Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
September 11, 2005

A Double Anniversary Of Infamy
Of course, "9/11" is known to all of us for that infamous day in 2001 when three hijacked airliners were crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, with a fourth crashing in wilderness in Pennsylvania, apparently the result of resistance by passengers. We still grieve for the victims of those wretched, unconscionable acts. We all sympathize with the people of New York and Washington still coming to grips with its aftermath.

But the damage done by the terrorists that day was far greater than even the body count or property destruction caused by the diverted aircraft. "9/11" gave the ruling class an excuse to pursue bloody wars abroad and attacks on civil liberties here at home. It has also served as a cover for a reactionary lurch to the right by both major parties, rolling back past hard won gains of the American working class up and down the line.

This grim remembrance should also be a time of rededication by all civilized people to struggle against terrorist groups who attack civilians–and governments, above all the one that speaks in our name, who also attack and terrorize civilians.

This date was already a dark day in history for those of us who remember the horror unleashed 32 years ago in Chile by General Augusto Pinochet. In close collaboration with the U.S. government, the military brass launched a bloody coup that overthrew a democratically elected socialist government. The ensuing dictatorship killed at least three thousand and a thousand more victims "disappeared," their individual fates still unknown. Trade unions were smashed, political parties outlawed, campuses subdued. The working people of Chile are still seeking justice for this outrage–and so should we.

SEIU Shows Bird Dog Determination In Texas
After a long campaign, AFSCME finally succeeded a few months ago in getting the Texas legislature to agree to extend the same limited union rights long held by police and fire employees to all municipal workers in the state. Little did they know that SEIU, lurking in the background in Houston, was ready to pounce on a potential prize of 14,000 city workers there. Apparently running out of organizing targets elsewhere the purple people, who led a recent split from the AFL-CIO, instantly put thirty full-time organizers on the scene to battle AFSCME, who has long had informal status for this unit.

Farmer Jack Takes A Whack Second Time Around
One of SEIU’s partners in the Change to Win split, the UFCW, has again used their time honored method of taking second votes to get membership approval of concessions initially rejected. This time it was in the Detroit area grocery chain, Farmer Jack, currently a division of A&P. A&P say they want to sell the insufficiently profitable for them chain but can’t make a deal because of high union labor costs. UFCW leaders pitched the once rejected agreement as being the only way to save even some of the 6,000 Farmer Jack jobs. The new deal cuts wages ten percent and includes other give-backs. The most likely bidder for a takeover is Spartan Stores, a completely nonunion outfit.

An Omitted Detail
I saw wire service reports in the Kansas City and St Louis papers today about a flight from Memphis to Minneapolis that had to make an emergency landing in St Louis. First, an engine failed. Then they couldn’t deploy the landing gear. Finally, after circling Lambert Field for 45 minutes, the crew was able to manually lower their wheels. Passengers were warned to take a crouched position during landing and were evacuated out the tail exit. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The missing detail? This was a Northwest Airlines flight--where the mechanics have been on strike for better than three weeks. An FAA inspector early on raised serious safety concerns about NWA operating during the strike. The Twin Cities-based inspector has since been reassigned following the carrier's complaint that he acted "unprofessionally."

At least She Speaks Plainly
The Canadian Press wire service reports, "A high-profile Tory senator says she hopes thousands of CBC workers remain locked out for months ... so they won't be covering the next federal election. Marjory LeBreton -- a former top aide to Brian Mulroney who still occasionally acts as a spokeswoman for the ex-prime minister -- said the CBC is biased in favour of the Liberals and New Democrats."

Keeping Priorities Straight
About six-hundred members of the Mississippi Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team, posted south of Baghdad in the area known as the "Triangle of Death," live in the parts of southern Mississippi and southeastern Louisiana hit hardest by Katrina. The storm destroyed the homes of about half of them. Yet only eighty have been granted emergency leave. The rest were told by their brigade command that all other forward operating bases "are tapped out and cannot send troops." Yes, if these men and women selfishly went back home for the kind of duty they signed up for when joining the Guard who would maintain the Triangle of Death?

New Plans For Nuclear First Strike
The Pentagon has a draft new doctrine about launching preemptive nuclear attacks. It includes the option, with Presidential approval, of nuking an "enemy" with "stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons." The White House has, of course, been authorized by congress to pretty much decide for himself who an "enemy" is. Had this doctrine been in effect in 2003 a nuclear strike could have been launched against Iraq who, we were assured at the time, had stockpiles of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction.

In Case You Missed It Too
There has been an enormous amount published about all sides of the Katrina disaster. We’ve posted a lot of good stuff on the Daily Labor News Digest. I somehow missed one excellent piece–just called to my attention–that appeared on the Socialist Worker site. It’s an account by two people who became trapped in New Orleans while attending an EMT conference. Their story of what life was really like on the ground there is both informative and moving. You can check it out by clicking here.

That’s all for this week.

Sign Up For the KC Labor List

Past Weeks In Review