Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
September 16, 2007

Carol McAllister
Carol McAllister, a movement activist who touched the lives of many of our readers, passed away yesterday in a losing second bout with breast cancer at the age of 60. With the help of a scholarship from her mother’s union, the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (now part of UNITE-HERE), she attended Cornell University where she began her training as an anthropologist–and a campus radical. Later moving to Pittsburgh she played an active role in the antiwar, feminist, and socialist movements and was an early supporter of the Labor Party. We will post an initial remembrance of Carol by her long-time friend Paul LeBlanc on the Monday Daily Labor News Digest. We join her son Joshua in both mourning her passing and celebrating her wonderful life.

Bush Stays Course–As Does the Fragmented Antiwar Movement
There were few surprises in Washington on the war issue this past week. As expected, General Petraeus essentially called for staying the course and not surprisingly his boss endorsed that idea. The Democrats huffed and puffed much ado equaling nothing. MoveOn.org sought to reclaim its “radical” image by insulting Petraeus with a play on his name in a New York Times ad. Business as usual.

Unfortunately, the same could be said for the antiwar movement. We needed a united, massive response to the politicians timetable of continued war through next year’s election. But one national coalition–UFPJ–declined to have anything to do with yesterday’s March on Washington initiated by their factional rival ANSWER.

Unlike some of their past actions, the ANSWER March on Washington had a clear focus on ending the Iraq war now. The event had some good speakers including Fred Mason, president of the Maryland/DC AFL-CIO, and a national co-convener of US Labor Against the War; Cindy Sheehan; Ralph Nader; Ramsey Clark to mention a few. The march was led by Iraq Veterans Against the War.

But since it was boycotted by much of the movement the September 15 action numbered only in the tens of thousands instead of the hundreds of thousands that could and should have been there. This allowed the media to speak of “dueling demonstrations,” giving equal play to the less than a thousand foul mouthed counter-protesters brought to Washington by Gathering of Eagles–who describe themselves as a 501(c)(4) corporation that “relies upon the generous private financial support of individuals, associations, foundations.”

UFPJ has called for regional demonstrations around “Don’t Mend It–End It!” in ten cities on October 27. Those actions deserve support. But a check of the oct27.org web site Sunday afternoon was disappointing. One of the ten cities remains to be announced. The site is password protected. Clicking on the “contact” button told us we were not authorized to access the page.

Undoubtedly the tenth city will get announced and the glitches on the web site will be fixed. But this stage of preparation for major actions now less than six weeks away is not a good sign. We need to turn things around fast. We may not want to mend the war but we better mend this antiwar movement if we have any hope of ending the war.

Will the UAW Become Another AARP?
Some observers are advising the UAW leadership to embrace VEBA to ensure their future. UAW ranks continue to dwindle as the Big Three loses market share and outsources and offshores jobs. By administering a retiree health care fund seeded by car companies the union tops could become powerful investors and also wheel and deal with health insurance companies--just as AARP has done with their exclusive branded packages from United Healthcare.

As this column is written the UAW and GM are locked in intensive post-expiration negotiations and the best guess is that they are haggling over terms for accepting VEBA. Whether self-serving motives are at work I can’t say but if the rumors are true the end result will be a historic setback not only for the UAW but the entire labor movement.

Old School Lessons Shake Up Campus
The
AFSCME strikers at the University of Minnesota use all the latest technology. They have web sites, online discussion boards, fax chains, and know how to text message. Many megabytes of action video have been shot. But for strategy and tactics they are strictly old school, drawing on lessons sometimes going back to the 1934 Minneapolis Teamster strike.

They have a daily strike bulletin. They’ve had Teamster days, SEIU days, ATU days, when other unions come on campus in numbers to show solidarity. They’ve rounded up the politicians who claim to be labor’s friend and bring them to rallies and press conferences to declare support. They’ve organized student allies for mass marches, rallies, and teach-ins and, on Monday some of them will begin a hunger strike. The strike support committee has already hosted a benefit fund raiser. All this and the strike is not yet two weeks old.

Every serious trade unionist should closely study the methods of this exemplary strike–and every unionist should give what support you can. For our part we’ll continue to prominently feature their stories in the Daily Labor News Digest and in this column.

That’s all for this week.

KC Labor Home

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