September 2012, Week 2


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Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>
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Thu, 13 Sep 2012 21:07:42 -0400
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Reader Responses to Labor Portside - September 13, 2012

* Re: Two Articles on the Chicago Teachers Strike: (1) Why 
  I'm Striking (2) Teacher Evaluations at the Heart of the 
  Strike (Howard J. Eagle) 
* Re: China in Revolt (Carl Proper) 
* You Will Not See This    in Any National News - This is
  what the Chicago Teachers Union wants (Jay Schaffner)


* Re: Two Articles on the Chicago Teachers Strike: (1) Why
I'm Striking (2) Teacher Evaluations at the Heart of the

First and foremost, I want to say that I support the
teachers, children and families of Chicago, and with regard
to the unresolved education ISSUES that led to the strike, I
agree with every single position articulated by the teacher
who wrote the article below. Yet, as a 23-year veteran,
retired teacher from the Rochester City School District
(where Jean- Claude Brizard was employed prior to going to
Chicago), as a parent of two Rochester City School District
students (currently), and as an adjunct lecturer in the
Department of African and African American Studies at the
State University of New York at Brockport, NY --- I would
like to so-called "piggy-back" on the information below, and
ask a few general questions, which I am inviting a response
to --- from anyone who wishes to respond, including and
especially Dr. Diane Ravitch.

My question is specifically in regard to information
contained in the first four (4) paragraphs below: Why is it
that within "high schools which [are] 100% (maybe 99.9%)
African-American" --- the exact same conditions that are
discussed in the first four (4) paragraphs, exists (in
varying degrees, not only in Chicago), but in Cleveland,
Detroit, Cincinnati, Louisville, Gary, Charlotte,
Charleston, Rochester, Buffalo, New York City,  Newark,
Hartford, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, Denver, Houston, Dallas, and in many hundreds of
U.S. cities across the nation --- while the exact,
diametrically opposite conditions exists in surrounding
suburban high schools, which are 100% (maybe 99.9%)
European- American (all within the same public school
system)? How could this be? How do we logically explain
this? Is it just one HUGE coincident, or perhaps the result
of massive-pathology on the part of the former groups
referenced above, or has something happened in the course of
history, which has produced this reality, or is/are there
some other answer(s), and regardless of what the answer(s)
is/are --- what does the reality inform those of us who are
part of the intelligentsia, and among the U.S.A.'s best and
brightest (educators) --- to do?

Howard J. Eagle
Rochester, New York  


* Re: China in Revolt

Mr. Friedman's piece on "China in Revolt" presents a lot of
new information, with great insight.  Understanding the
situation of migrant Chinese workers, from the workers'
perspective, and relating it to U.S. experiences with
contingent workers, to cite one example, is a real

I'd like also to identify what I see as challenges not
directly identified by Mr. Friedman to building a powerful
labor movement in China, based on the history of organizing
in the U.S., by my former union, the International Ladies'
Garment Workers' Union..

A key advantage in the early 20th century for U.S. garment
workers employed in thousands of mostly small factories in
New York and later the rest of the U.S., was leverage over
local elected officials, who recognized their self-interest
in mediating for organized workers.  For a Mayor, or even a
Governor like Al Smith, any organized group of potential
voters, in their district, was a significant opportunity -
one that worked for us as well.

The presence of a sometimes liberal professional class -
including individuals like Louis Brandeis or Lincoln Filene
- also gave militant workers a boost.  Smith, Brandeis,
Filene and future U.S. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins
played roles in negotiating the 1912 "Protocol of Peace,"
that established a grievance and arbitration procedure and a
labor-management health center, following strikes of 20,000
and 50,000 in preceding years.

Notwithstanding the numerous code violations in the Triangle
Shirtwaist factory, and elsewhere, the rule of law probably
reached farther in early 20th century New York than in much
of China (or the U.S.?) today, as well.

Another advantage gained by the ILGWU after a 30-year
struggle was the right to hold manufacturers responsible for
fair wages and working conditions for their subcontractors'
employees -an outcome that would be fair and highly
beneficial for Apple employees and other workers in both
countries in our day.  The union won that right following a
strike by 70,000 workers in New York, New Haven and Camden,
NJ in 1933.  Employers agreed to the union demand to settle
that strike, conditional on approval from former New York
Governor / now President Franklin Roosevelt.  (Some
encouraging words from Roosevelt also helped build the
strike, where some members carried signs saying "President
Roosevelt wants you to join a union.")

The ILGWU was then able to retain the right to picket
manufacturers, demanding they use only union contractors,
and picket contractors to work only for union manufacturers,
by winning exemptions from Taft-Hartley and Landrum-Griffin
secondary boycott prohibitions in 1949 and 1957.  Political
alliances helped again - as did the union's success at
providing employers with a relatively level playing field
for competition, through industry-wide contracts.

The effect of these union/government/progressive alliances
here was to largely eliminate sweatshop conditions in an
industry notoriously prone to sweatshops for a period of
several decades. ... Unfortunately, when manufacturing began
migrating out of the U.S. altogether, neither the ILGWU, nor
the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers (ACTWU), nor
other U.S. unions were generally able to follow; and U.S.
unions, at least since the 1950s, have been of at best minor
assistance to genuine labor unions in China or elsewhere
outside our own country.  We are certainly far from enabling
contract employees in low-wage countries to negotiate,
directly or indirectly, with their true employers in the

The inability of unions in general, for the most part, to
develop practical solidarity between workers in the "first
world" and the workers in developing countries who make our
consumer products, is a giant barrier to organizing
everywhere.  Most discussions in the media, when they
consider support at all to workers in Asia, ask what
consumers might do to help workers elsewhere, without
mentioning the possibility of unions providing real
solidarity. Failure by U.S. unions and progressives to win
labor and environmental rights in trade agreements - most
notably in the World Trade Organization -- following the
"Battle in Seattle" and since, should be recognized by
unions in all countries as a situation we cannot accept as
normal if labor is to rise again... So, a lack of political
democracy, including local democracy, is a problem that I
believe Chinese workers will need to address if they wish to
build a democratic labor movement.  And unions, and pro-
union activists in the U.S. should coordinate pressure on
U.S. manufacturers who source overseas with unions and
activists representing contract employees wherever they may

Carl Proper (ILGWU / UNITE/ UNITE HERE retired)


* You Will Not See This in Any National News - This is what
the Chicago Teachers Union wants

This is  an excellent summary about what the Chicago
Teachers Union says the strike is all about.

The link is to a report issued back in Feb. 2012 by the CTU.
The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve - Research-based
Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education
In - The Chicago Public Schools.


This is a 55 page report, with concrete proposals to change
a failing, segregated school system. This shows how the CTU
has organized, educated and motivated the teachers of
Chicago, and how the teachers have won allies in the fight
to better education for the children of Chicago.

Jay Schaffner



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