by Bob Roman
At Noon on Thursday, July 30, some 700 people rallied on the
Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago to start what organizers hope
will be a movement for a universal health care system. The rally
itself was the beginning of a 24 hour "Healthapalooza!",
which included a demonstration, informational tables and leafleting,
music, theatre, comedy, videos. July 30th was chosen to commemorate
the 33rd anniversary of Medicare. The event was co-sponsored by
an extensive list of health care providers, consumer organizations
and political groups, including Chicago DSA.
After the rally, about half the crowd marched to the plaza
next to Chicago Commodities Exchange where a skit was performed
objecting to the commodification of people and their health. It
was fun, and to the point, but the decompressing traders and their
gophers were more bemused than enlightened.
Organizers estimate that over 1,000 people participated throughout
the day long event, although those who attended at various odd
hours may have thought it sparsely attended. The concluding rally
at Noon on Friday drew only some three dozen participants.
Press coverage was positive though mostly in secondary media.
Most of the major TV outlets considered the opening of the "Old
Navy" store on State Street to be bigger news. Still, the
story was picked up by the Daily Herald, the Chicago
Defender, and several community newspapers. The Illinois News
Network, with 80 participating radio stations throughout the state,
carried the story. Dr. Quentin Young was interviewed by WMAQ-AM
radio. Cable network CLTV carried interviews and the highlights
of the rally and the vigil.
The inspiration for the event came out of a deep sense of frustration
among health care provider and consumer organizations. 33 years
after the passage of Medicare, some 43 million Americans are without
health insurance. This is nearly double the number just twenty
years ago. Add to this the frustration of Managed Care, which
typically gains its efficiency not by rationing care but by denying
it. Then there is the radicalism of an entire stratum of declassed
professionals: physicians, nurses and a whole range of allied
health professionals, who have suffered the indignity of becoming
The situation is sufficiently bad that health care has not
died as an issue, as one might have expected after the defeat
of the various health care plans in Clinton's first term. The
Health Care Consumers Bill of Rights has become a national issue,
one that even Republican conservatives have adopted, in their
own way. Legislatures across the nation have felt compelled to
produce a steady trickle of legislation that tinkers with the
The burden for planning the event was carried primarily by
the Coalition for Better Health Care, Physicians for a National
Health Plan and Access Living. The work was done quickly; planning
for the event took only about a month.
This short lead time is, possibly, part of the reason there
was such a feeble labor presence in the list of some 60 co-sponsoring
organizations: only SEIU Locals 1 and 73, UE District 11 and the
Illinois Nurses Association. The Campaign for Better Health Care
has a much larger labor representation on its own board! However,
if labor were not particularly well represented, consumer and
provider organizations from a wide variety of constituencies were
present. In a particular sort of way, it was very much a rainbow
Because the issue of health care has not gone away but, instead,
remains on the national political agenda, it seems as though there
should be a chance for achieving a universal health care system.
This event was intended to be the first step in building a movement
toward that end.
Some of the organizers of the event are particular that it
be a "movement", as opposed to what they feel was the
predominant approach during the last go-around, that of "selling
a produce". A movement is more participatory, grass-roots
and self-conscious. Imagine, if you will, a movement in demand
of universal health care like the movement for civil rights that
arose in this country during the 50s and 60s. It could also lead
to other things. Or one could hope as much.
But whether "selling a product" or "building
a movement", the task will not be easy. Remember, the question
of a universal health care system has been appearing on the political
agenda, periodically, for most of this century. The central problem
is not the overwhelming strength of capital in this country. Rather,
the problem is in the very structure of our government.
Decision making at the Federal level of government, indeed
at most levels of government, is done on a libertarian model;
it is not done by majority rule but instead some degree of consensus
is demanded. This is what our vaunted system of "checks and
balances" is all about. If there is a significant minority
that is vehemently opposed, that minority has a reasonably good
expectation of being able to veto.
This also implies that there must be some degree of consensus
among the proponents of a particular policy. This was not the
case during the last major debate on this issue.
Finally, it should be clear that proponents of a universal
health care system, whether building a movement or selling a product,
have some home work to do. Remember, during the campaigns for
a universal health care system during the 70s, HMOs were going
to be the engine of quality care. Today they are Dr. Frankenstein's
monsters. Granted, the creatures now loose upon the land are rather
different than the ones proposed at the time, but the genetic
lineage is undeniable.
But this event last July was a first step. As a first
step, it was useful in building a working relationships. It was
also a lot of fun, and we intend to do it again next year.
by Charity Crouse
With months to go until a formal announcement, Congressman
Bobby Rush (D-1) has been preparing the groundwork for a full-scale
grassroots campaign to take him to the fifth floor of City Hall
by organizing the disenfranchised majority of Chicago's residents.
