Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
September 27, 2006

News Again
Ensconced once more in our newsroom at the top of the highest structure in the 3900 block of Kenwood Ave we resumed updates this morning of the Daily Labor News Digest.

Nothing Could Be Finer…
The reason for the interruption in the news was my first trip to South Carolina. I was impressed with a beautiful array of trees and flowers unfamiliar to me, and somewhat puzzled by what they call “barbeque.” But those weren’t the attractions that lured me there—and that may bring me back on a vacation some day. I traveled to Columbia for a meeting of the Labor Party Interim National Council held after the founding convention of the South Carolina Labor Party.

I had heard great things about the SCLP but, hailing from Missouri, I usually need to be shown. Take it from me, this is the real thing. After spending most of a Saturday setting up a structure and drawing up an action plan, the delegates invited those of us from out of town to join them for a celebration of their historic gathering. They were an impressive group.

Some were leaders and activists from unions such as the ILA, ATU, CWA, and USW. Others were unorganized or unemployed workers. There was a good mix of African-American and white and women played a prominent role in launching the new party. In short, they were a good reflection of the South Carolina working class.

Every delegate had been involved in the petition campaign that garnered more than 16,500 signatures to gain ballot access for the new state party. Some were first introduced to the party when asked to sign the petition and volunteered on the spot to do more. Some of the signatures were collected at union halls but the bulk were obtained by going door-to-door in working class neighborhoods—or at the flea markets. The Saturday flea markets, where vendors set up tables selling everything under the sun, are an incredibly popular institution frequented by thrifty working people in the Palmetto State.

Donna Dewitt, president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, and Willie Legette, professor of political science at SC State University, were elected co-chairs of the SCLP.

I’ll have more to say about the developments in South Carolina, and the Labor Party INC meeting in an article you can expect in a few days. I’ll also give a report to the Fall Meeting of the Kansas City Labor Party, Saturday, October 7, at the North Kansas City Library where I hope we will not only praise the efforts in South Carolina but take steps to try to emulate them.

A Green City Hall Alright
Kansas City Mayor Kay Waldo Barnes joined 250 colleagues last year signing the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Resolution with a well-publicized flourish. They pledged to follow the spirit of the Kyoto Accord, a moderate world treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Clinton administration had signed the treaty but Bush reneged when he took office.

Barnes’ staff prepared a resolution along the lines of the Mayors document for the City Council but they balked in face of urgent protests by the Chamber of Commerce. Hurried consultations were arranged between council members and business lobbyists—gatherings that were closed to the public and, of course, environmentalists. The final product resulting was a resolution that didn’t even mention the Mayors agreement and stresses that environmental measures must be “balanced” against business interests and economic development.

A poignant reminder that green is not only the hue adopted by the movement to save our environment but also the color of the stuff that fuels the market economy—and politician’s campaigns. A green City Hall indeed.

Another Month Older and Deeper In Debt
According to just released revised BLS figures for July personal income was up .7 percent while consumption expenditures were up .8 percent (the difference is even greater when inflation is factored in.) This means working people continue to increase debt and/or dip in to savings to keep up with day-to-day expenses.

An Unhealthy Increase
Health insurance costs are rising double the rate of inflation. The number of totally uninsured continues to rise—now 16 percent of the population. Most politicians and business leaders talk about the need to cut back on services covered, and expanding employee shares of premiums, along with expanded co-pays and deductibles, to rein in costs.

The Los Angeles Times posed a loaded poll question for their readers: “Would you support a universal health plan even if it meant higher taxes?” Even with the inflammatory t-word, 84 percent responded “yes.”

Of course, single-payer health insurance would require new taxes. But, under such a system we would not be paying any of the premiums, co-pays, or deductibles with which we are now saddled.

Surprisingly, the Detroit News has been running a good series on the health care crisis, which we are posting on the Daily Labor News Digest. You can check out the Labor Party Just Health Care plan by clicking here.

That’s all for this week.

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