Unionism For Millenials

I will never forget a discussion I had last year. A friend of mine was discussing socialism, a word that he admitted was new to his lips. He was explaining why he was a socialist and why Bernie Sanders needed to be president. In response, I mentioned that Hillary Clinton had more support from organized labor and I asked, “how do we reconcile that? How can our socialist flag-bearer not have labor behind him?”

    My friend, without a blink, or trace of sarcasm asked me, “Who cares? What do unions have to do with socialism?” My eyes rolled with a weight I had never experienced.

    I am beyond excited at the level at which social democracy is freely discussed in our political discourse. I know so many people my age (30) and younger who have come to accept, learn, and proselytize these ideas in a truly impressive way. It is exciting. It is also a little scary. Just like any ideology, it dies without a sense of unity (and probably a sense of history).

    Our generation comes with some unique factors. Everything is commoditized. You can make a living sitting on your couch, with a cell phone and a car, or with whatever combination of twenty-first century niceties we have around us. Don’t forget the artists, the academics, and the professional helpers (activists, advocates, etc.) It seems difficult to connect a party line based on labor to the modern workforce, but it must be done.

    The sad fact is, most socialists I have met in the last couple of years have been artists (of all varieties), adjuncts, non-profit workers, part-time retail associates (often with multiple jobs), and low-level corporate managers. Meanwhile, labor elected Donald Trump.

    So, what do we artists, independent workers, and people-centered workers do? There are options. In grad school, I was a GTA, while also working in various settings, providing Drama Therapy services to children. In total, I worked four jobs. I found the Freelancers Union (https://www.freelancersunion.org). While they might not appear to be a formal labor union, they boast 350,000 members under the motto: “Independents. United.”

They will help get you health insurance and they will get you connected with groups of workers who are living just like you. Architects, bloggers, designers…pretty much any profession that works independently, or anyone who is working more than one job is considered a freelancer. They have rallied and fought alongside other unions and are making quite a name for themselves.

I graduated with my masters and found employment at a non-profit agency that helps survivors of domestic and sexual violence. My union membership does not come from this job (though I am often caught whispering a Draper quote, or a Seeger lyric into my co-workers’ ears) but, these unions do exist.

To some, it seems selfish. If your job is about helping people, why would you unionize? The clients come first!

    Of course, the clients come first. However, my line of work is rife with burnout. Non-profits in the human services world experience extremely high turnover. You cannot put a price on helping those who need it, but that does not mean that you should be taken advantage of. Everyone deserves free time. Everyone deserves to be safe. Everyone deserves to have their voices heard. This is why workers with the IFPTE, Local 70 (http://ifptelocal70.org/home/), the SEIU (http://www.seiu.org) and so many, many others have come together.

When I am not working as advocate, I am writing. I am currently a member of the National Writers Union (https://nwu.org). We are officially local 1981 of the United Auto Workers. There are 12 internal branches of the union and their activity ranges from defending free speech, mobilizing for any political activity that threatens our work, and providing legal assistance to writers when their contracts aren’t being honored.

The first  story I ever sold was for $4 and a contributors’ copy. I didn’t get it. I know that a check for $4 and a magazine worth $10 doesn’t sound like a lot, but that is not the point. My work has value. The publisher made money off of it, so should I. If I had been aware of the NWU back then, they could have helped. Of course, there are many options for any creative workers out there.

    Navigating the labor world is complicated. If a movement toward a social democracy is based in the labor movement, we need to organize. Before we do, we need to accept a few things:

 

  1. We creative types do not perform blue collar work. No matter how grim our background, or how much sweat we conjure over our manuscripts and canvases, this remains a fact. I am the first person in my family to finish high school and I worked (and borrowed) my way through college. It’s hard. I get it. No one is saying art is not important. It is essential! However, without the mills and textile plants, our creative vision would remain in our heads.

  2. Our work has value. There are also many ways we get paid: money, contributors’ copies, access to resources, etc. A deal is a deal. There is nothing glamorous in being taken advantage of. Protecting your work from a corporate interest is not selling out. They will make money whether you do, or not. If I never sold a story again, I would keep writing. However, if I do sell a story and they don’t pay me, I will demand what I was promised.

  3. Make sure your work does not come at the cost of others. Your great, new, technologically advanced, well-intentioned idea is sometimes all it takes to push a fellow worker out into the cold.

 

If for no other reason than to meet like-minded people, organize. Protect your work and the work of others. Fight for what is fair, fight for what you deserve. It must remain that (much to my friend’s surprise) unions have everything to do with socialism.

Posted in Uncategorized by Tim Tarkelly. 1 Comment

Stayin’ Alive

SDUSA’S Post-Election Buffalo Conference: “Keeping The Political Revolution Alive”

SDUSA conducted its 2016 Annual Educational Conference at the Manny Fried Playhouse at Subversive Theatre entitled “Keeping the Political Revolution Alive”. This 5 hour conference was held on Saturday November 19, 2016, in collaboration with the Subversive Theater Collective. The student run TV broadcasting facility at Buffalo State College created a 9 minute video about the conference and you’ll find a link at the end of this story.

