Article 43

 

American Solidarity

American Solidarity - Time To Stand Up

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Corinthian Fifteen

image: occupy movement

I Went on Strike to Cancel My Student Debt and Won. Every Debtor Deserves the Same.
Former students Corinthian Colleges just won the largest student debt cancelation in Education Department history. Now its time for Biden to cancel debt for everyone.

By Ann Bowers
In These Times
June 2, 2022

This week, former students of Corinthian Colleges - a predatory for-profit school that once boasted more than 100 campuses across the country - received news that their student loans will be canceled. In an ANNOUNCEMENT, a Department of Education (DOE) press release called the move “the largest single loan discharge the Department has made in history.” As a former student of Everest College, which is a branch of Corinthian, I am overjoyed that everyone who attended the scam school will finally be made whole.

The action, announced on June 2, will impact 560,000 former Corinthian students and $5.8 in total student debt will be CANCELLED. This amounts to a stunning victory for debtors who took collective action to win relief.

But I want to set the record straight. This victory is not the result of the Biden administrations good will. It is the outcome of a fierce organizing campaign by debtors that has been going on for almost eight years. I should know. I was part of a group of former students that launched a 7‑year long student debt strike to win loan cancellation from the federal government.

Now, as President Biden considers cancelling student loan debt more broadly, the outcome for former Corinthian students should send a clear message that the only way to resolve the issue of pernicious student loan debt is to cancel it for everybody and to do so automatically, without making borrowers individually apply.

My involvement started back in 2014 when I read an article that revealed my school was suspected of lying to and defrauding borrowers, many of whom were from LOW-INCOME FAMILIES. I was outraged to discover that CORINTHIAN HAD BEEN UNDER INVESTIGATION by the U.S. Senate since at least 2010 for breaking the law - all while continuing to RECEIVE BILLIONS of dollars per year in government funding. Investigators found that Corinthian lied to students about job placement rates, ENROLLED PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT PREPARED for college-level work and offered a sub-par education. The college also PROVIDED FALSIFIED PLACEMENT information to accrediting agencies in order to keep federal money flowing. Some of the evidence against Corinthian was compiled by then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who SUED THE SCHOOL in 2013 for false advertising.

Furious and determined to fight back, I turned to social media and found that hundreds of former students of my school were gathering online to address the dilemma that we had found ourselves in: huge debts and worthless degrees.

Organizers from the Debt Collective, a union for debtors, had also heard about the plight of Corinthian borrowers and found our group on Facebook. They proposed that everyone who had attended the school join together to pressure the government to cancel our debts. There were few other choices: student debts cannot be erased in bankruptcy except in a few extreme circumstances. Turning our individual burdens into a collective demand was our only option.

In the winter of 2015, a group of former students met in person to plan the campaign. We were all in a similar situation. None of us had been able to find the high-paying jobs that Corinthian had promised, and none of us could afford to pay back the astronomical sums that we owed. We turned our inability to repay into a rallying cry and launched a student debt strike  the first in U.S. history ח to demand the cancellation of our loans. We called ourselves the CORINTHIAN FIFTEEN.

The law was on our side. We relied on an obscure legal mechanism called Borrower Defense to Repayment that required the government to cancel the debts of defrauded students. Since the DOE did not even have an application available to those who wanted to apply for relief, we worked with lawyers to design a form and then made it available on the Debt Collectives website. By the spring of 2015, applications from former for-profit college students ROLLED IN by the thousands.

Public opinion was also on our side. Our campaign went viral. Dozens of news outlets covered the story of the scammed borrowers who were taking on the Obama administration in March 2015. Strikers MET IN WASHINGTON D.C. with officials from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Education and the Treasury Department. We shared our experiences of being lied to and defrauded by Corinthian and delivered hundreds of applications for loan relief into the hands of Ted Mitchell, the Undersecretary of Education under President Obama.

Our campaign won the support of major media organizations like the NEW YORK TIMES editorial board and politicians like Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D‑Mass.) and HILLARY CLINTON. As more former for-profit college students realized they had been scammed, our numbers grew. We were joined by students who had attended other predatory schools such as ITT Technical Institutes. Our group of 15 strikers soon GREW TO 100. Thanks to the Debt Collective, we met with lawyers who helped us understand the consequences of not paying our debts. We knew that defaulted debtors could face wage garnishment and tax offsets. Older borrowers might have their social security benefits garnished. But we were ready for those consequences. Most of us could not afford to pay anyway and were already in default, so the strike was a way to politicize our inability to pay. We stood together for everyone in our situation across the country.

Unfortunately, the Department of Education dragged its feet. Officials claimed they cared about us and wanted to help, but rather than just canceling debts that were shattering lives and ruining futures, they SET UP A SERIES OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSES and claimed they needed to study the issue. Little by little, a few former students who filled out the correct forms and checked the right boxes GOT THEIR LOANS RELIEVED. But hundreds of thousands of others waited in anguish.

