Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, August 15, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster,

Enron Lives On
News about Enron caught my eye this week. It seems they are one of three American companies that run electricity in the Dominican Republic. These megawatt moguls claim the government of the DR owes them 300 million dollars and they have been shutting off power as part of their collection efforts. But help is on the way. Former president Leonel Fernández, who sold them his nation’s grid system during the Nineties, is returning to office once again. He is negotiating a 600 million dollar IMF loan to pay the light bill and other debts to foreign companies and banks.

They’ll Leave the Light On For You In Macomb County
This county just north of Detroit doesn’t tolerate freeloaders in its jail. Inmates–there were 22,000 of them last year–are billed for room and board on a sliding scale of $8 to $56 a day, depending on ability to pay. When they are released, the sheriff's office will go to court to collect the unpaid bills, seizing cars or putting some inmates back in jail. These inn keepers collected 1.5 million in “pay to stay” last year.

Lucky To Get A Job
About 30,000 have mailed in post cards to apply for 3,000 temporary, nonunion dock jobs in the Port of Los Angeles. Selections will be through a lottery drawing.

Sheepskin No Insulation Against Unemployment
In a big turn around from just a decade ago, unemployment among college grads is increasing almost as fast as for those with only high school diplomas. Even the differential with high school drop outs is only about half of what it was ten years ago. The Economic Policy Institute says, “The current recovery has been marred by the persistent lack of job creation for workers of all educational levels. The present economic woes are not due to failures regarding the supply side of labor (such as too few college graduates), but rather they are the result of a persistently low demand for all  labor.”

Still Out Of Control
I was asked this afternoon, by our site safety editor, how I would characterize the present situation in Iraq. That was the easiest answer I’ve had to give in a long time: out of control. My answer would remain the same if the question was short term prognosis or medium term prediction.

Bush and Blair had hoped the “handover of power” to their former intelligence operative, Ayad Allawi, would at least buy them some time. But the bogus “sovereign” Iraqi government didn’t get so much as a day of honeymoon. It has been met with virtually unanimous contempt and defiance. In every part of Iraq–Baghdad, Mosul, Bosra, Kut, Najaf, Falluja–U.S. and British troops and planes have had to continue to intervene in bloody combat while the new Iraqi army and police position themselves strategically on the sidelines.

The long awaited Iraq National Conference opened on Saturday.  The gathering was held under intense security precautions in the fortified Green Zone enclave in Baghdad, with helicopters flying overhead and 15-foot-high concrete barriers blocking the entrance. Bridges leading to the area were barricaded and the government imposed a daytime curfew for the area. The delegates were all frisked for weapons. American security forces were in charge. Still, with all these precautions, mortar fire twice shook the conference hall.

As this conclave of compradors ruminates those on the other side of the barricades, the people of Iraq, continue to suffer with mass unemployment, lack of reliable electricity and drinking water, and collapsed health care and educational systems–not to mention ongoing “collateral damage.”

GIs, and their coalition counterparts, also continue to suffer, more dead and wounded recorded daily.

The cause of this suffering is the U.S./British invasion/occupation. A precondition for any progress is the withdrawal of the occupation forces.

A clear majority of the American people now support such withdrawal. But you will not hear this demand raised by the major party candidates in what has become the longest and most expensive election campaign in history.

The antiwar movement can ill-afford to subordinate efforts to defeating Bush–as many have–especially when Bush’s opponent favors continuation of the war. The only major national demonstration currently projected is at the Republican convention. (There was no major antiwar action at the Democrat convention.)

The only bright spot in the antiwar movement has been the dogged determination of US Labor Against the War who are winning support among American unions and building solidarity with labor around the world in support of Iraqi unions.

In the long run only a strong Iraqi labor movement, in collaboration with movements for women’s and democratic rights, can unite the diverse forces of a post-Saddam, post-occupation Iraq, and bring a democratic, peaceful stability to this long suffering country. American workers should support those efforts–above all by demanding our GIs be brought home now.

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