Bill Onasch

Week In Review January 9

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Jan 092018

  by Bill Onasch

They Never Went Away

The day after a self-described “stable genius” was sworn in as America’s 45th President the USA saw its biggest political demonstrations in history–and there were solidarity events totaling hundreds of thousands in other countries on every continent.

The Call that brought out millions in the streets last January was a terse “March for Women.” Its impetus was clearly an exposed misogynist ascending to leader of the “Free World.” But marchers supplied their own slogans around many and various long standing issues confronting more than half of the population. One selected for a headline in the New York Times simply said “We’re Not Going Away.”

As I expressed in the January 23 2017 WIR I thought the single best coverage was an article by two accomplished working class journalists, Ann Montague and Michael Schrieber. They recognized that for many, perhaps most, of the millions of women—and many male supporters—it was their first political action of any kind. And while they didn’t all go in the same direction after, they certainly did not go away.

Ann Montague was an activist in the SEIU Oregon state employees union and is still active as an SEIU retiree, a member of its Lavender Caucus. She has been a participant in the feminist movement since the 70s, is a long time socialist and a Labor Party Advocate. She’s been around the block a time or two. In a new article, All Out for the Women’s Marches January 20-21 she reviews various trends since last January. Commenting on the DC march,

After the march, many thought it had been a one-time expression of women’s anger that was sparked by the election of a president. But they had not listened to Angela Davis, who was the last speaker and quoted Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’”

Ann then goes on to note the unprecedented numbers in U.S. marches and rallies on March 8 International Women’s Day; a new current around Feminism for the 99%; #Me Too; and most recently #Time’s Up that have toppled some once high and mighty sexual abusers.

I would add that women have also since asserted a more visible presence in the actions and leadership of movements like Black Lives Matter and And, of course, Me Too, Time’s Up, and Oprah stole the show at Sunday’s Golden Globe awards.

Effective enduring mass movements need more than “social media.” There should be face-to-face gatherings to make important decisions on both local and national levels. And there’s no better way to get the message out than demonstrating their strength through mass actions in the streets.

Like all movements face every two years, the women’s will be under pressure to become financial donors and foot soldiers for the Democrats in the midterm elections. Until we have a working class party that also fights for gender and racial equality, and climate justice, electoral politics is a costly diversion. The kind of party needed will be building, not competing with, mass actions.

All out January 21-22!

Who Will Play Mickey Mouse?

A New York Times headline seemed to describe a crisis for U.S. employers–From Offices to Disney World, Employers Brace for the Loss of an Immigrant Work Force. So did its opening paragraphs–

They clean federal office buildings in Washington and nurse the elderly in Boston. They are rebuilding hurricane-wrecked Houston. The Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium, plumbing and heating systems at Fannie Mae’s new headquarters, the porterhouse at Peter Luger Steak House and even the Disney World experience have all depended, in small part or large, on their labor.

“They are the immigrants from Haiti and Central America who have staked their livelihoods on the temporary permission they received years ago from the government to live and work in the United States. Hundreds of thousands now stand to lose that status under the Trump administration, which said on Monday that roughly 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador would have to leave by September 2019 or face deportation.”

To be fair, the Times in this, and other articles, also explains the humanitarian crisis for those slated to be expelled—and for the countries of their origin who have been able to count on money immigrants send to parents and children who could not join them in the USA.

An even bigger group—the 800,000 “Dreamers”–are also in imminent danger of losing their protection in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) set to expire in March. Trump once proclaimed he loved these kids but is now using them as a bargaining chip in negotiations with congressional Democrats. The current price for extending DACA is bipartisan approval of 18 billion dollars for a start on the Great Wall along the Mexican border. Even a GOP Congressman recently dismissed this mean spirited boondoggle as a Third Century solution to a 21st Century problem.

Third Century solution sounds about right—but the problem in this millennium is not immigration. The threat is the America First scam Trump borrows from American Nazi sympathizers of the last century and that is also being revived with various names preceding First in Europe.

Xenophobia, along with racism, misogyny and homophobia, are tactics advanced by a sector of the ruling class in their war on the working class. A universal antidote to these various poisons is class solidarity.

Nach unten Werkzeuge!

In recent decades strikes have been rare in Germany. But the Guardian reports that the 3.9 million member IG Metall union has begun a series of warning strikes to back a demand that, for two years, workers would be allowed to voluntarily work only 28 hours a week to “improve their work-life balance.”

