The Spark

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

Issue no. 797 — April 30 - May 14, 2007

Editorial:
Get the vultures’ claws off the oil we need

Apr 30, 2007

Gasoline prices are nearing their all-time highs, hitting over $2.95 on average, and much higher in some West Coast states like California and Washington.

The oil companies, attempting to shift blame, point to higher prices for crude oil.

That’s like a thief trying to blame his split personality for clearing out your wallet.

The oil companies that profit handsomely from the high price of crude oil and the refining companies that profit just as handsomely from the high price of gasoline are one and the same: the five big oil cartels, which set prices around the world for both crude oil and gasoline.

And set prices they do, taking advantage of everything that happens, in order to push the price higher still. Around the time of the 2004 presidential elections, the average price was running at about $1.90 a gallon. Since then, these thieves latched on to every bit of bad news to justify one more price increase after another: news from Afghanistan, news about Katrina, news from Iraq, etc.

You would have thought these oil companies were being battered right and left by news so bad they could barely stay in business. But stay in business they did, raking in a level of profits never before grabbed by a single industry. 2004 was a record high year for oil company profits – only to be bypassed in 2005, which in turn was passed by in 2006. And 2007 is starting out with higher profits still.

Bad circumstances? No just business as usual by an industry that sets the profit standard high for every other industry.

An analyst for one of the big brokerage houses declared: “If prices remain this high, the oil industry won’t be in the oil business much longer. It will be in the money business.”

In fact, they’re already in the money business – and they’ve been in it for years. They pump oil and gasoline only to be able to produce more money still.

Our lives today are determined by companies just like this, dominating every industry, using the necessities of life to make more money, while we have to shave back our standard of living.

Do we need cheap electricity and natural gas? Too bad. The energy companies are in business to make money. Reasonably priced food? What a shame – big agriculture is in the business of making money. Do we need medical care or pharmaceutical products? Well, we know what big pharmacy is in business for – and it’s not meeting the health needs of the population. Even the schools – as big companies rake in enormous profits off contracts awarded by the public school systems – are run to make money for someone.

There is no reason today for anyone not to have good medical care, a comfortable home, adequate and healthy food, many years of schooling, cheap transportation, etc.

No reason – except that all these necessities of life are held today in the greedy clutches of a parasitical capitalist class.

Today capitalism controls incredible productive forces – enough to feed, clothe and house the whole world’s population more than adequately; and to give everyone all the years of schooling they could follow and the medical care they need. It doesn’t do that. Instead, it uses all the energies of the world’s population to serve only the grasping after profit by a tiny capitalist class.

Capitalism is a failure, a monumental failure. It’s already had more than four centuries to prove itself – and it’s only getting worse.

Working people could throw off the capitalist hold over the necessities of life, replacing that with a system that serves the interests of the whole population.

Why not? There’s wealth enough to do that. The only question is who controls it. The laboring population, which created the wealth, has every reason to put their hands on it.

Pages 2-3

Baltimore:
BGE/Constellation robbing the poor to line the pockets of the rich

Apr 30, 2007

The Maryland Public Service Commission is about to rule on giving Baltimore Gas and Electric Company the go-ahead for a 50% residential electric rate hike scheduled for June. This hike comes on top of a 15% hike BGE got last July, plus the interest they are paying on the 50% increase that was deferred last July.

These rate increases apply to over a million residential customers in Maryland. After all the increases kick in, BGE says the average residential customer will end up paying a total of $586 more per year than before the rate hikes began last July.

Constellation Energy Group, which owns BGE, just announced that its profits for the first quarter of this year were up by 70% over the same period last year – and BGE/Constellation was already quite profitable last year! The rate increase will only make it still more profitable.

The company says higher electric rates (meaning more profits) will stimulate investment in more power production. They claim increased power production in turn will lower rates.

But the electric companies have been making good profits for years – and haven't been investing. They haven't even been maintaining their existing power supply. They"ve just been using the scarcity they create to charge still higher rates.

Supreme Court upholds the politicians’ attack on women

Apr 30, 2007

The U.S. Supreme Court voted April 18 to uphold a federal law banning a particular abortion procedure.

This law is truly appalling, and in more ways than one. It’s an outright attack on women’s ability to control what happens to them, starting with the most important issue – whether or not to have a child. And it’s only the latest attack. It’s also another stepping-stone right-wing fanatics have taken in the attempt to outlaw abortion rights altogether.

