Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
August 14, 2012

A Kiss Is Still A Kiss
The media was all a twitter about Romney’s selection of Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate. There was some initial confusion as Mitt introduced the chair of the House Budget Committee as the “next President of the United States.” A quick correction established that Ryan was in fact in the Number Two slot.

Most of the non-Olympic content of the weekend news cycle was devoted to following this dynamic duo in a whirlwind of big, exciting rallies at venues such as the NASCAR Technical Institute in North Carolina. Ryan, however, was not invited to accompany his new boss at an appearance in Florida–home to millions of cranky, self-centered seniors who have been whining about the Wisconsin lawmaker’s clarion calls for privatizing Social Security and replacing Medicare with vouchers.

Completely ignored by every major news outlet except the Philadelphia Inquirer was a march and rally in the birthplace of the Philly Cheese Steak that exceeded the collective totals of all of the GOP ticket events. The organizers of the Saturday AFL-CIO Workers Stand for America claim 45,000 participants and even the generally more stingy police said at least 30,000.

Federation president Richard Trumka set the tone,

 “We built this country, we wake it up and we put it to sleep and it’s time to take it back!... Hard work alone has never led to decent wages and benefits and retirement for every American. It’s hard work and activism.”

And did he have any new forms of activism in mind? He did indeed–fighting for the Second Bill of Rights. The SBOR is a slight tweaking of an electioneering gimmick by FDR in his successful bid for a fourth term as President in 1944:

Full employment and a living wage.
Full participation in the electoral process.
A voice in the workplace.
A high-quality education.
A secure, healthy future.

I would have added hot dogs, baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet–but I guess we shouldn’t get greedy. According to Alfred Lubrano writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer,

“The idea evolved after a ‘lover's quarrel’ between labor and the Democratic Party, according to Jamie Horwitz, spokesman for Workers Stand for America. Labor leaders were angered by the party's decision to hold the Democratic convention during the week of Sept. 3 in Charlotte, N.C., perceived as an antiunion town, Horwitz said.”

How will we win these platitudes that weren’t fully realized in 1944? Lubrano continues,

“The plan is to make politicians of both parties sign the Second Bill of Rights ‘Grover Norquist-style,’ Horwitz said, a reference to the conservative lobbyist who has gotten nearly every Republican member of Congress and a handful of Democrats to sign a pledge not to raise taxes. Labor leaders intend to make public the names of those who sign the Second Bill of Rights - and of those who don't. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.) announced to the crowd that he happily signed the document, then gave a brief but rousing speech about fighting for the labor movement.”

Lunch Box Joe Biden was a no show in Philadelphia–no flowers as a peace offering in the little lovers spat. Perhaps he was afraid somebody would ask him to sign the SBOR. But the semi-official Federation scribe Mark Gruenberg tells us,

“It got an ‘almost’ commitment from Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. The Florida congresswoman, who also addressed the crowd, told reporters afterwards the party supports the principles outlined in the second, economic Bill of Rights, and has done so through Obama’s term.”

Well, there you go. They’ve been working on these rights for us all along. We just didn’t notice. We must learn to pay more attention.

Of course, some arguments with your honey are best kept private while you smile and hold hands in public. That probably explains why, after such bitter denunciation of Ryan’s plan to stick the knife to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, not a peep was heard about the apple of our eye in the White House calling for bipartisan action to send these programs to a more gentle, dignified hospice.

When you get right down to it that’s the essential difference between the two parties’ approach to workers–as time goes by, with the Democrats you still get the kiss.

Taking A Out Of ACA
The Labor-Democrat odd couple is also bickering about emerging details of the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare.

The law mandates purchase of “affordable” health insurance offered by your employer. If the employer plan is deemed too expensive for your family income you are eligible for government subsidy to pay the insurance Robber Baron. But the Obama Administration is planning to judge affordability based solely on individual coverage–not including the worker’s dependents.

Average total premiums currently run 5,430 a year for single coverage and 15,070 for family coverage. The worker, on average, directly pays 920 for individual, more than 4,000 for family.

The Administration thinks these present rates are just fine, even for a family income of 35,000. If you are only spending a mere twelve percent of your wages on health insurance don’t look for a government hand out. The bottom line is that millions of family members will likely remain uninsured under this twist of ACA.

Climate Watch
Writing on the Opinion Page of the New York Times Sunday Review three more scientists said,

“By many measurements, this summer’s drought is one for the record books. But so was last year’s drought in the South Central states. And it has been only a decade since an extreme five-year drought hit the American West. Widespread annual droughts, once a rare calamity, have become more frequent and are set to become the ‘new normal’

“Until recently, many scientists spoke of climate change mainly as a ‘threat,’ sometime in the future. But it is increasingly clear that we already live in the era of human-induced climate change, with a growing frequency of weather and climate extremes like heat waves, droughts, floods and fires.”

They conclude,

“There is still time to prevent the worst; the risk of a multidecade megadrought in the American West can be reduced if we reduce fossil-fuel emissions. But there can be little doubt that what was once thought to be a future threat is suddenly, catastrophically upon us.”


Guardian science editor Robin McKie writes,

“In 2004 there was about 13,000 cubic kilometers of sea ice in the Arctic. In 2012, there is 7,000 cubic kilometers, almost half the figure eight years ago. If the current annual loss of around 900 cubic kilometers continues, summer ice coverage could disappear in about a decade in the Arctic.

“The consequences of losing the Arctic's ice coverage, even for only part of the year, could be profound. Without the cap's white brilliance to reflect sunlight back into space, the region will heat up even more than at present. As a result, ocean temperatures will rise and methane deposits on the ocean floor could melt, evaporate and bubble into the atmosphere. Scientists have recently reported evidence that methane plumes are now appearing in many areas. Methane is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas and rising levels of it in the atmosphere are only likely to accelerate global warming. And with the disappearance of sea ice around the shores of Greenland, its glaciers could melt faster and raise sea levels even more rapidly than at present.”

Big Three Contract Talks Open In Canada
The Canadian Auto Workers, representing 8,000 General Motors, 4,000 Ford, and 8,000 Chrysler workers north of the border open bargaining today. Unlike the past few contracts, when concessions were granted to poverty-pleading employers, all Three are again profitable.

But that doesn’t mean the Big Three will be amenable to restoring give-backs made under duress. Since President Obama “saved the American auto industry” through imposition of massive job, wage, and benefit cuts, labor costs in Canadian Big Three plants are–even with Canada’s single-payer health care--now somewhat higher than in the USA. As one economist notes, expansion of the North American auto industry as a whole has been entirely in Mexico or the unorganized southern states, with Big Three plant closings continuing in Canada.

We wish the CAW sisters and brothers well in what will certainly be a tough fight.

Following the Lead Of Congress
Even though they were not quite finished, Congress split over a week ago for a little vacation break running until well after Labor Day. It’s an example I will now largely imitate. Though it certainly won’t all be fun vacation time I won’t be doing any more daily news updates on the
Labor Advocate Blog until after Labor Day and the next Week In Review will be around the Labor Day weekend.

Later this week my wife Mary and I will be driving up to Minneapolis for what will be a a fun long weekend for her while I attend a gathering of Socialists where I’ll be giving a report on workers and climate change. After that we each have some personal tasks that need to be taken care of.

That’s all for this week.

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