Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, May 30, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster,

How We Should Mark Memorial Day
In the USA tomorrow is Memorial Day, one of those holidays now structured to give a three-day weekend. It has come to mark the launch of summer travel and outdoor recreation. If you are state side I hope you are one of those to enjoy the extra time off. I’m sorry that the rest of you in other countries still have to punch a time clock tomorrow—but you all will more than make up for it with a lot more other paid days off than our poor American employers can grant.

Memorial Day was first launched in 1868 by a veteran’s group decorating the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington Cemetery. By 1890 it became an official holiday in all but the former Confederate states. The Jim Crow regimes in the south had their own day just for honoring the dead of the defeated army. Only after World War I gave new dead in a common conflict did Memorial Day become truly national in character—though several southern states still have a separate decoration day for Confederate dead.

While decorating graves may be a nice thing to do it seems like the best memorial to those who died in war would be to achieve peace. But there’s been no progress in that area. American GIs are in at least four combat areas on this Memorial Day—Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Just yesterday four more GIs were killed in Afghanistan. More than 800 American combat deaths have been recorded in Iraq. We don’t have accurate numbers of Iraqi and Afghan deaths but they are certainly in the many thousands, and many of them noncombatants.

(After I wrote this paragraph I happened to watch Sixty Minutes—which I seldom do—including Andy Rooney’s segment—which I almost never watch. Tonight he ran individual photographs of each GI killed in Iraq. As he commented, “this is what America looks like.” Even to an old cynic it was a moving experience.)

22,000 veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan were wounded, injured, or ill enough from their war service to seek medical care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. 4,500 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have sought readjustment assistance from VA's "Vet Centers."

Reservist and National Guard personnel called to active duty not only face the normal dangers of war and the pain of separation from their families—many also confront financial hardship as well. The naval base in Norfolk, Virginia is ringed with no fewer than 37 payday loan shops. Many soldiers are facing bankruptcy back home.

All this as a result of corporate greed, government lies, bipartisan complicity.

So while honoring the dead let’s take the advice of Mother Jones to also fight like hell for the living. Let’s support our men and women in uniform by bringing them home, where they belong, and providing them the assistance they need to return to a peaceful, civilian environment.

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Big Victory In California
The first state law setting nurse/patient ratios in hospitals survived a court challenge by the California Healthcare Association, a bosses organization. The
California Nurses Association (CNA) was instrumental in both getting the legislation passed last year and in defending against the employer court challenge. As of January 2004, there had to be one nurse for every six patients. Next year the ratio goes to five-to-one. This is a big victory for the quality of health care in the nation’s largest state as well as strengthening the collective bargaining power of CNA.

CWA Holds Their Own At SBC
After a four-day strike, the first at SBC since it separated from Ma Bell in 1984, the
Communication Workers of America reached agreement on a new five-year contract. The company had been pushing for major take-aways in health care benefits. Under the new agreement SBC still pays the full cost of health insurance premiums. Workers will pay a bit more in co-pays, and wage increases were scaled back to help pay for increased insurance costs to the company. Both CWA members and Wall Street consultants view the settlement as a victory for the union.

Labor Party To Resume Labor Day Picnic Tradition
Kansas City Labor Party will return to the tradition of a Labor Day Picnic this year after a two-year hiatus. The gathering will take place at Macken Park in North Kansas City. Mark your calendar!

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