Detroit and Colombia: Auto workers fight back

first_imgLeft, Jorge Parra of GM hunger strikers in Colombia with Martha Grevatt at Sept. 10 Detroit meeting.WW photo: Abayomi AzikiweMarch 23 marked the 600th day of occupation outside the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, by a group of fired auto workers. The members of Asotrecol — Association of Workers and Ex-workers of GM Colmotores — set up the encampment Aug. 1, 2011, to draw attention to the cases of more than 200 workers who were fired after being injured on the job.After General Motors had their conditions classified as nonoccupational, the injured workers could not collect workers’ compensation. Asotrecol targeted the embassy because of the U.S. government’s role in bailing out GM and its ownership stake at the time the occupation began.One year later, a courageous group of fired workers was still living in the makeshift structures, but management at GM’s Colombian plant still refused to meet with them. Thirteen workers launched a dramatic hunger strike, sewing their lips shut. This got GM to agree to mediation. The hunger strike was lifted, only to be resumed when the company’s final offer was not even enough money to cover the surgeries these workers needed.Shortly thereafter Asotrecol President Jorge Parra came to Detroit, hoping to meet with GM corporate executives here. By this time supporters in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich., had demonstrated outside GM world headquarters. Actions in solidarity with Asotrecol were taking place across the country.Last October, when it appeared that the UAW would work with GM to reach a settlement, the second hunger strike was suspended. When no progress was made, Parra resumed the hunger strike Nov. 22.Supporters ramped up solidarity efforts. In December they held a vigil outside the home of GM Vice President for Labor Relations Cathy Clegg. In January GM’s awful treatment of injured workers was exposed to the international media during the North American International Auto Show. An Occupy Wall Street-style “mic check” inside the auto show demanded GM negotiate with Asotrecol. These efforts were replicated at auto shows in Chicago and Portland, Ore.After 72 days Parra ended his third heroic hunger strike.While in Detroit Parra became well known and respected. He spoke to UAW members, students, civil rights organizations, churches, anti-foreclosure activists and others. He moved listeners with his compelling story of workers being worked so hard they were incapacitated before age 40 and then fired with no source of income because they could not produce profits for GM.On March 2, Parra returned to Colombia to continue the struggle there. The resistance in Bogota and here has had an impact inside the plant there. GM is finally investing in new equipment to reduce ergonomic injuries. Injured workers have been keeping their jobs and are leading an organizing drive for a new union inside the plant, which after less than a year has about 200 members. This is in Colombia, the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists.Autoworkers connect strugglesAn aggressive fundraising push in Detroit, which began in December with a collection outside this writer’s Chrysler plant, has raised more than $7,000 to help the families of the Colombia encampment survive and maintain that symbol of resistance.Many auto workers attended a “Salsa Night” fundraiser at the hall of UAW Local 909 — which represents workers at the GM Powertrain plant — on March 22. Auto workers from Locals 909, 140, 869, 412 and 600 all spoke on why solidarity with Colombian workers was important to them. Local 909 President Butch Barber explained why he made the hall, which is usually rented for a charge, available at no cost for this fundraiser.The vice president of the 909 retirees’ chapter, which donated hundreds of dollars to the families in Bogota, gave heartfelt remarks. Chrysler worker and Local 140 former President Melvin Thom­pson described his decision to wage a 23-day hunger strike in solidarity with Parra. Local 909 former President Frank Hammer led the discussion. In a show of labor-community solidarity, the fundraiser was initiated by Debra Simmons of the Detroit chapter of National Action Network, which is fighting the imposition of an emergency financial manager on Detroit.Alex Wassell, a member of Local 869 who was fired by Chrysler after organizing a protest against unpopular work schedules, connected the fight here to the fight in Colombia. Wassell was discharged after being quoted in the Detroit News as suggesting that the “3-2-120” schedule — under which workers work 10-hour days and weekends for straight time — could negatively affect morale and quality.The company charged that Wassell violated a code of conduct for “engaging in, participating in, encouraging or approving of conduct constituting or appearing to constitute a conflict with the interests of the Company.” Both GM and Chrysler’s rules essentially prohibit resistance to policies that, in “the interest of the Company,” conflict with the interests of the workers!There is widespread anger at this outrageous firing. Wassell’s supporters have called the company in protest. Plant workers are collecting funds and circulating petitions to demand that he be reinstated. The Michigan chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild have protested the violation of freedom of speech.All over the world, unionists face firing, imprisonment, torture and even assassination when they stand up to their bosses. The global struggle is uniting the workers of the world against their common capitalist enemy.Grevatt is a longtime Chrysler worker and member of the United Auto Workers.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Benton Harbor, Mich., Civil Rights activist convicted by all-white jury

