March 31, 2009

Specter, Feinstein & EFCA

Senator Arlen Specter’s recent backtracking on his support for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has gotten much publicity and has given rise to some speculation about his motives. He will turn 80 next year and has been in the Senate for a long time—three decades—and has probably reached his life goals. Regardless of what he says, he owes his later-in-life political successes to Reagen’s coalition and his ability to pose as a maverick before Palin and McCain took center stage. With that coalition rather weather-beaten, Specter has no accountability issues with anyone at an advanced age. He gets to do as he pleases without worry.

Republicans may still give him the boot, however. The most credible explanation of his backtracking has to do with him swinging back to the far-right on EFCA in an effort to blunt a challenge from the right in the 2010 elections. Those political forces perceive him as being weak on core Republican values and the Obama administration’s efforts to rescue capitalism. If the Republican challenge is as half-hearted as Specter hopes, and if the Democrats can win with then-ex-Governor Ed Rendell or former Steelers champion Franco Harris on labor or class issues, he then goes down for the count and the Democrats pick up an additional Senate seat. Specter can walk away then without too much angst. It could all be one of those deals agreed to in the halls of power that satisfies everyone except the people who matter most.

EFCA seems to be in worse shape every day. It was a make-it-or-break-it issue in the November elections. Soon after the elections unions realized that the votes weren’t there for easy passage and a few unions continued the press before demobilization and demoralization set in. The right and anti-labor forces sensed blood and ramped up their opposition to EFCA. Opposition came from the usual core forces on the right as well as from the hospitals and Whole Foods, Costco and Starbucks. Some of this opposition carried with it an almost liberal veneer in that it proposed alternatives to EFCA and is managing to change the subject from employer interference in union elections and inequality in the US to the supposed dangers of mass unionization during an economic crisis. Labor’s response has been to move the fight to Pennsylvania, Colorado and Arkansas and to send signals that some union leaders are prepared to compromise on EFCA basics. Specter’s subsequent backtracking and the public fumbling by many Democrats has added implications under these conditions.

Opposition to EFCA from the hospitals comes as SEIU continues its press to organize hospitals nationwide and as two national unions for nurses are forming. The hospitals no doubt see the writing on the wall: these unions will eventually seek to change the composition of the National Labor Relations Board and win Board decisions which make organizing nurses into unions easier. Union membership was up slightly before the onset of the economic crisis and workers are showing increased combativeness.

EFCA would help workers form unions by allowing a majority in a workplace to sign union authorization cards; toughening penalties for employer violations; and requiring arbitration when employers and unions cannot agree on a first contract within 120 days. It’s hard to imagine a compromise on already-pared-down legislation by labor, but US unions are historically cautious and subject to some arm-twisting by Democrats and Democratic administrations. Moreover, the new administration is making other concessions to unions and these may emerge as consolation prizes for labor. The recent call by Obama for additional concessions by the UAW and the transparent illogic of compromising with Republicans on EFCA and later trying to regain ground with working class voters probably threatens to upset the apple cart. Some union leaders maintain that the 60 needed Senators are in place, or can be won over, while also talking about compromises--a bad bargaining and political strategy.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has also backtracked on EFCA, although I do not think that she has publicly stated her opposition to it. Perhaps the news has not fully set in yet, or perhaps liberal forces divide on this one, but I also suspect that some part of the Democrat-Labor establishment saw this coming and will use Feinstein’s backtracking as a means for advancing some last-ditch compromises. Betrayal isn’t betrayal if a needed friend does it. Feinstein has a future that Specter doesn’t and she can’t walk away as easily as he can; rumors are that she will run for Governor. We wonder what line the Democrat-Labor establishment will ever draw in the sand and what they will do when our alleged friends continue to step over it. And does Feinstein think that labor support for Governor either doesn't matter or that it can be taken for granted? Will the establishment challenge this or not? The young people at the Courage Campaign who are publicly opposing Feinstein on her backtracking should have labor’s full support.

Instead we get Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, saying, "We certainly understand that it would be unusual if a bill was passed as it was introduced word for word. There's a lot of discussion yet to take place. We'll see what happens over the next few months." Ackerman voiced her justifiable anger at Specter by saying, “We supported Arlen Specter when he was facing his primary five years ago in 2004. We have 1.5 million union voters in Pennsylvania. In political terms, we don't think this is a very smart move." I hope that she will be more forthright in her criticism and that we can count on union leaders to push or take on Feinstein as well.

March 30, 2009

Action: Help the Underdogs Pull off the Upset

This action request is from the Communications Workers of America:

This time of year, much attention is being paid to college superstars on the court. CBS paid the NCAA $6 billion to air the NCAA tournament. College coaches enjoy six and seven figure salaries. College athletes are taken care of by universities while getting their education--or are they?

College athletes who have worked hard on the court and in the classroom are often left to foot the bill for medical expenses from sports-related injuries, have their scholarships taken away for any reason, and often find themselves scrambling to make ends meet when scholarship funds fall short of the real cost of school--all while the NCAA generates billions from their talent.

These exploited workers do not yet have the right to form a union; but there is one organization giving college athletes a voice. The National College Players Association (NCPA) is the only group working to change these injustices. The NCPA is made up of 10,000 current and former college athletes and has already achieved significant victories nationwide.

NCPA fights for basic protections like making sure college athletes can get the education they've been promised and have worked so hard for.

Speak up against a multi-billion dollar industry that refuses to put promises made to workers in writing, pay for on-the-job injuries, or can revoke your salary at anytime, without reason.

Join unions and fans of college sports in signing a petition that will go to the NCAA and its three top corporate sponsors: Pontiac (GM), AT&T and Coke. Let them know that a fraction of these billions of dollars in sponsorship money should be used to provide basic protections to college athletes.

More On Waltz With Bashir

I saw Waltz With Bashir at the Salem Cinema yesterday. I hope that many people will go to see this animated film, but I especially hope that the people who most need to see it--the people who are pro-Israel or who think that there are still "good" wars or the people that need some inspiration to remain anti-war or people who don't know about the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982--will go.

It is remarkable that this film could be made, distributed and shown even with its shortcomings. The film concerns war trauma, subjective and collective memory, nationalism and particular atrocities committed by the Israeli Defense Forces and the Lebanese Phalangists. The Israeli political and military establishment and the dominant factions among the Phalangists, now billed and misunderstood as populists in western media, have conspired to cover up the 1982 events with silence and denial and we only rarely hear about Israelis questioning the dominant ideology of nation-at-any-price so deeply set in Zionism.

The film succeeds in its art and in its story-telling and in its search or insights into the deepest questions of life in a time of war. You do not have to have a sophisticated grasp of politics or history to appreciate this film. In fact, the film simplifies events in order to make its main points accessible to a wider audience. It does this without hammering viewers with a line. Had the film been made in a traditional documentary style--if it could have been made and marketed in this way--it might not have had its essential humanist dimension and would have been more easily marginalized as propaganda. Certainly the art inherent in such outstanding animation would have been absent.

The animation is so good in its detail that it may take more than one viewing in order to fully appreciate the artistic dimensions of this film. Viewers are likely to get wrapped up in the film's narration and how the story line develops. The last minutes of the film will shock an audience out of the narration which carries the story and into the reality of what is at the heart of the film after all.

The film fails in not explaining the larger and darker forces behind the 1982 massacres, who assassinated Bashir Gemayel and why and the full impact of Lebanon's civil war. We do not hear the voices of the Phalangists at all and we do not hear or grasp any part of the Palestinian narrative until it is too late. These stories deserve to be told. On the other hand, it is important that we hear the stirrings of conscience from within Israel, and particularly from soldiers who were in Lebanon during the civil war.

Waltz with Bashir

If you haven't seen this, do. In Salem, Oregon, it is still showing at Salem Cinema. If you want to understand some context before seeing it, consider reading this page.

March 29, 2009

Chip Shields Is Moving HB 3272 Forward

Michael Munk sent in the following:

Rep. Chip Shields is sponsoring a bill that would change the top individual income tax rate from 9% to 11%, applied only to income over $500,000.00. This is estimated to apply to only about 8500 out of Oregon's 1.8 million taxpayers. Projected increase in tax revenue would be approximately $220 million over 2 year period. His bill number is HB 3272. Call you state representative to voice your support.

