By Deborah Meier
As I look out at so many familiar faces, I want to pay tribute
to many. But if I start, I'll never stop and I'll leave some out
by mistake. But there are two families in the audience tonight
whose influence on me were the most powerful: Carl and Marian
Shier and Saul and Jennie Mendelson. I met them over forty years
ago when I first came to Chicago. Each in their own way contributed
to my moral and intellectual development, and to the pictures
in my head of what it could be like to live a full and joyous
life. Thank you.
And while I didn't personally know all three of the public
figures in whose name we are being honored here, all influenced
me greatly. Of course, I did personally know Norman Thomas and,
above all, Michael Harrington. And I miss them both very much
in these difficult times.
My early years of activity in the democratic socialist movement
were spent here in Chicago. They made a deep impact and lie at
the heart of my way of thinking as a teacher. There are two quotes
from Eugene V. Debs that sum up my educational philosophy. I'd
like to speak tonight about both. Together they are my credo.
I'll begin with the one then later pick up the second.
I would not lead you to the promised land, said Debs, because
if I could lead you there, another could lead you back again.
I believed this before I began to teach, and it took time for
me to see how it applied to teaching. It lies behind good union
or community organizing, after all: don't do for others what they
can do for themselves. All other forms of education lead to loss
of power; this form alone leads to lifelong power.
don't want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking
for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness, you
will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this
promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone
else could lead you out.
Becoming a teacher, however, happened by accident. I was not,
in my youth, in love with little kids and I thought of teaching
as "typical" women's work. To be avoided. But then I
had three children, and needed extra cash and convenient hours.
So I figured I'd do a little subbing in local Chicago schools;
what could be an easier way to make some money? Of course, it
wasn't easy. But I learned a lot- mostly about how disrespectfully
we treat each other in our public schools. So when I had a chance
to teach morning kindergarten across the street from my house,
I leaped at it. To my surprise, I found being a kindergarten teacher
the most emotionally and intellectually invigorating experience!
Teaching, I realized, could be interesting- for both the adults
and the kids. I read more books than I had ever read before, woke
up with more enthusiasm and bored all my political friends by
my stories and ideas. This enthusiasm has lasted a lifetime and
I still can't get enough.
But if I were to stay in education, I knew I couldn't put up
with the level of mutual disrespect. What amazed, during my years
as a sub, was that children came back, day after day, and that
teachers did too. It seemed admirable but sad. It couldn't be
good for our society.
Suppose, instead, we took Debs' quotation to heart and assumed
schools were where we learned to "lead ourselves", to
be the rulers of a democratic country. What would happen if schools
were "simply" interesting places that treated everyone
respectfully. What would happen if we kept the spirit of kindergarten
alive forever. I concluded that it would be very good for democracy.
For one thing, when we get into the habit early of expecting
to be treated disrespectfully, it has a life-long impact. And
when we get into the habit of expecting learning to be both boring
and irrelevant, we spend our life avoiding learning. These are
hard habits to break and neither are good for democracy. How odd
that we invented schools for a democratic society that so ill
serve it needs.
I've done nothing else for the past thirty years but try to
see how one might go about reinventing schools to serve democracy,
rather than serve to undermine it. Thirty years later I've concluded
that schools, to accomplish this, need to be small enough for
everyone to know each other, places where everyone's voice is
heard and counts; and places we all want to be. Once we get these
three right then we need to attend to the "details":
what and how we teach!
Small self-governing schools of choice- while not easy to organize-
produce impressive results no matter how we measure them. If we
knew how to use them even better it would be even better- and
we're learning every day. If we spent the kind of money on the
schools that most children attend as we do on the schools the
rich send their kids to, that would make it a heck of a lot easier
to do. And finally, if the larger public treated the expertise
of those closest to the classroom- kids, parents and teachers-
with greater respect, that would help a lot.
Twenty-two years ago, in New York's inner city, I got a chance
to gather some colleagues together to organize a school around
these simple propositions. More money we didn't get. Greater official
power we didn't get. We took as much as we could- unofficially.
