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New Ground 130

May - June, 2010

Contents

  • The Congress Hotel Strike: 7 Years of Infamy
  • Capitalism: a Love Story: a Review by Bill Barclay
  • Bring America Home: the 52nd Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner by Bob Roman
  • A Century+ of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles International Conference by Bill Pelz
  • Religion and Socialism Commission by Rev. Gene Birmingham
  • Panther Action: Gray Panthers Offer a New Outlet for Activism in Chicago by Giudi Weiss
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • DSA at the U.S. Social Forum
    Jobs Coalition Forms in Western Suburbs
    Jobs and Financial Reform
    Chicago Political Economy Group
    Coalition to Save Community Banking Meeting and Rally
    ICADP Annual Meeting
    Socialist International Council Meets
    Union Busting is a Mortal Sin

    New Ground 130.1 -- 06.01.2010

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention

    1. Politics

    Who Wins, Who Loses in the TIF Game
    Crime Wave
    Budget Woes

    2. Democratic Socialism

    To the Final Conflict

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 130.2 -- 06.16.2010

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    DSA at the U.S. Social Forum

    1. Politics

    Stacking the Deck Against an Oak Park Living Wage
    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
    Congress Hotel Strike
    Wal-Mart Offensive
    by Bob Roman
    Illinois Legislative Round-Up
    A New New Deal: Labor's Role in the Obama Era

    2. Ars Politica

    America Relates to the World by Hugh Iglarsh

    3. Democratic Socialism

    The Bright Side of Social Europe

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 130.3 -- 07.01.2010

    0. DSA News

    Young Democratic Socialists Summer Conference
    Socialist International Council Meeting

    1. Politics

    Oak Park Living Wage
    Airport Workers Seek Living Wage
    by Jack Metzgar
    Wal-Mart Rampant by Bob Roman
    America Arfs and Goes Home by Tom Broderick

    2. Ars Politica

    Godiva's Only a Chocolate

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    The Congress Hotel Strike: 7 Years of Infamy

     Slim at the Congress Hotel

    Photo by John Scott

    Be there: Monday, June 14, 4 PM to 6 PM, @ 520 S. Michigan, Chicago

    At what has become an annual event, the striking workers of the Congress Hotel will be demonstrating in favor of immigration reform as well as protesting management obstinance. Join them, Chicago's labor and liberal and religious and leftist communities, and Chicago DSA and "Slim" the skelton in demanding an end to this impasse. See www.PresidentPicketsCongress.org for more information. Be there or be square!


    Capitalism: a Love Story: a Review

    by Bill Barclay

    The first question that might be asked about Michael Moore's movie is, why the subtitle? After all, it is clear early on that Moore does not love capitalism. When I asked the audience this question at our showing of the film in Oak Park, there were several answers; but most pointed to what I think is Moore's intent. In the initial bloom of romance we don't see our love's faults and failings, whether these be merely the foibles that all of us have and our love learns to live with, even feel affection for, or something more fundamental that may doom the relationship.

    In answering the question, Moore asks us to step back to an earlier era, the 1950s and early 1960s, part of what many have called the "golden age" of capitalism. He shows us how we felt about the promises and seducements offered by system (Moore does not use this term). Anita Bryant sings about "a new day." In 1958 Flint, Michigan, has a parade to celebrate GM's 50th anniversary (GM did not attend the 100th anniversary event in 2008). And we are urged to "see the USA in [our] Chevrolet." Yes, these were the times when our love was fresh and the future glowing. Moore does remind us that not all was perfect -- a scene of fire hoses being used on demonstrators opposing segregation and bombs dropping on a foreign land -- but these quickly flashed images probably embody the amount of attention that many gave to them at the time.

    The rest of Moore's film is the tracing out of the faults and failings in the system we thought we loved. By the end of the film no one can be in doubt that Moore believes this relationship cannot be saved -- at least not without some major changes. What those changes might be is perhaps less clear, a point to which I will return.

    Capitalism is the latest in a series of Moore movies with clearly progressive politics. It is also certainly the most ambitious and difficult because while, as Moore says, capitalism is not a form of government, it is more than a system. Here I think Moore has missed something. He also says that capitalism is not a religion. However, if one's religion is one's core values and these core values are shared with others such that there are bonds between the many; capitalism it seems to me qualifies. In reality, capitalism has done much to reshape what we usually think of as religion with the prosperity gospel, epitomized in "name it and claim it," spreading into much of formal Christianity.

    And what is the promise of this religion? Capitalism claims to offer individual freedom on a grand scale, the liberty for any individual to achieve whatever s/he seeks if s/he is good enough. Therefore the reasons for failure or even simply mid-level success lie in the individual, not in any larger institutional structure. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher articulated the essence of this belief system when she said, "There is no such thing as society."

    And it is this belief system that is Moore's target in the film. A system is, of course, much more difficult to define and call into question than a particular issue such as Moore did with health care in Sicko. Thus much of the film is Moore taking us on a tour of what he finds the most egregious failings of our loved one. Of course he returns to Flint and the auto industry. But now we see the town through the eyes of finance, we watch the creation of romantic illusions through the use of debt and then the collapse of these illusions as houses are foreclosed and workers are laid off. In the process, Moore removes the blinders of our love, and we end up with the love of money rather than the fulfillment of our social selves. Moore does this in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most memorable is the "dead peasant" insurance policies where companies take out insurance on employees with the company -- not the employee's surviving family members -- as the beneficiaries. Like most Americans, Moore returns again and again to finance and the role of financial companies in the 2008 economic collapse. He tries to talk to traders about derivatives and, partially in fantasy and partially though some clever staging, tries to arrest the CEO of Goldman Sachs. He also gets some members of Congress on camera to record the sense of intimidation they felt when Paulson and the rest of Bush's economic team said that their failure to approve the bail out would destroy our economy. By the end of the movie Moore has shown us a myriad of our (former?) love's failings.

