International Workers Day roundtable highlights organizing and solidarity / by Special to the People’s World

A roundtable discussion explored the organizing experiences of three unions in Connecticut. It featured Paul Seltzer, Local 33 Unite Here; Jordie Adams, Starbucks Workers United; and Symone Destin, SEIU 1199 NE. The event was moderated by Pearl Granat, lifelong activist for social justice and retired 1199 organizer. | via Connecticut People’s World Committee

Originally published in the People’s World on May 16, 2023

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—As images of recent workers’ gains, struggles, and actions projected onto the screen and the sounds of labor music ranged outside of the New Haven Peoples Center on to the street, everyone who entered felt an inviting atmosphere of labor solidarity for the People’s World May Day rally: “International Workers Day 2023 – Organize Now for a Just and Peaceful Future.”

Emcee Jahmal Henderson, a food service worker, welcomed everyone to this celebration of courageous organizing being led by young workers, women of color, immigrant workers, and low-wage workers for basic rights and survival against corporate greed.

A powerful slide show “May Day Around the World” highlighted struggles and victories across continents in today’s times, showing working class solidarity for wages, benefits, public education, affordable housing, and peace against the extreme right-wing corporate agenda.

A roundtable discussion explored the organizing experiences of three unions in Connecticut. It featured Paul Seltzer, Local 33 Unite Here; Jordie Adams, Starbucks Workers United; and Symone Destin, SEIU 1199 NE. The event was moderated by Pearl Granat, lifelong activist for social justice and retired 1199 organizer.

Jordie Adams, a Starbucks barista, spoke of helping organize a union at her store in Vernon, Conn., and in other stores. She also proudly announced that, just the prior week, the 300th Starbucks store was organized by Starbucks Workers United. There are now unionized stores in 41 states plus D.C.

Adams was one of dozens of Starbucks workers who traveled to the nation’s capital to attend the Senate hearing called by Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which questioned former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about union busting.

“Howard Schultz said the average pay is $17 an hour, which is not true. That number includes supervisors pay,” said Adams. “It was interesting to listen to him lie in front of the Senate.”

Schultz attempted to send a PR person in his place, but Sanders would not agree. To keep the pressure on, Adams and others told their own senators about firings of organizers and other illegal practices happening in their states.

Paul Seltzer, a leader of Local 33 Unite Here and graduate teacher in the history department at Yale, spoke about their blowout union election, with 91% yes votes, gaining recognition from Yale after over 30 years of organizing. They are now negotiating a first contract.

Emcee Jahmal Henderson, a food service worker, welcomed everyone to the celebration and also made a pitch for People’s World. | via Connecticut People’s World Committee

“Graduate workers needed a seat at the table and a say in our work,” said Seltzer. “Our work is essential for the university to carry out its mission for teaching and research.”

During the pandemic, required work hours for Seltzer and all grad teachers skyrocketed with no discussion. But for his wife, a member of Local 34, the clerical and technical workers union at Yale, it was different.  “With the union, workers had a voice to negotiate with the university for higher standards and benefits.”

Seltzer came to Yale in 2017 from Atlanta, where he was a food service worker at the airport and helped organize a union. “We got our first raise, health care costs plummeted, and we won workers’ rights on the job.” This inspired him to stay in the fight for union rights in the workplace.

Local 33 restarted their union campaign in 2021. “We talked to thousands of co-workers and expanded the organizing committee,” he said. “In fall of 2022, thousands of union cards were signed and after a rally of over 1,000 people Yale agreed to respect the results of a graduate worker union election.”

Simone Destin is an 1199 member and a six-year group home worker assisting people with disabilities. She is currently involved in a contract fight for better working conditions and pensions, better health care for all group home workers, and better rights for the disabled community she serves.

While working during the pandemic, Destin got COVID twice and ended up with a $10,000 hospital bill. From this experience, she became determined to stay in the fight for funding in the state budget “for living wages and benefits and to be recognized for the things we are doing to help the people we serve.

“People are struggling daily to make ends meet,” she said. “We are fighting for livable wages. You can’t live off $17 an hour if you have to pay $2,000 rent, electric bill, groceries.

“Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states,” said Destin. “There are 12 billionaires in Connecticut.  And people are struggling daily to make ends meet. It doesn’t make any sense to be so stingy and selfish with our taxpayer dollars.”

