Unionists and Labor Rights Activists Rally in front of Carl’s Jr.

23 Jan

Unionists and Labor Rights Activists Rally in Front of Carl’s Jr. in S.F. to Protest Trump’s Anti-Labor Agenda

By Alan Benjamin (*)

SAN FRANCISCO — An estimated 100 labor activists braved the torrential rain Friday afternoon, January 20 (Inauguration Day), to protest Trump’s anti-labor agenda. Fourteen unions were represented at the rally, which was held in front of Carl’s Jr. to denounce Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder as the new Secretary of Labor. (Puzder, the CEO of Carl’s Jr., is opposed to an increase in the minimum wage; in fact, he does not believe in the need for any minimum wage.)

The half-hour Labor Rally was held immediately prior to the 5 p.m. mass rally organized by the ANSWER coalition. Many union contingents arrived for the main rally but could not make it to the earlier labor feeder rally, as union members were just getting out of work at that time.

The Labor Rally was co-sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) and Jobs with Justice SF. The leaflet calling for the Rally put forward the following demands, all of which were addressed by the rally speakers:

* No to Privatization of Social Security & Medicare!
* No to Right-to-Work (For Less) Laws!
* There Is a Real Solution: Single Payer Now!
* Money for Jobs and Social Services, Not War!
* End All Deportations, Stop All Hate Crimes!
* $15 Minimum Wage and a Union!

The labor rally was chaired by two co-emcees: Alisa Messer, Political Director, AFT 2121; and Kung Feng, Lead Organizer, Jobs with Justice San Francisco. Both highlighted the powerful protest marches, rallies, and actions held earlier in the day throughout downtown San Francisco.

Six speakers addressed the labor gathering. They were:

– Tim Paulson – Executive Director of San Francisco Labor Council

– Fakhra Shah – Mission High School Teacher and member of United Educators of San Francisco

– Raquel Botello – Organizer with La Colectiva, the San Francisco Women’s Collective and leader with the California Domestic Workers Coalition

– Lucia Lin – Senior Movement Building Coordinator with the Chinese Progressive Association and leader with the Progressive Workers Alliance

– Jonathan Meade – Chairperson of Campaign for a Healthy California San Francisco Chapter and retired member of SEIU Local 1021

– Michael Gene Sullivan – San Francisco Mime Troup Collective and member of SAG-AFTRA

Following are the presentations from three of the six speakers (Fakhra Shah, Raquel Botello, and Jonathan Meade) who addressed the Labor Rally. These were the only speakers who had prepared written statements. We were not able to tape the other speakers.

– – – – –

(* Alan Benjamin, an OPEIU Local 29 delegate to the S.F. Labor Council, was a co-organizer of the Labor Rally)

* * * * * * * * * *

Presentation by Fakhra Shah

[Note: Fakhra Shah, a social studies teacher at Mission High School and a member of United Educators of San Francisco, is the author of a lesson plan, drafted just hours after Trump’s election, to help teachers at her school struggling with how to answer students’ questions and concerns about Trump becoming president. The four-page plan’s introduction includes this guidance: “Let us please not sidestep the fact that a racist and sexist man has become the president of our country by pandering to a huge racist and sexist base.” The lesson plan was posted to the union’s website, stirring a huge national debate that was covered widely by the media.]

Good Afternoon!

I said this to you once before, I will say it again: A racist and sexist man has become our president. However in saying that, there are a few things that I left out, I missed: an ABLEIST, xenophobic, and Islamophobic man has become our president — and we MUST REFUSE to allow ourSELVES, OUR students, OUR YOUTH to be threatened in our schools. WE WILL NOT NORMALIZE bigotry and HATE IN OUR SCHOOLS.

How many here today are educators? How many are educators of color? How many of you have fought oppression your entire lives? It’s true, we have always been threatened, but now we are going to be directly assaulted by Trump, by his cabinet, and specifically by Betsy DeVos!

BETSY DEVOS is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Education, and she is an ableist. How can someone be nominated for Secretary of Education and not be familiar with the federal law, specifically with the INDIVIDUALS WITH DIASBILITIES EDUCATION ACT (IDEA)?

In the hearing, DeVos did not agree to uphold federal law to protect students with disabilities; as a matter of fact she had no idea that this was a federally mandated law that all schools receiving federal funding must uphold.

We MUST NOT ALLOW someone like Betsy DeVos to become Secretary of Education. Everything that we have ever fought for is at stake. Human rights are at stake.

There are many who are asking us educators to be neutral, Betsy DeVos, is NOT NEUTRAL. TRUMP IS NOT NEUTRAL. They want to dismantle all of the rights we have ever fought for.
As educators, as adults, we must fight to keep ourselves and our communities safe. We must keep fighting, keep speaking out, and remember, when they are asking you to be neutral, that is their only way of disarming us! Will not be disarmed!

Remember the words of Desmond Tutu:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Presentation by Raquel Botello

Good afternoon,

My name is Raquel Botello. I am a member of La Colectiva de Mujeres (Women’s Collective) and of the Day Labor coalition. I am a domestic worker.

