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#159

March -- April, 2015

Contents

  • A Small Battle in a Larger War by Bob Roman
  • Greece: A Drama in Many Acts by Bill Barclay
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • Talkin' Socialism
    Chuy for Mayor
    Electoral Action Conference
    Save the Dates

  • Upcoming Events of Interest
  •  

    New Ground 159.1 -- 04.17.2015

    0. DSA News

    Building New Movements for Change
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    LaSalle Street Tax Campaign by Bill Barclay
    Fight for 15 in Oak Park
    Fast Track
    Tax-Free Zones No Policy Panacea
    Chicago Elections

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Civil Power and the Partner State

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

     

    New Ground 159.2 -- 04.30.2015

    0. DSA News

    Last Call
    DSA in the News
    Religious Socialism

    1. Politics

    Thank You
    How Chicago Voted: Race, Ethnicity and the Neoliberal Agenda
    "Right To Work" Laws Are Undemocratic by Tom Suhrbur
    Representative Davis and the TPP by Tom Broderick
    Governor .1%
    McDonald's HQ: May 20
    They Did WHAT?
    What We Don't Talk About

    2. Ars Politica

    Gee, Capitalistas!

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    A Small Battle in a Larger War

    by Bob Roman

    The usual practice for lefties defeated in electoral politics is to claim victory, victory in the sense of having spread the word, victory in the sense of building an organization, victory in the sense of whatever plausible argument comes to hand. In the case of Jorge Mujica's campaign for 25th Ward Alderman, we can safely assert it was a successful proof of concept: The "socialist" label, in some neighborhoods, is not a handicap even if it is not an asset. Begging your pardon but I've been saying as much for years. Through our participation, Chicago DSA did earn a reputation as an organization that delivers on its commitments. But the campaign intended to establish a socialist presence in Chicago government and that requires victory. Fight for 15

    Jorge Mujica and the Fight for $15 / hour

    25th Ward

    Chicago's 25th Ward is a gerrymandered district that was drawn for the benefit of the incumbent, Danny Solis. Solis is an erstwhile community organizer of the Alinsky school gone over to the dark side. The ward is located just southwest of Chicago's downtown, forming an upside down "U" wrapped around the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. The west wing includes parts of the largely Mexican Pilsen neighborhood. The apogee includes parts of Chicago's well-to-do, professional near west side then swoops down through the Union Station rail yards to include much of the south side's Chinatown. The previous ward boundaries made a district heavily Latino. The current ward has a bare majority of Latinos, Mexican mostly, with some Puerto Ricans and other Latino nationalities.

    The ward ended up with three other candidates in addition to Solis and Mujica. Roberto Montano is a businessman and, in the past, Solis' Chief of Staff. It's hard to say why he was running though it may have had something to do with Mayoral candidate Willie Wilson. Byron Sigcho was the other credible left of center candidate. An immigrant from Ecuador, a doctoral candidate in Education at UIC and very much a student politician, he had done some significant research into charter schools. Sigcho had the endorsement of Reclaim Chicago, the electoral coalition backed by National Nurses United. And finally there was Ed Hershey, a member of a small obscure Trotskyist sect. Was that redundant? In any case, Hershey seemed to feel the campaign needed a real socialist.

    Chicago's 25th Ward: Darker Areas = Greater % Votes for Mujica

    Mujica's campaign grew out of the Chicago Socialist Campaign (CSC). The CSC was organized in response to Kshama Sawant's victory as a socialist in Seattle. Initially there was interest from several possible candidates for alderman. Ultimately, three ran for office. One won. Only Jorge Mujica decided to run as a socialist.

    Meetings of the CSC sometimes were as large as a hundred people, many of whom were not members of any socialist organization. Unfortunately this did not translate into election workers. Those who did volunteer were often totally without experience in election campaigns and most did not live in the district. It's easy to be snide about this, and people have commented about leftists who like to sit and complain about Democrats. But Mujica pointed out that the CSC drew people from across the city. If he had been running for a citywide office, as Sawant did in Seattle, there would have been opportunities to be involved near at hand for everyone. Instead, there were often important contests closer to home.

    And it's not as if Mujica himself was able to put in the time a campaign requires. He's not a rich man and had to work most of the campaign season. Otherwise, Mujica himself is reasonably credible as a candidate for city council. He was one of the organizers of Chicago's huge May Day immigrant rights marches several years ago, and that's just the most visible of the organizing he's done. He's been involved in Mexican electoral politics, and the aldermanic campaign was his second campaign in the U.S. Mujica is a personable fellow with a lively personality, articulate in both Spanish and English, and easy to look at even if he is rather more shaggy than the bourgeois image of an official. Well this is a socialist campaign, yes?


    .

