New Movements for Change
There Should Be More of It.
by Bob Roman
The 57th Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington
Dinner convened on May 8 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro on
Chicago's near westside. It was a dark and stormy evening but
an educational and inspiring event. April Verrett presented the
award to Gerry Hudson speaking on "what Hudson means to
me": Never shrink from leadership. Hudson reflected on being
a "baby socialist" while on the National Committee
of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee's Youth Section,
and how DSA and SEIU provided him with a political education
and a pro-social outlet for his rage at injustice. Jackson Potter
emphasized Amisha Patel's role in the labor uprising against
Chicago's Establishment. Patel provided a concise reflection
on the strengths and weaknesses of that movement. Our featured
speaker, Tom Geoghegan, deserves a special mention. His presentation
was not oratory. Orations are highly desirable for postprandial
speakers if only to keep people awake. But Geoghegan's presentation
kept the audience's attention because it spoke directly to their
experiences as organizers and activists.
Our visit with Representative Mike Quigley
on May 7 went about as well as could have been expected. The
delegation included Joe Persky, Nancy Jones and Sidney Hollander.
We met for nearly half an hour. Quigley started by complaining
about getting yelled at over TPP (and TPA, ie Trade Promotion
Authority or Fast Track), which he said was especially out of
place considering how unimportant the issue is in comparison
with such things as Iran and nuclear disarmament. We pointed
out to him that maybe TPP was attracting a lot of attention because
many people are very concerned about it.
We showed Quigley a copy of a March
19 letter that he had sent to the Chair of Ways and Means (Paul
Ryan) setting out some excellent instructions to the trade negotiators.
Quigley's letter said he wants: a greater role for Congress and
the public in reviewing any proposed trade deal; enforceable
labor and environmental standards; methods of dealing with currency
manipulations; adequate programs for displaced workers. We praised
him for setting these conditions and told him several times that
we expected him to stick to them and oppose any bill that did
not meet them. Unfortunately, he never stated clearly whether
he would do that.
On the positive side, he said a couple
of times that he had voted against the Columbia free trade bill
because it did not satisfy his conditions. On the negative side,
he said repeatedly that he thinks a TPP is necessary to counter
the influence of China, a military as well as an economic threat.
And when we asked him if he was saying that any TPP was better
than none he sidestepped the question. We asked him to consider
the possibility that by voting no on TPA (thus dooming TPP) the
other parties to the negotiations would conclude that they should
do more to address the concerns that led to the bill's defeat.
He pretty much dismissed that possibility, saying we could not
get better terms. And he would not listen to the observation
that because access to U.S. markets is intensely desired by everyone
in the negotiations, the U.S. is in a strong bargaining position.
Echoing the U.S. administration, Quigley
acknowledged the failings of North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), but only in a general way, and offered neither specific
shortcomings nor any specific ways in which TPP would be better.
He just insisted that Obama had learned from NAFTA and would
avoid the mistakes that were made when it was adopted. He insisted
that the president deserved our trust in this. We called attention
to the bad outcome (balance of payments and loss of U.S. jobs)
of the very recently (2012) negotiated free trade deal with South
Korea, but he disputed the data (but offered none of his own.)
We mentioned the pro-corporate bias
in the dispute resolution tribunals that limit governments' authority
to enforce environmental and labor standards, and gave him a
report of a Guatemalan case of labor repression (murder) that
has dragged on for six years during which time two more organizers
have been murdered. He said only that he would look into it.
Quigley presents himself as a principled
insider. He mentioned his ability to talk to the President about
TPP and thereby to advance his own agenda as reflected in the
letter to Paul Ryan. He contrasted his approach to what he said
was the approach of Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-9) and Rosa DeLauro
(D, CT-3). According to Quigley, those two sent the President
a letter flatly opposing any TPP about a year ago. Now that the
real decisions are being made, Quigley said, he's in the room
exercising influence while the other two are outside, powerless
to affect the outcome.
It's pretty clear that Quigley has no
fundamental objection to the idea of free trade (so-called).
To him, globalization (his word) with its enormous inequities
is simply a given by now. He mentioned 5th district business
owners who had lobbied him in support of TPP, but made no reference
to the opposition of workers and unions. Although he wants to
use TPP to project U.S. interests in opposition to China, for
the most part governments, in his view, seem to have only limited
ability to curb the influence of global capital. He seems to
believe that his effort to nudge the TPP deal in a slightly better
direction (better than NAFTA, I guess) is the best that can be
done, and that we should trust him. On the other hand, at the
close of our meeting he came back to his complaint about "yelling",
so he must be feeling some heat.
Photos by Carson Starkey.
Opposition to the Fast Track
by Tom Broderick
On May 7, I took part in two press conferences
and rallies focusing on Fast Track and the secretive trade agreements
such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade
and Investment Partnership. The latter is also called the Trans
Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.
The first press conference was called
by Representative Dan Lipinski (D-3) and District 7 Steelworkers.
Rep. Lipinski has taken a strong stand against Fast Track and
the secretive trade deals. Joining him were Representative Robin
Kelly (D-2) and an aide from the office of Representative Danny
K. Davis (D-7).
A couple of weeks previous, Rep. Davis,
who is on the House Ways and Means Committee voted against passing
Trade Promotion Authority (Fast Track by its formal name) out
of committee. My thanks to Rep. Davis. If he is your Representative,
call him and thank him yourself. His Chicago office can be reached
at 773 533 7520. Ask for Ira Cohen when call and tell him you
are calling as a member of Chicago DSA.
