Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
July 30, 2006

‘The Future of Israel Is At Stake’
That’s not a quote from the Israeli war Establishment. It’s the title of
an article by Michael Warschawski, one of the most courageous and consistent Israeli citizens fighting for peace with justice and equality. He tells it like it is.

Disputing the claim by Israeli leaders that their brutal war drive is to save Jews from terrorists he says,

“The Israeli war in Lebanon is the paradigm of war in the 21st century—wars of world re-colonization and the subjugation of the peoples of the earth to Empire.”

In fact, many commentators in the American and British press recognize that the Israelis are collaborating with Washington and London as proxy point men in the regional struggle against the influence of Iran. Bush and Blair are too overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan to invade oil-rich Iran at this time but they strive to keep the pressure up through sanctions—and attacks on Iran’s Hizbullah ally in Lebanon.

Warschawski continues,

“What the Israeli public fails to understand is the dramatic implications that their government’s policy has on the state’s very existence in the heart of the Arab and Muslim worlds. By its unlimited brutality and its civilizational rhetoric and strategy, the State of Israel is demonstrating to the peoples of the region that it is, and wants to remain, a foreign and hostile body in the Middle East; no more than an armed extension of the United States of America and its anti-Muslim crusade of the 21st century. Everyone knows the fate of the Crusaders, ten centuries ago.…Olmert, Peretz and Halutz are the most dangerous and irresponsible leaders Israel has ever had, playing with a fire which may burn away our very national existence in the Middle East.”

But he’s a fighter, not a whiner. He concludes his article,

“On the weak shoulders of the small Israeli antiwar movement, stand not only the fate of the present Israeli citizenry and the moral decency of our society, but the very future of our children in this part of the world.

‘We refuse to be enemies!’ is one of the slogans of our demonstrations. Never before has such a slogan been so important, so urgent, and so existential.”

Yesterday, 2000 Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel braved threats and intimidation to march in Tel Aviv against the war drive. Those of us in the U.S. and Britain should emulate their bravery and determination to denounce not just the Israeli point men slaughtering civilians and wrecking infrastructure but also the real driving force behind this despicable war—the governments speaking in our name in the White House and Ten Downing.

And, while we are at it, let’s not forget the phony “peace” politicians who voted in the House for the pro-Israel war drive resolution, such as the “independent,” sometimes “socialist,” Bernie Sanders, and Kansas City’s own Rev. Emmanuel Cleaver, as well as others who weaseled by voting “present,” such as Barbara Lee and Dennis Kucinich.

There They Go Again
Some readers will remember the promising movement fifteen years ago for single-payer health care, modeled on the Canadian system. But then the leaders of the union movement, Citizen Action (remember those clever folks?), and Jobs for Justice got “practical,” and jumped on the Bill and Hillary Clinton bandwagon for health care “reform.” The rest is history.

Recently there have been some hopeful signs of a resurgence of single-payer. UAW president Ron Gettlefinger endorsed it at the recent UAW convention. The California Nurses Association has stepped up education and agitation around the demand. SPAN-OHIO has pulled together an impressive coalition of union and community groups to fight for single-payer in the Buckeye State. Representative John Conyers introduced HR 676, modeled on the Labor Party Just Health Care proposal.

But this modest success has galvanized new opposition—among our labor statesmen. Andy Stern, whose SEIU has deals with a number of employer “partners” in the health care, home care, and nursing home industries, recently started speaking out against single-payer. With help from an arch-rival in the AFL camp, CWA, and a liberal Democrat congressman from California, Pete Stark, Stern is peddling a new “practical” alternative—AmeriCare.

AmeriCare intends to “build on what works in today’s health care system.” About the only thing that works is the piling up of massive profits by health care and pharmaceutical corporations. Things are going so well for HCA—a project of the Frist family—that new “barbarians at the gate” are laying out 33 billion dollars to stock holders and creditors to take it private. But, in terms of delivering quality health care to all Americans, the system is clearly broken beyond repair.

AmeriCare claims it will offer “universal” eligibility—but then goes on to say there will be “special” eligibility for children. Essentially, AmeriCare is based on the present set up of employer provided health care—which is at the center of almost every union battle today and would continue to be under Stern/Stark’s slick sounding plan. The uninsured would be eligible to buy insurance through the government with special charity being shown to kids.

AmeriCare is another scam, not a solution. Surely, America can afford and deserves the level of health care enjoyed by our Canadian cousins. We should kick this latest swindle to the curb and keep on fighting for Just Health Care.

Minimum and Living Wages
I’m confused. The Missouri AFL-CIO, relying on troops from ACORN and Jobs for Justice to gather many thousands of voter signatures, has put a proposition on the state ballot to raise the minimum wage to 6.50 per hour. The national AFL-CIO has been campaigning for congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which supercedes state laws, to 7.25 per hour—which the Republican controlled House just did.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, the city council just passed a “living wage” ordinance requiring 10.00 per hour in wages, and three dollars per hour in benefits. However, the coverage of this ordinance is quite restricted, applying only to companies with more than one billion dollars in annual sales and stores of at least 90,000 square feet. Presently there are no such stores in the city of Chicago. It was designed exclusively to keep Wal-Mart out.

The unorganized working poor do desperately need more money. But, while any increase will be welcomed by those struggling with day-to-day necessities, 6.50 is a poverty wage, 7.25 is a poverty wage, and a phantom “living” wage doesn’t help much either.

These minimum wage proposals are cheap gestures aimed to embarrass the Republicans in order to help Democrat “friends.” The Wal-Mart ordinance is part of a futile scheme to harass the country’s biggest private sector employer into dealing with responsible union “partners.”

It’s high time for the labor movement to abandon such cynical maneuvers and to get serious about fighting for a real living wage guaranteed by law. At its 1996 Founding Convention the Labor Party wrote the following into its basic program,

“First and foremost everyone, both in the private and public sectors, needs a guarantee of a right to a job at a living wage — one that pays above poverty-level wages and is indexed to inflation. And in today's world that comes to a minimum of about $10 an hour. We want this right written directly into the U.S. Constitution.”

According to the BLS inflation calculator ten bucks in 1996 would be equal to 12.93 today. That’s not a princely sum but it’s twice as much as the Missouri AFL-CIO is asking for. 12.93, in conjunction with the Labor Party’s Just Health Care plan, would liberate many millions of workers from hardship.

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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