December 29, 2008

American and Israeli Communists condemn Israeli aggression in Gaza

The Communist Party in the United States has condemned Israeli government aggression in Gaza and is proposing serious and helpful solidarity actions. Go here for the full report.

Communists in Israeli have also condemned the aggression and are providing analysis of events there. To read more go here.

There is also an excellent report in Political Affairs on Gaza.

‘There is no alternative to socialism’

From an interview with Egyptian economist Samir Amin:

The financial collapse is only the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface there is a deep crisis of accumulation of capital in the real productive economy, and deeper even there is a systemic crisis of capitalism itself. Let us look at the tip of the iceberg first – the so-called financial crisis. This is not the result of mistakes or irresponsibilities of the banking system operating freely in a deregulated environment. This flawed analysis gives the impression that if regulations are put in place the crisis will be corrected. This has been the expected response of the G-20 in Washington, D.C. And this should not be surprising since the G-20’s feeble declaration has been prepared beforehand by the International Monetary Fund [IMF] in concert with the G8.

Read more here.

Portland rally against the Israeli attacks on Gaza

STOP THE MASSACRE IN GAZA NOW!

Emergency Demonstration
Tuesday December 30, 2008
Gather at 4:30 and Rally 5:00 pm
Where: Federal Building, Downtown Portland, SW 3rd & Madison
Called by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, sponsored/ endorsed by many others.

December 28, 2008

The situation in Gaza--eyewitness accounts and Oregon solidarity actions

On Thursday it seemed that the Israeli government was loosening restrictions on Gaza and allowing some transit between Gaza and Israel and allowing some much-needed food and medical supplies in. Much of the world's attention was focused on other problems and caught in the Christmas-New Years doldrums. Then came the Israeli attacks on Gaza which have so far killed over 290 people (with more destruction promised), the predictable reaction from people in Gaza, a growing uprising on the West Bank and calls for peace from Arab and European states. The Israeli government clearly lulled people into a false sense of security, took advantage of the moment and counted on the lack of world outrage over the recent near-strangulation of Gaza to launch this attack. The Bush administration once more stands nearly alone in blaming the Palestinian victims for the latest Israeli atrocities.

Someone in Gaza had this to say during the first Israeli assault:

I've never seen anything like this. It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, even to me and I'm in the middle of it and a few hours have already passed. I think 15 locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza. The images are probably not broadcast in US media. There are piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you look at them you can see that a few of the young men are still alive, someone lifts a hand here, and another raise his head there. They probably died within moments because their bodies are burned, most have lost limbs, some have their guts hanging out and they're all lying in pools of blood. Outside my home, (which is close to the universities) a bomb fell on a large group of young men, university students, they'd been warned not to stand in groups, it makes them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses to take them home. This was about 3 hours ago 7 were killed, 4 students and 3 of our neighbors kids, teenagers who were from the same family (Rayes) and were best friends. As I'm writing this I heard a funeral procession go by outside, I looked out the window and it was the 3 Rayes boys. They spent all their time together when they were alive, and now their sharing the same funeral together. Nothing could stop my 14 year old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends laying in the street after they were killed. He hasn't spoken a word since. A little further down the street about an hour earlier 3 girls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a bomb fell. The girls bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.

These are just a couple of images that I've witnessed. In all the locations people are going through the dead terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion, cell phones aren't working, hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them. Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the floor weeping. Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanished after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.

160 people dead in today's air raid. That means 160 funeral processions, a few today, most of them tomorrow probably. To think that yesterday these families were worried about food and heat and electricity. At this point I think they--actually all of us-- would gladly have Hamas sign off every last basic right we've been calling for the last few months forever if it could have stopped this from ever having happened.

The bombing was very close to my home. Most of my extended family live in the area. My family is ok, but 2 of my uncles' homes were damaged, another relative was injured.
I don't know why I'm sending this email. It doesn't even begin to tell the story on any level. Just flashes of thing that happened today that are going through my head.


The Palestinian News Network is providing news updates. The ADC is also providing news and information on what can be done from here to help stop the massacre. Solidarity organizations are calling for protests.

There will be a protest on Monday (tomorrow) in Eugene on the Ferry Street Bridge approach to the parkway from 2:00 to 5:00 PM. The Portland Peaceful Response Coalition (503-344-5078 or pprc@riseup.net and www.pprc-news.org) has condemned the attacks.

AUPHR in Portland is providing helpful solidarity and news. This is our regional solidarity organization and they deserve our full support.

December 22, 2008

Oregon's Financial Crisis---Compete, Surrrender Or Resist?

Oregon is deep into a financial crisis that is rapidly turning into a political crisis. Our unemployment rate has passed the national rate. We are looking at a proposed Governor's budget which contains some major hits for education and social services. A concrete example of how bad this situation is can be found in the Oregon Health Plan, which is looking at some major cuts. Just a few months ago OHP had open rolls and was aggressively looking to sign people up and perhaps restart stalled programs.

