Moral Mondays: the emergence & dynamics of a growing mass human rights movement

by on February 2, 2014

This statement is written in the build-up to a Southern-wide Mass Moral March, which is the 8th Annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street, on Saturday, February 8 in Raleigh, N.C. bringing together hundreds of unions, civil rights, anti-war, women’s rights, environmental justice, community groups and churches to march against the reactionary policies of the N.C. General Assembly.   This is expected to be the largest march in the U.S. South in 50 years. To learn more about this march, visit http://www.hkonj.com

By Saladin Muhammad

Introduction

The Moral Mondays campaign in North Carolina that is mobilizing thousands to speak out against the legislative attacks on Black, working-class and poor people throughout the state is being talked about across the country, as it expands to other cities.

A Moral Monday rally in June 2013. Hundreds pack rotunda inside NC General Assembly; 151 were arrested that day. Photo: NC Student Power Union

Moral Mondays in North Carolina have a particular history that needs to be understood to recognize its political aims and the dynamics in moving it forward as a mass campaign and human rights social movement. Broad campaigns and movements for social justice have twists and turns that are influenced by the strength and bases of the class and political forces acting within them.

The critiques of social movements by many progressives too often rely on what’s written by the mainstream media without any contact with left and progressive forces which are active in those social movements. They also tend to analyze social movements as if there is only one permanent, leading political tendency and that other tendencies are merely tailing it and have no internal struggle, strategy and independent initiatives. The history of the Civil Rights Movement — where Dr. King was the mass spokesperson — points out the internal dynamics that exist within mass movements. Continue reading »

San Antonio Workers Rights Roundtable Launches Worker Assembly

by on January 28, 2014

Submitted by Joaquin Abrego

The San Antonio, Texas section of the Southern Workers Assembly convened a workers rights roundtable on January 16, 2014. The roundtable emerged from conversations between the Southwest Workers Union and Julie Rogers of the National Nurses Union. Both organizations were organizing workers in San Antonio and sought to deepen their connections and work in Southern Worker Assembly campaigns. In attendance were Southwest Workers Union representatives and members, National Nurses Union representatives and members, Fuerza Unida, Domestic Workers in Action, and Local 782 of the musicians union. The energy was amazing and participants were extremely cooperative.

Jessica O. Guerrero from Fuerza Unida stated, “This type of gathering is so important to our work. All of us benefit individually from exchanges like these, and our collective efforts are stronger for it. I’m happy to reconnect with some old allies and relieved and inspired that new faces and corazones (hearts) continue to join our work in la lucha/the struggle.” Guerrero continued, “We weren’t sure what to expect from the Workers Roundtable but we came away reinvigorated to continue our work.”

The prevailing conditions of workers in the U.S. South are poor. The roundtable demands an overall improvement of our working conditions. The Workers Rights Roundtable plans to meet bi-annually but participating organizations will continue to work together throughout the year to build capacity and momentum to fight for the rights of all workers, and seeks to launch a Southern Texas Worker Assembly.

For more information about the Southern Texas Workers Assembly or San Antonio Worker Roundtable contact Joaquin Abrego, organizer and representative, Southwest Workers Union at Joaquin@swunion.org or (210)413-8978

Support Union Democracy in the International Longshormen’s Association

by on December 8, 2013

Call on ILA officers to allow the nomination of Mike Payne now!

Sign the Petition:

Union democracy must be a fundamental aspect of a democratic society, especially when the democratic rights and needs of working-class and poor people as well as labor unions are under constant attack by corporate financed politicians and movements.

The International Longshoremen’s Association’s denying its rank-and-file their Constitutional right to nominate Brother Mike D. Payne, Vice President of the ILA Ports Council, Florida to run for the office of President of ILA Local 1526, is both a denial of union democracy to Brother Mike D. Payne, the ILA rank-and-file in Local 1526 and all members of the ILA. It further gives the labor movement the bad name that employers and organized labor critics often use to sway and discourage workers from forming and joining unions.