Central Park East Elementary school was started in 1974 for
a few hundred children in East Harlem. It's popularity soon required
us to start two other schools in East Harlem. Ten years later
a study of the three schools discovered that while its students'
families were typical New Yorkers- largely Black and Latino and
mostly poor- the results were not typical. Four or five years
later, over 90% graduated high school and two-thirds went on to
college. Based on this, we agreed, in 1985, to start a secondary
school for both our own elementary school graduates and for other
neighborhood youngsters. Once again, the data is clear: 90% of
our incoming students graduate and more than 90% go on to college,
mostly to four year schools.
To accomplish this, the school built an alliance between families
and staff that made it possible for a whole village to raise kids
together. This an empty slogan in too many of our large, anonymous
school buildings. But it is not an impossible dream.
Today we've taken our ideas and translated them into dozens
and dozens of schools in New York. Our latest success-in-the-making
is in the south Bronx, where we've opened six new small schools
to replace a failing large neighborhood high school. And the kids
and their families are responding. Don't be fooled. Families today
care as much as they ever did. They will respond if schools join
with them in ways that make us all more powerful not just all
Our schools teach kids how to spell and multiply, but even
more basic, they teach what it means to be a powerful and thoughtful
citizen. We've created schools where the work of the school is
valuable and valid and where the relationships between people
are respectful and interesting, across generations. Kids who grow
up alienated from the influence of grown-ups and grown-up enterprises
are not the best prospects for carrying out our shared democratic
agenda. So we made sure that kids in our schools were known well
by the grown-ups, built strong ties and relationships and belonged
to a genuine cross-age community.
Good schooling is built on the oldest idea around: you learn
by the company you keep. Kids must belong to cohort groups that
include younger and older students, novices and experts; youngsters
and adults. Their teachers, at least some of them, must be people
whom they regard as allies, as the kind of people they can and
might grow up to be. Schooling must be designed so that all the
parts send the same message: messages on behalf of the value of
using your mind well. At Central Park East we call these the "habits
of mind" of a well - educated person. We demand of our students
that they demonstrate such habits over and over again in a series
of increasingly complex tasks until they satisfy us that they
deserve a diploma. These same habits of mind are the ones we adults
live by too. And we use these habits of mind whether we're inside
the classrooms, the halls, the lunchroom or the gym. They are
the habits of mind of a powerful citizenry.
Getting a good education may or may not solve America's economic
problems. It's not a silver bullet. A good education will, however,
create a more democratic culture, which can in turn better tackle
why we can't have a good society and a strong economy, one that
works for virtually all our citizens not just for some.
there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal
element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not
For a good school lives by Debs' credo. It teaches kids to
become the kind of grown-ups who lead themselves to the promised
land. But a good school also is a place that lives by my other
favorite Debsian quotation,that as long as there's a man in prison,
I am not free. A good school cares about all its members,
not just its stars.
Unless we see all our children's futures as belonging to us,
we're in trouble. And if we abandon public education, that is
what will happen. Public schooling is the one institution left
to us all that we own together and whose future will create our
shared future. It is the place where we make decisions about the
next generation. That is not something to leave to the so-called
free market-place. Making a profit on our kids is not a nice idea.
These are issues that go to the heart of democracy, and they belong
to all of us. And I mean "all" not just "some of
But it all begins with asking the basic question that we so
often avoid in America. We will not get the answers right if we
don't start of by asking: Why? Who cares? What for? I rest my
answer on those two quotes from Eugene V. Debs: we need to educate
the people well so that the people can rule themselves, and rule
themselves with compassion for the weakest of its members, not
just the strongest.
It's actually a simple idea: but it's the doing of it that
is anything but simple. It's all in the details. That's what Maxie
Hill and I have both spent our lives doing: tending to those daily
details. So I thank you for honoring us tonight.
Since the Debs Dinner, we've all suffered a great loss - my
fellow honoree, Maxie Hill, has died. Hearing others that night
describe Maxie Hill made me regret I had not known him better.
