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Week In Review, March 28, 2004

‘Anybody’ Reveals Jobs Program
Job creation is issue #1 in this years election campaign. The AFL-CIO has justly blasted the Bush administration for relying on tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Those cuts have stimulated capital investment in labor-saving technology. They have not produced any jobs; indeed they may have eliminated some.

Now John Kerry, the presumptive "anybody" all "progressives" back to beat Bush, has announced a plan to create ten million new jobs over the next four years. The center piece of this plan?—a five percent reduction in corporate income tax.

Can They Flick Their Bic?
In 1993, French-based Bic needed to modernize their Milford, Connecticut shaver and ball-point pen plant. In the best tradition of free enterprise they demanded that tax payers foot the cost of this upgrade. In return for a ten year guarantee of jobs the state gave them 9.1 million dollars.

Well, the guarantee has expired, the plant is another ten years older, and 250 jobs are once again being held hostage for ransom. But the cost of bribery in reverse has gone up. Bic wants 25 million this time around. They have suggested the burden on the tax payers could be lightened some if the members of Steelworkers Local 134-L agree to massive contract concessions. Union representative David Wanciak offered these fighting words, "I said during the meeting the union will to look at concessions but we can’t give back $25 million alone. We need state and federal help."

Lead Coated Tents and the First Casualty of War
A Virginia resident brought a "whistle-blower" suit against BondCote Corporation of Pulaski, Virginia for supplying the Army with lead contaminated tents destined for Iraq. The company hotly denied the charge—until after a raid of their offices by federal agents. Now they acknowledge that their tents were laced with hexavalent chromium, a byproduct of lead chromate degradation, but continue to assert there is no danger to our GIs.

The whistle-blower law allows the Justice Department to take over suits. Justice ignored the company’s lies—after all this is war time and truth was disabled on the first day. They also say tests back the company claims that there are no health risks. This is disputed by a toxicologist employed by the original plaintiff who said the government report was flawed because only lightly worn tents were tested.

In the end Justice negotiated a 1.7 million dollar settlement. Justice Department lawyers reportedly said they were seeking a modest settlement so as not to put BondCote out of business—because they need the company to remain a viable supplier.

California Teachers Blast Labor Connection to NED
Two weeks ago we commented on the AFL-CIO executive council reverting to collaborating with the Bush administration and Big Business in trying to house break Iraqi unions. The conduit involved is the pernicious National Endowment for Democracy.

Bill Berkowitz gives this description of the NED:

"The NED functions as a full-service infrastructure building clearinghouse. It provides money, technical support, supplies, training programs, media know-how, public relations assistance and state-of-the-art equipment to select political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, and other media. It's aim is to destabilize progressive movements, particularly those with a socialist or democratic socialist bent....throughout the 1980s the NED helped turn Central America into low-intensity killing-fields."

NED directors include: Frank Carlucci, chairman of the Carlyle Group and former Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor in the Reagan Administration; Julia Finley, a Republican Party activist working on NATO expansion issues; Francis Fukuyama, political scientist and author of, most notably, "The End of History"; Richard C. Holbrooke, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

This past week the California Federation of Teachers took the bold step of denouncing this unsavory action by the executive council. Their resolution says in part,

"Whereas AFL-CIO acceptance of NED funding for its solidarity work in Iraq would have the appearance, if not the effect, of interfering in the internal affairs of the Iraqi labor movement in furtherance of U.S. government foreign policy objectives,

"Therefore be it resolved that the California Federation of Teachers affirm its support for the principles of autonomy, independence and self-determination embodied in the International Conventions of the International Labor Organization, and

"Be it further resolved that the CFT oppose the AFL-CIO and its Solidarity Center seeking or accepting funding from the U.S. government, its agencies and any other institutions which it funds such as the NED for its work in Iraq or elsewhere, and

"Be it further resolved, that CFT urge the AFL-CIO to fund its international programs and activities from funds generated directly by its affiliates and their members, and

"Be it finally resolved, that CFT communicate this resolution and its sentiments to the California Federation of Labor, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO leadership and all CFT affiliates and in such other ways as furthers the purpose and intent of this resolution."

Hats off to the California teachers!

Building Legitimate Unions In Iraq
There are, of course, genuine unions developing in Iraq. They are not being supported by the Bush administration or the Carlyle Group and, therefore, not the NED either. We had an opportunity last week to meet a representative of the most promising one—the Federation of Worker Councils and Trade Unions of Iraq.

Unions and individuals wanting to contribute material support to the real Iraqi labor movement can send money to the US Labor Against War Iraqi Solidarity Fund.

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