The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 1099 — February 17 - March 2, 2020

Trump’s “Blue Collar Boom” Is Really a Great Depression

Feb 17, 2020

“I am thrilled to report to you tonight that our economy is the best it has ever been,” boasted Donald Trump in his State of the Union address on February 4.

Certainly, that’s true for the capitalist class, the major owners of the biggest companies and banks, who have gained ever greater riches, through record high profits and a soaring stock market. Many of them are likely to reward Trump and the Republicans for their service with plenty of money for their re-election campaigns.

But Trump also used his speech to appeal to working people, bragging that under his leadership the economy had miraculously suddenly produced a “blue collar boom.”

What a bunch of lies!

For workers, there has been no boom, just a depression. Under Trump, big parts of the working class have been trying to survive on depressed earnings and disappearing work. Today, tens of millions of workers are earning less on average, adjusted for inflation, than their counterparts back in the 1970s. Benefits, such as medical coverage and retirement pensions, are in even worse shape. And there is an enormous reservoir of millions of working people who should be working but are not even considered a part of the workforce. Instead they are living hand-to-mouth off of little jobs on the fringes of the society or feeding off their own neighborhoods and other people, like parasites.

Of course, this collapse in living standards didn’t just start under Trump. For almost half a century, under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, the capitalist class has been driving down living standards of the working class in order to increase capitalist profits and wealth. They have been cutting jobs, increasing workloads, turning regular full-time jobs into low-pay temporary and part-time jobs. And they have been farming out ever more work to low-wage subcontractors.

Meanwhile, the politicians of both parties have helped the capitalists at every turn, especially by cutting vital programs that serve the broad population, like education and health care. They turn that money over to the capitalists through ever greater tax breaks, fat government contracts, and outright subsidies, thus pushing workers’ living standards even lower.

This full-scale capitalist offensive against the working class has taken tremendous casualties. Over the last few years, years that Trump counts as a supposed “blue collar boom,” life expectancy actually fell in this country, a drop that has not been seen since 1918, that is, during World War I and the Great Influenza Epidemic. It’s a drop unseen in any other wealthy nation in modern times. Behind this fall in life expectancy has been a surge in deaths of working people in their prime years through “deaths of despair” from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism. These “deaths of despair” now claim more than 150,000 American lives each year.

Of course, this ongoing catastrophe didn’t start under Trump, but it has been growing as workers’ living standards have been destroyed over several decades.

Of course, some Democrats, from Bernie Sanders to Mike Bloomberg, pretend that they will turn things around for workers by enacting programs in health care, education and the environment that will benefit workers, and that they will tax the rich to pay for them.

But these are just more promises, promises we’ve heard from Democrats for decades. No worker should have any illusion that the government will suddenly stop being an important tool in the hands of the capitalist class just because a few politicians claim to be different.

No, the working class can only count on its own forces and fights to protect its own interests by taking on the capitalist class and its lackeys in the government.

Today, that may sound almost impossible because working people have not carried out widespread fights for many, many decades. But because of its huge numbers and the fact that workers produce everything and make society run, the workers are critical to the running of society. And that gives them the power to not just take on the capitalist class, but to beat it.

The power is there. Workers have to unite and begin to organize for that fight.

Pages 2-3

Hedge Funds and Drug Cartels Go Avocados

Feb 17, 2020

Hedge fund firms, which specialize in complicated financial scheming, are “going green,” dumping coal assets and planting avocado trees! For example, a 12.5-billion-dollar hedge fund, Algebris, is planting 25,000 eucalyptus, mango, orange, avocado and papaya trees across villages in Tanzania. But thinking or arguing that these financial schemers are going green, like Bloomberg does, is rather dumb, to say the least.

These financial schemers are, in reality, making large profits off these investments. Avocados, for example, can bring huge sums of money to investors on Wall Street.

Between 2001 and 2018, average annual U.S. consumption of avocados increased from 2 pounds per person to nearly 7.5 pounds. Considering that the U.S. population is currently around 330 million people, the U.S. is consuming close to 2 ½ billion pounds of avocados each year!

