LABOR HEADLINES–MONDAY, JAN. 21, 2019
MONDAY, JAN. 21, 2019
Today is the federal holiday marking the birthday of human and civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was born, educated and lived here in Atlanta.
As always, on days when many workers have time off, The Labor Forum recognizes all those who continue to “do the work” as our theme song that opens the program calls out.
That includes MARTA employees and all those who work in transportation, hospital and health care workers, retail, hotel, restaurant and entertainment workers, and public safety workers who do their jobs making it possible for other workers to have a day off to enjoy.
A special solidarity greeting to all federal employees forced to work without pay or furloughed indefinitely as the government shutdown continues into its second month.
I have just two headlines to bring to you today. One I am pretty sure you did not see at all on corporate media and another that has gotten some coverage but maybe not the way I will present it.
First, on Jan. 8-9, some 200 million workers went on strike in India bringing the country to a standstill. Let me repeat that number again, not 2 million or 20 million but 200 million workers in one country went on strike.It is being called the largest strike in world history but I dare say, working people in this country haven’t any idea it happened.
And what was the issue – the ongoing attacks on the labor rights and living standards of India’s huge population of workers and poor people. But in particular, the passage of another piece of anti-labor legislation by the right-wing government of Narendra Modi on Jan. 2.
Public sector workers from railways, banks, education, health and social services and power stations along with private sector workers in mines, industrial plants, truck drivers, construction workers, street vendors, rickshaw workers, domestic and home-based workers and agricultural workers all stopped doing their jobs and marched in massive demonstrations throughout the country. Highways and railroad tracks were blocked. Schools, office buildings, shops and stores were closed.
Farmers and students joined. Both have been engaged in multi-year struggles against government policies which have favored the wealthy and increased poverty and cuts in social services. Unemployment, stagnant or reduced wages, escalating prices, elimination of subsidies and social programs have led to climbing suicide rates and racial,religious and caste tensions.
Despite the government’s active role on creating division, the Indian working class has provided all of us with a powerful example of unity and power unleashed.
This is a story I have seen on major media but not in the context I am offering.
As you may know I worked on General Motors assembly lines for 30 years and so have some experience about the difference between what the corporation claims for its culture of fairness and cooperation and how it benefits from tactics of division and discrimination.
So , recent revelations of blatant racial hostility in a Toledo, Ohio , GM Powertrain plant became public with the filing of a lawsuit by 9 current and former employees.
Everything from nooses placed near Black workers’ work site to the use of the N-word and being told to “go back to Africa” and more are described in the filing.
Many of the incidents were reported by two Black managers to higherups and dismissed or made light of, telling them to”deal with it.’
Swastikas and racial epiphets scrawled on bathrooms walls as well as verbal death threats and insinuations of violence went unaddressed according to the lawsuit.
Prior to the legal filing, the complaints were registered with the Ohio Civil Rights commission who found contrary to GM’s public statements that the auto giant “did allow a racially hostile environment.”
As the Labor Forum reported some months ago, GM has announced the closing of five plants in Michigan, Ohio, Canada and Maryland which will have devastating impacts on thousands of workers and their families. In addition, there is a reverberating effect in the communities where they live and shop. Racial animus hinders a united, strong response to any attack on working people.
The United Auto Workers union, in particular, must combat any such ugly, vicious racism anywhere it is found. Building solidarity is needed now in this period of constant assault on working and poor people more than ever.