I was present at the Philadelphia Public Record‘s Salute To Labor, honoring a number of fine Labor leaders, some I know personally, at the Philadelphia Joint Board, 22 South 22nd Street, on Friday, June 20, 2019.
The Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance (PDWA) is an organization of workers employed in such work as cleaners, nannies, and caregivers in people’s homes. The goal is to form leadership among such workers, to empower them to advocate for themselves on such issues as safety in workplaces, racism, minimum wage, overtime pay, and sexual abuse. Many of these workers are women, mainly immigrant and women of color, who are most vulnerable to abuse, and many labor laws do not cover them.
One of the goals of PDWA is a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, being advocated in Philadelphia, which would raise the working standards for such workers., including written contracts, paid time off, protection from retaliation, and health and safety standards, among other things. Several Philadelphia-area progressive and Labor groups have signed on to support the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.
For further Information, and to show support, please look up the website, https://www.padomesticworkers.org/.
Yesterday I attended a rally, at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, to support immigrants, particularly protesting the caging of immigrant children and forcibly, and cruelly, separating them from their families. It was sponsored by POWER (Philadelphian Organized to Witness, Empower, and Renew), the Granny Peace Brigade, along with several union organizations, such as Unite/Here, Electricians Local 98, 1199C (hospital and health care workers), IUPAT, UFCW Local 1776, and LIUNA
Along the way, I passed by the Irish Monument, honoring the Irish immigrants who fled their homeland to escape the famine in the 1840s. This is fitting for the rally, reminding all of us that, except for the people who were here originally, we’re all descended from immigrants.
Here are representatives of one of my favorite organizations, the Philadelphia Jewish Labor Committee.
This is Independence Day-what do we have to celebrate? We have a regime (I won’t call it an “administration”) that separates immigrant children as young as several months from the parents, as a bureaucratic form of punishment for entering this country “illegally” (which is classed as a misdemeanor).
That has never happened before, and this practice inflicts trauma upon these children and their parents-but what to the alpha males ruling our affairs care? They show what kind of big strong men they are by terrorizing people who can’t resist, talking about a “zero tolerance policy,” and have sadistic fun doing it.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the Bible, the Apostle Paul letter to the Romans, chapter 13, verses 1-7, (RSV) as an excuse to justify this: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”
That verse had always been a favorite of slaveholders and authoritarians, using some biblical justification for their domination of their subjects. It would not hold sway except for some true believers of the Leader.
(Were he to go further down the chapter, Sessions would have found verses 8-10 “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”)
This is the kind of thing that conservatives, who have whined about “big government taking control of our children,” have warned us about- but it’s happening to dark-skinned foreigners, so they say nothing. I’m pleased, though, that people have risen up against this; I doubt, though, if it would influence this regime from ending the practice, but hopefully, it would make people on the ground ashamed to implement such policies on behalf of their superiors up the chain. There is also institutional resistance to this evil practice, as several state governors have refused to send their National Guard units to the border for this kind of duty.
There is also publicly confronting the top officials responsible for these policies, such as the crowds shaming Stephen Miller and Kristjen Nielsen-as they ate at MEXICAN RESTAUANTS-and Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave the little restaurant. Now the conservatives complain that the officials are being oppressed and bullied-any worse than the little kiddies in the detention centers separated from their families, scared out of their minds, feeling lost and abandoned, put through possibly all kinds of abuse, not knowing if they’ll ever see their parents again? Can’t we look at THAT, Americans, and know the shameful thing going on in our name, and with our tax dollars?
With protests against unjust conditions, there are always complaints about how the protestors behave-“They’re not polite, they’re not civil, they use such bad language!” But what about trump’s line in a rally, “I’d like to punch him in the face”? His instigating violence against protestors by his fans? The incidents of white people calling the police on African-Americans for such crimes as sitting in a Starbuck’s, playing golf, napping in a dorm at Yale, holding a cookout in Oakland, mowing a neighbor’s lawn for a few bucks, selling water for money for tickets to Disneyland?
It’s as if we need permission by our conservative superiors to protest unjust conditions, from which they benefit, and the consequence of which they don’t suffer (so it’s no skin off their asses)-and such permission won’t be forthcoming. No one will give us our rights-we’ll take them. It’s just a way for them to not deal with it-but there are people who deal with it every day, and they won’t take it anymore, and will let everyone know they won’t take it.
Again, let’s discuss “big government“-the boogie of right-wing propaganda for decades, since the New Deal and beyond. This is the scare used when the issue is using the mechanism of government, local, state, or federal, to restrict the ability of corporations to swindle consumers and oppress workers. Added to this is the Labor movement, the institutional gathering of workers for their mutual benefit, to prevent corporate bosses from forcing workers into long hours, in oppressive and unsafe worksites, for merger pay.
With the Janus decision of the Supreme Court-which says workers who don’t want to be in a union do not have to pay the “agency shop” fee, but would still be protected by the union-The ability of unions to protect workers is in trouble. But do we take it lying down? No, we organize, just like our forbearers did a century ago, in the face of company thugs, police and militias, and hostile courts, judges, and governments. We have a history and tradition to draw our strength from.
Indeed, activism abounds throughout the nation against the trump agenda-and NO, I will not show him any respect! Along with the protests against the immigration policies along the border, there are protests by high school kids against the gun violence they witnessed, when they had to see their friends killed by gunmen who had too easy an access to an AR-15, and the #MeToo movement of women who refuse any longer to put up with sexual harassment from rich and powerful men. The Labor movement can tap into that energy, and once again be the insurgent force our plutocratic masters fear it to be.
I am joining tomorrow with other terrific Labor activists to celebrate May Day (just a little late), the International Workers’ Holiday. The rest of the world celebrates May Day as a worker’s day, but in the US of A we’ve been programmed to think of it as a Commie subversive holiday. Well, reality has changed. There is no longer a Soviet Union to be afriaad of, and the failure of the “free market”, no-regulation capitalist model to provide for everyone, EXCEPT a plutocratic elite. The people, particularly the workers, ARE waking up and rising up.