Jun 232017

  by Bill Onasch

It Pays Them to Keep Us Ignorant

Judy Ancel

When I returned to my home town of Kansas City in 1989 the local labor movement was, of course, far different than when I had left in 1963. Friends suggested that I get in touch with Judy Ancel, the director of the Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Missouri Kansas City. It was good advice. Over the years I learned a lot from her. I was also rewarded by opportunities to participate in many worthwhile projects–as well as personal friendship with their instigator.

Like most university labor ed programs the ILS offered courses in the principles of collective bargaining, grievance/arbitration methods, and labor history. Judy also did custom planning for local unions deciding to move from “service” unionism to an organizing model.

But the ILS—later renamed Worker Education and Labor Studies (WELS)–was more innovative and activist than most campus-based programs. For example:

* The ILS sponsored the launch of the award winning Heartland Labor Forum show on KKFI community radio.

* Organized two Labor History Bus Tours stopping at physical locations of major events in working class struggles in the city where volunteers made presentations explaining what happened. (I was the bus driver and a presenter.)

* The ILS has been a valuable partner to the Cross-Border Network that began with establishing ties with Mexican workers in the Maquiladoras and later supporting the big immigrant rights struggles in this country.

* Judy’s persistence led to establishment of a Kansas City chapter of Jobs with Justice that plays a prominent role in the local Fight for 15 actions.

* The ILS/WELS endorsed, and provided resources to numerous educational and solidarity events including some initiated by the Labor Party and the KC Labor website.

* Judy also became an important resource person for the Labor Notes project.

Fortunately, this far from complete summary of Judy’s ILS achievements is not part of an obituary. She remains alive and energetic. But this week there was a not unexpected announcement of the demise of WELS as part of draconian cuts to the entire university system. The same Trumpites in charge of nearly all levels of state government, who passed a “Right-to-Work Law,” and outlawed municipal minimum wage ordinances, certainly have no interest in labor education.

Judy will not join those “outcast and starving.” She’s promised a pension and is eligible for Medicare. Neither will she be wondering what to do with extra time on her hands. The radio show is mostly underwritten by unions and listener donations and will not be killed by state austerity. I expect to see Judy Ancel continuing to be in the thick of worker struggles—which are a raw material of labor education–for as long as I’m around.

While not as sure I will see it completed, I’m also confident that when the working class takes political power away from the bosses and bankers labor education will become a salient part of teaching from K-PhD. Instead of buildings named after boss politicians or billionaire donors schools will memorialize champions of the class struggle—a designation that should include dedicated labor educators.

‘Democrats Take Stock: Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump’s’

That was a very apropos title on the New York Times site. The article it headlined was about an election fiasco in Georgia to fill a vacancy created by a Trump cabinet appointment. The promoted incumbent had won it by a 25 percent plurality just last November. It is the same district that regularly sent Newt Gingrich to be a GOP Speaker of the House. Inexplicably, the DNC chose to make it a referendum about Trump. The contest set a record for money spent on a House election. Trump’s candidate won handily.

But polls over the last several years have shown a majority have no confidence in either major party to serve their interests and favor a new party. The Democrats have blown whatever chance they may have had for rehabilitation.

Recent polls confirm that a big majority of the public reject Trump’s extreme views on climate change and building a wall on the Mexican border. Nor do they like what they have heard about TrumpCare.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released the day the Senate health bill was revealed showed only 16 percent favored the House version that Trump celebrated in the White House Rose Garden. 48 percent opposed it, the rest weren’t sure or didn’t care.

By contrast, the same poll showed 41 percent think ObamaCare is a good plan, 38 percent bad. What is notable about this result is the patently inadequate current system has actually gained popularity during Trump’s attack on the supposedly dying Affordable Care law—another twist on lesser evil.

The Democrats certainly have plenty of ammunition to use against TrumpCare Lite. It seems likely they will be joined by enough GOP defectors to defeat it. But to quote the title of Naomi Klein’s new book—No Is Not Enough.

It is true that dozens of Democrats in Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of a single-payer bill that would provide universal coverage at a genuinely more affordable cost. But that was also the case seven years ago when Obama cajoled or threatened them—including Bernie Sanders–in to voting for what the Republicans have stigmatized as ObamaCare.

The Democrat establishment recognizes that the debate over an industry accounting for one/sixth of the economy is not about health care. TrumpCare is all about enabling massive tax cuts for the rich. ObamaCare, still defended by the donkey party, subsidizes and enriches the insurance and pharmaceutical robber barons. One may be worse than the other but neither adequately serves the health care needs of America.

As increasing numbers intuitively recognize, both brands of ruling class politics are inferior and downright dangerous. They are beyond repair or recycle. They deserve to be swept in to the proverbial dustbin of history. But to do that we need a party of our own.

Two LGBT Decisions

An AFP dispatch reports,

Germany’s parliament has voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law that remained in force after the second world war. After decades of lobbying, victims and activists hailed a triumph in the struggle to clear the names of gay men who lived with a criminal record under article 175 of the penal code. An estimated 5,000 of those found guilty under the statute are still alive. The measure overwhelmingly passed the Bundestag lower house of parliament, where chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition enjoys a large majority. It also offers gay men convicted under the law a lump sum of €3,000 (£2,600) as well as an additional €1,500 for each year they spent in prison.”

If you’re wondering what about Lesbians?–curiously sex between women was never criminalized even by the Nazis.

But meanwhile in Mississippi, the New York Times reports,

A federal appeals court on Thursday lifted an injunction on a Mississippi law that grants private individuals and government workers far-reaching abilities to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on religious grounds….”

Not All Hot Air Is Inside the Beltway

A heat wave in the southwest U.S., and not respecting the Mexican border, in places pushed temperatures up to 120F. That can be deadly for the elderly without air-conditioning, those who must work outside, the homeless, of course, and those migrants from Mexico crossing the border through the Sonora Desert most of all. But perhaps the most publicized alert was the need to ground many commercial aircraft that cannot safely operate in such super-heated atmosphere.

There was also a heat wave in Europe. You probably heard amusing stories about English school boys and French male bus drivers donning skirts when shorts were forbidden. But the sizzling temps were also a contributing factor in a massive forest fire in Portugal that killed more than sixty persons.

New York Times Graphic

There is a new study out predicting the growth of extreme hot days—95F and above—with various scenarios based on the success, or lack there of in meeting the goals of the Paris Accords. I’ll return to that topic next time.

That’s all for this week.

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