first_imgRev. Pinkney, right, at “Occupy the PGA” protest, May 2012.The Rev. Edward Pinkney was found guilty of five felony counts of forgery stemming from a recall campaign against Mayor James Hightower of Benton Harbor, Mich., earlier this year.The all-white jury in St. Joseph, Mich., deliberated for nine hours and delivered the verdict on Nov. 3. The sentencing date has been set for Dec. 15.Hightower was the subject of the recall campaign due to his refusal to support a local income tax measure designed to create employment for the people in Benton Harbor, located in Berrien County in the southwest region of the state. Hightower is often accused by residents of Benton Harbor of being more concerned about the well-being of Whirlpool Corp. and other business interests than the people he is sworn to protect and serve.During the five-day trial, not one witness said they saw Pinkney change any dates or signatures on the recall petitions. During the opening arguments on Oct. 27, Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic told the jury that they would not hear anyone say that they had witnessed the defendant engaging in fraud.The prosecutor’s case was supposed to be based on circumstantial evidence. Nonetheless, the tenor of the questioning by the prosecutor seemed to suggest that the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), the group Pinkney leads in Berrien County, was actually on trial for its uncompromising opposition to the role of Whirlpool Corp. and its supporters within the political establishment in Benton Harbor and its environs.Prosecution witnesses backed recallIn the testimony of eight witnesses called by the prosecution on the first day of the trial, all had supported the recall of Mayor Hightower. The witnesses said that they never saw Pinkney change any petitions.Prosecution witness Bridgett Gilmore told the court that she circulated the recall petitions for George E. Moon and had no contact with Pinkney during the process. While the prosecutor asked her about what appeared to be minor changes on the petitions she circulated, defense lawyer Tat Parrish pointed out that none of these pages in question were the ones which Pinkney was charged with altering.Gilmore noted that two types of ink were used on some of the signatures because the circulation process took place during the winter and a pen would freeze requiring the usage of another one. When Gilmore turned over the petitions to Moon, Pinkney was not present.“There were many people calling for Hightower’s recall,” she said.Another witness called by the prosecution, Majorie Carter, indicated that she received the recall petitions from the City Clerk’s office. Carter supported the recall because she believed that businesses should pay taxes to create jobs in Benton Harbor, a majority African-American city which suffers from extremely high unemployment.Carter said that she was a registered voter and had campaigned for candidates before. She noted that she had run for city commissioner in the past.“I collected signatures for the recall from my apartment complex for seniors,” she said. “One signer corrected a date on the petition.”Mable Louise Avant testified after being called to the stand by the prosecution. She said she had met Pinkney at a BANCO meeting.“I had been living in New York and when I returned and saw how Benton Harbor had gone down, something needed to be done,” Avant said.“People make mistakes,” she emphasized. “Rev. Pinkney had nothing to do with the mistakes. I turned over the petitions to Rev. Pinkney.”The petitions that Avant circulated were not the ones that Pinkney was accused of altering.Benton Harbor resident George E. Moon also took the stand for the prosecution, and indicated he had circulated petitions for the recall of Hightower. When asked by the prosecutor where he got the idea about recalling the mayor, Moon responded by saying: “My ideology is different than the mayor. People should be elected and not bought.”“I am an activist,” Moon declared. He said he had spoken out in favor of the recall in the community.Overall, more than 700 people signed the recall petitions, most of which were validated by the local election commission. A date was set for the recall election.Nonetheless, after Pinkney was indicted and placed under house arrest for several weeks, the recall election was cancelled by a local judge who raised questions about the signatures. Yet later, another judge certified the petitions and authorized the recall election to proceed.The local authorities in Berrien County challenged the election, which was scheduled for Nov. 4. The Michigan Court of Appeals then cancelled the recall election again.Hightower remains in office and was called as a prosecution witness during the first day of the trial.James Cornelius, a Benton Harbor resident who sponsored the recall campaign against Hightower, took the stand, saying that he got the petitions from Pinkney to circulate. “Hightower was not doing a good job,” Cornelius told the court.Many of the prosecution’s questions related to the meetings, ideology, membership and leadership of BANCO. During the course of the prosecution’s questioning of witnesses, numerous observers were ejected from the courtroom for various reasons.One activist who traveled from Detroit was told he had to leave because he was “smirking.” Another observer from Detroit was asked to leave because she shook her head in disbelief of the proceedings, which she felt presented no evidence to incriminate Pinkney.Rev. Pinkney to seek delay in sentencingAfter the announcement