Home About CDSA New Ground Events Debs Dinner Links Join DSA Audio Face Book Email us
Your contribution is appreciated
but, because of our advocacy work,
not tax deductible.

New Ground 136

May - June, 2011

Contents

  • In Praise of Public Service by Bob Roman
  • Letter from the Editor
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • Membership Convention
    "Talkin' Socialism"
    Haymarket @ 125

    New Ground 136.1 -- 06.06.2011

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    DSA Membership
    YDS Summer Conference
    Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner

    1. Politics

    Congress Hotel on Strike!
    Nurses Organizing
    Sprinkler Fitters
    Chicago Political Economy Group: the Jobs Deficit Grows
    The Money Is There
    Influence Buying Tilts the Playing Field

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Walking the Dog: Experiments in Economic Democracy
    Worker Ownership and Productivity
    The Social-Ecological Society

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 136.2 -- 06.20.2011

    0. DSA News

    Maria Svart Appointed DSA National Director
    June Membership Convention

    1. Politics

    Chicago Protests an Unfair Economy
    Eight Years
    Organizing on Wobbly Ground

    2. People

    Ron Chew, 1933 - 2011 by Ron Baiman

    3. Democratic Socialism

    In Praise of Marx

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest


    In Praise of Public Service

    by Bob Roman

    It was a really good time. The 53rd Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner was one of our better Dinners: fun, educational, inspirational, convivial. We held it this year at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro on what should have been an inauspicious day, Friday the 13th of May.

    William McNary of Citizen Action/Illinois was our Master of Ceremonies. McNary is someone who makes a difference, in politics and at the podium. At the podium, he combines a rare eloquence with an infectious sense of fun. In welcoming the attendees, McNary observed that public service should not be the same thing as slavery.

    Sandra Shimon, a Greater Oak Park DSA member and an Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (ICADP) board member, presented the Dinner award to ICADP's Jeremy Schroeder. In accepting the award, Schroeder made reference to the politics and values represented by Eugene V. Debs. Despite the victory in abolishing the death penalty in Illinois, the work of Illinois Abolitionists is not over. Not only is there the Federal death penalty, but proponents of the death penalty in Illinois are already attempting to bring it back.

    Chicago DSA co-chair Ron Baiman presented the Dinner award to AFSCME's John Cameron. In accepting the award, Cameron noted that while both public and private employees may be represented in the workplace by a union, public employees, as voters, have some say in the meaning of their work, and this is the essence of socialism.

    U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky seized the time and the podium to second the Dinner's endorsement of Cameron's work. Despite now being in the minority in Congress, Schakowsky noted in passing, she was extremely optimistic as the conservatives in Congress have seriously over-reached themselves.

    Our featured speaker was Ralph Martire, the Executive Director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability . Martire would seem an unlikely choice for an after dinner speaker. Indeed, he began his career as a corporate lawyer. "Mergers and acquisitions," he sighed. But Martire wielded statistics with passion and clarity to reveal the intersection of tax policy, education, class, and racism.

    The Dinner closed with the singing of "Solidarity Forever," this time led by Christine Steyer, a singer who graciously donated her talents.

    The evening was recorded for later broadcast on Chicago's public access cable network, CANTV.


    Letter From the Editor

    At Rahm Emanual's inaugural speech, he declared three priorities for his first term as Mayor of Chicago: education, public safety, and efficiency. Education is clearly his first priority. "The decisions we make in the next two or three years will determine what Chicago will look like in the next twenty or thirty," he said. "In shaping that future, our children, and their schools, must come first."

    Considering that the unemployment rate rises radically the less education you have, there is a real temptation to suppose that if everyone had PhDs, we'd be halfway down the road to utopia. Any Tunisian cab driver could tell Mr. Emanual, it ain't necessarily so.