    Money was a problem for the campaign. It did have a paid campaign manager. The campaign did manage two bulk mail drops targeted at voters in the Pilsen neighborhood. And the campaign did have a good social media campaign directed at that same constituency. AFSCME Council 31 endorsed Mujica, as did a council of Chicago area CWA locals, bringing some mainstream credibility and money to the campaign. Chicago DSA raised over $1600 in early money and not all of it from DSA members.

    The mayoral contest also was a problem for the campaign. The Mujica campaign made no endorsement for Mayor. But many election activists in the ward were committed to working for Jesus Garcia's campaign for Mayor. An endorsement of Garcia by Mujica might have attracted some of those campaign workers but then again maybe not because it was clear that Garcia's campaign was not likely to endorse Mujica. The 25th Ward is in the backyard of Bob Fioretti, another a liberal candidate for Mayor, and neutrality left open the possibility of some support from his people. Ultimately though, the CSC, with its commitment to independent electoral politics, mostly felt Garcia was too much of a "Democrat."

    A great deal has been said about voter turnout. It was considerably less than the municipal election four years ago, but it was actually not much different than the municipal elections eight and twelve years ago. The 25th Ward was near the median for this election. The Board of Election did have its thumb on the scale, though. It set up the Ward's early voting site in Chinatown. Solis escaped a run-off election by only several dozen votes, prompting the Sigcho campaign to file for a recount of several precincts. A few of the items listed in the complaint may have plausibly been voter fraud but most of it sounded like sloppy inattention to procedure. Whatever the case, it made no difference. The official results put Solis at 3811 (51.07%), Sigcho at 1383 (18.53%), Mujica at 907 (12.15%), Montano at 748 (10.02%), and Hershey at 614 (8.23%).

    Of the groups participating in the CSC, the International Socialist Organization, Solidarity, and Chicago DSA came through. DSA raised money, provided opposition research, did issues research, provided mailing services, and had a dedicated handful of members who gathered petition signatures, canvassed voters, blitzed precincts, leafleted L stations, and did election day work. I think we could have done better, particularly with recruiting more people to work, but it's also true that Chicago DSA has no members in the 25th Ward. Will this coalition effort be duplicated in future elections? It would be a good thing if it were, but I'm inclined to be skeptical. Chicago DSA is open to the possibility. We'll see.


    Greece: A Drama in Many Acts

    by Bill Barclay

    Act I

    In January 2015 the Greek left party Syriza got the largest vote in the general election: 36% of the total. The Greek political system adds 50 seats for the party with the largest percent of the vote. Despite that, Syriza fell one seat short of the 150 needed to form a government. The sectarian perspective of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) prevented Syriza from forming a government with what, to outside observers, might seem the logical partner. Instead Syriza brought a small right wing populist party into the governing coalition. The key attribute that the Independent Greeks Party possessed was an opposition to the Greek bailout at least as intense as that of Syriza.

    Act II

    In February the leaders of the Syriza government met with the troika (ECB, IMF, and EU Commission) to re-negotiate (Syriza's perspective) or review and renew the commitments of the Greek government pursuant to the 2012 memoranda (troika perspective).

    So, what did the negotiations accomplish? Who "won?"

    This has been widely discussed and debated on both the left and the business press. Almost the only thing that is clear is that the two parties have a difference of opinion as to what the negotiations committed Greece to do or not to do.

    One item that Greece did get is an understanding that the "primary surplus" of the Greek budget will not triple over the next few years as the previous Greek government had agreed. Primary surplus refers to the budget balance excluding interest payments thus it is the money that is being paid out to Greek creditors. These creditors are no longer primarily large European or U.S. banks but are instead the ECB, IMF and other "public" institutions.

    Act III

    In the February negotiations, Greece did not get agreement that Syriza could implement the anti-austerity program on which it ran and won. However, that does not appear to have stopped them. In mid-March the Greek parliament approved a series of measures that are part of Syriza's anti-austerity plank, offering food stamps and free electricity to the very poorest parts of the population.

    Creditors have attacked this action and again raised the possibility of a Greek exit from the European Monetary Union (EMU), a "Grexit." Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has responded by asking Germany to repay the forced Greek loan that the Nazi government extracted from Greece during WWII. Germany, like Queen Victoria, is not amused.

    Act IV

    The February negotiations in many ways simply deferred the difficult decisions that any anti-austerity government in Europe faces. It may be that the only avenue for Greece is to leave the EMU. This does not necessarily the same as leaving the European Union (EU). For example, Norway and the UK are in the EU but not the EMU (they don't use the Euro). However, for such an outcome to occur, there would have to be some cooperation from the troika. That may be difficult but, if the Greek government poses a credible threat to leave the EMU (they have not done so to date), the troika could minimize the negative financial impact by allowing Greece to remain in the EU.

