Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
November 20, 2005

Slap Stick In the Face of Tragedy
It’s not easy to be the opposition in America’s two-party Establishment. You’ve got to please the boss–Big Business. But, at the same time, you have to relate to those who elected you–the working class–or you are of no value to the boss.

A growing majority of American working people are fed up with the war in Iraq. They want to see an end–now–and the troops brought home. Politicians ignore this powerful sentiment at their peril.

The standard Democrat approach thus far had been to criticize Bush for not having an exit strategy, for not getting enough allies to share the burden, etc., etc. Robert Brownstein summed things up well in the Los Angeles Times, "Many Democratic political strategists and foreign policy analysts have long believed the party can benefit more from criticizing Bush's handling of the war than from specifying an alternative."

But this strategy was badly shaken by an unlikely dove--Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). Unlike most politicians espousing war policy Murtha has first-hand experience with the real thing. A much decorated veteran of 37 years in the Marines, Murtha saw all too well in Vietnam what happens when a hopeless war drags on. Last week he shocked everyone by abandoning his prior support for the Iraq war and calling for immediate withdrawal–which he reckons should take no longer than six months to complete.

Initially Democrat house leader Nancy Pelosi projected demanding a vote on Murtha’s withdrawal plan in early December. However, she immediately encountered opposition and hand-wringing from many "moderate" mules and has scaled back plans to merely organize an internal party discussion.

Normal decorum in both chambers on Capitol Hill broke down Friday. After the GOP launched a vicious personal counterattack against Murtha there was much shouting, fist waving and gavel banging. It sort of looked like the British House of Commons.

Then the Republicans got real dirty. Like priests sprinkling holy water they terrorized the opposition demons with their own worst nightmare–they were forced to vote on a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Shouting "shame" and "stunt" all but three voted against. These pot-and-the-kettle exchanges would be amusing slap-stick if they weren’t part of a great overall tragedy claiming lives of good people daily.

Opponents of the war got their attention. Now we must follow through. We have to make it clear that the Iraq war is not a multiple choice question. If you don’t support stopping this war now, if you don’t call for bringing the GIs home now, you are culpable supporters of Bush’s war.

The real opposition to the war must continue to mobilize in the streets. Already plans are being laid for local actions across the country–and probably the world–on the third anniversary of the invasion next March. We’re pleased to report that Kansas City is early, for once, and a Third Anniversary Mobilization Committee has been meeting. The labor movement should be in the front ranks of those demanding "Bring the GIs Home Now!"

Commotion Down Under
We probably don’t pay as much attention as we should to labor news from Australia. Reports of demonstrations against the government’s new labor laws–that gut union power through "individual workplace agreements"–sure caught our eye. Six-hundred thousand stayed away from work to march in the streets for basic human labor rights. 600,000 is one hell of a lot of folks any way you look at it. But consider this: the population of Australia is roughly equivalent to the population of Texas. 600,000 down under is equal to 7.5 million in the USA. Yes, we better pay more attention to what they’re doing down there.

A Bad Taste Left Behind
We were shocked to learn that one of our favorite local Mexican restaurants, Sol Azteca in Rosedale, was one of a group of eateries sued by the Labor Department for wage and hour violations. All told 52 workers are owed at least $588,215.65 in back wages. Since there are no unionized restaurants in Kansas City such cheating is probably much more widespread than we know–especially among undocumented recent immigrants. Those huge portions of carnitas have suddenly lost their appeal.

UAW Ranks Continue to Meet
A second major meeting of UAW activists gathered last weekend in Kokomo, Indiana to discuss strategy and tactics in the big fights shaping up at Delphi and General Motors. We’ve established a new page on the site, Crisis in Auto, Crisis for Us All, to track these developments and promote discussion.

Long Break Coming For News Digest
After our update this Wednesday, the Daily Labor News Digest will be on break until the Weekend Edition on December 17. First we will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. Then I am going on a long road trip that includes a meeting of the US Labor Against the War steering committee in Chicago, speaking at a Socialist Action sponsored public forum in Hartford, Connecticut, and attending a meeting of the Interim National Council of the Labor Party in Washington. I do plan to post one more Week In Review, on November 27, before departure.

That’s all for this week.

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