Unfortunately, the Republican led committee,
chaired by Representative Paul Ryan (WI) passed it to the full
House. Illinois Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee
who voted for the measure are Representatives Bob Dold R-10)
and Peter Roskam (R-6) If either of these are your Representative,
call them and tell them you want them to vote against Fast Track
when it comes up in the House. Dold can be reached at 847 793
8400. Roskam can be reached at 630 232 0006.
Citing the broken promises of past trade
deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Rep.
Lipinski spoke of the nearly 300,000 manufacturing jobs lost
in Illinois alone. He also said that the estimated 70,000 new
jobs and soaring exports that KORUS (the U.S. ~ Korean Free Trade
agreement) was supposed to provide has turned into a loss of
60,000 jobs and an increase in the trade deficit.
He also said that it was the responsibility
of the U.S. Congress to ensure that trade agreements create good
paying American jobs and safeguard the consumer and environmental
Rep. Kelly said that although she wanted
to work with the President, it was necessary to engage in a deeper,
broader and more inclusive dialogue regarding international trade.
She said there could be no fast track to a more prosperous future
and that currency manipulation damaged U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.
Fast Track was not appropriate for our international trade agreements.
Also speaking at the event were Tiffany
Ingram, Midwest Advocacy Director for Natural Resources Defense
Council, Bill Hickey, Chief Executive Officer of Lapham-Hickey
Steel of Chicago, Robert Reiter, Jr., Secretary Treasurer of
the Chicago Federation of Labor and Carson Starkey, Director
of Illinois Fair Trade Campaign.
The event was held inside the Jernberg
Industries forging plant on Chicago's south side. We were provided
safety goggles and "NO Fast Track" signs for the press
Later that day there was a "Don't
Walk Out On Illinois Jobs" rally and press conference in
Rep. Mike Quigley's District (D-5). This event was called by
the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Rep. Quigley is
the true Democratic Party hard ass when it comes to Fast Track
and the trade agreements. He says he fully supports his President.
He does not want to let China be a leader in Asia and if we don't
want to lose out, we'll have to take the lead.
He obviously doesn't care about the
jobs lost in his District thanks to NAFTA, CAFTA and KORUS. As
part of the rally, we brought shoes that we left outside his
office. Rep. Quigley was not in the office when we were there.
In addition to the CWA, members of IIRON, Food and Water Watch,
Progressive Democrats of America, United Students Against Sweatshops
along with Chicago DSA and Illinois Fair Trade Campaign were
If Rep. Quigley is your Representative,
please call him at 773 267 5926 and tell him you do not appreciate
secret trade deals and you want him to vote against Fast Track
and for democracy.
Electoral Action Conference
by Bob Roman
Over the May Day weekend, May 2nd and
3rd, nearly 200 people gathered at Teamster City on Chicago's
near west side to attend "The
Future of Left / Independent Electoral Action in the United States"
conference. The conference aimed at promoting independent political
action, building cooperation among groups and individuals so
engaged, and developing the means for continued networking and
cooperation. Partly as a result of DSA's work in Jorge Mujica's
campaign for Alderman, Chicago DSA was invited to endorse the
call for the conference, and we did. I was recruited to attend.
I did not want to go.
By the end of Saturday, I had developed
quite an enthusiasm for the event. True, the attendees were largely
typical of a lefty conference: older, majority male, minorities
mostly as program participants. There were more women than usual,
and many were strong personalities. Depending on the time of
day, young adults were a somewhat larger proportion than usual.
But three things really won me over. First, there was little
of the speechifying that comes from people hungry for the soapbox.
Most of the questions were just that: inquiries for more information
or clarification of something not quite understood. Second, the
panels that I attended were very grounded in the realities of
running for office and of governing. The election skills workshops,
for example, may not have given someone contemplating a run for
office all the information needed for conducting a campaign,
but they did provide an outline of what that person would need
to learn. And third, the conference was formally polite in dealing
with probably its most divisive issue: Bernie Sanders running
for the Democratic Party nomination for President.
It's not as if they had much choice
in how they dealt with the issue. The organizers had invited
Sanders' home base, the Vermont
Progressive Party, to participate in the conference. And
when the question of Sanders came up early on Saturday, the session
chair, out of curiosity, asked for a show of hands by those who
would be working on his campaign. A large minority, perhaps a
third, raised their hands: something of a shock to the others,
I think. Even if most of the rest of the room were thinking dark
judgments, they also weren't ready to spoil the party.
It wasn't long into Sunday that my enthusiasm
began to wane. Speeches began to creep in among the questions
and dogmas began to run loose in the hall. More than that, my
original sense of hope was partly based on the idea of a growing
competency learned from experience. But not that many attendees
were young people, and they were mostly very, very new to electoral
politics. Given the average age of the conferees, we should have
been movers and shakers, representing significant constituencies.
But with a few exceptions, the attendees pretty much represented
themselves. There will be exceptions, but these geezers have
mostly gone about as far as they will go.
The conference, however, did fulfill
more than a passing need. There is a need for a venue where the
left, unencumbered by the Democratic Party brand, can gather
to schmooze about elections and governing, where people interested
in joining campaigns and elections can be introduced to them
and mentored. That doesn't completely describe what this event
was about, but the overlap is considerable.
