Month: November, 2011
A Dissenting Union View from New York
worker | November 30, 2011 | 10:34 pm | Action | Comments closed

By Thomas Kenny

How does a good Communist tell that the Party line is wrong?

When the line fails to hold any explanatory power.

When its assumptions no longer conform to obvious facts.

When it misidentifies the main enemy (as a party, the GOP) , not as a class ( finance capital, in other words, Wall Street) .

When, objectively, it steers Party activity toward infliction of damage on real anti-monopoly allies (Occupy) .

When it abandons a tough-minded analysis of class rule veiled by the US two-major-party duopoly and, instead, resorts to demagogic rants against Republicans as if they were the unique, Satanic carriers of the ultra right virus.

According to Fred Dicker, a conservative but well-informed veteran Albany, New York journalist, upstate New York Republicans don’t want to let the “millionaires’ tax” expire.

Dicker states the Republicans may fight Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who wants the tax to expire, and who is demonstrably in the pocket of Wall Street lobbyists (example “the Committee to Save New York”) on most issues, especially tax and spending policy.

The truth is concrete, and this is a concrete illustration of the incorrectness of the Party line: “unity-against-the-ultra-right-support-the-Democrats,”

Here in New York, the Democratic governor, Cuomo, is the prime representative of Wall Street power and intransigence. Almost all trade union leaders in the state believe this and say so privately. Some now say it publicly.

For this reason such formulations as “Objectively, the 2012 election is critical to achieve any and all of the goals of Occupy…” is a completely wrong assessment if it means “Elect Democrats to save us from the ultra right” or “work for Obama.”

Objectively, corporate Democrats such as Cuomo and Obama are on the opposite side of the anti-monopoly Occupy Wall Street movement and its offshoots, whatever verbal games Democratic politicians play to appease the party’s mass base. That base, by a huge majority, supports the goals of Occupy.

According to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and reliable journalists, Obama’s Homeland Security agency is coordinating mayoral evictions of Occupy movements by big city police.

The tragedy is the present Party line aligns the CPUSA with monopoly capital, grouped around Obama, against a promising new anti-monopoly movement, Occupy.

Defenders of the Party line have shifted their ground. The line can’t be defended openly. No one in his right mind thinks the likes of Cuomo or Obama are leaders of the people’s movements.

Instead, the new defense is a hysterical litany of the horrors of the ultra right, as if that settled the matter.

Far from it. The ultra right is indeed horrible. But such a litany omits the reality that corporate Democrats such as Cuomo and Obama — at their own pace and in their own way — are imposing the agenda of Wall Street and the ultra right.

Example: The present US Administration is demanding cuts in the social safety net which the US working class movement, including the Communist movement, won by fierce struggle over the last eight decades.

What kind of Party aligns itself with the destroyers of some of its noblest achievements?

That question should give pause to anyone.

Where the 99% Kicked Out the 1 Percent
worker | November 27, 2011 | 10:10 pm | Action | Comments closed

Written by Bill Preston

From the remarks of Bill Preston, President AFGE Local 17, at a November 18 panel sponsored by U.S. Labor for Friendship with Cuba and the Metro DC Coalition to Free the Cuban Five.


Cuba is a country where the 99% actually took over and kicked the 1% out of power.

While we in the imperialist countries learn about current developments in Cuba’s socialist economy, we cannot forget the internationalist duties of those of us who reside in the land of U.S. imperialism:
We cannot “forget even for one moment,” Lenin argued, that “our” imperialists stand for the exploitation, oppression, and annexation of the nations and peoples who form the greatest masses of humanity, in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

For someone who lives in the U.S. who thinks they support socialism to fail to do this—to forget U.S. imperialism’s historical and ongoing rapacious desires to exploit, oppress, and, yes, to annex Cuba—makes that U.S. person, as Lenin would put it, “an abettor of imperialism in practice.”

In Lenin’s time the struggle for the right of self-determination within the ranks of the Second International centered mainly on the advocacy and fight for freedom of secession for oppressed countries. “Without this,” wrote Lenin, “there can be no internationalism.” (“The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up,” 1916.)