The coming legislative session may see a scramble between unions, environmental groups, lobbies, trade associations, the law-and-order crowd, competing industries and social service agencies for available dollars. Unity at the grassroots now can prevent such a scramble and insure that more people get taken care of and more services are maintained. Without such unity, the hard work to create change that won in the November's elections may be squandered or set back.

We are not the only ones confronting this crisis, of course. This is an international and national crisis tearing the world apart.

Carl Bloice has an excellent piece on BlackCommentator.com about this economic-turned-political crisis. Read that great piece here.

The very wrong move--the one that I suspect that the banks and key industries are trying to push us towards--would be to respond to this crisis with increasing privatization, capitalist globalization and killing the public sector and the public sphere. The Bush administration is trying to push through last-minute changes which, if adopted, will negatively affect Oregon and the entire American west. Read about these efforts here.

December 21, 2008

The Struggle In Gaza

The struggle in Palestine does not get enough serious attention in the US or from the American left. The most recent crisis in Gaza has gotten very little attention and much helpless tongue clicking and that's about it. The American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) continues to fight for Palestine and against anti-Arab discrimination here in the US, making it one of the few organizations to successfully combine international solidarity work and US community organizing and defense. Here is an editorial written by Yousef Munayyer, an ADC policy analyst, which appears in today's The Boston Globe.


THE LIGHTS are out in Gaza again and few are paying attention. The 1.5 million Palestinians living in the densely populated strip are being collectively punished once more, while Israel attempts to strangle the Hamas government. The UN agency that feeds hundreds of thousands of people is unable to get supplies in because the border is closed, and a plea from UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has been ignored. more

December 19, 2008

Teamsters, Gaza, Science, Philosophy, Salem--Catch Up On Your Reading While It Snows

Remembering Ron Carey

RON CAREY, the most important union leader in the U.S. in the last decade of the 20th century, passed away December 11 in New York. He was 72 years old and died from the debilitating effects of lung cancer.

Carey will always been remembered as the leader of the great UPS strike of 1997, the most important victory by American workers since the beginning of the Reagan era. more

Gaza: The Untold Story

It’s incomprehensible that a region such as the Gaza Strip, so rich with history, so saturated with defiance, can be reduced to a few blurbs, sound bites and reductionist assumptions, convenient but deceptive, vacant of any relevant meaning, or even true analytical value.

The fact is that there is more to the Gaza Strip than 1.5 million hungry Palestinians, who are supposedly paying the price for Hamas’s militancy, or Israel’s ‘collective punishment’, which ever way the media decide to brand the problem.

More importantly, Gaza’s existence since time immemorial must not be juxtaposed by its proximity to Israel, failure or success in ‘providing’ a tiny Israeli town – itself built on conquered land that was seen only 60 years ago as part of the Gaza Province – with its need for security. It’s this very expectation that made the killing and wounding of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza a price worth paying, in the callous eyes of many. more

Why a Philosophy of the Natural Sciences is Needed

My answer to the question “Why is a philosophy of the natural sciences needed?” will take the form of several distinct components. Before enumerating them, I should point out that no separate Marxist philosophy of the natural sciences exists distinct from dialectical and historical materialism. Marxist philosophy of the natural sciences is the methodological application of dialectical and historical materialism to investigations in the various natural sciences. more

The Crash of 2008 and Historical Materialism

Understanding the impact of technological revolutions on major financial booms and busts, including the ongoing crash of 2008, from the standpoint of historical materialism allows us to understand the causes of economic crisis as well as what can be done to change the system we live in and reduce the turmoil.

Historical materialism has been the most lasting, and also most widely accepted, contribution of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to philosophy. Here is Engels classic definition of it from the preface to Socialism: Utopian and Scientific:

"The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in men's better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange."

Simply put, social changes are tied to economic developments and upheavals. Those familiar with historical materialism will be least surprised to learn that there are powerful historical precedents for such crises as the one in which we currently find ourselves. Those precedents show a profound inter-relationship between the periodic surges of technology we have come to call "technological revolutions," and the boom and bust cycles of finance capital. more

Salem Snaps

What Salem really looks like. Click here.

China, Socialism and Sustainable Development

China, Socialism and Sustainable Development

In May this year, I attended a two-day conference, "Marxism and Sustainable Development", took a trip along the Yangtze, visited the Three Gorges Dam and toured Shanghai, Beijing and Chongqing, all to study sustainable development.

One reaction to the announced visit to the Three Gorges Dam as part of a sustainable development study said it all. I was met with laughter and incredulity and a view that the Three Gorges Dam was environmental vandalism.

