This film hit the political scene in the 1960s like a bolt of lightening — it announced that a new political force had arrived. In Detroit, revolutionary intellectuals and revolutionary autoworkers had fused together to form the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Their mass formation DRUM (Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement) was suddenly a powerful presence in the factories — gathering together radical Black workers, challenging the racist UAW, and leading struggles among the autoworkers.
Documentary about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, a radical black workers' group based in the car factories of Detroit. Through interviews with members, supporters and opponents as well as footage of leafleting and picket lines, the film documents their attempts to build a radical black workers' organisation to take on both management and the union and fight to improve conditions for all workers, black and white.
A Call to Actionfor Rank-and-FileDemocratic Social Movement Unionism!
The Million Worker March (MWM) organizers and activists call upon all workers organized and unorganized and the unemployed to join and defend the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. We extend the call to anti-war, immigration rights, environmental and social justice activists to join this movement which could replicate the “Arab Spring” here at home.
The MWM, initiated by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 on October 17, 2004 at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., advanced the slogan “mobilizing in our own name” independent of the two Wall Street controlled political parties to address the economic crisis of working people in which the vast majority are under siege financially.
All important social movements, which occurred in this country, were started from the bottom up (rank and file/grass roots) and not from the top down. The MWM’s mission statement speaks to how “...a handful of the rich and powerful corporations have usurped our government. A corporate and banking oligarchy changes hats and occupies public office to wage class war on working people. They have captured the State in their own interests.” They represent what the OWS activists call the 1%, otherwise known as the ruling class.
Like the MWM, the OWS has emerged at a time when the two corporate controlled political parties are preparing for the presidential election; a smokescreen where billions are spent to promote a top down and false ceremony of democracy.
Like the MWM, the OWS will be criticized for having demands that are too broad. We have endured more than 50 years of corporate assault on working people, social services, jobs, wages, pensions, health care, public education, and housing. The pursuit of endless wars, the lack of a comprehensive immigration policy and the erosion of the environment in pursuit of corporate greed, makes it impossible to address all of these issues in a sound bite. Yet one thing is crystal clear, OWS conveys a definite anti-capitalist message. It is being expressed to the entire world at the “temple” of American Capitalism, Wall Street. The OWS, while now a major protest movement against the capitalist elites, must continue to deepen, expand and become a direct challenge to corporate power. Class warfare demands fighting on multiple fronts and it all leads back to Wall Street. While the officialdom of labor has given verbal support to OWS, the rank and file possesses the real power of the labor movement. It is only through rank and file unity that labor’s true power can be realized in this OWS movement. Workers can take action at the point of production and service as well as put people in the streets.
We must be mindful of attempts to co-opt this movement. Let us not forget the action of the Democratic Party and its surrogates within AFL-CIO to pressure Wisconsin unions not to initiate any General Strike actions in opposition to Governor Scott Walker’s plans to eliminate collective bargaining for State workers. Wisconsin workers were limited to circulating petitions to recall targeted State republican elected officials. This took away labor’s only real power, the ability to withhold its labor in defense of collective bargaining.
ILWU Local 10’s Executive Board has adopted a Resolution to join and defend the OWS and called for other longshore locals to do the same. More importantly, Local 10 is connecting the OWS movement with the Pacific Northwest dockers struggle with EGT in Longview, Washington. (EGT is an international grain exporter which is attempting to rupture longshore jurisdiction.) The driving force behind EGT is Bunge LTD., a leading agribusiness and food company, which reported $2.4 billion in profits in 2010. This company has strong ties to Wall Street. This is but one example of Wall Street’s corporate attack on union workers.
On October 12th, the vice-president and secretary-treasurer of ILWU Local 21 in Longview, WA, who are engaged in battle with EGT, were allowed to speak by the organizers of “Foreclosure on Wall Street West”. They explained their struggle to several hundred people attending the rally that took place in the San Francisco financial district. This is an important and strategic show of solidarity between labor and OWS.
It was Black trade unionists that conceived and launched the MWM. Black workers and other workers of color should play an integral role in expanding the power and influence of OWS. The Black unemployment rate is 24% and growing. This needs to be a part of the discussion of the peoples’ assemblies as it concerns empowering this peoples’ movement.
Working people need to have a political expression of our own which is an alternative to the U.S. corporate sector that both the Democrats and the Republicans represent. The timing of the MWM in Washington was to prepare the beginning of a fight-back precisely because the agendas of two political parties, acting as one, the corporate agenda of permanent war, destruction of all social services, Jim Crow and a relentless assault upon working people.
