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. 836 — December 15, 2008 - January 12, 2009

Only one answer to extortion:

Dec 15, 2008

GM and Chrysler threatened bankruptcy, Ford joined their chorus – only to have a few Southern senators tell the American auto companies to go ahead and do it, just do it, declare bankruptcy.

Obama said workers should give up a few concessions to avoid company bankruptcy and the loss of jobs.

Bush said he wouldn’t let a bankruptcy happen – but workers would have to give up concessions.

The head of the auto workers union said he wouldn’t agree to more concessions – but then he said he would!

And everyone involved in this melodrama was calling for an auto “czar” – someone with the power to “restructure” the industry, that is, to extort concessions from auto workers, and to break contracts with auto dealerships.

It was nothing but an elaborate extortion attempt – a thief stealing up on you with a club, growling in your ear, “Give it up, your money or your life.”

Just like that, except these thieves are holding the club of bankruptcy over the workers’ heads, threatening them with the loss of every job – “give up your lay-off protection, give up medical coverage for retirees, let your wages be cut in half.” Your money or your life!

Are the auto companies in bad shape today? Who knows? They are the ones who keep their own books, they are the ones who decide what to reveal and what to hide. None of us have a seat in the boardrooms when they divide up the money.

But we do know one thing: these companies, linked with the biggest banks in the country – JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, as well as schemers like Cerberus – have drained money out of the auto industry for years. They took the wealth created by the workers’ labor, used it to pay out billions upon billions of dollars in dividends, stock splits and interest payments – not to mention executive salaries, bonuses, stock options and perks.

For years, they pretended the auto companies were losing money producing cars – even while their finance companies and banks were turning hefty profits selling those same cars.

In fact, they were ripping off the wealth created by the workers’ labor, throwing it into the mad speculative frenzy on Wall Street, buying and selling those famous mortgage securities – contributing to this vast speculative balloon that has now brought down the economy.

So if the auto companies have problems today, that’s the responsibility of all those people who lived off the workers’ labor: the executives, the “investors,” the bondholders, the shareholders. Their greed caused the problems. Let them pay the cost.

One thing is sure: auto workers would be wrong to give up a single concession.

Down that path lies only impoverishment and unemployment. Not only for themselves, but for large parts of the working class. If auto workers cave in to the demands for these concessions, every other worker will become a target.

Faced with extortion, faced with the demand for concessions, the workers can have only one answer: NO!

Pages 2-3

Mervyns department store chain closed
– drained by Cerberus

Dec 15, 2008

Chrysler wasn’t the only company to be bought up, bled dry and tossed aside by Cerberus. Just two months ago, a Cerberus scam forced Mervyns to shut down the 177 department store chain and liquidate the company.

In 2004, Cerberus and other “investors” had bought the Mervyns chain from Target for 1.25 billion dollars, most of it borrowed. These money grubbers immediately took 58 million dollars out of the company in fees for themselves for closing the deal.

In its first year of operation under Cerberus, Mervyns made 50 million dollars gross profits. Cerberus and its partners paid themselves a one-time dividend from this money.

But Cerberus had bigger plans – dividing Mervyns in two parts. One part was a “real estate company” – owning the buildings and land where Mervyns did its business. The other was the retail business, which produced all the sales. The profits were made on retail but funneled right back to the real estate holding company – which in fact charged Mervyns retail more than it made in sales. Two hundred fifty million dollars went to Cerberus and friends from this scam.

Over 18,000 jobs have been lost, the last thing Cerberus took.

Earlier auto concessions led to huge job losses

Dec 15, 2008

The demand that auto workers must make concessions or lose their jobs is nothing new.

In 1979, there was some scare talk that Chrysler, the smallest of the Big 3 auto companies might go bankrupt. Banks refused to extend further loans.

The Carter administration stepped in. In August 1979, just when the new auto contracts were being negotiated, Carter’s secretary of the treasury, G. William Miller, announced that the U.S. would provide 750 million dollars in loan guarantees. However, he stipulated that sacrifices would have to be made by the Chrysler workers.