Toward the end of the conference, attendees
were asked to formally resolve that the ad hoc organizing committee
continue and plan another event, possibly in 2016. It passed
unanimously with but 4 abstentions. This conference was a sterling
example of how much can be accomplished on a shoestring with
dedication. But all volunteer operations are fragile, depending
on commitment and trust among a few. A year can be a very long
time in politics, and some of these organizers tend to be as
much dogmatists as they are ideologues. We'll see: Perhaps Labor Notes for politicians?
compiled by Bob Roman
The Most Dangerous Woman in America
Episode 52, recorded April 27, 2015:
According to West Virginia district attorney
Reese Blizzard, that would be Mary Harris Jones, aka "Mother
Jones." And just who was Mother Jones and why was she so
dangerous? What was Mother Jones' role in the American Railway
Union's Pullman Strike? What was her relation to the women's
movement of the early 20th Century? How did her radicalism relate
to her Irish heritage? How is her legacy and work with the miners'
unions to be remembered at the Mother Jones Museum in Mt. Olive,
Illinois? And what was it with Gene Autry, anyway? In this episode
Socialism, Peg Strobel interviews Rosemary Feurer, Associate
Professor of History at Northern Illinois University and Director
of the Mother Jones
Heritage Project. To listen, use the audio player to the
right. To download and listen later, right-click HERE
(MP3 27.3 MB).
June CDSA Membership Convention
Our regular Chicago DSA meeting on Saturday,
June 13, will be a "convention" because we will be
electing a male co-chair and secretary for two year terms beginning
July 1. As the position is vacant, we'll also be holding an election
for the female co-chair, this for a 1 year term. In addition
to the usual business, we'll be adopting a budget and discussing
priorities in light of the resources at hand.
The meeting begins at 12:15 PM in the
Chicago DSA office, 3411 W. Diversey, Ste 7 (2nd floor) in Chicago.
Please call (773.384.0327) or email (email@example.com)
if you're planning to attend. If we hear from enough people,
we'll move the meeting to the building conference room.
Believe We Will Win
by Tom Broderick
Although the Oak Brook, Illinois, police
department estimated the crowd at 2,000, it seemed quite a bit
bigger. Folk from Kansas City, New York, Texas, North Carolina,
Milwaukee, Chicago and probably elsewhere converged on McDonald's
headquarters in advance of the corporation's shareholders meeting.
Red Fight for $15 t-shirts were everywhere. A multi-racial
crowd ranging from infants pushed along in strollers to the aged
pushing walkers. Economic justice was on everyone's mind on this
chilly May 20th. Workers and their supporters called for a $15/hr
minimum wage and the right to form a union.
One month earlier, Fight for $15 called
for actions globally and the Oak Park chapter of Chicago DSA
brought several members to rally with McDonald's workers and
other supporters at the only McDonald's franchise in Oak Park.
After a short picket, we followed a worker inside as she tried
to deliver a letter to the manager. He refused to take it and
then walked out of the franchise, turned his back on us and wouldn't
talk with us or acknowledge us in any way.
Several years ago, this same McDonald's
franchise was the scene of the very last picket before McDonald's
signed a deal with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. At that
time, when a squad car from the Oak Park police department rolled
up, I went to speak with the officer and the franchise manager
elbowed me out of the way and demanded that the officer "do
something." The officer looked at us moving back and forth,
carrying our signs on the sidewalk in front of the franchise
and asked the manager wanted him to do, since it appeared to
be a lawful protest. The manager walked to his car and left,
saying he didn't want us on his property.
Since then, the Immokalee workers have
racked up several successful campaigns. One of the chants at
the Oak Brook demo was "I believe we will win!" It
was a large and beautiful event and I believe the Fight for $15
will win their wage increase and their right to organize.
Photo by Bob Simpson
To a Babbling Brooks
If only the poor
Would be more like Brooks,
And stay in school
And hit the books.
Then they too could write
For the New York Times,
And then no more looting,
No more petty crimes.
So problem solved!
Says David Brooks,
Giving one of his
Patented ain't-I-smart looks.
To the poor, the cops
May appear less than noble.
But they rarely gun down
The upwardly mobile.
here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should
be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties.
0. DSA News
DSA in the News
Young Democratic Socialists
Another Victory to Celebrate
UE on Sanders
2. Democratic Socialism
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
Rauner Wrong Greater Oak Park DSA's Bill
Barclay took just a bit more than 3 minutes to tell the Oak Park
Village Board about a natural social experiment that shows just
where Rauner would take us. Watch it HERE.
DSA in the News DSA was mentioned in passing
in a Bedford
and Bowery article concerning David McReynolds' resignation
from the Socialist Party USA.
DSA was among the organizations organizing
a May Day march in Columbus, Ohio, according to the Examiner
Bernie Sanders was the occasion for
a multiple mentions of DSA, including Peter Dreier's (an old
DSA'er himself) commentary in The
American Prospect. Bloomberg
Politics reported that "America's Socialists Say Bernie
Sanders Can Advance Their Cause" (ya think?). For Eric Lee,
the Sanders campaign brought back memories of DSOC's intervention
in the one and only Democratic Party mid-term convention in 1978,
a recollection he shared at Salon
(also see New
Ground 132). New
Jersey Today's favorable editorial regarding Sanders used
DSA to define "democratic socialism". Lawrence Wittner
included DSA in a Sanders inspired retrospective on democratic
socialists' electoral efforts in the Huffington
Post. (Wittner's piece got picked up by several other web
publications / blogs.) The Washington
Times discovered that socialists are seriously divided
about Bernie Sanders. (Imagine.) And who is Bernie Sanders? Not
John Galt but DSA, according to The
Red & Black at the University of Georgia.
