Belabored Podcast #32: Black Friday

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This week on Belabored, Michelle and Sarah bring you some good news (and, of course, some less good news), including suggestions from listeners, and look forward to the Black Friday actions at Walmart next week. Journalist and author Liza Featherstone joins the show to talk about Walmart’s corporate culture, why that’s made the company hard to organize in the past, and how it might be changing. They share their thoughts on Seattle’s new socialist city council member and revisit the idea of solidarity as a value for the left.

Links for those reading along at home:  

Michelle: Qatar’s World Cup Spectacle Brought to You by Slavery

Sarah: Why port truckers are striking:12-hour shifts, noxious fumes, and $12.90 paychecks

Minimum wage of $11.50 proposed for the District

States Moving Beyond U.S. Minimum Wage as Congress Stalls

Machinists Defeat Boeing Proposal, Boo Union Brass Who Pushed It

Ruling Doubles Paycheck for 1375 Employees at High-Grossing Queens Slot Parlor

Liza Featherstone’s book Selling Women Short: The Landmark for Workers’ Rights at Wal-Mart 

Liza Featherstone: Walmart Workers Walk Out

Liza Featherstone: Is Walmart Losing its Bipartisan Luster?

Liza Featherstone: ‘Dukes v. Wal-Mart’ and the Limits of Legal Change

Liza Featherstone in Dissent

Josh Eidelson: Walmart Faces Warehouse Horror Allegations and Federal Labor Board Complaint

OUR Walmart Website for Associates Requesting Black Friday Actions

Demos, A Higher Wage is Possible

What We Wish We’d Written:

Michelle: Mariya Strauss, The Nation: Regulations Are Killed, and Kids Die

Sarah: Kurt Newman, Dissent: Letter from Santa Barbara: Reviving the Sympathy Strike

The Last Great Strike - UC Press [Advertisement]

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The Kurds

[W]hen we refer to all Kurdish fighters synonymously, we simply blur the fact that they have very different politics. . . right now, yes, the people are facing the Islamic State threat, so it’s very important to have a unified focus. But the truth is, ideologically and politically these are very, very different systems. Actually almost opposite to each other. —Dilar Dirik, “Rojava vs. the World,” February 2015

The Kurds, who share ethnic and cultural similarities with Iranians and are mostly Muslim by religion (largely Sunni but with many minorities), have long struggled for self-determination. After World War I, their lands were divided up between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, though there have been small separatist movements, Kurds are mostly subjected to the same repressive treatment as everyone else (though they also face Persian and Shi’ite chauvinism, and a number of Kurdish political prisoners were recently executed). The situation is worse in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, where the Kurds are a minority people subjected to ethnically targeted violations of human rights.  

Iraq: In 1986–89, Saddam Hussein conducted a genocidal campaign in which tens of thousands were murdered and thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed, including by bombing and chemical warfare. After the first Gulf War, the UN sought to establish a safe haven in parts of Kurdistan, and the United States and UK set up a no-fly zone. In 2003, the Kurdish peshmerga sided with the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein. In 2005, after a long struggle with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds won constitutional recognition of their autonomous region, and the Kurdistan Regional Government has since signed oil contracts with a number of Western oil companies as well as with Turkey. Iraqi Kurdistan has two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), both clan-based and patriarchal.

Turkey: For much of its modern history, Turkey has pursued a policy of forced assimilation towards its minority peoples; this policy is particularly stringent in the case of the Kurds—until recently referred to as the “mountain Turks”—who make up 20 percent of the total population. The policy has included forced population transfers; a ban on use of the Kurdish language, costume, music, festivals, and names; and extreme repression of any attempt at resistance. Large revolts were suppressed in 1925, 1930, and 1938, and the repression escalated with the formation of the PKK as a national liberation party, resulting in civil war in the Kurdish region from 1984 to 1999.

Syria: Kurds make up perhaps 15 percent of the population and live mostly in the northeastern part of Syria. In 1962, after Syria was declared an Arab republic, a large number of Kurds were stripped of their citizenship and declared aliens, which made it impossible for them to get an education, jobs, or any public benefits. Their land was given to Arabs. The PYD was founded in 2003 and immediately banned; its members were jailed and murdered, and a Kurdish uprising in Qamishli was met with severe military violence by the regime. When the uprising against Bashar al Assad began as part of the Arab Spring, Kurds participated, but after 2012, when they captured Kobani from the Syrian army, they withdrew most of their energy from the war against Assad in order to set up a liberated area. For this reason, some other parts of the Syrian resistance consider them Assad’s allies. The Kurds in turn cite examples of discrimination against them within the opposition.