Southern Workers School Opens 2018 Session in Durham Sept. 14-16

by on August 10, 2018

Southern Workers School Opens 2018 Session in Durham, Sept. 14-16

On September 14-16, 2018, the Southern Workers Assembly (SWA) will hold the third annual Southern Workers School in Durham, NC. This school will include a series 9 workshops of education, training and development of organizing tools to help prepare SWA worker-representatives to embark on a plan to build the organized rank-and-file infrastructure in workplaces and industries across the US South.

The 2018 School is being hosted by our friends at the Durham Workers Assembly. The closing session will be October 19-21.

In 2016 & 2017, more than 120 rank and file workers from many different states and sectors participated in 2 in person sessions of the SWA School and 6 continuing online sessions between the two meetings. We hope to increase participation in this upcoming session.

Several dozen rank and file leaders of unions and workers organizations from all across North Carolina and the entire region are planning to participate in this historic gathering – but we need your help to make it a success!

DONATE TODAY TO SUPPORT THE 2018 SOUTHERN WORKERS SCHOOL!

For more information about the 2018 Workers School, email us at info@southernworker.org


Solidarity with North Carolina Education Worker Actions!

by on May 15, 2018

Solidarity with North Carolina Education Worker Actions!

NC Education WorkersThe Southern Workers Assembly sends solidarity to North Carolina education workers and their union!

On May 16, teachers are taking personal days to mobilize by the tens of thousands to march on the General Assembly in Raleigh. North Carolina teachers and school workers are following the bold example of walkouts and strikes by education workers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Milwaukee, Colorado, Arizona, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. An intensifying period of fightback is being inaugurated that is expanding consciousness and changing the terrain of struggle for all workers.

These courageous actions led largely by multinational women workers, are the result of years of devastating austerity, cutbacks to public education and services, and the deprivation of vital resources from our communities. Instead of fighting for workers, politicians from both parties would rather give handouts from big business and billionaires. Students, parents, the community, and other worker organizations have shown incredible support in this moment of resistance. It’s clear that working class people are fed up with cutbacks and are laying the basis for a broader, class-wide struggle against austerity and for the needs of our communities.
Workers in the South and in so-called “right-to-work” (for less!) states have played a leading role in this rising tide of resistance, which has brought a new dimension of rank-and-file-led militancy to the labor movement.
In most cases, the walkouts and strikes that are taking place are technically illegal according to the letter of the law. That has proven no obstacle for the determination of workers engaged in struggle together, demonstrating that workers in motion can profoundly and quickly change these
dynamics of power.

In addition to being a “right-to-work” state, it is illegal in the state of North Carolina for public workers to collectively bargain with their employer. NC General Statute 95-98 was signed into law in 1959 by an all-white legislature during the time of Jim Crow segregation and major human rights violations in the United States. This law was passed during the rise of the Civil Rights movement, and at a time of organizing among the largely Black public workers. The NAACP has deemed NCGS § 95-98 to be North Carolina’s last Jim Crow law.

In March 2007, the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) found North Carolina’s ban on collective bargaining to be in violation of international labor standards after NC Public Service Workers Union UE Local 150 organized a series of public hearings across the state. In that decision the ILO called on the United States government to “promote the establishment of a collective bargaining framework in the public sector in North Carolina” and called specifically for the repeal of NCGS § 95-98.

In 2005, the International Commission on Labor Rights (ICLR) sent an independent delegation of international labor rights experts from around the world to North Carolina to document working conditions of public sector workers. The ICLR delegation found that NC’s prohibition of collective bargaining had resulted in deplorable working conditions for state and municipal workers, including widespread race and sex discrimination and unsafe workplaces. Both employment discrimination and unsafe working conditions violate numerous international covenants.

Big business and the politicians that do their bidding in states across the country study the
anti-labor laws in North Carolina and the South in an attempt to introduce them in an increasing number of states. A prime example of this is the notorious Art Pope, multi-millionaire owner of Variety Wholesalers. Pope has used his fortune to advance his racist, anti-worker agenda in NC, and increasingly across the country. IN NC, he played a major role in engineering the resegregation of Wake County Public Schools – which was defeated by high school students in alliance with community forces – and in the right-wing takeover of the NC Legislature in 2011. He was later installed as the NC Budget Director, and oversaw a host of draconian cuts to public education and services. Pope’s agenda has been met with massive opposition.

It is also significant to note that he sits on the board of the Bradley Foundation, a far-right organization
based in Wisconsin that played a pivotal role in Governor Walker’s attacks on working people there and in pushing his agenda in many other states, in addition to other far-right organizations.

