations. But the war itself allows for no evasion.
Typical of the Evasionist Left position are features that speak out against the war in Ukraine and all wars, such as the Irish People Before Profit statement: No To War. Oppose Putin’s Invasion. Stop NATO Expansion As with many articles by Jacobin and Stop the War (UK), the line taken by this statement is that Putin’s invasion should be condemned but the U.S. are to be condemned equally.
The article concludes: “The real hope lies in an antiwar movement that crosses the border of East and West and opposes both Putin and NATO. We salute the actions of the Irish Anti-War Movement in calling people out to protest. We urge the international movement that came together to oppose the Gulf War in the past to rise again against the twin aggressors of Putin and NATO.”
World peace arising from a mass movement from below East and West would be lovely, but what is evaded here is the question of whether the left should support Ukrainian military resistance to the invasion. “Opposing the war” is a comfortable position to adopt if you are on the other side of Europe to the columns of Russian soldiers. But what does this conclusion mean for the people of Ukraine? Perhaps it means they should not fight back? Or perhaps there is room for supporting armed resistance to the Russian invasion, if it is decoupled from NATO? The point here is that in many cases, no one knows what it means. This is not a position that informs the people of Ukraine or those who want to express solidarity with them of what to do.
While we strive for international uprisings against war, should we want the people of Ukraine to defeat the Russian invaders in the meantime? Should we support or sabotage NATO armaments moving to Ukraine? Should we send money and perform solidarity actions that will allow Ukrainian anarchists and socialists to further their military resistance to the invasion? Or should we discourage them from fighting back, because they are unwitting tools of NATO?
These practical questions are a good way to judge the two key formulations that the Evasionist Left are using. And yet Marx’s claim that socialists don’t hide their views doesn’t seem to apply on the topic of Ukraine, where it’s difficult indeed to ascertain how these questions would be answered. Just to be clear, my own answers and those of Independent Left (and many other socialists and anarchists in Ireland) are yes, a victory for Ukraine against Russia would be the best outcome for the left and the world generally and yes, we should support the people of Ukraine getting arms from wherever they can, including from NATO. As Taras Bilous, editor of the left-wing Ukrainian magazine Commons, puts it, “the Western left, which criticizes military aid to Ukraine are outrageous. Do they want us to fight with bows and arrows when we have shot all our bullets? Do they want the Russians to kill as many Ukrainians as possible? That there were more Bucha’s?”
Based on the limited number of publications and occasional social media post, including exchanges with me, many Evasionist Left supporters do not in fact welcome the Ukrainian resistance, do not support people like Taras Bilous in their efforts to defend their cities. And to justify this they have advanced the two arguments above. These slogans are crucial to the orientation of the Evasionist position, and I believe they are quite wrong.
1. Support for the resistance in Ukraine is support for NATO.
A rather bad-faith version of this argument was visible after a UCU-supported demonstration on April 9, 2022 in the UK, in which a call for victory to the Ukrainian people was described as being “for NATO intervention in Ukraine.”
Such comments echoed the misleading headline by the UK’s Socialist Worker reporting on the demonstration, where they interpreted the call for arming the Ukrainian people to be a call for NATO escalation. To say that the people of Ukraine need arms is not at all the same as saying NATO should send troops to fight in the war.
A Russian convoy is approaching your town. The people around you join the Ukraine territorial defense to fight, several of them form their own socialist and anarchist units which you have the option of joining. But those internationally making the same arguments as above say, “No. Don’t escalate. It will lead to more war horror. And potentially nuclear war. Instead, let’s appeal to the Russian antiwar movement to save us.”
The position of these ‘left’ activists brings peace, but it’s the peace of a Putin victory, which not only means your town witnesses hellish scenes of rape and murder, that you could perhaps have prevented, but it also undermines peace for the future. Because understandably, when scenes of slaughtered civilians reach neighboring countries there is a massive clamor for NATO assistance. Moreover, Putin will have concluded that after Syria and Ukraine, he can push on again, because fear of the horror of war, especially nuclear war, means the western left would prefer his victory to the victory of the resistance. And the Russian antiwar movement, that might have flourished as the Russian army was stalled and thrown back, is crushed by the wave of nationalism around the victorious Putin.
