May - June, 2007
112.1 - 07.07.2007
0. DSA News
Reminder for DSA Members
New at chicagodsa.org
Young Democratic Socialists Summer Conference
Those Blood-Sucking Immigrants
and Health Care
Finland Is Soft on Crime
Partial Victory for Community Television
2. Democratic Socialism
The Rise and Fall of Libertarian
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
112.2 - 07.16.2007
0. DSA News
Socialist International Council
Toward an Economic Justice Agenda
1. Upcoming Events of Interest
Do We Go From Here?
by Bob Roman
Annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner was timely, topical,
and thoroughly continental. Our honorees, Leo Gerard (President,
United Steelworkers) and Josh
Hoyt (Director, Illinois Coalition
for Immigrant and Refugee Rights ), represent Canada and
the United States respectively. Our special guest, Saul Escobar
Toledo, is the International Secretary of the Mexican Party
of Democratic Revolution (PRD); all of North America was
represented on the program. It was an entirely appropriate program
to follow Chicago's massive May Day march and rallies and to
address the question of "Where Do We Go From Here?"
DSA's National Director, Frank Llewellyn, served
as the Master of Ceremonies this year. He briefly outlined DSA's
new project of developing an Economic Justice Agenda and other
projects DSA is involved in. He announced that by this fall,
DSA will have grown by 25% from last fall.
Saul Escobar Toledo spoke about fair
trade and migration issues. He called for NAFTA to be re-negotiated,
pointing in particular to the highly successful social investment
by the European Union in its poorer member states. He spoke about
the difficulties and dangers faced by Mexican migrants and the
problems immigration to the United States causes in Mexico. Comrade
Escobar's appearance in Chicago was part of a four city tour
of the Midwest sponsored by DSA's
International Commission. He also made appearances in the
Twin Cities in Minnesota, in Detroit, Michigan, and in Madison,
Leo Gerard spoke about the difficulties
facing the labor movement and the Steelworkers in particular.
The Steelworkers have continued to make fair trade a major priority.
They are not stopping at legal challenges and policy advocacy,
however. In addition to the strategic agreements and coordination
that is becoming more common among unions across the world, the
Steelworkers are actively negotiating merger with two British
unions, Amicus and the Transportation and General Workers Union,
possibly to include additional unions in other countries. Whether
this would be the "first" global union depends partly
on one's definition. But Gerard asserted this would not simply
be a marriage of common interests but also a marriage of common
ideas: a global social democratic union. Dazzled by the prospect,
no one in the audience was in a mood to quibble.
Josh Hoyt turned out to be our best
speaker, I think, being funny and open. He shared some of the
life experiences that brought him to his politics. And in addressing
the question of just where do we go from here, Hoyt drew parallels
between the often ugly, nativist politics of today with the 1920s
and the 1980s. Comparing the New Deal outcome following the 1920s
with Clinton and the Bushes following the 1980s, Hoyt concluded
one of the vital differences, and a lesson for today, was solidarity.
The Dinner concluded with the traditional
singing of "Solidarity Forever", accompanied by GOP
DSA's Ron Baiman on violin, but this time we attempted one verse
And where do we go from here?
Leo Gerard's address provoked more than one person to comment,
"Maybe there is hope for the labor movement, after all."
This seems to me both a grand compliment and grossly unfair.
It's unfair for two reasons. First, even in its straitened condition,
the labor movement is still huge and various, with a great many
smart people doing more than just throwing paint on the wall.
It isn't only up to Steelworkers. Second, leadership matters,
but it is not sufficient. In order to succeed, the rank and file
union member needs to buy into the program, not just accept it
as something the staff does. It is also a grand compliment because,
well, leadership matters. And one of the things that leadership
does is provide inspiration, a reason for people to buy in, to
be motivated, to do more than just be accepting. Leo Gerard was
most certainly inspiring.
