Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
June 19, 2007

We are sad to report that our friend Nancy Carry has passed away. Widely known by her e-mail handle, “nannynine,” Nancy was a trade unionist and antiwar leader. A founding member of Kansas City Labor Against the War, she also played a central role in the Kansas City Iraq Task Force in the run up to the invasion when hundreds, at times thousands, rallied at the Plaza Fountain. Whether at a planning meeting, mass demonstration, or watching a Royals game, Nancy was always a pleasure to be around. She will be missed.

Reading Some of the Numbers
* Home mortgage foreclosures hit the highest rate in more than a half-century. Though all classes of loans have seen defaults rise the so-called “subprime” are the chief culprit. Those are the ones that lure working class renters with low teaser rates to start them on the road to home ownership--and then bash them with ballooning rates down the road. While there is now much tongue clicking about these unsound practices this is what has fueled the housing market, and home ownership rates, over the past decade.

* The Consumer Price Index posted an increase of 0.7 percent, the biggest one-month gain since the fall of 2005 when energy prices surged after Hurricane Katrina shut down Gulf Coast oil production. This time it was not only sharp increases in gasoline but also in food that drove the CPI up.

* The flip side of the price hike surge was the report that weekly earnings for non-supervisory workers, after adjusting for inflation, fell by 0.2 percent last month. That was the fourth decline in the past five months, reflecting the bite inflation is taking out of paychecks.

* A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed President Bush’s approval rating had sunk to 26 percent. That could have been expected. Perhaps more shocking to some was that the new Democrat congress got even lower marks. The “opposition” managed only a 23 percent thumbs-up. It seems the same priority issue drove both numbers down–the war in Iraq.

Need A Wooden Stake
It looked like the bipartisan immigration bill was mortally wounded in the Senate. But, after getting a boost from a rousing reception in Albania, President Bush returned home to call and pump. The majority leader has now consented to another try. Optimism revived, SEIU, supporters of the guest worker legislation, sent a scouting party to Mexico to meet with government and employer officials to explore how they could get a taste of the new deal.

Meanwhile, heavy heat is being applied on immigrant workers. After the city of New Haven, Connecticut declared itself a sanctuary city, and issued ID cards to immigrants, ICE made some backatcha high profile raids. Far from intimidated, immigrant rights supporters in that town staged an impressive march (you can see short video by clicking here.) For a good summary of where things stand see David Bacon’s Who Killed the Immigration Bill, and Who Wants It to Come Back?

Getting A Hearing In Sacramento
Michael Moore is based in New York, not Hollywood. He doesn’t quite cut the same action figure as the Golden State’s governor. But the producer of
SiCKO, with the help of some friends, got a lot of attention in the California capital. He appeared at an unofficial public briefing led by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, the author of a state single-payer bill. Then it was off to a thousand-plus march and rally on the capitol steps, organized by the California Nurses Association. “Very early on, [the CNA] were out front on this issue and have been very supportive of me,” Moore said. “And I was very supportive of them in terms of hoping that this issue would come to the forefront. And now it is.”

In addition to the California bill, Moore and the CNA are promoting HR676–modeled on the Labor Party Just Health Care program--introduced in congress by John Conyers. Conyers said, “The release of Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ is one of the most important developments in the national debate on our health care crisis since the Clintons attempted to pass universal health care legislation in 1994.”

Oprah Winfrey featured Moore on her top rated TV show and was quite supportive of single-payer. Steelworkers president Leo Gerard has written an upbeat review of the film.

CNA and Physicians for a National Health Care Program are mobilizing to distribute single-payer literature at SiCKO screenings in 3000 theaters. The idea is to get those informed and entertained by the film involved in the grass roots political movement needed to win single-payer. As Moore noted, “Funny how they both have the same root word: ‘movie,’ ‘movement.’ ”

Save the ILS
The Institute for Labor Studies, based at the University of Missouri Kansas City, has been one of the few labor institutions in this town we could be proud of. Directed by Judy Ancel, the ILS not only puts on regular credit courses of use to labor but has organized numerous conferences, helped unions with strategic planning, organized labor history tours, and has been the producer of the award winning weekly radio show, the Heartland Labor Forum. ILS was an initiating sponsor of the upcoming
Labor& Sustainability Conference.

All that could come to a halt tomorrow. Campus management is looking to scrap the whole program. While they have used a mandate to cut the UMKC budget by one percent as an excuse that dog doesn’t hunt. The ILS has always been self-sustaining–often profitable--in fiscal terms.

This is a message I sent to the UMKC chancellor,

Dear Chancellor Bailey

I am surprised and disturbed after learning of your decision to terminate the Institute for Labor Studies, and Judy Ancel's position as ILS director.

I served for several years on the ILS advisory board representing Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1287. Since my retirement I have continued to stay in touch with ILS activities. I know the diverse classes and other programs that the ILS has made available. I also know that this is a unique source, one that would be sorely missed if you follow through with your announced plans to scrap it.

My experience on the board also taught me that the ILS programs are financially self-sustaining. Tuition, or subsidies from unions, covered the budget. There can be no fiscal justification for ending this valuable resource.

Regardless of your intentions, or pressures you may feel from others, termination of ILS will be seen as a slap in the face to working people in our area. I strongly urge you to reverse this ill advised measure.


Bill Onasch
retired Vice-President ATU 1287

If you live in the Kansas City area I urge you to send a similar message immediately to:

That’s all for this week.


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