Home About CDSA New Ground Events Debs Dinner Links Join DSA Audio Email us

Your contribution is appreciated
but, because of our advocacy work,
not tax deductible.

New Ground 99

March - April, 2005


  • Illinois Unites to Preserve Social Security by Bob Roman
  • In Memoriam: Charles "Chuck" Hall by Ramblin' Rose Myer
  • The Health Care Justice Act Unfurls by Bob Roman
  • Death and Taxes by Tom Broderick
  • Debt and Taxes by Bob Roman
  • One Step Ahead, a Marathon to Go by Jorge Mújica
  • U.S. Labor Against the War by Bob Roman
  • A Perfect Storm Rising: The Crisis in Health Care, Defending Social Security
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
    Chicago Social Forum
    "When Bush Comes to Shove" Conference a Success!
    City Workers Present Case

  • Illinois Unites to Preserve Social Security

    by Bob Roman

    The campaign to protect Social Security got off to an auspicious start in Illinois with a demonstration outside the Charles Schwab brokerage offices on South Wacker Drive. Schwab was targeted as they are one of the players in the effort to privatize Social Security. The AFL-CIO in particular has been putting public pressure on the financial services industry and has had some success in neutralizing specific firms. For example the investment firm of Waddell & Reed recently announced it left the pro-privatization Alliance for Worker Retirement Security (AWRS) after activists prepared to demonstrate outside its Kansas office. Charles Schwab belongs to the AWRS. More recently, the Financial Services Forum, made up of CEOs of big finance companies, dropped out of Compass, the group leading financial industry support for President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security. Some 90 people participated in this Valentine's Day noon-hour informational picket, including a delegation from UNITE HERE. It was particularly gratifying that a number of passersby stopped to join the line.

    Immediately after the picket, an organizing meeting was held at the AFSCME Council 31 office. In the month that has followed, Illinois United to Preserve Social Security (IUPSS) has grown to about a hundred organizations from around the state. IUPSS is defending Social Security on several "fronts".

    One is, of course, Congress. A number of Representatives have held town hall meetings, and IUPSS supporters have pressured others to do so. (You are invited to call your Representative to ask about them holding a meeting on the issue.) Two in particular have been helpful to the cause. Representative Lane Evans held several meetings around his district, using them as an educational tool, teaching why Social Security is not in "crisis". Representative Jan Schakowsky also organized a similar meeting on the Loyola University Water Tower Campus at the end of February. This featured a very good PowerPoint presentation and appearances by Senators Durbin and Obama. An overflow crowd of several hundred attended. Representatives Lipinski and Rush have also held meetings. IUPSS is encouraging people to call their Representatives in support of maintaining Social Security, and a few downstate Republicans have been getting a steady flow of three or four dozen calls a day.

    Thursday, March 31 will be a "National Day of Action for Retirement Security". Here in Chicago, the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans are planning a noon hour demonstration outside the offices of Charles Schwab at 150 S. Wacker Drive in Chicago, again, because the brokerage has refused to budge. Invited speakers (not yet confirmed) include U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama and U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and U.S. Congressman Rahm Emanuel.

    An April 2nd demonstration outside the Batavia offices of Representative Hastert is also in the works, and IUPSS hopes to bring several hundred, qualifying it as a major uprising by west suburban standards. Busses will be coming from several locations, including Chicago.

    A resolution, HR128, has been introduced in the Illinois legislature, opposing Social Security privatization. It can be modified for other governmental bodies, and introducing it to the Chicago City Council is a possibility.

    The media is another "battle ground". Some of this effort has taken the form of multiple rounds of press conferences in the various "media markets" around the state. Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans President Hal Gullett has been a common denominator among them. While turnout has not been great at all of them, each has resulted in at least some press.

    But the major field of struggle is simply public opinion. Because of our republican structure of government, public opinion is often a secondary or even tertiary consideration in politics. But in this instance, players on both sides of the question are judging the viability of Bush's attack by changes in polling figures. So far, we're winning.