    Act V?

    In important respects this fight is not so much about Greece, but about what a renegotiated deal or a Greek exit from the EMU would mean for others. Greece's GDP is, after all, only about 2% of the EU total GDP. However, other anti-austerity parties are also growing, especially Podemos in Spain where there are elections scheduled for later this year. A Spanish anti-austerity government and threatened exit from the EMU would be a much more serious blow to the undemocratic, even anti-democratic, institutional straight jacket that has been created based on the Euro as a common currency.

    There are probably several more, as yet unwritten, acts in this drama.


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    Talkin' Socialism

    Two new episodes of Chicago DSA's mostly monthly podcasts are on line or will be by the time this issue of New Ground arrives in your mailbox.

    Episode 49, "Gun Responsibilities in Oak Park," features two Oak Park activists, Sandra Shimon and Joyce Champelli, who were among a crew of concerned citizens in that village who placed a referendum on the ballot in November's general election calling for background checks on all gun sales and transfers. The question passed by a huge margin. Shimon and Champelli tell story of how this grew out of a series of meetings intended to find common ground between gun rights and responsibilities and what is next for gun control advocates in Oak Park.

    Episode 50 features Jorge Mujica, recent candidate for Alderman of Chicago's 25th Ward, and the manager of his campaign, Mario Cardenas. Interviewed by Chicago DSA's Bill Barclay (Barclay was on the campaign steering committee), they discuss what went right with the campaign and what went wrong, and some of the reasoning behind the campaign.

    The most recent episode of Talkin' Socialism is always on display at www.chicagodsa.org but you can find a complete listing at the Talkin' Socialism blog: talkinsocialism.wordpress.com .

    Chuy for Mayor

    The Chicago DSA Executive Committee has voted, by email, to recommend to DSA members and friends that they support and become involved in Jesus Garcia's campaign for Mayor of Chicago: www.chicagoforchuy.com/index.html

    • Downtown city-wide office: 651 W. Washington; Phone: 312-207-0152
    • Southeast office: 6306 S. Woodlawn; Phone: 773-955-2553
    • South-central office: 4249 S. Archer, Suite 100; Phone: 773-376-3850
    • Southwest office: 3020 W. 63rd; Phone: 312-721-0074
    • Central office: 5215 W. Chicago; Phone: 872-256-5112
    • Mid-city office: 1902 W Cermak; Phone: 872-666-1505
    • North-central office: 3426 W. Diversey; Phone: 773-657-0102
    • Northeast office: 1144 W. Wilson; Phone: 773-746-6587
    • Northwest office: 4314 W. Irving Park; Phone: 773-283-3930

    ,

    Electoral Action Conference

    A conference on the "Future of Left and Independent Politics" will be held in Chicago, Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3, on Chicago's near west side. Chicago DSA is among the endorsing organizations. The organizers of the conference propose a dialog for those who are committed to left politics outside the two party system. This would include a discussion of the "why" goals of running and winning election campaigns, to share experiences and reflections, and the challenges of governing. Full registration is $30, but more information can be found at leftelect.org.

    Save the Dates

    § Friday evening, May 8: Building New Movements for Change. The 57th Annual Debs ­ Thomas ­ Harrington Dinner, honoring Gerry Hudson and Amisha Patel. Our featured speaker is Tom Geoghegan. This year's event is being held at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, Madison & Halsted in Chicago. Tickets $80. To order or for more information, see www.chicagodsa.org/d2015 .

    § Saturday, May 16, 12:15 PM: our monthly meeting in May is shifted to the third Saturday of the month and it will be a membership meeting, partly in preparation our June membership convention. As usual, it's at the Chicago DSA office, 3411 W. Diversey, Ste 7, in Chicago. For more information, call 773.384.0327.

    § Saturday, May 16, 2 PM: the monthly meeting of the socialist reading group is also shifted to the 3rd Saturday for May. It is at the Chicago DSA office. For more information, contact Dan Hamilton at 847.431.4569.


    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.

    Debs Thomas Harrington
    Gerry HudsonGerry Hudson
    Executive Vice President
    Service Employees International Union
    Amisha PatelAmisha Patel
    Executive Director
    Grassroots Collaborative
    Featuring:
    Tom GeogheganThomas Geoghegan
    Attorney, Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan
    Author, "Only One Thing Can Save Us"
    Activist

    .

    Friday, May 8, 6 PM

    Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro
    Halsted & Madison, Chicago

    Tickets $80

    MORE INFORMATION.