    But how does our new Mayor propose to fulfill his goal? First is management: "To lead our efforts in Chicago, we have a courageous new schools CEO, and a strong and highly qualified new school board, with zero tolerance for the status quo and a proven track record of results to back it up." Next are teachers: "My responsibility is to provide our children with highly qualified and motivated teachers and I will work day and night to meet that obligation." And then comes parents: "For teachers to succeed, they must have parents as partners. Working together, we will create a seamless partnership, from the classroom to the family room, to help our children learn and succeed."

    Two things spoke loudly by their absence, items that seem absent from most discussions of school reform these days.

    The first is the students themselves, as actors in the educational process. These days students seem to be reduced to objects to be manipulated, pumped up, planed down, buffed, polished, and molded to spec. The teacher is now a worker under management discipline. The school is now an assembly line. But it's obvious to anyone in a classroom that if the kids do not buy into the project, there's not much you can do but fail. As a group, kids are not stupid, no more so than adults. If an education seems attainable and relevant to their perceived future life possibilities, they'll typically buy into schooling; otherwise, you're selling home electronics to someone off the grid.

    Also notably absent: the school's community. Mr. Emanuel mentions parents as if they are teachers' aides. But parents, and non-parents, do much the same calculations that the kids do, and they come up with similar conclusions. If college seems fiscally unlikely, it may be more important that the kids learn how to fit in so they can be "good" assembly line workers or cubical rats. In other more despairing neighborhoods, it may be more important that the kids are off the streets and relatively safe in school. Academics are fine but, rationally, they may be the community's second or third priority.

    The bottom line is a stark choice. You can consign a plurality to a majority of your children to the trash heap while concealing what you're doing. Or you can make race and class irrelevant to a child's future prospects. Which do you choose?

    -- Bob Roman.


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    Membership Convention

    Chicago DSA's annual membership convention will be held at the Chicago DSA office at Noon on Saturday, June 11. The Chicago DSA office is located at 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, in Chicago. This is at the intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen avenues, very near the Damen stop on the CTA Blue Line to O'Hare.

    By the constitution, the agenda for this meeting will include elections for the male co-chair and the secretary, both for two year terms. The convention should also adopt a budget for the coming July through June fiscal year.

    Our secretary, Gene Birmingham, has announced that he will not be running for reelection. Ron Baiman has said he is willing to take another term as male co-chair. At present, the female co-chair position is vacant. Michael Baker is treasurer. William Pelz is political education officer.

    This is a good meeting to attend if you'd like to get acquainted with Chicago DSA. For more information, call 773.384.0327 or email chiildsa@chicagodsa.org .

    "Talkin' Socialism"

    Episode 6 of Chicago DSA's monthly podcast features Margaret Power, author and professor of history at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She discusses transnational right-wing movements, with an emphasis on women's movements. Power is interviewed by Chicago DSA's Bill Barclay. This episode is accompanied by a bibliography of suggested reading. To download this episode, go to chicagodsa.org .

    Haymarket @ 125

    In Chicago, the left and the Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS) have been campaigning to make May Day what it should be: an American Labor Day. This year the ILHS made a special effort to have a month long series of events leading up to a rededication of the Haymarket Martyrs' monument in the Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park. The monument has needed refurbishing for some time now.

    The finale was actually two events. The first was the usual rally at the free speech statue at the Haymarket in Chicago, held on Saturday, April 30, accompanied by the dedication of another plaque at the statue. The crowd at this event was as big as it's ever been, several hundred at least, possibly because Paul Durica's Pocket Guide to Hell tours included a reenactment of the Haymarket tragedy. It was educational and great fun.

    The May Day rededication of the Martyrs' monument was heavy with labor dignitaries, much like the occasion when the monument was declared a National Historic Landmark back in 1998. This time, the speakers sounded genuinely radical, possessing an existential awareness of the power of wealth and business, whereas in 1998 they mostly fumed about "corporate greed" -- worth fuming about but hardly a radical critique. The crowd was larger in 1998, but this year (unlike several other years) there was a détente with the anarchists. Indeed the shroud concealing the monument's statue was red and black.