I am proud to have been associated with an organization that honored
the kind of trade unionism that Maxie Hill represented, and the
kind of human being he clearly was. To have received an honor
with him was a proud event for me. We are often best remembered
by the company we keep. I was in good company on that evening.
A great deal of what I know about education came from people
like Maxie Hill, who spend a life time as educators. For good
trade unionism is, at heart, an educational enterprise. It influences
the way its members see and understand their world; it provides
a place to thrash out old ideas and develop new ones, and it helps
us develop the habits of heart and mind necessary for a democratic
society. So too should schools. It takes to heart the old educational
maxim: we learn best by doing. Good teachers, like good union
organizers, need to be good listeners and resourceful facilitators
of other people's dreams and aspirations. Maxie Hill was all of
- Deborah Meier
By Carl Shier
The 1996 Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas - Michael Harrington
Dinner was another great success. The Dinner Committee has received
many compliments on the event: the food and, especially, the speech
by Deborah Meier.
Once again trade unions support made the Dinner a financial
winner. Reserved tables were purchased by the Chicago Federation
of Labor, AFSCME, UAW, Teamsters, UNITE, Cornfield and Feldman,
Marco Consulting, Bakery Workers Local 1, PNHP, and University
The Program Book reflected the support the Dinner has received
from the labor movement and friends over the years. Ads and greetings
saluting the Awardees of the Dinner filled the pages. It was a
very impressive publication.
Roberta Lynch, Deputy Director of AFSCME Council 31, was a
great Master of Ceremonies. Roberta Lynch made the 104th Congress
and the do-nothing Illinois legislature the target of barbed attacks.
Former Packinghouse leader and Congressman Charles Hayes' introduction
of Bakery Workers Local 1 President Maxie Hill included references
to the variety of activities Maxie Hill had participated in: the
Farm Workers boycott campaign, the Illinois Labor Network Against
Apartheid, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists where he was
a top officer in Chicago, and the Jewish Labor Committee Board.
Charles Hayes mentioned that as a past Awardee, he was proud to
present the 1996 Award to Maxie Hill.
In his acceptance speech, Maxie Hill spoke of what the labor
movement had meant to him. It allowed him to work giving people
the contracts that provide them with a decent life. It gave him
the opportunity to participate in the movement for social and
It's sad to report that nine days after the Dinner, on Mothers
Day, Maxie Hill passed away. Maxie Hill's huge funeral was a testimony
to his life as a trade unionist and a movement person. Charles
Hayes, Sid Ordower and Gil Cornfield spoke as well as Frank Hurt,
the President of the Bakery Confectionery and Tobacco Workers
DSA Executive Director Alan Charney spoke for DSA at the Dinner.
He reported on DSA's work. One of our projects was picked up by
the new officers of the AFL-CIO and is now a nationwide America
Needs a Raise campaign. Charney's speech was well received.
The Deborah Meier's acceptance speech will be long remembered.
Debbie Meier's style of delivery, her cogent comments on public
education and her experience at Central Park East were great to
Deborah Meier's work and her book, The Power of Their Ideas,
is still going strong. We sold out all the copies we had at our
literature table. In These Times of May 27 had a rave review
by Gerald Graff, Pullman Professor of English and Education at
the University of Chicago. Bob Kuttner, in his preface to an excellent
issue of American Prospect (May - June, 1996), included
a quote from her book:
"Public schools offer opportunities for a sense of community
otherwise sorely missed, for putting faces and names to people
we might otherwise see as mere statistics or categories.... [D]emocratic
conversation is often loud and rude, and sometimes leaves scars
and neighborly hostility. But if democracy survives such hostility,
it's because we assume we're members of a common club, stuck with
each other. Public schools can train us for such political conversation
across divisions of race, class, religion and ideology."
The broad family of the democratic left who attended the Dinner
left the Congress Hotel, felling great and pleased at having been
One cannot conclude a report on the 38th Annual Dinner without
shouting to the roof tops the wonderful work that Bob Roman does.