    New Ground #159.1

    04.17.2015

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Building New Movements for Change
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    LaSalle Street Tax Campaign by Bill Barclay
    Fight for 15 in Oak Park
    Fast Track
    Tax-Free Zones No Policy Panacea
    Chicago Elections

    2. Democratic Socialism

    Civil Power and the Partner State

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    DSA News

    57th Annual Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner

    Building New Movements for Change
    Featuring
    Tom Geoghegan

    Friday, May 8, 6 PM @ Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, Halsted & Madison, Chicago

    Please Join Us in Honoring

    • Gerry Hudson, Executive Vice President, SEIU
    • Amisha Patel, Executive Director, Grassroots Collaborative

    Tickets $80 -- To order by mail, CLICK HERE. (PDF)

    If you're planning to attend, go to the event Facebook Page, join, and invite your Facebook friends. We will have copies of Geoghegan's latest book for sale, at a discount, at the event.

    DSA in the News
    The California Aggie reported that the UofC Davis Young Democratic Socialists were one of five student political organizations participating in a debate sponsored by the Davis Rational Debates and Discussions club. Hamilton College's The Spectator posted a profile of the college's Young Democratic Socialists club. SMNW Media in Kansas featured a debate -- more of a joint interview, really -- between local heads of the local Young Republicans club, Young Democrats club, and Young Democratic Socialists club.

    Greater Oak Park DSA was used as an identifier in a delicious anti-Rauner op-ed by Tom Broderick posted at Oak Park's Wednesday Journal. Chicago DSA was mentioned in passing in an account of the Chicago elections posted at Jacobin.

    Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has a reputation as being seriously conservative, but his son Seth Hutchinson is an organizer for the Texas State Employees Union, and a member of DSA, says the New York Times.

    Denver radio station KGNU plugged an upcoming DSA meeting and included a four minute interview with the speaker that evening, Chicago DSA's Bill Barclay.

    Cornel West did a speaking gig out in Oakland, California, covered by the Contra Costa Times. The article itself did not mention DSA, but the photo spread used DSA as an identifier, as did the reprint by San Jose Mercury.


    Politics

    LaSalle Street Tax Campaign
    by Bill Barclay
    Governor Rauner has called for "shared sacrifice" to solve Illinois' budget problems -- but he seems unable to find sacrifices that can be made by the top 1%. The LaSalle Street Tax Campaign has come together to help him. The Campaign is organized to educate, agitate and organize for a financial transaction tax on the trading of derivatives at the Chicago exchanges. A very small tax, such as that currently proposed under HR 106, of $1 and $2 would, at current volume levels, raise between $10 to 12 billion annually. Any reduction in trading that occurred as a result of the tax would also be beneficial: the trading lost would primarily be that done by high frequency trading firms (HFT). HFT firms use extremely high speed computers and the bought and paid for advantage of placing their machines adjacent to the servers of the Chicago exchanges. They thus extract small profits/contract from other market participants such as farmers or your pension fund but large profits when the thousands of profitable trades are added up.

    Organizations currently represented in the Campaign include CTU, NNU, UE, DSA, PDA, Alliance for Community Services, National Peoples' Lobby and IIRON. Others are invited to join -- your organization can become part of the Campaign by signing up HERE.

    Fight for 15 in Oak Park
    This McDonald's is famous: it was on the day GOPDSA went there several years ago that McDonald's agreed to sign with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. We started by assembling across the street with McDonald's workers. Then we picketed. Then we delivered a letter to the manager (this is a franchised McDonald's). It was not well received: The manager refused to take the letter from Adriana, a worker at McDonald's. MORE.

    Fast Track
    The April 18 national day of action against Fast Track legislation that greases Congressional wheels to pass unfair trade agreements couldn't have been more timely. Indeed, the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition did its Chicago demonstration today (17th). Just in time for all that, the Fast Track bill was introduced into the Senate. The AFL-CIO is organizing phone calls to the Senate in opposition. You can call 855.790.8815 or CLICK HERE to be called, briefed on talking points, then connected to your Senators' office.

    Jobs with Justice has a web page with talking points and the phone number (855.980.2349) to the House of Representatives HERE.

    If you want to read the 113 page draft of the Fast Track bill, CLICK HERE (PDF). Public Citizen's Eyes on Trade blog provides some analysis of the bill, noting that much of the text replicates, word-for-word, the text of the 2014 Fast Track bill that replicated...

    In the meantime, Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute observes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is unlikely to be a good deal for American workers. How does one judge this?

    In regard to the TPP and wages for the vast majority of Americans, there are two important concerns in play. The first is whether it will help generate aggregate demand (i.e., increase spending by households, governments, and businesses) and tighter labor markets in coming years. The second is whether it will lead to a trade policy that boosts low -- and moderate -- wage workers' power to bargain for higher wages -- instead of continuing to favor corporate managers and capital owners.

    MORE.

    Incidentally, the next episode of Chicago DSA's Talkin' Socialism will focus on the fight against the Fast Track and "free" trade agreements. Stay Tuned.

