New Ground 117
March - April, 2008
117.1 - 03.17.2008
0. DSA News
DSA Labor Commission
Yes We Can: Universal Health Care Now!
Finally Getting Immigration Right
Campaign to End Slavery in the Fields Comes to DC
Troops Out Now
2. Upcoming Events of Interest
117.2 - 03.28.2008
0. DSA News
YDS Is Hiring
Yes We Can: Universal Health Care Now
Sustainable World, They All Said
Down with the Exploitation King!
Make Oil a Public Utility
New Labor Alliance
2. Upcoming Events of Interest
117.3 - 04.21.2008
0. DSA News
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
DSA Labor Network Statement
Greater Oak Park DSA Meeting
End Boeing Torture Flights
May Labor Fora
2. Democratic Socialism
Another Perspective on the Culture
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
117.4 - 05.05.2008
0. DSA News
Chicago DSA Membership Meeting
The Red Letter
CNA v SEIU v CNA v SEIU v ...
No War on Iran
Catch the Flame
2. Democratic Socialism
Capitalism, Socialism, and Work
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
2008: the Terrain and the Issues
by Bill Barclay
The Candidates One way of thinking about the political terrain
that progressives face in 2008 is through the biographies of
the three remaining presidential candidates their inclinations,
their strengths and weaknesses. Taking this approach is not to
advocate the great (wo)man theory of history but simply to a
useful device for thinking about tactics and strategy.
Starting with the likely Republican
nominee, John McCain, we see an individual who, although his
biography might suggest otherwise, was not shaped by the Vietnam
War in the way that most who lived through that era were. McCain
was a Navy bomber pilot during the early phases of the war and
had no experience in fighting on the ground in Vietnam. He was
shot down in 1967 and remained a prisoner of war until 1972.
Thus he experienced neither the growing anti-war sentiment nor
actions of the US populace nor the debilitating effect of the
ground war against a guerrilla army. He also, of course, comes
from military family: both his father and grandfather were senior
naval officers. His biography and his Vietnam experience make
him inclined to continue the Iraq War until "victory"
Hillary Clinton's persona was partially
formed during the 1960s but shaped even more profoundly by the
experience of husband's presidency. The right-wing attack machine
grew and matured during the Clinton years, resulting in both
an effective media presence and a disciplined Republican party
at the national level, more along the lines of British parties
than the loose formations that characterized the US during most
of the post World War II decades. The Clintons received the brunt
of the attacks, partly for what they did or didn't do but mostly
because they were there, the national representative of the Democratic
Party. One result of this is a battle-scarred, hunker-down mentality
on Clinton's part, including a strong reluctance to admit any
mistakes such as voting for the Iraq War. Equally important,
and a measure of the success of the right-wing attack machine,
she carries very high negatives that seem undiminished to date
in the presidential campaign.
Barack Obama's biography was not written
on the national political stage. As a result, his image and persona
in the minds of the electorate is the least defined, something
that has worked to his advantage to date in the campaign. Obama's
defining characteristic is youthfulness, a generational shift
that for many voters represents the possibility of alternative
futures that may break the mold of US politics that has dominated
the Clinton and the (latter) Bush years. This perception is,
at least in part, the impetus for the large turnouts that Obama
draws and for the pattern of a shift by Democratic voters from
an initial inclination towards Clinton to support for Obama as
actual primary dates approach and they learn more about him.
For progressives who have wondered for years where the "missing"
cohorts were (most of our meetings have the over 55 crowd and
a sprinkling of under 25s) here is the answer. Obama has mobilized
the 20 to 45 year olds in a way that no one else has in recent
memory. A large number of people who are repulsed by much of
the Bush administration's policies and political culture but
who have been passive are now entering the political arena. For
most, Obama is their chosen vessel, although Clinton mobilizes
some also. Like all such vessels he is an imperfect one and,
of course, not the one we would have chosen but nobody
There is, of course, the question of
whether the mobilization that Obama's campaign has managed to
date can be continued to the election. But of greater significance
is where, over the long run, their entry into politics takes
this new cohort and where they themselves direct it. While some
will undoubtedly drop away, many will find their lives transformed
by the experience of political participation and will continue
their involvement. The mobilization is real and offers a real
opportunity. What can we progressives make of it?
