Week In Review Year End Wrap

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Dec 192016

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

Facing Denial

Because of another project, I’m a little later than anticipated in pulling together the last WIR of this tumultuous year. I had taken some time to update and fine tune a talk about the history of the labor party movement in the USA and its future prospects that had been scheduled this past Saturday. The audience was to be a group of young socialists, mainly campus based, in Connecticut via video hookup through Google’s Hangout.

Unfortunately, like many thousands of other events, and airline flights, around the country it got canceled. Early Saturday the convener in the Nutmeg State called to say a big storm was moving in to their area and asked if they could postpone my presentation to early next year. Naturally, I didn’t object. Kansas City got only a couple of inches of snow. But it was on top of treacherous black ice—leading to dozens of accidents and three fatalities—and overnight temps plunged to -5F, with gusting winds making it feel like more than twenty below zero.

Of course, snow and cold can be expected this time of the year in the Midwest and Northeast. But only in recent years have we heard terms like the Siberian Express and Polar Vortex introduced to weather forecasts. The snow dumped on my friends out in Oregon was not so typical. Nor were the tornadoes in the Southeast. And in southern California, suffering from years of drought and massive wildfires, there was serious flooding in Pasadena.

Climate scientists and a majority of meteorologists now believe increasingly common severe and freakish weather events are part of a climate being rapidly changed by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

About this time last year I was explaining why I did not share in the optimism expressed by many about the “historic” Paris Climate Agreement that has now been signed by nearly every country. My pessimism has been greatly enhanced by the nomination for Secretary of State in the incoming Trump cabinet.

Rex Tillerson is the ultimate “outsider” employed by the same company—known today as ExxonMobil, America’s biggest fossil fuel company–since he graduated from the University of Texas in 1975. For most of that time, Exxon suppressed concerns of their own scientists about Global Warming while publicly denouncing climate change as “junk science.” He’s been CEO since 2006. Tillerson is scheduled to retire next year at which time he will receive 218 million dollars in company stock and a 70 million dollar pension.

While he has no government background, Tillerson has brokered many deals with governments abroad often valued in hundreds of billions of dollars. He has particularly good relations with Vladimir Putin—a life long government employee who managed to accumulate a personal fortune estimated in the billions. Putin honored Tillerson with the Russian equivalent of the Legion of Honor. Some of their biggest deals are on hold because of American sanctions imposed around Crimea/Ukraine. Secretary Tillerson could be in a position to solve that problem.

Rick Perry is the choice of the Denier-in-Chief Elect for Energy Secretary. The former Governor of Texas sits on several energy company boards and was briefly a rival of Trump for the GOP nomination. During the Republican debates he advocated shutting down the department he now wants to head.

Secretary of Interior goes to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris from Montana. That post controls permits and leases on public lands rich in oil and gas deposits. She has said that Al Gore deserves an “F” in science.

Heading up the Environmental Protection Agency is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. He at least is familiar with the EPA. He’s spent most of his time and a lot of Oklahoma taxpayer’s money suing the Agency to block regulations. He maintains that science is still divided about climate change.

The Trump transition team has demanded that the Obama administration supply them with the names of all government employees who have attended conferences, or written or spoken about climate change. It’s unlikely they will get such a handy enemies list but government scientists are frantically photocopying and e-mailing research results needed to tackle Global Warming to those who can still use them.

And we should not neglect the President Elect himself who favors a revival of coal and is known to have substantial personal investments in Shell, Chevron, and Halliburton.

Of course, environmental destruction is only one of many fronts in the war on class and climate. But as we prepare for the New Year, it’s important to reaffirm that Global Warming takes top priority. We can reverse unjust laws and even confiscate ill-gotten gains. But there’s no do-overs on climate change.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Yachts

A December 6 New York Times article began,

“Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and half decades. The real economy more than doubled in size; the government now uses a substantial share of that bounty to hand over as much as $5 trillion to help working families, older people, disabled and unemployed people pay for a home, visit a doctor and put their children through school. Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly, new research has found. This group — the approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder —’has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s’ the team of economists found. ‘Even after taxes and transfers, there has been close to zero growth for working-age adults in the bottom 50 percent.'”

Since 1977, the two official parties alternated control of the White House, twenty years each. The GOP mostly stuck to what became known as Reaganomics, or trickle-down, while the Democrats chipped in by launching deregulation, Globalization, austerity, and privatization.

It’s no wonder that a poll of Millenials nurtured during this period found a majority think capitalism sucks, and a third favor socialism. They were the shock troops of the impressive but short-lived insurgency of a “democratic socialist” within a party often trusted by the capitalists to govern.