Fortunately, we are not yet in this scenario, above all because of the determination of the people of Ukraine not to surrender to the Russian invaders. Within the resistance to the invasion, the left are able to play an independent role. Here’s how Vitaliy Dudin, head of the Ukrainian democratic socialist organization, Sotsyalnyi Rukh (Social Movement), described the situation from Cherkasy, Ukraine, on April 6, 2022:
“Some Social Movement activists, as well as many trade union members, have joined the TD as volunteers. It is worth mentioning that dozens of anarchists and socialists have formed their own unit within the TD, called the Resistance Committee.
“Secondly, a lot of leftists are helping as volunteers to supply the army or satisfy people’s humanitarian needs. One of the most effective initiatives in this regard is Operation Solidarity, which has managed to provide supplies to the militant left. We are also working to meet the needs of trade union members serving in the army.
“We have also worked with the nurses’ NGO Be Like Nina and helped them obtain medicines for hospitals that are taking care of wounded soldiers.
“Third, we see that a lot of people are protesting the invaders in occupied cities. We aren’t involved in such activity, but we support it. Of course, it is very dangerous because peaceful protests can be shot down by armed Russian soldiers. Such resistance proves that people are against the ‘liberation’ that seeks to turn their cities into grey-zones.
“Fourth, we as Social Movement continue to act as a political organization. We seek to counter Russian propaganda and call on our people to fight for a free and fair Ukraine.”
By contrast, if the politics of the war in the Ukraine are resolved by the Evasionist Left approach, then we will see a Putin victory. You can’t negotiate any settlement with Putin, even a bad one for Ukraine that nevertheless de-escalates the threat of nuclear war, unless you stop his army and force him to realize he can’t implement his plan to eradicate Ukraine as an independent nation.
There is a better-faith version of the argument against NATO weapons going to Ukraine, which is to say, “I do want Ukrainians to defend themselves, but I don’t trust the U.S. Whenever they arm a side in a war, they have their own imperialist goals.” This observation about the U.S. is, of course, correct, but do you really think people in Ukraine, especially the left, are under any illusions about the U.S. interests at play? There’s a patronizing assumption here that those demanding arms to prevent Russian soldiers from murdering their friends and families are dupes of U.S. intelligence.
Similarly, I’ve heard socialists in Ireland say, “we have to weigh up different dynamics here, on the one hand, Russian imperialism, for sure; but on the other, U.S. interests.”
If Ukraine is to defeat Russia, the people there obviously need modern weapons. Anarchists have described how they are currently having to use machine guns from 1944.
If you are someone who wants Russia to be defeated, but doesn’t want NATO armaments to arrive in Ukraine, you really need to think this through. Are you asking communities to defeat the Russian soldiers using only home-made Molotov cocktails and Second World War weapons? This seems to be the position of the Socialist Party of Ireland, who at least do support workers in Ukraine arming themselves. At the same time, however, their supporters are told: “In the Western capitalist countries opposition to NATO militarism and expansionism must always be a central feature of our propaganda, even where this is not currently the mood among the mass of workers. We stand against all military intervention on the part of U.S. and Western imperialism—this includes opposition to the provision of weaponry by NATO powers to the Ukrainian military. This in and of itself increases the threat of the conflict escalating more widely.”
Similarly, in a feature on April 25, 2022, Ukraine: The United States are now fighting a proxy war with Russia Kieran Allen (Socialist Workers Network, Ireland) argues that the Ukrainian people, “have every right to resist,” yet is opposed to them using NATO weapons.
It’s not at all unreasonable to keep an eye on what the U.S. is up to. No doubt there are U.S. hawks who are thinking now would be a perfect time to take Russia on and smash Putin’s army while he’s weak. We should oppose U.S. intervention of troops, ships, and aircraft, mainly because of the risk of nuclear war but also because of their own imperialist record. But that’s not happening right now: yes, NATO countries are supplying weapons to Ukraine but at the time of writing they have not entered the war with Russia with their own armed forces. Sitting on the fence now in fear of what the U.S. might do in future, again means not supporting those currently fighting the Russian soldiers. The same question faces the good faith left person as the bad: when the Russian convoy is approaching your town, do you fight back militarily? You can’t say, “well, there’s a balance of imperial interests to consider and I’m going to be neutral until I get non-NATO weapons.” That neutrality will be finished by a Russian bullet to the head to you and anyone else you have persuaded of your position.
