Category Archives: Class

Quote of the day: Enriching the lootocrats

From Ralph Nader, writing at his blog:

According to University of Massachusetts scholar, William Lazonick, in 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives received 52% of their remuneration from stock options and another 26% from stock awards.

Call it self-interest, or conflict of interest with their shareholder-owners, they continue to get away with this massive heist, this clever transfer of wealth. They do not need to get the approval of their owners – the stockholders – under what is called the “business judgement rule” (BJR). Developed by corporate attorneys and adopted with few boundaries by the Delaware courts – the state where corporate bosses go for pioneering leniency – the BJR strips the owners of corporations of meaningful control over the company executives and boards of directors other than to sell their stock, thereby leaving the rascals in charge.

Here is the definition of the BJR by the Delaware courts: “The business judgement rule…is a presumption that in making a business decision the directors of a corporation acted on an informed basis, in good faith and in the honest belief that the action taken was in the best interests of the corporation.”

How’s that for a legally entrenched entitlement during a growing decades-long corporate crime wave that largely goes unprosecuted by politically and budgetarily strapped enforcement agencies? A crime wave that in 2008 brought a criminally-speculative, self-enriching Wall Street down, draining trillions of dollars in pension fund and mutual fund assets – the very institutions that owned the most shares on the major stock exchanges!

Making matters worse, as Business Insider concludes, “all the evidence shows that – in recent years – they’ve [stock buybacks] not actually helped boost the stock values at all.” The bosses are eating the company’s seed corn. Indeed, before 1982 when the obeisant Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened the floodgates for this executive rampage, buybacks were illegal. They were considered insider trading by the top company executives.

Support for Mexico’s striking teachers expands

Mexico's administrative divisions [states], via Wikipedia.

Mexico’s administrative divisions [states], via Wikipedia.

Teachers striking against neoliberal educational reforms mandated by the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is spreading across the southern half of the country.

Though the strike was initially concentrated in the state of Oaxaca, where teachers have met with violent and sometimes lethal repression, the spark they ignited has grown into a regional blaze.

The latest from teleSUR English:

A highway blockade in support of Mexico’s striking teachers is increasingly gaining popular support in the capital of the southern state of Chiapas, La Jornada reported on Wednesday.

The protest in the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez is being organized as a popular assembly and has remained active for 15 days, gathering up to 3,500 demonstrators in support of the radical CNTE teachers union.

Teachers and parents from impoverished neighborhoods, medical students, indigenous associations and grassroots movements have also joined the blockade as part of nationwide protests against President Enrique Peña Nieto’s neoliberal education reform.

Popular support of the teachers cause in Mexico has been concentrated in the southern states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Tabasco and Chiapas, a region historically subject to violence and poverty but also rich in social struggle.

Meanwhile CNTE leaders are holding negotiating talks over the controversial reform with the government at the Interior Ministry headquarters in Mexico City this Wednesday.

So what’s it all about?

It’s the usual thing starring the usual suspects: Standardized testing created by corporateers working in league with the national government to suppress organized labor and am impose an educational system designed to turn our obedient workers rather than independent-minded citizens.

From Spring Hill College history Historian A. S. Dillingham, writing in Jacobin:

The education reform is better understood as an attack on labor. Much like the discourse of recent education reform movements in the United States, the Mexican reformers invoke notions of “accountability” and “quality” instruction.

But the reform itself contains numerous measures aimed at undermining the power of teachers’ unions including measures that weaken the union’s control of the hiring process at normal schools (which they historically controlled), eliminate teachers’ ability to pass down a position to their children, make it easier to fire teachers who miss work, and limit the number of union positions paid by the state.

These measures are all directly aimed at undermining the union’s power, but the central point of contention has been the evaluation of teachers through state-administered standardized tests.

More strikes in Mexico, this time on the border

While the Mexican government battles striking teachers, sometimes violently, other Mexican workers are engaged in job actions on the border.

Their targets are multinationals, including some who moved operations from the U.S. to Mexico in the wake of NAFTA.

From Frontera NorteSur:

After a hiatus of several months, public protests by border factory (maquiladora) workers in Ciudad Juarez are back. On Saturday morning, July 9, as many as 1,000 workers from Johnson Controls, Eagle Ottawa, Lear, Foxconn and other companies  staged a spirited march through the city’s downtown, culminating in an hour-long blockade of the Santa Fe Bridge connecting to neighboring El Paso, Texas.

One placard carried by a protester simply read “Justice for the Working Class.” Banners proclaiming the new labor advocacy organization Obrer@s Maquiler@s de Ciudad Juarez, or Ciudad Juarez Maquiladora Workers, were unfurled at the bridge’s entrance.

The protest occurred during a peak crossing time when vehicular traffic from Juarez to El Paso frequently backs up, even under normal circumstances. Tempers flared when a man in a car with New Mexico license plates attempted to drive through the protesting crowd, but no injuries ensued.

“This is a struggle for a salary increase, to improve the wages in the maquiladoras,” labor attorney Susana Prieto was quoted in the Juarez daily Norte. “There are now employees of different companies in the movement and what is intended is for more and more workers to join with this struggle.”

Mexico prepares to fire 100s of striking teachers

In today’s earlier post on Mexico, legal scholar John Ackerman spoke eloquently about the rebellion to neoliberal education reforms by teachers from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE] union.

Now comes word that the Mexican government is preparing to fire hundreds oif the strikers.

From teleSUR English:

Deepening neoliberal education reforms, Mexican government officials plan to fire or lay off more than 350 teachers in the southern state of Guerrero, even as they prepare to continue negotiations Monday with striking parents, teacher and activists in the state of Oaxaca who have been protesting similar school reforms for weeks.

