Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, April 17, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

The Passing Of Two Working Class Fighters
Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales was literally a fighter in his youth–once ranked number three featherweight in the world by Ring magazine. But he is best known for reviving Chicano nationalism around a program that addressed the needs of working people. Among his achievements was the launching of Crusade for Justice, a civil rights and cultural movement that began in Denver’s East Side barrio and inspired similar groups throughout Aztlan (as used by Chicano nationalists, Aztlan is the territory seized by the U.S. in the Mexican-American War, which encompasses eight southwestern states.) Gonzales believed Chicanos within Aztlan deserved the right to self-determination. He helped found the Raza Unida Party which experienced some local electoral victories in Colorado and Texas in the 1970s. He led a Chicano contingent in the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington. And he helped bring tens of thousands of Chicanos into the movement against the Vietnam war. Gonzales passed away April 12 at age 76.

This past Thursday David Yettaw died from a heart attack at age 58. He had been a militant in Flint’s once huge Buick City complex for nearly forty years, serving as president of UAW Local 599 from 1987-1996. In 1989 he broke with the administration caucus that runs the auto union with an iron hand over the question of concessions to the Big Three. He joined with others such as Jerry Tucker, and the late Victor Reuther in launching a ranks-based opposition known as New Directions. Eventually the administration caucus regained control of the decimated Flint local, defeating Yettaw’s bid for a fourth term as president. Yettaw remained active in working class struggles until the day he died. A Vietnam vet, Yettaw was an outspoken opponent of the Iraq war. He will be greatly missed.

Campuses Heating Up
Students have often played a crucial role in mass movements of working people. In the 1930s students were an important component of the organizers and agitators needed by the CIO and other unions in pioneer organizing of major industries. In the 1960s groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees (SNCC) were in the vanguard of the civil rights movement. The massive movement against the Vietnam war was propelled by organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the earliest stages, and the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (SMC) later on. In the 1970s, campuses were important in launching the "second wave of feminism," and the mass environmental movement.

Social consciousness and labor solidarity seem to be on the rise once more on campuses throughout the country. An ongoing action launched two weeks ago by the Student Worker Alliance at Washington University in suburban St Louis seeks to get a living wage and health insurance for contract workers on campus. They have been occupying the chancellor’s office and, for awhile, conducted a hunger strike. This struggle has been front page news in St Louis and has attracted a lot of support from trade unionists and others in the community. As a result, there has been some negotiation with the administration and offers–so far inadequate–to put up more money for campus wages.

There was also a local Tent City encampment, talks, and rallies around a number of issues at UMKC which led to some modest concessions by university administration.

Last Thursday, hundreds of students, along with many faculty, demonstrated support for a one-day strike by 7,000 AFSCME service workers throughout the University of California system.

This coming week graduate students will be striking for union recognition at Yale and Columbia. We are waiting to hear the results of a big representation election for grad students at the University of Minnesota.

We’re not yet at the level of student activism in the Sixties but these are welcome upsurges in struggle that can benefit us all–and who knows how far they may go?

Last Call For Lunch–and Conference Advance Registration
The Future Of American Labor conference is next weekend. We must guarantee lunch reservations by Tuesday. So,
if you haven’t yet registered or otherwise confirmed that you are coming please do so no later than end of business Monday.

There has been one cancellation, and one addition, to the speakers list. Kelley Dull has been called out of town on union business. Her presentation on AFGE’s showdown fight with the DoD will certainly be missed though we, of course, understand that union duty calls.

We are fortunate that Christine Frank, a member of IATSE Local 13 in Minneapolis, has agreed to give us a sneak preview of a presentation she has prepared for a panel discussion on labor and the environment, scheduled April 25, at the St. Paul Labor Centre.

As always, much of this review is based on stories posted on the Daily Labor News Digest.

That’s all for this week.

This weekly column in Labor Advocate Online is also available by e-mail. Send a request to: list@kclabor.org