In recent years, major banks and energy corporations headquartered in NC like Bank of America and Duke Energy have reported record profits, while these same corporations have foreclosed on our homes, raised our energy rates year after year, polluted our communities with toxic coal ash, and much more. In addition to the wealth handed to these corporations by the NC legislature, they are also the major beneficiaries of the Trump tax cuts.

From 2009 to 2011, the income of the top 1% in NC grew by 6.2% while the income of the rest of us fell by 2.9%. NC now has one of the lowest corporate tax rates at around 3%.

  • North Carolina ranks 39th in per pupil spending in the U.S.
  • Nearly 25% of children in the state live in poverty.
  • Over 7,000 teacher assistant jobs have been cut in recent years.
  • State legislators have taken direct aim at tenure for public school teachers, implementing a year to year contract for most teachers from 2012 until 2017, which remains in place for many to this day.

In Charlotte alone, the third largest banking capital in the U.S. – known as Wall Street South – there is a total of $2.26 trillion in financial assets between Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and other financial and corporate institutions. This enormous wealth is the product of exploitation of working class people.

Teachers, custodians, bus drivers, city workers, and laborers in all public sectors continue to break their backs building society for the rich, while the wealth we create is concentrated into the hands of a increasingly smaller group of elites at the top.

The main concern of these politicians and legislators, who are in league with banks and energy companies, is their bottom line. They would rather see us starve our children and communities than pay us living wages and fund people’s needs. It’s in their best interest to keep us below the poverty line, sick, and often too tired to fight back. But things are changing. We are following the inspiring example of educator unions all across the country, and especially in the South where most states are right-to-work. We’re encouraged by other rank-and-file workers who are pushing to make their unions fight and take more progressive and class consciousness positions. Worker organizations in the South, with education workers at the forefront in this period, have spread their energy like wildfire, and the results have been nothing short of astounding. When we move together, we see that real change is possible.

The Southern Workers Assembly affirms our support for the rank-n-file members in this historic battle, and urges you to continue to build your unions.
Together.

The conditions of NC and many Southern states forces unions into a different relationship with the decision-makers. In the days as we await the
Supreme Court decision on the Janus case, which would effectively make public sector workers in all states right-to-work, we are reminded that even
workers in the RTW states, concentrated in the US South, can build their unions, fightback and win. The type of mass rank-n-file action displayed by North
Carolina educators is an example for us all to follow.

FIGHT ALL BUDGET CUTS!

Repeal the Jim Crow GS 95-98 ban on public sector collective bargaining!

Medicare for All!

Defend Union Jobs and Public Services! Defeat Right-to-Work!

Organize the South!

Southern Workers Assembly, Coordinating Committee


Solidarity With North Carolina Education Workers Actions!

by on May 14, 2018

Solidarity With North Carolina Education Workers Actions!

Deepen the workers  struggle, strengthen our unions and fight against budget cuts!

Southern Workers Assembly sends solidarity to North Carolina education workers and their union! On May 16, teachers are taking personal days to mobilize by the tens of thousands to march on the General Assembly in Raleigh.  North Carolina teachers and school workers are following the bold example of walkouts and strikes by education workers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Milwaukee, Colorado, Arizona, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. An intensifying period of fightback is being inaugurated that is expanding consciousness and changing the terrain of struggle for all workers.

These courageous actions led largely by multinational women workers, are the result of years of devastating austerity, cutbacks to public education and services, and the deprivation of vital resources from our communities. Instead of fighting for workers, politicians from both parties would rather give handouts from big business and billionaires. Students, parents, the community, and other worker organizations have shown incredible support in this moment of resistance. It’s clear that working class people are fed up with cutbacks and are laying the basis for a broader, class-wide struggle against austerity and for the needs of our communities.

Workers in the South and in so-called “right-to-work” (for less!) states have played a leading role in this rising tide of resistance, which has brought a new dimension of rank-and-file-led militancy to the labor movement. In most cases, the walkouts and strikes that are taking place are technically illegal according to the letter of the law. That has proven no obstacle for the determination of workers engaged in struggle together, demonstrating that workers in motion can profoundly and quickly change these dynamics of power.

In addition to being a “right-to-work” state, it is illegal in the state of North Carolina for public workers to collectively bargain with their employer. NC General Statute 95-98 was signed into law in 1959 by an all-white legislature during the time of Jim Crow segregation and major human rights violations in the United States. This law was passed during the rise of the Civil Rights movement, and at a time of organizing among the largely Black public workers. The NAACP has deemed NCGS § 95-98 to be North Carolina’s last Jim Crow law.