    But breaking up is hard to do, especially if we don't know what the alternative is. Here is where much of the progressive criticism of Moore's film has focused: he doesn't give us an alternative, more specifically he doesn't talk about socialism. This was also my impression after my first viewing of the film. However, after watching it again, followed by a discussion with the audience, I think Moore provides more clues to an answer than I first recognized. His answer is perhaps not a single, neat package. But he shows us two worker owned and operated factories; he shows us how people -- including workers at Republic Windows -- are beginning to seek alternatives. Perhaps most significantly, however, he contrasts western and northern Europe's "social capitalism" with what we have in the U.S. He does not do this by going to Europe or showing us how European institutions work differently than our own. Instead he returns to the roots of our love affair but highlights the promise we wanted our romance to fulfill: Moore poses FDR's economic bill of rights and the struggle to gain these rights as the future we should all fight for. He concludes by asking us to join him in this fight. You can hear FDR here: http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=UwUL9tJmypI.

    Editor's Note: Capitalism: A Love Story is now available on DVD. It may be ordered online at http://www.michaelmoore.com/books-films/capitalism-love-story .


    Bring America Home:

    the 52nd Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner

    by Bob Roman

    The 2010 Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner gathered together people representing Chicago's legal, labor, liberal, and left communities to honor the People's Law Office and the United Electrical Workers' Western Regional President Carl Rosen. Author William Greider was our featured speaker. The event was held on Friday evening, May 7, at what is becoming its current home, the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, located at Madison and Halsted in Chicago.

    Kim Bobo was our Master of Ceremonies. We have been so fortunate to have her help at our Dinners. In my opinion, she's the best since Leon Despres.

    Flint Taylor accepted the award to the People's Law Office from GOPDSA Co-Chair Tom Broderick. Taylor went on to recognize some of the people, present and not, who helped found the law collective and helped make it one of the major resources in defense of civil liberties in Chicago. He spoke briefly about the history of the People's Law Office and its current work.

    Carl Rosen accepted the Debs Thomas Harrington award from Chicago DSA Co-Chair Ron Baiman. Rosen found this conceptually difficult. The United Electrical Workers (UE) sees itself as, and tries its best to be, a rank-and-file union; in that context, an officer of the union accepting an award could be seen as presumptuous. So he used the occasion to promote Warehouse Workers for Justice (www.warehouseworker.org ), a UE project that is organizing warehouse workers in Chicago's southwestern suburbs, most of whom are not actual employees but temp workers (despite years on the job for some) with all the vulnerability that comes with that status.

    The theme of this year's Dinner was "Bring America Home!" This was a deliberate variation on the title of William Greider's latest book, Come Home America, though it works very well as a demand the left should be making more vociferously of the Obama Administration. Greider's speech was drawn mostly from the latter part of his latest book, and dealt with what we can do to change the direction our country is headed. It was an optimistic talk, and for those of you who missed it, I would suggest reading the book. Or, if you live in Chicago and have cable, the event was taped for later broadcast on CANTV, Chicago's public access cable network.

    As someone who has helped organized these dinners for the past twenty years, I want to thank all of you who supported this year's event. It was especially important this year because DSA has become one of the right-wing's favorite hate-objects. (To be fair, they have so many!) Considering what's become of ACORN, this is not a trivial matter. In justifying their passion, conservatives do exaggerate our influence. But with your help, we'll do our best to live up to their paranoia.

    For an unconspiratorial, all-volunteer organization like Chicago DSA, this is a tall order. But the 52nd Annual Dinner was an optimistic affair, and the participation this year of so many good people gives us all the more reason to be so. Thank you.


    A Century+ of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles International Conference

    by Bill Pelz

    "May 1st is the only truly universal day of all humanity, the only day when all histories and all geographies, all languages and religions and cultures of the world coincide." It was in describing a visit to the city of Chicago, where International Workers' Day was born, that the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano penned these words.

    "How fitting, in this spirit, that trade unionists and labor historians, worker center organizers and journalists from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel/Palestine, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Scotland, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, Venezuela, and all over the United States converged on Chicago April 30-May 2 to participate in the conference A Century+ of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles convened by the Institute of Working Class History and hosted by the International Studies program at DePaul University." -- Danny Postel, conference participant.

    The conference joined a very diverse group ranging from young activists to Japanese trade unionists and a Japanese survivor of the atomic bomb, Dr. Theodor Bergmann, a German anti-fascist who has long outlived Hitler, and numerous distinguished intellectuals like Bryan Palmer, Canada's foremost left labor historian, Lea Haro of the University of Glasgow, Francis King from Britain's Socialist History Society and Ottokar Luban from the International Rosa Luxemburg Society (Berlin).

    Over 163 participants discussed various and diverse labor and social struggles -- both local and global. Before the conference even formally began, almost three dozen people gathered at Facets Multimedia to watch the once banner US labor film Salt of the Earth. Following the screening there was a lively discussion of both the political and artistic significant of the film.

    After over fifteen panels during the day, Friday night saw a massive Labor and International Peace Plenary with something like six dozen Japanese trade unionists participating. Scores of conference participants took in the May Day rally organized by the Chicago Federation of Labor and Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS) . . . and an extensive labor history bus tour led by Larry Spivack, President of the ILHS on Saturday, May 1st. Then back to DePaul for more panels and a plenary on the future of Labor History and Left History that was well attended. Then, lack of rain and a heavy turnout particularly by international guests, allowed a very enjoyable outdoor banquet on Saturday night.

