Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
February 26, 2006

Middle Class Quicksand
That’s the title of one of the best articles I’ve seen on some of the grim statistics released by the BLS this week. Diane Stafford, writing in the Kansas City Star, does more than note median household income has dropped 1600 dollars over the past four years. She examines other ways the "middle class" has lost ground–while corporate profits have gone up.

Stafford sought out Elizabeth Warren, co-author of The Two Income Trap, and numerous other books and articles about the ailing middle. Says Warren about today’s working couples,

"After they pay for the basics — mortgage, health insurance, cars, child care and taxes — they have less money to spend than their one-income parents had."

It’s an article worth checking out.

Who Is Responsible For Sectarian Bloodshed In Iraq?
I don’t know who placed the bomb that destroyed the gold dome of the Samarra al-Askari shrine, precipitating the biggest explosion yet of sectarian carnage. I don’t condone any of the gangs blowing up mosques, churches, and bus stations, killing people because of their religious beliefs, and murdering journalists along the way.

But I am prepared to charge those ultimately responsible for setting this nightmare in motion: President Bush, Bush’s loyal opposition Democrat congressional leadership, with a dishonorable mention to Prime Minister Blair.

Many bad things happened in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. But sectarian violence wasn’t a problem in prewar Iraq’s secular society. Even Christians and a small Jewish community coexisted peacefully with the Muslim denominations.

The new tit-for-tat pogrom is the result of conscious manipulation by the occupiers. At the same time they destroyed all institutions of civil government, along with much of the country’s basic infrastructure, the invaders also started playing Shia against Sunni, Arab against Kurd.

It was a scenario taken from the British imperialist play book. As they had to withdraw from the old Empire, London made sure Hindus and Muslims would war in the subcontinent, Greeks and Turks would be pitted against one another in Cyprus, Protestants and Catholics are constantly stirred up to continue centuries old divisions in Ireland–not to mention what they left behind in Palestine.

It was Bush/Blair’s plan that the divided Iraqis would long be dependent on the occupiers to be arbiter of their disputes and that Anglo-American boots on the ground there would be seen as the only force that could prevent civil war. (Of course this strategy has also been embraced by most liberal Democrats as an argument against American withdrawal.)

As long as there was just a steady stream of isolated attacks on places of worship and individual sectarian murders, the B&B boy’s plan seem to be working. But the present scale of violence by gangs and "militias," with rogue army and police sometimes involved as well, is wrecking the illusion that some kind of democratic Iraqi regime is pulling together under Washington’s guidance. The violence is getting out of control and there’s not much the occupying troops can do except try to stay out of the way.

The U.S. government fomented this crisis and nothing good comes from continuing U.S. presence. As the Iraq Freedom Congress said in a statement a few days ago,

"The Iraq Freedom Congress believes that prosperity, safety and freedom will not prevail unless the occupation is ended and a non-ethnic, non-religious state is established."

They’re spot on. Our job in America is to demand: Bring All the GIs Home Now!

Bush’s Racist Chickens Come Home to Roost
Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim bigotry has been part and parcel of Bush/Blair’s phony "War On Terrorism" cover for their imperial ambitions abroad and attacks on worker rights at home. But once launched such racist prejudice acquires a certain logic of its own that can sometimes come back to bite the instigators. That’s what’s really happening around the big "port security" hubbub--a United Arab Emirates based company acquiring P&O, the outfit managing port operations in six major American cities.

As a matter of fact, these ports have been in "foreign" hands for a long time now. P&O was based in a country that America has twice been to war with. In fact that country’s soldiers once burned down the Capitol and the White House.

The objection to the UAE bid isn’t that they are foreign–they are Arab. The cynical Democrats don’t mind exploiting racism to get in a few cheap shots against Bush on "security." The perhaps even more cynical Republicans are glad to play to bigotry to distance themselves from an unpopular President who is perceived hurting their chances in the midterm election. But the President, whose family has always had close ties to the richest Arab oligarches, knows it’s not the job of government to stand in the way of profitable deals.

Another Bloody Global Venue–the Job
Grupo Mexico, like mine operators everywhere, is trying to cash in on the spike in coal prices. They were running their Pasta de Conchas mine around the clock–a practice historically opposed by miners for safety reasons–when a giant methane explosion claimed the lives of sixty-five miners.

Bangladesh has become an important center for textile/garment exports to the United States. If you have any men’s sport shirts hanging in your closet there’s a good chance they are from this poor south Asian country. There’s also a good chance worker blood was involved in the manufacturing process.

Just this past week seventy workers were killed and dozens injured while toiling for suppliers of Wal-Mart and Land’s End. Fifty-four night shift workers, mainly women, perished in a factory fire in Chittagong. They apparently were locked into this fire trap overnight by their employer. Sixteen died when a structurally condemned four-storey factory building in Dhaka collapsed.

They Could Use A Hand In Jersey
Suffering under a wage freeze and deteriorating working conditions, workers at the Stepan plant in Fairfield, New Jersey voted to be represented by the UE in January, 2005. In a year of fruitless bargaining the company proposed only further take-backs–such as cuts in sick pay. This January, in an effort to spur negotiations, the workers staged a one-day strike. The transnational chemical giant, gloating over record sales and a 27 percent increase in earnings, responded by locking the workers out. The union is asking for messages of support. You can find out more by clicking here.

Know Your Rights
We’re pleased to report that labor attorney Doug Bonney has contributed two new articles to our Know Your Rights page he edits.

As usual, much of the material for this column was based on stories posted on the Daily Labor News Digest.

That’s all for this week.

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