I was one of the lucky ones. Finally, in 2017, I received an email from the DOE that said my loans were being canceled. My joy was tempered by the fact that thousands of others were still in debt. The news got even worse when President Donald Trump came into office. His Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, HALTED THE RELIEF PROCESS that had begun slowly under Obama.

But the fight is far from over, and the stakes are higher than ever.

Back in 2010, when I enrolled at Corinthian, I didnt know there was such a thing as for-profit education. I assumed that if the government was funding a college, it must be offering a quality education. My experience organizing a debt strike and talking to borrowers who attended colleges of all kinds has taught me that the problem is larger than scam schools. The for-profit college industry is part of a larger system of higher education that often promises the world while failing to deliver for students like me who don’t come from wealthy backgrounds.

Just like former Corinthian students won by turning our individual struggles into a collective demand, I believe we can win even more if student debtors from colleges of all kinds fight back together. We can demand a more fair and just higher education system and an end to the for-profit schools that prey on low-income students.

The change we seek can start with the flick of the president’s pen. Rather than hand-wringing over means-testing and debt caps, BIDEN CAN CANCEL ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS VIA EXECUTIVE ORDER. And Congress can pass a bill that makes public higher education free. These transformations are within our grasp. The Corinthian Fifteen put the issue of student debt on the national map. This weeks win for Corinthian borrowers should be extended to everyone - because no one should have to go into debt to follow their dreams.

About the author

Ann Bowers is an activist and organizer with the Debt Collective.

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Posted by Elvis on 06/02/22 •
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Monday, April 25, 2022

Kudos Krogers and Albertsons

image: union workers

“It’s now clear that the Walmart model of poverty wages and part-time jobs doesn’t work.”
- Daniel Flaming, president, Los Angeles Economic Policy Roundtable

A Watershed for 47,000 SoCal Grocery Workers: The Biggest Raise in Decades

By Bobbi Murray
Capital Main
April 20, 2022

After teetering for weeks at the edge of a strike, Kroger and Albertsons employees approve a new union contract.

For two years as the pandemic consumed day-to-day life, supermarket workers literally risked their lives to keep shelves stocked and customers fed. Deemed “essential,” they nevertheless retained their low status as they took on more responsibilities. Workers were wiping down shelves, products and shopping carts, not to mention handling testy customers who could occasionally get physical about mask-wearing requirements.

Grocery workers had teetered for weeks at the edge of a strike that could have seen picket lines at local Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, Pavilions, Stater Bros., Gelsons Markets and Super A Foods stores from the southern border up through California’s Central Valley. After a tentative deal was reached April 4, an agreement ratified on April 14 averted that strike in a major way.

The raises included in the new agreement are some of the most significant for supermarket workers in years - and move California supermarket workers away from the Walmart model: low pay, split shifts and uncertain hours that make it impossible to plan schedules or budgets.

Daniel Flaming, president of the Los Angeles Economic Policy Roundtable, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, said the new agreement “changes the landscape for all retail workers around the country. Its now clear that the Walmart model of poverty wages and part-time jobs doesn’t work as a way to provide jobs for working people in America.

Had California workers gone on strike, it would have cost grocery chains hundreds of millions of dollars, said Peter Dreier, professor of politics and urban and environmental policy at Occidental College. “They weren’t prepared for that kind of loss. It was pretty clear that public opinion was on the side of the workers.”

Dreier, along with Flaming, is an author of the January report “Hungry at the Table,” which surveyed more than 10,000 Kroger grocery workers and describes working conditions in 20 counties across Washington state, Wyoming, Colorado and much of California.

They see the new contract as a seismic shift in the grocery industry landscape.

The THREE YEAR CONTRACT between the United Food and Commercial Workers union and Ralph’s and Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions (along with Stater Bros., Gelson’s Markets and Super A Foods) includes a $4.25/hr. increase for most workers - and some will see higher pay raises. (Disclosure: UFCW is a financial supporter of Capital & Main.)

Significantly, the contract increases the minimum weekly hours of work for eligible part-time employees a policy that could mean take-home pay increases of as much as $3,000 per year for some employees, a union news release says

“We are pleased that this agreement allows us to put more money in our associates’ paychecks and secures healthcare and pension plans,” Robert Branton, vice president of operations at Ralphs, said in a statement.

For two years as the pandemic consumed day-to-day life, supermarket workers literally risked their lives to keep shelves stocked and customers fed. Deemed essential,Ӕ they nevertheless retained their low status as they took on more responsibilities. Workers were wiping down shelves, products and shopping carts, not to mention handling testy customers who could occasionally get physical about mask-wearing requirements.

Grocery workers had teetered for weeks at the edge of a strike that could have seen picket lines at local Ralphs, Vons, Albertsons, Pavilions, Stater Bros., Gelsons Markets and Super A Foods stores from the southern border up through CaliforniaҒs Central Valley. After a tentative deal was reached April 4, an agreement ratified on April 14 averted that strike in a major way.

