From the Labor Commission of the CPUSA, updates, information, news, analysis, and organizing materials in solidarity with workers of the world.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

For the well-dressed Tea Party Patriot, a national online retailer, is seeing a spike in sales of its $16.99 “Colonial Man Economy Wig,” which has wavy white synthetic hair and a ponytail. It is made in China.

Also moving nicely is the $7.99 tricorn hat, also manufactured in China, and the “Generic Colonial Man” costume for $84.99, says Dotty Zolper, merchandise manager. “He comes with knickers, pants, a vest and a long jacket,” she says.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chicago's Unemployed Action Center

by Bill Appelhans

The Unemployed Action Center in Chicago has been working in the community organizing folks to join the fight for jobs around the belief that a job that pays a living wage is a right not a privilege.

The following is about one of those folks who came by in July to see what we were about.

Janet entered the building moments before I got there. I saw her go in. She was looking at the listings in the foyer when I walked in. When I asked if I could help she replied she was looking for the Unemployed office. I told her she had just found the right person. Nobody else from the UAC had arrived yet.

By the time I opened the room where the center works and we got seated, Mac, Kirsten and Bobbie had joined us. For the next half hour or so the five of us talked about who we were, what we were trying to do and her unemployed situation.

Her story: at the end of 2008 she was laid off from her job at a small factory. Earlier in 2008 the company had relocated from the neighborhood to a suburb and she then began commuting to the job until being laid off. She had been working for the company for over 30 years. The factory employed some 40+ workers when it was in the area but had shrunk to a small handful by the time she was laid off.

In October she started collecting unemployment comp and continued doing so through the normal 26 weeks and 2 extensions of 13 weeks each. The checks stopped coming October 2009 and has not received any aid since. A tragic end of story.

Well, not quite. We kept talking about it and wondered why she wasn't receiving aid by way of the continuing extensions that had taken place. She said she had received notice in the mail about the end of her benefits and other info about the possibility of her attending school for nursing. She was also notified she should come into the Unemployment office to discuss it.

After more discussion and questioning we came to see she had come to believe the end of benefits notification along with the schooling was the beginning of a whole new bureaucratic process that would not result in any further benefits. She called a few times about the training and was told she would have to pay for it which of course she could not afford. At that point she walked away. Note: she does not use a computer so all this was done the old fashioned way - going down to the office - which most of remember could discourage the most determined.

Now we four UACers must have all gotten up on the wrong side of bed that day because we found a way to further torment this poor lady. It seemed to us, we told her, she should still qualify for benefits and that the school thing was not a condition to do so. We suggested she return to the Unemployment office with her paperwork and check out her status. Mac, angry over the injustice and no doubt inspired by the opportunity to strike a blow, then volunteered to take her down right then and there, sans paperwork, to get an immediate judgment. She was a bit hesitant but we drove home the idea she had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. At least by the end of the day she would know where she stands. Finally she agreed and, praise the lord and pass the ammunition, off they went.

They returned about an hour or so later. Janet was glowing and Mac had the "don't mess with the workers" attitude about him. She was told, based of her story, she would be reinstated in 7 to 10 days. Mac said he was told, after asking to make sure, it was a done deal. Janet hung around talking for a bit longer then said she was excited to get home so she could announce the news. Then she gave each one of us a big hug and kiss and a 'see you next week'. Bring a crowd, we answered. I believe there were a few wet eyes to be seen.

The next week she was back and told us she received the reinstatement papers just two days after the visit along with notification that the checks would begin soon. And they have.

Janet now comes every week and is playing an important role in the Center's work.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Locked-out Honeywell workers reject Kryptonite

By Scott Marshall

Metropolis, Illinois - Over 2500 steelworkers and supporters converged on Metropolis Illinois for a mass rally and march against Honeywell this past Saturday. (see video here) Metropolis calls itself the home of Superman.

The Metropolis Honeywell nuclear conversion plant starts the process of making nuclear fuel and uses some of the most dangerous chemicals on earth. The plant employs about 220 union workers. Some 42 have died of cancer and another 27 are struggling with the disease. Honeywell wants to cut health care and pensions for these United Steelworkers Local 7-669 (USW) members.

The locked out workers had offered to work without a contract while continuing negotiations. But Honeywell refused. The company locked them out and brought in scabs instead.