This may seem odd but it is tied in to German social benefits for parental and family leaves that apply to both newborns and elderly family members. And the union is also proposing a six percent raise for all workers in metal-working and electrical industries.

The German economy—third biggest in the world—is presently robust and is beginning to encounter labor shortages. That gives the union some leverage but the bosses, while prepared to accept higher wages, will likely bitterly resist granting fewer hours. Stay tuned.

Out of Sight—Maybe Out of Town?

Advance scouts for Prince Harry’s May wedding wanted to have the unsightly homeless in the town adjoining the Royal Family’s Windsor Castle removed. They might consider what a number of American cities are now doing—offering them a free, one way bus ticket to somewhere else. Labour shadow prime minister Jeremy Corbyn said rough sleeping was part of the British experience and should be replaced with affordable housing, not hidden out of sight elsewhere.

Comprehensive Without Liability

According to insurers, “natural” disasters caused or intensified by climate change did 339 billion dollars worth of damage in 2017. These events included record breaking hurricanes in the Gulf/Caribbean, and massive flooding in South Asia.

A New King of the Greenhouse

For the first time in forty years, all modes of transportation have displaced electricity power plants as the leader in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Not surprisingly, the Trump administration has judged this a good time to scrap regulations that would require cuts in truck emissions and Congress is out to cut back fuel consumption standards for cars and light trucks. But there was a big surprise when Trump’s hand-picked Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected his plan to subsidize aging, obsolete coal and nuclear powered plants.

That’s all for this week.

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Week In Review January 2

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review January 2
Jan 022018

  by Bill Onasch

Post Season Opener

To replace the daily rhythm of going to work, most of us old retirees need a lot of structured routine that we jealously guard. But a seasonal departure is welcome when my younger, still self-employed spouse gets some well earned—though unpaid–time off from work. We shared some meals with friends, watched some old British television shows, and reminded ourselves we are half-way through the dreary part of the year with no baseball. I hope your holidays were also rewarding.

But just as Trump claimed to be on a “working vacation” at his West Palm Beach estate, I had a space heater going in my attic office before sunrise every morning to monitor the news so I would have something to review. As usual, there’s much worth noting on the many fronts of class war and accompanying ecological destruction.

Carbon Sink

There was once a sort of “deep state” in Indonesia. In 1965 the Indonesian Communist Party was the biggest in any capitalist country. But that same year the army and vigilantes launched a months-long bloodbath killing hundreds of thousands of leftists, real or falsely accused. The triumphant junta enriched themselves by raiding the coffers of the state sector for more than twenty years.

But corruption is not a viable long term strategy for development. As the Generals died off they were replaced by politicians and bureaucrats adhering to global “neoliberalism,” launching a deregulated market economy that soon became the biggest in Southeast Asia. In 1999, they were welcomed in to the G20 amalgam of old industrial powers along with developing ones.

Underlying this spectacular growth was expansion of their traditional, environmentally destructive, extractive industries—hydrocarbons, minerals, metals and lumber from clear-cutting old growth forests. Tea and coffee supplemented mechanized sustenance agriculture. Peasants no longer needed in the fields became available for manufacturing offshored from high wage countries.

With no “job killing” regulations, cities grew exponentially—above all the capital of Jakarta. Today it is home to 30 million with a high-rise skyline rivaling New York City and a freeway system of 24/7 bumper-to-bumper traffic comparable to Los Angeles.

A port city on an island, Jakarta has to be concerned about rising sea levels caused by global warming. This is exacerbated by the 15 rivers that flow through the city in to the sea. But rising water is not the only threat.

Much like Greater Mexico City, with its population of 21 million housed on a squishy drained lake bed, Jakarta is also sinking. Experts say they have no more than ten years for taking far ranging remedial action—including moving millions of people—to avoid a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

The link between human-caused global warming and Indonesia’s quandary has been proven by science. The culpability of capitalism on a world scale includes more than just ruling class addiction to fossil fuels. Urban sprawl’s numerous social as well as ecological ills prevalent in most countries is a powerful secondary infection of our biosphere. And all of these maladies are magnified by deregulation and austerity budgets such as those inflicted by the Trump administration.

Deadly and Preventable

On its maiden run on brand new track Amtrak 501, carrying 85 passengers and crew, derailed on an overpass near Tacoma spilling on to Interstate 5. Three were killed, dozens injured, and property damage ran in the millions.

