Mar 302014

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

On All Continents and Across the Oceans
Tomorrow the second of three installments of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of damage to our biosphere will be officially released at a gathering in Japan. Advance copies were “leaked” to the Guardian and other news outlets. It is undoubtedly the most extensively and intensely peer reviewed scientific document ever. It was also perused by officials from 115 government bodies. It is not good news.

The Guardian quotes the report,

“In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans….Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts.”

A New York Times article says,

“As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes. Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions. Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.”

Another island not mentioned is home to the greatest concentration of billionaires on the planet, including a major bankroller of global warming denial–Manhattan. SuperStorm Sandy exposed its vulnerability–along with Long Island and Staten Island as well. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg–a billionaire himself and a patron of the Sierra Club–left a legacy of an ambitious and expensive geoengineering plan to keep the Big Apple above water.

I’m not qualified to judge the likely effectiveness of such a plan. But clearly Bangladesh doesn’t have  the resources for a feasibility study, much less gigantic attempts to hold back the rising sea. The USA is in a dead heat with Australia as the leading per capita producer of greenhouse gasses. Bangladesh is responsible for 0.3 percent of the world’s climate changing emissions.

I look at this challenge as similar to dealing with combat casualties. The wounded of all sides should get the best medical treatment available for their trauma and any needed rehabilitation. But if you really want to end the bloodshed you have to stop the war. 

It may be unintended consequence, but in the hands of the rulers of global capital greenhouse gas emissions have become an instrument of war that ultimately threaten all living things. There are no engineering solutions to bring more than fleeting reprieve to those who can afford them. There are no market solutions because environmental destruction is more profitable than proven alternatives for environmental salvation. There will be no stopping climate change without system change. Irreversible regime shift in ecosystems is bad. Regime shift in the system of who rules society is imperative to the future of humanity.

While the blame for this crisis is squarely on the bosses, bankers, and brass hats the responsibility for resolving it falls to the working class. No other social force has both the power and class interest to take on the climate destroyers and restructure a transition to a sustainable society. We don’t have much time left to get our act together. We need to fight while there is still something left to win.

I’m encouraged that, unlike the last gathering, the Labor Notes Conference this coming week has scheduled a major workshop on Labor and Climate Change. I look forward to the presentations and discussion.

Looking Back on the Labor Party
That is the title of an interview of Mark Dudzic by Derek Seidman, posted on the New Politics site. Currently the National Coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Mark was the last National Organizer of the Labor Party. It’s a bit long, as the interviewer sometimes posed the same basic question more than once, but it’s a very informative piece.

Mark basically updated the balance sheet he co-authored a couple of years ago with LP Secretary-Treasurer  Katherine Isaac, Labor Party Time? Not Yet. In a response at the time, I called it well rounded. It presented an honest, comprehensive history of the development from a probe called Labor Party Advocates (LPA) through a 1996 Labor Party Founding Convention of 1400 enthusiastic participants, the sometimes promising issue campaigns, and finally an ultimate demise due to lack of material support from unions. Mark and Katherine renewed their conviction that a labor party was needed but postulated that success depended on a revitalized union movement prepared to do political battle. There can be no genuine labor party without this labor support.

That basic assessment remains spot on. There have been some inspiring labor developments on local levels since that original article, and national efforts such as the fast food and retail workers. But Mark correctly notes in the latest interview that no national union is prepared to seriously commit to building a labor party–not even one that recently elected a former Labor Party National Council member as its national president.

Having said that, I believe it is still important to keep the labor party idea alive, listening and talking among dissatisfied workers and union officials, preparing to be part of an inevitable revival in American labor struggles. There is no doubt that the working class majority holds the boss political Establishment in contempt. If there’s no class alternative their rejection of mainstream may simply dissipate in to demoralization. That’s why some of us still think a revival of Labor Party Advocates is in order.

I am surprised the interviewer did not ask Mark about the remarkable electoral victory of socialist Kshama Sawant in Seattle and the strong showing of her comrade Ty Moore in Minneapolis. It’s possible the interview was actually conducted before the elections.

Socialists played an important role in the founding of the British Labor Party and Canadian NDP. Even during the heyday of the American Socialist Party during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, when socialists won seats in Congress, state legislatures, and controlled municipal governments in a number of cities, Eugene V Debs agitated for the formation of a broader labor party.

The election of one socialist to a city council seat does not negate Mark’s sober estimate of the short term national prospects for a labor party. But it is certainly more than just a curious quirk. Sawant, who had credentials as an activist in Occupy and solidarity struggles, linked her campaign to a big union battle at Boeing and an emerging local mass movement for a fifteen dollar minimum wage–a good, successful example for how a broader labor party could and should contest for political power.

Kshama Sawant will be part of a panel on working class politics at the Labor Notes Conference.

