forwarded from Alan Maki

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Wed Jan 3 12:36:38 MST 2001

[alan: you need to send posts to the list from your subscribed
address. Les]

Dear friends,

I would like to take this opportunity to extend Season's Greetings to old
friends and new. Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to
meet many new people in Canada and the United States. In the last year I
have become reacquainted with many of my fellow activists from years past in
the United States.

I just got laid-off three days before Christmas from the sweatshop I was
working in. Ain't capitalism great?

Many of us have been communicating over many years. Some topics have come up
that I think need to be looked at as we approach the New Year. Struggles
don't come and go by dates and deadlines; yet, often we think that once a
New Year is upon us things will somehow just get better. Life never "just
happens" to get better for working people. Working people have to struggle
for everything in this life.

Some really great news this past year comes from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
The city named a park after Jacob Penner--- the legendary working class
fighter and longest serving elected Communist politician in North America.
Jacob Penner was a life-long member of the Communist Party of Canada.
Members of the Penner-Bethune Club of the Communist Party of Canada take
great pride in this development. This was done with support from elected
members of the socialist oriented provincial New Democratic Party--- which
now constitutes the majority governing party in the Province of Manitoba.
The electoral victory of the NDP which defeated a most racist, anti-labor,
right-wing reactionary Conservative government is a tremendous political
victory of working people in the past year. Most of the credit is due the
Manitoba Federation of Labour.

I find it very interesting that in the US newspapers, what little coverage
we received about recent Canadian elections, no mention was made of the New
Democratic Party--- a socialist oriented party that represents Canadian
workers. This Party now holds majority power in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and
British Columbia. The backbone of the NDP being the Canadian Labour
Congress, which is to Canadian workers, what the AFL-CIO is in the US. US
workers and labor leaders would be well served to take a good look at
politics north of our border and the political activities of Canadian
Unions. Great things are going on in the Canadian labour movement. Unions
like the Canadian Union of Postal Workers--- talk about rank-and-file
control of a union, they have built strong bonds of friendship with the
Cuban people and leaders and have built a militant fighting union to defend
the rights of postal workers in Canada.

As the New Year is upon us the political situation in the United States is
very dismal. The "election" of George Bush is casting dark gray clouds over
our country and most of the world. The class struggle is sure to intensify.
Working people can't afford to sit by and let Bush run roughshod over our
rights. Gore can afford to bow out graciously. Working women and men have no
choice but to continue to fight on-our very survival is at stake.

For working women and men Bush's election means he will attempt to drive
down further the standard of living for working people. Bush's economic
polices will push wages down and the cost-of-living up; we can expect
increased unemployment; more dangerous and unsafe working conditions. I
suspect we will now see the wide spread proliferation of sweatshops not only
here in the "new" South, but across the United States and even into Canada.
American corporations will make a more concerted effort to "trim" costs at
all their North American operations in the name of remaining "competitive".
Cities like Winnipeg, Vancouver, Sudbury, Peterborough, Windsor and Oshawa
will undoubtedly suffer as Bush exerts pressure on the Canadian government
to make life easier and of course more profitable for American owned
corporations. As Canadian workers resist US pressures Canadian corporate
operations will threaten to continue the "move to the 'new' South" here in
the States.

Bush and the corporations will use their old stand-by of racism and
anti-communism to try to divide our class as we fight-back. These corporate
profiteers will try to pit Canadian and US workers against each other.

We working people are hurting because we have not yet developed a unified
strategy to deal with "globalization" and its devastating effects on the
standard of living of workers and our communities. Anarchists,
ultra-leftists and to one degree or another-- right-wing influences in the
labor movement, have been an impediment to attempts to organize the
unorganized in the proliferating new sweatshops that are now making their
re-appearance in almost every mass production industry. We need stronger
unions not weaker unions. We need organization, not anarchy. We don't need
workers or union leaders buying into nationalist schemes based on
competition. We don't have to fall for the trap of anarchist ideas in the
working class movement. Eugene V. Debs, William Z. Foster, Tim Buck, Big
Bill Haywood exposed the anarchist trap years ago. Workers need not get
caught in the anarchist trap today anymore than get caught up in the sleazy
schemes of some union "leaders" who buy the corporate master's line of
competition in the marketplace. Ultra-leftists still think revolutionary
phrase mongering can mystically perform miracles when organizational work
gets difficult. To organize against modern day capitalist globalization
means that working people need to understand what is happening around them,
and, to them. We can't organize without educating. We can't educate without
organizing. And we can't educate or organize without being in the workplace.
Anyone who thinks it is possible to organize against globalization without
bringing the workers in the "new" sweatshops spun by globalization into the
struggle is dreaming.

