by Gene Birmingham
United Power for Action and Justice was adopted
as the official name for the coalition of religious, labor and
community organizations which met at the University of Illinois
Pavilion on October 19, 1997. Nearly 10,000 people attended what
was a fulfillment of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin's vision
for a broad based community organization, to which the Archdiocese
offered to match funds from other groups.
The business of the Inaugural Assembly was to adopt the name,
introduce leaders newly elected by the founding Trustees of Chicago
Metropolitan Sponsors, and announce short term strategies for
membership growth. The purpose was to demonstrate a unity already
existing. Opening prayers were offered by Jewish, Catholic and
Some 66 speakers, including Archbishop George of the Chicago
Archdiocese, were allowed a minute or so to commit their group
publicly to the umbrella organization. Organization was the name
of the game from the opening at 3:25 p.m. to the promise kept
to close at 5:20 p.m. The arrival of the crowd by the busload
gave furthered evidence of much advance planning.
Eleven regional groupings in Cook County were identified. Five
Interest Groupings were listed: Labor, Community, Islamic Mosque,
Community Health Centers and Jewish Coalition. In addition to
two Lutheran denominations, there were a variety of evangelical
Protestants, and Roman Catholic parishes being the largest single
block. Still being sought are businesses, colleges and universities,
hospitals, professional groups and a wider geographic area, including
Much was made of the gathering of religious people who seldom
meet informally, let alone officially. The two Lutheran bodies
joked that their get together was as rare as the meeting of Muslims,
Catholics, Jews and Protestants.
Conspicuous by their absence were mainline Protestants other
than Lutherans: Episcopalians, Presbyterians, United Methodists
and United Church of Christ, especially so because they share
a long history of social justice action. One reason I have heard
is opposition to church-as-church forming a political group, rather
than encouraging their members to address justice issues by forming
separate political groups. Identification of the organized church
as a political group weakens the ability of the church to speak
to all human institutions, religious and political, none of whom
can represent completely the will of God. This point is illustrated
by the recently formed Protestants For the Common Good, whose
members are individuals rather than official church bodies.
Ten follow-up meetings of the assembly were scheduled in geographic
are as between Oct. 30 and Dec. 6, for the purpose of providing
information and enlisting more member groups. The financial goal
is to raise $600,000 annually through a dues structure to provide
a core operating budget.
Issues to be addressed were listed as Public Life Concerns,
viz.: city / state capital improvements; healthcare; voter
awareness and turnout; affordable housing; jobs, temporary work
and downsizing; schools, tuition cost and education; safety, crime,
violence and drugs; child care and young people; aging with dignity;
financial institutions and equitable lending; quality and pace
of life; fairness toward immigrants; and transportation.
How well this coalition functions will depend upon how willing
the Catholic Archdiocese will be to share leadership. The ability
to bring out people by the thousand indicates a significant power
base. Labor was represented by SEIU Local 73, IBEW Local 134,
Illinois Education Association, and Chicago Federation of Labor,
a small number compared with the large number of religious bodies.
While Chicago DSA has expressed interest in the group, no response
has yet been received. We will want to monitor activity of United
Power to determine the nature and extent of DSA participation,
official or unofficial.
by Bob Roman
Jobs with Justice held its annual National Conference in Chicago
on Friday and Saturday, October 24 and 25. The Conference was
held mostly at the Ramada Congress Hotel, except for the opening
session which was at IBT Local 705's hall on the near west side.
Some 400 people attended attended the conference.
The conference was preceded on Friday by a Religion and Labor
"pre-conference" co-sponsored by Chicago's National
Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. This was a "facilitated
dialogue" intended to provide practical assistance for those
who want to expand religious - labor collaborations.
The conference included the usual fare of educational and planning
activities, but it also included an action on Friday in support
of SEIU Local 73's efforts to organize workers at United Armored
A special emphasis was on Jobs with Justice's Workers' Rights
Boards. This project is vaguely reminiscent of the Bay Area (CA)
New American Movement's Workers' Rights Center, which was active
in the mid 70s.
But the Workers' Rights Boards go far beyond a limited concept
of counseling on rights and strategy to taking public action.
A major portion of the Saturday morning session was devoted to
this project, with testimony from grass-roots activists from across
the country on the issues related to the workplace and to welfare
and to workfare.
