Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review, June 26, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster,

USLAW Continues To Point the Way
US Labor Against the War remains a welcome bright spot on the labor horizon. While both the antiwar and trade union movements continue to be plagued by turf wars and lack of focus USLAW reached out to both of these constituencies to pull off a highly successful national tour of Iraqi trade unionists. As a result the message from Iraqi workers got out to a much wider audience in this country; the Iraqi unionists have learned some valuable lessons about the situation in the U.S.; and material assistance for Iraqi unions–modest by American standards but of substantial help in their country–was raised. We have posted some reports of tour meetings in several cities on the Daily Labor News Digest and should have a complete roundup available after the USLAW steering committee coming up later this week. Hopefully this worthy achievement will not only attract well earned praise but also some emulation of their approach elsewhere in the broader movements.

Must See DVD
Larry Duncan and the folks at Labor Beat have produced another top-notch video, The AFL-CIO: The Workers Must Fix It! It takes a look at the factional brawling in the upper echelons of the "house of labor" from a perspective of rank-and-file workers battling on the ground. Interspersed with clips of such luminaries as John Sweeney, Andy Stern, and Lane Kirkland are remarks from commentators such as Bill Fletcher, a prominent figure in the labor, antiwar, and international solidarity movements who once served briefly as a special assistant to Sweeney; Harry Kelber, an old-time labor activist and educator who has written hundreds of articles over the years dissecting the workings of the union bureaucracy; Chris Silvera, leader of a Long Island Teamsters local and chair of the Teamsters Black Caucus; Kim Scipes, a labor educator who is an expert on labor foreign policy; Alan Benjamin, a delegate to the San Francisco labor council who has played a leading role in USLAW’s solidarity work with Iraqi unions; and Mike Griffin, a former rank-and-file worker at AE Staley in Decatur, Illinois who came forward as a Road Warrior for solidarity during their long strike struggle a decade ago--and has been stirring up trouble for the bosses and bureaucrats ever since. (Some of you in Kansas City may remember Mike Griffin from when the local Labor Party helped arrange speaking engagements for him at the Labor and Politics conference, and a Missouri AFL-CIO convention, during the Staley struggle. A number of us also drove to Decatur to carry the Labor Party banner at mass solidarity rallies, where workers at Firestone and Caterpillar were also on strike at the same time.) In only 28 minutes, the video can’t give all the answers on how the workers can fix our unions–but it sure poses the right questions. It’s well worth a look and can be useful to show at union gatherings and house meetings. To order send a check, payable to Labor Beat, for 15 dollars to: Labor Beat / 37 S. Ashland Blvd. # W / Chicago IL 60607 and specify whether you want DVD or VHS.

Penalty for Early Withdrawal?
Part of the legacy UNITE-HERE inherited from one of its grandparents, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, is the Amalgamated Bank, a substantial financial institution based in New York. Reportedly, one factor troubling UNITE-HERE leaders as they ponder whether or not to join SEIU and others in a split from the AFL-CIO is what happens if unions loyal to the federation withdraw their massive accounts in the bank.

Think Global, March Local
I’ve been asked to pass along that there will be a Kansas City rally and march to protest the G-8 summit, Wednesday, July 6. The 7PM rally point is the 31st & Broadway entrance to Penn Valley Park and from there will be a march to the Board of Trade.

What Would WEBD Think?
The country’s oldest civil rights group appears to be adopting a new business plan–and it would undoubtedly shock some of the organization’s pioneer leaders, such as WEB DuBois. Of course, the NAACP has steadily evolved over the past 50 years or so from an activist organization to primarily focusing on litigation. Now, in the midst of the worst crisis facing Black America in generations, they have taken a bold new leap to further distance themselves from their roots. A former Verizon executive, Bruce S. Gordon, has been named president and chief executive. Gordon definitely brings some fresh ideas. According to Ellen Barry, writing in the Los Angeles Times, "under his leadership, the NAACP would increase its emphasis on entrepreneurial growth....He also said the venerable civil rights organization should transcend partisan politics and build its ties with the Bush White House."

Fat Cats Still Do Okay In Mouseland
Many of you have seen the animation Mouseland, where Tommy Douglas, a founder of Canada’s labor party, the NDP, presented a clever cat-and-mouse allegory of the class struggle. Because of the NDP, Canadian workers are better off in many respects–above all health care–than their cousins south of the border. But rest assured, the cats are still in good shape as well. Paralleling ruling class prosperity in the U.S. and Britain since Reagan/Thatcher, "the top 1 per cent of Canada's wealthiest citizens have returned to their pre-Second World War glory by recapturing a double-digit share of the nation's income," according to studies by two university economists.

That’s all for this week.

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