The workers enjoy the support of the community in this working class town of 6500 in southern Illinois near the West Virginia border. Union members and supporters came on buses from around Illinois and West Virginia to march in solidarity. Contingents included United Steelworkers, United Mineworkers, United Auto workers, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Operating Engineers, Communication Workers of America, Plumbers and Pipefitters, and several other unions in a spirited display of union solidarity.

Darrell Lillie, the steelworkers local union president, told the cheering crowd, "with your support we will stay out one day longer than Honeywell, until we get justice for our members." Jim Robinson, USW District 7 Director told the rally that Honeywell, like many giant multinational corporations, is trying to use the economic crisis to bust unions and drive down hard won union wages and benefits.

But as one striker told me, "we won't process that kryptonite."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kellogg's latest "prize" in the box

Washington Post
Monday, Aug. 2, 2010

"This summer, when Kellogg recalled 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Honey Smacks, the company blamed elevated levels of a chemical in the packaging.
Dozens of consumers reported a strange taste and odor, and some complained of nausea and diarrhea. But Kellogg said a team of experts it hired determined that there was "no harmful material" in the products."

So there you have it. The company is taking care of business.

They found elevated levels of a chemical in the packaging but their experts found no harmful material in the products.

Therefore it must be that the consumers who complained of nausea and diarrhea must have been eating the boxes.

The EPA, which is part of Big Government, should mind its own business. The free market forces will solve this problem without the intrusion of government bureaucrats.

This is how it works: as more and more people become sick or worse, sales will drop and the industry will be forced to correct the problem or go out of business.

This self-correcting feature of the marketplace is one of the cornerstones of what made America great.

The sacrifices made by consumers who are victimized fall under another well known marketplace truism that companies know and trust to guide them in their mission: "You can't Make an Omelette without Breaking a Few Eggs."

The eggs, uh rather the people, play an important role in a company's Research and Development programs. If consumers become sick or are injured by a product an analysis is done and various fixes are made until reports of illnesses and injuries stop.

This trial by error procedure is time-tested and has a success rate of 100% given enough time and data (consumer problems) to develop solutions.

An important aspect of this procedure is it does not interfere with the basic mission of any company to make profit until a later time.

Note also that success is achieved without the input of a single Big Government entity.

Time and time again the genius of the marketplace and its leaders cannot and will not be outdone.

Finally, while on the subject, I would like to take this opportunity to go back and restate, on behalf of the nation, an apology to another victim of Big Government interference:

O BP, we are heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and we detest all our unfair judgments, because of thy righteousness, but most of all because they offend Thee, BP, Who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to criticize no more and buy, buy, buy. Amen

Now in recognition of my duty as a citizen to contribute to the welfare of the country, I will have a bowl or two of Froot Loops.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Shirley Sherrod and the killing of hope and change

The broader tragedy of this incident is the extent to which the feelings of national pride and hope for the future that elected our country's first minority President have been corrupted by those who resist and fear change.

Sowing fear, distrust and anger is a simple matter. All that those who would sow those seeds need do is abandon their beliefs in honesty, principle and integrity and replace them with greed and hate.

This war against change, progress and hope began within moments after the election.

These agents of backwardness and destruction have found the seeds they plant, made up of words of fear and images of hate, find fertile ground in the nation's fields of social and economic crises these same agents created under the previous administration of Bush and Cheney.

They seek to exploit those shoots fear and anger they plant to destroy the momentum of the positive national self esteem that could be felt here and around the world when we, the people, voted our hearts, our commitment to progress and our belief in the humanity of America.

It would do us no harm to step back and remember the pride and hope we felt in ourselves and for our neighbors the morning after the election. Those moments before the haters, the profiteers, the power seekers began their war on the our journey down the road of change and hope.

The nature of the contempt those haters, profiteers and power seekers have for society drives them and gives them confidence of success. But their success will be our loss.

We must reject those who would create a society that lives in fear and feeds on hatred.