The South Sider promises to provide a voice for poor and working
people in city policies concerning housing, wages and economic
opportunities. Since the end of August, Rush has been meeting
with community residents and campaign volunteers in what has come
to be called the Rush for Change Organizing Committee. Setting
a minimum goal of 50,000 registered voters and $250,000 in campaign
funds by November before he officially announces his candidacy
for mayor, Rush has been working to form a coalition of African
Americans, Latinos and progressives into what he calls the democratic
vanguard of the possible to help him unseat Richard M. Daley in
Throughout the initial organizing drive, Rush has been relying
heavily on sentiment left over from the massive voter registration
drive activated and carried out by former mayor Harold Washington
during his 1982-3 City Hall run. Many of the campaign volunteers
were originally designated as deputy registrars while organizing
for Washington and, along with volunteers carrying motor voter
registration forms, have turned out for large-scale celebrations
such as the Bud Billiken Parade on Aug. 8, where a contingent
of volunteers marched behind the Rush for Change banner, and the
Unity Festival on Aug. 29, both of which culminated in Washington
Park next to the DuSable Museum of African American History.
So far the Rush organizing drive has been spared the sensationalistic
attention of Chicago's established media. Instead, Rush has been
appearing under several auspices in alternative and community
publications around the city, especially in areas where the campaign
has been focused. The main thrust of the drive so far has been
concentrated in the African American South Side and the multi-ethnic
West Side, where Rush has received much local attention and support.
Although localized precinct operations are underway in many
areas and will be expanded upon in the fall season, much of the
organizing has been group efforts. Volunteers meet at the Second
Ward Aldermanic office, located at 449 E. 35th St., in the early
morning for breakfast served by the Congressman, and a prayer.
After these breakfasts, volunteers are transported to the site
and disperse in teams to register voters on-site. Rush's drive
has been augmented by several other organizing drives, particularly
the one initiated by Operation Rainbow/Push.
A new downtown office, located at 9 N. Wabash Ave. on the third
floor, has been opened and campaign volunteers can be treated
to an initial orientation on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. and
Saturday mornings at 10:00 a.m. weekly. Sign-up is on-going for
deputy registrar sessions, which are facilitated by the Board
of Elections. The sessions last two hours.
Compiled by Bob Roman
Electoral politics has not been Chicago DSA's strongest point
these past few years though this has not always been the case.
Still, the Executive Committee felt that we could not let the
upcoming general elections in November pass without comment, partly
because electoral politics should be a regular part of
our agenda even if it isn't our main focus and partly because
we had a special interest in one of the candidates.
But organizations like DSA have their biggest influence in
primary elections. And in this general election, most of
the reasonably good candidates the Executive Committee knew about
fell into two categories: very good people who are pretty much
assured of being elected and other good people who have a snowball's
chance in April of being elected (it could happen!) but whose
campaigns have a nuisance value too precious to pass up.
Under the circumstances we couldn't quite see making endorsements.
Past practice, in any case, has made endorsements the responsibility
of Membership meetings, not the Executive Committee. Instead,
we decided to recommend the following candidates to you,
Chicago DSA members and friends, for your consideration. Lefty
election junkies of Chicagoland take note!
Obviously this is not a comprehensive list of worthy candidates
(see Letters ), but we felt
these individuals deserve your attention.
Dan Bailey, DuPage County Board, 4th District
Dan Bailey is a locomotive engineer and local union president.
The folks in WSDSA know him well and think highly of him. It would
be wonderful if he were the one to break the Republican's monopoly
on the DuPage County Board. To become involved in his campaign
or for more information, call (630) 682-8590 or go to http://www.ameritech.net/users/baileyd/bailey.html.
Contributions may be sent to Dan Bailey for County Board, 302
S. Prospect, Wheaton, IL 60187.
Rita Gonzalez, Illinois State Senate, 23rd District
Rita Gonzalez also comes recommended by WSDSA. Quite frankly,
just about anyone willing to challenge Pate Philip is worth of
support and admiration. To become involved in her campaign or
for more information, call (630) 415-2583. Contributions may be
sent to Citizens for Rita Gonzalez, PO Box 1094, Addison, IL 60101-1094.
Julie Hamos, Illinois General Assembly, 18th District
Julie Hamos has been a presence in mainstream and leftish politics
in Chicago for a long time. She's now running for Jan Schakowsky's
old seat in the General Assembly. To become involved in her campaign
or for more information, call (847) 424 - 9898. Contributions
may be sent to Friends of Julie Hamos, PO Box 5308, Evanston,
Marc Loveless, Illinois State Senate, 17th District
Marc Loveless is running for the State Senate as a candidate
of the Green Party. But he's also a member of Chicago DSA, and
apart from any other virtues of his campaign, we want to encourage
such initiative. Unfortunately, he didn't make it on to the ballot
(petitions challenged). But Marc Loveless vows the campaign is
not over. For more information, go to http://www.greens.org/chicago
or call (773) 384 - 4209
Danny Davis, U.S. House of Representatives, 7th District
Danny Davis is a member of the Progressive Caucus, an old friend
of DSA and a member of the New Party. If that's not enough, you
can call (773) 638 - 1998 for more information. Contributions
may be sent to Davis for Congress, 3333 W. Arthington, Ste 130,
Chicago, IL 60624.