of the verdict, Pinkney indicated that he was disappointed with the decisions of the all-white jury. This is the second time within seven years that he has been convicted by a Berrien County jury.In 2007, Pinkney was found guilty of tampering with absentee ballots involving another recall campaign against two Benton Harbor city commissioners. He was sentenced to one year of house arrest and four years of probation.However, in December of 2007, while under house arrest, Pinkney was charged with threatening the life of a Berrien County judge after he published an article in the People’s Tribune newspaper quoting biblical scriptures. He was sentenced to 3-10 years for violating his probation.A national campaign involving the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union along with numerous community, academic and religious organizations resulted in a successful appeal that released Pinkney from a state prison after serving one year. He has continued to be a major critic of the authorities in Berrien County.In 2010, BANCO opposed the transferal of land from Jean Klock Park to a privately owned venture known as Harbor Shores Development. The park, which had been designated for free public usage in 1917, was turned into the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course on Lake Michigan.Two years later, in 2012, BANCO organized the “Occupy the PGA” to oppose the holding of the senior tournaments in Benton Harbor that year. Hundreds attended the march and rally, drawing the ire of the local business interests and county officials.On the most recent convictions for felony forgery, Pinkney said: “I was in shock more than anything else because I could not believe they could find me guilty with no evidence at all. They have proven the fact you don’t need evidence to send someone to prison.”Pinkney added: “Sometimes somebody has to take a bullet and I just took one. It was in the leg though, it wasn’t in the heart. I’ve got about 45 good days and then we are definitely going to request a delay in sentencing.”Prosecutor Mike Sepic said after the convictions that “each of those felony counts carries a 5-year maximum, but he has at least three prior felony convictions. That makes him a habitual offender, which turns those five-year maximums into a life maximum and actually elevates the guidelines that will be scored for him as well. I believe it will be either a lengthy jail sentence or prison sentence.”Supporters of Rev. Pinkney are outraged by the jury verdict. Many of them are committed to working for an appeal of the convictions.Legacy of racism and national oppressionBerrien County is notorious for its racism against African Americans. Police brutality, large-scale home foreclosures, high unemployment and the systematic forcing of people from the majority African-American city of Benton Harbor have been standard policies for years.In 2003, after the police chased an African-American motorcyclist, resulting in a crash and his death, the African-American community in Benton Harbor rose up in rebellion that lasted for several days.Although the then governor, Jennifer Granholm, pledged to provide assistance for the improvement of conditions in Benton Harbor, no action was taken other than the privatization of Jean Klock Park and the appointment of an emergency manager in 2010.Although Benton Harbor is ostensibly out from under emergency management, the city is subjected to the more powerful and predominantly white St. Joseph, where the county court system is based. The fact that an all-white jury was impaneled in such a racially sensitive case in an area with deep historical tensions, speaks volumes with regard to the lack of sensitivity existing among the county authorities and the corporate interests.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Lopez family exposes terrorist police

first_imgBanner with portrait of Amilcar Lopez, April 24.WW photo: Terri KayLawyers representing the Guatemalan family of Amilcar Pérez López held a press conference in San Francisco on April 24, announcing they had filed a federal lawsuit charging the young immigrant “was wrongfully, unconstitutionally and illegally killed.” His parents, who have been unable to come to the U.S., Skyped in to the press conference.Later that day, several hundred people rallied in front of the home where López was killed. The Danzantes conducted a ritual dance and later led a march through the Mission District to the Mission Police Station. There, diagrams from an independent autopsy were displayed, showing that, counter to SFPD statements, López was shot with one bullet in the back of his head, four bullets in his back, and a bullet in his arm, clearly indicating he was running away and not threatening the officers who shot him. “Someone charging at you with a knife held high doesn’t get shot in the back of the head,” said lawyer Arnoldo Casillas. “How is Chief Suhr going to explain this?”López was killed by undercover officers Craig Tiffe and Eric Reboli on Feb. 26. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr had claimed that Amilcar had attempted to steal another man’s bicycle, but that when the English-speaking officers approached him, Amilcar raised a knife over his head and charged the officers, forcing them to fire. The 21-year-old had come to the U.S. to raise money to support his family in Guatemala and was working full time doing construction. He spoke an Indigenous language, with no English, and some Spanish.The parents of Alex Nieto, also killed by the SFPD, joined the vigil and march as well. Nieto was killed in nearby Bernal Heights in 2014.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Migrant crisis in Europe: Who caused it?

