A Fight for Civil and Labor Rights: Union Vote Looms at Nissan


A meeting with autoworkers in a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. (Photo: Maina Kiai / Flickr)

“Our only hope is to control the vote.”

Mississippi civil rights leader and NAACP icon Medgar Evers said those words over 50 years ago about the fight for voting rights. He believed, like many activists, that voting enabled dignity in the control of one’s political and economic destiny.

Decades later, a new generation of Southern activists is renewing that vision.

On August 3 and 4, a 14-year campaign to organize the Nissan Motors plant in the small southern city of Canton, Mississippi will come to its climax. The workers at Nissan will finally have their say and get the opportunity to vote for a union, the United Autoworkers (UAW), to represent them on the job.

The vast majority of the nearly 4,000 workers who will be voting at the Nissan plant are African Americans, a population that has historically faced severe economic exploitation due to racism.

The UAW promises it will help the workers grow in strength and negotiate better working conditions, hours, wages, and benefits at the plant. Additionally, the workers have made a broader call for more dignity and respect on the job.

A victory for the workers at Nissan would be historic. It would represent one of the largest successes for labor in decades and one of its largest triumphs in the South.

Read the full article on NBC News.


The Civil War Didn’t End Slavery After All

(Photo: popularresistance.org)

(Photo: popularresistance.org)

Slavery has been abolished in the United States since 1865, when the 13th Amendment was passed in the ashes of the Civil War.

Well, almost abolished. Actually, the amendment included a caveat: “except as punishment for a crime.” Since then, prison and forced labor have always gone together.

In fact, with over 2 million people behind bars in this country, the American prison system is a massive — albeit largely invisible — part of our economy and social fabric.

Recent years have seen a rise in both private prisons and the use of prison labor by private, for-profit corporations. This has created perverse incentives to imprison people and exploit them for cheap labor — often at 50 cents an hour or less.

Corporations such as Microsoft, Target, Revlon, and Boeing have all made products with prison labor. With over a third of home appliances and 30 percent of speakers and headphones made using prison labor, it’s likely most American households own inmate-made products.

Even Whole Foods, a famed destination for ethical consumers, was forced to stop selling certain artisanal cheeses last year when those “artisans” were revealed to be prisoners who made a base wage of 60 cents a day.

We won’t even get into what Whole Foods — sometimes called “Whole Paycheck” — was charging consumers for prisoner-made products, which also included organic milk and tilapia.

The problem is making its way into popular culture as well. A season three episode of the Netflix prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black, for example, illustrated a similar scam.

In the episode, a thrilling new job opportunity is marketed to the inmates. Most are beside themselves at the idea of working for $ 1 an hour — well above the compensation offered for any other job in the prison. A scheme is hatched to trick the women into clamoring for the job in a fake competition.

The episode closes with a scene showing the chosen women as their new job is revealed to them. They walk into a warehouse. The lights click on, and the viewer first sees the shock and disappointment on their faces. Then the camera turns to show rows and rows of sewing machines and a corporate logo overhead.

They’d competed to work in a sweatshop.

Real-life prisoners are starting to organize against this kind of abuse. This April, prisoners in Texas held a coordinated work stoppage with the help of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee — an arm of the global IWW union.

The striking inmates refused to do work assigned to them by Texas Correctional Industries, an arm of the state Department of Justice that uses inmate labor to make everything from personal care items to toilets. Incarcerated workers there are paid as little as 17 cents an hour, even as phone calls can cost $ 1 a minute and medical care requiresa $ 100 copay.

Another union-coordinated strike is underway at several Alabama prisons, where inmates labor in deplorable conditions even as they generate profits for private industries. Unions and rights groups are gearing up for a national strike this September to derail this exploitative system.

Those most directly and negatively affected, the prisoners and their families, need and deserve our support. But the rest of us need to finish the work of the Civil War and end forced labor in our country for good.