Luis Gutierrez, U.S. House of Representatives, 4th District
Luis Gutierrez is a member of the Progressive Caucus, and a
supporter of the Progressive Challenge. For more information,
call (773) 486 - 4323. Contributions may be sent to Gutierrez
for Congress, 1658 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL 60647.
Jessie Jackson, Jr, U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd
Jessie Jackson, Jr, is a member of the Progressive Caucus and
a supporter of the Progressive Challenge. Apart from some arguable
positions (e.g. the third airport), he's been a fine representative.
For more information, call (312) 915 - 4062. Contributions may
be sent to Jessie Jackson for Congress, PO Box 49286, Chicago,
Bobby Rush, U.S. House of Representatives, 1st District
Bobby Rush is not a member of the Progressive Caucus,
though he should be. For more information, call (312) 225 - 3444.
Contributions may be sent to Citizens for Rush, 3361 S. Martin
Luther King Dr, Chicago, IL 60616.
Jan Schakowsky, U.S. House of Representatives, 9th District
Jan Schakowsky is running for Sid Yates old position. Like
Danny Davis, she's an old friend of DSA and a real fighter. For
more information, call (847) 424-1998 or go to http://www.janforcongress.org.
Contributions may be sent to Schakowsky for Congress, 990 Grove,
Ste 203, Evanston, IL 60201
by Robert Roman
Everyone reasonably hip knew that something was going
to happen on July 30. If nothing else, Thursday was to be the
day the Chicago City Council finally pulled the plug on the proposed
Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance. Despite the fact this would provide
the New Party a most excellent issue with which to portray most
of Chicago's aldermen as self-serving hacks ("Pay back
time in 99!"), supporters of the Ordinance were grim.
Still, Chicago ACORN and SEIU 880 turned out their company
of shock troops for a noisy demonstration commenting on the obvious
incongruity of the Council voting itself a pay raise while many
of the people supplying the goods and services for the operation
of city government worked for less than a living wage.
Imagine their astonishment when the hither to recalcitrant
City Council passed a Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance by 49-0!
When Keith Kelleher, SEIU 880's head organizer and a leader
in the Living Wage Campaign, received the call from the Ordinance's
City Council supporters asking if the Campaign would accept the
deal, he described his reaction:
Truly, there were rhumbas and grins across the city, in offices,
in homes, in cars. One activist supporter of the Ordinance described
how, for safety's sake, she had to pull off the expressway when
she heard the news on her car phone.
Even the aldermen were grinning. They had just raised their
yearly salary to $85,000 (not bad for part time work) and given
Mayor Daley a boost to $192,100.
Most accounts give credit for passage of the Ordinance to Alderman
Ed Burke. Alderman Burke, some may remember, was a dangerous,
creative and marvelously half-assed opponent of Mayor Washington
during the "Council Wars" of Washington's first term.
Typically Burke was the occasion when he unearthed the tidbit
that Mayor Washington had failed to file the financial disclosure
statement required of all Illinois politicians. The press geared
up for a feeding frenzy, but Alderman Burke had not done his homework.
Something close to half the state's politicians had similarly
failed to file. Amid a chorus of embarrassed grins, the story
evaporated while a silent river of paper flowed toward Springfield.
Ironically, Alderman Burke was an early supporter of the Jobs
and Living Wage Ordinance. When push came to shove, he had already
abandoned ship (see New Ground
#54, September - October, 1997). No one was surprised. Everyone
was a little relieved.
Not surprisingly, the Jobs and Living Wage Ordinance passed
by the City Council is a very different animal from the original.
The new Ordinance is also not a well crafted piece of work, as
one might expect from someone who has not done all his homework.
While aspects of The original Ordinance may have been open
to question, it was a well thought out piece of work. For a complete
analysis, see New Ground
#49, November - December, 1996, but the outlines are simple
enough. First, the Ordinance was not a minimum wage, but it did
require employers of a certain size, receiving benefits from or
having contracts with the City beyond a certain amount to pay
a living wage of $7.60. This was to be adjusted yearly for inflation,
whether the Council would or no. The Ordinance mandated the collection
of data so its effects and compliance could be judged. While it
set up a civic committee to monitor the workings of the Ordinance,
the documents were to be public so outside groups could perform
their own assessment. Finally, the benefits of the Ordinance were
to be directed toward Chicago residents through the creation of
community based hiring halls.
Most of this is gone (see sidebar).
The new Ordinance only applies to contracts that require the employment
of 25 or more employees in a specified list of job categories
in the performance of that contract. Not for profit corporations
are excluded. There is next to no enforcement mechanism mandated,
no way of monitoring compliance with the Ordinance, and while
the Council is clearly expected to adjust the base wage for inflation,
there is no requirement that it do so.
Is this but a fig leaf for the City Council's pay raise? Not
necessarily: the Ordinance often says less than it means to, sometimes
to our advantage. Just one example: "not for profit"
is defined with reference to Illinois corporate law and to the
U.S. Internal Revenue Code, specifically Section 501(c)(3). However,
this is but one section of the Code that applies to "not
for profit" entities and not all '"not for profit"
corporations that operate in Illinois are incorporated in Illinois.