first_imgBehind the horror stories about the treatment of migrants trying to reach Europe is the imperialist system of exploitation of their countries of origin, the policies exacerbating this exploitation and the imperialist wars that made their home countries unlivable for them and their children.Recently, these horror stories in the corporate media have focused on how migrant human beings are suffering during their journey through the Balkan peninsula. Most of these recent migrants are from Syria, Iraq and other countries of Southwest and Central Asia. The intention of most of these suffering people is not to stay in the Balkan countries that are themselves impoverished colonies of either Western Europe or the United States. The migrants want asylum in Germany or Britain where jobs are still available.Some who reached Germany wound up besieged by Nazis on the Aug. 20-21 weekend in the small city of Heidenau in Saxony in the East. “Nazis” is not just name calling. The so-called National Democratic Party of Germany, which organized the anti-immigrant riot and attempted pogrom, is the actual continuation of the Nazi Party. During that weekend the NDP mobilized its storm troopers, who nearly burned down the migrants’ temporary housing.As some working-class organizations in Germany have pointed out, the so-called democratic politicians in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and party, as well as many Social Democratic Party politicians, have made the Nazis’ work easier. They’ve done this with their own vicious anti-migrant statements — similar to what politicians here say regarding migrants from Mexico and Central America. Think Donald Trump, who is only the worst of a reactionary pack in the United States.Now some of these government leaders in Germany are condemning the Nazi violence. But they created the atmosphere that allowed the Nazis to mobilize.The corporate media’s coverage omits the back story. Why? Because this story exposes the role of imperialism and the major imperialist countries.For example, when the International Monetary Fund imposes austerity on African countries to assure their debt payments, it results in less work and social benefits, which drives young workers out of Africa. A consequence is the drowning of hundreds, maybe thousands of people when boats capsize in the Mediterranean Sea.What drove this crisis to unprecedented heights was NATO’s bombing, invasion and subversion of Libya and Syria, starting in 2011.Libya’s economy had employed a million workers from sub-Saharan Africa before 2011. U.S.-NATO bombs and the arming of elements similar to the Islamic State overthrew the stable and relatively prosperous Libyan government of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, killing him and making the country hell to live in.In Syria, too, the U.S. and its NATO allies, especially Britain, France and Germany, as well as Turkey, provided arms to elements that consolidated into the Islamic State. To overthrow the Damascus government, the imperialists provoked a disastrous war that has torn apart the country, creating a mass exodus.The reactionary Hungarian regime, taking a page from the U.S. anti-immigrant book, is building an obscene fence on its borders to try to keep out the suffering migrants. As criminal as this act is, it is not Budapest that caused the crisis. Nor did the Greek, Macedonian and Serbian governments. The richer NATO countries and the U.S. government are to blame. They should be paying reparations to the Syrians and other migrants for the nightmare they, the imperialists, have caused. Such payments would not be charity, but reparations for their war crimes.Workers in Europe should not be misled by demagogues who make migrants scapegoats for the problems these workers face in their own countries. The European workers’ enemies are not their fellow workers who are forced to migrate, but the imperialists who have systematically undermined postcolonial governments that have been trying to exercise their independence and autonomy after at least a century of bondage.If all this sounds like a mirror image of what is happening regarding migrants to the United States from Mexico and Central America, this is no accident. Imperialism is the enemy of workers and farmers worldwide. There will always be reactionary politicians — Trump comes to mind, but he’s not alone — who try to play the demagogue and scapegoat migrants. Shut them down!The migrants are our class allies, and we should stand in solidarity with them, in Europe as well as in the United States.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Women & the All India Trade Union Congress

first_imgAITUC delegation at the WFTU Congress in Durban, Oct. 8. At left, Amarjeet Kaur.Amarjeet Kaur is National Secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress. Martha Grevatt interviewed her Oct. 7 during the 17th Congress of the World Federation of Trade Unions, held in Durban, South Africa. They discussed the 180-million-strong general strike of Sept. 2.Kaur explained that until 1947 AITUC was the only trade union umbrella organization. Another 11 union centers were formed since the 1940s by various political currents — from the Marxist left to social democrats to “the right reactionary religion-based organizations.” The federations led by the previous and current ruling bourgeois parties are the largest, followed by AITUC, which is “the top among the left.” This is the second segment of her interview.Martha Grevatt: Why were women essential to the success of the strike?Amarjeet Kaur: Women were essential because they are hard hit. All the social security investment which the government is reducing is hitting women because it is making education, health, drinking water and food items expensive. Good jobs and opportunities are being lost. Women are being engaged only in precarious jobs, where wages are not protected at all, so women’s participation in our strike was immense. They were in the forefront everywhere.Women could really digest the whole campaign [because] we are the worst oppressed. Once again child labor is increasing in India. There are too many migrations from rural to urban areas. Trafficking is happening. Women are really suffering so they were a very important component to make this strike a success. All of the welfare schemes — there are almost 10 million