    The fight is far from decided. The Right is in the process of raising $200 million to support their attack. Those defending Social Security have already hired a political consulting firm to manage the campaign. The intent is to have each Congressional District have an organizer, and a small staff (including PR person) for each state.

    This is a fight we can win. And should we win, could it be the beginning of the end of conservative rule in America? One might hope so.

    In Memoriam: Charles "Chuck" Hall

    by Ramblin Rose Myer

    I have lost a dear friend, but the world has last a true hero. On Thursday, January 6, 2005, Charles Hall died of pneumonia in Loyola University Medical Center. Many friends, fellow workers and social activists knew him aas his wife, Yolanda "Bobby" Hall, described him: "a quiet, unassuming man with very firm beliefs and principles." And those of us who were closest to him knew as his son Chas was quoted: "He felt he was doing what his conscience dictated he should do. He never thought of it being noble or heroic."

    When he moved from Indiana to Chicago in his early youth, his political conscience greatly developed. At the age of 23 he joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and went to fight fascism in Spain. He was captured and served 13 months in a Spanish prison. He was released in a prisoner exchange program and he returned to the United States shortly before he enlisted after Pearl Harbor and rose to the rank of Captain.

    While he pursued his education, receiving his degree as a mechanical engineer, he continued to be an activist in the labor and civil rights movements and was an active participant in peace marches in opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and in opposition to the current Iraqi invasion.

    Chuck, as he was affectionately called, received many awards, including one given for his contributions from the Working Women's History Project and another from the Chicago History Fair. He truly believed that "History Matters".

    In his last years, while not in the best of health, he continued to speak out at university and community events. His final activity was meeting with a group of teenagers from Curie High School in Chicago as they researched, wrote and enacted the history of the Spanish Civil War.

    Now that is some kind of hero and a worthy model for any age.

    There will be a celebration of Chuck's life on Sunday, April 3, at 2 PM at the Oak Park Public Library, 843 Lake Street in Oak Park.

    Editor's Note: This article appeared originally in Working Women's Stories, the newsletter of the Working Womens History Project. For more information, go to http://workingwomen.homestead.com.

    The Health Care Justice Act Unfurls

    by Bob Roman

    The Health Care Justice Act passed and signed last year in Illinois (see New Ground 97, 94, 93, 92 and 90) mandated the creation of a task force whose task it is to draft recommended legislation for health care reform in Illinois. The legislation is to "insure that all residents have access to quality health care at costs that are affordable." Between now and November, the task force is to hold hearings in each Illinois Congressional District and commission research to further inform the work of the task force. If things go well, the Illinois General Assembly is to act on the recommendations by the end of 2006.

    As part of the effort to get legislation that ensures "everybody in, nobody out", the Campaign for Better Health Care is organizing in every Congressional District. There is already ongoing activity in Districts 1, 2, 4, 10, 12, 15, 17, and 18. Meetings are scheduled in 7, 16, and 19. A boilerplate resolution is available for local units of government to use to demonstrate support for both the process and outcome. A video documenting the efforts toward a comprehensive health care plan in Illinois has been produced by America's Agenda: Health Care for All.

    The Governor and the majority and minority leaders of both the House and the Senate are given appointments to the task force. As of the end of February and somewhat behind schedule, nearly all the appointments had been made. Three more appointments are outstanding, but about half of the 26 current appointees have worked with the Campaign for Better Health Care.

    The work facing the task force is not going to be easy. Some of it involves politics beyond the immediate responsibility of the task force, particularly the ongoing cowardice of Blagojevich and General Assembly Democrats in dealing with the issue of taxes. But the Health Care Justice Act represents our best current opportunity to make a major difference in the lives of the majority. To learn how you might help, contact the Campaign for Better Health Care: 312.913.9449 or 217.352.5600.