We add:

Legislator's necks broke from whiplash when we raised this on a recent lobby day. We were arguing that the threshold should be closer to $200,000 or $250,000. Shields will need our help, even with his higher amount. Along with this we also need to either extend the time people can receive unemployment compensation or the amounts they receive, spending on infrastructure and education, help with college loans, saving the state childcare program, increases in the rate of corporate taxes and an increase in the corporate minimum tax, healthcare for all and taxes on healthcare providers and insurance companies. The liberal and progressive wings of Oregon's labor movement are with this, as are many citizen's groups. The push for these changes needs to be broadened, the groups that favor these changes need to be held to task and the politicians who are signing on need support and watching.

Stop The Merger Of Oregon School For The Deaf & Oregon School For The Blind

Several bills are moving forward affecting the proposed merger of the Oregon School for the Blind and the Oregon School for the Deaf. We have blogged about this struggle previously.

House Bill 2114 provides for needed repairs to OSB and OSD. It should pass. House Bill 2113 provides for the merging of the two schools and House Bill 2834 closes OSB. A movement to defeat these two bills needs to be built quickly and win the point.

You can read 2113 here.

You can read 2114 here.

You can read 2834 here.

The House Education Committee needs to hear from us. Brian Clem serves on this committee and is progressive. His e-mail is Sara Gelser also serves on the committee and seems to be supporting the closure of OSB and the school merger. As noted here previously, Gelser lacks the ability to visualize and help lead a progressive movement for change at the grassroots--the kind of movement we need in Oregon right now. Contact her at Representatives Komp (, Sprenger (, Roblan ( and Dembrow ( should also be contacted and held to voting with the people on this one.

March 27, 2009

The OSU Emergency Food Pantry---Class Struggle 101

Classified workers in the Oregon University System (OUS) are now in negotiations for their next union contract, along with most other state workers. OUS is taking a hard line in demanding concessions and pay cuts from an already overworked workforce. Students at OSU, meanwhile, need a food bank in order to feed a part of the student body--read below. Tuition at OSU is artificially high at a time when university services are being cut. It clearly isn't high worker wages driving up tuition and driving the crisis in higher education. Some common cause between students and workers needs to be found and a food bank at a university should be a natural place for the left to build from. Why do some people need food pantries and experience hunger and social insecurity while others run universities and demand concessions from workers and students?

From: Sarah E. Cunningham []
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 2:45 PM
Subject: OSU Emergency Food Pantry


I am writing today to inform you about the grand opening of the OSU Emergency Food Pantry Tuesday March 31st. The OSU Emergency Food Pantry is a project of Ten Rivers Food Web, a local non-profit, and is operated by the OSU Food Group, a student organization.

I am hoping that you can help us to spread the word about the opening of the food pantry in whatever capacity you can, publication, listserv, etc..While we aim to target a specific under-served population in the emergency food system, university students, we are also open to the public and welcome the opportunity to serve university employees who may be in need of emergency food. We hope that those who are already utilizing emergency food services in the area, will find our location more convenient.

Please see the attached (and copied/pasted below) flier for more information. I left hard copies of these fliers and my card outside your offices today. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

~Sarah E. Cunningham
Student Leader, OSU Food Group
Ph.D. Student, Applied Anthropology
Oregon State University
Waldo 282
Corvallis, OR 97331
(541) 737-3905

Solidarity With Iraqi Teachers Needed

This came from Labourstart:

The Iraqi Teachers Union has issued an emergency appeal for support - the union faces a government takeover. Iraqi eachers in their thousands are going to demonstrate in the streets of Baghdad. All they're asking us to do is send off email protest messages. Please click here to learn more and send off your protest now.

Please spread the word -- pass this message on!

Thanks very much.

Jarvis Tyner: It’s A New Era! Some Thoughts on the Times We’re Living In

Jarvis Tyner is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA.

While some are still in denial most agree that with the election of Barack Obama and the new Congress a new era has been entered. This is not only true in the US but also has huge implications worldwide.

Arch-conservative William Kristol (NY Times 1/26/09) described the change this way, “All good things must come to an end. January 20th 2009 marked the end of a conservative era.”

Of course, in this case 30 years of a bad thing came to an end.

Kristol and his political kin were in a state of great depression after January 20th. On the other hand tens of millions poured into the streets; celebrating, dancing, singing crying tears of relief and welcoming the end of the conservative era.

This was no ordinary election – nor is this an ordinary time the country is going through. A historic transition is occurring. Since Ronald Reagan’s victory we have been living through an epoch dominated by an ultra-right, racist, corporate offensive. Today’s new era potentially could be a progressive one with labor and people’s forces making great strides in bringing about a more just, democratic, peaceful society and world. This potential is very much worth fighting for.

The voters did not elect a socialist president and Congress – far from it. They did elect a leadership that could take us toward peace and economic justice. The majority voted for a Congress they hoped would reverse 30 years of damage to democracy, race relations and the well being of working families. The majority wanted to bail out the working-class and middle-class victims of Wall Street’s crooks. The majority wants to help the Main Streets of America.

The new era will not be a post-capitalist – neither will it be post-imperialist. It can however set the stage for big strategic changes in the kind of society we live in. The new framework can set the stage for a more humane and democratic society.

To understand what is happening, one must look beyond what’s being debated in Washington today. To see the real potential, the focus has to be on the newly created and invigorated progressive movements that came to life during the monumental election struggle last year. The labor movement is stronger as are the civil rights, peace, economic and social justice, environment, women’s, youth student and seniors movements. All are on a new level. The new movements that came from the Obama campaigns effort along with groups like have huge constituencies and are still very active. These new movements can move mountains if united and activated around the issues of the day.

With that in mind I think some really great things are possible.

For example, the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act will lay the basis for a large expansion in the size and influence of organized labor which will strengthen strategically the working-class movement and all movements for progressive change. Everybody who believes in real democracy needs to get aboard.

The passage of new laws to increase taxes on the rich and increase spending for education and mass transit are possible. This would create many new jobs.

The repeal of the “three strikes” and other unjust conservative-era laws would mean that tens of thousands could be decriminalized and restored to live healthy and constructive lives.

Instead of imprisoning the victims of drug addiction, a new universal health care system would provide addicts with access to free well-run rehab centers in every community. Our country could start to build more schools than prisons again.

This new era should put an end to the gangster capitalism that has ruined the nation. It could pass new laws and regulations that would outlaw the criminal behavior that now dominates the financial sector.

In the new era I think it’s possible to rebuild the s ocial safety net and eventually pass a single payer national health care system. I think it will be possible to end to the robber baron type capitalism we have been suffering under that has created the mess the country is in now. It will take real struggle but it’s possible.

A new era could bring new priorities. Beyond the historic stimulus package now offered, I think we could have a long-term effort to seriously rebuild our cities and rural areas with union labor and strong affirmative action that could create millions of permanent jobs - with struggle this is possible.

This new era could open the way for stricter laws against racial profiling, discrimination, police brutality, immigrant-bashing and gay-bashing. It could also mean winning a democratic and humane path to US citizenship for millions of undocumented workers.

Why can’t the new era be a time that we win strong environmental protection, end global warming and where green development becomes the norm? Why can’t it be one where wars over oil and other natural resources will be greatly lessened? Can we not find the path to peace in the Middle East including realizing a two state solution and withdrawing all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan? Again, with struggle, this is possible.

A new era of alliances for peaceful cooperation, real global economic prosperity to bring to an end the billions now living on less than a $1.00 a day is within reach.

However, for this to occur, a central ingredient is required; the movements that helped Obama win, indeed, all movements need the left to help them reach higher levels of consciousness, unity and action. The left is needed to help this new movement take on the difficult struggles ahead.

Yesterday’s narrow tactics of much of the left have got to be abandoned. New and broader tactics are needed to move in today’s people’s movements.

Obama’s election has opened the doors of change and created a new movement that can walk through those doors. If the left is to be effective it must learn to work with people they don’t agree with ideologically and philosophically. Agreement should be on the vital issues of the day.

Those who yesterday defined their “advanced” political understanding by how isolated they were from the political center need to move beyond that kind of thinking. (Not that these were good political practices in the past!)

Today there is a new center and a broad masses that are moving towards the left in their thinking and actions. They are energetic, flexible and tend to reject dogmatic approaches. They are ready for action and most importantly they are less affected by red baiting.