Brother Mike D. Payne is a well respected and active leader in the national and international dockworker /labor movement and social reform organizations; like the Longshore Workers Coalition, NAACP, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the National Labor Roundtable. Brother Payne and the members of ILA Local 1526 are only demanding the right that every ILA member and worker deserves in a democratic union

We the undersigned call on you, Harold J. Daggett as the International President of the ILA, and the officers of ILA Local 1526 to immediately allow the rank-and-file the right to nominate Mike D. Payne to run for union office in accordance with the nominations process as outlined in the ILA Constitution and the ILA Code of Ethics.

An Injury to One is An Injury to All!

Sign the Petition

Solidarity with N.C. Teacher’s Walk-in

by on November 6, 2013

Southern Workers Assembly Salutes the November 4 Education Worker Walk-In’s

On Monday, November 4 thousands of teachers, bus drivers, housekeepers, kitchen and other education workers from several dozen schools across the state of North Carolina organized a “walk-in” before school to protest Gov. McCrory’s massive cuts to public education and attacks on education workers rights. NC is 48th out of 50 states in both per-pupil funding for public education and average teacher’s pay.

Teacher's participate in Nov 4 walk-in before school at Guilford Elementary in Greensboro NC

Teacher’s participate in Nov. 4 walk-in before school at Guilford Elementary in Greensboro, N.C.

Governor Pat McCrory, State budget Director and retail store mogul Art Pope, Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. Phil Berger are to blame for the slashing funds for instructional supplies and textbooks, eliminating thousands of teacher assistants’ positions, gutting tenure rights for teachers (making it easier to fire teachers), another year with frozen pay and much more.

“It’s time to stop being afraid,” stated Clara Stiers, a Westlake Middle School counselor speaking at a town hall in Apex. “Today is the beginning.”

download the SWA Solidarity Statement

Workers taking collective action, such as this walk-in, is the only way that working people can defend our jobs, our communities and the vital services that we provide. We must continue to stay organized and support each other in our struggles for democracy in the work place. The initial call for a walk-out teachers strike shows how determined many teachers are to fight for quality education for the students that includes job security for education workers. The walk-ins that were later organized to engage education workers, parents, students and our communities, begins a the direction of forming people’s education assemblies where real educational democracy comes to life.

Continue reading »

Stop the Attacks on Labor’s Democratic and Human Rights:

by on October 8, 2013

Drop the Charges Against Moral Monday Labor Rights Arrestee Saladin Muhammad!

Saladin Muhammad
Sign the petition to stop attacks on labor’s constitutional rights to protest!

The opening trial for the 940 North Carolina Moral Mondays Campaign arrestees started with the case of Saladin Muhammad, a long-time North Carolina and U.S. national labor and social justice activist, on Oct. 4, 2013, in the N.C. District Court, where he was found guilty by a judge for trespassing, disorderly conduct and violating rules of the General Assembly while peacefully protesting with others on government property.

Muhammad was arrested on May 13, 2013, with 48 others protesting at the N.C. State Legislature against the anti-worker and racist laws that were being proposed and enacted as part of a national corporate-financed campaign to eliminate vital social programs and basic democratic rights that have been won by labor, the Black Freedom Movement (often referred to as the Civil Rights Movement) and other social movements over the past 100 or so years.

Muhammad, a founding member of Black Workers For Justice, led the organizing as an organizer of the national United Electrical Workers Union (UE) that formed the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150, which has been a leader in the campaign to repeal the N.C. state ban on collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. That included getting a ruling from a complaint filed with the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) finding North Carolina and the U.S. out of compliance with international laws and treaties by its denial of public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights. Despite the ILO ruling, North Carolina and the U.S. have refused to comply with the U.N. agency ruling.

The North Carolina legislature is now pushing to enact its anti-labor, right-to-work law as an amendment to the N.C. State Constitution, banning the right to collective bargaining for public sector workers, which would prevent private sector workers from using card check in efforts to form unions. This right-wing push to deny labor rights as a constitutional provision raises the urgency of the need to build a powerful statewide, South-wide and national campaign for labor/workers rights to protest and organize.

