The Spark

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

Issue no. 780 — August 7 - September 4, 2006

Editorial:
After PATCO, a 25-year detour in the workers’ road

Aug 7, 2006

On August 3, l981 – 25 years ago – the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union (PATCO) went out on strike against cutbacks in personnel in the country’s air traffic control rooms.

Bosses around the country were already engaged in the drive for concessions which has marked the past quarter of a century. Under President Carter they had cut back unemployment compensation.

But when they attempted to ram concessions down the throats of the miners, they failed spectacularly. In 1977, the coal interests backed by the Carter Administration tried to reduce Black Lung benefits for miners and impose speed-up and job cuts. The miners shut down the industry in a national strike for 111 days.

President Carter threatened to send the National Guard into the coal fields. Miners said, “You can’t dig coal with bayonets.” Carter invoked the Taft-Hartley law and threatened to get a court injunction forcing the miners back to work. The miners refused to obey even when most of their leaders said they had to respect the courts.

The miners knew that the bosses and the government were their enemies, not their “partners.” They acted accordingly. By spring of l978, President Carter and the coal bosses were the ones who backed down.

Thus the companies and their government needed to flex their muscles. They pushed to smash the PATCO strike as a spectacular demonstration of what would happen to anyone else who decided to resist.

President Ronald Reagan declared all the striking air traffic controllers fired and brought in controllers from the military to replace them. It was union busting on a national scale, a naked challenge to every union: What are you going to do about it?

The union leadership in their umbrella organization, the AFL-CIO, responded by lifting one little finger – slightly. They gave PATCO a little money and after six weeks organized a weekend demonstration in Washington, D.C. They called it Solidarity Day. But that was all. One day of speeches. Not even a work day.

Of course, Solidarity Day could have been a way to begin – even six weeks late. But for the union leaders it was also the end. The union leaders never mustered any real force where workers have power – in the places of production.

Intimidated by the attack on PATCO, most of the top union leaders since then have been trying to sell us on the idea that strikes are useless, that workers’ struggle has to be replaced by a partnership between the bosses and the unions.

It was not true then and it is not true now. But for 25 years most union leaders have refused any other course of action.

The results are littered all around us.

Huge, obscenely wealthy corporations eliminate thousands upon thousands of jobs. The bosses demand that every remaining worker do the work that 3 or 4 used to do. Retirees’ accrued vested pensions are wiped out by phony bankruptcies and the bang of a judge’s gavel. The minimum wage has not been raised in 9 years, and its purchasing power is now the lowest since 1955! There are no good jobs to be found.

Meanwhile, corporate profits are higher than before the Great Depression of the 1930s. The average CEO is now paid 292 times what the average worker is paid. A Senate investigative committee says that tax evasion by the wealthy is “out of control.”

We have to get off this detour into “partnership” that union leaders have pushed for 25 years. There’s no way to be “partners” with our enemies. The sooner we stop listening to that lie, the better!

There is a road back for the working class. There is a way to stop losing ground – it’s to take the road the miners took.

Pages 2-3

Mail goes missing

Aug 7, 2006

A truck trailer containing more than 90,000 Michigan telephone and cable bills was left in a parking lot in Tennessee for more than three weeks. Post office management’s story is, the trailer was left there by a truck driver hired by a private subcontractor, who arrived after the plant had closed and just found a place to park it.

This sounds like what usually happens when government agencies contract out their work: business owners make out like bandits, while they hire too few workers at too little pay. And service goes still further down the tubes.

Donuts rot more than seniors’ teeth

Aug 7, 2006

At least three million seniors have fallen into the “doughnut hole” – the great big gap in coverage under Medicare Part D. This new program was supposedly designed to help older people with their prescription drug costs. Instead, it turns out to be a scam by which Congress shifts more money to drug companies, while leaving the elderly balanced on the edge of disaster or even death.

Everyone knew the program had co-pays and even deductibles, so that seniors were responsible for $2,250 in drug costs. But what few people understood was that the entire cost of the drug was included in the $2,250 total: not only what you pay, but what your medical insurance company pays, too. That means anyone with expensive prescriptions or a lot of prescriptions was at risk of falling into the “doughnut hole” – the place where no more drugs are covered by insurance – much sooner than expected. For those who have spent the $2,250 already, the next $2,850 must come out of their own pockets before insurance kicks back in.