    Tax-Free Zones No Policy Panacea
    At Clawback, Thomas Cafcas writes:

    ...Rahm Emanuel has proposed tax-free zones allowing businesses exemptions on property, income, and sales taxes in impoverished neighborhoods. The idea is neither new nor promising. In fact, Illinois already has six Enterprise Zones in Chicago and they have very mixed track records.

    MORE.

    Chicago Elections
    Immediately after the run-off, Whet Moser at Chicago Magazine provided a demographic look at the mayoral results. More recently, Scott Kennedy at Illinois Election Data provided some brief insights into the numbers. The folks around United Working Families examined what went wrong and right, and the discussion was covered by Progress Illinois. Paul Blumenthal at The Huffington Post notes that the pro-Emanuel super PAC Chicago Forward "failed in its ultimate goal: to cow those on the council who oppose Emanuel's agenda" and goes on to examine the failure and its consequences.


    Democratic Socialism

    Civil Power and the Partner State
    At Grassroots Economic Organizing, John Restakis writes:

    The social economy is composed of civil organizations and networks that are driven by the principles of reciprocity and mutuality in service to the common good -- usually through the social control of capital. It is composed of co-operatives, non-profit organizations, foundations, voluntary groups, and a whole range of associations that operate both inside the market, as many successful co-operatives do, or in non-market provision of goods or services. These include cultural production, the provision of health or social care, and the provision of food, shelter, or other necessities to people in need.

    In its essence, the social & solidarity economy is a space and a practice where economics is at the service of social ends, not the other way round.

    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.


    New Ground #159.2

    04.30.2015

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Last Call
    DSA in the News
    Religious Socialism

    1. Politics

    Thank You
    How Chicago Voted: Race, Ethnicity and the Neoliberal Agenda
    "Right To Work" Laws Are Undemocratic by Tom Suhrbur
    Representative Davis and the TPP by Tom Broderick
    Governor .1%
    McDonald's HQ: May 20
    They Did WHAT?
    What We Don't Talk About

    2. Ars Politica

    Gee, Capitalistas!

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    DSA News

    57th Annual Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington Dinner

    Building New Movements for Change
    Featuring
    Tom Geoghegan
    author, labor lawyer, playwright

    Friday, May 8, 6 PM @ Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, Halsted & Madison, Chicago

    Please Join Us in Honoring

    • Gerry Hudson, Executive Vice President, SEIU
    • Amisha Patel, Executive Director, Grassroots Collaborative

    Last call for tickets!

    Some tickets will be available at the door; we'll be asking $90. We will have:

    • Vegetarian plates available;
    • copies of Geoghegan's latest book, Only One Thing Can Save Us, for sale, at a discount, at the event;
    • Coat room;
    • Discounted valet parking.

    DSA in the News
    One of the lovely aspects of the "S" word is that it provides employment opportunities for so many... Trevor Loudon, for example, is a chap from New Zealand who seems to be on a permanent book tour here in the States. On occasion, his appearances get written up, as in this advance notice plug in the Highland, California, Highland Community News.

    Wesleyan University's The Wesleyan Argus published a profile of the Wesleyan Democratic Socialists.

    "A Small Battle in a Larger War" published in New Ground 159 was reposted at New Politics.

    DSA got mentioned in passing in an In These Times editorial about the perennial conversation on the left about third parties.

    Religious Socialism
    Religious Socialism was founded by John Cort as a newsletter in 1977. It ceased publication seven years ago. The electronic RS is a work in progress. We invite you to join us in making it useful both to people of faith within DSA and to the wider religious left. Check out DSA's newest community, dedicated to people of faith and socialism HERE.


    Politics

    Thank You
    As this is being typed, news reports say Bernie Sanders is indeed running for President. CLICK HERE.

    How Chicago Voted: Race, Ethnicity and the Neoliberal Agenda
    At Democratic Left, Bill Barclay writes:

    The short and quick summary of Chicago's mayoral election is easy. In the primary, 21% of the voters chose neither Mayor 1% nor Chuy. Jesus (Chuy) Garcia needed to get three-quarters of that vote in the runoff to beat Rahm Emanuel. He didn't. The two candidates split this vote and Rahm won the election 56-44%. The runoff increased turnout, drawing about 2 in 5 registered voters compared to the 1 in 3 that voted in the primary. Garcia's vote increased by 60% over the primary, and Emmanuel's by 50%.

