Jul 012013

onaschoutsmall by Bill Onasch

Happy Canada Day/Fête du Canada to our readers north of the border.

This Thursday, of course, is Independence Day in the USA. I wrote some reflections on this holiday from a working class point of view in 2002 which you can read here. I’m going to skip routine operations either side of this holiday to complete some overdue unfinished menial tasks in reorganization of the office. There will be no Daily News Update postings on the Labor Advocate Blog until next week.

Last time I announced that this WIR would focus on what can be done to stop global warming  short of irreversible climate disaster. As I started drafting, it soon became clear that the topic was going to take me far beyond the maximum length I strive for in this column. So I have decided to opt for a more substantial stand alone article which will be posted here soon. In the meantime, I recommend reading an article by Christine Frank, one of the best working class writers on the subject, Obama’s climate proposals fall short.

The Supremes
Like many groups, National Nurses United hailed the Supreme Court decision overturning the bigoted Proposition 8 that had stopped same sex marriages in California. That was a clear victory for human rights in America’s biggest state worth celebrating–and many have been.

Also acknowledged was the less complete win for our side in the overturn of the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied employee benefits to Federal workers and dependents living in same sex marriages in those twelve states and the District of Columbia  where they are legal. Workers in the other 38 states still face this faith-based hateful discrimination imposed during the Clinton administration.

But NNU Co-President Deborah Burger went on to say,

“But there is a huge contrast here with the appalling, anti-democratic Court rulings earlier this week effectively overturning the historic Voting Rights Act, as well as decisions severely undermining the rights of workers on the job. The passage of nearly half a century has hardly dimmed the need for the Voting Rights Act. Over the past few years we have witnessed a disgraceful attack in state after state that is enacting restrictions on this most basic of all principles that is at the heart of democracy – the right to vote. These attacks, in hastily enacted laws or partisan maneuvers by state officials, have a disproportionate effect on minorities and low income people.”

She continued,

“Similarly, the Court’s decisions Monday eroding the ability of workers to challenge employment discrimination are, tragically, the latest in a long trend of abrasion of workplace rights. The rulings give an additional green light to employers to practice discrimination and retaliation against workers who challenge bias and harassment on the job. These decisions can only serve to further escalate the already severe economic disparities in our society.”

The NNU take on the Supremes is spot on. The most reactionary administration in living memory is supplemented by the most reactionary courts. Those who rely on either to do the right thing will be cruelly disappointed. Our power to secure justice remains in the workplace and the streets.

There were already plans for a August 24 mass mobilization in Washington on the fiftieth anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Rev Martin Luther King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech. Its initial theme was to call attention to the worsening economic plight of African-Americans a half-century later as is so well documented in a special report by Algernon Austin on the Economic Policy Institute site– The Unfinished March. Black unemployment today is higher than during the 1930s Great Depression. Now restoration of the gains of the single biggest legislative achievement of the civil rights movement–voting rights–needs to be added as well.

It Worked Well In Berlin
As the President was speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, where Reagan demanded Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall, the bipartisan gang of eight added what they hope will be the finishing touches to immigration “reform” that can pass Congress. The real pot sweetener was agreement to build a wall along the Mexican border that would leave any old Stalinist envious.  Only when this new level of border security, including both the latest high-tech gadgetry and 40,000 pairs of new boots on the ground, is up to speed will the thirteen-year path to citizenship, with its own barriers of fines, taxes, language requirements, and proof of residency, be opened to the estimated eleven million undocumented immigrant workers.

Since much of this deal had been worked out in negotiations between the leader of the House of Labor and the Chamber of Commerce, it was no surprise the AFL-CIO Blog immediately backed this latest mean-spirited “reform,”

“The U.S. Senate just voted 68–32 (with 14 Republicans joining all 54 Democrats) to approve immigration reform legislation that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says will move the nation ‘a big step closer’ to building a commonsense immigration system that will allow millions of aspiring Americans to become citizens.”

Brother Trumka apparently correctly acknowledges that workers residing in the USA should be called Americans. Common sense, as well as worker solidarity, tells me all such Americans should automatically have the rights of American citizens. If they were not needed and wanted by bosses they wouldn’t be here. If they could come out of the shadows with rights they could improve conditions not only for themselves but for our class as a whole.

In Brief…
* Wages, pensions, and health insurance are all live, unresolved issues leading to this mornings strike by the ATU and SEIU against BART, the heavily used commuter rail system in the San Francisco Bay area.
* The Sunday New York Times reported, “Schools across the northwest of England were shut last Thursday after two of Britain’s biggest teachers’ unions called a one-day strike to protest cuts in education spending in the budget unveiled last week by George Osborne, the chancellor of the Exchequer. About 3,000 schools in Liverpool, Manchester and Chester were affected.”
* From the AP, “A national strike against austerity measures by Portuguese labor unions on Thursday shut down many public services, but the government showed no signs of backing down from the pay cuts, tax hikes and layoffs it insists will help restore the bailed-out country’s financial health.”
* David Levin writing in Labor Notes, “The largest union contract in North America is on hold at United Parcel Service thanks to a Vote No movement by rank-and-file Teamsters….The Vote No movement was fueled by a range of issues. Although chief negotiator Ken Hall had promised no increases to health care costs, the contract does just that for 140,000 of the UPSers. It was soundly rejected in many of the areas where those cuts would take effect.”
* From an excellent NYT article entitled American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World by Elizabeth Rosenthal, “though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans. ‘It’s not primarily that we get a different bundle of services when we have a baby,’ said Gerard Anderson, an economist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who studies international health costs. ‘It’s that we pay individually for each service and pay more for the services we receive.’”
* From a NNU press release, “NNU last Thursday led a San Francisco march of 1,500 people across the Golden Gate Bridge, joined by members of the nation’s leading environmental groups, to oppose KXL [Keystone XL Pipeline]. ‘The chemicals infused in it for transport are highly toxic, so any spill is guaranteed to harm the local community.   And it emits carbon at a much higher rate than conventional oil, speeding up climate change.  KXL is a disaster,’ [NNU  Co-President Jean] Ross said. The march came on the same day the Environmental Working Group issued its study of tar sands, based upon independent lab tests of a tar sand spill from a ruptured  ExxonMobil pipeline in Mayflower, Arkansas, on March 29, 2013.”

That’s all for this week.

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