She urged everyone to bring a crowd to the state capitol on Wednesday, May 17, for the Recovery for All “Equity Can’t Wait” rally for a moral budget. The budget battle underway will determine funding for vital services and for raising poverty wages of workers like Destin.

Despite a surplus, a full rainy-day fund, and the potential to tax the rich, the governor and legislature say the spending cap limits what can be included in the budget. But the Recovery for All coalition of 70 organizations is demanding alternatives like an equity revenue intercept, saying “the spending cap is not an excuse to leave our communities suffering.”

When Granat asked the panelists “What do you all have in common?” each stressed their common working-class interests and the need for solidarity to overcome fear and keep up the fight.

“We all want to be seen and heard. We all want change not just for ourselves but for everyone else, for our communities,” said Destin, telling Adams and Seltzer, “You have both been doing an amazing job.

via Connecticut People’s World Committee

“In 1199, some workers believe we won’t win, and they don’t want to fight,” said Destin. “We remind them that we deserve more than what we are getting and we’re fighting with you every single day.

1199 cares about our members and the people we serve. We will win.”

“We all have to get up every day and make the choice to keep fighting,” said Seltzer. “We do it because we know we deserve more. All our campaigns have had to link up with other unions and other groups.  Local 33 won because we had support from Unite Here Locals 34, 35, 217, and other groups. We had a shared analysis about how to build power together and then take action together.”

Adams agreed. “We have to unite store by store, there are 9,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. It’ s exhausting, but we care about what we’re doing and it’s worth the fight. The struggle is real and we are moving forward.”

A citation from the New Haven Board of Alders was presented to each of the unions.

The evening closed with distribution of the Connecticut Communist Party’s program on the housing crisis and an invitation to join. A tribute to Harry Belafonte included videos from his trip to Cuba to receive the Friendship Medal in 2020 and a performance of the banana boat song in Japan.

During the program donations were collected for the People’s World 2023 fund drive.

Video of the full event can be viewed on Facebook here.

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

With democracy on the line, People’s World does the job corporate media won’t / by John Wojcik


Originally published in the People’s World on April 5, 2023

The argument for keeping People’s World alive is a more critical one now than ever before.

That’s because we are at a critical juncture in U.S. history, one that could end up with a fascist takeover of our country.

At such a time as this, the need for truth-telling journalists who work in print, online, and on television is so apparent. The quality of work done by the “Fourth Estate,” as reporters have been called historically, has often determined whether democracy was saved or fascism was ushered in.

We would like to be able to say that the majority of the press in the U.S. was clued in when it comes to the seriousness of the choices facing our country. We’d like to hope they understand the battle that lies ahead to save democracy.

Unfortunately, looking at what the corporate media is up to these days, we can’t say this with any confidence.

They are reporting the indictment of Trump as if it were some type of contest between one presidential candidate with a salacious past and the Democrats. They talk about Republicans who oppose Trump and their chances to win the coming primary elections.

They fail to reflect the fact that Trump is the predictable result of many years of racism and anti-working-class politics on the part of the Republican Party. They fail to reflect that the entire party, both the open Trumpites and his supposed opponents, rely on the same playbook—pushing fascist attacks on working people, minorities, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and anyone else who gets in their way.

Donate to the People’s World fund drive.

On foreign policy, the corporate media cheers for a “bi-partisan approach” that endorses unprecedented military spending. This just increases the danger of World War III and results in the continued starvation of the social programs needed to make life bearable for working people and their allies here at home in America.

The corporate press replays a narrative that anyone who opposes the pouring of billions into the war in Ukraine, for example, is an opponent of freedom and “democracy.” To most of the media, NATO, the Pentagon, and U.S. foreign policy are the guarantors of the fight against autocracy when they’ve actually been the leading supporters of autocracy around the world.

The lobbyists-turned-commentators on the TV news networks drone on about how we must support pouring weapons not only into the Ukraine war but also into Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region because of a supposed threat from China. Never do they discuss how the Chinese have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and how much that accomplishment contributes to the democratization of society. Never do they mention that it is the U.S. which surrounds China with military bases, not the other way around.

These so-called journalists fail to talk about how U.S. cooperation with the alleged enemies Russia and China are critical to winning the battle against climate change and against the fossil fuel monopolies that exploit everyone on the planet, including the people of the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

They fail to point out that all of these struggles and many others are critical parts of a fight to keep the extreme right and fascists from taking over our country.

