Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
January 1, 2006

Good Riddance to the Old–In With the New
I’ve tried to resist writing the obligatory year in review. Those of you who read these weekly columns, or follow our postings on the Daily Labor News Digest, know that reporting has been dominated by major setbacks for working people in the USA–cutbacks in social services, changes in worker comp and personal bankruptcy laws, defeated strikes and organizing drives, jobs lost and union contracts and benefits abrogated through corporate bankruptcies. There have been new revelations about how the government secretly violates our constitutional rights. And, above all else, American GIs are still fighting a war, in the interests of Big Business, whose declared justification was long ago exposed as a lie. On balance, an honest review is not very inspiring.

In an e-mail exchange of New Year Eve greetings with an old friend in New Jersey I mentioned some "bright spots in an otherwise dismal year." He replied,

"I don't entirely think the year was dismal—I'm seeing people here in this little semi-rural corner of New Jersey waking up and standing up against George Bush and his war, and I think it's going on around the country. Yes, the ruling class is f***ing us over, and for now we are not well organized to fight back. However, people—just regular people who have never been members of radical organizations before in their lives—now want to organize to fight back. And there's a start! So tonight, I'll drink to great opportunities in the coming year, and strength and good health to all who will be taking advantage of those opportunities."

He’s right, of course, and it’s refreshing to hear someone say this once an awhile. You don’t need me to tell you how bad things were this year. Instead this should be a time to recognize some positive accomplishments that bode for a better 2006.

As my friend mentioned, opposition to the war is spreading to "regular" people–and perhaps more amazing it has even taken hold in leadership bodies of our unions. The growth and influence of US Labor Against the War, aiding in the adoption of numerous official antiwar resolutions, is unprecedented in living memory. For the first time union forces are stepping up to play a leading role in the organized antiwar movement.

Here and there there were significant strike and organizing victories.

The California labor movement gave Governor Terminator a bloody nose.

New York transit workers dared to wage an "illegal" strike. There’s debate about how wisely this tactic was applied and whether their settlement was a victory or a setback. But in any case they defied an unjust law and they live to fight another day.

Even in those areas hit by major defeats–such as the auto industry–we have seen the resurgence of workers eager to fight back.

The Labor Party is getting some fresh wind in its sails, preparing to enter the electoral arena for the first time.

And we can take heart in the struggles and advances by workers in other lands–militant strikes in Canada, France, Italy, Britain, even stirring in Russia and China. A pro-worker government is relying on mass mobilizations to improve the lives of working people in Venezuela and a mass upsurge has put a new working class leader in power in Bolivia.

Of course, we must honestly face harsh reality. Yes, our situation is bad–but it’s far from hopeless. So let’s keep hope alive as we say good riddance to 2005.

Interest In Labor Party South Carolina Venture
My companion articles about the Labor Party’s efforts to get ballot status in South Carolina--Labor Party Prepares To Enter Electoral Arena and A Party Of A Different Kind--got posted on the LaborNet and Labor Standard web sites as well as on several list serves. This produced several hundred more hits on the site than usual over the past few days. I don’t think this response is to my gifted prose. Rather it is anecdotal evidence of renewed interest in the Labor Party in light of this bold new campaign.

Is the Strike Dead?
Steve Early sent us his forward to Robert Schwartz’s book, "Strikes, Picketing, and Inside Campaigns: A Legal Guide For Unions." I haven’t yet read the book but Steve’s contribution does a good job of refuting those who argue that strikes are no longer useful tactics. You can read his forward by clicking here.

Nothing Is Too Good for the Vets–And That’s What VA Tries to Give Them
In a test of how the VA handles telephone inquiries about veteran’s benefits answers were correct only nineteen percent of the time. In a number of cases callers encountered rudeness as well. Both the labor and antiwar movements need to take on this disgrace.

Poor No More In New York
The New York Working Families Party–a cross-endorsement set up that tries to influence the Democrats–is crowing about a big victory for their wheeling and dealing. Due to their lobbying efforts the state’s minimum wage today soared to–6.75 per hour. Undoubtedly Tiffany and Bloomingdale will have to add help to handle this explosion of purchasing power.

Calling In the Plumbers
The Bush administration took note of the muted scandal about the government’s illegal spying on American citizens and responded with decisive action–they started hunting down the whistle blowers who broke the story to The New York Times.

On Site Update
We’ll start updating the Daily Labor News Digest again on Tuesday, January 3. We’ve also given the home page a make over. The same content is still there, somewhat rearranged, and we’ve added some graphics, along with selected news headlines of the day. Comments are welcome.

That’s all for this week.

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Past Weeks In Review