    Sunday morning saw a plenary with Richard Wolff, the noted Marxist economist form the University of Massachusetts as well as a number of Chicago-based scholar activists. Sunday also included a presentation by Chicago DSA's Reverend Gene Birmingham on Religion and Socialism. Finally after more stimulating panel discussions including talks by Chicago activist James Thindwa, Katie Jordan (Coalition of Trade Union Woman ) and Fritz Weber (from Vienna, Austria), we reached Sunday night when the conference finally closed with a rousing speech on "wage theft" by Kim Bobo.

    The Institute of Working Class History is planning an anthology of selected papers from the conference, to be entitled A Century+ of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles. Plans are very tentative, but another conference is being organized for next year, possibly around a theme of the Paris Commune. For further information and news of future events go to: www.iwch.info.

    Editors Note: Dr. William Pelz is a Professor of History at Elgin Community College, Chicago DSA's Political Education Officer, and head of the Institute of Working Class History.


    Religion and Socialism Commission

    by Rev. Gene Birmingham

    The recent DSA National Convention accepted a request to renew the Religion & Socialism Commission. There is a long history of religion seeing in socialism an expression of social justice. Socialism is not only about economics and politics. It is a spiritual expression of the social nature of humanity.

    The guiding philosophy of American culture, rugged individualism, stresses a personal experience of God, but backs away from working with all people for justice, except for acts of charity. The Religion & Socialism Commission invites all people to work together for the common good. Its journal reads on the cover:

    "Motivated by our different religious traditions we believe that attitudes, priorities, and institutions can be changed to reflect a just and democratic use of the universe's bounty; we believe in the value of work that contributes to the common good; and in the healing influence of respect for the differences as well as the commonness of human experience."

    Leaders of the Religion & Socialism Commission have asked that each DSA Local sponsor an event of religious socialism in 2010. There is a list of at least 57 people on Chicago DSA's posting of members and interested people. This is an invitation to any and all who would serve on a planning committee for a Religion & Socialism event to contact me with your own ideas: 630.787.9909. We can set up a time and place to meet.


    Panther Action:

    Gray Panthers Offer a New Outlet for Activism in Chicago

    By Giudi Weiss

    Remove the ideological label from DSA and what do you get? The Gray Panthers.

    Now in its 40th year, this long-standing, multigenerational, progressive activist organization hasn't had a presence in Chicago for a decade. But two dedicated souls, activist Ralph Gougis and erstwhile DSA participant Marilyn Martin, are determined to revive it. Fittingly, they're inviting DSA members to join them.

    The Gray Panthers Motto: Age and Youth in Action

    Forget the "Gray" in its name. Gray Panthers span the generations -- and always have. Some call this the organization's best-kept secret.

    In fact, Gray Panthers has been multigenerational from the start. The organization was born in 1970, when Maggie Kuhn, leading a group of friends fighting ageist employment practices, joined forces with students demonstrating against the Viet Nam War. The press compared their militancy to that of the Black Panthers, and so the first Gray Panthers network was born: age and youth working together for social and economic justice and peace.

    Gray Panthers Issues Are Your Issues

    Today there are Gray Panther networks (chapters) across the nation. The national organization currently focuses on four major issues: health care (single-payer, of course), the environment, peace, and civil rights and civil liberties. Local networks address these topics and others, from national issues like campaign finance reform, immigration, and workers' rights to local concerns such as housing and transportation.

    Not surprisingly, Gray Panther issues echo many of DSA's concerns. There's much more information about the organization and its positions at www.graypanthers.org .

    DSA Members Can Help Bring the Chicago Network to Life

    As Ralph and Marilyn gear up to rebuild the Chicago network, what they need most is local interest. When enough new members get on board, the network can earn official Gray Panther status, elect leadership, start holding regular meetings, build coalitions and partnerships, and, most important, take action on the issues of greatest interest to its members. Gray Panther actions can be anything from letter-writing and petitions to rallies and street theater and much more.

    If you're interested in joining this nation-wide network of activists and helping to shape local actions, contact Marilyn Martin at mjmartin1945@yahoo.com or Ralph Gougis at 773.924.2301.


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    DSA at the U.S. Social Forum

    DSA is participating in the U.S. Social Forum this June 22-26 in Detroit, Michigan. At least ten thousand activists from all around the country are expected to participate. DSA and YDS are organizing five workshops and DSA is organizing an "ice cream reception" for DSA members and friends in the labor tent on Friday, June 25th. UAW Secretary/Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, and DSA Honorary Chair Frances Fox Piven are just two of the DSA speakers at the Social Forum. The sessions we are organizing:

    • Movement Building and the Atlanta Fighting Foreclosure Coalition
    • Socialism is the Alternative
    • A Permanent Jobs Program for the United States: Economic Restructuring to Meet Human Needs
    • Reclaiming the Ivory Towers: Students Achieving Access and Affordability
    • WTF is Socialism Anyway???: The Campus as a Battleground of Class Struggle

    More information about DSA's workshops and the reception will be available on the DSA web site (www.dsausa.org) soon. A complete list of sessions at the U.S. Social Forum and other information is available at www.ussf2010.org , although the schedule will not be finalized until June.

    Jobs Coalition Forms in Western Suburbs

    In an exciting development, a new coalition is forming in the western suburbs around calling for an ongoing federal program to create new jobs. The second meeting of this group (its name is not yet settled) will be Saturday, June 12, 1:00 - 3:00 PM, UAW hall at 1700 Oakton Road in Montgomery. Amy Dean, coauthor of A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement, will be the featured speaker (http://www.amybdean.com/ ).

