Sunday, December 13, 2015

To Strike or Not to Strike?

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - Two Recent Russian surveys reveal that although a growing number of Russians have become disillusioned with the effectiveness of going on political demonstrations, and reliance on trade-unions to defend their interests, a much more significant number, approximately 28% , believe going on strike is justified but only in extreme circumstances.

              A recent study by the All Russian Centre of Information on Social Opinions , found that most Russians don't think their labour rights are being adequately defended. As few as 6% of Russians would approach trade unions for aid to resolve any serious work problems. The survey also found that in the event of a problem, 14% would go to the boss, and 7% would change their place of work.

              HISTORIAL LEGACY

              That only 6% of workers turn to trade unions comes as no great revelation.

              Shortly after the 1917 revolution, any different political groups, opposition or the expression of independent opinion was suppressed following the Tenth Party Congress in 1921. From then on party officials ruled rather than shop stewards. Although strikes were not officially forbidden,       going on strike could risk the penalty of being arrested on trumped up charges of sabotage, conspiracy and collaboration with foreign agents.

              In a word, strikes were labelled 'counter-revolutionary ' activity comparable to treason. This never meant that Russian workers were rendered passive or docile. On the contrary, they could work less, falsify work records of their output and often make a fool of five-year plans. They used more subtle methods of protest than officially declaring an organised strike by workers. 'They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work', went an old cynical joke. So much protest was often unofficial and assumed a spontaneous character. In fact, Valery Chalide described a 'Russian strike ' in the following terms during Soviet times as follows:

              'For example, a machine tool has broken in a shop, they call a fitter to mend the machine tool. An hour later a foreman comes and asks if the machine-tool is mended. The fitters are sitting down and smoking.

              He asks why the machine-tool is not mended. They answer: 'We went to the tool store, but they are closed and we need a tool to mend the machine-tool.' The foreman goes to the store, gets the tool and gives it to them. He returns an hour later and again they are sitting and smoking and to the question why the machine-tool is not mended they say that a
bolt is required and they went to the turner who could make the bolt but that he is ill'.....(Lionel Kochan and Richard Abraham ,1963)

              In more recent years strikes have tended to assume the form of hunger strikes (workers threaten to starve themselves to death unless particular demands are met. Medical Doctors embarked upon this recently to obtain promised accomodation in Moscow) and 'The Italian Strike'. (Workers strike according to strict rules and within the law and insist all the workers strictly observe those rules. Many of the workers go on working.) A study by the Centre of Social Labour Rights, found evidence of increasing evidence of more, not less, strikes from 2013 to 2014. Accoding to the institute there were as many as 277 acts of protest in 2013 which involved workers blocking roads, hunger strikes, and downing of tools. Most of this action was not organised by trade unions but in spite of them.

              Russia is not a heavily unionised country. Only 25 million workers belong to unions and 20 million of them are members of the corrupt and ineffective Confederation of independent Trade Unions. While 'Teacher's ' membership
totals 6000, the Union of University Teachers has only 500.

              Another survey by the Levada Centre reported that 12% of Russians found that the strike weapon was not an available option, and 30% believed that protests don't achieve anything while 16% claimed that strikes were an acceptable and normal procedure for resolving work problems. However, only 7% went as far to claim that strikes were the only way of obtaining their demands.

              In regard to taking part in political demonstrations, the survey found that only 11% agreed it was reasonable to go on protest demonstrations to attain political and economic demands in contrast to  8%  who would actually take part in
demonstrations. As many 85% of Russians stated they would not go on demonstrations and 77% of Russians believe it is highly unlikely Russians will turn to demonstrations to protest against worsening economic conditions. Aleksei Grazhdankin claims, 'Order in the country is more important than the material level which has worsened over the past few years.'  Many people believe the reason for this attitude is because
the protest demonstrations degenerated into civil war in Ukraine. However, another reason is that 'the opposition', is not a real opposition but simply favours a much more refined form of austerity as in the case of Greece.

               What the two surveys indicate is that workers are more likely to embark on strikes, sit-downs, hunger strikes than attend the political demonstrations where they just see the same 'old faces' with the same old policies which were disastrously applied in a crude experiment in the early 1990's!

