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. 784 — October 16 - 30, 2006

Five Years of War:
U.S. Out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now!

Oct 16, 2006

This is the fifth anniversary of the start of the U.S. government’s “War on Terror.” After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the U.S. government used those attacks to justify launching much, much bigger terrorist attacks of its own against ordinary people in other countries.

Five years ago, in October 2001, the U.S. and British military bombed and invaded Afghanistan. Then, in March 2003, the U.S. and Britain invaded and occupied Iraq.

For a long time, the U.S. rulers had coveted greater control over both Iraq and Afghanistan. They wanted Iraq, not only for its enormous energy reserves, but also as a place to put big U.S. military bases, that is, to assure U.S. control over the rest of the oil-rich Persian Gulf. They also wanted control over Afghanistan because it sits astride Central Asia, the crossroads of vast continents, with their wealth and resources.

These U.S. wars have not only killed tens of thousands of people, they have destroyed whole neighborhoods and all their homes, and big parts of the infrastructure – which have not been rebuilt. Instead, to rule over both countries, the U.S. has bribed and used the most reactionary war lords and bands of religious fanatics to impose a dictatorship over the people. At the same time, the U.S. has played them off against each other in a strategy of divide-and-conquer, thus fueling the flames of internecine civil war and further bloodshed.

The results in both countries have been catastrophic. In Iraq, according to a study in the British medical journal, The Lancet, an estimated 655,000 people have already been killed since March 2003. That is close to three% of the population, which compares to wiping out 8 million people or the entire population of New York City in a country the size of the U.S. The survivors of these wars are prisoners in their own countries, having to cope with threats of the daily violence, while there is little or no electricity, drinking water, health care, education or jobs.

In Afghanistan, the war is even worse than in Iraq. As a British commander in the field recently told the press, “The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater [in Afghanistan] than in Iraq on a daily basis.” In addition, the population is even more impoverished. Millions have been uprooted, forced to survive as refugees in their own country. And more people are dying from poverty and misery. Afghanistan has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, while the average life expectancy has fallen to 45 years – 15 years lower than neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., new generations are being ground up as cannon fodder. More than 3,200 U.S. troops have been killed in both wars. At least one-quarter of those who do make it back are considered serious casualties, often condemned to suffer for the rest of their lives, shells of their former selves. Others have been turned into dangerous killers, time bombs waiting to go off.

After five years of blood, these wars are not winding down, but growing, fueling destructive cycles of ever more violence, terrorism, hatred and wars – the poisonous fruits of the U.S.’s ruling class’s vile power grab.

To this, the population in this country can have only one answer: U.S. Troops Out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now!

Pages 2-3

November elections:
The ruling class prepares to change horses

Oct 16, 2006

As Election Day approaches, poll after poll shows there is a good chance that the Republican Party will lose its grip on Congress.

Republicans are being engulfed by the corruption scandals around Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, and the sex scandal around Congressman Mark Foley.

There have even been revelations from inside the Republican party about the open disdain and contempt that the Republican leadership has for the people of their religious fundamentalist voting base.

Then, of course, there is the general discontent over the disastrous war in Iraq, the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and the effects of the huge redistribution of wealth to the rich.

All this means that at least some of the Republican base, especially religious fundamentalists, may sit out this election.

Of course, what is happening to the Republicans, after 12 years in power, is nothing new. The Democratic Party held control of Congress from the time of Roosevelt up through Clinton, that is, over 50 years, until it was swept out of power in l994 by these very same sort of scandals.

Certainly a great many working people are ready to rejoice at the well-deserved troubles of the Republicans. But the only “alternative” presented, the Democratic Party, is no less an enemy of the working class.

Despite their rhetoric, the Democrats have worked hand in glove with the Republicans on all of their key policies, whether it was the war, or taxes, or benefits to the wealthy. On the local and state levels, in office, the Democrats have carried out the same sorts of cuts in education, health care, and social services. This should be no surprise. The Democrats are just as much a bosses’ party as are the Republicans.