    Convened by the Confederation of Northern Illinois Peace Groups, over forty individuals from labor, peace, and other organizations met April 17 to discuss the possibility of joining forces. The program featured Rev. Geri Solomon, from Aurora Peace and Justice; DSA members Dave Rathke, Illinois Education Association, and Bill Barclay, Chicago Political Economy Group; and Susan Hurley, Chicago Jobs with Justice . The western suburbs are no longer the bastion of Republicans, and people face serious problems with un- or under-employment, foreclosures, balanced economic development, etc. Those gathered decided to focus on jobs. For more information, contact Peg Strobel: peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net .

    Jobs and Financial Reform

    During the week of April 25 to May 2 there were large rallies for jobs and for immigrant rights. On April 28, in Chicago more than 2000 people marched from Goldman Sachs office (We were turned away from entering the office.) to Federal Plaza where speakers from the AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice , Chicago Political Economy Group , community groups and Democratic candidate for the Senate, Alexi Giannoulias called on our representatives to pass a jobs program and to finance it through a tax on trading of financial assets. See some of the coverage here ( http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/4/28/861678/-VIDEO-PICTURES:-Rallying-for-Wall-St.-Reform ).

    The next day more than 12,000 people marched in NYC. The march went down Broadway into the financial district and was focused on jobs and financial reform. Two days later more than 20,000 marched again in Chicago denouncing the new Arizona immigration law and calling for immigrant rights.

    Chicago Political Economy Group

    DSA members and CPEG founders Ron Baiman and Bill Barclay were two of the speakers at a Global Studies Association session on "The Political Economic Crisis" in Champaign-Urbana on May 8. Bill described the rise of finance in the US and the logic and revenue potential of a tax on the trading of financial assets. Ron sketched the outlines of a new political economy. The previous week, on May 1, Bill presented the CPEG developed and DSA endorsed jobs program to the Champaign-Urbana's Socialist Forum. You can find more on all of these presentations at www.cpegonline.org .

    Coalition to Save Community Banking Meeting and Rally

    Formed in the wake of the FDIC October 2009 seizure of Park National Bank and its sale to US Bank, the Coalition to Save Community Banking has been working to call attention to the plight of communities during the banking crisis, to support legislation that would strengthen banks that invest in struggling communities, and to convince US Bank to honor, through a Community Benefits Agreement, some of the commitments Park National made in the West Side, Oak Park, and Maywood. The Coalition is beginning to work on the related issue of foreclosures; US Bank is trustee or servicer on the 3rd largest number of foreclosed properties in Chicago; and holds a significant number in Maywood as well.

    You're invited to a public meeting to express your concerns and hear an update: Tuesday, June 8, Hope Baptist Church, 5900 W. Iowa, Chicago, 6:30 - 8:30. The next day, Wednesday, June 9, we will hold a rally downtown. For more details, contact Peg Strobel: peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net

    ICADP Annual Meeting

    The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's Annual Meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 13th at 6 pm at the Illinois State Bar Association Offices, 20 S. Clark St., Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60603. The Annual Meeting is free to members and $40 for non-members.

    This year the ICADP will honor author and attorney Scott Turow for his outstanding work toward abolition. ICADP will also be honoring the Illinois State legislators who are currently co-sponsoring our abolition bills, including Rep. Karen Yarbrough, Rep. Angelo Saviano, Sen. William Delgado, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, and Sen. Pamela J. Althoff. Chicago DSA is an organizational member of the ICADP.

    The ICADP is also having a benefit concert at Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd in Berwyn on June 15, doors opening at 7 PM. Admission is $20.

    For more information, go to www.icadp.org.

    Socialist International Council Meets

    The next Socialist International Council meeting will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 June, opening at 10 AM on the 21st and concluding at 1 PM on the 22nd.

    The Council agenda will focus issues with regard to the global economy, as well as the continuation of the debate on Climate Change in advance of the COP16 meeting, and recent developments in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.

    As usual, the elected members of the Presidium will meet on the eve of the Council, Sunday 20 June, for a working dinner, preceded that day by the Finance & Administration Committee in the morning and the Ethics Committee in the afternoon.

    DSA is a member of the Socialist International. The last time the Council met in the States (strictly speaking the United Nations) was in September of 1996. The composition of the DSA delegation to this meeting is still under discussion at press time.

    Union Busting Is a Mortal Sin

    Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice, a national organization based largely in cyberspace (there's a snailmail node in Massachusetts), on May 1st issued a statement condemning union busting as a mortal sin. The statement begins:

    "Union busting refers to the action of any person who seeks to prevent employees from forming a labor union, or who attempts to undermine or destroy an existing union. This person is in grave material violation of Catholic Social Doctrine on labor unions. This violation of Catholic Doctrine constitutes material grounds for mortal sin, because it stands in grave violation of: 1) both the letter and spirit of Catholic Social Doctrine; 2) the roots of this Doctrine in the First Commandment (idolatry), the Fifth Commandment (scandal), and the Seventh Commandment (theft)."

    The statement goes on to discuss these points in detail.

    Has anyone told Resurrection Health Care they are in peril of their souls? On the other hand, there's no evidence the Congress Hotel would care.

    More information about Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice can be found at www.catholicscholarsforworkerjustice.org.


    Thanks to Michael Baker, Bill Barclay, Tom Broderick, and Peg Strobel, as they contributed material to Other News.


    New Ground #130.1

    06.01.2010

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention

    1. Politics

    Who Wins, Who Loses in the TIF Game
    Crime Wave
    Budget Woes

    2. Democratic Socialism

    To the Final Conflict

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    Chicago DSA's annual membership convention will be on Saturday, June 19, 12:30 PM, at the Chicago DSA office. The office is located at 1608 N. Milwaukee in Room 403. This is at the 3-way intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen Avenues in the Northwest Tower Building (aka "Coyote Tower). In addition to the Damen, Milwaukee, and North avenue bus routes, the building is next to the Damen Avenue station on the CTA Blue Line to O'Hare. You can wave at us as you ride by. Street parking is possible albeit mostly metered.

