Category: Labor
A Louisville union built its strength as blacks, whites took on International Harvester
| August 30, 2017 | 6:44 pm | African American history, Labor | No comments

They crop up right around now, along with the ads for mattress sales: the annual assessments of the state of the American labor movement. There will be a certain mournful sameness to these Labor Day reflections.

While wages stagnate and inequality escalates, union membership rates continue plunging.

The Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress are not, to put it mildly, looking to reverse that trend.

“Right-to-work” is now the rule in most states, as Kentucky and Missouri passed such legislation earlier this year.

And just a few weeks ago, the high-profile organizing effort at Nissan’s Mississippi plant ended in failure.

If you’re a union supporter, all that might well put a damper on your backyard barbecue.

Inevitably, these analyses will focus on the American South. They’ll note the region’s lack of union tradition, the chronically sub-par standard of living, the toxic division sown by racism. The Mason-Dixon line serves as firewall, sustaining an employer-safe zone that undermines organized labor’s ability to secure a firm foothold anywhere else. This deeply-rooted reality makes it hard, these days, to envision how working people can unite to challenge corporate power.

Except that not too long ago, and right here in Louisville, a different story was being written.

“We’re not going to be second-class citizens in the South.” That’s what the 2,000 workers at the sprawling new International Harvester factory — which once stood where planes now take off from Standiford Field — declared in 1947. They objected to the lower pay scale that Harvester management had imposed, and to underscore their point, they walked out of the plant. They then kept it shut down tight in a raucous strike that dominated Louisville’s headlines for over 40 days.

What made this action run contrary to much conventional wisdom is that Harvester’s wages were generous by Southern standards. And nearly all of those who walked out had never been in a union before. And during the strike, whites and African-Americans demonstrated a level of solidarity unprecedented in then heavily-segregated Louisville. And one more thing made the “Southern differential” strike of 1947 noteworthy, then and now: With only $61 in their local union’s treasury, the workers took on one of the world’s most powerful corporations — and won.

Industrial empire built on anti-unionism
International Harvester ceased to exist in the mid-1980s, so it bears reminding that it was one of America’s original industrial empires. Cyrus McCormick began production of his namesake reaper in Chicago before the Civil War and soon became one of the nation’s richest men; in 1902 the company — which the McCormick family continued to control — morphed into International Harvester, a farm equipment monopoly employing hundreds of thousands. IH was a global enterprise well before “globalism” became common parlance, with factories, mines and mills scattered from Australia to Russia to Benham, Kentucky (a coal operation and company town Harvester built and owned in its entirety).

But from its early days the company also garnered a reputation for something else: anti-unionism.

Police violence during a strike outside the McCormick factory triggered the 1886 protest at Chicago’s Haymarket Square, which devolved into chaos when a bomb suddenly exploded. In the aftermath four anarchists were hanged and the eight-hour movement died with them. Cyrus McCormick II played a prominent role in securing both outcomes.

In the early 20th century, IH pioneered in the new field of industrial relations, developing more sophisticated methods to quash workers’ organizing efforts. Consequently, even with the upsurge of activism in the Great Depression, International Harvester remained union-free, holding out even after behemoths such as General Motors, Ford, Republic Steel and General Electric had succumbed. It was not until 1941 that Harvester president Fowler McCormick (grandson of both Cyrus McCormick I and John D. Rockefeller) finally signed a multi-plant contract. By the end of World War II, Harvester’s many manufacturing operations — all of them located in the Midwest or Northeast — were at long last unionized.

No surprise, then, that the union that broke through at IH was bold and unflinching. The Farm Equipment Workers, known as FE, was officially formed in 1938; it was one of the founding unions in the Congress of Industrial Organizations — the CIO. It was never a very big operation but garnered an outsized reputation for its militancy, with many of its key leaders connected to the Communist Party. “The philosophy of our union,” an FE official explained, “was that management had no right to exist.” In practice, this meant, among other things, a preference for addressing workers’ complaints at once, instead of adjudicating them through a grievance procedure; plants represented by the FE thus registered exceptionally high levels of walkouts between contracts. It, then, was at the least ironic, and perhaps constituted some measure of poetic justice, that historically anti-union IH would find itself saddled with the relentlessly radical FE.

So, as Fowler McCormick planned his company’s postwar expansion, he looked to the largely nonunion and low-wage South. In 1946 IH purchased a former aircraft facility in Louisville and began retrofitting it to manufacture small Cub tractors. When it opened, all the employees were men, most quite young; a hefty percentage were recently-returned World War II veterans. The factory would become the largest in Kentucky, employing by the 1950s over 6,000 people — more than 15 percent of them African-American, as IH applied its equal opportunity policy to its Southern plant — and was once the biggest tractor production facility in the world.

But Harvester did not achieve all it had hoped for in its move South: In July 1947, FE Local 236 secured bargaining rights at the Louisville plant.

‘Hell, a Negro couldn’t even look at a machine’
The leaders of this new local, said FE literature, believed in “something hitherto almost unknown in Louisville — their policy of militant trade-unionism, their conviction that once the Negro and white workers were united, the low-wage system of the South would collapse.” Its president was hard-charging, hard-drinking and politically radical Chuck Gibson, a white worker from the assembly department. Fred Marrero, already known in Louisville as an outspoken African-American activist, was the Local’s Secretary-Treasurer. African-Americans Sterling Neal and Jim Wright were also key leaders. And the FE staffer assigned to Louisville was Bud James, a patrician-turned-firebrand, who’d abandoned his University of Chicago education first to join the Communist Party and then to sign on as an FE organizer. Within this group, the oldest was in his early 30s and all but Neal had seen active combat during World War II.