Inspiration, incidentally, is one of
the things that 49 years of Debs Dinners has pretty consistently
delivered. I think this Dinner maintained that tradition. I hope
you'll join us in 2008 for our 50th Dinner.
Marx Shier: September 21, 1917 to May 16, 2007
by Bob Roman
I received a call on Wednesday morning
from Nancy Shier. She said her dad, Carl Shier, had died earlier
For some of you reading this, I should
explain that Carl was one of the founders of Chicago's Debs
- Thomas - Harrington Dinner. This was my main point of contact
with him, but the Dinner was not at all his most significant
The United Auto Workers (UAW) was Carl
Shier's union. As a leader in his local, he helped negotiate
a record (that still stands) pay increase for his fellow workers,
insisted on racial integration at the plant, and mentored members
with leadership potential. When gangsters attempted to take over
the local, they beat him severely. But the gangsters did not
When public employees began to organize,
the UAW lent Carl to the American Federation of State County
and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to serve as the Director of
their Illinois council. Afterwards, he served as AFSCME's talent
scout, bringing into the Illinois Council their subsequent directors.
In his prime, he had a hand in a lot
of the labor organizing and the collective bargaining done in
And not just Chicago: Carl was active
in international solidarity work, most notably with the Illinois
Labor Network Against Apartheid. He served on the boards of Illinois
Issues and Chicago's oldest civil rights organization, the
Community Renewal Society, just to name two. He was a founding
member of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (and
If I call Carl a monumental human, it
is not just funereal rhetoric. In politics, it is not what
you know that counts. But it's not really who you know,
either. It is who knows you that counts. A great many
people on the democratic left and in the labor movement knew
Carl Shier - all over the world.
It's not just that Carl was of service
to many. It is also because his default reaction to people was
empathy. I don't mean to imply sainthood; he could often be difficult,
at least. But it is this quality of caring, of interest, of personal
contact, that made him an effective organizer. This is something
that is missing in much of what passes for organizing in this
And now that life is done.
There was a memorial for Carl Shier
at Weinstein Brothers in Wilmette on Friday, May 18. Despite
the brief notice, hundreds attended. The current and past AFSCME
Council 31 directors, Henry Bayer and Steve Culen, spoke. Deborah
Meier and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky also shared their memories,
as did two of Carl's nephews, Paul Blumberg and Dick Sard.
Other Coverage of Carl Shier's
The 1982 Thomas - Debs Dinner
In 1982, the Democratic Socialists Organizing
Committee and the New American Movement were merging to form
the Democratic Socialists of America. To help give the new organization
a grand kick-off, Carl Shier was the honoree at the annual Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Dinner
that year. The 1982 Dinner was our second largest, having been
exceed only by the 1991 Dinner where Steve Culen and Kathy Devine
According to the 1982 program, Roberta
Lynch gave the opening remarks. James Wright gave greetings from
UAW Region 4. Michael Harrington gave greetings from the newly
merged Democratic Socialists of America. Elizabeth Goldstein
gave greetings from the Chicago local of DSA. William Winpisinger
then gave the Thomas - Debs Address. Seymour Kahan presented
the Thomas - Debs award to Carl Shier. Carl Shier responded.
Entertainment was by Peyton Hopkins.
We honor you as an exemplary socialist
and trade unionist
You have spent a lifetime in the effort
to build a socialist movement. You have refused to succumb to
disappointment and defeat. You have helped win the small and
lasting victories that inspire others to join and continue in
Above all, your life has been a constant
act of sharing - sharing your time, energy, enthusiasm, intelligence,
and constant good spirits with your friends and co-workers.
You have demonstrated that true comradeship
is capable of breaking the bonds of generations, color, sex,
and class which separate us from one another in this society
- and will be broken forever in the society that we seek.
We honor you for living for others and
the Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Committee does hereby present
you with its award on this 1st day of May, 1982.
Messages via email
- Please give Nancy my condolences. Carl
was a great guy.