The post The Civil War Didn’t End Slavery After All appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Lauren Karaffa is a New Economy Maryland fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Italy Approves Same-Sex Civil Unions – New York Times

New York Times
Italy Approves Same-Sex Civil Unions
New York Times
Italy's Parliament approved a bill on Wednesday to legally recognize civil unions for same-sex couples, though some activists say the bill fell short of granting full equality. By PARLIAMENT TV VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish Date May 11, 2016.
Finally, Italy joins the same-sex clubCNN
Gay rights activists praise Italy same-sex unions billAljazeera.com
Italy joins rest of European Union in giving legal rights to gay couplesCBS News
The Atlantic -Voice of America -The Local.it
all 88 news articles »


‘Captain America: Civil War’: Get your free avatars, shareable art – USA TODAY

'Captain America: Civil War': Get your free avatars, shareable art
You may have heard of a little movie coming out this week called Captain America: Civil War (in theaters Friday; preview screenings start Thursday night). You know, that one that's already hauled in more than $ 200 million in its international opening

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From Civil Rights to Human Rights, Black Community Control Now!

Image: Malcolm London of Chicago | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times Media

Image: Malcolm London of Chicago | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times Media

A United Nations Working Group preliminary report on human rights violations against Black America advocates Black community control of police. That’s the general position of Pan African Community Action, one of the groups that testified before the UN experts. Community control of police would shift power, enforce democracy and allow folks to re-imagine community security as “a social force to actually protect and serve” Black people.

Now that the fact-finding visit to the U.S. by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent is over and their preliminary findings seemingly catalog an endless list of racial discriminations and repression by the U.S. state, the struggle of African/Black people must gear up for a next phase. Certainly this UN Working Group (WGEPAD) has been to the U.S. on the same mission before and cited similar issues although but not as extensive and bone chilling.

In 2010 the particular members of this Working Group were different, and as would follow so too were the members of this delegation. Today the WGEPAD is chaired, and this delegation was led, by Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, daughter of the late revolutionary psychiatrist, philosopher, intellectual Frantz Fanon. Ms. Fanon-Mendes-France is well established in her own right in the fields of international law, conflict resolution, as well as on racism and discrimination. In 2009, she received the Human Rights Award by the Council for Justice, Equality, and Peace.

This time, the WGEPAD’s visit came on the heels of a series of nonindictments following the brutal murder of Black women, men, children, and queer and transgender African/Black people by U.S. police. The visit began January 19, ended the 29th and was to examine the oppressive conditions of Black people living in the U.S. In February 2014, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2015-24 the International Decade of People of African Descent and this UN presence marks another important step forward to obtaining true independent oversight and justice for many who have lost their families to anti-Black police terrorism and is seen as something more than the ineffective federal investigations.

The WGEPAD included an explicit call for reparations for Black people.”

It is no small victory that this time –unlike in 2010– within their preliminary findings released at a press conference on January 29th, 2016 the WGEPAD included an explicit call for reparations for Black people, alarm at and call for urgent remedy for the rampant killings of Black people by police with impunity. The findings also embraced the radical community call for community control over police saying, “Following the epidemic of racial violence by the police, civil society networks calling for justice together with other activists are strongly advocating for legal and policy reforms and community control over policing and other areas which directly affect African Americans.”

The Working Group recommends that “Community policing strategies should be developed to give the community control of the police which are there to protect and serve them. It is suggested to have a board that would elect police officers they want playing this important role in their communities.”

While WGEPAD appreciated the grassroots community’s push to have control over the police, they are still not as clear on the issue and the particulars as our movement must be. We must be clear that people of African descent in the U.S. are a domestic colony and that the police are NOT here to protect and serve us. That is to say, our treatment in this country reflects the outlook and policies the U.S. government and the Western world practice against all African people globally.  The treatment of African/Black people in the U.S. is a direct extension of a colonial subject status in relation to white society and the police are an occupying force for political control by the capitalist class.

One need only examine the historical development of the modern U.S. police. The earliest form of the modern American police lies in the brutal Southern slave patrols legislated through the slave codes that started in South Carolina in 1712. “The plantation slave patrols, often consisting of three armed men on horseback covering a ‘beat’ of 15 square miles, were charged with maintaining discipline, catching runaway slaves and preventing slave insurrection,” according to The Iron Fist and The Velvet Glove; An Analysis of the U.S. Police.

