Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, October 17, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

I Know This Wasn’t Expected
Last week I announced there would be a two-week gap in the Week In Review. I had expected to be on the road, attending the Million Worker March. As those of you on the KC Labor Mailing List already know, a "perfect storm" of personal problems, including a bug that has largely kept me at home the past few days, led to a change in plans. That’s why the Daily Labor News Digest updates have continued and you get this week reviewed.

While we won’t have a first-hand account of the MWM we will be posting reports about it from various sources. The first wire story I saw this evening characterized it as an action about health care and estimated the size in "hundreds." However, I saw some limited coverage of the event on CSPAN and, while it’s hard to judge crowd size from television, there were certainly at least a few thousand. It was also announced that the police had prevented many buses from unloading at the demonstration site. A court order was quickly obtained to permit drop-offs and more buses were returning at the time that the CSPAN coverage was cut off. We should have some objective reports about the size and character of the March by Monday morning.

DoD Workers Defending Themselves
One event I did make it out of the house for this week was a public meeting about attacks on federal government worker rights, called by AFGE, a Labor Party affiliate. The fifty-plus turnout was testimony to both the importance of the issue and the organizational skill of Kelley Dull, President AFGE Council 171.

DoD workers are on point right now, battling the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) being prepared by the department’s management. NSPS is a true union buster. It essentially would take away the union’s right to negotiate wages or effectively process grievances. It would also subject department civilian employees to involuntary transfer to combat areas abroad with little or no notice.

Of course, if management succeeds in implementing NSPS in its present form they will quickly move against the rights of all other federal employees as well. A coalition of forty unions is pulling together to fight this union busting. They deserve the support of all working people.

Flu Shot Scandal Confirms Systemic Crisis In Health Care
Americans spend far more money on drugs than anyone else in the world. The industry has become a mainstay of television advertising pitching arthritis drugs that will have you dancing tonight, cholesterol drugs that will get your heart surging, and erectile dysfunction pills that can give the heart a good aerobic work out. These drugs are highly profitable, worth a little competition among the handful of multinational pharmos.

But, unlike the pills hawked on TV, some medicine production is very labor intensive with risky profit potential. Flu vaccines fall into this category. Not only tedious to make these serums have a relatively short shelf life. Consumption is hard to predict.

For these reasons a former major American supplier, Wayeth, decided to get out of this market completely. They need to make profits. It’s not like they are in business for our health.

American health professionals were counting on a small company in Liverpool, England to take up the slack this year. But, as everyone has heard by now, that company’s production was contaminated. There’s not enough to go around for people considered to be high risk. Ruthless speculators are offering clinics limited supplies of the vaccine at 900 dollars a vial–about 90 dollars a dose.

Other countries, such as those with socialized medicine, as in Britain, or single-payer systems as Canada has, are not having the same problems. They don’t allow drug companies to cherry-pick what they will make available. If companies want to operate in a national market they have to provide a full range of products–and negotiate reasonable prices with the government.

Those different systems guarantee everyone who needs medicine gets medicine. The American system puts profits first. A mild flu season is the only hope for millions of American children and old folks.

Déjà vu?
The American Establishment finally decided they had to end their illegal, immoral war in Vietnam when entire units of the U.S. Army began to refuse to fight. Sometimes insubordination was open, with men refusing to stir from their camps. Other times it was more subtle, with patrols making much noise, essentially announcing to their Vietnamese opponents that they were present and that if you leave us alone we won’t bother you. Faced with such plummeting morale and discipline the decision had to be made to finally bring them home.

That’s not the situation in Iraq–yet. But alarm bells were set off this week A 17-member Army Reserve platoon was arrested for refusing a "suicide mission" to deliver fuel. The platoon has troops from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi and South Carolina. The reaction back home in their communities was of overwhelming sympathy.

It appears the Army brass are going to back off confrontation with these GIs. They hope this is an isolated incident that will be quickly forgotten. But their past optimism about operations in Iraq has not always been justified. If this war drags on–as it almost certainly will, regardless of the outcome of the election–we can expect further collective self-defense among men and women in the Army’s ranks.

These GIs are not cowards–far from it. It takes a lot of guts to defy orders from the brass. They risk imprisonment and dishonorable discharge. But they don’t like being victims.

We shouldn’t tolerate their victimization either. Those who really want to support the troops should be backing the efforts of US Labor Against the War, Veterans for Peace, and others who demand that our sisters and brothers in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan be brought home now!

That’s all for this week.

Regards to all