It was the pinnacle of efforts by the National Guard and local strike-breakers under the command of the Rockefeller family to suppress a strike of twelve thousand workers
Issues concerning labour had dogged the United States for many years preceding World War I and had resulted in widespread strike action, especially in the West of the country. Tensions rose to a melting point when a union activist was killed in late 1913 resulting in workers at the Rockefeller family owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation’s (CF+I) going on strike. Miners evacuated the coal camps on September 23rd in protest against low wages, poor working conditions and continued victimisation of union activists. This was to mark the beginning of what was to be a harsh seven months of continued brutality and repression at the hands of their bosses.
Miners of the CF+I were paid $1.68 a day and were forced to work in extremely harsh conditions, this was particularly true for the Colorado miners, where fatality rates were often double the national average. What little wages the miners earned were paid in scrip, which was redeemable only at the company store where prices were high.
Attempts of unionisation by the Colorado miners dated back to the first strike of 1883 in which they tried to join the Western Federation of Miners, in 1913 they were attempting to organise into the United Mine Workers of America. (They later joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1927.)
Demands of the UMWA to the CF+I were as follows:
“…Recognition of the United Mineworkers of America as the bargaining agent for workers in coal mines throughout Colorado and northern New Mexico, an effective system of checkweighmen in all mines, compensation for digging coal at a ton-rate based on 2,000 pounds, semi-monthly payment of wages in lawful money, the abolition of scrip and the truck system, an end to discrimination against union members, and strict enforcement of state laws pertaining to operators’ obligations in supplying miners with timbers, rails, and other materials in underground working places.”
The demands of the union and the continuing strike action enraged the Rockefeller family, which through mine ownership effectively ruled the region. They evicted striking workers from their company owned homes leaving them (along with their families) to face the harsh Colorado winter months without shelter. Assisted by UMWA groups across the US, the strikers organised ‘tent cities’ close to canyon mouths which lead to coal camps (in an attempt to block strike-breakers replacing them) and continued their strike.
Through various agencies the company was able to hire men to take a more aggressive stance against the striking workers, armed guards were supplied to harass strikers and union organisers. An armoured car with a mounted machine gun was even built which was appropriately named the ‘Death Special’ by the company guards. As tensions escalated between CF+I and the strikers, miners dug protective pits beneath their tents to shield themselves and their families against random sniping and machine gun fire from the company guards. On October 17th the ‘Death Special’ was used to attack the Forbes tent colony resulting in the death of one miner. A young girl was shot in the face and another boy’s legs riddled with machine gun bullets also. Confrontations between striking miners and scab workers were also resulting in additional deaths. On October 28th the Governor of Colorado, Elias M Ammons called out the National Guard to take control of the situation.
The miners however, persevered. Union members and organisers were kidnapped and beaten, shots being fired into the camps from strike-breakers and the National Guardsmen were a constant occurrence and the harsh winter was taking its toll. Worried about the continuing cost of keeping the National Guard in the field, Governor Ammons accepted an offer from the Rockefeller family to put their men in National Guard uniforms.
On March 10th the body of a strike-breaker was found near railroad tracks near the Forbes tents and the National Guard’s General Chase ordered the colony to be destroyed. The strike was reaching a climax, and National Guardsmen were ordered to evict the remaining tent colonies around the mines, despite them being on private property leased by the UMWA.
However, the workers failed to obtain their demands along with union recognition and many were replaced with non-union workers. No National Guardsmen was ever prosecuted over the killings, even though sixty-six people had been killed by the time violence ended.
Could we stop the militarization of space? It certainly looks like we could. The reason is that the U.S. is alone, literally alone, in pressing for it. The entire world is opposed, because they’re scared, mainly. The U.S. is way ahead. If other countries are not willing to even dream of full-spectrum dominance and world control, they’re way too far behind; they will react, undoubtedly. But they’d like to cut it off. And there are several treaties, which are in fact already in place, that are supported literally by the entire world and that the U.S. is trying to overturn. One is the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which bans placing weapons in outer space. Everyone signed it, including the United States. Nobody has tried to put weapons in outer space. It has been observed and would be easily detected if anyone broke it. In 1999, the treaty came up at the UN General Assembly, and the vote was around 163 to 0 with 2 abstentions, the U.S. and Israel, which votes automatically with the U.S.
