Week In Review March 11

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Mar 112017
 

  by Bill Onasch

A Silent Majority No More

Whether toiling for wages, looking for a job, retired, or “stay-at-home moms,” women are a majority of the working class. That means they face all the same challenges as the rest of our class.

But they also suffer additional burdens of gender oppression. In the eyes of many, today’s descendants of the Biblical Eve continue to share her culpability for Original Sin. In some early American colonies women were sometimes persecuted as witches.

Capitalism saw no profit in the super-natural but found females to be a source of super-exploitation through cheaper labor in the workplace and uncompensated labor in household and child rearing tasks.

This massive disguised theft, limiting the necessary “living wage” to maintain and reproduce our class, was explained by Marx’s collaborator Frederick Engels and has been updated and developed more fully by successive generations of women socialists such as Clara Zetkin, Evelyn Reed, and Barbara Ehrenreich.

Exposing and combating this dual oppression of working class women is what motivated the Socialist International to establish an annual International Women’s Day more than a century ago. The IWD with a women’s strike theme this past Wednesday generated actions big and small in more than fifty countries—including the USA for the first time in many years. Among numerous just demands, three main issues seem common to all:

* The right of women to control their own bodies

* Confronting violence against women

* Closing the “gender gap” in wages

The first two are not inherent deal-breakers for the ruling class. Such subjugation is useful to them mainly as a way of preventing liberated women winning the game-changing third. Equal pay for comparable work—that would mean a 22 percent raise for American women–would be a giant reversal of the trend of increasing concentration of wealth under control of the top one-tenth of one percent of society.

Betty Friedan, author of the seminal Feminine Mystique, and the first president of NOW, had earlier worked on an ultimately successful UE campaign at General Electric around the slogan—No Rates Below Common Labor. This odd formulation addressed the injustice of male janitors pushing a broom earning more than women assemblers.

Picture

Such demands should still be pursued by our unions. Unionized women earn 31 percent more than their unorganized sisters. Washington DC unionists led the biggest American strike action on Wednesday. But most workers don’t have a union and even GE has closed, or sold off, nearly all of their manufacturing plants in the USA.

Political action is required to advance pay equity. On IWD Wednesday, the Christian Science Monitor reported,

“Iceland’s government announced on Wednesday it will introduce legislation in the country’s Parliament this month that will require any employer with 25 workers or more to obtain certification that it pays men and women equally for work of equal value.

“‘Equal rights are human rights,’ said the country’s Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson. ‘We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that.'”

It remains to be seen whether this important partial reform can be enacted and enforced. If nothing else, it shows the influence of a long thriving women’s mass movement and political action on this little piece of Europe in the North Atlantic.

The movement for women’s liberation in the USA was resuscitated by the election of a misogynist sociopath to lead the “Free World.” It has quickly gone beyond anti-Trump resistance to retrieve other issues long simmering on the proverbial back burner. The global solidarity expressed around the January 21 marches and the IWD now needs to be channeled in to rebuilding an ongoing mass movement that can educate, agitate and organize for the liberation of women in equal partnership with the liberation of the working class.

View From the Third Floor

The view in two directions from my modest and cluttered third floor corner office sometimes inspires my climate remarks. As I write, Kansas City is experiencing our first snow since January 5. More anomalous is that during January-February Seattle got more snow than Minneapolis while Chicago had none.

Our local snow is accumulating on splendid blossoms of Bradford Pears in Mill Creek Park and my wife’s front yard Daffodils. Their unseasonably early blooms were triggered by long stretches of 60-70F temperatures but are now threatened by hard freeze temps the next few nights. Red Flag warnings had been issued because the combination of strong winds, heat, and parched rural vegetation sparked massive wildfires in neighboring Kansas and other states. To top it off, several destructive tornadoes hit parts of the metropolitan area this week.

You don’t need to be a weatherperson to know we can no longer depend on long established seasonal norms—but 95 percent of meteorologists believe growing unusual and destructive weather patterns are linked to human-caused climate change.

Some of the headlines of stories I posted on our companion Labor Advocate news blog since the last WIR should be ringing alarm bells if not cranking up sirens: Arctic sea ice could disappear even if world achieves climate target; Climate change impact on Australia may be irreversible; Trump to Undo Vehicle Rules That Curb Global Warming; Nearly 2 Million Kids Die from Pollution Each Year; Ranchers assess damage after wildfires in 4 states; and Head Stacks Agency [EPA] With Climate Change Skeptics.