Today the struggle for the right of self-determination includes the right of socialist countries, like Cuba, where the working class is the ruling class, to independent development free from imperialism.

Cuba’s freedom from foreign imperialist control, its right to develop its socialist economy in the way Cuba determines is in her sovereign best interests, is inextricable from consistent internationalism today. By supporting Cuba’s rights actively, we help fulfill our internationalist obligation to struggle for the right of self-determination.

North Korea on the Occupy Movement
worker | November 26, 2011 | 7:32 pm | Action | Comments closed

Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) — Working masses’ anti-Wall Street protests have continued unabated, shaking the capitalist system down to its roots.

Riot police are hurled to put down the protests but only fell short of blocking the masses’ advance.

This has stoked fears among the rulers of the capitalist countries.

This proves capitalism is reactionary system and ailing society where the rich get ever richer and the poor ever poorer as a 1 percent tiny handful of exploiters oppress toiling masses making up 99 percent of the population.

A recent opinion poll conducted in the U.S. showed the majority of Americans voiced resentment against the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. In the poll jointly conducted by the Washington Post and ABC TV, over 6 out of 10 respondents said the rich-poor gap is widening in economic aspect. The income disparity between the people in the upper brackets of income and the rest of Americans is now all time high since the great depression about 70 years ago.

The income of wealthy people grew about 275 percent for the past 28 years. In 2010 the number of the poor increased by 7 million from 10 years ago.

The widening gap between the 1 percent rich and the 99 percent poor is an inevitable result of the structural contradiction of capitalism.

The history of capitalism is characterized by the accumulation of wealth by monopoly tycoons. In this course a crucial change took place in the relations of class forces, sharpening contradiction and conflict.

In the capitalist society the well-to-do people get ever richer while the poor are reduced to extreme poverty. The rich take to itself products and almost all wealth of the society, wallowing in luxury while the toiling masses languish in hunger and poverty. The people are degenerated, becoming slaves of money and the broad masses suffer from unemployment, hunger and poverty.

It has become frequent occurrences in the capitalist countries for even the middle classes to lose properties due to bankruptcy and unemployment and join the poor.

A big group of the unemployed are in the making in the Western countries bogged by financial and debt crises.

The rulers and monopoly capitalists are talking rhetoric about “class cooperation” and “welfare policy” to calm down the daily worsening socio-class contradiction in the capitalist countries.

Cooperation between the exploiting class and the grassroots people in the capitalist society is sheer sophism little short of a wolf and a sheep living in the same pen as friends.

It is an inevitable process of the historical development that the people intensify their actions to win the right to existence and democracy against the arbitrary practices of the monopoly capitalists.

The widening gap between the rich and the poor will escalate the people’s protest against it.

Capitalism can never solve its socio-class contradiction by itself but will meet a final ruin by the people’s actions for independence.

Is there a future for the European Union?
worker | November 22, 2011 | 9:11 pm | Action | Comments closed

By Zoltan Zigedy


When the so-called “dismal science” – economics — resorts to hollow metaphors like “contagion,” “belt-tightening,” “toxic,” or “tsunami” to describe economic facts and events, one might reasonably wonder if it represents dismay more than science. For sure, practitioners in this field eschew metaphors for technical jargon in their narrow academic studies that have earned many prizes and peer acclaim. But these studies have proven singularly unhelpful in explaining or resolving the four years of chaos that has befallen the global economy.

Thus, it comes as a surprise that those who are paid handsomely to think for us are hailing the appointment of two professional economists to run Greece and Italy. Reflecting these changes, stock markets and other market indicators also reacted happily. Aside from the fact that — over the course of a weekend — the democratic content of two bourgeois democracies were exposed as shams, aside from the fact that the appointments were largely dictated by forces outside of the two countries, it is incomprehensible that two economists—one a former vice-president of the European Central Bank and the other a former European Union Commissioner – will do anything other than continue subservience to the neo-liberal agenda. In effect, Greece and Italy have been put into receivership by the European Union.