At Subversive Theatre, in the evening, they were performing the play, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. Comrade Mottern and I felt that the set of a makeshift mental ward was an appropriate backdrop considering the psychotic nature of the 2016 presidential election. Our original plan was to have a video of the entire conference that would be posted on this blog, shortly after the conference took place in November. However due to the heavy academic schedule of the student TV crew which recorded the conference and the Christmas-New Year recess that followed, the abridged video was only completed in February and the school discarded the original files of the entire conference to save disk space. So, unfortunately we can’t link you to the full segments of the conference.

Nevertheless, even this very truncated video gives the viewer a good idea of the favor of the conference. And two month’s into the Trump Administration, the analysis at this early post-election forum is still fresh. However, since the video doesn’t identify the speakers or who is being interviewed, here is a resume of the full conference:

The Buffalo conference under the title, “Keeping The Political Revolution Alive” was planned before the last election expecting a Hillary Clinton victory. We wanted to pressure her to follow the progressive policies that were written in the Democratic Party platform and espoused by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Instead, we awoke on the morning after Election Day to face the nightmare of Donald Trump as the new president-elect. Thus, our conference would most likely be the first public forum on the Left reacting to this devastating development for our country and the world.

The event hosted some of the biggest players in progressive politics in and around the Buffalo region. The speakers at the conference were in order of their appearance:

• Phil Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation. Mr. Rumore discussed fair contracts for teachers, the bargaining process, and the role the American Labor Movement will play in the modern day political revolution. Mr. Rumore is an active member of the Working Families Party in WNY.

• Brian Nowak, founding member of Liberty Union Progressives, Buffalo for Bernie and DSA, Buffalo NY. Brian discussed where Liberty Union Progressives is going, key endorsements for progressive candidates and membership information. His presentation was the main highlight of the video.

• Sheldon Ranz, writer for Jewish Currents magazine. Sheldon discussed foreign policies in the Middle Eastern region and how as a Labor Zionist, and son of a Holocaust survivor, he can still support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

• Kurt “Vile” Schneiderman, Founder, Director and Playwright of Subversive Theatre Collective, Adjunct Professor at Canisius College. Kurt has taken a strong role in organizing the adjunct professors in the Buffalo area to rally for livable wages and benefits. Mr. Schneiderman discussed how to organize effectively and his role within the subversive community..

• Jim Anderson, Vice President of the Board of Directors for Citizen Action of New York, host of Conversations with Jim Anderson on WUFO AM-1080, all around activist and member of the Communication Worker’s of America. Mr. Anderson discussed campaign finance reform and his experiences as a leader for economic, racial, environmental and social justice.

• I, David Hacker, was the final and Keynote Speaker, 2nd Vice-Chair Social Democrats USA and a former Librarian for the New York Post. I discussed the modern day political issues facing our revolution, issues concerning working class Americans, and a need for a real Social Democratic Movement to keep people out of poverty for good. I also emphasized that the revived SDUSA has a supportive and empathetic democratic internal life that we believe will enable the organization to attract new members who may have been alienated from their experiences in other political organizations.

The entire forum was organized and moderated by SDUSA’s 1st Vice -Chair and former Chair of the Young Social Democrats, Michael Mottern. Comrade Mottern has been a seasoned political activist in the Buffalo area since 1999. As a result of his political activities in the region, Mike is a very active member of the Working Families Party in WNY, where he met other activists, such as the speakers appearing at the conference and from a variety of groups within the Left-wing coalition.

About the Video: On the video, the first 16 seconds is from the presentation of Phil Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, where he states that the election of Donald Trump as President and a Republican Congress is not a revolution, but “a counter-revolution.” Then there is a brief interview with the new Chair of Young Social Democrats, Maxwell DiNatale.on what it means to be a Social Democrat. Next is a comment from a member of the audience, DB Absher, a founding member of the Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition. Brian Nowak,a founding member of Liberty Union Progressives is speaking next in the video. And as noted above, his remarks are highlighted throughout the video. Interspersed with Novak’s presentation are brief interviews with panelists, Sheldon Ranz and Jim Anderson.and comments of Irene Market, a member of the audience. The video concludes with closing remarks from Comrade Mottern and DiNatale.

We encourage our members throughout the country to organize similar local SDUSA conferences. Contact National Chair, Patty Friend at 661-245-5252 for guidance and suggestions on how to organize a similar event in your community.

Click here to watch the Video

 

Something’s Happening

Last night I attended a meeting whose purpose was to establish an Our Revolution- Indivisible
group in the towns southwest of Boston. A colleague and I also hoped to find a few people who would be willing to be candidates for delegates slots for the coming Democratic State Convention. We had done a reasonable job of organizing, using lists provided by Indivisible, Our
Revolution- Massachusetts and national Our Revolution, and as organizers do, tried to predict the likely result of our efforts, partly to calm our anxieties. We set up the room for 10 people
and hoped that most of those who had promised to come, would in fact turn up.

