Aug 032014

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

Labor and Gaza
The collective punishment of the people of Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces–now over 1700 killed, mostly civilians, many children–has shocked the world. UN bodies have condemned these actions that have included shelling of hospitals. schools, mosques, and a university recently partially rebuilt after destruction during a 2009 Israeli invasion. A commission is investigating this targeting of noncombatants as possible war crimes. Even staunch allies have urged restraint–while still enabling the bloodbath, as captured in this Guardian headline, “US condemns shelling of UN school in Gaza–but restocks Israeli ammunition.”

Neofascist scum in Europe have used the outrage against Israeli brutality in Gaza as cover for launching a new wave of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews in Germany, Italy, France and elsewhere.

Historically, the mainstream leadership of American organized labor followed the State Department line of uncritical support for Israeli policies. But there are at least two brave current examples to the contrary.

The officers of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) recently issued a statement on The Crisis in Gaza. They explained the policies adopted by their last convention,

“In the resolution ‘For Peace, Jobs and a Pro-Worker Foreign Policy,’ last year’s UE convention said in part:

‘U.S. policy is outrageously one-sided towards Israel, perpetuates injustice and conflict, and risks further war in the Middle East. The $3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel (by far the richest country receiving U.S. aid) far exceeds aid given to any other country. U.S. policy allows the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine, including the construction of illegal settlements, an apartheid wall through the West Bank, and the continued military blockade of Gaza.’ The resolution went on to call for ‘An end to all U.S. military aid to Israel; An end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine; An end to the blockade of Gaza; The cessation of building, and the removal of all Israeli settlements from Palestinian territory….’”

They nailed the present situation, “We support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, including withdrawal of all Israeli troops and lifting of the economic blockade of Gaza.”

I expected such a principled position from the UE, to which I once belonged. I was pleasantly surprised with the stand taken by the President of a union whose card I presently carry–the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981.

In the August NWU newsletter, Larry Goldbetter wrote extensively along similar lines of the UE. He also dealt with media coverage,

“There’s an old saying, ‘The first casualty of war is the truth.’ Nowhere is that more true than in the US corporate media’s coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza….The NWU has posted on our social media about the murder of a Palestinian journalist by Israeli troops and how NBC pulled a reporter from Gaza after he reported that four Palestinian children were killed by an Israeli airstrike while playing soccer on the beach. A social media campaign convinced NBC to return Mohyeldin to Gaza.”

On a labor journalist listserv, Goldbetter reported on some vicious personal attacks in e-mail messages from Zionist hawks. That didn’t deter him from appealing to our members,

“I urge every member and chapter to join local actions and coalitions to end this brutal occupation now!”

The Washington Post reports that thousands of opponents of the Gaza invasion from around the country demonstrated at the White House yesterday.

I’m Lovin’ It!
The Fast Food workers fight for Fifteen and a Union got super-sized this week. In a New York Times article entitled McDonald’s Ruling Could Open Door for Unions Steven Greenhouse explains,

“The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide. Business groups called the decision outrageous. Some legal experts described it as a far-reaching move that could signal the labor board’s willingness to hold many other companies to the same standard of ‘joint employer,’ making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations.”

I joined a big rally of Fast Food workers, along with union and community supporters, to celebrate this ruling at the McDonald’s at Myer & Troost in Kansas City during the Friday evening rush hour. Similar actions were held in many other cities.

Strawberry Fields Massacre
From the Guardian,

“A Greek court’s decision to acquit farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they asked for months of back pay has sparked outrage in the country. Politicians, unions and anti-racist groups condemned the verdicts, describing them as a black day for justice in a case that had shone a light on the appalling conditions in which migrant workers are often kept in Greece. ‘I feel shame as a Greek,’ said the Bangladeshis’ lawyer, Moisis Karabeyidis, after the ruling in the western port city of Patras. This decision is an outrage and a disgrace … the court showed an appalling attitude toward the victims.’”

KC Election Picks
I have no horses in the boss parties Primary races Tuesday but there’s a lot of bad stuff on the Issues Ballot in Missouri, and a couple just in Kansas City. I’ve posted my recommendations on our companion Labor Advocate blog.

AG’s Foul New Rules On Fowl Lines
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new rules were the most significant change in food-safety inspections in nearly 60 years. As reported in the New York Times,

“The Agriculture Department released long-awaited poultry-inspection rules on Thursday that will give plant operators the option of conducting their own inspections for bird defects and feces on the processing lines.”

USDA inspectors who formerly did these inspections will be reassigned. The Ag also adopted a new maximum line speed of 140 birds per minute as a gesture toward reducing carpal tunnel syndrome, a serious problem for line workers. But this new limit is actually higher than the current industry average of about 130 birds per minute.

Not everyone is happy about the new rules developed by the friends of workers and public health in the current administration. The Times article quotes Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch,

“The one USDA inspector left on the slaughter line under this new rule will still have to inspect 2.33 birds every second — an impossible task that leaves consumers at risk. This is not a meaningful victory because there are not accompanying worker-safety regulations to deal with the musculoskeletal disorders and other work-related injuries that both the plant workers and USDA inspectors suffer every day working in the poultry slaughter plants.”

Also not pleased were animal rights groups and the union representing the inspectors.

Back to School
The Amalgamated Transit Union has acquired the campus of the former National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland for 31.4 million dollars. The Labor College scaled back to online courses only and put the campus on the market a few years ago. The ATU will use the campus as an educational and training center and will eventually move the International Union’s offices there as well.

A few weeks ago we wrote about Canadians from Windsor delivering a thousand liters of drinking water to Detroit residents who had their water shut off because they were behind on their utility bill. Aljazeera America reports,

“Environmental activists from West Virginia on Wednesday delivered more than 1,000 gallons of bottled water to residents of Detroit, where more than 15,000 of the city’s poorest people have had their water shut off — often for being unable to pay their bill — part of austerity measures imposed on the bankrupt city. Bill DePaulo, with Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, drove a U-Haul truck to carry 1,080 gallons of water paid for by donations from West Virginians. He arrived on Wednesday morning at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, one of four water distribution centers in the city.”

Now Detroit’s neighbor to the south needs water as well. Toledo’s drinking water has been polluted by toxins released by algae in Lake Erie.

The Acid Test
Commenting on a new report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration an AP story said,

“Ocean water becomes more acidic when it absorbs carbon dioxide released by human sources, such as the burning of fossil fuels. Increased ocean acidification could harm important Alaska commercial and subsistence fisheries and communities that rely heavily on them, according to the new research aimed at spurring discussion on how to address the changes.”

Maybe it would help if we stopped burning fossil fuels?

That’s all for this week.

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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.

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Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

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