As their first undertaking, they decided to challenge International Harvester over the very reason the company had come to Kentucky in the first place.

Harvester claimed a “belief in Louisville and its future” brought it to town, but Local 236 insisted the company was instead drawn by “bright dreams of cheap Southern labor.” Wages “are set in accordance with the generally prevailing rates in a given community,” so Harvester said to defend its Louisville pay scale, the lowest at any IH factory.

It was this “Southern differential” that Local 236 leaders vowed to eliminate.

But before taking on management, they first needed to convince the Louisville workforce that they were owed more than they were being offered. Initially, it was a tough sell. Harvester’s wages were at least as good as those paid by nearby employers, and for blacks, in particular, the plant promised opportunities unavailable elsewhere. Jim Wright remembers that even he had to be persuaded at first:

“To the common guy on the street, that got a job at Harvester, well, you’d think he’d gone to heaven. They give those guys jobs, give them a machine — hell, a Negro couldn’t even look at a machine nowhere, wouldn’t even let him clean it up — and here they were running it, had all these benefits, and things. If a guy in Indianapolis, or someplace like that, doing the same job like I was on, and I was getting 35 cents an hour less than he was getting, I used to think that was all right …”

Yet the Local 236 leadership hammered away at the differential.

“We make the same tractors [Harvester] sells to the same farmers; they don’t sell a Southern tractor one penny cheaper than they sell another tractor,” Sterling Neal said, recalling the arguments they used. “We’re not going to be second-class citizens in the South.”

To prevail on this point, Local 236 leaders insisted that racial unity was essential. FE literature emphasized that “the Southern bosses for generations had played Negro against white, and white against Negro” and insisted “there was a direct connection between that and the fact that Southern workers were the lowest paid in the country.”

Given the characteristics of the workforce — the vast majority white, many from outside Louisville — Jim Wright was not sure this would prove a winning argument. “We had hillbillies, that’s all we had,” he said. “Farmers. Guys who wore overalls. Chewed tobacco, spitting on the floor. And those kind of guys were racist — I mean real racist.”

FE leaders in Louisville hoped they had convinced workers, both black and white, to challenge their status as “second-class citizens” within the Harvester empire. It was nonetheless a gamble when, on Sept. 17, 1947, a union contingent went to the front office with petitions calling for the elimination of the “Southern differential.” But when the plant manager refused to discuss the matter, “a lot of the workers spontaneously began to shout, ‘Let’s hit the bricks,’” Sterling Neal recalled.

“It wasn’t started as a strike — it was merely a demonstration in the shop,” Bud James said, adding, however, “the guys were so startled by seeing their own strength that they pulled out together” and the plant emptied out. The Local didn’t have a union hall yet, so James scrambled to find one; FE leaders were also uncertain whether their walkout was legal — especially because a new law, the Taft-Hartley Act, had just been passed — so they dubbed it “a continuous meeting.” And they didn’t even have a membership roster or a list of employees, so the day after the strike began they put out a call for workers to come by the new union hall in downtown Louisville to sign up for picket duty — or rather, register as “meeting notifiers” — figuring that way they’d be able to collect some names. The response stunned even the leadership, as James recalled:

“Well, the next day something like 2,000 people showed up, and there was a double line, and the girls at the typewriters spent the whole day giving them their slips and their duties. This double line stretched out into the hall, down the stairs and onto the sidewalk and clear around the block. They waited all day in line to register for that strike. I’ll never forget that line.”

Courier-Journal photo, 1949

Arrests did not stop strikers
With this early demonstration of enthusiasm, the walkout became what Jim Wright called “a humdinger.” Production was entirely halted at the plant, as sizable picket lines patrolled the gates, at first turning back even management personnel. This was too much for Harvester to accept; “unlawfully and by force,” the company argued in court, Local 236 had effected “a seizure of the Louisville Works [which] resulted in the denial to Harvester of access to its own property except by permission of the union.” Ten days into the walkout, IH got the injunction it sought, limiting to two the number of strikers at any of the plant’s six entrances.

This didn’t change things much, however, as Chuck Gibson seized on the fact that the order omitted any mention of how often substitutions were allowed. “Nothing can prevent you from replacing a fellow worker every 30 seconds,” Gibson told the Local’s members, and so they still congregated near the plant — sometimes over 1,000 strong — waiting to take their turn on the line. Since the surrounding area was then largely vacant countryside, the police tolerated the throngs, so long as they “stood away from the gates.”

But they frequently pressed too close. In one two-day stretch in October, for instance, 30 union members, both black and white — including Chuck Gibson, Bud James, Fred Marrero and Jim Wright — were arrested for various forms of picket-line misconduct. Gibson was charged with overturning a plant foreman’s car — while the foreman was still in it. Once out on bail, they went back at it again: James was hauled in at least six times during the strike. Though Harvester invited employees to return, few did; the union claimed only a few dozen white workers, and no African-Americans, crossed the picket line.

“In Louisville there hadn’t been a successful strike in an industry,” Sterling Neal indicated, “since anybody could remember … it wasn’t like Detroit or Chicago or Pittsburgh, or someplace where shops had been shut down. It just had never been done here.” Yet the Local’s rank-and-file took easily to aggressive, and creative, labor activism. One morning, 800 World War II veterans in the Local, wearing their old uniforms, paraded around the plant, led by an African-American, former Marine sergeant. On another occasion, they parked their cars, three abreast, on the street leading to the plant; traffic was gridlocked as the union conducted a meeting in the middle of the road.

