Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Find Out Why They’re Leaving

Why do 1600 Mexicans leave for the United States every day? That’s one of the questions to be dealt with by Onesimo Hidalgo, co-director of the Center for Economic & Political Research for Community Action, Chiapas, Mexico, at two talks in the area. Hidalgo will be speaking in Lawrence Thursday evening and at UMKC Friday night. For details about the two events click here.

Too Bad They Missed the Oscars

The theater of the absurd in congress is scheduled to open a new production Thursday with the first major vote on EFCA–the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not a bad bill. It would allow union organizing through card check and provide for arbitration when impasse is reached, or within six months, in negotiations for a first contract. It looks like a cinch to be passed–and vetoed. Clearly the votes aren’t there to over ride.

The Democrats, and our union leaders, will crow about this great victory and seethe about the evil Republicans snatching it away. It will be another good message, like opposition to the war, to exploit through the 2008 election..Would it be impolite to ask the question why passing such legislation was never accomplished before when there was Democrat control of both houses and a Dem in the White House–as recently as 1994?

Circle the Wagons In Iraq Now!

That might well be the new slogan of the incrementalists in the peace movement trying to be practical in working with the new peace majority in congress. One plan of the Democrat “left” would restrict GIs in Iraq to their bases and allow them to shoot only in self-defense.

At Least We Didn’t Get A Full Glass

The header on the e-mail from Environmental Defense read “Breaking News: Global Warming Victory.” It went on to gush that a condition imposed on the sale of energy giant TXU was abandonment of plans for building eight new coal-fired power plants. Sounds good but part of the deal negotiated by ED was their blessing to build three new coal burners in Texas. Perhaps the lead should have been, “we’ve negotiated a seventy percent reduction in the latest dose of new poison.”

Monday one of the world’s top climate scientists, NASA’s James Hansen, called for a total halt to building more of these top polluters. The AP said, “Hansen, who said he was speaking as a private citizen, also told the press club that by mid-century all coal-fired power plants that do not capture and bury carbon dioxide ‘must eventually be bulldozed.’ It's foolish to build new ones if the emissions can't be dealt with, he said.” Capture and bury schemes are far from being practical–and may never be.

The incremental approach of ED and much of the mainstream environmental movement is an acceptance of further incremental increase in irreversible damage to our planet. Pardon me if I don’t celebrate such “victory.”

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Morning Shorts

The February 25 Week In Review has been posted on the site and can be reached by clicking here.

Successful Immigrant Rights Rally
Initial reports from Connecticut indicate the East Coast Forum on Immigrant Rights last night was a big success, drawing over 300. We’ll have more details on the Daily Labor News Digest tomorrow.

Cheaper By the Dozen
Some have asked why I have been silent about the primary election being held tomorrow in Kansas City. Frankly, I hoped if we ignored them they might go away. It’s one of those contests where it’s a shame somebody has to win.

Because of term limits the current mayor, and five city council members, cannot run for reelection. Naturally, the five pink-slipped council persons are now running for mayor. They have been joined by a recently unemployed, term limited Jackson County Executive (who also happens to be under indictment for mortgage fraud), a recently retired city auditor, a former prosecuting attorney, a wealthy retired entrepreneur who now does “community volunteer” work, a marketing consultant, and two failed bar owners–a dozen in all.

The candidate endorsed by the Building Trades Council, Becky Nace, has close ties to loony right Republicans who bankrolled last year’s fight against stem cell research. She was the prime mover in helping Wal-Mart escape from a poor location in one part of town to a TIF haven in her ward. She has called for abolition of the city’s earnings tax–which provides a majority of the city’s revenues.

If the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO has endorsed anyone they haven’t disclosed that to the public.

After tomorrow’s decision I plan to display my favorite bumper sticker, “Don’t Blame Me–I Didn’t Vote.”

Friday, February 23, 2007

News Back Where It Belongs

For today anyway our software is talking to the server and the Daily Labor News Digest is updated on its own page.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Civics Refresher

When I aced the state mandated test on the U.S. Constitution back in the seventh grade my teacher awarded me a sack of Kandy Korn. That sweet reward reinforced my interest in what was then known in our schools as Civics, the rights and obligations of citizens. Trouble is I took all that stuff seriously–and still do. This has caused me problems over the years as I have learned how in real life the politicians manipulate the checks and balances of our branches of national government, not to mention what goes on in state capitols and city halls.