In March 2007, the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) found North Carolina’s ban on collective bargaining to be in violation of international labor standards after NC Public Service Workers Union UE Local 150 organized a series of public hearings across the state. In that decision the ILO called on the United States government to “promote the establishment of a collective bargaining framework in the public sector in North Carolina” and called specifically for the repeal of NCGS § 95-98.

In 2005, the International Commission on Labor Rights (ICLR) sent an independent delegation of international labor rights experts from around the world to North Carolina to document working conditions of public sector workers. The ICLR delegation found that NC’s prohibition of collective bargaining had resulted in deplorable working conditions for state and municipal workers, including widespread race and sex discrimination and unsafe workplaces. Both employment discrimination and unsafe working conditions violate numerous international covenants.

Big business and the politicians that do their bidding in states across the country study the anti-labor laws in North Carolina and the South in an attempt to introduce them in an increasing number of states. A prime example of this is the notorious Art Pope, multi-millionaire owner of Variety Wholesalers. Pope has used his fortune to advance his racist, anti-worker agenda in NC, and increasingly across the country. IN NC, he played a major role in engineering the resegregation of Wake County Public Schools – which was defeated by high school students in alliance with community forces – and in the right-wing takeover of the NC Legislature in 2011. He was later installed as the NC Budget Director, and oversaw a host of draconian cuts to public education and services. Pope’s agenda has been met with massive opposition.

It is also significant to note that he sits on the board of the Bradley Foundation, a far-right organization based in Wisconsin that played a pivotal role in Governor Walker’s attacks on working people there and in pushing his agenda in many other states, in addition to other far-right organizations.

In recent years, major banks and energy corporations headquartered in NC like Bank of America and Duke Energy have reported record profits, while these same corporations have foreclosed on our homes, raised our energy rates year after year, polluted our communities with toxic coal ash, and much more. In addition to the wealth handed to these corporations by the NC legislature, they are also the major beneficiaries of the Trump tax cuts.

From 2009 to 2011, the income of the top 1% in NC grew by 6.2% while the income of the rest of us fell by 2.9%. NC now has one of the lowest corporate tax rates at around 3%.

  • North Carolina ranks 39th in per pupil spending in the U.S.

  • Nearly 25% of children in the state live in poverty.

  • Over 7,000 teacher assistant jobs have been cut in recent years.

  • State legislators have taken direct aim at tenure for public school teachers, implementing a year to year contract for most teachers from 2012 until 2017, which remains in place for many to this day.

In Charlotte alone, the third largest banking capital in the U.S. – known as Wall Street South – there is a total of $2.26 trillion in financial assets between Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and other financial and corporate institutions. This enormous wealth is the product of exploitation of working class people.  Teachers, custodians, bus drivers, city workers, and laborers in all public sectors continue to break their backs building society for the rich, while the wealth we create is concentrated into the hands of a increasingly smaller group of elites at the top.

The main concern of these politicians and legislators, who are in league with banks and energy companies, is their bottom line. They would rather see us starve our children and communities than pay us living wages and fund people’s needs. It’s in their best interest to keep us below the poverty line, sick, and often too tired to fight back. But things are changing. We are following the inspiring example of educator unions all across the country, and especially in the South where most states are right-to-work. We’re encouraged by other rank-and-file workers who are pushing to make their unions fight and take more progressive and class consciousness positions. Worker organizations in the South, with education workers at the forefront in this period, have spread their energy like wildfire, and the results have been nothing short of astounding. When we move together, we see that real change is possible.

The Southern Workers Assembly affirms our support for the rank-n-file members in this historic battle, and urges you to continue to build your unions.

The conditions of NC and many Southern states forces unions into a different relationship with the decision-makers. In the days as we await the Supreme Court decision on the Janus case, which would effectively make public sector workers in all states right-to-work, we are reminded that even workers in the RTW states, concentrated in the US South, can build their unions, fightback and win. The type of mass rank-n-file action displayed by North Carolina educators is an example for us all to follow.

Fight all budget cuts!
Repeal the Jim Crow GS 95-98 ban on public sector collective bargaining!
Medicare for All!
Defend Union Jobs and Public Services!
Defeat Right-to-Work!
Organize the South!

Southern Workers Assembly, Coordinating Committee

Solidarity with Oklahoma Teacher & State Worker Walkouts!

by on April 2, 2018

Solidarity with Oklahoma Teacher & State Worker Walkouts!

