Monthly Archives: February 2019

How to Become a Union Operating Engineer


It has been a month since business man and opposition politician, Juan Guaido, on Jan. 23, declared himself president of Venezuela, reportedly at the urging of US VP Mike Pence in a telephone call.

The open hostility of the US to Venezuelan governments began first with the election of Hugo Chavez as president in 1998 and following his death, Nicolas Maduro, pledging his continued support of the tenets of the Bolivarian Revolution. (I might add Maduro was a union bus driver before being elected into office.)

What so enraged the elite of Venezuela and their counterparts in the US was the use of oil profits for reducing poverty for millions of Venezuelans, an independent foreign policy that saw Venezuelan oil sent to low-income families in Northeastern states in the winter and similar arrangements with small Caribbean nations, the establishment of medical, educational and cultural facilities across the country, the advancement of rights for workers, rural communities,women, Afro-Venezuelans and Indigenous groups and grassroots forms of democratic decision-making.

For 20 years, the US has engages in a continuous campaign of open threats and slander, debilitating economic sanctions, seizing millions of dollars of Venezuelan assets held in US banks, military aggression, attempted coups, and phony “humanitarian” aid.

In response to Trump’s naked threat of military intervention, a call made by the International Action Center to make Feb. 23 a day of global solidarity produced a remarkable response.

Dozens and dozens of US cities from NYC to Portland, from Minneapolis to Miami held rallies and demonstrations, demanding US Hands off Venezuela.

Likewise around the world, solidarity actions assembled in front of US embassies and public squares from Jordan to Guinea-Bissau, from Ireland to India, from Russia to Malta, Australia to Switzerland, Canada to Bangladesh, from Argentina and Mexico to England and France.
In many of these countries, labor unions played important roles in opposing US war on Venezuela.

Pictures and information about the Feb. 23 events can be found on social media platforms at No War on Venezuela.

Since it is tax time and maybe some of you are trying to figure out how to pay what you owe, this might interest or enrage you.
In the Sunday business section of the AJC, there is a front page article entitled “Amazon Paid No Tax on $11.2 Billion in Profit.”

Let me remind you what profit is – this is the amount of money after all expenses of running a business are deducted from income –so after Amazon subtracted building construction and maintenance, utilities for all its offices and distribution centers, all supplies and materials, workers wages and benefits, shipping costs, advertising, research, executive salaries and expense accounts for things like luxury hotels, travel, dining costs, limo services, stock options and pensions, it cleared $11.2 billion in profits.

Using a combination of credits, loopholes and rebates enacted by the paid for legislators in Congress, Amazon actually received a rebate of $129 million last year and is likely to get back a hefty rebate this year too.

According to the article, at least 100 profitable corporations paid no federal tax and also got a tax rebate in recent years.

YIKES, enough of corporate thievery!

I close with a victory by workers at a small chain of NYC car washes.
The employees were mostly immigrant workers from the Dominican Republic, Central American and West African countries who worked 12 hour days, often 6 or even 7 days a week, regardless of frigid or searing hot temperatures, using harsh chemicals without gloves, and verbally abused by the boss for taking a few minuted break.
For all this intensely hard labor, they were paid about $50 a day or a little more than $4 a hour. The money that customers left as tips in a box in the office was taken into the manager’s office with no accounting as to where it went.
But seven years ago, two workers spoke to a lawyer, Steven Arenson who despite advice of other lawyers that it was an unwinnable wage theft lawsuit, he doggedly pursued the workers’ claim.

The owner of V.B Car Wash put up every possible obstacle, firing the workers whose names were on the legal papers, missing countless deposition sessions, claiming the workers had never been in his employ, and filing bankruptcy but the workers prevailed with a settlement of $8.5 million to 106 workers for unpaid wages and attorney fees.

Based on years of employment, the determined workers received payments ranging from $200,000 to several thousand and once again
Proved that “When we fight, we win.”

Dianne Matheweitz

WRFG Labor Forum program on Mon, Feb 25

IT IS THE FOURTH MONDAY OF THE MONTH when The Labor Forum on WRFG 89.3FM features a member union of the Building and Construction Trades council to inform our listeners about the opportunities offered by their apprenticeship programs.

This month we are interviewing Mark Templeton and Anthony Nash  with the International Union of Operating Engineers. These are the workers who operate heavy equipment like bulldozers and cranes on construction sites. Mark and Anthony will describe the benefits of belonging to the IUOE and how someone can apply to the apprenticeship program.

This is the kind of information that can change a person’s life so please tune in on Monday, Feb. 25 from 4-5pm on your radio at 89.3FM, on your computer at or on the station app for your mobile device.