ItӒs now clear that the Walmart model of poverty wages and part-time jobs doesnt work.Ҕ
~ Daniel Flaming, president, Los Angeles Economic Policy Roundtable

The raises included in the new agreement are some of the most significant for supermarket workers in years and move California supermarket workers away from the Walmart model: low pay, split shifts and uncertain hours that make it impossible to plan schedules or budgets.

Daniel Flaming, president of the Los Angeles Economic Policy Roundtable, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, said the new agreement דchanges the landscape for all retail workers around the country. Its now clear that the Walmart model of poverty wages and part-time jobs doesnҒt work as a way to provide jobs for working people in America.

Had California workers gone on strike, it would have cost grocery chains hundreds of millions of dollars, said Peter Dreier, professor of politics and urban and environmental policy at Occidental College. ԓThey werent prepared for that kind of loss. It was pretty clear that public opinion was on the side of the workers.Ҕ

Dreier, along with Flaming, is an author of the January report Hungry at the Table,Ӕ which surveyed more than 10,000 Kroger grocery workers and describes working conditions in 20 counties across Washington state, Wyoming, Colorado and much of California.

They see the new contract as a seismic shift in the grocery industry landscape.

The three-year contract between the United Food and Commercial Workers union and Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions (along with Stater Bros., Gelsons Markets and Super A Foods) includes a $4.25/hr. increase for most workers - and some will see higher pay raises. (Disclosure: UFCW is a financial supporter of Capital & Main.)

Significantly, the contract increases the minimum weekly hours of work for eligible part-time employees a policy that could mean take-home pay increases of as much as $3,000 per year for some employees, a union news release says.

“We are pleased that this agreement allows us to put more money in our associates paychecks and secures healthcare and pension plans,” Robert Branton, vice president of operations at Ralphs, said in a statement.

The pandemic framed recent discussions, but also hanging over negotiations: the ghost of a 141-day grocery strike that rocked Southern California in 2003-2004.

Had a strike ensued, picket lines could have been a further test of patience for cranky, pandemic-fatigued consumers.

Grocery store employees are more than exhausted by their role as “frontline workers.”

It would have been a further stretch for grocery workers to manage already-strained finances on strike pay.

The pandemic framed the recent discussions, but also hanging over negotiations: the ghost of a 141-day grocery strike that rocked Southern California in 2003-2004.

The labor struggle put picket lines outside stores and forced customers to decide which side they were on.

Neither the employees nor the grocery chains wanted to see that this time.

Ralphs employee Erika Bentzen remembers that strike well - she walked a picket line at the time. The 37-year veteran worker at a Ralphs in Thousand Oaks, California, has spent most of her career on whats called “night crew” - stocking shelves from midnight to 8 a.m. - with her shift leaving as the day shift checkers and clerksҒ assistants show up in the morning.

Kroger is the parent company of Ralphs Grocery Co., the market chain Bentzen works for.

The company’s annual revenue for 2021 was $132.5 billion, up over 8% from 2020, and its market value is $35 billion. It has the biggest share in the U.S. supermarket sector. Kroger, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, is ranked No. 17 in the Fortune 500 based on total revenue. As such it exerts a large gravitational pull in the U.S. grocery market.

The company has a big footprint historically as well.

In 2005 Ralphs Grocery Co. WAS INDICTED for actions during the months-long strike when Bentzen walked a picket line - illegally hiring hundreds of workers under fake names.

Ralphs Grocery Co. pleaded guilty to felony charges including identity theft, money laundering, obstruction of justice, false use of a social security number and conspiracy arising from the company’s practices during the lockout. The court imposed a $20 million fine and ordered Ralphs to pay $50 million in restitution.

Kroger was not charged in the case.

Bentzen recalls the consumer support during the lockout decades ago - shoppers coming out to the strike lines and bringing picketing grocery workers food and water. For the 2022 grocery struggle, public support was more than water and tamales.

This year there was a front-and-center consumer/worker effort as the negotiations went forward. Amardeep Gill, director of the grocery and retail campaign for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, describes community delegations that showed up at stores to speak with managers, enlisting such groups as the National Council of Jewish Women LA and Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. There were also coordinated social media message campaigns.

People patronize local stores out of loyalty, Bentzen said. ӒWere your friends, weҒre your neighbors. Were part of your community.

“We had the public behind us.” As for the grocery chains, “The public is their bread-and-butter,” she said. Ralphs doesn’t want you shopping at Vons, and Vons doesn’t want customers switching to Ralphs - the long-term relationships are important.

Flaming is encouraged by the terms of this week’s agreement, which he says sets acceptable pay and hours standards.

The “Hungry at the Table” study zoomed in on Kroger-owned stores.

Walmart dominates the landscape because it’s the largest retailer, but Kroger is the leading grocer.

