Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
June 5, 2006

War Criminals
The horrible truth about the slaughter at Haditha is finally coming out. The media is belatedly covering this mainly because a congressman concerned about the deterioration of U.S. troops on the ground chose, for his own reasons, to expose previous cover-ups. This has led to fresh investigations of other atrocities once dismissed as enemy propaganda.

Of course, there can be no excuse for the gunning down, execution style, of unarmed noncombatants, including children. While rage at seeing a comrade killed is understandable, the individuals who pulled the triggers have to be held accountable for their crimes.

But they are not the only ones who should be in the dock. The rules of engagement for the “war on terrorism” make such incidents inevitable. The Geneva Conventions no longer apply. The troops have been taught that every Iraqi (or Afghan) is a potential, indeed likely terrorist. It’s best to shoot first and ask questions, if necessary, later. If there is regrettable “collateral damage” compensation will sometimes be offered to families of the victims and appropriate apologies will be made.

More often than not though the victims are blamed. The killing of an Italian diplomat and driver, and the serious wounding of an Italian journalist just released by kidnappers on their way to the airport, was considered justified under the rules of road side checks. Likewise the recent killing of two women rushing to a hospital as one of them was going into labor. No time to hesitate when the enemy is everywhere. The enemy must be killed or captured–and kill gets top billing.

We can’t afford to ignore Haditha. But we’re hypocrites if we at the same time ignore the master war criminals–starting with Bush and Blair, including the top brass, and encompassing the “opposition” politicians who have given their blessing to the phony, criminal “war on terrorism.’

A Landmark Statement On Immigrant Rights
The Farm Labor Organizing Committee has filled an urgent need for the immigrant worker rights movement with a concise but
comprehensive statement of principles. It deserves wide circulation and discussion among not only the immigrant but broader labor movement as well.

Some highlights:

* “The FLOC position has always been a path to permanent residency for all immigrants who have come to support their families and are making important contributions to local economies and communities. FLOC also calls for reunification of separated families on different sides of a border.”

* “FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez has called for all workers in countries bound by ‘free trade’ agreements to have the right to seek jobs in any of those countries. FLOC also calls for full labor rights for all workers.”

* “The FLOC position is that immigration ‘enforcement’ is largely a false issue, serving mainly to provide government monitoring of all workers.”

* “FLOC members and leaders are opposed to militarizing the Mexican border, which has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths in recent years as people seeking opportunities to support their families have been forced to take more dangerous routes across the border.”

* “FLOC leaders have stated that punishing desperate people for seeking opportunities to support their families and escape oppression, building walls, and other ‘enforcement’ provisions will never stop migration, while U.S. policies such a ‘free trade’ agreements play a major role in the forces driving global migration.”

* “We have continually asked who is benefitting from restrictive policies? Whose power is being supported by catering to prejudice and hate? Whose wealth is being increased with billions of dollars delegated to building a border wall?

“While we are glad the Senate bill considers legal residency for some undocumented immigrants seeking opportunities to support their families, FLOC leaders find both the Senate and House bills are based largely on the lowest standards of human rights, and the political process beginning has been to compromise towards these lowest standards.

“As in all social issues, we are deciding what kind of society will we be?

“FLOC's standard is the same as the United States Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Bill of Rights, and the international Declaration of Human Rights, which is largely inspired by the U.S. Bill of Rights and to which the United States was a key author and signer:

‘everyone is entitled to full human, civil, due process, and working rights
... justice is for all human beings, without exception.’

“This standard is not negotiable”!

Doesn’t Sound Kosher
The current major economic and social issues in American society are becoming increasingly exposed in a tiny unlikely venue–Postville, a small town in northeast Iowa. That’s the home of AgriProcessors, the biggest producer of kosher beef and poultry products in the USA, and the only American company licensed to export meat to Israel.

Even if you are not a consumer of “Aarons’ Best” kosher meats you may have heard of this company. Maybe it was around the EPA suing them for violations of the Clean Water Act. Perhaps you saw the clandestine video PETA released showing the cruel slaughter practices at their plant. Then there was the time the EEOC investigated charges of supervisors demanding favors from their workers. There was some publicity about this plant receiving 25 percent of all OSHA citations in the Iowa meat industry. Or you may have picked up some news about their successful union-busting campaign against a UFCW organizing drive last year.

AgriProcessors has carried out a highly successful business plan. With capital accumulated from textile operations back east they picked up a bankrupt, very nonkosher packinghouse facility in Postville for a song. Finding their initial workforce of eastern European Jewish immigrants too costly they have recruited hundreds of Latino immigrants to replace them in this town with a population of about 2,000.

Wages start out at six bucks an hour. Health insurance is available–for fifty bucks a week. Straight time Sunday work is common. The plant observes only one Christian holiday–Christmas. The largely Latino workforce does get to stay home on major Jewish holidays–without pay. It’s no wonder their major kosher competitor, UFCW-organized Empire, claims they can’t compete and are laying off workers.

Only Solidarity
“only solidarity will bring us through the crisis of Capitalist Disorder.” That’s the concluding sentence of a thoughtful examination of
Black Labor Fights 'Disorder' of Globalization by Glen Ford and Peter Gamble in the Black Commentator. It’s well worth a read and I plan to comment on it soon.

Cutting Perks
“Sen. Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, faulted [Governor] Corzine for looking to the rest of New Jersey to pay for lavish union benefits instead of going to the unions and asking for cuts.” Normally I don’t pay much attention to such anti-worker whining of politicians. But then I read a little further, and it turns out Senator Sweeney is also the business manager for Ironworkers Union Local 399.

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

That’s all for this week.

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