That receivership promises no new approach, no retreat from austerity for the masses, no lessening of the slavish commitment to capital, and no defiance of financial markets.

“Centrifugal Forces”

There are properties of economic actors that exert pressure, propelling them away from each other, confounding collaboration and sowing antagonism. Marx identified these properties as intrinsic to capitalism. The properties of individual self-interest, competition and exploitation are inseparable from the social relations that define capitalism in all of its forms. From the small business owner to the CEO of a mega-corporation, from the Chamber of Commerce to the union of nation-states, the opportunity for gaining an advantage always stands in the way of any real, lasting unity between agents big and small. Within the confines of the capitalist mode of production, pressures are always latent to fracture or dissolve combinations or collectives.

Yet economic actors are wise enough to recognize the advantages that may arise from combination and cooperation; a larger capitalist enterprise enjoys an advantage over a smaller one: a big fish eats the little one. On the level of nation-states, a larger nation, or a federation of states, better competes against its rivals. Thus, they strive to advance their interests by striking some measure of unity with some against still other competitors.

Frederick Engels, in the seminal work of Marxist political economy, explained this dialectic well:
Each smaller group of competitors cannot but desire the monopoly for itself against all others. Competition is based on self-interest, and self-interest in turn breeds monopoly. In short, competition passes over into monopoly. On the other hand, monopoly cannot stem the tide of competition—indeed, it itself breeds competition… F. Engels, A Critique of Political Economy

It is this dialectical dance between immediate individual self-interest and self-interest promoted through opportune unity that explains the unstable existence of the European Union. Established as a bloc to compete more favorably against the economic might of the US and Japan, a senior partner in the Cold War rather than a compliant underling, the European community was a last-ditch effort to restore prestige and power to the old, formerly dominating European empires. Devastated by war and in the shadow of the new, post-war great powers, Euro-leaders hoped to forge a unity that would create a formidable entity capable of holding its own, or even overwhelm in the competition between imperialist blocs. Later, the bloc was the European answer to the post-Soviet international landscape that saw other economic powers like Brazil, Russia, India and China join the global competition for markets, resources, and ultimately profits.

In the better part of the twentieth century, imperialist competition led invariably to war; new economic, geographic and political arrangements were settled militarily. By contrast, the European Union was perhaps the most ambitious attempt at a voluntary and peaceful unification of capitalist states to secure economic advantage in global markets. But because each of its constituent states was in widely different circumstances and at uneven levels of development when accepting membership, they had widely divergent goals. The more economically successful states saw preferred markets for their products and downward pressure on their labor force from low-wage members. The poorer countries foresaw better financial terms, investments, and consumer spending from the newly adopted, successful Euro-siblings. In short, all the members – rich and poor – acquiesced to the Union for their own self-interest.

Today, these divergent interests are in immediate danger of destroying the EU. The only solution possible is outside of the logic of self-interest and individual advantage, that is, outside of the logic of capitalism. As Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini put it, in an otherwise confused, cynical op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal (Whose Economy Has It Worst? 11-12/13-11), “[the solution] implies a gradual transfer of wealth from the core economies to the periphery, a ‘transfer union’ from rich to poorer states.” Put plainly, the future of the EU rests on a program of affirmative action that will equalize the disparity in wealth and economic development between the European haves and the have-nots.

Instead, policy makers have resolved to punish the poorer states for being poor. The devastating austerity programs imposed by the EU, The European Central Bank and the IMF drive Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and soon Italy, into even greater depths of poverty. The inequalities in the EU generated greater inequalities and now the richer states propose to solve the financial crisis of the Union by proposing even greater inequalities. There is no affirmative action in this scheme.