- Thanks comrades, and everyone who admired
Carl. I include myself in that expansive list. He will be much
- Carl was a great man. He taught me
so much about unions and socialism. He is irreplaceable. He's
one of the great ones.
In solidarity and sadness,
- Sorry to hear about the loss of an
Keep the faith.
- Thank you, I wish that I could attend.
- I didn't know him, and except for the
extraordinarily supportive and encouraging notes he sent me after
writing up some of the Debs dinners - which put me on his "list"
for a short time - I don' t think he knew me. But from everything
I've heard about him from you and others he was a great person.
A real loss for all of us from a man who truly lived his life
to the fullest. We're going to keep on organizing Carl!
- Thanks for letting me know about Carl's
death. I'll write a letter to Nancy. Hope all is well there!
Things are good here (well, except for Bush, the auto industry,
poverty in Detroit, etc., etc.)
- Carl was one of a kind - one of the
good kind, one of the best kind. I am sorry to have this news.
Can you pass on to Nancy and others that while I didn't know
Carl well, I did know him and know what a gap this leaves. His
Is Joy in Victory!
by Tom Broderick
On April 9, 2007, the Coalition
of Immokalee Workers (CIW) signed an historic agreement with
the McDonald's Corporation that improved upon the one signed
with Taco Bell (YUM Brands) in 2005.
This was four days before a major rally
at the global headquarters of McDonald's in Oak Brook, Illinois,
and five days before a Carnaval and parade for Fair Food and
Dignity in downtown Chicago. These events were bringing labor
leaders, representatives from various religious groups, politicians
and musicians from around the country. The two scheduled events
became celebrations of unity and victory with planning for the
To bask in some of the pleasure, I'd
like to report that Chicago DSA organized what might have been
the final informational picket of a McDonald's. This was at the
only McDonald's in Oak Park, less than a week before the settlement.
In addition to DSA, Third Unitarian Church (TUC) was well represented.
Reverend Brian Covell, of TUC, engaged a passerby in a lengthy
discussion regarding the justice of the struggle. Members from
the CIW, Ascension Church, Unity Temple and Sister Carol Cook,
a BVM nun with long ties to the CIW, also walked the line.
Taken together the agreements between
the CIW and Taco Bell and McDonald's establish the following
- Major purchasers must share the cost
of creating a supply chain that does not exploit farmworkers.
The Agreements commit Taco Bell and McDonald's to pay a penny
per pound more for their tomatoes, with the entire amount to
be passed on as a pay raise to the workers who pick those tomatoes,
as monitored by a reliable third party. This nearly doubles the
going piece rate when workers pick tomatoes going to Taco Bell
- Supply chain transparency and a verifiable
zero tolerance policy for modern-day slavery.
- The right for farmworkers to participate,
through the CIW, in the development and implementation of an
enforceable code of conduct, including an effective avenue for
worker reports of violations, allowing workers to play an ongoing
role in the monitoring and protection of their own rights.
- The development of a third party mechanism
to carry out the same monitoring and investigative functions
at the industry level, one that can be easily expanded to include
the participation of other members of the food industry that
buy Florida tomatoes. Retail food companies that participate
in the third party monitoring arrangement would agree to defined
consequences in the event that a supplier is found in violation
of the code.
Even before the settlement with McDonald's,
the CIW was negotiating with Burger King. Burger King responded
to the overture by offering to send Corporate recruiters to speak
with the CIW and the workers about permanent full-time employment
at Burger King restaurants. The obvious question is if Burger
King can place all of the tomato pickers in their restaurants,
who will pick the tomatoes and under what conditions?
Responding to the absurd proposal, CIW
spokesperson Lucas Benitez stated:
"The farmworkers who pick the tomatoes
for Burger King are among this country's worst paid, least protected
workers. They earn poverty wages, have no right to overtime pay
even when they work 60-70 hour weeks, and have no right to organize.
And Burger King has an active hand in creating these unconscionable
conditions, as its enormous volume purchasing allows it to demand
lower and lower prices for its tomatoes, resulting in lower and
lower wages for already exploited workers.