Walmart has shaped the terrain of retail and grocery industry practices in terms of wages and hours with its employment model, establishing a norm of split shifts and uncertain weekly hours.

“The recent union win with the California supermarkets shifts the Walmart employment model,” Flaming said. A key piece of the new contract is a measure that guarantees a set number of hours for employees. Under the old model the number of hours employees worked often changed from week to week - which can benefit an employer’s monthly bottom line, but for a worker it can create financial havoc.

“A standard scale for hours amounts to a wage increase,” Flaming said.

Work standards set by the new agreement benefit not only workers but also are to Kroger’s advantage, critical to the company’s ability to recruit and retain employees.

Walmart has recently publicly discussed shifting more part-time workers to full time - the two are in competition for workers.

“For Kroger to be strongly competitive for workers, there are issues of how much workers get paid per hour and how many hours those workers get,” Flaming said.

As to the reverberations of the strike of 2003-2004, this contract makes up for some of the damage done, Dreier says.

Veteran grocery store worker and union negotiator Bentzen is pleased with the current contract terms that she had a hand in shaping.

“When the public speaks out and says, ‘Hey, I know what youre doing is wrong’ - yeah. They listen.”

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Posted by Elvis on 04/25/22 •
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Sunday, April 03, 2022

NWO - Backyard Chicken Raising

image: backyard chicken coop

Within corporate boardrooms and thinktanks, inside USA government sanctums: globalization describes a privatization of the world. It is about the global corporatization of practically everything: from goods and services to water, air, health care and education; from ideas and histories to art, genes and body parts. It is about the “rule of law” -and therefore the military power of the United States of America (and its so-called “allies” in assorted multi-nation alliances like NATO, WTO, etc.) - doing the bidding of the propertied few and their giant corporations.
- Globalization Defined

Homemade vegetables taste amazing, but is it illegal to grow your own food where you live? Thanks to laws unchanged since the 18th century, you may run into trouble with your local authorities just by installing a hoop house for your tomatoes.
- Is It Illegal To Grow Your Own Food

Dual power is a strategy that builds liberated spaces and creates institutions grounded in direct democracy. Together these spaces and institutions expand into the ever widening formation of a new world in the shell of the old. As the movement grows more powerful, it can engage in ever larger confrontations with the ruling class, and ultimately a contest for legitimacy against the institutions of capitalist society.
- The Next Depression part 62, Fighting Back

Backyard Chicken Ownership Continues Its Boom
Rental options make it even easier to raise a flock and get fresh eggs

By Michelle R. Davis & Karen Doll
AARP
March 28, 2022

Michelle Gouin jokes that sometimes her chickens eat better than her family. Over the three years she’s had her backyard bunch, the birds’ meals have included scrambled eggs, Cheerios, broccoli, seeds, cucumber, basil, parsley and lettuce. At times, she’s enhanced their water with a special fortifying powder that reminds her of a sports drink.

The four fowl - Buttercup, Princess Leia, Chicken and Violet - have distinct personalities and have provided endless entertainment for Gouin and her family during the pandemic, not to mention about 30 eggs a week for egg salad, brownies and cakes.

"They’ll come up and take food out of our hands,” says Gouin, 49, of St. Stephen, South Carolina, whose fifth chicken, Dorothy, was recently snatched out of a field by a hawk, leaving her devastated. “They’re our pets, 100 percent.”

“At-home chicken ownership spiked at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 but has remained consistent since then,” says Chris Lesley, the editor of Chickens & More Magazine and the author of RAISING CHICKENS: THE COMMON SENSE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO BACKYARD CHICKENS. “People have become increasingly interested in KEEPING CHICKENS, even in cities and suburbs, due to enhanced interested in organic food, understanding where food comes from and concerns about the environment,” Lesley explains.

“Quarantine was the flash point that motivated a lot of people to get chickens,” Lesley wrote in an email, “but the underlying reasons people wanted them are still there.”

Consider rental chickens

Rental-chicken options have made it easier than ever to set up a backyard flock. Its a good way to get in on the chicken-keeping trend without the stress of a long-term commitment.

Companies such as RENTACOOP and RENT THE CHICKEN, which deliver to locations across the country and in Canada, provide customers with two to four egg-laying hens, a portable coop, feed, a feeder and waterer, and a handy guide for beginners. Rental periods vary from four weeks to six months and cost between $250 and $500. If you find yourself smitten with your new feathered friends, you can often purchase them, and your rental fee may go toward the total purchase price. You can even add more chickens or upgrade your coop for an extra fee.

“The chicken-rental business has continued its boom,” says Jenn Tompkins, owner of Rent the Chicken. Tompkins notes that her business spiked at the start of the pandemic and has not dropped off, growing 48 percent from 2020 to 2021.

While everyone was home quarantining during the pandemic, “there was a big shift in mindset,” Tompkins says. People decided to do some of the things they’d always wanted to do, whether that was moving from a small city apartment to a home with a yard where they could keep chickens, or making the decision to try out backyard chicken keeping.