    After Bill de Blasio's mayoral win in New York City, there were hopes and expectations that Chicago might also reject neoliberal policies at the city level. There was at least a surface similarity between Mayor Bloomberg's concept of NYC as a "luxury product" and Emanuel's focus on the Loop and north Michigan Avenue to the neglect of Chicago's neighborhoods. But there also were important differences between the NYC and Chicago mayoral races. First, de Blasio did not face a (well funded) incumbent. Second, de Blasio entered the race early, while Garcia was a late substitution for Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president, whose health problems precluded her running. Third, de Blasio went on the attack about inequality. Garcia's was a lower key approach to this question, stressing his desire to be mayor for all Chicagoans. Fourth, de Blasio did not have a sitting president endorse his opponent. Finally, the budget issues facing Chicago are more difficult than those that faced NYC.

    MORE.

    "Right To Work" Laws Are Undemocratic
    by Tom Suhrbur

    In 1947, the Republican-controlled Congress passed the Taft- Hartley Act over the veto of President Truman sharply curtailing the rights and power of unions. A major feature of the Act was a provision that allowed states to pass open shop laws. Dubbed "Right To Work" (RTW) by supporters, open shop laws prohibit unions from negotiating union security clauses. Union security contract provisions require workers either to join (union shop) or to pay agency fees (fair share) for the representation that they receive. Proponents of Open Shop laws argue that workers should have the "right to work' wherever they want without being compelled to join a union or having to pay fair share fees. They argue that "forced unionism" is an assault on workers "personal freedom." Why should anyone be forced to join or pay fees to a union?

    Since 1947, all of the Southern and many of the Western states have enacted RTW laws. Now, there is a major effort by Republicans to pass these laws in the Midwest -- a union stronghold. Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan have already done so. Depending on the outcome of the 2016 election, they could add states like Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois and others to their list of successes. Of course, they will enjoy even greater success if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Abood Decision that upheld union security clauses for public employees. The Court will announce that decision on the issue this spring.

    Union Busting:
    While the rationale for Open Shop is to protect the "freedom" of workers, these laws are really intended to undermine unions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 15 states with the lowest rate of union membership have Open Shop laws. RTW laws also embolden employers to fight vigorously against union organizing campaigns. They weaken existing unions by encouraging non-membership and depriving unions of much needed revenue. Given a choice, some workers will refrain from joining simply to save money. But, more importantly, many workers will not join out of fear, especially when management expresses its hostility to the union. Despite the protection of the law, it is hard to convince workers to join a union when management so often retaliates against union activists. Union security agreements, on the other hand, remove the fear of joining. Since it is a requirement for everyone, individuals feel that they are not likely to be singled out by management. When a bargaining agreement includes a union security clause, most workers readily join. Since labor unions are a major force in the Democratic Party coalition, most Republicans are enthusiastic supporters of such laws.

    A Lower Standard of Living for Workers:
    Open Shop laws lower labor costs (wages and benefits). The Economic Policy Institute has pointed out that wages in RTW states are much lower, on average, than states without such laws. Workers earn on average $5,000 less annually in RTW states than states without such laws. They also have less health insurance coverage and lower pension benefits. In 2014, 8 of the 10 states with the highest poverty rates (West Virginia and New Mexico being the exception) are RTW; 7 of the 10 states with the lowest poverty rates are not open shop.

    What About Job Creation?
    Conservatives argue that Open Shop laws significantly attract investment resulting in job creation. In 2014, 7 of 10 of states that had the lowest unemployment were RTW but 6 of them are sparsely populated, rural western states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska). Nevertheless, 7 of the 10 states with the highest unemployment were also RTW states. These laws do not clearly lower unemployment. In fact, the three states with the highest unemployment have RTW laws. Mississippi, a RTW state, has the highest poverty rate and second highest unemployment in the nation. Where are jobs?

    Are Union Security Clauses Fair?
    The typical defense of union security is that a union cannot bargain special salaries and benefits for its members and less for non-members. All workers get the same deal. While this argument carries some weight with the public, it does not go far enough.

    What should be made clear is that a union has a duty of fair representation for all employees covered by the collective bargaining agreement. This statutory obligation means that non-members can compel a union to provide legal services when their employer violates their rights under the contract. In fact, non-members can file Duty of Fair Representation (DFR) complaints against the union for failing to provide proper representation. Federal or state labor boards adjudicate DFR hearings. Put simply, a union can be faced with expensive litigation and possible fines even if the worker is not paying any dues. Since unions have a duty of fair representation, the National Labor Relations Act and many state bargaining laws covering public employees allow labor organizations to bargain security clauses to prevent "free loaders." Open Shop legislation bans such contract language.

    What is fair about Right To Work? Non-members not only receive all the benefits of the contract but also have the right to legal services without paying any union dues. If they do not feel that they are receiving proper representation, they can take legal action against the union. Talk about a free ride!

    Despite conservative claims, "right to work" legislation is not about fairness. Instead, it is about money and political power. Republicans and their cooperate allies wants to undermine labor unions and weaken political opponents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fifteen states with the lowest percent of union membership have RTW laws.