"When presented with the opportunity
to take a stand against the exploitation of farmworkers in their
home state (Burger King is located in Florida, as is the CIW),
Burger King executives refused. Instead, incredibly, they actually
offered to address farmworker poverty by retraining tomato pickers
to work in Burger King restaurants - eliminating farmworker poverty
by eliminating farmworkers - adding insult to injury with such
an obviously unworkable, and frankly pretty ridiculous idea."
Although the Burger King is headquartered
in Florida, Chicago DSA will initiate and participate in actions
in the Chicago area to bring the pervo-king to justice. After
Burger King, the CIW is looking at Subway and Wal-Mart.
for Roses in Unlikely Places
by David S. Duhalde
There seems to be an overwhelming belief
that American socialists only live in urban settings and suburbs.
Today's American leftist often considers the days of agrarian
socialism as a footnote in our political history. In the times
of Red and Blue states, there is a consensus that, aside from
a handful of swing states, ideological influence will be determined
by zip codes not potential of individuals and organizations.
Many localities considered too conservative for an organized
left-liberal presence were abandoned by numerous national institutions.
That luxury of neglect is now over. The Left and our liberal
allies can no longer afford to ignore the need to build left-wing
activism everywhere. Connecting with nascent progressive movements
around the country is not only necessary, but also has proven
successful in many ways. The Young
Democratic Socialists have grown by building solidarity with
student and youth communities that have often lacked a strong
Left. Such developments tap into the potential for revitalizing
a democratic socialist project in the United States.
Outside of YDS, the achievements I speak
of are most prominently represented by Howard Dean's "50
State Plan." The "50 State Plan" is an effort
by the Democratic National Committee to put resources into areas
of the country where the Democratic Party was either defunct
or barely functioning. This plan provides paid organizers who
help build the party long-term. The idea of challenging the GOP
and right-wing on their own turf proved to be controversial.
Powerful Democrats, such as Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel, condemned
the strategy. They would rather dedicate most funds towards highly
contested races than in future investment. Dean and the plan's
ultimate success proved the detractors to be "penny wise,
but pound foolish." Not only were the Democrats able to
win both houses, but the investment of staff and resources was
credited with the rise in support for Democratic Party that exceeded
the general anti-Republican backlash.
DNC fundraisers would often hear stories
about how grateful grassroots Democratic activist were to this
strategy. They found that many wanted to participate in liberal
politics, but their state parties often could not even field
candidate much less build an electoral base. On my chapter visit
to Bowling Green State University-Firelands I attended a small
event hosted by one of the Ohio DNC organizers who personally
thanked me. The ability of the Democratic Party to grow in neglected
areas means that DSA and YDS can as well. The two political organizations
are not mutually exclusive. A strong DSA and YDS often means
stronger progressive pull in local Democratic Parties and College
Democrats respectively. The revitalization of the American socialist
project, however, will not happen because of a strengthen Democratic
Our goal should not be to duplicate
the DNC strategy completely. Our organization does not have resources
to put staff in every state. We can not measure our success in
how many candidates we fielded or seats we picked up in a given
election. What we can do is begin to challenge the notion of
where we can build active groups of democratic socialists. This
is where we can learn from fostering solidarity and providing
support for progressive forces in conservative areas.
I receive many inquires about YDS from
all over the country. There has been an increase in requests
from historical non-Left areas and campuses. This proves that
there is 1) still a space for democratic socialist politics anywhere
2) there are many young people interested in being part of a
democratic socialist project. Since I first started, students
are now building YDS chapters in Wichita State University; Louisville,
Kentucky; and Wise, Virginia. The viability of our new chapters
relies not only in the support YDS organizationally can give.
It also depends on what DSA is committed to do in terms of support
for itself and the youth. The new DSA Atlanta local reaffirms
the possibilities of organizational growth in a Red State.