The Young Democratic Socialists was
mentioned in passing in the Columbia
Missourian's coverage of Hickman High School's graduation.
DSA was used, as usual, as an identifier
applied to Cornel West in The
Christian Post's coverage of the recent Justice Conference
Young Democratic Socialists are holding a Southern Regional
conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 7 through 9. For more
Victory? The Senate passed one bill that
contained Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), also known as Fast
Track, and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The House separated
the two bills. The House must recombine their two bills to match
the one bill passed by the Senate before it can be sent to the
In the House, the TAA was called first
and it went down in flames to see the votes on this, CLICK
HERE. Although TAA is supposed
to be assistance for workers who lost their jobs due to trade,
it's not assistance that's needed, It's jobs that's needed.
TPA passed in the house. To see the
votes on this, CLICK
The House has given itself until July
30 to reconsider the TAA vote, but that vote could come at any
time. And there are other strategies possible, including a House
-- Senate conference to reconcile the differences. The fight
is not over.
For those Representatives who voted
against both parts, we need to thank them profusely.
For those Representatives who voted
against the TAA portion, we need to thank them for that vote
and urge them to stand firm when it comes up again. For those
who voted for the TAA portion, we need to urge them to re-consider
and vote against it when it comes up again. Passing TAA will
allow the combination of TAA with TPA (Fast Track).
The phone number for the switchboard
at the capital in DC is 202 224 3121. Ask for Representative
and when you get them, let them know you are a constituent and
tell them to vote against TAA when it comes up again. You can
look up your Representative HERE.
Also, consider calling Rep. Pelosi and
urge her to use her leadership to pull her members together to
vote against the re-consideration of TAA.
Another Victory to Celebrate Monday night, June 15, the Village
Board of Oak Park voted to pass a Resolution calling for the
federal government to establish federal legislation establishing
a single, consistent-for-all-states universal background check
for all gun sales. The board passed it unanimously, although
two Trustees were absent. Congratulations to the Gun Responsibility
Advocates (GRA) and to Greater Oak Park DSA co-chair Sandra Shimon
for all the work they did to make this happen. For a discussion
and background, CLICK
CPEG Notes The Summer edition of the Chicago
Political Economy Group's quarterly survey of the economy is
posted on the web. In this edition: Prof. Joseph Persky gets
things started with his take on the U.S.' less-than-robust first
quarter performance, Ron Baiman then delivers a sharp analysis
of the worsening employment scene while making sense of the deteriorating
employment/population ratio, Bill Barclay looks at how two Midwestern
states have fared under contrasting economic policy regimes,
Mel Rothenberg's International Note examines the current challenges
facing Greece and its Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, and
finally CPEG explores the Chicago mayoral election. CLICK
Censure The American Association of
University Professors at its annual meeting voted overwhelmingly
to censure the administration at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign because of the dismissal of Steven Salaita,
more HERE and HERE.
UE on Sanders At its end of May meeting, the
United Electrical Workers' General Executive Board adopted a
statement on Bernie Sanders' campaign for President that begins:
The UE General Executive Board welcomes
the entrance of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont into the presidential
race. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats
in the Senate, will compete in the Democratic primaries for the
Democratic nomination. In his 35-year career in elected office,
including 25 years in Congress, Bernie Sanders has been a strong
friend and ally to UE members and to workers generally. He has
urged workers to organize -- as he did when workers at the U.S.
Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) in St. Albans organized
UE Local 208 in 2008. When Vermont workers have organized, struck,
or been engaged in other actions to defend their rights against
employer greed or mismanagement, Sanders has spoken publicly
in their behalf and assisted them in many other ways.
Recently the Vermont State AFL-CIO Labor
Council urged the national AFL-CIO to support Sanders, calling
him "the strongest candidate articulating our issues".
With the present stable of corporate-sponsored candidates in
the presidential race we could not agree more.
Flakes Alive! At The Baffler, DSA National
Political Committee member Amber Frost begins:
A few weeks back in Manhattan, hundreds
of socialists, communists, anarchists, and even few decent "small-d"
democrats shuffled into the unlikely venue of the John Jay College
of Criminal Justice (ironically, best known as a "cop school")
for Left Forum 2015. If you aren't up on your radical political
symposiums, Left Forum evolved out of the now-defunct Socialist
Scholars Conference, which was re-founded in 1981 after the original
Socialist Scholars Conference petered out in the 1960s. The SSC
grew into the largest, most prominent leftist summit in the United
States, though nationwide university cuts eventually curtailed
both budget and staff for the event. By 2004 it was renamed Left
Forum, and it still commands a big draw: This year's confab boasted
1,300 speakers and four hundred events under the salient title
of "No Justice, No Peace: Confronting the Crises of Capitalism
At its best, Left Forum remains a reassuring
beacon of cameraderie and ambition. In addition to seasoned journalists,
organizers and academics, it usually snags a few big public intellectuals,
like Noam Chomsky, David Harvey, and Angela Davis, while also
peppering the bill with high-profile activists like Harry Belafonte
and Michael Moore. The organizers sometimes even lure the odd
political success story, most recently Kshama Sawant, Seattle
City Council member and open socialist. Generally, both speakers
and attendees are smart, friendly, and often quite young and
good-looking (if I do say so myself).