This increase in demand in turn caused a jump in the sales prices of avocados. For example, the average price of one Haas avocado increased to $2.10 in July 2019 from $1.17 a year earlier, according to the Department of Agriculture—a price jump of almost 80%.

So, these Wall Street businesses are not “going green” but “seeing green,” the green of the dollars.

Such easy profits have attracted other schemers, like drug cartels, as well. When exports of avocados from Michoacan, Mexico boomed upwards to 2.4 billion dollars last year, Mexican drug cartels got into the avocado business, finding it potentially more profitable than even planting marijuana! These criminal organizations started stealing avocado shipments, demanding extortion fees from the avocado farmers, forcing workers to pick avocados from trees for free, and even seizing farms and clearing protected woodlands to plant their own avocado groves of what locals call “green gold,” according to the Los Angeles Times. These criminal organizations, like the schemers on Wall Street, have been getting “diversified” by going avocados!

Legal or illegal, schemers on Wall Street and drug cartels are united together in their goal of extracting more money and getting themselves filthy rich, this time from the avocado business.

Only Ones Not Paying Are Boeing Big Cheeses

Feb 17, 2020

When Boeing announced its plan to halt production of the 737 Max line, it insisted none of its employees would be laid off or furloughed. But companies within its supply chain are rolling out mass layoffs across the U.S., according to the Guardian. In one case, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, which manufactures important pieces for Boeing, like fuselages and cockpit sections, laid off 2,800 employees this year. Other Boeing subcontractors have also laid off or are planning to lay off more workers.

One laid off Spirit worker said,

“I’m worried about my bills and how I am going to pay them. I’m going through the struggle of finding a job, which is hard enough here in Wichita without 2,800 others also looking.”
Another worker said,
“Right now what we are going through is confusion, anger, sadness—because we have families to provide for, and our income runs out on March 10. Trying to find a job which may be in another state means spending money to move.”

But, Boeing’s big cheeses are still enjoying this life, without any trace of such worries or remorse. When chief executive Dennis Muilenburg resigned shortly after the company announced 737 Max production would be suspended, Boeing awarded Muilenburg with a 62-million-dollar payout.

All companies will have to take the necessary steps to ensure future revenues and business stability. Sadly, this means more layoffs. No work means a reduced workforce. It would seem the only ones not paying for Boeing’s mistakes is Boeing,” said one worker. Yes, we do agree: that’s capitalism.

MOVE Members Freed

Feb 17, 2020

Delbert Africa and Chuck Africa were finally released on parole in January and February after being imprisoned by Pennsylvania officials for 42 years. They are leaders of the black liberation MOVE Organization in Philadelphia. They and seven other men and women were charged as a unit with third degree murder for the shooting death of a Philadelphia cop during a raid by hundreds of police on MOVE’s communal house in 1978.

Former cop Frank Rizzo made his name attacking MOVE as police commissioner and then as mayor. In 1976 Rizzo’s cops knocked a baby from the arms of a MOVE member, crushing the baby’s skull.

The attacks on MOVE went on after his administration. Under another mayor in 1985 cops firebombed MOVE’s home, killing 11 MOVE members. A succession of officials kept Delbert Africa and the others in prison: six governors, 10 state prosecutors, six mayors, and six elected city prosecutors. Only in 2018 did the state parole board begin releasing them. Those arrested and held included journalist, MOVE member, and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, who remains in prison today on a frame-up.

After his release Delbert Africa said, “We’ve suffered the worst that this system can throw at us—decades of imprisonment, loss of loved ones. So we know we are strong. For all of that, we are still here and I look on that with pride.”

Trump Attacks Sanctuary Cities

Feb 17, 2020

In Trump’s latest disgusting attack on immigrants, he has ordered tactical units of the Border Patrol to sanctuary cities throughout the country, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Atlanta, Houston, and others.

The Trump administration has been seeking to deport undocumented immigrants with any conviction on record. DUI? Deportation. Missed child support payments? Deportation.

In fact, this new deployment does not mean very much new. All these agents are allowed to do is help ICE try to track down people they already wanted to deport.