This is very much part of the AFL-CIO's effort to make workers'
rights the "civil rights of the 1990s". Indeed, the
effort to build links with the religious community is very much
a part of this project. This process of building a coalition with
the religious community was evident not only at this Conference
but also with the Chicago Federation of Labor's Labor Day outreach
program that was organized in conjunction with the Interfaith
Committee for Worker Justice (see July-August,
1997 New Ground).
The process of coalition building is just beginning, and everyone
is aware of how much more needs to be done to build connections
outside the labor movement. Community groups, in particular, will
be a challenge given the competitive and often hostile relations
If this Conference served any purpose beyond a well deserved
celebration of Jobs with Justice's 10th anniversary, it was to
convince its participants that it can be done. It must be done.
by Dennis Dixon
The Eighth Annual Radical Scholars and Activists Conference
was held at Roosevelt University in Chicago on October 24 and
25. For 1997, the planners had adopted the theme, A Teach-in
on Labor and New Alliances. The plan was to continue the efforts
in forging the Labor - Academia - Community alliances that had
been advanced through similar teach-ins at Columbia University,
UCLA, the University of Virginia and other places across the country.
The original idea for the conference was somewhat controversial
among some persons who did not identify the Labor Movement as
"left" or "radical". Nonetheless, many people
thought the idea was particularly exciting. Unfortunately, we
were not able to draw great numbers of trade unionists from our
efforts geared particularly toward those organizations.
We did have a number of union rank - and - filers. We were
also supported by the participation of Bill Fletcher, the Education
Director of the AFL-CIO, Carole Travis, Political Director for
the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Illinois,
and others. During the major plenum on Friday evening, they pointed
out that while the leadership of the unions and the AFL-CIO certainly
may not fulfill all of the policy and everyday practices that
democrats might find ideal, there has been a distinct shift in
outlook that is taking hold. John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President,
sent greetings to the conference, which reinforced that proposition.
The general opinion from participants that I spoke to was that
the conference was a qualified success. While the total attendance
was only between 200 to 250 at the latest count, the people who
did attend were seriously interested in the subjects being discussed
and participated well in the discussions. Panels on Dialectics,
the Media, and Unfair Burdens: Working Women, Today's
Inequalities and the Talks of Unions attracted good participation
even though they took place on Friday afternoon. A Labor History
panel, which also took place on Friday afternoon, was well attended
and attracted good participation.
The Saturday sessions on Market Socialism: a Debate Among
Socialists, Public Housing, Structural Reform,
Race, Political Action, Globalization, Democratic
Schools in a Democratic Society, Technology and Work,
and Welfare Reform all were reported to have had excellent
The Jobs with Justice national convention took place right
across the street from the conference. It brought a number of
people to the conference and a number of people from the conference
attended functions at Jobs with Justice. The conflict in scheduling
was unavoidable given the time frame available in which the two
conferences were able to attain space and accommodation. They
did work in cooperation to make participation in both conferences
as easy as possible.
Fall is a tough time for conferences as many organizations
make plans for conventions and conferences during this season.
The disappointing response from Labor organizations points up
the particular need for persons attempting to organize conferences
of this type to gain commitments well ahead of time.
The result also points up how "internal organizing"
(unions informing the rank and file of issues and events of interest
to Labor) needs to expand and become a more central feature of
relations between the "leadership" and the "membership".
This is shown through the reaction of many of the officers contacted
in which the assumption was made that the invitation to the conference
was only for the union "officials" and was not seen
as a potential for greater education and participation for rank
and filers. Other persons organizing within the labor movement
might keep this in mind. We are in the business now of organizing
a social movement, as John Sweeney has stated, and that will achieve
best results through democratic participation.
On Thursday, October 30, some 70 people gathered in the vasty
dimness of the Reynolds Club in Hyde Park to hear Richard Berg
of the Teamsters, Joe Costigan of UNITE and the Fair Trade Campaign,
Terry Davis of the United Electrical Workers, and Tom Geoghegan,
noted labor attorney and author, discuss the current state of
American labor law, international solidarity and its implications
The meeting was organized by the University of Chicago DSA
Youth Section as part of the International Union of Socialist
Youth's "International Day of Action and Solidarity".
In the United States and Canada, the DSA-YS and the New Democratic
Youth of Canada decided to focus on labor rights and globalization.
In the States, this work centers on Representative Bernie Sanders'
Workplace Democracy Act. Passage of this legislation would significantly
change the balance of power in the workplace, making it at least
possible to organize.
The major provisions of the act include:
The DSA Youth Section is hoping to bring representatives from
IUSY affiliates in Chicago next spring for a comprehensive conference
on international solidarity and organizing. For more information,
contact Daraka Larimore-Hall at (773) 643-6457.