Given the lower than average income levels of seniors, those who cannot pay for the drugs will have to go without. Will it make a difference? Of course.

A study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation already had looked into what happened to 157,000 people whose drug prescriptions were capped off by their insurance companies. Their death rates were 22% higher than those whose benefits were not limited.

This is the “benefit” that Congress and the president gave to seniors.

Italy:
Worker-slaves in Europe!

Aug 7, 2006

On July 18, the Italian police freed more than 100 Polish workers reduced to forced labor in the Foggia region, in the south of Italy. For at least two years, hundreds of Polish workers were thus exploited, sometimes to death, harvesting tomatoes.

According to the authorities, these Polish workers arrived in Italy after having paid $200 to $250 for their trip, on the promise of finding work paying $6.50 to $7.50 an hour, with meals and housing included.

The reality was quite different. They worked 12 to 15 hours a day, for $2.50 to $6.50 a day’s pay. They were forcibly kept in camps without water or electricity, sleeping on mattresses on the ground and were watched over by armed guards with dogs. When they got sick, the workers had to pay a “fine” of $25 for each day not worked. They were super-exploited, beaten and underfed, to the point that four of them died, perhaps pushed to suicide, killed or succumbed to exhaustion.

This situation continued for more than two years. The police only reacted when they heard from worried families in Poland, who hadn’t heard from them. Even if it was a Mafia network which established the slave camp, the boss of a farm in the city of Orta Nova profited from it without batting an eyelid! The Italian social security agency remarked that inspections it carried out on farms during the first five months of 2006 showed that 77% of the farms visited were underpaying farm workers, while working them more than 10 hours a day, with indecent living conditions. The main victims of these modern day slave drivers are women and immigrants without papers.

The Foggia slave camp may be extreme. But super-exploitation imposed on workers in the most precarious situations remains widespread – and not only in Italy.

A medical mess created by the anarchy of capitalism

Aug 7, 2006

At least one and a half million people are injured or killed every year by medication errors in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics, according to a study issued July 20 by the Institute of Medicine. One panel member said they suspected these figures about medication errors are “serious under-estimates.” Another panel member said, “Everyone in the health care system knows this is a major problem, but there’s been very little action....”

More than four billion prescriptions are written in the U.S. each year. Drug errors can result from pharmacies not being able to read doctors’ handwriting. Errors also come from drug interactions, from lack of computerization of patients’ records, from dispensing errors by clinic staff and from mix-ups of similarly named drugs.

In previous reports, the Institute of Medicine noted that an electronic prescription system could prevent a large part of such errors. But so far fewer than 20% of hospitals use such a system. Only this year did the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally require all medications to carry a bar code. But it did not require all manufacturers to use the same system, so the manufacturers have come up with at least six different systems. And the FDA is still reviewing, as it has been for the last six years, how to make drug labels and drug inserts more readable – on the 100th anniversary of regulating drugs!

In fact, there is one system that fills drug prescriptions with an error rate of less than one%. What is it? The VA – the Veterans Administration.

Certainly there are big problems with the VA, as every vet knows. But its system works better than the others. One way the VA solves some of these problems is to standardize practices in its 154 hospitals and 875 clinics. Another is the use of computerization in medical records – 96% of prescriptions and medical orders are in the computer system. Another important factor is that it has one source of funding and no one is directly making a profit from it.

Compared to other health care systems, the VA ranks far higher than others on long-term care and follow-up care. And it saves money on drugs – a savings estimated at one third less than what those on Medicare Part D are paying.

The VA also faces a budget crisis. The government has cut its budget. At the VA the waits are too long and there are too few services for all those in need. But the fact that the VA system has done better than others, despite lack of funds, proves we could have decent quality health care throughout the U.S. at an affordable price. But it would require an entirely different health care policy.

Low wage jobs or no jobs at all?
That’s no choice at all!