Those people who attack and try to overturn women’s rights to decide for themselves talk about “saving lives.”

What hogwash!

Saving lives? The procedure Congress outlawed, intact dilation and extraction, which opponents wrongly call “partial birth abortion,” is only performed in medically dangerous pregnancies, to try to save the lives of pregnant women. By outlawing the procedure, Congress and the Court are sentencing thousands of women a year to death.

Saving lives? Abortion foes admit this is only a step towards trying to outlaw ALL kinds of abortions. They want to return women to the days before Roe v. Wade – when 350,000 women a year arrived in hospital emergency rooms as the result of botched illegal abortions, and from 1,000 to 5,000 women died each year from them.

Saving lives? A section of these same reactionaries is carrying out an open campaign of terror against anyone who provides abortion services for women. Since 1977, over 4,200 acts of violence have been carried out against abortion providers, leading to seven murders since 1993 and seventeen attempted murders since 1991.

Pretending to speak for “life” is nothing but a cynical ploy by religious zealots who are ready to leave a trail of dead female bodies in their wake.

And the Supreme Court and Congress – Democrats and Republicans alike – are leading the charge.

Anti-abortion law:
Democrats join the attack

Apr 30, 2007

Democrats in Congress spoke out against the Court’s decision upholding a law restricting abortion. But when the law was passed in 2003, some of those same Democrats voted for it!

In fact, the law, which passed by a vote of 64 to 33, would not even have passed if 17 Democrats had not voted for it. It would not have made it to the Senate floor if California Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who presents herself as a defender of women’s rights, hadn’t found a way to get it out of committee. Boxer attached a namby-pamby statement to the bill which supposedly reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that recognized a woman’s right to have an abortion. By the time the bill passed, however, the pro-choice statement had been tossed out – which still didn’t prevent those 17 Democrats from voting for it anyway.

In passing the law, the Republicans in Congress, and Bush in the White House, were of course pandering to their most reactionary religious base, for whom any women’s rights are suspect. And the Democrats are playing their usual two-faced role: help pass right-wing attacks, while talking against them.

Maryland:
Children poisoned for 31 years

Apr 30, 2007

At the end of April, Maryland Department of the Environment officials ordered the city of Baltimore and a private company to investigate the arsenic in the soil of a playground used for baseball games.

Tests in the soil showed a concentration of 2200 parts per million. The level found is at least 100 times what is considered safe: it can cause brain and heart damage and even cancer.

This contamination is not new – it was already known in 1976 when Allied Signal stopped manufacturing at a site next to the park. Allied had used arsenic in manufacturing pesticides there. When the state tested the area, it found the soil full of kepone, a dangerous chemical used in pesticides that had already been banned. The soil also had very high levels of arsenic.

State officials closed the park, only to reopen it later in 1976.

Twenty-one years later, in 1997, Allied put a concrete cap over the industrial area next to the Baltimore ballpark. Nothing else was done.

For 31 years, since 1976, kids continued to play in the park.

It’s only coming out now because a big company, Honeywell, wants to use the site. Honeywell, which owns Allied, wants someone else to pick up the bill for the clean-up.

Atlanta cops admit cover-up of murder of 92 year-old woman

Apr 30, 2007

Two Atlanta cops have finally admitted they and another officer planted drugs to cover up their murder last November of a 92-year-old woman, Kathryn Johnston, in her home.

The cops were trying to break into Johnston’s home to make a supposed drug bust. In fact, they had the wrong house. The cops ripped off the burglar bars from Johnston’s home and were ramming the door in when she fired her gun at them, thinking someone was breaking in on her.

The cops admit they and the third officer involved met to concoct a cover story. They planted marijuana in Johnston’s home and instructed an informant to lie for them about buying drugs at the home. They falsely submitted cocaine as evidence of drug dealing at Johnston’s home.

This time, however, their concocted story was too much to swallow – even for some other cops.

If it had been a young black man killed instead of 92-year-old woman, it would have gone down just like any other killing by the police.

What happened to Kathryn Johnston happens every day to people in poor neighborhoods in every city in the country. That simply shows that the police stand above the population, serving the interests of those who run the society.