Contrast this with the other twentieth-century experiments in unification: the union of republics constituting the USSR and the post-war CMEA project uniting Eastern European countries (and later, Cuba). For most of the twentieth century the USSR followed a Leninist policy of affirmative action regarding the poorer constituent republics of the USSR and likewise for post-war reconstruction of Eastern Europe (excepting the GDR which paid a heavy price in war reparations). Growth rates in the poorer republics and Eastern Europe’s former backwaters usually exceeded the rates of the Russian Republic. Most of these countries achieved levels of development on a par with or exceeding that of top European powers, measured by telling socioeconomic indicators: education, life expectancy, access to health care, culture, social securities, leisure, etc. And these achievements arrived in a short time.

Tellingly, the breakdown of Leninist policies during the Gorbachev era, the move to basing trade and aid policies on international market forces led to disintegration and the dissolving of this hard-won unity, another example of the centrifugal forces spawned by markets and the emergence of unequal, individualistic policies. Few will recall the disastrous effects of this policy shift, especially upon Cuba, and well before the demise of the Soviet Union. Indeed, these changes contributed powerfully to that demise.

With justification, one might conclude that unification – mutually beneficial combinations of national entities—is extremely unlikely to be successful with capitalist social and economic relations intact. Conversely, socialist social and economic relations, linked with an internationalist perspective hold the only real, lasting opportunity for unity among diverse states.

These same centrifugal forces gnaw at the twenty-first century effort to achieve economic integration among several progressive, anti-imperialist countries in Latin America. Clearly the European Union model cannot guide this effort. Its success can only come with a concerted effort to overcome the stubborn stance of self-interest and exploitative competitiveness of capitalist social relations.

From this perspective, I wrote in November of 2008:
As with the Great Depression, the economic crisis strikes different economies in different ways. Despite efforts to integrate the world economies, the international division of labor and the differing levels of development foreclose a unified solution to economic distress. The weak efforts at joint action, the conferences, the summits, etc. cannot succeed simply because every nation has different interests and problems, a condition that will become more acute as the crisis mounts… It is highly unlikely that the [European] Union will come up with common solutions. Indeed, the unraveling of the EU is a possibility.

Five months later, and well before Greece became the focus of EU crisis, I wrote:
The EU old guard, led by France and Germany, has adamantly refused to expand financial support for the Eastern European members. The limited aid to the newer members has been mainly exhausted by assistance to Latvia and Hungary. Germany, along with France, the dominant members of the EU, oppose additional EU-wide stimulus. It’s not only Eastern Europe, newly capitalist states that thrived on international loans, but many of the original EU states that are left to their own devices. Spain suffers from the implosion of the construction industry, with delinquent loans and unemployment provoking a banking crisis. A 19% unemployment rate is projected for next year, the highest in the EU. Italy suffers continued stagnation, huge debt, and a broken, corrupted political system – a system that seems incapable of even generating a modest response to the crisis,

Germany has been only too anxious to accept the role as the “big dog” in the EU, dictating most of the terms of Union-wide economic policy. Much as the US assumes that role in the global economy, Germany uses its economic might and relative health to impose its will upon the EU.

Three years later, these assessments and projections have been borne out.

Zoltan Zigedy

On Authority
worker | November 20, 2011 | 9:54 pm | Action | Comments closed

Works of Frederick Engels 1872
Written: 1872;
Published: 1874 in the Italian, Almanacco Republicano;
Source: Marx-Engels Reader, New York: W. W. Norton and Co., second edition, 1978 (first edition, 1972), pp 730-733.;
Translated: Robert C. Tucker;
Transcribed: by Mike Lepore.


A number of Socialists have latterly launched a regular crusade against what they call the principle of authority. It suffices to tell them that this or that act is authoritarian for it to be condemned. This summary mode of procedure is being abused to such an extent that it has become necessary to look into the matter somewhat more closely.

Authority, in the sense in which the word is used here, means: the imposition of the will of another upon ours; on the other hand, authority presupposes subordination. Now, since these two words sound bad, and the relationship which they represent is disagreeable to the subordinated party, the question is to ascertain whether there is any way of dispensing with it, whether — given the conditions of present-day society — we could not create another social system, in which this authority would be given no scope any longer, and would consequently have to disappear.