I thank the organizers of this event for inviting me to speak.

We have enormous challenges ahead with the new president, but we must resist. We must organize and mobilize to demand our rights. We must mobilize to defend and expand our healthcare rights. We need a real healthcare system — whatever name you call it — that meets all of our needs as working people.

We must mobilize to demand an end to the deportations of our undocumented immigrant sisters and brothers. Not One More Deportation. We cannot accept the separation of our families, with our children no longer able to live with their parents. We need to return America to its best values and traditions!

We must demand an end to the Border Wall of Shame!

And we must demand an end to the discrimination against women. We women should be valued and respected fully. We must demand equality in all realms. We must demand respect and dignity!

But to do all this we must unite; labor and community must work together. United we will win, because our unity is our strength.

Si Se Puede!

Thank you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Presentation by Jonathan Meade

Good afternoon. My name is Jonathan Meade. I’m with SEIU Local 1021, and I’ve been with my union for 36 years. It’s good to see all of you union members out here today. Because we know what’s going on here today is more than a protest. This is the beginning of a fight. And fighting is what we do.

It doesn’t matter if it’s our employer, Donald Trump and the Republicans in Washington, or corporate democrats in California. You come after me – you come after my family – you come after my grandchildren – these assholes/people do not even know what they’re in for.

I’ve been asked to talk to you about defending Medicare, Medical, and Social Security, but you know, I worked the streets of San Francisco for 30 years as a paramedic, so I know about healthcare. If the Affordable Care Act is dismantled – if Medicare is privatized – if Medical is cut to the bone – if your retirement age is raised and your Social Security benefits are cut – millions of people will be thrown into poverty – and thousands will die. They don’t care. And what will happen to our union healthcare benefits? We all know what’s going on there. We’ve been fighting that fight at the bargaining table for the last 20 years, and we are not winning.

From 1999 to 2014 healthcare premiums across America rose by 191% — and worker contributions rose by 212%. Many union members and union leaders still think we can protect our healthcare benefits through contract negotiations and fighting our own individual fights. That is dead wrong. The last 20 years have already proved that.

We can’t win by just trying to hang on to what we as union members have. If millions of people lose their healthcare coverage in California, you think they are going to care what happens to our benefits? Everyone needs healthcare. Not just union members – everyone deserves healthcare.

The only way to protect our union healthcare benefits from the death of a thousand cuts at a thousand different bargaining tables is to create a healthcare system in California that provides decent healthcare benefits to everyone. Some people call this single payer – some call it Medicare for All, but just like in Canada, in England, in France, in Germany, in Japan, in Taiwan, in Cuba – we can have universal health coverage. Medicare for All covers everyone, costs less than we are spending now, and takes healthcare off the bargaining table. No insurance companies – guess what, we don’t need them – they add nothing of value to our healthcare system – by cutting out the middleman, we can save tens of billions of dollars every year.

This is not pie in the sky. We can actually do this. Californians are not going to accept the dismantling of Obamacare, the gutting of Medical, and the privatizing of Medicare. We have an opportunity – to go big and go on the offensive – through the California legislature, or through the ballot initiative process. The only things standing in our way are the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and ourselves. We know that if all of California labor unites around an issue we can win. We’ve done it before. It’s time to unite – and fight – and win. Thank you. Long live unions.

* * * *




14 Nov

Editorial from The Organizer newspaper, special election report, November 2016

Following the victory of Donald Trump on November 8, a number of prominent left-leaning liberals with a strong following in the labor movement – most notably Michael Moore, Robert Reich, and Arun Gupta – wrote articles about the Hillary Clinton debacle that contain valuable insights. But the authors go on to conclude that what is needed now is to “take back the Democratic Party from the rightwing Democratic National Committee (DNC) leadership who lost us the election.” Good assessment, wrong conclusion.

First, let’s look at some of the points in their balance sheets of the election with which one can only agree:

  • “Clinton won the popular vote by more than 650,000 votes – the second time in 16 years that a candidate who wins the popular vote loses the election; the Electoral College, a relic of 18th century ruling class fear of ‘mob rule,’ has got to go!”
  • Clinton lost because she had close to 9 million fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2008, and roughly 5 million fewer votes than he did in 2012. “There’s no getting around the fact that much of the Democratic base repudiated Clinton.”
  • “Clinton ignored Sanders’ working class base, which demanded single-payer health care, but instead she equivocated on free trade and only offered more militarism.”
  • “Those who today say they are ‘stunned’ and ‘shocked’ by the results were not paying attention to [their] fellow Americans and their despair. After years of being neglected by both parties, the anger and the need for revenge against the system only grew.”
  • “Obama failed to help workers despite his resounding mandate. He spent his political capital to save Wall Street and design a healthcare system more beneficial to the for-profit industry than its patients. Meanwhile, millions lost their homes, sank into joblessness, and descended into poverty.”
  • “Trump stoked the right’s racism and misogyny. He took workers’ social and economic ills produced as much by Democrats as by Republicans, and he fed them through a racial grinder to make his alt-white sausage.”
  • “Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and for four of those years had control of both houses of Congress. But in that time they failed to reverse the decline in working-class wages and economic security. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ardently pushed for free trade agreements without providing millions of blue-collar workers who thereby lost their jobs means of getting new ones that paid at least as well.”
  • “Democrats stood by as corporations hammered trade unions, the backbone of the white working class – failing to reform labor laws to impose meaningful penalties on companies that violate them, or help workers form unions with simple up-or-down votes. The unions lost members, and the working class lost bargaining leverage to get a share of the economy’s gains.”