It was therefore only a nagging sense of duty that led to me agreeing to a request from the legislative coordinator of US Labor Against the War to join a delegation visiting Representative Reverend Emanuel Cleaver yesterday. This was part of a national effort of Volunteers for Change, sponsored by a “progressive” reseller of nonunion long distance service. They seek to orchestrate volunteerism for “busy people who want to make a difference.” Guidelines and talking points are provided.

All of us busy volunteers showed up at the appointed time to discover that Cleaver’s office claimed to know nothing about the scheduled visit. Cleaver himself was not on the premises but the director of his Kansas City office, Jeff Jolley, did agree to take a meeting with us.

To my relief, no one in our group seemed determined to follow our scripted guidelines and talking points. Two Unity (not Unitarian) ministers were more sharp tongued than I in dressing down Reverend Cleaver’s vicar. Not for the first time, he was reminded that the new congressional majority was there only because of antiwar sentiment and indispensable support from organized labor. We now expect more than half-ass nonbinding resolutions. We made clear we want our congressman to not only vote against the supplemental appropriation of 93 billion for the war; he should vote against any Iraq military spending other than what it takes to bring all of our GIs home now.

The unflappable Mr Jolley assured us that Representative Cleaver had always been against the war. (Cleaver was not yet in congress at the time of the 2002 resolution, on which Bush bases his authority for war, but has consistently voted for funding to continue the war.) He explained to us that defunding the war was not so simple. If congress slashes the defense budget by the amount requested for Iraq he claimed the White House and Pentagon can simply shift funds from elsewhere in Defense to keep the war going.

This seemed to me an excessively defeatist attitude on the part of congress. I strained to recall that seventh grade test. I believe the Constitution in fact gives congress the sole authority to declare and end wars. The highest law of the land also endows the legislative branch with exclusive power for authorizing all expenditures of government money. If congress chooses to renounce their power–and responsibility to those who elected them–to end the war I assured Mr Jolley that an angry majority will start looking for other alternatives to lobbying to stop this unjust war.

As I read this morning’s news sites I discovered there was an even less polite visit to Senator McCaskill on the other side of the state. The St Louis Post-Dispatch headline read “Iraq War Protestors Target Democrats.”Veterans for Peace organized a sit-in in the new senator’s office. Four were arrested and fined 75 dollars for making a fuss about McCaskill’s cynicism about the war.

Another somewhat relevant story caught my eye this morning. "Congress puts Palestinian funds in limbo" was the banner in the Los Angeles Times. The U.S. once committed to giving financial aid to the Palestinian Authority as part of the Road Map to Peace. But their support to democratic government among Palestinians was suspended when the ingrates elected somebody Washington didn’t like. The abrupt loss of this funding led to a virtual shut down of all public services resulting in widespread hardship and exacerbating factional rivalries. Recently the Bush administration agreed to restore about 86 million to the Authority.

But some in congress didn’t feel so helpless about challenging the commander-in-chief on this one. In fact one lone member of congress, Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, has put a hold on the money. Too bad her counterpart chairing the subcommittee on defense spending, Jack Murtha, can’t seem to do the same on Iraq war spending.

Well, that’s enough civics refresher for one morning.

Wednesday Morning Clips

New UAW pattern: givebacks

The dilemma for US car workers

Nissan to cut factory workers in Tennessee

Government readies back-to-work law as CN workers refuse to end strike

Greek labor union headquarters attacked with petrol bombs, rocks

Movement to unionize workers at Milum Textile a fierce battle

Health care spending seen doubling in 10 years

Australia to ban old-style light bulbs

EU backs target to cut CO2 emissions

Two die in Carrollton grain elevator collapse

Ruling could pay off for meatpackers

Iraq war protesters target Democrats

Parkland schools remain closed due to strike

Groups urge expansion of Family & Medical Leave Act

Nuclear plant's safety questioned

Climate change laps at Bangladesh's shores

Threat to Lake Tahoe's clarity seen

Deal reached to postpone downtown immigration rally

Tugboat worker killed when tow line hits her

Army Launches Cleanup In Walter Reed Housing

9 States Sue Over Mercury Emissions

Cleaner Coal Is Attracting Some Doubts

Monday, February 19, 2007

February 19 Week In Review

Week In Review
February 19, 2007

by Bill Onasch

Bring ‘em Home Tomorrow
I don’t generally look at Newsweek. I thank Jerry Gordon for forwarding one of the best pieces about the war I’ve seen in a long time–a column by Anna Quindlen entitled “Tomorrow, Tomorrow.” Quindlen opens with,

“Tomorrow. That’s when the United States should begin to bring combat forces home from Iraq. Today would be a better option, but already it’s tomorrow in Baghdad, in the Green Zone fortress Americans have built in the center of the city, out in the streets where IEDs are lying in wait for passing soldiers and every marketplace may be the endgame for a suicide bomber.”