Some of the lack of enforcement and monitoring could be remedied
by the regulations implementing the Ordinance. The Purchasing
Department is mandated to "promulgate" such regulations.
The Jobs and Living Wage Campaign and the Chicago Federation of
Labor plan to meet with the Purchasing Department to discuss this
So the effect of the Ordinance will depend on its interpretation
and its implementation. The City estimates some 600 people will
be covered; the Living Wage Campaign estimates 3,000 to 5,000
will be covered.
And this is important, not just for the workers that may or
may not be covered but for its political implications. While unionized
workers consistently get more than their non-unionized counterparts,
that doesn't always mean they get much, particularly in many of
the job categories specified in the Ordinance. A Living Wage pay
increase on top of a hard fought collective bargaining agreement
is a free lunch for union staff and bound to move the New Party
from the realm of interesting abstraction to something that actually
registers on Chicago labor's political radar.
Is this a victory? The fight is still in progress.
And it could end up a clay pigeon. The chamber of commerce
types who opposed the original Ordinance did so as if it were
a minimum wage bill. With the original Ordinance, they at least
had the excuse of a novel interpretation that a city business
license could be construed as a "benefit" thus requiring
the Living Wage. Such a far fetched idea is no longer tenable,
but their arguments remain the same. Clearly, the very idea of
a living wage raises the class warfare instincts of the business
Given the shoddy construction of the Ordinance, one could easily
imagine a challenge to some specific portion of it. Unlike the
original Ordinance, there is no severability clause: those clever
little legal circuit breakers that say if one part of a law is
found unconstitutional, the rest of it is still okay. If one part
of this Ordinance is defective, the whole thing goes down.
Will there be a challenge? One can't imagine the business class
objecting to a fig leaf.
Cook County President John Stroger, Jr., may be one of the
more underestimated politicians in Chicago. When the Living Wage
Campaign first began in Chicago, then County Commissioner Danny
Davis introduced a Living Wage Ordinance in the Cook County Board.
In negotiations with the Living Wage Campaign, President Stroger
indicated he was not interested in the measure and the Ordinance
was going no further than the Finance Committee to which it had
been referred. Within weeks of the passage of the Chicago's ordinance,
all this had changed. A new county Ordinance was introduced and
referred to the Finance Committee on September 1st. Clearly, this
is a man with a sensitive sense of the bandwagon.
Co-sponsored by John Stroger, John P. Daley (another son of
Daley the Elder) and Roberto Maldonado, the county Ordinance is
closely patterned after the city Ordinance, but better written,
modified for specific county considerations, and in some ways
much more limited. Indeed, preliminary estimates from the County
Purchasing Agent indicated that the Ordinance would cost the county
an additional $600,000 and cover a few hundred employees.
For one thing, the Ordinance apparently excludes workers covered
by collective bargaining contracts (see Section
2 (B)). While the County Board's Finance Committee considered
the matter, Republican members could not credit the idea of a
union contract that paid less than $7.60 an hour. Still, the language
in that section was peculiar enough so that it was amended slightly
to read "recognized union" rather than "responsible".
The meaning of "in no way influenced or controlled by the
County of Cook" remains a mystery, but the ghost of Sam Gompers
smiled and lit a cigar.
Another problem in comparison with the Chicago Ordinance is
that the county Ordinance makes no provision for adjusting
the living wage.
The Chicago Jobs and Living Wage Campaign attempted to remedy
these and other deficiencies, including the fact that, while the
original Ordinance had been imprisoned in committee, inflation
had raised the estimate of a Living Wage to $7.91 an hour. The
Campaign drew upon the experience of Living Wage Ordinances elsewhere
in the country to suggest language that would address these concerns.
The Finance Committee meeting to consider the Ordinance was
held Monday, September 14. It was a relaxed, working meeting,
with the Commissioners variously dressed more for demands of the
rest of the day than that meeting.
Commissioner Maldonado attempted to address the limited scope
of the Ordinance by introducing, in the Finance Committee, an
amendment that would have made eligible all businesses that employ
25 or more full time employees rather than those awarded a contract
requiring the employment of 25 or more full time employees.
The amendment ran into a solid wall of opposition from President
Stroger. "Come on, Roberto," he complained. "We
want to get this thing passed." A representative from the
Attorney General's Office chimed to opine that Maldonado's proposed
language was more restrictive. Maldonado withdrew the amendment.
But that wasn't the end of the story. Commissioner Jerry "The
Iceman" Butler observed that if he were an employer unwilling
to pay a living wage, he'd never be found with more than 24 full
time employees. There was a moment of "Well... duh!"
consternation among the Committee members, then Butler moved to
strike all reference to 25 employees. Surprisingly, the amendment
Without a written text, I'm not sure whether Butler's amendment
applies to both Section 1 (A) 1 and Section 1 (A) 3 or just to
Section 1 (A) 3. Either would be an improvement, but the former
would be an improvement indeed.
The Ordinance was taken up by the full Board at its regular
meeting the next day, Tuesday, September 15. The day started with
an ebullient press conference where all the principle players
were well represented. The participants crowded into the Board
chambers, ready to serve as a cheering section. Instead, the County
Board plowed through a full two hour agenda before it came to
the Living Wage.