All this is true. But instead of concluding that it’s about time for those unions that are getting hammered by the corporations (under the Democrats’ watch) to break with the Democrats and build their own independent political party, these liberal writers – Moore and Reich, in particular – simply propose more of the same: continued reliance on the Democratic Party. This is a dead end!

Time to Say “No” to Lesser-Evilism!

Michael Moore calls for “taking over the Democratic Party and returning it to the people.” The first step in this effort, he says, is to demand “that the DNC apologize to Bernie Sanders for fixing the primaries against him.”

For his part, Robert Reich calls “for the members and leaders of the DNC to step down and be replaced by people who are determined to create a party that represents America – including all those who feel powerless and disenfranchised, and who have been left out of our politics and left behind in our economy.”

“The Democratic Party,” he writes, “once represented the working class. But over the last three decades the party has been taken over by Washington-based fundraisers who have focused instead on raising campaign money from corporate and Wall Street executives and getting votes from upper middle-class households in ‘swing’ suburbs. Š We need a New Democratic Party that will fight against intolerance and widening inequality.”

Both writers insist that the main task during the next two years is to push the Elizabeth Warren-Bernie Sanders wing to take back the Democratic Party and elect “reformers” to political office in 2018 at all levels. “It’s about 2018 – not just 2020,” they insist.

Not surprisingly, both writers are silent about the key question facing working people today – which is the need for the labor movement to break its ties of subordination to the Democratic Party and build a working class party based on the unions and the communities of the oppressed.

No. The Democratic Party has never been the party of the working class majority. The party is funded and controlled – from top to bottom – by the corporations and the capitalist class. Always has been. Decades upon decades of attempts to “reform” the Democratic Party have all failed miserably. All such efforts, moreover, have ended up demobilizing and derailing the movements for social change. In the name of supporting the “lesser evil” candidates, the mass movements have been taken off the streets and taken back into the safe channels (for the ruling class) of the Democratic Party.

This issue is bound to surface in the coming weeks and months.

Independent, Mass Action in the Streets!

Activists are already beginning to call on the unions and the organizations of the Black and Latino movements to spearhead the resistance against the impending racist, anti-women and anti-worker attacks being prepared in Trump Tower.

United-front, mass-action coalitions will need to be organized soon, independent of the Democrats, around the following demands:

  • stop the drive to privatize public services and smash the trade unions;
  • stop the drive to privatize Social Security and undermine Medicare;
  • stop the attacks on healthcare gains: Single Payer Now!;
  • stop the police killings of Black youth (which are bound to increase at the hands of an emboldened right-wing, pro-Trump Police Officers Association);
  • stop the accelerated attacks on Black voting rights;
  • stop the deportations and attacks on undocumented immigrants;
  • stop the announced attacks on a woman’s right to choose;
  • stop the attempts, just announced by Mike Pence, to reverse the LGBTQ gains and rights; and
  • stop the increased wars of intervention against working people around the world.

Hundreds of thousands of people need to be mobilized in all corners of the country in support of all these and other struggles – either in the form of single-issue coalitions, or multi-issue coalitions. The time is now for mass action in the streets!

But these actions will necessarily be blunted today, and they will be derailed tomorrow, by those Democratic Party reformers who support mass protest actions but insist that these must be framed and organized in such a way as to promote their legislative efforts to defeat Republicans in 2018 and 2020.

No. The mass actions, to be successful, must remain broad-based and independent of the Democrats and their legislative agenda. The demands must be precise and uncompromising. Coalitions building these actions must be based on mass, democratic assemblies. Everyone who supports these demands is needed and welcome. But subordination to the Democratic Party, whichever its wing, is a recipe for disaster.

The trade unions will need to take the lead in building these mass actions, putting their immense resources and membership to this task.

It will also be important to reach out to white, working-class Trump supporters, who are in for a rude awakening when Trump – implementing the corporate agenda, as he will – begins slashing their healthcare programs, shutting down more factories and jobs, sending their sons and daughters to fight and die in wars in far-off lands, and leaving tens of thousands of them without homes and communities.

But something else, something even more vital, is needed in the coming period if the working class and its allies in the communities of the oppressed are to reverse these attacks and prevail in winning their fundamental demands for peace, jobs and justice: The trade unions must break their ties of subordination to the Democratic Party and build an independent voice, an independent political party, of their own – in alliance with their Black and Latino allies.

It’s Time for Labor to Relaunch a Labor Party Advocates-Type Organization!