On examining the economic, industrial and agricultural conditions which form the basis of present-day bourgeois society, we find that they tend more and more to replace isolated action by combined action of individuals. Modern industry, with its big factories and mills, where hundreds of workers supervise complicated machines driven by steam, has superseded the small workshops of the separate producers; the carriages and wagons of the highways have become substituted by railway trains, just as the small schooners and sailing feluccas have been by steam-boats. Even agriculture falls increasingly under the dominion of the machine and of steam, which slowly but relentlessly put in the place of the small proprietors big capitalists, who with the aid of hired workers cultivate vast stretches of land.

Everywhere combined action, the complication of processes dependent upon each other, displaces independent action by individuals. But whoever mentions combined action speaks of organisation; now, is it possible to have organisation without authority?

Supposing a social revolution dethroned the capitalists, who now exercise their authority over the production and circulation of wealth. Supposing, to adopt entirely the point of view of the anti-authoritarians, that the land and the instruments of labour had become the collective property of the workers who use them. Will authority have disappeared, or will it only have changed its form? Let us see.

Let us take by way of example a cotton spinning mill. The cotton must pass through at least six successive operations before it is reduced to the state of thread, and these operations take place for the most part in different rooms. Furthermore, keeping the machines going requires an engineer to look after the steam engine, mechanics to make the current repairs, and many other labourers whose business it is to transfer the products from one room to another, and so forth. All these workers, men, women and children, are obliged to begin and finish their work at the hours fixed by the authority of the steam, which cares nothing for individual autonomy. The workers must, therefore, first come to an understanding on the hours of work; and these hours, once they are fixed, must be observed by all, without any exception. Thereafter particular questions arise in each room and at every moment concerning the mode of production, distribution of material, etc., which must be settled by decision of a delegate placed at the head of each branch of labour or, if possible, by a majority vote, the will of the single individual will always have to subordinate itself, which means that questions are settled in an authoritarian way. The automatic machinery of the big factory is much more despotic than the small capitalists who employ workers ever have been. At least with regard to the hours of work one may write upon the portals of these factories: Lasciate ogni autonomia, voi che entrate! [Leave, ye that enter in, all autonomy behind!]

If man, by dint of his knowledge and inventive genius, has subdued the forces of nature, the latter avenge themselves upon him by subjecting him, in so far as he employs them, to a veritable despotism independent of all social organisation. Wanting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel.

Let us take another example — the railway. Here too the co-operation of an infinite number of individuals is absolutely necessary, and this co-operation must be practiced during precisely fixed hours so that no accidents may happen. Here, too, the first condition of the job is a dominant will that settles all subordinate questions, whether this will is represented by a single delegate or a committee charged with the execution of the resolutions of the majority of persona interested. In either case there is a very pronounced authority. Moreover, what would happen to the first train dispatched if the authority of the railway employees over the Hon. passengers were abolished?

But the necessity of authority, and of imperious authority at that, will nowhere be found more evident than on board a ship on the high seas. There, in time of danger, the lives of all depend on the instantaneous and absolute obedience of all to the will of one.

When I submitted arguments like these to the most rabid anti-authoritarians, the only answer they were able to give me was the following: Yes, that’s true, but there it is not the case of authority which we confer on our delegates, but of a commission entrusted! These gentlemen think that when they have changed the names of things they have changed the things themselves. This is how these profound thinkers mock at the whole world.

We have thus seen that, on the one hand, a certain authority, no matter how delegated, and, on the other hand, a certain subordination, are things which, independently of all social organisation, are imposed upon us together with the material conditions under which we produce and make products circulate.

We have seen, besides, that the material conditions of production and circulation inevitably develop with large-scale industry and large-scale agriculture, and increasingly tend to enlarge the scope of this authority. Hence it is absurd to speak of the principle of authority as being absolutely evil, and of the principle of autonomy as being absolutely good. Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of the development of society. If the autonomists confined themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future would restrict authority solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable, we could understand each other; but they are blind to all facts that make the thing necessary and they passionately fight the world.