The UAW had never given up open concessions before. But faced with a chorus of government demands and bank threats to call Chrysler’s loans, UAW leaders agreed to give back a series of things won earlier. The first concession was the smallest, amounting to 203 million dollars in wage and benefit cuts in the 1979 contract.

But the threats of dire consequences only increased. Most politicians proclaimed that the government shouldn’t give loan guarantees. A parade of federal, state and local officials threatened that hundreds of thousands of jobs, not only at Chrysler, but all the other places that depended on Chrysler’s business, would be lost. UAW leaders agreed to push concessions on workers.

A final agreement was worked out in the House and Senate banking committees. A Loan Guarantee Board was set up to administer the plan. An actual federal law spelled out the sacrifices that Chrysler workers were to make: 462 million dollars in wages and benefits from union employees and 125 million dollars from non-union staff. The new contract was ratified three months after the first, in January 1980. Twelve months later, the Loan Guarantee Board came back and demanded a third round of concessions: 673 million dollars, including a $1.15-an-hour cut in wages. These new concessions were ratified in January 1981. All of these concessions were strong-armed through by UAW leaders.

The rapid collapse of what had seemed to be the most powerful union in the country proved that union leaders, who had become deeply integrated into the leading layers of capitalist society, would serve as the bosses’ fist against the workers.

Other bosses could not wait for labor contracts to expire. They lined up to demand contract reopeners, and similar concessions to those given at Chrysler.

First Ford, then GM forced an early negotiated contract, both of which gained major concessions (two billion to Ford; three billion to GM). Ford argued that when Chrysler got concessions, it gained an unfair advantage; GM argued that when Ford got concessions, it gained an unfair advantage over GM.

The workers finally agreed to give up concessions because they were promised that once companies recovered, the workers would be repaid. This never materialized. And the workers gave concessions in the hopes of saving jobs. But when Chrysler recovered from the sharp downturn, more than half the Chrysler jobs were gone. Chrysler farmed out parts production to low-wage companies. The rest of the jobs were lost to a vicious speed-up.

The money the auto companies made from concessions went to the wealthy. The companies paid out fat dividends to shareholders and fat bonuses to their executives.

What happened in auto then spiraled all through the economy, with workers in one industry after another finding themselves under the same kind of attack.

And no one but the bosses won.

$73 an hour?
When pigs fly!

Dec 15, 2008

You can’t turn on the TV without hearing some politician denounce the supposed huge “wage gap” between UAW workers and workers at the foreign transplant companies like Honda and Toyota. Supposedly, UAW workers earn $73 an hour compared to $49 an hour at the transplants.

First of all, it’s a big lie. The $73 figure includes not only wages, benefits and contributions for the future pensions of current workers, but also so-called “legacy costs” – money for pensions and retiree health care paid today to retired workers who once worked in GM, Ford and Chrysler’s plants – including those they sold off to other companies. That’s money GM, Ford, and Chrysler were supposed to have put aside already – figured into the price of the cars they sold while those workers were still working. If they don’t have it today, they stole it.

But even if it were true – even if auto workers did make $73 an hour – so what? Based on how much value they produce for the auto companies, they should make even more! On average, an auto worker adds $206 every single hour to the value of the cars they produce.

What’s true for auto workers is true for every worker – the companies take the lion’s share of the value every worker produces.

If auto companies succeed in taking an even bigger share of that value by lowering auto wages, every other company will move to lower wages.

Cerberus plans to gut Chrysler
– why should we help them?

Dec 15, 2008

With everything Cerberus has been doing, they’ve made it clear they have been gutting Chrysler and have every intention of dumping it. Whether all at once in a bankruptcy, or in pieces with sales to low-wage suppliers, it’s what they plan to do.