    RTW Laws Violate Democratic Principles:
    What alternative do workers have to joining the union or paying fair share fees if they truly do not want a union? A union is certified to represent workers by a majority vote in a government-supervised election. In a similar vein, a union can be decertified. If 30% of the workers sign a decertification petition, the government will conduct an election to determine whether the union will continue to represent the workers. If a majority votes "no representation," the union is out. Decertification elections are not usually successful. Faced with the choice, even non-union members in RTW states, will vote to keep union representation. Workers can even de-authorize a union security clause in their contract through a similar election process. De- authorization elections are rare.

    In effect, RTW laws circumvent this democratic decision-making process. The state governments allow individuals to enjoy the fruits of representation including legal services without contributing to the collective efforts of their co-workers. Under RTW, workers can simply opt out without taking any responsibility for the situation.

    Democratic decision-making is a basic principle upon which American society rests. Are pacifists allowed to opt out paying taxes that support the military? Can a childless couple refuse to pay taxes to educate our children? If citizens do not like government policies, what can they do? They can raise their voices, organize politically and vote to change policies but they cannot opt out. RTW violates this basic democratic principle.

    RTW laws are intended to make unions ineffective where they are already established and to prevent new unions from organizing. The "personal freedom" that RTW proponents want for workers is to bargain individually with the employer. Of course, in a free labor market (non-union), the employer has the exclusive power to set wages, benefits and working conditions and to fire employees "at will."

    Editor's Note: a shorter version of this article first appeared at Streetwise.

    -----

    At In These Times, Moshe Marvits examines a particular anti-labor case before the courts, noting:

    Bain v. California Teachers Association is in some ways little more than a rehash of previous attacks on labor, but it repackages those attacks' allegations with a pro-union façade. In doing so, this case represents the high-water mark of perverting the First Amendment as a tool against labor.

    Anti-union groups have been arguing in the courts, with varying degrees of success, that unions violate workers' First Amendment rights by charging dues. Behind this argument is the idea that money is speech -- a concept that the Roberts Court has accepted wholeheartedly -- and the requirement that workers pay union dues or fair share fees is a violation of these workers' First Amendment rights.

    MORE.

    Representative Davis and the TPP
    by Tom Broderick

    Recently, Chicago DSA organized a meeting with Rep. Danny K. Davis, (D-7th CD). We wanted to discuss Fast Track (aka Trade Promotion Authority), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the newly released report from the Congressional Progressive Caucus: "Principles for Trade: A Model for Global Trade."

    Davis' district stretches from the lake front through Austin, on the west side of Chicago, and into near western suburbs. It encompasses the Chicago financial district in downtown Chicago and the most financially distressed communities in Chicago: East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park. Once, there were many manufacturing jobs on the west side of Chicago, but not so much anymore.

    Participants in the meeting included Jeff Uehlinger of United Students Against Sweatshops, Peg Strobel, a member of the National Political Committee of DSA, Mary Erkins of RESULTS, Tim Thomas, Co-chair of Domestic and Social Policy for Americans for Democratic Action, Chicago, Joan Levin, Legislative Director of Illinois Right to Know GMO, and of course Representative Danny K. Davis.

    We thanked Rep. Davis for signing a "Dear Colleague" letter stating opposition to Fast Track last year and urged him to take a public position against it again. After first stating he still opposed Fast Track, he quickly back-tracked to say "I'm pretty sure I'll vote against it." This no doubt in response to the pressure that President Obama is bringing to Democratic members of Congress. The President understands that the key to any of the international trade bills in the offing will require Fast Track Authority to pass.

    Davis' response is most unfortunate because since our meeting, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have reintroduced legislation that would bring back Fast Track. Fast Track Authority would require a vote by Congress to cede their authority on international trade deals to the Executive Branch. If Fast Track passes, upcoming trade bills with many diverse chapters and thousands of pages of text would receive limited debate and would be subject to a "Yes" or "No" vote.

    When Fast Track was introduced during the Nixon administration, trade bills were very short and focused on tariffs and duties. Now they are focused on protecting investor rights. They are also written behind closed doors and have been classified "Top Secret" by this administration. In most of the democratic nations involved in international trade deals, the texts are made public. In the U.S., because of the "Top Secret" classification, our elected Congressional officials can't discuss what they know about the deals with each other, let alone their staff or the public.

    Yet, we're told that all the bad things about previous trade deals -- think the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) -- have been worked out and all is good with the world. If these trade deals are such a good deal, why the secrecy? If you look at the available texts from the TPP, they are not good for workers, the environment or democracy.

    While our elected representatives are kept at bay, approximately 500 lobbyists from various trans-national corporations have been invited by the White House to help shape the aspects of the trade bills that most affect their wealth and power.