The Issues and the Campaign The biographies of the candidates intersect
with and help define the issues on which each party seeks to
fight the 2008 presidential election. It is clear that the GOP
wants to fight the campaign around the issue of 9/11 and terrorism,
leaving the War in the background. Bush will do his best to define
this context by:
(i) getting and keeping the War off
the front pages (the "Surge has worked," which
may well have been the goal all along); and
(ii) developing high visibility prosecutions of Guantanamo prisoners.
The administration has already begun
building the latter case, charging the detainees with war crimes
and seeking the death penalty. As the Pentagon's General Counsel,
William Haynes, put it, "we can't have acquittals If we've
been holding these guys for so long, we've got to have convictions."
This strategy plays to McCain's strengths
and his instincts. The risk for him, however, is that the War
gets back on the front pages because the facts on the ground
shift. Such a change may occur either because the insurgents
reemerge with more cooperation among the different factions,
because the long anticipated deterioration of US troops occurs
due to lengthy tours of duty, or because the situation in Afghanistan
deteriorates further. McCain will have some trouble with the
Christian fundamentalist right, but, come election day, they
will vote for him who else do they have? Whether there
will be enough disaffection that turnout from this segment of
the population is somewhat lower than in the last few elections
remains to be seen.
The strategy for the Democratic nominee,
either Clinton or Obama, is less clear. Edwards' exit from the
race allows the remaining two contenders to adopt the pundits'
favorite advice of "moving to the center." While at
first glance such a shift may seem adverse to progressives' hopes
for this election, the reality may be less of a threat. Where
is the center in today's US political terrain? On at least three
key issues, the center is where the left staked out positions
not long ago. Large majorities believe that:
(i) something substantive should be
done about global warming;
(ii) the Iraq War was a mistake and troops should be brought
home as fast as feasible -- the Republican claims of progress
may actually strengthen the case for bringing the troops home;
(iii) a national health care plan is necessary, even if the particulars
are unclear to many.
One other issue may end up overwhelming
any of the above: the possibility of a significant downturn in
the economy. The "stimulus package" agreed to by Congress
and Bush will have little if any impact. The Fed is already worried
about inflation and that worry will make them more hesitant on
further rate cuts. Housing foreclosures are growing rapidly.
Although today there is limited sympathy for people who are seen
as taking on more risk than they should and generally making
bad financial decisions, that opinion may change as more people
are pushed out of their homes and a contraction in consumer spending
drives the downturn. Normally an economic crisis such as this
should be to the advantage of the Democratic candidates, especially
since McCain has confessed to know little about economics. (He
has assured us that he will remedy that lack by reading Alan
Greenspan's book.) Of course, neither Clinton nor Obama have
established much of a record on economic policy, and both candidates
have economic advisors from the earlier Clinton administration,
so there are significant opportunities and risks here.
What Should Progressives
Do? First and foremost, we should
welcome the entry into the political arena of those mobilized
by "the Obama Phenomena." This generational shift holds
the future of U.S. politics in its hands. Welcoming means working
with them, not standing on the sidelines telling them of Obama's
faults; the right-wing attack machine can do that very well and
needs no help from us.
Second, we must do all in our power
to continue the shift away from the GOP that began in the 2006
elections. Pushing this shift does not mean enrolling in the
Obama (or Clinton) campaign, although there is a role for those
who want to do so. It does mean working to expand the electorate,
particularly by adding voters are the young end. These young
voters and potential voters are overwhelmingly against the War,
do not have the same obsession with issue such as gay marriage
that their elders often do, are concerned even terrified
about the threat of global warming, and are worried about
their future in terms of health care and retirement. Further,
the numbers of these new voters identifying themselves as Democrats
or independents overwhelm the numbers who identify themselves
Thirdly, we have to insist that there
is a significant difference (and a difference that will make
a difference) between the two parties today. Unlike the time
when George Wallace, running as a third party candidate, could
claim there was not "a dime's worth of difference"
between the Republicans and the Democrats, studies of voting
patterns and ideological commitments show the smallest amount
of overlap between Democratic and Republican House and Senate
members in more than two generations. Put another way, there
is a real difference between a party that is in denial about
global warming, seeks to turn social security into a private
insurance scam, is against a national health plan unless it can
be accomplished by tax cuts, would continue to place obstacles
in the path of workplace organizing, and wants more Supreme Court
Justices on the Scalia and Roberts model on the one hand, and
the alternative, whether the banner is that of Obama or Clinton
at the national level.