Aug 7, 2006

After the Chicago city council voted 35 to 14 for a minimum wage of $10 an hour plus $3 in benefits in 2010 for workers at so-called “big box” stores with more than 50,000 square feet, Target announced it wouldn’t build a store on the north side of Chicago. Mayor Daley threatens to veto the ordinance and to convince two aldermen to change their opinion so he can defeat an override of his veto.

The association of retail store owners threatens that higher wages will cost jobs. These stores take jobs right now – while paying low wages. What’s the real reason these hypocrites are opposed to higher wages? It would cut a bit into their profits!

We’re told the only choices in front of us are low-paid jobs that a family can’t live on or no jobs at all. It’s a lie and a blackmail operation. It’s possible to have decently paid jobs – but only if there is a big fight made for them. This would have to go way beyond demanding the “big box” ordinance which would provide a $10 wage to only 8,000 workers – and even then, with many restrictions. The demand should be to cover the hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers with the wages needed to live on. And the fight needs to be made by all the workers. Because we are all concerned when anyone is underpaid or out of work.

The heat may be unavoidable, but not the power outages and deaths

Aug 7, 2006

As a heat wave swept across the U.S. in the second half of July, so did a wave of power outages.

In Southern California, 1.1 million Edison (SCE) customers, that is, almost one out of four homes and businesses served by SCE, lost electricity between July 17 and July 28. Probably close to 200,000 customers of the Department of Water and Power (DWP), which serves the Los Angeles area, also lost power.

Almost all these power outages were caused by failing equipment, especially transformers that blew from overheating. Some customers were left without electricity for as many as five days.

Outages spread across the whole country, two of the biggest being in St. Louis and New York. After a storm, at least 600,000 homes and businesses were left without electricity in St. Louis, some for as many as five days. In New York, 100,000 customers in Queens didn’t have power for ten days in scorching heat.

In Southern California and New York, utility officials rushed to say that the outages were unavoidable, because the equipment couldn’t have withstood the unusual spell of sustained high temperatures. It didn’t take long for the truth to come out, though. Some of the failed transformers were 40, even 50 years old. Parts of the distribution systems had not been upgraded since the 1930s, even though the load on them had increased many times since then. DWP officials admitted that they had known for years that the system needed upgrading.

All of these companies apparently decided to let the transformers blow first and change them later. And they didn’t do this because of a lack of money. This is one way how they increased their profits, and most privately-run utility companies have been very profitable in recent years. Edison International, the parent company of SCE, for example, made 1.14 billion dollars of profit in 2005, 750 million of it in Southern California.

The customers paid the price, especially the sick and elderly. In California, at least 141 deaths were linked to the heat wave, nine of them in Los Angeles. It’s of course difficult to know exactly how many of these deaths are directly caused by a loss of electricity. In Missouri, a dozen deaths were said to be caused by the power outage directly, but it’s rare for this kind of information to be available.

Still, everybody knows that these deaths will happen, and it’s criminal to allow even one such death when it can be avoided.

But that’s exactly what power companies did. They made conscious decisions to increase their profits instead of spending money on necessary maintenance, knowing full well that this would result in power outages, with all the horrible consequences.

What’s even worse is that these same companies are now trying to use these power outages to demand new rate increases!

No, they not only shouldn’t get rate increases – they shouldn’t be allowed to keep their hands on such a vital public service.

Pages 4-5

Terrorism in Lebanon
– by the Israeli state

Aug 7, 2006

Israel conducted an air strike on July 30 on the village of Qana in southern Lebanon. It hit a three-story building where people were taking cover in the basement, killing more than 50 civilians, including 34 children.

The Israeli government claims to be fighting terrorism in Lebanon. It justified the attack by blaming Hezbollah for firing missiles from the village. Israeli Foreign Minister Gideon Meir said, “One must understand the Hezbollah is using their own civilian population as human shields. The Israeli defense forces dropped leaflets and warned the civilian population to leave the place because the Hezbollah turned it into a war zone.” Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon said it more bluntly, “All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah.” In other words, Israel intends to carry out a scorched earth policy and destroy anyone and anything that gets in its way.