We need to remember that: Yes we can!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Love me, love me, I'm a Free Marketeer

Breaking News:

An oil producing corporation announced the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico
has become part of its ongoing commitment to support Green programs
that conserve energy.
The company's scientists and engineers have found the oil in the
water acts like a lubricant between the water and the hulls of
watercraft operating in the contaminated areas thus reducing drag
which saves fuel.
The company has applied for international patents for its discovery
and has announced its accountants are at this moment working
feverishly on rate schedules users of its discovery will be charged.
Also, it's legal department is seeking exclusive access rights to
all major shipping lanes in the world which it plans to contaminate
with this new energy-saving discovery.
In addition the company says it is petitioning the Nobel Committees
that it be awarded the Grand Slam of Nobel Prizes that include the
prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economic
Soon after the announcement, Wall Street announced it is suspending
all trading as a result of a massive sell-off of unrelated shares to
raise money to buy shares in the oil company.
Meanwhile, a company executive said at a press conference he has
gotten his life back and it is better than ever and the lesson we
should all take away from this is to trust the free enterprise system
because the market place will always find a way to exploit any
disaster it creates.
"Life is good," he said, ending the press conference.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mexican Miners fight back: An Interview with Napoleon Gomez

By Scott Marshall

Vancouver, Canada - In this wide ranging video interview (below), Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, President of Los Mineros, the Independent National Miners, Metallurgical and Steelworkers Union of Mexico, talks about the Mexican government's recent strike-breaking attack on copper miners in Cananea, Mexico. He describes some of the international solidarity the miners are getting from around the world and tells us about the talks now going on with the United Steelworkers union (USW), aimed at merging the two unions into a North American wide industrial union that can take on transnational giants like Grupo Mexico, the owner of the Cananea mine and the third largest copper company in the world. The new union will unite Mexican, Canadian, Caribbean and US workers.

We sat down during a break at the second congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on June 22nd in Vancouver. Gomez has been living in exile in Vancouver for the last four years with the support of the United Steelworkers. He moved first to the US and then to Canada fearing for his and his family's safety in the face of illegal attacks on the union by the Mexican government.

Even in exile, Gomez has been overwhelmingly elected president five times by the union's membership despite the government's illegal refusal to ratify the election results. Gomez continues to manage the unions affairs from his office in the USW's Vancouver offices. His support in the union is so strong that other companies in Mexico, that have contracts with Los Mineros, travel to Vancouver for bargaining sessions with the union.

Our interview followed a briefing on the situation in Cananea for the US delegation to the ITUC congress hosted by Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada and Fred Redmond, USW International Vice President for Human Affairs. Arlene Holt Baker, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President, thanked Gomez for the update and pledged the continuing support of the US labor movement in building the necessary solidarity to win justice for the Mexican miners.

Napoleon Gomez - Interview at International Labor Congress from Scott Marshall on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Labor Leaders: Reject Dictatorship of Markets

Inuit Throat Singers welcome delegates to the second congress of the International Trade Union Confederation

By Scott Marshall

Vancouver, Canada – World labor leaders gathered here in the second congress of the International Trade Union Confederation, are of one mind in rejecting the so-called “Washington consensus” that calls for deregulation of the banks and financial markets. In his opening address, Guy Ryder, the out-going general secretary of the ITUC, called for and end to the “dictatorship of the finance-atariate.” He said it is the people’s time to fight for “fundamental change in globalization.”

The delegates amplified Ryders message in their remarks and in one voice declared that decent work and jobs is the only real answer to the economic crisis. Overwhelmingly the delegates in their addresses to the congress called for financial transaction taxes to pay for jobs and the recovery.

Richard Trumka, speaking for the AFL-CIO from the US delegation, called for bold action for a “new economic order.” Citing the violent government attacks and repression against the Mexican miners union in Cananea, Trumka said the new order must include strong labor and human rights. He said that collective bargaining and the right to organize are cornerstones of real democracy in a new economic order.

A highlight of the convention so far was an address by a young hotel worker from Vancouver. She spoke about their struggle for a new contract with some of the biggest hotel chains in the world like Hyatt and Fours Seasons. She said that these hotels in Vancouver are recovering from the economic crisis and the rooms are full. And still she said they are cutting staff, increasing work loads and demanding concessions even as they make big profits.

Many delegates raised the issue of fighting for the unemployed and jobs even as global labor puts forward the demand for stock transaction taxes and re-regulation of the financial markets. Many also pointed out that a crisis of poverty, hunger and homelessness was rampant throughout the developing world long before the financial market melt down and the Great Recession.

Like many of the delegates, A. Santos of Brazil argued that the crisis shows the failure of the neo-liberal model with its deregulation, wild speculation and attacks on labor and human rights. He called for a new economic model that will put people back to work with decent jobs and income, that will provide a strong role for the state in regulating and controlling finance capital and tackle sustainable economic development to end poverty, hunger and homelessness.