She concludes,

“The people who brought America reports of WMDs when none existed, and the slogan “Mission Accomplished” when it was not nor likely to be, now say that American troops cannot leave. Not yet. Not soon. Not on a timetable. Judge the truth of that conclusion by the truth of their past statements. They say that talk of withdrawal shows a lack of support for the troops. There is no better way to support those who have fought valiantly in Iraq than to guarantee that not one more of them dies in the service of the political miscalculation of their leaders. Not one more soldier. Not one more grave. Not one more day. Bring them home tomorrow.”

I needed this breath of fresh air as an antidote to the cynicism and futility being demonstrated by the “antiwar” party controlling congress and the mainstream peace movement pandering them. The House indulged themselves by passing a Milquetoast non-binding resolution criticizing the “surge.” Despite waffling even more in negotiations with Senate Republicans they couldn’t get that much done in the upper chamber. Now they are backtracking fast from previously implied threats to reject even the supplemental appropriation for the escalation in Iraq (93 billion.)

The main national peace coalition, United for Peace & Justice, has made lobbying the new congress their over riding priority. But they are “realists.” Here’s what they have to say in their talking points for peace activists to bring to their local reps (I am not disclosing any confidential plans–this is all posted on the Internet):

“UFPJ endorses a two-track strategy. Our first priority is to defeat the supplemental appropriation bill – we are asking all members to vote NO on the bill. It is a longshot that we can defeat the bill so we have a back-up strategy to put conditions on the funding bill...”

Even more “realistic” forces, that have created new letterheads such as Americans Against Escalation of the War in Iraq (SEIU and, and (Win Without War, AFSC, Working Assets long distance company), have found a hero to champion the backup strategy--Congressman Jack Murtha (D-PA), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

In an “exclusive” interview Murtha proposes the following restrictions on the 93 billion:

1) Troops will need to be certified as "fully combat ready" with the training and equipment that they need;
2) Deployments cannot be extended beyond one year;
3) Troops must have at least one-year at home between deployments;
4) The "stop-loss" program where soldiers are forced to extend their agreed upon enlistment period will be prohibited

That’s a long way from tomorrow. But that’s what all the realistic strategy of the peace Democrats, the pacifists, and UFPJ is coming down to–Murtha’s backup restrictions.

I’ve been asked by US Labor Against the War to join a delegation meeting with Representative Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat, MO fifth district, tomorrow. Unlike most others likely to attend I won’t be going in with a two-track strategy. USLAW has a one track strategy. I plan to politely, but clearly tell Rev Cleaver that we think he should not only vote no on the supplemental; we want him to vote against any further funding of the military in Iraq--except for what it takes for the immediate, safe withdrawal of every last GI in harm’s way.

I don’t expect to get that commitment from my congressman. But I’d rather lose what I want than to “win” what I don’t want. Principles and self-respect should dictate that we be at least as strong and honest as a Newsweek columnist.

Making All the Right Connections
You should be sure to read an op ed piece by California Nurses Association president Deborah Burger,

Defense spending overshadowing health care. She not only contrasts war spending to the cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, “Imagine for a moment how else we could have spent $589 billion, the amount already devoured by the war in Iraq, plus the administration's funding request for the next two years.” She also points out the Harvard study that estimates the United States will need to spend as much as $662 billion over the next 40 years on medical costs for the tens of thousands of injured veterans. She wraps up, “‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom,’ said Dr. Martin Luther King, and, he might well have added, endangering the health security of its citizens at home.”

Immigrant Rights Forum In Connecticut
Campaign to Stop the ICE Raids in Danbury is sponsoring an impressive East Coast Forum on Immigrants Rights next Sunday, February 25. Speakers include: Ana AvendaƱo, Associate General Counsel & Director, AFL-CIO Immigrant Workers Program, Anabel Pimentel and Reina Campos, workers affected by the ICE Raids conducted at the Swift & Co. Meatpacking Plant in Hyrum, Utah, Foster Maier, a Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund Attorney representing immigrant communities in Hazleton, PA., Riverside, NJ, and Mamaroneck, NY, and Carola Otero Bracco, Director of the Mount Kisco, NY Day Laborers Center. The event will take place at Western Connecticut State University, Ives Concert Hall, located in the midtown campus and is scheduled to run from 4 to 7 p.m.