Moreover, those trying to dress up this recognition of the interplay of rival imperialisms as if it’s something new are missing the obvious point that throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, U.S. and Russian imperialism always backed any movement that was fighting their rival. So, when Solidarnosc rose up against the Communist Polish government in 1980-81, the CIA rushed to fund and influence the union. That didn’t stop it being a genuine mass movement which socialists of the type now adopting the Evasionist position recognized and supported.
Finally, on the legitimacy of the people of Ukraine taking advantage of inter-imperialist rivalry to obtain arms from NATO, there are very clear left precedents. For those of the Evasionist Left viewpoint who are champions of Lenin, it is worth noting Lenin’s response when France and Britain offered to give military aid to Russia to fight Germany, when he wrote: “Please add my vote in favor of taking potatoes and weapons from the Anglo-French imperialist robbers.”
He later explained:
“The North Americans in their war of liberation against England at the end of the eighteenth century got help from Spain and France, who were her competitors and just as much colonial robbers as England. It is said that there were ‘Left Bolsheviks’ to be found who contemplated writing a ‘learned work’ on the ‘dirty deal’ of these Americans.”
2. The war in Ukraine is an “inter-imperialist war.”
A second justification for not supporting the people of Ukraine fighting back against Russia is based on the idea of “revolutionary defeatism.” The tone here for Rebel in Ireland was set by an article by Kieran Allen, entitled, “James Connolly and War”:
“The parallels with World War One in 1914 are striking. Then and now it was the weaker imperial power that began a new era of global conflict. In 1914, it was Austria who made the first moves. Today it is Russia, a country with a commodity driven economy and a GDP that is one tenth that of the USA.”
Just as James Connolly concentrated on challenging the propaganda of the Irish National Party and Britain, argues Allen, so socialists today should be revolutionary defeatists and recognize the main enemy is at home. Which means Irish socialists should concentrate on furthering the class war in Ireland.
Allen doesn’t spell out what revolutionary defeatism actually means in the context of the war in Ukraine: and the reason is surely that to publicly embrace the implications of his approach would be to declare that a Putin victory is the better outcome for those in the West. Again, let’s go back to the situation where a Russian column is approaching your town. A revolutionary defeatist position means that you should never give support to “our side” in the war, even if that results in the other side obtaining military victories. That was the position of Karl Leibknecht in Germany and the Bolsheviks in Russia. They really did mean that they preferred to see their own countries defeated than support their own national elites in their war aims. And they were right. But transpose this policy to the soil of Ukraine and revolutionary defeatism can only mean a refusal to join the resistance and a refusal to support Zelensky, even if that means Russian victories.
The Evasionist Left position of condemning the Russian invasion, declaring support for the right of the people of Ukraine to fight back, yet taking a “defeatist” approach toward Ukraine means giving no practical support for the resistance to the invasion. It is quite consistent with not wanting arms to get to Ukraine. Our main enemy (they say) is at home. It is our job to stop NATO. That might feel very principled from afar, but it abandons the left in Ukraine and the population more generally to military defeat, with all that means for the massacres of civilians and the strengthening of Putin.
This is the contradictory but inevitable outcome of a flawed analysis. And the analysis is flawed for the simple reason that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is nothing like the outbreak of the First World War. Within a week of Austria’s declaration of war against Serbia in 1914, all the European imperial powers were in a full-blooded war against one another. From the Russian invasion until now, we have not witnessed the equivalent to French and British armies crashing up against the German army.
The more obvious parallel to make with James Connolly’s world is that of British rule in Ireland. For centuries Britain tried to rule Ireland directly, eradicating the Irish language and crushing Irish culture. This is a clear parallel with Russia’s history in regard to Ukraine. Just as Connolly was right to take German weapons to support an armed rising against the British empire, so the Ukrainian people are right to take weapons from wherever they can to rise against the Russian empire.