The reason we are growing across our
country is because the raison d'etre of Democratic Socialists
of America still is true. The students who join understand the
limitations of single-issue organizations and electoral politics.
They join us because they understand that to build any challenge
to capitalism requires building a broad democratic Left that
is both an electoral force and a social movement. We remain a
catalyst for local coalition building with principled and pragmatic
values wherever we are. It is up to democratic socialists, both
young and young at heart, to build our locals and connect with
comrades around the country. Despite our regional differences,
we are united in our life-long commitment for a better world
Editor's Note: David Duhalde is DSA's
youth organizer. He can be reached at 212.727.8610.
State of Abolition
by Tom Broderick
"Abolish the death penalty"
was the headline of the only editorial in the Sunday, March 25th,
2007 edition of the Chicago Tribune.
I started reading, figuring the headline
was hyperbole leading to support of the right of the state to
exterminate human beings. There would be some call for reform
- some tinkering - so we could lay the issue to back to rest.
Again. After all, this was a newspaper that has consistently
backed capital punishment as governmental prerogative.
About a third of the way down the first
of two long columns, I had to stop. The editorial appeared to
be rejecting a failed policy. I started reading again - from
the beginning. The editorial ended with "It is time
to stop killing in the people's name." The Chicago
Tribune had joined the abolition movement.
The Tribune laid out so many
of the reasons: "Who gets a sentence of life and who gets
death is often a matter of random luck, of politics, of geography,
even a matter of racism . . . The evidence of mistakes, the evidence
of arbitrary decisions, the sobering knowledge that government
can't provide certainty that the innocent will not be put to
death - all that prompts this call for an end to capital punishment."
Although the Tribune omitted
the issues of deliberate, official misconduct (railroading) and
class (justice serves best those who can best afford it), the
paper did an excellent job of making a reasoned case for abolition.
One can only assume that the editorial board finally read and
understood the five consecutive front page stories they published
while former Governor George Ryan was contemplating emptying
death row. The series trashed capital punishment in Illinois
and won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize.
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICADP) put together
informational packets that included the Tribune 's new
position on abolition along with the ICADP Annual Report and
sent them to all members of the Illinois State Legislature.
On April 19th, several abolitionists
went to Springfield to call on specific legislators, primarily
to discuss the future of an abolition bill that was in the Senate
Judiciary Committee. Most, if not all, of the legislators we
spoke with claimed to be unaware of the ICADP material. Positions
on abolition were stagnant. Those who supported abolition, still
did. Those who straddled the fence, still did. Those who supported
execution, still did.
The trip made clear that what seemed
seismic - the Tribune's change of position - was not acknowledged
by the very legislators who were needed to move the process along.
Abolition of the death penalty was a non-starter in Springfield.
In fact, one pro-abolition legislator said that the very recent
multiple murders at Virginia Tech put luke-warm supporters of
abolition in an uncomfortable position.
Around the nation, popular and professional
sentiment is turning against execution. Fewer death penalties
are being sought. Fewer people are being sentenced to death.
Several states have joined Illinois by enacting moratoriums on
The State Legislature is the only governmental
body in Illinois that can abolish the death penalty. The ICADP
is renewing efforts to talk with legislators in their home districts.
This is happening in Chicago and in the Western suburbs. Discussion
topics include the abolition bill, a bill to prohibit the execution
of the severely mentally ill and a possible resurfacing of what
is known as the "No Doubt" bill.
"No Doubt" is supposed to
replace "beyond a reasonable doubt," in the sentencing
phase. Death cannot be imposed unless there is absolute certainty
that the person convicted, deserves to be executed. This bill
failed in the legislature once before, primarily because Illinois
prosecutors felt it would essentially end capital punishment,
and they were not about to let that happen. It was also controversial
in the abolition community. Do we push for an abolition bill
or do we let this bill possibly tighten the standards so much
that prosecutors basically give up seeking death?
The West Suburban Committee Against
Capital Punishment (WSCACP) is a local chapter of the ICADP and
we have been reaching out to legislators in our communities.