Cerberus has been draining money from Chrysler at an incredible rate. Back in June, Chrysler had more liquidity, that is, cash on hand – nine billion dollars – than did GM, a company four times its size. Now, they claim to have nothing, and need a seven billion dollar bridge loan from the federal government to pay their bills.

The money could have gone only one place: to Cerberus itself. Even if we can’t see their books, it’s clear: Cerberus has been draining money from Chrysler to pay off ITS investors.

Cerberus has been putting nothing back into Chrysler. When asked in the Congressional hearings if he had gotten any money from Cerberus, Chrysler’s chairman Bob Nardelli said he’d tried; they’d refused. Cerberus has assets of over 24 billion dollars, but they refused to send any to Chrysler to keep it above water!

Chrysler has NO real product development in the works. Chrysler has cancelled plans to import subcompact vehicles from Chery Motors, but it has no concrete plans to build any of its own. Its plan to Congress contained only vague generalities about electric cars in the future. At least GM and Ford kept up a charade of specific plans for specific vehicles.

In other words, Cerberus is trying to keep this Chrysler cash cow on life support only long enough to drain whatever money is left. Any concessions by Chrysler workers will not keep production going, but only make Cerberus’ big chief Steve Feinberg even richer.

Chrysler workers are being told to wait, see what happens with the bailout and hope for the best – but waiting will not stop Cerberus from ripping Chrysler to pieces.

UAW leaders:
Doing the companies’ dirty work

Dec 15, 2008

UAW leaders called local union presidents to a surprise “emergency” meeting on December 3. President Ron Gettelfinger pushed local leaders to vote immediately to approve three actions Gettelfinger had discussed with the auto companies: one, suspend the Jobs Bank program for laid-off workers; two, postpone corporate payments into the retirees’ VEBA health care fund; and three, approve the re-opening of the 2007 contracts for “modifications.”

“Suspending” the Jobs Bank means that the companies can lay off masses of workers, taking no responsibility for the disaster they are creating.

Postponing the VEBA payments means the beginning of the end for retirees’ health care. When the VEBA kicks in just over a year from now, there won’t be money in the funds. GM has already skipped putting in one payment it owed. And the money originally transferred into the fund has already shrunk since the companies were allowed to contribute it in stock and bonds instead of in cash.

Finally, agreeing to reopen the contract means the end of decent wages in auto. In the 2007 GM, Ford and Chrysler contracts, the union leadership had already pushed through a “two tier” wage concession – with the new-hire wages set at $14 – only half the regular rate. Health-care and pension benefits for new hires were either eliminated or cut to the bone.

It was obvious when two-tier was passed, the companies would come back to push lower wages and benefits on every worker. And now – with the help of the union leadership – they are coming to cut every one’s wages and benefits.

In a very rare national news conference on December 12, President Gettelfinger revealed that UAW leaders had made a deal with Republican Senator Corker of Tennessee. Gettelfinger said, “The tentative agreement with Senator Corker also provided that any restructuring plan approved by the auto czar would have to insure that the wages and benefits paid to active employees at the domestic automakers would be competitive with the compensation paid by foreign transplants, after taking into consideration the transition to newer employees earning lower wages and benefits.”

In fact – agreeing to compete with other workers to cut wages is nothing but a race to the bottom. As soon as the Big 3 got two-tier wages for new hires in 2007, Honda implemented the same much lower hire-in rate at its new plant in Greensburg, Indiana. If GM, Ford, and Chrysler workers agree to lower wages for everyone, Honda and Toyota will push through the same thing.

The aim of workers must be to raise everyone’s wages – not to fight each other over who will work for nothing.

Big Three CEOs agree to “sacrifice”

Dec 15, 2008

The CEOs of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors say they are willing to accept an annual salary of one dollar. Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca played the same game in the 1980s when Chrysler workers gave up billions of dollars in concessions.