    House Democrats Appointments: Dr. Arthur G. Jones - CEO Lawndale Christian Health Center - Chicago; Dr. Anthony Barbato - River Forest; Dr. Joseph Orthoefer - Rockford; David Koehler - Peoria Labor-Management Council; Ken Boyd - Chicago - President UFCW Local 1546; Wayne Lerner - President & CEO Rehabilitation Institute of Illinois - Chicago. House Republicans Appointments: Ken Robbins - President of Illinois Hospital Association - Naperville; Joe Roberts - Insurance representative / agent - Sandwich; Mike Murphy - Lobbyists from UNICARE (Wellpoint Company) - Springfield; St. Rep. Elizabeth Coulson (R-17) Glenview; Dr. Craig Bakes - ISMS - Chicago. Senate Democrats Appointments: Senator Trotter - (D-17) Chicago; Senator Martinez - (D-20) Chicago; Margaret Davis - Dir Healthcare Consortium of Illinois - Chicago; Collen Kennedy - President St. Francis Blue Island Hospital - Blue Island; Quentin Young - PNHP, HMPRG, CBHC - Chicago; Robyn Gabel - Dir. Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition - Chicago. Senate Republican Appointments: Gregory S. Smith - Group Marketing Services, Inc. - Lincoln; Catherine Bresler - Morton Grove; James M. Moore - CEO OSF Healthcare System - Peoria; Pamela D. Mitroff - Wheaton ; Kenneth Smithmier - Decatur Memorial Hospital - Decatur. Governor Blagojevich's Appointments: Jim Duffett - Campaign for Better Health Care - Urbana; Jan Daker - United Congregations of Metro-East - Belleville; Tim Carrigan - staff nurse at University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago (son of Michael Carrigan); Niva Lubin-Johnson - Prairie Medical Society - Chicago.

    Death and Taxes

    by Tom Broderick,

    "Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our government." So spoke former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President during the period known as the New Deal.

    Today we are once again in an era of the sweet deal for some and the raw deal for many. Wealth creates power, and the powerful, with their sycophants, protect wealth. Inherited wealth produces inherited power and we must hold it accountable to the greater good of the community. The community I refer to is those who must work for a living and those who can't find work that pays a living wage.

    The Emergency Revenue Act of 1916 included the first Federal estate tax in the United States. It was passed by Congress as our Government prepared to enter World War I. The idea was that those who inherited wealth would pay a portion of their gain to society. This would prove a burden that the moneyed would rather shirk.

    It took time, but accumulation of wealth and power was at stake. A change in the name proved the right touch. The "Death Tax" was invented. The tax on the transfer of great wealth became unsavory. We were taking advantage of those suffering a death in the family by taxing them at a time of loss. This is a hoax. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that approximately 2% of those who die leave estates that are taxed. The Estate Tax is on increased wealth, not death. We all die, we don't all leave estates.

    Another fabrication: heirs are forced to sell family businesses or farms to pay estate taxes. William Gale and Joel Slemrod, of the Brookings Institution, tell us that 0.2% of estates include small businesses or farms. Heirs of these estates, when they are in excess of $2 million, can pay the taxes in installments over 14 years. This is not hardship. Any attempt to avoid paying taxes on this financial gain is nose-thumbing greed.

    When possible, you can be sure that those with wealth and power will shift financial and corporal risk to the rest of us. Our Congress passed, and President Bush signed a bill that phases out the Estate Tax by 2010. In 2011, it will reappear unless the well-to-do succeed in their effort to have it permanently repealed. Let's reclaim the name of this tax: The Responsible Wealth Tax. Then let's fully impose it.

    Now to what I call the Extermination Tax. This is the financial burden placed upon communities when State Prosecutors decide to pursue execution in criminal cases. There are finite and increasingly fewer dollars available to every taxing body. Community revenue is hijacked when there is a decision to seek execution.

    In 2000, the Illinois General Assembly created the Capital Litigation Trust Fund to lower the risk of wrongful convictions. Since the death penalty was re-established in Illinois, eighteen condemned men have been exonerated of the crimes that put them on the road to extermination. Twelve others have been executed. With that record, and the fact that we are talking about putting fellow humans to death, the Fund is quite a reasonable safeguard. In theory, no one ends up facing execution without all possible doubts of innocence convincingly squashed. Reality proves otherwise.

