September 9, 2012 Week In Review
by Bill Onasch
We’re still working to sort out problems with publishing updates on the kclabor.org site. Again, we’re using both our Yahoo e-mail list and the Google-hosted Labor Advocate Blog to publish this WIR. Thanks for your patience.
Two centuries ago inventive and thrifty French chefs discovered stale bread, soaked in butter, could be used in a variety of gourmet desserts they called charlotte. Sweet was also the flavor used to disguise the stale ideas served at the Democrat convention in the North Carolina city of the same name.
The Democrats put God back in to their platform and sought to further please Him as they renounced long-standing international agreements by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli state. They hailed the good health of General Motors and gloated over the killing of Osama bin Laden. The President’s wife gave a prime-time account of how her spouse had–in implied contrast to the GOP challenger--risen from humble beginnings to inspire all with the American Dream. Former President Clinton assured everyone that another four years of Obama could get the country back in almost as good a shape as Clinton had left it.
On Thursday night it appeared the Man Upstairs might not have been completely mollified by inclusion in the Platform as the threat of severe storms forced the concluding rally slated for a football stadium to move indoors. POTUS used his inside voice to reassure fellow Americans that we have no problems that can’t be fixed.
In passing, he briefly mentioned each of the various components of the coalition that made his 2008 victory possible–women, students, seniors, Latinos, environmentalists, labor, gays--even African-Americans. He also claimed a good relationship with corporations that he congratulated on reviving manufacturing and making America less dependent on foreign oil. He pledged to stop irresponsible Republican policies and to force them in to bipartisan cooperation to advance the nation’s long term interests.
Little was said about the war the President greatly escalated in Afghanistan, where GIs continue to be killed by the Afghan “partners” they are training to replace NATO forces, or the bloody failed state left behind after the end of occupation in Iraq. Nor was anything of substance said about climate change.
The Chicago Teachers Union was busy during the conclave preparing a possible momentous strike as early as tomorrow. But their archenemies–Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama’s Education Secretary and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan–got to bask in convention celebrity limelight as they spouted their attacks on public education and especially public school teachers.
But, as every parent knows, there’s problems with dessert first and only diets. The sugar buzz lingering from the President’s grand finale didn’t make the bitter jobs report the following morning any more palatable. Its highlights included:
* The solid core of 23 million workers who want full-time jobs and can’t find one remains static.
* The official unemployment rate declined from 8.3 to 8.1 only because the civilian labor force shrunk as the long-term unemployed throw in the towel and many opt for early retirement.
* The manufacturing sector upon which the President so heavily relies lost 15,000 jobs and there was a slight downturn in the sector work hours.
* Average hourly earnings of private sector production and nonsupervisory employees edged down by a penny to 19.75.
Job growth is in fact lower this year than last. The modest hiring in manufacturing--resulting largely from the trend of give-back collective bargaining given a major boost by Obama’s “rescue” of the American auto industry--has been more than offset by unprecedented job eliminations in the public sector. There’s much more of this to come as the President’s gutting of the US Postal Service has just begun.
With real wages of the working class continuing to erode, there can be little hope of a consumer-driven recovery. The payroll tax reduction created by expropriating payments owed to the Social Security Trust is set to expire at the end of the year. That means either a further two percent reduction in take-home pay or else further debt to Social Security that will have to be offset by cuts in Federal programs.
Even the Republicans have begun to suspect that all this may be more powerful ammunition for them than even same-sex marriage or abortions for rape victims. Romney has started to feel the pain of the 23 million jobless. And his staff has resurrected the question that so powerfully served Reagan in his unseating of Jimmy Carter–Are You Better Off Now Than Four Years Ago?
The President correctly pointed out Thursday night that the GOP has little to propose other than tax cuts–that will most of all benefit the rich. This may be a valid argument for not voting Republican. But, considering his record and what he has disclosed about his second term intentions, the best the current resident of the White House has going for him from a working class point of view is–he’s not Romney.
Both support wars of intervention including America’s longest in Afghanistan. Both approve of the growing attacks on civil liberties here at home. Neither has any plan to tackle the climate change crisis that has already begun. And neither has the objective, much less a plan, for reviving Middle Class living standards.