No Dinner can possibly be successful without the person who gets
out the material, lays out the Program Book after sending out
the forms on how to participate, meeting with the hotel catering
department on what food to have, coat racks, bars, etc., and sending
out tickets. One needs a pro and Chicago DSA and the Debs
- Thomas - Harrington Dinner Committee has a pro at the helm.
As one who sells, year in and year out, tickets, tables, ads and
greetings, I can speak on this subject with some authority. Thanks,
Bob, for a job well done....
Hiya! My name is Michael Heffron, and I am the new addition
to the national staff of DSA. I have been asked to write a small
introductory piece about myself for New Ground, but before
I delve into my role as Midwest Organizer, I would like you all
to know a little bit about me. I just graduated from beautiful
Ohio University, where I majored in Political Science and minored
in Spanish. I was the co-chair of our DSA-Youth Section chapter
for three years and was also involved with other organizations,
such as Women's Affair's Commission of Student Senate, where I
ended up as it's vice-commissioner my senior year. I also have
worked at the DSA office as an intern, and was the corresponding
secretary of the Youth Section leadership for a year. Aside from
activism, I worked as a club DJ, so if you have any events that
require musical services, don't be afraid to ask. And in my spare
time, you might find me dancing at a club with a Saranac Black
and Tan in my hand (yes, I'm a beer snob).
Beginning on June 17th, my first priority will be to traverse
the midwest in my little gray car, visiting every major DSA enclave
along the way. My idea is that the more I listen to you, and find
out what you need, the better equipped I will be to do my job.
Each local and chapter follows both a national agenda and a local
agenda, and I want to be part of assisting both. I would also
like to acquaint myself with each and every member of DSA in the
midwest. Having a face to put behind that mysterious organizer
is always helpful in building a better organization, so if you
hear I am coming to your area, try your best to make the meeting.
Besides listening, I will also have information that will let
you know the direction that DSA is currently heading. Having been
present at both of the meetings with the AFL-CIO leadership, I
can answer any questions you might have about this new, history-making
relationship. I will also know of the most up-to-date decisions
of the National Political Committee and the Youth Section Coordinating
Committee, the dates of DSA conferences and congresses, and any
other information that might be helpful to building a stronger
DSA presence in the midwest.
Unfortunately, one of the necessary duties of my job will be
fundraising my own salary. Fundraising for this position has been
divided into three elements: 1) direct mailings, 2) fundraising
dinners, and 3) volunteer phone-banking. Much of the work required
of first and second fundraising components can be done from my
office in Columbus, but the third part of the fundraising must
be done by individual midwest DSA volunteers. Therefore, during
my visits to all of the locals and chapters, I will be training
those volunteers who wish to help sustain my organizer job. No
one is less excited about the part of fundraising than I, but
it is one of the activities that will be crucial in determining
whether we can have an organizer that specifically meets the needs
of midwest DSAer's.
I will be in Columbus for a few days until I begin my mini-tour
of the midwest, so feel free to call me there (614) 253-2571.
I will be moving in with our very own Bob Fitrakis, and will be
acquiring some sort of mobile communications, so if I am not available,
he will be able to tell you how to reach me. And please feel free
to call me up and introduce yourself at any time. I plan to burn
the midnight oil, especially these first few months, so I should
be available most hours of the day.
See you all soon . . .
In Loving Solidarity,
by Bruce Bentley
The Chicago New Party is increasely becoming a viable political
organization that can make a different in Chicago politics. It
is crucial for a political organization to have a solid infrastructure
and visible results in its political program. The New Party has
continued to solidify this base.
First, in relation to its infrastructure, the NP's membership
has increased since January '95 from 225 to 440. National membership
has increased from 5700 in December '95 to 7000. Currently the
NP's fiscal balance is $7,000 and receives an average of $450/month
is sustainer donations.
Secondly, the NP's '96 Political Program has been enormously
successful with 3 of 4 endorsed candidates winning electoral primaries.
All four candidates attended the NP membership meeting on April
11th to express their gratitude. Danny Davis, winner in the 7th
Congressional District, invited NPers to join his Campaign Steering
Committee. Patricia Martin, who won the race for Judge in 7th
Subcircuit Court, explained that due to the NP she was able to
network and get experienced advice from progressives like Davis.
