Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
May 28, 2012

Stop Piñata Abuse
I thought I knew Donna Dewitt after years of collaboration with the outspoken president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO on the Interim National Council of the Labor Party and in US Labor Against the War. A couple of years ago she accepted an invitation to speak to a conference in Kansas City sponsored by the
KC Labor. Donna never turned down a request for solidarity with working people in struggle–even when it sometimes caused her problems with the Federation hierarchy.

Yet here was video proof of a dark side of her character–Donna Dewitt is a piñata abuser. This repulsive secret was revealed at her retirement party. ABC reported,

“Republicans are trying to capitalize off a recent video featuring a South Carolina AFL-CIO leader bashing a piñata bearing the face of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley sent out a donation request via Twitter, calling on people to stand with her against what she calls ‘bullying’ from union leaders.”

The Republican Governors Association demanded to know whether President Obama condones such violence.

The House of Labor also quickly distanced themselves from their sister’s disgraceful exhibition. Alison Omens, director of media outreach at AFL-CIO, said,

“By now many of you have seen the video of the outgoing president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO. While it was meant as fun, there is absolutely no place for that kind of joke in a conversation that is extremely serious about how to rebuild our middle class and our country.”

It’s her own fault. Donna should have noticed long ago that humor has no place in today’s union bureaucracy. Sadly, instead of seeking help from Piñata Abusers Anonymous, Donna remains in denial,

“She's [Haley] been whacking at us over the last two years. Anyone that knows me knows there was no ill intent at all. Our folks don't go to speeches with guns and things like that. They were using a memoir of the last two years I've lived under her leadership.”

Among the whacking of the Tea Party Governor was a quote inscribed on the piñata, “Unions are not necessary, wanted or needed in South Carolina.” Some might say this represents an extenuating provocation leading to Donna’s outburst.

Donna: we still love you even if you’re a bit rough on papier mâché. You’ve been a model of what a state fed president should be. And, while you’ve earned a quiet, relaxing retirement we suspect we haven’t heard the last from you.

A Small Town In Germany
That’s what John le Carré called Bonn, the capital of the German Federal Republic established by three of the four postwar occupying powers. It was a backdrop for intrigue and international negotiations throughout the Cold War. Even after the 1990 German reunification eventually made Berlin the capital once more many German and international institutions remained in this city of about 300,000.

Among these are two of the so-called Rio Conventions, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Bonn was host to a key conclave on climate last week--and it was steeped in the tradition that inspired a generation of spy fiction. A headline in the British Guardian summed it up with brutal accuracy--Bonn climate talks end in discord and disappointment

Fiona Harvey writes,

“At the talks, countries were supposed to set out a workplan on negotiations that should result in a new global climate treaty, to be drafted by the end of 2015 and to come into force in 2020. But participants told the Guardian they were downbeat, disappointed and frustrated that the decision to work on a new treaty – reached after marathon late-running talks last December in Durban – was being questioned....

“Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate chief, said: ‘The world cannot afford that a few want to backtrack from what was agreed in Durban only five months ago. Durban was – and is – a delicately balanced package where all elements must be delivered at the same pace. It is not a pick and choose menu. It is very worrisome that attempts to backtrack have been so obvious and time-consuming in the Bonn talks over the last two weeks.’...”

While the parties did agree in principle to continue pursuing the Durban goal at a meeting scheduled in Qatar in November–a month before expiration of the only legally binding treaty committing countries to reduction of carbon emissions–even such trivial success appears unlikely. The EU countries–who did accept Kyoto quotas–have made clear they will not continue unless all major industrialized countries are on board. Canada and Japan have already said they will not renew--and the USA never even took a Senate vote on Kyoto.

Kyoto didn’t do much good. No treaty at all will take us back fifteen years in terms of international cooperation.

If you rely on your local paper or network television for your news, you probably didn’t even hear about the shenanigans in Bonn. And there’s not much reason for you to acquaint yourself with the nuances of diplomatic doublespeak so familiar in this quaint German town. As a leading climate scientist remarked, “There is very little science in the discussion, mostly political interests or political arguments...”