    Here are some costs associated with the pursuit of execution in Illinois. In 2003, we spent about $383,000 to condemn Anthony Mertz to death. We spent $321,000 to put Cutis Thompson on death row. This money comes from our tax base, and is only part of what we spend in the effort to execute. The Fund only pays for special expenses not generally available to local governments. State's Attorney salaries are paid out of county tax dollars. These attorneys can employ local, state and federal law enforcement in their cases, covering the costs from local revenue.

    There's more. The State Attorney General and State's Attorney's Appellate Prosecutor often contribute in the effort to eliminate a life. Their salaries and costs are paid by us. We pay for Public Defenders. In most capital punishment cases, the defense is a Public Defender. It is nearly unheard of that some Caucasian Of Wealth faces the death penalty. Henry Kissinger and several among the Bush thuggery do come to mind as candidates for war crimes, past and present.

    To protect against wrongful execution, there is a mandated appeals process. The figure for these appeals is pegged at $600,000 higher than for non-capital murder cases. This is per case, so the more we condemn the more we pay.

    Post-trial costs for Anthony Mertz and Curtis Thompson are estimated to exceed $3 million. Mr. Mertz and Mr. Thompson are the only people that the State of Illinois sentenced to death in 2003. In 2004, an additional four were sent to the Condemned Unit at the Pontiac Correctional Facility in Pontiac, Illinois. The death penalty costs us far more than a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty estimates that the cost to try, convict and sentence someone to life in prison is between one third and one half the amount we spend in the drive to exact revenge through snuffing out a life.

    We're not done spending. Many of those who have been found innocent of the crime(s) for which they were condemned have successfully sued Illinois for recompense. In 2001, Cook County paid $36 million to settle just four wrongful convictions. In January, a jury awarded $6,581,100 to a former Chicago police officer who spent eight years on death row. The jury found that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had framed him.

    To save dollars, we could cut the money we provide defendants. Would any of the eighteen men, or their families and friends, exonerated in Illinois since we started killing prisoners again in 1976 consider this responsible. I can't. We spend a great deal of money to inject toxins into a person, proclaiming justice. This is the death tax and it goes beyond economics.

    This country is deep in debt and we got here by throwing more than $2 billion into a war of empire while providing absurd tax relief to those in the money. Progressive taxation, including the Estate Tax, was introduced as a just way to fund government, and therefore, the greater community. Everyone benefited. Today we are being bled by policies that benefit few and harm many. We have de-funded public education, eliminated affordable housing, and cut job training programs, unless you feel military service adequately provides these. We have privatized necessary utilities, denied the right of healthcare and good nutrition and slashed money for the arts and culture.

    Baron Frankenstein would be shocked by our rampage of destruction. He tried to create life from death. We suffer from policies that destroy life by eliminating programs and tax structures that benefit the poor, those who work as well as those who don't: the retired and the rejected/dejected. These same policies deform life by robbing those who are working and trying to make a go of it, by offering costly healthcare, insufficient education opportunities and self funded retirement. Bad decisions are being made about the use our tax revenue, with no accountability.

    Witness the response of the press as mergers and acquisitions take place. The press celebrates the bottom line, counting job elimination and payroll reduction as plusses. What's the plus? If you want to guarantee an expanded penal system that has no claim on justice, this is the road. We deserve a society that values the human being over financial gain.

    The current Bush line on society is "ownership." Trash talk. Bush and his Greed Gang are selling privatization as an idea that will make us masters of our individual futures, rather than victims of a philosophy myopically focussed on the maximization of profit. The goal: enrich the well-heeled while we kill the poor and savage the lives and dreams of workers. Target de jour: Social Security. Stone Soup anyone?

    Sources: United for a Fair Economy (www.faireconomy.org); Economic Policy Institute (www.epinet.org); Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (www.icadp.org).

    Debt and Taxes

    by Bob Roman

    Some Kill With Guns, Others With Pens

    As New Ground goes to press, the House and the Senate Budget Committees were in the process of marking up their budget resolutions. By the time you read this, it is possible that one or both houses will have passed resolutions. Both proposed budgets reflect priorities starkly out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans. Overall, the proposed budgets would deeply cut critical public investments at the same time as they give more tax breaks to the wealthy and swell federal deficits.

