Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review, May 8, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

They’re More Concerned About Precious Dough
This past week saw a breakthrough in the case of "Precious Doe," the name assigned four years ago to the then unidentified decapitated body of Erica Michelle Marie Green. The search for her identity and the facts behind her death have rightly stirred much public interest. Finally a tip last week led to the arrest of her mother and step-father who admitted the brutal killing and mutilation of Erica, who was only four years old at the time.

This story has been at the center of local media attention and has even made the national news. It has focused on the sincere indignation and concern expressed about the safety of children. That’s commendable.

Missing from all this attention about protecting children is what’s been happening around this issue in Jefferson City. Missouri currently has a network of 14 Child Advocacy Centers that–even though under-staffed and under-funded--have prevented some Precious Doe type tragedies. Governor Blunt’s budget proposes eliminating them altogether. "Moderates" in the legislature are trying save some of the centers by slashing their budget from 2.6 million to 1.9 It is unlikely they will prevail with even this pittance.

Any expenditure of public funds that doesn’t promote corporate interests is considered money wasted by those governing our state. There’s no profit to be made from rescuing abused children. Our indignation shouldn’t stop with those who killed little Erica. We should be also settling accounts with the callous hypocrites who choose to leave thousands more future abuse victims helpless.

Sweeney’s New Business Plan
The AFL-CIO headquarters started handing out pink slips last week to about a quarter of the staff. Gone is America@Work, a sometimes useful monthly magazine aimed at 100,000 or so local leaders and activists. The safety and health department was cut in half and folded into a new catch-all legislative and policy department. Also scrapped was the international affairs department, with the so-called Solidarity Center–who get both funds and marching orders from the Bush administration–now handling all global activities. Political action and field mobilization were merged.

Fed president Sweeney claims these cuts in service will free up about 15 million in rebates to affiliates to be used for organizing. "Reformers" backing SEIU’s Stern and Teamster’s Hoffa want much bigger cuts in the federation’s staff and structure and sixty million allocated to organizing. Sweeney is presenting what he believes will be accepted as a reasonable business plan by a majority of those eligible to vote at the federation convention in Chicago in July–where the "reformers" may put up UNITE-HERE’s John Wilhelm against Sweeney.

As yet neither side in these factional skirmishes has demonstrated that organizing has faltered primarily for lack of funds nor have they shown how affiliates would use money more effectively than the federation. Both sides seem to accept that communication and education are frills that can be safely sacrificed while "rebuilding" the labor movement. Once again we are reminded of how John L Lewis found an appropriate biblical story to describe the state of the labor movement–"lions led by asses."

British Elections
Tony Blair had two American assets going for him–staunch support from Bush and electoral strategy consultants from the Democrats. That’s probably why Labour’s majority only dropped 96 seats.

The Iraq war was, of course, a huge issue. The only thing that prevented a complete Labour rout was the determination of the working class not to return to the disastrous policies of the Tories–who also support the war. The mildly antiwar Liberals gained some at Labour’s expense but generally are not regarded as a serious contender.

Perhaps the sharpest rebuke to Blair came from a district in London’s East End that had been a safe Labour seat for the last 75 years. It was won by the remarkable George Galloway. Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party for his opposition to the war and had his district in Scotland gerrymandered out of existence. But, with the help of a$1.4 million libel judgment against The Daily Telegraph, which had alleged he received payments from Saddam's regime, Galloway put together an effective coalition of left groups and staunchly antiwar Muslims to defeat a Blair loyalist. We can expect to hear a lot more from him.

Blair and Bush also suffered a setback of sorts in the voting in occupied Ireland. The B&B boys, along with the prime minister in unoccupied Ireland, had carried out an international campaign against Sinn Fein–accusing them of complicity in criminal activities allegedly committed by the IRA. Sinn Fein didn’t just hold their own–they picked up a seat. The big loser was David Trimble, who had won a Nobel Prize for his pro-Crown advocacy in the Good Friday Accords and was First Minister in the since dissolved northern Ireland government briefly permitted by the British occupiers. Resigning his party leadership in disgrace poor David is now headed for the dole.

Our Bankrupt Legal System
On Tuesday, a federal bankruptcy judge is to rule on a sweetheart deal with the Bush administration to allow United Airlines to turn over its pension assets and obligations to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. This would be the largest pension default in history. It would mean slashed benefits for United workers as well as greatly weakening the PBGC’s ability to protect against future defaults by other companies.

For these reason’s three of United’s unions are prepared to strike against this breaking of their contracts. But United, and the administration will argue that the judge’s ruling will have the same weight as a negotiated contract and that any strike would be in violation of the Railway Labor Act.

That’s all for this week.

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