Annual Fundraising Appeal
Over the course of 21 years, we’ve published many unflattering stories about Henry Kissinger. We’ve recounted his involvement in the Chilean coup and the illegal bombings of Cambodia and Laos; his hidden role in the Kent State massacre and the genocide in East Timor; his noxious influence peddling in DC and craven work for dictators and repressive regimes around the world. We’ve questioned his ethics, his morals and his intelligence. We’ve called for him to be arrested and tried for war crimes. But nothing we’ve ever published pissed off HK quite like this sequence of photos taken at a conference in Brazil, which appeared in one of the early print editions of CounterPunch.
100716HenryKissingerNosePicking
The publication of those photos, and the story that went with them, 20 years ago earned CounterPunch a global audience in the pre-web days and helped make our reputation as a fearless journal willing to take the fight to the forces of darkness without flinching. Now our future is entirely in your hands. Please donate.

Day11

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
cp-store

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Eulogy for Crystal Lee Sutton, Labor Hero

Goodbye "Norma Rae"

by DAVID MACARAY

The saga of the real-life “Norma Rae” came to an end September 18, when Crystal Lee Sutton, the woman on whom the classic 1979 movie was based, died in Burlington, North Carolina, of brain cancer, at the age of 68. 

It was Sutton who, in 1973, attempted to get the employees of the J.P. Stevens textile mill in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., to join the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America [which later merged with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union to create the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), which later merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) to create the new union, UNITE HERE.]

Not only were Sutton and her fellow employees earning a meager $2.65 per hour, but the working conditions in the mill—the safety standards, hours of work, bathroom breaks—qualified the facility as “sweat shop.”  With no union to represent them, they were completely at the mercy of J.P. Stevens management.  Sutton recognized this predicament and took it upon herself to remedy it.

When you consider the Deep South’s history of anti-unionism (to this day, North Carolina, Sutton’s home state, still has the nation’s lowest ratio of union workers, with 3.5 percent), the odds facing this woman were staggering.  Ostracized by both hourly and salaried employees, and made the target of taunts, ridicule, insults and even death threats, Sutton nevertheless persisted, holding rallies, disseminating union literature, urging her fellow workers to join up. 

She failed.  Although many of the mill’s workers were sympathetic to her cause, they were simply too frightened—too fearful of losing their jobs—to throw in with her.  The company openly gloated at the lack of support.  Then, in retaliation for her union activities, J.P. Stevens abruptly fired Sutton and ordered her to leave the premises.  They were done with her.  She’d not only been defeated, she’d been disgraced. 

But, incredibly, Sutton refused to leave the building.  She wouldn’t budge.  Uncertain of what to do next, the company called in the police to have her forcibly removed from the mill.  But before they arrived Sutton wrote the word “UNION” on a placard, stood atop her work table and held the sign above her head.  The spontaneous act was an astonishing show of defiance. 

What happened next was memorably depicted in the award-winning 1979 film, “Norma Rae” (with Sally Field playing Sutton).  The scene still brings chills to anyone who’s ever rooted for the little guy or ever dreamed of defying authority with a dramatic and heroic gesture.  As Sutton held the sign over her head and slowly turned so all could see it, one by one, her fellow employees, inspired by her courage, began shutting off their machines. 

One by one, and in absolute defiance of company policy—indeed, shutting down equipment without permission was (and still is) grounds for immediate termination—the entire operation came to a halt.  As Sutton later recounted in an interview:  “The workers started cutting their machines and giving me the victory sign. All of a sudden the plant was dead quiet.”

It had a happy ending.  Less than a year later, Amalgamated Clothing won the right to represent approximately 3,000 employees at seven textile plants in Roanoke Rapids, including the virulently anti-union J. P. Stevens, which was then the second-largest textile manufacturer in the country.

Moreover, in 1977, a court ruled that Sutton had been fired illegally (violation of the Wagner Act) and she was reinstated with full back pay.  Anticlimactically, Sutton quit the job a mere two days later and joined on as a union organizer for the same union who represented her plant.  She eventually left the organizing field, entered community college, earned certification as a nurse’s assistant, and finished her career running a day care center in her home. 

* * *

Back when I was a labor union rep, we were aware of the unique role women played in the labor movement.  It’s not information union officials (men) generally volunteer, but if you were to ask one to answer truthfully, he would tell you that women activists have a powerful effect on their male peers.  Women who take bold, radical stands tend to shame the men into going along with them.  What man wants to appear weak, especially around women?

Consider:  Calling a strike is usually more about guts than brains.  Finding a good reason for going on strike isn’t the hard part; in fact, it’s generally pretty easy. The hard part is not talking yourself out of it once you’ve found a reason.  It’s having the courage to follow through, even though it’s going require tremendous sacrifice.  

Accordingly, when women union members show they have the guts and determination to do something radical, something dangerous, it’s going to affect the men.  It’s going to gnaw at them.  It’s going to put men in the unenviable position of either going along with these defiant women, or staring down in horror as their gonads shrivel. 

Crystal Lee Sutton was a genuine hero.  She will forever be remembered as one of the champions of organized labor, right up there with the Joe Hills, Bill Haywoods and Emma Goldmans.  Rest in peace, Crystal Lee.  You earned it.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright (“Larva Boy,” “Americana”) and writer, was a former union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net