Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
May 16, 2011

A Victory Worth Celebrating
Shortly after posting the last WIR, I received a message to supporters from Judy Ancel, director of the Institute for Labor Studies at UMKC, with this subject line, “Victory! Let's celebrate!” Ancel, along with Don Giljum at UMSL, had been under attack by a tea party witch-hunter who used doctored video of a labor studies class they co-taught to frame them up on charges of promoting union violence. The Kansas City campus within a few days publicly rejected the bogus charges, standing behind Ancel but St Louis announced Giljum had resigned–a claim Don strongly denied.

After a broad, vigorous defense effort, including an online petition campaign by the United Association of Labor Education which quickly obtained several hundred signatures, UMSL issued a statement May 9 that said in part,

“The [video] excerpts that were made public showing the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) instructor Don Giljum and students as well as the UMKC instructor and students were definitely taken out of context, with their meaning highly distorted through splicing and editing from different times within a class period and across multiple class periods....Contrary to some reports, Don Giljum has not been fired from the campus faculty, and in fact, is completing the course; he remains eligible to teach at UMSL. We sincerely regret the distress to him and others that has been caused by the unauthorized copying, editing and distribution of the course videos.”

In her message Judy wrote,

“I haven't had a chance to count all the letters of support I received, many of which were copies of letters to Thomas George, but there were dozens if not over a hundred. The UALE petition galvanized support way beyond our organization's reach. It currently has 759 signatures....Your support has renewed my commitment to labor education and the labor movement. It's so important when you're going through a struggle like this to know you're not alone and to have such smart people to help with analysis and strategy. It was indeed a collective effort.”

We join in celebrating what is not only a vindication of two fine labor educators and activists; it’s also a victory for academic freedom and a total defeat for Breitbart and his ilk.

Health Back On the Table
Medicaid doesn’t get near the attention that Medicare attracts. We all hope to grow old, none want to be poor. Medicaid is a patchwork Federal-State partnership covering about sixty-mln--mainly poor children and their parents, as well as old folks and disabled in nursing homes. Presently minimum eligibility is guaranteed through Federal law and the Feds pay about sixty percent of the costs.

All that changes if legislation passed by the House becomes law. Instead of sharing actual costs states would receive a fixed amount block grant. The states would determine eligibility and services. The Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute estimate these Republican sponsored changes would leave at least 44-mln without health coverage of any kind Those losing out don’t have powerful lobbies.

No body expects this specific legislation to be passed by the Democrat Senate. But, as an AP report speculates, “individual components could advance as part of debt reduction talks between Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders.”

These talks aim to reach a deal to authorize raising the ceiling on national debt–already actually at the present limit but delayed for a couple of months by what the bean-counters candidly acknowledge to be “creative accounting.” The GOP hard cops in charge of the House will drive a hard bargain for agreement to debt expansion.

Seizing on a recent report about declining Medicare revenue–the result of long-term mass unemployment–demands for Medicare take-backs will be seriously pursued as well as Medicaid. Liberals such as Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin are telling Sunday morning shows that such “reforms” could be acceptable if they were accompanied by tax increases as well.

The AFL-CIO remains opposed to any cuts in Medicare or Medicaid. Our leaders denounce Republican efforts to gut them. But they have said little or nothing about the willingness of the White House and Senate Democrats to put these vital programs on the deficit chopping block.

During the big health care debate that led to the passage of what the Republicans call ObamaCare, AFL-CIO president Trumka drew several lines in the sand–only to have Obama and Senator Bacchus kick the sand back in his face. Not only was Trumka denied even his increasingly plaintive plea for a “public option”–he was forced to eat a tax on health benefits too. Nevertheless, at the end of the day Trumka hailed a great victory.

Trumka is hardly silent today. Salon Editor Joan Walsh recently offered an admiring article entitled Richard Trumka Declares Labor's Independence. A Mike Elk In These Times article, Richard Trumka: Talking Loud and Saying Nothing, offered an effective reality check to Walsh’s puff piece.