Not Romney is good enough for our labor statespersons who accept the bosses’ two party monopoly and therefore must choose one. Instead of crying, “hush, sweet Charlotte” they aim to pour record numbers of dollars and foot soldiers in pursuit of four more years of the most reactionary administration in living memory. Whether such efforts will be sufficient to motivate those millions who created the magic four years ago remains to be seen. But it’s a lead pipe cinch that the working class will lose the 2012 election.
You can’t win if you don’t compete. Never has the case for a Labor Party been so unassailable.
Remembering Both 9/11s
This Tuesday will be the eleventh anniversary of coordinated airliner attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers and Pentagon, along with a fourth botched hijacking that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Nearly three thousand perished as a result that day–the overwhelming majority workers on the job or First Responders. Others died, or suffered serious permanent disabilities while cleaning up the toxic rubble left behind. The victims represented a cross-section of the ethnic and religious diversity of the working class in New York and Washington.
This despicable act served no just cause. It was used as a pretext for a “War on Terror” exploited by Bush and Blair immediately with the invasion of Afghanistan and later, using a pack of lies, Iraq as well. In the name of security, grave attacks have come--not from terrorists but our own government--on the most basic human rights and civil liberties of American citizens. The Obama administration has continued, and even expanded this repression of its own people as well escalating the Bush war in Afghanistan which will mark eleven years next month.
But this date is infamous for another great crime as well. A few years ago I wrote in this column,
We joined in on the comments about the anniversary of the horrible events of September 11, 2001. But we haven’t forgotten there is another reason to remember this as a date of infamy. September 11, 1973 saw the beginning of the military overthrow of the Allende government in Chile leading to thousands of deaths and a long period of brutal dictatorship.
When I was in school during the Fifties I was taught that socialism was inevitably linked to totalitarianism, that no socialist regime had ever been democratically elected. That was in fact a false assertion even then. Among other examples, a revolutionary socialist regime won elections in 1919 in Hungary–though they were quickly overthrown by a violent capitalist counter-revolution.
But during the Seventies the whole world followed the electoral success of a united front, including Socialists and Communists, in Chile that put Salvador Allende in the Presidential Palace. It was a victory that inspired and raised expectations of working people throughout Latin America–and beyond.
This worker supported government may have had its limitations but it alarmed the Chilean ruling class. It also caused consternation in Washington, already reeling from imminent defeat in Vietnam. The U.S. government worked hand-in-glove with the Chilean brass hats in their bloody coup. CIA agents even helped target American citizens in Chile for murder. (The father of one such American victim, Thomas Hauser, wrote a compelling book, Missing [no longer in print], which Costa-Gavras turned into an impressive 1982 film of the same name starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, winning the Academy Award for best script.)
A few days ago an article entitled Chile, the country Pinochet terrorised, is no longer afraid appeared in the British Guardian. The story opens,
“Up to 200,000 people marched through Santiago yesterday. Students and teachers protesting over education were supported by the Chilean Trade Union Congress, which called on members to join the march. It ended with police turning water cannon and teargas on the protesters. But the protests aren't going away. For over a year now, this revolt has been developing. Mass protests and general strikes have shaken the government, as when 600,000 workers walked out last August.”
As we mourn the past victims of the two 9/11s we can also take heart that in one of the countries at least the working class is again showing resilience and combativity.
¶ After months of campus strikes and mass demonstrations supported by the working class, Quebec students are on the cusp of a major victory in their fight to stop tuition hikes. The newly elected Provincial Premier, Pauline Marois, announced the day after her victory that the new government would not only cancel the new fees imposed by the outgoing regime but also a special law decree used to repress dissent.
¶ The ANC government temporarily suspended murder charges against 270 striking miners present at a massacre where the police shot 34 strikers dead and wounded 78 others. During the week, the employer, Lonmin PLC, signed a contract with the main ANC-controlled union but most of its workers in a new breakaway union remain off the job. A Guardian article provides some good background.
¶ Reuters reports, “The union that represents workers at the Detroit automakers in Canada said on Wednesday it could strike at all three companies simultaneously for the first time in its history if it does not see more progress in contract talks. The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) said strike committees will be formed by local unions at Ford of Canada, General Motors of Canada and Chrysler Canada this week, ahead of the union's strike deadline [September 17].”
That’s all for this week.