Leaders of the country’s national teachers union, known by the Spanish acronymn, CNTE, have called for another massive demonstration Monday afternoon, marching from the presidential palace in Mexico City to the Interior Ministry, where union negotiators will meet for a fourth time with government education officials. At issue are the neoliberal education reforms implemented in 2013 by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The CNTE contends that the measures, which greatly expand the testing of teachers, have failed to improve student education, and demand an overhaul to the national classroom model.

The three previous meetings between the union and Interior Minister Osorio Chong have failed to bear meaningful results, and CNTE officials say that concrete steps need to be taken to break the impasse.

But the government seems to be taking steps in the opposite direction. According to the Mexican daily La Jornada, education officials resumed rolling out their neoliberal agenda over the weekend — after a brief hiatus to ensure peaceful local elections last month — annoucing a new wave of over 500 mandatory teacher performance evaluations in Guerrero, one of the states where the CNTE’s presence is strongest.

Teachers contend that the evaluations are punitive, and some have boycotted the move. Government officials say that they will now fire 220 teachers in Guerrero for missing their reviews as far back as seven months ago, while another 123 are scheduled to be laid off for missing classes while striking. Dozens more face tens of thousands of dollars in salary deductions for failing to show up for class

But talks with the government continue. . .

While the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto is brandishing the stick, it’s also be proferring a small carrot.

More from teleSUR English:

Striking Mexican teachers have made preliminary progress in talks with government officials, agreeing in the fourth meeting on Monday evening to a roadmap for next steps in the negotiations as protests in at least 10 municipalities across five states continued to put pressure on authorities with demands to overhaul education policies, local media reported.

After nearly four hours of talks — considerably shorter than the previous marathon meetings lasting into the early hours of the morning — Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced that the two sides of the conflict had reached a deal scheduling three more sessions over the next two weeks focused on the political, educational, and social issues behind the conflict.

Leaders of the CNTE national teachers union leading the strike said that the new talks involve discussions on President Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2013 education reform. The reform is staunchly rejected by the dissident teachers, who call it a neoliberal assault on public education that includes punitive measures toward educators. The first four negotiation sessions have not touched the subject of the controversial reforms, while the Peña Nieto and Education Minister Aurelio Nuño have insisted that the policies are not up for debate.

Zapatistas give food to striking Mexican teachers

Striking teachers in Oaxaca from Mexico’s Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE] union have a new ally, the Zapatistas.

The teachers have been waging a long struggle [previously] with the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, fighting to roll back neoliberal education reforms.

From teleSUR English:

Zapatista Indigenous groups delivered almost three tons of food to the striking teachers of the CNTE dissident union in the impoverished state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, Friday.

Trucks with sacks of food began arriving in the City of Palenque, located in the north of Chiapas and famous for its Mayan ruins, on Friday morning.

The supplies were delivered to union teachers and will be distributed among the teachers, who have erected blockades on highways as part of protests in opposition to the education reforms of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The National Indigenous Council and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN, have long supported CNTE teachers in Chiapas and have publicly criticized the state’s repression of protesters and activists.

The Zapatistas have encouraged teachers affiliated with the CNTE union to keep fighting, especially after the massacre in the Indigenous community of Nochixtlan in Oaxaca on June 19, when 11 people lost their lives.

Tea Party honcho’s film crew unionizes, strikes

Oh, the irony.

From Deadline Hollywood:

Tea Party activist Norm Novitsky’s In Search of Liberty, a crowdfunded feature film about the U.S. Constitution, has been shut down in Savannah, GA, after 30 members of his crew walked off the job. The group, made up mostly of students and recent graduates from the Savannah College of Art and Design, had been seeking union representation, living wages and reclassification as employees rather than independent contractors.

The film, which stars Food Network host Bobby Deen, son of reality star Paula Deen, bills itself as a “a straight-to-DVD release that tells the story of a captivating statesman from America’s past” who takes a present-day family on a series of wild adventures that “opens their eyes to the origins and importance of the U.S. Constitution, the degree to which it is under attack and what can be done to save it.”

The film’s crew had worked on the shoot for three weeks. Dissatisfied with their wages and working conditions, they approached IATSE for representation. They walked off the job en masse on July 2, and the producers shut down the film Thursday when they couldn’t find a replacement crew.

IATSE has filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming union reps were subjected to threats and acts of intimidation during their efforts to organize the workers. A member of the crew is scheduled to present evidence Monday to the wage and hour division of the U.S. Department of Labor that crew members were not paid minimum wages and did not receive overtime pay.

Solidarity forever, brothers and sisters!

Take it away, Pete Seeger:

Brazilian poor wage an anti-gentrification struggle

Another gentrification battle, this time in Brazil

Following up on today’s post about the anti-gentrification riot in Berlin comes another story about poor people fighting to preserve buildings they have called home.

And this time the fight is in Brazil, where a Right wing government installed after the legislative coup that ousted President Dilma Rousseff is stepping up efforts to privatize and sell off the commons.

And this time the buildings in question are designated national landmarks.

From CCTV America:

A building battle raises resentment in Recife, Brazil

Program notes:

Along Brazil’s most beautiful stretch of coastline, a battle is underway as land from an old port city may be developed into a luxury apartment complex, displacing residents. Correspondent Gerry Hadden reports on the rising tensions of Recife and the debate over public and private spaces.

Things aren’t so different here in Berkeley, when the administration of Mayor Tom Bates waged a long and successful campaign against the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to replace members who favored preservation with those who would go along with the wishes of developers, who are the primary source of his campaign contributions.