    New Ground #136.1

    06.06.2011

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    DSA Membership
    YDS Summer Conference
    Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner

    1. Politics

    Congress Hotel on Strike!
    Nurses Organizing
    Sprinkler Fitters
    Chicago Political Economy Group: the Jobs Deficit Grows
    The Money Is There
    Influence Buying Tilts the Playing Field

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Walking the Dog: Experiments in Economic Democracy
    Worker Ownership and Productivity
    The Social-Ecological Society

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    Chicago DSA's annual membership convention will be held at the Chicago DSA office at Noon on Saturday, June 11. The Chicago DSA office is located at 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, in Chicago. This is at the intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen avenues, very near the Damen stop on the CTA Blue Line to O'Hare.

    By the constitution, the agenda for this meeting will include elections for the male co-chair and the secretary, both for two year terms. The convention should also adopt a budget for the coming July through June fiscal year.

    For more information, call 773.384.0327 or email chiildsa@chicagodsa.org .

    DSA Membership
    Of course, to vote or to be an officer, you do need to be a member. You can join online if you
    CLICK HERE. Likewise it's a good way to renew your membership. DSA dues are unreasonably inexpensive, but if you can't afford the low income rate, folks in the Chicago area can join for even less, albeit not online: CLICK HERE.

    YDS Summer Conference
    The Young Democratic Socialists' summer conference is both a summer school and their annual convention. It will be held this year August 4 through August 7 at Valley Brook Inn in Wurtsboro, New York. For more information and registration,
    CLICK HERE.

    Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner
    This year's Dinner was a good event except for one thing: the quality of the photos in New Ground. This is the second year in a row for that. Last year, it was our printer who screwed up, running the copies on a digital press not up to the graphics. This year, it was your editor who screwed up. Our photographer for for both years, John Scott, did a good job with a difficult subject. Banquets, with their dim ambient light and bright point source lights, are not easy to photograph, especially with today's automated cameras. For a better look at this year's Dinner,
    CLICK HERE. Oh yes: the Program Book is HERE.



    Politics

    Congress Hotel on Strike!
    That's not news, of course, but June 15 will be the 8th anniversary of the start of the strike, and the date of the annual protest against management's refusal to come to a fair settlement. Be there: Wednesday, June 15, 4 PM to 6 PM, Congress & Michigan in Chicago. Note that at least a few folks are thinking about using the Congress Hotel as the site for a Chicago casino. Provided it isn't under the current management, it might serve as a way of settling the dispute, but the proposal is a dark horse prospect.

    Nurses Organizing
    HEART AFSCME has been organizing community support for workers at Resurrection Healthcare for some time now. The immediate aim has been both to protect workers and to protect the communities the hospitals serve. With the sale of Westlake and West Suburban hospitals, HEART AFSCME figured it was about time for the nurses to take charge of the workplace, starting with an organizing campaign at Our Lady of the Resurrection. The NLRB election is scheduled for June 29 and 30. In the meantime, employees at Westlake and West Suburban hospitals have seen layoffs and benefit cuts. MORE.

    National Nurses United has negotiated a contract with the University of Chicago Medical Center. The membership voted to accept the new contract. Nurses gained improved working conditions (staffing in particular) and pay (15% over 3 years).

    Teamsters Local 743 organized a protest of over 100 workers and supporters outside the westside RML Specialty Hospital. RML Specialty Hospital had succeeded in decertifying Local 743, but workers are not giving up. A new election is scheduled for June 9.

    The Illinois Nurses Association has won a representation vote by nurse practitioners staffing Walgreens walk-in clinics in the Chicago regions.

    Sprinkler Fitters
    The United Association of Sprinkler Fitters Local 281 is on strike for the first time since 1952. The local represents workers in the Chicago region who install, service and repair to the piping and fixtures used in sprinkler systems. Not all contractors are being struck, only the ones engaged in the industry association's bargaining. The others have signed interim agreements pending the results of negotiations between Local 281 and the industry association. The dispute seems to be primarily about contract language, including items involving the training of new workers. MORE.

