Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
October 28, 2012

Regular readers will immediately recognize the WIR is back to normal format. That’s possible because the technical problems preventing us from publishing anything to the kclabor.org website have been resolved. The site version of this column will always offer the best format, as well as any needed editorial corrections, but the e-mail version should be noticeably better as well. Thanks for your patience.

Silence Is Also A Statement
An AP story opens,

“Of the roughly 50,000 words spoken in this month's three presidential debates, none were ‘climate change,’ 'global warming’ or ‘greenhouse gas.’”

Some cynics might say that this accurately states the plan each official candidate has for tackling the biggest crisis yet faced by our species. But that wouldn’t be totally fair.

Governor Romney–who once expressed interest in getting Massachusetts in to an aborted cap-and-trade scheme–now mocks climate change warnings as he appeals for votes in the coal regions of the battleground states of Ohio and Virginia. Romney also pledges to make his first order of business reversing President Obama’s temporary–until after the election–delay of authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline from the Alberta tar-sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast.

(The tar-sands are strip-mined for bitumen, a hydrocarbon the consistency of peanut butter that can be refined in to synthetic oil. The environmental destruction involved in the process is enormous, making it a top target of opposition by environmentalists and climate scientists. Recently the first tar-sands project in the USA was approved by state regulators in Utah.)

Nor have congressional candidates of both parties been mute on climate issues either. “My” Senator, Democrat Claire McCaskill--frantically supported by unions, women’s rights, and environmental groups--has not only allied with Republican austerity hawks seeking to take the axe to Social Security and Medicare. She is also a champion of Keystone.

Many Republican congressional hopefuls–not satisfied with White House moves to back off “job killing” restrictions on corporate polluters--openly call for the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency. They want to once and for all drive a stake fashioned from coal through the heart of this already frail body.

So the national “conversation” about climate issues in this election year is dominated by drillers and frackers on one side–and silence on the other. If this denial/indifference is, as Romney might put it, hegemonic, then we will leave future generations a lot more to worry about than just the national debt.

Fortunately, the situation is not quite that grim. There are many millions of informed Americans who know and accept the findings of science and recognize that climate change has already begun.

A growing number of workers who don’t closely follow the science that seldom makes prime time, who don’t think in terms of parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, are beginning to recognize the early warning signs of climate change--drought and floods, heat and cold waves, wild fires, and storms growing in unseasonable frequency and intensity. As I write, much of the Eastern Seaboard of the USA is bracing for a disastrous Super Storm evolving out of a Caribbean hurricane--for the second consecutive year. Unlike their offshore bank accounts, the ruling class can’t long hide the destruction of our biosphere they so flippantly deny.

The mainstream Pale Green groups have done an impressive job of collecting evidence of the severity and urgency of the climate crisis. That’s a good thing they do. Most of us acquire knowledge not just for knowledge sake but to guide us in intelligent action. That’s where the Pales not just fall short but do a great disservice. They promote the illusion that we can reason with corporate polluters who have a stake of massive profits in environmental destruction. They are committed to working within the twin-party structure dominated by these climate wreckers. By avoiding the needed solutions they become part of the problem.

What is essential to the solution is a working class movement to stop climate change. We are, after all, the majority and workers are the front line victims of every environmental crime for profit. Other than a dwindling number of often dangerous jobs, our class gains nothing from destroying our irreplaceable biosphere.

Since we are–unlike the bosses and bankers–indispensable to the functioning of society, if properly organized we have the power to change and save our world.

The working class in other industrialized countries have done much more than we–though they have scarcely begun. Even in our geographically and culturally closest neighbor, Canada, hopeful progress is being registered. Jenny Brown has a good piece on the Labor Notes site about union involvement in recent mass actions against the spread of tar-sands product distribution to the Pacific coast. She writes,

“The U.S. presidential election has held up a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, but in Canada, unions have joined environmentalists to battle another export pipeline—this one headed for the pristine west coast of Canada. More than 3,000 protesters converged on British Columbia’s legislature in Victoria on Monday, demanding the development be stopped. When a speaker asked if they were willing to sit down in front of bulldozers to stop the pipeline, the crowd roared ‘Yes!’....Canada’s Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union represents workers in the tar sands and in refineries. But the union opposes both the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, and the Enbridge proposal. While CEP wants refinery jobs to stay in Canada, the union cites harm to native communities and environmental reasons for opposing indiscriminate development of the tar sands.”