1.7 billion dollars income in one year
– a new standard for parasites

Apr 30, 2007

Last year James Simon got 1.7 billion dollars in income, 56,000 times the pay of the typical worker! He is the head of the Medallion hedge fund.

The top 25 hedge fund managers had a total income of 14 billion dollars. Last year, the smallest of them had an income of 240 million dollars. Just a few years ago, an income of one million dollars a year was considered unusual!

Hedge funds are investment companies – but only the richest people can put money in them. They are “investment” companies, but they don’t invest in production, like building factories and putting in machinery. Their wealth comes from speculating, which creates no new wealth, but only redistributes it among the rich. The amount that just the top 25 hedge fund managers siphoned off shows how much wealth is flooding through the financial circuits. All that wealth was originally produced in production of goods or services by the workers of this country – produced by them and stolen from them.

These are the rewards a parasitic system bestows on the chief parasites.

Detroit Public Schools:
Money for everything but students

Apr 30, 2007

About 300 students from Northern High School in Detroit walked out of school April 16 and marched to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) headquarters to protest its planned closing. It was reported that students at Murray-Wright High School walked out as well.

Northern, Murray-Wright and 32 other schools are slated to be closed at the end of this school year – supposedly to save money for a school district awash in debt.

If the District’s awash in debt, it’s because officials gave its money away. The headquarters the students walked to was the district’s new headquarters. It had sold its old headquarters building and four others in 2001 for nine million dollars. In 2002, it bought five floors of the downtown Fisher Building for 34 million dollars from the Farbman Group, a real estate developer – four million more than Farbman had paid to buy the whole building, plus one other, just a year before!

On top of that, the District pays two million dollars every year to rent more office space from Farbman in nearby buildings. It’s a total loss of 48 million dollars to the schools.

That move was a complete gift to the Farbman Group. And it’s only the most blatant example of how corporate vultures have been ripping the Detroit Public Schools to shreds in recent years – all with the help of the Detroit School Board and city officials.

In comparison, the closing of all 34 schools will save the DPS only 16.8 million dollars – a third of what they gave away in just this one real estate boondoggle. All while forcing thousands of students to travel to different schools, and leaving big chunks of the city with no public school coverage.

These closings will end up as another gift – to charter schools and other groups, who will receive the buildings for next to nothing. It’s already happened before, with other buildings the DPS has closed.

The students from Northern High School were absolutely right to protest. They should keep doing it. And they should be joined by students, parents, employees and residents all over Detroit.

Pages 4-5

Iraq:
Construction of walls ... A new “strategy” of the U.S. army

Apr 30, 2007

On April 22, hundreds of inhabitants of Adhamiya, a Sunni neighborhood in predominately Shiite eastern Baghdad, demonstrated against the construction of a wall surrounding their neighborhood. Even Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki protested against the project. The inhabitants of Adhamiya are afraid of being isolated and accuse the U.S. army of wanting to imprison them, a little like the Palestinians behind the wall which Israel built on the West Bank.

This wall in Baghdad was the brainchild of top U.S. army officers who ordered it built. This so-called security wall will be ten feet high and three miles long. It is supposed to protect the inhabitants against suicide bombers driving cars loaded with explosives. Construction began on April 10. They’re planning on building additional walls, surrounding other Baghdad neighborhoods, separating the different communities.

A U.S. military statement said that the wall is “one of the centerpieces of a new strategy by coalition and Iraqi forces to break the cycle of sectarian violence.”

We know what the old strategy has led to: U.S. intervention plunged the country into bloody chaos, and for four years, the different Sunni and Shiite factions have carried out terrorist attacks to extend their zone of influence. The civilian population has paid dearly, with every day bringing dozens more dead and hundreds more wounded, on top of increased misery from the economic collapse.

This is what the supposed return to democracy as conceived by the U.S. general staff has led to: creating zones in which the inhabitants have a very fragile security wall because they are shut in behind 10 feet-high walls, under the permanent control of heavily armed soldiers, and where they’ll have to confront the hatred that this treatment excites in other neighborhoods.

Russia:
Yeltsin
– plundering in the name of “democracy”

Apr 30, 2007

The death of Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia from 1991 to 1999, brought forth condolences from Bush, Blair, Chirac and others who lauded this “historic figure,” this “remarkable man” who “allowed freedom to triumph.”

