Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
September 2, 2011

This Monday will be Labor Day in North America. I know it won’t be as festive as usual for many of our readers coping with the Irene storm damage. You may not be in my prayers but you are in my thoughts. Assuming our triple-digit heat wave–our fourth of the summer–breaks by then, I’ll do my duty by attending the local Labor Day Parade & Picnic. Those of you outside North America will have nothing to celebrate Monday but, chances are, you’ll have your turn on May Day.

Jack Layton Will Be Missed
The first e-mail message I saw after posting our last Week In Review was from my bus driver Internet friend Rod in Vancouver. He told me, “What a shock! Jack Layton passed away this morning at 440am. The left has suffered another blow to our movement.”

A shock indeed. I knew the leader of the NDP, Canada’s labor party, was in a second bout with cancer but the optimism he had shown about returning to duty had fooled a lot of us.

I share this sentiment expressed in the condolence message from the Socialist Caucus of the NDP,

“While his policies often didn't go as far as we wished, Layton earned the respect of socialists by campaigning steadfastly to form an NDP government - which he came closer to accomplishing than any of his predecessors. His last major speech in Parliament, as Leader of the Opposition following the 'Orange Surge' on May 2, was a stirring defence of postal workers against the draconian back to work legislation imposed by the Harper Conservatives. Layton won Quebec, not only with his charm and charisma, but by affirming Quebec's right to decide its future, sans the strictures of the undemocratic Clarity Act. The best tribute we can pay to Jack is to win the struggles to which he was committed.”

Unfortunately, some of that struggle will be with what used to be considered the most progressive Canadian union–the Canadian Auto Workers. CAW president Ken Lewenza is renewing his union’s agitation for the NDP to liquidate in to the bosses’ Liberal Party–who finished a dismal third in the last election, far behind Layton’s labor party.

Those of us in the USA who have long worked to build a labor party here have closely followed the ups and downs of the NDP over the years, learning from victories--such as Medicare–as well as disappointments at times. I offer my condolences to our NDP sisters and brothers on the loss of their leader as well as solidarity in their efforts to bring a workers government to Canada.

Rail Says A Lot
Sometimes I’ve used the Labor Day WIR for a comprehensive balance sheet of the state of the working class movement. But I don’t want to repeat what I have recently written. Toward the end of July I posted two forums I had presented on
climate change. On August 2, I devoted a special edition of the WIR to the historic deficit deal.

I have now finished and posted Which Track For Rail Labor? Most of the first half of the article previously appeared in the WIR. The new second half deals with the encouraging developments coming out of the rail track workers union, the BMWED. The contrast between the positions taken by the UTU and BMWED in rail bargaining say a lot about contending strategies in the U.S. labor movement. I hope you will find the time to read it.

We’ll get caught up on other recent developments shortly after the holiday.

That’s all for this week.

Alliance for Class & Climate Justice

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