8:06 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen
Police detain demonstrators and attack press photographers in Athens, Greece during a protest rally marking the 24-hour general strike on October 5, 2011. (Photo: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Cross-posted from In These Times.
While we may be inspired to see a leaderless mass movement finally crystallizing in U.S. cities, the American occupations still can’t hold a candle to the fire raging across Greece.
This past week, demonstrators again unleashed their rage across the tiny Mediterranean republic, blocking government agencies and clashing with government thugs amid plumes of tear gas, with assorted spectacles like trying to burn a European Union flag in effigy. Wilder than the spontaneous encampments in New York, Boston and other cities, the Greek tempests of the past several months have been persistent and rancorous enough to actually shake up the trading floor and the halls of Eurozone-IMF officialdom, as the troika hover, anxious and vulture-like, over a smoldering pyre of sovereign debt.
The explosion in Greece (along with Spain) illustrate how common assumptions about the neoliberal consensus of the industrialized world can be overturned if people become desperate enough. Despite the draconian austerity policies, writes Times columnist Floyd Norris, virtually nothing could persuade the Greeks at this point to swallow more misery:
The tax collectors, of all people, have staged job actions because they fear being laid off. To say the least, there is no sign of a national spirit of sacrifice to save the country.
The message from Greece now may be summarized as, “I’m small. I’ve suffered. You can afford to rescue me. If you don’t, I can create chaos for all of you.”
They may be right.
Are there lessons for the Liberty Plaza protesters to learn from the Athenian class warriors? The Greece context is politically and culturally unique, but it does embody the principle of fierce solidarity. The Greek left is working to harness widespread bitterness into a united front against austerity, linking unions, the jobless young, professionals and laborers. Read the rest of this entry →
6:07 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen
U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Bob Houlihan. Creative Commons.
This weekend, the public will mourn a site of loss, recasting the painful memories and haunting fears that still hover over the aftermath at Ground Zero. But the people who worked and breathed that tragedy in the days and months following September 11 won’t be at the primary commemoration ceremony for the families of victims. The Mayor’s decision to limit the attendees by excluding the 9/11 first responders is an unnerving metaphor for an unhealed scar of 9/11. Many of the rescue and recovery workers who labored at Ground Zero have been plagued by a metastasizing medical crisis, aggravated by chronic political failure.
This week, 9/11 firefighters and police chiefs rallied to demand changes to the rules governing compensation for health problems tied to poisonous air and debris at Ground Zero. They want federal funds to support treatment for cancer, which is currently omitted from the primary legislation covering Ground Zero-related medical needs. For years, researchers have been uncovering fresh evidence of widespread and devastating illnesses afflicting a large portion of people exposed to the aftermath; ongoing health issues range from crippling lung and breathing problems to post-traumatic stress disorder. But adequate funding for 9/11 workers has often been ensnared in political gridlock, not to mention the general incompetence of the healthcare system.
The UK Guardian reports that new research could trump politicians’ concerns over potential cancer liabilities:
Cancer treatment has been specifically excluded from federal health funding, with officials arguing there has been insufficient evidence to prove any direct link between the toxins present at the site and the disease.
But last week the results of the first large-scale study, published in the Lancet, found that firefighters who were involved on the day of the attacks and in the weeks that followed had a 19 percent higher risk of contracting cancer.
The study looked at 9,800 male firefighters, comparing those present during and after the attacks with those who were not involved.
Beyond the study’s findings, there’s disturbing anecdotal evidence of cancer and various other problems, like gastric ailments and the inflammatory disease sarcoidosis. No one knows what the long-term effects are, but whatever the fate of these responders, there are about 15,000 people currently receiving treatment who will need answers soon. Read the rest of this entry →
4:55 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen
VALLEY STREAM, NY - JUNE 17: Shoppers enter a Target store on June 17, 2011 in Valley Stream, New York preceding a unionization vote. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Cross-posted from In These Times
The retail giant Target is under fire from all sides, for union-busting at home and labor violations overseas. The reports that have come out in the past several weeks highlight a continuum of cruelty in the global supply chain.
Though WalMart has long served as labor’s arch nemesis, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has lately zeroed in on Target as a new battlefield—with its hundreds of thousands of employees and recent expansion into the supermarket sector. Although UFCW Local 1500 recently lost a vote to unionize a branch in Valley Stream, New York, their campaign deftly exposed Target’s arsenal of intimidation and smear tactics, which ranged from anti-union websites to leaflets warning that a yes vote might ruin the company and force the store to close.
Now plastered across the blogosphere, the propaganda campaign has steeled the outrage at the company’s resistance to unions. Organizers have announced they will keep up the fight:
Target’s honeymoon is over, the national attention from the election at Valley Stream showed the American public the type of company they really are, one who has little respect for the hard working people who make their company so successful. Target still has the opportunity to change, and they should start by respecting their employees. Read the rest of this entry →