Fresh eggs and companions

Having backyard chickens is certainly, in part, about the quality of the eggs. Gouin says that even if she buys organic free-range chicken eggs at the store, they don’t compare with the ones she collects every day from her hens. Those eggs are tastier, with bright yellow yolks, she says.

According to a 2007 MOTHER EARTH NEWS STUDY, free-range eggs contain a third less cholesterol and a quarter less saturated fat as well as more vitamins A and E, beta-carotene and omega-3 fatty acids - than grocery store eggs.

The birds also provide companionship. Chickens are intelligent, sociable creatures that can form strong bonds with humans. During the height of the pandemic, Tompkins says, empty nesters were often her clients.

“When people were not seeing their families, they just wanted something to love,” she says. “Adopting a dog or a cat is a long-term commitment. We helped them fill that void.”

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities also rented chickens from Rent the Chicken, Tompkins says, to entertain and engage residents. And they used her other service, too, Hatch the Chicken, which delivers fertilized eggs plus an incubator and other gear for a five-week program. The eggs hatch after about three weeks, then after the clients have two more weeks with the fluffy chicks, Hatch the Chicken retrieves them. Once they get a bit stinky, we pick them up,Ӕ Tompkins says.

Michelle Zombek, director of dynamic living at the Country Meadows South Hills Campus in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, says her independent and assisted living facility received eggs from Hatch the Chicken just as the pandemic started and visitors were restricted. The residents loved watching the chicks break out of their shells, counted down the days on a calendar and learned about the process. They took pictures and videos and played with the chicks.

“We got them right when the pandemic started,” Zombek says of the eggs. “It brought a little bit of life into the building, when things were a little bit sad and depressing.”

So if youre thinking of getting backyard chickens, whether the rental or more permanent variety, here are ways to start.

Do some prep work

Start by familiarizing yourself with poultry-keeping ordinances in your area. You can find these online or by calling your local government agency. Most areas allow at least three hens, but some donҒt permit the noisier roosters. Fortunately, hens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs.

Second, share your backyard-chicken plan with your neighbors. While you typically don’t need their permission, it’s always a good idea to have their blessing.

Third, do some research, which includes talking to more experienced chicken keepers. FRESH EGGS DAILY BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RAISING BACKYARD CHICKENS is a great place to start. Make sure to consider your overall budget and what your lifestyle looks like.

Plan your ideal first flock

Consider whether youd prefer day-old chicks or started pullets (hens 15 to 22 weeks old). Chicks offer more variety, are less expensive per bird and let you begin bonding from day one. But chicks need special housing, feed and a heat source. Hens usually begin laying at 18 to 24 weeks, so if you want eggs right away, started pullets are a good option, though youҒll need a coop that is ready to go and properly equipped.

A hen typically lays an egg every 25 hours, but production depends on factors including temperature, breed, diet and environment.

An all-female flock of three to six birds is an ideal way to start. Gentle, friendly breeds such as Buff Orpington, Golden Comet, Silkie and Barred Plymouth Rock make excellent companions.

“I love the Black Australorp,” says Lisa Steele, a fifth-generation chicken keeper and author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens Naturally. “Theyre calm and docile, cold-hardy and [are] great layers of large brown eggs.”

Shopping for chickens

Hatcheries are some of the best places to get chickens. Many, such as the MEYER HATCHERY and CACKE HATCHERY, are family owned by veteran chicken keepers. They have decades of experience and a wide variety of breeds and are rooting for you to succeed. Keep in mind that most hatcheries are swamped right now and rapidly selling out of popular breeds, so you’ll want to place your order soon.

Be sure to carefully read each hatchery’s order policy. Some accept small orders, but others require a minimum of 15 birds. If you’re local, you can pick up your birds. If not, they are packaged with care and sent through the mail, typically arriving at your area post office within two days of hatching. A postal clerk will call you when they arrive. Other good options are local farm-supply stores and fellow chicken keepers.

About the author:

Michelle Davis is a features editor for AARP. Previously, she was the senior writer and social media strategist for EdWeek Market Brief and a senior correspondent at Education Week. Davis also served as a regional correspondent in Knight Ridders Washington bureau, covering the U.S. Congress and the White House.

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Posted by Elvis on 04/03/22 •
Section Revelations • Section NWO • Section American Solidarity
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Thursday, October 07, 2021

General Strike

image: general strike

Almost EVERYWHERE I LOOK these days - from the hard to believe U.S. LABOR SHORTAGE, to FRANCE’S Yellow Vests- workers are fighting back.

---

On the Call for an October 15 General Strike

By Ari Saffran
Socialist Revolution
September 20, 2021

History proves that those in power never grant concessions out of the goodness of their hearts. Anything that fundamentally changes peoples’ lives must be fought for and won. As this lesson seeps into the minds of millions, a small group of online organizers have sent out a call for a general strike on October 15.

