Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
March 5, 2006

AFGE Wins Victory For DoD Workers
Hats off to AFGE–including a tireless hero in KC, Kelley Dull–for beating back major portions of the Defense Department’s National Security Personnel System, which would have effectively destroyed meaningful collective bargaining for AFGE and other DoD unions. The fight is far from over but the court decision nullifying much of NSPS is a major battle won.

A Modest But Welcome Step Toward Unity
The United Transportation Union, after being taken for a wild ride as an independent by a leader who subsequently wound up doing hard time for unrelated matters, this week returned to the AFL-CIO fold. They also appear to have made progress in forging some unity in action with their long time rival, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. The BLE is now part of the Teamsters, and Change to Win. The two unions have recently started issuing joint statements on rail safety and negotiations issues with the rail carriers. That’s a refreshing exception to the current trend of division within the ranks of organized labor.

A Glimmer of Hope in Iraq
A voice of sanity and justice has been emerging in the midst of brutal occupation and sectarian violence–the Iraq Freedom Congress. The IFC was initiated by trade union, student, women’s, and worker party groups last year. We referred to their statements about sectarian pogroms in last week’s Review. Since we have received their call for demonstrations around Iraq on March 19–the anniversary of the U.S. invasion. They say,

March 19 is the third anniversary of the war launched on Iraq. It is the inauspicious day when the war was declared to devastate Iraq, turning it into an international battle field and sinking the country in blood. It is the declaration of the US barbaric war and imposing the occupation, detention, and torture on whomever say no to savageness and arrogance. It is the day when Iraq has turned into a ground for terrorists’ war. It is the day when the sectarian and ethnic gangs were unleashed from their cages to destroy the people security and safety and carnage civilians of different ages.

Let us commemorate this day by saying a big ... NO

NO… to the democracy of detentions, torture, Abu Graib and Buka prison
NO… to the occupation and terrorism policy
NO… to the ethnic and sectarian divisions that are the products of the war and occupation
No stability and no security without an end to the occupation

In March 19 a huge rally will be held around the world to show solidarity with the Iraqi people. Iraq Freedom Congress calls on the libertarian and humanitarian movements in the world to take to the streets to strengthen the international solidarity movement with the Iraqi people to boot out the occupation.

The IFC expects substantial actions in response to this call in at least Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Basra.

There will, of course, be demonstrations in cities across the USA over the March 18-19 weekend. For information about local events in the Kansas City area go to the KC Labor Against the War site.

Talkin’ Baseball
Finally, an end to that dreary time of year when there is no baseball in America. While hope springs eternal nothing but disappointment so far. Here’s our first installment.

* Hall of Shame. The gate keepers in Cooperstown grudgingly admitted a few more from the Negro League era in through a back door. Included were two white owners of Negro League franchises. But two greats still find themselves on the wrong side of the door.

Ninety-three year-old Buck O’Neill was a good player in the days of Jim Crow baseball, though admittedly not a super-star. He later became one of the first Black coaches in the majors. No one did more than he to fight for the recognition deserved by those who played the game for decades in racial isolation. Being the great sportsman that he is, Buck took the news, received at the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, with good grace. But some of us don’t feel so charitable toward those who blackballed him.

Also denied entrance was the first prominent Afro-Cuban player to make the majors--Orestes Minoso, known to all as Minnie. Racism kept Minnie from getting a regular major league contract until he was 29 but he made up for lost time quick His lifetime batting average was .298–better than Carl Yastrzemski, for example, who played the same position and was whisked into the Hall like a breeze. Minnie was selected to the American League All-Star team eight times.

Thanks to guys like Buck and Minnie players of color have come a long way–but clearly have a long way to go.

Triple Anniversary Rolls ‘Round Again
This Wednesday will be a day worth celebrating. On March 8:

* Since 1911, International Women’s Day. This annual event was institutionalized as the result of a resolution by the 1910 Women's Conference of the Socialist International. The idea was inspired by actions of the American Women's Trade Union League who first used the March event in 1908 to promote organization of garment workers, as well as demanding the right to vote. IWD was also embraced by the new feminist movement that developed in the late Sixties.

* In 1917, the IWD demonstration in Petrograd (later Leningrad, now St Petersburg), triggered a revolution that toppled the last Russian Czar and led to the establishment of the soviets.

* In 2000, the KC Labor web site was launched. Maybe not on the same scale as the other two but you wouldn’t be reading this now if it hadn’t happened. There’s too much else going on for us to organize a celebration party, as we have on some past tri-anniversaries, so we’ll just give a nutshell update of where stands on our sixth anniversary.

Our first day of operation we had eight visitors–all personally invited. Today we average 1900 hits per day.

We began with the notion that most of our traffic would come from the KC local area. That hasn’t been the case. Not only do a majority of our visitors come from across the USA; a substantial number are from other countries. We’ve identified 56 different nations so far. To see our tracker results for countries on a recent typical day click here.

We cranked up at a time when large numbers of working people were just discovering the Internet. We aimed at being "an Internet port-of-entry for working people," providing links to a wide range of resources on other sites. We still do.

But, as time passed, we expanded into other areas: the Daily Labor News Digest; analysis and opinion in Labor Advocate Online; hosting pages for the Kansas City Labor Party and KC Labor Against the War. Early on, Mary Erio agreed to answer workplace safety and health questions from visitors. Doug Bonney began putting together Know Your Rights.

We have initiated or co-sponsored some worthwhile public events such as the Labor and the Law conference in June, 2001, Worker Rights At Home and Abroad conference in March, 2004, and the Future of American Labor conference last April.

Since the webmaster’s retirement I’ve been able to occasionally hit the road to cover events first-hand. Over the past year I attended the UE national convention, Jobs with Justice national meeting, national steering committee meeting of US Labor Against the War, and a meeting of the Interim National Council of the Labor Party. Except for Amtrak to Chicago once, all these trips were made in a locally built 1999 Ford Contour. I hope to do more of this as personal commitments–and finances–allow. I’m already booked for the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit in May.

Tradition suggests gifts of iron or sugar for a sixth anniversary–but please don’t send us a box of raisins. However, if you would like to help out on our expenses there are PayPal buttons on our home and news pages. Clicking on "donate" allows you to make a one-time contribution of any amount. If you would like to join the elite Sawbuck Club, making a regular ten dollar monthly sustainer, use the "subscribe" button.

That’s all for this week.

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Past Weeks In Review