Israel’s Prime Minister vowed to continue its attacks saying, “We will not blink in front of Hezbollah and we will not stop the offensive despite the difficult circumstances. It is the right thing to do.”

On August 4, Israeli aircraft killed 33 farm workers loading fruit and vegetables in a warehouse near the Lebanon-Syria border. Israel claimed it suspected the warehouse contained a truck carrying weapons from Syria.

It is Israel that is carrying out terrorism today – the terrorism of a state armed with the most sophisticated weaponry in the world. It drops leaflets on the population of an area, warning them they have 48 hours to leave. It knows many people will not have the means to do it. Anyone who is too sick or injured to leave or who can’t afford to pay the $1,000 it takes to get a taxi ride out is considered a terrorist. Many who have tried to leave have been killed by Israeli bombings of the escape routes.

Israel is not “defending itself.” It is clearing out a large section of Lebanon, and attempting to terrorize the population into submission.

The U.S., which finances Israel in arming itself to the teeth, cynically claims to be working for a “lasting peace.” A United Nations resolution drafted by the U.S. and France shows what the U.S. really means by this. The resolution makes no demands of Israel. To the contrary, it allows Israel to stay in Lebanon, and even to continue military operations, until an international force – and not the Lebanese army – takes over. In other words, it puts a seal of approval on what Israel has been doing in Lebanon.

The only peace Israel and the U.S. want is the peace of the graveyard.

Hezbollah

Aug 7, 2006

Hezbollah or the Party of God was born from the regroupment of different Lebanese Shiite movements who took part in the resistance to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in June 1982. It was formed with the support of the Iranian Islamic regime headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini, was well as by the Syrian regime. It published its political program in 1985.

Hezbollah appeared during the Lebanese civil war, when the parties representing different religious communities had their own militias. The majority of them were tolerated and even encouraged by the great powers of that time when they took on the Palestinian militias which had formed in refugee camps and were supported by the Lebanese population in the poor neighborhoods. Syria, with the backing of the great powers, intervened in 1976 to push back the “Palestinian-progressive” militias and let the far-right militias carry out a massacre in the Tell al-Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp. It was the same in 1982, when Israel let right-wing militias massacre Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

The confrontations between the various Palestinian and Lebanese militias continued until 1989, when the Taef agreement marked the end of the civil war and provided for the disarmament of all the militias who were supposed to give way before the Lebanese army. But Hezbollah, rooted in the south and therefore near the border with Israel, kept its militias and continued to carry out military actions which the Lebanese state was incapable of preventing.

Hezbollah won the support of the poor population in the south of Lebanon through its intransigence toward Israel, and especially its establishment of organizations to aid the population and provide schools, more than for its reactionary political program founded on Islamic fundamentalism. In a state where political power is based on the division of posts between the different religious communities, Hezbollah obtained 14 representatives in the Lebanese parliament out of 128 in the elections in the spring of 2005, as well as one cabinet position in the government.

Israel:
A powerful military over-equipped by the U.S.

Aug 7, 2006

A Bush Administration official told the New York Times, “You have to acknowledge the obvious: We’ve seen a new capability in striking the naval vessel and in the number of casualties that have been sustained from the Hezbollah missile attacks.” In other words, they’re trying to equate Hezbollah’s military power with that of Israel’s. Implicit in these comments is support for Israel’s claim that the Hezbollah forces on its border represent a threat to Israel.

Reality is totally different. The number of civilian and military victims as well as the destruction of all sorts carried out by the Israeli army fully underscores this difference. The arms that Hezbollah has are insignificant compared to Israel’s military might. Israel’s army is that of an ultra-modern and over-equipped military great power, benefitting from the support and collaboration of the U.S.

The Israeli army has 180,000 soldiers, of whom more than 50,000 are career soldiers, and it can mobilize up to 450,000 reservists. It has more than 4,000 tanks, a thousand pieces of artillery, as well as 800 combat planes and assault helicopters. Its navy includes some fifty war ships.

Faced with this army, which in addition has the most perfected means of detection and communication, Hezbollah can only oppose rocket launchers and short-range missiles, which are imprecise and some of which date from World War II. Unlike the Israeli army, once the Hezbollah arsenal is destroyed it can’t be renewed easily.

