[Marxism] Los Angeles working class movements

thomas muntzer immune_from_demoralization at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 11 13:44:01 MDT 2006


> We're experiencing the
> largest working class mobilization in this country,
> probably since the
> end of World War II, and we're being told that this
> struggle is today
> being led by "political opponents"?????

Now our social-democratic friend decides to erase the
distinction between the Democratic Party and the
labor-bureaucracy and the immigrant workers many of
whom can't even vote in the first place. When we
leafletted this last demonstration with a flyer
calling for a $15 hour living wage, health care for
all workers, a jobs program, workers understood
immediately the limitations of the leadership and
responded enthusiastic.  In fact the workers coming to
these demonstrations tear the flyers our of the hands
of the young working class left because they are
hungry for political information and analysis -- you
would have it that everyone should line up behind the
reformist leaders which people already instinctually
mistrust.  The left at this last demonstration in
downtown had a lot of success talking to the workers
and there is the possibility of growth for a number of
the small left groups in L.A. among the immigrant
workers even in the little group I am in that has been
doing work in these communities for some time.

Anyways are you denying that Ted Kennedy and senate
Democrats are our political opponents?  Are you
denying that the leadership of the L.A. locals
representing immigrant workers like Mike Garcia of
SEIU 1877 (janitors and security guards)  (who was
installed by a trusteeship that removed a radical
Central American leadership) are poltiical opponents
of revolutionaries -- that they represent a false
policy for the workers (the team concept, the alliance
with the Democrats, sell-out deals with the bosses)? 
Are you denying that the L.A. unions are leading this
movement into reformist channels, to get their
Democratic friends elected, and that the last thing
they want is for the militant spirit of the mainly
unorganized immigrants to infect their own members? 
Are you denying that they invest virtually no
resources into mobilizing their own memberships
especially the unions that represent black and white
workers to these marches?  Do you deny that they are
lining it up behidn the Democratic Party and electoral
victories

I could care less if I or my comrades ever speak on
their platform.  The last thing I or my comrades want
to do is stand next to Dolores Huerta or Ted Kennedy
or some careerist state senator or sellout mayor
Villaraigosa or any of the labor lieutenants on a
platform.  High school students I meet in the
classroom know these people are sellouts, so a veteran
socialist should know it too Walter.  They are the
biggest danger for this magnificent movement we are
seeing across the country.  We need to say again and
again that they will betray the movement, that the
masses don't need "leaders" they need working class
ORGANIZATION and to rely on their own strength as
workers and to rely on the possibility of uniting with
black and white workers around a common program.  Read
a history book comrade.  About Allende and Arbenz and
Mossadeq for Third World revolutions and about the
Black and Chicano movements for the United States.

> "What you mean WE, white man"...

Our social-democratic friend resorts to race-baiting.

Walter I have never seen you report on any political
WORK you are doing besides email activism.  If you had
an ounce of seriousness in your body you'd at least go
work for the labor bureaucracy as an organizer or
something.  Why don't you get off your ass and do it? 
I respect my friends in HERE local 11 immeasureably
more than I respect you because you're an email
activist and they sacrifice every day for the class
struggle even if I disagree with their direction.

You can race bait me and in essence
Trotskyist/red-bait me all you want but at least I put
my politics into practice.

Here is the last thing we did with immigrant workers
in L.A. and it's the policy I advocate- building a
revolutionary group in the immigrant proletariat that
can propose a different direction to the wonderful
upsurge taking place.
---
The YESSI Campaign and Victory
 
On March 11,2006 a retail worker who had a period of
nine months working in the Fashion District called-in
sick (her first time ever) and was immediately and
unjustly terminated by her employer. This story seems
common enough, a worker fired by her boss. However,
the fact that the salesgirl is an immigrant worker and
that the Fashion District is notorious for countless
labor violations makes the struggle that ensued truly
representative of the Los Angeles working class , the
struggles that face them, and a necessity to organize!
 
The F.D. consists of a number of task-specific workers
that make it run, workers without which the small
business owners would never be able to make their
pitiless profits. The tasks of workers range from,
delivery guys who deliver lunches and merchandise,
workers that sell counterfeit articles like Louis
Vuitton bags, Tiffany diamond bracelets, DVD’S, CD’s,
and Levi Jeans for 20$ on the outside of established
businesses or in the middle of the alley itself, and
of course friendly retail workers.
In specific the retail workers are friendly and,
ideally young salesgirls. Salesgirls are mostly in
their teens or their early twenties, with the
exception of older women that have worked there for a
number of years and are mostly in management and the
owner’s most “loyal” workers. The working conditions
in the Fashion District are some of the worst in
Downtown L.A. Laura, was a salesgirl who worked at
YESSI a small shop in the F.D. for about nine months.
As a salesgirl she had to greet customers immediately
and use a long metal hook with which she would reach
the clothes for the customer, since they are located
on clothes racks which are out of reach to them. Along
with tagging and sizing merchandise, salesgirls must
carry and move about heavy boxes filled with
merchandise, stand up for nine hours plus and nearly
starve on weekends with only a 15 min lunch , and zero
amount of breaks. In the Fashion District the idea of
back pay, overtime ,proper breaks, and maternity leave
are like a foreign language, they simply don’t exist.
 
These oppressive conditions are specific but not
limited to salesgirls. Every worker in the F.D., (also
known as “Los Callejones” or The Alley) has
experienced or is experiencing some type of
discrimination from their boss. The bosses are so
arrogant, including Grace the owner of Yessi F. that
they never in their worst nightmare imagined that any
worker would fight back. That’s exactly what Laura and
Progressive Alliance did.
 
The campaign consisted of a direct action approach
that included visible protests, a picketing of the
business, a boycott, reaching out to the public,
informing them of the abrasive working conditions. A
strategic targeting of the wholesale suppliers that
Yessi did business with was also drawn upon to
maintain unrelenting pressure. A letter of demands was
hand delivered to the owner of Yessi F. , it included:
a thirty minute lunch break , two fifteen min. breaks,
overtime pay, maternity leave for a co-worker who was
eight months pregnant and still working, severance pay
for the unfair termination of Laura, and of course no
harassment on the job. Progressive Alliance also
demanded that a committee from the group would have
oversight to ensure that the demands were being met.
After two energetic, confrontational, and extremely
successful protests and with support stemming from,
college students, labor organizers, co-workers,
Indymedia activists and NLG support, over a two week
period a victory was won!
 
The reach of this victory must be far and wide. The
demands were met , not because the owner of Yessi
Fashion is a noble hearted woman or because she
respects Labor law.It was the direct action approach
of embarrassing her and compromising the image of her
business in public, not allowing bussiness as usual,
and the laborious work that included never-ending
negotiations with Yessi’s lawyer, leafleting the area,
and the support from empathetic customers and other
activists contributed to the powerful message of equal
rights and justice for all workers regardless of their
legal status. No human being is illegal!
 
The continuous presence of groups like Progressive
Alliance in the Fashion District and foremost the
self-determination of the workers involved in the
campaign is very rare in the current political
atmosphere of deceptive politicians, and mainstream
unions, supported by the democratic party, that don’t
invest funds in campaigns from which political gain
doesn’t seem imminent. There is still work ahead, and
though a victory has been won against an individual
boss, the true celebration will come once the entire
working class rallies up and their unique but pungent
strength paves the way towards a truly democratic
society. We must all work towards this.
 

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