These visits are nothing new, but we recognize that we must move
beyond the handful of legislators we have safely established
Most of the new contacts have been with
Republicans to the west of our base, although one visit was to
the newly elected LaShawn Ford, a Democrat from the 8th House
District. He declared firm support for abolition and offered
to help us reach out to portions of the west side of Chicago,
where we (WSCACP) have done too little work. Representative Deborah
Graham, D-78, another abolitionist, said she would help us contact
members of the religious community on Chicago's west side. Rep.
Graham has been a consistent supporter of abolition.
The meetings with Republicans have ranged
from interesting to banal. Representative Paul Froehlich (R-56)
said he was personally opposed to execution and cited the five
consecutive front-page news stories that I mentioned earlier
as key to his position. He also said that no constituent has
ever talked with him about the death penalty, so he would not
champion abolition. On the other hand, he is willing to co-sponsor
a bill to keep the severely mentally ill from being executed.
Senator Christine Radogno (R-41) and
Representative Sandra Pihos (R-42) were non-committal. They both
expressed appreciation for the information we brought, but didn't
feel the issue was one that resonated with their voter base or
with their peers in Springfield. Rep. Pihos said she had no idea
how the legislators who sat to her left and right felt about
capital punishment. Senator Radogno said that in time, abolition
would happen, but not soon. She felt abolitionists were ahead
of our time, by perhaps fifty years.
We also met with Representative Angelo
Saviano (R-77), who has an office in the suburb of River Grove.
Rep. Saviano was unaware of the Chicago Tribune editorial.
He judged capital punishment to be a moral issue that nobody
wants to touch.
Senator Dan Cronin (R-21) of Elmhurst
is one legislator we still plan to meet.
If any New Ground reader wants
to get involved in these visits, and help make Illinois an abolition
state, please call Tom Broderick at 708 938 1546 (work) or at
708 386 6007 (home). We are trying to make sure that legislators
hear from their constituents, as this is frequently key in arranging
meetings as well as focusing votes.
compiled by Bob Roman
Election in Oak Park
In Oak Park, the Village Citizens Alliance
(VCA) was soundly beaten in the race for Village Board Trustees.
We were beaten by a ratio of between 3:1 and 4:1, coming in a
distant 2nd in a contest featuring three slates. The Venal Marauders
Association (VMA, aka Village Managers Association), the
slate bought and paid for by the developers of downtown Oak Park,
won all four seats.
The VCA slate included Gary Schwab,
a DSA Comrade. Chicago DSA endorsed his candidacy and some of
our members held a fund raising hootenanny in the home of Ron
Baiman. Our membership raised over $500.00 in individual contributions
for the campaign and several members of the Greater Oak Park
branch of DSA worked in the campaign.
We were out-spent and out-trooped. The
VMA had a run of over 50 years of constant power until the election
of 2005, when they lost every board seat they ran for. This loss
came primarily because of a back door deal with a wealthy developer
to build a high rise rental housing project in Oak Park. The
tax-payers of Oak Park subsidized this project to the tune of
at least $10 million: tax-payer money to subsidize the haves
and the have-mores.
Since that loss, there have been two
years of turmoil on the Board and the people of Oak Park are
not used to this. The local papers have made much of this divisiveness
- the result of an actually more diverse Board. During this election
cycle, the Wednesday Journal (the local village paper),
primarily through columnists, urged a return to VMA management.
The VMA responded to their historic
loss in 2005 by doing a great job of organizing and fund-raising.
They reported raising over $70,000 for this election, which is
a staggering sum of money for our Village Board elections. They
have also been investigated for not reporting where some of their
money has come from.
In the defeat speeches last night, Schwab
used the words "class war," which is not an expression
often heard in local politics. He also wrote all but one of the
position papers for the slate. These were published in the Wednesday
Journal, week after week. Jim Balanoff, another VCA candidate
also raised the issue of labor problems between Village Management
and the labor unions working for us in the Village.