The FE also appealed to the broader public, insisting that “Harvester is not being a good citizen of this community.” The differential enriched the company and the McCormicks, while Louisville workers “can afford to buy less consumer goods, less services, less of what the farmer produces.” On their lone hand-operated mimeograph machine, Neal said, “we ran off about 10,000 handbills a day” and union members “went out into the street corners and left the stuff all over town.”

Some material was distributed even farther afield. “Quite a few of the boys had relatives all around through what we call Kentuckiana, between here and Indianapolis and as far South as the Tennessee line, and those fellows making the trips over the weekend while we were on strike, they’d take a lot of those handbills and they’d leave them off in these little hamlets [and] the general stores,” Neal recalled. Strikers’ wives, as well, visiting “scores of rural communities” helped circulate fliers pointing out to small farmers — the IH Cub’s customer base — “that they would not get the tractor any cheaper if the tractor was made in Louisville but still the company wanted to pay a cheaper wage.”

Courier-Journal, photo by Jim Harlan, taken Feb. 28, 1952.

Black and white on the picket lines
This activity transformed the Local’s membership. “Everybody was cutting everybody’s throat in this area,” Sterling Neal said of race relations among workers, and thus outside the FE “everyone was sure we were going to lose” when the strike began. “This is a Southern town, and the thinking of the guys is Southern,” Neal said. “But one thing that happened during that strike: The fellows met together in the hall, they ate together, they picketed together and they practically lived together down in the hall, which was an unusual thing … it was the first strike in Louisville when Negro and white guys were really out on the picket lines battling together.” As a result, Jim Wright said, the 1947 walkout “unified the people” in nascent Local 236.

International Harvester, of course, made its own appeals during the walkout. In late October, Harvester sent a letter to all its employees represented by the FE, decrying the “situation” in Louisville. “The Company wants good relations with responsible unions,” but with the FE that was impossible, the letter said, since its officials were “irresponsible radicals.” The letter concluded with this advice to the FE membership: “Get yourself some new leaders.”

Those “irresponsible radicals” in the union’s top leadership responded by threatening to pull all 35,000 Harvester workers in the FE out on strike, because the “precedent in Louisville” would allow the company “to cut wages … throughout the chain.”

Harvester capitulated, granting hefty wage increases to end the walkout. On Oct. 27, the members of Local 236 returned to work with “two smashing victories in hand,” so said the FE News, “one over International Harvester, the other over the Mason-Dixon, low-wage line.”

‘A religious feeling of them sticking together’
The “Southern differential” fight was over, but its lessons reverberated. Local 236 waged “a constant campaign” about racial solidarity, said civil rights leader Anne Braden, who began working with the FE in 1948.

“I never went to a meeting that somebody didn’t get up and make a speech about the reason we’re so strong and we can win — and they always said that they had the highest wages in the South, and I never saw that refuted anywhere. The reason we’ve got all that is because we stick together, black and white. They attack a black worker, and we’re there to do something. We’re going to walk out of that plant — this is the reason we’ve got the strong union. And they preached that constantly.”

This “constant campaign” carried into the community as well, with Local 236 at the forefront of battles in the late 1940s and early 1950s to desegregate Louisville. But to Jim Wright, perhaps the FE’s biggest impact came at the personal level, as those whites who had come into the Harvester plant as “real racists” became friends with black workers there.

“They’d go along with [blacks], eat with them, go places with them, go hunting with them, walk out with them, work on a machine with them, have fun in the shop with them. That was a new thing for [the white workers]. That union had put what people call some kind of religious — I don’t mean a biblical religion — I mean a religious feeling of them sticking together.”

But the militant FE, beset not just by International Harvester but the labor establishment too — was declared “communist-dominated” and expelled from the CIO in 1949. It was unable to survive. In 1955, the FE merged into the much larger United Auto Workers.

So the union and the company are both long gone. But something remarkable happened at the plant that once stood on Crittenden Drive: Black and white workers there decided that none of them should be “second-class citizens,” and fighting together, they got what they deserved.

On this Labor Day in particular, that’s worth remembering. •

Toni Gilpin, a labor historian, is working on a book about the Farm Equipment Workers union, entitled “The Long Deep Grudge: An Epic Clash Between Big Capital and Radical Labor in the American Heartland.”

“Our co-workers are executed in cold blood”: PAME denounces new occupational murders in Greece
| August 14, 2017 | 8:11 pm | Greece, Labor, PAME | No comments

Thursday, August 10, 2017

“Our co-workers are executed in cold blood”: PAME denounces new occupational murders in Greece