Radio That Talks Back to the Boss
That’s the motto of the Heartland Labor Forum on community radio KKFI-FM, 90.1 in Kansas City. Produced and presented by worker volunteers, mentored by Judy Ancel of Worker Education & Labor Studies at UMKC, they’ve been doing just that for twenty-five years now. They won national awards from their peers in the International Labor Communications Association of the AFL-CIO in 2009 and again in 2013. This Thursday they are celebrating their Silver Anniversary on the air at their regular 6PM slot. If you are out of radio range you can listen to live streaming on the KKFI site and to archived shows here. I’m sorry I won’t be around to join in on the festivities in person Thursday–Amtrak willing, I’ll already be in Chicago for the Labor Notes Conference. Better early than late, I wish the HLF a happy 25 and many more to come.

Question the Table
If you are among the record number of participants expected at the April 4-6 Labor Notes Conference I hope you will find time to visit the literature table. You will be offered a free four-page tract for the good of your solidarity soul and an opportunity to buy one or all  three varieties of buttons on sale for a dollar a piece. (I actually lose ten cents on each button but hope to make it up on the volume.)

I thank those readers who donated funds to make the conference table possible with a special danke to generous donors in Seattle and Los Angeles whose names are withheld per our privacy policy.

After posting our news update on our companion Labor Advocate blog tomorrow (Monday) I’ll be taking a break in routine until after the Conference. The news updates will resume Tuesday, April 8, and the next WIR will soon follow.

That’s all for this week.
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Our sole source of income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Mar 232014

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

Bad News Beat
New York Times stories with a Kansas City dateline are seldom good news. Floods, tornadoes, serial murders, gas main explosions, and a failed school district are the kind of items the paper of record typically sees fit to print about my hometown. This past week they found a different twist in introducing a major story about the Obama administration’s breaking up families through deportations. It opened,

“The cellblock intercom awoke Josue Noe Sandoval-Perez at 1 o’clock on a frigid January morning at a detention center in northwest Missouri: Get your things, get ready to go. Immigration officials were preparing to whisk him away. A day earlier the government denied an appeal of his deportation order, but no one told his family, nor was he allowed to call. So while Mr. Sandoval-Perez, 41, an illegal immigrant with a previous deportation on his record, was beginning his journey back to his native Mexico, his family was clinging to hope at a rally in a park here. Holding signs, they argued that he had been in the country for 16 years, had no criminal record, paid taxes and was the primary breadwinner for his children — one an American citizen, the other an immigrant who is here legally. He was dropped off that night in Matamoros, a violence-ridden Mexican border town. When he called his wife, Josefina Aguilar, from outside a bus station to tell her what happened, gunshots could be heard.”

The “path to citizenship” currently offered by the White House is unforgiving for those undocumented workers who have been previously deported–or, as Sandova;-Perez was, turned away at the border before they could even enter. In fact, such cases are being pursued more aggressively than ever, as the Times article notes,

“A study released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that federal court convictions of immigrants who returned illegally after deportation — like Mr. Sandoval-Perez — had increased 28-fold over the past two decades, from 690 in 1992 to 19,463 in 2012. That rise accounts for nearly half the growth of all federal convictions over that time span, the report said.”

Even this is but a small segment of the record number of deportations on Obama’s watch–running about 400,000 a year. The President also recently boasted,

“Real reform means stronger border security, and we can build on the progress my administration has already made, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.”

Lisa Luinenburg writes in a perceptive piece in Socialist Action,

“Recent immigration reform proposals coming from Congress have included harsh measures like thousands of dollars in fines, the requirement that immigrants prove their work history, pay back taxes, and learn English, and even a requirement that immigrants maintain a certain level of income, all before they can ‘earn’ their legal status, a process that could take well over 10 years. In fact, in an analysis of the immigration reform proposal from the summer of 2013, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law estimated that the ‘pathway to citizenship’ being offered was so onerous that 4-5 million undocumented immigrants would be excluded because they could not meet its conditions or pay its fines.”

There are no impediments or fines on corporations and banks crossing a border now as tight as the wall President Reagan demanded Chairman Gorbachev tear down. Starting with President Clinton’s NAFTA, boosted by the China trade deal, enhanced by CAFTA, with TPP on the way, capital and trade has increasingly flowed freely in and out of the USA. Globalization knows no borders.

But the bosses and bankers do not grant such mobility to the working class. When they are short handed they welcome immigrants–with or without papers. When they are not needed the immigrants become scapegoats as the bosses play the bigot card once more, driving divisions in to the working class.

Some of our unions have done a good job in defending their immigrant as well as citizen members and the AFL-CIO has said some good things on immigration. But last year Federation president Rich Trumka brokered a deal with his opposite number in the Chamber of Commerce to be included in the White House grand scheme of immigration reform. As always, nothing good came from the revelations of this unholy trinity of Labor, Capital, and Capital’s political servant.

Our demands should be principled, brief, action oriented. No more deportations of workers lacking papers. No more breaking up of families. Our answer to Globalization of Capital is–Working Class Solidarity Knows No Borders.

Lisa Luinenburg closed her article well and I’ll repeat it here,

“Immigrants proved their power in the streets in 2006, and they will do so again. When they march, we must all be ready to join the fight.”

From The Daily Planet
Since the Chicago Teachers Union took on Obama’s former Chief-of-Staff in Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s former bailiwick, there’s been no peace for the enemies of public education there. The CTU’s effective organizing and bargaining approach has inspired other teacher successes such as a recent victory in winning jobs and limiting class size in Portland, Oregon. Los Angeles teachers just elected a reform union leadership slate promoting a Chicago-style approach in the city of angels.