    Chicago Political Economy Group: the Jobs Deficit Grows

    "Two years after the official end of the Great Recession (June 2009), a huge debt and deficit continues to face the US economy. The jobs debt is more than 6 million ­ we have that many fewer people at work than immediately prior to the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007. The jobs deficit is the continued inability of the economy to create new jobs. The 54,000 job creation number for May 2011 means that the jobs deficit grew by about 60,000 ­ that is the difference between the usual number of new labor force entrants (about 115,000) and the number of jobs that were created, 54,000, to employ these new entrants. And that does nothing to overcome the 6 million jobs debt. We are digging ourselves further into a jobs debt hole." MORE.

    The Money Is There
    A new study released by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and United for a Fair Economy has found that:

    "At the core of the budget crisis facing states are regressive state tax structures (comprised of the major state and local taxes) that are unfair, unsound, and unsustainable by design. Fortunately, there is a sensible solution: inverting the state's current tax structure." MORE.

    Influence Buying Tilts the Playing Field
    The regular legislative session in Springfield was not a total disaster, but it was bad enough that Henry Bayer at AFSCME Council 31 wrote:

    "It's important not to be deceived into thinking we've got to sacrifice so that business can thrive and create jobs. To the contrary what creates jobs and has driven the American economy is money in the hands of working people, whose purchasing power grows the economy.

    "If their prescription worked, we wouldn't have such a sick economy. If helping rich people get richer were the answer to our problems, we wouldn't have 9 percent unemployment, record numbers of home foreclosures and the myriad problems that confront every day Americans.

    "When your representative tells you he wants to improve the business climate, tell him you do, too, not by holding wages down, but by increasing middle-class purchasing power.

    "Let's send a strong message to every elected official: Their corporate friends may be gluttons for profits, but we are not gluttons for punishment. The heat they will feel if they continue on their current course will not be from  global warming but from the justified outrage we feel over their deference to a business class that is ruining America." MORE.



    Democratic Socialism

    Walking the Dog: Experiments in Economic Democracy
    At the Indypendent Reader, John Duda writes:

    "What does a just and sustainable economy look like? And more importantly, how do we get there from here? We can't seriously entertain fantasies of a magical overnight transformation to some kind of socialist utopia: any process transforming our alienating, exploitative, environmentally-destructive and inequality-producing economic system with something better is going to be a long process. After all, the point here isn't just fighting back against a specific cutback in public spending or winning some specific concession from employers: it's to go beyond these individual struggles to visualize and construct real alternatives, with truly democratic processes of community control over the economic life of the community. We can't just demand this better world; we also have to build it, and the first step is figuring out how." MORE.

    Worker Ownership and Productivity

    "There is much skepticism about worker control among mainstream economists, who argue that not having hierarchical control would undermine productivity as traditionally measured (that is, looking strictly at output or value-added per worker, and not counting any effects on worker morale, health, safety, or hours of work).

    "While worker ownership is still relatively uncommon in the U.S. -- and worker control, as in cooperatives, even more rare -- there are enough firms which are indirectly employee-owned through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) that it is possible to compare their performance with traditionally owned firms." MORE.

    The Social-Ecological Society
    At New Compass, Peter Staudenmaier writes:

    "Social ecologists have put forward a number of concrete proposals over the years for a municipalized economy and a moral economy. These proposals point toward what Bookchin calls 'the recovery of the productive process itself as an ecological mediation of humanity with nature.' What these practical proposals have in common is an underlying conception of how complex economies could be run differently, without markets or classes or bureaucracy, along egalitarian and participatory lines. Social ecologists argue that the economic mechanisms of a free society, whether for production, distribution, or reproduction, should have four basic characteristics: they should be conscious, transparent, alterable, and integrated." 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.

    Tuesday, June 7, Noon to 1 PM
    Tax Protest
    10 S. Dearborn, Chicago
    Join us on June 7, 2011 as we mark the 10th anniversary of the Bush tax cuts by demanding that Congress once again make millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. MORE INFORMATION.