And, of course there is one more task
for progressives in this election: to maintain an organizational
independence from either party. Whether we participate in the
electoral work at the national, state or district level, our
organizations must continue to have their own life and dynamics.
Thus if a Peace and Justice organization or a community group
or a DSA or a Progressive Democrats of America chapter works
in an electoral campaign, the work should be done as the group
or the chapter, not as a set of atomized individuals absorbed
into the party apparatus. This independence is crucial not just
to demonstrate the contribution that we make to an electoral
campaign but also because, when the voting is over and the term
of office begins, we must be prepared to pressure those elected
to live up to their rhetoric and promises. Such post-election
pressure requires an independent basis for mobilizing for our
Editor's Note: Bill Barclay is a
charter member of DSA out of the New American Movement, an Oak
Park activist who represents the Greater Oak Park Branch on the
Chicago DSA Executive Committee.
Punishment Is Percolating in Illinois
by Tom Broderick
As I write this, it's been nearly nine
years since the State of Illinois carried out its last execution.
Just over five years ago, former Governor George Ryan commuted
the death sentences of one hundred sixty seven human beings.
It was an historic event. To give this perspective: Oklahoma
Governor Lee Cruce spared the lives of 22 in 1915; Arkansas Governor
Winthrop Rockefeller spared the lives of 15 in 1970 and New Mexico
Governor Tony Anaya spared the lives of five in 1986. Governor
Ryan spared more than four times the combined total of these
other three mass commutations.
Abolitionists in Illinois and elsewhere
took part in lusty celebration. And then we stalled. We couldn't
use this sweeping victory to bring about abolition.
But, capital punishment is percolating
Anita Alvarez is the Democratic Party candidate for Cook
County State's Attorney. She wants our Legislature to deal with
capital punishment. Originally, she suggested a referendum appear
on the ballot so that the public could give direction. However,
ballot referenda are non-binding, so she now says it makes more
sense for the Legislators to take up the issue. This is a call
echoed by many: The Chicago Council of Lawyers, the Illinois
State Bar Association and the Chicago Sun-Times among
Given the inability of our Legislature
to recognize that we have a criminal justice system that is more
criminal than just, I see small chance of this body taking any
significant action. This doesn't mean that we stop fighting.
The tide is turning. Newspapers across the country (even in Dallas,
Texas) are calling for abolition. The New Jersey state Legislature
recently abolished the death penalty. The first state to do so
since the U.S. started killing again.
Several states have put a hold on execution.
The U.S. Supreme Court is looking at whether the lethal injection
system we use is cruel, and therefore unconstitutional. The same
system that we use to kill humans has been outlawed in the killing
of animals because it is considered cruel. Of course, in the
United States of America, we enacted laws to protect animals
from working under cruel conditions before we enacted laws to
protect children from the same fate.
During the primary run, I spoke with
Ms. Alvarez' campaign manager, Dan Kirk on the issue of the death
penalty and the current moratorium on execution. Mr. Kirk told
me that Ms. Alvarez supports the death penalty as "appropriate
for certain heinous crimes." On the other hand, she understands
that there are problems with the system that have yet to be rectified,
so she supports the moratorium.
Since the reinstatement of the death
penalty in the mid 1970's, eighteen people in Illinois have been
condemned to death and then found innocent and released. There
are likely others who have been less fortunate. It's amazing
to hear a public prosecutor admit value in putting a hold on
extermination. It has always seemed to me that the slightest
possibility of executing an innocent person should rally all
~ even the most tough on crime ~ to end this cruelty. Taking
a human life is a cruel and an unusual act, period. Exterminating
in the name of justice is a heinous crime.
Yet DuPage County State's
Attorney Joseph Birkett wants
Governor Rod Blagojevich to end the moratorium on executions.
He claims it is unfair to have capital punishment without following
through with executions. Joining him is State Representative
Dennis Reboletti (R Elmhurst), who has introduced a House
resolution to resume executions. No doubt they are impressed
with the Iraqi approach: sentence and exterminate within 30 days.
In this country, we have condemned people to death only to have
them proved innocent 30 years after they have been condemned.
Thirty days? Thirty Years? Haste? Justice?