In Russia, he leaves behind many other memories. Yeltsin opened the doors to all those who enriched themselves by pillaging the country, those who are now called the oligarchy and who were formerly called the “new rich.” He set the example and left their hands free. Yeltsin was the boss of the most powerful clan of thieves, “the family” of which Putin, the current president, is the inheritor.

On the opposite side, Yeltsin’s period was one of rapid impoverishment for the workers, the retirees and all ordinary people. He presided over the return to begging, children left in the street, tuberculosis, non-paid wages, retirees living in famine and the end of medical care that previously had existed for everyone.

In 1985, Gorbachev had initiated what was called “Perestroika,” a policy aimed at reforming the functioning of the USSR of the bureaucrats. His aim was to reinforce his own power, but he also lifted at the same time a little of the dictatorial control that weighed on the country, including on the more comfortable social layers of the society and its leaders. The bureaucrats, big and small, both in Russia and in the Republics, pushed out into the open. Each one claimed his piece of power and above all, of the pie which went along with it.

Yeltsin was the head of the Communist Party of Moscow and a member of its central committee, that is, of the high “nomenklatura.” To gain political power, he rested on those bureaucrats who wanted to take apart the Soviet Union for their own benefit. In 1991, when he became president of Russia with their support, he was hailed by the West as a “democrat” – because he opposed a coup attempt led by some generals without troops. This produced the famous picture of him standing on a tank, with a megaphone in his hand.

The Soviet Union dissolved in this same year, adopting the contradictory name of the Confederation of Independent States. The economic fabric of the country began to rip apart because the Soviet economy had been integrated and planned on the level of the whole Union.

Economic regression was immediate, aggravated further by the pillage to which the different clans of bureaucrats helped themselves. The riches of the country were taken apart by anyone who had even a small amount of power. The higher up the bureaucrat, the more he enriched himself. Quickly this all became uncontrollable. In 10 years, some 150 billion dollars was taken out of Russia and placed in bank accounts opened up by these “new rich” in the West. All this pillage pushed the ex-USSR’s economy down from second place in the world to 72nd place.

This is what the representatives of imperialism salute today as Yeltsin’s contribution to re-establishing the market economy in the former USSR.

His support to “democracy” is just as worthless. Yeltsin started the first war in Chechnya, with its string of massacres. When the Russian parliament pretended to resist him in 1993, he had it bombed, killing 150 people. When “the family” found itself at the center of a number of financial scandals, Yeltsin himself chose his replacement, Putin, handing power over to him on New Years, 2000. Putin’s first measure was to push through a new law protecting Yeltsin and “the family” from any type of legal action against them.

Boris Yeltsin holds an important place in the slow process of degeneration of the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the workers state born out of the proletarian revolution of 1917 in Russia. The bureaucracy began under Stalin, usurping power and prospering as a parasite upon the planned economy. With Yeltsin, the bureaucrats took a step further. No longer content only to mistreat the tree and to steal its fruit, they took it upon themselves to cut up the trunk and sell it off as fire wood.

Crops for fuel = Rising food prices worldwide

Apr 30, 2007

In the U.S. and around the world, the production of crop-based fuels, such as ethanol and bio-diesel, is being touted as the answer to pollution, the environment and global warming.

In all respects, it’s a lie. In the U.S. itself, the plants that today convert corn to ethanol use MORE energy than they produce. And since that energy is supplied for the most part by burning coal, they produce more pollution than is saved on auto emissions.

In southeast Asia, enormous forests are being burnt down in order to plant palm trees to supply palm oil to European power plants that are being converted to burn that supposedly more environmentally friendly “bio-fuel.” The fires are so huge and intense, Indonesia has become the third largest source of carbon dioxide gas, after the U.S. and China.

Other companies are planning to turn manioc, the starch-rich food staple for poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, into fuel as well. If this happens, it could trigger even greater hunger and starvation for some of the poorest people on the planet.

In fact, around the globe, capitalism’s latest mania — for “eco-friendly fuel” – is weighing on food production. In the U.S., grain prices have almost doubled in the last year, driven by the rising production of ethanol. In 2006, about 16% of the U.S. grain harvest went into the production of ethanol. By 2008, the production of ethanol is expected to double.

Rising grain prices have in turn attracted speculators into the commodity markets. Hedge funds are making huge bets on corn and the bull market unleashed by ethanol.