In reality, Iacocca made millions during that time. In 1980, compensation from his Chrysler signing bonus plus stock options totaled $868,000. By 1986, he had become the highest paid CEO in U.S. history. Between 1980 and 1987 he made a total of 43 million dollars in Chrysler stock profits.

This is exactly the “sacrifice” that today’s CEOs intend to make.

Pages 4-5

Seniors seeking shelter in prison

Dec 15, 2008

Last August in Japan, a 79-year-old woman attacked two girls with a knife. The attacker was homeless and down to her last few dollars.

This random fact isn’t an exception. Every year since 1986 Japan has put out a book on crime. The latest issue shows that overall crime fell by 6.5%. On the other hand, it has increased by 4% among seniors. Forty-eight thousand six hundred seniors have been arrested. This is five times higher than 20 years ago, while the number of seniors only doubled during the same time.

The reason for this surprising fact is simple. The living conditions of seniors have worsened so much that many commit crimes in order to be arrested and have room and board in prison! One of them said, “In prison we can sleep, eat and work.” Once they’re released, they break the law again to return. The number of seniors in prison has tripled, reaching 30,000.

Ending a life of exploitation in prison is the perspective offered by capitalist society in one of the richest countries in the world!

Why Greek youth and workers are angry

Dec 15, 2008

Those young people, whom the press call “against the power,” violently attacked cars, stores, banks and supermarkets. But obviously these protests aren’t limited to these groups, but involve a lot of the youth who have the sympathy of many in the population. Hatred for the police is easy to find in a country where the cops still have a lot of their habits from the time of the colonels’ dictatorship from 1967 to 1974, as well as under previous regimes. All this is occurring in a climate of general discontent with the government’s policies, which are worsening with the crisis.

Poverty and unemployment are increasing, while wages are stagnant and prices are rising. The rightwing government of Caramanlis claims to be carrying out a policy of economic “modernization.” This involves privatizing public services, budget cuts and attacks on pensions. Just as in other European countries, the same government that insists on austerity measures for the population decided to bail out the banks for 39 billion dollars.

The anger of the youth is understandable since they have no future except unemployment or temporary work in a society in crisis. They are right to take on the government and its representatives. Their anger is certainly shared by other working people. But actions of pointless destruction don’t answer the problems. And neither do timid criticisms of the government by union leaders.

It is necessary for the workers and the youth to put forward their own demands to impose their right to live, faced with the cynicism and greed of the leaders and financiers responsible for the crisis.

Police murder

Dec 15, 2008

On December 6, a 15-year-old student named Alexandros Grigoropoulos was killed by a cop in Athens. That night he was out with other young friends when an argument broke out with police in a cop car. Most likely, as the discussion heated up, some bottles were thrown by the youth. But after the quarrel seemed to be over, two cops got out of their car and went after the group of youth. A cop fired, leaving one youth dying on the street.

According to two eye witnesses, there was no threat that could justify the use of arms: the youth was killed in cold blood. The news spread instantly all across Greece and, by the end of the night, many youth took their anger into the streets.

The Interior Minister in charge of the police, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, resigned, pushed to do so by the Prime Minister. Governmental circles, after saying that “all light” would be shed on the event, put forward the excuse that the killing was due to the “poor character” of the police officer, whom they nonetheless described as a serious professional and the father of three children. But a better explanation lies in the way the government trains and uses the police to maintain the “democratic order,” as it has been called since the end of the military dictatorship in 1974.

On the following day, December 7, the left-wing coalition called SY.RIZ.A, which received 5% of the vote in the last election and has seats in Parliament, met with other organizations to protest in front of the national archaeology museum. The turnout was massive, showing that significant parts of the population who were moved by this barbarous action, were ready to express their anger. A few minutes later as the march proceeded, youth labeled by the media “anti-power” groups broke off in small bands and started to break windows, burn cars and stores and attack banks and supermarkets, apparently convinced that this was the way to fight the “power.” Caught between the actions of the “anti-power” groups and the violent reaction of the police, the demonstrators quickly dispersed. For the rest of the day, the center of Athens became a battlefield between these groups and the police.