    This is mostly a business meeting. We will be electing a Female Co-Chair, Treasurer, and Political Education Officer for two year terms, and we will be adopting a budget. All DSA members ought to attend, though if you did, it's not likely we'd all fit. Come anyway and start a riot. For more information, call 773.384.0327.



    Politics

    Who Wins, Who Loses in the TIF Game
    In The Reader, Mike Dumke and Ben Joravsky use the recently improved transparency of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to examine just where the money is coming from and where the money is going. Despite being sold as an economic development tool for neighborhoods on the skids, TIFs have become a way for Chicago to finance infrastructure improvements without involving the city council, and, further: them as have, gets. Read it HERE.

    Crime Wave
    With the passage of SB 3568, Illinois has become the latest state to crack down on wage theft. With effectively no money for enforcement, one wonders, but nonetheless, read about it at the Progressive States Network.

    Budget Woes
    And speaking of money, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability just released a quick summary of how deep a deficit the State of Illinois has dug itself. It's bad, it's brief, and you can read it HERE.



    Democratic Socialism

    To the Final Conflict
    While parts of the left have been despairing over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as yet another Obama sell-out to the corporate class, the rightwing has been denouncing Kagan as, what else, a socialist. This is mostly on the basis of her undergraduate thesis, To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900 -- 1933. If you've been curious about it, a somewhat bigoted libertarian web site, Infidels Are Cool has a copy of the PDF HERE (Princeton University is not amused, and one web site, Red State, removed it in response to a curt message from the university.). Another (slightly abridged but legitmate, I think) version can be found HERE. It's nice history, check it out. (Thanks to Jonathan Birnbaum for the heads up.)



    Upcoming Events of Interest

    Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties. For other events, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html.

    Tuesday, June 8, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
    Coalition to Save Community Banking
    Hope Baptist Church, 5900 W. Iowa, Chicago
    For more information, contact Peg Strobel.

    Saturday, June 12, 1 PM to 3 PM
    Jobs for All Illinois Coalition
    UAW Local 145 Hall, 1700 Oakton Rd, Montgomery
    Featuring Amy Dean; help get the ball rolling. Call 847.742.6602 for more information.

    Saturday, June 12, 2:30 PM
    "On Company Business"
    Chicago Public Library Lincoln Park Branch, 1150 W. Fullerton, Chicago
    A screening of On Company Business, a unique, rare and at one time suppressed documentary history of the CIA, by the late documentary filmmaker Allen Francovich. An Open University of the Left presentation.

    Monday, June 14, 4 PM to 6 PM
    Congress Hotel Picket and Rally
    520 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago
    Protest management's failure to negotiate and demonstrate in support of immigrant rights. Click HERE for more information.

    Tuesday, June 15, 7 PM
    Benefit Concert
    Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd, Berwyn
    Featuring Jon Langford & Skull Orchard, Sally Timms, Man Is Man, Christine Tarkowski & the Thirsty Singers. For the benefit of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, admission $20.


    New Ground #130.2

    06.16.2010

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    DSA at the U.S. Social Forum

    1. Politics

    Stacking the Deck Against an Oak Park Living Wage
    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
    Congress Hotel Strike
    Wal-Mart Offensive
    by Bob Roman
    Illinois Legislative Round-Up
    A New New Deal: Labor's Role in the Obama Era

    2. Ars Politica

    America Relates to the World by Hugh Iglarsh

    3. Democratic Socialism

    The Bright Side of Social Europe

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    Chicago DSA's annual membership convention will be on Saturday, June 19, 12:30 PM, at the Chicago DSA office. The office is located at 1608 N. Milwaukee in Room 403. This is at the 3-way intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen Avenues in the Northwest Tower Building (aka "Coyote Tower). In addition to the Damen, Milwaukee, and North avenue bus routes, the building is next to the Damen Avenue station on the CTA Blue Line to O'Hare. You can wave at us as you ride by. Street parking is possible albeit mostly metered.

    This is mostly a business meeting. We will be electing a Female Co-Chair, Treasurer, and Political Education Officer for two year terms, and we will be adopting a budget. All DSA members ought to attend, though if you did, it's not likely we'd all fit. Come anyway and start a riot. For more information, call 773.384.0327.

    DSA at the U.S. Social Forum
    The Democratic Socialists of America and the Young Democratic Socialists are organizing several panels at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit later this month, as well as a reception, and of course they'd like to know just who among DSA members is planning to attend. Let Theresa Alt know, please; send her an email.



    Politics

    Stacking the Deck Against an Oak Park Living Wage
    In Oak Park's Wednesday Journal:

    "As our village board prepares to take up the issue of a living wage ordinance for the Village of Oak Park, is the fix in? The Community Relations Commission was tasked by our village board to research the impact that a living wage ordinance would have on the village. After many trying months, the commission voted to issue one report: the one that the majority of the commission endorsed.

    "While the commissioners worked on their report, then-chair John Murtagh wrote and disseminated a personal opinion indicating his perception of risk that enacting a living wage ordinance would have. He sent this to members of the Oak Park business community and to the village board, prior to the official report. Inappropriately, our village board designated Murtagh's opinion the 'minority living wage report.'" READ MORE.

    Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
    The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act is a jobs bill our economy needs. It is not enough, but it is something the Senate should pass. Today the Senate is scheduled to vote on a key procedural motion--an up or down vote on the legislation. Please call or email your senators to urge them to support an up or down vote on the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. To contact your senators you can call the congressional switchboard 202-224-3121 and ask for your senator by name or you can email them through the Senate web site (search menu is on the upper right hand side of the page). Alternately, for the shy ones out there, the AFL-CIO is running a cyber campaign that can be found HERE.

    Congress Hotel Strike
    Members and friends of UNITE HERE Local 1 protested the Congress Hotel's ongoing refusal to come to an agreement at a mass rally and picket line in front of the hotel on Monday, June 14. Post event coverage of the event includes:

    And earlier this month the Hyatt hotel chain held its first shareholder meeting in Chicago and was challenged by clergy to come to an agreement with its employees.

    Wal-Mart Offensive
    by Bob Roman
    It sure is nice when you have money to throw at a problem. This is what Wal-Mart is doing to crack the Chicago market. You may have noticed some CTA L cars newly wrapped in advertising urging citizens to ask their alderman to allow Wal-Mart into the Chicago, referring them to Chicago's "311" non-emergency call center (to be connected with the appropriate alderman, apparently) or to a web site Wal-Mart has set up. They've also been running radio ads (notably on WBBM-AM) and slipping "public service" items into the news stream.

    Opponents of Wal-Mart are not, strictly speaking, opponents of Wal-Mart. Mostly they just want Wal-Mart to pay a living wage, at least, if they are to do business here in the city. The reasons are pretty obvious. Poverty wage jobs will force other, competing businesses to cut wages or benefits for their own employees, encouraging a "race to the bottom" for workers. Poverty wage employees, whether at Wal-Mart or elsewhere, won't have money to support commerce, to support government services, to properly support and educate their children.

    And while "big-box" stores like Wal-Mart do bring the consumers some advantages, they also have the disadvantage of promoting a car-centered life style that is expensive for the less well-off and is expensive for the government.

    There's quite a bit of research on the subject of Wal-Mart. Two examples specific to Chicago are the Center for Community and Labor Research's 2004 study and a more recent (2010) study by Loyola University's Center for Urban Research and Learning.

    Advocates of good jobs can't pay for advertising wraps of CTA cars. But they do have a few useful web sites. Check out the Good Jobs Chicago Coalition and Good Jobs First - Illinois as two examples. Wal-Mart's efforts at expansion are still corralled in a City Council committee, but it's not a stable (begging your pardon) situation in the long run. You might want to call that 311 number as well.

    Illinois Legislative Round-Up
    The Progressive States Network (PSN) has provided THIS handy round-up of the more important legislation that passed the Illinois legislature this year, as well as some of the more significant legislation that didn't quite make it. For more information, the synopsis provides useful links to other sites.

    PSN is also tracking states' implementation of Obama's health insurance reform. This includes information about efforts at blocking the reform. So far, conservative efforts to have states "nullify" the reform have passed in Idaho, Utah, Georgia, and Virginia. Ballot referendums are pending in Missouri and Arizona. 25 other state legislatures have rejected nullification measures.

    The Center for Budget and Tax Accountability has updated its Illinois budget deficit estimate. Read it HERE.

    A New New Deal:
    Labor's Role in the Obama Era
    At Dissent Magazine, Nelson Lichtenstein writes:

    "WITH A perilous set of midterm elections on the horizon, it would be understandable if labor and its liberal allies just closed ranks with President Obama and the Democrats, downplayed any disappointment they might feel, and muted their critique of his often lukewarm liberalism. After all, if the Republicans take one or both houses of Congress, then the whole Obama presidency will be in danger.

    "As every good unionist knows, solidarity is a great thing, but in this case it is the wrong prescription for the American labor movement." READ MORE.

     


    Ars Politica

    America Relates to the World

    "Part of him is so well-meaning" ...
    true of Genghis, true of Goering.
    That part is rather small, you see.
    A back-bench fringe minority
    bereft of real authority.
    But it's useful in his dealings
    to reveal some human feelings.
    His smile's warm, his aura mellow.
    The devil is a hail fellow.

    -- Hugh Iglarsh



    Democratic Socialism

    The Bright Side of Social Europe
    From the pan-ideological New America Foundation, Steven Hill writes:

    "...the brightest spots in the postcollapse landscape are in Europe, which long ago advanced a degree of economic democracy that has proved its mettle in this crisis and therefore deserves closer inspection. If Americans want to learn about cooperatives, Europe is a great place to start. They produce an estimated 12 percent of the GDP of the European Union and involve, directly or indirectly, at least 60 percent of the population. Besides the Mondragon co-ops in Spain, in which 256 companies employ 100,000 people in industry, retail, finance and education, there's also Coop Italia, which operates the largest supermarket chain in Italy, employing 56,000 with more than 6 million members; housing co-ops like Poland's TUW; and the Co-operative Group in Britain, which is the world's largest consumer-owned business, with 4.5 million members."

    Coops, Co-determination, and Workers Councils: oh my. HT to Ron Baiman for The Nation version of this article. READ MORE.

     



    Upcoming Events of Interest

    Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties. For other events, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html.

    Saturday, June 19, 12:30 PM
    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    Chicago DSA Office, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, Chicago
    All Chicago DSA members really ought to attend.

    Monday, June 21, 1 PM
    Public Hearing - Saturday Postal Deliveries
    Chicago City Council Chambers, 121 N. LaSalle St, Chicago
    The Postal Regulatory Commission is holding a public hearing on the US Postal Service's proposal to end Saturday mail delivery.

    Saturday, June 26, 10:30 AM to 5 PM
    Our Budget, Our Economy
    Navy Pier Festival Hall A, 600 E. Grand Ave, Chicago
    Part of a nation-wide town hall meeting about the economy and the Federal budget organized by America Speaks. Pre-registration required.