Birkett's wish to ramp up the execution
process may well be a product of his mishandling of the Jeanine
Nicarico murder. Initially Rolando Cruz and Alex Hernandez were
condemned as the murderers. They were found innocent after spending
several years on death row. Brian Dugan has been a suspect for
twenty years. He has repeatedly offered to plead guilty for the
murder in exchange for not facing execution. Instead, Birkett
wants to go for death. This is a costly and senseless abuse of
official power. The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
cites estimates of up to $10 million in costs for Birkett's desire.
If Cruz and Hernandez had been quickly
put to death, the case would be closed and there would be no
question of guilt. Dugan who? The Nicarico case? Once the condemned
are killed in the middle of the night, justice is served. Birkett
would not be responsible for murdering the innocent because we
execute justice, not human beings. If Cruz and Hernandez had
been quickly put to death, there would be no question of prosecutorial
ineptitude or misconduct either.
Former Governor George Ryan appointed
a blue ribbon panel to investigate capital punishment in Illinois.
After two years of research, the panel submitted a report that
called for approximately 100 reforms to improve the system. In
closing their report they declared that even if all reforms were
enacted, there would be no guarantee that an innocent person
would not be executed.
Our Legislators enacted about twenty
percent of the committee's suggested reforms. Birkett's call
for resuming executions not-withstanding, there is no proof that
even these few reforms we have enacted have made any difference
in terms of justice. In fact, the refusal by our Legislators
to confront the flawed and biased nature of our capital punishment
system was key to the Chicago Tribune's editorial decision
to call for abolition: "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." Can anybody with
a conscience call this abomination justice?
We now have a new abolition
(?) movement in Illinois:
Abolition in Illinois Movement (AIM).
AIM is pushing the idea that the cost of capital punishment outstrips
its benefit. On the surface, I can only agree. However, AIM is
promoting Life Without Parole (LWOP) as the natural option to
extermination. AIM is also looking to expand the number of crimes
that would make one eligible for mandatory LWOP.
We have a race and class biased justice
system, which means our system is flawed. It is also myopically
focused on retribution. Those convicted need to suffer. Restorative
justice is not a part of the discussion.
I am also concerned that an expansion
of LWOP-designated crimes would put more juveniles at risk of
being sentenced to our penal system for life. Some juveniles
commit horrific crimes, but condemning people this young to a
caged life is also horrific. I am an atheist, but this is clearly
hell's answer to humanity.
AIM does not represent the abolition
movement that I am part of. There are people who cannot be allowed
to live and walk among us. This is unfortunate, but true. However,
expanding LWOP is not a humane remedy to the injustice of execution.
When we condemn someone to death or
to LWOP, we have essentially said we don't believe this thing
has any humanity. Cage it forever or kill it. The truth is that
thing is still human. No matter what that thing did, it is still
human. He or she is still one of us.
If we had a society that treated people
with dignity and respect from cradle to grave, there might be
some merit in discussing whether or not snuffing human beings
was just. And I'm not sure of even that. But we don't have anything
remotely resembling such a culture. We live in a society that
devalues life, that is racist, class biased, and sexist. The
facts around women being sentenced to death revolve heavily around
Back to AIM: If cost is the issue then
putting more people in prison for the rest of their lives is
questionable. As humans age, in or out of the penal system, the
need for and cost of health care increases. It is estimated that
the health care costs for elderly prisoners is three times that
of younger prisoners. If AIM has addressed this, I missed it.
And I don't have the time to get into the quality of health care
administered in our penal institutions.
Representative Tom Cross, R-84,
may re-introduce his "NoDoubt" bill. This is supposed
to narrow the application of capital punishment. Currently we
have a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. The "NoDoubt"
bill is supposed to limit capital punishment to only those who
are clearly guilty and clearly deserving of execution.
When this bill was previously floated
it was divisive on both sides of the argument. Then our State
Prosecutors came out solidly against the bill. Their concern
seemed to be that such a standard would effectively prohibit
success in capital cases.
In a recent phone conversation with
Rep. Cross, he said he wasn't sure about re-introducing the bill.
He didn't want to introduce it as some kind of exercise. The
first time around, the bill passed the House. After the fuss
made by the prosecutors, particularly the retiring Cook County
State's Attorney, Dick Devine and the previously mentioned Birkett,
the Senate chose to let the bill die through procedural inaction.
Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICADP) is about
to issue its yearly report on the death penalty. This report
is the premier source on information on the death penalty in
Illinois. ICADP follows the use of capital punishment throughout
the state. This information is compiled in the report, which
among other things, is delivered to each and every State Legislator
in Illinois. Then key Legislators are targeted for personal meetings.