The trade union movement, though severely weakened by decades of reliance on the Democratic Party, still remains a formidable force. And its potential power, if unleashed from its subordination to the Democrats, is exponentially greater.

Just in this election, the unions spent $400 million to support Clinton; SEIU alone put up $70 million. The unions mobilized tens of thousands of canvassers and knocked on 9.5 million doors, according to the AFL-CIO. They spent $40 million alone in registering new voters.

The unions, of course, mobilized to support for THE candidate of Wall Street, someone who was rejected by a huge number of union members; Clinton just narrowly beat Trump among union households. This is why their effort failed. But the fact is that these resources still exist and could be placed at the service of independent working class political action.

As we have stated time and again in the editorial pages of The Organizer newspaper, the number one obstacle facing working people in this country is the subordination of the leadership of the trade unions – the only organizations that represent and organize the workers on a class basis – to the Democratic Party. Helping to break the unions away from that vise-grip is therefore one of the central tasks facing independent labor activists.

Working people are looking for alternatives.

Nnamdi Scott ran as an independent Black working-class candidate for City Council in Baltimore and garnered close to 10% of the vote, with only a small and poorly funded campaign. What is needed are dozens of Nnamdi Scott-type campaigns around the country in 2018.

What’s needed now is a national organizing committee, with labor, Black and Latino leaders at the helm that promotes a new political strategy for labor. Such a committee – modeled after Labor Party Advocates – would, of course, promote independent mass actions of resistance in the streets, but its focus would be to get the ball rolling to run genuinely independent labor-community candidates for local and state office in 2018.

Follow the Example of the Cleveland 19 Trade Unionists

Two years ago, in the aftermath of the crushing Democratic Party debacle in the 2014 mid-term elections, 19 rank-and-file trade unionists in Ohio, at the initiative of the now deceased secretary of the Labor Fightback Network, Jerry Gordon, sent an Open Letter to the Cleveland Central Labor Council urging it to run independent labor-community candidates for public office. Their message is of great relevance today. They wrote, in part:

“In assessing the crushing defeat suffered by labor in the November 4 elections, the need to re-evaluate our election strategy is imperative. In our view, labor – together with our community partners – needs to run its own independent candidates for public office and not rely on any political party to do for us what we must do for ourselves. Š

“In 2008, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, along with Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress, gave rise to hope for many people. However, no legislation was passed providing for a major jobs program, infrastructure spending, labor law reform, Employee Free Choice Act (card check), a labor-backed single payer universal health care system (eliminating the for-profit, parasitic insurance companies), increase in the minimum wage, or action to ensure a clean and healthy environment. And the list goes on.

“Instead, relentless pressure is coming from the administration to pass anti-worker trade legislation, which a delegate from the Steelworkers Union at last month’s delegates meeting called “NAFTA on steroids.”

“The country also experienced growing income inequality over the past several years and the widespread cuts in pensions are driving more people into poverty.

“Polls show 60% of the U.S. population favors the formation of a new, independent political party. Only 36% of eligible voters voted in the midterm elections. People are fed up with the two major parties and soundly repudiated the Democratic Party on November 4, a party we continue to support each election cycle with funding and boots on the ground. It’s time for a change! It’s time to develop an effective alternative!

“The lack of a critical voice from labor and its allies in the electoral arena has resulted in a monopoly of power by the big corporations and their political bagmen, with Wall Street popping the champagne corks as a result of the November 4 elections.

“Tough times lie ahead for the labor movement. What is urgently needed now, we believe, is a debate throughout the movement regarding what must be done to gain real clout in the political and electoral arena. Let those who advocate sticking with the Democrats (or turning to the anti-labor Republican Party) have their say. But let advocates of independent labor/community political action be heard as well.

“Therefore, we urge and hope that the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor will schedule such a debate in the days ahead. Subjects that we believe should be discussed include:

  1. The need for labor to develop its own independent electoral strategy;
  2. Viewing elections as the culmination of year-round coalition building and mass activities on major issues, not as a separate activity;
  3. Forming a Labor Representation Committee to train union members (and community leaders) as possible labor/community candidates;
  4. Developing a strategic plan that lays the basis for running independent labor/community candidates, with the goal being to build a local and statewide political organization that could become an independent political/activist party;
  5. Deciding what platform and issues should be paramount for labor and its community allies to better motivate and create change for the betterment and empowerment of the working class.”

The time is now to take this Open Letter and transform it into resolutions to be submitted to unions and labor councils across the country. The time is now to hold a broad-based conference of labor and the oppressed to promote running independent-labor community candidates and moving the discussion around the need for a new political party of the working class majority – a party based on the unions and the communities of the oppressed.