There was one posting this past week that offered some good news–Americans are confused on climate, but support cutting carbon pollution. A survey by a Yale project on climate communication found:

* 70 percent of Americans now recognize global warming is happening

* 53 percent correctly believe it is the result of human activity

* 82 percent support research for clean, renewable energy

* 75 percent favor regulating carbon as a pollutant

* Six in 10 Trump voters back taxing and/or regulating greenhouse gases

This is a significant positive shift in public perception of the climate crisis, squarely at odds with the Trump administration’s denial. But it is also marred by confusion and lack of urgency—which means we have a lot more to do in education and motivation.

The next big opportunity to rally support for meaningful, urgent climate action will be the April 29 People’s Climate Mobilization, with a mass march on Washington and support events in nearly every city, town, and campus across the country.

The Service Employees International Union, Amalgamated Transit Union, National Nurses United, Communication Workers of America, the Blue Green Alliance, and the Labor Network for Sustainability are part of the national Mobilization Steering Committee. So are the NAACP, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. And I’m proud to say that Kansas City Labor Party Advocates is listed among more than 500 Partner organizations.

Make plans now—All Out April 29!

And the Winner Is…

Photo of East Side Freedom Library

A tip of the hat and a slap on the back are in order for the St Paul East Side Freedom Library co-founders Beth Cleary and Peter Rachleff and the library’s dedicated volunteers. They have been awarded this year’s John Sessions Memorial Award. Workday Minnesota describes the honor,

“The award, sponsored by the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO recognizes a library or library system which has made a significant effort to work with the labor community and by doing so has brought recognition to the history and contributions of the labor movement to the development of the United States.”

They go on to say,

The mission of the East Side Freedom Library is ‘to inspire solidarity, advocate for justice, and work toward equity for all.’ As an independent library located in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., the ESFL has successfully built relationships with organized labor and community groups that facilitate the empowerment, learning, and engagement of working people.


“Since the library was established in 2013, co-founders Peter Rachleff and Beth Cleary have secured a permanent home in a former Carnegie Library, built a collection of 15,000 items, and hosted more than one hundred programs and 6,000 visitors.”

That’s all for this week.


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Week In Review March 4

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review March 4
Mar 042017
 

  by Bill Onasch

A Chain of Linked Anniversaries

Somewhat like International Workers’ Day celebrated around the world on May 1, March 8 International Women’s Day is a global event with American—and socialist—roots. IWD hasn’t been observed through mass actions by worker and/or feminist groups in its country of origin for decades. This year will be different. After reviewing some history, I’ll deal with the IWD resurgence taking place this Wednesday.

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The first Women’s Day was organized in 1908 by socialist women fighting for the right to vote and promoting organization of women workers through the Women’s Trade Union League. The following year they organized a mass demonstration in New York City in preparation for a major garment worker strike. Their actions inspired a 1910 Women’s Conference of the Socialist International to proclaim an annual coordinated International Women’s Day, beginning in 1911.

In 1917, a war-time IWD demonstration, demanding peace and bread, in Petrograd (later Leningrad, now St Petersburg) was attacked by police and became the launching pad for the revolution that overthrew the Russian Czar. Because the Czar had clung to a calendar that had been replaced in most of the rest of the world, it became known as the February Revolution. Eight months later the Bolsheviks completed the October Revolution that established the Soviet Union. IWD was then established as an official national holiday by the Soviet government.

Many countries tip their hat to Women’s Day but in most cases it’s a “holiday” on a par with Arbor Day in the USA. Some florists and greeting card companies market products for the occasion. Only in countries where there are strong socialist parties, unions, and women’s organizations are there still consistent big marches and meetings on March 8.

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The Second Wave of Feminism that emerged in the late Sixties led to a brief revival of celebrations of IWD in the USA. They were part of a busy calendar of demonstrations called by groups like the National Organization for Women founded in 1966—which became a truly mass membership organization—along with the Coalition of Labor Union Women launched in 1974. These actions in the streets contributed to the political climate needed to win the Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion.

They also promoted the Equal Rights Amendment. But just enough reactionary state legislatures prevented ratification of the ERA. After that setback, the biggest organizations like NOW and Planned Parenthood devoted almost all of their political resources to lobbying and supporting sympathetic major party candidates in elections. They shared this strategy with the labor, civil rights, and even much of the peace and environmental movements. And all those movements are now under the greatest attacks in generations.

The Electoral College victory by the second place candidate last November did not lead to general demoralization of those targeted by the triumphant alt-right. Instead it has sparked the biggest non-electoral political upsurge since the 1970s–erupting from below.

Women have been first and foremost so far. Initially bypassing traditional leaders by using the Internet and social media, those eager to fight back pulled together not only a massive Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration but also solidarity actions across America—and on every continent. A good description of these remarkable events by Ann Montague and Michael Schreiber, The Biggest Protest In U.S. History; Women’s Marches Draw 4 Million, was published in Socialist Action.