J. Smit of the Netherlands echoed the call of many delegates for fundamental change in globalization. This system doesn’t work and the invisible hand is dead, he said, just as feudalism has failed so this system has to be discarded. He called for a new system that provides social security, labor rights, a strong public sector, strong services, and strong banking controls. We need a sustainable green system he said.

Several delegates joined with A. Jerad of Tunisia in calling for peace as central to a new economic model. In particular Jerad called for an end to the blockade of Gaza and for a an independent Palestinian state. Others called for ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This echoed Ryder’s address when he said, “our world is not just and not at peace.” He said wars “are a blight” on progress and that trade unionists must fight to end them.

Delegates also called for special attention to the impact of the crisis on women and young workers. Many spoke of the terrible conditions faced by women in the informal economy and in export zones around the world. And they called for special efforts to bring women into unions and into union leadership.

S. Andersson of Sweden spoke of the work of the ITUC’s youth committee. She told of how young workers are using social networks and new technology to bring young people into the labor movement. She outlined some of the special problems facing young workers including being forced into temporary work with no rights where they are often cheated out of wages. She said the ITUC must become a loud voice for young workers.

Also much attention was given to questions of green development and sustainability by the delegates. They heartily agreed with Ryder when he said, “The road to global justice must be a green road. Green development and protecting the environment cannot be put off to after the crisis.”

Throughout the discussion it was clear that a new fighting spirit is emerging in global labor. With all the calls for action from the congress came also a realization that labor must form bigger and stronger coalitions to take on finance capital globally. As one delegate put it, “if we are united, if we reach out to all of labor and all of the people, we can push back just as hard as the banks and the multinational corporations try to push us.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

Global Union Leaders Blast Financial Greed

By Scott Marshall

Vancouver, Canada - The second world congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) opened Monday in Vancouver. Guy Ryder(center), ITUC general secretary and Sharan Burrow, ITUC president, were joined by Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress in a pre-congress press conference.

Each gave a brief opening statement. Each blasted different aspects of the economic crisis and its impact on working people. And each blamed the crisis on the greed of the banks and financial institutions. Georgetti put it this way, “Our principal is that if you make a mess, whether drilling, mining or financial, then you have to clean it up.”

The labor leaders said that the current crisis shows the need for “fundamental” change. Ryder said the ITUC was about building international solidarity in the workplace from the bottom up to give workers a voice at the table of international financial institutions like the G-20, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.

Georgetti noted that the “greedy” voices already have a permanent place at the table, but labor and workers have to fight to be heard at all. Ryder further noted that the glaring inequalities of the crisis provides an opportunity for basic change.

The ITUC leaders argued strongly against the austerity programs being put forward by world governments. They noted that it is global stimulus efforts that have saved 20 million jobs world wide. Ryder said that the ITUC will continue to fight austerity drives full force. He said that some leaders of affiliated national labor federations will be absent from the congress because they are leading mass mobilizations in their countries. He gave as an example that several key French labor leaders would not be able to come because they are organizing mass actions against the Sarkozy government’s pension “reforms” that will hurt workers by raising retirement ages and taxes on workers.

Burrow said there can be no economic recovery without “jobs, jobs, jobs.” The ITUC is working with affiliates to build for massive coordinated workers protests against the crisis on September 29th around the world. The Spanish affiliates are already calling for a general strike for the day.

More coverage of the ITUC congress to follow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Workers of the World Uniting for Justice

By Scott Marshall

The second world congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is a significant event. Taking place in Vancouver, Canada, June 21 through 25th, the congress theme is “The People Now: From the Crisis to Global Justice.”

(You can help us with our coverage – see below *)

The congress comes on the heels of the ITUC’s Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights. In it, the ITUC makes a strong case that the global economic crisis means “public authorities and companies have continued to use the crisis as a pretext to weaken and undermine trade union rights.”

The survey notes the horrible fact that at least a 101 trade unionists and labor activists were murdered in 2009. This is a 30% increase over the 76 killed in 2008. These shocking numbers graphically show the rising tide of violence and assault on trade union rights. Further, the survey documents global union busting, including the giant transnational corporation’s playing of workers in developed countries against workers in developing countries.
The congress agenda includes several plenary panel discussions dealing with the global economic crisis and with the fightback and global solidarity needed by labor to defend unions, workers and labor rights.