The comments relate to the dislocation of villagers and the flooding of valleys. They play on the fear of dam construction and loss of flows downstream, although most views are centered around the general anti-China sentiment expressed in the Western media. more

Gaza: The Untold Story

It’s incomprehensible that a region such as the Gaza Strip, so rich with history, so saturated with defiance, can be reduced to a few blurbs, sound bites and reductionist assumptions, convenient but deceptive, vacant of any relevant meaning, or even true analytical value.

The fact is that there is more to the Gaza Strip than 1.5 million hungry Palestinians, who are supposedly paying the price for Hamas’s militancy, or Israel’s ‘collective punishment’, which ever way the media decide to brand the problem. more

The Crash of 2008 and Historical Materialism

Understanding the impact of technological revolutions on major financial booms and busts, including the ongoing crash of 2008, from the standpoint of historical materialism allows us to understand the causes of economic crisis as well as what can be done to change the system we live in and reduce the turmoil.

Historical materialism has been the most lasting, and also most widely accepted, contribution of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to philosophy. Here is Engels classic definition of it from the preface to Socialism: Utopian and Scientific:

"The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in men's better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange."

Simply put, social changes are tied to economic developments and upheavals. Those familiar with historical materialism will be least surprised to learn that there are powerful historical precedents for such crises as the one in which we currently find ourselves. Those precedents show a profound inter-relationship between the periodic surges of technology we have come to call "technological revolutions," and the boom and bust cycles of finance capital. more

December 18, 2008

Salem action for EFCA















McDonald's has taken a very vocal and visible attack against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Because of this, Salem Oregon activists joined a national day of action at McDonald's restaurants to tell workers and customers about EFCA.

Activists went to the Center Street McDonald's in Salem, and while placing food orders, gave the workers information about EFCA and how they can gain a voice on the job. We let it be known that we don't agree that it is acceptable when workers are not earning a living wage for their very hard work - yet the CEO of McDonald's earns over $6,000 per hour...

When local managers asked us to leave the restaurant, we performed a skit outside the restaurant, then remained to provide information to people entering the restaurant, who seemed interested and took fliers. One of our activists had a respectful and informative conversation with the manager.

Medicare in the Pacific Northwest

This comes from Michael Munk:

Did you know that Medicare does not decide which medical procedures it will pay for? Instead, the NY Times reports today that because of "a policy principle as old as Medicare itself... officials in Washington leave many reimbursement decisions to the discretion of 15 regional contractors around the country." A dozen of those private for-profit contractors will pay for, as the story details, CyberKnife radiation treatments for prostate cancer, while three don't, saying that saying there is not enough evidence of its long-term effectiveness against prostate cancer. Decision- making by 15 separate deciders means that if you live in one state, you get different treatments paid for by Medicare than in another state. The reason?.

"The principle of local decision-making traces to the creation of Medicare in 1965. Because some doctors and lawmakers had argued that federal meddling in medical decisions would be tantamount to “socialized medicine,” Congress allowed for regional autonomy in reimbursements." [and let for-profit companies make the decisions!]

If you live in Oregon or Washington, your decider is Noridian Administrative Services of Fargo, North Dakota, a division of the Nordian Mutual Insurance Co. It is one of the three contractors who won't pay for CyberKnife. They may be right, but the reason Medicare does not pay for uniform healthcare --the ogre of "socialized medicine"-- is appalling.

ASK YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPS TO SIGN ON TO SINGLE PAYER HR 676. Jim McDermott is the only one from the NW so far on board.

Visit Michael's website at www.michaelmunk.com.

December 17, 2008

City Council Votes Unanimously On Tuesday For A Sweatfree Ashland

The good folks at Sweatfree Northwest have another victory in the anti-sweatshop movement. We have previously reported on their good work. I worked in many sweatshops and had family who did the same. Several years ago I was part of a determined effort at Oregon State University to organize against sweatshops and for a University policy which, we hoped, would have effectively banned sweatshop-produced goods bearing the OSU label from campus. OSU administration buried the report on the issue because it didn't go their way and the push we were making ended. Now there is a well-established group in our area who will do better. What follows comes from a just-out e-mail marking the latest victory in Ashland.

Oregon is seeing the second sweatshop free victory in the past few months! Last night the city of Ashland passed a sweatshop free purchasing policy for public employee uniforms and garments. A strong sweatfree movement is building in the NW as Portland just passed their sweatshop free procurement policy on Oct 15th.

All Ashland councilors voted "Yes" in support of "A RESOLUTION FOR A SWEATSHOP FREE PROCUREMENT POLICY" which is for the uniforms and garments the city purchases with public dollars.

You can watch the debate and the vote by the Ashland City Council on streaming video at http://www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=745. Go to the December 16, 2008 meeting link.