“Our co-workers are executed in cold blood” points out a recent statement issued by the Executive Secretariat of the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) in Greece, regarding the new occupational “accidents” in the country.
It must be noted that on August 1st, two workers were killed and two were severely injured during work inside a biological waste treatment shaft in the town of Skala, in Laconia, Peloponnese. A 51-year old worker was cleaning the shaft when he started having breathing problems and called for help. A 37-year old Greek rushed to his assistance and jumped in the pit but he also felt unwell. Two more men, a 66-year old and a 22-year old who jumped in the pit also suffered from respiratory problems. Furthermore, two firemen and one policeman who participated in the efforts to save the men were also treated for breathing problems.
Other recent victims of occupational murders include a 43-year old fishery worker in Magnisia, central Greece, as well a worker at the Corfu airport.
“The worker isn’t a number in statistics”, writes the PAME statement and continues: “These colleagues will not go back to their families. They can’t anymore dream and struggle for a better world and a decent life for their children”.
“Capital kills. It does not care about the life of the workers. Above all, it has one god, the profit. That is vefiried by the 6,515 occupational “accidents” that took place only in 2016, 73 of which were fatal”.
“It means that it is cheaper (for the employers) to have the workers killed, as long as they do not take the necessary measures for their safety”, stresses out the PAME statement and adds: “The occupational murders bear a political seal. They are premeditated. They are the antiworkers policies which sweep the labor rights, which increase exploitation in the working places, with endless 12-hours long labor in miserable conditions, without any measures of hygiene and security, with hunger wages, under the terrorism of the employer…”.
The statement of the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) strikes against the current SYRIZA government, as well as the previous ones: “All the New Democracy, PASOK governments, as well as the current SYRIZA-ANEL one, offered with their laws a free field for the activities of business interests, they offered free and flexible labor. They removed whatever “prevented” their profitability. They handed over (public) Health to the private capital and the working class is paying a very high price.”
PAME demands the legal punishment of the employer-contractor of the biological waste treatment shaft in Skala, as well as compensation to the families of the murdered and injured workers. Stating that “the life and health of the working people is more valuable”, PAME also presents a list of demands to the government and calls the working class people to invigorate their fight for their rights.
| August 5, 2017 | 7:58 pm | Analysis, Labor | No comments

Special to the Houston Communist Party

Confined Space blog has been writing (over and over again) about OSHA’s failure to issue more than a tiny number of enforcement-related press releases since the beginning of the Trump administration, despite the fact that they actually educate employers and workers, and apply pressure on employers who may need a bit of urging to provide a safe workplace. TrumpOSHA has issued only nine (9) enforcement press releases since January 20.

And now there’s more than my rants. Francie Diep of Pacific Standard reports on a study that proves that OSHA press releases make workers safer and what the change in OSHA press release policy means for American workers:

One recent study suggests the prospect isn’t good. Every OSHA press release leads to fewer injuries and to 73 percent fewer safety violations by nearby companies in the same industry, Duke University economist Matthew Johnson found in research he has submitted for peer review. Although Johnson didn’t study what would happen if OSHA halted its press release strategy, he was willing to “extrapolate” from his findings that “injuries might increase if this policy goes away.” (Johnson is less comfortable speculating on any increase in deaths. The way he conducted his study, deaths and hospitalizations were rolled into one measure.)

Although every previous administration, Republican or Democrat, issued enforcement-related press releases, Obama’s OSHA, led by Assistant Secretary David Michaels, significantly increased the quantity and the quality of OSHA press releases.

In the first six months of 2009, OSHA was putting out an average of 13 press releases a month about enforcement. By the first six months of 2016, that number had risen to 44. In fact, Michaels’ OSHA eventually became infamous—especially in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and other industries that put workers at risk of immediate physical danger—for its press releases. The releases got out the information quickly whenever OSHA cited a company for safety violations, whether it was unstable trenches or unguarded band saws or wobbly piles of grain large enough to suffocate. The releases were often colorful and compelling, with stern quotes from OSHA officials and details such as whether workers killed on the job had children.

Infamous, because some employers hated it. “It was obviously to publicly shame employers,” says Robert Box, principal consultant for Safety First, a firm that helps companies make sure they’re OSHA compliant. “I think that had a lot of employers running scared.”  Box ascribes the change to a new Trump strategy: “The new administration wants to go on a different route. It’s more along the lines of assistance, free training opportunities with regards to safety and health, partnerships established between different agencies and employers, things of that nature.”

How that’s different, I’m not entirely sure. The Obama administration also provided assistance, free training activities and partnerships. And strong enforcement and press releases. In fact, the Trump administration is proposing to kill an important OSHA training program, the Susan Harwood Worker Training Grant program.

Some in the business community may not have liked press releases, as Michaels says “No one ever complained that OSHA press releases didn’t work as intended.”  Not even Box:

Even Box agrees that they were effective: “It had a lot of employers talking about it amongst each other about the new, aggressive OSHA and maybe that was the trigger to get them to spend a little bit more time and effort on the safety programs,” he says.

Other Voices

Coincidentally, Industrial Safety and Hygiene news also published a piece today on  “The OSHA blaming and shaming game: Does negative press change corporate misbehavior?” where they interviewed a bunch of people. Predictably, the worker/union people said that press releases were effective in improving employer behavior, while business advocates opposed them.

Examples included retired head of Ford Motor Industrial Hygiene Hank Lick: “My view is that it is hard to see blaming and shaming as a very effective strategy. OSHA has never seemed to have a pulpit to convince a lot of medium to small companies to see the light.” to Steelworkers staffer Jim Frederick:   “I believe the press releases are a statement of fact and the large citations are newsworthy events.”

Then you have the frequently fact-challenged but always entertaining Mark Drieux, a Partner at Arent Fox LLP, “The prior administration at OSHA’s policy of shaming employers was an abuse of its power and unfairly damaged the reputations of good companies. Following a significant citation, OSHA would often issue a press release designed to embarrass the company. Unfortunately, the facts underlying the citation and the press release were frequently incorrect.”

And an anonymous former OSHA official (not me): “Having worked with employers for well over 30 years while at OSHA I always felt, (especially when the penalties were so low) that what really got an employer’s attention and what was successful in making change was the media attention. When other employers saw bad press against an employer in their community, I felt it spurred them on to look at what they had in place and make some changes.”