Talkin' Socialism Episode 53-- Eugene
Recorded June 27, 2015.
Dan Hamilton, Chicago DSA's Political Education Director, interviews
Professor William A. Pelz on the occasion of the recent release
of the second edition of the Eugene V. Debs Reader: Socialism
and the Class Struggle. Edited by Professor Pelz, the book
is an anthology of writings and speeches by one of the most radical
of America's early 20th century labor leaders, bringing to life
a once powerful Socialist movement. Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926),
one of America's most famous socialists, was an important political
figure on the American political landscape in the early 20th
century. He ran as the Socialist Party's presidential candidate
five times and obtained nearly a million votes in 1912 and 1920.
Charleston The DSA National Political Committee
statement on the murders at Emanuel AME Church:
The Black Lives Matter movement continues
to contend correctly that these incidents are not isolated nor
the work of deranged individuals. They are part of a centuries-long
pattern of white violence against blacks, which takes the form
of brutal physical coercion alongside economic and social exclusion.
Not coincidentally, the confessed killer wore jackets with patches
from apartheid South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
These regimes were founded to maintain both racist ideology and
white control of the economy and domination of black labor.
DSA in the News The AM radio Fox News affiliate
in Twin Falls, Idaho, KLIX
News Radio 1310, ran a commentary on the issue of gun control,
bringing DSA into the mix by pointing out pollster Guy Molyneux's
political affiliations: "Liberal or Progressive or Marxist?
What Difference Does It Make?"
Aaron Klein is one a small group of
conservatives who make part of their living by writing and speaking
about DSA. The Sanders campaign has given that group pause as
suddenly socialism is an idea, a label that is not so far out,
making the whole thing much less dramatic and frightful, therefore
less entertaining, motivating, and salable. But at WND
(not a news site, really, but right-wing propaganda), Klein gives
it the old college try (It's a living, after all!) with "Bernie
Sanders Recruited Socialists to Congress". It's mostly a
remix of old material but two points are worth making. The Congressional
Progressive Caucus (CPC) web site was never part of the
DSA national web site. The official CPC web site was always a
page off Bernie Sander's House web site. But there wasn't much
there in contrast to what was available at the DSA site. Second,
the comments following this article are remarkable in that as
recently as two or three years ago, the comments section would
have been a full-blown two minute hate rally out of 1984.
These comments resemble a debate.
Toward a Peoples' Budget for Illinois by Tom Broderick
There has been quite a bit of organized popular pushback against
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner's agenda in the Chicago area.
Economy Illinois has sponsored
a few Moral
Monday actions combining politics, theater and civil disobedience.
One took place by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange at Jackson
and LaSalle Streets in downtown Chicago. There was a larger than
life Rauner puppet and a table piled with wealth. Several clergy
spoke about the damage that the Rauner agenda would inflict on
the people of Illinois after which the table of wealth was taken
into the street and overturned. With a chant of "Rauner
Repent!" about a dozen, mostly clergy, then sat down in
the intersection, were arrested and released with a citation.
Another started with a rally at the
Thompson Center and a march to the offices of billionaire Sam
Zell, who provided $4 million to Governor Rauner's political
action committee. The theater was the story of a camel passing
through the eye of a needle. The camel was two women in costume
and another woman held a super-sized needle. To get through the
eye of the needle, the camel had to divest itself of the money
bags it was carrying. Approximately 21 clergy and others were
issued citations for occupying an intersection. They were promptly
released, but a smaller group was arrested for protesting inside
the skyway that linked the Riverside Plaza Building with the
Ogilvie Transportation Center, where Zell's offices are.
After Governor Rauner vetoed the budget
sent to him by the State Legislature, another Moral Monday rally
and march began at the Thompson Center and proceeded to a nearby
office of building that houses Citadel LLC. Citadel LLC is a
hedge fund firm led by billionaire Ken Griffin, who donated millions
of dollars to the Rauner campaign. Several hundred took part
in the march and rally, which culminated in a "die-in"
outside the office building. Seven protesters who refused to
leave the building after being ordered to do so were taken into
Alliance For Community Services convened a "Stop the Chop" community
forum at Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park. DSA activist Fran
Tobin was principal in putting this together. The event featured
moving testimony from speakers and audience members on how cuts
in the areas of physical and mental health care and public/paratransit
services will affect them and their loved ones.
Audience members were asked to take
part in an inequality exercise that illustrated how the poorest
have suffered inordinately as income re-distribution paved the
way for greater wealth for a small minority. Diane Stokes, President
of AFSCME Local 2858, whose workers provide some of the services
that Governor Rauner's budget proposals directly threaten, cited
the importance of unions and fair contracts for workers.
In addition to the living testimonies,
there was a presentation on how to raise revenue, chiefly provided
by Michael Brunson, Recording Secretary of the Chicago Teachers
Union and Dr. Bill Barclay, a member of the Chicago
Political Economy Group and co-chair of Chicago Democratic
Socialists of America. They focused on the LaSalle Street Tax,
which is a service tax of $1 to $2 per contract to be paid for
by some of the traders working through the Chicago Mercantile
Exchange and the Chicago Board of Options Exchange.