The call for women of the world to strike and demonstrate this Wednesday originated in other lands even before the election of Trump. It appears to have been initiated by rejuvenated women’s movements in countries such as Argentina, Ireland, Italy–and Poland.

The Polish movement recently won a stunning partial victory in that country that, like the former Soviet Union, has gone through a CIA-AID-promoted capitalist restoration–also supported by the AFL-CIO leadership at the time. Abortions were once free on demand through the national health system. Along with other losses in health care, there’s been a steady chipping away on abortion access. Last October, a women’s strike and mass demonstrations beat back an effort by the alt and religious Right to criminalize all abortion—and they are looking to do a lot more.

American activists and intellectuals relayed the strike call to women and supporters in the USA. Two of those signers–Cinzia Arruzza, an assistant professor of philosophy at the New School and Tithi Bhattacharya, an associate professor of history at Purdue–submitted an Op-Ed piece appearing in several publications including the Anglo-American Guardian under the title Strikes Were a Part of Women’s Day Before. With Trump They Will Be Again. While explaining the working class origins of International Women’s Day and the need to reclaim that tradition they say,

“The immense women’s marches of 21 January and their resonance across the country demonstrated that millions of women in the United States are finally fed up not only with the blatant misogyny of the Trump’s administration, but also with decades of continuous attacks on women’s lives and bodies.


“We are united by the awareness that Trump’s administration is a symptom of a larger problem: the outcome of decades of neoliberal policies, of transfer of wealth to the richest, of erosion of labor rights and of labor dignity, of neocolonial wars of aggression, of the institutional racism and of the structural misogyny ingrained in US society.”

They close–“This is the history, of women self-organizing and fighting for economic and political rights, that the United States has erased from memory. We will not just demand bread, for we also deserve roses.”

womenstrikeus.org

It is difficult to predict—or even tally—the numbers of American women who will actually strike March 8. Many more, along with male supporters, will undoubtedly participate in local marches, rallies, and meetings. It’s unlikely this Wednesday’s actions will be on the same scale as the historic four million who mobilized just a few weeks ago. But the revived IWD will be educational as well as agitational around both long range goals and current hot button issues. It will signify the ongoing movement is viable, with a developing program and perspective going far beyond denunciation of a genital grabber in the White House.

All out March 8!

One More Thing

Since nobody else will, I will mention one more micro-link in the chain of anniversaries associated with March 8. I chose that easy to remember date in 2000 to launch the KC Labor website. It was a crude effort by a novice with no formal training in IT—and I suppose it still is. But seventeen years is a long life span for any site, especially one depending on volunteer labor and reader donations to survive.

That first day we had eight visitors. We now average 70 times that number of unique visits every day. Most are from the USA but today’s stats show visitors from France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Canada, Ukraine, Holland, United Arab Emirates, and Brazil.

I want to thank all readers—a few going back to that first day 17 years ago—for your support in so many ways.

In Brief…

* The Guardian reports, “The UN’s climate chief has been unable to secure a meeting with the US state department as Donald Trump’s administration mulls whether to withdraw the US from the international climate effort. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is currently in the US and has sought a meeting with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and other officials over the commitment of the new administration to global climate goals.”

* The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a St Louis city minimum wage ordinance passed by the Board of Alderman is legal. This also removes any excuses of the Kansas City Mayor and City Council for continuing to block an even stronger minimum in my hometown. It is a blow to ALEC’s national campaign in state legislatures to outlaw municipal wage laws and also efforts to ban local sick leave laws in Minnesota.

* From the Christian Science Monitor–”A class action suit alleging that as many as tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants were coerced to perform free labor in a privately operated Colorado detention center has been given the green light to move forward in a federal district court.”

* With the Trump Dow-Jones a raging bull, the Federal Reserve decided it was time to make credit card use, car loans and home buying more expensive with the first of an expected three hikes in interest rates in Trump’s first year.

* The Labor Fightback Network has issued a call for its Third National Conference, to be held in Cleveland July 21-23. The WIR will pass along more details as they become available.

* My only problem with the subheads in the monthly e-mail blast is that I live 438 miles from St Paul–Art thrives at East Side Freedom Library!; Tempests in Tea Pots: Listen, Talk, Act; Alice Paul & The 1917 Suffrage Pickets; spearwave No. 4 (Art Exhibit and Reading); Down in Mississippi: A Gospel Play with Music; And yet still more! You can find all the details of these teasers on the East Side Freedom Library site.

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.

Privacy Policy. We don’t share any information about our readers with anyone else—period.

The original content we provide is copyrighted and may not be reproduced by commercial media without our consent. However, labor movement and other nonprofit media may reproduce with attribution.