The ITUC congress will highlight its international solidarity efforts. For example, the global federation has mounted efforts in support of the Mexican miners union under attack at the Cananea mine in Sonora and the Pasta de Conchos mine in Coahuila. The ITUC has called for solidarity against the use of federal troops and police force to remove the striking miners an action that wounded and killed several miners. Now the troops are being used to protect scabs hired by Grupo Mexico, a giant mining transnational and the largest mine owner in Mexico.

The ITUC was founded in 2006 through a merger of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the World Confederation of Labor. The ICFTU came out of a cold war split from the World Federation of Trade Unions in 1949. Today, while the WFTU and the ITUC have no formal ties, increasingly they are pursuing similar programs of struggle and several national labor federations are affiliated with both.

*I will be covering this important international labor congress for the People Before Profits Education Fund Speakers Bureau and will be available for interviews and speaking engagements. You can help make our participation possible by sending a contribution to the People Before Profits Education Fund at 235 W. 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011. All contributions are tax deductible.

And you can read daily updates on the congress here on the People’s World website here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

BP Gulf Gusher and Coleridge

"Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."

In 2000 British Petroleum set out on a campaign to
promote the new bp "as the choice for the environmentally-aware motorist.

The lower-case letters were chosen because focus groups said bp is friendlier than the old imperialistic BP, which reminded folks of the old "Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves."

Buckets of paint appeared everywhere and bp daubed all its property in green paint and advertised its annual report under the slogan 'Now We're Greener Than Ever.'" The new tag line became "bp - Beyond petroleum. Make the day a little better."

Now, in the spring of 2010, it looks like it may be time for a re-branding of the corporate image. One suited to today's realities.

It could be built around the refrain at the beginning of this post taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Republican Website Update

It looks like the Republicans have struck gold in their effort to get their base to send ideas for a future Republican agenda to their new website, America Speaking Out. The ideas are pouring in.

"End Child Labor Laws, we coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories."

"How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way. That fake so called birth certificate is useless."

"Build a castle-style wall along the border, there is plenty of stone laying around about there."

"Legalize Marijuana, cause, like, alcohol is legal. Man. Also."

"I say, repeal all the amendments to the Constitution."

"Don't let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. . . . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet 'I' on their chests -- for 'illegal'!!!"

"Let kids vote!"

"Let's make a 'Social Security Lotto,' "

"What dope came up with the idea of criminalizing a parent's right to administer corporal punishment?"

" the city of the future somewhere in a non-inhabit part of the United States, preferably the desert."

"I oppose the Hispanicization of America, these are not patriotic people."

"English is are official langauge. Anybody who ain't speak it the RIGHT way should kicked out."

Leader John Boehner (Ohio) proclaimed. "We want to continue to offer better solutions to address the problems that America is facing, and we see this as a giant step forward, directly engaging the American people in the development of those solutions."

Sleep easy, America, we are in good hands!

Republicans Uncover More False Science In Schools

House Republicans have launched a website called America Speaking Out. They are inviting public input with the idea to build grassroots support and get some ideas about crafting a new agenda for the coming elections in November.

One of the first posts was a complaint from a parent about the continuing problem of false science being taught in our schools: a problem near and dear to the Republican mind.

"A 'teacher' told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!" the parent complained. "And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story."

Rumor has it House Minority Leader John Boehner(Ohio) and House Whip Eric Cantor(Va) are planning to ask this parent to accept an appointment to a grassroots committee to oversee the efforts of the new website.

This is just the kind of "red-meat" stuff the Republicans thrive on. Can't wait to see Boehner and Cantor exposing this latest liberal corruption at the next Republican "save the nation" press conference.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rand Paul

Is Rand Paul, a: prejudiced, b: a chauvinist, c: a racist?

First we should define these three words in context with the discussion.

Chauvinism - unreasoning devotion to ones race, sex, etc. with contempt for other races, sex, etc.

Prejudices - suspicion, intolerance, or irrational hatred of other races, sex, creeds, regions, occupations, etc.

Racism - any programs or practices of discrimination and segregation that uphold the political or economic domination of one race over another or others.

(definitions from Webster’s New world College Dictionary)

Now lets consider the question(s) at hand considering recent comments of Rand Paul.

a. Is Rand Paul a chauvinist?
He says he is not. Absent any defining “macaque” moment, the question, in and of itself, will stand answered by his denial: for now.

b. Is Rand Paul prejudiced?
He says he is not. Ditto the “macaque” statement above.

c. Is Rand Paul a racist?
Yes. He is. His statements concerning his opposition to Federal laws that protect African-Americans against "programs or practices that uphold political or economic domination of one race over another or others" brands him.