Donate to the People’s World fund drive.

What’s going on right now is so much more than just a fight between political parties that have various approaches to how to run a government. But the press talks about how Dems investigated Trump and how Republicans investigate the investigators, for example, to score political points. What is at stake—democracy or fascism—is hardly ever mentioned.

It would be great if the majority of the major media saw the danger of impending fascism and participated in the fight to stop it, but, as of now, they’re not yet there. That puts extra responsibility on People’s World and its supporters.

People’s World is doing what everyone in the Fourth Estate should be doing.

This publication is one of the few showing that the political “contests” waged today are about more than typical disagreements between the two big business parties. People’s World points out, for instance, how Asa Hutchinson, who announced for the Republican presidential nomination this week, is hardly a reasonable man coming out to challenge Trump. He’s a right-winger who dedicated his political life to destroying unions and carrying out racist policies in Arkansas.

A democracy cannot survive if the Fourth Estate does not carry out these necessary tasks. It is no exaggeration then to say that at his point, the continuation of People’s World is essential to the preservation of democracy.

We can almost say for certain that democracy itself cannot survive if People’s World does not survive. We can say for certain that if People’s World does not survive, the struggle to save democracy will, at the very least, be so much more difficult.

Hopefully, more and more news outlets will eventually join in this fight to save democracy, but until they do, People’s World is one sure weapon we all have to wage this struggle.

Please give then as generously as you can to the 2023 People’s World Fund Drive.

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

LGBTQ people under attack, People’s World stands up and fights back / by C.J.Atkins

Drag shows made illegal. The very mention in classrooms that gay people exist outlawed forever. Trans people barred from employment, housing, or even being able to use a public restroom. Parents who seek gender-affirming health care for their kids prosecuted and jailed for child abuse. Black, brown, and Indigenous trans women dead in the back alleys of big cities. Queer nightclubs riddled with bullets and shut down.

That’s the right wing’s vision for the future of LGBTQ people in America. In Congress and statehouses around the country, Republican lawmakers are putting in overtime to legislate queer people out of existence. Every year, they’re shattering records for the number of new anti-gay or anti-trans bills proposed.

Meanwhile, hate-fueled murderers and heavily-armed gunmen are doing the dirty work out in our communities.

If anyone thought liberation was achieved when marriage equality was won, it’s way beyond time to wake up from that illusion. At People’s World, we know the stakes of the battle for queer survival now raging, and we will never shrink from the fight.

But we need help to keep bringing you the stories of LGBTQ life, love, and struggle here in the U.S. and around the world. Please donate to make sure People’s World can reach its 2023 Spring Fund Drive goal of $125,000.

Where else will you read about drag queens fighting fascism with their art while raising money for the mass shooting victims in Colorado Springs?

What other publication has direct, on-the-ground reports of LGBTQ struggles from every corner of the country—from Michigan to LouisianaCalifornia to D.C.?

Which paper brings you coverage from inside the labor movement about the strategizing underway to combat right-wing threats to LGBTQ people?

Who else is publishing stories featuring Marxist analysis of queer issues while also pointing out their intersection with other struggles like the Black Lives Matter movement and women’s liberation?

People’s World does all that, but to keep doing it, the paper needs the financial support of its readers.

Is there anyone else who puts international solidarity up front in covering the news of LGBTQ victories and setbacks around the globe, including countries like CubaVietnamJapanSingaporeIndonesia, and more?

Where can you turn to for the latest in queer culture, from movies, television, the ballroom, the theaterbooks, and music?

And I guarantee you no other newspaper brings you all of that PLUS the latest in commentaryanalysis, and history of queer liberation from the Communist Party USA? That’s something you’ll find nowhere else.

So, if you enjoy and value the LGBTQ coverage you find only in People’s World, please consider making a donation today.

Even if the pandemic has been declared “officially over,” the impact that the COVID recession had on People’s World’s finances is certainly not over. The paper has survived, but times are still extremely tight. We have to raise $125,000 in our Spring Fund Drive to keep doing this important work. Can you help?

Your donation will help guarantee that the lights stay on at People’s World and that this voice for working class queer liberation keeps on publishing five days a week.

Thank you for your support.

C.J. Atkins

Managing Editor

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

People’s World, February 13, 2023,