That’s all for this week.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Democrat Antiwar Strategy

Thanks to Jerry Gordon for passing along a perceptive article about how the Democrats plan to drag out their advantage as the perceived “antiwar” party: House Democrats' New Strategy: Force Slow End to War by John Bresnahan. A key component in this cynical prolonging of bloodshed and destruction is Americans Against Escalation of the War in Iraq. This outfit describes itself as “a major, multi-million dollar national campaign to oppose the President's proposal to escalate the war in Iraq by sending more than 20,000 additional troops into the violent civil war between Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.” Its major players are SEIU and

13,000 and Counting

Chrysler Group revealed the basic outline of its Project X slash and shut plan this morning. 13,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada–9,000 UAW, 2,000 CAW, 2,000 salaried--will be gone in no more than two years. The Newark, Delaware assembly plant and a Cleveland parts center will be shuttered. Shifts will be slashed at the Warren and Fenton (where I briefly worked in 1968) assembly plants. Still unclear is the future of Mack Avenue I and II engine plants. All this comes after a steady elimination through attrition of 40,000 jobs over the past five years. The UAW denounced Dr Z’s latest move. The CAW, who are trying to negotiate a Ford-style buy-out, were more muted in their response.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Support COTS Workers

Our friend John Woodruff with UE Local 222 has alerted us that newly organized workers at the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Vermont have come under fresh attack by their nonprofit employer. Three union activists have been virtually fired. Their defense has been taken up by the Vermont Workers Center who is conducting an online petition campaign. You can lend support by clicking here.

Don’t Mean To Slight Larry

We’ve said a lot about Andy Stern’s appearance with Wal-Mart’s CEO at the new “Better Health Care Together Coalition” kick-off. We didn’t mean to snub one of Chairman Andy’s most vocal critics among his peers–CWA president Larry Cohen. Larry was also on board, holding hands with the top boss of AT&T. You can watch and listen to his stirring oratory by clicking here.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

February 11 Week In Review

Week In Review
February 11, 2007

by Bill Onasch

Back Home For A While
After more than 5000 miles of travel over a month’s time I look forward to a long stretch of home cooking. My latest journey was my very first visit to Philadelphia to attend a meeting of the Labor Party Interim National Council. The gathering was hosted by the Pennsylvania Federation of the BMWE-T and I must say they provided us with first-class meeting facilities and made sure we didn’t go hungry. We heard encouraging reports on the progress of party building in South Carolina and their plans for fielding the Labor Party’s first candidates for office there. There was also an update about the campaign to put a single-payer proposition on the ballot in Ohio, where the Ohio state party is working in coalition with unions and community groups. In addition there was further discussion about organizational restructuring in order to give maximum support to these priority campaigns. I’ll have more to say on all these topics later.

On my brief trip I became dependent on the same news sources viewed by business travelers. Watching CNN while munching on a complimentary breakfast in the Crowne Plaza Priority Club lounge I concluded the Iraq war must be over, the health care crisis resolved, and Global Warming reversed. There were but three dominant stories on the self-described “world’s most important network.”Examined in the most minute detail were the rival claims of paternity of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter; the incredible amount of snow that has fallen in Oswego, New York; and Barack Obama’s announcement that he really is a candidate for President.

All this served as a reminder why I started up the Daily Labor News Digest about seven years ago, and later these weekly columns. Bill Gates willing, the Digest returns tomorrow, February 12, to Monday-Saturday updates by 7AM Central. Commentary on some of the news will be offered most days on the Labor Advocate blog and the Week In Review will continue, usually on Sundays. Now to some stories you probably didn’t hear about on CNN.

CN Strikers Get Backing Of International Union–But Not Their Own
2800 Canadian National Railway conductors went on strike yesterday. Steelworkers national director Ken Neumann immediately issued a statement that said, “These workers have been without a contract long enough....We are behind their effort to get a decent contract with CN....they can count on Steelworkers.” Only problem is the strikers don’t belong to the Steelworkers.

Their international union, the UTU, issued a very different kind of statement. Paul Thompson said, “The unauthorized strike against Canadian National Railways in Canada commenced by four UTU general chairpersons at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, has created a very serious and very sad situation for our UTU brothers and sisters in Canada employed by CN.... In fact, the UTU Constitution is a legally binding document on all UTU officers. Were I to violate the Constitution and authorize a strike without the required investigation, I would be subject to charges and the strike likely would be declared unauthorized if challenged in court or before a regulatory tribunal.”