The following articles were quoted in this Editorial:

  • “A prophecy of Trumps ascension to power (prior to the election) and some to do lists from Michael Moore” – reprinted from Michael Moore’s blog (Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Unions investigate their poor showing for Clinton,” by Ted Hesson and Marianne Levine (Politico, Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Warren offers Democrats path forward in Trump era,” by Gabriel Debenedetti and Madeline Conway (Politico, Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Trump Won Because the Democratic Party Failed, Not Because the White Working Class Revolted,” by Arun Gupta (The Nation, Nov. 11, 2016)
  • “It’s Time to Dismantle the Democratic Party and Start Anew,” by Robert Reich – reprinted from RobertReich.org (Nov. 10, 2016)
  • “Progressives Should Remember It Is Darkest Just Before Dawn,” by Richard Kirsch (The Huffington Post, Nov. 10, 2016)


Some Key Facts About the Election

Clinton: 60.98 million – 47.79% of votes cast

Trump: 60.35 million – 47.38% of votes cast

Johnson: 4.13 million – 3.24% of votes cast

Stein: 1.24 million – 0.96% of votes cast

Others: 0.69 million – 0.53% of votes cast

Total Number of Votes Cast: 127.39 million

Total Number Eligible Voters: 231.56 million

Total Number of Abstentions: 104.17 million

Percentage of Abstentions: 44.98%

Percentage of Eligible Voters: 26.06%
Who Voted for Trump

Other Facts:

  • Clinton won the popular vote by more than 650,000 votes.
  • There was no Republican voter surge for Trump; he got roughly the same number of votes (60 million) as did GOP candidate George Romney in 2012.
  • Clinton received close to 9 million fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2008, and roughly 5 million fewer votes than he did in 2012.
  • Obama won Indiana in 2008, a state that was about 84 percent white then, and performed better among nearly every subgroup of whites in his two victories than Clinton did in 2016. In fact, Clinton suffered her biggest losses in the places where Obama was strongest among white voters.
  • Clinton lost despite the fact that she outspent Trump almost 2-to-1 and had the support of the politically active denizens of Wall Street and the top executives of the country’s largest corporations, and even former Republican President George HW Bush.
  • This was second highest abstention rate in U.S. history; about 49% of eligible voters did not participate in the 1996 election, in which Democratic candidate Bill Clinton beat Republican candidate Bob Dole.
  • The Black vote was lower than expected because of the distrust in Hillary Clinton but also because in some states, such as North Carolina, the Republican officials imposed new restrictive voting laws targeting African American voters specifically. These laws restricted access to early voting.

Also, there is “felony disenfranchisement” in countless states; the New Jim Crow laws ban prisoners and ex-felons from voting. The total is 3.9 million people who could otherwise vote.

  • Trump has no mandate; he was supported by only 26.06% of the voting age population. Roughly one in four people over the age of 18 across the country voted for him.

Slamming the Abstentionists

Top Democratic Party officials have lashed out at the abstentionists and third party voters.

Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, gained great notoriety when – to protest the continued police killings of Black youth – he refused to stand during the pre-game national anthem. He took a knee instead.

Kaepernick’s protest went further. In an interview prior to the election, he explained that he had no plans to vote. Speaking about the debate between Clinton and Trump, he stated:

“I watched a little bit of it. To me it was embarrassing to watch that these two are our candidates. At this point, the election is a choice between the lesser of two evils. But in the end it’s still evil.”

Kaepernick was raked over the coals by the sports media, the Democratic Party, and the political establishment. They accused Kaepernick of poisoning the minds of Black youth against the political system. The Democrats, including Clinton, had earlier gone out of their way to discourage people from voting for third parties, arguing that a vote for a third party was a vote for Trump.

Healthcare 1: “Crashing the Democratic Party’s Country Club Party”

Speaking at a forum in San Francisco organized by Single Payer Now! shortly after the Democratic Party National Convention in mid-July 2016, Karen Bernal, who headed the Bernie Sanders California delegation to the convention, denounced the Democratic Party leadership, the DNC, and particularly the Democratic Party Platform Committee, for turning its back on the working-class majority in the United States, which supports Medicare For All – also known as single payer-healthcare.

Bernal reported on how Michael Lighty, political director of National Nurses United, addressed the party’s Platform Committee prior to the convention, to insist that they must adopt a plank in support of single-payer as this would play a big role in ensuring a Democratic Party victory in the November presidential election. She quoted Lighty as saying, “The only Democrats nationwide who oppose Single Payer are the Democrats in this room.”

But the Democrats, beholden to their corporate backers, particularly in the private healthcare insurance industry, refused to listen, Bernal said. They stabbed the workers in the back.

Bernal’s anger was not only directed at the DNC; it was also directed at Bernie Sanders, who told his delegation not to make an issue of this rejection of Single Payer on the floor of the Democratic Party convention, as it would only be “divisive” and could undermine support for the party’s nominee.

A California Nurses Association member told a gathering of activists that the nurses attending the Democratic Party convention were outraged that their issue was ignored by the Democratic Party leadership. “They made us feel like we were crashing their country club party,” she said.

Healthcare 2: “A Big Issue at the Dinner Table”

Interviewed by the PBS reporter at the Republican election-night gathering at the Hilton Hotel in New York City, Jack Kingston, a former Georgia member of Congress, explained the main reason, in his opinion, that Hillary Clinton lost the election. He said the following:

“One of the most neglected stories in the media is the widespread anger among working people in the Rust Belt and other regions over the rising costs of healthcare under Obamacare. It might not be a top media story, but it is certainly a discussion at the dinner tables in working-class and middle-class households across the country. Everyone is concerned that premiums and healthcare costs are going to soar in 2017 under Obamacare. Trump said that Obamacare has to go, and he got a real hearing.”