    Saturday, June 26, 6:30 PM
    The People's Journey
    Wellington Avenue UCC, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago
    "Citizens from IRAQ, PALESTINE (GAZA), AFGHANISTAN (video conference) and VETERANS of the "GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR" sharing their experiences, moving beyond political rhetoric and conversing with people of all persuasions." More Information

    Wednesday, June 30, 2 PM to 5 PM
    Access Living Open House
    Access Living, 115 W. Chicago, Chicago
    You are invited to visit Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago to learn what services we offer people with disabilities who live in Chicago. To RSVP call Bhuttu Mathews at 312.640.2115.


    New Ground #130.3

    07.01.2010

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Young Democratic Socialists Summer Conference
    Socialist International Council Meeting

    1. Politics

    Oak Park Living Wage
    Airport Workers Seek Living Wage
    by Jack Metzgar
    Wal-Mart Rampant by Bob Roman
    America Arfs and Goes Home by Tom Broderick

    2. Ars Politica

    Godiva's Only a Chocolate

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Young Democratic Socialists Summer Conference
    is planned for August 5 through 8 at the Valley Brook Inn in New York. For more information, CLICK HERE.

    Socialist International Council Meeting
    New Ground 130 "Other News" noted that the Socialist International Council was meeting in New York June 21 - 22. A report on the meeting, including photos and the texts of statements adopted at the meeting, has been posted on the SI's web site. The SI's "Statement on the Global Economy and Financial Reform" is of particular interest, being of more substance than these things usually are.



    Politics

    Oak Park Living Wage
    When public funds are spent, should employees benefit along with employers? The voters of Oak Park said "YES" by a 20% margin on a referendum on our November, 2008 ballot.

    After Oak Park voters endorsed a living wage ordinance, our Village Board tasked a volunteer citizen commission ~ Community Relations Commission ~ to study the impact that a living wage ordinance would have on Oak Park. After thirteen months of in-depth study, the commission voted seven to two to endorse a living wage ordinance.

    Our Village Board will take up this issue for the first time on July 6th, 2010. Your presence in support of a living wage would be truly helpful. Help end poverty wages for full-time work.

    Tuesday, July 6th, 7:30 PM Oak Park Village Hall
    123 Madison, Oak Park

    Enter from parking lot on south side of building.

    For more information about a living wage ordinance, see
    http://www.oak-park.us/public/pdfs/Community Relations/Living_Wage_Study-CRC.pdf
    and
    http://www.chicagodsa.org/livingwage.pdf

     

    Airport Workers Seek Living Wage
    by Jack Metzgar
    Some 2,500 people work at the retail shops and food outlets at O'Hare and Midway airports, and most of them do not make a living wage by the standard of the Chicago Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance ($11.03 an hour). Over the last two months these workers have been mobilizing to try and convince the city's Department of Aviation (DOA) to change that situation as it redoes most of its lease agreements with the companies who profit from passengers' needs as they wait for airplanes.

    Led by UniteHere Local 1, the workers have petitioned DOA Commissioner Rosemarie Adolino to meet with them to discuss their proposal for making "living wages, job stability, and labor peace" part of the requirements companies at the airports must meet if they are to do business there. Even though several aldermen who sit on the city's Aviation Committee support the proposal, Adolino has refused to meet with the workers about their ideas for improving both work lives and customer service at the airports.

    On July 1 a delegation of 30 workers, along with community and religious supporters, filled the lobby at Adolino's office near the airport to see if anybody would talk with them. Deputy Commissioner Michael Boland eventually appeared to explain that there was nothing he could do because the Commissioner was out. As he was pressed by the workers, however, he agreed to arrange a meeting where DOA officials would finally listen to what airport workers propose.

    What the workers are asking for are a set of modest standards already enforced at many airports, including those in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Cleveland, Providence, and Miami. These standards would actually benefit the city and its airports in numerous ways that Commissioner Adolino might recognize if she just listens to what the workers have to say.

    Wal-Mart Rampant
    by Bob Roman
    It's not all that unusual for progressives (a nice generic term for whatever combination of liberals, labor, and leftists is at hand) to have their asses kicked while proclaiming victory, the boot to the fundament apparently being an uplifting experience. But when, last week, the Chicago labor movement pulled the plug on opposition to a second Wal-Mart to be built in the Pullman neighborhood, their proclamations of an historic agreement between Labor and Wal-Mart sounded a bit thin, as if there were far too much helium in the atmosphere, even before Wal-Mart bluntly denied that any such agreement existed. The document Labor referred to, Wal-Mart said, was an
    agreement with the Pullman community though in truth no one from the community agreed to it -- or possibly Wal-Mart traded $24 in beads and trinkets with the first person they met on the street. In effect, the document is more like Wal-Mart's pledge to the community. Even then, at the very end, Wal-Mart reserved the right to do whatever it pleased, so long as it didn't break the law: truly an aspiration on the part of Wal-Mart. Furthermore, Wal-Mart's "community benefits memo" also is specifically for the Pullman store. There is nothing in it that indicates it would apply to any of the other stores it is planning for Chicago.

    What does Wal-Mart pledge?