Most of the struggles of the past 30 years were defensive. Some of us are so used to losing that we don’t know how to win.

Addressing the “left,” Linda Burnham made some good points on this matter in a recent paper; “Notes on an Orientation to the Obama Presidency.” She said, “If the criterion is that the only change to be supported is that which strikes a decisive blow at capital, then the gap between where we are now and the realignment it would take to strike such a blow is completely and perpetually unbridgeable”

She calls on the left to “live in the times we’re in meeting the challenges we’ve been given and making the most of every opportunity …” That’s sound thinking for this period.

Much can be learned from the complete panic and bankruptcy of ideas on the right today. They have no new ideas but are adamantly and fanatically against every step the Obama administration takes. They see the politics they advocated over the last 3 decades collapsing here as it has in most of Latin America and around the world. They see themselves becoming more isolated in a rapidly moving process of change that is sweeping the country.

Their era has come to an end and while they would like to revive neo-liberal policies and trickle down on us again, the tide has turned... However, they could come back if the movement for change is derailed. The left has to play an active role in that movement to help prevent that from happening.

This new era is marked by a new spirit and new confidence among masses and political leaders.

The spirit of “Yes we can” – "Sí se puede" lives.

John Sweeny after a meeting with Obama and labor leaders, at the White House said, “For the first time the White House is the house of working families.”

At that meeting Obama’s people told them to unite into one federation – for that to come from the White House is historic.

In describing the great potential after Obama’s inaugural, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said, “This election shows that we are prepared to create a truly integrated democratic society.”

Rush Limbaugh openly says that he, “hopes Obama fails.” That’s a voice from the old era…

Harry Bellefonte speaking at the Community Inaugural Ball in Washington in January said, “If Obama fails, we all fail.” That’s a voice for a new era.

Sam Webb describes this period as "a spring time of possibilities.”

I say, “Let a million beautiful flowers of unity, of struggle and change bloom in every community, in every union hall, church, temple, mosque, and people’s organization…a new era is in birth.”

March 26, 2009

French Workers Continue To Fight: Bossnapping Wins

The French director of the US company 3M was held captive by striking workers after he arrived at the 3M plant in Poithievers south of Paris for a visit on Tuesday. The strike began at the plant last Friday in response to layoffs and closures. The director was released unharmed late yesterday. Workers took turns guarding him while demanding better severance packages for laid-off workers and better conditions for those who will continue to work.

Unions at 3M are demanding more money for those losing jobs, guarantees for those remaining and payment of salaries for those who went on strike over the layoffs and closures. In addition to the workers’ actions, mediation in the struggle is also under way. At least 6 negotiating sessions have been held. About 2700 workers at 13 3M facilities are affected in all. The Poithievers plant employs about 250 people with about 110 people facing layoff.

This latest action builds on the recent French Sony bossnapping, the protests by Continental tire workers in France and the strike wave now under way there. More than two million French workers are unemployed and hundreds of thousands more are expected to lose their jobs this year. Unemployment jumped by almost 80,000 in February, a 19 percent increase. Between 1.2 and 3 million people hit the streets in France last week to denounce the government's handling of the crisis.

A delegate from the union Force Ouvriere was quoted as saying, "This action is our only bartering tool, but there is no aggression involved. It's out of the question that the director leaves the site unless we get something" during the bossnapping. Other workers and union leaders there have also been quoted as saying, "We shouldn't let this company close down, otherwise it means that all these robber bosses can do whatever they want to," “We don't have any other ammunition," "I am among the 110 people laid off and I know that I will not find another job in Pithiviers. I would never have imagined finishing my 3M career like that. It hurts. I feel humiliated, like all the workers here" and “I really have the impression that we no longer exist for these people."

Force Ouvriere has not been known as an especially militant or tough union over the years. Store owners in Pithiviers shut down early Wednesday to support the factory workers and police have refused to intervene.

Late news is that the workers are calling the action a victory and that they won key demands. A union statement says, “In the framework, the managers of 3M have committed to take into account all the social consequence of the restructuring project."

March 25, 2009

The Oregon Guard, Unemployment Stats, Veterans & Our Peace Movement

The Oregon Army National Guard claims to be flush with recruits and is now a national leader in recruiting soldiers. We can't argue with that. People flock to the military or into the second economy when an economic crisis hits. The bump in recruitment numbers now is clearly being driven by a lack of jobs and the special problems young people face when trying to enter colleges and trade schools. The military and the prisons fill up in tough times, giving both institutions a certain unwholesome interest in keeping hard times hard and a role in the economy that transcends either peacekeeping or rehabilitation.

A few cultural side notes are worth paying attention to. The Oregon Guard is now rejecting most applicants over the age of 35, people with past legal or criminal records and people with face or neck tattoos. I'll hazard a wild guess and say that most people who fall into the last two groups are young working class guys without much to look forward to at this point in their lives and that there is some large crossover between these two groups. This gives me pause for reflection; where are these young men heading if the military won't take them and if there are no jobs?

We are not necessarily talking about small numbers of people here. According to statistics given in the recent Oregonian article on Guard recruitment, only 15 per cent of Americans age 17 to 24 are possible recruits. Everyone else is either medically unfit, are high school dropouts or are dealing with drug, alcohol or legal problems. It's an astounding statistic.

Here is a statistical problem that is not being addressed. If everyone acknowledges, even in a general way, that high Guard recruitment numbers are tied to unemployment, why aren't we counting the young people joining up in our unemployment statistics? They're taking a "job" of last resort which is not really job in the commonly understood sense of the word.

Our peace movement has correctly pushed the legal and legislative point that the Oregon Guard should not be sent to wars overseas. Much of the agitation on this issue has come from veterans. We should give much thought to broadening our opposition to the wars by doing some work on restructuring education, pushing for real statistics on unemployment, providing resources for the kids who can't make it into the military and finding a place and a means for the antiwar movement to positively impact young people with drug and alcohol problems. Our appeal and our efforts have been focused on 15 per cent of the youth while the other 85 per cent also need a social voice and a social movement.

Finally, it should come as good news to us that that the proposal that would have required veterans to use their private health insurance to pay for treatment of war-related injuries has been dropped by the Obama administration. Had this gone through, it would have been a bad move for veterans and a bad sign for progress on healthcare for all.

The administration withdrew the proposal after a push from the grassroots. The leadership of the traditional and conservative veterans' organizations are now taking credit for this push and the win. They may have stepped into the breach at a crucial moment, but liberal forces are also entitled to some great credit here.

There is a lesson here for us. The Obama administration can be pressured to do the right thing when faced with unified opposition at the base gathered to a popular cause that has an impact on communities and key constituencies. Progressive veterans' groups and single payer healthcare activists should take note and work more closely together and with more focus on the grassroots in the future.

March 24, 2009

Catholics & Socialism

There is a large and vibrant Catholic left. We have written about them quite a bit on this blog.

My earlier post this evening taking Barbara McGuigan and EWTN to task might be misunderstood as an attack on Catholics and the Church generally or might be deliberately distorted as such an attack. As Gus Hall used to say, our argument is with the capitalists and not with God. We're not going to get distracted by engaging in a fight with the religious right.

The folks at the Orate Fratres blog are conservative or reactionary Oregon Catholics. They recently posted an article by Stephanie Block on why socialism is supposedly a dirty word. It's a plain-spoken and simplistic piece without much content to it, but the author and the people running the blog clearly attached some significance to it. I responded by offering up some of the first postings on our blog which dealt with Christianity and socialism from a left-Catholic perspective as an alternate point of view. Those pieces were certainly dogmatic and written in the language of liberation theology at that moment. They only withstand the test of time for the hopelessly pedantic or the most sectarian among us who do liberation theology.

Orate Fratres ran my comments. You can read the article and see my response here. Readers who have an interest in this area may want to join in.

Barbara McGuigan, EWTN & Lars Larson Cross The Line Again

The right-wing attack on Obama seemed to intensify today, which says a great deal considering the level of anger the far-right has reserved for him.

