Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
April 30, 2006

Top Non-story of the Week
I wasn’t able to attend the April 29 antiwar march in New York but I was anxious to hear news of it. My wife and I sat down with our delivered pizza in front of the TV to watch the NBC Evening News. Just as I was asking Mary to pass the grated Parmesan I heard the news reader say, "Thousands of antiwar protesters marched in New York today." As I shifted my undivided attention from pie to screen I soon realized that was going to be the full extent of the world’s mostly widely watched news program’s coverage. That was a lot more than I got in this morning’s Sunday Kansas City Star—which did not find the event newsworthy at all. Nor did it rate a mention on the BBC. The "quality" American papers—including The New York Times—reprinted various versions of an AP wire story.

Estimates from usually reliable sources pegged the size of the demonstration at at least 300,000. The march stepped off from the north end of Union Square at Noon and began arriving at Foley Square two hours later—with many still waiting to march at the assembly point.

Those at the front of the march included figures familiar to the media such as Cindy Sheehan, Jesse Jackson, Susan Sarandon, Al Sharpton, and—just released from jail—New York transit union leader Roger Toussaint.

Ignoring this massive demonstration that clearly reflects majority sentiment is part and parcel of the mass media’s general downgrading of war news. Only the most spectacular developments break through their self-imposed censorship.

We’re beginning to see a similar move in Canada around an even more "forgotten"war. The Canadian Establishment has avoided exposure of direct links to the occupation of Iraq but have long been supporters of the four and a half year and counting U.S.-led occupation in Afghanistan. Recently Canadian troops have again been killed there, stirring great concern. The new Tory government has banned media photos of caskets of soldiers and has ended the practice of lowering the flag to half-mast when Canadians are killed in battle.

This suppression of news calls for redoubling efforts in both countries to expose and oppose these imperial adventures that cost working people so much in blood and money.

Immigrants Help Reclaim An International Day Where It All Began
May Day is widely marked by demonstrations and celebrations of the workers’ movements throughout the world. Though this annual mobilization has its roots in the United States for several decades it has been observed in this country only by a small vanguard. You can read my comments on last year’s May Day by clicking here.

Tomorrow—May 1—it is expected that hundreds of thousands will take off work, and millions will take part in marches and rallies, across the USA. It is ironic that this resurgence of May Day in its country of origin revolves around initiatives from workers born elsewhere, and is directly connected to the celebration of May 1 as Labor Day in Mexico.

To say the bosses are concerned about this development would be equivalent to disclosing that National League pitchers are hesitant about facing Albert Pujols. Do you try to intimidate by throwing a bean ball or do you issue a free pass and hope to stay away from the big inning? Both metaphors, and more, are being tried.

On April 20 ICE raids were carried out at 40 plants, in 26 states operated by the Dutch-based IFCO Systems North America. 1187 undocumented workers were taken into custody and some management officials were arrested as well. This past Friday, La Migra announced they had arrested more than 125 immigrants through their National Fugitive Operations Program during a 10-day Midwest crackdown that stretched from Wisconsin to Kentucky. While a few of these were wanted on warrants for serious crimes most were simply evading deportation orders. The Missouri state legislature chipped in to this intimidation effort by coming up with new anti-immigrant laws, including barring them from state-run colleges.

But initial reports indicated fear of raids might not have the intended effect. Many workers stopped going to work—but still planned to turn out for mass actions on May 1. The result was a longer boycott of work.

Some employers not previously noted for their bleeding hearts—such as Tyson and Cargill—have decided to roll with the punch, voluntarily shutting down operations on May Day.

In Las Vegas, casino bosses and UNITE-HERE union officials, pleaded with workers to report as usual on May 1 in exchange for promoting a petition favoring immigrant rights.

In Los Angeles the mayor, Cardinal, and school superintendent issued a joint open letter asking everyone to go to work and school—and then join a great demonstration later in the day. LA police are expecting a half-million to march there.

In Mexico workers already on holiday will be showing solidarity with the boycott movement here by boycotting U.S. owned businesses for the day. That could be a painful lesson for that country’s biggest private employer—Wal-Mart.

At a public meeting in Kansas City on Friday Martha Ojeda, a labor rights and solidarity leader in Mexico, emphasized that the immigrant rights movement here was inseparable from the grass roots union movement in Mexico—and the broader struggle by all workers against NAFTA and Globalization. She further drove home the point that the movement in Mexico was not counting on the election of the "progressive" PRD candidate but was relying on mobilization of their own independent power.

Those are two valid observations that need to be brought in to the great assemblies we look forward to tomorrow as we rebuild international worker solidarity in the ancestral homeland of May Day.

In Kansas City there will be an immigrant rights rally at Liberty Memorial from 4-7. There will also be a May Day commemoration at All Souls, 4501 Walnut, at 7PM.

An Important Milestone in South Carolina
The Labor Party announced this week that it has secured the minimum ten thousand signatures on a petition needed to gain official party ballot status in South Carolina. Since it is expected that the signatures will be gone over with a fine tooth comb petitioning continues in order to get a cushion—but the end is in sight. Once certified a state convention will chart a course for the first ever Labor Party election campaign.

Off To Motor City
Later this week I will be heading off to Detroit for the Labor Notes Conference. Several hundred labor activists are expected to attend. While there, I will be helping out with a Labor Party literature table and a special meeting on "Labor and Independent Politics," which will include a presentation about the South Carolina campaign.

Unfortunately, as is always the case when I go on the road, there will be an interruption in our daily updates on the site. Our last posting of news before leaving will be Tuesday, May 2; updates will resume on Tuesday, May 9.

That’s all for this week—Happy May Day to all!

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