Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review, May 15, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

Offensive On Defense
Proposed Defense Department closings and redeployment will have serious ramifications on the American working class.

Among the more than 18,000 civilian positions being outright eliminated are good-paying, unionized blue collar jobs–such as the navy yard facilities in Groton and Portsmouth–that simply can’t be replaced in the current economy. I’ve gone through a couple of plant closings. I’ve seen how lost income and the resulting feelings of insecurity and despair are too often accompanied by drinking binges, domestic violence, divorce, suicides.

Workers whose jobs are being shifted elsewhere are, in some cases, entitled to transfer with their work to its new venue–if they are able to pick up and relocate. That can be especially daunting for two bread-winner households with kids in school.

Others may have bumping rights to remaining jobs--though this is complicated by the new union-busting NSPS rules in the process of being implemented.

But Defense workers and their families won’t be the only ones affected. There are a host of environmental concerns as well.

The day before the announcement of the latest round of closings the EPA issued a report showing 34 closed military bases already on the Superfund list of worst toxic waste sites. Most of them have been closed for more than 15 years and little or nothing has been done to them. There are more than a hundred other abandoned DoD sites that have been only partially cleaned up.

Even where toxic time-bombs are not left behind movement of offices and services can aggravate other environmental problems. For example, the Washington Post wrote, "The Pentagon's plan to move tens of thousands of jobs from Metro [subway]-accessible urban centers to campuses outside the Capital Beltway will exacerbate the region's traffic, destabilize the real estate market and flood already crowded schools, local planners and elected leaders say."

These announced closings have resulted in targeting workers who need our solidarity and threatening social and environmental problems of urgent concern to all. A response is required. But what should we be demanding?

Let’s look at one challenge: It is hard not to be troubled by the product line made and maintained by the brothers and sisters at the New London Navy base in Groton--nuclear submarines.

These boats (in Navy parlance all surface vessels are ships but submarines are boats) are quite remarkable. They can remain submerged, if necessary, for months at a time--limited only by the crew’s food supply. They mainly just cruise randomly, deep and undetectable, throughout all the oceans.

Their primary mission is quite simple. They are secure mobile launching platforms for missiles armed with nuclear war heads. Collectively they carry enough firepower to destroy all life on our planet several times over. They are the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

We are brought back once more to a question that the working class has struggled with for more than a half-century now: Must we choose keeping good jobs tied to the insanity of preparing for nuclear annihilation as the sole alternative to treating Defense workers as disposable? Or can we offer other options to utilize the skills of these workers for something useful?

This is a question requiring more space than available in this column. I have begun drafting an article about the issues relating to this challenge that I believe need discussion–and action–in the labor, peace, and environmental movements. I hope to post this article soon.

Quality Of Life Issues In Iraq
It’s been over two years now since Bush and Blair sent the GIs and Tommies to "liberate" Iraq. We all know of the continuing bloodshed in that long-suffering land. But how are the Iraqis doing otherwise under the occupation of their "liberators?" A UN survey published last week noted that 85 percent of Iraqis complain of frequent power outages, only 54 percent have access to clean water and almost a quarter of Iraqi children suffer from chronic malnutrition. "The survey, in a nutshell, depicts a rather tragic situation of the quality of life," they concluded.

Support Building For United Actions Against War
I’m pleased to report that the Kansas City Iraq Task force and Kansas City Peaceworks are among the groups recently signing on to US Labor Against the War’s call for united demonstrations against the Iraq war in the Fall.

Catching Up With Reagan Legacy
Ronald Reagan was consulting astrologers in the White House the last time real wages fell as fast as reported for the year ending in March. Inflation rose 3.1 percent against a 2.4 percent increase in wages.

That’s all for this week.