For additional information, e-mail


A few weeks ago, I opened the headline segment saying I had seen nothing in the local paper or national news about this unbelievable strike of workers in India and I had to repeat the number. 200 million workers had walked off their jobs in what was being called the largest strike in  history.
Once again, I have to say that I have seen nothing from the corporate media bout this important strike in Mexico, taking place along the border. With all the endless coverage of Trump and his wall, why not a word about it?
So here is the story.
At his inauguration, the newly-elected president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez said that he would double the minimum wages in the zones along the border to $9 a day where some 1200 maquiladoras operate and employ some 2 million Mexican workers. These are foreign-owned plants which produce items for export to the US, not for domestic consumption.  Often runaway plants from the US, they set up just over the border and pay poverty wages with little worker safety and environmental laws to follow.
So in Matamoros just across from Brownsville, Texas, towards the end of January, tens of thousands of workers decided to act for themselves and went on strike demanding a 20% increase in pay and a 32,000 peso one-time bonus. Initially it was workers at 45 of the 130 maquiladora plants that make auto parts, medical equipment,lighting fixtures, plastics and other goods for the US market. These workers can make up to $12.50 a day and their work day is 12 hours. Some of these factories have corrupt, company friendly “unions” that operate to continue the grossly profitable exploitation of thousands of workers.
However, over the last few weeks, a number of the bosses have agreed to raise wages at least 20% and pay one-time bonuses from $1085 to $1700, an amount that is a significant fraction of their annual pay..
But with every victory, workers at more plants strike. The movement has spread beyond the export manufacturing sector to supermarkets and other businesses that serve the domestic market.
Of special interest to us in Atlanta, HQ of Coca Cola is that the workers at its bottling plant have just walked off the job too, demanding the same 20% raise and an end to unpaid overtime.
From Denver comes news of another victory for education workers.
When 15 months of negotiations with the Denver School Board failed to address the low pay, overcrowded classrooms and staff shortages, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association voted to strike beginning Feb. 11.
The announcement of a settlement came on Valentines Day, Feb. 14 with most of the demands of the teachers met.
While the contract still has to be voted on by the 2000 plus DCTA members, the following elements of the agreement were publicly released.
Starting pay for new hires will be $45,800 with a 20 step salary progression that defines increases for seniority and additional training and degrees.
Current teachers will get an 11% increase across the board.
In the second and third years of the contract, full cost-of-living increases will be added.
The demand for decreased classroom size was also achieved but the exact details on accomplishing this and other additional staffing of student services wasn’t released.
The fight to end large bonuses for senior administrators was successful while incentives for teachers to work in schools with high poverty rates was retained.
Student and community support was a key factor both on the picket lines and the substantial number of students whose parents did not send them to school.
For the three days of the strike, substitutes were given double pay and the 1400 central staff employees were told they would be fired if they did not cross the picket line to act as supervisors controlling the students who did come.
I should say that in many cases this attempt was to no avail as students posted videos of big groups sitting in the auditorium watching movies,  wandering the hallways or walking out of school. Clearly no book  learning or teaching was going on.
As part of the agreement, up to 150 high salary staff will be cut with the money going to fund the school teachers’ raises.
The Labor Forum extends out congratulations to the Mexican workers and the Denver teachers, proving again that “when we fight, we win!”


Before I came to the station today, I watched a video from The Grayzone, an independent news source that is reporting from Venezuela.

Yesterday, Feb. 10, millions of Venezuelans lined up at locations across the country to sign a statement strongly rejecting foreign intervention in their country.

The video was filmed in Simon Bolivar Square in Caracas where the line of working class men, women, youth and seniors stretched around the park.

The video gives voice to the adamant statements of dozens of people, all proudly demanding no US intervention and declaring that their president, Nicolas Maduro, had been elected with their votes, emphatically denying the legitimacy of Juan Guaido’s self-declaration to assume the office.

Just as the corporate media deliberately fails to show the immense and frequent demonstrations in support of the Bolivarian Revolution, there was nothing on the for profit mass media on this expression of popular opinion.

Nor do these “professional” journalists dare mention the sustained economic, political and diplomatic attacks the US launched on the progressive government of Venezuela since the the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 and the beginning of social programs in housing, healthcare and education that reduced the extreme poverty suffered by so many people for generations.

Recognizing the threat of military intervention by the US, the International Action Center based in NYC issued a call for international solidarity with Venezuela on Sat. Feb. 23, the one month anniversary of Guaido’s declaration, made on the urging of VP Mike Pence.

Demonstrations, public meetings, film showings and more are being planned here in Atlanta and across the globe on that date.

WRFG will host a 2 hour special on Monday. Feb. 18 from 6-8 and other programs will also be featuring news and analysis including Beyond Borders which airs on Saturdays from 5-7.

For further information, there is a website, Facebook page and other social media platforms with the name No War On Venezuela.

Today it is Go Red for Ed in Denver as public school teachers went on strike, the first time in 25 years.

Last minute negotiations with the school board held over the week-end failed over the issue of a pay raise for teachers.