Israel wouldn’t be what it is militarily without the support of the U.S., which gives it nearly a third of the total “military aid” which it gives to all “friendly” powers. That adds up to several billion dollars a year, under the form of gifts or loans, which are only paid back in part, if at all. But this military support that the U.S. gives Israel isn’t neutral or disinterested. It’s only the counterpart of the role that Israel plays defending U.S. imperialist interests in the region.

Israel
– the supposed democratic country

Aug 7, 2006

All those who defend Israeli policy without reservations, like Bush and the politicians of both parties in the Congress, hide behind the claim that Hezbollah and Hamas carry out terrorist actions, while Israel is a “democracy.”

It’s clear that the leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas are no respecters of democracy. But the fact that Israel is a “democracy” in the sense that U.S. politicians give to this word – that is, a country where the bourgeoisie exercises power through parliamentary institutions – doesn’t prevent it from leading a criminal policy.

What Israel does to the Palestinians is typical of what “democracies” have long done to their colonies and the underdeveloped countries. The major wars fought by the U.S. just since World War II – against Korea, Viet Nam and now Iraq – show that the existence of a parliamentary regime, an elected congress and president, didn’t prevent the U.S. from waging war against an entire civilian population, nor from using the worst kind of violence against that population.

But the examples of these wars shows equally that no matter how powerful and numerically superior the army is which is involved in this type of repression, victory is not guaranteed. The hatred the repression sows can stir up among its victims the desire to continue fighting. The twentieth century knew numerous colonial wars, which didn’t prevent the colonial empires finally from collapsing.

Israel:
A state built on religion and terrorism

Aug 7, 2006

From the very beginning, the Zionist rulers of Israel have systematically used terrorism – first to establish a “Jewish state,” and then to expand its borders, continually pushing other people aside.

Certainly, given the long and horrible history of anti-Semitism in Europe including the Holocaust, no one could reproach the Jewish people for wanting a country where they could live without discrimination.

When that question first arose about a century ago, Zionists – Jewish nationalists who aspired to create a Jewish state – suggested that Palestine should be that land.

Zionists systematically bought land in Palestine and tried to organize a Jewish mass migration there. Still, Palestine was not necessarily where most European Jews wanted to live. Most of the people fleeing the horror of the Nazi regime tried to migrate to the U.S. or Latin America. But these countries put up blocks preventing most immigration, especially the masses of poor Jewish refugees. Even at the end of World War II, when the U.S. bragged to have “freed” the Jews, it hypocritically shut its doors to them. Palestine was simply the only option for many of the Holocaust survivors. By 1947, there were over 600,000 Jewish people in Palestine, making up about one-third of the population there.

The rest of the population, of course, were the original inhabitants of the area, the Palestinian Arabs. But the Zionists, who were to become of the rulers of Israel, never recognized the right of Palestinian Arabs to continue to live in their own land – which is ironic given the constant Israeli proclamation that Arabs must recognize “Israel’s right to exist.”

Israel: A religious state

In 1948, the United Nation passed a resolution dividing Palestine between Jews and Arabs. In what became Israel, the population was still evenly divided between Jews and Arabs. But this didn’t prevent the Zionists, who controlled the new state, to declare it a “Jewish state,” using religion to define not only “Jewishness” but also citizenship rights.

The Zionist rulers of Israel decided that the new state would not have a constitution, because that would mean, at least on paper, giving Arab citizens of Israel the same rights as Jews. Instead, the Zionists used a certain number of laws inherited from either the British mandate or the Ottoman Empire – for example, the recognition of the power of the religious leaders over each community, that is, of the rabbinical courts. And those courts introduced a whole series of laws based on Jewish religious dogma, including laws forbidding work on Saturdays and laws oppressive to women. This effectively meant that the orthodox religious Jews, which made up a small minority, were allowed to impose their archaic reactionary views on everybody else. But it also meant that non-Jewish Israelis were automatically excluded from some rights, for example subsidized housing, that Jews were entitled to.