So what is a small agency like OSHA to do to leverage its resources? You decide. But consider what Michaels told the Pacific Standard:

OSHA is supposed to oversee the safety of 130 million Americans at more than eight million workplaces—most of the private companies in the United States, in fact. Yet the agency only has about 2,100 inspectors, who do about 40,000 inspections a year. “You can’t count on inspections alone to change employer behavior,” Michaels says. “We said, ‘If we start issuing press releases, employers will remember OSHA is on the job and they have the chance of being inspected.'”

Well we didn’t “start” issuing press releases, but we did more, and we did them better, and if they saved a few lives, I’m not going to lose any tears over embarrassing a few employers who were endangering their workers.

Karl Marx- Wage, Labour and Capital 1847 (Part II)
| July 26, 2017 | 7:09 pm | Analysis, Economy, Karl Marx, Labor | No comments

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Karl Marx- Wage, Labour and Capital 1847 (Part II)

Wage, Labour and Capital.

By Karl Marx. 
First Published: April 1849.
Source: From the original 1891 pamphlet via Marxists Internet Archives.

(Continue from Part I)

Capital consists of raw materials, instruments of labor, and means of subsistence of all kinds, which are employed in producing new raw materials, new instruments, and new means of subsistence. All these components of capital are created by labour, products of labour, accumulated labour. Accumulated labour that serves as a means to new production is capital.
So say the economists. What is a Negro slave? A man of the black race. The one explanation is worthy of the other.
A Negro is a Negro. Only under certain conditions does he become a slave. A cottonspinning machine is a machine for spinning cotton. Only under certain conditions does it become capital. Torn away from these conditions, it is as little capital as gold is itself money, or sugar is the price of sugar.
In the process of production, human beings work not only upon nature, but also upon one another. They produce only by working together in a specified manner and reciprocally exchanging their activities. In order to produce, they enter into definite connections and relations to one another, and only within these social connections and relations does their influence upon nature operate – i.e., does production take place.
These social relations between the producers, and the conditions under which they exchange their activities and share in the total act of production, will naturally vary according to the character of the means of production. With the discover of a new instrument of warfare, the firearm, the whole internal organization of the army was necessarily altered, the relations within which individuals compose an army and can work as an army were transformed, and the relation of different armies to another was likewise changed.
We thus see that the social relations within which individuals produce, the social relations of production, are altered, transformed, with the change and development of the material means of production, of the forces of production. The relations of production in their totality constitute what is called the social relations, society, and, moreover, a society at a definite stage of historical development, a society with peculiar, distinctive characteristics. Ancient society, feudal society, bourgeois (or capitalist) society, are such totalities of relations of production, each of which denotes a particular stage of development in the history of mankind.
Capital also is a social relation of production. It is a bourgeois relation of production, a relation of production of bourgeois society. The means of subsistence, the instruments of labour, the raw materials, of which capital consists – have they not been produced and accumulated under given social conditions, within definite special relations? Are they not employed for new production, under given special conditions, within definite social relations? And does not just the definite social character stamp the products which serve for new production as capital?
Capital consists not only of means of subsistence, instruments of labour, and raw materials, not only as material products; it consists just as much of exchange values. All products of which it consists are commodities. Capital, consequently, is not only a sum of material products, it is a sum of commodities, of exchange values, of social magnitudes. Capital remains the same whether we put cotton in the place of wool, rice in the place of wheat, steamships in the place of railroads, provided only that the cotton, the rice, the steamships – the body of capital – have the same exchange value, the same price, as the wool, the wheat, the railroads, in which it was previously embodied. The bodily form of capital may transform itself continually, while capital does not suffer the least alteration.
But though every capital is a sum of commodities – i.e., of exchange values – it does not follow that every sum of commodities, of exchange values, is capital.
Every sum of exchange values is an exchange value. Each particular exchange value is a sum of exchange values. For example: a house worth 1,000 pounds is an exchange value of 1,000 pounds: a piece of paper worth one penny is a sum of exchange values of 100 1/100ths of a penny. Products which are exchangeable for others are commodities. The definite proportion in which they are exchangeable forms their exchange value, or, expressed in money, their price. The quantity of these products can have no effect on their character as commodities, as representing an exchange value , as having a certain price. Whether a tree be large or small, it remains a tree. Whether we exchange iron in pennyweights or in hundredweights, for other products, does this alter its character: its being a commodity, or exchange value? According to the quantity, it is a commodity of greater or of lesser value, of higher or of lower price.
How then does a sum of commodities, of exchange values, become capital?
Thereby, that as an independent social power – i.e., as the power of a part of society – it preserves itself and multiplies by exchange with direct, living labour-power.
The existence of a class which possesses nothing but the ability to work is a necessary presupposition of capital.
It is only the dominion of past, accumulated, materialized labour over immediate living labour that stamps the accumulated labour with the character of capital.
Capital does not consist in the fact that accumulated labour serves living labour as a means for new production. It consists in the fact that living labour serves accumulated labour as the means of preserving and multiplying its exchange value.
What is it that takes place in the exchange between the capitalist and the wagelabourer?