Chicago Jobs with Justice began its fall campaign against sweatshops
on October 4 by targetting Nike Town on the "Gold Coast"
of Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The demonstration brought together
some 40 people who formed an informational picketline and distributed
several hundred leaflets explaining the economic and social facts
behind the goods Nike sells. The October 4th demonstration was
part of a coordinated "National Day of Consciousness"
sponsored by the National Labor Committee.
The demonstrators and noontime Saturday shoppers were addressed
by Congressman Bobbie Rush, Reverend Tom Joyce and DSAer Katie
For information on how you may help, call Chicago Jobs with
Justice at (312) 226-6340. In Hyde Park, call the UofC DSA Youth
Section at (773) 643-6457.
The Campaign for Better Health Care held its first annual conference
on Saturday, October 25th. Appropriately enough, it was held on
the Rush - Presbyterian - St. Luke campus on the near west side
Nearly a hundred people attended workshops and meetings designed
to educate and plan further action. In particular, CBHC is continuing
to work on HB 626, the Healthcare Consumers' Bill of Rights, but
they are also concerned about Illinois' implementation of health
insurance for uninsured children. In Chicago, CBHC has a project
to hold hospitals accountable to the surrounding community. State
legislators Barak Obama, Jesus Garcia and Mary Flowers contributed
their experience and insights to the meeting.
For information on how you can become involved, call the Campaign
for Better Health Care at (312) 913-9449.
by Kathy Wood
The 12th Annual Mother Jones Dinner in Springfield, IL, was
held October 4. This year's topic was the wealth generated in
the health care industry. Entertainment was provided by Kristin
Lems, whose new union ABC song was a hit. Nearly 200 union and
community activists attended the dinner.
The next morning, some of us made our annual pilgrimage to
the Mother Jones grave in Mount Olive. At the start of the century,
Mary Harris "Mother" Jones was known as the grandmother
of all agitators and the "miner's angel". She began
her career as a radical in 1871 and worked variously as an organizer
for the Knights of Labor, Socialist Party of America, the Industrial
Workers of the World and the United Mine Workers of America. Born
in Ireland in 1830, she died in Illinois in 1930. "I'm not
a humanitarian," she once exclaimed, "I'm a hell-raiser!"
The annual Mother Jones Dinner is dedicated to her memory.
Look for our soon - to - be -released video of the first ten
years of Mother Jones Dinners, interspersed with Mother Jones'
words of wisdom. Anyone who wants to be on our mailing list can
contact the Mother Jones Foundation at P.O. Box 20412, Springfield,
Thanks to New Ground for continuing with the discussion
of "Market Socialism". The September/October
1997 issue carried an article by Ron Baiman entitled "Feasible
Socialism". I am a friend of Ron, and admire his activism.
But I must take issue with his confusing of "socialism"
and "social democracy." His article advocated Market
Social-democracy, not market socialism.
There is a big difference, and it must be understood in terms
of the basic difference between socialism and social democracy.
Socialism, as it is classically defined, is a system in which
most productive property is publicly owned. Whereas Social democracy
where most productive property is still in private hands, where
a capitalist class still retains power, modified a bit to make
conditions for the workers more humane (basically to prevent them
Market socialists assume a change in property ownership. This
applies, whether they be "public" market socialists
like Stauber and Roemer, or whether they are "Worker Managed"
market socialists like Schweickart. They propose different forms
of public ownership-unions, public banks, the state-but they all
assume that the capitalist class, as the almighty ruler and robber,
has been virtually eliminated.
Market social-democrats assume the continuation of private
capitalist property. The capitalist market, is of course, a part
of the capitalist system. Social-democrats want to humanize and
modify the capitalist system, so they seek to control the most
brutal parts of run-wild laissez-faire marketing. They
try to control the mad dog by cutting off its tail. Cutting off
its head is the only long term solution. Let me urge my social-democratic
friends to realize that this kind of opposition to "market
socialism" is really opposition to classical socialism, and
not to markets.
A corollary part of this error is where Ron, on page 9, throws
out the classical Marxist bedrock which says that economics determine
politics, and not that politics determine economics. Check out
Capital, Volume I.
There is another place on the left which opposes market socialism.
They are the remnants of the old Leninist left - the Stalinists,
Trotskyists, Monthly Review. They are the folks, who for
a half century, had a fundamentalist, almost religious faith in
total planning and central control. As a graduate of that school
I speak with respect and affection for their devotion and sacrifices.
But we are all getting old. It is very hard to abandon the beliefs
of a lifetime. Hopefully, a few of them can see that the collapse
of the Soviet system makes it mandatory to think through a new
and feasible socialism.