Members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association walked picket lines outside their schools where the Education Board claimed substitutes and administrators would keep the 207 schools open and educate some 90,000 students.

At high schools in particular hundreds of students joined their teachers on the picket lines. Parents of elementary school students kept them at home in large numbers. And the Board preemptively closed down the preschool program since it had no qualified staff to care for young children.

The negotiations over the contract have been going on for 15 months with little improvement made on teacher pay, classroom size, restricting charter schools and providing more student support staff.

The uprising of educators continues in Oakland, Ca. where teachers authorized a strike if an agreement that includes better pay, smaller classrooms and more student support isn’t reached by Feb. 15.

Oakland teachers have also been working with out a contract for a year and a half.

And back in W. Va where teachers and staff shut down the entire public school system across the state in an unprecedented rank and file initiated worker action, right-wing legislators are attempting to not only rollback the gains that were won in 2018 but to further attack existing rights such as seniority. This Omnibus bill would go further and criminalize participants in any future walk-out. The teachers say they will strike if it is not defeated in the W. Va. House.

Dianne Mathiowetz

WRFG Labor Forum program on Monday, Feb 11

The Labor Forum on WRFG 89.3FM brings a message of appreciation for the community support and an update on the possibility of another government shutdown impacting federal workers by an AFGE member and TSA worker. This discussion will occur from 4:15-4:30.

Washington DC will be the scene of a demonstration Tuesday, Feb. 12 by immigrants impacted by the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for people from several countries.
At 4:30, our guests will be Albert Saint-John, an organizer with Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and Chris Bauman, a SEIU staff member. Both organizations are involved in mobilizing for the DC protest.
Those covered by TPS can legally work in the US and many are union members and have US-born children.Families and communities across the country face devastating separations and uncertainty if forced to return to their home countries where conditions are dangerous.

The Labor Forum airs every Monday from 4-5pm on WRFG 89.3FM. It is streamed at and can be heard on a mobile app.

For more information, e-mail


I’d like to open with this brief comment about the month of February’s official designation as Black History Month but for those of you who listen to this program and others on WRFG, you know that the we celebrate the struggles and accomplishments of people of color, Black people, men, women, LGBTQ, artists, workers, musicians, activists, immigrants and revolutionaries every month, every day
So just let me open today’s Labor Headlines by saluting the life and heroism of Rosa Parks who was born on this day 106 years ago in 1913.
The face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott which saw thousands of people walk to work, church, and school rather than ride in segregated buses for months and months had already established herself as a fierce freedom fighter in Alabama. I encourage you to read more about all that she did to end the vicious racism of Jim Crow segregation and the ongoing structural white supremacist policies.
The first news story comes out of Canada where the Trudeau government followed along with Trump’s imperialist selection of a bogus president, Juan Guaido, in Venezuela.
The largest single union in Canada, CUPE or Canadian Union of Public Employees, issued a strong statement of support for the elected
president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, and denounced the recognition of the self-proclaimed businessman, Guaido as president.
CUPE represents some 700,000 transport health and other service sector workers. The statement proclaims that the union “rejects any attempt by thr Canadian government to interfere with the democratic processes and sovereignty of the Venezuelan people.
The even larger Canadian Labor Congress, the country’s umbrella organization of more than 3 million unionized workers has called on Canada to “abstain from seeking regime change and intervening in the sovereign affairs of Venezuela.”
The phony president has already made clear he intends to privatize Venezuela’s oil reserves which is the prize long sought by the big oil companies and banks in the US.
Since the corporate media are fully in cahoots with the plan to smash the social programs which have provided education, housing, healthcare and participation in decision-making to the majority of workers and poor, especially Afro-Venezuelans and Indigenous, don’t expect to see the mammoth crowds that have rallied for consecutive days in defense of their Bolivarian revolution. You’ll have to go to other independent sources on the internet and here at your community radio station.
We’re going to talk in a minute about some views and facts about the Super Bowl that didn’t make the news but first this item of interest.
For those of you who during the past two years have driven on Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard around Morehouse and saw the abandoned building at the corner of Fair St. There’s a light there so your eyes might have spotted a mural of Colin Kaepernick wearing his number 7 jersey mext to a figure of an African warrior with the features of Mohammad Ali.
The artist, Fabian Williams, happened to be driving days ago by as the building was being demolished.
Kaepernick, the former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, shook the NFL and the political establishment by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in 2016 to protest the killing of people of color, particularly Black men, by police.
When the highly-rated athlete was not hired by any team and his actions were denounced by Trump, Williams painted him in a Falcons uniform on the building located about one mile from Mercedes-Benz stadium.
In response to the demolition of his original mural, Williams immediately painted another Kaepernick image on Peeples St.
And so Kaeperbowl was born and a flurry of murals featuring the outspoken athlete, at least six according to social media, were completed on Super Bowl Sunday.

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