It didn’t take long for the carrier to pick up on Thompson’s sad position. According to UTU-Canada, “CN’s Montreal-based law firm, Ogilvy Renault, notified affected UTU general chairpersons Rex Beatty, Raymond LeBel, Bryan Boechler and Sylvia Leblanc that because the general chairpersons did not follow the UTU Constitution’s provisions related to a strike, and failed to gain strike required strike authorization from the UTU International, that CN considered the strike unlawful under the Canadian Labour Code and that CN would sue strikers individually for ‘any and all damages’ incurred by CN.”

Our Canadian correspondent Rod aptly commented, “Labour can not back away from this fight. This is the watershed moment for Canadian Unions. If we blink now...If it needs a General Strike so be it, in this union members opinion.”

The Canadian strike web site can be reached by clicking here.

Change to Wind
Actually you may have seen SEIU president Andy Stern, aka Chairman Andy, on CNN earlier this week. The media was quite impressed with his joint appearance with the CEO of Wal-Mart to pitch health care “reform.”

Not so impressed was CtW partner Joe Hansen, president of the UFCW. Now Hansen isn’t exactly what you would call a radical. He paid his dues clawing up the ladder in his union’s bureaucracy as the hit man sent in to Austin, Minnesota to break the legendary Hormel strike and put the old Local P-9 out of business. Part of his work there was sandblasting Mike Alewitz’s solidarity mural from the union office wall. But Hansen’s union has the jurisdiction for trying to organize Wal-Mart and is currently engaged in tough negotiations with California grocers where health care is a huge issue. While not naming Chairman Andy, Hansen issued his own statement that said,

“It’s not appropriate to take the stage with a company that refuses to remedy its mistreatment of workers, among other irresponsible practices. Wal-Mart is actually decreasing health care coverage to employees and facing the largest gender discrimination case in the history of this country....Wal-Mart is the largest corporation that provides the least health care to employees. But suddenly the company has become a proponent of health care for everyone—apparently, though, as long as Wal-Mart doesn’t have to deal with the health care needs of its own employees....In addition to our continuing advocacy for universal care, the UFCW will continue our fight for good health care benefits for workers at the bargaining table. And we will continue our fight on behalf of Wal-Mart workers so that they have affordable health care benefits and wages. We will not settle for empty expediency.”

Hog Cancels Health Insurance
2800 IAM workers locked out by Harley-Davidson in York, Pennsylvania last week have had their health insurance cancelled by the company. Those wanting to continue coverage under COBRA will have to shell out 461 dollars a month for single, 1252 for family. Harley’s other two major plants in Milwaukee and Kansas City continue to operate under IAM and Steelworker contracts.

Go Chicks
Congratulations to my favorite group, the Dixie Chicks, for taking Grammy Awards for “Not Ready to Make Nice.” and their album, "Taking the Long Way." Stuff that in your trash barrel 61 Country.

That’s all for this week.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

On the Road Again

There are few attractions that justify enduring the indignities and uncertainty of today’s air travel. Representing Midwest chapters at a meeting of the Labor Party Interim National Council is one of them. Later this morning I take on my first adventure with our decidedly unfriendly skies in nearly a year The seasonal uncertain road conditions between Kansas City and my destination of Philadelphia, along with the economics of gasoline prices versus air fares, dictated this most reluctant decision to play by the rules of Homeland Security. Not wanting to consign my laptop to checked baggage I have opted to leave it behind so there will be no more updates of this blog until Monday. We will also resume our Daily Labor News Digest on the KC Labor site at that time.
Tough Times for Air Travelers

Thursday Headlines

Kansas Tyson Workers Plan Union Vote
Regina Care Home workers File Charges
Chemical plant explosion rocks east Kansas City
Wal-Mart, Union Join Forces on Health Care
Lapse in Safety Procedures Adds to Debate on Power Plant
Suit to Charge That Nursery Mistreated Laborers

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Wednesday Morning Stories

Chairman Andy Goes To Wal-Mart
SEIU President Andy Stern is finally making the big time. This morning he appears with the CEO of America’s biggest private sector employer in Washington to talk about fixing our health care crisis.
Wal-Mart and a Union Unite, at Least on Health Policy

Knoxville Auto Parts Strike
More than 200 IAM workers have shut down Maremont Exhaust Products, a producer of mufflers and catalytic converters. The issues are big boosts in health insurance premiums and company demands to gut the seniority system.
Union workers express resolve as strike begins

