Week In Review November 9

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Nov 092014

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

I Did My Duty
It was midmorning when we entered the magnificent Episcopal structure hosting our precinct’s voting. There was no waiting. Ignoring the side of the ballot with candidates, it took me less than a minute to check the No boxes on all propositions. After being rewarded with American flag stickers proclaiming I Voted, Mary and I decided since we had already driven half way to Brookside we might as well do lunch followed by grocery shopping.

I hope you won’t think my attitude toward voting is cavalier. I appreciate the right to vote was won through bloody struggle and the fight to defend it–which I fully support–is far from over. I do, however, plead guilty to contempt for the political Establishment that masks the rule of a tiny minority with the deceptive appearance of democratic choice.

My first response to the results of the midterms, posted on my companion Labor Advocate blog, was more of a vent than analysis. Essential needed statistics won’t be available for a while. Being an agitator rather than patient scholar, I took a shortcut around best practice by skipping empirical data to go straight to my logical conclusion–American workers more than ever need a party of our own to contest the twin ruling class parties for political power.

It is gratifying to see others I respect, such as Jerry Gordon of the Labor Fightback Network, and working class blogger Shamus Cooke, expressing a similar basic assessment. And I want to tip my hat to those who bravely battled our class enemy in the electoral trenches–South Carolina Labor Party congressional candidate Harold Geddings, a Sheetmetal Workers activist, who finished third with 4,137 votes in the second CD; and climate scientist Jessica Spear who on the Socialist Alternative ticket garnered 3,826 votes (16.4 percent) in a state legislature race in Seattle.

The Labor Party project founded in 1996–now in a sort of medically induced coma on the national level because of lack of material support from unions–rejected being exclusively, or even primarily a vote getting machine active only in election seasons like the boss parties. The Introduction to Its Electoral Strategy statement was clear:

“The Labor Party is unlike any other party in the United States. We stand independent of the corporations and their political representatives in the Democratic and Republican parties. Our overall strategy is for the majority of American people — working class people — to take political power. Within this framework of class independence, with the ultimate goal of achieving power, we accept the electoral tactic of running candidates. The Labor Party will run candidates for public office in order to elect representatives to positions where they can help enact and enforce laws and policies to benefit the working class. We will run at governmental levels where we can best advance the goals and priorities of the Labor Party. Unlike other political parties, public officials elected by the Labor Party will be accountable to the party membership and required to follow the positions outlined in the party platform. Although we accept electoral politics as an important tactic, we do not see it as the only tool needed to achieve working class power.

“Unlike other political parties, the Labor Party will be active before, during and between elections, building solidarity in our communities, workplaces and unions. Labor Party candidates will be run only where our basic organizational criteria are met. The Labor Party will build into its electoral campaigns, and the periods between them, procedures to ensure political education and mobilization of the working class, further development of the party structure and growth in membership, and strengthened relationships to community and labor allies.”

I think this perspective was correct when adopted and remains valid today. But it couldn’t and can’t be implemented as our unions give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democrats in every election cycle while starving the once promising Labor Party initiative. A mass labor based party awaits a return of militant, class aware unionism.


There are some state and local Labor Party bodies still functioning–South Carolina being the most visible. Some, such as our small group in Kansas City, have retooled as Labor Party Advocates, adopting the name and tasks of the forerunner group that laid the groundwork for the impressive Labor Party founding convention. We raise the labor party question at appropriate times in our unions and wherever we show solidarity at picket lines and demonstrations. We sponsor occasional public meetings about timely issues.

In the electoral arena, the best we can do at the present is run local Labor Party, or Independent Labor candidates here and there with limited expectations. We can use them as an opportunity to get ideas out to a wider than normal audience, to try to sign up volunteers for the duration to defend ourselves in the class war being waged against us.