All of this is driving up the price of food. Economists now say that consumers should expect to see higher prices this year on everything from milk to cereal, to soft drinks, to meat. Testifying before Congress last month, spokespersons for the poultry industry warned of higher poultry prices because of what the group described as “the ethanol crisis.”

The companies that are getting into the production of ethanol and biofuel, agribusiness, speculators and big farmers have long profited from heavy government subsidies, totaling nine billion dollars in 2005. But as grain prices rise, crop subsidies are dropping. Big agriculture isn’t worrying however. Energy legislation passed in 2005 and a pending farm bill designed to support ethanol producers provide a vast range of brand new tax credits, grants, and government loans for the production of ethanol.

So, ordinary people pay twice: first for the increased food prices and then as more of their tax dollars go to subsidize big business.

Of course, this rise in grain prices in the U.S., which exports a big part of its crop, has reverberated throughout the world.

For example, the fact that the price of the corn that the U.S. exports to Mexico more than doubled at the end of 2006, not only drove up prices, but it led to both hoarding and speculation in Mexico, which drove up price increases even higher.

The rise in prices of U.S. grain exports have also helped fuel big price increases for food in India, Turkey, China, as well as Eastern Europe. At the same time, global grain stocks are at their lowest level in 30 years and could become even tighter if farmers divert more crops to make ethanol or other fuels, with the danger of food shortages looming.

The only thing the stepped-up production of ethanol and other biofuels provides is more profits and wealth of big companies and speculators.

Immigrants could make May 1 the workers holiday once again

Apr 30, 2007

A number of organizations have called for a new march of immigrants on May 1, marking the big “Day without Immigrants” of a year ago. Whatever goals those who organized last year’s demonstrations had, many of the 1.4 million people in the streets went out to express their anger at repressive laws and at the bosses who pay them very low wages for extremely hard work in unsafe circumstances.

Immigrants, who are frequently treated like second-class citizens whether or not they have legal papers, should demonstrate. And all parts of the working class should support them, joining their demonstrations. When one part of the working class is without papers, without legal rights, then all parts of the working class are more vulnerable to attack. As the old saying of the workers’ movement put it, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

But those who demonstrate also need to see who is lurking behind the scenes, working on the bosses’ agenda.

First, of course, are all those politicians who have pushed themselves forward to speak at immigrant marches and protests, hoping to gain a few votes.

More sinister are all those people who are working to support the latest “immigration reform” bill going through Congress today. They are the ones who will try to convince immigrants that they will have gained something when it passes.

The bill sneaking through Congress is not a “reform.” It’s nothing but an attack on all those immigrants without papers – those who are already here, and those who will come in the future.

The “reform’s” biggest attack is not the wall being built on the border, nor the bill’s punitive measures. The biggest attack is the way that people would be shoveled into a “legal” status that gives them no real legal rights. In the best of cases, it would put them into a kind of indentured servitude for at least 12 years – if not much longer. Once enrolled in this new system, if they lose their job, they would be even more easily subject to expulsion than they are today. Once they apply for the papers this new reform holds out, they would be forced, even more than today, to accept whatever their boss wants from them. For all the rest, they will have only a temporary legal status, subject to expulsion whenever a boss is done with them.

So, yes, the immigrants need to march – and to keep on marching. To march in protest of this bill. To thumb their nose to all those who, while posing as their friends, are pushing through this attack. To demonstrate when the ICE raids a neighborhood or a workplace.

It’s the immigrants’ own activity that can offer them protection – and not their so-called “friends” who will try to push this “reform” on them. And wouldn’t it be a good thing if many more people come out on May 1 than the bosses and their friends expect?!

Political posturing, while the human costs of war continues to climb

Apr 30, 2007

The Democrats in Congress have passed a new Iraq war budget of 124 billion dollars. Bush says he will veto it because it sets deadlines for the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals. Actually it only suggests “deadlines.”

The Democrats and Republicans have both been carrying out their assigned roles – the Republicans to justify the war, the Democrats to pacify us into waiting for them to do something about it ... in the far distant future.

No matter what, there will be a new appropriation for this war. And it will boost total official U.S. spending on the Iraq War to at least 456 billion dollars by the end of 2007. Many experts say that the real cost of the war is probably twice what these official figures show. And of course, they’re only talking about money – and not the human cost in lost lives and permanently disabling injuries, both U.S. and Iraqi.

But even the monetary cost has a human cost.