State Senator Don Harmon (D-39) and
State Representative Camille Lilly (D-78) spoke at the forum.
They represent the area where Grace Episcopal Church hosted the
meeting. Senator Harmon is the chief sponsor of the "fair
income tax" bill (SJRCA0001), which, if passed through a
Constitutional amendment, would change Illinois from taxing all
incomes the same (flat tax) and set higher rates on higher incomes
and lower rates on lower incomes.
During the Q&A, Senator Harmon was
asked to comment on the LaSalle Street Tax. He responded that
he thought the traders would leave Illinois if such a tax were
imposed. DSA members who live in Senator Harmon's district have
asked for a meeting with him to discuss this issue.
Representative Camille Lilly has already
agreed to add her name to such a tax when Representative Mary
Flowers, the chief sponsor of the bill, opens it up for signatories.
Representative La Shawn Ford who also represents a portion of
Oak Park has also agreed to sign on the bill.
At the meeting at Grace Church, Representative
Lilly talked of Rauner's inexperience with elected office and
his need to learn to work with the Democratic majorities in both
houses of the Legislature. She also brought a flier to alert
us to a meeting with several members of the Illinois Legislative
Black Caucus (ILBC) to speak against Rauner's proposed budget
cuts. This was hosted by the South Austin Coalition Community
Council on the west side of Chicago. Though there were plenty
of chairs, turnout was standing room only. No doubt helped by
the fact that seven members of the Caucus brought community members
to address the spirited gathering.
Ms. Lillian Drummond (The Mighty Warrior)
opened the event and got right to business, exhorting that we
must "challenge Governor Rauner and his ally the devil."
She went on to say that it's necessary to "walk in the shoes
of low income people before you can speak on their behalf."
Cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
got particular condemnation from Ms. Drummond.
The members of the members of the ILBC
who spoke at the rally included: Senators Karen Lightford (D-4),
who is Assistant Majority Leader and Joint Black Caucus Chair
and Patricia Van Pelt (D-5); and Representatives Chris Welch
(D-7), La Shawn Ford (D-8), Arthur Turner (D-9) and Camille Lilly
(D-78). Representative Lilly provided the phone number for Governor
Rauner's office and told us to call and let the Governor know
that these cuts are unfair. That number is 217 782 0244.
While more than one speaker acknowledged
that Governor Rauner did not create the budget mess, his plans
were "going to push us all into a ditch." The number
of speakers brought to speak out was impressive, but in the end,
the "Next Steps" and "Questions from Audience"
portions of the program were cut because of time. This was unfortunate
because of the energy in the room and also because Governor Rauner
vetoed the budget presented to him by the Democratic majority
while we were meeting. Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-4), who
presided over the meeting as the Joint Black Caucus Chair, had
stepped away to talk with the press when news about Rauner's
veto came in.
Although the veto should have been expected,
Senator Lightford was in tears as she broke the news: "don't
confuse my tears with signs of weakness -- I'm mad!" But
amid calls for "next steps Senator," all she could
respond was "I think our elders need to lead the way."
And on that, the meeting was over.
ADAPT, which serves the Illinois disabled community called
a rally, march and protest against Governor Rauner's cuts to
home and community support programs. We met on the north steps
of the Chicago Cultural Center at 77 W. Randolph an then marched
to one of Governor Rauner's several residences at 340 W. Randolph.
There were perhaps 80 participants over the course of the event,
including 15 people in motorized wheel chairs.
We marched more or less in single file,
carrying signs, petitions while chanting and disrupting traffic
on busy Michigan Avenue. When we got to the condo, pretty much
everyone squeezed into the lobby, including all of the folk in
the wheel chairs. Even though at least two television stations
had cameras and reporters on hand, it took quite some time for
Chicago's finest to show up. Finally three officers on bicycles
came to the scene of the invasion. One of them seemed quite put
out by our action, glaring at everyone and finally putting their
bikes in front of the access doors. Someone pointed out that
she was creating a fire hazard by blocking the doors and she
responded "so call the fire department."
Her action didn't stop anyone from entering
or exiting until a much larger contingent of officers showed
up. Someone with higher police authority finally told us that
everyone who didn't want to get arrested for trespassing on private
property should leave the building. Fran Tobin let us know that
the staff at the condo would not accept the petitions.
The four who were not in motorized wheel
chairs were led out in handcuffs and marched over to a waiting
police van. This group included Access
Living community organizer and DSA activist Tom Wilson. It
was unclear what was going to happen to protesters who were in
motorized wheel chairs and still in the building's lobby. Then
the first four were marched back to the condo, issued citations
for trespassing and released. The protesters still in the building
were then issued citations and released. A lawyer for the group
gathered up the citations and what comes next is yet to be decided.
An Emergency Convening on a People's
Budget Plan was held at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church on the south
side of Chicago. Initiated by the Grassroots
Collaborative and joined by members of dozens of organizations,
this three-hour gathering included presentations and discussions
on the political crisis as well as the financial crisis we face.
Amisha Patel, Executive Director of
Grassroots Collaborative and Ed Shurna, Executive Director of
Chicago Coalition for
the Homeless steered us through the event which included
reflections on the impact that the proposed budget cuts would
have on Illinois and what are the root causes of fiscal crisis.