The labourer receives means of subsistence in exchange for his labour-power; the capitalist receives, in exchange for his means of subsistence, labour, the productive activity of the labourer, the creative force by which the worker not only replaces what he consumes, but also gives to the accumulated labour a greater value than it previously possessed. The labourer gets from the capitalist a portion of the existing means of subsistence. For what purpose do these means of subsistence serve him? For immediate consumption. But as soon as I consume means of subsistence, they are irrevocably lost to me, unless I employ the time during which these means sustain my life in producing new means of subsistence, in creating by my labour new values in place of the values lost in consumption. But it is just this noble reproductive power that the labourer surrenders to the capitalist in exchange for means of subsistence received. Consequently, he has lost it for himself.
Let us take an example. For one shilling a labourer works all day long in the fields of a farmer, to whom he thus secures a return of two shillings. The farmer not only receives the replaced value which he has given to the day labourer, he has doubled it. Therefore, he has consumed the one shilling that he gave to the day labourer in a fruitful, productive manner. For the one shilling he has bought the labour-power of the day-labourer, which creates products of the soil of twice the value, and out of one shilling makes two. The day-labourer, on the contrary, receives in the place of his productive force, whose results he has just surrendered to the farmer, one shilling, which he exchanges for means of subsistence, which he consumes more or less quickly. The one shilling has therefore been consumed in a double manner – reproductively for the capitalist, for it has been exchanged for labour-power, which brought forth two shillings; unproductively for the worker, for it has been exchanged for means of subsistence which are lost for ever, and whose value he can obtain again only by repeating the same exchange with the farmer. Capital therefore presupposes wage- labour; wage-labour presupposes capital. They condition each other; each brings the other into existence.
Does a worker in a cotton factory produce only cotton? No. He produces capital. He produces values which serve anew to command his work and to create by means of it new values.
Capital can multiply itself only by exchanging itself for labour-power, by calling wage-labour into life. The labour-power of the wage-labourer can exchange itself for capital only by increasing capital, by strengthening that very power whose slave it is. Increase of capital, therefore, is increase of the proletariat, i.e., of the working class.
And so, the bourgeoisie and its economists maintain that the interest of the capitalist and of the labourer is the same. And in fact, so they are! The worker perishes if capital does not keep him busy. Capital perishes if it does not exploit labour-power, which, in order to exploit, it must buy. The more quickly the capital destined for production – the productive capital – increases, the more prosperous industry is, the more the bourgeoisie enriches itself, the better business gets, so many more workers does the capitalist need, so much the dearer does the worker sell himself. The fastest possible growth of productive capital is, therefore, the indispensable condition for a tolerable life to the labourer.
But what is growth of productive capital? Growth of the power of accumulated labour over living labour; growth of the rule of the bourgeoisie over the working class. When wage-labour produces the alien wealth dominating it, the power hostile to it, capital, there flow back to it its means of employment – i.e., its means of subsistence, under the condition that it again become a part of capital, that is become again the lever whereby capital is to be forced into an accelerated expansive movement.
To say that the interests of capital and the interests of the workers are identical, signifies only this: that capital and wage-labour are two sides of one and the same relation. The one conditions the other in the same way that the usurer and the borrower condition each other.
As long as the wage-labourer remains a wage-labourer, his lot is dependent upon capital. That is what the boasted community of interests between worker and capitalists amounts to.
If capital grows, the mass of wage-labour grows, the number of wage-workers increases; in a word, the sway of capital extends over a greater mass of individuals. Let us suppose the most favorable case: if productive capital grows, the demand for labour grows. It therefore increases the price of labour-power, wages.
A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut. The little house now makes it clear that its inmate has no social position at all to maintain, or but a very insignificant one; and however high it may shoot up in the course of civilization, if the neighboring palace rises in equal or even in greater measure, the occupant of the relatively little house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more dissatisfied, more cramped within his four walls.
An appreciable rise in wages presupposes a rapid growth of productive capital. Rapid growth of productive capital calls forth just as rapid a growth of wealth, of luxury, of social needs and social pleasures. Therefore, although the pleasures of the labourer have increased, the social gratification which they afford has fallen in comparison with the increased pleasures of the capitalist, which are inaccessible to the worker, in comparison with the stage of development of society in general. Our wants and pleasures have their origin in society; we therefore measure them in relation to society; we do not measure them in relation to the objects which serve for their gratification. Since they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature.
But wages are not at all determined merely by the sum of commodities for which they may be exchanged. Other factors enter into the problem. What the workers directly receive for their labour-power is a certain sum of money. Are wages determined merely by this money price?
In the 16th century, the gold and silver circulation in Europe increased in consequence of the discovery of richer and more easily worked mines in America. The value of gold and silver, therefore, fell in relation to other commodities. The workers received the same amount of coined silver for their labour-power as before. The money price of their work remained the same, and yet their wages had fallen, for in exchange for the same amount of silver they obtained a smaller amount of other commodities. This was one of the circumstances which furthered the growth of capital, the rise of the bourgeoisie, in the 18th century.
Let us take another case. In the winter of 1847, in consequence of bad harvest, the most indispensable means of subsistence – grains, meat, butter, cheese, etc. – rose greatly in price. Let us suppose that the workers still received the same sum of money for their labour-power as before. Did not their wages fall? To be sure. For the same money they received in exchange less bread, meat, etc. Their wages fell, not because the value of silver was less, but because the value of the means of subsistence had increased.