The demonstrations continued on Monday in major cities across Greece. Students took to the streets and in the afternoon there were protest demonstrations in Thessaloniki and Athens. In Athens, different leftwing organizations demonstrated together.

On December 9, there was again a large demonstration of students and teachers, who declared a three-day strike, close to the funeral procession of young Alexandros. Again there were clashes with the police.

At the same time as these demonstrations, there were new incidents of looting, of attacks on police stations, and of fires, apparently more intense than in previous days.

These actions may not open up much perspective for the youth. But the fact that so many young people took part, often beside union demonstrations, shows how the economic crisis and unemployment has driven many youth to despair.

Good and bad dictators

Dec 15, 2008

The Bush Administration says that Robert Mugabe, the president and dictator of Zimbabwe, must leave. It uses the pretext of the current cholera epidemic raging throughout the country to demand his resignation. It reproaches Mugabe for doing nothing to prevent this epidemic, and especially for hanging on to power after rigging the elections.

As if Bush gives a damn about democracy or the poor masses of Africa. The U.S. government is behind a lot of the dictators in Africa, including oil-rich Nigeria and resource-rich Zaire, among others. Why are the Bush administration along with the former colonial powers of England and France opposing Mugabe?

For an entire period, from the 1980s and most of the 1990s, the U.S. and European powers considered Mugabe among the “respectable” dictators. He submitted to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He did the bidding of the great multinational companies. He helped them profit from the dismantling of the national economy, at the expense of the poor masses of the country.

Then, in 1997, a giant strike wave broke out, protesting against the IMF-imposed austerity policy. At that point, Mugabe jumped ship. He defied the IMF and big multinationals. He ended the privatizations and returned some of the government subsidies of basic necessities for the population that he had previously cut.

The IMF and big international financial companies retaliated by reducing their loans, which worsened the economic crisis. Peasants who had been squeezed hard by the crisis occupied some uncultivated land owned of wealthy European-owned farms. These big companies controlled much of the fertile land.

Mugabe also gave his blessing to these illegal occupations.

Because Mugabe had the audacity to appear to encourage those who attacked the sacrosanct private property of multinational companies, the U.S. and the rest of the imperialist powers branded him a rogue dictator. The Western powers then organized an economic blockade that strangled Zimbabwe, destroyed the industrial fabric of the country and reduced the population to misery.

Today, Zimbabwe is a country on the edge of bankruptcy, suffering the highest hyperinflation in the world: A dollar is worth 21 billion Zimbabwean dollars!

The current cholera epidemic is the result of the huge increase in poverty and the deterioration of drinkable water in the cities. So far 600 have died and 12,000 are ill. Doctors of the World, a charitable group, has already treated 5,000 people. This very contagious infection is lethal, but it could easily be treated, if drinkable water were available to the population. The U.S., Britain or France could do it! But Bush and the other leaders don’t talk about this.

The dictatorial regime of Mugabe is partly responsible for the current brutal economic and health crisis. But those truly responsible for the economic strangulation of the country are the great western corporations that daily export farm products and valuable minerals, while the banks regularly fleece the country. These big corporations won’t forgive Mugabe for supporting the land occupations. They want him replaced by a dictator who is a bit more docile.

Behind the current indignation of the Western political leaders lies their defense of their respective multinationals.

Book Review:
The Hot Topic:
What we can do about global warming”

Dec 15, 2008

David King, one of Britain’s best known scientists, and Gabrielle Walker, science editor for Nature and New Scientist, have published a new book The Hot Topic, on global warming.

The book briefly discusses the scientific evidence for global warming, from accurate temperature records for the last 350 years to annual rings in trees and corals and ice cores for earlier time periods.