Trump is playing a disgusting game, trying to appeal to his base by doubling down on the idea that immigrants are a threat to people born in this country. But the Democrats offer no real protection from Trump’s game. They may not speak in the same anti-immigrant language, but they serve the same bosses.

All their Sanctuary City slogan means is that police in these cities do not hand over undocumented people to ICE to deport them. But neither do the police protect these immigrants from ICE—or from all the other very real threats facing immigrants.

Virginia:
Which Politicians Help Working People?

Feb 17, 2020

The state of Virginia went from a Republican-dominated state to a Democratic-dominated state in the 2018 election. During the campaigning, some Democratic candidates won support from labor unions, saying they would support the right to collective bargaining for Virginia state employees.

Yes, 80 years after workers in struggle won the supposed right to collective bargaining in the 1930s, some workers in Virginia would like to have that right. The ones prevented from having the right to unionize are public sector employees, that is, Virginia’s own state workers.

A bill to gain the right to unionize for state employees was put forward by a Democratic delegate in the Virginia General Assembly in 2019, a bill now withdrawn.

Why? The Virginia Economic Development Partnership said it would be bad for business in Virginia, possibly cost the state between nine million and 25 million dollars per year in lost business. Even ignoring the fact that the economic engine of Virginia is the federal government and its thousands of nearby contractors, the VEDP proposed Virginia would lose out.

How did the VEDP make this decision? They took a poll of some executives and consultants, and three-quarters of them did NOT want Virginia public sector workers to gain the right to unionize.

This is hardly a shock! Many bosses don’t want workers to organize in unions, because they might raise issues like pay and benefits and working conditions.

The withdrawn Virginia bill shows how much working people can depend on the Democrats to defend their rights. Working people can only depend on themselves.

Neither Party Has a Solution

Feb 17, 2020

In the past weeks, workers were talking about impeachment proceedings. Most agree that the politicians did what we expected. The Republicans were not going to vote to remove Trump (although they recognized that he lies, is corrupt, and acts in his own interests). The Democrats were not going to be able to remove him, and finally focused on upcoming elections as the only solution.

After watching this, it was clear that neither party is focused on the real issues facing workers. We are drowning in everyday problems—stretching a “too-little” paycheck to cover “too high” expenses.

Our money is being used to support policies and processes that don’t benefit us. Neither party has a solution for pushing back against the rip-off we are enduring every day from bosses, bankers, and their spokesmen.

Pages 4-5

French Workers Continue the Fight!

Feb 17, 2020

This article is from the January 30th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

A fast-track bill in Parliament, a drafted law full of holes, a series of decrees … The French government wants its retirement reform adopted as quickly as possible. And the fact that it’s a botch job, as the State Council has said, doesn’t change a thing. The government’s main preoccupation is to get past all the protests. But that’s not going to work. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been mobilizing since December 5 and they’re not ready to stop!

Even if the majority of SNCF union and the RATP union workers have had to return to work, they’re still having strike days and holding interprofessional demonstrations. Workers are mobilized throughout the country—in ports, docks, schools, refineries, incinerators, and even in courts and at the Paris opera! They’re all determined to keep up the pressure and be there on Wednesday, January 29. Friday, January 24 made it clear yet again that anger and determination are undiminished. Ministers and MPs keep trying to explain their reform but their unbearable hypocrisy, the lies they tell and the truths they leave out, just make people angrier.

“The reform won’t change the legal retirement age,” they say. But all the government’s simulators use 65 as the equilibrium age. So it’s out with the legal retirement age of 62 years, out with the pivotal age of 64 years and in with the equilibrium age of 65 years for all generations born after 1975!

The government is pushing retirement age to 65 years even though life expectancy in good health is around 62 years for men. And it’s a lot lower for manual workers because working on a building site, on an assembly line or in shifts with staggered working hours is not a healthy program.

In the eyes of Labor Minister Pénicaud, working in painful positions, carrying heavy loads, exposure to chemical risks or mechanical vibrations are abstract criteria of “hardship at work.” For workers, these criteria mean tendinitis, damaged spines, cancer and lifelong disabilities. When your health has been sacrificed on the altar of profits and capitalist greed, should you accept not having a retirement pension?