I had a labor "leader" tell me he didn't have an organizer to send into a
sweatshop to work with me because, "None of my people will work in a fucking
hell-hole like that. Do you really expect me to ask someone on my staff to
go to work in that place?" And he said even if he did, "the union was
putting its resources into the election to keep Bush out of the White
House". After the election he said, "Sorry, Al, everything we had we used on
the election… it'll be awhile before we can undertake an organizing project
like that… keep in touch… let me know how things are going from
time-to-time… my door is always open to you… your committee is doing one
hell of a job".  I told him gees, "put yourself in our position and play
your words back to yourself"… He said, "I see what you mean… let me see what
we can do for you".

In these sweatshops workers are working long hours with low pay in dirty and
unsafe conditions; speed-up is becoming unbearable. Often workers are forced
to work ten to twelve hours a day with two ten or fifteen minute breaks and
half an hour for lunch--- five, six and seven days a week. This is now a
reality of life for tens of thousands of working women and men in the "New
South" working in "Right-to-Work-for-Less states" in a "union free
environment". States like Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and

Virginia's racist and viciously anti-labor governor has been selected by
Bush to lead the national Republican Party.

Major accounting firms like Price-Waterhouse that do the yearly statements
aimed at enticing investors to put their money in these proliferating
sweatshops boast of  "no labor contracts" as a primary incentive for

The infamous union busting thugs-- Pinkerton Security Company, reign over
these sweatshops by placing spies and infiltrators among workers to scout
out "union plants" and workers sympathetic to unions. These Pinkerton guards
terrorize workers and their families in the communities and harass workers
in the workplace.

These sweatshops employ anywhere from 500 to 5,000 workers-making everything
from parts for the auto industry, household and office furniture, to
catalogue distribution centers for products produced in sweatshops overseas
where the pay is even less and working conditions even more harsh.

Workers can often be heard making comments like, "Why don't they just bring
back the chains?" or from workers employed through temporary agencies like
ManPower, "I feel like I'm on the auction block". Many of the workers in
these sweatshops are workers of color- African-American, Hispanic, Haitian,
Panamanian, Puerto Rican and Philippino- many are women. Young workers are
used by the bosses to push and exert pressure on older workers to meet
production goals and quotas. Racism and sexism promoted by the bosses is
felt on a daily basis by women and workers of color-the discrimination and
the harassment more often than not are very blatant and viciously demeaning.
Pregnant women and workers with disabilities are treated "just like everyone
else". It is common for a supervisor to be heard telling a pregnant woman on
the line who says she needs to sit down to rest, "Do you think you are
better than everyone else?"

Workers are often heard referring to these sweatshops as the "new
plantations". Government "inspectors" tour these plants and turn their heads
in indifference to obvious filthy, dusty air and safety violations; While
government agencies charged with stamping out racial and sexual
discrimination in the workplace file complaints in the "round file". Retired
military officers are being hired as "supervisors" and plant managers to
regiment the work-force in these sweatshops where people are often forced to
stand the entire duration of their shift and get yelled at and screamed at
by "group leaders" for leaving the production line to get a drink of water
or to go to the bath-room. Plant managers think nothing of issuing written
reminders that workers should get drinks or go to the bathroom only on
scheduled breaks. Workers who defend their rights to be treated like human
beings rather than like animals are "written up"-which means having a memo
placed in the file of the Human Resources Department then facing loss of
employment-the ultimate threat to a worker.

Workers whose back, legs or feet begin to give out after being forced to
stand entire shifts for days and weeks on end, and, then take a moment to
sit on a crate or a table are fired on the spot after first being ridiculed
in front of co-workers; than scolded and lectured about being  "lazy" and a

Often an individual worker is forced to do what normally three or four
workers would do.

Workers are being forced into poverty because these sweatshops pay poverty
wages. These sweatshops find no shortage of workers. The States force
workers to work-for-less by cutting unemployment payments and the duration
of compensation payments while "welfare-reform" has forced many entire
families to work double-shifts or two low-paying full-time jobs in an
attempt to make ends meet. It is not uncommon to find workers who are
working as long as sixteen to eighteen hours every day of the week! One
shift at a factory, another "second job" at a convenience store or
supermarket chain. This is the reality of sweatshop life in the "new South".
I have worked side-by-side with a worker for ten and a half hours only to
leave work and stop off at a Kmart or Wal-Mart to find the same worker
working at one of these places or a fast food restaurant.

This is why conservatives push the "state's rights" agenda so vigorously. In
times past state's rights meant defending the institution of chattel
slavery. Today, "state's rights" advocates are interested in defending
modern day wage slavery. Often utilizing the some most cruel and vicious
methods of control over labor learned from the days of chattel slavery.

Carpet-baggers (investors) from the Northern United States and all parts of
the world are now invading the "new South" in quest of super cheap labor.
Jobs that normally pay $18.00 to $20.00 an hour with benefits pay $5.85 to
$9.00 per hour without a single benefit. Companies like the German
multinational Stihl boast that they can hire workers in Virginia to do the
same job as their German counterparts in factory production jobs for
one-fifth the wages paid in Germany! Milken Industries out of Canada boasts
to their investors that wages and costs in Tennessee are one-third of those
in Canada!