“People of African descent in the U.S. are a domestic colony and that the police are NOT here to protect and serve us.”

This comprehensive 1975 study by the Center for Research on Criminal Justice goes on to explain that “in the North and West, the police institution evolved in response to a different set of race and class contradictions.”  There they originated as private security to protect the property of capitalist, to break up worker strikes, and prevent worker protest for fair working conditions.

In present day, while their form has been expanded and their image spun by media and public relations departments, the essential function of police remains to enforce the will and protect the power of those in charge.

In practice, this means that police officers’ main priority is to protect the wealthy and their property from oppressed Black communities, the homeless population and anyone that doesn’t conform to the ruling class.

With Community Control Over Police the priority of police becomes protecting all human beings, not just the wealthy and their buildings. This is a call for Community Control Over Police as a means of shifting power, enforcing democracy, deconstructing the historic relationship between the police and the Black Community and reimagining a social force designed to actually protect and serve it’s population as policy, not as a meaningless slogan.

The WGEPAD report must now be seen as a window of opportunity toward intensified grassroots organizing for Community Control Over Police, what this can look like and the steps it will take to win it. Some organizations like the DC-based organization Pan-African Community Action (PACA) have begun to do just that.

“PACA is also calling for a non-elected and randomly selected civilian board from the ranks of the community itself to exercise full community control over police.”

Between now and the September 2016 release by the WGEPAD of their full and final report Black organizations need to intensify the struggle to build a powerful movement led by the most impacted of our communities. The struggle continues. Organizing around the WGEPAD visit wasn’t done because Black liberation rest in the hands of the UN. It was done to expose the domestic contradictions in the U.S. Empire on a world stage. It was done to forge practical relationships between local and national forces. It was done to spread in the Black community the idea that we have an inseparable connection to African people all over the world.

For its Justice 4 Zo campaign PACA is calling for an independent dual track investigation, conducted by the United Nations or the Organization of American States, into both the death of DC resident and 27 year old educator Alonzo Smith by special police and the social and economic conditions that lead to the disproportionate stops, arrests and deaths of Black people at the hands of the police. PACA is also calling for a non-elected and randomly selected civilian board from the ranks of the community itself to exercise full community control over police, including the budget that is allocated, setting priorities, policies and the hiring and firing of individual police officers.

This year’s visit by the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was historic and empowering. But the struggle to build African/Black power in the U.S. led by the most impacted in our communities continues.

Pan-African Community Action says, “This new 21st century belongs to African/Black people. This decade is the decade of organized African/Black resistance. Forward then to Community Control. Community Control NOW! Tomorrow, the United States of Africa.”

The post From Civil Rights to Human Rights, Black Community Control Now! appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Netfa Freeman is an organizer is the events coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies.


In Wisconsin, civil service change is another labor setback – My Fox Boston

In Wisconsin, civil service change is another labor setback
My Fox Boston
Scott Walker made a national name for himself among conservatives by redefining Wisconsin's labor landscape, eliminating public unions, wiping out closed shops and erasing local prevailing wages. Now, coming off a short-lived presidential bid, he's

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How the Civil War Never Ended for Black America


Hundreds of African-American men marched to the White House this past Sunday. They were not wearing hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin. They were not making the “hands up don’t shoot” gesture in honor of Michael Brown.

They were wearing blue wool trousers and greatcoats, forage caps and cavalry boots—in honor of African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Their aim: to correct a wrong made in 1865, when black soldiers were left out of the Grand Review, the Union Army’s victory parade.

1865? Seriously? With all the critically important racial justice causes of 2015?

“Everything about the Civil War is present tense,” author C.R. Gibbs told me. “This is not settled. Ferguson and Baltimore are just match flares on a long historical fuse.”

One need look no further than the U.S. Supreme Court docket for evidence of the Civil War in our contemporary lives. In March, the court heard a case regarding a request by the Sons of Confederate Veterans for a special Texas license plate featuring a Confederate battle flag.

In 2010, the Virginia public school system introduced a 4th grade textbook with bogus claims about thousands of loyal slaves fighting on the side of the Confederacy. The source? The Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Such disinformation is part of a broader neo-Confederate movement to deny that slavery was a major factor in the conflict—and to bury the history of African-Americans’ active role in their own emancipation.