On the Auto Bailout and the So-Called “Recovery”

When General Motors filed for bankruptcy in the spring of 2008, at the height of the Great Recession, the U.S. government agreed to provide $65 billion to grease a deal that slashed 21,000 autoworkers’ jobs, closed 17 auto plants, and shut down 2,600 of GM’s 6,246 dealerships.

The UAW supported this “bailout” plan, which, additionally, froze wages, ended bonuses, eliminated noncompetitive work rules, and required binding arbitration in future contracts, thus eliminating the union’s right to strike. The UAW said that the cuts would save GM $1.3 billion a year over the five years of the new contract.

During the 2016 election campaign, Obama and Clinton spoke about the “amazing recovery” that the U.S. auto industry had made as a result of the Obama bailout. Yes, GM and Ford profits are up, but the workforce has been slashed and the laid-off workers have lost their homes or have moved into trailer camps in other states. And the new jobs that were created are all precarious jobs, with low wages, no benefits (no pensions or healthcare), no unions, no protections on the job, no stability.

Obama carried the majority of white, working class voters in 2008 – but the administration turned its back on these workers. Once their hopes were dashed, they were left prey to the demagogues like Trump, who scapegoated the immigrants as the ones largely responsible for the job losses.

It is now estimated that the Obama administration spent more than $7 trillion as part of his “economic recovery plan” – which was nothing more than a corporate bailout plan. This money was handed over to the very same banks and financial institutions that had created the financial crisis to begin with.

“Politics Abhors a Vacuum”

(Excerpts from Editorial in the November 2009 issue of The Organizer newspaper titled, “One Year in Office: Has Obama Delivered Change?”)

Obama and the Democrats’ refusal to heed the mandate for change from the American people on Nov. 4, 2008, has created a political void that the rightwing racists are aiming to fill. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Significant sectors of the ruling class are leaning on and fomenting white racism to block any progressive change and take back the levers of power. Anti-immigrant mobilizations are multiplying across the country. The threat posed by these racists should not be underestimated.

In today’s conditions of deepening economic and political crisis, people are looking for an alternative to politics-as-usual. It is up to the organizations of the workers and the oppressed to raise a political alternative, an independent fightback perspective in the interests of the working-class majority.

[Note: Seven years later, these words are as relevant as they were then – maybe even more relevant.]

  • On the Occupation of the State Capitol in Wisconsin

(Excerpts from closing Comments by Jerry Gordon to the Labor Fightback Conference in Rutgers, N.J. on May 15-17, 2015. Jerry Gordon died this past October 27. See obituary page 7 of the printed version.)

When Wisconsin workers occupied the Capitol and took to the streets by the hundreds of thousands in February and March 2011 to defend their unions and living standards, the effect was electrifying. Workers throughout the U.S. were elated to see workers taking such militant actions, reminiscent of the 1930s. Messages of solidarity poured in. “WE ARE ALL WISCONSIN!” was heard around the globe. The fight against the bosses’ union-busting and austerity offensive was at last being joined by masses of U.S. workers.

Farmers came in their tractors to support the call by the Madison labor council to support the teachers and other public-sector workers against the cuts. White rural workers and private sector workers also responded to the call to action, as they saw a real working-class struggle develop that also addressed their needs and interests as workers.

But from the beginning of this struggle, labor leaders, with some significant dissenters, settled on a strategy of agreeing to Governor Scott Walker’s economic demands, which were that union workers in the public-sector pick up a significant part of the tab for their health care and pension benefits, while Walker’s budget called for $2.3 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy over the next decade. These concessions were announced publicly – without a vote taken of the affected workers – and amounted to over $100 million. But Walker rebuffed the idea that this was a sufficient basis to bring about a settlement of his dispute with the unions involved. Walker’s appetite having been whetted, he continued to demand that the public-sector unions also agree to having their members’ collective-bargaining rights stripped away, with police and firefighters excepted.

With the occupation of the Capitol and the gigantic demonstrations reaching a showdown stage, something had to give. The South Central Federation of Labor in Wisconsin adopted a resolution calling for exploration of the idea of a general strike as a possible next step.

If the labor movement had united on a national basis at that point and called a truly massive Solidarity Day 3 “March on Madison!” it could well have spurred more far-reaching actions by the Wisconsin labor movement, including a generalized work stoppage and mass civil disobedience. In the absence of such national support, Walker’s legislation was approved, and the struggle was then diverted to electoral channels by labor leaders and the Democratic Party.

Not surprisingly, the attempt to recall Walker and elect Democratic candidate Tom Barrett as governor was decisively defeated.