To change things – really change things for the better – workers will need to take matters into our own hands, and bring our own forces to bear, in our own interests – against Republicans and Democrats alike.

The economic recovery ... of profits

Oct 16, 2006

The U. S. government says that an economic recovery began in November 2001. A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities compared it to the nine prior economic recoveries since the end of World War II.

During the current so-called “recovery”, growth in the Gross Domestic Product was much weaker than in previous recoveries. There was also much slower growth in consumption. And corporations were investing at a much slower rate.

But it was the job market that performed the worst. The annual rate of increase in jobs was less than one%, that is, almost no new jobs were created. Even the weakest recoveries in the past created jobs at a much faster rate than this one.

The study also found that wages and salaries grew at a rate of 1.6% a year since 2001, compared to the average of 3.7% a year in previous recoveries. That is half as slow as the average recovery.

However, corporate profits did exceptionally well, increasing at a rate of 14%. This is twice as fast compared to other recoveries.

Of course, it is not hard to see where these profits came from. The bosses took them from the working class, by forcing fewer workers to do more work, and by paying them less.

Even official government statistics show that this so-called economic recovery has been a recovery only for the bosses and their profits. For the working class, these last five years have been one long depression.

The economy drives a desperate man to seek prison

Oct 16, 2006

If anyone still tries to say the economy is looking up, they need look no further than the case of Timothy J. Bowers.

Bowers, 63, had not been able to find a regular job since losing his job three years ago when the company he worked for closed down. With several more years remaining before he could collect Social Security, he carried out a desperate plan to support himself until then: rob a bank and go to prison.

Bowers walked up to a bank teller in Columbus, Ohio, said he was robbing the bank and demanded money. After receiving $80, he turned around and handed the money to a guard. He then waited for the police to show up and take him to jail.

In court, he pleaded guilty to robbery, and asked for a three-year jail sentence. The judge, Angela White, gave it to him, saying, “It’s unfortunate you feel this is the only way to deal with the situation.”

Unfortunate! It sure is. It’s “unfortunate” that this system throws Bowers and countless others like him on the trash heap when they’re done using them, with no way to feed, clothe and house themselves. “Unfortunate” that a man like Bowers needs to get himself thrown in prison in order to survive.

Unfortunate? It’s not just unfortunate; it’s criminal.

This economic system is criminal – and Mr. Bowers is one of its victims.

Can’t let a wall divide us

Oct 16, 2006

On September 29, Congress passed a law to authorize the construction of 700 miles of what they call a fence – actually a wall – along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. It passed by a wide margin, with plenty of support from the Democrats. In the House, the vote was 283 to 138. It passed the Senate, 80 to 19, with the support of such liberals as Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Barak Obama, and Debbie Stabenow.

This wall allows the politicians at election time to have their cake and eat it too. The idea of a wall keeping out supposedly “illegal” immigrants appeals not only to outright reactionaries, but also to some workers worried about whether they might lose their jobs to undocumented immigrants.

In other words, one more time these politicians want people to believe the problem of a lack of decent jobs, or vital services like education and public health, is caused by immigration.

Of course, those who look at the fine print of the new law will see that Congress did not really vote to build the wall it advertised. Instead, much of the 1.2 billion dollars will go to other pet projects. As one Texas politician put it, “It’s one thing to authorize. It’s another thing to actually appropriate the money and do it.”

What is to be built won’t be a physical barrier, but a “virtual” wall, with expensive cameras, motion detectors etc. provided by companies like Boeing at a nice fat profit.

This law shows Congress has no intention of actually stopping or slowing the supply of undocumented immigrants. This is because the bosses want access to a workforce which is so intimidated by its undocumented status that it is afraid to even open its mouth, not to speak of fighting for a union. The bosses want these workers to know that if they fight, they risk being detained, jailed, and deported.

The more repressive the law, the more it strikes fear into the heart of workers. It is a way to remind and underline to immigrant workers that they have to be quiet and submissive if they want to stay in this country.

Of course, all workers should oppose such reactionary and bigoted laws. When the rights of one section of workers are attacked, the whole working class is undermined. When the bosses divide the working class, it gives them the opportunity to pick us off, section by section.