The authors explain that the Earth is habitable, not just because of its distance from the Sun, but because of, in part, the greenhouse effect. Were it not for “greenhouse gases” in the Earth’s atmosphere, which allow sunlight in but prevent heat from escaping into space, Earth would be too cold to support life. They discuss the harmful effects caused when the levels of such gases in the atmosphere get too high.

King and Walker discuss the evidence for the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. They explain how scientists determined that human activity is to blame for this increase and why natural causes such as solar activity or decreases in aerosols like dust from volcanic activity cannot finally explain global warming.

They go through the effects global warming will have on climates around the world. Oceans can become more acidic, impacting sea life. Hurricanes will become stronger and last longer. Wet areas would experience flooding, while dry areas would have more droughts, causing deserts to spread. Rising sea levels will cause erosion and flooding in coastal areas, home to about half the world’s population. Deadly heat waves like the one in Europe in 2003 will become more frequent.

The authors estimate that what the world’s countries need to spend to curb global warming is less than what the world already spends on insurance.

Keeping in mind the safety problems with nuclear power, the geographic issues with wind power and the lack of research on solar power, the authors let us know other possibilities already exist, so that the world could go beyond the use of oil and coal.

And they discuss changes that could be made in the way energy, transport, agriculture and construction are carried out. Here is where the political and social problems become more apparent. For example, they point out what are alternatives in transportation without dealing with why such choices are missing in many parts of the world. They detail alternate energy sources. But they don’t explain why companies don’t base their decisions on what is best for the planet. Capitalists make decisions based on what makes the most profit.

King and Walker take on the arguments blaming such growing economies as those of China and India, pointing out that richer countries have been subcontracting their manufacturing to China and India for many years. In this fashion, less developed countries take the blame for both pollution and terrible working conditions, while the products and profits wind up in the richer countries. King and Walker place clear responsibility on the industrialized countries for having brought the world to this stage of global warming, but here again, they don’t explain why these countries – imperialist countries – act this way.

Overall, King and Walker discuss the problem of global warming from a scientific standpoint. Unfortunately, the logic of capitalism places profit above protection of the environment, despite the dire consequences global warming portends. The underlying problem remains that those in control – the capitalists and their tame politicians – decide policies while the vast majority of the world’s people suffer the consequences.

Pages 6-7

Illinois governor indicted for corruption:
What a surprise!

Dec 15, 2008

Federal agents arrested Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on a wide array of corruption charges, including putting Barack Obama’s vacant U.S. Senate seat up for sale to the highest bidder. Other charges include threatening to rescind state funds from businesses that did not fork over huge payoffs. This included threats to rescind a state payment of 8 million dollars to Children’s Memorial Hospital if the CEO failed to organize a 50,000 dollar “contribution” to the governor. He also was charged with pressuring the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial writers who tried to expose the corruption.

The tapes of Blagojevich’s phone calls show him using the kind of blatant “strong arm” and “pay for play” tactics that are very common in the politics of the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago. If convicted, Blagojevich would be the fourth governor out of the last eight to go to prison. Blagojevich, a Democrat, could become the bunk mate of his Republican predecessor, George Ryan.

The same political machine that produced Blagojevich happens to be connected to President-Elect Barack Obama. And while Obama has so far been able to successfully distance himself from this scandal, he certainly had ties in common with Blagojevich, most notably to Tony Rezko. Rezko was the chief fundraiser for the political campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama, often drawing on the same donors. Rezko also bought the lot next door to the house Obama was buying on the same day and later sold part of it to Obama, something that Obama was forced to admit smelled of sleaze. Last June, Rezko was convicted on corruption charges.

Of course, Chicago and Illinois are not the only places where corruption is commonplace. The relationship between business and politics is so close, it is difficult to know where one ends and the other starts. Businesses get government contracts, tax breaks, subsidies, and in return, the politicians expect to be compensated royally. Corruption is a built-in part of politics under the capitalist system.

The only difference with Blagojevich and Rezko is that they were so crass and blatant, they practically invited indictment.