In introducing the coming Trump administration, Monty Python would probably say—now for something completely different. The only past Republican presidents with whom he shares something in common are Rutherford B Hayes and George Bush II. All three managed to win elections while finishing second in the popular vote—in Trump’s case 2.7 million fewer votes.

That remarkable achievement was accomplished by the evil genius of a campaign manager who skillfully gamed the system—and probably reads a few pages from Mein Kampf every night at bed time.

Trump—who has no ideology other than self-promotion–needed the appeals to racism, xenophobia, and anti-semitism, hallmarks of fascism in the Breitbart playbook to win the election. Trump’s post-election rallies, his non-stop twitter feeds, and his intervention at Carrier, even before taking office also resemble some of the tactics used by Mussolini and Hitler as they evolved from putsch to power.

But the ruling class doesn’t need fascism today. As the Times article indicates, the uber-rich haven’t had it so good since the early days of Rockefeller, Morgan, and Carnegie. Of course, like Samuel Gompers—they want more. But few if any are considering financing armed gangs to attack unions and radicals—an essential ingredient in fascism. The Breitbart crowd, “white nationalists,” and neo-Nazis who recently shed their swastika logo, are kept strictly in reserve if/until needed.

President Eisenhower was accused of appointing a Cadillac Cabinet that included the CEO of General Motors. But he also appointed a former Plumbers union official as Secretary of Labor.

Trump’s selection of bosses, bankers, and brass hats, some of them billionaires, could qualify for the Rolls Royce Cabinet. For example: The CEO of “too big to fail” Goldman Sachs will chair the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. The CEO of a major Fast Food chain, who believes the current minimum wage is killing jobs, will be the new Labor Secretary. And the beat goes on.

The hubris of a President who finished second was exceeded by his opponent who was convinced she would win and neglected her party’s traditional base. Her party is worthless in combating the reactionary assault on all fronts. Jill Stein’s squandering of millions of liberal dollars on a recount that only gave Trump 131 additional votes in Wisconsin doesn’t inspire much confidence in the Greens.

The Trump regime is not fascist nor is it the Borg. Far from futile, resistance is urgently needed. But it needs to be our class against theirs. Petitions and lobbying will be futile. We need to draw on our strength in the workplace and the communities.

And, above all, as I hope to convince those young people in Connecticut, we need to build a party of our own—a labor party.


I’m now beginning my customary year-end holiday break. The next WIR will be in early January. I thank all readers for your support. Though I’m not religious, I won’t get mad at anyone wishing me a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanuka. I wish all of you, no matter your faith or lack thereof, a very Happy 2017CE.

That’s all for this year.

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Week In Review December 8

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review December 8
Dec 082016

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

Vigilance and Celebration

Both are in order after the President blinked. He backed down the day before a scheduled, potentially bloody attempt to evict thousands of peaceful but determined Water Protectors blocking construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock. The Army Corps of Engineers is now tasked with doing a new Environmental Impact Study which would certainly take months if not years. The DAPL builder has gone to court asking this “capitulation to violent protesters” be nullified. Most legal scholars doubt that will happen–but you never know. A ruling is expected tomorrow.

Leaving aside the scurrilous charge of violent, the lame duck President did indeed capitulate to protect his “legacy.” The quick to forgive 350.org suggested we send him a thank-you. I’ll pass on that.

The lion’s share of gratitude goes to the biggest First Nations assembly in more than a century to stop the Oil Protectors desecrating and polluting the land and water of the Standing Rock Reservation. Special recognition should also be awarded to more than 2,000 military veterans of all colors who volunteered to be a nonviolent “Human Shield” blocking the planned armed assault. Also worthy of acknowledgment is National Nurses United who provided RNs to tend to the wounded and sick in the camps–and contributed fifty-thousand dollars to the veteran’s deployment.

If the President-Designate decides not to begin his legacy tangling with the only Americans whose ancestors were already here when the first white immigrants showed up, the DAPL will be rerouted. That would be a big victory for the First Nations worthy of jubilation.

But that would resolve only one of the multiple issues in the fight against DAPL. An alternate route would still bring the same environmental damage to someone else’s backyard. The Missouri River—supplying drinking water to hundreds of communities as far away as the St Louis suburbs–has to be crossed. And DAPL’s mission is to expand fracking in the Bakken which is highly destructive to both the local environment and the global climate. No matter how the Standing Rock battle plays out the struggle against DAPL needs to continue.

Before leaving this topic I want to defend myself against any charges of Fake News by offering a correction and clarification to the last WIR. I regrettably mangled the name of the company building DAPL. They are actually dba Energy Transfer Partners. I also wrote that Trump had a stake in ETP’s parent company. That was accurate as far as anyone outside Trump’s inner circle knew last week. Since then a Trump spokesperson astounded everyone by claiming Trump sold off all of his stock and bond investments in June. No documentation of this sale has been released nor was any explanation offered for announcing it only in response to a reporter’s question five months later.