This is an opportune moment for rank and file working people to forge a mass movement for fundamental change. Rarely has the importance of unity in struggle been more compelling along an axis of class independence.
Only by our own independent mobilization of working people (99%) across America, can we open the way to addressing a peoples’ agenda. The MWM and OWS are both about building grass roots and rank and file anti-racist unity “forging the fight-back” on all governmental and corporate policies influenced and or directed by Wall Street.
Let’s take it to the corporate state, Let the 1% take the weight!
-Leo Robinson, ILWU Local 10, Retired National Convener -Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local 10, Executive Board Co-Chair MWM -Chris Silvera, IBT Local 808, Sec-Treasurer Co-Convener MWM East Coast -Saladin Muhammad, Black Workers for Justice Convener MWM Southern Region -Jerry Lawrence, ILWU Local 8 Co-Convener MWM Pacific Northwest -Debby Stringfellow, ILWU Local 8 Co-Covener MWM Pacific Northwest -Gabriel Prawl, ILWU Local 52 Co-Convener MWM Pacific Northwest -Brenda Stokely, Local 371 AFSCME Member* Co-Convener MWM North East *ID purposes only -Trent Willis, ILWU Local 10, Executive Board Conceiver, MWM
BY SHUTTING DOWN THE FIFTH LARGEST PORT by Clarence Thomas November 8, 2011
The eyes of the world were on the city of Oakland and the massive people’s march to the nation’s 5th largest container port on November 2nd for the General Strike and mass day of action called by Occupy Oakland. Not only has the Occupy movement gone global, Occupy Oakland has become the focal point of the movement. In fact, on October 28th Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir Square to the US Embassy in support of Occupy Oakland and against police brutality witnessed in Oakland on October 25th, and commonly experienced in Egypt.
The unprecedented out pouring of a broad cross section of the community numbering in the tens of thousands is the most significant independent people’s mobilization in the US thus far in the 21st century.
This call for a General Strike was in response to the coordinated military style attack by 18 police agencies in the Bay Area that attempted to evict the encampment of Occupy Oakland at Oscar Grant Plaza where US veteran Scott Olsen, who served 2 tours of duty in Iraq, was critically wounded by a tear gas canister shot to his head by Oakland police.
This call for a General Strike was not called by labor and perhaps rightfully so because only 12.9% of the overall workforce is unionized. In fact, in the private sector just 7.2% of the workers are unionized. This is the lowest percentage since 1900.
While it is true that it would take more than a week to organize a General Strike in this country the fact of the matter is that organized labor would not get the blessing of their Democratic Party masters to take such an action. Remember, the Republican and Democratic parties are controlled by Wall Street and the 1%.
The rank and file of labor is ready to take militant action at the point of production or service. SEIU Local 1021 was able to get their city workers the day off to either participate in the “stop work” action or not to be required to come to work for health and safety reasons.
The Port of Oakland’s last two shutdowns came as the result of Local 10 members taking solidarity action. The first was the Justice for Oscar Grant – “Stop Police Brutality, Jail Killer Cops”, action where Longshore workers closed 5 Bay Area ports on October 23, 2010.
The second Port of Oakland shutdown was the April 4, 2011 voluntary rank and file action to shut down the Port of Oakland for 24 hours on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in solidarity with Wisconsin public sector workers fight for collective bargaining.
The Resolution by the Occupy Oakland Strike Assembly states on its website www.occupyoakland.org the reason for shutting down the Port of Oakland: “We are doing this in order to blockade the flow of capital on the day of the General Strike, as well as to show our commitment to solidarity with Longshore workers in their struggle against EGT in Longview, Washington. EGT is an international grain exporter which is attempting to rupture long shore jurisdiction. The driving force behind EGT is Bunge LTD, a leading agribusiness and food company which reported 2.4 billion dollars in profit in 2010; this company has strong ties to Wall Street.
This is but one example of Wall Street’s corporate attack on workers. The Oakland General Strike will demonstrate the wide reaching implications of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The entire world is fed up with the huge disparity of wealth caused by the present system. Now is the time that the people are doing something about it. The Oakland General Strike is a warning shot to the 1% - their wealth only exists because the 99% creates it for them”.
The importance of the Port of Oakland shutdown was that it linked up labor, the community, and Occupy Oakland in a strategic action at the point of production. Not only was the Port of Oakland shutdown impacting the movement of cargo in the Pacific Rim, it also disrupted rail schedules, trucking scheduling and “just in time delivery” services for companies such as WalMart, on November 2nd.