Workers have only one interest: to fight for all workers to have full rights, no matter where they happen to be born, no matter what the government says about their status.

Foley has left, but the hypocrites remain

Oct 16, 2006

Representative Mark Foley, a Republican from Florida, resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives on September 29, after it came out that he had sent sexually explicit messages over the Internet to several teenagers serving as pages in Congress.

Foley’s actions had been an open secret on Capitol Hill for many years. Reports now say that some pages had complained to Republican House leaders, and yet these politicians sat on the accusations, doing nothing. They turned a blind eye to a sexual predator.

Once again, the mask of morality has been stripped away – this time from Republicans in Congress. These politicians, who would deny gay couples who love and respect each other the right to marry, were ready for political gain to protect a pedophile in their midst. Like the Catholic church, trying to impose its vicious view of morality on every person, they stand exposed now for the bigots and hypocrites they are.

Is anyone surprised? Then they are blind or naive or both. These are the same people who would condemn women to death by cutting off legal, medically safe abortions, reimposing the butchery of back-alley abortions – all the while pretending to be the defenders of “life.” These are the same people who would destroy scientific education for a whole generation coming into the schools, substituting 3000-year-old myths and superstitions in its place.

Send all these bigots back to the Middle Ages where they belong!

Health insurance for profit:
If you have a medical problem, you won’t be covered

Oct 16, 2006

Insurance company Amerigroup is being sued by the state of Illinois. The company was hired by the state to sign up people who couldn’t afford insurance. The agreement with the state said it wouldn’t pick and choose whom it insured.

The lawsuit says the company systematically denied insurance to women in their last three months of pregnancy. In fact, a number of e-mails were submitted at the trial to show this company policy. The director of medical management told an employee in an e-mail,“... we do not sign up pregnant members. We have trained the marketing staff constantly to not even approach a pregnant female about joining the plan.” The company tracked how many women in late-term pregnancies were insured by them. Then they found out which employees had signed them up in order to intimidate other employees into denying coverage.

Illinois paid Amerigroup 243 million dollars from 2000 to 2004. The company in turn paid out 131 million dollars in health benefits. That is, the company skimmed off almost half, mainly for profit. The company said denying pregnant women insurance made “bottom line sense,” that is, it increased profit.

This company is not alone in denying health insurance to people likely to have claims. A common practice of health insurance companies is to only sign up the healthiest people.

Another method insurance companies use to deny coverage is to cancel the policy after the policy-holder files a claim. Blue Cross of California was recently fined $200,000 for canceling a woman’s policy because she didn’t disclose surgery that took place 23 years earlier. And it’s well known that the company has done this a lot. In fact, a special unit of the company investigated the history of their customers after they filed claims. This unit was trying to find any error in their application, no matter how small. If something was found, the insurance was cancelled from its first day, the premiums returned and nothing was paid for the medical procedure that had already taken place.

This denial of health insurance comes at the same time that many corporations have either eliminated or drastically cut back on their employee health insurance. In the private sector, companies employing half of all workers don’t offer health insurance.

So, more workers can’t get health care on the job. And they can’t get individual health coverage unless they are completely healthy and don’t need health care. This is why 47 million people were uninsured in 2005, with the number growing by over one million per year.

The message to us when we get sick is clear: go away and drop dead.

Pages 4-5

North Korea is a threat to the U.S.?
– just the opposite!

Oct 16, 2006

In early October, North Korea announced that it had detonated a nuclear bomb underground. The big Western powers, especially the United States, cried out in horror.

What hypocrisy! The very same governments that condemned North Korea have thousands and thousands of their own nuclear weapons. Neither did they make the same outcry when Israel, India, and Pakistan tested their own nuclear weapons – obviously because these governments are U.S. allies.

The United States pretends that North Korea is a threat. But the reality is that the U.S. systematically threatens North Korea.

The U.S. has over 100,000 troops stationed in South Korea and Japan, the nearest neighbors of North Korea. For over 50 years, the West has imposed an almost complete economic blockade, destroying the Korean economy and pushing the population to the edge of starvation and misery.

