Workers picket to demand
PHOTO /MIKE EVANS
Kalamazoo Community Workers Center
In the first public action of a newly created Kalamazoo Community
Worker Center, workers at Option Energy in Oshtemo, walked an
informational picket line at noon on Tuesday, January 13. The workers
are demanding payment of back hourly wages earned after their employer
unlawfully misclassified their work.
“I was working on broken promises. I worked six weeks at Option Energy
without being paid a cent”, said Retah Lane a former worker on the
“This is a case of Wage Theft”, said Michael Evans a community
organizer familiar with the case. “As our economy continues to
deteriorate, companies are increasingly finding ways to deny workers
all or part of the wages earned on the job”, Evans said. “Michigan law
protects workers in these situations and we are working with the State
Department of Labor to secure payment of the back wages”, Evans
After receiving hourly compensation for many months, the workers were
suddenly told by their employer that they were working on a commission
basis only. The workers have not been paid since August 2008.
The new Kalamazoo Community Worker Center is collaborative effort of
four Kalamazoo organizations, including the Michigan Organizing
Project, and the Kalamazoo Homeless Action Network.
For more specific information about the time and location of the
Informational Labor Picket please call either the Michigan organizing
Project @ 344-1967 or the Kalamazoo Homeless Action Network @ 267-8605.
This column is based on excerpts from the
book, “The Future is Up To Us: A Revolutionary Talking Politics with
the American People ,” by Nelson Peery. Order the book by sending $12
to Speakers for a New America, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.
The stability of America has always rested upon that huge section of
the population that had just enough to give them the hope that they
were going to get some more. So long as they had that hope, they
wouldn’t change the system no matter how hard they were hurting. They
believed there was a golden egg up there somewhere. They were the ones
who stabilized America.
All of us have seen the magazines that speak frankly to rulers about
the danger of this polarization of wealth and poverty continuing. It’s
one thing as long as you can say that poverty is colored and it’s
related to lack of industrious, Protestant habits. When you have the
poverty spreading out, people look at one another and say, “You know,
it’s not true this is a Black problem, or a brown problem. It’s a
problem of a growing section of society.” Now, the problem becomes --
how do you stop it?
The polarization of wealth and poverty isn’t somebody’s idea. It’s a
result of changes in the mode of production. When products made by
robotics are sold as if they were made by human beings, the capitalists
get rich, and I mean fast! You don’t have much of a labor overhead and
you are kicking these products out. Now, how do you spread out that
wealth? You can’t, and you cannot stop the process. Some years ago,
there were eight billionaires in America. Well, it’s now 154. The
number of millionaires doubled between 1995 and 2000. Imagine where
that money came from. Another million people lost a good portion of
What are the billionaires to do? How do you stop being a billionaire?
Go back to the old means of production? Go back to a drill press or a
typewriter? You can’t. Either he is going to be a billionaire tomorrow
or he is going to be homeless. The capitalists have to continue to
accumulate. That’s the way the system works. You can’t decide to quit.
You’ve got to make more money and more money and more money or you are
going to lose the money you’ve got.
This polarization of wealth and poverty that’s so rampant in the
western world and especially in the United States, is going to
continue. Little by little, the poor are going to recognize themselves
as poor and propertyless. We have to help them understand that they are
part of a new class. Any deep political response to the economic and
social revolution depends on agitators and propagandists providing this
knowledge to the movement.