This is "globalization"!  Demonstrations against globalization are needed.
But, what is really needed in addition to demonstrations is a massive union
organizing drive right through the south. All those opposed to capitalist
"globalization" will have to come to this reality. Hundreds of workers have
been fired from their jobs, just for using the "U" word.

It is no wonder that workers in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada at the huge
Falconbridge mining complex owned by a Norwegian multi-national now find
themselves in a very lengthy and bitter labor dispute that has forced the
workers to picket line for months on end defending one of the best
steward-based union contracts in the world. In the name of  "globalization"
and "remaining competitive" the huge multi-national that owns Falconbrdge
would like nothing better than to leave the union a life-less crippled shell
of an organization that does little more than collect dues from its members.
The workers at Falconbridge have fought and sacrificed over many decades to
get to the point where they are today. The contracts won through bitter
struggles and great sacrifice over the years by Falconbridge workers first
as members of Mine, Mill, Smelters' and now Mine,Mill, and Smelters Workers'
Local 598 /Canadian Auto Workers  came to be the envy of every worker in
North America. Their fight is OUR fight!

Falconbridge workers who now find themselves staring globalization in the
face. As part of the struggle against globalization we need to act in
solidarity with the miners of Sudbury today.

As we approach the New Year we must intensify our efforts to make the
"United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights" a living reality for
all working people and their families whether laboring in the mines of
Sudbury, Ontario or the sweatshops of the "New" South, Mexico, Thailand,
Korea, Chile, Russia or Nigeria.

One way to do this is to begin to organize a massive movement for a real
living wage. This means a guaranteed forty-hour workweek with a living wage
as the minimum wage for every worker. The minimum wage all over this globe
should be a living wage! What is a living wage? Whatever it takes to make
the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights a living reality
for every working-class family. The answer to capitalist "globalization"
must be to strengthen our unions and build unions in work places where none
exist. International working-class solidarity must be our answer to
capitalist "globalization". This is the way to end poverty in the world.

The so-called leaders of the world gathered at the United Nations last year
to proclaim that they were going to set ending poverty as one of the "goals"
to be reached early on in this new millenium. They can't legislate an end to
poverty because most of these so-called leaders serve corporate masters and
many still serve at the beck and call of kings and queens, and even
dictators--- those who rule over a way of life that creates the poverty in
the first place. It will take united working class action to overcome
poverty. Exploitation of man by man is the source of poverty. Poverty is an
inherent characteristic of the capitalist system itself.

We must find new and creative ways to defend the rights of workers to
organize in the "new South" and to support the Falconbridge workers in
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada battling a giant multi-national. There is no simple
or easy way. It takes organizing. Organizing means educating in a way that
leads to action.

On another, but related subject that requires our immediate action. I would
urge each and every one of you reading this to do everything possible to
pressure President Clinton to release Leonard Peltier from prison- hold
solidarity meetings and press conferences; organize demonstrations, write,
phone and call the White House hotline at: 1-800-663-9566; 9am to 4pm EST.
Join with the Canadian Labor Congress and hundreds of unions, civil rights
and human rights organizations in the United States, Canada and throughout
the world-demand freedom for Leonard Peltier. His only crime: fighting for
the rights of Native Americans. Let us make sure that the legacy that
follows Clinton from the White House is what he does in regards to clemency
for Leonard Peltier and not what he stuck in Monica Lewinsky's mouth! Urgent
action is needed now! Leonard Peltier is a political prisoner framed by the
FBI. FBI agents lied on the witness stand and went free while Leonard
Peltier an innocent man was railroaded to jail.

Let the New Year of 2001 begin with an intensified struggle on the part of
working people and all progressive minded people for a better life.

As the New Year begins let us serve notice on George Bush and the Big
Business interests he represents that working people have been kicked around
long enough and we are going to fight like hell for a decent life.

I urge you to take an in depth look at the web site set up by Mine, Mill,
Smelters Workers' Local 598/CAW:
Just click and look, figure out what you can do to help. The struggle of
these sisters and brothers is our struggle. By supporting these sisters and
brothers we defend our families and ourselves. Also, if you would like, I
can e-mail you a copy of the popular pamphlet that gives a short history of
Mine, Mill in Sudbury written by Jim Tester (now deceased), a former member
and president of Mine, Mill Local 598. It remains an excellent read. This
little pamphlet is a study in building rank-and-file trade unions.

I will forward you any materials or information you need on the Peltier
case. Just ask. Don't forget to vote for freedom for Leonard Peltier in the
on-line poll, just point and click:

The Workers' Education and Action Campaign is preparing a report on life in
a sweatshop in the "new" South. If you would like a copy e-mailed to you,
let me know.

I look forward to exchanging info and views with you in the New Year.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Yours in the Struggle,

Alan Maki

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