    The House committee-passed budget would cut domestic discretionary spending by $216,000,000,000 over the next five years, and the Senate committee-passed budget would cut domestic discretionary spending by $207,000,000,000 over the same period. This would amount to average cuts in public services such as education, community development, veterans' benefits, and environmental protection of 13 to 14 percent in 2010. The House resolution does not include multi-year caps on discretionary spending, but the Senate resolution does include 3-year caps.

    Both the House and Senate budget resolutions would deeply cut entitlement programs: by $67,000,000,000 and $38,000,000,000, respectively. Medicaid, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and other low-income programs would likely face the deepest cuts. Moreover, both budgets include reconciliation instructions for a portion of these cuts. These reconciliation instructions would facilitate passage of the cuts by preventing them from being filibustered in the Senate, thus allowing them to pass with only 51 votes.

    The Senate budget also includes a new budget rule that could harm entitlement programs beyond the cuts called for in the resolution. This rule would require any legislation that increased entitlement spending by more than $5,000,000,000 over any 10-year period between 2015 and 2055 to overcome a 60-vote point of order in the Senate. This new budget process rule would not in any way restrict enactment of new tax cuts that increase the deficit. This is a prescription for permanent irresponsible, unresponsive government. California has similar "super majority" rules written into aspects of its budgeting process; consider the state of their finances today.

    While using the massive federal deficits largely caused by the reckless tax cuts of the last four years to justify the above-mentioned deep cuts in public investments, the Bush Administration and its allies are continuing to push for even more unpaid-for tax cuts. Indeed, both the House and Senate budget resolutions call for more tax cuts: $106,000,000,000 and $71,000,000,000, respectively. Moreover, the budgets include separate reconciliation instructions for a portion of these tax cuts ($45,000,000,000 in the House resolution and $70,000,000,000 in the Senate resolution), which would protect these tax cuts from filibuster and non-germane amendments and would allow them to pass the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority. This would not be the first time that reconciliation, a process designed for deficit reduction, would be exploited to pass unpaid-for tax cuts.

    The cornerstone of these tax cuts is the extension of the 2003 dividends and capital gains tax cuts, which are set to expire in 2008. At a cost of $23,000,000,000 between 2006 and 2010, nearly one-half of these tax cuts would go to millionaires and nearly three-quarters would go to the top 3.1 percent of households making more than $200,000 annually. Both resolutions also include a one-year Alternative Minimum Tax fix but exclude the virtually guaranteed costs of a similar fix in subsequent years.

    Reforms in Illinois?

    While Blagojevich cowers at the word "taxes", finances have hit the fan all across the state, especially in public education and public transit. This has inspired Senators James T. Meeks, Miguel del Valle, and Kwame Raoul and Representatives David E. Miller, John A. Fritchey, and William Davis to introduce SB/HB 750. This bill is primarily intended to provide property tax relief and to provide adequate funding for education on a sustainable basis. It would increase the state income tax rate to 5% and the corporate income tax rate to 8% while providing deductions so that the bottom 60% of individual income tax payers would pay no additional income tax and sometimes less. It would expand the sales tax to cover some services not presently covered, and close some corporate tax loopholes. All this would generate an estimated $7,200,000,000. Of that gross, $2,400,000,000 would be used for property tax relief. Another $1,500,000,000 would be used to eliminate the State's ongoing budget deficit that the Governor has been filling by juggling books. However, the bill's primary focus is education. SB/HB 750 would increase the state's "Foundation level" per pupil support from $4964 to $6092 and is some additional money available for higher education. It also reforms the way education expenses are appropriated so that the State's habitual under funding of mandated services would cease.

    SB/HB 750 has inspired considerable grassroots support. SEIU in particular has made it a legislative priority.