Racist Jim Crow laws and culture - "program or practice" - existed throughout the country before the passage of the Civil Rights Law. The consequences their existence amounted to the uninterrupted "economic or political" domination of African-Americans going back to the earliest days of our nation.

Racist "programs or practices", first and foremost, are sources of power and profit - "political or economic" - and those who support them have been the most ardent and consistent opponents of Federal laws that put those sources out of reach. Here is where we may revisit questions a and b above and challenge Rand Paul’s denial of chauvinism and prejudice. How else can his opposition to laws that provide relief and protection from “political or economic” super-exploitation for millions of African-American citizens be viewed?

One of the great setbacks of the discourse over equality and justice that has taken place since the passage of the Civil Rights Law is the success those who benefit from racist "programs or practices" have had in redefining racism as a prejudice and/or chauvinism. A subjective state of mind rather than one of design represented by "program or practice."

These days we hear talk of black racism, even among some who should know better, as if the African-American community as a whole is or has ever been in any position to institute any "program or practice" that would lead to any level of "political or economic domination" of the white population. It is akin to saying a round square is a geometric figure. It is a lie created to hide the truth, the facts and the consequences of racism. Consequences that do harm to all except those seekers of ever more power and profit. Those who, like Rand Paul, lurk under the mantle of respectability while planning the return of “programs or practices of discrimination and segregation that uphold the political or economic domination of one race over another or others.”

Rand Paul is a racist. We as a nation trying to move forward risk much if we shy from the challenge his ilk presents. And although the danger of what he represents is great, he can be dealt with easily. Simply toss him onto history’s trash heap with other aberrant individuals, as we pass it in November, and don’t look back!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Just so.

A sort of CliffsNotes guide to understanding the minds of Democrats and Republicans:

Democrats and Obama said to Wall Street elites - "Unless your business model depends on bilking people, there's little to fear from these new rules." April 22, 2010

Republicans and Bush said to Wall Street elites - "This is an impressive crowd — the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." October 19, 2000

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Main Street, Wall Street and the Big Apple

In the city of New York there is a street named Wall and a district called Wall Street. The district is home to the influential financial interests of the American financial industry. There are banks, investment houses, stock exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and other related entities.

Confusing the picture further, a discussion about Wall Street can mean all, some or any one of those institutions.

Having cleared that up (?), lets consider the NYSE and the President’s financial-reform bill.

Today the prevailing attitude toward the NYSE is either one of love, for reasons obvious, or acceptance as a necessary evil.

There was a time when the NYSE and the lesser markets helped businesses raise capital to create new businesses and expand existing ones through the selling of stock and the marketplace of these stocks provided a "relatively" safe place for people to invest their earnings and savings.

The movers and shakers of the Exchange went to work every day dressed in their Brooks Brothers three piece suits and Johnson & Murphy wing tip shoes plying their skills, more or less efficiently, within the guidelines defined by government regulations that protected all the players – those in the business and those outside it. The hum it produced was audible – most of the time.

Now, today, after some 30 years of almost continuous deregulation of the entire financial industry, the NYSE has been taken over by a cabal of greed driven degenerates. Figuratively, if not literally, gold chains are worn over the Brooks Brothers suits and diamond pinky rings can be seen on hands that sign contracts. One can almost hear the ka-chings of cash registers and the oodly-oodly sound of slot machines as one passes by the Exchange's grand edifice.

Who of us does not know the story of the consequence of taking a bite of the forbidden fruit? That once done cannot be undone. Could it be that the NYSE took a bite of uncontrolled greed and corruption and cannot be made to turn back? That it will evermore resist, snarling and scratching, regulation that tries cure it of its drug-like addictions?

Perhaps Main Street should be asking if it is, now and evermore, worth the effort.

Perhaps the question Main Street should be asking is not what can be done to reform that piece of Wall Street known as the New York Stock Exchange but whether Main Street needs that piece of Wall Street known as the New York Stock Exchange.

Perhaps the call from Main Street should not be, "Fix it!", but, “Tear down that Wall Street casino and build a steel mill!”

Friday, January 29, 2010

Reds put jobs fight at top of to-do list

From the People's World

The fight for jobs, and for the unemployed, is central to any economic recovery and to any forward motion for a people's agenda. With this in mind, last week the national board of the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA) took steps to beef up its work on the economic crisis.