Almost no one was left to witness the passage of the Ordinance.
Finance Committee Chair John Daley moved the passage of items
y through z on the agenda. The ayes had it with no dissent. As
the decimated audience sat in stunned boredom, Stroger looked
up and remarked casually, "That was yours, ACORN."
And so it was.
Note: two "whereas" paragraphs
refering to Chicago's home rule powers precede the Ordinance.
That Chapter 2-92 of the Municipal Code is hereby amended by inserting
a new section 2-92-610 as follows:
2-92-610 Contracts requiring a Base
A. Definitions. For the purpose of this
section only, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
1. "Contract" means any written
agreement whereby the City is committed to expend or does expend
funds in connection with any contract or subcontract which requires
in the performance thereof the employment of twenty-five or more
full time in-City: security guards, parking attendants, day laborers,
home and health care workers, cashiers, elevator operators, custodial
workers and clerical workers except the term "contract"
shall not include contracts with not-for-profit organizations.
2. "Contracting Agency" means
the City of Chicago or any agency thereof.
3. "Eligible Contractors"
means any person awarded by the City of Chicago or agency thereof
for which requires in the performance thereof the employment of
twenty-five or more full time non-city security guards, the employment
of non-city employed parking attendants, the employment of non-city
employed day laborers, the employment of non-city employed home
and health care workers, the employment of non-city employed elevator
operators, the employment of non-city employed clerical workers.
4. "Not-for-profit organization"
means a corporation having tax exempt status under Section 501(c)3
of the United States Internal Revenue Code and recognized under
Illinois State not-for-profit law.
5. "Base wage" means no less
than $7.60 per hour may be upwardly adjusted each year upon order
of the City Council.
B. Every contract of every-eligible
contract [sic] shall contain a provision or provisions stipulating
the wages required to be paid to the employees listed under Paragraph
A(1), and each such contract shall further contain provisions
obligating the contractor or subcontractor of such contractor
to pay its employees on work thereunder not less than the Base
C. The purchasing agent may promulgate
administrative rules and regulations to implement this Section
D. Whenever the purchasing agent has
reason to believe that any such employee has been paid less than
the Base rate of Wages, or upon a verified complaint in writing
from an employee worker affected by the provisions of this Section,
the Purchasing Agent shall conduct an investigation to determine
the facts relating thereto.
E. Any contract that violates the provisions
contained in this Section shall be subjected to Section 2-92-320
of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago.
Chapter 2-92-320 is hereby amended by inserting the language underscored
and deleting the language bracketed as follows:
D. No person or business entity shall
be awarded a contract or subcontract if that person or business
(d) has violated Section 2-92-610.
Ineligibility under this Section shall
continue for three years following such conviction or admission[.]
or violation of Section 2-92-610.
This ordinance shall apply to contracts advertised or if not advertised
awarded on or after January 1, 1999.
This ordinance shall be effective upon passage and publication.
Five "whereas" paragraphs
amounting to a nice mini-manifesto are omitted. This text represents
the Ordinance prior to amendment in the Finance Committee.
That a base wage for services performed
or produced shall be paid to individuals employed under contracts
between the County of Cook and eligible contractors.
Definitions For the purpose of this ordinance only, the following
terms shall have the following meanings:
1. "Contract" means any written
agreement requiring Board approval whereby the County is committed
to expend or does expend funds in connection with any contract
or subcontract which requires in the performance thereof the employment
of twenty-five or more employees, except the term "contract"
shall not include contracts with not-for-profit organizations,
community development block grants, President's Office of Employment
Training, Sheriff's Work Alternative Program, or Department of
2. "Contracting Agency" means
the County of Cook.
3. "Eligible Contractors"
means any person or business entity awarded a contract by the
County of Cook which requires in the performance thereof the employment
of twenty-five or more full time employees.
4. "Not for Profit Organization"
means a corporation having tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3)
of the United States Internal Revenue Code and recognized under
Illinois State Not-for-Profit law.
5. "Base Wage" means no less
than $7.60 per hours.
Every eligible contract shall contain a provision or provisions
stipulating the wages required to be paid to the employees listed
under paragraph A (1), and each such contract shall further contain
provisions obligating the Contractor or Subcontractor of such
Contractor to pay its employees for work thereunder not less than
the Base Wage.
The Purchasing Agent shall require as part of the bidding and
sole source procedure that any covered Contractor provide the
County of Cook certification of its compliance with this ordinance.
Any contract that violates the provisions contained in this ordinance
shall be subject to cancellation by the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
Any Contractor disqualified from eligibility
by the Cook County Board of Commissioners shall be ineligible
for two years following violation of this ordinance.
This ordinance shall apply to Contracts advertised for bid or
if not advertised for bid, approved for sole source on or after
December 1, 1998.
(B) Whenever a collective bargaining agreement
is in effect between Eligible Contractors and employees who are
represented by a responsible labor organization which is in no
way influenced or controlled by the County of Cook, such agreement
and its provisions shall be considered as conditions prevalent
in that locality and therefore exempt from this ordinance.
