Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
October 3, 2010

Worker March Meets Liberal Rally
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the trip to our nation’s capital to join in the
One Nation march and rally. I did watch parts of the event on CSPAN, and I’ve read most major news accounts. The role of unions was so evident the New York Times sent their labor reporter, Steven Greenhouse, to cover the demonstration.

Clearly, it was big. The organizers claim 175,000–but numbers are always tricky. It definitely wasn’t as big as the huge Solidarity Day action summoned by the AFL-CIO in response to Reagan’s destruction of PATCO in 1981 but it wasn’t a bad effort by a rusty, weakened labor movement that rarely gets involved in such mass action tactics.

Whether they came as part of union mobilizations, or through contingents organized by civil rights, immigrant rights, environmental and antiwar groups, the crowd was obviously overwhelmingly working class in composition. Unlike recent shows staged by the cracked tea pots, the color and gender diversity of our class was displayed. They were there to demand action on war, human rights, the environment–and, above all, jobs.

The organizers countered Glenn Beck by using Ed Schultz, the host of MSNBC's The Ed Show, as one of the masters of ceremony. Ed managed to demonstrate history is no more his strong suit than his Fox rival,

“They [Beck/Tea Party] talk about the forefathers, but they practice discrimination. They want to change this country.”

I’ve got some not-so-late-breaking-news for Ed. Our “forefathers” included slave owners; the most important task they assigned to a woman was Betsy Ross sewing a flag; The Declaration of Independence refers to, “merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” The first Constitution they submitted was silent on democracy. It was only a credible threat of armed rebellion by farmers and workers that forced the hasty addition of ten amendments--that became known as the Bill of Rights.

Discrimination is not a recent development that can be blamed on the Big T. Along with occasional campaigns of ethnic cleansing, racism, sexism, and homophobia have been a part of the American Experience since the “forefathers” started the expansion from sea to shining sea by taking other people’s land. I digress, but falsification of our own history is a hot button with me. It is indeed one reason we keep reliving the same disasters.

The President spent the weekend at Camp David. Congress recessed to go campaigning shortly before the march. One that stuck around to speak was Chicago Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez who gave his pitch for immigration reform–which is highly controversial within the immigrant rights movement.

Most rally speakers did speak in favor of peace, justice, and jobs, jobs, jobs. One was Bob King, President of the UAW which mobilized 5,000 members for the march,

“We believe that by working together we can build abundance to lift up everyone. We can’t do that through divisiveness. We believe that we have to rebuild a social movement in America.”

If the “we” meant the working class and our allies I would heartily endorse this statement. But for King we includes the auto bosses and the party presently in power in Washington in a “social movement.”

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka was more explicitly goal-oriented, “promise that you'll make your voices heard, for good jobs and justice and education today and on Election Day.” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry helpfully reminded, “October Second is about November Second [election day].”

While no platform speakers as far as I know differed from this pitch hustling votes for the party in power the organizers did not exclude groups with other perspectives from endorsing or participating. To their credit, they stood up to Glenn Beck’s red baiting of a sponsors list that included organizations such as the Communist Party and International Socialist Organization. NAACP President Ben Jealous, one of the initiators of the action said,

“This is a big tent. Anyone who wants to stand up to create jobs and defend the jobs of teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters — I say come on and join us.”

The march gave a hint of the potential of our unions and allies to mobilize power in the streets. But the rally failed to focus this power on needed ongoing tasks. Nor did it for the most part help clear away the Establishment propaganda and educate angry workers about the real causes of our present crises–much less offer a working class program to resolve them.

And Across the Water...
Last Wednesday, unions across the 27-country European Union coordinated strikes and demonstrations against “austerity.” A multi-national union demonstration brought more than 100,000 to protest at EU headquarters in Brussels. There was a solid general strike across the Spanish state and hundreds of other strikes of varying scope and duration throughout the continent.

And In Taunton, Mass...
UE continues their fight for justice for workers being abandoned by Haskon Aerospace at a plant that has provided good jobs in Taunton for 80 years. Community supporters, and state senator Marc Pacheco, joined the workers at a
candlelight vigil held on the Taunton Green Tuesday evening–shortly after Haskon cut off UE members’ health insurance.

AFSCME Stands Up For Raid Victim Members
The following is the text of a resolution adopted October 1 at the convention of AFSCME Council 5, which represents 30-40,000 Minnesota state employees.

