LA Strike: Self-Mobilization of Workers and Communities

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This is the first essay in a series that we are republishing and/or hosting on the recent United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) strike. Originally published on New Politics

In January 2019, a massive strike of over 30,000 public school teachers stunned the Los Angeles power structure when it received massive, almost unanimous public support, especially in the city’s large Latinx and Black communities.  Latinx students now make up 75% of the city’s over 600,000 public school students. Even the anti-labor Los Angeles Times, which had issued dire warnings ahead of the strike, felt compelled to run a front-page headline on the third day that began with the words, “L.A. Teachers Bask in support for strike.”

This support, and the sustained pickets and rallies of teachers, students, parents, and other community members, forced the school board of the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) to concede considerable ground.  Everywhere, the union placards of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) were printed in both Spanish and English. The mass outpouring in favor of the strike also helped change the national conversation about the privatized charter schools that are eating away at public education. And just as the West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona teachers’ strikes of 2018 paved the way for this one in LA, so the LA strike is very likely to be followed by major teacher strikes in Oakland, Denver, and other cities.

What Teachers and Students Are Facing

Public schools are underfunded, overcrowded, lack adequate social services and are subject to the worst impulses of neoliberalism. These attacks on public education disproportionately affect poor students, students of color, immigrant children, students whose primary language is not English, and those with disabilities. For months and years, LA teachers have been demanding a modest wage increase along with lower class size, accountability for charter schools, more support staff (nurses, counselors, librarians, etc.), less standardized testing, re-investment in education programs, and a stop to random searches and policing of students. A previous strike in 1989 demonstrated how demanding only a wage increase was short-sighted. LAUSD did meet teachers’ demands in ’89 but also increased class size, cut down on support staff and programs, and heavily charterized the district.

By 2014, a slate backed by progressive caucuses brought a new leadership to the UTLA. Moreover, the reinvigorated union lost hardly any members despite the reactionary Supreme Court decision making it harder for public sector unions to maintain their membership by making it “voluntary” even for workplaces with union contracts.

As a result of the January 2019 strike, the teachers won something on all of these issues, although in some cases only marginally. The seven-day strike commenced on Monday, January 14, Teachers wore #redfored, in/with the spirit of their fellow teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arizona who had engaged in similar labor struggles in 2018. Teachers would report to their respective school site at 6.30 am and picket heavily during school drop-off. A daily rally was held in downtown LA at the LAUSD headquarters. After the rally, teachers would return to their schools to picket at the end of school. Other actions involved protesting at the homes of school superintendent Austin Beutner and Monica Garcia (one of the more obstinate board members). Beutner the new superintendent is an investment banker with no teaching or education administration background. He was also a deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa and has ties to billionaire Eli Broad.

Supporters from many political leanings joined teachers on the picket lines. In particular, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)-LA, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), and Black Rose/Rosa Negra (BRRN) were among the leftist groups that were conspicuously in solidarity with teachers picketing and offering resources, while several from the International Marxist-Humanist Organization (IMHO) participated as individuals. Teachers also coordinated their strike activity with other labor actions across the city.

Continue reading “LA Strike: Self-Mobilization of Workers and Communities”

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Afrin Under Attack by Neo-Ottoman Erdoğan: We Must Defend Afrin!

Beginning on Saturday, January 20, 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered his military together with allied elements of the Free Syrian Army to begin a major assault on the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region, the northwestern part of the Democratic Confederation of Northern Syria, otherwise known as Rojava. Though preceded by two days of preparatory shelling, the attack commenced with heavy bombardment by 72 aircraft of over 150 targets in Afrin, including the city center. As of Sunday morning, January 21st, Turkish ground troops and tanks have started to invade. This aggression, which clearly violates the Nuremberg Principles on war, comes days after the Trump Regime announced it would begin training a 30,000-strong “Syrian Border Security Force” among Kurds in Northern Syria to block infiltration to resurrect Da’esh (ISIS/ISIL). Hence, while the Orwellian-termed “Operation Olive Branch” launched by Erdoğan seeks to crush the Kurdish Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (People’s Protection Units, YPG) and the allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for being supposed affiliates of the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK), against which the Turkish State has been at war for more than three decades, this assault also targets the Syrian Kurds as a people.