Looking us straight in the eye, every minister swears that this is a just and progressive reform. Well, they’re lying, just like Cahuzac lied when he said that he could look everyone straight in the eye and say that he didn’t have an overseas bank account!

They’re claiming to be the defenders of the lowest paid. Really? Defenders of women, even though they have just trashed the unemployment rights of all women who have to juggle part-time jobs with periods of unemployment? Defenders of farmers, even though in March 2018 they vetoed reevaluating agricultural pensions up to a minimum of 85% of the minimum wage?

There will only be one winner in this reform: the ruling class. Just like all the major reforms made under Sarkozy, Hollande and Macron, this one is designed to divert billions from the pockets of workers to the bank accounts of the capitalists. This is because the bourgeoisie never has enough and, due to the pressure that the crisis is exerting, it’s grabbing all it can from the workers.

The bourgeoisie wants to spend as little as possible on wages, jobs and working conditions. And it’s even demanding that the money spent on retirement pensions, education and health be reduced to the strict minimum so that they can have more.

But something has changed in France: the government can no longer mask its intentions. Its policies that are exclusively in favor of a handful of predators are being challenged more and more. The inequality and injustice that lead to the major capitalists cashing in more per hour than millions earn in a month are fueling the discontent. And there is a growing awareness of the devastation caused by exploitation and the parasitism of the capitalist minority.

All this is increasing the exasperation of the working class. It made itself heard in the yellow-vest movement and in the opposition to the retirement pension reform which caused one of the biggest transport strikes ever. And this is only the beginning.

The same anger is also smoldering in private companies and it will eventually erupt because the workers have no choice but to hit back.

Palestinians Shot Entering Israel to Work

Feb 17, 2020

Several dozen workers from the West Bank of Palestine trying to enter Israel to go to work without permits were shot by Israeli soldiers in the last three months of 2019, according to newspapers and activists. The West Bank is a large area east of Jerusalem and includes Bethlehem and Jericho. It was conquered by Israel from Jordan by war in 1967.

Almost 130,000 Palestinians from the West Bank work in Israel in construction, agriculture, industry, and services. Their wages make up nearly half of West Bank incomes. But the Israeli government denies over one third of the workers a legal permit to work in Israel.

For half a century this system has forced most of the workers to pay for a work permit, which can cost up to one half of their wages. Tens of thousands have been slipping covertly across the border fence and wall by way of drain pipes or ladders. Now Israeli soldiers are waiting in ambush to shoot at them.

Israeli bosses benefit by hiring hard-pressed Palestinian workers and paying them less. But the region’s working people can only survive by working and living together without restriction.

Protests Catch Fire in Frozen Canada

Feb 17, 2020

Indigenous-led protests against unauthorized pipeline construction on tribal lands in northwestern British Columbia have spread across Canada. Main rail routes for freight and passengers have been shut down. Shipping ports have been blocked and protestors have occupied government buildings.

In early February, indigenous communities in British Columbia, opposed to construction on a new 5 billion dollar gas pipeline—part of a larger, 40 billion dollar project—interrupted rail traffic on the west coast of Canada.

Harsh police action and arrests of Wet’suwet’en First Nation tribe members on the west coast caused sympathy protests to spread to the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. Indigenous young people have been the primary force behind the blockade of more than 400 trains since February 6. Indigenous people are 5% of the Canadian population, but are the most oppressed and impoverished layer.

A member of Indigenous Youth for Wet’suwet’en said that disruptions to rail traffic wouldn’t have been necessary, had Canada conducted itself as it promised. Protesters seek to protect the livelihoods of their families. Another spokesperson said, “Indigenous people see what’s happening to us and see what’s happening to our territory and our pristine waters—and to our people on the ground, having semiautomatic weapons aimed at us. People are responding to that in appropriate ways.”

On the east coast of Canada, in the more densely populated province of Ontario, members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk tribe have mobilized and are disobeying a court injunction to stop the protests.