Barack Obama, victor in the 13th State Senate District, encouraged
NPers to join in his task forces on Voter Education and Voter
Registration. The lone loser was Willie Delgado, in the 3rd Illinois
House District. Although Delgado received 45% of the vote, he
lost by only 800 votes. Delgado commented that it was due to the
NP volunteers that he carried the 32nd Ward. Delgado emphasized
that he will remain a visible community activist in Humbolt Park.
He will conduct four Immigration workshops and encouraged NP activists
to get involved.
The Chicago NP will hire a second organizer and an intern,
preferably Spanish speaking, to work in the 35th Ward. Upcoming
events include a 70's Retro Dance Party on Friday, July 12th,
and Post Labor Day Picnic on September 7th.
As passed by the Labor Party Convention, June 8, 1996
Our labor party exists in order to build a powerful movement
around our new agenda for working people that promotes and protects
our rights. We believe that the best way to build this movement
is to develop a new, dynamic organizing approach to politics that
rejects politics as usual.
Therefore, we propose that the Labor Party commit its resources
to a strategy based on mass recruitment and political actions
that go beyond the electoral process to shift the national debate
towards our agenda.
Approved by the First Labor Party convention June 6-9, 1996
by Bob Roman
The national conventions of the Democratic and Republican "parties"
are not like the conventions held by private membership organizations
such as CoC or DSA. Very little is really decided at these venues.
They serve instead as campaign rallies for presidential candidates
already selected by the various state primary elections and as
political fairs for the delegates and the public officials attending
the event. What happens around the conventions is far more significant
than what happens in the conventions.
If you are interested in educational efforts directed at a
narrow strata of political players, contact your favorite "special
interest" group. They are almost certain to be sponsoring
some manner of meeting or reception. In the past, DSA has organized
a meeting of a "Socialist Caucus" at Democratic National
Conventions. There are tentative plans for doing something similar
at this convention, albeit rather more policy oriented, around
a "Pledge for Economic Justice".
And if you are interested in hijacking the media circus that
surrounds the convention, there are almost as many opportunities
to participate. There are so many, in fact, that an ad hoc group
of Chicago activists have come together under the name of Chicago
ACT (Chicago August Calendar Team). Chicago ACT hopes to provide
coordination for local and national groups who wish to plan an
event in Chicago during the convention while also providing a
one-stop calendar for activists to participate in these events.
Chicago ACT already has a voice mail / information system operating
at (312) 409-2093. The alternative publication Lumpen Times
will be providing space on their web page. The URL is http://www.lumpen.com
By Kathy Quinn
The Center for Democratic Values (CDV), a progressive think-tank
currently being developed with DSA sponsorship, made its first
public appearance at the Socialist Scholars Conference in New
York, April 12 - 14. CDV cosponsored two panels at the conference
and held a reception to introduce the Center to the assembled
socialist scholars and activists.
The first panel dealt with rethinking the role of government.
The discussion centered around a paper authored by DSA member
and CDV organizer David Belkin which challenged the left to seriously
reopen the issue of the role of government in a democratic society.
Carol O'Clearican, former New York City Budget Director, another
member of the panel, stressed the need for the left to pay more
attention to organization and management as well as policy and
structure, the traditional focuses of socialist theories. Joe
Schwartz, a DSA member and professor at Temple University, also
As chair of Philadelphia DSA, I participated in the second
CDV sponsored panel, which was titled "The Next Left".
The panel was chaired by DSA National Director Alan Charney. It
featured David Sprintzen, head of Long Island's Progressive Coalition,
and myself focusing on local organizing, and philosophy professors
Steve Bronner and Ron Aronson talking in broader and more theoretical
terms about the prospects for progressive organizing.
Both panels were well attended, well received, and led into
Sunday afternoon's reception which drew a substantial number of
people interested in hearing about the project and discussing
possibilities for participation.