456 billion dollars could have paid for full health care for the more than 47 million people with no health insurance in this country. In addition, ten thousand more elementary schools could have been built, and a million more elementary school teachers hired. Over 500 thousand college students could have been given scholarships and a million affordable housing units constructed with the money left over. And spending on those things would have created many more jobs in this country.

The huge and ever-growing expense, both human and financial, of the U.S. wars in the Middle East are weighing on working class people in this country – and destroying Iraq and Afghanistan. Get all U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now!

Pages 6-7

Tribune Co sale
– “Grave Dancer” plans dance on live body

Apr 30, 2007

The Tribune Company, the owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun, among other papers, is being sold. The man buying it is Sam Zell, a billionaire.

The current biggest stockholders, the Chandler family of Los Angeles, who own 20% of the shares, demanded it be sold. The Chandlers will now walk away with 1.6 billion dollars. Other big stock holders are the McCormick Foundation in Chicago, as well as several big financial institutions, such as T. Rowe Price, Ariel Capital, Barclays Bank. They too will walk away with small fortunes.

Also getting a big payout will be the Tribune’s top five executives, who will get more than 51 million dollars in bonuses, plus millions more in stock options.

The purchaser Zell frankly says he has no interest in running newspapers. “I’m not interested in becoming an op-ed editor or publisher or anything like that. I’m interested in this as an investment.” In other words, something he can buy, then sell to make a quick buck.

He’s putting up very little of his own money to buy the Tribune Co. “Mr. Zell is hardly betting his shirt,” says the Economist magazine. “Mr. Zell would cough up a paltry $315 million – small change for a man who has just pocketed at least $1 billion from the $39 billion sale of his Equity Office Properties to private-equity buyers.”

Almost all the money used to pay off the current stockholders will be borrowed from banks, eight billion dollars. Business Week points out that this debt is ten times the gross profit of the company. “This is an angina-inducing multiple even for veteran media players accustomed to playing with debt, some of whom get nervous above six.” This very high debt means very high interest payments – estimated to be a billion dollars a year, paid, of course, to the big banks and financial institutions.

Of course, someone has to pay for all this. Zell intends that it should come from the workers, from the big profits they already produce for the Tribune, 1.2 billion dollars a year, expanded by wage cuts Zell will try to impose.

Zell also intends to stop the company’s contributions to the employees 401(k) accounts, which today runs from 4% to 9% of their pay, depending on how much they contribute from their own pocket.

In exchange, all 20,000 employees are going to be given stock in an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). But this is quite different stock than investors buy. The employees aren’t allowed to sell it if it goes up or if they need the money, but only when they leave employment, and by then, given what Zell is up to, it could very well be worthless. Further, some part of their cash balance or 401(k) plan can be turned over to the ESOP.

This is exactly what happened to United Airlines workers. At one time the stock was worth over $100 a share on the stock market, but only management and outside investors could sell it, not workers in the ESOP. When the company went bankrupt, the workers got absolutely nothing from it. And the same thing happened to Enron employees.

Zell has been called the “Grave Dancer” – for profiting off companies’ collapse. But the Tribune and its 20,000 employees are not dead at all. And they can show Zell that.

ESOP:
A scam to rob workers’ pensions

Apr 30, 2007

There’s some play being given to a plan for Chrysler workers to buy up Chrysler through an employee stock ownership plan or ESOP, in exchange for concessions.

No workers have ever made or kept money on an ESOP. Look at what happened to workers at United Airlines. It’s a way for companies to put their hands on worker’s pension money, not to mention your 401(k) money. Workers get stock, with no say, and get all the debt. And if and when the company decides to go bankrupt, which many companies with ESOPs have done, workers can lose their money and their pensions, except for the pittance they get from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

Maybe today this plan is being sent out like a test balloon to see workers’ reactions.

So workers need to react, and the reaction should be – NEVER!

Page 8

Democracy?
It's only a word

Apr 30, 2007

New York City sent police officers across the country for more than a year to harass groups proposing to protest at the Republican National Convention scheduled for September 2004.

They investigated such supposed "dangers' to the Republican delegates as street theater companies, church groups, anti-war protesters, environmentalists and the satirical group "Billionaires for Bush." The group had prepared a hilarious street performance making fun of the rich. Members of the War Resisters League proposed a silent "die-in" on a New York street. The cops thought this was so dangerous that protesters were immediately arrested when they began to lay down to protest the convention.

