Labor Notes #383, February 2011

England's conservative government says voluntarism can compensate for enormous cuts to the public sector. The idea is unrealistic and an excuse for more privatization.

Los Angeles teacher union activists embrace neither corporate education reform nor the status quo in schools. They're fighting to center schools around social justice, fund them fully, and develop teachers in a pro-union environment.

A billionaire gang headed by Bill Gates and Eli Broad wants to capture the billions spent on America’s public schools and convert them into a corporate-owned test-score factory. But their plan faces teacher resistance, and nowhere more than in Chicago, where a feisty new leadership is heading the Chicago Teachers Union.

With a few local exceptions, America’s teachers unions have met billionaire school reform with surrender, accommodation, and ill-advised partnership. The AFT’s largest local is a case study in the turn-the-cheek approach.

Wonder what’s at stake in the charter school debate? How about a pot of money as big as the Pentagon budget? That’s about $562 billion in the 2006-07 school year, according to the latest numbers on local, state, and federal education spending.

It’s no coincidence that those fueling and funding school reform are millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations. To believe that their interest lies in helping children would require a suspension of logic and a denial of our history.

In the U.S., executives at companies like BP, responsible for 11 deaths in last year’s Gulf oil rig explosion, never face jail time for the workers they kill. In Canada, it's different.

The United Auto Workers’ “Principles for Fair Union Elections” legitimize ideas labor should be challenging. The guidelines put collective bargaining and its authoritarian alternative on equal footing, and accept that unions must acquire majority support to bargain. Neither idea has any basis in international labor rights.

The United Auto Workers announced a $60 million plan to organize foreign-owned auto plants. UAW President Bob King said it's an “all-in hand. If we lose, we’ll die quicker. If we win, we rebuild the UAW.”

Braving freezing temperatures not far from the shore of the Hudson River, members of IUE-CWA Local 81359 walked out January 12 for a two-day grievance strike.

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