    Saturday, June 11, Noon
    Chicago DSA Membership Convention
    Chicago DSA office, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, Chicago
    All Chicago DSA members should attend.

    Saturday, June 11, 2:30 PM
    A World Still Waiting to be Won
    Lincoln Park Public Library, 1150 W. Fullerton, Chicago
    Dr. William Pelz discusses his new biography of Karl Marx. An Open University of the Left event.

    Saturday, June 11, 8 PM
    Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act
    Halsted & Roscoe, Chicago
    Rally and March. MORE INFORMATION.

    Friday, June 17, Noon to 1 PM
    End the War on Drugs
    Thompson Center, Randolph & Clark, Chicago
    Rally against unjust drug policies on the 40th anniversary of the start of the "War on Drugs" MORE INFORMATION.

    Friday June 17 through Sunday June 19, Noon to 9 PM
    Chicago Peace Fest
    1700 N. Stockton Drive (Lincoln Park), Chicago
    Music fest and organization fair. MORE INFORMATION.

    Sunday, June 19 through Tuesday, June 21
    Interfaith Worker Justice National Conference
    DePaul University, Chicago
    MORE INFORMATION.

    New Ground #136.2

    06.20.2011

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Maria Svart Appointed DSA National Director
    June Membership Convention

    1. Politics

    Chicago Protests an Unfair Economy
    Eight Years
    Organizing on Wobbly Ground

    2. People

    Ron Chew, 1933 - 2011 by Ron Baiman

    3. Democratic Socialism

    In Praise of Marx

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Maria Svart Appointed DSA National Director

    The National Political Committee of Democratic Socialists of America has appointed Maria Svart to be DSA's next National Director. She succeeds Frank Llewellyn who announced earlier this year that he was stepping down after ten years. Maria will start on July 5, 2011. Llewellyn will stay on for a brief period to assist in the transition.

    Maria Svart has been a member of DSA since 2004. She first joined as a member of the University of Chicago YDS chapter and quickly became active at the national level, serving as the feminist issues coordinator on the YDS Coordinating Committee and then co-chair for several terms. Her campus activism, through YDS and other student organizations, focused on feminist, environmental, immigrant rights, anti-war and labor solidarity work. MORE.

    June Membership Convention
    The minutes of the June 11th Chicago DSA membership convention will be published in the next hardcopy issue of New Ground, but there was one newsworthy item. Bob Roman is back on the Executive Committee, this time as Secretary, replacing Gene Birmingham who felt it was about time to retire.

    Gene Birmingham was first elected to the Executive Committee as Treasurer in a special election in September of 1993. After finishing that term in 1994, he was mostly active in CDSA's West Suburban branch. He was elected Secretary in 1996 and has been re-elected ever since. It's been a work of quality and diligence.

    When asked to comment on his return to the Executive Committee, Bob Roman said only, "It's all your fault."



    Politics

    Chicago Protests an Unfair Economy
    At Talking Union, Bob Roman writes:

    "On Tuesday, June 14, Stand Up! Chicago (SU!C) rallied over 5,000 to protest the ongoing deficits in jobs, housing, and education. The demonstration's target was a Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce conference of Chief Executive Officers and Chief Financial Officers being held at Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago. The Hyatt Regency is also on UNITE HERE's boycott list. While the focus of the demonstration was local, it was also part of a national Justice for Janitors day of actions organized by SEIU. This national campaign's focus was protesting an unfair economy." MORE.

    Eight Years
    At In These Times, David Moberg writes:

    "On June 15, 2003, Leticia Arismindi, a housekeeper who had then worked for six years at the Congress Plaza Hotel in downtown Chicago, joined 130 fellow workers in a strike. They hoped to force the wealthy Swiss-based owner of the hotel to give them the same contract as the union had just negotiated at other union hotels in the city. Eight years later, she and many of the 50-plus workers still active in the strike joined with a couple hundred labor union and community members."  MORE.