This ordinance shall not apply to any contract with the County
of Cook entered into prior to the effective date of the ordinance.
All resolutions or ordinances or parts thereof in conflict with
the provisions of this ordinance to the extent of such conflict
are hereby repealed effective upon passage of this ordinance.
by Bill Dixon
When workers began a wildcat strike against the Han Young auto
plant in Tijuana, Mexico in June of 1997, their demands were simple:
basic safety improvements for the plant's hazardous and sometimes
deadly conditions. They wanted adequate ventilation and better
gear and equipment to stop toxic fume poisoning and other injuries
on the floor.
Today the struggle at Han Young is just as serious but far
more complex. Its outcome will carry enormous implications for
the future of the labor movement under NAFTA.
After two days the workers won their wildcat strike. Han Young,
which produces exclusively for the Korean-based Hyundai Motors,
relented and agreed to discuss new safety rules with a worker-elected
committee. But the peace didn't last long. Within weeks many strike
activists at the plant found themselves fired, and many more became
targets for harassment and intimidation.
If payback for the strike was one reason for management's backlash,
another was doubtless the worker's attempt to gain representation
from an independent union, the Union for Workers in the Metal,
Steel, Iron, and Allied Industries (STIMAHCS).
Formerly the plant had been represented by the Revolutionary
Confederation of Workers and Farmers (CROC), a company friendly
outfit tightly linked to Mexico's old system of one party machine-style
rule, as organized through the Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI). According to Han Young workers, CROC collected "dues"
directly from management and never so much as held shop meetings,
let alone intervene on behalf of its membership.
Soon after the June strike, Han Young workers began to demand
an election between STIMAHCS and CROC. On October 6, after four
months of obstruction from Han Young management and government
labor officials, an election was finally held. STIMAHCS won the
vote 55 to 32, despite the fact that workers had to vote open
ballot under the watchful eyes of management.
No matter, however: the PRI controlled Tijuana office of the
Mexican labor board simply refused to certify the results, citing
management allegations that some workers weren't allowed to vote.
STIMAHCS supporters deny this, and point out that even Han Young
supervisors were permitted to cast ballots, irregular enough by
any standard of labor law and in fact illegal in Mexico.
Since then the workers at Han Young have been campaigning for
recognition of the "October 6" union. With help from
the U.S.-based Support Committee for Maquiladora Workers along
activist labor groups like Jobs with Justice and a host of Central
American solidarity organizations, the Han Young cause has won
a healthy share of public attention in Canada and the U.S. as
well as Mexico.
The campaign has proceeded on a number of very different fronts.
In November of 1997 four fired plant activists began a hunger
strike which lasted nearly four weeks. They eventually chained
themselves to the doors of the Tijuana labor board. Hyundai dealerships
throughout North America were the targets of regular public protests.
Meanwhile, a complaint was filed with the National Administration
Office in the US, the review board established under NAFTA in
each country to hear complaints about other NAFTA countries failing
to enforce their own laws with regard to trade issues.
The NAO complaint helped to quickly bring the Han Young issue
straight into last November's fateful battle over fast-track authority,
where it became a powerful symbol for "fair trade" Democrats
who rallied and turned the tide against both President Clinton
and the Republican leadership. In some part thanks to the once
tiny, obscure struggle at Han Young, fast-track was defeated and
NAFTA itself was at risk of being even further discredited.
So pressure grew, and after workers struck the plant again
in early December both the Tijuana labor board and Han Young management
agreed to make a deal. A second election held December 4 once
again went in favor of STIMAHCS and Han Young agreed to rehire
six of the fired activists, recognize the new union, and bargain
a contract. Then once again, mere days after the second election,
management changed its mind. STIMAHCS representatives were barred
from the plant and contract talks were called off.
However, representatives from another PRI-affiliated union
were allowed at the plant, with open management support. But when
neither management nor the new company union moved to improve
safety after a series of near fatal accidents, workers struck
the plant yet again for a day in January of 1998, in hopes of
forcing a government inspection.
After six months, it seemed as though the union was back to
square one. Fortunately, direct action from the Mexican federal
government forced Han Young to sign a temporary agreement with
the union according recognition.
That agreement ran out May 22 and since then Han Young workers
have been on strike. Management has continued to fire union supporters,
replacing them with a steady stream of new workers shipped in
from Veracruz. Violence against union activists has also intensified,
as has police harassment.
On May 29 a third union election was held, again upholding
the independent union, despite what workers charge to have been
widespread ballot fraud by management. Recently, evidence has
emerged that Han Young's owners are planning to move the plant
and re-open it under a different name in order to break the strike,
which is also illegal in Mexico.
The consequences of the Han Young strike will have both real-world
and symbolic importance for workers across all of NAFTA's borders.
Tijuana is in Mexico's maquiladora belt, which since 1965 has
attracted foreign investment through low wages, high productivity,
and scarce regulations. What success the "October 6"
union has enjoyed so far has spurred on organizing drives in other
maquiladora factories, which promises to drive up wages throughout
the region as well as strengthen the independent currents emerging
within the Mexican labor movement.