I heard Lars Larson say on his show that the press seat he had has been given away to Ebony or Jet. And according to Lars and a guest from one of Oregon’s reactionary think tanks, two African-American children going to school with the Obama kids may get kicked out of their private school if union-backed educational reforms go through. How Lars and his guest know this and how the kids and their families feel about being spotlighted in this way was not explained. Lars went on a rant about how Ebony and Jet should be pressured to ask about this at a press conference since they took his press seat. You could almost hear his guest rising to the racist occasion before his shock set in and emotions cooled a bit. Talk about a racist screed!

(Lars does have some great photos up from the recent antiwar demonstration in Salem, even if they are meant to incite right-wing rage and even if they don’t include our communist banner. View them here and remember that they're watching us at demonstrations.)

EWTN, national right-wing Catholic radio and tv broadcasting from Alabama, featured radio host Barbara McGuigan seething with rage and sarcasm in a nationally-coordinated move to embarrass both Obama and Notre Dame University today.

Notre Dame has invited the President to give a commencement address and receive an honorary degree in May. For the extreme “pro-life” crowd this is a betrayal by the Church hierarchy and worse. Their response is to try to pressure the university to rescind the invitation. Such a move would certainly set back relations between the administration and the Vatican and jeopardize progress on many fronts. Agitation from the right around the address and the honorary degree also serves to take attention away from the Pope’s blundering in Africa and his pending visit to Israel. The Pope’s refusal to fully acknowledge the Holocaust while in Israel and his recent rapprochement with anti-semitic forces in the Church are problematic for everyone except the far-right.

McGuigan says at one point in her radio program

You are acknowledging evil and you are giving it an honorary degree…

She goes on to say

Jesus acknowledged them alright, didn’t he? He acknowledged them with whips. Now, I know that that would be a drastic measure for what is taking place right here, of course. But in another way. Another way.

before being reined in by her producer.

So McGuigan is labeling Obama as evil incarnate—not his position or his actions, but him personally. And she is suggesting some sort of action: she mentions the whips and then backs down without explaining herself. If an incident does occur at Notre Dame, McGuigan and EWTN will bear moral responsibility for that incident. Listen to the show number 57 here.

All of this came on a day when the President gave a speech and took questions from the press about the economic crisis. The administration's plans are shaky and contradictory and unlikely to work without a major change in course. Still and all, the right went into the racist gutter rather than present an alternate plan with any detail to it today.

March 23, 2009

Oregon DAS Custodians & BOLI---Something Straight Out Of Dilbert

Someone at the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) or the Bureau of Labor & Industriers (BOLI) decided to try and save some money. They got rid of the override function for the lights at BOLI after 7:00 PM.

They forgot about the DAS custodians who work night shift in the building, or just didn't care.

The solution?

The custodians have been issued miners' lamps so that they can work in the dark.

Help Ali Nejati And Iranian Unions

The March 8 arrest of the Haft Tapeh sugar workers' union President Ali Nejati marks a further escalation in government repression against the independent union. Nejati is one of the 5 union leaders who were arrested in December 2008 and charged with "endangering national security" and "anti-government propaganda". They still await sentencing from the trial which ended on February 17, Haft Tapeh Executive Board member Rahim Beshag and 6 other union officers were arrested and detained between February 22 and March 3, 2009, but all were subsequently released on bail by March 7. Four of them were tried with Ali Nejati on February 17 and 23, on similar charges.

To read more and to assist go here.

March 22, 2009

International Trade Union Confederation Makes Demands On G20

The International Confederation of Trade Unions (ITUC) policy proposals to the G20 governments is making world news headlines. It's a big step when labor demands

1. a coordinated international recovery and sustainable growth plan to create jobs and ensure public investment;

2. nationalisation of insolvent banks and new financial regulations;

3. action to combat the risk of wage deflation and reverse decades of increasing inequality;

4. far-reaching action on climate change;

5. a new international legal framework to regulate the global economy along with reform of the global financial and economic institutions (IMF, World Bank, OECD, WTO).

Read the entire ITUC position here.

What are we going to do here in the US and in Oregon to make this real?

March 21, 2009

Oregon School for the Blind: no more tin cup

A few dozen folks attended a 2 hour rally on the State Capitol steps today regarding the Oregon School for the Blind (OSB). It has been proposed (again) to close the OSB at its current location on an historic campus near downtown Salem and move blind students to the Oregon School for the Deaf site which is in an outlying industrial area near a rail line. An idea also has been floated from time to time to close both schools and force all blind and deaf students to attend their local schools.

We heard from many former students how their local schools were not meeting their needs and how the OSB met their needs and was essential in the development of their orientation and transportation skills.

The land for the OSB was gifted to the public and many have worked over the 136 years of the school to develop the campus and the educational programs. "No more tin cup" was a rallying cry and a strong message to demand for quality public education for blind students and indeed for all.

Organizers urged us to contact our State legislators to tell them to oppose HB 2113 and 2834. Oregon House Representative Brian Clem spoke to the crowd to express his strong support for the schools, and mentioned that in addition to opposing
HB 2113 and 2834, we should support HB 2114 which "appropriates moneys from General Fund to Department of Education for purpose of paying for construction and repairs at Oregon School for the Deaf and Oregon School for the Blind". It was mentioned by someone that a few years ago, OSB was allocated a large sum of money to repair roofing at the facility, but the money was spent instead on a study regarding the feasibility to close the school.

To learn more, interested persons can phone the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon at 503-585-4318.

March 20, 2009

Protest Against AIPAC On March 29

From Michael Munk:

Oregon's Israeli war crimes deniers--the state's branch of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-- are having their annual money raiser on Sunday, March 29 at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center. Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR) asks Americans to protest
their $7 million daily subsidy to the IDF at 4pm outside the Center, 6651 SW Capitol Highway near the Hillsdale shopping center. Main fund raisers are rightwing ranter Peter Beinart and Pacific NW AIPAC director Zack Bodner.

Oregon's political leaders are almost all in the tank for the Israeli lobby. Last year, the AIPAC fund raiser was attended by these Democrats: Governor Ted Kulongoski, current US Senator Jeff Merkley, State Senators Peter Courtney (Salem), Vicki Walker (Eugene), Ben Westlund (Tumalo), and > State Reps. Mitch Greenlick (Portland) and Rep. Brad Witt (Clatskanie).

Contact Info: 503-421-6845

Save Our Homes--Fight Foreclosures!

A hearing on SB 628
Tuesday, March 31
3:00 PM
State Capitol

Workers in Oregon and beyond

SEIU Local 503 members have been visiting the Oregon State Capitol to lobby their legislators.

This Tuesday a group of retired members spent the day there. The atmosphere among staff and representatives seemed more fraught with manic energy than usual for a legislative session, with good reason. Oregon's unemployment rate is now almost 11% and things look really grim for the unforeseeable future.

The main messages we as union members were asked to send to our legislators were that we want to stop cuts to seniors and people with disabilities or to community health services, that Oregon needs to maintain quality services as it stimulates the economy and takes care of communities, that Oregon should maximize federal matching funds, and public agencies and funded programs should minimize layoffs and staffing reductions. We emphasized that Oregon should not be "hoarding" the stimulus money, but spend it.

Retirees asked our legislators "Will you raise taxes on Oregon families earning more than $200,000 a year to help pay for vital public services?" Prozanski seemed in favor of that, Jackie Winters' representative did not, and Brian Clem went a bit farther and told us that he would start at $125,000. We also asked about businesses and corporations paying their fair share: the D's seemed in favor of that. Winters' rep presented the "cutting the fat and waste" and "private enterprise can do things much more efficiently" concepts in response to the budget shortfall.

Meanwhile in France, the unemployment rate is now around 8%. Millions of workers were in the streets yesterday to protest what is perceived as paltry response to the needs of the unemployed and youth: while workers and unemployed are making do with smaller checks, bankers and businessmen are getting hefty subsidies. Yesterday's protests follow the ones in January when millions were in the streets. Sarkozy responded with an aid package of $3 billion to workers and unemployed and $33 billion to banks and to stimulate credit. Enraged workers are calling for a better distribution of wealth. See a PWW article on France's strike here.

March 18, 2009

Silverton People For Peace Make The News

The Silverton Appeal Tribune ran Silverton People for Peace and their participation in the peace rally last week. There is a good accompanying photo. Read the story here. Congratulations SPFP!

Eugene Rally To Demand Comprehensive Immigration Reform And Immigrant Rights

CAUSA would like to invite you to join the students of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan and others from around the state to hold Congressman Peter DeFazio accountable to prioritize Safe, Humane and Fair Immigration Reform this Friday in Eugene.