If we prevail in our day-to-day efforts in the workplace, campuses, and the working class communities, building a labor party in the process, we can one day win decisive victories in elections as well. A brilliant Russian military strategist once advised Train Hard–Fight Easy. I don’t expect the fight to ever be easy–even when we win elections fair and square–but his emphasis on preparation was spot on. That’s the stage we’re at today. There’s no acceptable shortcut around that best practice. But since we are the big majority, and do all the work, once we get our act together there will be no stopping us.

Better Not Yet Trending
A headline over a perceptive story in the Kansas City Star “Unemployment rate hits a six-year low, but no wage growth” confirms trends we discussed in the October 27 WIR–flat wages overall and hiring strongest in jobs either low wage, part-time, or both–relentlessly continue.

But the BLS October Employment Situation report upon which the article is based does not capture the true depth of ongoing bad times. Last month, a New York Times story reported,

“Walmart Stores, the world’s largest retailer and the nation’s largest private employer, said on Tuesday that it would terminate health insurance coverage for about 30,000 part-time workers, joining a string of retailers that have rolled back benefits in response to the Affordable Care Act. Starting on Jan. 1, Walmart will no longer offer insurance to employees working less than an average of 30 hours a week…. From Jan. 1, 2015, [the Affordable Care Act] will require companies with 50 or more employees to offer health insurance coverage to employees working at least 30 hours a week, or pay a penalty. Employees working less than that can apply for subsidies in new government-run insurance exchanges that opened last year.”

Other big retailers such as Home Depot, Target and Trader Joe’s are also shifting the cost of employee health insurance to the tax-payers–if the workers are lucky. An “oversight” in what the Republicans like to call ObamaCare provides subsidies only to those signing up through state run exchanges. Most states, in the spirit of obstruction, refused to set up exchanges and the Supreme Court has agreed to review whether the subsidies granted through the Federal exchange are legal. The same Obama hating regimes that resisted the exchanges have also rejected funds appropriated to expand state-run Medicaid programs–at no cost to the states.

Of course, the whole health care system is a mess but come the first of the year millions of workers may have to cough up money they don’t have or go without any kind of health coverage they thought was now guaranteed.

One of the apparent counter trends in recent voting patterns is the readiness to give some relief to the working poor by raising state or local minimum wages. San Francisco approved a 15 dollar minimum and several other areas more modest hikes in the 8-12 dollar range. These efforts follow the first big breakthrough by 15 Now in SeaTac/Seattle. Along with the organizing strikes of the Fast Food workers for Fifteen and a Union, these minimum wage initiatives seem to offer the most likely short-term success for those struggling to make ends meet.

Postal Actions Friday
According to the American Postal Workers Union website, “Plans are taking shape for a National Day of Action on Nov. 14, when members of the four postal unions and supporters will send a powerful message to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and the USPS Board of Governor’s: Stop Delaying America’s Mail. The four unions are working together at the national level to produce flyers, posters, T-shirts and press releases, and they are encouraging their members to work together to organize local events. A special web page, www.StopMailDelays.org, has been created to share information and resources. Flyers are now available for union locals and branches to distribute to their members. Information about local activities can be printed on the back. Additional material will be made available as it is produced, including a list of local activities showing the times, locations and contact information.”

In Kansas City there will be a support rally at the Main Post Office, 1700 Cleveland, at 11AM.

In Brief…
* The Portland [Maine] Press Herald reports, “Hundreds of chanting FairPoint Communications workers rallied in Portland’s Monument Square on Saturday afternoon as their strike entered its 23rd day. Dressed in red and black, the 400 or so workers and their union representatives vowed to continue to fight for a fair contract. ‘We are not just striking for good jobs at FairPoint but good jobs in the Northeast,’ said Peter McLaughlin, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327 in Augusta and one of the union’s chief negotiators. Some of the attendees traveled from as far away as New Jersey and New York to support union members from the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America, the unions representing the striking workers.”
* Bloomberg complains, “U.S. retailers appealed to President Barack Obama to intervene in contract negotiations between West Coast dockworkers and maritime companies after a work slowdown spread to the nation’s largest container hub ahead of the holiday shopping season.”
* More than 100,000 Belgian workers marched in Brussels Thursday protesting government austerity plans that include raising retirement age. Considering Belgium’s population is only a little over eleven million that would be equivalent to a demonstration of three million in the USA.
* A strike by 18,000 RNs in the California Nurses Association at Kaiser seems likely to begin Tuesday.