- Noam Chomsky, “Militarizing Space ‘to protect U.S. interests and investment,” (via jayaprada)
Workers use an immersion heater to boil water. (2011) (photo: Ron Amir)
[….] Similarly to the other estimated 30,000 Palestinian workers without work permits in Israel, these laborers are confined to building sites day and night for fear of being arrested.
“Every two weeks or so the police come and detain us. They take us to the checkpoint and send us back into the West Bank. It’s their way of telling us whose boss. But they know we’ll just make our way back in,” said Faisal. Israeli NGO Kav LaOved reports that when workers are apprehended, they are usually transported back into the West Bank. But workers can also be indicted. Sentences usually include three months in jail and a police preclusion for three years, barring them from entering and working in Israel lawfully. Basem has had numerous run-ins with the police for working without a permit, but he spoke of how in his experience, no contractor had been penalized for employing illegal workers. He said that this was partly as a result of workers not naming their employers out of fear of being blacklisted.
Israeli photographer, Ron Amir, has a long and close relationship with this particular group of workers. He initially met them while documenting the lives of illegal workers for an exhibition, and subsequently became a friend. Ron described how Palestinian construction workers usually find employment through a long chain of middlemen. Workers are initially hired by a subcontractor from their own village, who is then recruited by a series of other contractors within Israel. Ron claimed that this structure is geared towards obscuring the complicity of Israeli firms in employing illegal workers. This in turn diminishes the prospect of the general contractor being held legally accountable. As Kav LaOved reports, the incentive for employing a Palestinian without a work permit is high. The cost of employing a Palestinian worker with a permit is about 70% higher than employing one without a permit (210 versus 124 shekels respectively).
[….] Israeli labor laws states that every worker in Israel is entitled to the full range of social rights regardless of whether or not they have a permit. Despite this, primary research by NGOs such as Kav LaOved and Gisha suggest that Israeli employers systematically abuse the rights of Palestinian and immigrant workers, particularly those without permits.
Basem didn’t seem phased by the dangers in his line of work. He spoke of a 22 year old Palestinian worker who died this past November after falling off a construction site in Netanya. No charges have as of yet, been lodged against the contractor of the dead worker. Suheib Zayud, 19, fell from a construction site in 2011, he remains in a coma. His contractor denied that he had ever employed Suheib. As a result, the worker’s family received no financial compensation, and have been burdened with all the medical expenses. This case, as well as others before it, suggest that the contractor of the fatally injured worker in Netanya, is unlikely to face legal ramifications.
The work conditions of illegal workers are often substandard, with legally required on-site security and safety conditions systematically neglected. As Kav LaOved reports, in past cases of work-related accidents involving illegal workers, employers have denied any connection to the employee. The lack of a permit and official documentation mean that the employee is unlikely to be able to prove their eligibility for compensation from the National Insurance Institute. A lack of official documentation, and workers commonly receiving cash in hand from subcontractors, makes employees more susceptible to exploitation, and increases the difficulty of proving a violation of rights in labor courts.
At the end of 2011, a total of 27,000 Palestinians were legally working in Israel, predominantly in construction and agriculture. According to a publication issued by the Association of Builders in Israel in 2011, the sector needs 20,000 more workers. Numerous Israeli contractors have reported that they are consistently short of construction workers.
