Thursday, March 31, 2011

On April 4th, come to the “We are One” rally at Metro in Denver at 12:30 and all across the country

On Monday Apri 4th, there were be a worker, student, faculty rally/teach in at Metro in front of the Plaza building on the lawn (across from Arts; near the King Center) at 12:30 pm, It is organized around the legacy of Martin Luther King, who gave his speech, “Breaking the Silence” on April 4, 1967 at the Riverside Church in Harlem, see here and here, and who was assassinated a year to the day later, in Memphis, supporting a sanitation workers strike organized by AFCME (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers). That union was founded in Wisconsin in the 1930s and is under attack – the huge demonstrations in Madison for collective bargaining – right now. A worker from AFSCME will be one of the speakers, along with a representative from SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) –the opening of the demonstration will be a march of custodians in SEIU from 17th and California, beginning at 11:30 and arriving at campus for the rally/teach in at 12:30.

The teach in will be hosted by Mario Solis Marich, who has a lively program on AM 760 at 4-7 weekdays, Henry Roman, head of the Denver Classroom teachers association, Jeremy Bermudez and Sonia Gutierrez, two students from Paz (Politically Active Ztudents) on students in the immigrants rights movement and the fight for the ASSET bill (to permit undocumented students who have lived and been schooled in Colorado to go to college here at in-state tuition), Jeff Engelheart, a student in Iraq Veterans against the War, a worker organizing against Sodexo at the University of Denver (SEIU is doing the organizing there and around the US against this French multinational), will talk about how this multinational corporation based in France, for instance, does not allow cooks to take a break at work and penalizes them unless they come in sick – it is frightening that universities here cede such matters to corporations over which they have little influence unless unions organize; turn around, and think of how workers, students and teachers in North Africa – say Tunisia or Algeria – feel about such French companies, or of course those in Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America and others, feel about American versions like Kellogg, Brown and Root, Halliburton or Blackwater/Xe corporation…See here.

Andrea Merida of the City Council will speak on cutbacks on education, me (on King and the “demonic sucking pump of war" extracting not only health care and benefits from workers but the basic right involved in collective bargaining, the dignity of working people…), Rob Duray, of New Era Colorado, an organization that works on Renter's Rights for the 50% of Denverites who now rent, and others. The teach in is being organized and sponsored by the Metro State Political Science Students Association, all these unions, MoveOn, the AFL-CIO, and will be announced on AM 760 and KGNU as of now. It will be an unusual event, a broad, multiracial gathering of protest at the Auraria campus, one that involves a similarly diverse group of students who are the heart of American demoracy (in contrast to the mostly millionaire lawyers who compose America’s political elite).

This demonstration is part of the “We are One” marches all over the country, including an evening one at Civic Center Park in Denver, against the attack on collective bargaining - yesterday extended by the Ohio state senate below - and the criminal spending of our government on militarism and levying no taxation of the top 1/10-% - not a regressive tax, but effectively no income tax (apparently a number of major corporations like GE paid no taxes last year or “overpaid” and were paid back by the government) while in Michigan, an authoritarian governor cuts half the teachers, so that on NPR two weeks ago, one said: “30 students I can teach. The 60 I will have next year, I will just have to warehouse.” In Florida, the governor cuts medicare so that people will be forced to go to his own private hospitals... Obama is an unusual President for the United States, but many of the things that the ruling elite is now doing make a “banana republic” look up from here…

Please feel free to announce this march in classes or contact people you know (in Denver and nationwide). There were 4000 workers at the State House in support of Wisconsin Saturday 3 weeks ago; this event may be quite large. I was invited to help organize this march by Russell Bannan, an organizer for SEIU and AFT, from South Carolina. It was a very diverse group; I went to an organizing meeting at SEIU headquarters of some 20 people, 4 of whom were white. If one likes democratic, multiracial gatherings, this is the place to be.

In London, last Saturday, half a million people turned out (see the LA Times story below) to protest Cameron’s massive cuts. Interestingly, there was but a photo on p. 12a of the Sunday New York Times with a paragraph under it, and no mention in the Denver paper (Americans might get the idea…).

