The Raven

The Raven

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Handicaped by History"

"[Helen] Keller, who struggled so vaiantly to learn to speak, has been made mute by history."

-James W. Lowen

Helen Keller was a "radical socialist." She was born in 1880, and grew up in upper class home in Alabama. It seems her communist comminment came from her empathy for handicaped people, many whom made up the working class, injured from factory and other laborious work. She said, "I have visited sweatshops, factories and crowded slums. If I could not see it, I could smell it."

Before she became a socialist, she was beloved because of her endearing struggle as a blind, deaf and mute child. As soon as she became an outspoken communist and rebelled against President Wilson's ant-democratic policies, such as racially segregatiing the federal government, militarily intervening in foreign countries, she became not so adored. Newspaers constantly wrote negatively about her handicaps, saying that because of her "limitations of her development," she had no "independent sensory" and was prone to error. I cannot iunderstand this idea when she was born deaf, blind and mute and overcame these things, graduating from Radcliffe in 1904, founding the American Civil Liberties Union and supporting the NAACP financially and through an essay in The Crisis; she also was on the forefront of the women's rights movement... ofcourse she had independent, and very acute, mental abilities and empathy for the world around her, more empathy and understanding than those who can see and hear the world around them.

In a letter to a a fellow communist, Elizabeth Flynn, then leader of the American Communist party, Helen Keller wrote, "May the sense of serving mmankind bring strength and peace into your brave heart!"

*the title is taken from a chapter in Lies my Teacher Told Me written by James W. Lowen 1995

"Capitalism has failed. We bailed them out, which is Socialism," my cousin told me during a converstaion we had Friday night. She has a very good point that not too many people seem to be concerned about. I hear many people complaing about Unions and taxes, which the Republicans dont want to cut out to save Americans money and solve the deficit problem and create jobs, but they want to "starve the beast" cut out social programs that make living barable for the lower classes of society. The lower classes are a symptom of something greater in this Capitalistic society. They always come for education first- the foundation of society. I think the less educated someone is, the harder their life will be and the more likely they are to be on supplemental assistance. How can the Republicans be concerned about the economic state of this country when they were so busy sending American, union jobs to Asia and the Central and South Americas? Thus, putting more people on welfare, and needing unemployment benefits. No one understands that by supporting WalMart we are supporting China, communism and killing the American economy? We borrow money from China for the wars, then we pay them back, AND give them our hard earned money by buying from places like WalMart, and Target and pretty much anywhere else that has a name we are familiar with. Why do people not realise that if we bust all the unions that we are left vulnerable to falling back into the gnashing machine of worker abuse that was the Industrial Revolution? Because of collective bargaining workers can negociate contracts that ensure their rights, saftey, pensions, AND help the company remain competive. Where I work, Shoprite, is unionized and we are able to keep low prices in this econmoy while still paying union wages to the workers and negociating the fairest possible contracts.

Too many people seperate themselves from the world around them. Portable electronics are great for communitcating, but it discourages observation of the world around them. What affects the poorest village in some unknown thrid world country will make its way into our world. We all need to step back and look at the entire working of the world's economies, social issues, labor practices, culture.... We need to pay attention from where our stuff, our food, clothing, cell phones, comes from and what it took to get it to us. Who burrowed into the mines to dig out the colbalt that is in your cell phone? Who assemembled your laptop or sneakers? How much oil did it take to make it? How much oil are we using to deliver the protein rich soybeans to farms for the cows (why dont we just eat the soy instead to get the protein instead of butchering the cows?)Everything in the world is connected and affects us ALL. Why not work together?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Union Busting

I read an article in my most recent UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) union magazine that I really liked:


"The phrase 'union busting' describes the many ways in which employers, often with outside assistance, try to prevent their employees from seeking union representation at the workplace.
In the past, companies deployed Pinkerton agents, street thugs and even National Guard troops to beat, shoot and intimidate striking employees and union organizers. These days, employers are more discreet as they go about violating their workers' human rights.
Through the years, they have become expert at exploiting weaknesses in federal and state laws that were initially written to protect the rights of the workers to organize themselves and bargain collectively for their wages, benefits and working conditions.
Upon hearing the faintest whisper of pro-union sentiment, companies routinely hire highly-paid "consultants" to advise them of "union avoidance" strategies. Employers also deploy lobbyists and make campaign donations in order to enact laws that make the environment even more difficult for union organizers.
Workers can experience union-busting tactics in many ways. They mights overhear someone spreading anti-union lies in the break room. They might be forced to attend high-pressure "meetings" in which those same lies are expressed in a more forceful and direct manner. All too frequently, they will see their pro-union coworkers harassed, transferred to graveyard shifts and even fired. Recently, we've observed how state governments can engage in blatant union busting as they strip teachers and other public-sector workers of their collective bargaining rights.
In fact, we are in a new golden age for union-busters. A factory on Danville, Va., that makes furniture for Ikea provides a case in point.
When the Swedish retail giant came to Danville to build its first production facility in the United States, workers in the region were hopeful that Ikea, which has a worldwide reputation for progressive ideas, would become a model employer.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. The 335 employees at the non-union plant complain of erratic scheduling, compulsory overtime work and canceled promises of wage improvement. They are paid wages that are far lower than those earned by Ikea's unionized workers in Sweden, where minimum wage is close to $19 an hour.
The workers reacted to these abuses by seeking union representation. Ikea's U.S. subsidiary responded by hiring a notorious anti-union law firm and forcing the workers to attend anti-union propaganda sessions.
This is just one example of the realities that America workers experience every day.
They aren't carrying clubs and shotguns, but the union-busters are out in force. Confronting them will require all of the dedication and courage we can muster. We've worked too hard to get what we have to let them take it away from us."

-written by Anthony Benigno, UFCW Secretary-Treasurer