Worker Speak-Outs were organized in several North Carolina cities by the Southern Workers Assembly, an initiative led by UE Local 150 that brought together rank-and-file workers and leaders to talk about the conditions facing workers on the job which are being shaped by the legislative climate. Many workers stated that the anti-worker climate is increasing management’s abuse of power against basic worker and labor rights on the job.

As active participants in the Moral Mondays Campaign, UE 150 and Black Workers For Justice, which are close allies, invited rank-and-file workers and leaders from other unions and worker organizations to be part of the first Moral Mondays labor rights delegation to protest against the attacks on labor and worker rights at the N.C. General Assembly.

As North Carolina is a target state for corporate-financed, right-wing movements and organizations like the Tea Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council for modeling anti-democratic legislation for other states throughout the country, and especially in the South where industries are relocating in large numbers. We believe that the state of North Carolina started with the Muhammad case to send a strong message that rank-and-file labor social movement activism demanding labor rights and other democratic rights will not be tolerated.

Dr. King’s last demonstration in Memphis, Tenn., in support of the right to collective bargaining for Sanitation workers, points out that when the right of workers to organize and mobilize power in movements and campaigns like Moral Mondays for civil, democratic and human rights for working-class and poor people, especially the most oppressed in the case of Black workers, workers of color and women, the courts, the anti-democratic forces in all levels of government, and the most extreme elements promoting racial hatred and divisions among the people will make every possible effort to defeat this converging movement of democratic people’s power.

Prohibiting the right to protest against the General Assembly is an attack on an international human right and the U.S. Constitutional Rights of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association to voice grievances against injustices and violations against all human rights carried out by the government and corporations. Exercising the right to protest was core to Black people, labor and other social movements winning voting, labor and other social and political rights. Muhammad’s case is part of the struggle for labor to mobilize its power to protest and shape public opinion and to defend against attacks on and to fight for the advancement of labor and all human rights. Muhammad’s appeal of the guilty ruling is a fight against criminalizing labor’s right to mobilize the rank and file in protest.

We feel that Muhammad’s case should be used to help build a national and international rank-and-file and human rights movement campaign in defense of the right of labor and social movements to actively protest against government and corporate attacks and denial of human rights. It is important for labor and rank-and-file workers to be in the forefront of this campaign, as it represents a fundamental aspect of mobilizing labor and peoples’ power to defend and fight for advances in democratic rights and radical changes that address the needs of the majority of the people, not just the corporations and the rich.

Sign online petitions and send letters to the N.C. governor, President Obama and the N.C. District Court demanding that the charges be dropped against Saladin Muhammad and all of the Moral Mondays arrestees.

  • End the legislative attacks on labor and worker rights
  • Apply the ruling of the ILO by repealing the ban on public sector collective bargaining.
  • Carry out of the AFL-CIO 2013 national convention resolution to organize labor in the South.
  • Set up union and community meetings for labor rights’ arrestees to speak and help spread the struggle.
  • Wear yellow wristbands as an act of solidarity with the struggles for labor rights in North Carolina.

We call on unions, worker organizations and all organizations and networks committed to labor and human rights to sign on as endorsers of this Campaign to Drop the Charges against Saladin Muhammad and All Moral Mondays Campaign Arrestees and stop the criminalizing of the right to protest by sending contact information and resolutions that can be publicly posted on Southern Workers Assembly literature, websites, etc., to info@southernworker.org.

In societies and systems where the majority of the people must work to earn a decent standard of living to support themselves, their families and communities, their engagement in protests to make changes that improve conditions of workers at all levels of society is a human right. In the Spirit of Moral Mondays and Its First Rank-and-File Labor Delegation: Forward Together, Not One Step Back!

You can download this SWA statement and distribute it at union meetings, workplaces and in your community.