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.
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Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

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