This policy is nothing but a continuation of what has been done to Korea throughout the 20th century. For more than 30 years, the Japanese occupied Korea. After World War II ended, the U.S. promised there would be an independent and united Korea. But with the advent of the Cold War, it decided to split the country, with one half under the influence of the USSR and the other under the U.S. Of course, the Koreans were not consulted. So when they tried to unite their own country, the U.S. sent in troops, thus beginning the Korean war. During this war from 1950 through 1953, the U.S. threatened Korea with nuclear annihilation. Close to three million Koreans lost their lives. All this took place in a peninsula about the size of Utah. Until 1991, the U.S. also maintained battlefield tactical nuclear weapons and nuclear-tipped rockets in South Korea.

After the war, North Korea’s two main trading partners were the USSR and China. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea was almost completely isolated. More than ever, the North Korean government tried to normalize relations with the U.S., especially trade ties.

Under the Clinton administration, the U.S. government agreed to normalization – sometime in the future – if the energy-starved North Koreans halted the building of nuclear power plants.

But the Bush administration changed the plan. In 2002, the U.S. government accused North Korea of carrying out a secret nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration then made North Korea part of the “axis of evil.” The underlying threat was that the U.S. might go to war against North Korea.

So the North Koreans openly began a nuclear weapons program. That’s what they had been accused of. Yet they made it clear that their aim was still normalized relations and an end to the embargo, especially from the United States.

Certainly Kim Jong Il is a hideous dictator. Certainly his rule, like the rule of his father Kim Il Sung, has weighed heavily on 23 million North Koreans.

But the biggest criminals, by far, are the big powers, starting with the U.S. government.

Growing violence in Iraq:
Created by U.S.-sponsored forces

Oct 16, 2006

Attacks on both U.S. troops and civilians in Iraq have been rising sharply recently, particularly in the capital city, Baghdad. According to the U.S. military itself, as of a month ago, attacks against U.S. forces there had increased from an average of about 36 per day to 42 per day. More recently, thirteen U.S. soldiers were killed in the city during one three-day period, the highest U.S. casualty rate since the start of the U.S. invasion.

Iraqi civilians have been suffering even more. According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, killings of civilians in Baghdad were averaging close to 100 a day about a month ago. The average is probably even higher today.

As the death count goes up, it has become more and more obvious that much of the violence is coming from the Iraqi police forces themselves. In one recent incident, gunmen burst into a food factory and kidnaped 26 workers. Since the neighborhood was under the control of an Iraqi police brigade of about 1,000 officers, it seems highly unlikely that the kidnappers could have succeeded without the cooperation or outright assistance of the brigade.

Late one night a couple weeks after this incident, gunmen, some wearing police uniforms, blocked off the area surrounding a new television station that was about to go on the air for the first time. They invaded the offices and studios of the station and killed the founder and director of the station, five guards, and five of the staff, some of whom were sleeping at the station because they feared trying to go home after dark.

Iraqi government officials are doing little to stop the violence coming from their own police units. They say they are “re-training” some units and are requiring loyalty oaths, actions that clearly will not change the situation.

This lack of effective action by government officials against the violence isn’t surprising. Many Iraqi police officers are members of militias, private armies tied to political and religious parties which are fighting against each other for power. Three of Iraq’s biggest militias, along with some smaller ones, were officially incorporated into the Iraqi police when they were first being organized, armed and trained by the U.S. starting years ago. And the militias are frequently tied to one government official or another.

So the same Iraqi government officials and the same Iraqi police forces that are supposed to bring an end to the violence are in fact committing much of the violence. The U.S. itself is providing them with the weapons and equipment they use to carry out the violence.

Playing off various Iraqi leaders and their militias against each other makes it easier for the U.S. to stay in control. But by far the greatest violence falls heavily on innocent Iraqi civilians.

AWOL soldier speaks out

Oct 16, 2006

Sergeant Ricky Clousing pled guilty on October 12 to going AWOL from the Army and will serve three months confinement at Fort Bragg.

