Student Sit-Ins Across Country

Most recently at Wisconsin-Madison and Rutgers, but also at William and Mary, Emory, and elsewhere, United Students Against Sweatshops and fellow students have staged sit-ins at the offices of universities’ administrators to protest budget cuts, tuition and fees increases, and lack of respect for workers. While much more needs to be done to raise awareness of and pressure against such anti-students, anti-workers actions, this is an encouraging trend that workers and students ought to strongly support. Go here to lend much-needed support for the USAS campaigns for good, affordable education and workers’ rights.

–Jason Kozlowski


Some Recommended Reading: Dean Baker on the GOP’s Plan to Privatize medicare

I haven’t done enough of this lately–in fact, haven’t done enough posting lately, but that’s another matter–but this is the start of my efforts to include various good stories and links on a wide array of issues. This comes from Dean Baker, a brilliant guy writing here in The Guardian, on the lack of adequate media coverage on the implications of the Paul Ryan (R-WI) plan to privatize Medicare. In it, Baker contends that the mainstream media has wholly ignored the fact that privatizing Medicare will result in costs totaling roughly “$30 trillion,” which is about six times the projected shortfall down the road in Social Security. The key for Baker is not only this enormous burden of privatization, but also the disparity among the same media and politicians over Social Security funding issues (which are considerably overblown) and the implications of the Ryan “plan.” The latter has simply not generated the same attention, analysis, or outrage as the former, despite its far more devastating implications. Please read.

More on this and other issues to follow.

–Jason Kozlowski


Hazel Dickens, R.I.P. 1935-2011

Hazel Dickens, folk singer extraordinaire, has passed away at the age of 75. Renowned for her sharp, high-pitched singing voice that ran through the ears of many workers, as well as fans of folk and country music, she died of complications from pneumonia. Dickens added several magnificent tracks, and made a brief appearance during the funeral scene, in John Sayles’s masterpiece “Matewan,” which was set in her native West Virginia.

For an excellent obituary from John Pietaro and his terrific blog The Cultural Worker, go here.


Tune in to Illinois World Labor Hour

Just a reminder to please tune in to the Illinois World Labor Hour every Saturday morning at 11 a.m. central time, on WEFT 90.1 FM Champaign, IL. It is also available online at We will cover and discuss prescient labor news and politics of the day, interview guests, have working-class culture with the poetry of Tom, Thomas, and cover some labor history.

We look forward to your audience this Saturday morning at 11 a.m. CT.

–Jason Kozlowski


Maine, National Efforts to Roll Back Child Labor Laws

Much attention has rightly been devoted to recent orders by Governor Paul LePage to remove murals and the names of figures such as FDR Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (the first woman to hold that position) from the Maine Department of Labor office. These represent nothing short of an attack on working-class culture and people’s historical memories, as well as just how extensive the right’s assaults on workers and their rights have become. Yet legislative efforts in Maine and around the nation extend even beyond these attacks, and now include broad efforts to roll back protections for another group of workers–children–whose history of exploitation in the US is well established, and the images of which were ironically removed from the Maine labor murals.

From Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress:

Maine State Rep. David Burns is the latest of many Republican lawmakers concerned that employers aren’t allowed to do enough to exploit child workers:

LD 1346 suggests several significant changes to Maine’s child labor law, most notably a 180-day period during which workers under age 20 would earn $5.25 an hour.

The state’s current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour.

Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, is sponsoring the bill, which also would eliminate the maximum number of hours a minor over 16 can work during school days.

Burns’ bill is particularly insidious, because it directly encourages employers to hire children or teenagers instead of adult workers. Because workers under 20 could be paid less than adults under this GOP proposal, minimum wage workers throughout Maine would likely receive a pink slip as their twentieth birthday present so that their boss could replace them with someone younger and cheaper.

And Burns is just one of many prominent Republicans who believe that America’s robust protections against the exploitation of children are wrongheaded:

Republicans’ contempt for workers is hardly news. GOP governors throughout the country have declared war on collective bargaining, and the national minimum wage remained stagnant for nearly a decade the last time Republicans controlled Congress. Nevertheless, the GOP’s increasingly widespread assaults on child labor laws is a significant escalation from their longstanding war on adult workers.

There are no bounds to the shame of this. If anyone disagrees, please ask yourself whether or not you wish your children to work longer hours, in tougher conditions, for less than the minimum wage, and at an earlier age. Such bills would literally turn back child labor and aspects of labor law back a century.

–Jason Kozlowski


SEIU Informational Picket Monday, April 4 and Tuesday, April 5

Courtesy of Ricky Baldwin of SEIU Local 73:


SEIU Picket for A Fair Contract
Monday April 4 at 7:30AM-9AM
FAR (Florida Ave Res Hall, 1001 College Court)
(We’ll meet with the mediator one more time for Food Service, 9AM-5PM, to see what they have to offer.)

SEIU Picket for A Fair Contract
Tuesday April 5 at 7:30AM-9AM
FAR (Florida Ave Res Hall, 1001 College Court)
(We’ll meet with the mediator one more time for Building Service, 9AM, to try to work out a contract without walking out.)

Join our union sisters and brothers of SEIU Local 73 fighting for a fair contract with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

–Jason Kozlowski


Canadian Union Protests Occupy Ontario Legislative Assembly

Via the United Steelworkers:

Queen’s Park – Union members and their supporters are refusing to leave the legislature following the Ontario government’s defeat of legislation to ban the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts.

The workers and their supporters say they won’t leave until they can meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“Dalton McGuinty’s failure to ensure second-reading passage of Bill 45 means lengthy labour disputes in this province are doomed to continue as companies refuse to negotiate and continue to operate by using contracted replacement workers,” says United Steelworkers’ Ontario Director Wayne Fraser, who is leading the sit-in at Queen’s Park.

Bill 45, sponsored by MPP France Gélinas (NDP Nickel Belt), would ban the growing practice of hiring replacement workers to avoid collective bargaining.

“The very nature of labour relations is altered by this well-planned and financed practice, and workers and communities suffer as a result,” said Fraser. He pointed to the year-long strike against Brazilian mining giant Vale and several multi-year disputes in Toronto, Nanticoke and Brantford, to name a few.

“McGuinty is saying to all of Ontario that workers’ right to free and fair collective bargaining is no longer valid. He has set the stage for a Wisconsin-style attack against every unionized worker in Ontario. He needs to tell us why he has chosen insecurity over community-building, and therefore what is he prepared to do to solve these terrible and unnecessary strikes and lockouts.

Fraser said McGuinty is lying when he says his government has restored balance and fairness to Ontario labour relations.

“That is an absolute load of crap,” said Fraser. “The truth is that current public policy does not protect citizens, and the state of labour relations in this province has instead forced people into bankruptcy, prompted family breakdown and worse.

“That is why we will not leave this place until there is an obvious and stated commitment to do the right thing.”

Wayne Fraser, USW, 416-577-4045;
Pat Van Horne, USW, 613-859-1763.

(h/t to Ricky Baldwin of SEIU Local 73 for sharing this)

–Jason Kozlowski