"Labor, civil rights, women, youth and all the progressive core forces in our country are now moving to place the fight for jobs and the unemployed front and center on their agenda," said Sam Webb, chair of the CPUSA, "We have to pay particular attention to the working-class communities hardest hit, especially African American, Latino, and immigrant communities. And unemployment for youth is staggering."
He proposed that the national board establish a jobs committee of party activists to help coordinate and develop the work at all levels with special attention to party clubs and districts. Scott Marshall, chair of the CPUSA's labor commission was asked to chair the new committee.

The board hailed the establishment the Jobs for America Now national coalition and the AFL-CIO's five point program for economic recovery and jobs.

"This is exactly the broad national coalition framework needed for this fight," said Marshall. The board pointed out that there are literally thousands of efforts and projects at the grassroots level led by local unions and union unemployed committees, community groups, retiree organizations, churches and central labor councils around the country. These efforts include not only advocacy and legislative efforts, but also food pantries, homeless shelters and job counseling and training efforts.

In accepting the assignment for the national board, Marshall said that while working in coalitions to strengthen and expand the national fight for jobs, the new committee will work with members and clubs to help build similar broad local coalitions and actions at the grassroots. "Millions are angry and suffering. If we look around in our communities and work places we will find many opportunities to get involved and help build grassroots action and muscle behind the demands of the national coalitions," Marshall said. "We need emergency action now."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Political courage to create jobs is lacking, AFL-CIO Trumka charges

by: John Wojcik
Peoples World

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, in a major address today at the National Press Club in Washington, said the jobs crisis "cries out for political courage but that courage is not much in evidence. Too many people in Washington seem to think that now that we have bailed out the banks, everything will be okay."

The president of the 12-million-member labor federation called for re-making and building a new economy and reversing the fundamental changes in the nation's economic structure and rules "that for the past decade-plus have celebrated private greed over public service."

Working members of the press at the gathering applauded repeatedly, despite having been asked by the moderator to withhold that applause in the interest of "objectivity" and "saving time."

Trumka told the nation's leading journalists about his recent jobs-focused barnstorming tour of California, where he was arrested at a sit-in demanding fair treatment for hotel workers.

"Everywhere I went, people asked me, why do so many of the people we elect seem to care only about Wall Street? Why is helping banks a matter of urgency, but unemployment is something we just have to live with? And why is it so hard to pass a health care bill that guarantees Americans healthy lives instead of guaranteeing insurance companies healthy profits?"

He said there were major policy areas where things went wrong during the Bush years including institution of rules that boosted corporate empowerment, trade policies that encouraged shipping U.S. jobs overseas, financial deregulation that promoted speculation and the systematic dismantling of the nation's pension and health care systems.

"These policies culminated in the worst economic decade in living memory," he declared. "We suffered a net loss of jobs, the housing market collapsed, real wages fell and more children fell into poverty. This is not a portrait of a cyclical recession, but of a nation with profound, unaddressed structural economic problems on a long-term, downward slide."

The new economy needed, he said, must include creation of millions of new jobs, genuine health care reform, re-regulation of the banks, and the restoration of the freedom of workers to form unions. The working reporters applauded the point on unions and Trumka predicted that the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier to unionize, will pass in 2010.

On job creation, Trumka said the AFL-CIO's five-point program would be of immediate use in creating 4 million jobs. In addition, more long-term initiatives are needed to build a lasting and job-filled recovery, he said. "Yet too many lawmakers and policymakers are urging a 'go slow' approach and displaying an unwillingness to spend the money needed to fix the foundation of the economy - job creation."

Trumka stated that "these voices are harming millions of unemployed Americans and their families - but they are also jeopardizing our economic recovery. It is responsible to have a plan for paying for job creation over time," he said, "But it is bad economics and suicidal politics not to aggressively address the jobs crisis at a time of double-digit unemployment."

On health care, Trumka blasted the Senate bill's tax on workers' health care benefits that he said would hit 31 million workers.

"The tax on benefits in the Senate bill pits working Americans who need health care for their families against working Americans struggling to keep health care for their families," he declared.

Trumka warned lawmakers who "may try to hide behind insufficient and small gestures to create jobs, fix the economy and protect the middle class while continuing to give Wall Street a free ride.

"The reality," he said, "is that working people will not stand for tokenism. We will not vote for politicians who think they can push a few crumbs our way and then continue the failed economic policies of the last 30 years."