As Milwaukee mayor, Barrett sought union concessions that went beyond those mandated by Walker’s collective-barraging law. In a debate with Walker, he made clear he was not labor’s candidate. He also said that he would not increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

The Wisconsin labor movement was deeply divided in the recall campaign. According to the exit polls, 38% of union households voted for Walker, as did 67% of male blue-collar workers.

For the labor movement to shift its focus from independent mass action in the streets to supporting Democratic Party politicians was a sure recipe for defeat.

The Wisconsin experience also underscores again the need for the U.S. labor movement to establish independent labor/community coalitions and run candidates for public office, based on a program reflecting the needs and aspirations of the working class majority, and with candidates accountable to the base. Such an independent working class political movement could go a long way toward unifying the working class and cementing ties with the youth, students, communities of color, and other progressive sectors of the population.

[Note: The white farmers in the traditionally Republican areas of Wisconsin proudly took their tractors to the mass rallies in Madison, Wisconsin, in defense of public-sector workers. But when the union leadership pulled back from struggle to support Democrats, who were themselves anti-union and anti-worker, these farmers, too, were thrown back into the hands of the Republicans.]

Corbyn and the Future of Labour: A review

11 Oct

Corbyn and the Future of Labour: A Verso ReportCorbyn and the Future of Labour: A Verso Report by Tariq Ali

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An important collection of essays on the leadership struggle in the Labour Party over the last couple of years, written by people from left Social democrats to pro- and anti- EU campaigners to that old warhorse of the Ernest Mandel school, Tariq Ali.
I would like to draw particular attention among my fellow New Democrats to essay number 8, by Jeremy Gilbert, “The Question of Leadership”.

“The reason the two sides of this argument find it so hared to talk to each other, or even understand each other’s logics, is that what is at stake here really is two quite different conceptions of politics; this implies, among other things, two quite different conceptions of what leadership is and what leaders are for. One perspective basically thinks that politics is about selling your party to consumers; the other thinks that it’s mainly about building up a coalition of social groups with common interests.”

Politics as marketing, versus politics as movement-building. This is what the difference is between a Tom Mulcair and a Tommy Douglas.

“The great weakness of this model of politics is that it simply cannot explain how social change happens. It insists that politics as it has been done since the 1980s is the only way it could ever be done.” I could go on but I don’t want to quote too heavily from it; go, get a copy, read it, and ponder what sort of leadership we need in the NDP … not just who for Leader, but what sort of direction we need to go.

View all my reviews

A poem from the July-August issue of SO

15 Aug

They’re Your Children

Poem by Luis Olivencia Baldassari

(translation into English by Doroteo Arango)

[Note: “The presidents from the whole world condemned the November 13, 2015, attacks in Paris. My reflection is about all those presidents, along with all the owners of global capital, who create, nurture, educate and feed the terrorists. This is where the inspiration from the poem comes from.” — L. Olivencia B.]

You have nursed them with the milk of your violence.
Violence from your television programs
Daily domestic violence instilled in your homes
Violence built in your colleges.

You have nursed them with the milk of your religions.
Religions that compete against each other
To annihilate the other
Religions based on hatred toward one another
Religions based on suffering.

You have nursed them with the milk pouring from the weapons that you sell.
That are given to you for the defense of your properties
Weapons to hurt the ones on the bottom of the heap
Weapons to secure your regime of exploitation.

You have nursed them with the milk of racial segregation.
To scorn the Black one
To scorn the Indian one
To scorn the Mixed-race one
To scorn the Asian one.

You have nursed them with the milk of misery.
Showing them day after day everything that can be obtained with the money
that they will never have
Showing them day after day your “brands” and luxuries
Exhibiting them with vainglory in front of the hapless majority.

You have nursed them with the milk of your patriotism.
To divide up our worldwide unity
To confront each other in defense of the Motherland
Mother and that is the domain of your mafioso businesses.

You have nursed them with the milk of daily frustration.
As they are transported daily like animals
As they see their children die of hunger because “there is not enough” or
Due to the lack of medicines as they have to go to overcrowded and depleted hospitals.

You have nursed them with the milk that flows from alcohol.
Alcohol that denigrates young and old
Alcohol from which you generate your millionaire lives
Alcohol with which you assassinate millions of human beings.

You have nursed them with the milk of your ideologies.
Building a right, center and left
That serve the same purpose “disguised as competition”
Building states and institutions
That each time fewer and fewer citizens believe in.

You have nursed them with the milk that flows from your in…justice.
That you use to imprison the petty delinquents
While the big delinquents go about freely
While they extort with impunity.

You have nursed them with the milk that flows from drugs.
Amassing fortunes with them
Killing millions with them
Making them legal and illegal
Though both equally destructive.

You have nursed them with the milk that flows from the corruption.
Corruption that floods and corrodes all social structure
Corruption which like beer drips from the top.

You have incubated, raised, deformed and used them.
They are your product and you don’t recognize them as your legitimate children.
Terrorists! You call them.