The Tories want to get rid of public health and a decent educational system, to change Britain. Prating about the “Big Society,” Prime Minister David Cameron wants private charity to take over for public benefit – mandated by democracy – that people earn (as the unreconstructed Scrooge says, “are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?). Call what Cameron (and the Republican authoritarians and Blue Dog Democrats) want a society of peonage, with no middle class, a tiny gated community of the ultarich protected by privatized security and fire departments and armies, and privatized prisons for the rest (Pottersville in “It’s a Wonderful Life” or the desolate London on “V is for Vendetta,” or the many societies in the world, ruled by the “free" market, in which orphans live in garbage dumps and hunts for scraps to sell…

In place of the wreck of Detroit, the former center of the world auto industry, generalized, we demand a decent standard of living for all (what might make possible for some what used to be called “the American Dream” which, with the cancellation by the Obama administration of federal housing programs, will no longer include, for most, owning a home). Not $708 billion (last year’s official Pentagon budget) and some 1,280 military bases abroad (many poor young men, urban and rural, become “all that they can be” in the imperial military) but decent spending on ordinary people who deserve it and have earned it – that is what we demand.

Yesterday, my student introduced me to her friend, a Chicana worker in SEIU, She has been cleaning buldings in Denver for many years and her shoulder gave out. Cleaning many floors of a downtown building in a very limited time (couldn’t take breaks), she would be called back by a boss to get a spot of water on a floor in an otherwise clean (spotless) room, or being small, to show a boss how far she could stretch to get a spot above a mirror. This is with a union. If there is no union, she said, there is no dignity. Imagine the cruelest and most sadistic person who has ever had authority over you and how you felt, and you will get a taste of what many people must endure with multinational corporations. How do people at Sodexo in Algiers or Baltimore get decent treatment? A union, and even with a union, often a long fight…

Most SEIU workers expend their lives in difficult and physically hard jobs, cleaning for the bosses. They are in the shadows and exploited (often including sexual harassment for young women). If you want to see the America that takes advantage of and exploits hardworking people who are immigrants (the theme song of the Republican party and some Democrats, echoed sadly by some working people who cruelly attack others and lose out, economically and in terms of how they spend their lives – in racist bitterness - themselves). SEIU will be and speak forcefully at this rally. I too will stand with them and many other workers. In Denver, or wherever you are, join us.

Thursday, March 31, 2011 by the Associated Press
Ohio Legislature Passes Bill Limiting Collective Bargaining Rights; Unions Vow Fight
by Julie Carr Smyth

Ohio lawmakers have had their chance to vote on a bill limiting collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers across the state. Next will be the public's turn.

Even before the contentious Senate Bill 5 — in some ways tougher than Wisconsin's — had cleared the Legislature late Wednesday, unions and Democrats in this once-proud labor stronghold vowed to put it on November's ballot as a referendum.

"O-H-I-O! S.B. 5 has got to go!" protesters chanted ahead of a final Senate vote of 17-16 that sent the bill to Gov. John Kasich for his signature, expected this week. The vote followed a day filled with Statehouse demonstrations by about 750 people, who raucously chanted and shouted throughout the process. After a House vote of 53-44, opponents spewed expletives at House members.

The vitriol wasn't limited to the Statehouse.

Leo Geiger, 34, a Republican who works as a sewer inspector for the city of Dayton, said he's "deathly afraid that this is going to affect me, my family and the entire state of Ohio in an incredibly negative way."

He believes the bill is political payback for unions' support of Democrats in November's election.

"I find this to be loathsome," he said from Dayton on Wednesday night. He didn't attend protests because he couldn't take the time off. "I find this to be disrespectful to Ohioans and disrespectful to the process of democracy."

The measure affects safety workers, teachers, nurses and a host of other government personnel. It allows unions to negotiate wages and certain working conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It gets rid of automatic pay increases, and replaces them with merit raises or performance pay. Workers would also be banned from striking.

A ballot challenge would stall implementation of the law that Republicans championed as vital to Ohio's economic future. Backers have 90 days after Kasich signs the bill to gather 231,148 valid signatures from at least half Ohio's 88 counties to get it on this fall's ballot.

"This state cannot pay what we've been paying in the past," House Speaker Bill Batchelder said during a news conference ahead of Wednesday's vote. "Local government and taxpayers need control over their budgets. This bill, as amended and changed, is a bill that will give control back to the people who pay the bills."

He said House Republicans were launching a website, sb5truth.com, to correct what they see as falsehoods about the measure.

Republican Gov. John Kasich has said his $55.5 billion, two-year state budget counts on unspecified savings from lifting union protections to fill an $8 billion hole.

During House debate, state Rep. Robert Hagan, a Democrat from Youngstown, took issue with the notion that the bill was aimed at saving money.

"Don't ever lie to us and don't be hypocritical and don't dance around it as if it's finances, because you know what it is: It's to bust the union," Hagan told his fellow lawmakers.