What: Eugene Rally for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Immigrant Rights
When: 2:30 pm, Friday, March 20th, 2009
Where: Peter DeFazio's Office -- 405 E. 8th Street, Eugene Courthouse steps

Who: Organized by the students of MEChA, both the University of Oregon chapter and chapters from across the Nation, as well as CAUSA, Oregon's immigrant rights coalition, with the help and support of various UO Departments, PCUN, and Eugene community organizations. The expected turn-out is 500 minimum.

Why: Immigrants and Allies will gather at DeFazio's office to demand his support and prioritization of safe and fair immigration legislation. Because the majority of rally attendees will be students, there is also a demand for DeFazio's support of the Federal DREAM Act that would open the doors of higher education to immigrant students and students of immigrant parents.

Members of MEChA, local human rights organizations and Eugene residents and families of all walks of life are rallying to demand that immigration reform is just and humane in that it:

1 - Provides a path to permanent resident status and citizenship for all members of our communities

2 - Reunites families and reduces immigration backlogs

3 - Provides opportunities for safe future migration and maintains worker protections

4 - Includes provisions for full labor rights in all worker visa programs (such as the right to organize and independent enforcement rights), and a path to permanent residence and citizenship

5 - Respects the safety and security of all in immigration law enforcement

6 - Recognizes immigrants' full humanity and eliminate barriers to full participation - immigrants are more than just workers, they are our neighbors, family members, students, members of society, tax payers, and essential to the future of the U.S. They should have opportunities to learn English, naturalize, lead prosperous lives, engage in cultural expression, and receive equitable access to needed services and higher education.

7 - Restores fundamental civil rights of immigrants

8 - Protects the rights of refugees and asylees

9 - Provides economic justice that doesn't pit immigrants against native-born workers in a labor market under stress from general economic insecurity

10- Doesn't target immigrants to criminalize them

11 - Restores the number of refugees that enter the US to pre-9/11 levels

This event is in thanks to CAUSA, The ASUO Multicultural Center and many individuals who contributed their time and resources. For more information or to contact us about your accessibility needs contact MEChA at 541.346.3508 or

March 17, 2009

Change ≠ War in Portland

Change ≠ War in Portland
Saturday, April 4th

11:00 am Ending Occupation from Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine
(a series of educational activities looking more in depth at US foreign policy in the Middle East and what we can do about it here at home)

2:30 pm March: Out of Iraq, Out of Afghanistan
Money for People, Not for War
South Park Blocks

3:00 pm Public Reading: Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam” ... 42 years later, an inspiration for the peace movement

The recent election and inauguration positively inspired huge numbers of people. Unfortunately, though, President Obama plans to send an additional 17,000 Americans to Afghanistan, and to extend the occupation of Iraq until at least 2011. Grassroots activists are called to offer an alternative vision that will alter this bloody course of action and create a climate for real change. Let’s show the world that Portland is up to the task.

Rally On Saturday In Salem: Stop The Merger Of OSB & OSD!

Rally to stop the merger of the Oregon School for the Blind and the Oregon School for the Deaf

Saturday, March 21


State Capitol, Salem

Call 503-585-4318 to get involved.

We previously covered this struggle here.

March 16, 2009

The Transformative Role Of Reforms: EFCA As A Case Study

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has been a political organizing issue for labor and our allies for some time now--almost 9 years, in fact. It has attracted widespread support from the union rank-and-file and became a litmus test for candidates seeking union support in the last elections. Midway through the campaign for EFCA many credible people in the labor movement began to raise doubts about how effective EFCA might be if passed while others cited current examples of where it might be used effectively to win union representation elections. After the smoke cleared after the November elections unions realized, or finally announced, that the votes were not there to win passage of EFCA as quickly as we had hoped. Some leading unions began a ramped-up mobilization for EFCA before disappointment and demobilization could set in. To some extent these positive efforts have been overshadowed by bad economic news and union in-fighting, but the labor story of 2009 is still all about mobilization, EFCA and the Solis appointment.

One of the strengths of EFCA is that it does not carry with it the baggage of union-backed labor law reform pushed unsuccessfully in the 1970s and early 1980s. Another is that it is obviously the fruit of much discussion about union organizing done at the local level over a protracted period of time. EFCA takes a holistic approach to the difficulties inherent in holding union representation elections in the US. It is not the far-reaching systemic reform we on the left might have hoped for, but it has motivated large numbers of people to go into action, it has forced politicians to either declare for or against a broader labor-backed political agenda and it has helped to raise some basic questions among workers about capitalism. No one could have foreseen this last year.

Alec MacGillis, writing in the Washington Post today, said:

The Employee Free Choice Act seemed destined to be a relatively narrow clash between unions and employers. But amid the economic downturn, it is turning into a debate over fundamental questions of American capitalism.

After years of girding for this fight, labor supporters and business groups are scrambling after the bill's reintroduction last week to adapt their long-established arguments to suit the crisis. For those opposed to the bill, which would make it easier to form unions, the new message was that it would be a disaster for businesses reeling from the recession.

MacGillis presents the capitalist argument in these terms:

The bill's opponents go on to say that expanding union membership via "card check" would reverse a natural trend when business can least afford it. "It's very clear that things have changed from the 1940s, '50s and '60s, and we need to change, as well," said Pennsylvania building contractor Jerry Gorski, the national chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors. "Just to go back to the old ways and say unions get a certain amount of pay is not a help to our society."

Anne Layne-Farrar, an economist with the consulting firm LECG who produced a study predicting job losses if the bill passes, said in a conference call organized by employers that increased productivity had not resulted in larger wage gains in recent decades because the growth was mostly the result of technology. "If the productivity of labor went up, then the wages of labor would go up," she said.

The official labor response is sadly weak:

Bill Samuel, the AFL-CIO's chief lobbyist, scoffed at this logic. "So, the [business community] no longer believes in the unique power of the American workforce?" he asked. The opponents' shift from emphasizing the bill's alleged undemocratic nature to its job-killing potential, he added, also undermined one of business's long-standing rhetorical stances: that it is not opposed to unions per se but only to corrupt and coercive unions.

"The mask has come off, and now it's clear that the Chamber of Commerce is against unions. Now they're saying they just don't want to see unions grow and have access to collective bargaining," he said. "There are a lot of members of Congress who are not necessarily supporters [of the bill] but recognize there is a problem to be fixed, and the Chamber is going to lose them because of this attitude. The majority of members are not anti-union."

Answering the capitalist arguments are relatively easy. Workers form unions and resist capital, consciously and unconsciously, as a natural response to the inevitable deteriorating economic and political conditions. The "unseen hand" of capitalism is very easily seen in most workplaces most of the time. Even within a capitalist society, however, it is logical to expect that a rising tide of wages, benefits, time off and healthcare for workers helps everyone in society do better and that unions in most capitalist societies are the mechanism for making this happen. Moreover, most available data will show that unionization in the trades in cities causes at least slight upward bumps in employment for most groups, if only because it forces employers to rationalize production and compete in new markets. The same should logically be true in other industries and professions and in most rural areas most of the time. The problem is not that unions don't fit well into the capitalist framework, as the argument above would have it, but that they may fit too comfortably into that framework over time.

Responding to the weak defensive posture taken by those in labor's bureaucracy is more difficult.

American industry gave up on American workers long ago. In fact, there is little or nothing "unique" about American workers in terms of labor power, production and consumption. Our per centage of unionized workers in really quite low for an industrialized country and the absence here of a mass workers' party means that we are exceptionally unprepared for coping through capitalist crises. Union growth in the US would have to reach spectacular heights that no one in labor expects soon in order for us to be a credible threat to profits overall. Without a workers' party we are left to bargain workplace by workplace or industry by industry, giving us only a limited number of weapons in our small arsenal. Pattern bargaining died in the 1980s and is unlikely to be resurrected to look and feel as it did in the past. Much of the anticipated growth by unions in key economic sectors in a post-EFCA system will probably come from national agreements which give workers minimal raises and benefits to begin with so any big hit on profits will be delayed. The majority of Congress may not be anti-union now, but they have yet to be tested by a mass movement engaged in a half-hidden class struggle.

