Archive for the ‘Workers history’ Category

West Virginia school workers defied the authorities and their own union leaders – as a result they won an important victory

by The Spark

Over 20,000 West Virginia public school teachers and 13,000 school employees will get 5 percent raises, starting in July of 2018. How did this happen?

A strike that started in a few southern coal mining counties caught fire. It was joined by other workers and became a state-wide strike. Every public school in West Virginia was closed for 9 days.

In this state where public employees have no collective bargaining rights, over 30,000 people “bargained” by not going to work. They gathered by the thousands each day at the state capitol and decided together when they would go back to work.

Rank-and-file teachers made sure their strike was well organized. When union officials announced a tentative “deal” with the governor, teachers organized themselves to not go back to work. They had no trust in the politicians and wanted everything in writing.

Many teachers had not wanted to (more…)


“As capitalist, he is only capital personified. His soul is the soul of capital. But capital has one single life impulse, the tendency to create value and surplus-value, to make its constant factor, the means of production, absorb the greatest possible amount of surplus-labour. Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist.”
-Marx, Capital Vol. 1, Ch. 10, Section 1, ‘ The Limits of the Working Day’.

For Canterbury Socialist Society’s March event we are returning to some of Marx’s foundational texts regarding political economy and its critique.

A comrade and Wellington-based supporter of the CSS will be presenting on Marx’s exposition of ‘The Working Day’. The lecture will examine the  (more…)

The Health Sector Workers Network, a rank-and-file grouping of workers in the health sphere, has as one of its current projects the assembling of stories of resistance by workers in this sector.

HSWN are conducting interviews with people who have direct experience of taking industrial action – or engaging in any form of struggle or resistance – while working in the health sector.

Your story will be recorded and run on the HSWN site, but you can be anonymous if you wish.

So please get in touch with the Network’s project on struggle and resistance in the health sector.  You can email: 

The HSWN site, meanwhile, is here.

And HSWN on facebook is here.

Left, Cyril Ramaphosa; Right, Marikana Massacre

by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as president of South Africa has produced a plethora of articles hailing a new dawn for the nation.  The Irish Times published an article written by the South African psychologist and current John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill chair in peace based at the International Conflict Research Institute, Ulster University, Professor Brandon Hamber.  The title of the article was the unimaginative A new dawn for South Africa, but a false start for Northern Ireland.(1)

But here I want to focus on South Africa.  He is after all from there and Ramaphosa was hailed in Ireland as a champion of peace and an important figure in the decommissioning process.  If his election as president of South Africa is a new dawn, then it will not be long before he is once again held up as an example to us all, which is what Hamber does, in effect.

He acknowledges problems in South Africa, but states that with Ramaphosa’s election, “A wave of new-found optimism has swept the country. In his state-of-the nation address on Friday, Ramaphosa spoke of a new dawn, turning the tide against corruption and tackling inequalities, while maintaining economic stability.”  He further states that “South Africans have a new belief in democracy and people power, and have learned first-hand the value of a free media and an independent judiciary. There is new hope in the constitution, the rule of law and the institutions developed to protect democracy.”  Were that true it would be a remarkable accomplishment in a matter of days.  The hypebole of people power is overwhelming and nauseating.

To be clear, the new president of South Africa is a mining magnate, a multimillionaire whose fortune is calculated, depending on the source as being between USD 450 and 700 million.  Yes he was once a lawyer and a leader of the National Union of Mineworkers.  But that is in the past.  How he became rich says more about the South Africa he will build than all the fine words that we expect at inaugurations or the sycophantic faith of academics who should (more…)

by Phil Duncan

Teachers and school service workers in the US state of West Virginia are currently setting an example for workers across North America – and here in New Zealand – with a massive ‘wildcat’ strike.  These public employees are defying the bosses (the local state government and governor), the law and the top bureaucrats in their own union.

The workers’ industrial action has been in pursuit of not just their 5% pay claim, but also around worsening living standards due to high insurance and other ‘out-of-pocket’ costs. Teachers in the state are among the lowest-paid educators in the country – West Virginia ranks 48th out of 50 states in terms of teacher pay.  The last time the state’s 20,000 teachers and 15,000 school service workers got a pay rise was four years ago.

They have also been facing rising insurance costs – like other public employees, they pay into the PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency) and the premiums have been rising as faster rates than pay has been increasing, thus depressing their actual take-home pay.

As one of the striking teachers reports, “Even with a master’s degree plus 45 credits and 15 years of teaching experience, I bring home an estimated (more…)

Capitalism Derails (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Every week, the French revolutionary workers’ current Lutte Ouvriere produces workplace bulletins at hundreds of job sites all around the country.  Below is a slightly abridged version of the editorial from the latest round of bulletins, issued February 19.  LO’s site is here

The so-called Spinetta report recommends transforming SNCF (France’s state-run national railway) into a limited liability company, closing down “secondary” lines, opening up to competitors, doing away with the current working conditions of railroad employees and slashing five thousand jobs. In other words, this report is laying the groundwork for the accelerated privatization of SNCF and the destruction of railroad employees’ rights.

This is an outright declaration of war, to which the CGT (France’s major union confederation) replied by calling for a day of protest on March 22.

Railroad employees have every reason to fight back and so do all French workers. Given that the government is proudly boasting about the economic recovery and the return of prosperity, no worker should accept to see his working and living conditions get worse. No worker should accept to be treated as a chip in some casino game.

Many commentators and government officials get all worked up when (more…)

Employees of John Deere Europe and members of German industrial metal workers union IG Metall (IGM) protest at the John Deere factory in Mannheim, Germany, January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski

by Bastian Schmidt (Feb 8, 2018)

Last Tuesday night, employers in the German metal sector and the IG Metall union announced new labour contract. As part of the agreement, workers will be able to reduce their workweek to 28 hours for a limited period of time. However, this gain came at the cost of several other givebacks. Let’s examine this agreement more closely.

It has been quite a while since IG Metall mobilized this many workers: almost 1.5 million workers throughout the state of Baden-Wurttemberg participated in the strikes over the past weeks. The workers’ tremendous will to fight not only surprised the bosses but attracted the attention of the whole world. This is because, in the context of the current economic situation, the metalworkers’ union not only put forward demands for increased wages but also called for the shortening of the workday.

On Monday night, the negotiations ended with an agreement. Although the deal applies only to Baden-Wurttemberg currently, it will likely be adopted in other states soon. But is the agreement really as groundbreaking as the workers hoped?

More money, but with caveats. . .

The new collective bargaining agreement will be valid until the end of March 2020 — a period of 27 months. Thus, there will be a labour peace in this key sector of the German economy for at least the first two years of the new “Grand Coalition” to be launched between the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union. This is a clear signal the the leadership of IG Metall intends to play a (more…)