After a few glitches we are resuming our invitations to join our new Google Group that will gradually replace our old list at Yahoo. Our listing will be week-in-review[at]googlegroups.com. If you have any problems with switching contact me at: billonasch[at]yahoo.com

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

Check out our digest of news stories about working class and climate issues, posted Monday-Friday by 9AM Central. on our companion Labor Advocate blog.

Our sole source of operating 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

Week In Review November 2

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review November 2
Nov 022014

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

A Big Budget Class Act
In case you haven’t heard, this Tuesday is election day in the USA–the Mid-Terms. All seats in the House of Representatives, and about one-third of all Senate seats are at stake. There are also thirty-six Governor races and thousands of contests for state legislatures. In some states and cities there are significant issues to be voted on as well. Campaign spending records are being shattered and new depths of odious personal attack ads on all sides have been plumbed.

Just as two operating systems dominate desktop computing two political parties control access to electoral power. Their differences are mostly a matter of style and pace in getting to the same end result. But this useful Windows and Macs analogy admittedly has a flaw. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs went on to become full fledged billionaire members of the class that really calls the shots. The Democrat and Republican politicians are completely and forever subservient to the bosses and bankers.

The big question consuming the talking heads of what passes for news on television is which party will control the Senate. If the GOP picks up a net gain of six seats they will control both houses of Congress. Should we care?

Declaring there is no difference between the two parties is as foolish as saying there is no difference between Ebola and HIV. But voluntarily choosing one over the other is not the brightest idea either.

If Mitch McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader one of two scenarios seems likely. We could see continued legislative gridlock such as has marked Capitol Hill since the Tea Party Revolution in the House four years ago. Or we could finally see Republican acceptance of President Obama’s repeated efforts to engineer a Grand Bargain that would give bipartisan blessing to gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid along with other further reductions in useful government services.

And if the Democrats keep control of the Senate? We have recent history that leads to expectation of further deals such as were made for sequestration of vital services, cuts in Food Stamps, slashing unemployment benefits, etc, etc. Which ever party prevails, White House attacks on public education and teacher unions, as well as the decimation of the US Postal Service, will move forward. The coin flip means heads the bosses win, tails the working class loses.

There are few working class challenges to the twin boss parties this year. The South Carolina Labor Party is running a sheetmetal worker for Congress, Harold Geddings in that state’s second CD. Socialist Alternative is standing a climate scientist, Jessica Spear in a Washington state legislative district, challenging an incumbent who is the Democrat leader in the legislature. Such efforts deserve support.

There is also a faux labor party, the Working Families Party, that exists almost exclusively in states that allow candidates to appear on more than one party ballot line. The WFP generally offers deals to put boss party candidates, usually Democrats, on the WFP ticket. In New York, Governor Cuomo imposed harsh conditions for accepting WFP support. The Governor also helped out another dubious Womens Equality Party that will take away some WFP votes and he recently ridiculed the WFP on a popular radio show. These two friends probably deserve one another.

The mainstream labor statespersons don’t fiddle around with even bogus labor party efforts. They are the most loyal straight up supporters of the Democrats and have learned how to utilize SuperPacs as well as mobilizing boots on the ground in support of perfidious “friends.” While their support is valuable to their boss party of choice the officials of our only class based mass organizations are totally irrelevant in the political process.

Given the sad offering of candidates I probably would not make the mile-long journey to the poll on Tuesday if it were not for the issues also appearing on the ballot. One proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution would in effect outlaw teacher tenure. Another would authorize a new Kansas City sales tax for a project that will never be built. In fact, my recommendation is to vote no on all the propositions on the Kansas City, Missouri ballot.

But my inclination to abstain when none of the choices are acceptable is different than the attitude of my friends in the IWW who ignore elections while plugging away for direct action. While we can ignore elections the political monopoly the boss class uses to rule society exclusively in their interests will never ignore us.