The Ashland Sweatfree Campaign ad-hoc committee is comprised of the following Ashland residents: Brenda Gould, Jason Houk, Rich Rohde, Steve Ryan, Pam Vavra, Wes Brain and Councilor Eric Navickas.

The Ashland Sweatfree Campaign has been a project of Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice (SOJwJ). Working in collaboration with SOJwJ has been "Sweatfree Northwest" and the campaign has included lobby visits with Mayor John Morrison and with individual city councilors. In addition it has been a community education campaign with the recent screening of the Emmy award winning documentary "Made In LA". The film was shown at Southern Oregon University which had as co-sponsors & campus hosts the Women's Studies Program and the Women's Resource Center. Read the "Made In LA" story here.

City of Ashland staff now have six months to come up with the policies and procedures to insure a "no sweatshop procurement policy" and bring it back to City Council. The city currently spends $80,000 a year for uniform and garment purchases according to City Administrator Martha Bennett. Bennett did say during the council meeting that Ashland would rely heavily on the ordinance developed and adopted October '08 in Portland Oregon.

You can learn about the Portland ordinance here.

The Rogue IMC is awaiting from the Ashland City Recorder the exact wording of the resolution passed and will provide it just as soon as it is received. To read more go to IMC webpage here.

End the Auto Crisis: Public Ownership to Save Jobs and the Environment

The following is a statement of the Communist Party USA

Union auto workers are fighting for their lives. For us the fight to defend the United Auto Workers union (UAW) and its members is immediate. It is estimated that over three million jobs are linked to the jobs at GM, Ford and Chrysler: including workers in parts supply, dealerships, steel, rubber, and many other supporting industries. Bankruptcy would have devastating effects on communities where these workers live. Whole regions rely on their purchasing power and the loss of taxes for local and state governments would cause an even bigger crisis. Bankruptcy will also destroy the pensions and healthcare for millions of retirees.

We join with labor and all its allies in demanding immediate action by the federal government to guarantee the loans needed to save these jobs. We are actively engaged in the growing fight to build solidarity and support for the burning demands of the workers and their union.

Even if/when bridge loans are given to the Big Three, the companies have announced there will be further plant closings and say they will permanently shed tens of thousands of their workforce. They do this while continuing to move production out of the country. GM has manufacturing operations in 32 countries around the world. And while the auto companies complain about competition from lower wage countries, they in turn threaten workers in Mexico, Thailand, South America and elsewhere to accept low wages as a condition of work.

Everything unions have fought for throughout our history is being challenged. Republican senators are demanding that unionized workers tear-up their union contracts and work for non-union rates. A forced bankruptcy would destroy the contracts of the UAW. Automotive jobs have been a pathway to a better life for all working people and their loss would hit African American and Latino workers particularly hard. Black workers in particular are more concentrated in auto than other industries.

To solve the economic crisis we need to put more money, not less, into the hands of working people. Republican attempts to force the UAW to take cuts will increase the wage gap; it is a continuation of Republican trickledown economics that voters rejected in the November election. These are the same economic policies that created the present economic crisis. It would lower the purchasing power of auto workers and would create a downward wage pressure on all workers

If we agree that the auto industry is too important to fail, both in terms of our nation's transportation needs and the need to move away from reliance on fossil fuels, then it is too important to be left in the hands of the CEO's.

And at the same time, given the overall economic crisis and the underlying failures of unbridled corporate greed and mismanagement, it is the time to look at more basic solutions also. Demands for public and government oversight raise the issue of democratic public ownership of the domestic auto industry.

The United States government could buy all the common shares of stock in General Motors for less than $3 billion. The worth of the companies is less than the aid they want from taxpayers. If the public provides the capital, why do decisions remain in private hands? Representatives from the unions, from engineers employed in the industry, from government, and the communities and states where the plants are located, are best able to make the key decisions. Representatives from management itself should have input but not control.

We have an economic crisis, but we also have a crisis of the environment and the two are interlinked. We face global catastrophe and the profits before nature philosophy of the auto executives is a major roadblock for building a "green," sustainable industry.

Cities all over the country are looking at the need for mass transit: from rail to subways, and buses. Public demand for environment friendly cars is also growing. We should demand that unemployed auto workers in Detroit and Michigan are put to work building all of the above.

Public ownership can work! From our postal service, to social security, to our public school system, Medicare, police, fire, and military, public ownership has been successful. In the early 70's the government took over a rail system in crisis, fixed it and then years later sold it to private owners at a profit.

The changes needed in our infrastructure to build and sustain the environmentally friendly cars of the future will require public money so why should the ownership of the companies remain in private hands?

In addition:

* We need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to spur union organizing and to increase the wages and buying power of working people.
* We need National Health care, pass HR 676 – health care is a human right and it should be removed as a bargaining chip.
* We need an international minimum wage to stop the whipsawing of workers from one country to another.
* We need a law to stop tax breaks for companies that outsourcing our jobs.
* We need to get behind President-Elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus and public works jobs program.

