Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review, May 30, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

Border Line Calls
Thanks to those of you who responded to the appeal we passed along from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) for protests against the threat by the Mexican government to deport FLOC representative Brendan Greene. Greene is assigned to monitor cross-border enforcement of FLOC’s historic contract covering 8,000 H2A Mexican guestworkers employed by the North Carolina Grower's Association and the Mt.Olive Pickle Company. Greene held informational meetings in several villages explaining potential recruit’s rights under the agreement. He also investigated grievances by workers who have been charged more than the required amounts for their visa interviews and travel by agents of the recruiters of the Association. Greene was harassed by cops and then ordered to a deportation hearing, initially scheduled last Thursday in Monterrey. As FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez said "apparently, Brendan has touched a nerve in the corrupt element in this process and there is now an attempt to get him out of the country." The many phone calls and faxes to the Mexican embassy had some effect and the hearing was rescheduled until May 30. We’ll keep you informed of developments in this important case.

Another union that has close ties to Mexican workers on both sides of the border is the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers (UE). They maintain an excellent international solidarity web site. An interesting feature on the site is Shop 'til you drop on a Mexican wage, comparing how many hours Mexican and U.S. workers have to toil to buy the same product. It’s a graphic explanation of what motivates so many Mexican workers to immigrate, as either legal "guests" or undocumented.

It’s probably no accident that both FLOC and UE have been stalwarts of the Labor Party from the get-go.

Did They Now?
"GE union vote sends 130 jobs south of border" read a headline in the Ft Wayne Journal Gazette.

Actually, of course, it was GE management that decided to send 130 transformer jobs to a plant in Mexico. What the IUE-CWA workers rejected was a five dollar an hour cut in wages demanded by GE as the price for not immediately moving their jobs.

Two Demonstrations Better Than None
The majority of American people opposed to the war in Iraq continues to grow. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the organized antiwar movement which has long been divided by sectarian factionalism and lacks a mass focus. We have reported on efforts by US Labor Against the War to try to unify antiwar forces around a mass demonstration this autumn. Recently the two major centers of the movement–ANSWER and UFPJ–endorsed the need for unity. They then each proceeded to call for their own March On Washington–two marches, same day, different locations in the same city. It is good that efforts will be made to draw tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands into the streets to make antiwar sentiment visible. It is absurd to have essentially competing actions. The media will focus on movement divisions rather than the majority the movement seeks to speak for. Those who think there should be one unified effort can express your opinion by sending messages to Leslie Cagan of UFPJ and Brian Becker of ANSWER:

lesliecagan@igc.org brianbecker2000@yahoo.com.

Getting 45 Million To Pay Up
What do the National Association of Manufacturers, Heritage Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Pfizer, United Healthcare, and the AMA have in common with the AARP, Families USA, AFL-CIO, and SEIU’s crusading dissident Andy Stern? Why they are all concerned about our health, of course. They are especially interested it seems in the 45 million or so Americans who don’t contribute any money to health insurance companies for coverage. They are looking for legislation to require more of the working poor to contribute their fair share to health industry profits. Our friend Andy Pollack sent us this comment:

"The explicit goal of the coalition is to put forward only incremental steps, and ... it is opposed to a single-payer solution and insists on a continued role for the insurance industry.

"Beside the AFL rep, Andy Stern is also a member of the project. So both wings of the ‘debate’ in the AFL are represented in this shameful effort.

"Labor activists are already mobilizing for the July AFL convention to demand the Federation change its foreign policy; maybe supporters of single-payer should show up in Chicago and demand labor tops pull out of this project and mobilize the ranks for a universal, government-paid program."

Right on, Andy. Fortunately, some unions are not getting with the program of shilling for the insurance companies. UAW Local 1112 in Warren, Ohio is taking initiative to launch a new chapter of the Single-Payer Action Network Ohio (SPAN Ohio), an ambitious project for "Lifetime Comprehensive Health Care for All Ohioans." And the Labor Party continues to win support for the only fair and practical national plan on the table–Just Health Care.

As always, much of the material for this column came from stories posted on our Daily Labor News Digest.

That’s all for this week.