Time Cover Honors Legend In His Own Mind

Henry Luce, founder of Time magazine, declared the end of World War II to be the beginning of the American Century. While more modest than Hitler’s proclamation of a Thousand Year Reich, now past the half-century mark America über alles has been challenged by various adversaries. It’s hard to say what Luce would make of the Person of the Year cover going to a new leader promising to make America Great Again. But I’m pretty sure the stolid newsweekly would never hire him.

Whether from a Trump-branded podium or through the medium of the twit, the man slated to become President-Elect next Wednesday is the role model for Fake News. The diligent New York Times and MSNBC have a tough time keeping up with his volume of what the Brits call porkies passing through his lips and thumbs. I want to mention just one whopper aimed at his newly adopted poster child—the blue collar worker in manufacturing—with his claim that he had worked out a deal with Carrier in Indianapolis to keep 1100 jobs slated to move to Mexico in the Hoosier state.

My first reaction to the original announcement was that it is a violation of the Taft-Hartley Act. The United Steelworkers have exclusive bargaining rights for Carrier’s production and maintenance workers and it would be illegal for the employer to negotiate with anyone else. But, for whatever reasons, the union has apparently decided not to file a charge.

A leaflet distributed by the union in the Indianapolis plant this past Monday said 730 union jobs appeared to be “saved” and they “hoped” that wouldn’t shrink further. In Carrier’s other Indiana plant in Huntington, all 700 union jobs will be lost.

In exchange for this “job saving” the Governor of Indiana—who next Wednesday will become the Vice-President Elect—promised Carrier millions of tax dollars to help them “modernize” the Indianapolis facility. In this instance, modernization is a euphemism for automation—which in the long run will eliminate even more jobs.

Trump later twitted, “Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!”

Trump’s deal with Carrier, a division of United Technologies, resembles the Corporatism of a strong leader who set out to make Italy great again in 1922. Workers should be as suspicious of Trump the job saver as the Roman poet Virgil was of Greek neighbors bearing gifts.

Frank Rosen, 91

Shortly after I posted the last WIR I learned yet another of the workers movement’s Greatest Generation had passed away. I got to know Frank Rosen during my years in UE Local 1139 in Minneapolis in the 1970-80s while he was president of District Council 11, based in Chicago. After a plant closing took me out of UE jurisdiction we stayed in touch through our involvement in projects like the Labor Party and US Labor Against the War.

Though we were in different left currents as historically hostile as you could imagine, this was never an obstacle to collaboration in the labor movement or our personal relations. I plan to write more about Frank—just as I promised to do about Jerry Gordon who passed away in October—over the coming holiday break.

In Brief…

* Though it is scheduled the day after the inauguration of the first billionaire President the January 21 Women’s March on Washington is not just another anti-Trump demo. It is a long overdue mass protest against attacks on the full range of women’s rights and conditions that continued through eight years of a Democrat in the White House. This assault is escalating on state levels even before a more hateful administration begins in Washington. This March deserves the support of the entire workers movement.

* The courts are tough in Texas. They are the go-to venue for blocking beneficial regulations be they for overtime or environmental. Now they are greasing the way for bankrupting unions. The Houston Chronicle reports, “The Service Employees International Union in Texas has filed for bankruptcy protection, three months after a jury in Harris County slapped it with a $5.3 million judgment.”

* The Hartford Courant began a story, “Machinists on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a nearly 51/2-year contract with jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney that ends pensions for new hires but increases wages 2.5 percent a year.” P&W, like Carrier, is part of United Technologies.

* In breaking news, the New York Times says, “President-elect [sic] Donald J. Trump is expected to name Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of the company that operates the fast food outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be secretary of labor, people close to the transition said on Thursday.” He should get along well with Virginia Foxx, the new Chair of the House Labor Committee, who recently remarked that organized labor has “sort of lost its reason for being.”


* Twin Cities area readers should check out the events calendar at the St Paul East Side Freedom Library that includes a December 16 showing of one of my favorite films, Cradle Will Rock.

Before I get around to contacting each of you, I want to collectively thank those who responded to my recent fund appeal. I know the timing wasn’t ideal with so many worthy causes doing the same, along with Giving Tuesday, on top of the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately it’s also a peak time for some of our annual expenses. Your contributions were enough to pay a domain registration fee and to renew our e-mail subscription service for next year—and that’s very much appreciated. Of course, donations are welcome any time.

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.

http://www.workdayminnesota.org/sites/workdayminnesota.org/themes/workdayminnesota/images/social/large/rss.png Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

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

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.