According to Hawzhin Azeez of the Kobane Reconstruction Board of Rojava, the initial aerial bombardment indiscriminately struck civilian areas, and FSA fighters, who reportedly speak only Turkish, captured by the SDF/YPG report that they have come to “kill all the Kurds” of the region. Considering that the Turkish State has cut off all cellular and internet coverage in the area, and in light of the recent Russian withdrawal of forces from the region, there is a grave risk of nationalist massacres against the Kurdish civilian population, both as part of the strategy against the SDF/YPG, and also as reprisal, should the latter be pushed back or defeated. On Saturday, Erdoğan declared that the attack on Afrin, if “successful,” would be followed by a new campaign against Manbij. See a map of northwestern Syria/southwestern Turkey below:

 

Yellow = SDF/YPG    Turquoise = Turkish military/Free Syrian Army     Red = Assad Regime    Green = anti-Assad rebels

Syria map

Courtesy https://SyrianCivilWarMap.com

Continue reading “Afrin Under Attack by Neo-Ottoman Erdoğan: We Must Defend Afrin!”

Responding to Capitalism’s Wars at Home and Abroad: Sunday, January 14, 2018

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Courtesy Fernando Martí, Justseeds

Sunday, January 14, 2018, 6:15 PM

Art Share

801 East Fourth Place (Arts District), Los Ángeles

(Free parking in roof lot across the street on Hewitt St. by the Aztec calendar, also accessible by Metro)

Sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)

Speakers:

Hamid Khan, Stop LAPD Spying Campaign, on domestic surveillance

Maureen Cruise and Kirsten Magnuson, Health Care for All-Los Angeles, beyond Obamacare

Kevin B. Anderson, UCSB Professor and CPRSJ, on Trump’s wars and war threats

Ali Kiani, International Marxist-Humanist Organization, on Iranian uprising

The thoroughly reactionary processes put into motion by the Trump regime range from wars, threats of wars, and an increase in the international arms trade, to the wars on working people and people of color here in the U.S. These include increased police surveillance and the attempts to abolish Obamacare. Trump’s open support of racial and gender hierarchies and of authoritarianism represent, along with his economic nationalism, new politics with fascist overtones. But the way for these policies was prepared by a series of neoliberal administrations, from Clinton, to Bush, to Obama. And while the U.S. is by far the world’s largest and most aggressive imperialist power, it is not alone in threatening or making war, or in repressing its people and lowering its living standards. This has been shown by the uprising by Iranian workers. We need to rise up, not by fighting for a return to the neoliberal Obama years, but by deepening the struggle against both Trump and the system that produced him.

Sponsors of the CPRSJ:

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation-Los Angeles

Campus Marxist-Humanists, UCSB

International Marxist-Humanist Organization, West Coast Chapter

Socialist Party, Los Angeles Local

Members of Solidarity: A Socialist, Feminist, Anti-Racist Organization, Los Angeles Branch

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/CPRSJ/

https://cprsj.wordpress.com/

Frieda Afary, “How Did We Go from the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement to the Destruction of the Syrian Revolution and the Global Rise of Racist Authoritarianism?”

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Frieda Afary, Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists

Comments presented at the July 14 launch of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution and Social Justice at a public meeting at the Westside Peace Center, Culver City

In 2011, the world was abuzz with the spirit of the Arab Spring, a revolutionary movement for social justice, freedom and human dignity which aimed to overthrow authoritarian states in the Middle East.   This movement seemed to come out of nowhere but was actually the result of decades of deep mass dissatisfaction with worsening poverty and political repression under authoritarian regimes such as those of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria.

The revolts in Tunisia and in Egypt involved the participation of youth and women as well as large labor unions. They led to the overthrow of the dictators, Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt.   The uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad had the most diverse composition, involving youth, workers, women, and not only the Sunni Arab majority but also the Kurds, an oppressed national minority, as well as members of the Alawite Muslim minority, Christians, Assyrians and the Druze Shi-a community.   The Arab Spring was really a Middle Eastern Spring that involved non-Arabs and even extended to protests against poverty and corruption in Israel. It was also preceded by the Iranian Green movement, a mass protest movement against the fraudulent presidential election in 2009 which lasted several months before it was brutally crushed by the Iranian government.

Continue reading “Frieda Afary, “How Did We Go from the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement to the Destruction of the Syrian Revolution and the Global Rise of Racist Authoritarianism?””