Why Virginia matters to American labor in 2016.

The most important election in Virginia this year has no candidates on the ballot.

On February 2nd, the Republican-dominated General Assembly passed the two-session threshold needed to put the open shop before the Commonwealth’s voters in November. You might be asking yourself, “Wait. I thought that Virginia was already an open-shop state?” Your inclinations would be correct: legislation barring union membership as a condition of employment was signed into law by Gov. William Tuck (a later adherent to Massive Resistance in response to Brown v. Board of Education as a member of Congress) in 1947. As a result, Section 40.1-58 of the Code of Virginia reads:

“It is hereby declared to be the public policy of Virginia that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization.”

So why do this? The easy answer is that Virginia Republicans are fearful that, should the open shop meet a legal challenge in state court, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring would not seek to defend it. The sponsor of the bill and defeated 2013 nominee for Attorney General, State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), stated as much in the deliberations on the bill. In addition, should the Assembly find itself in pro-labor hands in the future, they could overturn the open shop with a simple majority vote. Never mind that the extreme amounts of gerrymandering in the Assembly (particularly in the House of Delegates) makes a unified Democratic state government unlikely for decades to come.

The vote this November will be the first popular referendum on the open shop since 54 percent of Oklahoma voters approved State Question 695 on September 25, 2001. In this, an opportunity presents itself to the labor movement in this country, and it is one that labor unions must take.

An Open Letter to Rep. John Lewis.

Representative Lewis,

Yesterday, you stated the following about Bernie Sanders’s record on fighting for civil rights in the 1960s:

“I never saw him. I never met him. I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed (the) voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President (Bill) Clinton.”

We are going to ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl, or that you once stated to a Clinton biographer that, “[t]he first time I ever heard of Bill Clinton was the 1970s”, or that it has already been well-established that Sanders worked with the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) at the University of Chicago in the 1960s. We are also going to leave aside the fact that every mention of Bill Clinton in your book Walking With The Wind described an instance that he opposed some policy that you cherished.

Instead, we are going to talk about another person that you never saw or met.

On Solidarity and Flint

A lot has already been written about the ongoing atrocity in Flint, where a city of 100,000 people that is largely responsible for building the conditions that created prosperity in postwar America has been deliberately poisoned with lead and legionella by a dictatorial emergency financial manager system created by Rick Snyder, the sitting governor. The widely-reported reason of why the poisoning happened (to save a comparatively small amount of money) has also come under question, adding another dimension of horror to what’s already a horrible story. In a just world, what has been done to the people of Flint would result in a cigarette, a blindfold, and a firing squad for a lot of right-wing technocrats. We do not, however, live in a just world, more’s the pity.

Defragmenting The Movement: A Model For Building Working Class Solidarity

(This is a joint post between Cato and Douglas.)

The words on the flag of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are a perfect summation of the labor movement at its best: “JUSTICE ON THE JOB, SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY.”

It is that sense of solidarity that drives aggrieved workers to reach out to union organizers in the first place. They know that they are not just signing up to join a local or negotiate a contract, but to be a part of a movement that has been the last line of defense for many a worker since those Mill Girls first walked off the line in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1845. It is a movement that has come out of the shadows of its craft union past to embrace an industrial unionism that places its priorities in growing the ranks of the organized.

Well….not exactly.

When Performance Is Your Politics.

(Roqayah Chamseddine is a writer and activist based in Australia. This post was originally shared on For Those Who Wander.)

After the frightening attack on Planned Parenthood some of the best commentary social media had to offer was in the form of increasingly smug and hollow sarcasma cyclic outbreak of facetious questions in regards to the shooter’s religious history, his racial background, and who will condemn his actions. This reaction is repulsive as much as it is procedural. It is deeply formulaic, and after a few minutes on Twitter, for example, anyone with a keyboard and even a minutely popular account is able to reach thousands upon thousands with their own banal witicisms:

When are Christians going to go on television and denounce the Planned Parenthood shooter?
Why didn’t law enforcement kill him? Why is he alive?
Why aren’t they calling him a terrorist?
When is the white community/Christian community going to be surveilled?

Doug’s Latest: “The Mizzou Blueprint” up at Gawker

Forgot to post this sooner, but Doug’s got a piece up at Gawker talking about his experiences at Mizzou and #ConcernedStudent1950.

But student-athletes have shown signs that the political milieu of the moment are not passing them by. There were the recent efforts to form a student-athletes’ union and reclassify them as employees under federal labor law, which hit a big snag with the National Labor Relations Board’s decision not to assert jurisdiction over the case. There were the prominent college athletes speaking out on social issues, like Ohio State quarterback and BCS National Championship Game MVP Cardale Jones voicing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. And now there is the Missouri Tigers football team working to bring down not just the person who ran the individual campus, but also the person who ran the entire university system. College athletics, according to PBS Frontline, is “probably an $8 billion industry, roughly the size of the NFL.” Threaten that kind of money, and the sky is the limit with regards to the aims we can achieve.

Check it out and discuss it in comments below if you’d like.

 

On Right-Wing Political Violence

Yesterday, I wrote the following:

[T]he main worry I have is that the gap between disorganized political violence and organized political violence is minuscule, and is already being jumped over.

Today brings word that five people protesting police violence in Minneapolis were shot by three white supremacists in front of a police station. Some reports have the cops refusing to render aid to the wounded and macing the protestors, which is entirely believable. Thankfully, the specific Nazi scum that opened fire on the crowd are poor shots and those targeted were just wounded and not killed. However, this is not an anomaly but is instead a reflection of an ongoing march of right-wing political violence.