Why do the anti-authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

Therefore, either one of two things: either the anti-authoritarians don’t know what they’re talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion; or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the movement of the proletariat. In either case they serve reaction.

Occupy Houston is alive and well: The rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated
worker | November 17, 2011 | 10:50 pm | Action | Comments closed

Occupy Houston supporters on 11/17/11

Occupy Houston rally on 11/17/11

By James Thompson


HOUSTON – Today, November 17, 2011, Occupy Houston had a massive rally of more than 400 people that marched to a downtown bridge. Along the way was a planned act of civil disobedience in which about 12 people were arrested for obstructing an intersection at Commerce and Travis. Three of the Occupy Houston protesters were union members to include Zeph Capo, Houston Federation of Teachers, Local 2415, Beverly Ortiz, SEIU, Local 1, and Marisol Rodriguez, HOPE, Local 123.

The crowd was large, loud and spirited. It consisted of many organizations to include: Good Jobs-Great Houston, SEIU, Houston Peace and Justice Center, Houston Peace Council, UAW, IBEW, Seafarer’s Union, Harris County AFL-CIO, Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center, Houston Peace Action and many others.

Participants were quite diverse and included men and women from all racial and ethnic groups. People of faith as well as non-believers were present and worked in a concerted effort to achieve mutual goals.

People were loud in their demands for good jobs, support for public education, police and fire personnel. Demands also focused on fixing our deteriorating infrastructure to include schools and deteriorating bridges across the country.

There was a great deal of support for the American Jobs Act expressed in the lively crowd.

Speakers declared that Occupy Houston is here to stay until the people’s demands are met.

The action in Houston was linked to actions around the country to express solidarity with the two month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The rally and march were peaceful and orderly and everyone showed the utmost respect for each other including the police.

Many people around the country have commented that this is only the beginning of a mighty movement which has the potential to change things for the better for working people in this country and around the world.

Justice Bus confronts businesses in Houston who refuse to pay their workers
worker | November 17, 2011 | 10:04 pm | Action | Comments closed

Workers and activists protest United/Continental in Houston

By James Thompson


HOUSTON – Today, November 17, 2011, the Justice Bus rolled through Houston and about 30 brave activists confronted a number of recalcitrant business owners who refused to pay their workers their just wages. The bus was arranged by the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center in an effort to fight wage theft. The bus departed from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on West Alabama in Houston and visited 5 sites. Workers also went to the Houston Police Department to file Theft of Services reports in an effort to recover their lost wages and bring consequences to their employers. They were following the new Texas Wage Theft Law, in effect since September 1, 2011 which empowers law enforcement agencies to investigate wage theft. The day ended with a visit to the Occupy Houston site at Market Square just before a powerful march to a downtown bridge. The visit was a solidarity action with the Occupy Houston movement.

Participants in the effort were a diverse group including men and women, Latinos, African Americans and Anglos. All age groups were represented as well, ranging from one baby to some elderly, retired people. Various organizations were represented to include the HIWJC, Mennonite Church, SEIU, Harris County AFL-CIO, Houston Peace & Justice Center, Houston Peace Council, Houston Peace Action, Houston Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, UAW, and others.
Participants were enthusiastic in their support of the workers and were loud and spirited. Chants included in English and Spanish “No Justice, No Peace”, “What do we want? Just wages! When do we want it? Now!”
Univision, Telemundo and the Houston Chronicle were there to report on the event.

Our first stop was at Construction Supervisors, Inc. located at 4545 Bissonnet St. Isaias Avelar and 22 other workers labored for this company, a general contractor for construction projects, for 3 months over the summer. They were usually paid in cash by one of the supervisors. Towards the end of their work, they were told they would only be paid when the project was completed, even though they were hourly employees. When the work was finished, they went to the company to receive their due payment, but the supervisor never showed up. When they demanded to speak with someone about getting paid, security was called and they were kicked out of the building. Until this day, the company has not returned their calls and they have not been paid their almost $25,000 in due wages.