The Canadian Minimum
As congress still fiddles around on proposals to raise the U.S. minimum wage, currently 5.15, for the first time in a decade, here’s an in depth look at the question north of the border.
Minimum wage laws – The state of pay in Canada

Modest Labor Law Reforms Face Harsh Resistance
The U.S. has the worst labor laws of any industrialized country. Our labor leaders long ago abandoned the demand of repealing Taft-Hartley--which banns mass picketing, secondary boycotts, and hot cargo–to chip away at obstacles to organizing. This years attempt is labeled the Employee Free Choice Act. Mark Gruenberg gives a good description of the effort.
Proposed law would strengthen worker rights

Some Budget Suggestions
Mark Brenner from Labor Notes shows how unions could obtain millions more for organizing efforts–cap union official salaries at 100,000 per annum.
Across Many Unions, Bloated Salaries Limit Organizing Budgets

More Stories
Wal-Mart loses job-bias appeal
Writers unions name panel to prepare for talks
AFTRA's John Connolly to run Actors' Equity
Legacy of Radiation Illness Stirs Objection to Nevada Bomb Test
Many Voices, No Debate, as Senate Is Stifled on War

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A Breath Of Fresh Air From Canada

I pass along a message from our old friend Rod in Vancouver, a long time bus driver and union activist. Kansas City once had an impressive fleet of these wonderful buses. Still common in much of the world I know of only San Francisco and Seattle using them in the U.S. today.

Bill, maybe you could place a link on site for sustainable electric trolley buses and street cars... couple links below
On the environment front... TransLink's order of 40 foot and 60 foot articulated 'New Flyer' electric trolley buses have started to arrive.
These will replace the 244,1981 'Flyer E900's.
With the added pressure of global warming maybe this will cause Trolley's to become mainstream urban buses again?
Trolley bus article
Excellent study of why trolleys survived
New Flyer Industries
I like the new blog and its format.
Think blog format gives a very progressive outlook...
The layout puts more information on page, exposing and encouraging users to more information.

Tuesday Morning News

Dr Z’s ‘Project X’
The Chrysler Group will be more tightly integrated into its German parent, sharing engineering, platforms, and parts with Mercedes according to a “secret” report obtained by the Detroit News. The result for UAW workers: 10,000 jobs eliminated, two plants closed.
Chrysler's secret comeback plan

Twin Cities Janitors Reach Deal
SEIU Local 26 has a tentative contract settlement covering 4200 Twin Cities janitors. Starting in July full-time workers will be able to obtain health insurance, 20 dollars a month for single, 75 for family coverage. Wages will rise ten percent over three years.
Twin Cities janitors declare contract victory

More Stories
Union leader speaks about workers rights, civil rights
Allied Seeks to Shred Labor Contracts
Battle looms over right to unionize
Ford Workers Strike For 30 Percent Raise–In Russia
Union election sought by workers at furniture plant
Union ballot for clay jobs strike
Shanghai Says Winning Fight to Stay Above Water
Farmworkers Reopen Pesticide Lawsuit

Monday, February 5, 2007

Global warming to hit poor worst

That's what the new UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, told the world's environmental ministers meeting in Nairobi this morning. " is the poor, in Africa and developing small island states and elsewhere, who will suffer the most, even though they are the least responsible for global warming." Daniel Wallis of Reuters writes, "Experts say Africa is the lowest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for rising temperatures, but due to its poverty, under-development and geography, has the most to lose under dire predictions of wrenching change in weather patterns."

Monday News Stories

Senate rebuke on Iraq is loud and unclear
Game over on global warming?
Tank-size defense request
Strike looms over transit labor talks
SoCal grocery workers aim to reverse contract setbacks
Union try at Sutter fears threat
Oil spill spreading off Vietnam coast
Flight attendants counter Northwest concessions request
Latino union organizers to hold conference
Abe Bloom
Who’s Attacking an Online Marxist Archive? China Is Suspected
Explosion Kills 30 in Colombian Mine

Sunday, February 4, 2007

February 4 Week In Review

Week In Review
February 4, 2007
by Bill Onasch

Will the (Inconvenient)Truth Set Us Free?
We’re running out of time and excuses. There’s no longer any rational basis for doubt that Global Warming is destroying the planet as we know it–and that human activity is chiefly responsible. The UN interim report on climate released this week eliminates wiggle room. As one environmentalist summed it up,

“This is the smoking gun. You now have them saying the evidence seems incontrovertible, and we are 90 percent certain. That is as certain as science ever gets.”