    It's our responsibility and right to claim our democracy. The trans-national corporations involved in writing the TPP are claiming their right to unimpeded profit. I urge you to contact your federal Representative and your federal Senators and tell them to vote against Fast Track (or Trade Promotion Authority). To find out your Representative, CLICK HERE and to find your Senator, CLICK HERE.

    There was very little to talk about regarding the TPP. The document hasn't been finalize and due to the "Top Secret" status, whatever Rep. Davis knows about the text, he can't discuss. All he said was that the only trade agreement he has voted for was the U.S. -- Korean trade deal -- also known ans KORUS. While not a bilateral trade deal, Rep. Davis also voted for the African Growth and Opportunity Act during the Clinton administration. This deal was supposed to boost the economies of the African populace, but like all trade deals, those who have benefit to a greater extent than those who don't have. Some referred to the African trade deal as NAFTA for Africa.

    The basic elements of the Principles for Trade, issued by the Congressional Progressive Caucus provide a significant antidote to the toxic secrecy undertaken by the Obama administration. These include:

    • Protect Congress' Authority to Set Trade Policy;
    • Restore Balanced Trade;
    • Put Workers First;
    • Stop Currency Manipulation;
    • Expand Buy American Procurement Practices;
    • Protect the Environment For Future Generations;
    • Prioritize Consumers Above Profits;
    • Protect Nationhood Rights;
    • Secure Affordable Access to Essential Medicines and Services;
    • Respect Human Rights;
    • Provide a Safety Net for Vulnerable Workers.

    Not a wish list for the one per-centers.

    There are three Illinois members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: Representatives Jan Schakowsky, Danny K. Davis and Luis Gutierrez. They all deserve our thanks for a far more democratic approach to international trade deals the the neo-liberal administration favors. See above for to contact them. The full list of members of the Progressive Caucus can be found HERE. If you see your Representative on the list, thank them and ask them to promote the Principles of Trade.

    During our meeting, I urged Rep. Davis to write an Op-Ed piece for the Chicago Tribune or the Chicago Sun Times. This would go a long way in getting alternatives to trade procedures into public hands. He only indicated that he would read the Principles and give some thought to the Op-Ed.

    As a socialist, I consider myself an internationalist. The principles indicated above emphasize good international trade practices and should be reviewed by our citizens as well as the global population. Trade that focuses on the maximization of profit over the health and well being of people and the earth must be stopped. One planet, one people.

    -----

    Update: on April 22, the Fast Track was approved by the Senate Finance Committee by a 20 to 6 vote. On April 23, it was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee on a 25 to 13 vote.

    Governor .1%
    The Chicago Federation of Labor is maintaining a handy web page with resources concerning Governor Rauner's "right to work" offensive, in particular: notices about where local "right to work" items have made it on to the agenda. CLICK HERE.

    They are also asking for help in tracking where and when "right to work" resolutions are being added to local government agendas. If you are aware of an upcoming meeting where such a resolution is pending, CLICK HERE.

    McDonald's HQ: May 20

    On April 15th, low-wage workers, students, and community members throughout the country, and the whole world stood up in the largest low-wage worker mobilization in history. Here in Chicago, thousands joined the fight, showing these rich corporations that we are not going anywhere.

    Now it's time to keep up the pressure: A protest at McDonald's backyard during their shareholder meeting. Join us on May 20 to show McDonald's and the fast food industry that we're not stopping until $15 and union rights is a reality for ALL, and until every working family has a fair chance to survive.

    SIGN UP.

    They Did WHAT?
    At The Beachwood Reporter, Steve Rhodes surveys the Rekia Boyd case HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

    What We Don't Talk About
    At Chicago Magazine, Daniel Kay Hertz writes:

    Like what's happening in Baltimore, the violent protests of the 1960s were taken by much of the country as evidence of a kind of national crisis. Like what's happening in Baltimore, the violent protests of the 1960s took place in a much broader context of violence that was not taken by most of the country -- which is to say, white people -- as evidence of a national crisis. The truly horrifying thuggery of the present-day Baltimore Police Department never merited wall-to-wall coverage on CNN; likewise, the angry mobs who attacked black neighbors in communities across Chicago, and elsewhere, in the 1960s frequently went unremarked on by contemporary newspapers, let alone history books.

    The point is not to justify smashing or burning as a tactic of protest. It is to point out that certain types of violence against Americans -- or their property -- seem to hold us riveted, and others do not. And that as long as certain kinds of violence against Americans are so boring to so many as to be immediately forgotten, the stories we tell about ourselves and our cities won't just be incomplete; they will be wrong.

    MORE.


    Ars Politica

    Gee, Capitalistas!
    From the musical "Red Side Story," with affection for, and apologies to, Stephen Sondheim and "Officer Krupke." Written with May 1 in mind, CLICK HERE.


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