This included a power point presentation showing how the burden
of paying for a robust society has been shifted away from corporations
and powerful individuals to poor and middle income families.
An overview of possible progressive
revenue solutions included taxing higher income earners, corporate
accountability and regulating the powerful financial industry.
Over a working lunch, we were asked to gather in different parts
of the room to discuss one of the three topics and to consider
short and long-term solutions. Chicago DSA co-chair Bill Barclay
helped facilitate the group focusing on the financial industry
and DSA member Ron Baiman helped facilitate the group focusing
on corporate accountability.
After reconvening we discussed how (and
if) to move forward to launch a sustained fight for a people's
budget plan. This included thoughts on messaging. Carl Rosen,
President of the Western Region of United Electrical Workers
pointed out, "the banks got bailed out and we got sold out,"
an expression made famous by UE workers when they took over and
occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago.
Sheilah Garland an organizer for National
Nurses United said we need to remember to be revolutionary and
bold as we move forward after which a Chicago Alderman suggested
that a Financial Transaction Tax might be something that would
take some time to come to fruition. Ron Baiman responded that
it's just a lack of political will that holds up the implementation
of a LaSalle Street Tax.
There were questions about how to move
beyond Chicago and the metropolitan region and about how to craft
messages to appeal to different audiences. Some of the folk representing
groups wanted to get back to their organizations to determine
if and how to establish a working coalition. Everybody wanted
to get the documentation used to put together facts and figures
we were presented with. But, overall, I'd say everyone seemed
to be in agreement that we need to fight for a more inclusive
and democratic political and financial agenda.
Photos by Fran Tobin
A Chicago Casino? We Already
Have One! At the Chicago Political Economy
Chicago already has one of the biggest
"rich person" casinos in the world but it is hardly
taxed at all. A new CPEG report explores the massive gap between
taxation of largely lower and middle-class riverboat gamblers,
and the upper-class who do their gambling in the heart of Chicago's
In fact, assuming that both rich and
poor person casinos in Illinois pass tax costs on to their customers,
"traders" at Illinois' rich-person casinos: Chicago
Mercantile Exchange (CME), the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT)
owned by the CME, and the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE)
pay state taxes that are at most equal to 0.000014% of the nominal
value traded, more than 200,000 times lower than the 3.2% state
tax per dollar wagered by "gamblers" at Illinois' 10
poor-person riverboat casinos.
Rauner: The Demon Barber of Springfield by Tom Broderick
A couple of interesting letters to the editor were published
in the 6/3/15 issue of the Wednesday Journal, a weekly
newspaper that covers the Illinois communities of Oak Park and
River Forest. Chicago DSA co-chair Bill Barclay compared
the responses of the governors and legislatures of Wisconsin
and Minnesota when facing budget deficits. Wisconsin chose
austerity. Minnesota chose stimulus. According to the letter,
Minnesota chose the right path. Illinois also has a budget deficit
and our governor champions the chop and slash of austerity.
Rauner wants to cut by 50% the share
of state income tax revenue that local municipalities receive.
Senator Harmon points out that this will result in "fewer
firefighters and police officers, slow snow removal and more
pesky potholes." Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan
Legislature cut state funding to the city of Detroit when they
were looking to force it into bankruptcy for political and racist
reasons. Governor Rauner apparently wants the punishment to be
more broadly felt.
Other cuts proposed by our governor
include increasing the co-payments for low-income parents who
receive child-care subsidies from the state. He also wants to
refuse to accept any new applicants into the program. This means
that poverty-wage workers will be left without child-care. Do
they continue to work? If so, what becomes of their children?
Are they other people's problems?
Without specifying what income levels
will be affected, Governor Rauner wants to put income limits
on the Community Care Program. This serves to keep senior citizens
in their homes rather than forcing them into nursing home facilities
at greater long-term cost: Classic kick the can down the road
governance that Rauner rightly paints the current and previous
Democratic Party led legislatures as guilty of.
He wants to eliminate Specialized Mental
Health Rehabilitation facilities. These include Transitional
Living Centers, where people in crisis can be temporarily housed
for evaluation. There are also Transitional Supervised Residential
Programs, where people can be cared for around the clock, with
the goal of helping them achieve independent living as their
mental health improves. This is one part of Rauner's goal to
cut $1.5 billion from Medicaid.
System wide, higher education in Illinois
is targeted with a $400 million slash, including a 30% cut to
all public universities in 2015. The Monetary Award Program (MAP)
grants only meet a fraction of current student needs. Not a good
long term projection for the future of education in Illinois.
Our governor wants a $127 million reduction
in the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which will further
burden the CTA, Metra and Pace public transportation systems.
Paratransit riders on the suburban Pace system could see fares
jump from $3 to $5 per ride. This is an attack on people as well
as the environment.
The state portion of the Low Income
Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is funded by a surcharge
on the monthly utility bills of Illinois residents. It is used
to help folk with low incomes pay their utility bills throughout
Illinois. Governor Rauner has threatened to cut that assistance
and move the funds into the general revenue fund where he can
choose how to dispense the money. Legally he can't do this without
a change to Illinois law, and that's what he proposes to do if
he doesn't get a budget he likes. He didn't get a budget to his
liking and indeed vetoed the one sent to him by legislators.
Governor Rauner doesn't want to discuss
raising revenue until the state legislature embraces his agenda.