Dr. Clarence Anthony Bush, whose great-grandfather fought in a light artillery regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT), told me it’s especially critical for young people to learn this little-known history. “Some African-Americans feel a little ashamed, thinking it was Abraham Lincoln who gave them their freedom. When you know your people fought for their freedom, it changes the way we look at ourselves and what our abilities are.”

Bush created a gospel jazz musical about black Civil War soldiers that was performed at the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, DC. Nearby is a monument engraved with names of the more than 200,000 USCT members. By war’s end, they made up 10 percent of federal troops.

For years, the museum has been tracking down descendants of black Civil War soldiers, recording their stories, and organizing them for the big Grand Review 150. On the eve of the parade, they hosted a vigil in which descendants from across the country paid tribute to their ancestors. Audrea Barnes, a second cousin of First Lady Michelle Obama, spoke about one of their mutual slave ancestors, Jerry Sutton (aka Suter), who ran away from a plantation in Alabama and joined the USCT’s 55th Regiment. Through archival research, she’s learned of his struggles for military pay equity and a failed attempt to obtain a veteran’s disability pension.

While the pension program was supposed to be color-blind, Brigham Young University research confirms that African-American veterans received less than their white counterparts. In part, this was a result of a lack of necessary documentation, but bureaucrats were also less likely to believe their claims. For example, they approved 44 percent of white soldiers’ claims regarding back pain, compared to only 16 percent of such claims by black soldiers.

A century and a half after the Civil War, racial inequalities in America are still staggering. Median income for nonwhites is only 65 percent that of whites. The wealth gap is even wider, with white families’ net worth six times that of non-whites.

Jeremiah Lowery, a 29-year-old labor activist with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, told me he attended the Grand Review because “Just like the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter,’ black history matters too. They started to break down institutions of slavery 150 years ago. Today we have institutions that block people from earning a living wage and make people victims of brutality in the streets. It’s all connected.”

Asked whether the event was more poignant in light of the explosion of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Smith said, “The Civil War led to the passage of the 14th Amendment, which was supposed to ensure that the federal government protected African-Americans when states didn’t. These young men don’t feel safe. And today it’s not just in the South, it’s in the North too. The fact that people are in the streets, though—that’s what gives me hope.”

The post How the Civil War Never Ended for Black America appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.


MSHA to hold public hearing in Birmingham on Feb. 5 on proposed rule for civil penalty assessments

On July 31, 2014, the Mine Safety and Health Administration published a proposed rule to amend its civil penalty regulation to simplify the criteria, which will promote consistency, objectivity and efficiency in the proposed assessment of civil penalties and facilitate the resolution of enforcement issues. The proposal would place a greater emphasis on the more serious safety and health conditions and provide improved safety and health for miners. MSHA also is proposing alternatives that would address the scope and applicability of its civil penalty regulation.|||||||http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/msha/MSHA20150186.htm

Civil society organizations across Africa welcome AU focus on illicit financial flows

Civil society organizations across Africa welcome AU focus on illicit financial flows

Civil society organizations call for African leaders to move quickly to implement recommendations in UNECA report on Illicit Financial Flows.


Ferguson and the “Unfinished Business” of the Civil Rights Movement

(AP Photo/Sid Hastings)

(AP Photo/Sid Hastings)

At the Institute for Policy Studies, we are deeply appalled about recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. We stand behind the brave protesters who are rightfully outraged by the killing of Michael Brown, and we believe that the police response to protesters has been shockingly militarized and incompetently handled. Learning from  the long years of our institution’s history of work with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and our tradition of public scholarship committed to exposing and correcting injustice and inequality, we believe that the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson is not an isolated event but rather is a symptom of a society in which power is running amok with the wrong priorities and values. Ferguson exposes how America has invested heavily in militarization while disinvesting in public welfare and security. As U.S. ground wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are replaced by air wars and special forces operations, the U.S. General Services Administration provides billions of dollars of free military weapons to local police [1] forces claiming this “offers Americans peace of mind.” Ferguson illuminates how the 1 percent wages class warfare on the poor by destroying the economic livelihood of ordinary people while criminalizing poverty. And it shows us how African-Americans are hit harder by structural racism than any other group.


