Ira Grupper irag@iglou.comLABOR PAEANS— May 2011Ira Grupper(published by FORsooth, newspaper of Louisville, Kentucky chapter of F.O.R. [Fellowship of Reconciliation] )The Attempt to Crush Public Worker UnionsIn the Great Depression of the 1930’s there were countless people selling apples on the streets to survive, and there were population shifts as workers hustled to try to find work. The poor were getting poorer, and there was the hint of a permanent underclass. And, yes, the rich were getting richer.Since then the profit system has learned to hide some of its disfigurements. We used to view reports from Vietnam, several decades ago, by journalists like Peter Arnett (CNN), and that helped the American people see the horror of our destruction of a largely unarmed people. But today—today reporters are “imbedded,” meaning they sit in a tank, see only the inside, and then regurgitate the U.S. military propaganda. Nor do we see people selling apples in the streets.And then there is the shopping mall. Sbarro, the fast-food pizza chain begun as a simple grocery store in the 1950’s, is now feeling the effect of a growing unemployment in the U.S. It has filed for bankruptcy. In fairness, there are more online shoppers, so mall traffic has slowed. But really, it’s the recession. The Wall Street Journal reports the company lost about $29.3 million during the first nine months of last year. Arrivederci, Sbarro.How do we who sell our labor power for a wage brace ourselves for the whiplash of corporate greed? We form unions—in the private sector, and in the public sector.Come now the Republican corporate shills, governors and legislators in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, and now many more states. They introduce bills to destroy public sector collective bargaining, and workers are again victimized. As Truthout reports: “We have seen this shameless suppression of workers before: when the US Army seized coal mines to bust up a post-World-War II miner strike; when Reagan fired 12,000 PATCO workers, simply for striking; when the second Bush stuffed the ‘Labor Department’ full of corporate cronies and spent his first days in office tossing vital workplace regulations in the trash.”The FightbackThis evening (April 4), here in Louisville, 125 workers and some government officials came out in the pouring rain to a “block party for public workers”. Many unions were represented.Wanda Mitchell Smith (AFSCME—Amer. Federation of State, County & Municipal Workers) spoke eloquently: “When Dr. King went to Memphis (in 1968) he left from Zion Baptist Church here in Louisville (where his brother was pastor)…(This) is a time to be creative. We are one.”Tia Edison, a (union) teacher at Knight Middle School here in Louisville, and a former member of the UAW, let us know that “they want to blame all the teachers (for failing schools)…No Child Left Behind (law) is a farce.”“Come and go with me to that land” was sung with gusto. Originally a civil rights movement song, it now is put into a labor framework.Organized labor, for too long dormant, is on the move. But we must never forget, and I know some labor leaders who read this column will get mad at me, that it was poor and working people who put the Republican governors and state representatives in office in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. Where were the organized education efforts to explain to these workers that if you sleep with a corporate prostitute you are liable to get the economic clap? Well, labor is now awake.Under international law, claims Amnesty International, all workers have a human right to organize and to bargain collectively. “These rights…are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, as well as conventions adopted by the International Labour Organization (ILO). “As a state party to the ICCPR and a signatory to the ICESCR, the USA has an obligation to respect the human rights under these instruments and treaties.”Part of our fightback must include support for the The Full Employment & Training Act (H.R. 870), recently introduced by Congressman John Conyers. “(It) can counteract massive unemployment and speculative profiteering that keeps widening the gap between the rich and the rest of us.“The law would make the Wall Street speculators behind the economic disaster pony up to create jobs: whether teaching children, making homes energy efficient, caring for the sick or rebuilding neighborhoods.” (Paul Krugman, New York Times, March 18, 2011).Speaking of columnists, nationally known corporate shill, David Broder, recently died. Reports FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting): “Despite (his) non-ideological reputation, he pushed political culture to the right…The notion that Broder’s moderate ‘centrism’ was not an ideology in itself is a common view…and is totally mistaken. Broder expressed a strong point of view on a range of issues. The fact that such views are portrayed as an absence of ideology speaks volumes about the prevailing ideology of the mainstream media.”Which brings us back to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated on April 4, 1968 while rallying garbage workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee. They were fighting for dignity and a living wage. Four decades later, workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana are fighting for dignity and a living wage. Who will be remembered in history: the greedy or the needy? It is in our hands.Contact Ira Grupper: irag@iglou.comHOME ABOUT DONATE JOIN CONTACT US PUBLICATIONS CCDS STATEMENTS EMAIL US


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