The ICADP report presents death penalty
developments and trends in Illinois, across the nation and even
internationally. The United Nations General Assembly voted 105
to 54 with 29 abstentions to adopt a moratorium on the death
penalty. The United States was one of the 54 "no" votes.
The report looks at statewide use of
the death penalty, the crisis of police accountability and the
risk of wrongful convictions. It presents death penalty reform
in Illinois for the past year. This is one of the shorter sections
of the report. "Key reforms in the areas of arbitrariness
were again ignored, notwithstanding the disturbing patterns in
capital cases documented in each ICADP report since 2003."
There is also section on the cost of
the death penalty: remember the possible $10 million price tag
that Birkett may stick the state with in his desire to prosecute
a defendant who would plead guilty in exchange for a sentence
that let him live.
The report finds that "the record
of the continuing failure of the Illinois capital punishment
system is clear. Public officials have had the opportunity to
enact comprehensive recommendations for reform for over five
years, and have failed to do so. The combination of a failed
system and a failed reform effort requires the General Assembly
to confront the need to eliminate the death penalty."
Finally, I want to mention that
in the recent primary, there were six Democratic Party candidates
seeking the office of Cook County State's Attorney. Three supported
abolition of the death penalty: Tommy Brewer, Howard Brookins
and Larry Suffredin. Now this gives me hope.
Editor's Note: Tom Broderick is a
"single co-chair" of Chicago DSA's Executive Committee
and Co-chair of the Greater Oak Park Branch. The ICADP's annual
report is (or will be) posted on their web site: http://www.icadp.org
by Bob Roman
Supporters of county health care services
(and supporters of county government in general) had some reasons
to celebrate on March first after the Cook County Board, very
much at the last minute and by the skin of their teeth, passed
a "balanced" budget that preserves County services,
including health care. Better still, from the perspective of
the Emergency Network to Save Cook County Health Services, was
the passage of an ordinance that essentially puts the county's
Bureau of Health Services into receivership. The ordinance passed
is largely the ordinance proposed by the Network except for one
major pill embedded in the dog food. The original legislation
proposed a board formed entirely independently of County government
by representatives from a list of stakeholder organizations.
As passed, representatives from a select list of "stakeholder"
organizations will meet to nominate candidates for the independent
board. From that list of 20 candidates, Todd Stroger (as County
President) will select 9 board members. This board will be expected
to reorganize the Bureau into a reasonably efficient organization,
including setting up a billing system that will allow for greater
reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. After three years,
unless the County Board decides otherwise, management of the
Bureau will return to the County Board.
The reform ordinance was a way of taking
health services out of the stalemate between those wanted to
raise taxes and were defensive regarding management and those
who, out of opportunism or out of middle class outrage or out
of a hidden libertarian agenda, felt no tax increase was necessary
but a lot of "fat cutting" was.
The Emergency Network to Save Cook County
Health Services was formed early last year with the blessings
and support of AFSCME and SEIU when it became obvious that Cook
County was headed for a fiscal crash landing with health services
being one of the biggest casualties. Chicago DSA signed on in
October. Based at Citizen Action/Illinois, it did a great deal
of the coalition building necessary for this victory. Some of
the members do not love some of the others though apparently
they worked together well enough while facing the crisis. Afterwards,
the self-congratulations often did not credit others in the effort.
A great deal of credit also belongs
to Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon. By some
accounts, his shuttle diplomacy at the climax pretty much clinched
the deal between County President Todd Stroger, liberal board
member and swing vote Larry Suffredin, and some of the other
stakeholders. The tax increases were no larger than immediately
necessary and the health services reform ordinance was largely
what the Network had proposed albeit possibly less "independent."
Taxes were the big story for the mainstream
media. This increase will make the sales tax in Chicago the highest
in the nation. In addition to being regressive, it will likely
discourage commerce compared to the suburbs. But this is only
a small part of the story. The sales tax increase is estimated
to be worth $400 million in additional revenue per year but only
brings $74 million (the increase happens just in time for Christmas
shopping) against the estimated $234 million deficit this year.