Finally, let us suppose that the money price of labour-power remained the same, while all agricultural and manufactured commodities had fallen in price because of the employment of new machines, of favorable seasons, etc. For the same money the workers could now buy more commodities of all kinds. Their wages have therefore risen, just because their money value has not changed.
The money price of labour-power, the nominal wages, do not therefore coincide with the actual or real wages – i.e., with the amount of commodities which are actually given in exchange for the wages. If then we speak of a rise or fall of wages, we have to keep in mind not only the money price of labour-power, the nominal wages, but also the real wages.
But neither the nominal wages – i.e., the amount of money for which the labourer sells himself to the capitalist – nor the real wages – i.e., the amount of commodities which he can buy for this money – exhausts the relations which are comprehended in the term wages.
Wages are determined above all by their relations to the gain, the profit, of the capitalist. In other words, wages are a proportionate, relative quantity.
Real wages express the price of labour-power in relation to the price of commodities; relative wages, on the other hand, express the share of immediate labour in the value newly created by it, in relation to the share of it which falls to accumulated labour, to capital.
We have said: “Wages are not a share of the worker in the commodities produced by him. Wages are that part of already existing commodities with which the capitalist buys a certain amount of productive labor-power.” But the capitalist must replace these wages out of the price for which he sells the product made by the worker; he must so replace it that, as a rule, there remains to him a surplus above the cost of production expended by him, that is, he must get a profit.
The selling price of the commodities produced by the worker is divided, from the point of view of the capitalist, into three parts: 
First, the replacement of the price of the raw materials advanced by him, in addition to the replacement of the wear and tear of the tools, machines, and other instruments of labor likewise advanced by him; 
Second, the replacement of the wages advanced; and 
Third, the surplus leftover – i.e., the profit of the capitalist.
While the first part merely replaces previously existing values, it is evident that the replacement of the wages and the surplus (the profit of capital) are as a whole taken out of the new value, which is produced by the labor of the worker and added to the raw materials. And in this sense we can view wages as well as profit, for the purpose of comparing them with each other, as shares in the product of the worker.
Real wages may remain the same, they may even rise, nevertheless the relative wages may fall. Let us suppose, for instance, that all means of subsistence have fallen 2/3rds in price, while the day’s wages have fallen but 1/3rd – for example, from three to two shillings. Although the worker can now get a greater amount of commodities with these two shillings than he formerly did with three shillings, yet his wages have decreased in proportion to the gain of the capitalist. The profit of the capitalist – the manufacturer’s for instance – has increased one shilling, which means that for a smaller amount of exchange values, which he pays to the worker, the latter must produce a greater amount of exchange values than before. The share of capitals in proportion to the share of labour has risen. The distribution of social wealth between capital and labour has become still more unequal. The capitalist commands a greater amount of labour with the same capital. The power of the capitalist class over the working class has grown, the social position of the worker has become worse, has been forced down still another degree below that of the capitalist. 
What, then, is the general law that determines the rise and fall of wages and profit in their reciprocal relation? 
They stand in inverse proportion to each other. The share of (profit) increases in the same proportion in which the share of labour (wages) falls, and vice versa. Profit rises in the same degree in which wages fall; it falls in the same degree in which wages rise. 
It might perhaps be argued that the capitalist class can gain by an advantageous exchange of his products with other capitalists, by a rise in the demand for his commodities, whether in consequence of the opening up of new markets, or in consequence of temporarily increased demands in the old market, and so on; that the profit of the capitalist, therefore, may be multiplied by taking advantage of other capitalists, independently of the rise and fall of wages, of the exchange value of labourpower; or that the profit of the capitalist may also rise through improvements in the instruments of labour, new applications of the forces of nature, and so on. 
But in the first place it must be admitted that the result remains the same, although brought about in an opposite manner. Profit, indeed, has not risen because wages have fallen, but wages have fallen because profit has risen. With the same amount of another man’s labour the capitalist has bought a larger amount of exchange values without having paid more for the labour on that account – i.e., the work is paid for less in proportion to the net gain which it yields to the capitalist. 
In the second place, it must be borne in mind that, despite the fluctuations in the prices of commodities, the average price of every commodity, the proportion in which it exchanges for other commodities, is determined by its cost of production. The acts of overreaching and taking advantage of one another within the capitalist ranks necessarily equalize themselves. The improvements of machinery, the new applications of the forces of nature in the service of production, make it possible to produce in a given period of time, with the same amount of labour and capital, a larger amount of products, but in no wise a larger amount of exchange values. If by the use of the spinning- machine I can furnish twice as much yarn in an hour as before its invention – for instance, 100 pounds instead of 50 pounds – in the long run I receive back, in exchange for this 100 pounds no more commodities than I did before for 50; because the cost of production has fallen by 1/2, or because I can furnish double the product at the same cost. 
Finally, in whatsoever proportion the capitalist class, whether of one country or of the entire world-market, distribute the net revenue of production among themselves, the total amount of this net revenue always consists exclusively of the amount by which accumulated labour has been increased from the proceeds of direct labour. This whole amount, therefore, grows in the same proportion in which labour augments capital – i.e., in the same proportion in which profit rises as compared with wages.   
Report: $15 minimum wage bill would benefit 20.7 million workers in 21 states
| July 24, 2017 | 8:46 pm | Bernie Sanders, Labor, political struggle | No comments