Elementary class solidarity means guaranteeing no body in the battleground coal fields, the Alberta tar-sands, or the Detroit car factories gets left behind as we restructure a sustainable society. There’s plenty of useful work for all for generations if we take on both class and climate justice. We should demand no less and start acting to win. Silence is not an option.

Party Time In KC
This is an invitation sent to KC Labor Party members and sympathizers. If you are in the KC area and are interested please give me a call at the number listed below.

Since we last met around our project to participate in the Labor Notes Conference, much of the labor and other movements have, of course, been focused on electing “labor’s friends” to office. Whether these frantic efforts of our labor statespersons meet with any better success than their goals of organizing new workers and negotiating good contracts remains to be seen. Without predicting which party of war, austerity, and environmental destruction prevails November 6, I think most of you share my conviction that the working class will lose big time.

While there has never been a more compelling need for a party of our own to break the boss monopoly of all things political the once promising Labor Party project that a number of us helped launch in 1996 has lost all material support once doled out by our unions. It has no credibility as a party in the sense most understand that term.

It seems to me that we are back to the equivalent of the early stages of the Labor Party precursor–Labor Party Advocates. LPA raised the need for a party to be built upon the foundation of the only mass working class organizations we have in this country–our unions–in a variety of ways both inside unions and out. It took an extensive period of patient, persistent effort to assemble a Founding Convention of 1400 participants with endorsement from hundreds of union and allied bodies across the country. We established a lively LPA chapter here in Kansas City in February, 1994–more than two years before that convention.

I think that instead of just crying in our beverage, we should reconstitute the surviving members and meager resources of the Kansas City Labor Party as KC Labor Party Advocates. I believe that is the name we incorporated with the Secretary of State and still remains on our not very active checking account at the United Labor Credit Union.

In doing so, we should recognize the many proud achievements of the Labor Party heritage and use the excellent program it bequeaths us to build on. We just have to rebuild the vehicle, not reinvent the wheel.

Being of an age where I can no longer afford the patience of youth, I invite you to a meeting the Sunday after the election–November 11–to be graciously hosted by Tony Saper at his home at 2113 Erie, North Kansas City. The agenda will include:

Noon– A report and discussion for an hour about the meaning of the election results.
1:00–A half-hour for a lunch with two pots of chili, one vegan, one carne.
1:30-2:30–Reorganizing Kansas City LPA

I hope you are both interested and available for this gathering.


Bill Onasch

In Brief...
¶ My good friend Judy Ancel has an
informative article on the Labor Notes site about joint labor-community action in Missouri for ballot measures that would have raised the minimum wage and capped payday loan interest rates.
¶ I once wrote in this column that we should nationalize finance and replace the banks with something like the principles of the member controlled United Labor Credit Union. The ULCU is not only the financial insinuation of choice of KCLPA. I have entrusted all of my personal monetary assets to them as well. I was pleased to read in the KC Business Journal, “The small United Labor Credit Union in Kansas City was the only one to snag multiple awards from a national trade group. The Credit Union National Association gave ULCU, which formed in 1987 to serve members of labor union locals and their families, three awards for its education and community assistance programs.”
Common Dreams reported, “Surrounded by police in fleets of riot vans, thousands of protesters gathered outside of Spain's Congress building in Madrid Tuesday to voice their continued opposition to the austerity measures pushed by the Rajoy government and the two ruling parties. The anti-austerity contingent, led by the indignados youth movement, is also pushing for a national referendum on austerity policies.”
¶ Dean Baker, one of the few prominent pro-worker economists, did a good job with
Why Even President Obama Won't Champion Social Security

We’re still waiting in vain for any recognition from the kinder, gentler Bob King regime at UAW Solidarity House of the passing of former International Executive Board member Jerry Tucker. Nor has anything been yet said by the last remaining labor beat reporter, Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times.

Greenhouse does have a good article in today’s Times on the topic he does best–exposing the conditions of the working poor. Because of length limitations, I’ll defer comment until next time.

That’s all for this week.

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