December 16, 2008

Wage Labor & Capital Discussion In Portland

This event is not sponsored by us, but we do encourage people to learn marxist fundamentals.

Thursday, December 18th, 7:30pm. PSU Smith Center Room 238

Wage Labor and Capital by Karl Marx is an essay on economics written in 1847 that has been widely acclaimed as the precursor to Marx's masterpiece Das Kapital. The book is an in-depth economic and scientific observation on how capitalist economy works, why it is exploitative, and ultimately why it will eventually implode from within.

You can read Wage Labor and Capital online here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/index.htm. There is also a pretty useful study guide here: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/guide.htm.

December 12, 2008

Some Good News For A Change

Workers at Smithfield, the world's largest meatpacking plant, finally got a union election scheduled and held and the union won. Read about it here.

This win follows the win at Republic Windows and Doors and news that United Auto Workers union leadership feels confident enough to stand up to Republican pressure and resist further union contract concessions. Auto layoffs and plant closures seem inevitable now, concessions or not and with or without a bailout. The question is which plants will reopen and under what terms. And despite all of the economic forecasts from hopeful capitalist sources, none of the economic news is good: unemployment is growing surprisingly fast while consumer spending dips. Jobless claims for the week ending Dec. 6 rose to a 26-year-high of 573,000,the highest level since 1982. About 1.9 million jobs were lost in the first 11 months of the year. U.S. companies eliminated 533,000 jobs in November, the most since 1974, and the unemployment rate is now at a 15-year high of at least 6.7 percent. Rising unemployment and the persistent credit crisis means that this recession will turn into the longest slump in the postwar era.

This bad news makes the union wins at Republic Windows and Doors and Smithfield all the more remarkable. Workers rarely organize unions or lead aggressive campaigns in our workplaces when the news is so bad. The big union drives have generally come when conditions are improving and when workers have some restored self-confidence, savings set aside and the sense that we can pick up another job if we get fired or laid-off. In fact, even public calls for union organizing campaigns are spreading. Read such a call here.

It took workers at Smithfield several years and a few contested elections to get a union voted in. We hope with every union victory in the south that we will see a springboard into union organizing across the entire south and breaking the political stranglehold of the ultra-right and anti-union forces there and nationally. This certainly seems more likely and within our reach now.

December 11, 2008

"We want to work, not to beg."













On the streets in Serbia, the working class and their families demonstrate.

Photo credit: B92.

VICTORY AT REPUBLIC WINDOWS AND DOORS!

Jobs with Justice and the United Electrical Workers are both reporting that the union has won in its occupation of the plant. For background coverage, please go here.

Even Sojourners, the liberal evangelical magazine, is reporting on this victory. A Sojourners e-mail quotes Heriberto Barriga, a nine-year Republic worker, as saying, "It was worth it. It was not only for us, it was for everybody nationwide, because they can do the same thing."

This is a great victory that we hope opens a new dimension for workers' struggles. The Sojourners story shows how deeply this struggle is affecting people. Was this possible six months or one year ago? Certainly not. The economic crisis, the political mobilizations over the past six months and the growing sense of self-confidence workers feel in the wake of the elections all contribute to helping at least some workers take on the corporations and demand more from the politicians.

UE remains one of the most progressive unions in the US. If this struggle could not have taken place six months or one year ago, it is also difficult to imagine a union other than UE leading the way as UE did in Chicago. As workers reflect on this victory, we also need to ask if all of our unions have the will and capacity to lead as UE does--and if the answer is negative, we need to create that capacity in every local union.

The occupation at Republic Windows and Doors also comes as strikes and protests are spreading across Europe. A mass strike is underway in Greece while union members, the unemployed and students are protesting in the streets in Serbia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France and Spain. Violent actions by European protesters are making headlines in the US, but in the main these strikes and protests are non-violent. The AP and MSNBC reports quote "experts" as saying that these are essentially anti-globalization protests taking place as unemployment rates climb steadily. Implied in these reports is the likelihood that the strikes and protests will continue to spread. In this context, then, appeals for calm and demobilization by the Greek social democrats are not helpful.

Anyway, we applaud UE and the workers' victory at Republic Windows and Doors--and we're looking forward to more of the same all over the world!

December 10, 2008

Human Rights Day in Salem


A group of union members and other folks from Salem - from the local Jobs with Justice chapter, SEIU 503, Willamette Reds, and/or the local Communist Party club - held an hour-long action in downtown Salem today to commemorate International Human Rights Day.

Our signs read "People's Bail-out Now," "Jobs are Human Rights," "Workers Rights are Human Rights," and "Jobs, Health Care, Education, Sustainable Environment, Housing are Human Rights."