women working in that area. None of them have worker status. [These women perform necessary social services but are considered “volunteers” and receive no wages, only below-minimum-wage payment as an “honorarium,” and are not protected by labor laws.] So they were out in the streets. Our domestic workers were in the streets. So women were very, very important in making this strike a success.This strike went beyond the workers. It was appealing not only to our workforce and our targets. We told our workers we have to go to the communities, we have to go to the people. We have to go beyond our boundaries and tell the people the strike is not only for us, it is meant for India, to save its sovereignty and not to sell out our interests to the foreign companies and finance capital. This is how we moved. And that’s why we got so much support.For women I have a message: They should understand that they and their children are the worst affected with this neoliberal economic market. All humans suffer but they are the worst sufferers so they should be in the forefront of these struggles of class-oriented organizations. The working class needs to take the lead today.MG: What is the role of the left?AK: The left political parties came out openly in support of the Sept. 2nd strike. They said, “We support your demands, we support your strike, we will ask our cadres to help you in this strike.” Many even appealed to the local governments of those states which are controlled by political parties other than the [ruling] party so some of those governments did not use their police against the strikers. But where these hostile governments were, there workers had to face the police. They were trying to break the strike but they could not break it.MG: Do you want to add anything else?AK: I think a very big problem we are facing today is that new industries are coming up; several of the multinational corporations are coming in and investing money. They are violating the Indian constitution and labor laws. And the governments are siding with them. When workers want to form unions they are sacked [fired], retrenched, suspended. So we were glad to have the solidarity with the unions of those corporations, who have offices in various countries.For example, there are Japanese, German and U.S. companies in several countries producing a single item. They are threatening to move out of a country if you ask for your rights and the government [echoes them]. So I think it is high time for our solidarity, our closeness among various unions working in different countries, hearing of and sharing our experiences, victories and achievements, the methods and forms of our agitation. That will help us, exchanging those opinions and all the close working of the unions will be very, very important.I definitely feel that the capitalist world is in a crisis they are failing to contain and they are telling lies that they are doing okay, but it is not happening. They are attacking one country after another for natural resources. That means the armament industry will have more business creating conflicts here and there. They are against the working class and we should see to it that in our respective countries we do not allow warmongers to take over the psychology of the masses. The trade unions once again will have to speak out against conflicts, violence and local wars … and those who are creating terrorist groups and utilizing that situation against their own workers in their own home country as well as creating problems for the workers in other countries.The working class needs to understand that this decay has increased the challenges but has also given us more openings. Now more and more unions want to be in a fighting mood. Once they are in a fighting mood then they would like to desert the unions who are not fighting. They would like to come to the centers which are fighting. So this is providing us opportunity to strengthen the class-oriented unions and WFTU.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Building for May Day– ’on the shoulders of Dr. King’

first_imgILWU drill team takes part in MLK march.San Francisco — A confident, unified workers’ movement — that’s who was marching here on the April 4 anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Spearheading the march were militants of United Service Workers West (USWW-SEIU) — the janitors, airport employees and other mainly low-wage workers playing a leading role in building for May Day general strike actions in California.A Black woman homecare provider said, “We stand on the shoulders of Dr. King and our other heroes. But what we’re building is a legacy of our own!”A USWW worker shouted, “Shut down the union busters, and that includes the biggest union buster of them all: Trump!”The emcee at the rally, a young man from Nigeria, emphasized, “We’re fighting for $15 and a union, but that’s just a first step toward living wages and a just society.”Robbie Clark, of Black Lives Matter Bay Area and Causa Justa/Just Cause, explained, “Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s 1967 ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech at Riverside Church in New York. And yet by any measure — wages, family income, unemployment, homelessness, levels of incarceration — people of color are falling further and further behind.“That is why over 50 organizations have formed a new coalition called ‘The Majority’ — because people of color are the majority — to oppose white supremacy, to promote Black and Brown unity, to fight for international solidarity not militarization, to fight for community needs not gentrification and displacement,” Clark said.The march kicked off at the King Memorial at Yerba Buena Park, moving down Mission Street to the spot where two waterfront workers were killed and scores injured by police during the West Coast Maritime Strike, the incident that sparked the San Francisco General Strike of 1934.Derrick Muhammad, secretary-treasurer of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, primarily a dockworkers union, pointed out that on a visit to that union’s hiring hall in San Francisco, Dr. King had been voted in as an honorary member of the local.“When they killed our beloved brother in 1968,” said Muhammad, “he was awakening the masses of the people — and the rulers of this country were very frightened by that. Official documents have revealed that Cointelpro was consciously seeking to prevent the rise of a so-called ‘Black messiah’ who could unify our people. Now, today, we are still facing the same racist system, the same oppression.”Several dozen other cities also held April 4 actions, supported by Fight for $15, NAACP chapters and the Movement for Black Lives. These included Memphis, Tenn.; Los Angeles; Atlanta; Chicago; Flint, Mich.; Las Vegas; and cities in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