He wants the leaders of the various municipalities who have been
threatened with the loss of their share of the state income tax
to pressure our legislature. As Senator Harmon pointed out, "the
only people who benefit from Governor Rauner's agenda are his
Senator Harmon sponsored "a fair
income tax," (SJRCA0001) where those with higher income
pay higher rates, and those with lower income pay lower rates.
Worth pursuing, but it will take a constitutional amendment to
enact and therefore is no quick budget fix. Illinois is one of
a small group of states with a flat income tax, where all personal
income is taxed at one rate. Illinois is also fingered as one
of the ten most regressive state and local tax systems in the
U.S. according to the Institute
on Taxation and Economic Policy. Click on "Ten Most
Regressive State & Local Tax Systems" in the Table of
Illinois Speaker of the House, Mike
Madigan, has revived the idea of an additional tax on individuals
with annual incomes greater than $1 million. This received overwhelming
support in a recent non-binding statewide ballot referendum.
It would also require a constitutional amendment. California,
New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii, Maryland, Vermont and New York have
similar tax surcharges on the wealthy.
In addition to implementing a progressive
income tax, we should increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
This would be a boon to lower income working families. In Illinois,
the EITC is currently 10% of the Federal tax credit. Near the
end of his term, former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn suggested
increasing the Illinois EITC to 20% of the Federal tax credit.
This is something our legislators could do with nothing more
than intestinal fortitude.
One potential source of revenue is the
Financial Transaction Tax, locally known as the LaSalle Street
Tax. This is a small tax that would mostly apply to high frequency
traders working through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the
Chicago Board of Options Exchange. This tax would raise needed
revenue from highly speculative and risky gambling. Call it a
casino tax on the financial elite.
This could be implemented by the Illinois
Legislature the moment it wants to focus on raising revenue.
There is a bill to do this on the national level as well. Representative
Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced this legislation, which he has
called The Inclusive Prosperity Act. Still, Chicago provides
an excellent opportunity to move forward with a statewide tax.
The Chicago Political Economy Group has
done great research on this.
The Federal Estate Tax is the most
progressive part of the U.S. tax code according to the Center
on Budget and Policy Priorities. These "Paris Hilton"
taxes are generally thought of as federal taxes, but some states,
including Illinois, have them. In 2010, the Illinois Legislature
repealed the state estate tax, only to re-instate it in 2011.
Our legislature exempted the first $2 million from taxation and
then increased the exemption to $3.5 million in 2012 and raised
the exemption again to $4 million in 2014. Wrong direction.
When our legislators protest that Illinois
is on the verge of bankruptcy and ask us all to share in the
suffering, ask why they're leaving cash on the table. Only political
will keeps the LaSalle Street Tax and the Paris Hilton Tax from
being viewed as low hanging fruit ripe for harvesting.
Nationally, the cap on social security
should be raised. Currently, annual income greater than $118,500
is exempt from the social security tax. Social security is considered
a safety net for Americans. Not for poor Americans, not for Rich
Americans, for Americans. It's a most honorable national
pact. Why should making more money on an annual basis exempt
you from paying into our national safety net?
Senator Harmon wrote that Rauner's agenda
is "class warfare, aimed squarely at the middle class."
It's not simply Rauner's agenda. Remember the redistribution
of wealth overseen by President Ronald Reagan and British Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher. Today, we have the Business Roundtable,
promoting a business agenda as good public policy and the American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) cross-pollinating corporate
views with conservative politicians.
The Koch brothers, Charles and David,
were each ranked the 9th richest person in the world by the Hurun
Report in 2014. Sheldon Adelson was ranked the 18th richest person
in the world by Forbes Magazine in 2015. These imperious lords
of capitalism flaunt their wealth through the conspicuous consumption
of purchased politicians, purchased elections and purchased judicial
Governor Rauner's agenda is one part
of a corporate driven financial program that will chop us into
a future of poverty for much of Illinois. That poverty will deepen
and spread. Where there once was a thriving middle class will
The view from Mt. 1% is that the greater
the number of precariat, the more timid we will be. Instead of
singling out the middle class as a victim in need of resuscitation,
we need to broaden our scope. Ours is not an economy based on
hard work leading to great success, it's an economy based on
the maximization of profit and wealth for a trans-national class
This class is mythically referred to
as "job creators." Can you hear them laughing on the
way to their international tax havens of choice? No? They're
too distant to be heard. As long as capital is allowed to avoid
taxation through international mobility and well-constructed
loopholes, we will suffer austerity while a few prosper.
When a corporation closes a work site
and ships good paying jobs overseas, it's business. When unemployed/under-employed
workers lose their health care, it's business. When unemployed/under-employed
workers lose their homes through bank foreclosures, it's business.
Rauner comes out of a corporate consolidation background: Profit
over people. His agenda is not ours. We need to fight back with
an agenda that rejects the notion that great a amount of personal
wealth exempts anyone from social and environmental responsibility.
"I am opposing a social order
in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing
that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of
dollars while men and women who work all their lives secure barely
enough for a wretched existence."
- Eugene V. Debs.
On Calhoun County What's in a name? At Capitol
Fax, Rich Miller explores the issue HERE.
Economic Democracy and Cooperatives At Grassroots Economic Organizing,
Christopher Michael begins by asking:
Is there a difference between "economic
democracy" and "cooperativism"? And, perhaps more
specifically, how should "worker cooperative advocacy"
relate to "cooperative advocacy"?