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The Week in Review
November 23, 2003

A Week of Turmoil At Home and Abroad
If you were judging by the amount of network television news coverage you’d have to conclude that the two biggest stories in the world this week were: the ruling by the Massachusetts supreme court that the state legislature must permit same sex marriages in that commonwealth; and the arrest of pop star Michael Jackson on charges of child molesting. Because the media has done such a great job of in depth analysis with these developments we’ll deal with some of the less important stories, most of which appeared in the Daily Labor News Digest.

B&B Boys Bolster British Antiwar MovementProtesters gather at Tottenham Court Road
Hoping to boost one another’s sagging popularity British PM Tony Blair arranged a royal state visit for his closest political ally—President GW Bush. It was an intimate visit with the honored guest hardly showing his face in public. Even though not invited to participate British working people and students eagerly filled the streets to mark the occasion.

Recent press reports of antiwar demonstrations around the world have always included the observation that they were far smaller than actions held last February— implying antiwar sentiment is on the decline. Size estimates of the Thursday demonstration called by Stop the War ranged from 100-300,000. It was certainly the biggest weekday demonstration in British history.

This is embarrassing for us Americans, the Brits turning out better than us to greet our commander-in-chief. It’s time we caught up and start giving our chief executive the kind of reception he deserves wherever he goes.

Despite Police Riot Miami FTAA Talks StallThe image “http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/homepage/hp11-20-03aa.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
Hemispheric leaders gathered in Miami hoping to make progress toward the goal of expanding a NAFTA type trade arrangement throughout all of the Americas (except for Cuba.) They made little progress. Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan has correctly observed that it is much easier to win free trade assurances during times of general prosperity. During recession, when millions are feeling anxiety about the future of jobs, the political pressure starts building for trade protection not trade expansion.

Some of that pressure was manifested by demonstrations in Miami—estimated by organizers to be about 15,000 strong—once again bringing together trade unionists, students, and environmentalists. "F-T-A-A—No Way!" they chanted. The three top officers of the AFL-CIO were on hand along with big contingents from the Steelworkers and UNITE.

Also present were about 8,000 cops with body armor, face shields, batons, and many also carrying rifles along with side arms. They surrounded the main rally and prevented thousands from entering. The cops at times also rioted, firing not only pepper spray but rubber bullets as well. Among those arrested were eight legal observers assigned by the National Lawyers Guild to monitor civil liberties violations. It was sort of like Baghdad on Biscayne Bay.

House Sets New Record in Medicare ScamThe image “http://www.retiredamericans.org/images/agewise_feat_capitol.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
It was the longest roll call vote in congressional history. Republican leaders dragged the vote out over three hours until enough cajoling and threats—some of this done by the President by telephone from Air Force One over the Atlantic—assured them passage of their Medicare bill. The so-called prescription benefit will actually cost many seniors more money. It also makes a second attempt at beginning privatization of Medicare. That first try failed when HMOs complained they couldn’t make enough money. Congress has now sweetened the pot considerably for private carriers.

This bold and risky attack on Medicare would not have been possible without the betrayal of the AARP’s support. The Republicans, along with some Democrats, figured this endorsement would give them political cover at least through the next election.

However, there have been big protests from the shocked ranks of the AARP, including picketing and burning of membership cards in front of AARP headquarters. Other retiree groups and the AFL-CIO have organized hundreds of thousands of messages to congress opposing the bill.

It’s possible this attack on Medicare may be stopped by a filibuster in the Senate. But even if labor/senior efforts succeed in stopping this betrayal we’ll still just be back where we started. Millions of seniors will still be unable to afford prescriptions and other out of pocket expenses not covered by Medicare. And, of course, there is a larger health care crisis facing all of society. The fundamental problems can only be dealt with through a plan like the Labor Party Just Health Care.

As the leader of the California Nurses Association recently told the newly elected governor of California, "If it’s [health care] good enough for Austria, it’s good enough for us."

But Wait, There’s More!
Congress has been very busy as they wind down the first session of the 108th. The majority also beat back an attempt to block the Bush administration from implementing changes in calculating overtime that will adversely affect millions of workers.

They did receive at least a temporary set back on the bad news Energy Bill though another attempt to pass this coming week is likely.

All in all, a busy week for working people. As usual we win a few, lose a few, and some get rained out. More next week.

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