Despite not being backed by any recognized part of the labor movement, their appeal has received a healthy echo on social media, with several thousand participating in its organizing channels. This is symptomatic of the growing class consciousness, discontent with the status quo, and increasing willingness to fight back among American workers and youth.

The basic aims of the strike are certainly laudable. They include wage increases, improvements to working conditions, and political reform. Calling for a general strike is a qualitative advance over many past campaigns, which merely demanded this or that legislative solution. The active agent of a “call for legislation” is the bourgeois politician who makes backroom deals and whips votes to cobble together a majority. A general strike, on the other hand, is a manifestation of the organized, concerted action of the working class. However, there is much more to organizing a general strike than just calling for one.

Who should we place demands on?

Revolutionaries believe that once the working class is conscious of itself as a class and the essential role it plays in the functioning of society, it can change the entire system. Every strike, struggle, or mass movement is part of a learning process as the working class moves through leaps and setbacks towards this kind of consciousness. As part of this process, Marxists place demands on the leaders of the labor movement and the left.

These individuals owe their positions to the structures of the organized working class. In the US, the unions are the only mass workers’ organizations, as we do not yet have a political party of our own. And even though they are currently controlled by an entrenched bureaucracy, the working class must fight to regain the unions if the movement is to progress. If the individual leaders will not listen to our demands, many workers within these organizations certainly will, and they will either transform the unions into genuine tools of struggle, or, failing that, understand the need to create new, more militant and fully class-independent organizations.

This is very different from placing demands on the politicians of bourgeois parties, who are accountable only to rich donors and the capitalist media. Asking them to make changes in favor of the working class is naive at best, and foments illusions in the idea that labor and capital have common interests. It implies that capitalist society offers genuine democracy for everyone. The bitter truth is that workers should expect nothing from any capitalist governmentand the Biden government is such a government. The capitalist rulers do give reforms at certain times, but this is only ever a byproduct of class struggle, when the bosses feel that their system as a whole is threatened. When the movement dies down, they claw the reforms back, one way or the other.

With this in mind, any appeal for a general strike should be directed at the labor leaders
, as it is ultimately their responsibility to call and organize for it. Furthermore, a general strike should not be conceived as something merely to “pressure” the bosses but rather, to demonstrate to the workers their vast potential power and how class unity could transform the situation. A 24-hour general strike in 2021 would rock American society and set the stage for a further escalation of the class struggle.

Who can call a general strike and how would it be organized?

Strikes are effective when they shut down production, construction, transit, communications, distribution, services, etc. Along with its massive societal majority, the power of the working class derives from the fact that it alone does all the work that makes the world run. Withholding that labor causes the whole machinery of society to halt.

Insofar as every workplace requires a collective effort to operate, that power is not the power of an individual, but of the workers as a group. To entirely shut down an operation, all workers must participate as one. A strike is not an individualԒs choice to call out of work - listed as an option for how to participate on October 15 - which already happens every day for various reasons. Rather, it is a conscious, collective action to be planned, organized, discussed, and implemented by a significant majority in a workplace, industry, or society as a whole.

A serious call for a general strike, therefore, cannot be declared from outside the mass organizations of the working class, namely the trade unions. If the leaders of the AFL-CIO, or at least the leaders of some of the bigger unions set a date, organize, and mobilize for a general strike, it would have a greater chance at being successful and of winning the active support of many as-yet unorganized workers.

Those calling for a general strike this October 15 clearly have good intentionsbut they do not have the authority among the workers to get a serious echo among the class as a whole. Nonetheless, in the absence of influence in the mass organizations, the call and its accompanying demands can still serve an educational purpose.

The key is to understand that if the present union leaders will not provide what the working class needs, then another leadership must be constructed. Building an alternative will take time, but a first step would be to call on the trade union leaders to actually organize a general strike around a series of class demands. Those calling for the October 15 action could use the opportunity to start developing a network of workers who agree with the call and demands. This could be the beginning of a class-struggle network in the labor movement, which can build a class-struggle leadership over time.

Approaching it this way would unite the more serious and committed activists around a real program for change. The basic message should be that the task of changing society must be carried out by the working class itself. Especially coming out of a period of numerical decline of the labor movement, this educational aspect, far from an afterthought, is a key field of struggle. Doing this correctly, however, will require painstaking work and careful consideration.

What kinds of demands should be raised?

We applaud the fact that the October 15 call puts forward a series of demands. However, Marxists believe that demands should not only serve to expose the exploitation and injustice of life under capitalism, they should collectively point toward a clear solution: the need for a workers’ government, and in the case of the US, the urgent need for a workers party as a step in this direction.