    Illinois' fiscal condition is so bad that the Republicans have actually come up with a counter offer, SB 1484, introduced by Senator Rick Winkel, Jr. The bill is a stripped down version of SB/HB 750, sans tax relief for lower income taxpayers and without reforms in how education funds are appropriated, among other things.

    This has not stopped the libertarian right from foaming at the mouth at the prospect of either bill. To these ideologues, there is no funding crisis in public education that increased "accountability" and "efficiency" wouldn't solve. They make such a noise, like a pack of nasty little dogs, that one can almost forgive Blagojevich his shyness.


    Editor's note: the material regarding the Federal Budget is from the Fair Taxes for All Coalition, of which Chicago DSA is a member. For more information, go to http://www.fairtaxes4all.org. Information about SB/HB 750 is available from the Illinois General Assembly, http://www.ilga.gov, and from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, http://www.ctbaonline.org.

    One Step Ahead, a Marathon to Go

    by Jorge Mújica

    Mexicans abroad advanced one step further in their long struggle to be able to cast their votes from outside their country. (See New Ground 95, 90, 89, 88, 85 and 84.) After months of delay, the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, equivalent of the US House of Representatives, voted in favor of regulating such vote.

    The right to vote from abroad was approved in 1988, but the mechanism to cast such votes was never implemented, nullifying in reality the rights written in the books.

    But the February 22nd vote in favor by 391 Deputies (only 5 voted against and 22 abstained) does not represent a victory. The bill still has to be approved in the Senate, and such approval does not seem easy. The first reaction of several Senators affiliated with Vicente Fox's National Action Party, stated that the approval, while urgent, should not be rushed. Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, PAN leader in the Senate, stated that "we can not run the risk of losing what we have being able to advance in México in terms of transparency and security in the process of voting."

    His colleague, Senate Vice President César Jáuregui went even further: "This issue should not become a conflict. Maybe it will be better to implement the vote from abroad in 2009." Evidently Jáuregui does not even know the content of the bill approved by the Diputados, which only allows for Mexicans abroad to vote in presidential elections, which will not happen in 2009 but in 2012.

    Even the leader of the leftist PRD in the Senate, Jesús Ortega, said, "the issue should be examined under a magnifying glass, specially those aspects related to public financing."

    PRI Senator Silvia Hernández expressed her doubts about financing the "infrastructure of implementing the vote from abroad. I still don't see any good source for the money to pay for the expense." According to the IFE, voting from abroad could cost anything from 700 million to 3 billion dollars.


    Having the Right

    If approved by the Senate, up to 11 million Mexicans in the United States would have the right to cast their vote. That does not necessarily means they will be able to do it. The bill establishes the opening of "voting centers" for as many as 15,000 Mexican citizens, internally divided in polling places, one for each 750 voters. It leaves the decision of where to open these centers to the Federal Electoral Institute, IFE, giving only a vague idea regarding "cities where there are more than 15,000 Mexican citizens."

    According to some activists, such centers could be opened in 30 to 35 cities across the United States, leaving millions of Mexicans citizens far away from the actual place to cast their vote. "While it would be possible to open voting centers in Chicago and Indianapolis," they say, "up to half a million Mexicans living between the two cities or alongside the Mississippi would have to travel for up to eight hours to get to a voting center."

    Another issue is the lack of voting cards for Mexicans abroad. The long history of electoral frauds in Mexico led to the creation of a "super secure" voting card with 11 safety features, including holograms and magnetic bands that make them difficult to forge, but also difficult to obtain. In México, after a citizen requests the card, there is a 60-day waiting period until the card is issued. Only some 3 million Mexicans in the United States have such credential.

    While the bill allows for the issuance of credentials, it has taken the 47 Mexican consulates in the United States four years to issue less than three million Matrículas, the popular Mexican ID for those living abroad. It is not likely that the IFE would be able to issue millions of voting credentials in less than a year.


    Campaigning Abroad

    Campaigning abroad is another sticky issue. The bill only allows for campaign materials to be broadcast in "Mexican owned companies with affiliated stations in the United States". This eliminates Univision and Telemundo, the two Spanish language TV chains, as well as most radio stations and even most of the Spanish language newspapers.