The rest of this year's deficit is being made up by the anticipated
surplus next year. But according to the Center for Tax and Budget
Accountability, Cook County's revenue problems are primarily
structural. The taxes the County has available to it will not
cover the anticipated increases in expenses. If this year's deficit
was about $200 million, next year's will likely be about $400
million. The problem is resolved for this year, and with management
efficiencies maybe next year, but feces will be airborne again
In this context, a possibly independent
and professional board may be a risky victory. Stroger is certainly
sensitive to the issues of services and good jobs in "The
Community." Cynics will sneer, with more than a little justification,
"patronage" instead. Yet most patronage these days
is not in the form of jobs but in the form of contracts. Politics
is nowhere near as labor-intensive as it once was; money counts
for more. If County finances become impossible, what better armor
for a politician's hind end than an independent board to make
nasty decisions like privatization or massive cuts?
The other part of the tax story, though,
is the money not being collected. Some of this is part
of the current left critique: the ubiquitous Tax Increment Financing
districts that skim increases in property tax revenue to opaque
and unaccountable local projects. But with regard to property
taxes, there is always a considerable pool of other money that
is not being collected. Tax bills that are being appealed, bills
that are being contested in court, bills that are being settled
for change on the dollar, bills that won't ever be paid. Likewise,
the sales tax is also evaded. How many dollars are missing? It
can amount to more money than you might expect, but that's a
subject for another story.
MAY - JUNE 1968
April 5, Saturday,
New World Resource
Center, 1300 N Western, Chicago
Löwy, Joanna Misnik, William A. Pelz
Forty years ago, poetry ruled the streets.
The uprising of May 1968, during which tanks rolled onto the
streets of Paris, was not just a radically defining moment in
French history. The revolt by workers and students became a model
of how to successfully challenge capitalist power and culture.
Tens of thousands of students and 10 million striking workers
(roughly half of the working population) took to the streets
and shut down the country. Protesters behind barricades battled
police whose tear gas and grenades could not stop the insurgency.
Without airplanes, transport, gas, or telephone lines, ordinary
life was at a standstill. The French government almost fell as
President De Gaulle fled to West Germany, and those who thought
revolution was not possible in the prosperous West were shocked
as the impossible emerged on the streets.
More than a student revolt, May-June 1968
was a unity among generations of people who achieved consciousness
together, forging one of the biggest general strikes in history
and a massive wave of popular factory and university occupations
that made it impossible for the French government to intervene.
Old and young workers struck for a 40-hour week with no reduction
in wages, old-age pensions at 60 for men and 55 for women, a
fifth week of paid holidays for young workers, and expanded trade
union rights. A militant women's movement won the struggle for
national nursery care, improvements at all levels of education,
and the right to abortion. Throughout France action committees
controlled by workers, professionals and students administered
production and distribution of vital goods and services. All
aspects of culture were transformed under democratic control
of artists and intellectuals. Indeed, for almost 90 days the
entire mode of existence in all its social manifestations came
Join us as we examine this remarkable chapter
of 20th century history, and reflect on how May-June 1968 has
influenced contemporary social justice movements in Chicago and
around the world.
born in Brazil, has lived in France since the 1960s. He is emeritus
research director in sociology at the National Center for Scientific
Research (CNRS) in Paris. He is a prolific author of many books
in several languages.
was expelled from France for her trade union activism and for
her participation in the Marxist tendency led by Ernest Mandel.
A life-long anti-war and union militant, she worked on the Jesse
Jackson 1984 presidential campaign and is a member of SEIU Local
Dr. William A. Pelz is an historian of European history and an activist.
This event is co-sponsored by Open
University of the Left , the Chicago
Socialist Party , Solidarity-Chicago Chapter, Chicago DSA
and the New
World Resource Center .