—Alon Aviram, Palestinian employment: The phantom workers of Israel
You can’t agree or disagree, it’s meaningless. In the case of any tactic, you ask yourself, what are its consequences, ultimately for the victims, and indirectly for the audience you are trying to reach. So you ask, do the people I am trying to reach see this as a step towards undercutting US policy and freeing the Palestinians or do they see this tactic as a reason to strengthen their support for US policy and attacking the Palestinians. That’s the question you ask when you carry out any tactic, whether it is disobedience, breaking bank windows, demonstrations, whatever it is. Those are the questions you ask if you care about the victims, if you don’t care about the victims, you won’t bother with these questions and you just do what makes you feel good.
Of course, the cartoon managed to distract us from the dignified speech by the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whose condemnation of Israel’s land theft in the West Bank was infinitely more accurate than Netanyahu’s artwork. But Abbas spoke in Arabic, Netanyahu in American English. Only one man was going to be on the world’s screens yesterday. He did seem oddly hot under the collar about the UN’s almost-forgotten report on Israel’s cruelty during the 2008-9 Gaza war, when Israel’s “surgical strikes” – this is Bibi-speak – killed 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians. For a man obsessed with statistics, this one escaped Netanyahu’s memory.
Robert Fisk, Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning reveals his moments of memory loss via The Independent
Israel maintains a competitive advantage in total amount spent on munitions and assets, as well as a massive edge in terms of technological sophistication. Israel spends almost twice as much as Iran on defense appropriations and is able to buy the world’s most advanced weaponry from the United States (mostly with U.S. taxpayer money, laundered through foreign aid). Iran, by contrast, is heavily dependent on the dated munitions it received under the Shah and acquires rudimentary missile technology from China and North Korea with its own money. Even if Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons, Israel’s own stockpile—estimated at a several hundred high-yield warheads—ensures that Tehran would not engage in a first-strike. Those familiar with the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) know that when confronted with the possibility of your own annihilation, so the theory goes, you’re incentivized to refrain from launching a first strike. Israel’s stationing of nukes on German-made Dolphin class submarines in the Mediterranean assures that even if a first strike were to be carried out on the Jewish state, the perpetrator would still be subject to a retaliatory strike.
Lesson #3: Iran is not an existential threat to Israel
Christian Stork, The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Iran And The Bomb, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Facts via Antiwar.com
However, much as America acts as Israel’s patron, so too Iran spends a good deal arming and supporting proxy armies in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. While these forces present a serious challenge to Israeli military incursions into said areas, their ability to project force within Israel’s borders is limited to indiscriminate rocket fire. While dangerous and psychologically terrifying for civilians, such tactics cannot be considered more than a nuisance when comparing capacities for state violence.
Israel is not a signatory to the NPT and repeatedly refuses propositions for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (MENWFZ) to be established as a means of ending the stand-off with Tehran, despite majority support from the Israeli public.
Who speaks for Egypt’s workers? via Mideast Channel
By Dina Bishara
Egypt’s January 25, 2011 revolution gave the country’s workers a golden opportunity to press their agenda. Workers played a key role in the wave of societal unrest that led to Hosni Mubarak’s downfall, and after the long-time president’s departure many restrictions on political organization and dissent were relaxed. But workers have not been able to seize that opportunity to cohesively advance their demands. Instead, fragmentation has emerged as the dominant feature of post-Mubarak labor politics. Egyptian workers have struggled to find their own voice as they navigate the legacy of state control over labor organizations and a complicated new political situation.
In the years preceding the revolution and in the lead-up to Mubarak’s ousting, Egyptian workers demonstrated their willingness to pioneer new forms of collective action, take risks to engage in collective action, and push the boundaries of their relationship to the state. Workers have become even more emboldened in the post-Mubarak period. Egypt’s political leadership will thus need to take workers’ concerns seriously if it is to avoid continued social and political unrest. One of the key questions for Egypt’s transition is precisely what system will be used to regulate workers’ representation.