Clousing had gone into hiding for 14 months after serving for 5 months in Iraq from December 2004 to April 2005. He said, “My experiences in Iraq forced me to re-evaluate my beliefs and my ethics. I ultimately felt I could not serve.”

Clousing said he saw American soldiers kill an unarmed Iraqi teenager. He also said he saw soldiers sideswipe Iraqi cars in a Humvee and shoot an Iraqi man’s sheep.

In Iraq, Clousing served as an interrogator for an infantry unit. He says he was stunned at how many of those he interrogated were innocent or simply resentful of the American occupation. He told his commanding officer, “Your soldiers and the way they’re behaving are creating the insurgency you’re trying to fight. It’s a cycle. You don’t see it, but I’m talking to the people you’re bringing to me.”

A soldier like Clousing knows he’s taking a risk to come forward as he did. The words of the Army’s trial lawyer, Captain Jessica Alexander, show it. She said, “A message must be sent. There are thousands of soldiers who may disagree with this particular war, but who stay and fight.”

The lawyer’s words reflect the fear of the government and the military. They’re afraid that the example of people like Clousing, who openly defy the war – even at a cost to themselves – will spread to other soldiers, who already hate the war. The spreading of such open defiance would make the U.S. military less reliable.

And this defiance offers the best possibility to force this government to end its vile war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another “Environmental Quality” toxic waste plant burns

Oct 16, 2006

A fire at a hazardous waste processing facility on October 5 in Apex, North Carolina shot flames 200 feet into the air and caused several explosions. The fire ignited four petroleum tanks at another company nearby and created a yellow haze that smelled of chlorine. The city evacuated 17,000 people and 18 people received treatment at emergency rooms for respiratory problems.

The company where the fire occurred, EQ Industrial Services, collected hazardous waste for disposal. The chemicals stored there included paints, thinners, oils, cleansers, detergents and antifreeze. The company claims it doesn’t even know which chemicals burned. They said the site was a short-term routing facility with hazardous materials constantly coming and going. They claim they register what chemicals are stored there once a year, and the company’s log probably burned up in the fire.

A great excuse. This company handles all this horribly toxic brew, and they don’t even keep track of what comes and goes?

But the government’s environmental agencies let them get away with it. Environmental officials cited this company in March for six violations at the Apex plant including failure to “maintain and operate the facility to minimize the possibility of a sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste ... which could threaten human health or the environment.” Yet the government allowed them to remain open.

Then after the fire, environmental officials were quick to give assurances that it was safe for residents to go back to their homes – even though they didn’t even know the cause of the fire or what specific chemicals burned. The EPA official coordinating the cleanup efforts, James Webster, played down the danger by saying the fire department’s decision to let the fire burn means the most toxic chemicals probably dissipated.

Of course, a doctor from a company that makes detectors of toxic gases says that burning large quantities of the kinds of chemicals the plant handled can cause long-term damage to the liver and kidneys. And officials haven’t yet tested swipe samples from area houses or schools or analyzed the soil for toxic sediments.

This wasn’t the first time something like this happened. In fact, the Apex facility is owned by the same company, EQ-The Environmental Quality Company, that owns another chemical processing plant in Romulus, Michigan. There was a fire at that plant a year ago, in August 2005. And that plant had been warned by state inspectors just months prior that it was not storing materials in the proper areas and that it was not doing proper paperwork to verify what it was receiving. The government assured residents in Romulus that everything was safe there too.

None of this should come as a surprise. The big companies need processing companies like this to dispose of their toxic chemicals and do it cheaply. And the interests the environmental agencies protect first are those of the big bosses.

Pages 6-7

Revelations of corruption, just in time to miss the contract vote!

Oct 16, 2006

Detroit newspapers have reported problems in how the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) awarded technology contracts earlier this year. Conveniently, this news came AFTER teachers accepted a concession contract.

On Monday, October 9, officials reported the final result of the teachers’ contract vote, in which they accepted a contract including a wage freeze and higher medical co-pays. This contract was imposed on the teachers after a two-week strike, during which the DPS officials talked about being 200 million dollars in the hole.