At a Saturday afternoon meeting, Ron Aronson, the person primarily
responsible for starting CDV and its major organizer, reported
on developments to this point and led a discussion of plans for
the future. Right now, organizers are primarily concerning themselves
with developing CDV's network of participants. When the network
is in place, CDV will act as a conduit connecting left-wing spokesmen
with the media. It will collect and disseminate op-ed pieces and
letters to the editor, possibly develop a book series, and generally
work to insert progressive viewpoints into mainstream debate.
Other members are looking to sponsor papers and perhaps conferences
to debate important issues in left social theory.
The Center has already gone on-line with a Web page which presents
the full text of Belkin's article on government to stimulate discussion.
Responses to the article are being solicited. CDV members are
also planning to institute a listserve for discussion of the issues
involved in its plans to influence public opinion.
A version of this article appeared in
the May, 1996, issue of Delaware Valley Democratic Left.
Subscriptions to Delaware Valley Democratic Left are $10
/ year from Philadelphia DSA, PO Box 58544, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
There are a number of on-going venues for discussion, debate
and analysis in DSA.
The traditional medium is DSA's "internal discussion bulletin",
Socialist Forum. This publication is issued, irregularly,
three times a year. A subscriptions are available from DSA, 180
Varick St, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10014, for $10. The next issue
of Socialist Forum will feature David Belkin's article
on rethinking the role of government and a number of responses,
including an article by Ron Baiman.
The CDV has also begun a computer mailing list. Computer mailing
lists function very much like the traditional internal discussion
bulletin, except there is usually no editor and no publication
schedule. Participants send their messages to an email address
and these messages are resent, as they arrive, to the subscribers.
To subscribe to the CDV list, send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org
with only this as the message: subscribe.
There is also a CDV web page which can easily be found through
the DSA address: http://www.dsausa.org/
Finally, DSA has its own mailing list. Its purpose is to facilitate
the exchange of ideas and information among DSA members and friends.
To subscribe to DSANET, send an email message to email@example.com
with only this as the message: subscribe.
On January 21, 1996, Trailmobile Corp. locked out 1,200 workers
in Charleston, Illinois. The workers are represented by IPIU Local
7591. The maker of transport trailers had imposed a wage freeze
on Charleston workers in 1992. In its proposal put forward on
January 10, the Indonesian-owned company demanded another three
years of no wage hikes. Trailmobile has proposed other concessions
as well, such as the elimination of job assignment rights for
The company's giveback demands in Charleston reflect its overall
low-wage, runaway shop strategy. Earlier this decade, Trailmobile
closed tow union plants in Canada and moved the work to a non-union
plant in the United States.
Trailmobile was purchased by an Indonesian conglomerate, the
Gemala Group, in 1989. The Gemala Group grew out of a foundation
which managed business owned by the Indonesian army's Strategic
Command. The company is chaired by Sofjan Wanandi. Sofjan Wanandi
was once an advisor to Indonesian generals; today he is involved
in "tourist development" in East Timor.
On June 11th, workers at Trailmobile overwhelmingly rejected
the latest contract offer from Trailmobile. The offer was not
especially different from the company's original offer last January.
The rejection of the original offer led to the present lockout
which was instituted to "expedite an agreement", according
The membership also objected to language in the latest offer
which required the union to drop all charges pending before the
National Labor Relations Board and which demanded an apology from
the local's president for publicizing the Wanandi's family's ties
to the Indonesian military. As Local 7591 President Gary Collins
observed, "We haven't demanded that Wanandi apologize for
the hardship this lockout has imposed on our families...."
The June Chicago DSA Membership Convention voted to contribute
$100 to UPIU Local 7591. If you would like to help financially,
send your contribution to UPIU Local 7591, 1401 Madison, Charleston,
The Midwest DSA Conference was held at Roosevelt University
on May 4th, the day after the Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner.
It was a small affair this year. It featured Tom Ellett,
Alan Charney and DSA's inside the beltway staffer Chris
The meeting also served as a venue for some of the business
in organizing a Midwest Region DSA. The Midwest Region DSA was
granted its charter at the June National Political Committee in
New York, and a staff person, Michael Heffron, has been
hired. Michael will be based in Columbus, Ohio, but he will be
spending about a quarter of his time in Chicago.