On the eve of the Egyptian revolution, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) was the country’s sole trade union federation. ETUF’s leadership was increasingly seen as loyal to the Mubarak regime and unwilling to defend workers’ interests. In the five years preceding the removal of Mubarak, Egypt witnessed the largest wave of workers’ protests since WWII. These strikes and protests occurred largely outside the framework of the ETUF. According to some estimates, over 2 million workers engaged in more than 2,100 strikes and other forms of protest from 2006 to 2009. There were at least 530 labor-related incidents including strikes, sit-ins, and demonstrations in 2010 alone. On January 30, 2011, in the midst of the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, a group of four “independent unions” announced the establishment of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU). Today, EFITU boasts a membership of 281 unions and more than 2 million workers. These newly-formed unions have received international recognition from organizations such as the International Labor Organization, the International Trade Union Confederation, and Public Services International. In addition, they boast that their members have democratically elected their leaderships, which makes them legitimate representatives of their members’ interests.
The contest over workers’ representation has only intensified in the 19 months since Mubarak’s ousting. All of Egypt’s trade union organizations are in a state of legal limbo. In the absence of any clear legal framework, for the first time since 1957 three major labor confederations are competing over the representation of Egyptian workers and recognition by the country’s political leadership. This is only complicated by the electoral political ascendency of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) given the organization’s potential to try to improve its political standing within the labor scene and its pragmatic views, which conflict with those of other independent activists.
Egypt’s labor organizations have been forced to operate in a legal vacuum since the revolution. The ETUF has been rocked by a series of court rulings invalidating previous elections results. In August 2011, the government of Essam Sharaf, Egypt’s first post-Mubarak prime minister, enacted a ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court invalidating the election results of the 2006 round of ETUF elections, thereby mandating the dissolution of its board. A subsequent ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) in April invalidated the results of both the 2001 and 2006 rounds of ETUF elections on the basis that they were held without judicial supervision.
To resolve these problems a new trade unions law is imperative, but it is not clear when it will be issued or whose version will be used. As of yet, trade union affairs in Egypt remain governed by Law no. 35 of 1976, which almost all activists agree needs to be revised to expand trade union freedoms. Given the dissolution of Egypt’s people’s assembly in June, however, it is not clear when a new law will be issued. In addition, there are several competing visions regarding the precise regulations on union formation with four draft laws in circulation before parliament’s dissolution. While most agree on expanding union freedoms, the devil is in the details — especially when it comes to trade union pluralism. The draft law circulated by Muslim Brotherhood members of parliament would prohibit the establishment of more than one union committee per enterprise, a stipulation that independent labor activists— in the EFITU and EDLC — view as threatening to their understanding of trade union pluralism as ensuring the possibility of establishing multiple union committees per enterprise. In addition, the EFITU and EDLC perceive the MB draft law as incompatible with international conventions on trade union freedoms, which place no restrictions on trade union formation.
This situation means that for the first time since 1957, three major labor organizations are competing over the representation of Egyptian workers and over the establishment of new rules governing their interaction with the state. The ETUF, EFITU, and the EDLC are all striving to attract new members or, at the very least, not lose their members to the other two organizations. The ETUF, for instance, has recently declared its willingness to incorporate some of the newly formed “independent unions” into its fold. Although industrial unions remain mostly under the purview of the ETUF, the EFITU and the EDLC have been successful in attracting civil servants and previously non-unionized workers in the private sector. Workers in the state-owned industrial sectors have huge financial incentives to remain under the ETUF given that their membership dues are legally tied to social security funds. In addition, many activists in those sectors believe that free elections held under new regulations might resolve many of their concerns, especially regarding corrupt union leaderships. Those calculations might change, however, depending on amendments to the trade unions’ law.
Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political ascendancy has alarmed ETUF leaders as well as independent labor organizations. Morsi’s victory in May’s presidential elections and the recent appointment of Freedom and Justice Party member Khaled al-Azhari (and member of committee overseeing the affairs of the ETUF) as minister of manpower have raised suspicions over the Brotherhood’s potential to dominate labor affairs in Egypt. Independent labor activists worry that Azhari will use his position to advance the MB’s version of the trade unions’ law, which they perceive as far too restrictive. EFITU President Kamal Abu Eita has also called on Azhari to resign from his position in the ETUF and the constituent assembly on claiming that he is no longer a representative of the workers in his new capacity as a cabinet member. More generally, EFITU and EDLC unionists are more skeptical of ETUF reform prospects than their MB counterparts. ETUF leaders, for their part, fear the politicization of the organization, especially given the presence of a few MB unionists in some top leadership positions. In a recent incident, MB unionists were accused of booing SCC Judge Tahni al-Gibali off the stage at a conference about workers’ demands from the president, held in July. Following the incident, there were reports that the ETUF board would be reshuffled to allow for the removal of MB members. It is unclear how well MB unionists would fair in free ETUF elections. Given the strength of the MB’s electoral machine, however, it is possible for the MB to employ this machine to garner more support within the ETUF.
As Egyptians work to craft a new political system, workers are not only struggling over who speaks for them but also whether they will have a voice in Egypt’s new political system. The latter goal is only made more difficult by their current fragmentation. In the absence of a united leadership or a political party to represent their interests, Egyptian workers run the risk of being unable to press their most important political and economic demands — namely the maintenance of a quota for workers’ representation in parliament, the institution of a maximum and minimum wage in public sector jobs, the removal of corrupt management, and better working conditions.
On 16 September, during the invasion, Israeli soldiers descended onto the camp from the Sports City stadium located on a hilltop overlooking the camp. We knew that the Israelis were stationed in the stadium and they [the Israelis] knew that the fedayeen [PLO fighters] had evacuated the camp, therefore we assured each other they wouldn’t kill us unarmed families.
Jameela Khalifeh, Palestinian refugee in Lebanon
“They shot my father in the head”: interview with survivor of Sabra and Shatila massacre via The Electronic Intifada
She adds on:
“While we were being led at gunpoint, we found a small alley that led to the camp so we split off from the marching, cattled crowds and made it back to the main mosque in the camp. The mosque was full of people from Shatila. On arrival, we told them that they [the Phalange] are killing and slaughtering families but the elders of the camp said we were lying; that there was nothing, that we should calm down. Upon our insistence the elders decided to go see what was going on. The elder men never came back to the mosque. After waiting in the mosque for few hours with no news about the elders we and other families went to Gaza hospital at the the entrance to Sabra.
The Israelis and Phalangists led us in a march, to finish us, to kill us like they did to the others. Luckily, we managed to escape through the alley. The Israelis were dressed in full military uniform with iron helmets. The Lebanese militants were dressed in cowboy hats, blue jeans and daggers hanging from their belts. Some among them wore black ski masks. All carried Kalashnikovs.
Ariel Sharon, who is responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which was the slaughter of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese Shi’ite civilians by the IDF and the right-wing Lebanese Phalangist.
Jameela Khalifeh talks about how this massacre has changed their lives, living as refugees in Lebanon. She explains about the poor living conditions, economic crisis, and how the current Lebanese government treats refugees (to read about how Lebanon treats Palestinian refugees, click here). In a 2007 study, the Amnesty International recalls the “appalling social and economic conditions” of Palestinian in Lebanon. [x]
Thirty years after the massacre, take a look at how we live. We are seven people staying in two small rooms. Our life has been deteriorating for the last 30 years; we still can’t work and can’t move outside the camp to a decent place. We buy drinking and washing water on a daily basis. We buy electricity from a generator; the Lebanese government only gives us two hours of power a day. My two sons work at an aluminum factory. Because they are Palestinian they get paid less than their coworkers. And my 23-year-old daughter works at a café.
“My daughter went to get a loan from a bank like her coworkers did but when she got to the bank and showed her papers they told her, ‘Sorry, you can’t get a loan because you are Palestinian.’ Being a Palestinian in Lebanon is a daily, ongoing struggle for survival. That’s why each time a woman gives birth we make sure the newborn is brought up to believe in the right of return to Palestine and we emphasize that we are only guests here.