All of a sudden …

11 Aug

… I have nine (count ’em, NINE) new followers. I suppose I had better start posting the occasional original piece to justify this before you all wander off and put my social-media scores in negative if not totally imaginary numbers … OTOH you might actually have wanted to follow my other WordPress account, Building the Fourth International in Canada. (I’ve been mulling over an article on the NDP there, for freaking ever, probably giving my comrades in Socialist Organizer the idea I have writers’ block. Nah, comrades, it’s just procrastination.) 8)

No to the Coup! U.S. Hands Off Brazil!

26 Mar

Solidarity Letter to CUT National President Vagner Freitas:
No to the Coup! U.S. Hands Off Brazil!
Solidarity with our Union Brothers and Sisters in Brazil
Dear Brother Freitas,
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the CUT:
Like millions of workers the world over, we have followed with great alarm the
coup that is being orchestrated against the Workers Party (PT) government and
against the Brazilian working class and its organizations — particularly against
the CUT trade union federation — by the right-wing forces which, having been
defeated at the ballot box, are using extra-legal means in an attempt to
dismantle the democratic, labor and social rights of the Brazilian people.
We are at your side in the struggle to stop the coup in its tracks and to prevent
the Brazilian oligarchy from being able to impose by decree the scores of anti-
labor bills already in the docket of the National Congress aimed at turning back
the clock to the dark days of the military dictatorship (1964-80).
We agree with you, Brother Freitas when you state — as you did in your
International Appeal of March 23 — that, “The current moment requires courage,
unity, strategy and a willingness to confront the coup against the working class.
The attempt to overthrow President Dilma is an assault on democracy. What
they want is to destroy all our rights.”
We, trade union activists and supporters of labor rights in the United States,
know full well the role of the U.S. government and of U.S.-based transnational
corporations in promoting the coup in Brazil in 1964 – just as we are aware of
the heinous role that they played in instigating the coups that overthrew the
democratically elected governments of Salvador Allende in Chile (September
1973), Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti (February 2004), and Manuel Zelaya in
Honduras (June 2009).
There is no doubt in our minds that powerful financial interests in the United
States are lining up behind the coup plotters in Brazil today to launch this assault
on the Brazilian people and nation. To all of them we say, “U.S. Hands Off
We are heartened to learn about the general assemblies being organized by the
CUT in factories across Brazil against the coup and in defense of labor rights,
and by the statements adopted by dwellers in the shantytowns (periferias) of
major cities, which affirm that:”We have nothing in common with those who have taken to the streets with their
hate speech: the fascists and their hangers-on, who in the name of the ‘fight
against corruption’ only want to weaken the public sector and the State to line
their own pockets, to break with legality and democracy, and to put down the
working class and the oppressed.” (Manifesto Das Periferias de Sao Paulo,
March 22)
We are at your side in this decisive fight for democracy and labor rights. Please
convey our solidarity to all your members and supporters, who are resisting this
coup and fighting to defend and expand their democratic and labor rights.
In solidarity,

Alan Benjamin
U.S. Hands Off Brazil campaign coordinator
Member, Executive Committee, San Francisco Labor Council (*)
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO)
San Francisco, California

Hermandad Mexicana Nacional
Los Angeles, California

Tim Paulson
Executive Director
San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO)
San Francisco, California

Nancy Wohlforth (*)
Secretary-Treasurer Emerita
Washington, D.C.

Baldemar Velasquez
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)
Toledo, Ohio

Donna Dewitt (*)
Secretary-Treasurer Emerita
South Carolina AFL-CIO
Charleston, South Carolina

Colia Clark
Judicial Violence Symposium
Haiti-Guadeloupe Campaign Committee
New York, New York

Gene Bruskin
US Labor Against the War
Member, NWU/UAW
Washington, D.C.

Michael Eisenscher (*)
National Coordinator Emeritus
US Labor Against the War
Oakland, California

Carol Gay (*)
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
Newark, N.J.

Fred Hirsch (*)
Delegate to South Bay Labor Council
and to Building and Construction Trades Council
of Santa Clara and San Benito Counties
San Jose, California

Jerry Gordon (*)
UFCW Retiree
Cleveland, Ohio

Maria Guillen (*)
SEIU Local 1021 Delegate to
San Francisco Labor Council
South San Francisco, California

Peter Olney (*)
Past Organizing Director
International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)
San Francisco, California

Allan Fisher (*)
Delegate to SF Labor Council, AFT 2121
San Francisco, California

Al Rojas
Frente de Mexicanos en el Exterior
Sacramento, California

Jerry Levinsky (*)
Steering Committee member
Labor Fightback Network
Amherst, Massachusetts

Thomas Bias (*)
New Jersey State Industrial Union Council
Flanders, New Jersey

Eduardo Rosario (*)
NYC Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
New York City
(*) titles and organizations listed for id. purposes only
* * * * * * * * * *
[ ] Please add my name to the list of endorsers of the Solidarity Letter to Brazilian
CUT Trade Union National President Vagner Freitas
TITLE/ORG (list if for id. only)
Fill out and return to:
U.S. Hands Off Brazilian Campaign
Email: UnityandIndependence@earthlink.net
PO Box 40009
San Francisco, CA 94140

11 Feb