No, Israel is not “the only democracy in the Middle East,” as the U.S. media often claims when it parrots Israeli, and U.S., leaders. It is in fact a theocratic state, like Iran or Saudi Arabia. And, like other theocratic regimes in the region, Israel denies full citizenship rights to other ethnic and religious groups.

Driving the Arabs out of their own land

The Zionists who founded Israel moved swiftly, and brutally, to take their land from the Palestinians. Zionist guerrilla groups launched a campaign of terror to push the Arab population off their land. Whole villages were massacred. The best known of these took place on April 9, 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin, where 254 men, women and children were killed in cold blood. The Zionists went from village to village, pasting up the pictures of the victims of Deir Yassin, announcing that any Arab who stayed risked the same fate, killing those who didn’t leave. As people fled from the terrorist campaigns carried out by Zionist gangs, the Arab population of Israel dropped from more than 600,000 down to 100,000. Those who fled were turned into refugees – much like what is happening in Lebanon today.

When Israeli officials today excuse themselves for killing Lebanese civilians, saying that they had “warned them,” they are only following in the footsteps of the “founding fathers” of Israel!

Later on, Israel continued its terrorist campaign, to expand its borders, but this time it used the violence of the most modern military force. In 1967, Israel occupied the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the Golan Heights in Syria. In 1978, Israel invaded southern Lebanon, then expanded its occupation to more than half the country in 1982.

Behind Israel is U.S. imperialism

Israel, a small country of five million Jews, could never achieve this reign of terror against millions of Arabs on its own. It is able to do this because the U.S. supplies it with the most modern weaponry and financial support. Israel receives, by far, the most U.S. military aid per capita of all the countries in the world. No matter how brutal Israel is against the population in the region, U.S. leaders have only support and kind words for the leaders of Israel.

The U.S. has used Israel, from its inception, as an outpost in the Middle East. The partition of Palestine, supported by the U.S., created a small Jewish state, surrounded by enemies and dependent on U.S. aid to survive. This gives the U.S. a staunch ally in controlling a region of enormous economic and strategic importance.

By accepting this arrangement, that is, agreeing to help the U.S. to achieve its imperialistic aims in the Middle East, the Zionists have condemned Israel to a permanent state of war.

How to end the vicious cycle of violence

There was an alternative to all this for the Jews who settled in Palestine: to live side by side with Arabs, accepting them as equals – which is the idea of a modern, secular and democratic society anyway. In fact, most Jews, given their background, would probably have supported this idea. By accepting a religious state which uses terror against Arabs instead, however, Israeli Jews have allowed the Zionists to turn the whole Arab population of the region against them.

This meant that in the Middle East, a region plagued by imperialist domination, endless ethnic and religious division and outright genocide, a real opportunity was missed. The arrival of European Jews, a population with a high level of education and culture as well as a determination to build a new country, could have benefitted the entire region – especially the Arab masses who aspired to free themselves from the chains of poverty and oppression and were themselves fighting to expel imperialist control of their land.

Instead, they found an even more vicious oppressor in the rulers of Israel, who have been able to use the Jewish population of Israel against the Arab population of the region.

Today, after all the bloodshed and destruction carried out by Israel – which only invites violence in return – this alternative is much harder to achieve than it was six decades ago. Nonetheless, it remains the only way out of the endless cycle of war, for both Jews and Arabs.

Pages 6-7

Northwest flight attendants:
New union, same policy

Aug 7, 2006

Leaders of the new union representing Northwest Airlines’ flight attendants, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, say they will carry out unannounced temporary sporadic strikes to stop the company from imposing deep concessions. It calls the plan “CHAOS,” short for “Create Havoc Around Our System.”

It’s certain that Northwest workers have to act against this union-busting company if they expect to defend themselves. Unfortunately, there seems to be more bluff than substance to the union’s threat – which gave the company 15 days notice, plenty of time for Northwest to go to court to get an injunction to stop them. And Northwest promptly petitioned the court for an injunction. It’s not serious!

The flight attendants seem ready to make a fight. They voted to reject the contract the AFA-CWA leaders negotiated with the airline, which included 21% wage cuts and 40% reductions in total wages and benefits.

This was the second time they have voted down the contract. After the first vote, they voted to leave the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) – which had negotiated the earlier concession contract – and join the AFA-CWA.