We engaged passers-by briefly to remind them of Human Rights day, and offered a leaflet which included the text of the UN's 1948 Declaration, a quote from Gus Hall*, and a challenge to think about human rights.

While a brief and quickly-put together action, we felt it was still important to be out there, we believe that it will inspire some to consider our human rights, and at this turning point in US political history, be an invitation to work toward ensuring that we all have these rights.

*We used the following quote from Gus Hall as a kind of bill of human rights. The entire article can be found here.
  1. A life free of exploitation, insecurity, poverty; an end to unemployment, hunger and homelessness.
  2. An end to racism, national oppression, Antisemitism, all forms of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry. An end to the unequal status of women.
  3. Renewal and extension of democracy; an end to the rule of corporate America and private ownership of the wealth of our nation. Creation of a truly humane and rationally planned society that will stimulate the fullest flowering of the human personality, creativity and talent.

December 9, 2008

Human Rights Day In Portland

The Workers are "Key", Not the Banks!
No Bailouts for Union-Busting Banks!

Rally at the Bank!
Wed. December 10, 4:30pm
Key Bank, 726 SE Morrison St


Join Jobs with Justice for a week of action calling for a "People's Bailout" that fixes the real economy, restores a voice for working people in challenging corporate greed, provides emergency help to the victims of the crisis and begins building a fair economy that works for all, addressing crises in housing, health care, jobs, retirement security and the environment.

Key Bank was approved for $2.5 billion as part of the national bailout. But instead of using the money to give relief to those hardest hit in the current economy,

Key Bank is misusing their bailout money to buy other banks and underwrite Oak Harbor Freight Lines, a company that has violated workers' rights by coercing and intimidating striking workers, discriminating against minorities and women and cutting off health care for retired employees.

December 8, 2008

Human Rights Day in Salem, OR.

December 10th is the internationally recognized day to celebrate the fundamental human rights that belong to all of us.

The Mid-Willamette Valley Jobs with Justice Coalition would like to invite you to the intersection of Liberty and Chemeketa in downtown Salem as a show of support for the recognition of International Human Rights Day and the dignity that we all deserve:

*A life free of exploitation, insecurity, deprivation; an end to
unemployment, hunger and homelessness.

*An end to racism, national oppression, anti-Semitism; of all forms of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry. An end to the unequal status of women.

*Renewal and extension of democracy; an end to the rule of corporate America and the private ownership of the wealth of our nation. Creation of a truly humane and rationally-planned society that will stimulate the fullest flowering of the personality, creativity and talent of the individual.

--by Gus Hall

Come show your support for a more just world, send a message that working people need a bailout!

Location: The intersection of Liberty and Chemeketa in downtown Salem

Time: noon to 1 pm

Bring a sign that expresses your concerns

In Defense Of Autoworkers

IF YOU had an opportunity to address Congress about the auto bailout as a rank and file UAW member, what would you say? Would it go something like this?: read more here...

December 7, 2008

Workers occupy Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago--UE gets it right!

(Please go to the UE's website for breaking news of this important struggle. Media reports that the workers have won and that the struggle is over are incorrect. Yahoo News has an updated slideshow of the struggle. Peoples Weekly World coverage is here.)

In an exciting development, workers at a plant in Chicago are occupying their plant this weekend and picketing Bank of America offices as well. It is no surprise that these actions are being led by the United Electrical workers union, a rank-and-file driven union with a great history and a growing presence in the labor movement once again. We watch factories close and homes get taken by the banks without much protest. Someone just needs to light the match, as we have said on this blog previously. Occupy a workplace, move the furniture back inside a foreclosed home, give sanctuary to undocumented workers, refuse to fight against other workers in the midst of state budget cuts--just do something! We don't have to be victims.

WINS has great on-going coverage of the workers' struggle, complete with interviews. Go here for that coverage. The AFl-CIO blog has an item on the sit-in and accepts comments as well. This action is clearly inspiring people internationally. The Socialist Worker website has some support declarations and coverage.

Jobs with Justice is doing good updates. Look at them here. Monthly Review is also doing great coverage.

President-elect Obama has also voiced support for the workers. Read about it here.

What follows is a report from UE on the action.


National news networks CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News, as well as Chicago news media, the New York Times, the Washington Post and other news outlets, are reporting on the following dramatic developments involving UE members in Chicago.

Members of UE Local 1110 who work at Republic Windows and Doors are occupying the plant around the clock this weekend, in an effort to force the company and its main creditor to meet their obligations to the workers. Their goal is to at least get the compensation that workers are owed; they also seek the resumption of operations at the plant. See video below, and here, a slide show here, and read more here.



Support the workers' struggle here.