In response, Canadian National (CN) railway, Canada’s largest freight operator, suspended operations all across Canada. Via Rail, which operates the nation’s passenger trains, announced it is suspending train service until further notice. Meanwhile, environmental groups are joining the protest.

According to CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.), big business is pressuring the Canadian government to resolve the conflict, saying a prolonged shutdown of railways could devastate the economy. CN moves more than 250 billion dollars a year in goods across its transcontinental network. This includes food and consumer items, grain, de-icing fluid for airports, construction materials, propane supplies for heat, and natural resources like lumber, aluminum and coal.

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, who came to power promising to improve relations with Canada’s indigenous people, has been pushing for negotiations to resolve the conflict. The leader of the Conservative party in Canada has said that unless police are deployed to end the protests, the Canadian government would “be setting a dangerous precedent that a small few can have a devastating impact.”

If the impact of a small few is making the government and big business nervous, imagine what a larger mobilization could accomplish! Workers at CN railroad paralyzed Canada’s freight system three months ago during an 8-day strike of 3200 workers. None of their issues have been resolved. CN rail workers have every incentive to reopen their fight and join this one!

Guadeloupe:
Educators Strike

Feb 17, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Almost all the middle schools and high schools in Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean, were shut by strikes for some weeks. So were most nurseries and elementary schools.

Teachers and school administrators were strongly mobilized. Students and parents supported them.

The French government’s pension reform lit the fuse. Educators struck massively against it on December 5. Some schools voted to strike indefinitely from then forward.

The strikes and pickets spread widely in mid-January. In high schools, anger was aggravated by another reform forcing first-year students to take tests with no preparation.

The strike was suspended on February 6 after officials canceled the elimination of 72 school jobs. This victory is due to the struggle, even though many other demands remain unmet, assuming the government does what it promised.

Syria:
Endless War

Feb 17, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops killed a dozen Turkish soldiers near Idlib in northwestern Syria. The Turkish army threatens to respond with open war at any time.

The Syrian regime has been trying to reconquer Idlib since December. Idlib has been controlled since 2011 by various militias, including the former Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham. These militias are supported and armed by Turkey, which staffs a number of guard posts. Assad is backed by Putin’s Russia, which dominates Syria’s airspace.

Like the regime’s terrible but successful siege of Aleppo in 2016, the reconquest of Idlib makes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people hell. Entire towns near Idlib have emptied since December. 700,000 people fled the fighting. They join millions of refugees in increasingly unlivable camps, drenched with stormwater but ill-supplied with food and heating oil.

The war in Syria since 2011 has already claimed more victims than the number of French people who were killed during World War II. Syrian people are martyred because the country has become the scene of an endless confrontation between regional and international powers vying for influence over the Middle East.

Trump’s brutal abandonment of the Syrian Kurds in October let Erdogan’s Turkey strengthen its presence in Syria. In addition to loyal militias in Idlib and Afrin, Erdogan deployed troops in Syrian Kurdistan, plus lawless mercenaries.

The Turkish offensive paradoxically has strengthened Assad. The besieged Kurdish militias turn to him. With the tacit agreement of Russia and the imperialist powers, he now controls more than 70% of Syria’s territory. An agreement signed in 2018 in Sochi between Russia and Turkey was supposed to guarantee a cease-fire. This never-honored deal died again when Trump flipped. Assad has no reason to stop fighting to take back the rest of the country.

Meanwhile Erdogan is losing authority in Turkey and is trying to use war in Syria and Libya to pump himself up. Under these conditions, the rivalry between Russia and Turkey could become an open regional war.

What is happening these days in Idlib, and what has happened for years in Syria and in Iraq, shows the price people pay for this system.

Pages 6-7

Open Worries about Coronavirus in China—Hidden Dangers of the U.S. Health System

Feb 17, 2020

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of February 13, 2019.

The toll from the new coronavirus continues to mount, with the number of reported deaths hitting 400, then 600, then 800... and so on. All the news reports make us focus on China, where this latest deadly disease seems to have started.

China may be the origin of this particular epidemic. But the U.S. has its own home-grown epidemic—a disease that infects 20, 30, even 54 million people in a single year, one that killed over 61,000 people in this country last year alone. That epidemic is the flu.