The flight attendants may have a new union, but its leaders have the same policy as the old one. When the AFA-CWA leadership came in, they managed to negotiate the second concession contract within 10 days after being chosen as the flight attendants’ collective bargaining representatives.

If the flight attendants’ situation shows anything, it’s that workers have to depend on their own forces. It’s not enough to simply vote down agreements and wait for union officials to negotiate the right agreement. To defend their own interests, workers need leaders they can trust, leaders they put forward, who keep them informed of what happens in negotiations. And the workers need to make the decisions themselves about how to carry out their fight.

Police kill man in Michigan:
“Something from 60, 70 years ago”

Aug 7, 2006

On June 20, an autopsy report on 45-year-old Clifton “Pete” Lee, Jr., confirmed eyewitness accounts. He had suffocated to death from the weight of several sheriff’s deputies piled atop him.

The incident, in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan, began with cops making a traffic stop of two young men in a car. The stop was not far from the home of relatives, who came out to see what was going on.

Following an all too familiar script, the officers panicked and called for backup. News reports were that “multiple officers” in at least 8 squad cars massed at the scene. Bruce Lee and Clifton Lee, Jr., uncles of one of the arrested young men, were attacked, assaulted and pepper-sprayed.

While Bruce Lee was being beaten unconscious and taken to jail, several other cops were piling on top of Clifton Lee to the point he was suffocated to death.

Jimmy Lee, the father of one of the young men, stated “this shouldn’t be happening. This is something from 60, 70 years ago.”

And he is perfectly correct. Whatever restraints were once imposed on cop behavior by vigilant and mobilized communities have long been corroding away.

The police role of terrorizing and silencing poor and working-class communities is more and more open. As cops carry out this role, they receive protection from their superiors and the courts.

If there is to be any measure of justice for the killing of Clifton Lee, Jr., it will, as always, depend on the determination of the community to be heard.

UAW leadership takes union dues, but temps go without union rights

Aug 7, 2006

The United Auto Workers, once proud of its heritage of sit-downs and other struggles for workers’ rights, has now agreed to let DaimlerChrysler keep up to 2000 workers as full-time temporaries for the next two years at Chrysler’s Belvidere (Illinois) Assembly Plant.

The workers will never acquire seniority or status as regular Chrysler employees. Their pay will stay at 70% of regular pay for as long as they work. After seven months, they will gain only bare minimum hospital, surgical, and medical benefits.

Whenever the company is done with them, or dissatisfied with them in any way, out they go without further ado. Did a worker come in late one day? It’s the foreman’s choice if they go or stay. Was a worker injured? Were they sick? Was there a family emergency? Sorry, you’re out, bring in a new body!

Not to mention what may happen if a temporary fails to bring in the foreman’s doughnuts and coffee at the proper temperature!

The new workers, in exchange for having temporary work without any of the usual union rights and protections, must – pay union dues!

Yes, Chrysler has co-operated with its UAW “partner.” Chrysler will make sure the union’s treasury does not suffer, while the UAW leadership agrees that about one-third of the workers at a traditional assembly plant will not have traditional union protection.

But this deal will allow the temps one thing: the right to vote on UAW-Chrysler contracts!

In fact this will amount to a greater pressure for future concessions.

At each contract, workers are told that their jobs are in jeopardy unless concessions are made, especially, these days, concessions which impose new and greater costs on retirees for health care. The UAW leadership has agreed to such concessions at Caterpillar, Detroit Diesel, GM, and Ford, but has so far met too much rank-and-file resistance at Chrysler.

At contract time, the dues-paying temps will be offered a carrot, a false promise of possibly extending their employment – IF the proper concessions are voted in. Concessions to be taken, no doubt, from retired workers and also from those active workers still making full wages.

How will the temporary workers vote? Especially if they have seen precious little evidence of anyone in the union, retirees or active, standing up for them?

The deal at Belvidere is a clear conspiracy of Chrysler and the UAW leadership against all parts of the workforce, temporary and active and retired.

But together every part of that workforce could benefit from their strength in numbers – if they find a way to make common cause against their common enemies.