Who knows? Maybe someday that trend could slow the course of
U.S. and Canadian capital flight to Mexico. But until then the
Han Young strike embodies every horrible truth public opinion
north of Mexico has long suspected about NAFTA, as well as every
charge leveled by the labor movement against expanding free-trade
without securing better protections for workers.
by Gene Birmingham
Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Cornel West, The
War Against Parents, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston,
New York, 1998
The prologue's first words summarize this book: "Our is
a special partnership. A black man and a white woman come together
to confront our nation's war against parents and our consequent
inability to cherish our children." (Page xi). The black
man is Cornel West, an honorary chair of DSA. The white woman
is Sylvia Ann Hewlett, native of Wales, and founder and president
of the National Parenting Association in the U.S.
I have taught parenting based on the insights of psychologist,
Alfred Adler, himself a socialist; but this book is my first encounter
with political, economic and cultural issues which impact parents
beyond their ability to deal with them. The war against parents
is waged by a government which cuts back parental support continually;
by a job culture with an uncertain future and low wages; and a
pop culture which presents and reinforces degrading images of
parents and children. "How to" approaches to parenting
miss these points. Each of these waves of attack is presented
in a separate chapter.
Hewlett and West open with brief biographical information from
their childhoods which provide a contrast in being parented as
they experienced it and present conditions. Separate chapters
give emphasis to the absence and weakness of fathers, a fact giving
rise to such male groups as Promise Keepers and the Nation of
Islam's rallies for men.
The authors present a Parents Bill of Rights as a platform
for a Parenting Movement. AARP is offered as a model for the movement,
illustrating that a mass movement by parents can be as effective
as one for retirees has been. The GI Bill is another model, illustrating
how governmental support for World War II veterans was an investment
in the nation's wellbeing. Similar support can benefit parents
and the nation again. History has shown that progressive policies
come only from mass movements. Parents will have to get organized.
Until now parents have been blamed for almost every social
problem we face. If parents are that vital, why do we continue
to believe that parenting is confined to the nuclear family? Why
not equip them as a society to perform the tasks which ultimately
benefit or harm society by the way they are carried out?
It is important to note that a Parents Movement could attract
people apart from ideological differences. Parenting crosses all
lines of division in our land. Given the opportunity, parents
are likely to opt for proposals that help, rather than settle
for being told to pull themselves up by bootstraps they do not
have. In the battle for the minds of parents, socialist proposals
could be offered as practical rather than ideological ideas because
of an atmosphere that realizes help is needed. Socialists can
be inspired as well as instructed by this hope-filled book.
I would like to urge DSA members and other progressives to
support the candidacy of William "Willie" Delgato, Democratic
Nominee for State Representative, 3rd District. Willie, who is
New Party member and supporter, won a close race with critical
New Party help in the 35th Ward. He is a progressive independent
candidate whom I think we should all support.
Editor's Note: I confess! I asked Ron to email
this letter to the editor when he expressed dismay at Willie Delgato's
absence from the Executive Committee's "recommended"
candidates. I agree it was a significant omission. In the Executive
Committee's defense, I'd add that the main reason we felt compelled
to say anything at all was because, at the time, it looked like
DSA member Marc Loveless might make it on the ballot. The list
was never meant to be comprehensive. There are a number of other
very good candidates that were not mentioned. For my part, I would
nominate State Senator Barak Obama (13th District) and County
Clerk David Orr. Outside of Chicago DSA's area is Congressman
Lane Evans, who is actually facing a tough reelection fight. But
this is just my opinion; I'm sure our readers can think of others
as deserving, or disagree.
The Center for Democratic Values starts round two in its Arguing
with the Right series with the second Left vs. Right Debate: "Affirmative
Action in Higher Education". This event will be cosponsored
by the National Communication Association (NCA) and will take
place at their annual convention at the New York Hilton &
Towers, Sunday, November 22 at 8 pm.
Arguing for the Left will be Congressman Danny Davis (Illinois,
7th District) and Professor Barbara Berman (former President of
the AAUP and author of In Defense of Affirmative Action).
Arguing for the Right will be Dinesh D'Souza (Fellow, American
Enterprise Institute and author of The End of Racism) and
Abigail Thernstrom (Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute and co-author
of America in Black and White).
The debate is open to the public and it will be taped for wide
distribution. CDV will seek to have it aired on C-SPAN.
CDV other projects in progress. One is a film biography of
Detroit DSA member Saul Wellman. Academy Award winner Judy Montell
is directing the film; DSA's former National Director, Alan Charney,
is working as the Executive Producer. A release date has not yet
Also in progress is a book by Chicago DSA member David Schweickart
entitled Beyond Capitalism. Other titles are currently
For more information call CDV at (313) 577-0828 or go to http://www.igc.org/cdv/
As a national project, DSA Youth Section's Prison Moratorium
Project has been simmering the back burner for some time now.
Constrained by the usual limitations of volunteerism and limited
finances, its main venue of activity has been New York.
However, a clever plan to burst the bonds of financial penury
and to reach out to the disaffected hip hop subculture
has been in the works and now is nearing fruition. The Project
is going into the music business.