by Bob Roman
Back in 1879, Herman Presser was busted
for leading, down the streets of Chicago, a parade of armed men
from the Instruct and Defend Association. He had no permit for
the parade nor had the Association any license from Illinois
to function as a militia. Loosely affiliated with the Socialist
Labor Party (which eventually forbade joint membership), this
militia had been active in Chicago since 1874 as a counter-threat
to armed private employer security forces that were frequently
used to "discourage", by any means necessary, strikes
and strikers and unions in general. Something of an anarchist,
Presser nonetheless appealed his conviction to the U.S. Supreme
Court, arguing that his (and the Association's) rights under
the 2nd Amendment had been violated. The Court, no surprise especially
as it was 1886 just after Haymarket, decided Illinois and the
other states had every right to regulate private militias.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. The
infamous private mercenary army, Blackwater, has invaded Illinois,
establishing a training facility in northwestern Illinois' Jo
Daviess County. Local citizens, mindful the loose gun play and
casual disregard for human rights documented in connection with
Blackwater and other "private security firms" react
by forming Clearwater. The group has the immediate aim of forcing
out a bad neighbor, but its overall mission is "to preserve
the public nature and civilian control" of the military
and of the police. More information about Clearwater can be found
With the active support of Clearwater,
Illinois State Representative Julie Hamos (Democrat from Evanston)
has introduced HB 5700, a bill that regulates such private security
firms as Blackwater. A synopsis of the bill describes it as:
"Creates the Limitations on Private
Military Contractors Act. Provides that no State funds shall
be used to contract with or purchase services from any private
military contractor or related security or law enforcement training
entity for training of law enforcement officers or security guards;
no military weapons or explosives may be used by private military
contractors or related security or law enforcement training operations,
except on secured U.S. military bases, other established government-regulated
facilities, or government-related facilities designed for that
purpose; and, in the event of any natural disaster, civil disorder,
labor dispute, or terrorist attack, no personnel trained by any
private military contractor shall be used, employed, or contracted
with to patrol, guard, control, contain, or arrest any Illinois
resident or citizen nor to provide any type of security services
of any kind during such emergencies. Effective immediately."
As New Ground goes to press,
HB 5700 had been assigned to the House Homeland Security &
Emergency Preparedness Committee and a hearing on this and two
other items of legislation had been scheduled for March 13 in
Springfield. In order for the legislation to go anywhere, members
of the Illinois House of Representatives need to hear from you:
members of the Committee in particular but not at all exclusively.
What the bill needs now is cosponsors. So in addition to asking
your representative to support the bill, ask your representative
to become a co-sponsor.
For more information on the campaign,
contact Mary Shesgreen at 847.742.1406.
compiled by Bob Roman
Yes We Can:
Universal Health Care Now!
The 50th Annual Debs - Thomas - Harrington
Dinner welcomes Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of
the California Nurses Association
/ National Nurses Organizing Committee and AFL-CIO Executive
Committee member, as our featured speaker. With Rose Ann DeMoro
we have someone well qualified to speak, and speak well and forcefully,
on the nation's need for a national and universal health care
This year, we are privileged be honoring:
- · Les Orear, President
Emeritus (and founder) of the Illinois
Labor History Society ;
- · Dr. Mardge Cohen, Medical
Director of Women's Equity
in Access to Care and Treatment and long-time Chicago-area
advocate of universal health care; and
- · Laurie Burgess, stellar
labor lawyer and partner in the firm Jacobs, Burns, Orlove, Stanton,
This year's Dinner will be a bit earlier
than usual, Friday evening, April 25. And it will be at
a new location: the Crowne
Plaza - Chicago Metro at Madison and Halsted in Chicago.
For more information call 773.384.0327 or go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2008
To order tickets or to place an ad in
the Dinner Program Book, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2008/flyer50.pdf
See you on April 25th!
An End to Slavery in the Fields
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)
is launching a national petition drive calling on Burger King
and other food industry leaders to work with the CIW to:
- improve the wages and working conditions
of the men and women who harvest their tomatoes, and
- support an industry-wide effort to
end human rights violations and modern-day slavery in all of
The petitions will serve as notice that
those who sign are "prepared to stop patronizing Burger
King now, and other food industry leaders in the future, should
they fail to do so." The campaign comes on the 200th anniversary
of the US ban against the importation of slaves, and echoes key
strategies of the early abolitionist movement that helped hasten
the end of slavery in the 19th century. To learn more, go to
In Chicago, members of the Chicago Communities
for Fair Food have made presentations at some local schools.
Members of Greater Oak Park DSA have tabled at some local churches.
And we've begun (with the warmer weather) to leaflet a few Burger
King stores. If you'd like to join in, give the Chicago DSA office
a call at 773.384.0327 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a Heart Resurrection
On Saturday evening, March 1st at the
Chicago Hilton and Towers on South Michigan Avenue, Resurrection
had its annual "Monarch Ball" to raise funds for charity
care. It's a worthy enterprise, except that Resurrection Health
Care needs to start at home with its charity; it has consistently
opposed efforts by its staff and by the community it avows to
serve to improve care and to improve working conditions. So some
hundred or so members of HEART/AFSCME
and friends (including a few DSA members) were present to ask
Resurrection Health Care to have a heart, to cease opposing union
organizing efforts and to abide by community benefit agreements.
