by Bill Onasch
A Mixed Week For Choice
The Texas Establishment–in a tight race with Kansas and North Carolina for being the most reactionary and mean spirited of all–will soon need new Stetsons to accommodate their swollen pride. They continue to defiantly order their National Guard not to process military benefits now guaranteed for same sex couples. Their state board of education is taking another shot at blocking science that conflicts with literal interpretation of Genesis.
Those malevolent stunts may be fleeting. But not the surprisingly swift Supreme Court action last week upholding a law that, in effect, denies Texas women access to safe, legal abortion in much of that vast state. Already several clinics have had to close their doors. You can bet dollars to doughnuts that other states will rush to craft identical laws.
Well financed fanatics within all Abrahamic faiths use opportunist politicians and faithful judges on the bench to try to impose their theocratic rule over all. All of these view birth control and even stem cell research as murder. Some don’t limit themselves to legal actions–they also bomb clinics and murder doctors.
These religious zealots and their political stooges claim to represent a majority. Even if that were true, denying women the right to choose if and when to have children would be no more acceptable in a democratic society than the long Texas history of denying civil rights to African-Americans and Latinos.
But, in fact, their claim to majority status is bogus. Opinion polls have consistently shown the majority opposes bans on birth control, including abortion. Last week there was an even more decisive poll in Texas’s western neighbor. An AP dispatch reported,
“In a closely watched, first-of-its kind municipal election, voters in New Mexico’s largest city have soundly defeated a ban on late-term abortions. Voters on Tuesday rejected the measure 55 percent to 45 percent following an emotional and graphic campaign that brought in national groups and hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising. The campaign included protests that compared abortion to the Holocaust and displayed pictures of aborted fetuses. A coalition of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and Planned Parenthood, called the results a huge victory for Albuquerque women and families.”
We should respect the rights of individuals who believe birth control is morally wrong. The Pro-Choice movement has always condemned any pressuring of women to get abortions or sterilization. The right of women to freely make life altering decisions for themselves is a fundamental human right that should be defended unconditionally by the working class movements and all supporters of genuine democracy. Once again this right is in danger. We should follow the example of Albuquerque and rally to its defense on all fronts.
Contributions Keep COP Alive
The headlines on Saturday morning were grim. “UN climate talks go nowhere, again,” said Climate & Capitalism; Aljazeera proclaimed “Divided Warsaw climate talks near end with little to show;” the Guardian’s take was “Warsaw climate change talks falter.”
All were an accurate description of the UN gathering in the Polish capital designated COP19– as of its scheduled adjournment on Friday. Embarrassed at the prospect of leaving empty handed after eleven days of overdue deliberation, they went in to overtime to make a deal of sorts. It too is somewhat embarrassing–but as a former Defense Secretary was fond of saying, something is better than nothing.
It turned out COP19 wasn’t the only global summit taking place in bustling Warsaw. There was also a conclave of officials and lobbyists of the World Coal Association meeting at the Polish Finance Ministry. UN Climate chief Christiana Figueres accepted their invitation to deliver the keynote address where she assured the carbon crowd, “The coal industry has the opportunity to be part of the worldwide climate solution.”
They could, of course, make an enormous contribution to solution by going out of business but that’s not what the chief had in mind. Much to the chagrin of environmentalists she endorsed the thoroughly discredited scam of “clean coal.”
Like past gatherings, the 190 nations represented at COP19 fell in to three camps–rich countries, poor countries, and emerging countries.
The rich countries accumulated their wealth through industrialization which in turn led to the alarming accumulation of greenhouse gases. The lion’s share of the more than 400 parts per million concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be chalked up to them.
The poor countries justly argue they have contributed little to the crisis but are usually its first and foremost victims. They say the rich countries have a moral obligation–as well as most of the world’s wealth–to help them survive the challenge of global warming.
The emerging countries are a more complicated case. They are on sound ground when they remind us that their economies were long retarded and distorted by colonial domination. Now that China, India, and Brazil are becoming major industrial powers they say it’s not fair for their old colonial masters to try to again dictate restraint. They want to be cut a lot of slack in emission quotas as they try to catch up with the living standards of the rich countries.