Opposition from the Chamber of Commerce and other business interests is nothing new; why anyone would be shocked by this is in itself shocking. The Chamber of Commerce will not lose the support of political interests because of its opposition to EFCA. In fact, just the opposite seems quite possible: as class antagonisms grow, sides will harden. The full anti-human and anti-labor side of monopoly capital may well become apparent over the next decade.

Much of this has been sparked by a relatively innocuous and cautious bit of legislation designed to build union density under especially trying times. The upsurge which has developed around EFCA and the fight for the best terms and conditions possible for workers under the new administration has taken everyone by surprise: if it testifies to the nature of spontaneous class struggle, it also testifies to the need for the kind of open-ended reform work that can lead to greater things.

March 15, 2009

Salem Antiwar Protest Targets Demands To Keep The Guard Home & End The Occupations

About 300 people rallied and marched in Salem today against the wars and occupations and sending Guard troops overseas. The weather was unseasonably bad and no doubt kept many people away. This was the first scheduled major antiwar demonstration here since the new administration took office, not counting the demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza during the last Israeli incursions.

Jo Ann Bowman did a fantastic job, as she always does, of energizing the crowd. Prominent opening speakers included a young war resister refusing deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan; Linda Burgin, President of SEIU Local 503; a feminist speaker; and Ramon Ramirez, President of PCUN. Ramirez invited people to return for May Day at the State Capitol, which should be a visible mass demonstration of workers' unity as campaigns for progressive immigration reform kick-off and as the economic crisis deepens. Burgin spoke from her unique experience as a woman living in a military family. The feminist speaker gave special emphasis to the oppression of women in the moment and made this experience real to us.

During the march members of Portland ISO led the most spirited chants. An anarchist with a bullhorn demonstrated the infantile nature of anarchist practice by criticizing "candidate" Obama repeatedly and as annoyingly as he probably could. Veterans for Peace banners, the ISO signs calling for an end to the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, church banners and many homemade peace signs were most visible. Many people noted our own new Communist banner and asked about our organization. If the crowd was small, we were also motivated.

The main body of the march ended at Salem's First Congregational Church, where the Rural Organizing Project summit was taking place. Word from that meeting was that ROP has agreed to work on immigration reform and that they will be doing lobbying tomorrow in Salem. ROP has it essentially right: they have been working through an internal democratic process, and in cooperation with other groups and movements, to push a progressive and antiwar agenda forward.

Numbers were certainly low today because of the weather, but it must also be said that the peace movement here is still learning how to function in the new political environment. The absence of people of color and union delegations today means that outreach to key sectors is falling behind or that these people are also having difficulties mobilizing behind broad programs for change.

Resistance counts and can develop over time. It was important to be there today. It will be just as important to take the energy from today's demonstration back to work tomorrow and build for May Day.

March 13, 2009

EFCA & The Bailout

From a comrade who uses CREDO:

Last fall, Congress authorized a massive bailout for the financial industry - $750 billion to be distributed without restrictions on how it could be spent. At the time,...activists like you asked Congress to impose guidelines on banks for spending our tax dollars. But Congress didn't listen. And now we're paying the price.

This week, Citigroup spent some of its $50 billion in bailout money to organize big corporations to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act - a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions and bargain for better wages and benefits. According to the Huffington Post, Citigroup's retail analyst Deborah Weinswig participated in a conference call for corporate interests working to kill the bill.

Just a few weeks ago, Weinswig gave the Wal-Mart a favorable 9.5 rating out of 10. But now, in a cynical bid to stoke public fears that stronger unions will have an adverse affect on stock values, Citigroup downgraded Wal-Mart's rating from "Buy" to "Hold."

It is unacceptable that banks like Citigroup and Bank of America have been spending our tax dollars to fight for legislation that boosts corporate profits at the expense of the working class.

I just took action to tell the people charged with overseeing the bailout to investigate Citigroup and Bank of America. If these banks don't stop misspending their TARP money immediately, they should not receive another dime. I hope you'll sign the petition, too.

Please have a look and take action.

French Sony Workers Hold The Boss Hostage---And Workers Fight Back Elsewhere

Members of the French CGT, a left union with a generally good history, in southwest France held a Sony chief exec hostage after a meeting to close the plant. Read about it here.

One of the interesting features of this story is that it is getting so much coverage on techie blogs while labor and left blogs have not yet picked up the story. Many of these same blogs are also picking up on events in India where workers' struggles in high tech facilities have ramped up recently. Another interesting aspect of this story is that this is the third time this year that French workers have detained execs closing plants. This protest comes after a series of national mass actions and a successful general strike and just before scheduled spring protests by the French unions.

You can follow some CGT news here.

Some Waterford Crystal workers in Ireland are occupying the Deloitte head Office in Dublin. See pictures and watch a video about that here. Indymedia in Ireland seems to not have all links relating to the occupation working, but it got some coverage in The New York Times as well. Sinn Fein is supporting the occupation. An overview of the economic crisis in Ireland can be found here.

Republic Windows and Doors workers here in the US recently got some good news that their plant will reopen after their successful occupation and mobilization. The company's Iowa plant, which did not figure prominently in the protests, may be closing.

What are the lessons here? Workers can take dramatic actions and live to tell about them and workers around the world are responding to the international economic crisis with a growing militancy. Many of these actions will draw on workers not previously engaged in struggles and they will resonate with information and high tech workers and workers forced into global mobility--mostly non-unionworkers, it must be said--internationally. We need more action.

March 12, 2009

Help Needed For El Salvador!

One of the Oregonians mentioned below is a comrade in Willamette Reds and our Communist Party club. Please help!

Dear PCASC supporters,

As I type, eight Portlanders are in El Salvador being trained as elections observers for what will most likely be a truly historic moment in El Salvador's democracy. With the leftist FMLN presidential candidate Mauricio Funes polling double digits ahead of the right-wing ARENA candidate Rodrigo Avila, there is a real chance that after almost 2 decades of ARENA rule, the FMLN will take power.

Last week, 33 Congress members including Oregon Representative David Wu issued a letter to President Obama urging neutrality and respect for the results of El Salvador's upcoming presidential election. PCASC volunteers were essential in securing COngressman Wu's support! For a great article about the elections and the importance of non-intervention read: Could Obama Say a Few Words for Democracy in El Salvador?

Yesterday, 5 Republicans gave speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives threatening that Salvadorans living in the U.S. will lose their immigration status and be prevented from sending remittances their families if voters in El Salvador exercise their right to elect the opposition FMLN party's candidate on Sunday.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said, “Should the pro-terrorist FMLN party replace the current government in El Salvador, the United States, in the interests of national security, would be required to reevaluate our policy toward El Salvador, including cash remittance and immigration policies to compensate for the fact there will no longer be a reliable counterpart in the Salvadoran government.”

PLEASE take a moment to Call U.S. State Department to demand neutrality and respect for Salvadoran democracy!

Phone calls to the U.S. State Department, demanding an official statement of respect for the results of El Salvador's March 15 presidential election, are needed today!

We fully expect these open, blatant threats to be plastered across the front pages of newspapers across El Salvador in the coming days. In fact, the guarantee of such media coverage for these statements is the very reason that they were made in the first place. These threats endanger the sovereign right of the Salvadoran people to elect their own government, free from outside manipulation.

The Republicans' statement stand in stark contrast to last week's declaration by over thirty House Democrats and one Senator who publicly committed to U.S. neutrality, to respect the election results, and to maintain a positive relationship with whichever government is elected. In a March 5 press conference in Washington, D.C., Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) stated, “the proper position of the U.S. Congress and government is one of neutrality and respect for El Salvador’s independent democratic process.”

With the election less than a week away, it is imperative that the State Department declare this same position of neutrality and respect for El Salvador’s independent democratic process, and reject the Republicans' threats and lies about immigration status and remittances. The integrity and fairness of El Salvador's presidential election is in danger as long as such a statement is not made.

Call the State Department to demand an immediate public declaration of U.S. neutrality toward the Salvadoran election!

CALL: To speak with Chris Webster at the state department: (202) 647-4087
To leave a message: (202) 647-6575

The U.S. must respect the will of the Salvadoran people!

1) Call the State Department to demand an immediate, public declaration of respect for the results of the Salvadoran election!