In a related feature based on the same defeatist idea, John Molyneux argues the left should not support sanctions against Russia. Sanctions, he says, are a feature of NATO’s war against Russian. They are, “an integral part of a political offensive waged by one of the imperialist blocs in this conflict—the bloc which, as internationalist socialists and opponents of all imperialism East and West, we have a particular duty to oppose because they are the bloc to which our ruling class is affiliated.”
Again, the analysis is that this war is not one of Russian imperialism attempting to crush a smaller neighboring nation but an inter-imperialist war in which the main enemy is at home. In which case, one should not call for sanctions against Russia, because Russia is not the main enemy for the Western left: NATO is. Yet let’s go back to our approaching Russian convoy once more. Are there sanctions which will help stop that convoy reaching its target town in Ukraine? Yes, plenty of them. A good example is the closure of the tank factory at Uralvogonzavod.
And another, potentially even more decisive closure arose on the basis of a fire at the Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant, Russia’s only internal source for vital chemicals.
The fire at the Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant threatens to leave Russia without additives needed for advanced rocket and jet fuels; treatments and solvents for servicing metal parts; core input chemicals for explosive and solvents, traces and washes needed to manufacture electronics and circuits. So long as sanctions prevent these from being delivered at scale, Russian military efforts will be seriously hampered.
Not all sanctions are appropriate, some are less concerned with assisting Ukraine than developing Western business advantages. But when the people of Ukraine call for Western sanctions focused on stopping the Russian war machine, they are right to do so, and the left should listen to them and support them. Ironically, the Evasionist Left position in fact supports sanctions against Ukraine, applauding actions such as those of workers at Pisa Airport, Italy, who refused to load weapons and explosives destined for Ukrainian forces. By hindering the military resistance in Ukraine and refusing all sanctions against Russia, the practical effect of the Evasionist Left is to align their political energies with a victory for Putin.
Can we draw any lessons for the international left?
The contradiction in the Evasionist Left position—"we condemn Russia but we don’t support arming the resistance in Ukraine”—is an unstable one. Some members put more weight on the condemnation of Russia than others. Some even state online that they would welcome a victory for Ukraine. On the whole, though, the leadership of these parties place their emphasis on why we should not support Ukraine. Hopefully, the members who want to see Ukraine survive and throw out the Russian invaders will push back their leadership on the two formulations above (that support for Ukraine is support for NATO, and that it is an inter-imperialist war,) that directly oppose support for the resistance.
There’s a lesson here for the left in how the wrong positions have been arrived at, which is that we are witnessing the consequence of a top-down approach to socialist politics rather than a bottom up. The reason I have repeatedly asked the reader to imagine the approach of a Russian column of tanks and to think through your response is that this is exactly how billions of people have thought about these issues. The majority of the world’s working class empathize with the people of Ukraine, who before Putin’s invasion were bringing their kids to school, going to work, planning their weekly shop, collecting the kids, going to the playground, chatting with friends. They were exactly like us and then the hell of war descended on them from Russia.
The left can influence this public feeling of solidarity for Ukraine by making points about Western hypocrisy on refusing to cancel Ukraine’s debt, on refugees, on Palestine, and yes, on the imperialist role of NATO. But the best way to do that is to amplify the voices of Ukrainian socialists and anarchists who are putting their lives in the front lines against Putin’s army. This “bottom up” approach listens to the people of Ukraine and if you are on the left, to the voices of anarchists and socialists.[i]
The Evasionist Left model is a top down one, where the leadership derive their positions based on past experience and their reading of canonical Marxists texts, then the party apparatus delivers the position to the members. This means blunders are inevitable.
The Evasionist Left are in the process of making a serious mistake now and one where the equivocation of condemning Putin while not supporting the military resistance of the Ukrainian people cannot be sustained. There can be no hiding from the question of what to do when the Russian soldiers are coming. And if you are a member of one of these parties or organizations who thinks the Ukrainian people are right to fight back, then you have your own battle to avoid your party coming out of this war with a lasting reputation for having adopted a position whose practical consequence was to disarm those facing the Russian invasion.
[i] “War Diary of a Belarusian Anarchist Fighting in Ukraine [Part 1]”
“The Left in the West must rethink” — a conversation with Taras Bilous