    In places like Los Angeles it is possible to listen to several Mexican radio stations, but cities like Chicago would be completely out of reach for any party seeking the votes of Mexicans.

    All in all, even providing that the Senate approves the voting mechanism for Mexicans abroad to participate in the 2006 presidential elections, it is likely that only a couple million would be able to cast their vote. That was exactly the difference between the winner Vicente Fox in the 2000 election against the traditional PRI candidate Francisco Labastida. Since the migrant's vote is not likely to be a block in favor of any particular party, it is also evident that their power will be diluted. In the end, migrants would not be able to influence Mexican politics as they hoped for.

    U.S. Labor Against the War

    by Bob Roman

    After the current war on Iraq began, anti-war activists in the labor movement gathered here in Chicago to form U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW). They've been pretty militant about making sure participants in their organization are indeed union members and organizations, not just some sectarian ideologues with pretensions. And they've done a great deal of work in organizing and making visible anti-war sentiment in the labor movement.

    Their latest project is a petition to the AFL-CIO to take a formal stand against the war. This will be something of an accomplishment if it succeeds. It is an effort worth making, however, even if it does not succeed.

    DSA members and friends who are members of unions should consider raising the issue with their union local. A model resolution is available at http://uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=7343. If that is impractical or if it fails, union members can still sign on as individuals. To do so, go to http://uslaboragainstwar.org/petition.php?pid=8. For more information about USLAW and a list of its affiliates, go to http://www.uslaboragainstwar.org.


    Open Letter and Appeal To President John Sweeney and the General Executive Council of the AFL-CIO

    Across the country, local, district, and national unions, labor councils, state labor federations and numerous other labor organizations representing millions of working people have adopted resolutions condemning the war in Iraq, and calling for an end to the occupation and return of all troops to their homes and families. Among these are national unions like SEIU, AFSCME, CWA, APWU, NPMHU/LIUNA, and UE; allied organizations like the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Pride at Work and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement; State Labor Federations in California, Maryland/DC, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin; and fifteen or more labor councils across the country.

    110 of these organizations have banded together to form U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), a national organization committed to ending the war, returning the troops, restoring funding to social programs and government services, and changing the direction of U.S. foreign policy.

    Union members and their family members are being killed, wounded, disabled and psychologically traumatized in a war that has already killed almost 1500 U.S. military personnel, wounded more than 10,500 others, a war in which more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died. This war is siphoning resources from our communities, starving or eliminating essential public services and social programs, eroding our democratic rights, and making our country even less secure.

    It is time for labor to speak out! At this time of discussion about renewing our labor movement, how can we not discuss the most urgent issue facing American and its working families? We ask you to put the issue of the war on the agenda of the up-coming Executive Council meeting. And we urge the national leadership of the AFL-CIO to oppose this reckless, illegal and immoral war.

    More specifically, we ask for action on the following proposals by the Executive Council and the quadrennial convention of the AFL-CIO.

    · The AFL-CIO should demand an immediate end to the US occupation of Iraq and return of U.S. troops to their homes and families, and the reordering of national priorities toward peace and meeting the human needs of our people; and

    · Through its community service programs, the AFL-CIO and its state and local affiliates should assist union members and their families who are called upon to serve in the armed forces and returning veterans by identifying and providing information about resources and services available to meet their needs, by advocating for their interests, and by protecting their jobs, seniority and benefits and those of unorganized workers in similar circumstances.

    Sisters and brothers, this war is draining away precious resources essential to meet human needs of working and poor people. It is undermining our security by alienating the U.S. from the community of nations and by provoking the spread of terrorism. It is weakening rather than reinforcing the rule of international law. It has led to an erosion of our most basic rights and liberties. And it is doing terrible direct harm to many thousands of military families.

    We, the American labor movement, should take a stand and speak out on the biggest issue facing working people and the country as a whole. We urge you to join us!