Page 8

Iraq military trials:
Hypocrisy in action

Aug 7, 2006

Military investigators concluded August 2 that there is evidence that U.S. Marines deliberately shot unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha last November. Twenty-four Iraqis were killed, including women and children.

In this case, and others, enlisted soldiers are being held responsible for murdering unarmed civilians. And yes, what they did was atrocious.

But in all of the cases we’ve seen recently, prosecutors and the generals above them try to pretend that the soldiers on trial are just a few bad apples, a few loose cannons. They point to the trials as the demonstration that the integrity of the military is doing “just fine.”

If that were true, then as soon as such an event happens, the soldiers would be arrested and put on trial. That’s anything but the case.

Official statements officially blamed the Haditha civilian deaths on a roadside bomb. The military hierarchy didn’t start “investigating” until Time magazine reported in March – four months later – that Marines killed these people deliberately.

This military cover-up wasn’t carried out in order to protect a few Marines. It was done to protect the officers far above them, who have ordered this policy across the country. It’s not a matter of a few loose cannons – not even close. It’s a conscious policy being carried out in all military branches, all over Iraq.

In the case of three Army soldiers accused of gunning down two unarmed Iraqi men in a raid north of Baghdad on May 9, several other soldiers revealed that their commanding officers ordered soldiers to “kill all military-age males who were not actively surrendering” – an order that’s just vague enough to include just about anybody. These officers also kept kill counts for all the soldiers, and actively encouraged a competition for the most kills.

And if officers are putting out such abominable orders, you can bet that similar orders came to them from much further up, to “subdue the area at all costs” – that is, no matter how many civilian casualties.

Bush and Rumsfeld will deny up and down that they ordered this to happen, but it’s only the specifics they didn’t order. When a country like the U.S. attacks a whole population as in Iraq, terror and indiscriminate killing are automatically part of the plan. Charging a few foot soldiers with murder is just a way to cover up that fact.

An accidental truth

Aug 7, 2006

Two headlines were paired by coincidence on CNN’s news.

The first said, “Troop tours extended in Iraq.”

The second said, “Record oil profits.”

Yes. Soldiers and civilians alike will continue to die so that oil companies can command the world’s oil supply.

CNN told more truth than usual!

High oil prices lead to skyrocketing profits:
The dictatorship of the oil monopolies

Aug 7, 2006

Gas prices continue to skyrocket, ever upward. Workers have been robbed who don’t have another way to get to work or to get out of the city for a little vacation.

Economists and journalists give all kinds of reasons for high oil prices: sustained world economic growth, the crisis in the Middle East, the war in Iraq, the “threat” of war in Iran or North Korea – even a tropical storm that never developed! And they solemnly tell us that we’d better get used to a society where oil will be more expensive. Only they don’t bother to give us the main reason for the high price of gas: the profits of the oil companies.

Exxon-Mobil, the biggest oil company in the world, just posted its second quarter profits. Sales were 99 billion dollars, over one billion dollars a day! That led to a profit of 10.3 billion dollars, an increase of 35.6% over a year ago. Profits are almost double what they were in 2004. Chevron, the number two U.S. oil company, had 4.4 billion dollars in profits, and ConocoPhillips, number three, had still higher profits, five billion dollars. The head of James Investment Research based in Xenia, Ohio, which owns 54,500 Exxon-Mobil shares, said, “earnings have just been spectacular.” He added, “Cash flow is going gangbusters.”

The oil companies aren’t simply responding to the supposed laws of supply and demand. Their average margin for processing oil into gas and diesel widened by 41% to $16 a barrel. They are extracting record profits at every step along the oil production chain.

Even the devastation of the Katrina and Rita hurricanes, which hit Gulf of Mexico oil rigs hard, caused little problem for the oil giants. Chevron spent 300 million dollars in repairs – a small matter for it – and nevertheless had record profits.

For years, the oil corporations didn’t invest in exploration or the development of new fields, they didn’t construct new refineries and didn’t develop alternate fuels. Their problem wasn’t to respond to the need for fuel, but to increase their profits. The dictatorship of the capitalist corporations – with oil companies a good example – weighs down on the whole population.