Week In Review
A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
November 1, 2010
Mouseland goes to the polls tomorrow. The most bizarre, expensive, disgusting, and, in many ways, ominous election campaign in American history will be mercifully concluded. I won’t hazard a guess about the winning numbers. My standard prediction that the working class will lose unfortunately appears safer than ever.
It is instructive that the biggest rally of the campaign took place on the National Mall Saturday–a satirical protest against the wretched level to which major party politics has sunk, sponsored by the Comedy Channel, hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Sixty Minutes visited Newton, Iowa–a short drive from Des Moines–yesterday for a late election story. Newton was once the home of good union jobs at Maytag’s flagship plant. But Maytag was bought out by Whirlpool and the washing machines still carrying that venerable label are produced in Mexico. Since Maytag’s demise, family businesses that prospered for generations have gone under and all public services have been slashed. A sample of local election TV ads featured attacks on opponents for favoring construction of a mosque in New York City and lurid photos of Nancy Pelosi. When the CBS reporter asked a town meeting of dozens if they thought whether Democrats or Republicans control the next Congress would make a difference to their dire economic conditions the answer was virtually unanimous and forcefully negative.
I share the sentiment of Newton–as do the majority of the working class. But in most areas if there is any ballot alternative to the twin parties of capital they are likely to be even more loony right than the cracked teapots. There are a handful of exemplary campaigns worthy of support:
* Brett Bursey is the South Carolina Labor Party’s first candidate for office, running for state legislature in District 69.
* Dan La Botz, known to many of you through his decades of work around Labor Notes, is running for U.S. Senate in Ohio as a Buckeye Socialist.
* Chris Hutchinson, an art teacher in Hartford area schools, and a talented political cartoonist, has gained some significant media coverage of his Socialist Action campaign for Congress in the Connecticut tenth district.
Regrettably, these campaigns have little official labor endorsement and run on microscopic budgets. Still they are to be congratulated for not only keeping alive the flame of class politics past but pointing the way to the future of working class political action to which we need aspire.
I already sent in my absentee ballot. The side that listed candidates was left blank. I voted for a ballot proposition that aims to put inhumane puppy mills out of business. All other listed propositions have the net effect of shifting more of the tax burden on to the backs of working people and I voted No.
I plan to offer before the end of the week some ideas about just how badly we lost and what we need to do to survive.
Forgotten But Not Gone
Helene Cooper writes in the New York Times,
“The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dominated American foreign policy for the past nine years, but debate about them is all but absent from this year’s midterm election campaigns. From Wilmington to Cleveland to Seattle, as Republicans try to wrest control of Congress from Democrats, the subjects barely come up. Ditto for President Obama’s stump speech as he zigzags around the country.”
Iraq workers hard pressed on many fronts took the time last week to send a message of solidarity to French workers:
“On behalf of all IFC affiliate organizations, forces, figures and supporters we declare our support and solidarity with the fair and just demands of the workers in France .
“Your persistency on continuing strikes, demonstrations and protests have boosted the morale of the workers around the world and encouraged us to stand against the policies of G8, G20, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions that intended to force the workers to carry the heavy weight of the economic crisis. The austerity announced by Greece and Britain, and the adoption of the retirement law in France are the first steps toward taking away all labour rights that were realized through struggles of centuries.
“We in Iraq Freedom Congress consider each progress you make for the well-being of workers and a better world for humanity is an achievement and victory for all freedom-loving people around the world. We believe that your continued struggle is the sole approach to stand against the governments of Europe which have started launching attacks on the gains of workers and all segments of society such as retirement, social services and social security... etc.
“Here in Iraq, the eyes of the workers and the disadvantaged are looking forward to your daily fight, which in fact is a revolutionary experience and a source of hope to continue their fight against the policy of outlawing trade union work including freedom of association, strike and demonstrations, demonizing any opposition to the occupation policy and the imposition of IMF conditions on Iraq, which means more unemployment, poverty and deprivation...
“Once again we renew our support
and solidarity with your fight and your just demands
Long live the fight of workers in France”
Samir Adil of / Iraq Freedom Congress
¶ A story by Sahil Kapur posted on the Healthcare Now! site opens, “The United States currently ranks 49th in the world in overall life expectancy, according to a study published in the academic journal Health Affairs, slipping dramatically during the last decade.”
¶ Healthcare Now! is hosting a National Strategy Conference to discuss how to advance the continuing battle for single-payer, November 13-14 in Philadelphia. Labor for Single-Payer is participating in this effort.
¶ RNs at Washington Hospital Center, who recently affiliated with National Nurses United, took a public protest to another MedStar Health facility--Franklin Square Hospital Center in Baltimore County, Md. Since their last contract expired in July, MedStar has terminated a labor-management patient-care committee at WHC and also imposed wage and benefit cuts.
¶ 200 Registered Nurses at Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs, Iowa were represented by the Iowa Nurses Association. But now that the INA has decided to move away from collective bargaining they decided to hook up with the Minnesota Nurses Association–a NNU affiliate very much involved in bargaining. However, the hospital bosses refuse to recognize the MNA and are forcing an NLRB election.
¶ Following the workplace death of an RN CNA said, “In the wake of the reported death of a registered nurse, who was assaulted Monday by an inmate at Contra Costa County’s correctional facility in Martinez, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United today called for urgent reforms to crack down on a disturbing trend of violence in all facilities where medical care is provided. Assembly member Mary Hayashi has pledged to sponsor new legislation to be introduced as early as December.”
¶ And, worth a read is an election eve article by Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, Guaranteed health care must be part of economic solution.
A French Education Crisis
The Minister of Education in Sarkozy’s government, Claude Allegre, who is a geochemist, published a book called The Climatic Deception which claimed that carbon dioxide was not linked to climate change. Allegre’s peers in the French Academy of Science beg to differ.
A report published Thursday written by 120 scientists from France and abroad concludes that global warming exists and is unquestionably due to human activity. It says,
“Several independent indicators show an increase in global warming from 1975 to 2003. This increase is mainly due to the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide. The increase in carbon dioxide, and to a lesser degree other greenhouse gases, is unquestionably due to human activity.”
About the only references to climate change we’ve heard during the election campaign are oblique attacks on “job-killing” energy measures. The coal industry, along with their allies in the oil industry, have been a driving force in the unprecedented money injected in to this election. One nice touch was a TV spot showing the Democrat Governor of West Virginia, who is seeking a Senate seat, firing a round from his deer rifle through a failed Democrat environmental bill nailed to a tree.
Good & Welfare
* I check out all postings on kclabor.org in the major browsers for compatibility. Recently I’ve encountered problems with the Windows version of Safari crashing. Since this isn’t happening in any of the other programs I suspect the problem is in Safari. If you are running in to the same trouble I suggest you switch to Firefox or Opera. (I don’t have access to a Mac so I know nothing about the Apple version of Safari.)
* A combination of demands on my time that I won’t bore you with have put me farther behind than even normal in answering correspondence and thanks for donations. Now spurred by the additional motivation of guilt I hope to be caught up within the next couple of days.
* I remind those of you in the Kansas City area that the Labor Notes Discussion Group will be meeting this coming Sunday, November 7, at Tony Saper’s home, 2113 Erie in North Kansas City at Noon. After consuming now seasonally appropriate homemade (by me) chili–both with and without carne versions–I’ll give a report on post-election prospects for working class movements. A wide open discussion will follow. Please RSVP 816-753-1672.
That’s all for this week.
Alliance for Class & Climate Justice
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