Less publicized is a win by the St Paul Federation of Teachers that not only secured raises for all of their members but also caps on class size, less time for testing and more for teaching, and commitments to hire more librarians, among other gains. You can read about it in an article in an independent Twin Cities news site, The Daily Planet.

If you check out this article entitled The present, past, and future of collective bargaining–and I urge that you do–you’ll find a lot more than just an explanation of the teacher deal. The author is Peter Rachleff who has long been part of the history department of the small, prestigious  and expensive liberal arts Macalester College in St Paul. The school gave Hubert Humphrey a job after HHH lost to Nixon.  I don’t rub shoulders with many  professors but I came to know Peter nearly thirty years ago through his extracurricular activities–as a leader of impressive solidarity support for UFCW P-9 workers in Austin, Minnesota before, during and after their 1985-86 strike against Hormel. If this epic battle was before your time you should read the book Peter wrote about it, Hard-Pressed in the Heartland: The Hormel Strike and the Future of the Labor Movement.

Peter has made his services available to many unions since and civil rights, civil liberties, and immigrant rights movements as well. Paraphrasing a couple of old Germans, you could say Peter’s approach to teaching history in both classroom and movements is to not only understand it but prepare to make it. His latest gem is a good example of how much can be compressed in one brief article.

2014-3-15_Rally-2101 cropped

Fifteen Forward
Another old friend, from Labor Party days, Paul Bigman wrote an informative piece posted on Labor Notes, Seattle Marches to a $15 Beat, updating the movement for a fifteen dollar minimum wage in his hometown. He writes,

“New Mayor Ed Murray says, ‘We know it is not a matter of if we get to $15 per hour, but when and how we get there.’ All nine city council members publicly endorse the concept. But underneath the apparent consensus are differences on what $15 means and how long it should take. So labor and community groups in Seattle are mobilizing to hold the council’s feet to the fire—and to get the job done by ballot initiative if the council compromises too far.”

A recent march of 750 called for Fifteen Now!

Fast food workers carried out another round of actions in thirty cities last Tuesday calling for an end to wage theft by McDonalds as well as their Fifteen and a Union demand. In Kansas City, dozens responded to a call from Jobs with Justice for a lunch hour protest at the McDonalds at 38 & Broadway. The size of the vocal crowd in front and the sight of police cruisers surrounding the premises, pretty much trashed the store’s lunch business. I am pleased to report that the ATU 1287 Financial Secretary joined us for the first time.

Not A Mystery To Love
It’s not as ubiquitous or lingering as carbon dioxide but methane can cause eighty-six times as much global warming over a twenty year period as CO2. That’s why Chris Busch, director of research at Energy Innovation, wrote an op-ed for Live Science titled The Mystery of the Missing Methane. He begins,

“A new landmark study in the journal Science found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inventory of greenhouse gases is undercounting total U.S. methane emissions by roughly 50 percent. Based on atmospheric sampling, the study estimates that this missing methane amounts to 14 terra grams (Tg) of methane; that’s equal to 6.4 billion pounds, or as much as the weight of 1.4 million new Ford F150 pickup trucks.”

A more relevant comparison is also cited,

“According to our analysis at Energy Innovation, the methane missing from the EPA’s inventory — in terms of the contribution to global warming over a 20-year time period — would be equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 252 coal power plants.”

The fracking industry has cited the EPA inventory, which actually claimed a two percent drop in emissions, to dismiss concerns about their methane pollution as alarmist. This could be a clue to the culprit[s] in the mystery–and I don’t think it’s Colonel Mustard in the study.

In Brief…
* From the CBC, “Hundreds of trade unionists from across B.C. labour, including nurses, hospital employees, government and telecommunications workers flew their union flags at Canada Place Friday afternoon as they rallied in support of striking Port Metro Vancouver container truck drivers.”
* And from down the coast a ways the Los Angeles Times reports, “A string of actions by state officials and the National Labor Relations Board has strengthened the hand of truck drivers who say they need union representation to improve pay and working conditions for the thousands who transport cargo out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. In a settlement this week, one major trucking company agreed to post notices acknowledging the workers’ right to organize — not previously a given because drivers were treated as contract workers, who are not subject to unionization. The agreement comes after repeated victories at the state Labor Commissioner’s office, where 30 drivers have won decisions against 11 port trucking firms, awarding them $3.6 million in wages and penalties.”
* Reuters dispatch, “Railway staff of Canadian National Railway Co (CN Rail) have narrowly voted against a strike-busting labor agreement tentatively agreed upon by the company and workers’ union. Canada’s biggest railroad and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference – Conductors, Trainpersons and Yardpersons (TCRC-CTY) regularly negotiate pay, hours and other provisions but a three-year proposal in October drew threats of a strike earlier this year.”

That’s all for this week.
Free digital subscription to the Week In Review is available through RSS and Yahoo Group Mail.

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

Visit the KC Labor table at the Labor Notes Conference

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member