This comes on the heels of the National Labor Relations Board
issuing an unfair labor practice complaint against West Suburban
Medical Center (a Resurrection operation) for using an "overly
broad rule which prohibits employees from speaking to coworkers
about concerns affecting conditions of employment and which discriminatorily
singles out union supporters." A hearing on the complaint
was scheduled for March 12.
It was a decidedly chilly Saturday evening
on March first, and the police attempted to make it colder by
insisting the demonstration be on the other side of Michigan
Avenue, in the park. Here's one way to avoid a lousy police order.
Tracey Abman was the picket captain. She's also a handsome woman
with a fine and engaging smile. When we got the order to move,
she asked to speak to the officer in charge, by name. While they
had a long and animated and smiling discussion, the rest of us
formed up a picket line, small at first but it grew rapidly as
more folks arrived. By the time the conversation was over (it
took a while), moving this otherwise peaceable crowd across the
street would have been a major pain in the butt. The line stayed.
Quentin Young to be Honored
Protestants for the Common Good will
be presenting DSA member Dr. Quentin Young with its William Sloan
Coffin Award for Justice and Peace on Sunday, April 6th. This
will take place at the organization's annual dinner that is being
held at the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th
St in Chicago. The program includes a 5:30 PM reception and 6:30
PM dinner and program. Tickets are $150 and they'd appreciate
having your reservation by March 28. You can do this online at
or by calling 312.223.9544x23.
This is interesting if you're an extreme
right-wing ideologue of if you're a DSA member. It probably doesn't
mean much for mainstream politics. Right-wing bloggers have discovered
Chicago DSA's 1996 endorsement of Obama for the Illinois State
Senate and Obama's
participation that same year in a University of Chicago Young
Democratic Socialists townhall meeting on "Economic Insecurity".
This news started in New Zealand (it is the world wide
web indeed) where a local libertarian has been obsessing over
Chicago DSA's links to mainstream Chicago politics. The news
gradually (by web standards) spread to right-wing blogs here
in the States. It even managed to pop up in a few conservative
mainstream venues. More recently, the conservative Accuracy In
Media combined this with some juicy Communist Party associations
(communist mentor unmasked!) and threw it out as an example of
how the news media has a liberal bias for not reporting the story.
Of course, many right-wingers had been
convinced Obama is a "socialist" already. If you're
wondering why, it's mostly because the term "socialist"
for these folks has about as much content as "fascist"
does for many lefties; it's an insult not a description. So the
news from New Zealand was greeted with an "Aha" by
these folks more than anything else.
Much of this noise sounds pretty nice
to lefty ears; you can't buy this kind of publicity. But as it's
all been on right-wing sites, not too many folks bother to follow
up on the links, even when they were provided.
On the other hand, this ten day wonder
had been pretty much ignored by the left. Until recently when
In These Times ran a story warning of the eventual "Red-Boating"
of Obama should he win the Democrat's nomination for President.
They probably have it wrong. For influencing more than a handful
of voters, the story has no legs. But because DSA and "socialism"
generally has become a hate object among the sort of folks who
blow-up Federal office buildings and reproductive health clinics
(or would like to), the eventual implications for Barack Obama
(and for the country) may be far more serious.
As New Ground goes to press,
the boards of SEIU Locals 4, 20, and 880 have voted to merge,
forming "one big healthcare union," so to speak, in
Illinois and Indiana. This is part of yet another round reorganizations
and mergers within the Service Employees International Union.
You could think of this ongoing process as Andy Stern's version
of the Cultural Revolution, and it's proving to be about as controversial
within the larger labor movement and in some places within SEIU.
Not here. This merger is subject to ratification by the membership,
however the only uncertainty is how many members will vote.
SEIU Local 4 represents workers in nursing
homes: certified nurse's assistants, rehabilitation aides, housekeeping
and dietary workers. SEIU Local 20 represents workers in hospitals
in a variety of positions, including some physicians. SEIU Local
880 began life as an independent union, a project of Illinois
ACORN that later affiliated with SEIU. It represents home care
workers and day care workers. Some 70,000 of the 90,000 members
of the new "SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana"
will come from Local 880.
The hope is that the larger organization
will more efficiently and forcefully represent the interests
of the membership. And that the savings from the economies of
scale can be applied toward organizing.