If the debate was solely about fair play the emerging countries might win on points. But the question confronting the nations of the world is whether we can prevent the collapse of our biosphere? China is by far the biggest culprit in greenhouse emissions and other forms of pollution while the rich countries have done little or nothing to clean up their acts. If these trends continue it’s game over for civilization as we know it.
China has not raised one available powerful argument to partially explain their explosive growth in emissions. Much of their production is for companies based in the rich countries–work formerly done in the USA and Europe. Not only were jobs offshored–so was the pollution, including carbon emissions–resulting from that work.
So what was the final deal coming out of COP19 that was supposed to lay the groundwork for replacing the expiring Kyoto Protocols at a Paris conference in 2015? There were again vague promises of freeing up some money for the poor countries. And, since like many of the young of my gender, there was aversion to “commitment,” all parties were urged to submit “contributions” before the Paris meeting of what they might do to reduce greenhouse emissions.
The debates over culpability and liability have been going on at summits for decades. So has global warming. There has been zero discussion about an equitable, planned restructuring of the global economy needed to sustain future generations. That won’t happen until we–the working class majority–get our act together.
As Boeing Threatens Exit Socialist Enters Stage Left
For a wage worker, there’s nothing outside the home more crucial than having a job. But American workers have less job security than any of our counterparts in the industrialized world.
Job insecurity is not limited to struggling employers. One of the richest of all is General Electric. The UE reported this past week, “Despite our best efforts and 17 bargaining sessions over the last 60 days, we are saddened to report that our Union has failed to achieve an agreement with GE to keep the Fort Edward [New York] plant open beyond next September.”
The 163 jobs left at this capacitor plant are headed to a nonunion Clearwater, Florida plant where wages are less than half the UE rate. The union has done an impressive job in mobilizing support among public officials, the Ft Edward community, and the regional labor movement–and they haven’t given up yet. But because the workers have few legal rights left, and the company is not moved by shame, a local newspaper headline is probably all too accurate–Future dim for Fort Edward GE plant.
Laws with severe financial penalties to discourage such job loss are common in Europe where mass working class parties exist. Such measures were written in to the program of the now defunct Labor Party in this country at its 1996 founding convention. For now the only form of government intervention sometimes applied is bribery of employers threatening job destruction.
Another highly profitable company, Boeing, has not yet formally announced any new jobs loss but the threat to thousands of good union positions in the Seattle area is palpable. In last week’s WIR I discussed the IAM rejection of a Boeing ultimatum to renegotiate an extended contract that included draconian take-aways. As could have been predicted it went down by a two-to-one margin.
Whether or not this was a serious offer by Boeing there is no doubt they were motivated by the prospect of their next big project–the 777X wide-body for which they already have early orders amounting to 95 billion dollars. This bigger air frame will require either a new plant or major retooling of existing facilities. Boeing has put out requests for bids from localities in several states for a new plant. The Washington Governor and Legislature hurriedly put together a package of incentives worth about nine billion dollars to entice Boeing to keep the work in their state.
There is understandable local concern that if Boeing leaves, Seattle could become another Detroit. Some say the IAM should have surrendered the give-backs demanded in order to save jobs. They clearly don’t understand the irony attached to this argument.
The workers in Detroit and other auto centers were long told by the UAW leadership that concessions to the boss “partner” were necessary to save jobs. After pocketing the union give-backs, their “partners” skillfully used outsourcing, offshoring, and even whipsaw competition between UAW plants to eliminate tens of thousands of union positions. New technology finished off even more. The true lesson of Detroit is that concessions don’t save jobs.
The jobs under attack will not be satisfactorily saved through conventional collective bargaining or by Democrat “friends” in office offering hand-outs from the tax-payers. Management rights are enshrined in the law of the land and their class dominates all things political. Like workers in most other industrialized countries we need a party of our own to rewrite the laws in the interests of the working class majority.
Recently, for the first time in decades, Seattle voters elected a socialist, Kshama Sawant, to the city council. A lone socialist on a local body can’t do much in the way of legislative change. But she can help promote working class ideas among the general public and build solidarity with worker, social, and climate movements. The next WIR will take a look at some things she has already done, what she has said about Boeing and what more we can expect from this rare working class electoral victory.
That’s all for this week.
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