End racist war on migrants

first_imgTeresa GutierrezUltra-racists and warmongers like Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, John Kelly and their Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are setting Washington’s immigration agenda on behalf of the capitalist system.This is intensifying the modern war to criminalize migrants in the United States that began in 2006. But it is a war that will ultimately be won by the unity of all the working class, whether foreign- or U.S.-born.This war against immigrants is not separate from the government-Pentagon drive to imperialist war in Syria or North Korea. In fact, U.S. intervention abroad is a major cause of forced migration.Washington is taking a very dangerous, threatening posture against revolutionary Venezuela as well. It is similar to when President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton orchestrated a coup in Honduras in 2009, which created further forced migration from that country.The U.S. immigration issue is also critically linked to the refugee crisis in Europe. While the U.S. drops missiles in Syria on the pretext of caring for children, the Trump administration hypocritically refuses to admit Syrian refugees, including children, into this country.Most Syrian refugees go to the countries of western Europe, which is also the destination of vast masses of migrants from other countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe. Conditions for these refugees in Europe are as bad as those for migrants on the U.S./Mexican border.The war on migrants and the migrants’ plight, whether in the U.S. or Europe, is deeply connected to every struggle, whether it’s the fight against climate change or the cutbacks looming in Medicaid or the struggle for health care, union rights and education. It is connected to the Black Lives Matter movement as Black immigrants and/or Muslims are disproportionately targeted.DHS headed by Southcom generalThe Department of Homeland Security’s website states that it “has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face.”The current secretary of the DHS is John Kelly, a retired general who spent 45 years in the armed forces.On April 18, Kelly spoke at George Washington University. An April 21 New York Times editorial summed up his remarks as fear mongering: “The tone he sets can only encourage abusive behavior among his officers … against immigrants, and also lead to the curtailment of civil liberties and privacy.”It adds that his “apocalyptic talk turns the Islamophobia and immigrant scapegoating that turbocharged the Trump campaign into marching orders for federal law enforcement agents and bureaucrats.”Kelly’s history is key to understanding his role today. He is a warmonger, one of those responsible for the criminal destruction and countless deaths in Iraq.He is a former head of the U.S. Southern Command, which includes Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, illegally occupied by the Pentagon and used for the last 16 years as a torture prison for people kidnapped from other countries and held without rights or trial.As head of the Southern Command, Kelly was also deeply involved with all U.S. military activities in South and Central America in the 1980s.That was an important period in Central American history. Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Hondurans were fighting heroic, important revolutionary battles to free themselves from colonial and imperialist domination.Had they been allowed to control their own destinies, we would not see the forced migration of today.Now John Kelly is working nonstop to deport as many Central Americans as possible back to certain death and misery. And he continues Trump’s racist, dangerous Islamophobia that attempts to blame Muslims for every act of terror.Kelly is also a strong proponent of keeping the Guantánamo Bay prison open at all costs. Human-rights investigators from the United Nations and other agencies proved that prisoners, especially Muslims, have been held there in violation of their human and civil rights.In fact, the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has led the legal fight against Guantánamo and represented some of the detainees, stated that Kelly’s “aggressive oversight of the illegal military prison … disqualifies him” from leading DHS.News accounts report that Kelly supports waterboarding.“Presiding over a population of detainees not charged or convicted of crimes, Kelly treated them with brutality,” CCR reported. “His response to the detainees’ peaceful hunger strike in 2013 was punitive force-feeding, solitary confinement, and rubber bullets. Furthermore, he sabotaged efforts by the Obama administration to resettle detainees.”This is the person now sending ICE agents to the homes of workers who only want to put food on their families’ tables.Money for people, not concentration camps!During last year’s election campaign, Trump promised that immigration would be a cornerstone of his administration. He is carrying out that promise.The Trump administration is assembling a vast deportation force whose policies are being carried out by ICE agents who have publicly expressed their hatred of immigrants.The Washington Post reported on April 12 that it had obtained an internal DHS assessment memo which revealed that the department has secured 33,000 more detention beds to house immigrants. These detention sites evoke the heinous period of Japanese internment camps in the 1940s.Detentions are only one part of the rapidly enforced immigration policies carried out by the Trump administration. DHS is working closer than ever with local police forces, which are being empowered to carry out ICE roles. It is fast-tracking ways to hire more ICE agents and may even end polygraph and physical fitness tests for them. This opens up the possibility of hiring more thug-like agents than