To speak with Chris Webster at the state department: (202) 647-4087
To leave a message: (202) 647-6575

“I am calling to urge Secretary Clinton to immediately make a public statement declaring that the United States will respect the results of Sunday's presidential election in El Salvador and seek a positive relationship with whoever is elected.”

“On Wednesday, Members of Congress publicly threatened to revoke the immigration status of Salvadorans living here in the U.S. and outlaw the remittances they send back to their families. These threats have been extensively covered by the media in El Salvador. Without a statement by the State Department refuting these threats, the integrity and fairness of the Salvadoran election will be severely compromised.”

2) Then call the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador and ask to speak to chargé d’affaires Robert Blau.

>From the U.S., CALL: 011-503-2501-2999

CALL SCRIPT: “I am calling from the United States to ask that the Embassy publicly declare that the U.S. government will respect the results of Sunday's election, and that the threats made by Members of Congress this week about immigration status and remittances are false.”

The Attack On Unions In Oregon

Eight petitions were filed at the Elections Division on Tuesday by Bill Sizemore's political friends. Official draft ballot will be released on March 18, 2009 and public comments are due on April 1, 2009 on these petitions. Sizemore's name doesn’t appear on any of the petitions, but they clearly represent his views and the thinking on Oregon's ultra-right. At this point, putting Sizemore's name on anything probably guarantees a loss for the right. The American Tax Research Foundation, based in Nevada, appears to be behind some of these efforts. ATRF has a sleazy history. One of the petitioners is Jim Greenfield, former Republican candidate for Congress in Oregon’s 1st District, a radio talk show host and owner of the now-defunct Fun & Games Singles Clubs LLC. Need much more be said?

The timing of these efforts is dictated by the political and ballot calendars, but they also come as concessions-driven public employee contract negotiations are underway. No surprise--three of these measures attack public employees in the main in their content but also serve as a threat while contract negotiations are underway. The others all threaten to downsize government at the expense of people and services or to hogtie the state.

IP34 reruns Measure 64, which was defeated in 2008. If passed it will prevent state workers from giving to unions or charities through paycheck deductions. It also provides stiff penalties for violations. It contains a limited exemption for lobbying, but recipient charities cannot use any money collected through payroll deduction for political purposes.

IP35 attempts to negate the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) by requiring only secret ballot elections and applies to both public and private-sector unions. Most of the measure's language is specific to public workers. It also contains an odd provision that says that no public employer may make payroll deductions unless a union election was held within 4 years and does not allow for union representation of non-members. It exempts non-members from paying fairshare fees.

IP38 also reruns Measure 64 and broadens 64 to include union dues no matter what the intended use of the dues monies is.

IP40 also seeks to negate EFCA.

March 10, 2009

Home Foreclosures In Oregon

Acording to the Center for Responsible Lending, Oregon has had 3777 home foreclosures since the beginning of 2009. We are 69 days into the new year so that's almost 55 foreclosures taking place every day.

Millions of people are losing their homes and Credo quotes experts who predict that one out of every six homeowners with a mortgage will be foreclosed on over the next four years. Regardless of reports today that home prices may be bottoming out--and this may not be the case or may not even be good economic news--this problem of foreclosures and subsequent homelessness will be with us for some time to come.

The financial sector is getting a bail out, but what about forgiving working class debt? What about moving to keep people in our homes and jamming the mortgage industry back for their sleazy tactics?

Even the AFL-CIO, which thinks that no one wins on foreclosures and seems okay with compromise legislation on this issue, reminded us today that

In a recent interview on the Pacifica news show, “Democracy Now,” Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) urged homeowners facing eviction to stay in their homes and seek legal help.

The most important thing to do is to get legal help. And what we are finding is that if people receive a notice from a financial institution, their first reaction is fear, rather than getting proper legal representation. There’s a number people can call: 888-995-HOME—to get the proper legal representation, so they can actually have the scales of justice be balanced rather than, now, all the power to Wall Street and none of the justice to Main Street.

If you believe that Wall Street has been deceptive, could have been fraudulent or tried to dupe the public…you need a lawyer. And you should stay in your home. It is your castle. It’s more than a piece of property. It’s your home.

The best we seem likely to get at this point, short of movements resisting foreclosures at the grassroots with direct action, is a system in which bankruptcy judges have the power to restructure mortgage loans. Even this compromise legislation has made the banking industry spend hugh sums of cash lobbying Congress to keep judges from getting that power.

And so the bankers may well win. On March 5, the House passed a compromise bill to provide people some mortgage relief. While this bill included provisions to allow judges to change the terms of mortgages in bankruptcies, it also put some burdens on homeowners pushed by the banks. Weak-kneed Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are now wavering. It's a good idea to call your Senator ASAP and tell that person to support the most progressive and comprehensive legislation we can get to keep people in their homes and not to cave to the banks.

The Great Ape Protection Act, Kurt Schrader, Marxism And Us

From the Humane Society:

Late last week, ABC News: Nightline broke the story of more than 300 chimpanzees languishing at one of the world's largest primate research facilities.

The report featured video footage gathered by The Humane Society of the United States during a nine-month undercover investigation at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana -- and showed the routine and possibly unlawful treatment of hundreds of chimpanzees and monkeys.

Each animal's suffering detailed in the report was wrenching, but the story of 26 elder chimps currently warehoused at the facility was particularly poignant.

These 26 chimps were taken from their mothers in the wild, and have since lived a life behind bars. The oldest, Karen, was captured in 1958, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was still president.

Please help end invasive research on these chimps and give them the sanctuary they deserve. Urge your U.S. Representative, Kurt Schrader, to support the Great Ape Protection Act.

The Great Ape Protection Act was re-introduced in the House of Representatives last week, on the heels of our undercover investigation. This legislation would phase out invasive research on the more than 1,000 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories, and lay the groundwork for permanent retirement of the approximately 500 chimpanzees owned by the federal government, including Karen and other chimps at the New Iberia Research Center.

Please make a brief phone call to Representative Schrader at (202) 225-5711. When you call, you'll speak to a staff member who can take your message....leave your name and where you live so it's clear that you are a constituent. When you call, you can say:

"Hello, my name is [your name]. I'm a constituent in [your town]. Last week, ABC News: Nightline aired a report of chimpanzees at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana. I'm calling to ask Representative Schrader to please co-sponsor the Towns-Reichert Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326), to stop this cruelty and to save taxpayers millions of dollars. Thank you."

We expect that Congress will receive a huge outpouring of calls on this issue. If you aren't able to get through, please keep trying. After you make your call, send a follow up message and tell your friends and family how they can help, too.

Thank you for speaking out for chimps held in research. They deserve better than a life of torment and misery. Together, we can make a difference for these amazing creatures.

Zoos and the "scientific" misuse of animals speak to peculiar forms of alienation remaining with capitalism from its ascendant age of discovery. Marx is supposed to have said in correspondence with Engels that Darwin had come to discover the laws of English class relations in the jungles, or words to that effect. He certainly said, "Man’s reflections on the forms of social life, and consequently, also, his scientific analysis of those forms, take a course directly opposite to that of their actual historical development. He begins, post festum, with the results of the process of development ready to hand before him." We are working backwards from a peculiar and particular point in human history as we search for our origins and the two points of reference collide in contradictory ways. The apes mentioned above are some of the casualties of that collision.

Speaking more generally, Marxism has paid a great deal of attention to Darwin and his ideas over time. You can read one outstanding essay on Darwin from a Marxist point of view here.

March 9, 2009

The "immigration crisis," H-2A and pushing Obama for something better

From FLOC:

In the last few years, we have seen efforts to create an "immigration crisis" through raids on undocumented workers, the Real ID act, denial of driver licenses to undocumented immigrants, state laws to punish employers who hire undocumented workers, and other "enforcement only" actions.

As we have asked many times, who is behind the harsh treatment of immigrants? One hidden agenda is to force through a "guest worker" program that legally exploits immigrant labor and denies these workers their basic human rights, to the benefit of rich investors.

Instead of helping to fix America's broken immigration system, "enforcement-only" plans only result in the increased misery of millions of the hardest working people in this country, as well as lower labor standards for the American working class in general. They do very little to reduce the immigrant population living in the country without legal status, because the underlying causes of immigrantion are not addressed... especially those policies created by the U.S. power elite to benefit the rich, such as the North American Free Trade Act.

