Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review, July 4, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org

Liberal ‘Opposition’ Mobilizes Once More
The liberals have set a new priority task for us–demanding that President Bush appoint a "mainstream conservative" judge to replace Justice O’Connor. One feminist leader somewhat understated this new campaign by explaining that it’s "not like we’re asking for the moon." Indeed it’s nothing like setting sites on anything as attractive as a lifeless ball of rock. It’s a new reductum absurdum variant of lesser evilism that took the form of Anybody But Bush in the last election.

Of course, it would be a big step backward if Roe v Wade were to be reversed. But Roe wasn’t won in the first place because enough suitable mainstream justices were finally assembled to deal fairly with the issue.

The Supreme Court is just as sensitive to social and political pressure as are the executive and legislative branches of government. The defining moment for the right to choose was made possible by a mighty mass movement of feminists who had decisively won public opinion, and pulled off some state level victories. More than that, the feminist effort coincided with a general upsurge that included mass movements around war, civil rights, and environmental issues as well. Roe was handed down just as the Watergate scandal was beginning to unfold. The Establishment, and their hand-picked guardians in the courts, were making concessions all along the line in an effort to restore political stability in a country in turmoil.

The best way to save Roe–and to respond to the many other attacks on working people today–is to revive that perspective of independent mass mobilizations. Begging won’t do it. Tantrums won’t do it. Obstruction tactics won’t do it. (In fact, the recent "compromise" on judicial appointments agreed to by Senate Democrats virtually eliminates the threat of blocking an anti-Roe appointment through arcane procedural obstacles.)

Until we can rebuild such mass movements the right to choose, along with much else, will be in imminent danger. The lack of a palpable political opposition on the left guarantees that all branches of government will be more responsive to the aggressive mobilizations of right-wing religious fanatics.

Last year the feminist movement showed there is potential for such revival. More than a million responded to the call for a March For Women’s Lives in Washington. But this impressive gathering was turned into a pep-rally for Kerry–who more than once stated that Roe would not be a litmus test for any Supreme Court nominee he would offer.

Others are also beginning to raise a serious discussion about resurrecting mass mobilization. Bruce Dixon, associate editor of the Black Commentator, wrote an interesting article published in the current issue of that online magazine, It’s Time to Build A Mass Movement.

Barbara Ehrenreich, in a perceptive little article in The Progressive, Tiny Labor, makes similar suggestions for the unions. She says, "Start seeing labor as a movement, not just an institution. ...Labor has to take on class-wide issues now—or risk being the ‘special interest group’ the right always claims it is. The unions should be spearheading the drive for universal health care, subsidized housing, and child care, adequate unemployment insurance, and all the other public benefits that would make low-wage workers’ lives more sustainable." And, noting the extravagant real estate the unions own within spitting distance of the White House and Capitol, she suggests, "Sell off the buildings right now, at the height of the real estate bubble, and fan out into storefronts and church basements around the country."

Ultimately, we need to build a new party as an expression of majority opposition to the bipartisan offensive against our rights and living standards on a wide range of issues. Those of us in the Labor Party are attempting to start the groundwork for that project. Once we gain traction for a party of our own we’ll be asking for the moon–and the stars as well.

Medicaid Gets Double Whammy–First Blunt, Then Big Bird
A woman in black robe rejected a last ditch effort for an injunction to stop Missouri’s ruthless cuts in Medicaid. 68,000 poor people, many of them children, will lose health care over the next year. If that wasn’t bad enough, liberal efforts to save "public" broadcasting succeeded in diverting another 100 million dollars in federal money from Medicaid programs.

Another Sequel To Salt Of the Earth?
Metal miners in the Southwest are again engaged in what looks to become a bitter strike. 750 copper miners at Asarco’s Ray Group, 60 miles north of Tucson, walked out Saturday morning with 700 more expected to join them at four other operations in Arizona and Texas. Asarco, a subsidiary of Grupo Mexico, acquired these mines from the infamous Phelps-Dodge. Phelps-Dodge broke a 1990 strike when a "friend of labor" Democrat governor–Bruce Babbitt, later appointed Secretary of Interior by Clinton–mobilized the national guard to escort scabs through the picket lines. Although copper prices are at a 16-year high, Asarco is demanding cuts in wages and benefits.

Look Down For Inspiration
In response to government attacks on worker rights through a new labor law Australian workers took to the streets in massive numbers in every major city. Over 100,000 marched in Melbourne. Such a turn out is all the more impressive considering Australia’s population is less than a tenth of the U.S.

Taking the High Road In Scotland
More than 200,000 workers and students demonstrated international solidarity against war and globalization at the G-8 summit meeting in Edinburgh.

After an extended holiday weekend break our Daily Labor News Digest resumes updates Tuesday.

That’s all for this week.