But while we can dismiss the endless, meaningless chatter we dare not ignore the continuing failure to act on the greatest crisis humanity has yet faced. That should be the top news story every day.

An AFP dispatch said,

“In a report issued on the penultimate day of new UN talks in Bonn, scientists said Earth's average global temperature rise could exceed the dangerous 3.5 C (6.3 F) warming they had flagged only six months ago. Marion Vieweg, a policy researcher with German firm Climate Analytics, told AFP the 3.5 C (6.3 F) estimate had been based on the assumption that all countries will meet their pledges, in themselves inadequate, to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Exposing one impact of this soaring thermometer, a Wednesday Reuters report said,

“Killer heat fueled by climate change could cause an additional 150,000 deaths this century in the biggest U.S. cities if no steps are taken to curb carbon emissions and improve emergency services, according to a new report. The three cities with the highest projected heat death tolls are Louisville, with an estimated 19,000 heat-related fatalities by 2099; Detroit, with 17,900, and Cleveland, with 16,600, the Natural Resources Defense Council found in its analysis of peer-reviewed data, released on Wednesday. Concentrated populations of poor people without access to air conditioning are expected to contribute to the rising death tolls. Thousands of additional heat deaths were also projected by century's end for Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., the report said.”

If you are a regular reader, you’ve seen many such reports in past columns. Over the past year, you have likely experienced some of the early stages of this unhealthy warming. In Kansas City, we had 90F readings in March. Such personal empirical observations are leading millions who formerly tried to doubt climate science to conclude something bad is happening.

The world’s decision-makers–designated by the bosses and bankers–are aware of science. They exploit science to exploit us, increasing our productivity and developing ever more deadly weapons of war.

But when it comes to climate science they deny, delay, and diffuse. The democratically planned restructuring of the global economy needed to stop climate change short of climate destruction is seen as a mortal threat to their profit, power, and privilege. They’re prepared to condemn their own grandchildren to bake along with ours rather than take their past winnings and step aside.

We will see no meaningful progress until the principals at Bonn, Durban, Rio and all the other so far pretentious gabfests are replaced by representatives of the working class majority--collaborating with climate scientists to take the necessary steps to save our biosphere.

In Brief...
¶ The months-long struggle initiated by Quebec students continues to gain allies and momentum. The latest variation of resistance against a special law of repression, enforced with thousands of arrests and gas attacks by the police, was numerous “casserole” marches throughout Quebec involving working class supporters. You can read a timely
summary and find several video links here. Negotiations between the government and student leaders are scheduled to resume today.
¶ The CBC reports this morning, “Labour Minister Lisa Raitt is poised to introduce back-to-work legislation today after negotiations between Canadian Pacific Railway and the union representing 4,800 striking locomotive engineers and conductors broke off Sunday.”
¶ From Saturday’s New York Times, “The United States Postal Service said late Friday that it was offering buyouts to about 45,000 mail handlers, part of the financially troubled agency’s efforts to cut its staff and reduce its operating costs. The mail handlers, who work in processing centers, will be offered $15,000 each. The Postal Service has said it will close 48 of the centers starting this summer, reducing the need for staff. Full-time mail handlers wanting to sign up for the buyouts must do so by July 2 and agree to leave or retire by Aug. 31, according to the agreement reached between the Postal Service and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. Part-time handlers have until July 16 to make a decision.”
¶ In a
Mike Elk piece about the recent convention of Railroad Workers United, Jon Flanders describes the group, “I always like to say that Railroad Workers United is a little gear that tries to move a bigger gear—the unions we belong to. We were formed to get our unions to do the right thing.” The gathering, held prior to the Labor Notes Conference, reviewed the fight against recent concessionary settlements with profitable carriers. They also heard from Nancy Lessin of the United Steelworkers’ Tony Mazzocchi Center for Safety, Health and Environmental Education on blame the worker safety programs. A reader from Michigan sent me a copy of a model resolution adopted in support of a labor party.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, May 29, our regular news updates on the Labor Advocate Blog will resume after the extended holiday weekend break.

That’s all for this week.

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