Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
August 26, 2005

As Soon As I Leave Town...
You can count on it–whenever I go on the road, deviating from my routine in maintaining the kclabor.org site, big things happen that deserve immediate attention. I want to touch base with the KC Labor list on some of the most time sensitive developments before making appropriate updates on the site and producing a fuller WIR toward the end of the coming weekend.

Northwest Mechanics Strike
As expected, Northwest Airlines forced their mechanics to go on strike. The carrier demanded that the mechanics and other maintenance workers agree to contracting out a majority of their jobs along with big pay cuts for those remaining.

Northwest assembled hundreds of scabs in advance, most of them experienced mechanics laid off from other airlines, some recently returned from Iraq where they worked for contractors employed by the occupation forces.

Unfortunately, the bosses also obtained assurances from the leaders of other craft unions that they would not support the mechanics organized in the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA).

But solidarity is not as dead as the perspective of these craft bureaucrats–and neither is the strike. Dozens of IAM baggage handlers at Northwest, rejecting the advice of their Mr Block "leaders," have utilized their contract rights to honor the AMFA picket lines. That took some guts and they will be missing the same paychecks as the strikers. Many flight attendants, lacking the contractual guarantees of the IAM workers, have found ways to protest being forced to work on scab-maintained flights. UPS pilots, organized in an independent union, have refused to handle goods diverted from Northwest.

The timing of the strike happened to coincide with commemorations of the twentieth anniversary of the UFCW Local P-9 Hormel strike in Austin, Minnesota. Meetings were held in both Austin and the Twin Cities–home base of Northwest. The P-9 strike produced a model support committee movement. One of the leaders of the P-9 solidarity committee, Peter Rachleff, took the initiative in circulating a solidarity statement for the Northwest strike and brought it to the St Paul commemoration meeting. The overflow crowd at that event enthusiastically endorsed establishing a new solidarity movement for Northwest and collected a thousand dollars in small donations on the spot. A public solidarity rally will take place in the Twin Cities this Saturday, August 27.

A similar groundswell of support is developing in Northwest’s other major hub in Detroit.

We will soon have a page up on the site dedicated to strike information and support. In the meantime we can all help out with financial contributions to the strike fund. You can donate online by going to this link.

Some Antiwar Unity On September 24
Those of us who have been fighting for unity in the antiwar movement finally could feel a sense of gratification this past week. While rival coalitions will assemble at different locations in Washington on September 24 they have agreed to come together for a unified march and rally. This is a giant step forward from where we were just a week ago. Now we need to use the short time remaining to build a truly massive turnout in Washington, along with west coast actions at the same time in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and a demonstration the following day in St Louis.

Also, this past week the Steelworkers, UE, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, adopted strong antiwar resolutions.

Two Approaches to Labor Day
The Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO is organizing a "first annual Labor Day parade." Of course it is not on Labor Day but on Saturday, August 27. The main featured speakers are "friends of labor" holding office. There’s Mayor Waldo Barnes. And Representative Emanuel Cleaver, who helped labor by voting for the Republican "reform" of bankruptcy law. But my favorite is Representative Dennis Moore. Moore had the distinction of casting the deciding vote in favor of Fast Track. He is also part of the CAFTA 15–those Democrats who took labor’s money and then helped the Republicans to advance the spread of NAFTA through the new Central America Fair Trade Agreement.

A much smaller event will take place on Labor Day, Monday, September 5. The KC Labor Party will be gathering for a cook-out and some discussion about how we can defend ourselves from the "friends of labor" touted by the central labor council. If you’re in the KC area drop by and join us. Let us know you are coming by calling 816-221-3638 or 816-753-1672 so we’ll be sure to have enough food and beverage on hand.

That’s all for this week.

Personal P.S.
Thanks to the many of you who sent messages of congratulation on my recent marriage. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to personally respond to all of them. Both Mary and I appreciated all your well wishes.

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