December 4, 2008

Labor protest at Willamette University

A labor struggle is happening on the campus of Salem, Oregon's Willamette University. If you are concerned about fair wages and fair working conditions the photo essay linked to below is well worth watching.
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Notes from the creator of the photo essay, Nathaniel I. Córdova:

In the early morning of Friday, November 21 the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters (PNRCC) held a protest against Delta Drywall -- in front of the Ford Hall project site. A student was lucky enough to get wind of this action and decided to capture photos and audio for a mini-documentary of that moment.

Here's the link to that photo-essay:
http://www.willamette.edu/~ncordova/pnrcc/

The photo essay has a brief audio statement by (Oregon) State Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene). My task was solely to document the event, and I offer that project for your enjoyment and information, and not as any kind of political statement. I wish I had been able to record more audio, and also to record representatives from Delta, but neither was an option at the moment. All audio and images are used with express permission of the participants. The photo-essay is approximately 3 minutes and 30 seconds long.

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Also see our Willamette Reds' blog post on October 30, 2008 about this issue.

Jan Sobrino

Pax Christi recently honored Rev. Jon Sobrino, SJ. Fr. Sobrino is one of the leaders and founders of the movement for liberation theology. He is also the sole surviving member of the Jesuit community assassinated in El Salvador in 1989.

You can see a great interview with Fr. Sobrino here and a continuation of that interview here.

Odetta

Odetta's voice swept across several generations and gave many of us the means to see America in a new light. She was a child of the African-American working class and her love and her music challenged us to be better, to be more and to be more whole and to come together. She lived to see the victory in November and had hopes of playing at the inauguration. Now she has gone to the ancestors, joining Miriam Makeba and many other of our organic intellectuals and creators who have passed recently.

Read about her here in the People's Weekly World.

And check out the Pan-African News story. Pan-African news hits it almost every time.

Let's not be too abstract. Odetta would not want us to be. We have political prisoners in the US. Go here to read about three of them.

December 2, 2008

Justice at Providence: Build Portland labor solidarity this Saturday!

Join healthcare workers at Providence in their on-going efforts to win a union this Saturday, December 6, at 1:00 PM at the (Portland, Oregon) Providence Festival of Trees at the Convention Center (MLK Blvd. main entrance).

It's St. Nicolas Day, so come dressed in red or dress like an elf. Workers will be caroling for a fair union election.

Can't make it at 1:00 PM? The workers will be out there 'til 3:00 PM trying to win support for their efforts.

Please turn out and help these workers win!

Committees of Correspondence on the auto industry bailout

A statement of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

November 25, 2008

The unfolding crisis of capitalism is fraught with pain and suffering for working people. Job losses, declining wages, plant closings, shuttered small businesses, plummeting government resources for public services and physical infrastructure all remind us of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The first eight years of the 21st century have been marked with the "normal" economic crisis of capitalism: over-production and declining rates of profit. The crisis has been deepened by eight years of war and the largest military spending since World War II. Government polices of craven tax cuts and shrinkage of government services have led to a dramatic redistribution of wealth from the many to the few.

Key sectors of the US economy are in financial crisis. First, banking and investment houses, stock and bond markets, and various new financial networks designed to increase the riches of the wealthy began to collapse.

Now, CEOs from General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler claim that their companies are near financial collapse. Congress voted a blanket $700 billion bailout to the financial sector in October. Auto executives have just completed the first round of their appeal to Congress for an additional $25 billion to save the auto industry from collapse.

The American people are faced with a contradiction. Capitalism which is based on the exploitation of the working class, demands that the working class bail it out. Yet, if the working class says "no bailout" to key sectors of the capitalist system, they will suffer the most.

Arguments from right wing circles are that UAW wages, claimed to be $75 an hour, are the problem. There is no truth in this assertion, as the UAW itself explains that huge concessions on wages and benefits have reduced the autoworkers" share of the value they create to the same level (or less) in comparison with the U.S. non-union auto worker sector (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc). This can only lead to further erosion of wages and benefits as workers in the non-union sector are forced to accept a new round of the downward wage spiral.

Anti-union company campaigns have defeated several UAW attempts to organize the non-union auto assembly plants. Outsourcing of jobs to non-union plants, increased productivity and moving production to other countries has reduced active UAW membership from 1.5 million in 1979 to 460,000 in 2007. The "jobs bank" that provided a measure of job security for laid off autoworkers was negotiated in the mid-1980s in lieu of wage increases and other benefits. Now the UAW is faced with mounting pressure to give it up.

It cannot be denied that if Congress refuses to act in support of some kind of bridge loan and allows the auto companies go bankrupt, there will be catastrophic pain and suffering far beyond the UAW membership. United Auto Worker (UAW) president Ron Gettelfinger estimates a loss of 3 million jobs, substantial cuts in pension and health benefits for 1 million UAW retirees and their dependents, and increased drains on public services at the same time as the tax base declines.