By MrAurum via Wikimedia Commons

The physics of the wreck were clear—the train entered a tight curve with a speed limit of 30 mph doing 78. Why that happened is still under investigation. The engineer and conductor in the front locomotive were hospitalized but it’s been established that they were not impaired by alcohol or drugs and hadn’t used their cell phones since boarding the train. Whether they were otherwise distracted, or there was some mechanical malfunction remains so far unknown.

What is known for certain—this wreck, and at least several other major ones in recent years, could have been prevented. After a 1969 head-on collision of two Penn Central commuter trains in Connecticut that killed four and injured 43, the National Transportation Safety Board urged that all trains be equipped with what became known as Positive Train Control. PTC can detect if the train is exceeding speed limits, appears to be headed toward running through a red signal, or there is a danger of train separation. It automatically takes control to slow or stop the train.

In 1969, rail carriers were about to unload their inter-city passenger service on newly created Amtrak and were preparing to invest billions in new technology. But this capital was not used for safety.

Replacing “dark” track with automatic block signaling; written train orders from operators with radio communication; substituting the Federal Rear End Device for the iconic caboose; tracking shipments with bar codes and television cameras in the yards; and computerization of office work, led to a massive elimination of jobs in nearly all rail crafts. This was compounded by a merger mania that allowed abandonment of thousands of miles of track. Since all this enhanced carrier profits the bosses considered it money well spent–while safety measures are seen as cutting the bottom line.

The NTSB can only recommend changes, not compel them. It was another 39 years before Congress acted to include a mandate for PTC in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. It gave the carriers until 2015 to install it system wide. But claiming poverty and other lame excuses little progress had been made by the deadline. A sympathetic Congress extended their time until the end of 2018.

The new track in Washington was laid on the bed of an abandoned freight line. Engineers wanted to eliminate the curve where the train derailed but this was rejected as too costly. However, PTC capability was installed on the new track–and 501’s locomotive. But it was never activated or even tested.

The carriers can not be trusted to protect the safety of the public, their passengers or their employees. It’s high time to revive the demand raised by the great Eugene V Debs more than a century ago—socialize the railroads and put rail workers in charge of their management.

In Brief…

* A Super Deal—Amalgamated Transit Union 1005 represents 2500 bus drivers, light rail operators, technicians and mechanics in the Twin Cities. After months of stalling beyond contract expiration the Metropolitan Council finally made an offer to Local 1005 in November. It included a major take-away– increased hours for part-time drivers. Since it would delay promotions to full-time this was no favor for most part-timers and the deal was overwhelmingly rejected by the membership. The union then put the Council on notice—if no satisfactory agreement was in place by the first weekend in February they would strike.

That just happens to be when the Super Bowl is scheduled to be played in Minneapolis attracting tens of thousands of out of town visitors. This seemed to have a salutary effect. The Council dropped their part-time concession demand, agreed to three annual 2.5 percent raises, and accepted union proposals for increased security measures to protect drivers from assaults and to establish adequate numbers of restroom facilities for drivers. It was approved by 82 percent of the ranks.

* 655 Still Growing—United Food & Commercial Workers 655 claims to be the biggest local union in Missouri. They augmented their numbers with two organizing victories in December. Bon Apetit Food Services already had UFCW contracts at several St Louis locations and didn’t contest the union’s claim to represent 300 workers at the Washington University campus. They promptly negotiated a contract providing raises ranging from 11 to 14 percent over three years.

655’s other win was a much smaller unit but a breakthrough of sorts—a Dollar General store in suburban Jefferson City voted 2-1 to unionize. This was the first union victory at any of the company’s more than 14,000 stores in the U.S.

As we begin a new month as well as year I urge our Twin Cities readers to check out the events schedule at St Paul’s East Side Freedom Library. Tomorrow, January 3, I’ll resume posting of links on our companion Labor Advocate new blog.

That’s all for this week.

If you’re not already signed up you can get the Week In Review free of charge in one of the following ways. Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Simply send your name and e-mail address to billonasch[at]

Follow Bill Onasch on Google +

Powered By Blogger Our companion Labor Advocate news blog posts articles of interest to working people by 9AM Central, Monday-Friday.

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Privacy Policy. We don’t share any information about our readers with anyone else—period.

The original content we provide is copyrighted and may not be reproduced by commercial media without our consent. However, labor movement and other nonprofit media may reproduce with attribution.