The Project is starting out with a CD "single" with
a vinyl (yes, that's vinyl) companion release this fall.
Both the CD and the record contain 4 tracks: the title track by
Hurricane G, the B-side by L da Headtucha and Scientifik (produced
by Edo G), a spoken-word piece by Lyric, and a bonus track by
Akbar. Three of the four tracks were produced specifically for
the CD and deal with the prison issue. The Project was fortunate
to secure the donated services of a professional designer, who
has put thousands of dollars worth of work into the production
of commercial quality art and layout for the single itself and
The CD has already generated a low level buzz in trade publications
and in publications that cater to the hip hop market.
If the single release is successful, the Project hopes to bootstrap
up to producing a full length CD.
For more information, call Kevin Pranis at (212) 727-8610 or
Last July, representatives from several national organizations
that do cross border solidarity work met with representatives
from workers' rights organizations from Mexico, Central America,
the Caribbean and Canada. The meeting was to plan a campaign to
win a living wage for apparel and shoe workers around the world.
The first corporate focus will be Nike, for several reasons.
First, Nike shoe workers in many countries are already protesting
their miserable wages. Then, too, Nike is already a focus of a
major international campaign which has affected its reputation
and its sales and the campaign has solid links with shoe workers
in Indonesia, Vietnam and (to a lesser extent) China.
October 17 will be a national day of action pressure Nike on
the issues of living wages and collective bargaining. In Chicago,
there will be a rally on Saturday, October 17 at Noon at Niketown,
669 N. Michigan Av in Chicago. For more information call Chicago
Jobs with Justice (312) 226-6340.
The workers at the Han Young plant in Mexico have been on strike
for some time now (see page 5). It's
a union recognition dispute, mostly, and it might seem just another
industrial dust-up but the dispute has international significance.
First of all, recognition of the union at the Han Young plant
would be the first beach-head of militant, independent unionism
in Mexico's maquiladora zone. This could change the dynamics of
labor relations in the border region.
But more immediately, it provides a test, or demonstration
if you will, of the NAFTA side agreements on labor and other social
issues. Both the Han Young management and the Mexican state have
been in clear violation of Mexican labor law. Mexican labor law
is really quite progressive, compared to laws here in the States.
It doesn't matter if they are ignored when inconvenient to management.
Han Young's only customer is Hyundai Precision America, Hyundai's
North American subsidiary. The initial target in the campaign
in support of Han Young workers was the Mexican state; Hyundai
had agreed to pressure Han Young management to recognize the union
and bargain in good faith. The agreement was for naught. Han Young
management has continued its campaign against the union, something
it could not have done without the consent, at least, of Hyundai.
The focus of Han Young support work has shifted back to Hyundai.
San Diego DSA has been particularly active in organizing support
for the Han Young workers. Chicago DSA recently contributed $200
to SDDSA's fundraising drive in support of the strike. This past
September 19, CDSA contacted its labor support list to help at
an informational picket line outside a near southside Hyundai
dealer. The picket line was organized by Chicago Jobs with Justice
Cross Border Organizing Committee.
If you would like to be on Chicago DSA's labor support list,
call the CDSA office: (773) 384 - 0327, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The DSA Youth Section is organizing a national day of action
in support of the Han Young workers on October 30th. This is intended
as a supplement to the September 19 national day of action organized
by the Campaign for Labor Rights. If you would like to help with
the action, call the CDSA office: (773) 384-0327, or email email@example.com.
For additional information about the Han Young strike and the
Campaign for Labor Rights, go to http://www.summersault.com/~agj/clr
Chicago DSA's contribution to the July 30th demonstration for
universal health care was an 1,800 piece postcard mailing to downtown
Chicago, most of the north and south lakefront, the near west
side, DSA members and others who receive New Ground. We
followed up the mailing with phone calls to a good percentage
of the membership list.
At the same time, the AFL-CIO Executive Board was meeting in
Chicago, which was, perhaps, another reason the demonstration
was light on union sponsorship.
In connection with the Board meeting, the AFL-CIO Department
of Field Mobilization was holding one of its "Union City"
conferences. Such an event would be incomplete without a mobilization,
and there was a target conveniently nearby the meeting: CLTV,
the Tribune Co.'s cable tv operation, which is being organized
The AFL-CIO's Midwest office asked if we'd like to help promote
the August 1st rally in support of AFTRA. Our efforts are necessarily
modest, but we did send a postcard mailing to our labor support
list, and mentioned the demostration to those we called in connection
with the health care demonstration.
To those of you who may have come late, our apologies. The
postcard listed the rally at the Sheraton from 5:30 to 6:30, followed
by a march to the Tribune Tower. The rally only lasted until 6
and was followed by a march to the Tribune Tower and a picket
line that lasted until 6:30.
It's hard to say how the Tribune Tower felt about the rabble
at its gates; the ghost of the Colonel hangs heavy there. But
the tourists and shoppers on Michigan Avenue displayed a full
range of reactions. And the management of the Sheraton was distinctly
unnerved by a conga line of several hundred militant, chanting,
sign-waiving unionists parading through their lobby.