On the day after the vote was announced, the Detroit Free Press revealed that the schools superintendent, William F. Coleman, had “suggested” to a company applying for a technology contract with the school, that they hire an old friend of his – who is being investigated by the FBI for gifts he had accepted while he was a top school official in Dallas.

The company, Information Solutions Group Services, subcontracted from another company, GVC Networks, which had received almost four million dollars for a contract to handle tele-communications for the DPS.

Problems don’t stop there. The GVC contract was one of four technology contracts awarded in July, totalling 58 million dollars. One of these companies lists its address as the home of its founder, and didn’t incorporate until a month after it won its DPS contract. Two other companies listed offices that were either empty or closed on repeated visits.

Another company, Compuware, was the first to raise questions about how these contracts were awarded – because it had lost out in the bidding to be one of those companies lining up for the gravy train.

This has been the practice of the school board for years, whether they were elected by Detroit residents or appointed by the governor’s office: cut back on resources to the students and wages and benefits to employees, while awarding contracts to any fly-by-night company their friends set up.

And it’s awfully convenient that a story that had been in the works for months didn’t get reported until AFTER the teachers accepted their wage and benefit cuts. The Detroit papers clearly concluded that reporting the story earlier might endanger the School Board’s attempt to get those concessions.

The Detroit Public School board is ripping off children, residents and employees – and the Detroit newspapers are helping them do it.

Los Angeles:
Homeless pushed out of skid row to make room for the rich

Oct 16, 2006

For the past month, Los Angeles police have been carrying out daily raids in downtown L.A.’s skid row – arresting homeless people camped on the sidewalk, destroying their encampments and confiscating their belongings.

First, the authorities said that the arrests targeted drug dealers only, not homeless people. But the number of arrests alone – over 800 out of a population of about 1,500 living on the sidewalks – proved the opposite. So the officials admitted that they were enforcing a city ordinance which makes it illegal to sleep on sidewalks. In fact, last April, a federal appeals court had declared that ordinance unconstitutional. But the L.A. city attorney’s office decided that the court ruling applied only to arrests made at night, not during the day!

Last March, L.A. County had announced a 100-million-dollar program to move homeless services located in skid row to five centers across the county. But, apparently, city officials aren’t in the mood to wait until those centers are set up – they have already taken the initiative to push the homeless out of downtown L.A. by force, and as quickly as possible.

The reason for this aggressive push is not difficult to guess. Like in many other big cities across the country, a rapid “gentrification” is going on in and around downtown L.A. Old office buildings, warehouses and hotels are being converted into luxury lofts for the well-to-do. Even some of the single-room occupancy hotels in skid row have jumped on the bandwagon and started to convert rooms into luxury units!

So L.A.’s abandoned old business district, into which the city’s homeless had been pushed for decades, has suddenly become hot real estate. And when big profits are to be made by real estate bosses, the homeless have to be pushed once again, this time out of skid row, whether they have any other place to go or not.

Page 8

Ford, GM & Delphi:
Buyout checks will buy bitter fruit

Oct 16, 2006

Under the guise of sweetening retirement, Ford Motor Co. – like GM and Delphi before it – is trying to push out its current work force.

Why? Not because the auto companies need no workers. No, all three of these companies intend to continue producing – as much or more than before – but they want to do it with a much lower-wage workforce in fewer plants.

GM has already let it be known that they want to start hiring replacement workers at $12 an hour – about 35% of the current wage rate. In fact, that doesn’t begin to tell the criminal story – given the reduction or complete elimination of benefits for the replacement workers GM and Ford and Delphi intend to hire.

These companies want a workforce willing to work fast, with outrageous shift times, in order to keep the plants going 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s their new slogan: 24/7, and that’s how they intend to close some plants – by turning the rest into 19th century sweatshops.

These vicious companies pretend to be offering their current workforce a great deal if the workers leave now. In fact, for everyone other than the person who was planning on retiring this year anyway, the workers who take the buyout offers will be giving up more than they get – in most cases, much more. It’s nothing but a dirty scam.