    Organizing on Wobbly Ground
    At Talking Union, Adam Kadar writes:

    "The decline of unions does not mean the end of the labor movement. Indeed, the last few years have seen a proliferation of new kinds of worker organizations and workers' rights campaigns. Some of the most exciting of late have been conducted by community-based groups (rather than workplace-based unions), such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and those part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance." MORE.


    People

    Ron Chew, 1933 - 2011
    by Ron Baiman
    Ron Chew will be greatly missed by the many branches of Oak  Park's progressive community that he touched. He was one of the founders in 1994 of the Greater Oak Park Democratic Socialists of American (GOPDSA) a branch of the Chicago Local of the national Democratic Socialists of America. I knew him as a dedicated comrade who could be counted on to show up wherever there was a demonstration, testimony, or meeting. Ron was at Township  Hall seconding the Oak Park living wage referendum and at numerous Village Hall meetings to support the living wage campaign.  Ron and his wife Karla were at every Debs --Thomas -- Harrington dinner that I remember. Ron exemplified the very best of Oak Park. A man of few words but who never shied away from speaking up when he felt it necessary with great wisdom and unmatched compassion for his fellow humans, and  with an uncompromising drive to put his principles into action. His quiet dignity and outspoken heart has left an indelible mark on this community. Good bye  Ron, and when you meet Joe Hill in that pie in the sky as I'm sure  you will, let him know that we're  doing our best to live up to your example by going on to organize!

    For more about Ron Chew, including a memorial service for him CLICK HERE.



    Democratic Socialism

    In Praise of Marx
    Marx's birthday was last month, May 5, but here is a belated birthday card, starting with Chicago DSA's Bill Pelz' presentation about his new biography of Marx to the Open University of the Left HERE.

    Along similar lines, philosopher Étienne Balibar lectured entitled "Eleven Theses on Marx and Marxism" at Kingston University, London, recorded HERE.

    Yet another edition of The Communist Manifesto has hit the streets, and Marshall Berman's introduction to this new edition is HERE.

    And then, in an exercise in applied Marxism, Chris Maisano diagnoses a change in consciousness in the health care professions HERE.



    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.

    Thursday, June 23, Noon
    Protest the Eviction of Alonzo Carter
    Thresholds Lawson YMCA, 30 W. Chicago, Chicago
    MORE INFORMATION.

    Thursday, June 23, 6 PM to 7:30 PM
    Participatory Budgeting in Rogers Park
    WBEZ Northside Bureau, 2913 W. Devon, Chicago
    With Joe Moore and Elizabeth Vitell. RESERVATION REQUIRED.

    Friday, June 24, 6 PM to 8 PM
    Reception, Fundraiser, Book Signing
    Haymarket Brewery, 737 W. Randolph, Chicago
    For the National Union of Healthcare Workers. Meet authors Steve Early and Cal Winslow. MORE INFORMATION.

    Thursday, June 30, 6 PM to 7:30 PM
    Hope in America?
    Ron's Barber Shop, 6058 W. North Ave, Chicago
    Labor organizer Rae Charnelle Wright and Young Republican Kyle Stone. MORE INFORMATION.

    Friday, July 1, 7:15 AM to 8 AM
    Interfaith Vigil at ICE HQ
    A prayerful action at the Chicago ICE HQ, followed by a discussion on detention and deportation at 8th Dacy Center for Justice. MORE INFORMATION.

    Friday, July 1, Noon
    First Friday Action for Jobs
    Randolph & Clark, Chicago
    Come and support a press conference calling for the full jobs program the country needs, as is evident in every new month's Department of Labor statistics. MORE INFORMATION.

    Friday, July 8 through Sunday July 10
    Think Galacticon 3
    Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago
    Anarchist / left science fiction fan convention. MORE INFORMATION.

    Saturday, July 9, 12:30 PM
    Executive Committee Meeting
    Chicago DSA Office, 1608 N. Milwaukee Av, Room 403, Chicago
    All DSA members are welcome.


     Add yourself to the Chicago DSA mailing list (snail mail and email).

    Back to top.

    Privacy policy.