In testimony Nov. 19th before the House Committee on Financial Services, UAW President Gettelfinger called for a $25 billion loan "conditioned on stringent limits relating to executive compensation, as well as provisions granting the federal government an equity stake in the auto companies in order to protect the investment by taxpayers."

The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) agrees with the UAW, and adds the following for consideration:

The loan guarantees must be coupled with requirements that the industry immediately

a.Pursue the production of new energy efficient, environmentally friendly low-cost automobiles;

b.Promote the development of a single payer health care system (HR 676) to guarantee health care for all, regardless of employment;

c.End the outsourcing of production of new vehicles to non-union plants;

d. End the drive to cut UAW negotiated wages and benefits and support the drive for unionization and livable wages for all workers in the industry;

e. Guarantee current and retirement benefits;

f. Radically reconfigure CEO salaries to the levels of CEOs in other auto companies;

g. End the threat of bankruptcy proceedings, particularly as they might relate to breaking union contracts.

Additionally, we call on Congress and the White House to move aggressively to take over idle auto production facilities and utilize them for an expanded public transportation authority for building high speed rail and other mass transit systems.

Lastly, but importantly, the workers who make the cars have poured their skills, their knowledge, their sweat and their hopes for the future into the auto industry. Their experiences make them best able to counter the greed and incompetence of the industry's owners and CEOs who have brought the auto business to its current disastrous condition. The auto industry should be restructured to give its workers controlling equity and a strong democratic voice in meeting the enormous challenges that it faces.

CCDS offers these proposals to help stimulate debate. Our goal is to participate in a broad-based movement to protect the basic living conditions of the working class while we also work with others to create a new, humane society.

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
520 Eighth Avenue, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212)868-3733
national@cc-ds.org
www.cc-ds.org

December 1, 2008

Bill Sizemore Goes To Jail, Tom Cole Sends An E-mail And The Beat Goes On

Bill Sizemore ended up in jail today in an almost-unbelievable turnaround in his on-going battle with public employee unions and, really, with the working people of Oregon. This is Sizemore's fourth time being found in contempt of court. You can read about it here.

Hate radio talk show host Lars Larson somehow missed getting his usual defense of Sizemore out on the air today. I don't like using military analogies, but in the general retreat of the right now taking place perhaps Sizemore will be left behind on the battlefield as a casualty not considered worth saving.

Tom Cole, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, sent out a blast e-mail this afternoon saying, "The first item of the Democrats' liberal agenda is upon us and we must stop it today! The big unions went all out to elect Barack Obama President and to strengthen Democrat majorities in both Houses of Congress. And now, Nancy Pelosi is attempting to push through their top legislative priority known as 'Card Check.'"

Cole is referring to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and the labor movement's legislative attempt to move labor law forward and step around employer intimidation of workers trying to unionize. EFCA gets mixed reviews from many labor activists at the grassroots and passage of EFCA may indeed be delayed until there is an economic upswing and President Obama knows that he can get it passed without a meltdown taking place in DC. Republicans may sense hesitation or division in Democratic ranks when it comes to dealing with labor's full political agenda immediately and Cole's message is a step in testing the waters and building momentum for that meltdown.

Cole's timing could hardly be worse for his side, however. Sizemore was on his way to jail just as Cole's e-mail hit. Sizemoe finds himself in all of this trouble after losing repeatedly to labor's mobilizations. The Republicans are showing no signs of uniting nationally and have bigger problems to contend with than unions. Georgia remains a battleground--sorry for that second military analogy--as Palin heads there to the yawns of Republicans almost everywhere and Jim Martin rallies African-Americans and labor to his campaign. Its that unceasing yawning that should concern Republicans.

Cole goes on to say, "With the decline in union membership continuing, we know the real answer to why big unions want to change the election process."

In light of what happened to Sizemore today, we might fill in "the real answer" ourselves--we hope that it's so that Sizemore and more right-wing crooks like him end up in jail and workers can win more from the bosses. That would be union dues money well spent, I think.

This underlines for me EFCA's real value and importance. It may or may not turn out to be a trustworthy mechanism for building union strength and working class power. However, pushing EFCA forward now and getting it passed will be a tremendous psychological victory for workers and just as much of a loss for the right. We should not underestimate or discount the importance of continuing to fight the right: the Republicans will eventually reorganize, conservative Democrats can derail change and "bipartisanship" can move us backwards if the fight against the right slows or stops. On the other hand, progressives can win space and time for their agendas by staying on the offense with core principles and some lasting wins. Moving EFCA forward also tests the labor movement's resolve and Obama's administration in making change early on. If led correctly, the fight for EFCA and its passage can give new shape, content and depth to the movements which united to win in November.