Page 8

Capitalist deals bring down nine newspapers

Dec 15, 2008

The Tribune Company, owner of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and six other newspapers, and the Chicago Cubs, plus 14 television stations, just declared bankruptcy.

It went bankrupt not because its operations were losing money. On the contrary, its operations were turning a healthy 10% return, more than many profitable companies. No, it went bankrupt because of its crushing debt – 13 billion dollars, which swallowed up everything in order to service the debt.

This debt was put on the company in two big stages. First, the Chicago Tribune Company took on more than five billion dollars in debt when it bought the L.A. Times media chain. The second stage was when billionaire real estate tycoon Sam Zell took the company private, using the employee pension fund to provide much of the financing. Of course, in return, the employees received company stock.

Tremendous amounts of money were made when Zell took the company private. Billions went to the families that owned the Tribune Company, the Chandlers, McCormicks, T. Rowe Price and Barclays Bank. Top executives pocketed millions in bonuses, severance pay and stock options.

The banks sponsoring the loan arrangement also did just fine. Citigroup got 36 million dollars in fees; Merrill Lynch got 37 million and Morgan Stanley got 10 million.

What did the employees get? Thirteen billion dollars in debt, thousands of terminations, lower pension benefits if they get any at all, and worthless stock.

Whether buying or selling, the owners walk off with a fortune and leave a disaster behind – and it’s all perfectly legal in capitalist society.

Multiply this deal by the thousands of other deals just like this one made in recent years – and you have the recipe for the financial implosion tearing up the economy today.

Economics 101

Dec 15, 2008

So far, 150 workers are being fired at Solo Cup this time; 800 jobs are being eliminated at the State of Maryland offices; 9,000 workers across the country lost their jobs at Dell. On and on go the firings. Up and up goes unemployment.

The result? No one can afford a new car; our children don’t get a new computer; fewer people go to McDonald’s.

The more the bosses do what they usually do, the worse the crisis gets.

Time to get rid of them!

Sit-in by Republic Windows workers

Dec 15, 2008

For six days some 200 workers, many Hispanic, sat in at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago. The company had given them only three days notice it would be closing, and said they would get none of the vacation pay due them or the 60 days of pay required by law.

The company pretended the shutdown was forced by Bank of America, which cut off credit. In reality, Republic was moving production to a plant it had recently bought in Iowa – undoubtedly running up big debts to buy it.

The workers reacted by sitting down and occupying the factory. Some said they were worried they would be arrested when they sat in, but they took the risk anyway. United Electrical Workers, their union, printed up signs saying, “Bank of America: You got bailed out. We got sold out.”

After six days, Bank of America found the money to meet the workers’ demands, which amounted to about $7,000 each. It wasn’t everything the workers deserved – far from it. But they got much more than what Republic would have given them if they hadn’t fought – which was nothing.

Workers give their lives day after day in these factories. No one should let companies toss them aside like garbage.

No money for school lunches?

Dec 15, 2008

California state officials say they don’t have enough money to fund the school lunch program through the end of the school year. Jack O’Connell, California’s top public education official, said the gap in funding was because of an “unexpected jump” in the number of eligible students. More than half of California’s public school students are now enrolled in free and reduced-price school meals because of their families’ poverty status.

An “unexpected” jump?? Nonsense! Who hasn’t been aware that we are in the middle of a severe economic crisis, with companies laying off workers right and left? No, the increased demand for low-cost school lunches is certainly not unexpected. In fact, by last May, enrollment in school lunch programs had increased substantially.

Nor is it true that a big and rich state like California can’t raise enough money to provide essential services to its population, especially considering how much the state government gives away in fat subsidies and tax breaks to big business.

It’s just that the politicians have been trying to make the working class pay for the crisis by cutting much-needed services – starting with the school lunch program. O’Connell said that there may be reductions in cafeteria staffing in the coming year.

More layoffs – which can only increase the demand for free and reduced-price school lunches!

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