Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
January 13, 2008

A Win For the Good Gals
Let’s start with a couple of good news stories, both about nurses. First, thanks to our friend Rod in Vancouver for passing along a story about a long fought victory for equal worth pay in Canada. Female nurses doing medical assessments on Canadians who applied for disability payments under the Canada Pension Plan have been awarded 200 million dollars in back pay by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The nurses were classified as “administrators,” and received about half the pay mostly male doctors get for doing identical work. The first complaints about this unequal treatment were made over thirty years ago.

Keystone Victory
The more than 5,000 member strong Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) is affiliating with the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. This swells CNA/NNOC ranks to over 80,000, with a presence in all fifty states. While most union membership numbers and industry density have been falling alarmingly, CNA/NNOC has gained more than 30,000 new members over the past six years and has grown by more than forty percent over the past decade.

U.S. Stands Out In New Healthcare Study
When it comes to reducing deaths that could have been prevented by access to timely and effective healthcare, the USA is dead last compared to eighteen other industrialized countries. France, Japan, and Australia were the top performers. Said Science Daily, “The fact that other countries are reducing these preventable deaths more rapidly, yet spending far less, indicates that policy, goals, and efforts to improve health systems make a difference.” They might be on to something there.

Some Things Can’t Be Rushed
Following the deaths of 19 miners in the Sago and Darby disasters and the Aracoma Mine fire, in 2006 congress mandated a rewrite of mine rescue rules and gave MSHA fifteen months to do it. This week Ken Ward Jr., who has covered mine disasters for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, disclosed the deadline has been missed. Secretary of Labor Chao submitted the final draft of the changes to the White House December 13–two days before the clock ran out. It’s been sitting on the desk of the President’s Office of Management and Budget ever since. The OMB press secretary said he could not provide a time line for his agency completing its review of the mine rescue team rules.

Got Change?
Sort of like dealing with the autumn leaves that never got removed from the gutters, I can no longer postpone the unpleasant chore of commenting on the U.S. presidential campaign. Constitutional term limits will finally accomplish what the Democrats twice failed to do–the Bush administration will be history next January.

The lack of an incumbent has generated numerous hopefuls in both wholly owned subsidiaries of the boss party. I’ve lost count of the number of “debates” that have been held among those deemed the front runners among them. I must congratulate them on the way they have structured political discourse.

Early on the war in Iraq was tipped to be the number one issue. John McCain changed all that. He proudly pointed to his consistent support for the war including being the sole candidate to embrace the “successful” surge tactic from day one. No front runner wanted to pour cold water on the surge so they have essentially stopped talking about the war.

They found plenty else to expound on. From the Elephant side we heard: Can we trust a Mormon to be president? Did Reverend Huckabee sneak in a subliminal message of the cross in a TV spot? Would it be wise to place in the White House a man who married his cousin (Rudy Giuliani)?

The Donkey camp started on a higher road but it seems to be going downhill fast. Until a few weeks ago, Senator Clinton was considered to pretty much have a lock on the nomination. Then along came Oprah Winfrey to lead Senator Obama by the hand to huge gatherings where he was reborn as the candidate of “change.” Suddenly everybody was talking change and Obama swept the Iowa caucuses.

(Nobody had noticed that John Edwards had long been talking about a “campaign to change America.” The trial lawyer former senator, former VP candidate, has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the campaign. He got dissed royally by his 2004 running mate, John Anybody But Bush Kerry, who endorsed Obama.)

The hitherto steely Clinton scored some points when she presented an emotional side which seemed to carry her through to come-back victory in New Hampshire. Now she has returned to attack mode, giving the young upstart hell. They’re both off to Nevada, with Clinton urging us to “make history” with her while Obama supporters chant “yes we can!”

Since there are no substantial differences on any major issues among the Democrat front runners our labor leaders have had a tough time choosing a best friend from a trio of good friends. The AFL-CIO early on decided not to make any endorsement before the nomination is resolved. Affiliates were left free to take their own course and most could not resist the temptation to try to get on the inside track. Most of the early endorsements went to Edwards or Clinton. (The IAM decided to hedge their bets with a GOP endorsement as well picking Reverend Huckabee--who proved his loyalty to labor by being one of the first to cross the writer’s picket line to appear on Jay Leno’s scab version of the Tonight Show.)

The Obama drama has now caused some testy polarization with the labor camp. UNITE-HERE and SEIU have hooked up with the candidate of change in Nevada where they have mobilized big time. The huge Culinary Workers local in Vegas arranged to have Democrat caucuses in casinos and hotels where thousands of their members can vote while at work. (We recall that SEIU shrewdly endorsed a candidate of change in the 2004 nominee contest–Howard Dean.)

Not so fast, cried the Nevada State Education Association who has filed a lawsuit trying to block the caucus casino venue.

The IAM, Clinton backers, chimed in with a statement, “The deck is stacked in Vegas. The fix is in.”

AFSCME, who has only 3,000 members in the state, has sent in 100 paid staffers to mobilize for Clinton in the caucuses. Earlier, in a remarkable showing of dissidence within one of the most top-down unions, several AFSCME international vice-presidents sent a letter to their president protesting the negative campaigns the union ran against Obama in Iowa and New Hampshire.

It’s going to be a long year.

Area Events Coming Up
* The United Steelworkers will take their campaign to protest imports of lead-laden toys and other toxic products to the doorsteps of members of Kansas’s Congressional delegation Wednesday. Demonstrations are planned at noon Wednesday, Jan. 16, at the offices of U.S. Sentaor Sam Brownback. There will be a protest at 612 S. Kansas Ave. Topeka, KS at noon on January 16th.

* The Franklin Center in the Argentine district of KCK has reopened and this means a return of the Third Friday Dinners, served as a fund raiser for the Cross Border Network. The event will resume this Friday, 5:30-7:30 PM. The Franklin Center is at 1410 Metropolitan. For more information call Judy at 913-677-2158.

That’s all for this week.

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