               No wonder workers are relying on their own methods of protest rather than turning to opposition parties or official trade-unions. The findings of both surveys indicate not an unambigous passivity but a more mixed and cautious wait and see attitude. We should not be too taken by surprise by the unexpected.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

CTU Endorses Civilian Police Board

CTU Endorses Civilian
Police Accountability Council
The December 2, 2015 HOD session saw the approval of a resolution calling for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that will provide stricter and more transparent oversight on the pattern and practices of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The ordinance would give the council the power to prosecute law enforcement officials who are guilty of committing a crime.
“The CTU is not anti-police and never has been, contrary to the misinformation that’s being put out there by the leader of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP),” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “We were against what happened to Laquan McDonald and what has happened in the wake of the release of that horrific video. We are opposed to the cover-up that is going on. That is why we’ve joined people across this city and nation for a federal investigation into who knew what and when. Why did it take 400 days for this officer to be charged with murder? There are too many questions but all of them illustrate why the CTU supports a democratically elected civilian police accountability council. We have no confidence in the mayor’s hand-picked blue ribbon commission.”
Said CTU Recording Secretary Michael Brunson: "CTU rejects the appointed and hand-picked school board by the Mayor. We support an elected representative school board. Within each school, we reject the instructional leadership teams. We support Professional Personnel Leadership Committees. We also reject the top-down model that is currently in place. We support a transparent democratic process. It is called CPAC.
"I want to make one thing clear. CTU does not take a stand against FOP or the Chicago Police Department. We stand for justice. Everyone deserves justice. "
The resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the city of Chicago, and indeed the nation has been shocked, saddened, and appalled by the November 24, 2015 release of a video that recounts the unjustifiable and fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke on the evening of October 14, 2014, a full 13 months prior to the release of the tape; and
WHEREAS, many citizens continue to protest the acquittal of Chicago police officer Dante Servin of manslaughter charges for the killing of Rekia Boyd on March 22, 2012, more than three years before the mayor and police chief finally called for his official termination; and
WHEREAS, while the CTU fully supports and respects Chicago police officers that perform their duties in a lawful manner, we are concerned that there have been numerous other incidents of unarmed citizens and youth in the city of Chicago dying as a result of unjustifiable police shootings and suspicious circumstances: Freddie Wilson (2007), Flint Farmer (2011), and Dakota Bright (2012) to name a few from a much longer list; and
WHEREAS, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), established in 2007 to replace the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), is reported to have only sustained 1% of thousands of allegations of police misconduct, which may indicate a bias in perspective and judgment; and
WHEREAS, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) as a matter of our commitment to the fair treatment of all citizens in the city of Chicago and our faith and commitment to the democratic process, has openly supported democratic bodies within the Chicago Public School system such as the Local School Council (LSC), Professional Personnel Leadership Committee (PPLC), and an Elected Representative School Board (ERSB); therefore be it
RESOLVED, as a matter of principle and consistency that the CTU support a public initiative for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC); and be it further
RESOLVED, that the CTU will publicly advocate for such a council and ask that due research, thought, and open public dialogue be devoted to the creation of these councils at the district level.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


By Jim Vail

Many teachers remember police officers wearing stickers that supported the Chicago Teachers Union when it went on strike in 2012.

That strike, a clean affair when you consider nasty strikes in the past filled with scabs, slashed tires and police beatings, has suddenly called into question the next possible teachers strike.

One delegate asked the union leadership at last week's December House of Delegates meeting to delay the strike vote in the wake of a major police brutality scandal. 

The CTU marched with the protesters last week who were filled with rage after a Chicago police officer shot a black teenager sixteen times, who never even posed a threat, according to the video released. The police had tried to cover-up the evidence in a Burger King videocam, but the city was finally forced to release it and charge the officer with first-degree murder.

The mayor is on the ropes. First he said the video was horrible without even seeing it, then he pleaded for calm and tried to defend his top cop, and then he fired the police superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Now the police union is upset with the We are One coalition that protested and the CTU.

While one person asked to delay the vote, and another delegate voiced her opposition to a resolution in the house to support a Civilian Police Accountability Council, nobody else challenged the CTU's stance with victims of police brutality.

The resolution passed convincingly and everybody applauded CTU VP Jesse Sharkey's words on the eve of a major strike vote this week.

"You can look at our relationship with the cops first, and then there's our relationship with the parents and students," Sharkey told the delegates. "Then you turn on the news and see a cop shoot someone in the back. So we have to try to be balanced here."

"I want to say have you seen the video," said CTU recording secretary Michael Brunson. "He was walking away. The leadership of the CTU is not against the Chicago police. We're against murder. This isn't anti-police, no, this is anti-murder. There's a federal investigation of the police. That's not us. We have to do what's right. We can't allow something like this to divide us."

In fact, there was no mutiny, no real division in the house.

Perhaps politics play a big role. There is no organized opposition right now in the Chicago Teachers Union. Certainly in the old days another faction may have exploited this and called for the CTU to not pass the resolution.

The CTU gave instructions to the delegates for next week's strike vote that will take place beginning Wed. for Dec. 9, 10 and 11.

Sharkey also told the delegates he had no idea how the strike vote was leaked to the media.