ever before.Deportations will increase under Trump. Immediately on taking office he signed executive orders that expanded the pool of undocumented and even documented migrants to be singled out as a priority for removal.An April 16 New York Post report on Kelly said that “under the Trump administration’s tougher immigration rules, even a ‘single DUI’ can start the deportation ­process.”This means that a migrant stopped on the road can be easily put into the system, detained and deported.It gets worse.What was once a routine check-in for the undocumented has now become a day of terror. Before the Trump era, DHS officers had applied “prosecutorial discretion,” leading to more so-called convicted criminals being deported, while those without a criminal record just checked in every year.That has changed. Now many walk into court for their annual check-in and do not walk out. So being undocumented is itself now being treated as a crime.The immigrant rights movement points out that the rhetoric about “criminal” or “noncriminal” immigrants is a divisive wedge issue — and is rightly demanding the end of deportations of ALL immigrants, criminal record or not, and permanent residency for all undocumented workers. These workers and their families have certainly earned it.Ultra-racist Sessions now top lawyerAttorney General Jeff Sessions visited the U.S.-Mexican border at Nogales, Ariz., on April 11. The purpose of the trip was to announce policies to step up the government’s prosecution of undocumented workers, policies that affect documented migrants as well.In Sessions’ written statement he called the policies a “move against filth like gangs and criminal aliens.”When Sessions was appointed attorney general, it stunned anti-racists and civil rights leaders. “That means a man with white supremacist ties, a racist and homophobic legislative record, and a history of opposing voting rights is now the top law enforcement officer in the country,” wrote Think Progress on Feb. 8.In 1986 Sessions was denied a judgeship after testimony on his support for the Ku Klux Klan. Democrats have noted that Sessions is more anti-immigrant than anyone else in Congress.Sessions said on the border: “This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.”A parent who brings children over the border can now be charged with “harboring,” sent to jail and deported. Nonviolent immigrants who enter the country illegally for a second time will be charged with a felony, not a misdemeanor as previously.Sessions is calling for charging workers with “document fraud” and “aggravated identify theft.”An anonymous federal prosecutor told the Daily Beast that the new directives are “generating widespread negative response” and called them “fucking horrifying.” (commondreams.org, April 12)Stop racist deportations and Islamophobia!Permanent residency for all migrants!The Trump administration directives are a further call to war on migrants, meant to paint all immigrants as threats and criminals. The administration wants people to think Muslims are all terrorists.These moves to appease far-right anti-immigrant elements are part of an overall racist campaign to push back the gains that workers of color have made through militant struggle. The goal is to divide and conquer the working class.But the real terrorists are the white supremacists and warmongers now running Washington. A “Blue Lives Matter” ideology is pushing policy that means more war here at home and abroad.This makes the May Day 2017 strike much more important — and the struggles for migrant and worker rights that will go on after May Day that much more ­decisive.More than ever our movements in the streets — whether for immigrant rights, against police terror, to stop wars abroad and climate change, for women’s or LGBTQ rights — must become anti-capitalist as well as internationalist.We must show not only in slogans but in our actions that there are no borders in the workers’ struggle, that we stand united with workers in every country, from every country. Our lives depend on it.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Decenas de miles enfrentan ejecuciones hipotecarias y cortes de agua

first_img10 de mayoMás de 8.000 familias de Flint, Michigan, están enfrentando la pérdida de sus casas debido a facturas impagas por agua envenenada. Las facturas morosas de agua, que totalizan $5 millones en los últimos dos años, ahora están siendo insertadas en los impuestos a la propiedad, sometiendo a las familias a la ejecución de impuestos.Fue durante este período de dos años que las/os residentes de Flint descubrieron que sus hijas/os habían sido envenenados con plomo. Esto sucedió porque el “administrador de emergencia” designado por el estado – un dictador – decidió dejar de obtener agua de la ciudad de Detroit y traerla en cambio, desde el Río Flint. Su decisión de no gastar dinero en aditivos anticorrosivos causó que el plomo en las viejas tuberías se vertiera en el suministro de agua.Hasta el día de hoy, las/os residentes todavía no pueden beber su agua sin filtros, se ven obligados a depender del agua embotellada, y sufren erupciones cutáneas, pérdida de cabello y problemas respiratorios al ducharse. El proceso de sustitución de las líneas de servicio de plomo está avanzando muy lentamente; la mayoría de las tuberías siguen siendo de plomo.Lo que hace esta política aún más ofensiva es que $200 millones de dólares federales permanecen sin gastar, dinero que podría pagar estos impuestos atrasados. Estos fondos son lo que quedan de la asignación de Michigan bajo el programa de ayuda a las/os propietarios más afectados. Del fondo de rescate de 750.000 millones de dólares del Fondo de Rescate de Activos en Problemas, se dieron solo unos $9.000 millones a nivel nacional y $761 millones para Michigan para mantener a las familias en sus hogares.Sin embargo, en lugar de usar estos fondos federales para su propósito, la Autoridad de Desarrollo de la Vivienda del Estado de Michigan, [MSHDA por siglas en inglés] que administra los fondos, está desviando la gran mayoría de este dinero para derribar viviendas. Los programas de “eliminación del deterioro urbano” en Detroit y Flint operan sin supervisión y han estado sujetos a auditorías federales y estatales por corrupción. Por el contrario, MSHDA crea tantos obstáculos para las familias pobres que tratan de acceder a estos fondos