He says,

“Sure, it sounds good when Trumka tells reporters like Joan Walsh that he is ‘declaring labor’s political independence.’ But does that statement actually mean anything? Trumka says that instead of giving money directly to the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO will spend money in-house during the elections—but that it will still spend the money to promote Democratic Party candidates. The AFL-CIO has not talked of restarting the Labor Party experiment of the late 1990s, which several unions, including Trumka’s own the United Mine Workers, backed.”

The last sentence is key. Until we revive the Labor Party we will be condemned to more “victories” like Obama health care reform for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and a whole lot more.

J’accuse Identity Fraud
In response to those trying to use his authority for various political scams, Karl Marx once famously said, “I am not a Marxist.” The latest exposures of Dominique Strauss-Kahn no doubt tempt many to cry out “I am not a socialist.”

It’s bad enough that this front runner Socialist candidate for the next President of France heads up the International Monetary Fund–the blunt instrument used by global capitalism to impose the “austerity” measures workers, mostly led by socialists, are fighting in so many countries. It’s embarrassing to learn this “comrade” rests up in three-thousand dollar a night hotel rooms while on a working trip to New York. Though most French may have shrugged it off, many in more prudish cultures were upset by his past affair with a subordinate IMF economist.

The latest charges are, of course, more serious. Assaulting and attempting to rape a hotel housekeeper is not the same as keeping a mistress. It is a despicable crime that merits severe punishment of the guilty. Strauss-Kahn should and will get his day in court. He better not rely on character witnesses for his defense.

While the courts hopefully see justice is done on the sexual violence Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have committed, I want to level a different charge–identity theft. My great hero is Eugene V Debs and I take offense to his heritage being blemished by a political and moral degenerate daring to call himself a socialist. I’m also privileged to know some real French socialists who are active in opposing Strauss-Kahn’s IMF policies in their country and will be challenging his party--with or without him--in the next election.

Net Nixes
The excuses used by Internet Service Providers to avoid providing service for which their customers have paid get more bizarre every week. I was warned by IContact’s spam checker that our May 9 Week In Review would likely be rejected by ISPs because our story about McDonald’s hiring used a common term to mention jobs that work fewer than the standard forty hours. They also didn’t like the designation of the marches against demeaning remarks about women made by a Toronto cop. To comply, in the e-mail version I eliminated all reference to the less than standard hours jobs and inserted some asterisks in the offending walk by women protesters. Still, one ISP–Verizon–blocked their customers from receiving their double opt-in subscription on grounds of “spam.”

Possibly the giant telecom corporations are learning some lessons from those in charge of what is still called the Communist Party of China. When Chinese cyber-dissidents started talking about the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, Beijing banned all Internet references not only to the Arab Spring in North Africa but also to the botanical relative of the olive used by mlns of Chinese to make tea. E-mail subscribers who wish to see the uncensored version of this column can click on the link always provided to our web posting–so far free from suppression or alteration.

In Brief...
¶ I can’t say that I am a big fan of Rap but I do recommend an amateur effort done in Australia. It’s an edgy answer to global warming deniers by an ensemble of climate scientists. Its clever title is: Yo... I'm a climate scientist! If you’re not offended by typical Rapper vocabulary, check it out
¶ The Detroit News reported “Ron Bloom, the former auto czar, said in a White House blog post today that the 4,000 jobs added or retained by GM were due to the tough conditions imposed by the administration on the government's $49.5 billion bailout of the Detroit automaker.” Love is in the eye of the beholder but tough there is no doubt. Plant and dealership closings eliminated tens of thousands of jobs that will never come back and the take-backs extracted from the UAW will never be recovered either.
¶ From the Detroit Free-Press, “ Michigan's debit card for jobless benefits hits the unemployed too hard in the pocket with ‘junk fees,’ a national consumer group said Tuesday.”

To keep on top of the latest visit our Daily Labor News Digest, updated by 9AM Central, Monday-Friday.

That’s all for this week.

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