The June 8th Chicago DSA Membership Convention elected Bruce
Bentley as its representative to the Midwest DSA Steering
Committee. It also voted to contribute an additional $2,000 to
the Midwest Regional organization.
The June 8th Chicago DSA Membership Convention also
elected Marsha Montroy as Treasurer, Kim Jones as
Political Education Director, and Gene Birmingham as Secretary.
The position of Female Co-Chair is vacant.
The meeting also adopted a budget for the coming fiscal year.
Among other things,the budget includes funds for a DSA / CDV presence
at this year's Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference.
The budget is a deficit budget, though not excessively so, but
it does mean that Chicago DSA will be doing more fundraising than
just our annual dinner.
The only controversial business at the meeting was a proposal
that Chicago DSA affiliate with the New Party. Ultimately, the
meeting voted to, in effect, explore affiliation with both the
New Party and the Labor Party [Quite the trick if you do it; my
bias stands revealed- RR].
The 20th Congress of the Socialist International will
be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, September
9 - 11. The Congress will be preceded by meetings of the SI Presidium
and Council on September 8. The 26th Conference of Socialist International
Women will meet on September 6 and 7.
Moving on from its partial victory with the GAP, Chicago
Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Committee continues to target
sweatshops in Latin America and the Caribbean. On June 1st, Jobs
with Justice organized an informational picketline outside of
Watertower Place. Some two dozen participants from the Nicaragua
Solidarity Committee, Chicago DSA, WEJ, The Alliance and other
JwJ member organizations distributed some 4,000 leaflets detailing
the Disney Corporation's use of child labor in Haitian factories.
People passing by were not overly sympathetic (Streeterville is
one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the U.S.) but neither were
they hostile. Generally they slunk on by.
The campaign is not exclusively targeting Disney but is targeting
the entire textile industry, which has moved much of its production
to non-union contractors located in Central America, including
Kathie Lee Gifford's Wal-Mart Collection, Eddie Bauer and others.
The AFL-CIO brought its "America Needs a Raise"
campaign to Chicago on May 29th. Some 500 people attended
a rally at St. Malachy School on the west side of Chicago. AFL-CIO
President John Sweeney spoke about the growing gap between rich
and poor. He mourned the passing of Fordism though he did not
use the term. Sweeney also spoke in support of the Jobs and Living
Wage Ordinance which had been introduced in the City Council earlier
that month. Indeed, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, a co-sponsor of
the ordinance, also spoke at the rally.
But the very best speaker, a real barn-burner, was Yvonne Delk,
the Executive Director of the Community Renewal Society which
publishes the award - winning Chicago Reporter. She compared
the conservative approach to economic development to a sign from
a stage coach that she had seen at a flea market. The sign said
that in the event the coach became stuck, first class passengers
would remain seated. Second class passengers would disembark.
Third class passengers would get out and push.
Part of the purpose of the rally was to take testimony from
those most in need of an increase in the minimum wage. Over a
dozen people spoke, including Gary Collins, the President of UPIU
Local 7591 whose members have been locked out since January. Some
of the stories were painful. One woman had been "downsized"
from Xerox 9 days before she was eligible for her retirement package.
That same year, the company announced the largest profit in its
The rally was well organized, and it was designed to be more
than just a media / feel-good event. The organizers were aggressive
about getting people to sign in. ACORN and Jobs with Justice used
the occasion to organize support for the Jobs and Living Wage
If you weren't able to go, you missed an interesting, significant
event. And you missed getting a really cool "America Needs
a Raise" button that the AFL-CIO is handing out.
J. Hughes is leaving Chicago for Connecticut in August.
His wife, Nickie Bock, has gotten a job at the University of Connecticut,
so it's a career move.
J. and I have been working, together, on Chicago DSA for the
past eight years. It's been mutually rewarding, mutually frustrating,
mutually stimulating, mutually productive. He's been a real comrade.
I'll miss the dude.