The media say, over and over, that the UAW leaders have done the best they could in a bad situation.

Not true. UAW leaders are only doing the best they can to push the bosses’ scam through. Top union leaders agreed to outsource the easier jobs that workers in the past moved into as they went up in seniority. They agreed to go to three-shift assembly plants. They agreed to let the companies hire low-paid replacement “temporary” workers for at least two years. And some local union leaders are carrying out whispering campaigns in the plants, trying to scare people into leaving, pretending that their jobs and their plants are at risk.

Not only is this an attack on workers currently in the plants – it’s an even bigger attack on their children and grandchildren. If auto workers give in to these threats, if they let the companies turn the whole auto industry into a low-wage industry, what future will be left for the next generation? Those buyout checks can only buy bitter fruit.

The worse thing about this whole rotten deal is that it is being pushed on workers in a way aimed at isolating them from each other, forcing each worker to make his or her own individual choice.

Workers form unions precisely to avoid confronting the company alone, to increase their strength, to rest on the combined forces of their fellow workers. This deal is aimed at cutting all those bonds of organization, of unity and of solidarity.

The top leadership of the union long ago gave up any commitment to solidarity. But there are many workers who haven’t – they opposed the concessions yesterday and they denounce the buyouts today. Workers like this – who understand that the working class has no future if someone doesn’t start a fight against such attacks – will be the basis of a renewed organization of the working class.

NLRB attacks workers who do “supervisory” tasks

Oct 16, 2006

The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) has handed over a legal tool to the bosses to chip away at workers’ unions. The Board decided on September 29 that if a worker spends as little as 10% of their time on what they call “supervisory functions,” companies can declare that worker ineligible to belong to a union.

This particular decision came out against nurses who had unionized Oakwood Healthcare in Michigan. But the precedent could extend to millions of workers and make them legally ineligible to belong to a union. Is a “supervisory function” signaling a crane operator? Or telling a janitor that a hospital room is ready to clean? Or checking in material on a dock before a driver takes it to its place? The new NLRB decision means that companies can declare almost any such function “supervisory,” and use it to challenge workers’ rights to join a union.

Imagine how many supposed “supervisory” tasks nurses, or teachers, or construction workers, for instance, do in a day!

Union officials immediately condemned the new ruling. Officials focussed on the Board’s split decision – three Republicans for, two Democrats against. They held the vote up as more proof of why workers need to vote for Democrats in the coming election.

John Sweeney, national leader of the AFL-CIO, said his organization would hold demonstrations “to make sure everyone knows that the Bush administration is slashing workers’ rights.” Sweeney will tell workers that the answer is to vote Democratic.

No, to support the Democrats means to support the workers’ enemies one more time. Sure, the Democrats act friendly to unions. But when they are in office, they are just as ready to break strikes as the Republicans. Just look at what Clinton did when he was in office. He broke the pilots’ strike at American Airlines in 1997. When the Teamsters led a successful strike at UPS, the Clinton administration retaliated against the union by having the president of the union, Ron Carey, removed and prosecuted, on trumped up charges.

The workers can build unions and decide themselves who is to be in them. But to do that takes power. And that power comes out of workers willing to organize and mobilize their own forces.

By the union officials telling workers that voting for the Democrats is a protection for the workers, they are diverting workers from doing the only thing that can really work.

Radioactive and toxic cesspool in Simi Valley

Oct 16, 2006

A special advisory panel of scientists and health experts just completed a five year study that confirmed what everyone already knew. The Rocketdyne Field Laboratory in Simi Valley, near Los Angeles, that does research for the U.S. Defense Department, is a deadly disaster.

This plant, first owned by Rockwell and now by Boeing, had a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959, and released huge amounts of radioactivity – a fact kept secret for 20 years. For years, the plant owners also dumped radioactive and chemical wastes into an open pit, polluting ground water and the air. The study found that thousands of workers and residents came down with cancer and other diseases, and many died.

Boeing refused to cooperate with the study, gave it no information and then condemned it as inaccurate, in other words, continuing the cover-up.

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