Demands such as Free healthcare for all,Ӕ 12 weeks paid maternity leave,Ӕ four-day workweek,Ӕ and $20 minimum wageӔ are a good start, but are quite modest in the grand scheme of things. For example, a minimum wage of $24 an hour would just barely keep pace with productivity gains since the minimum wages peak purchasing power in the 1960s. And as far back as 1935, the bourgeois economist John Maynard Keynes argued that a three-day workweek was possible at that time, with no drop to existing labor productivity or profitability for the capitalists. Just think of what would be possible on the basis of the technical advances made since then!

Another demand is for a ғ25% corporate tax rate (No loopholes). This was effectively achieved in the US in the past without adversely affecting the fundamentals of capitalism. The corporate tax rate was nearly 53% during the 1960s, and until fairly recently stood at 35%. Through creative accounting, there will always be loopholes or other ways of avoiding the taxman. The real question is this: why allow them to keep any of it?
The ԓearnings being taxed are the surplus value created by the working class, which is appropriated by the capitalist class. In our view, the collective wealth generated by society as a whole should be owned, controlled, and administered by society as a whole. Instead of higher taxes, the workers should demand nationalization of the top 500 companies, to be run under democratic workersԒ control.

Socialist Revolution also demands full employment, a 20-hour week, and a minimum wage of $1,000 per week. Demands like this would expose capitalisms inability to provide a dignified life to the majority in the midst of material plenty. It would also show the kind of world thatҒs possible when the working class takes charge.

In addition to these demands, there should be explicitly political demands. Politics is concentrated economics, and for the working class to really change society, it needs political representation of its own. We should call on the labor leaders to stop supporting the political parties of the enemy class and initiate a party of the workers. A mass working-class socialist party could eventually win broad support and establish a workers government. The only way to stop the capitalists from doing what is in their interests is to break their power and throw out the entire system.

Who should run society?

General strikes occur more often than a US-centric perspective might lead one to believe. In Greece, France, and many other countries where the labor movement is stronger and the working class has historically been organized into mass parties, general strikes are fairly frequent occurrences. Unfortunately in practice, they rarely achieve their stated demands.

This is especially true if their aims or duration are limited in advance, as the capitalists can sit on their reserves and ride out the storm, while workers canҒt stay on strike forever. Furthermore, given the current state of the labor and left leadership, they often include only limited sectors of the economy, limit themselves to narrow demands, and are only half-heartedly mobilized. Far from posing the question of power, such strikes serve merely to “let off steam” without threatening the status quo.

A genuine general strike, however, in which a majority of the workers participate, poses a key question: who really runs society? An all-out general strike is part of the workers struggle to take decisive control of politics and the economy. It does not merely ask for reforms, but serves to unleash a new balance of social forces in the context of a pre- or fully revolutionary situation.

With the US labor movement on the back foot due to decades of class collaboration, and without a mass party of our own, a lot of groundwork must be laid and a lot of experiences had before a successful all-out general strike can take place. For example, a one-day general strike would serve as a dress rehearsal for the workers, a stepping stone toward more decisive action in the future. But even a one-day general strike is not something that can be improvised. But abstract calls for mass action will necessarily bring limited results - which can be demoralizing and push those who participate to draw incorrect, pessimistic conclusions.

It is with all of this in mind that we believe the call for a general strike on October 15 should be seen more as an educational opportunity than an all-out call to pose the question of power. We welcome the initiative of the comrades working on organizing towards October 15 and hope to work together to bring much-needed political and theoretical clarity to the working class.

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Posted by Elvis on 10/07/21 •
Section American Solidarity
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Friday, April 23, 2021

NWO - Lockdowns a Year Later

 image: global reset

Texas Ended Lockdowns and Mask Mandates.
Now Locked-Down States Are Where COVID Is Growing Most

By Ryan McMaken
Mises Wire
April 21, 2021

Early last month, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced he would end the states mask mandate and allow most businesses to function at 100 percent capacity.

The response from the corporate media and the Left was predictable. California governor Gavin Newsom declared the move “absolutely reckless.” Beto O’Rourke called the GOP a “cult of death.” Joe Biden called the move “Neanderthal thinking.” Keith Olbermann insisted, Texas has decided to join the “side of the virus” AND SUGGESTED Texans shouldn’t be allowed to take the covid vaccine. Vanity Fair ran an article with the title ”REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS CELEBRATE COVID ANNIVERSARY WITH BOLD PLAN TO KILL ANOTHER 5000,000 AMERICANS.”

Other states have followed in Texas’ wake, and Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia are now all states where covid restrictions range from weak to nonexistent.

Georgia and Florida, of course, are both notable for ending lockdowns and restriction much earlier than many other states. And in those cases as well, the state governments were criticized for their policies, which were said to be reckless and sure to lead to unprecedented death. Georgia’s policy was denounced as an experiment in “human sacrifice.”

Yet in recent weeks, these predictions about Texas’ fate have proven to be spectacularly wrong. Moreover, many of the states with the worst growth in covid cases - and the worst track records in overall death counts - have been states that have had some of the harshest lockdowns. The failure of the lockdown narrative in this case has been so overwhelming that last week, when asked about the Texas situation, Anthony Fauci could only suggest a few unconvincing lines about how maybe Texans are voluntarily wearing masks and locking down more strenuously than people in other states. In Fauci’s weak-sauce explanation we see a narrative that simply fails to explain the actual facts of the matter.