The VCA platform - and only the VCA
platform - included positions on labor that our candidates agreed
to support. These included an acceptance of the arbitration process,
which Village Management routinely disregards. Instead, they
hire an outside law firm to fight arbitration: Oak Park tax dollars
used to attack an agreed upon settlement process.
The people of Oak Park - at least those
who voted - voted for a return to smooth Board operations. The
VMA promised that and the voters delivered. When the VMA operates
as usual, will the voters rise up in anger again?
My what sharp teeth you have, Grandma!
Election in Chicago
By now, you've probably read about the
Chicago municipal elections being a tremendous victory for labor:
upwards of $3,000,000 spent to elect seven new aldermen in the
50 member City Council; incumbents with years - decades, really,
of seniority defeated. Even allowing for the usual verbal diarrhea
of punditry, it was an impressive achievement. For the first
time since the 1920s, organized labor acted as an independent
actor in Chicago politics: recruiting candidates, targeting unfavorable
incumbents, and not simply acting as an auxiliary for the powers
that be. Even more impressive was the degree of consensus achieved
by the labor movement, the most notable exception (there were
a few others) being the 32nd Ward (where the Chicago DSA office
is located) where the incumbent, Ted Matlak was endorsed by the
Chicago Federation of Labor, AFSCME, and the Chicagoland Chamber
of Commerce. Matlak was very narrowly defeated in the run-off
election by Scott Waguespack, who had been endorsed by SEIU and
the Teamsters. (FYI, there were 25 candidates who shared chamber
of commerce and labor endorsements.)
I think three observations are worth
First, the labor movement was blessed
by working if not in a vacuum then in very rare air. Aside from
the individual candidates' (particularly incumbents') own organizations,
no other groups in Chicago intervened with the resources of the
labor movement. The fabled Chicago Machine is dead, mostly, having
degenerated into bank accounts; I don't believe the Cook County
Democratic Party even ventured to make endorsements this time.
Second, despite all the good work, it's
not clear to me, at least, how much of an effect labor's campaigns
had. Voter turn-out was lame. Candidate recruitment was probably
the more important effort, but even here it was possible to discern
the outlines of several proto-mayoral campaigns (aborted by Democratic
control of the U.S. House of Representatives) among the aldermanic
candidates. And local ward politics and changing demographics
often turned out to be more of a determining factor. Michael
Chandler, originally elected as Alderman of the 24th Ward by
the New Party, had all of labor's endorsements, Citizen Action,
Independent Voters of Illinois, and the Chicagoland Chamber
of Commerce, but ended up losing anyway. My own Alderman, Joe
Moore of the 49th, a poster-boy for the labor movement and the
peace movement, came within a hair of being beaten. I would suggest
to labor that some additional dollars for post-election research
might be useful.
Finally, while these campaigns may increase
the labor movement's appreciation of itself as a class, I suspect
if the movement is to build on and repeat this effort in the
next municipal election, it will depend on two things. One is
that the new City Council expedites the next round of contract
negotiations with the city; if these campaigns don't bring home
the bacon, they're hard to justify. The other is that the labor
movement doesn't become split among competing mayoral candidates,
something it was able to avoid this election as none of Daley's
opponents showed many signs of life.
Having said all these sour things, I
truly do hope that Chicago labor keeps up this level of intervention
in local politics.
Chicago DSA made no endorsements in
the Chicago elections, but we did create a web
page that listed organizational endorsements and served as
a portal to individual candidates' web sites. The page was requested
nearly 5,000 times during the four months of campaigning: not
a "hot" spot by web standards, but looked at another
way, this would amount to about 1% of the ballots cast. Bob
Health Care for All
HB 311, the "single-payer"
universal health insurance program for Illinois, received a boost
after Dr. Quentin Young and Nicholas Skala were invited by Illinois
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and Illinois House
Speaker Michael Madigan to speak to the Illinois House Democratic
Caucus. The two hour session belonged entirely to HB 311, and
resulted in LaShawn Ford signing on as a co-sponsor. HB 311 will
be assigned to a committee and hearings scheduled. This is significant
progress as this step was not inevitable.