The question now shifts from “are we causing Global Warming?”to “can we do anything to stop it?”

Some damage is irreparable. Extinct animal and plant species are gone for good. The glaciers and arctic pack ice already melted are not coming back anytime soon. Some islands and coastal deltas are now doomed to sinking below sea level.

The report estimates that if carbon emissions were frozen at today’s level the planet’s temperature would still rise at least a full degree centigrade by the beginning of the next century. That would produce very unwelcome regional climate change. But the way industrialization and agribusiness farming methods are spreading emissions will go up--driving temperatures even higher. To see some projected scenarios of even greater increase click here.

Most scientists think we have not yet reached the “tipping point”–where we would be unable to make any meaningful change in the outcome of what has been set in motion. But we’re close to that point. Car pooling and recycling are not going to turn this around. Even capping emissions at present levels is not good enough. Urgent, far reaching changes in economic activity to reduce carbon emissions is the only way we can save the day.

If the Vulcans were watching us they would undoubtedly conclude that action on this planetary crisis would be the logical first point on everyone’s agenda. But Spock’s people never understood the dynamics of market capitalism and, anyway, the Prime Directive forbids them from helping us out.

Those that run the industries and governments that have created this environmental catastrophe don’t personally want to see destruction of our world any more than the rest of us. It is an unintended consequence of their actions. But they are guided by the market laws of what they have euphemized as Free Enterprise. Their goal has to be getting the maximum profit possible from capital investment, often in competition with others, and in conflict with their employees. Next quarter’s bottom line trumps next century’s global temperature every time.

No oil company is going to shut down their oil fields as a voluntary contribution to reducing CO2 emissions. No auto corporation is going to cease car production and urge everybody to take mass transit to slash greenhouse gasses. No building contractor will declare a moratorium on suburban expansion in order to reduce Urban Sprawl and rebuild a green urban core. Any who did take such unlikely steps would simply vanish from the scene, and their market share would be eagerly gobbled up by competitors.

If we can’t count on initiatives from those who currently run the show, whose profit and privilege is tied to the system that created Global Warming, then who can we expect to step up to the plate? Well, welcome to the Major Leagues–it’s working class folks like you and me, along with the family farmers, the youth who both want to understand and change the world, scientists and the “Tree Hugger” environmentalists. It’s going to be up to us, and us alone, to literally save the world as we know it.

For too long our labor movement demonstrated fear and hostility toward those raising environmental concerns. Too many bought the plea of their bosses to support their polluting ways in order to preserve jobs. Some even tied in to truly junk science scams, partnering up with employers in projects such as Unions for Jobs and the Environment.

But, as the truth seeps through the propaganda smog paid for by the polluters, attitudes have begun to shift. There have been modest efforts, such as the strategic partnership between the Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, working on wildlife conservation issues. A mainstream North American Labor Assembly on Climate Crisis has been scheduled by Cornell University in New York in May.

An even more inspiring example was the recent Labor & Sustainability Conference in St Paul. There union leaders and activists teamed up with environmental leaders and activists to present a wide ranging examination of the problem and a look at some bold solutions. Out of the gathering a Continuations Committee has been established to keep the process going.

(I made a presentation at the conference opening plenary, Labor and Environmental Movements Are Natural Allies. We’ve also revamped our Environment page on the KC Labor site.)

Such small first steps are part of every journey. But this march will be particularly arduous and crucial. Global Warming needs to be a regular, priority part of the agenda of our unions--and our Labor Party that pioneered the concept of Just Transition to protect our jobs as we reorganize our production and consumption.

More On the Danbury 11
The case of 11 immigrant workers being arrested in a sting offer of day labor work continues to build solidarity in the community as reported in this TV news video clip. You can find out more of the story at the Stop the Raids web site.

Our ‘Friends’ In the Senate
Less energetic than their House colleagues, who promised great change in the first 100 Hours, the new Democrat controlled Senate has so far produced more candidates for President than major pieces of legislation. Nevertheless, labor’s friends, including two “independents,” one a “socialist,” did cook up a couple of deals last week.

It appears they will make common cause with about ten Republicans to pass a nonbinding resolution criticizing the escalation of the war in Iraq while at the same time promising full funding for the war.

Also, by a 94-3 vote, the upper chamber attached employer tax breaks to the first increase in the minimum wage in a decade–shooting it up to the princely sum of 7.25 an hour in phases over two years.