  • In the United States, one person of color is killed by a police officer, security guard, or vigilante Every 28 hours [2].
  • After 9/11, local police departments across the country spent upwards of $ 34 billion in federal grant money to purchase military grade supplies [3].
  • In Ferguson, African-Americans are arrested at a rate four times higher than whites, outpacing both national and state comparisons [4].
  • In Ferguson, as nationwide, African-Americans are twice as likely to be living in poverty as whites [5].
  • In Ferguson, African-Americans are three times more likely to be unemployed than whites [6].
  • At the national level, blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed as whites [7].
  • That means unemployment for African-Americans in Ferguson, Missouri is even worse than the national average for African-Americans.


While Ferguson exposes the values and priorities that have run amok in the United States, it also demonstrates that ordinary people have the power to fight back. Inspired by the brave protesters in Ferguson, grassroots movements around the country and the world are banding together in solidarity. IPS’ Climate Policy Program, as an active member of the Climate Justice Alliance has endorsed the Alliance’s call for “building a movement that affirms life and where everyone has a place in the rebuilding and stewardship of our communities – not where people are killed, warehoused or discarded. Part of our task is to develop a fair and just system of justice, safety and accountability, and we stand in solidarity with the families and organizations in our communities fighting for such a system.”

Writing from occupied Palestine, the leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, of which IPS’ New Internationalism is a part, noted that “In response to the people’s demands for justice for Michael Brown and an end to police brutality against African Americans, police in Ferguson have shamefully launched a militarized attack against unarmed protestors. Heavily deploying tear gas and rubber bullets, police tactics partially reflected the training that some of the law enforcement agencies involved in Ferguson had received from Israeli security forces in recent years, as revealed [8] in media reports. We recognize those tactics being used in Ferguson and the mentality behind them. The dehumanization of the victim, the corporate media distortions of the realities, the obfuscation of the root causes of the protests, and the methods of unbridled violence and control being used by security forces are all too familiar to Palestinians living under Israel’s decades-old occupation” [9].

IPS’ Break the Chain Campaign is doing its part in the National Domestic Workers Alliance by signing on to the Women for Women in Fersugson statement [10]. A growing list of at least 58  LGBT and civil rights organizations have joined together and signed onto a open letter in support Of Michael Brown’s family [11]. For the killing of Michael Brown to truly be the last one, we need to support these movements and work to address the systemic problems in our country today.

Take action today to support the brave Ferguson protesters and the grassroots movements who are behind them.

  1. Join us in supporting the NAACP’s call for a special prosecutor to investigate the killing of Michael Brown. Sign the petition.
  2. Call on the Obama administration to appoint a commission similiar to the Kerner Commission, but this commission should instead assess and recommend practical solutions to the nation-wide epidemic of police killings in the U.S. [12]
  3.  Also try these “10 Ways You Can Help The People Of Ferguson, Missouri”

The post Ferguson and the “Unfinished Business” of the Civil Rights Movement appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

[1] http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/202569?utm_source=FAS&utm_medium=print-radio&utm_term=1122program&utm_campaign=shortcuts
[2] http://mxgm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/operation_ghetto_storm_updated_october_2013.pdf
[3] http://cironline.org/reports/local-police-stockpile-high-tech-combat-ready-gear-2913
[4] http://www.ibtimes.com/ferguson-missouri-crime-stats-2014-blacks-arrested-4-times-much-whites-1658846
[5] http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
[6] http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF
[7] http://www.epi.org/publication/unfinished-march-overview/ [8] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/israel-trained-police-occupy-missouri-after-
[9] http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/stop-u-s-repression-of-african-americans-in-ferguson-12487#sthash.EgqnmcSY.dpuf
[10] http://www.domesticworkers.org/women-for-women-in-ferguson
[11] http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/58_lgbt_organizations_join_together_to_support_michael_brown_s_family
[12] http://www.blackpast.org/primary/national-advisory-commission-civil-disorders-kerner-report-1967