Report: $15 minimum wage bill would benefit 20.7 million workers in 21 states

Report: $15 minimum wage bill would benefit 20.7 million workers in 21 states

Democrats’ proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 would provide raises for 20.7 million workers in 21 states where the minimum wage is currently set at $7.25 an hour, according to a report released Monday by the National Employment Law Project.

The analysis of the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, which Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNew Dem message doesn’t mention TrumpOvernight Healthcare: Trump pressures GOP ahead of vote | McConnell urges Senate to start debate | Cornyn floats conference on House, Senate bills | Thune sees progress on Medicaid GOP seeks to meet referee’s rule on healthcare repealMORE (I-Vt.) introduced with Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerTrump: Why aren’t ‘beleaguered AG,’ investigators looking at Hillary Clinton?Trump: Washington ‘actually much worse than anyone ever thought’Schumer: Dems didn’t ‘tell people what we stood for’ in 2016MORE (D-N.Y.), Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayReport: minimum wage bill would benefit 20.7 million workers in 21 statesLawmakers send McCain well wishes after cancer diagnosisTrump labor board nominees advance in SenateMORE (D-Wash.) and 28 other Democrats in May, comes on the eighth anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage.

Reps. Bobby ScottBobby ScottReport: minimum wage bill would benefit 20.7 million workers in 21 statesRepublicans aim to kill off Obama franchise standardBipartisan group defends national security against climate riskMORE (D-Va.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) reportedly introduced the bill in the House with 152 co-sponsors.

The report, based on data and estimates from researcher David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute, found that in the 21 states with minimum wages at $7.25 an hour, an average of 36.8 percent of the workforce would receive raises.

In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — two key battleground states won by President Trump — the percentages are similarly high at 35.4 and 32.5 percent, respectively, the report said.

“The federal minimum wage is supposed to provide a meaningful standard to ensure that workers everywhere in the country are paid at least an adequate wage to meet their basic needs,” Christine Owens, the group’s executive director, said in a statement.

“But with the federal minimum wage stuck now for eight years at a poverty-level of $7.25 per hour, it is falling far short of that critical role. Instead, at such an appallingly low wage level, it’s being used as a weight to suppress workers’ wages.”

Capitalism Kills: 353 occupational murders within 2 months in Turkey
| July 22, 2017 | 8:42 pm | Analysis, Labor, Turkey | No comments

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Capitalism Kills: 353 occupational murders within 2 months in Turkey
How many dead workers are needed to increase the profitability of the monopolies? 
As soL international reports, according to Council of Workers’ Health and Safety (İSİG), at least 353 workers were killed in occupational murders in two months in Turkey
Reminding that the construction site of the third airport in İstanbul is notorious for occupational murders, the İSİG underlines, about the campaign which was announced inside the construction site of the airport, that the numbers reported by the Turkey’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security and several bureaucrats are dead wrong, and that roughly 20 thousand workers were killed by occupational murders in AKP’s rule.
The İSİG also explains that, even though the Ministry claims the rate of occupational murders to have decreased by 40% after 2002 when the still-ruling party AKP was elected, the numbers given by the Council show otherwise. 
The report suggests that the reason for the increase in the number of occupational murders is the recklessness of the company-owners, which they receive from the facts that the state does not conduct inspections, that it even postpones the laws it passes, and that the company-owners generate an unquestionable working environment, let alone taking precautions.
The report also indicates that 40 Turkish construction companies made it to the “250 Greatest International Contractors of the World” list of the international journal of construction sector, Engineering News Report. The İSİG states that the government keeps its promise to employers, creating an environment for them to increase their capital incrementally, such as passing laws that allow subcontracting, cheap labour, and banning strikes, etc.
The report also prompts that in the centre of the campaign was the construction sector, in which 78 workers were killed by occupational murders in the last 2 months.

* According to the official statistics by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labour, in the United States approximately 4,836 workers were killed on the job in 2015 (3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) — on average, more than 93 a week or more than 13 deaths every day.

* At least 1,023 workers were killed and about 2,500 were injured when the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building near Dhaka, in Bangladesh, collapsed on 24 April 2013, marking one of the worst industrial “accidents” in modern history. 
* The Soma mine disaster on 13 May 2014 in Turkey, left 301 dead workers, while on May 2010, in Zongudlak province, another “mine accident” led to 30 occupational deaths
* At least 13 workers were killed in construction works of the venues prior to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games
National Strike: Tourism workers in Greece raised their voice against modern slavery
| July 21, 2017 | 9:02 pm | Greece, Labor, PAME | No comments

Saturday, July 22, 2017

National Strike: Tourism workers in Greece raised their voice against modern slavery
With militant demonstrations and picket lines in front of big hotels, the class unions held successfully the National Strike of Workers in Tourism, on Thursday, July 20. The Tourism workers in many cities all over Greece and especially in tourist areas like Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and more, went on strike.
The main strike rally took place in Athens, where the picket lines and the workers of many big hotels met. The strike had great success in hotels like the Metropolitan, Athens Hilton, Νovotel and Royal Olympic. The strike rally took place in front of the Ministry of Labour, protesting against the anti-workers legislation, especially for the young workers, students and apprentices. The rally also stopped in front of the National Union of Tourism, the association of tourism enterprises, where the unions wrote in red paint “Here are those who drink the workers’ blood”, and demanded National Collective Agreement, imposed to all tourism enterprises and hotels.

Meanwhile, the class-collaborationist Unions…

The so called National Federation of Tourism Workers, (member of the leadership of the GSEE, the ETUC affiliate in Greece) called for participation in the strike in Tourism yesterday.
Of course, this union did nothing in order to prepare and support the strike. As GSEE, they have also accepted all the wage cuts and the antiworkers’ policies of the Governments, EU, IMF.
This led for their main rally in Athens yesterday, to have zero (0) participants. Not even the president of the union, bothered to appear. Below, is the photo of their rally. This is the true picture. NOT even ONE person participated.
After some time, they just took down the stage and left.
This is the reality about the forces of class collaboration, the ETUC. This is the condition they have created in the trade union movement. No action. No struggles. No connection with the workers.