para pagar cuentas de impuestos morosos e hipotecas, que resulta en que a los propietarios a los que se destinaron los fondos se les niega toda asistencia.En la ciudad de Detroit, la Autoridad del Agua de los Grandes Lagos ha iniciado una nueva ronda de interrupciones del suministro de agua, con 18.000 hogares enfrentando cortes. Eso en adición de los 83.000 cortes de agua residenciales que ocurrieron en los años 2014-2016. (bridgemi.com, 2 de mayo) Treinta y un mil viviendas ocupadas en Detroit también están sujetas a incautación por el Condado de Wayne para ejecuciones hipotecarias este año.En 2015, los Relatores Especiales de las Naciones Unidas para el Agua y la Vivienda declararon la crisis de Detroit una crisis “retrógrada”, es decir, producto de un sistema capitalista desarrollado que retrocede en satisfacer las necesidades más básicas de la población como resultado de la avaricia corporativa .La nueva Coalición para Detener las Ejecuciones Hipotecarias está celebrando una asamblea en junio para galvanizar la lucha contra ejecuciones hipotecarias de impuestos y apagones de agua en Detroit y Flint.Para obtener más información, visite moratorium-mi.org o únase a Moratorium NOW! Coalition en Facebook.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Community leaders arrested in housing protest

first_imgNew York City, Nov. 2 — “Kill the deal!’ shouted a hundred angry protesters, mostly people of color, in downtown Manhattan this morning, led by tenant organizers, including the New York Communities for Change and the Crown Heights Tenants Union.For many, this demand is three years old since their struggle to demand affordable housing at Brooklyn’s Bedford-Union Armory. This is city property, which the community demands be 100 percent affordable.The developers, BFC Partners, anticipate cuts in housing subsidies from the Trump administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead of having BFC make all the planned 330 apartments in this Bedford Avenue block site affordable, the city’s planning commission settled for an 80/20 plan. Thus, 67 units are called affordable, 99 units will be priced at $2,203 a month with another 164 units at $3,700 a month, pushing nearly all local residents out.Protesters marched to the office of their City Council member now responsible for the next step in making sure the armory is 100 percent affordable. Since an Oct. 30 vote, NYC’s Planning Commission will allow BFC Partners to increase the number of market-priced units. Council member Laurie Cumbo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for years have failed to denounce the displacement of low-income tenants, get the next say in the future of the armory.As today’s protest marched near city Councilwoman Cumbo’s office, it broke into the street. Chants became “Whose street? Our street!” Soon the New York Police Department broadcast orders for all to leave the streets or face arrest.Ten marchers stood their ground to the cheers of others present. Green Party candidate Jabari Brisport was among those who were soon arrested. He and Joel Feingold had already been arrested at last week’s vote by the planning commission! Brisport had campaigned against Cumbo in the last election for City Council.Most working-class New Yorkers now ask, “Affordable for who?” to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and other politicians they consider sellouts to the real estate industry. These politicians boast that they have made developers agree to having a small portion of new housing “affordable.” This, although even the subsidized rent for allegedly affordable apartments is far higher than can be afforded on the community’s average incomes.The working class of Crown Heights sees how capitalism doesn’t work and says, “Kill the deal!”FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

Seven years after ‘Arab Spring,’ Tunisians take to the streets

first_imgYouth lead the resistance to IMF austerity.Every night and on some days since Jan. 3, thousands of Tunisians in all parts of the country have risen in resistance. They’ve attacked police stations, supermarkets, authorities — tax centers, municipalities, governorates — blocked trains and clashed with police and the military, who attacked the youths with tear gas and arrested nearly 800 people.A new finance law pushed the people into the streets with one clear demand: We want a new budget! After a few days, protesters added a demand for jobs.The International Monetary Fund only gives loans with draconian conditions. The most common are cutbacks of social programs and raising taxes to cut budget deficits — in other words, harsh austerity. The Tunisian government, bowing to the terms of the IMF loan, introduced a 2018 budget on New Year’s Day that raised taxes, prices on food and other essentials in ways that hit workers and the middle class particularly hard.Workers and those just out of school were already suffering from high inflation and high unemployment — officially 30 percent for youth with a college degree.They rallied not only in Tunis, the capital, but in the seaside resort towns of Gabès and Nabeul and cities in the interior like Thala, Jelma, Kasserine, Sidi Bouzid (where the protest began that led to the Arab Spring) and Gafsa, a mining town on the edge of the Sahara. While the main protests have been peaceful but militant, there have been confrontations.The major Islamic party in Tunisia, Ennahda, is part of the governing coalition and has no presence in the protests. The major Tunisian labor federation – the Tunisian General Labor Union – has been very gingerly participating in the protests, avoiding any that challenge the police.The Party of the Left, which consists of mainly young organizers, either Marxist or Arab Nationalist, has played an important role in creating the group Fech Nestannew? (What Are We Waiting For?). This group has been coordinating protests throughout the country, according to Radio France International. (Jan. 9)The Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia in 2010-11, got rid of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali and left a legacy of political and social freedoms. But it did little to improve the economic well-being of Tunisia’s workers and marginalized youth, who are now in motion throughout the country.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more