Results of this painstaking year-long spying: 1806 arrests, with most charges dropped as soon as the Republican Convention left town. It was just a round-up of people who might embarrass King George W. Bush.

In February, a U.S. district court judge finally ruled in a lawsuit challenging such arrests that there must be "some indication of unlawful activity on the part of individuals or organizations to be investigated."

By their activities, the cops showed they think it is unlawful for anyone to protest the war, speak about dangers to the environment, expose the hold of big money over the political parties – or point up the stupidity of most politicians.

Democracy? Apparently only for those who agree with the powers that be.

GM:
Bloated parasites demanding more

Apr 30, 2007

Toyota sold more vehicles worldwide in the first 3 months of this year than did General Motors. The Detroit news media reacted with shock and awe.

GM “reacted” by coincidentally filing its executive compensation report. CEO Wagoner got 10.2 million dollars in 2006, Vice-chairman Lutz got 8.4 million. The Detroit Free Press estimated that this was DOUBLE what Wagoner and Lutz got in 2005!

If anyone is worried about Toyota’s performance, it’s not GM. In fact their strategy for several years has been to cut back on production of smaller, lower-profit vehicles – the vehicles that are the specialty of Toyota. Vice-Chairman Lutz said earlier this year: “It’s better to sell four million vehicles at $5,000 profit than five million at no profit.”

Of course GM doesn’t ever make “no profit.”

It’s profit and more profit that drives GM decisions. And these days, they make their money faster in financial wheelings and dealings than in production of useful items – such as, for instance, safe affordable economical transportation!

Never mind that the money they amass for their financial whirls comes first and foremost from selling goods produced by GM workers, and from the concessions and cutbacks in jobs, wages, hours and benefits these workers have given up. GM’s 2006 production of 9.1 million vehicles and its record 2006 revenues of 207 billion dollars is an indication.

But “in the business environment in which we operate,” investing in useful production does not generate the largestpercentage of profits per dollar. GM does as does every other large profitable corporation these days. They move the money they make out of the productive sectors and into buying, selling and deal-making in the financial sectors.

GM uses its financial arm, GMAC, to construct an enormous financial and real estate empire. In l982, a GMAC subsidiary started a home mortgage unit that is now the U.S.’s seventh largest originator of home mortgages AND the third largest seller of mortgage-backed securities. The dealings of these two units alone involve some 235 BILLION dollars!

In l999, another GMAC unit paid 1.8 billion dollars for the Bank of New York’s commercial finance unit, moving GM into commercial real estate. There is also the GMAC Insurance Group, which owns eight property and casualty companies. There is truly no way to assess GM’s true wealth!

These financial dealings assure that GM can shift money made in production into financial speculation, while GM’s accountants show “losses” year after year in the automotive sector. GM can still pay fantastically large salaries to chief executives, pay large dividends to shareholders, and put money into plans to buy back its own stock!

Thus, the sacrifices of auto workers, under the delusion that GM and other companies are “in trouble,” do nothing more than feed the endless wheelings and dealings of a tiny group of investors skilled in making mountains of paper money.

Workers don’t need to feed these bloated parasites any longer!

Union takes company side at Freightliner

Apr 30, 2007

In Cleveland, South Carolina, on April 2, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) at a Freightliner plant went on strike. Twelve hundred workers were on layoff, and the company was demanding other concessions. When the workers’ contract expired, several hundred decided it was time to strike.

Freightliner first announced that all strikers were fired. Then they changed it to only eleven fired. They needed the workers to get back to production, and they fired eleven to intimidate others. At least six of the eleven were the workers’ elected representatives, from the local bargaining committee.

And how did higher UAW officials react to this attack on their membership and local leadership? They supported the company! Quoted in the local papers, UAW Regional Director Gary Casteel said there had been no need for the workers to strike. He also said, “There are two things a company will take the hardest stance on – workplace violence and an unauthorized work stoppage. They are not going to reinstate them.”

With those words, he gave his stamp of approval to the company’s action.

Workers gave their answer to Casteel and Freightliner when they voted down the contract the top UAW leadership had proposed to them.

Casteel’s statements and conduct simply show – once again! – that when it’s time for a fight, today’s top union leadership is found on the wrong side of the barricades.