    • A starting wage of a couple of dozen pennies more than Illinois' legal minimum wage, to be followed, in about a year of employment, with a raise to about $9.15 an hour. Wal-Mart claims their employees in their current westside store average $11.77 an hour.
    • Union construction jobs, up to 2000 of them. This is possibly a bit more substantive, but it's also hard to imagine that it doesn't represent anything Wal-Mart wasn't planning to do otherwise, though they are perfectly capable of importing contractors from the ends of the Earth just to make a point. Still, be careful what you wish for. Labor's civil wars have begun spreading to the building trades, with the Carpenters Union in particular organizing other crafts. Wal-Mart, for example, is constructing a store in way downstate Godfrey, Illinois, using Carpenter Union electricians, rather than workers represented by the IBEW. It's a Chicago contractor, too, apparently.
    • Minority hiring and business opportunities. Lots of it. This is probably the most promising part of the Wal-Mart's pledge, but once again not likely much beyond what they would have done anyway absent the uproar.
    • $20 million in charity contributions toward community economic development. It's probably not a good thing to disrespect decency no matter how humble, but the lefty cynic in me regards this as a bribe to the local ruling class so Wal-Mart will be accepted into the local community. The gross amount might possibly be larger than usual, but this is not untypical behavior for Wal-Mart.
    • Wal-Mart's community benefits memo makes the local alderman the go-to guy for several of it's pledges, most particularly the pledges listed on the first page so they are hard to miss. If you've ever wondered why many politicians are so cheaply bribed, the explanation is simple: the money is secondary to the transaction itself. The transaction demonstrates that the briber acknowledges the bribee to be among the central figures in getting the project done. In politics, this is very important. This first page of the memo was probably worth dozens of thousand dollar campaign contributions, especially as other Aldermen envision themselves in the same position.

    Finally, any number of folks have pledged to make sure Wal-Mart lives up to its pledges, Alderman Howard Brookings for one. But it's hard to see this as particularly serious. And if this were not enough, US Bank is apparently financing the Pullman store using money from the federal anti-foreclosure Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

    Old Gene Debs never had much luck with Pullman, either. "Still a company town," he sighs from the grave.

    In the mean time, Wal-Mart continues on the offensive. Contrary to Mayor Daley babblings, opposition to Wal-Mart is not just a Chicago thing but has been widespread even in the suburbs. Now Wal-Mart is suing one of its competitors, Supervalu, saying that opposition to proposed Supercenters in Mundelein and New Lenox was a put-up job of astro-turfing. And remember Wal-Mart's efforts to become a bank? It just succeeded in Canada, and the U.S. may not be far behind.

    Can you liberals out there still pronounce the word "anti-trust?"

    America Arfs and Goes Home
    by Tom Broderick
    AMERICASPEAKS is an organization with a mission. They claim that it is to provide "Americans with a greater voice in the most important decisions that affect their lives." Having spent a Saturday at a National Town Hall Meeting, I would characterize it as sales job by deficit hawks.

    While I am still unclear how outreach by the organization was undertaken, approximately 3,500 people attended through electronic technology, which was not always at its best. Nineteen cities from eighteen states were connected by video link. Other sites w/o video link also took part. In Chicago, I'd say there were approximately 400 attendees. Upon registration, we were assigned tables. My table started with ten plus a moderator: three African American women, three Caucasian women, one teenage Hispanic woman, one Asian American man and one Caucasian man. Overall, Hispanics were short on representation.

    Our goal, over the course of the day, was to cut the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion. We had been supplied advanced electronic copies of material, which was subsequently handed out at the event. One item was called "Federal Budget 101 ~ An Introduction to the Federal Budget and Our Fiscal Challenges." This was our primer, which provided the background on our deficit.

    Claiming "Rising deficits and debt in the coming decades will be driven largely by rising health care costs and an aging population," the primer left single payer healthcare out of consideration. It also didn't suggest allowing the federal government to negotiate drug costs for Medicare and Medicaid.

    At the beginning of the event, we were told that we could make suggestions for consideration by the organization, but that they would not be used for this deficit cutting exercise because they had no dollar value assigned. Early on there was enough interest in single payer healthcare that it was announced this would be included in the final report. There was much applause and cheering in Chicago.

    In addition, we were offered the option to cut the military budget by 5%, 10%, 15% or not at all. Enough pushback by participants made it clear that many wanted to cut the military budget by more than 15%.

    Actual discussion around the table was not encouraged. The moderator at our table said he would not allow anything to interfere with the goal of the event. This was the cutting of the budget by $1.2 trillion.

    After we had gone through the exercise, we had failed to achieve our goal. Our moderator said we had to reconsider our choices to achieve our goal. The "our" was obviously AMERICASPEAKS. While I made no changes to my budget input, people at our table did make changes because we successfully cut the deficit by $1.4 trillion.

    This daylong event was not about education on the budget, but rather a faux democratic process to achieve consensus on a portion of the budget and the deficit. In the primer, there is a pullout quote: "The federal budget is an expression of our priorities as a people and our values as a nation." Given the pushback on the lack of a single payer option and on the options we were given in cutting the military budget, AMERICASPEAKS had the opportunity to learn much about us and our values. Did they listen and learn?


    Ars Politica

    Godiva's Only a Chocolate
    In New City, DSA member Hugh Iglarsh encounters the Chicago Bike Naked Ride, and observes: "It's in your weak moments when the city turns against you."



    Upcoming Events of Interest

    Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties. For other events, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html.

    Tuesday, July 6, 7:30 PM
    Oak Park Living Wage Ordinance
    Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison, Oak Park
    The Oak Park Village Board considers the report from the Oak Park Community Relations Commission on a living wage ordinance.

    Saturday, July 10, 12:30 PM
    Chicago DSA Executive Committee Meeting
    Chicago DSA Office, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, Chicago
    All DSA members are welcome.

    Saturday, July 17, 2PM
    "The New Jim Crow"
    St. Martin's Episcopal Church, 5710 W. Midway Park, Chicago
    Toussaint Losier leads a discussion of Michelle Alexander's new book. Also the regular quarterly meeting of the NAARPR. Free and open to the public.


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