Texas vs. Michigan

The Texas situation is just one piece of a state-by-state picture that is devastating for the lockdowns-save-lives narrative.

For example, letגs look at covid case numbers as of April 20.

Case numbers are a favorite metric for advocates of stay-at-home orders, business closures, mask mandates, and repressive measures in the name of disease control.

In Texas, the total new cases (SEVEN DAY MOVING AVERAGE) on April 20 was 3,004. That comes out to approximately 103 per million.

Now, lets look at Michigan, where a variety of strict mask mandates and partial lockdowns continue. Restaurant capacity remains at 50 percent, and the state continues to issue edicts about how many people one is allowed to have over for dinner.

In Michigan, the seven-day moving average for new infections as of April 20 was 790 per million = nearly eight times worse than Texas.

imake

By the logic of lockdown advocates, states with harsh lockdowns should have far fewer cases and less growth in cases.

This, however, is most certainly not the case. In New Jersey, for example, where lockdowns have been long and harsh, case growth is nearly four times what it is in Texas. And then there are Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maine, and New York, all of which have new case growth rates of more than double whats going on Texas.

Indeed, the only state with notably lax covid policies thatҒs in the top ten of case growth is Florida, which nonetheless is experiencing growth rates that are slower than in states run by lockdown fetishists like Andrew Cuomo and Phil Murphy.

Moreover, Florida’s covid-19 overall outbreak has been far less deadly than those in the states that embraced lockdowns long and hard. New Jersey, for example, has the worst covid death rate in the nation at 2,838 per million as of April 20. Right behind are New York and Massachusetts with total deaths per million at 2,672 and 2,537, respectively.

Florida, on the other hand, is twenty-eighth in the nation in terms of covid deaths, at 1,608. Texas has total deaths per million at 1,721.

image

In other words, Florida isn’t likely to catch up to New York or New Jersey any time soon, and it’s certainly not going to soon catch up with Michigan, which is leaving other states in the dust in terms of case growth. For those who are scared to death of covid, they’d be better off in Florida or Texas or Georgia than in the states that have long embraced lockdowns and claim to be “following” the science.

So how can this be explained?

The lockdown advocates don’t seem to have an explanation at all.

Last week, Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) struggled to come up with an explanation as he testified to Congress.

In previous weeks, Fauci tended to rely on the old tried-and-true claim that if we only wait two to four more weeks, cases will explode wherever covid restrictions are lessened or eliminated. Lockdown advocates tried this for months after Georgia ended its stay-at-home order, although Georgia consistently performed better than many states that continued their lockdowns.

But now that were six weeks out from the end of Texas’s mask mandate and partial lockdowns, Fauci could offer no plausible explanation. Rather, when pressed on the matter by Representative Jim Jordan, Fauci insisted that what really matters is compliance rather than the existence of mask mandates and lockdown mandates:

There’s a difference between lockdown and the people obeying the lockdown… You know you could have a situation where they say, We’re going to lock down, and yet you have people doing exactly what they want/

Jordan asked if this explains the situation in Michigan and New Jersey (and other states with quickly growing covid case rates). Fauci THEN CLAMIED HE COULDN’T HEAR THE QUESTION, and Jordan was cut off by the committee chairman.

No one who is familiar with the situation in states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, however, would find it plausible that the spread of covid has been lessened in those areas by more militant use of masks and social distancing. Fauci’s testimony was clearly just a case of a government expert grasping about for an explanation.

But don’t expect Fauci and his supporters to give up on insisting that New York and Michigan are doing “the right thing” while Texas and Florida are embracing ?human sacrifice” as a part of a “death cult.”

The actual numbers paint a very different picture, and even casual observers can now see that the old narrative was very, very wrong.
Jordan asked if this explains the situation in Michigan and New Jersey (and other states with quickly growing covid case rates). Fauci then claimed he couldn’t hear the question, and Jordan was cut off by the committee chairman.

No one who is familiar with the situation in states like Texas, Florida, and Georgia, however, would find it plausible that the spread of covid has been lessened in those areas by more militant use of masks and social distancing. FauciҒs testimony was clearly just a case of a government expertӔ grasping about for an explanation.

But dont expect Fauci and his supporters to give up on insisting that New York and Michigan are doing ғthe right thing while Texas and Florida are embracing ԓhuman sacrifice as a part of a ԓdeath cult.

The actual numbers paint a very different picture, and even casual observers can now see that the old narrative was very, very wrong.

Ryan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) is a senior editor at the Mises Institute. Send him your article submissions for the Mises Wire and Power&Market, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado and was a housing economist for the State of Colorado. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 04/23/21 •
Section American Solidarity
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