RESOLUTION #9

Subject: Judicial and Police Intimidation of Union Members
Submitted by: AFSCME Council 5 Executive Board

Whereas: the homes of three members of AFSCME Local 380 and the Local 3800 organizer, Jess Sundin, Steff Yorek , Ahn Pham, , and Tracy Mohm were raided by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 7:00AM on September 24, 2010, and

Whereas: Tracy Mohm, Jess Sundin, Anh Pham and Steff Yorek were issued subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Chicago in October, and

Whereas: AFSCME Local 3800 is an affiliate of ASFCME Council 5, and,

Whereas: These members have not been arrested or charged with any crime, and,

Whereas: These four members in good standing are well-known and respected activists in our union, and,

Whereas: FBI spokesperson have stated that the raids were prompted by the activities of these four members, and other individuals subject to the same raids, pursuant to seeking peace and justice for workers and other oppressed peoples throughout the world, and,

Whereas: These persons are entitled to a presumption of innocence under the United States Constitution,

Whereas: Every American has the constitutional right to advocate and organize for change in the foreign policy of the United States, and,

Whereas: AFSCME Council 5 takes note of the very recent report by the Department of Justice Inspector General that soundly criticized the FBI for improperly targeting domestic peace and antiwar groups for investigation, and,

Whereas: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has frequently gone on record in defense of trade unionists and others to educate, agitate and organize for the legitimate goals of peace, justice and solidarity with all working people, and

Whereas: The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has repeatedly demanded that Congress and the White House (quote) “disavow and reverse any practices or policies which threaten trade union rights or civil liberties,” as well as (quote) “opposing attacks on traditional constitutional guarantees” including in Resolution No, 156 of the 25th AFSCME International Convention in 1984 submitted by delegate Peter Benner, and in Resolution No. 79, adopted by the AFSCME by the 35th AFSCME convention in 2002 which stated that “AFSCME, a union built out of the combined struggle of the civil rights and labor movements, take leadership in opposing granting wider powers to the FBI to infiltrate community groups and unions in the name of preventing further terrorist attacks,” (end quote) and,

Therefore Be It Resolved: That AFSCME Council 5 goes on record as expressing its grave concern that the recent FBI raids are reminiscent of the Palmer Raids of the 1920’s, the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s, and the FBI’s harassment of the civil rights movement, and our grave concern that these raids be the beginning of a new and dangerous assault on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, international solidarity activist or anti-war campaigner and,

Further Be It Resolved: That AFSCME Council 5 finds that no acceptable justification or evidence has been presented for these raids and subpoenas and that we have no reason to believe any will be forthcoming, and,

Further Be It Resolved: That we notify the Minnesota Congressional Delegation that Council 5 opposes these arbitrary and capricious raids, and,

Be it Finally Resolved: That in light of the Inspector general’s recent report that AFSCME Council 5 calls upon President Obama to order an immediate investigation into the circumstances, motivation and propriety of the judicial and police intimidation of our members and others.

According to my friend Dave Riehle in St Paul, “Over 500 people, by actual headcount by two separate individuals, joined a protest at Minneapolis FBI HQ against the recent raids,” on October 27. There were also substantial numbers protesting in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco last week and smaller ones–such as forty in Duluth–in dozens of other towns. The San Francisco Labor Council passed a support resolution as well.

'Transit Is the Greenest Job You’re Going to Find'
So Larry Hanley told Labor Notes Mark Brenner in an interview before the ATU convention election of officers. I am pleased that this interview has now been incorporated in to an updated article entitled
Reformer Elected to Head ATU Transit Union. If Brother Hanley follows through on his campaign platform, and the answers he gave to Mark’s questions, it will not only be a shot in the arm for a weak ATU; it will also shake up the broader labor and environmental movements as well. More on this soon.

This Time They Used Video
My friend Larry in Detroit sent me some then breaking news just after I put last week’s WIR to bed. You may remember earlier reports of how UAW Local 23 at GM’s Indianapolis stamping plant twice rejected give-backs to allow sale of the facility to J.D. Norman Industries. On the second occasion members literally chased International reps out of their union hall.

Ever persistent Solidarity House then decided to avoid noisy crowds by submitting the deal yet another time–by mail-in ballot. The ever suspicious ranks voted to rent video equipment and 416 hourly workers--out of about 625 eligible union members--traveled to the union hall to cast their no votes before a video camera. Both companies now say the deal–which included fifty percent wage cuts–is dead and the plant is scheduled for closing next fall. But, you never know.

There I Go Again
Though I’m really a man who doesn’t get out much anymore, I will be on the road again–attending a conference in Minneapolis--from this coming Friday until next Monday. I won’t be updating the
Daily Labor News Digest over those days and the WIR will be a bit later next week.

That’s all for this week.

Alliance for Class & Climate Justice

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