The standard cynical speculation is
that this is Michael Madigan's way of sticking it to Governor
Blagojevich, a view made rather more credible by the progress
Blagojevich's health care plan and tax increase has made in the
Illinois Senate in contrast with the House. Or it could be Madigan's
way of throwing paint on the wall to see what sticks. Both could
Speaking of paint, the Health Care for
All Illinois coalition has announced that SEIU Illinois and SEIU
Local 73 have endorsed HB 311. Chicago DSA has also endorsed
HB 311. For more information, go to http://www.healthcareforallillinois.org
In the meantime, Blagojevich's health
care plan, SB 5, passed out of the Illinois Senate's Public Health
Committee on a straight party line vote. His Gross Receipts Tax
and education proposal, SB 1, passed the Senate's Executive Committee
with all the Republicans and one Democrat voting against it.
While Blagojevich's SB 5 is more vulnerable
to Illinois' fiscal anemia than HB 311, neither would work given
the current state of affairs. The Illinois AFL-CIO (including
SEIU Illinois) has been urging folks to call their legislators
with the message that the debate over the Gross Receipts Tax
is really a debate over health care. Just to make sure all the
players understand there are resources on the side of this argument,
they took a full page ad in the Springfield Journal-Register
I don't know about the relative merits
and demerits of SB 1, but Blagojevich's threat to veto other
solutions was probably not a wise move. Throwing paint on the
wall may not be all that great a method, but it seems preferable
to painting oneself into a corner.
The Campaign for Better Health Care
has started running TV ads in the Springfield market in support
of health care reform. They also intend to run the ad in particular
legislative districts where the legislators need to hear the
message. For more information, go to http://www.cbhconline.org
. Bob Roman
Over 150,000 people marched and rallied
for immigrant rights
on May Day in Chicago this year. Despite being smaller than
last year's May Day march, it was an impressive and inspiring
accomplishment. It was made doubly impressive by the fact Chicago
was the only city where the movement had not fragmented into
multiple marches and rallies. U.S. flags were overwhelmingly
predominant this year, bringing to mind many of the civil rights
marches in the 1960s.
A few hundred people gathered by the
Haymarket monument west of the Loop in what is now an annual
event to "reclaim May Day" for the labor movement.
The difference in size between the two events overstates, maybe
by an order of magnitude, the difference in popular support for
the ideological left versus the immigrant rights movement. There
was a distinguished program of speakers at the labor rally, and
it was surely inspirational, but one gets the feeling the labor
movement is glad to reclaim May Day in much the same way some
great-grand nephew receives a family heirloom of undetermined
value and uncertain history. It is, nonetheless, a worthy project
that may someday be fruitful.
Chicago DSA's involvement in these events
was peripheral. We were not involved in any of the planning.
We did endorse both the immigrant rights march and rallies, and
the labor rally at the Haymarket monument. We provided a targeted
postcard mailing advertising both. Not more than a day after
the post office took custody of the cards, plans for the labor
rally (driven by the changing plans for the immigrant rights
march) had changed. Bob Roman
At its 2007 shareholders' meeting mid-May,
Yum Brands confirmed that it has extended its Taco Bell agreement
with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to all five of its brands:
KFC, Pizza Hut, A&W Restaurants, and Long John Silvers. For
more information, go to http://www.ciw-online.org
Eugene V. Debs Foundation
This year the Eugene V. Debs Foundation's
annual banquet will be Saturday, October 6, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
This year the honoree will be Barbara Ehrenreich. Tickets are
not on sale yet, but they ask folks to save the date. The Eugene
V. Debs Foundation maintains the Debs' family home in Terre Haute,
Indiana, as a public museum. For more information (including
an online tour of the home), visit http://www.eugenevdebs.com