The labor movement must take a leading role in building a broad based working class movement that challenges corporate rule and power by putting forward a people’s agenda. A people’s agenda, such as the one put forward by the Million Worker March Movement in 2004, which includes the following:
Stop corporate greed Hands off Social Security Slash the military budget Universal health care Stop dismantling public education Bring the troops home now Tax relief for the working class Repeal corporate free trade agreements Amnesty for all undocumented workers Stop off-shoring American jobs Preserve and restore the environment Workers right to organize Tax the rich National living wage Truth in media End to police brutality Repeal Taft Hartley Enforce all civil rights Guaranteed pensions Repeal Patriot Act
The November 2nd General Strike and Day of Mass Action in Oakland, was more than just a day of protest against corporate rule, power and police repression. It was a day of resistance interrupting the flow of commerce, closure of banks, and the Port. It sets the example for other Occupy movements throughout the country to follow. The General Assembly of Occupy Dallas has already called for a Dallas General Strike on November 30, 2011.
Clarence Thomas ILWU Local 10, Executive Board Member National Co-Chair, Million Worker March Movement November 8, 2011
NOTE: The morning of November 2, Oakland progressive rap artist, Boots Riley and this writer provided an insightful interview on the Occupy Oakland General Strike events of the day on Democracy Now! Democracy Now! is a grass-roots independent and international newscast program which broadcasts on radio and television. www.democracynow.org
Black Workers Unity Network
Uniting Black Worker Voices in Struggles for Global Justice
U.S. Black Trade Union Activist Oppose the U.S. Colombia Free Trade Agreement!
The passage of the U.S. Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will greatly impact the conditions of life for the most exploited and oppressed sections of the Colombian people – Afro-Colombians and Indigenous people.
Their exploitation as workers and oppressed peoples takes place in the mines, sugar cane fields and in the plants, while their communities experience underdevelopment, state repression and massive displacement in the millions. This combination of exploitation and oppression points to structural racism that deepens to the destructive impacts of the U.S. Colombian FTA on the Colombian working class.
Opposition to the FTA must therefore be more than a job’s saving campaign for U.S. workers, showing little to no regard for the deterioration in the conditions of life faced by the working class in other countries, who suffer because U.S. capitalist globalization places profits over human needs and rights.
A displaced Colombian mother and son seeking a new home.
We the undersigned Black workers, who are active members in our unions, the U.S. labor movement, and the social movements challenging structural racism, know that worker solidarity is limited and narrow, if it only speaks to the rights of others in the labor movement, and fails to address the conditions rooted in their communities and histories that partly shape their identities as super-exploited workers and oppressed peoples.
We call on our unions, U.S. Congressional Representatives and President Obama to oppose the U.S. Colombia FTA because it deepens the structural racism against Afro-Colombians and Indigenous peoples and thereby denies worker and democratic rights outlined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Durban Declaration Program of Action.
Organizations list for Identifiable purposes only:
Saladin Muhammad – Black Workers For Justice; Retired UE Intern. Rep – Rocky Mt, NC Angaza Laughinghouse – Pres. UE Local 150 – Raleigh, NC
Clarence Thomas – Executive Board Member of IWLU Local 10 – San Francisco, CA
Shafeah Mbalia – National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 1729 – Greenville, NC
Ashaki Binta – United Electrical Radio & Machine Workers Union Organizer – Raleigh, NC
Chris Silvera – Secretary Treasurer Teamsters Local 808 – New York City
Charles Jenkins – Div. V-Chairman of TWU L.100 / V-Pres. of CBTU NY – New York City
Royce Adams – International Longshoremen’s Assoc. Local 1291 – Philadelphia, PA
Kenney Riley – Pres. International Longshoremen’s Assoc. Local 1422 – Charleston, SC
Brenda Stokely – AFSCME Local 371 – New York City
Christine Williams - Executive Board Member TWU local 100 – New York City
Ajamu Dillahunt – Former Pres. APWU Local 1978 (Retired) – Raleigh, NC
Nechele Fulmore – Steward Teamsters Local 391 – Fayetteville, NC
Saladin Muhammad, a founder of Black Left Unity Network and veteran revolutionary trade unionist, speaks at the December 2010 Southern Human Rights Organizers Conference Gathering. Below is an excerpt from his moving and powerful speech on the centrality of Black Trade Unionism in Today's South.