Yet, the flu should be relatively easy to combat. And this country has the means to deal with it. Medical science knows a great deal about the DNA of various flu strains. It knows how vaccines work to prevent it or lessen its impact.

Even if people do contract the flu, the remedy is simple, repeated by public health officials every year: “Stay Home, Rest, Drink Plenty of Fluids.” This is the single most helpful thing anyone can do to get better—and to avoid spreading the flu to others.

And yet, 61,000 people died in the U.S. from the flu, last flu season—often because these simple precautions weren’t observed.

Yes, it’s true, vaccines aren’t fully effective. Of course not. Research to improve them is not a drug-company priority. In fact, the research is done by public universities and publicly funded institutes—and public funding for such research has been cut. Even when a vaccine is developed, and handed over to them, few drug companies bother to make it. They operate for profit, and flu vaccines, which change every year, aren’t profitable enough. So drug companies don’t make enough, and not in time.

Some people don’t bother to get the vaccine. Many fear that vaccines are worse than the disease. No wonder. This profit-driven medical system has fostered distrust in itself.

Lurking behind these problems, is an even more basic question: when people develop flu-like symptoms, why don’t they stay home from work long enough to recover?

Why do they go to work, send their sick children to day care or school? Why do they put all the people they come in contact with at risk? That’s how the flu spreads and becomes an epidemic.

We all know why this happens. Many of us don’t have paid sick time. Many more have bosses who write us up when we take off sick with flu-like symptoms.

The question is not just working-age adults. The most vulnerable to the flu are children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

But how many bosses discipline us if we take time off to care for sick children? How few bosses give us the needed paid time off to help elderly relatives or even neighbors recover? In the push for more profit, every company ignores guidelines for health.

The profit-driven motive of capitalist society runs counter to the most basic requirements for preventing an epidemic.

In a rational society—that is, one organized collectively to deal with the problems that affect each of us—medical research would be a priority. No one would be under pressure to work when they have symptoms of a contagious disease. Society would organize ways for the most vulnerable to be taken care of—children, the elderly, those with weakened immune systems. Older people would not be thrown away as soon as profit can’t be made off of them.

Reactionaries want us to worry about China. Forget it! Our biggest problems are here at home: the wealth, science and technology that does exist is not organized collectively to serve the common good, the needs of the whole population.

This is the problem we must deal with.

Michigan Prisoners Silenced with Solitary

Feb 17, 2020

Two inmates at Chippewa Correctional Facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula were put into solitary confinement for complaining about conditions there. Edward Roland Combas and Eric Tobais Woods signed an open letter to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Corrections Department Director Heidi Washington.

They complained of forced labor, black mold in bathroom and shower areas, overcrowded visitors’ rooms, and discriminatory and abusive treatment of minority prisoners by the mostly white prison guards.

Walton said prisoners are forced to work on the yard crew “outside in heat or freezing conditions” or in the kitchen where “you’re worked like a dog for pennies a day serving food.” Though there are plenty of prisoners who want to work, Walton says those who refuse are confined to their cells or falsely accused of more serious misconducts.

Combs said shower areas “are covered with black mold which is causing respiratory failure.” His mother, Betty Combs, said after having to travel six hours to visit her son, prison officials rush visitors out because the visiting room has been overcrowded.

Prison officials deny every claim the two prisoners have made. Yet, they punished the two for speaking out with solitary confinement, saying they were inciting a riot inside the prison, when all they called for was for people to protest peacefully outside the prison.

Officials claim prisoners have the right to free speech. But they are so defensive they have to torture those who speak out with solitary confinement.

Page 8

U.S. Homeless Children

Feb 17, 2020

Among America’s 50 million public schoolchildren, more than 1.5 million were homeless at some time during the 2017–2018 school year, according to a National Center for Homeless Education report.

Some were bounced from home to home and couch-surfed with friends or family. Their parents lost their homes because of financial problems or weather-related catastrophes like hurricanes or fires.

More than 100,000 slept in cars, in vacant buildings, or out on the street.