Deepen the class struggle, strengthen our unions and fight against austerity!

The Southern Workers Assembly sends our solidarity to the education workers and their unions across Oklahoma that will stage walkouts in school districts across the state on April 2. This bold action comes on the heels of the 9-day strike by education workers in West Virginia that has inaugurated a new period of fightback particularly by public school workers. Workers in the South are playing a leading role in this rising tide of resistance – in addition to West Virginia and Oklahoma, teachers in Kentucky have staged walk-outs, along with Jersey City, New Jersey, Arizona, and elsewhere.

While conditions in each area are unique, they have opened a wider struggle against the crushing impact of years of cutbacks and austerity measures that have crippled public education and public services, driven down wages and working conditions, taken aim at workers’ ability to build our unions, and deprived our communities of many vitally needed resources. All this while banks, oil and gas companies, and other big corporations receive massive handouts. Workers in Oklahoma are showing the way forward by going out on strike on April 2, and demonstrating to the world what is possible when workers stick together and take bold action.

Oklahoma teachers are the 49th lowest paid in the country. Ninety of the state’s 500 school districts have switched to a four-day school week due to a lack of funding resources to keep schools open for a full five-day week. Many teachers report that they are forced to drive for Uber and Lyft, or take on other part-time and temporary work just to make ends meet. Stories from teachers and pictures of their classrooms that have circulated in the media and online in recent weeks show classrooms woefully deprived of working chairs, desks, and other basic supplies – which teachers have had to come out of their own pockets to try to address, or have borrowed supplies from friends and neighbors to supplement the state’s inability to provide these things for Oklahoma children and educators.

The state is also one of the top five petroleum and shale producing states in the country. The US Energy Information Administration reports that oil production in Oklahoma has recently increased by two and a half times since 2005. However, Oklahoma taxes oil and gas production at the lowest rate in the U.S. – a dismal 2%. These pipelines are often built on Native lands and there have been many struggles – and some victories – by Indigenous peoples to stop the construction of new pipelines. Cuts to education were highest in Oklahoma than in any other state following the 2008 great recession, with state funding for public schools cut by 23.6% between 2008 and 2014. The schools, the public sector, and the people of Oklahoma were robbed to ensure that the oil and gas industry in particular, and other big business in general, would continue to make greater and greater profits.

Oklahoma education workers have chosen a particularly strategic time to stage these actions – to coincide with the beginning of standardized testing – a gigantic industry in its own right in the U.S. It was the activity by the rank and file members of the OKEA and the OK AFT that chose this date and moved the strike up earlier from initial plans for later in April. Like in West Virginia, we see that the activity of the rank and file is a decisive factor in deepening these struggles and on the ultimate outcome to win against big business and the politicians who do their bidding in the legislature and other offices.

Workers in Oklahoma have already proven this to be true. The widespread activity by education and state worker union members to build and prepare for the April 2 strike, has forced the Oklahoma state legislature to pass a $447 million tax increase and raise salaries by $6,000. Buoyed by this, Oklahoma teachers have continued to march forward toward April 2 until their demands are met.

Teachers, nurses, state employees, fast food workers and industrial workers – in fact all of us – continue to grapple with the unresolved crisis of our health care system. School districts, teachers, and other school employees cannot solve this problem alone. The only sensible answer is found in a national health care system that covers all of us – Medicare for All.
The primary fight here is not against our union leaders, it is supporting the rank-n-file activity standing up against pro-big business politicians. It’s really the legislators that are striking the deals and selling out the workers. These politicians have interest of energy companies and general private capital. We are encouraged by the workers fighting within their unions, to make them more progressive and class conscious.

The Southern Workers Assembly affirms our support for the rank-n-file members in this historic battle, and urges you to continue to build your unions. Oklahoma, like many southern states, bans public workers from having collective bargaining agreements. This forces unions into a different relationship with the decision-makers. In the days as we await the Supreme Court decision on the Janus case, which would effectively make public sector workers in all states right-to-work, we are reminded that even workers in the RTW states, concentrated in the US South, can build their unions, fightback and win. The type of mass rank-n-file action displayed by Oklahoma educators is an example for us all to follow.

Defeat Austerity!
Medicare for All!
Defend Union Jobs and Public Services!
Defeat Right-to-Work for Less!
Organize the South!