Let Them Eat Wonder Bread
The AP reported from Mexico City, “Some 75,000 unionists, farmers and leftists marched to protest price increases in basic foodstuffs like tortillas, a direct challenge to the new president's market-oriented economic policies blamed by some for widening the gulf between rich and poor.” Of course, the push for ethanol production has driven up the price of U.S. corn that Mexico has come to depend on since NAFTA devastated Mexican corn production.

Looking for Brotherly Love
I’ll be traveling to Philadelphia later this week to attend a meeting of the Labor Party Interim National Council–the equivalent of a national committee. I’ll have something to say about the gathering next week.

About That News
In a message to the KC Labor E-mail List I said, “I envision the Labor Advocate blog replacing the Daily Labor News Digest we have maintained for nearly seven years on KC Labor. Instead of wholesale posting of raw links to stories the plan is to be more selective in choosing fewer stories offered in context, with commentary.”

I was unprepared for the response from a number of you expressing disappointment, if not indignation, about the loss of the “news.” In the best spirit of compromise I will resume the Monday-Saturday posting of the Daily Labor News Digest after I return from Philadelphia, on Monday, February 12. I will also continue the new Labor Advocate blog with commentary on most days as well. Of course, all this is contingent on keeping the FrontPage 2003 software up and running. Right now it has resumed functioning as mysteriously as when it ceased.

That’s all for this week.

Sunday AM News

CAW ratifies three-year deal with Xstrata Nickel by 87 per cent vote
Workers to share in restitution
Union membership in Arizona rose 36% last year to 197,000
Eramet union OKs deal
Denied Collective Bargaining, North Carolina Public Employees Turn More Militant
Dealing with ‘No-Match’ Letters
TWU Leadership Reelected With less Than Half the Vote
Thousands march in Oaxaca protest

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Friday, February 2, 2007

Meatless In Kansas City

Meatpacking was once a major industry in Kansas City, providing thousands of union jobs with decent wages and benefits. It was of particular importance to the African-American community. The big packinghouses–there were once five of them--were closed by the 1970s. Now the last tiny remnant of that heritage is being shut down as well. The plant in Kansas City, Kansas, which processes lunch meats from scraps remaining from boxed cuts sent off to grocery stores from other plants, has long struggled with an identity crisis through several ownership changes. It’s been known as Armour, Morrell, and ConAgra, until Smithfield Foods recently picked it up with the rest of ConAgra’s meat plants. Not fitting in with the rural shift of the industry little investment has been made in the facility in more than a decade. Employment had declined to only 280 workers. Smithfield has announced it is pulling the plug. Salaried employees will be offered transfers to other Smithfield operations. Floor workers are on their own.

Friday Morning Top Stories

Hog Shutdown
Wednesday, 2700 IAM workers in York, Pennsylvania rejected the same concession contract approved at the Harley-Davidson Milwaukee plant and voted to strike today. Harley beat them to the punch by locking them out yesterday.

Harley workers reject contract, find plant closed today
Harley-Davidson workers go in strike at 12:01 a.m., 100 hit picket line

More ‘Junk Science’
That’s the term the CEO of Exxon-Mobil has used to describe Global Warming. Yesterday his corporation announced the biggest profit for any company in the history of capitalism. The UN also released another segment of their study of Global Warming.

U.N. climate panel says global warming man-made
Eiffel Tower goes dark during protest
Even Before Its Release, World Climate Report Is Criticized as Too Optimistic

More Stories
Labor board rules against Smithfield in union vote
UAW rejects deadlines for Delphi talks
Ontario's minimum wage hits $8
Xstrata Nickel, union reach tentative agreement
Senate Adds Tax Breaks To Minimum Wage Bill
Bush Seeks Big Medicare and Medicaid Saving
U.S. savings at lowest point since '33

Thursday, February 1, 2007

So You Want News, Do You?

I’m surprised, and gratified, at the number of complaints I’ve received about the disappearance of the Daily Labor News Digest. You’ve convinced me that it is worth doing. Assuming that I can keep the temperamental FrontPage software going, I will resume the Digest , with “raw” links to timely stories on the Internet, Monday, February 12. (I’m waiting until then because I have another road trip next week.) I will continue this blog with commentary on some of these stories. In the meantime, I’ll list some of the top headlines of the day here on the Labor Advocate blog.

An Island of Moguls Is the Latest Front in a Union Battle
Bay Area Activists Protest Iraq War and Anti-Worker Alcatraz Ferry Operator
Some cool to hot term, 'carbon neutral'
75,000 protest tortilla prices in Mexico
Union, province reach deal after 6-week strike
Updated labour rules promise job protection, unpaid leave