Elections are not the sole, or even most important arena of struggle for us. At best elections can only codify gains already won in other battles in the workplace and in the streets of our communities. But ultimately we need to take political power and create a workers government that advances the needs of the majority. For that we need a party of our own.

Fighting Disease In a Sick Society
Led by National Nurses United, RNs early on raised hell about the lack of training and essential protective gear for dealing with the Ebola threat in American hospitals. Now nurses, along with doctors, who courageously volunteered to work in Ground Zero of the Ebola epidemic in west Africa are upon their return being treated like criminals and pariahs. The Governors of New York and New Jersey grabbed free media exposure to spread panic and misinformation about the Ebola danger while ordering a three week incarceration of returning medical volunteers. The Governor of Maine quickly got on board as well.

Ebola is not an airborne disease like the flu. It is spread by contact with bodily fluids of those infected, mainly threatening family members and medical personnel. You can’t catch Ebola from a straphanger on the subway or a partner in a bowling alley as suggested by the Governors.

If this mean spirited bipartisan group of state CEOs thought the nurses would cower in the face of fear mongering they obviously didn’t pay attention to the rise and fall of a once powerful Governor of California who boasted he would beat the nurses’ butts. The NNU is fighting back with an RN Ebola Strike, National Day of Action for Ebola Safety Standards November 12.

The One Percent Counts on the Five Percent
UN climate scientists say they are 95 percent certain that the principal core cause of climate change is the emission of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. That’s about as certain as science ever gets. But the fossilized ruling class has been betting the future of our biosphere on that five percent chance science has got it wrong.

The scientists have synthesized three earlier dire reports in to a more digestible format for government representatives gathering in Copenhagen. An AP story this morning opens,

“Climate change is happening, it’s almost entirely man’s fault and limiting its impacts may require reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero this century, the U.N.’s panel on climate science said Sunday.”

I’ll have some comments on the outcome of these latest deliberations.

ES Library

Let’s Turn On the Heat In St Paul
Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary have made remarkable progress in renovating and repurposing a former Carnegie Library, acquired from the St Paul Library system, as the East Side Freedom Library. There have already been public events there and collections of material of interest to the ethnically diverse working class of the East Side are being assembled.

But now they are facing a big, time sensitive challenge–the approaching Minnesota winter. The funds their nonprofit have raised for structural work do not cover the considerable expense of heating the premises. They now have an opportunity to enhance donations through some matching by giveMN.org. To chip in on this worthy effort go here.

We’re Moving
A while back, responding to many problems we have all had with our Yahoo e-mail list, I announced I would be soon switching to another provider. To make a long, sad story short I’ll just say my first choice didn’t work out. But with my snail-like persistence that so often annoys my long suffering spouse, I have set up a new list on Google that should prove to be more reliable and user friendly.

Some readers should be receiving this through Google already. I started sending out invitations to current subscribers but Google will permit only ten at a time and it will take me a while to get to all current subscribers.

Once you receive your first Google Group message please add the group to your address book to avoid over aggressive spam filters. As former Yahoo subscribers switch to Google, I will remove those names from the Yahoo list and eventually that list will go away. I apologize in advance for any duplicates that may slip through in the transition and thank you in advance for your patience. If you have any problems or questions feel free to contact me through billonasch[at]yahoo.com.

Dreary Time
We’re now in to that half-year period without my primary source of diversion–major league baseball. For the first time in many years I was able to watch my hometown Kansas City Royals not just out of duty but genuine pride and pleasure. They confounded all of the experts by winning the American League pennant and when they lost the final game of the World Series by one run there was a runner stranded on third base. Hats off to them–and, of course, to the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

As sometimes happens, I got diverted from the promised follow up to last week’s WIR but plan to return to it next time.

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

Check out our digest of news stories about working class and climate issues, posted Monday-Friday by 9AM Central. on our companion Labor Advocate blog.

Our sole source of operating 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