Democratic state Sen. Charleta Tavares, a recent Columbus city councilwoman, called the bill "paternalistic, patronizing, disrespectful and condescending" to city leaders who balance their budgets annually, not every two years as Ohio does.

Pickerington teacher Patricia Kuhn-Morgan said she was confused by connections being drawn between the bill and job creation.

"As teachers, the best way we can have to job creation is to educate the public," she said.

She predicted Wednesday's votes will hurt GOP lawmakers on Election Day.

"I've spoken to a lot of educators who are typically straight-ticket Republicans that have said to me that they won't ever vote for another Republican because of how this bill's been pushed through and the democratic process has been abused," she said as she awaited the Senate's vote.

Though protests were much larger in Wisconsin, Ohio unions claim they hold the hearts of a majority of voters in their political swing state. Republicans say polling indicates a high number of voters, though perhaps ones not as vocal as union supporters, favor the collective bargaining changes and would uphold the new law.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill this month eliminating most of state workers' collective bargaining rights. That measure exempts police officers and firefighters; Ohio's does not.

The Ohio bill has drawn thousands of demonstrators, prompted a visit from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and packed hearing rooms in the weeks before the Senate passed the earlier version of the measure. Its reception in the House had been quieter, as unions resolved themselves to its approval and shifted their strategy to the fall ballot.

Democratic state Sen. Joe Schiavoni said the way the bill had been rushed through the legislative process without union input was unfair — but he said voters would have the last word.

At the ballot box, he said, "all Ohioans will get the opportunity to right the wrongs they committed in the last election, and, ladies and gentlemen, that is fair."

Associated Press writers Ann Sanner and JoAnne Viviano contributed to this report.


Saturday, March 26, 2011 by Los Angeles Times
London Marchers Protest Massive Spending Cuts in Britain
It was one of the biggest demonstrations since rallies in 2003 against the Iraq war.
by Henry Chu

LONDON – Tens of thousands of demonstrators whistled, chanted, drummed and marched their way through the heart of London on Saturday to protest massive government spending cuts that threaten to leave almost no part of British society untouched.

Over 500,000 Brits turnout for the anti-cuts march in London, Saturday, March 26, 2011. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

It was one of the biggest public demonstrations in Britain since 2003, when antiwar rallies were held across the country before the invasion of Iraq. Organizers said up to 500,000 people participated in the march, whose carnival-like atmosphere was briefly marred by black-clad anarchists who smashed a few shop windows, flung paint bombs and attacked luxury icons such as the Ritz Hotel.

The protesters gathered here from all corners of Britain to express their outrage over a whopping $130 billion in cutbacks that the government insists are necessary to tame a runaway budget deficit. The retrenchment is expected to result in a radical shakeup of bedrock social services such as welfare and healthcare and in the elimination of nearly half a million public-sector jobs.

"It's our right to march and to say we don't accept any of this," said Corinne Drummond, 37, a nurse from East London who joined several colleagues for the demonstration, which began in the morning and lasted for hours.

On a gray and occasionally drizzly spring day, a huge of column of protesters snaked its way along some of London's best-known streets, past landmarks such as Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus.

They were a motley crowd of civil servants, environmentalists, prison officers, academics, feminists and young parents with toddlers on their shoulders. "Don't believe in the deficit," some placards exhorted, while other signs and T-shirts called for a "general strike now" and exhorted Britons to "make tea, not war."

In Hyde Park, the leader of the opposition Labor Party ridiculed Prime Minister David Cameron's vision of a "Big Society" full of citizen volunteers who plug the holes left by cuts in government spending.

"You wanted to create a Big Society. This is the Big Society, the big society united against what your government is doing to our country," Ed Miliband said in a speech that invoked Martin Luther King Jr. and the American civil rights movement. "We stand today not for the minority. We stand today for the mainstream majority of Britain."

The Labor Party, which was kicked out by voters in May after 13 years in power, acknowledges that some cuts are unavoidable to shrink a deficit built up largely under its watch. But it says the scale and pace of the austerity plan put forward by the Conservative Party-led government will strangle Britain's fledgling economic recovery and hurt the most vulnerable members of society.

Effects of the belt-tightening will begin to be felt more acutely next month, when libraries start closing down, youth programs disappear, social workers get laid off and fewer buses ply the streets. In the northern city of Manchester, police are bracing for the elimination of nearly 3,000 jobs – a quarter of the department's workforce.

Analysts say the spending cuts could change the fabric of British society in a way not seen since the free-enterprise revolution of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

"It's changing the whole ethos of everything," said nurse Rikke Albert, 37. "That's not what I signed up for when I did my training."

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