Read more here.

Rosa Luxemburg

A woman loved by millions: Rosa Luxemburg
Author: Victor Grossman
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 03/06/09 16:17

The remains of the small middle-aged woman were found in June; her brutalized body had been dumped into the Berlin canal in January. That was in 1919. Ninety years later many Germans and people on every continent still speak her name — Rosa Luxemburg — with real affection.

Born in 1871 into a well-to-do Jewish family in a part of Poland ruled by czarist Russia, she began her fight for oppressed working people while still in high school. Threatened with arrest a few years later, she fled to Switzerland, where she obtained a doctor’s degree and, at 26, was already a leading theoretician on political and economic issues. Although in exile, she helped found a new, revolutionary party in Poland.

After marrying a German citizen and moving to Berlin she was soon prominent in the Social Democratic Party there, then the largest in the world. Despite her small stature and slightly handicapped by a limp, left by a childhood illness, “Red Rosa” as she was often called, defied male domination to become one of the most popular left-wing speakers in the country, while her newspaper articles were as fiery and eloquent as her speeches.

She soon ran into difficulty with both. Many leaders, holding seats in parliament or the large party apparatus, were losing enthusiasm for passionate speeches and daring programs. They tended to roll their eyes when people like Luxemburg spoke of revolution; they preferred reforms in the “free enterprise” system which maybe some day might lead to some kind of socialism. General strikes alarmed them and, as WWI approached, they began downplaying ideas of cross-border solidarity to prevent working class people from shooting at each other.

True enough, when the murderous war began in 1914, social democratic parties in Germany, France and elsewhere forgot their anti-war pledges, jumped on “patriotic” bandwagons and supported the war of the corporations and the generals.

Only one deputy in the German Reichstag, Karl Liebknecht, a friend and collaborator of Luxemburg’s, had the guts to vote against money for the war. Rosa, Karl and like-minded comrades immediately began organizing to end the war, maintaining contact with anti-war socialists from France and other “enemies” through neutral Switzerland. They named their group Spartakus Bund, after a slave rebellion leader in ancient Rome.

But in 1915 Luxemburg was arrested, jailed, briefly freed and in 1916 locked up again until war’s end.

Luxemburg was soon smuggling texts for anti-war leaflets out of the prison. She wrote diary entries and many letters, not only on political questions but on literature, history, and even delightful descriptions of songbirds and even beetles observed from her window.

Many letters included personal matters, often to the wife of Karl Liebknecht, who was also arrested in 1916, and to a son of the great German feminist and socialist Clara Zetkin, Maxim, one of Luxemburg’s great loves, all of which ended — for her — tragically.

The anti-war movement mushroomed. In November 1918 the revolt of naval units in Kiel kicked off a revolution which forced the German Kaiser to abdicate, ended the war, and nearly created the socialist republic which Karl Liebknecht, like Luxemburg just out of prison, proclaimed from a balcony of the ex-Kaiser’s palace.

But within hours Friedrich Ebert, the Social Democratic leader, who supported the war until the very end, seized leadership in Germany and joined with reactionary army generals to prevent any socialist solution to the chaos which followed the lost war.

On New Year’s weekend 1918-1919 the Spartakus leaders founded a new Communist Party. But the last ditch revolt a week later in Berlin’s newspaper district, fought with bales of newsprint as barricades, was quickly defeated; hundreds were massacred and the revolution was ended.

With the press openly demanding their murder Liebknecht and Luxemburg went into hiding. They were soon betrayed; rightwing military men bludgeoned and shot them. Later confessions showed that the governing Social Democrats had OK’d the lynching. The government which resulted, known as the Weimar Republic, was discarded 14 years later when the Nazis embarked on their path of murder and mass annihilation.

Countless German workers mourned the death of Luxemburg and Liebknecht.

After WWII the East German Democratic Republic revived the pre-Hitler tradition of marching in mid-January to the site of their graves; a new monument replaced the one destroyed by the Nazis.

Even after the Wall went down, and with it the GDR, every year tens of thousands, young and old, still place red carnations around the big stone and plaques of other German socialists and communists, as leftists from all Germany and other countries demonstrate their determination to keep fighting for a better world.

Some people still try to depict Luxemburg as an anti-communist, quoting her words: “Freedom is always freedom for those who think differently.” But although she differed with Lenin on several issues, she steadfastly supported the October Revolution in Russia and never recanted her belief: “The overthrow of the rule of capital, the establishment of a socialist social system — this and no less than this is the historic theme of the present revolution.”

March 8, 2009

Breast Cancer, International Women's Day in Salem Oregon, and workers history

Several folks gathered at the Coffee House Cafe in Salem Oregon to hear an informal presentation about the history of International Women's Day and to discuss its relevance today.

{NOTE about the image at left: When I googled "International Women's Day Salem Oregon" - the only 2009 event that I readily found was our Willamette Reds event, but surprisingly, a link to the image residing at the Oregon Military Dept archives came up. The caption on the Military website states: A 1935 flyer announces the celebration of International Women's Day under the auspices of the Portland Section of the Communist Party. Oregon Military Department Records, Communist Activity Intelligence Reports, Brochures, Pamphlets, Publications, 1932-1936, Box 57, Folder 28.}

On to a brief history of the founding of this day....

During the end of the 19th century, there was an expansion of industrialization, population growth, and growing workers rights struggles.

In 1908 in the USA, the Socialist Party's Women's National Committee called for the party to designate a day to highlight the campaign for women's right to vote. Thus, "National Women's Day" in the USA began in 1909.

By 1909, there were mass strikes and demonstrations in the USA to protest inhumane factory conditions and for women's suffrage.

In 1910 the 2nd International Conference of Socialist Women convened in Copenhagen. The main issues were universal suffrage; social security for mother and child, including maternity leave and health care; the 8-hour day; the obligation to raise children in a spirit of anti-militarism; and demands for better working conditions. The conference, inspired by actions in the USA, passed a resolution to establish an International Women's Day. Two well-known attendees were Clara Zetkin (German socialist leader) and Alexandra Kollentai (a Russian delegate and a textile worker from St. Petersburg). Kollentai described the day as "a day of international solidarity in the fight for common objectives and a day for reviewing the organized strength of women under the banner of socialism."

Today, our group discussed the current relevance of IWD. That discussion included talking about the status of women today, through the lenses of statistics and our own and our sisters' anecdotes of struggle.

The National Women's Law Center recently polled women who indicated the following are their priorities; they also found that women see government as key to the solutions:

*A better health care system
*An end to the wage gap
*Affordable birth control, comprehensive sex education and protection for Roe v. Wade
*Access to high-quality child care
*Improved economic security for women and their families
*A solution to the drop out crisis
*A fair and independent judiciary

Statistics show that women are not gaining as a whole in the critical areas of pay equity, access to necessary health care, and more. It is also clear that women and especially African-American and Latina women are being very hard hit by the current economic crises.

In Oregon, OHSU gave Oregon an "unsatisfactory" rating in 2007 in meeting national goals for women's health. There is a significant lack of preventive care which is linked to a "prevalence of uninsured and underinsured women in our state - we know that one-fifth of Oregon women lack health insurance." And that is probably higher now. A member of our discussion group indicated that her sister died at age 37 from cancer which probably could have been successfully treated if she had had health insurance.

We discussed our experiences with child care, noting that lack of good quality child care disrupts the family and causes stress and loss of work for parents and most importantly is harmful to children. A member of our group stated that she and her husband, because of child care problems (access, affordability, and quality), took jobs with completely different shifts, so that one parent could be home with the kids; this resulted in the parents only seeing each other on weekends.

We discussed the strong support men show for breast cancer research fundraising drives, noting that all men have a mom, sister, wife, aunt, etc. who could be vulnerable to this disease. We discussed whether, while men are supportive of this issue, it's not so clear that they are all so supportive of other, related issues such as pay and job equity. In fact, these dots are not often connected, but they can be, because when women do not have full access to good jobs with benefits, they often do not have the health insurance needed to have preventative care to detect breast cancer early or the treatment for it.

We noted that in many countries, including Cuba, IWD is a very important day and is celebrated with many surrounding events and marches. Given the rather grim statistics on the quality of women's lives including those of us right here in Oregon, we should, we concluded, work to elevate International Women's Day to more prominence locally. This time, next year?