The meeting was called for 7:30 and about 7:15 the first attendees began to arrive. We had pleasant chats with the early arrivals and a few others came in, filling the chairs we had set out.
At about 7:25 a flood of people poured in, filling the room. They came so fast that we couldn’t set up chairs quickly enough. Soon we had more than 30 people in a room that would comfortably hold 15 or 20. We sorted out the situation and started by going around the room with each person saying a few words. The message was soon clear: they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it any more. While each had her own concerns (they were women by a factor of 5), they were worried generally about what was happening to our country. Most of them were Bernie people but the reality of Trump had kicked their outrage up to a new level. They were ready to march, to hassle members of Congress and to work to transform the Democratic Party. At the end of the meeting I suggested that we meet again in a month and was shouted down. “Two weeks!” they demanded. On that note, we all headed for home, with the buoyant feeling that we were on our way at last, moving forward to take back our country and our Party.

Something is happening in our country. I am told that this experience is typical of what is happening in progressive meetings and Democratic caucuses throughout Massachusetts. The news from California is that the Bernie movement has moved to a dominant position in the Democratic Party. The great challenge is to organize this spontaneous movement. The social democratic moment has come; let’s not lose this opportunity.

Posted in Uncategorized by Eldon Clingan. No Comments

Letter to Members & Friends who Marched on Saturday

Letter from SDUSA National Chair Patty Friend:

Congratulations and solicitation to everyone who participated in the activities of Saturday January 21st!
No matter how or what you did. From West to East and North to South (and all points in between) it was amazing. 3.3 million of us turned out all over the country. And our members, families and friends were involved all over the country.

For those of us who were able to participate, the experience was great and heartening. Needless to say, we need to keep the enthusiasm and motivation building so that this new energy can result in votes for Democrats (especially progressives Democrats) in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

The President has convened a group of labor leaders(primarily the building trades) which was announced by Sean Spicer today. We must watch and see how they might influence him, and let’s see how we might influence them. For instance, the new Administration is planning immigration, tax, and regulatory policy as we speak. And they are presumably working on their plans for revitalizing the U.S. Infrastructure.

For those of you who participated in the January 21st events, who are as smart as your phones/other computers, we hope you will write us about your experiences and/or send us your photos, or post then to our Facebook pages. In Los Angeles, for instance, in spite of impossible weather (I was actually “snowed in” for most of the weekend.) and transportation/parking problems, close to 400,000 poured into Downtown LA, and spanned a distance of miles and they came all day and into the night. Nothing like that has ever happened before.

If you have any problems or concerns regarding our Facebook pages, feel free to contact Michael Mottern. Also, I just want to let you know that we have hard cover copies of “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda ” handbook on organizing to influence our U.S. Congress-members. If you want me to send you one, please contact me, Patty Friend, in California, and my phone number is 661-245-5252. Otherwise, look it up at IndivisibleAgainstTrump@gmail.com.

Let us know what you are thinking, doing and feeling.

Yours in Solidarity,

Patty Friend
National Chair
SDUSA

Posted in Domestic Politics Uncategorized by David Hacker. 3 Comments

Women March on Topeka

Topeka House

The following is a report of activity of SDUSA members in Kansas this weekend; filed by Tim Tarkelly in Topeka. Click on any photo for a larger version.

While the Women’s March in Topeka, KS might have been smaller than others, we still had over four thousand on the Capitol lawn. The speakers represented women from various walks of life and representing different experiences: a state legislator, a Kansas poet laureate, artists, activists, scholars, and educators.

One of the most moving speeches was from Alise Martiny who spoke about the struggles she faced as a woman in the construction industry. She had to be the first to show up every day. She had to work harder than those around her and never express her complaints, just to be seen as an equal. When she considered giving up, she found encouragement in the thought that her work would make way for the women that followed. Now, she is the president of the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ Local Union #518 and is the first woman to ever hold that position.

Fatima Mohammadi spoke of the unique challenges that come with being an American Muslim Woman and how to face hate when it is popular. Dot Nary, a disability rights advocate reminded the marchers that people with disabilities “need accommodations for our voices to be heard.” Stephanie Mott, a licensed therapist and a local activist for LGBTQIA rights pointed out that the Trumpists of the world are trying to protect us from her, whether we are scared of her, or not. State Representative Barbara Ballard called people to action, citing that “service is the rent we pay for occupying a space on earth.”

My personal favorite speakers were Anaya Vasu and Sho Gasshauser. They are 8th graders at Topeka Collegiate School who already have reputations as activists, organizing for LGBTQIA issues. They spoke to the young people in the crowd, telling them how they can get more involved and to not let their age act as a barrier to activism.

It was extraordinary, especially for Kansas, to see so many like-minded people gathered together. However, while there were general calls for action and some strategies were discussed, I did not feel like we had created any kind of coalition. Though it has become a common criticism, the kind of positive spirit that was so present would have been much more helpful before election day. We left without sharing information, signing petitions, joining mailing lists, etc.

Still, I am optimistic. I do believe that people left inspired and I hope that this energy is carried into the midterm elections.

Tim carrying the SD torch

Tim carrying the SD torch

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Posted in Uncategorized by admin. 2 Comments