The opioid addiction crisis made orphans of children by killing young parents. Authorities are quick to cut social services budgets and slow to show care for these children.

The number of homeless students has doubled since 2005 in this, the richest country in the world. This shows the mercilessness of a society in which housing is more and more expensive. A growing part of the working class can’t afford housing.

Cops Seize Cars

Feb 17, 2020

A class action lawsuit brought in Wayne County, Michigan has shone a light on just how much property police are seizing—and how much money they’re making from the practice.

The lawsuit states that in the past two years alone, Wayne County has seized over 2,600 cars, and made more than 1.2 million dollars off of those seizures.

These cars are often not seized in the committing of crimes. The two plaintiffs named in the suit, Melisa Ingram and Robert Reeve, both tell similar stories: neither was convicted or even charged with any crime, yet their cars and other property was seized by the county, then ransomed for thousands of dollars.

Ingram had twice lent her car to her then-boyfriend. Both times, he was stopped by Wayne County sheriff’s deputies. Both times, they seized her car. Both times, he was never arrested or charged with a crime. Still, the cops seized her car, and demanded she pay money to get it back. The first time, she paid $1,355. The second time, they demanded $1,800; she couldn’t afford to pay that, and they hold her car to this day.

Reeve had his car seized after the cops claimed that a tool in his possession had been stolen from Home Depot. Again, he was not arrested or charged with a crime—but his car was seized, along with two cell phones and $2,280 in cash. He has yet to get any of that back.

What they don’t ransom back to the rightful owner, the police departments sell at auction, keeping the money for themselves.

Wayne County is not alone; this practice is going on all over the state of Michigan, and all over the country. And it’s just one of the ways that the cops use their power to intimidate working people—and rob us, pocketing the money so that they can do it all over again.

McKinley Park Asphalt Plant

Feb 17, 2020

Residents of Chicago’s blue collar McKinley Park neighborhood woke two years ago to find an asphalt plant operating in their neighborhood. There had been no public meetings or hearings held before the plant was built.

MAT asphalt plant is on 39th street just west of Damen. It sits just across the street from McKinley Park, the large park that gives the neighborhood its name. It’s next door to a charter high school. In addition to giving off a large quantity of dust, the plant draws 100 to 200 trucks to the neighborhood every day, each generating their own pollution, noise, and tearing up the neighborhood streets.

How did MAT get the okay to spew dust and particles in a residential neighborhood? They donated $10,000 to alderman George Cardenas’ campaign fund. But that was too obvious—Cardenas’ fund sent the donation back. And MAT then gave the ten grand to a community fund that also happens to be chaired by ... alderman Cardenas. The father of MAT’s owner was caught up in the hired truck scandal back in 2006—so this kind of corruption is a family tradition!

Community activists have held several community meetings in the past two years. They’ve put up signs all over the neighborhood, and have put up a petition to force the plant to relocate, which now has over 2,200 signatures.

Chicago:
Ten Years to Build Highway Ramps?

Feb 17, 2020

Construction to make new ramps for the Jane Byrne interchange where three major highways come together next to downtown Chicago began in 2012. This bottleneck, also known as the “circle” or spaghetti bowl, certainly needed work: it was rated the worst bottleneck in the U.S. for trucks.

Chicagoans could understand that the construction would take time and would create additional traffic. It’s happening in a very densely packed city situation.

But now the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) says the construction won’t be done until November of 2022—at the earliest!

Ten years of delays and lane closures where traffic was already some of the worst in the country? How many billions of hours of workers’ time is being taken up sitting in our cars waiting for this project to be done? By comparison, building the whole highway system in the city took less than 20 years!

The basic problem is that the entire system is set up to make sure each contractor gets a cut—not to make sure the work gets done as quickly as possible. Instead of IDOT planning out the work and hiring as many people as it could efficiently put to work to get the project done, it hired different engineering companies, architecture companies, and construction companies, each dedicated to making a profit, not efficiently finishing the work. IDOT is not even allowed to hire a single contractor to oversee the whole process.

The defenders of this system want to say capitalism is the most efficient system. Ten years of additional traffic to build new ramps in the center of a congested city proves that is a lie!

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