Southern Workers Assembly, Coordinating Committee

Solidarity with West Virginia Teacher Walk-outs!

by on March 5, 2018
Solidarity With W Va Teachers

Bluefield, WV February 26, 2018. Photo Credit: Southern Workers Assembly

Solidarity with West Virginia Teacher Walk-outs! Deepen the class struggle, strengthen our unions and fight against austerity!

The Southern Workers Assembly sends our solidarity to the education workers and their unions across West Virginia that are in a tremendous class struggle against austerity. For more than a week, rank-n-file educators have been defying state law and leading rolling walk-out strikes to fight for a decent family-supporting wage, for access to affordable healthcare and in defense of their union rights.

The crisis of funding for public education and all public services has been brewing in West Virginia, and in fact across the South and entire country for a few years. However, it was the brave rank-n-file members in the southern counties of West Virginia that took the initial efforts to organize walk-outs from their schools, shutting many down across several counties, which spread in the following days across the entire state in to rolling walk-outs in all 55 counties, and thousands of workers rallying at the state Capitol in Charleston for several days. They also did the critical work to build support amongst the students, parents and their communities, so when they walked out they were supported. The community and the unions helped organize food distribution, childcare and other survival mechanisms to support the education workers in their actions.

Thousands have been rallying at the state capitol in Charleston for over a week in some of the largest worker demonstrations in the state since the days of the major struggles of the mine workers. In fact, on Feb. 26 raising the fighting legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a strong union supporter, United Mine Workers of America President Cecil E. Roberts gave a fiery speech at the rally, saying that “workers who stand united will never be defeated.”

West Va RallyMany teachers were angered by the Republican-controlled state legislature and Governor Jim Justice who were refusing to offer any wage increases. Educators and state employees have had wages frozen for a few years without any increases. Teachers earn less than 47 out of 50 states across the country. The state was also threatening to make drastic cuts to the state insurance agency, Public Employee Insurance Agency, which would drive up costs for state employees, teachers and their families. They were also facing three other major anti-worker attacks including passing of a Koch brothers-sponsored payroll deception bill to eliminate payroll deduction for union dues, privatization of public schools through allowing the creation of charter schools, and stripping seniority rights for reductions in force.

After four days of statewide walk-outs and thousands rallying at the state Capitol on Thursday, February 22 and Friday, February 23, and again on Monday, February 26 and Tuesday, February 27, the unions were able to force Governor Justice into a deal. Gov. Justice promised a 5% raise for educators and 3% raise for state employees, agreed to find funding to support PEIA, and also to eliminate the 3 anti-worker proposals.

Governor Justice didn’t become a billionaire and richest man in West Virginia without having some nasty tricks. He immediately called a press conference to announce the deal, before union leaders were able to bring back the proposals to their union members. This had a big impact on the rank-n-file workers which felt betrayed because they had not ratified any deal. Many leaders of union chapters across the state are upset, and in defiance of the statewide leadership, called for continuance of walk-outs to oppose the deal. Workers have effectively shut down schools again on Wednesday, February 28 and Thursday, March 1.

We have confidence that the national leadership of both the AFT and NEA will very soon issue to their members a detailed breakdown of the tentative settlement and will convene meetings throughout the state at which teachers may discuss the settlement offer and vote their decision. Until the teacher-members reach their decision, we urge teachers, students, parents and allies to continue to support this very impressive walk-out.

Teachers, nurses, state employees, fast food workers and industrial workers – in fact all of us – continue to grapple with the unresolved crisis of our health care system. School districts and teachers and other school employees cannot solve this problem alone. The only sensible answer is found in a national health care system that covers all of us – Medicare for All.

The primary fight here is not against our union leaders, it is supporting the rank-n-file activity standing up against pro-big business politicians. It’s really the legislators that are striking the deals and selling out the workers. These politicians have interest of energy companies and general private capital. We are encouraged by the workers fighting within their unions, to make them more progressive and class conscious.

The Southern Workers Assembly affirms our support for the rank-n-file members in this historic battle, and urges you to continue to build your unions. West Virginia, like many southern states, bans public workers from having collective bargaining agreements. This forces unions into a different relationship with the decision-makers. In the days as we await the Supreme Court decision on the Janus case, which would effectively make public sector workers in all states right-to-work, we are reminded that even workers in the RTW states, concentrated in the US South, can build their unions, fightback and win. The type of mass rank-n-file action displayed by WV educators is an example for us all to follow.

Defeat Austerity!*
Medicare for All!
Defend Union Jobs and Public Services!
Defeat Right-to-Work for Less!
Organize the South!

Southern Workers Assembly, Coordinating Committee

March 1, 2018