Ukraine represents but the latest flashpoint in a sharpening great-power conflict that reaches every country on earth. It pits rising China as well as a resurgent Russia against the declining but still predominant U.S. empire. At stake are the planet’s profit sources — workers’ labor, oil and gas — for opposing capitalist blocs in a potential World War III.
As CHALLENGE goes to press, the struggle between imperialist factions and their capitalist allies in Ukraine remains in flux. After three months of increasingly militant protests exploded late in February, Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s Russia-leaning President, was ousted from power and driven from the capital city of Kiev. Armed workers seized the president’s opulent palace, a monument to the bosses’ greed. Yanukovych, charged with “mass murder” in connection with the shooting of dozens of protesters, is now camped among his supporter in Eastern Ukraine. The country’s parliament has set a new presidential election for May, and politicians tilting toward the European Union (EU) dominate the field. All of the top candidates are also allied with local fascist forces. (See box.)
CHICAGO, IL February 21 — Close to 1,000 transit workers have been fired by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) over the last two years, the vast majority being black workers. Most were members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 241, on the bus side. Tim Stovall was a member of ATU Local 308, on the train side. In 2010, Tim was falsely arrested for selling marijuana while on the job. The racist police lied and said he had a prior conviction and that he had pled guilty to a felony in the past. Tim filed a grievance and provided documentation to prove that the police were lying. The Grievance Committee voted to take his case to arbitration.
Then Local 308 President Robert Kelly (salary $134,000/year), who was fired for stealing about 20 years ago, convinced the Grievance Committee to change its vote and deny Tim an opportunity to fight for his job. At the membership meeting, Kelly only read the racist police report, and based on that, the membership voted not to arbitrate. The best Robert Kelly could do was to offer Tim a $9/hr. job (barely a third of the regular pay rate) in the 2nd Chance Program for ex-felons, even though Tim was never convicted of a crime (and the program has since been disbanded). Our union leaders belong in jail!
What happened to Tim Stovall is not an isolated incident. We have been under attack from the CTA bosses and their junior partners in the ATU leadership for over a decade. Workers are being fired for one safety violation and accelerated discipline allows the company to treat a minor incident as if it were one in a string of major accidents. These attacks mirror the racist budget slashing of the Cook County Healthcare System and public education. The bankers and real estate developers are making billions while millions are out of work and millions more are under-employed working for poverty wages.
The “war on drugs” has always been a lie, a war on workers and youth that has filled the prisons, disenfranchised millions and forced black and Latino youth into dead-end poverty-wage jobs. We will continue fight to get Tim Stovall’s job back. And while we do, we will build the revolutionary communist Progressive Labor Party in the bus garages and train yards. A measure of our success will be to have CTA workers march on May Day with PLP!
Washington, DC, February 20 — Today Muriel Bowser, a DC city council member and board member of Metro/WMATA (the DC Regional Transit Agency), held a hearing about getting Metro to change its policy on background checks. Thanks to PLP members, friends and many workers, the issue has gotten sharper throughout the city and politicians like Bowser feel they must address it.
Los Angeles, February 25 — At a Progressive Labor Party forum attended by about 30 workers and students, the stark statistics of deportation sparked discussion on the role of racism in immigration policy under capitalism. In the U.S., undocumented Latinos are more likely to be deported than undocumented Asian or European immigrants, by a factor of 8-16 to 1, depending on what countries are compared.
NASHVILLE, TN, February 20 — Much is being written about the loss suffered by the UAW in the union election at the Volkswagen (VW) assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN. The plant is one of only three non-union VW plants in the world (the other two are in China). This campaign was the key to a strategy of organizing a number of foreign-owned auto plants, including BMW in South Carolina, Mercedes in Vance, Alabama, and Nissan in Canton, MS. (The State of Mississippi passed three anti-union laws just days after the VW vote, targeting the UAW Nissan campaign). The UAW has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), challenging the interference of Tennessee’s top elected officials, but that could linger for years before it is resolved.
BROOKLYN, NY, February 19 — Sixty friends and PL’ers shouted down the military recruiters at the Medgar Evers College (MEC) town hall meeting today. While the administration and recent recruits claimed the program was a way to “provide opportunities and diversity,” the protesters successfully exposed its imperialist agenda. There is potential in turning this anti-war struggle into a fight for communist politics.
PLP hung up Wanted Posters of war criminal David “drones” Petraeus, who is now a professor at one of the university campuses, directly linking these military recruiters to “warrior scholars” like Petraeus they partially aim to produce. CHALLENGE was well-received by all, including the student recruits.
There’s a growing mass movement in the U.S. against mass incarceration, police brutality, and racism. But there are capitalist-class reformers waiting to co-opt this movement, directing it towards keeping the overall system of social control and exploitation.
This was evident at a January 29 talk about “a united front on prison reform” held by OAR (Offender Aid and Restoration), an Arlington, VA., nonprofit that helps people returning from prison. I went to spread the word about the criminal background checks at Metro, D.C.’s transit system, and to publicize a rally at Metro headquarters.
BROOKLYN, February 21 — How does the working class learn and grow during a struggle? How are their contradictions resolved? These questions were raised recently with some members of Progressive Labor Party
involved with the Justice for Kyam Livingston Committee. Nothing can be resolved until people get to know each other.
On February 14, Eddie Healey, a long-time member of the Progressive Labor Party, passed away. He and a co-worker stopped to help a motorist who was stuck in the snow. Eddie collapsed helping. He was rushed to the hospital, but could not be revived. Eddie will be sorely missed.