    47th Annual

    Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner

    A Perfect Storm Rising:

    The Crisis in Health Care

    Defending Social Security

    Friday, May 6, 6 PM

    Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, 350 N. Orleans, Chicago


    Please Join Us in Honoring:

    Linda Rae Murray, MD, MPH


    Hal Gullett


    Our Featured Speaker

    William McNary

    Cocktails at 6PM # Dinner at 7 PM # $50 per person.

    Tickets must be reserved no later than Tuesday, May 3. Make sure you and your organization appear in the program book! Please call us (773.384.0327) or email for further details, or download or view a PDF version of the Dinner flyer.

    Please send:

    _____ Dinner Tickets @ $50 each:                 __________
    _____ Reserved Tables(1) @ $600 each:            __________
    _____ page Program Book display message(3):      __________
    _____ Program Book text greeting(2)(3) @ $25:    __________
    _____ I can't attend; here is a contribution of: __________
    Total Amount Enclosed:                          $__________


    (1) Reserved tables seat 10.

    (2) Maximum of 15 words per greeting.

    (3) We need to receive the copy for the program book no later than April 26th (our printer insists). Please contact us for prices and sizes or download/view a PDF version of this flyer.

    Name: _____________________________________________________
    Organization: _____________________________________________
    Street Address: ___________________________________________
    City/State/Zip: ___________________________________________
    Phone: ___________________________ Email: _________________

    Make check or money order payable to:

    Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner Committee
    1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403
    Chicago, IL 60647

    Contributions are not tax deductible.

    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    Chicago Social Forum

    The Chicago Social Forum is one of a number of regional and local social forums being organized throughout the world. At the forum, organizations, groups and individuals are able to build alliances and coalitions that strengthen their ability to make more positive changes in their communities.

    Politicians and business interests are pushing Chicago to become a "Global City." The Chicago Social Forum aims toward building a different kind of globalization, one that is rooted in solidarity, equity, and environmental protection and human rights. Of particular importance to this process is the linking of local struggles with global concerns.

    On January 31, 2004 the Chicago Social Forum held an inaugural event that attracted over 500 participants for a day of workshops, forums, debates, performance, sharing, art-making, and discussion united by the theme "Another Chicago is Possible!" The Chicago Social Forum 2005 promises to be even more exciting and empowering.

    This year's Chicago Social Forum will be held Saturday, April 30, at Jones High School, 660 S. State in Chicago. For more information, call Stephanie Dernek at 312.641.5151 during business hours or go to http://www.chicagosocialforum.org.

    "When Bush Comes to Shove" Conference a Success!

    The March 11 - 13 YDS conference was a hit. Students from as far away as Arkansas, Oregon, Maine, and New Mexico came to New York City to attend "When Bush Comes to Shove: Youth Organizing Against Right-Wing and Corporate Power". Feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. YDS will be posting a conference report and photos shortly: http://www.ydsusa.org.

    Building off the momentum of the conference, YDS is scheduling visits to campuses and communities across the country. If you want a YDS organizer to come speak at your school, help start or strengthen a chapter, or work with you to put together a teach-in or training, please contact YDS Field Coordinator, Malav Kanuga. YDS has also compiled a series of resources that were used in association with "When Bush Comes to Shove" conference workshop sessions that we can make available for you to use when tabling on campus, conducting internal education or handing out at your sponsored events.

    Mark your calendars for the summer "YDS National Conference and Activist Retreat": August 10-12! A unique opportunity for YDS members and activists to get away from it all, to remember why we do what we do and to learn how to do it better. More details soon, but make sure to carve out time for this important weekend.

    City Workers Present Case

    Chicago municiple union workers have been working without a contract, some as long as 2 years. The Chicago Federation of Labor has been presenting the case to the public and to the City Council. It commissioned a poll on citizen's perception of the quality of the work performed. And it organized a series of 5 regional hearings to which the local Aldermen were invited. The last was on March 16 in Rogers Park. The Aldermen got an earful, were sympathetic, but unwilling to encourage the workers to think the recent police contract would serve as a pattern. Go to http://www.workingforchicago.org/ for more information.

     Add yourself to the Chicago DSA mailing list (snail mail and email).

     Back to top.

    Privacy policy.