The second stop was Luis Paita – Contractor located at 17121 Cardiff Rd. In March, 2011, Mr. Alcides Rodriguez worked as a subcontractor for Mr. Paita’s business, Brother’s Fireplace and Insulation, installing cellulose spray insulation. He only received $1,500 out of the agreed sum of $7,140. After attempting to negotiate with Mr. Paita, Alcides Rodrigues filed with the Small Claims Court in an attempt to recover his money. Finally in October, 2011, a judge ruled in favor of Mr. Rodriguez for the $5,640 owed for his work. However, over a month since the court’s judgment, and more than 8 months since the actual work was done, Mr. Rodriguez has still not received any payment. In September, 2009, Mr. Paita also hired Mr. Rafael Pacheco to furnish insulation work for a hotel property. In this case, Mr. Paita agreed to pay his subcontractor $25,000 for the work. However, in May of 2011, Mr. Pacheco came to the Worker’s Center because two years later, he has still not been paid by Luis Paita.

The Justice Bus or Bus de Justicia arrived at Bi-Tech Landscaping located at 2717 Lone Oak Dr. for its third stop. This private enterprise is a repeat offender when it comes to stealing from their workers. The Worker’s Center has received 3 different reports, from a total of 5 workers, who have not been paid by Bi-Tech. While the workers initially came to HIWJC because they were owed a couple of back payments, after calculating their actual pay rates and total hours worked, we discovered multiple minimum wage and overtime violations. To date, the workers are owed almost $6,000 in back pay as well.

After lunch, we proceeded to C&E Exports, Inc. located at 518 W. 25th St. Maria Cristina Galvan and Santos Claudia Villanueva were employed by C&E Exports, Inc. a Houston wholesale clothing company for 8 months in 2011. While working at the warehouse, the workers made shoes and bags, sorted large clothing shipments, and loaded and unloaded merchandise crates. They worked 6 days a week sometimes up to 12 hour days, often with no breaks and in a cramped space with no fire extinguishers, marked exits, or adequate ventilation, among other safety and health violations. Ms. Galvan and Ms. Villanueva initially came to the Worker’s Center because they weren’t fully paid for their last weeks of work. However, aside from working in these dire conditions, we discovered the workers were never paid overtime and were both making below minimum wage! The HIWJC paid a visit to C&E back in October, but they fled the premises. To this day, the workers have not been contacted or received any payment, so as we promised, “We’ll be back!”

Our final stop before going on to the Occupy Houston site was United/Continental Airlines located at 1200 McKinney. Antoinette Spencer and Elsa Erazo are two of many Bush Intercontinental Airport workers who are paid below minimum wage, have no access to healthcare benefits, and take home as little as $10,000 annually. The Houston Chronicle has written a series of articles on PrimeFlight, one of their employers, over the past several months, exposing the company’s exploitative tip policy. Workers were threatened with downsizing or termination if they failed to report tips that didn’t add up to their tip credits. This is especially troubling since the company has received over $50,000 in taxpayer money for this type of “job creation.” However, companies like Continental/United, who hire PrimeFlight, have the authority and responsibility to hire responsible contractors that provide good jobs that can support Houston families and sustain communities. An SEIU flyer says, “All over the country, people are working harder than ever and falling deeper into poverty. Currently one in four American workers is paid below the poverty level. Right here in Houston’s airports, United/Continental is profiting off this crisis. The contractors it hires pay their employees as little as $10,000 annually. Poverty-wage jobs like these hurt our whole city by contributing to foreclosures, hunger, and crime in our neighborhoods. Support Prospect employees by reaching out to the CEO of United/Continental, Jeff Smisek at (713)324-2950 and ask him to tell PrimeFlight that families can’t live on $10,000 a year. Standing up for airport workers will make our city safer and will bring us closer to restoring the balance in our economy so that it works for all people-not just those at the top.” The flyer quotes Irma Zalazar “I get paid $6.25 an hour. I like my job. I enjoy what I do, but I work very hard for passengers. I need them to tip me, otherwise I cannot put food on the table because I am not making the minimum wage.”